Getting Metro-North on Track

Mitchell Fuchs is normally no lawbreaker. A Fairfield Representative Town Meeting member with a loving family, two dogs and a respectable job in the city, he didn’t know whether he was being warned or arrested when the transit police cornered him in the railroad car one day in January to tell him he was causing a public disturbance. “I kept putting my arms out, hoping they’d cuff me so I’d have a story to tell,” Fuchs remembers. “People around me were getting angry at the police as they questioned me. They felt the police were harassing me. I had to tell them it was okay — trying to calm them down.”

The path to radicalism was a slow one for Fuchs, but traveling slowly is nothing new. After all, he’s been taking Metro-North to work for eleven years.

At first, what bothered him was the parking shortage at the Fairfield train station, with its waiting list for parking permits. Then, after the winter of 2003–2004, when the rail system all but collapsed in the face of blistering winds and snow, he found himself standing day after day in cars so crowded that conductors didn’t even walk through to punch tickets. Fuchs, not one to stand quietly amid cattle-car conditions, would pull an advertising placard off the wall, lay it on the grimy floor and sit on it.

Finally in the spring of 2004, Fuchs did something really outrageous. He began talking to the bleary-eyed commuters standing around him: “Do you realize we are getting a 5.5 percent fare hike this year, and rail service won’t be improved one cent? There’s a process, let’s participate in it and not just go ‘Baaa.’ Would you like to sign this petition to demand better service from the state legislature?”

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