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Conn. commuters scoff at governor’s advice to stay in NYC

Posted: 10:10 PM, May 20, 2013
Updated: 2013-05-20 22:10:51-04

While thousands of people heeded the advice of Connecticut’s governor and stayed home in order to minimize the effect of Friday evening’s Metro North train derailment, some people ridiculed another piece of advice from Governor Dannel Malloy, because of its potentially high expense.

The governor and Connecticut’s emergency management team predicted that if all 30,000 Metro North commuters took to the roads in place of the railway that’s been out of action since Friday evening’s rush, “We would literally have a parking lot,” according to the governor.

He also added, in a Sunday evening news conference, the following recommendation, which left more than a few people wondering:  “If you are going to New York, or you’re transporting yourself to New York, you may decide you should stay there.  It’s certainly worth considering.”

In response, New York-bound commuter Cindy Alvira of Westport told PIX11 News, “I’m not looking to stay in New York.  Is [the governor] going to pay my hotel fee?”

She posed the question laughingly, but the expense somebody would have to face in order to carry out his recommendation is no laughing matter.

A check on Expedia showed that the average price of a hotel room near Grand Central, where the Metro North line ends, is $237 per night.  The average for lower quality, three-star hotels is $213 per night.  The most affordable hotel near the train on Expedia is listed at $132 per night.

However, if somebody were to stay at the lowest price hotel for multiple nights, the charges mount significantly.  When food and other expenses are factored in, the overall cost could get well into the hundreds of dollars, even if the rail line is repaired by Wednesday morning, as Gov. Malloy predicted Monday evening.

When PIX11 attempted to book the $132 per night room, it was sold out.  There was, however, an alternative listed on the booking page for the hotel room:  something described as a single bed in a mixed gender dorm — lodgingspeak for a bed in a hostel’s bunk room.  It was listed at $73.97 per night.

Even that can add up for commuters.  PIX11 contacted the governor’s office Monday afternoon seeking comment for this story.  Gov. Malloy’s communications director, Andrew Doba, would only say that the story is “ridiculous” and “stupid.”

Matthew Tokatlian, however, a commuter who PIX11 encountered at the Westport Metro North station as he checked with the ticket office about Tuesday’s commute, seemed to think otherwise.  He said that he’d planned to go into the city Tuesday for work, rather than stay at home, as he had done on Monday.

As for staying in New York, Tokatlian said, “I have nobody to stay with there, and hotels are booked up, and it’s expensive.”

Due in part to many people like Tokatlian choosing to commute into the city Tuesday, before the rails are fully repaired, car and train volume are expected to be noticeably higher than they were on Monday.