By Mark Hallum
Public transit advocacy group Riders Alliance launched a campaign for straphangers to hold Gov. Andrew Cuomo responsible for the state of the city’s subways, which continue to suffer a high number of delays from antiquated infrastructure.
An event at Queensboro Plaza kicked off the campaign on Feb. 28, at which the group spoke with commuters about holding Cuomo and the MTA accountable for the state of the city’s transit system and to call on the state to include MTA funding in the FY 2019 budget.
The event came a week after the launch of a contest by the organization, which handed out a chocolate MetroCard to riders with the worst commute stories.
“Subway riders are racking up #WorstCommutes with no end in sight,” Rebecca Bailin, Riders Alliance Campaign Manager, said. “New Yorkers are experiencing a transit crisis born of a lack of accountability. Subway civics lets riders know who to hold accountable for better, more reliable service. Gov. Andrew Cuomo and legislators must lead this year on the funding we need for several million New Yorkers to once again get to work — and school — on time.”
MTA spokesman Shams Tarek issued the same statement the agency prepared for the launch of the “Worst Commute” contest two weeks earlier in response to the event at Queensboro Plaza.
“Today, 50,000 New York City Transit employees moved nearly 6 million people on the subway and 2.5 million bus riders. They operated trains, fixed signals and switches, repaired track, navigated the clogged streets of New York City and helped customers find their way – that’s what we’re focused on.”
The first winner of the “Worst Commute” was Forest Hills resident Jennifer Tang, who put off using the rest room before embarking on her usual half-hour journey home. Her fate was to spend two hours on a stalled R train just feet from her home station at 71st Street.
Cuomo is working to enact congestion pricing for traffic entering Manhattan south of 60th Street, with tolls of $11.52 for cars, in order to establish a dedicated funding stream for the MTA.
But while the state prepares for the possible launch of the congestion pricing proposal, commuters are suffering with persistent delays during critical hours of the day.
Riders Alliance Executive Director John Raskin issued a statement Monday, March 5, about a slew of train delays during the morning rush along 16 lines, including the F, E, J and N which run through Queens, stemming from mechanical and signal failures.
“Yet again this first Monday morning in March, commuters had their lives upended by signal and mechanical problems throughout the subway system. Clearly, no short-term duct tape solution is going to solve the transit crisis; we need a real plan to invest in modern signals and new subway cars,” the head of the straphangers’ advocate group said. “Nine months after Gov. Cuomo declared a state of emergency, there is still no plan and still no money to invest in long-term upgrades to our transit system. Riders want to know: Is the governor serious about fixing the subway?”
Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhall