Yesterday(4/7/19), I did a Metro North/Ctrail trip combo which was good but but as good as I hoped for, especially in the beginning. My plan was to be able to take MNR Train # 6518 to NHV where I would switch to Ctrail Train # 6454 to Hartford, take Ctrail Train # 6455 from Hartford to Berlin, and then the next Ctrail train from Berlin to New Haven and then switch at New Haven for Metro North. Due to significant delays on MNR Train # 6518 which lead to me missing Ctrail Train # 6454, I ended up going as far as Berlin.
Here are the specifics. Metro North Train # 6518 had to stop just outside of Stamford due to mechanical difficulties. The conductor got on the loud speaker and explained the reasoning for the delays-very good on the part of that. He mentioned that when we got to Stamford, there would be a replacement train waiting across the platform. Guess what, there was none. For those of us continuing from stations between S. Norwalk and New Haven, we had to wait like 10-15 minutes extra at Stamford. Anybody wishing to get off at the Darien Stations had to wait for the next scheduled Metro North train in which the crew would accommodate those people so that way, 6518 can attempt to try to get people to their stations where they might have connections like to Waterbury, Shore Line East destinations, and Ctrali Hartford Line destinations. At some point between Stamford and Westport, we were told that our Ctrail train would wait for us. Passengers heading to Waterbury Branch and Shore Line East destinations were informed many times that their trains would wait for them while Ctrail Hartford Line people, it was only once. We got to New Haven over 30 minutes late. When we got there, we could see the Shore Line East train # 3618 wait but it didn't wait a very long time. It left literally a minute or two after the delayed MNR Train # 6518 arrived.
After getting off the 30 minute delayed MNR Train # 6518, I was pretty surprised and annoyed to see that Ctrail Train # 6454 left just before we arrived. On a normal day, there is 16 minutes carded in the timetable for layover time between when MNR Train # 6518 arrives and Ctrail Train # 6454 departs. Ctrail Train # 6454 still could have waited for us, given the fact that the majority of the Springfield Line is double tracked all the way to Hartford. Plus, it wasn't like 6454 would have messed their timeslot up with other Amtrak trains. It has more than plenty of layover time in Hartford before it comes back to New Haven. I believe that Ctrail trains that terminate in Hartford layover in a yard, rather than block the main line.
I ended up going as far as Berlin. After grabbing a pizza lunch in New Haven, I decided to walk over to State Street Station and grab Ctrail Train # 6456 there. I did along with twenty other people. When I boarded the train which was three cars, I could see that there were quite a few riders for a midday train and a train that isn't going up to Springfield. We ran on time. I noticed that many of the twenty people who I saw who boarded the train at State Street Station got off in Wallingford. I think like 10 people got off in Meriden and only a few including myself got off in Berlin. I spend a few hours in Berlin railfanning at and around the station. It's a very nice station. Many of the Ctrail trains that I saw there didn't have many riders getting on or off any of the trains-that included the Amtrak trains. I wasn't able to see how many people were on the Amtrak trains that stopped there, but the number was probably very high. Almost every train that I saw at Berlin, except the southbound Vermonter was on time. The southbound Vermonter wasn't running very late.
Heading back to New York City, I took Ctrail Train # 6459, a three car set which wasn't full but at the same time, it wasn't that empty. I observed that about 10 people boarded the train there. Very few people boarded the train in Wallingford. We ran on time the entire journey southbound. The one drawback is that if you are looking at making the 6:25 Metro North semi super express to Grand Central, don't count on it. It leaves just before Ctrail Train # 6459 arrives. At least, there is about twenty minutes until MNR Train # 6557 departs-good amound of time, just in case something goes wrong with Ctrail.
From what I have read a few months ago about Ctrail's ridership stats, it seems to be very good. I guess some days, it is more than others. As mentioned in other posts, it doesn't surprise me that there are many people who might live along the Springfield Line, especially the lower part, who will drive to New Haven or even West Haven for better connections. I hope that CDOT can prevent the same issue that I had with my train yesterday morning with other trains that people are connecting to from Metro North.