Transportation Tip: Help Metrolink CEO DePallo fix our broken regional railroad with solutions

By: Nicholas Ventrone, Community Engagement Director

Metrolink is once again in the spotlight of bad news. Back in October, the funding conflict between the railroad and SANBAG never got resolved with a fair solution which resulted in the railroad cutting service on the Metrolink San Bernardino Line. Both a midday and the late night weekday roundtrip remain unfunded and out of service. We are calling on elected officials from both boards to resolve this issue and reactivate those runs. In addition, on time performance issues have surfaced over the past few months with late trains.

Now, there have been numerous reports of ticket vending machines failing all over Southern California. The Transit Coalition has confirmed this because our Executive Director Bart Reed ran into such a problem when taking the train. The Metrolink Diary Twitter page has also published numerous pictures of out-of-order TVM's throughout the region. Such malfunctions puts the railroad in a tough spot in regards to fare evasion enforcement. Getting the machines repaired or replaced is reported to be in the millions of dollars.

The railroad has some serious problems that need to be fixed so that Metrolink can operate at its best. It needs executable solutions so that the broken system can be repaired and operating at its best. To be fair, the railroad launched limited weekend service for the 91 Line last summer and has recently opened a portal for riders to connect to top officials. Metrolink CEO Michael P. DePallo has made a point in the August/September Metrolink Matters newsletter to better listen to riders. Here's what he had to say:

Since becoming Metrolink’s CEO, one of my top priorities is, and will continue to be, having an active, ongoing dialogue with you, our riders. I strongly believe that through continual discussion with you, we can institute changes to our service that best meet your needs and the needs of the railroad.

Last year, we launched the “Customer Connect” program. Each week, a Metrolink manager spends several hours at Union Station or a Metrolink station out in the field talking to passengers about their comments and concerns relating to our service, and then reports that input back to me. We have also convened three Rider Advisory Groups to get even more detailed feedback from our passengers, and so far we’ve received extremely valuable input from Metrolink riders.

In July, we took Customer Connect to a new level by launching a social media version of the program. On July 10 and 24, we held two customer engagement chats on Facebook in which riders asked questions of our staff. I want to thank those of you who contributed with your thoughtful interactions. It’s through an open dialogue like this that we can learn what matters to you most. In these sessions, daily issues such as service expansion and schedule adjustments were the most prominently discussed.

We not only want to hear what you think of our service today, but we also need your ideas on how we can make Metrolink an even more effective service in the future. This spring, we sought input from our riders when we launched our long-range Strategic Plan process. Hundreds of riders have filled out surveys and provided us valuable insights into their priorities for our future. Many comments were about increasing frequency of trains and expanding service throughout the day and into the weekend. Others suggested ways to adjust the quality of service, reduce delays, increase train speed, and reduce prices. We also received ideas about improving connections with buses and extending rail service beyond our service area. When the next phase of the Strategic Plan process begins, we will need to hear from you during that effort as well. Very soon, we will be developing a series of “vision scenarios” outlining different paths our system and service can take, and we need you to weigh in with your opinion of those scenarios.

In the coming months, we will be making critical decisions about the future of Metrolink, and more than ever, we need to continue to hear from you. Thank you to everyone who has given us their ideas and input so far, and we look forwarding to hearing more of your thoughts in the coming weeks and months.

In addition, Metrolink has established an online portal for comments and suggestions. Moving forward, there are several problems the railroad is now experiencing that have to solved. The railroad needs sound and fact-based solutions.

Transportation Tip: Brainstorm some solutions that will help Metrolink become better and more productive and submit them to agency staff. I'll have some other solutions posted to this blog soon.

DePallo wants to have an active dialog with your concerns. The Transit Coalition wants Metrolink to be at its best. Send him your ideas to fix and transform our broken regional rail system.