These days, Baksh estimates that his commutes are delayed 80 percent of the time. The trains have too many signal issues, and the buses are just too slow and unreliable, especially at night.
“It starts out good, but somewhere along the line, there’s a delay,” he said.
The 62-year-old commuter said the transit system was fine in the 70s, when he took the subway to high school. But everything went downhill after that, including six fare increases in 10 years.
“We keep paying more but we keep getting less,” he said. “This has to stop.”
Baksh joined transit advocates last Thursday at the Barclays Center station in Brooklyn, where they urged riders across the city to begin calling Governor Andrew Cuomo and state legislators through the next budget session.
Their ask is for Albany to finally pass congestion pricing, which they believe is the biggest step to solve the subway and bus crisis.
The newly formed “Fix the Subway” coalition, made up of over 30 progressive organizations, including Riders Alliance, Transportation Alternatives and New York City Environmental Justice Alliance, is behind this latest push.
Rebecca Bailin, political director with Riders Alliance, said advocates were also at the 59th Street station in Sunset Park and 111th Street stop in Corona to ask riders to call elected officials. Straphangers were given a burner phone, a number, a script and a platform to voice their complaints.
“Never before have riders been called upon to make sure that their legislators and Governor Cuomo are held accountable to this scale,” she said. “We hope they’re annoyed and we hope they’re annoyed into action.”
If passed, congestion pricing would charge cars and trucks entering Manhattan south of 60th Street. The money raised annually — advocates estimate it would be as much as $1.7 billion per year — would go toward the MTA’s Fast Forward modernization proposal, which has a hefty price tag upwards of $40 billion.
Congestion pricing would also reduce traffic on the streets and allow buses to move faster, advocates said. Buses running in Manhattan now travel at walking speed.
Though Riders Alliance believes there are additional methods of raising funds to pay for Fast Forward, transit advocates agree congestion pricing is the best path forward.
“It’s fair, it’s progressive, it’s recurring and it’s the biggest chunk of any plan that I’ve seen,” Bailin said.
“Congestion pricing is the biggest piece of the pie in order to fix the subway, as far as funding goes,” added Thomas DeVito, senior director of advocacy with Transportation Alternatives. “It is long past time that is finally gets implemented.”
However, congestion pricing may still face an uphill climb from opponents, particularly those from the outer boroughs. Bailin said she feels they’re getting closer to convincing those lawmakers to get on board.
“That is literally why we’re here today, making sure those legislators are hearing from transit riders. We think they’ll be convinced,” she said. “When they start getting those calls, their job is to listen to their constituents.
“If they’re hearing them today and ongoing, we hope they’ll do the right thing and prioritize fixing the subway and funding the system this year,” Bailin added.
For Baksh, congestion pricing is a no-brainer. He said he’s sick and tired of the bad subway service, and plans to put pressure on lawmakers to enact the measure.
“We need our legislators and senators and governor who represent us either to do the right thing,” he said, “or we have to find somebody else to do the right thing for us.”