Pols say marathon subway ride gave them insight
The 24-Hour Riders Respond Tour was an eye-opening experience for the elected officials who spent an entire day riding the subway system and talking to straphangers about the breakdowns, derailments and delays that have plagued the system in recent months.
Organized by Councilmember Ydanis Rodriguez (D-Washington Heights), chairman of the council’s Transportation Committee; and Assemblymember Jeffrey Dinowitz (D-Bronx), chairman of the Assembly Corporations, Authorities and Commissions Committee; 24-Hour Riders Respond Tour took place over a two-day period, Aug. 3 and 4 and consisted of more than a dozen lawmakers riding the subway and getting feedback from everyday New Yorkers.
The lawmakers split up into two groups, with some riding the subway on Thursday and others making the marathon trip on Friday.
The tour took in four of the five boroughs and included stops at the Stillwell Avenue train station in Coney Island and the 36th Street station in Sunset Park.
The participants included Brooklyn lawmakers like Assemblymembers Pamela Harris, JoAnne Simon, Robert Carroll and Felix Ortiz and Councilmembers Mark Treyger, Carlos Menchaca, Brad Lander and Rafael Espinal.
New York City Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, Comptroller Scott Stringer and Public Advocate Letitia James also took part in the fact-finding mission.
Harris (D-Coney Island-parts of Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights) said she learned a lot and is now ready to fight to ensure that MTA provides better transit services.
“The MTA connects our city and makes travel possible, but it’s clear that our transportation system needs to be modernized. I’m committed to working for the people of Brooklyn so that we all have a safe and reliable transportation option. As elected officials, it’s important that we hear directly from those who are impacted by this the most, so we can work to resolve these issues as efficiently as possible,” Harris said.
Harris has been vocal about the issues impacting MTA for months and recently spoke at a rally outside MTA headquarters in Manhattan to protest the lack of disability accessible train stations in Brooklyn.
Assemblymember Robert Carroll (D-Park Slope) said he is a regular subway rider.
“As someone who doesn’t own a car and rides the subway on a daily basis, I know how infuriated New Yorkers are about the consistently poor service that we experience each day as we try to go to work, school, and just live our lives. New Yorkers depend on our subway, and when it is in disrepair and constantly delayed it directly impacts our pocket books and quality of life,” he said.
MTA Chairman Joe Lhota announced an emergency fix-it plan for the transit system on July 25, less than a month after Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared a state of emergency and directed the chairman to develop a plan to improve subway service.
The initial part of the $836 million NYC Subway Action Plan calls for track and signal repairs.
To address signal and track issues, MTA will seek to expedite a signal repair program and begin a program of track repairs. The agency will also repair water leaks, clean underground subway stations to remove debris and reduce fire hazards and dispatch special teams to locations with the highest incidents of track issues.
Lhota also announced plans to expand the number of subway cars to be overhauled from 950 to 1,100 cars a year.
Lhota’s plan has run into political infighting between Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio, who are arguing over whether the city should be providing more funding for MTA.
On Monday, de Blasio came to Borough Hall to announce a proposal for a tax increase on millionaires to help pay for subway repairs. Under the plan, low-income New Yorkers would get a discount on transit fares.