Walker Strong / ctnewjunkie
Union Station in New Haven Monday (Walker Strong / ctnewjunkie)

With an ever-increasing emphasis on social distancing and mounting travel restrictions based on the coronavirus pandemic, Connecticut’s commuter rail services are seeing fewer riders and have announced schedule reductions for Shore Line East and the Hartford line.

“The rail service changes are being made following significant ridership declines,” the release from the state Department of Transportation said.

Until further notice, both rail lines will operate on a reduced weekend schedule for seven days a week, and some specific commuter trains have been suspended.

Shore Line East operates in the northeast corridor with service through Southern Connecticut, including stations in Guilford, New London, and Old Saybrook, among others.

However, Shore Line East through-trains to and from Stamford will not operate during this period, according to the release. Customers must transfer to New Haven Line trains at Union Station in New Haven.

On the Hartford Line, Amtrak Train 143, departing Springfield at 6 a.m., and Amtrak Train 46, departing New Haven from Union Station at 9:54 p.m., are suspended, according to the release.

The Department of Transportation promised to “continue to work closely with its rail and bus service providers to ensure trains, buses, and facilities are cleaned frequently in accordance with CDC recommendations.”

A March 12 Department of Transportation news release said that at Stamford, New Haven, and Bridgeport, Connecticut’s busiest train stations, higher frequency touch-points such as escalator handrails and door handles are being wiped down multiple times per day.

Stations across Connecticut have also increased their use of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) recommended cleaning products and methods.

CTRail joins other rail services in the region that have scaled back their operations.

Last week Amtrak announced it was suspending service for three trains that operate daily between New York and Washington based on decreased demand amid coronavirus concerns. Amtrak said it plans to operate at approximately 40% of its typical Northeast Corridor Schedule for the time being.

As of Monday, March 16, Amtrak had discontinued Acela Train 2151, in operation from Boston to New York City. The train had previously arrived at New Haven Union Station at 7:02 a.m. on Fridays.

Connecticut customers who relied upon Amtrak 2151, via their Shore Line East multi-ride tickets, are recommended instead to use SLE trains 1633 or 1641, which depart from New London at 5:43 a.m. and 6:50 a.m. respectively.

Metro-North’s New Haven Line, the state’s 60-mile commuter rail connecting to Grand Central Station in Manhattan, was continuing regular weekday service as of Monday, March 16.

Boasting an average of 125,000 daily riders with over 39 million annual passengers, the New Haven line ranks as one of the busiest in the United States, according to a 2014 report by the Regional Plan Association.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority in New York stressed that passengers should do everything in their power to stay home or find alternative travel methods for the coming weeks.

However, the rail service is still necessary for many doctors and healthcare providers both in Connecticut and commuting between the two states.

“We’re here to get nurses, doctors, childcare workers, first responders, transit workers and essential staff of New York and Connecticut to get to where they need to be,” the MTA said in a statement posted to their website Monday.

Metro-North also said it is implementing additional security precautions throughout all subway, railroad, and bus stations.