How to Turn Up the Pressure on Cuomo to Fix the Subways

Get a "Subway Delay Action Kit" to mobilize other riders the next time you're stuck on a crowded platform or train.

Photo: Governor's Office/Flickr
Photo: Governor's Office/Flickr

Subway delays and service failures keep escalating because political leaders spent a generation mismanaging resources needed to maintain and improve the system. And for the last seven years, the person most responsible for letting the subways slide into a state of disarray has been Andrew Cuomo.

As the Times detailed in an excellent investigative piece over the weekend, Cuomo has neglected repair and upgrades for core infrastructure like tracks, signals, and trains. The best hope to turn around the system is to intensify the pressure on Cuomo.

“When you’re Tweeting at the governor, that goes directly to his office,” said Riders Alliance organizer Rebecca Bailin. “They hear us, and the more of us that do it, the more they have to pay attention to us.”

If you want to enlist your fellow straphangers to turn up the heat on Cuomo, the Riders Alliance wants to help. Sign up for their “Fix Our Subways” campaign and they’ll send you copies of this flyer to hand out, so people know exactly who to contact:

New Yorkers can sign up to receive copies of this "Subway Delay Action Kit" to distribute to fellow riders. Image: Riders Alliance
Image: Riders Alliance

The idea is that “everybody who’s on the train, commiserating and sharing their frustration can channel that into productive action,” said Riders Alliance Executive Director John Raskin.

The inspiration for the toolkit came from Riders Alliance members who wanted an easy way to mobilize other transit riders during subway troubles.

“There’s this intense feeling of powerlessness that [people] experience, and I experience, when we’re stuck on the subway,” Bailin said. “This gives us something useful that we can do and we can direct to other riders. We can really mobilize thousands of people every time there’s a delay.”

“Just this morning, I was delayed about 15 minutes on the train,” said Riders Alliance member Lauren Houston, who commutes into Manhattan from Flatbush. “I’m looking around and everybody’s rolling their eyes. At least now I would have a card that I can give to people so they feel like they can do something in that moment.”

  • Larry Littlefield

    Good luck. I worked for NYCT from 1986 to 1988 in logistics, and saw what it took to turn the place around, and how bad things were.

    If David Gunn, who I consider a hero of New York, is so upset he can’t sleep at night, as the article says, I’m just glad I mostly commute by bicycle now.

  • NYCBK123

    Love this. Riders Alliance has a backbone and is going for results. I wish every station had the contact info for the governor and local state reps plastered on the wall.

  • How helpful.

  • Larry Littlefield

    You be it is.

    I no longer contribute to the crowding on the trains on most days.

    And having exited the public sector 13 years ago, what had been my pay and benefits are no longer contributing to the downward spiral of the system. No way I would ever have been able to produce value in excess of that cost, in the face of the social tsunami the Times reported on.

    Particularly given rising health care costs if I had been forced to see what was happening day by day. I’ve sick enough about it — and everything else like it — as it is.

  • Some Dude

    I see the MTA is still beating on a dead horse, if the MTA cared about improving the subways then they wouldn’t spend their money on useless things like wifi and usb chargers. I just want to get from point A to point B on time and safely, not pay a higher fare to watch Netflix on public transportation.

    They’re 35billion in debt, where did the money go to? Creating fancy train stations for the rich and building more useless hipster stations?
    “New York City is the center of capitalism and financial markets,
    however, hiding underneath the towering skyscrapers is an organization
    that defies the free market forces by siphoning off increasing amounts
    of city and state taxpayer dollars. This organization is the
    Metropolitan Transport Authority (MTA), which loses on average more than
    $6 billion per year dating back to 2009. If the MTA were a company in a
    functioning free market, it would have filed bankruptcy and
    restructured a decade ago. Instead, the city and state increase taxpayer
    subsidies and debt year after year, while acquiescing to union demands,
    resulting in one of the highest costing, least productive transit
    systems in the world.”

    This is ridiculous

  • Some Dude

    Guess we’ll see you on the subway when it snows.

  • J. Geoff Rove

    How many soldiers did the MTA loose in Africa this Fall ?? Seems the Pentagon siphons off Trillions every 2 years.

  • Hux

    I am glad that you discussed why delays matter and why speed is important, which the MTA seems to either not realize or choose to ignore because it’s easier and makes them look better. Most MTA employees have excellent job security, but their passengers don’t and they’re clearly losing wages or even getting fired or not even making it to interviews, to family events, to medical appointments.

    And the delays make our streets more crowded with more vehicles (which makes it more dangerous for bikers, even if there are more bikers). Delays make us less safe! Even more people faint and get sick on the trains when they’re crowded.

    We used to know that speed was important. We even used to have open-gangways on the BMT D-type cars. I think that unification was the beginning of our problems. Core problem is incentives. Leading to a bad culture, caring about image and messaging and politics above anything else, spending time avoiding responsibility instead of owning up to mistakes. Leading to not sharing bad news, hiding data. Appeasing unions. Creating more and more rules, because why not?

    Government doesn’t care about delays because it doesn’t need to care about the bottom line. Look at MTR or other private subways, they have excellent performance. They care if their trains break down. We blame poor R32 performance on the fact that they’re old, but really, they just haven’t been maintained. So they try to remove delays and remove reporting on R32 MDBF, or loosen the standards (OTP in Chicago is 10+ minutes)… shame on them.

    I think the derailment this summer brought attention (caused by our own poor maintenance procedures) and the track fire (caused by crew braking improperly). So did the stalled F train, the Penn Station problems, the looming L train shutdown, etc. And all of the press about SAS, 7 extension, WTC, Fulton Center, bus terminal, airports, and so on has people thinking about transportation more than I think they have in a while. So maybe things will change.

    But the signal mods have been going on for decades now (they are still modifying things now, working in phases, carrying out all of the many safety recommendations from a 1990s report) and they are still impacting things now. Flagging rule changes were enacted years ago as well but took a long time to get implemented by crews (training, enforcement, compliance, etc.) Always making new rules and procedures.

    It’s important to message, and to be safe, but we’re doing the wrong messaging (misleading, misstating), and we’re spending most of our time doing it, instead of fixing the problems. We have third world stations in a wealthy global city.

    We keep adding more rules. People working on tracks get hurt when they don’t follow existing rules, but we add more anyway. Because we don’t seem to care about speed anymore. It is politically incorrect to say “speed”. Our leaders care about the politics more than the system, so they’ll make short-sighted choices. Like the LGA AirTrain, which makes sense politically in the short-term, but not otherwise. Maybe if more people paid attention and saw it was a silly project, it would not make sense politically? I’m not sure.