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Friday, February 05, 2010

Westport Station to Lose Ticket Booth Staffing

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Metro-North’s New Haven Line will close the ticket booth at the Westport train station in the Saugatuck area under Gov. M. Jodi Rell’s proposed budget announced this week.WestportNow.com Image
The ticket booths at the Westport station in Saugatuck are scheduled for closure. (CLICK TO ENLARGE) WestportNow.com photo

The nonpartisan Office of Fiscal Analysis said $400,000 in annual savings will be achieved by eliminating ticket windows at stations in Westport, Fairfield, Darien, and New Canaan.

Asked about the closing, a ticket booth clerk at the Westport station said today she had heard a rumor but that the clerks have not been told anything official. She noted that the ticket booth at Greens Farms was closed a couple of years ago.

Jim Cameron, head of the Connecticut Commuter Rail Council (and WestportNow columnist) said Metro-North has been closing ticket booths “left and right.”

He added, “It was just a matter of time before Westport came up for the cuts.

“They tried closing New Canaan a year back and somehow were stopped, but all of the human-staffed booths will be gone in a few years. No real loss.

“The booth folks do nothing the machines can’t do, more reliably. They know nothing about delays. They’re glorified tellers in an ATM age.”

Posted 02/05/10 at 11:14 PM

Comments

Comment Policy

Those are some pretty harsh quotes about people who added a bit of humanity to an ever more sterile and souless transportation system.

Personally, I liked buying my ticket from a person. I’ll miss them.

Posted by Matthew Mandell on February 06, 2010 at 03:29 AM | #
 

I certainly hope that the Saugatuck Station’s interior will continue to be properly cleaned, policed and otherwise maintained.  As some of us experienced during the recent renovation of the building, inclement weather can make waiting out in the open pretty miserable. 

Again, thanks, Jim Cameron, for all your work on our behalf.

Nina Streitfeld

Posted by Nina Streitfeld on February 06, 2010 at 04:15 AM | #
 

“The booth folks do nothing the machines can’t do, more reliably. They know nothing about delays. They’re glorified tellers in an ATM age.”

What an outrageous comment.

I couldn’t agree more with Matt.  There is something nice about the level of customer service at the Saugatuck station and the pleasant greetings and announcements that make you feel like a well appreciated customer…go figure.

“Good Morning Commuters - The Next Train to Arrive on Track 3 will be YOUR 528 Train to Grand Central Station”

Metro North could learn a thing or two just by observing the way things are done there - we all could learn something from it.

Posted by Rich Groblewski on February 06, 2010 at 03:04 PM | #
 

“but all of the human-staffed booths will be gone in a few years. No real loss.”

Jim, Please tell me you were misquoted, as a frequent commuter, I overhear the very kind and capable booth clerks field continuous questions from passengers who may not “know” the system, have questions when their destination is not NYC or when the machines malfunction, not to mention the elderly and International guests subjected to little information as they try to figure out the timetables etc…

Mary Ann West

Posted by Mary A. West on February 06, 2010 at 05:17 PM | #
 

Fellow commuters…  My quotes in the story are accurate, if a bit insensitive.  Don’t worry.  These ticket agents are not losing their jobs, just being reassigned.

In Darien where the agent was recently removed, 83% of tickets were being sold by machine.  Hard to justify a full-time salary for a human doing 17% of the work.

If we want to keep costs under control, we cannot be nostalgic about something so anachronistic as a ticket agent.  I am sure they are nice people and make your commute more “human”, but their time has passed.

Posted by Jim Cameron on February 06, 2010 at 07:28 PM | #
 

Jim C logic:
First we did not need tellers at the bank… but oh what a fiasco when a problem arises calling 800# and landing in phone hell
Then we did not need technical persons in our stores .... but oh when a problem arose and trying to understand a techie on the phone speaking Indian
Then subway clerks were outdated and removed but oh what does a ticket machine do when lost or threatened by a mugger…
Soon friends there will not be a need for (fill in your job) ....  but oh not me !
ALL THINGS MUST PASS ?

Posted by chip stephens on February 06, 2010 at 08:10 PM | #
 

Jim—It’s not just about the smiling (or scowling) face behind the window. It’s someone who can answer questions! I know the MTA largely serves commuters, but there are those among us who take the train only occasionally, and can use help. Try getting that from a commuter adhering to the strict, if informal, no-talk policy in the morning!

It might be different if the MTA had reliable, safe, and plentiful payment kiosks, as well as fool-proof directions, maps, and readily readable schedules (the way many urban public transport systems do), but until then, gimme a human being!

