Transit Advocates Ask Cuomo to Ride the Subway Like a Real New Yorker

Transit ridership is soaring, delays are way up, and the MTA has a $14 billion hole in its capital plan. MTA leadership is sounding the alarm, but Albany doesn’t seem to notice. With the clock ticking on the year’s legislative session, transit advocates are asking Governor Andrew Cuomo to hop out of his muscle car and ride the subway with them to experience the MTA’s needs first-hand.

If the governor experienced a typical New Yorker's transit commute, he might be more inclined to fund the MTA capital plan, advocates say. Photo: Azi Paybarah/Flickr
If the governor experienced a typical New Yorker’s transit commute, he might be more inclined to fund the MTA capital plan, advocates say. Photo: Azi Paybarah/Flickr

The governor has ridden the subway before, but it’s typically a choreographed affair with the press and public officials. His most recent ride, to reassure the public about terrorism preparedness last September, was only tangentially related to transit.

Advocates say it’s time the governor, who has yet to act on funding for the region’s transit investment plan, see a typical morning rush hour. Without a funding plan from Albany, straphangers will be saddled with massive fare increases to pay for debt-financed system upgrades.

“It defies comprehension that Governor Cuomo hasn’t taken up the issue of funding for our subways and buses,” Riders Alliance deputy director Nick Sifuentes said in a release. “The only reason we can think of is that he doesn’t have to deal with the dreadful rush hour commutes that average New Yorkers face every day.”

“New Yorkers are paying more for less and they hate that,” said Gene Russianoff, senior attorney for the Straphangers Campaign. “Don’t believe us? Join us on the subway and ask them how they feel about higher fares and poorer service.”

“New Yorkers are fed up with fare hikes, bad service, and overcrowded trains — we’ve been hearing from frustrated riders for months,” Sifuentes said. “It’s about time the governor does too.”

Riders Alliance has launched a petition asking Cuomo to ride the subway. The complete letter to Cuomo is below:

Dear Governor Cuomo:

We write to you after the Riders Alliance collected over 400 “subway horror stories” from New York transit riders, who weighed in with tales of broken-down trains, hours-long delays, and mass confusion on overcrowded platforms.

We would like to invite you to join us for a ride on the subway to see for yourself why so many New Yorkers have subway horror stories to share.

Ridership is at levels not seen in 65 years—more than in generations, New Yorkers are flocking to public transit, and are relying on our subways and buses to get to work, to get around town on weekends, and to access the myriad opportunities New York has to offer.

Specifically, we hope you will join us for a ride on the C train—on cars that are more than 50 years old, stopping at stations that have not been rehabbed in decades, or on the 7 train, which is over capacity daily and which was recently stuck in a tunnel after yet another equipment failure during the morning rush.

Unfortunately, even with record ridership and with clear demand for a new generation of capital investment, the MTA still faces a $15 billion gap in its next capital investment program. More riders than ever are looking to you for executive leadership—to implement new revenue sources and fill the MTA’s capital funding gap. The alternatives are unacceptable: further deterioration in service, rapid increases in fares, or both.

We hope to discuss the topic with you directly—in the most appropriate setting possible, which is on the trains that millions of New Yorkers rely on every day. We are willing to schedule a ride at a time of your convenience—though to get the full experience, we recommend approximately 8:30 a.m. on a weekday.

A central tenet of good politics is not to make promises you can’t keep. We promise that, if you join us for morning rush hour, you will not need to be further convinced of the vital importance of funding the MTA’s next 5-year capital investment plan. We look forward to discussing the matter with you in more detail.

Sincerely,

John Raskin, Executive Director, Riders Alliance
Gene Russianoff, Senior Attorney, NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign

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