Hundreds of years of experience may be lost

Experience counts. As I wrote recently, Metro-North and the CDOT are losing hundreds of experienced employees and managers, cashing out with their pensions after 30 years’ service. That’s got to hurt.

Similarly, the CT Metro-North Rail Commuter Council may lose all of its 15 members, who have a combined 250 years of commuting experience and 97 years of service (without earning a dime) on the council.

This past winter Governor Malloy quietly introduced a bill that would have effectively eliminated the Commuter Council after 28 years of existence. Under his proposal, the council’s members would be fired and a new CT Rail Commuter Council would be created with vastly reduced powers and a chairman to be chosen, not by council members, but by the governor.

The only good news in this bill was that this new council would have oversight of Metro-North, Shore Line East and the soon to be opened commuter rail line from New Haven to Springfield … an added responsibility sought by the old council.

The governor’s proposed bill called this a “streamlining” of state government and targeted dozens of boards and councils, most of them moribund. So how did the very active, very vocal CT Metro-North Rail Commuter Council get lumped into this bill? You’ll have to ask Governor Malloy.

Fortunately, we found out about the governor’s attempt to wipe us out and were able to fight back. Several lawmakers rose to our defense, especially State Rep. Tony Hwang, who represents Fairfield and Trumbull, who fashioned an amendment to the bill and gathered more than 25 co-sponsors on both sides of the aisle … lawmakers who knew the value of the council’s advocacy for commuters.

The governor’s bill, thus amended to preserve our authority and allow the new council to choose its own chair, was passed unanimously and signed into law. So, by Aug. 1 a new CT Rail Commuter Council will be created with new appointments.

Most of the incumbent members of the council are seeking those appointments. We hope officials, including the governor, who have appointing authority will recognize their experience and past service and reappoint them.

New members on a new council sound like a great idea. But the learning curve in understanding the inner workings of the railroad and CDOT is steep and there is no time to waste in getting the new council up and running. That’s where experience comes in.

Some of the incumbent members have served on the old council for 20-plus years, others for just a year or two. (I have been on the council for 18 years, the past four as chairman. Encouraged by lawmakers and commuters alike, I am seeking appointment to the new council. )

I hope that as the appointing authorities consider who they’ll appoint, they will chose wisely. The new council, like the old one, is a working body, not a political patronage plum. We need commuters who know the railroad, who can commit to monthly meetings and will be vocal in their advocacy of their fellow riders. There is still much work to be done.

Jim Cameron is the chairman of the CT Metro-North/Shore Line East Rail Commuter Council, and a member of the Coastal Corridor TIA and the Darien RTM. The opinions expressed in this column are only his own. Reach him at or