Rail Service to Manhattan? Fuhgeddaboudit!

Posted on February 7, 2011. Filed under: Uncategorized |

Are you looking for a reasonably comfortable, safe, and reliable way to travel to New York City? You might not want to rely exclusively on Metro-North’s commuter rail service to get you there.

It was only two months ago that our blog covered then-Governor Jodi Rell’s triumphant announcement that a $700 million to $900 million purchase order of new train cars was finally delivered to Connecticut. At the time, the Transportation Commissioner predicted that the first cars might enter service by the end of 2010.

It’s now February 2011; are the cars in service yet? Well, no. It seems that unanticipated software glitches must be resolved before the trains are placed in service. After all, commuter lives could be placed in jeopardy if the ancient fleet of cars now in service is replaced prematurely by new but unsafe equipment.

Such safety concerns, however, did not prevent a door from flying open over the streets of Manhattan on a packed train arriving from New Canaan, CT recently. The moment was caught on a cell phone video camera and posted on YouTube; press pundits were struck by the ho-hum response that the event generated among the riders. Apparently, the passengers acted as if a dangerously gaping door on a decrepit speeding train car is a common event on Metro-North.

Furthermore, the situation faced by commuters will likely grow worse before it grows better. Just last week, the railroad’s president Howard Permut noted that “We are not able to run a stable operation on the New Haven Line.” He then announced that Metro-North can no longer maintain a sufficient number of functioning train cars to “run regular weekday service on [the New Haven] branch for the indefinite future.”

How many defective or non-existent internal controls can you identify in this story? Do you have any professional suggestions for the executive officers of Metro-North? Or for our elected leaders who authorized the purchase of the new (but still not yet operational) train cars?

Contributed by Michael Kraten, PhD, CPA, Accounting Professor at Providence College and President of Enterprise Mgt. Corp. http://aqpq.org

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