Filling the Gap

Guest Blogger — Time to Beat the Clock

By Yisrael Zev, Forest Hills Resident, Queens, New York

Lorimer_St-Countdown_clockIt may have been a blip on the radar, but nonetheless was symbolic of the often hit-and-miss nature of subway service. Anyone waiting for a local M/R train in the direction of Continental Avenue in Forest Hills found themselves at one point facing a 15-minute gap between M trains the morning of Tuesday, June 2.

Since the corridor is served by the R train as well and there were two R trains during the period, the wait for the M train wasn’t a tremendous burden. Nonetheless, for passengers transferring to a Jamaica-bound E train, the lag in service meant an equal 15-minute wait for the E, enough to make people late for work. (Instead of a local train within 4 minutes, based on 8-minute intervals for each of the two local lines, there was a wait double that before the first of the back-to-back R trains arrived.)

It exacerbates one of the pet peeves of subway riders: the oftentimes lack of real-time train information. Passengers on many of the numbered routes enjoy access to countdown clocks, which give up-to-the-minute status on train service. They’re widely popular, since they offer straphangers what they need most during disruptions: timely and reliable information.

The good news is that the MTA’s 2015-19 Capital Program contains funding to expand countdown clocks to many lettered lines, including in Queens. The bad? The $32 billion plan still faces a $14 billion funding shortfall as the clock on the current legislative session in Albany winds down. The legislature recesses in two weeks, June 17th, and has yet to seriously consider the program.

Failure of Albany to act means small but consequential losses as the countdown clocks, plus major losses such as the follow-on phases of the Second Avenue Subway (leaving a stub-ended segment from 96th Street to 63rd Street), Metro-North access to the southeast Bronx and Penn Station, and modernization of essential assets, including tracks, signals, and vent plants.

The MTA is the bread-and-butter of the region. Yet, time and time again, our leaders seriously underestimate its import. They are shamefully close to a course of inaction that imperils the continued competitiveness and livability of New York City and State.

The best solution is for them to enact the Move NY Fair Plan. It’s ready-made, sensible, and raises the money our transit and road networks direly need, while imposing the least overall burden.

But we must beat the clock. Speak up and tell your elected officials to act. . . now.

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