No. 7 riders deal with disruption

Riding on the No. 7 train on Friday, January 11, the first day of service disruptions along the line, Karis Chan looked like the quintessential tourist - map stretched out in front of her; backpack on her lap; and a beige MTA advisory pamphlet dangling from one of her hands.
“I have no idea about the train. This is my first time on the train,” said Chan, visiting from Hong Kong.
Bobbing along with the lurches of the subway car, Chan seemed surprised but unconcerned when told the “Service Changes” pamphlet in her hand was to notify passengers like her that the very train she was riding would make all local stops until February 29 and would not run between Main Street and Woodside-61st Street on weekends until February 12.
Elmhurst resident Leonardo Gamboa was equally unconcerned. Gamboa didn’t anticipate any problems personally but he admitted that he is among the lucky ones.
“The people who work in Manhattan or Astoria have a problem right now,” he said.
Nelson Olan is one of those people with a problem. Olan lives in the Bronx but rides the No. 7 into Queens daily to visit his girlfriend. He relies on the train to get to work - and he works weekends.
“I knew there was some construction going on but I didn’t know they were going to shut down [the No. 7] on the weekends,” said a shocked Olan who knew nothing of the disruptions prior to being asked about them by The Queens Courier.
“Where are the postings? Any signs posted? I don’t see any,” said Olan, standing on a stretch of platform devoid of any service advisory notices.
“Times Square, Grand Central - I didn’t see anything. No one informed us. Nothing,” said Olan, who suggested the MTA post warnings in areas other than just along the affected stretches of track. He also proposed the implementation of service advisories that flash across MetroCard vending screens when a purchase is made.
Alvaro Lamane felt a similar sense of unease. Speaking in Spanish, Lamane, who works nights, explained that he may have to pay for taxis to get around in the absence of subway service, as waiting for buses and transfers is too time consuming.
“There are many problems [because of the disruptions]. Many problems,” Lamane said.
If City Councilmember John Liu, chair of the Transportation Committee, and Councilmember Ellen Young get their way, those problems will be alleviated sooner than anticipated. The pair is calling on the MTA to complete the construction along the No. 7 line by the end of the month in time for the Lunar New Year celebrations that will take over Main Street Flushing.
While Liu and Young commend the MTA for better service change notifications and for providing improved alternate service via the Long Island Rail Road and shuttle buses, the councilmembers cited the congestion created by buses as a severe disruption to local commerce and a likely hindrance to the Chinese New Year festivities.
Elmhurst resident Betty Guman, who relies on weekend subway service, is sympathetic to the MTA - as long as they get the job done.
“It’s an inconvenience but at the same time they are making [the No. 7 line] better for the future,” Guman said, noting that the disruptions aren’t much of a surprise since the steadily deteriorating line has been under construction for so long.
Simon Velez, who commutes into Queens on weekends for work, found out about the No. 7 changes the day they went into effect, but he, too, seemed unperturbed - for the most part.
“Fortunately in the last few months or so I’ve been finding alternate routes to get to this part of town,” Velez said, while other commuters stopped in their tracks to stare at MTA service notices on the Main Street station walls behind him.
“I’m going to end up having to take two buses and get wet if it rains,” Velez quickly added with a laugh. “So that’s not too comforting.”
Karis Chan, having confidently folded up her map and tucked it into her backpack took a friendly swipe at the MTA.
“In Hong Kong we also have subways but it’s never like this. They do construction at night,” she said, as if the inconvenience - and not just the subway line and the terrain it passed over - was foreign to her.

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