Posted by Stacy Prince on February 06, 2010 at 08:20 PM | #
 

To Chris…  Ticket agents are not cops.  Westport PD is paid to secure the station using parking revenues.

To Stacy…  The ticket agents have no knowledge of train delays and rely on the same PA announcements you hear on the platforms.  But I agree on the need for better maps and timetable supplies, something the Commuter Council has been pushing for for more than a decade.

Posted by Jim Cameron on February 06, 2010 at 10:39 PM | #
 

Gotta love a good discussion.

But everything is not the bottom line. In the end these agents, reassigned, will find their next booth closed and their job gone.

And I’ll go back to one of my favorite words, character. How will anyone ever make a movie again w/o a ticket agent telling the conflicted star they can still make that train to the destination that will change their life. Or worse, slamming the window shut. To late!!! These are the episodes and things which create uniqueness, quality and sometimes frustration, but they are real. A machine is lifeless. Yes, it gets the job done, but it adds nothing to ones day other than getting that ticket and somehow I believe it takes something away with each use.

Yep, this is the way of the future. While we might have to accept it, we surely don’t have to cheer its day. And that’s what started this thread.

Posted by Matthew Mandell on February 07, 2010 at 01:54 PM | #
 

Jim—the tellers absolutely can do stuff the machines can’t.  Machines won’t take TransitChek vouchers, for instance. Closing the Saugatuck booth will mean waiting in longer lines at GCT for this service.  And how many ticket booths are left at GCT?  How about the Commuter Council pushing for machines to take TransitCheks?

Posted by Andy Yemma on February 07, 2010 at 04:08 PM | #
 

Andy…  We are working on it!  The Council’s asking MNRR to make the ticket machines accept TransitChek and also be able to issue discounted student tickets.

Posted by Jim Cameron on February 07, 2010 at 06:36 PM | #
 

Ah, Jim, I wasn’t talking about train delay info. I was talking about where to switch trains, if there are bathrooms aboard, what the story is regarding traveling with kids—all stuff you can get a QUICK answer to from a person if you’re minutes away from boarding.

Posted by Stacy Prince on February 08, 2010 at 02:30 PM | #
 

Correct me if i’m missing the boat here, (Or should I say train) Jim Cameron is the head of the Connecticut Commuter Council?  He is supposed to be the voice of the commuters, Jim says it’s no big deal if MNRR closes the ticket windows. Every commuter who responded to his statement disagrees, but Jim stands his ground.  He sounds more like the voice of MNRR trying to save money at the expense of personal service, He is obviously not as in touch with the commuters as he probably should be.

Posted by Mike Shaw on February 09, 2010 at 05:32 PM | #
 

It’s not uncommon for people who agree with a particular action to remain silent.

Jim clearly stated that he needs to identify and prioritize the issues, and that while he may prefer having live station attendants, their real value makes that function harder to fight for.

For me, I prefer the machines at the bank, the grocery store, as well as the trains, which I don’t use often.  I use EZ-Pass.  I book all my own travel online, and pay my bills there too.  While I am an engineer, I don’t consider myself an early-adopter (no i-anything or whackberry yet).  I don’t think anyone would say that I don’t like to interact with people, but in these instances I have been well served by technology.

Posted by Dan Lasley on February 09, 2010 at 08:58 PM | #
 

Mike Shaw…

Just because I don’t agree with you, doesn’t mean I don’t represent the interests of my fellow-commuters.

I think most of us want to keep fares low.  One way to do that is to not waste money on expensive personnel whose jobs have already been replaced by reliable technology.

If you object to the Governor’s budget proposal, write your State Rep and Senator.

JC

Posted by Jim Cameron on February 09, 2010 at 09:26 PM | #
 

Dan,

I too like having some machines around, but I do like the choice. I use the ATM, but when I have an issue I go to the teller. I personally can’t stand the self check out lines at the stores, the darn things never work right. And there is something about still wanting to be treated like a customer instead of a piece of meat.

I am an early adopter of technology, but I still like a human face for services.

Posted by Matthew Mandell on February 09, 2010 at 10:02 PM | #
 

The intense budget crisis now facing Connecticut will hit all of us in the coming months in various ways.  The choices are clear—cut services or raise taxes.  Neither is welcome, but doing nothing is not an option.

As your local member of the MetroNorth Rail Commuter Council, I’m eager to hear from any area commuter about ways to improve service while containing costs ([email protected]).  We operate as an advisory board for the railroad, and our monthly meetings are open to the public.  The next one is Wednesday, February 24th, 7:00pm at the Stamford Government Center, 3rd floor.

You can find out more about the Council at http://www.trainweb.org/ct/.

Posted by John Hartwell on February 10, 2010 at 01:18 PM | #
 

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