Metropolitan Transportation Authority commuters never thought they would need to learn how to swim before embarking on their journeys. Yet, it became a reality on Sept. 18, when 34th Street-Penn Station became as flooded as the Carolinas after Hurricane Florence hit, with rain pouring erratically through the ceiling.
This probably is not part of the “marginal improvement” in progress the MTA has been bragging about as part of its $800 million rescue plan to save itself after Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared a state of emergency last year. Part of the plan includes FASTRACK, a subway maintenance program that suspends train service over sections of subway lines so MTA workers may repair faulty signals, remove debris from stations and replace signs.
It is unfortunate that commuters are still squinting their eyes to find the progress. Overcrowding continues to plague platforms as workers use their whistles to herd passengers into trains like cattle. Lateness from frequent delays in service due to signal problems has become so anticipated that commuters leave their homes two hours earlier for a one-hour commute. The MTA probably prides itself on our misery since MTA chief Joe Lhota thinks a fare hike is unavoidable in 2019.
Yet, the MTA reports that 68 percent of trains were on time this summer as opposed to last year’s 65 percent, and 285 of 665 miles of track were cleaned out. Bragging about winning small battles does not equate to winning the war.
The MTA is far from winning this war against itself, as it needs more than FASTRACK to resurrect itself.
The MTA hopes that bringing in its “Achilles” from Vancouver, Canada, Andy Byford, who recently proposed “Fast Forward,” a $37 billion, decade-long plan to replace pre-World War II era signals, would modernize the system. But Byford neglected to include the part about emptying the pockets of taxpayers in order to fund it. Seems like the MTA forgot that Achilles was a tragic hero.
Cuomo proposed congestion pricing, but he has not followed through yet. No surprise there, since the MTA barely scraped a few bucks together for FASTRACK.
Playing the blame game like Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio is useless when nobody wins. Politicians’ decades of divestment, Cuomo’s reluctance to take responsibility until now, de Blasio’s minimal involvement and the MTA’s inefficiency and mismanagement of funds have all contributed to the MTA’s collapse, as commuters dodge falling debris from stations. It appears that commuting to work in New York City has become a horrifying set piece straight out of “Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare.”
Fixing our incapacitated subway system is an infinite war indeed; however, throwing the MTA under the bus will not improve the situation. Despite its flaws, it is still cheaper than Uber and gets you to your destination, albeit slowly.
Nevertheless, pouring money into a broken system means nothing if spent foolishly. Some projects, while admirable, are unnecessary and wasteful when there are more pressing issues at hand. The USB outlets on bus ceilings are useful only if you’re as tall as de Blasio; continual upgrades to already upgraded buses as opposed to old ones are downright impractical.
Frequent overstaffing results in paying more salaries, while high construction costs, sometimes seven times above average, run rampant. The MTA must use its money more efficiently before it embarks on an ambitious $37 billion plan.
The day will come when that fancy MTA app reports that all trains and buses are under “Good Service” instead of “Delays.” The matter of when that day will come is still up for debate.
But for now, refusing to settle for “good enough” by incessantly letting the MTA know our frustration will continue to pressure them. Only then might they turn their “marginal” improvements into substantial ones.
Political Science ‘21
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