And this one showing subway service status during Tuesday’s evening rush is especially telling. Signal problems between Chambers Street and WTC on the A/C/E lines snarled service on all IND routes in Manhattan. The L line was disrupted by signal problems of its own. Service was back to normal on the L by 7:20, but the 8th Avenue corridor remained affected while the 6th Avenue trunk lines were still slowed as they picked up the slack. Twitter feeds went wild, with people posting pictures of overflowing subway platforms and trains.
Such delays are occurring far more frequently. The MTA recently reported “straphangers saw an average of 43,339 delays per month last year on weekdays, compared with 29,774 in 2013.” As if news could be any worse: subways suffered a 45% increase in delays overall in 2014 when compared to 2013.
While it’s too early to say whether Tuesday’s root cause – a power failure at the WTC station – is linked to the state of the subway infrastructure, it’s a stark reminder nonetheless how fragile our city’s subways are and the crippling effects an outage can have on commuters. Consider this: if our subway system were upgraded to 21st century modern technologies as used in other metropolitan cities worldwide, 75 million hours per year could be saved in subway trips.
There is good news in the Governor’s and Mayor’s respective transit visions. Governor Cuomo is a staunch advocate of Penn Station Access, which will bring Metro-North’s New Haven line into Penn Station. In doing so, the project will not only create direct access to this burgeoning community in midtown west, but offer much-needed mobility for residents of the East Bronx and critical system resiliency.
Mayor De Blasio has outlined an ambitious agenda for enhancing transit service to the remote corners of the outer boroughs, which are among the fastest growing but least served neighborhoods in the city. He’s proposing a five-borough ferry system, priced to match the subway and bus fare, while rolling out another 13 Select Bus Service routes by 2020.
In the end, though, without a massive infusion of cash for capital improvement projects and the modernization of our aging transit system, the MTA cannot hope to meet the transit needs of its constituents. As well documented, the 2015-2019 Capital Program offers hope of new corridors, enhanced capacity along existing ones, and the more prosaic but just as critical investments in system upkeep. But projects like the Second Avenue Subway, the double track on the LIRR’s Ronkonkoma Branch, and modern signal systems to increase throughput on subway routes like the Queens Boulevard Line will wither on the vine unless Albany and the city dig up the missing $15 billion for the $32-billion program.
The good news is that all the money needed for the MTA plus investments in the region’s roads and bridges can be raised seamlessly if the Move NY Fair Plan is implemented. It would institute an equitable toll pricing plan that strikes a balance between the tolls charged to use the MTA’s East River crossings and the untolled city crossings – and raise $1.5 billion in annual new revenue.
Transit delays will always occur. No system is fail-safe. However, instead of increasing in frequency as they are now, they will recede with a full commitment to the MTA Capital Program. Budget talks will pick up pace in coming weeks. Speak up and make Move NY a solution for all New Yorkers.