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Not on board: Advocate quits state RR commuters' group

Published 7:08 am, Monday, November 25, 2013

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  • Jim Cameron has quit his position as chairman of the Connecticut Rail Commuter Council. Photo: Jason Rearick / Stamford Advocate
    Jim Cameron has quit his position as chairman of the Connecticut Rail Commuter Council. Photo: Jason Rearick

 

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After becoming the first appointee to a newly formed commuter group last year, Jim Cameron, an outspoken advocate on rail issues for two decades has quit the organization formed by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy as part of a government streamlining effort.

Cameron said last week that he would continue to advocate for commuters independent of the group, through his twice monthly newspaper column, blog Talking Transportation and other efforts.

Cameron said that he felt he could more effectively address rail service on Metro-North's New Haven Line off the council than on.

"I'm not going to say anything about the new council negative or positive, besides my hope they do the work the old council did," Cameron said. "My focus is really to find new ways to give voice to commuters, and I'm exploring some possibilities and hope to make some kind of announcement in a few weeks."

The initial proposal to replace the Connecticut Metro-North Rail Council established in 1986 was raised by Malloy this spring, drawing fire from area lawmakers and members of the council for changes expected to undermine effectiveness.

Initially, the plan was to allow Malloy to choose the new group's chairman and remove previous language that would ensure the group could request and receive reports on railroad performance and equipment issues, including on-time performance and specific service failures.

A group of lawmakers led by state Rep. Tony Hwang, R-Fairfield, rallied support to strike those proposals and maintain the group's investigative powers, lining up 74 other legislators who represent customers along the New Haven Line and elsewhere.

After the proposal was approved in May, the group convened in September.

The Connecticut Rail Commuter Council is scheduled to hold its third meeting Monday in Fairfield, with the election of new officers on the agenda.

Cameron said that he is especially proud of the defunct council's contributions to push the state to commit more than $1 billion for a new fleet of 425 M8 railcars to replace the state's aging fleet.

"We were able to make the top priority of the state the ordering of the new railcars," Cameron said. "It was an effort to convince them it was necessary not just for the commuters, but the railroad and the economy of the entire state."

State Rep. Gail Lavielle, a Republican who represents Wilton and is longtime member of the state's Public Transportation Commission, said Cameron's experience and willingness to challenge the railroad on service issues will be lost.

"He is reliable and dedicated and really understands what commuters go through which is so important," Lavielle said.

"I think his acuity in terms of what he knows about transportation and being always willing to tell the absolute truth regardless of the politics of a situation were vital."