Train Service and the Golden Rule

M7 Train CarSeveral years ago, I commuted to New York City on Metro North’s New Haven Line. This was right before the Harlem and Hudson lines received the M7 upgrades. It was also during a bitterly cold winter. And the same train breakdown problems occurred due to snow and ice.

Each day on the cold platform, my fellow commuters and I would wait in the vain hope the car was heated. Since the trains sat out all night turned off, this was wishful thinking. One day, there were very few people in the car I chose because it was ice cold. The conductor came up from behind and asked the guy behind me for his ticket. This was their exchange:

Conductor: “Ticket please.”

Passenger: “I’m not showing it to you.”

Conductor: “What? Do you have a ticket?”

Passenger: “Yes, but I am not showing it to you. These cars are cold every day and I shouldn’t have to pay for this kind of service.”

Conductor: “Sir, you have to pay for a ticket or show me your pass.”

Passenger “No way.”

Conductor “Sir, you have to show me the ticket regardless of what you think of the heat.”

Passenger: “grumble…fine.”

I showed my ticket.

Their tone was probably a bit angrier than this post conveys (it was 9 years ago!). The point is they were both right and both wrong. Until recently, Metro North consistently failed commuters on the New Haven Line. And yet, if you ride the train, you need to have a ticket, regardless of how poor your experience is. With the decline of train service in the US, the remaining train systems just don’t seem to take service seriously anymore.

The Golden Rule would say Metro North should provide heat on their trains because it is how they would want to be treated too. The policy, of course, is they only provide transport. There is nothing guaranteeing a comfortable ride due to mechanical issues.

The Golden Rule also says the Conductor is doing his job. The Passenger should show his ticket because that’s what he would want to have happen if he were in the Conductor’s place. Of course, the Passenger is also right that Metro North is not participating in a typical reciprocal service relationship by not providing heat.

What do you think the conductor could have said better in this situation?

How should the passenger have conveyed his discomfort to get results?

Side Note: The other day I was stuck on the same line for 1.5 hours because the train engineer thought he saw a person on the tracks. To ensure that person’s safety, they held the train and searched the entire area. First, they displayed the Golden Rule by trying to help someone who may have needed help–wouldn’t you want to be saved from a train? Second, they failed to display the Golden Rule by explaining anything until a great deal of time went by, which led to inevitable arguments, groans, and more. If the conductors were passengers, wouldn’t they want to know what was going on? Why not keep passengers informed?

I know the MTA has improved many things about service in the past 10 years and there is still a long road ahead.

1 comments on
“Train Service and the Golden Rule”

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