In 2002, the LIRR installed new train cars. Two years later, MetroNorth installed the same M-7 cars on the Hudson and Harlem lines. Everyone likes a shiny new train car, except…these “new” trains have a bit of a problem: The armrests, which jut out at a slight upward angle and are coated with a rubber-like material, have a tendency to rip the pants pockets of commuters.The torn-clothing issue started with isolated incidents and built to a peak in 2007, when MetroNorth received 398 of the 1,397 claims since 2004.
That’s right: People whose pockets or jackets are ripped by the armrest can, and do, submit claims for repair costs from the railroads. And the railroads pay them back.
To date, MetroNorth has settled 1,319 claims for a total of $148,241. “It’s the right thing to do,” a Metro-North press representative said, confirming that the payouts will continue for as long as the problem persists.
Since 2003, the LIRR has reimbursed 1,866 claims for $153,703. Both companies say replacing the armrests would cost several million and that claims have decreased significantly over the years — which you’d hope, considering this has been going on for six to eight years now. The highest onetime pay-out by MetroNorth was for $2,750 in 2007 — must have been a helluva pocket.
One Scarsdale-to-Grand-Central commuter tore an expensive pair of pants a few months ago. “I think I snagged them as I was getting up to let someone sit in the seat next to me,” Howard Stevens, chief information officer of a media company, said. “I figured it was my own stupidity.” He didn’t realize that MetroNorth reimburses passengers who have been literally and inadvertently ripped off. The pants are “sitting in my closet waiting,” Stevens said.
Not even the employees’ pockets have been spared. “I just looked down and heard riiiip. I knew exactly what that was,” said Raymond Hess, a MetroNorth Customer Services Manager. “I said to myself, ‘Oh, how stupid you are. You know perfectly well that this goes on, and yet, it happened.'” Hess had his pants tailored for $12, but didn’t bother asking his company for reimbursement.
Passengers with armrest-damaged goods either contact MetroNorth by phone or e-mail or go straight to the Customer Service desk at window 28 in Grand Central.
Colin Fairweather, a conductor with MetroNorth for 25 years, told us that when he worked on the Harlem line in 2007-2008, the armrests were a major issue. “I’ve seen people with expensive coats, nice leather jackets that got caught,” he said. After 2008, he moved to a line without the menacing armrests, and now he’s been back on the Harlem line for three months, but said complaints have calmed down significantly. “I know at first when this first happened, we had a lot of complaints with it, but recently I haven’t seen anything,” he said. “But it still is messed up.”