There was considerable panic among Metro-North commuters earlier this year, when the MTA seemed poised to retire its last remaining bar cars, a relic of the New Haven line. At the time, Paul Hornung, a financial worker, spoke for everyone when he told the Times, "This is the one thing you can look forward to." In the ensuing uproar, the railroad said it would try to find the money to commission bar cars to go with the new batch of trains they're ordering for the New Haven line. But now that a proposed rendering of the new bar cars have been released, guess who's not happy about it? Here's a hint: They can't go 45 minutes without a drink.
Bar car-flies are pissed about the new design the MTA is focus grouping, because there are too many seats. "We want to stand around and talk, and not be sitting in tiny little groups of four," Terri Cronin, the vice chair of the Connecticut Rail Commuter Council, tells the Wall Street Journal. "It's like a big group party. You end up talking to all these people you never would have talked to if you were sitting in all these little social pods everywhere." Cronin, by the way, gets daily text messages from a bartender informing him which trains will have a bar car, so that he doesn't get stuck commuting home with the DTs
The bar cars generated over $500,000 in profits last year, but the old ones, some of which date back to the '70s, aren't compatible with the new trains the MTA is introducing. And the railroad wants to pack as many seats as possible into the bar cars, because the new passenger cars each have nine fewer seats than the old ones. "It's an ongoing balancing act," says Judd Everhart, a spokesman for the Connecticut transportation agency. "We're trying to maximize seating wherever we can, while at the same time providing the convenience of the cafe cars." The design is still a work in progress, so the bar car crowd is demanding more standing room by the time they roll out in 2012. For now we'll have to file this one under "Developing...(an alcohol problem)."