Only one day in August without subway delays
by Benjamin Fang
Sep 18, 2018 | 359 views | 0 0 comments | 26 26 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Thursday, August 23, was a good day for New York City’s subway riders.

According to the transit advocacy group Riders Alliance, that was the only day in the month of August that wasn’t beset by signal or mechanical problems.

On Sunday, members of Riders Alliance gathered in front of the Barclays Center in Brooklyn to release an analysis of MTA data demonstrating the woes straphangers still face in their daily commutes.

The organization looked at MTA delay alerts issued between 6 and 10 a.m. for each August weekday morning, and found that every line except the L train suffered issues. The L train is the only line that has completed a signal upgrade.

D and R trains faced the most delays in August, according to the data, at 16 apiece. The worst morning commute occurred on Tuesday, August 14, which had a total of 28 delays from signal and mechanical problems.

John Raskin, executive director of Riders Alliance, noted that August 2018 symbolized one full year after Governor Andrew Cuomo and the MTA launched their “Subway Action Plan,” which was meant to stabilize the subway crisis.

“The failure of our transit system throughout the entire month of August indicates that there is no short-term solution that can truly solve the problem,” he said.

Raskin said the only way to solve the transit crisis is with a full-scale modernization, such as the MTA’s proposed “Fast Forward” proposal. But that can’t be fully funded, Raskin said, without a dedicated source of revenue like congestion pricing, which would bring in tens of billions of dollars.

“We are not here to complain,” Raskin said. “We are here to demand action from Governor Cuomo, who controls the MTA, and from state legislators who will need to approve any plan to raise billions of dollars to fix the subway.”

Jaqi Cohen, coordinator of the NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign, called on Albany to put money in the budget to make Fast Forward a reality. Without it, she said, riders will continue to face daily delays.

“We can’t fix a gaping wound with a band-aid,” Cohen said. “You can’t fix a transit system with inadequate funding and without a plan.”

Danna Dennis, an organizer with Riders Alliance, was one of the straphangers who experienced delays on the train last month. She recalled an evening commute that lasted an hour and 15 minutes, even though it normally takes 20 minutes.

Dennis was on the C train from Canal Street to Utica Avenue in Brooklyn, which stalled three times during her ride.

“I was on my way to meet my dad, and hopefully get to my grandmother’s in a certain amount of time,” she said. “Totally failed on that because the subway failed on me.”

Councilman Brad Lander said one year after the MTA’s Subway Action Plan, the trains are “no better.”

“We might have a fantasy that it’s getting better, we might believe the rhetoric the governor says that he’s doing something about it,” Lander said. “But if you ride those trains everyday, you know it’s not getting better.”

While Raskin credited the MTA for investing everything it can to reduce delays in the immediate term, he said that cannot be realistically achieved without new equipment and infrastructure, which will come with a hefty price tag.

“Our transit system is trying to run a 21st century global capital on 19th century infrastructure,” he said. “We have signals that are guiding our trains using technology that is a century old. We have train cars themselves that are decades ago, some from the 1960s.”

Advocates called not on the MTA, but political representatives like Cuomo and members of the state legislature to pass congestion pricing, implement Fast Forward and make mass transit their top priority in next year’s legislative session.

A contingent of outer-borough lawmakers, business groups and others oppose congestion pricing, who see it as another tax on residents who live in transit deserts. Raskin acknowledged that advocates have “more work to do” to make sure legislators understand that their constituents are looking for a solution.

“But I will say, having worked on this issue for years, that there is a broader recognition than I’ve ever seen that there’s a transit crisis and an openness to realistic solutions,” he said.

Even if Fast Forward is funded and implemented, Raskin said it will take a few years before riders feel the results, and a decade before the transit system is reliable.

“What’s missing right now is a path to a solution that is funded and underway,” he said. “That’s what we’re looking for, to make sure that the solutions to a transit crisis are in action, they are funded, and riders can realistically expect that in the coming years everyone will see an improvement to service.”

Cuomo spokesman Peter Ajemian responded in a statement that the governor “single-handedly revived the idea of congestion pricing” and has been leading the charge to pass it.

“The Riders Alliance time would be better spent convincing those who need convincing,” Ajemian said, “members of the legislature and City Hall.”

MTA communications director Jon Weinstein said in a statement that the system has stabilized over the last year, thanks to investment from the Subway Action Plan.

He noted that MTA has a new initiative to eliminate 10,000 subway delays a month, which “is already paying dividends.”

Weinstein also took a shot at the methodology of the report because it “provides no context whatsoever.”

“This oversimplification ignores the incredible progress we’ve made under the Subway Action Plan that stopped a steep decline in service and resulted in a series of vital improvements,” he said. “This appears to be more of a stunt than an actual serious look at service.”
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