If you ask MTA Metro-North Railroad president Catherine Rinaldi, she will admit that the company she helms has seen its share of hardships this year.
“It’s been a rough couple of months because of the weather,” she told the audience at a recent Business Council of Westchester event.
Most recently, storms caused outages along both the Harlem and Hudson lines in May, leaving thousands stranded in Grand Central Station. Rinaldi told the crowd gathered in Rye Brook on Thursday that these issues highlighted the need for Metro-North to improve communication with its customers.
One initiative the organization is in the process of rolling out involves bringing “real-time information to more of our stations,” she said, adding, “We’re lagging a little bit in that regard.”
The company plans to install screens displaying upcoming train times on platforms in Port Chester, Rye, Mamaroneck, Harrison, New Rochelle, Pelham, Mount Vernon East, Tarrytown and Ossining. Rinaldi said the company will also update its public address system and install more security cameras at outlying train stations.
Rinaldi said that Metro-North is also in the process of revamping a number of its train stations. “The signature project we have going on is the one in White Plains,” she said.
Metro-North started work on the $94 million renovation of the White Plains station earlier this year. That project will include new signs, improved platforms, benches with USB chargers, new station dashboards, and stronger WiFi and cellular connectivity. Plans call for improving the station’s entrances, upgrading restrooms and adding energy-efficient LED lighting, among other upgrades.
“It’s not the prettiest station,” she said. “It definitely was tired and needed a little bit of help.” Rinaldi said the goal of the renovation is to make the facility “a destination station.”
Another station that will see updates is Port Chester, where Metro-North is in the process of developing a new “kiss-and-ride” area, adding new technology like WiFi connectivity and charging stations and repainting the rail bridge.
“The goal is, as we roll out other station enhancement projects over the next however many years, that they will sort of take on a common look and feel, to kind of brand the look of the stations a bit,” she said.
In White Plains, the upgrades come as White Plains officials prepare to overhaul the area surrounding the train station. The city unveiled its plans in 2016 for a White Plains Transit District that will involve a rezoning and open some city land for development.
“We support TOD (transit-oriented development) when communities come to us with TOD,” Rinaldi said. “We don’t want to come treading into communities with our heavy footprint sort of dictating how they should develop their property.”
Instead, Rinaldi said the company aims to work with “willing partners” on development ideas that make sense to both Metro-North and the community.
“It’s a win-win for everybody,” she said.