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Westport Commuters Hope for Quiet Train Cars

WESTPORT, Conn. – After a long day at work, all Paulson O'Rourke wants is to unwind. But unwinding on a Metro-North train back to New York doesn't come easy when the person next to him is yelling into their cell phone.

"There's really nothing worse than being stuck next to someone that's carrying out a full-blown cell phone conversation," said O'Rourke, who works in Westport. "Sometimes you have to make or take a phone call, I understand that. But it's possible to make a call without the entire train car hearing your conversation."

O'Rourke said he has gotten so frustrated by inconsiderate passengers that he's thought about buying headphones to drawn out noise. But soon, O'Rourke and other passengers may be able to enjoy their commutes in peace as Metro-North rolls out quiet cars.

Passengers who board the quiet car will have to keep as silent as possible — that means muting cell phones, computers and other electronic devices, and speaking in subdued voices that can't be heard by others, a Metro-North statement said. If someone needs to make a call or talk, they have to leave the car to do so. Conductors will have business cards to hand out "as needed" to remind people of the rules of the car, according to the statement.

These specially designated cars are being tested on the Danbury branch of the New Haven Line beginning Oct. 17, when Metro-North's timetable changes, said Aaron Donavon, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Transit Authority. The trial will run until the timetable changes again, which should be at the end of winter, he said. The plan is to expand the service to lines east of the Hudson River, which includes Hudson, Harlem and New Haven.

"I think it's a great idea and it sounds promising" O'Rourke said. "It's a shame I'll have to wait for them to appear on my trains, but it's a comfort knowing they are coming."

Metro-North partnered with New Jersey Transit to bring quiet cars to the Pascack Valley and Port Jervis Lines on June 1, where they've received good reviews by riders, Donavon said.

Like O'Rourke, Westport resident Gerard Pelletier said he's sick of being bothered by loud passengers and hopes the quiet cars prove to be a success during the trial run.

"I once sat near a young girl who was on the phone for probably 40 minutes," Pelletier said. "She wasn't just talking, but cursing. Everyone could hear her and people were giving her dirty looks, but she didn't seem to care. I hope [quiet cars] come our way sooner rather than later."

To contact Vanessa Inzitari, send an email to vinzitari@thedailywestport.com .

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