By Bill Parry
The morning after the MTA announced it would begin a $45 million project for structural steel repair work and painting along the elevated 7 train line from Jackson Heights and Corona, elected officials and angry straphangers rallied in Sunnyside to demand more from the agency.
City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) and U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights) blasted the MTA May 3 for continued poor service on the 7 line as well as its announcement that signal upgrade work, which has been underway for seven years will not be finished on time.
“We have endured horrible 7 train service for far too long,” Van Bramer said. “The MTA needs to set deadlines and stick to them. As they plan work, they need to consider this community and the repercussions of service changes. And Andy Byford needs to come to this community immediately for an emergency town hall so that he can fully understand the impact of this awful 7 train service.”
Byford is the new president of New York City Transit.
“People who live along the 7 need the train to get to work and to get home to their families and they shouldn’t be forced to dedicate additional commute time to stand on crowded platforms because the 7 train is so unreliable,” Van Bramer said. “This community deserves better”
The new technology, called Communication-based Train Control, will eventually allow the MTA to run more trains per hour on the 7 line, but that project has missed numerous deadlines. Work was supposed to be completed June 30, but it has been pushed back to November.
“The extended time lines and cost overruns on the CBTC project are completely unacceptable,” founder and executive director of Access Queens Melissa Orlando said. “Not only does this cause inconvenience for riders, the associated testing, train delays and signal failures create a real quality-of-life issue here in Queens. The economic impact of not having functioning mass transit in Queens cannot be overstated — all of this has a cost attached to it.”
The MTA explained the contractor Thales is asking for more time to complete the CBTC project, and Byford is challenging the request.
“President Byford told MTA Board members that he’s very unhappy about delays and is aggressively pushing the contractor installing the brand-new signal system on the 7 line to work harder and complete the job sooner than the contractor’s new projection,” MTA spokesman Jon Weinstein said.
City Councilman Peter Koo (D-Flushing) joined the rally and spoke of his constituents’ anger and frustration with frequent delays on the 7 line.
“Any 7 train rider can tell you that the only thing reliable about the 7 train is that it will inevitably be delayed,” Koo said. “At the end of the day, 7 train riders are sick and tired of being sick and tired. From Long Island City to Flushing, New Yorkers need the MTA to do better because New Yorkers deserve better.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr