This week’s subway horror story comes from the 7 line, where a stalled train left hundreds of riders stranded beneath the East River for more than an hour during Monday’s commute. The problem cropped up during the heart of the AM commute when the train’s electrified third rail “shoe” came into contact with the third rail protective board, causing a smoke condition that disabled the train. While riders endured a tortuous wait before being transferred to a rescue train, service on the 7 was suspended in both directions, delaying thousands of riders on one of the subway’s most critical arteries.
This living nightmare was just the latest in a long line of indignities for 7 train riders, who put up with seemingly never-ending weekend outages as NYC Transit installs a communications-based-train control signal system on the line. While the project will mean more frequent service and less crowding when operational next year, riders continue to suffer intolerable conditions in the meantime.
And it’s not just the 7 line. Major delays seem to be part of every straphanger’s daily routine nowadays. Just last week, evening commuters on the Queens-bound M and R lines were stopped for about 40 minutes when the emergency brakes were tripped on a train at the Northern Boulevard station.
Many of these disruptions are nothing more than flukes that can happen at anytime. But the reality is they’re coming at a time when underinvestment in the MTA is hamstringing the agency as it seeks to maintain an acceptable level of service and fund system expansion efforts critical to its and the region’s future viability.
As has been well chronicled in this blog and by other transit advocates and elected leaders like Jose Peralta and David Weprin, the MTA is starved for cash. Almost half of its $32-billion 2015-19 Capital Program remains unfunded even after the state budget deal last week, while the legacy of decades of fare-backed borrowing was the seventh fare and toll increase in 12 years despite the declining service quality.
The Move NY Fair Plan is the best way out of this Catch-22. Of the many funding alternatives being proposed, it’s the furthest along and most equitable. Unlike alternatives such as a higher gas tax (more than 50 cents a gallon would be needed to fill the $15 billion gap!) – a regressive pricing mechanism as it hits the working class the hardest – Move NY redistributes the burden by lowering the sky-high tolls on the MTA crossings and imposing a modest fee on the City’s East River bridges. This may seem like a lift for those who don’t pay to cross today, but it actually fairly allocates and balances the costs among all commuters in and out of the city.
In the process, Move NY plugs the funding gap for transit and roadway improvements. The excess revenue stream makes possible the full MTA capital plan, service improvements that reach even the most distant corners of the City, more affordable fares for commuter rail in the outer boroughs, and upgrades in our roads and bridges – all of which add up to more mobility, accessibility, and equity for stakeholders throughout the downstate area.
Now, it’s time to put the pressure on Albany and local officials. Tell your elected leaders your commuting horror story. Tell them enough is enough. We are in this fight to win. Send a message to your elected officials: Fill the MTA Gap!