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Off-peak subway riders left stranded, says Stringer report

Not as many New Yorkers working 9 to 5

March 23, 2018 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
After waiting double or triple the amount of time during peak hours, riders are sometimes even confronted with this sight: an out-of-service train. Eagle photo by Mary Frost
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New York City is increasingly a 24-hour city — but the city’s subway system is leaving its off-peak customers waiting on the platform, according to a study released by Comptroller Scott Stringer on Friday.

The study shows a substantial drop-off in service during non-traditional commuting hours. The MTA runs 60 percent fewer trains citywide from 5 a.m. to 6 a.m., for example, than it does from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m., and 38 percent fewer from 9 p.m. to 10 p.m.

This comes despite a citywide surge in the number of riders who commute to work during those hours. In 1985, half of the daily ridership into the Manhattan central business district occurred between 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. By 2015, this share dropped to just 28 percent.

“I got out of work around 8:30, 9 o’clock, and the countdown clock said the next train to Bay Ridge was in 20 minutes. And there’s only one train. You have no choice. It made me mad. All I wanted to do was go home,” Stephanie, a Bay Ridge resident who works on Court Street, told the Brooklyn Eagle. She did not want her last name used.

With slow service coming on top of frequent subway outages, sometimes riders have to dig deeply into their pockets for a car-share service or taxi just to get home.

“I was waiting for the F train on Saturday about 2 a.m. The clock said the next train was in 10 minutes, but then the trains kept going out of service,” said Stanley, who commutes to work in Downtown Brooklyn from Manhattan. “Then it said the next one would arrive in a half hour. I took a Via home instead — it was $13 dollars.”

Still, it’s important to appreciate that NYC has the only 24-hour subway system in the world.

“We appreciate the comptroller’s continued calls for the city to fund its half of the Subway Action Plan,” MTA spokesman Jon Weinstein told the Brooklyn Eagle. “The challenges of running of a system 24/7, 365 days a year are well known – and not done anywhere else in the world. We balance round-the-clock service, safety and critical repair work towards the singular goal of a better subway system for all New Yorkers.”

Low-income workers especially affected

Often, those affected are lower-income, Stringer notes. According to the comptroller, 57 percent of all job growth in the last decade came in the healthcare, hospitality, retail, restaurant and entertainment industries, whose workers don’t usually work a traditional 9 to 5.

New Yorkers commuting between 5 a.m. and 7 a.m. earn $7,000 less than their rush hour counterparts and are more likely to be foreign born, a person of color, without a bachelor’s degree and working in the service sector.

“During rush hour, we’re packed into subway cars like sardines. But outside traditional 9-to-5 travel, off-peak service is fundamentally failing to meet demand. It’s a crisis within a crisis, because over the past decade, the nature of our economy has changed and ridership late-nights and early mornings has risen while actual service to match it has not,” Stringer said in a statement.

In Brooklyn, the neighborhoods most adversely impacted by infrequent train service include Park Slope-Gowanus and Borough Park. Other neighborhoods include Lenox Hill-Roosevelt Island, East Harlem, Washington Heights South, Flushing, Forest Hills, Elmhurst and Jamaica, according to the report.

Up until 2010, MTA added trains during off peak hours to keep up with increasing ridership. Since the Great Recession, however, while ridership continued to surge between 5 a.m. and 7 a.m., MTA did not add trains, Stringer said.

Stringer: It’s Time for MTA to Act

“We need more service in the early morning and evening and we need to immediately fund the Lhota emergency plan to ensure those trains are actually running on time,” Stringer said, recommending a comprehensive review of MTA scheduling.

MTA needs to lure back those riders who avoid public transit “on account of paltry off-peak service,” he added.


Updated 5:45 p.m. with a statement from the MTA.


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