Jan 21, 2014
10:43 AM
The Connecticut Story

Are Metro-North's New Haven Line Bar Cars Really Threatened?

Are Metro-North's New Haven Line Bar Cars Really Threatened?

Arnold Gold/New Haven Register

Metro-North trains in New Haven in a file photo.

Praised roundly as one of the best features on the Metro-North New Haven line—and so beloved that there’s a website specifically tracking which trains have them—the bar cars that help soothe weary commuters are under threat, or so say some media outlets reading the tea leaves.

“Bar cars may be eliminated on Metro-North New Haven Line,” declares Trains magazine in a headline attached to an online story published Tuesday that only subscribers have access to read.

In “Last call for bar cars?” the Greenwich Time says, “As the state pours more than $1 billion into new rail cars, no money has been put into the tap to replace the 10 bar cars that are facing their last call by year's end.”

And from that fact evolves the idea that the bar cars may be doomed, even though the same Greenwich Time story says the “state's transportation commissioner has given assurances that bar car service along Metro-North's New Haven Line will continue.”

The bar cars on the line are so storied that The Wall Street Journal paid tribute to them in a May 2012 article, “No More Three-Martini Lunches, But Metro-North Bar Cars Remain."

The New Haven Register, meanwhile, chronicled a phenomenon that truly attests to the value of the bar cars and demand for their services—an entire website devoted to tracking which trains have bar cars.

It’s called Where’s the Bar Car, of course.

Metro-North’s website is silent on the status, and future fate, of the bar cars, but in an April 2008 release, it announced a hike in prices for libations to keep up with inflation, a development commuters surely find far more palatable than the prospect of losing the opportunity to sit back, sip something delicious and let someone else do the driving.

Here’s that 2008 Metro-North release, for sentimentality’s sake:

MTA Metro-North Railroad is seeking approval from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority board of directors to raise prices for its bar cars and bar carts to keep pace with inflation.
The bartenders, who have always elicited the highest ratings from thousands of Metro-North customers, provided bar car and cart service with a gross income of $5.2 million last year yielding a net income to the railroad of $607,000.
Keeping this commissary service financially viable requires that prices be adjusted as costs to the commissary themselves rise. In addition to the price hike, the railroad is seeking authorization to raise prices each September at the rate of growth in the consumer price index, rounded to the nearest quarter, without seeking board approval.
The MTA board is expected to vote on this request, a joint request by Metro-North and the Long Island Railroad, at its monthly meeting on Wednesday.
With 19 daily New Haven Line trains operating with bar cars and 18 portable bar carts in Grand Central Terminal, Metro-North customers consumed 250,000 bags of chips and peanuts, 370,000 liquor beverages, 1 million beers and 1 million non-alcoholic drinks - with simple spring water being the biggest seller.
The products and their new prices, to be introduced on May 8, would look like this:
Top shelf liquor: $6.50
House call liquor: $6.25
Wines: $5.50
Foster's (25 oz): $4.75
Imported beers: $3.25
Domestic beers: $2.50
Fruit drinks: $1.75
Soda/Water: $1.50
Snacks and juice mixers: $1.00


Are Metro-North's New Haven Line Bar Cars Really Threatened?

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