Brace yourselves, folks — bar cars are coming back to Metro North. Even as Gov. Malloy announced the addition of 60 new M8 rail cars last week in an attempt to alleviate overcrowding (ridership is up 12% since 2010, and that number continues to outpace forecasts); he revealed 10 of those will be “bar cars” that actually have less seating capacity. That’s the fuzzy logic we expect from folks too long in the bar car.
Bar cars seem an irresponsible purchase when looking at the sheer number of passengers standing during peak times. The optics are horrible amid drastic cuts to departments including Social Services, Children and Families, and Public Health. I enjoy a beer as much as the next guy, but it’s better to actually have a seat between Grand Central and Stratford (I can buy sandwiches and beer at most any station).
What a coincidence this was announced days before the deadline for public comments on a proposed 5% fare increase.
We’ll always find those interested in turning our commute into Happy Hour, but revenue from bar cars only decreased in the years before they were removed in 2014. Connecticut was the last to get rid of them and now the first to bring them back. Was there a shortage of beer stains and empty cans rolling between the seats?
It’s not as if we don’t already have enough drunks on the train to contend with as it is. I’ve spent too many sweltering summer nights listening to some dime-store Richard Burton drone on until he passed out on my shoulder. When the air conditioning keeps shutting off and I can’t find a signal for my phone to distract me from the whiskey being blown into my face, I suddenly forget the nightmares of air travel.
On the train, I attract drunkards like moths to a beer sign. I’m not a svelte person. (Ok, I’m fat.) I’m the guy you’re desperately hoping keeps walking by your seat for fear he’ll spill over into your personal space if he sits next to you. (I will. I’m so sorry!) I try to make up for this by arriving early and scrambling for the very last seat in the very last car. The people who end up having to share my seat aren’t always happy to do so considering what little room is left, which usually means I’m babysitting the drunkards who have nowhere else to go.
Where is the pressing need for bar cars? This isn’t the 20th Century; we have every movie, TV show and music album ever created streaming to our phones and tablets. You can check your mail, access your work files and indulge in social media until you choke. In the words of Roman general Maximus Meridius in the movie Gladiator: “Are you not entertained?”
This isn’t to say bar cars are a bad idea, just that the timing’s wrong until every rider is assured of a seat. Besides, we can “get our drink on” for half the price by bringing our own six-pack and saving the rest for the coming fare increase.