Here’s the good news: tourism is up, employment is up, and population is up. Here’s the bad news: the transportation system is sinking fast, there’s a fare hike proposal on the table and the MTA Chairman just resigned.
Here’s the solution: New Yorkers when they get together can do something about it.
While riders get angry for a moment and then get on with their day, many citizens have pulled together and are trying to help all New Yorkers, and our millions of tourists, to improve the city commute.
Danny Pearlstein is the policy and communications director of the Riders Alliance, an organization, he explained, that “fights for better transit by organizing subway and bus riders.” Pearlstein got recruited from the membership four years ago, and came on the staff last Thanksgiving. He grew up riding the subway and has a true passion for getting it right, for all New Yorkers.
“When the transit doesn’t work, our city doesn’t work,” said Pearlstein. The Riders Alliance has not only increased their membership recently, but they’ve joined a coalition of disparate grassroots groups that have the “transit system to bind them together,” as Pearlstein puts it.
The Riders Alliance is part of a coalition called “Fix the Subway,” with over 20 other organizations. Those groups include NYPIRG Straphangers, ALIGN NY, Chinese-American Planning Council, Citizen Action, Community Voices Heard, Environmental Advocates of New York, New York City Employment and Training Coalition, New York City Environmental Justice Alliance, New York Communities for Change, New York Immigration Coalition, New York Lawyers for the Public Interest, Rise and Resist, Sanitation Coalition, Straphangers Campaign, Street Vendor Project and Transportation Alternatives.
One issue facing the coalition is the MTA’s proposed solution called Fast Forward. With a new Democratic controlled state legislature, it will be up to Albany to implement this improvement, which is backed by many in the “Fix the Subway” coalition.
“The MTA has a work plan for new signals, cars, and elevators. The question is whether the governor and legislature will come up with a fair and sustainable funding plan to get it all done. Riders are looking to Albany as we approach the next state budget,” said Pearlstein. “Now more than a year since the governor declared a state of emergency on the subway, it’s clear that only full-scale modernization can end our transit crisis.”
Putting pressure on politicians has helped in the past. Riders Alliance and other groups helped get the Commuter Benefits Law, a federal commuter tax benefit that allows transit users to pay for the cost of their commutes with up to $255 of pre-tax dollars a month is now mandatory for many employers in the five boroughs.
Pitching in to help Riders Alliance, or one of the many other groups throughout the city, can make a big difference. In order to get the Fast Forward project pushed forward, New Yorkers will have to get, well, pushy. Pearlstein said, “Next year’s’ goal is to increase the outreach and impact of this grassroots organization.” Grassroots groups coordinate outreach to the State Legislature, the mayor and the governor, representing their collective concerns.
New York City is the largest subway system in the world, yet is ranked 21st in a global lineup of reliability. “We did a study in August and found that every morning every single delay was related to signal problems, primarily in Manhattan and Brooklyn,” said Pearlstein. “The D and the R have the worst records. The real system has become unreliable. In the past six years delays have tripled. Using May of 2012 as a baseline of 20,000 delays per month ... we have leapt up to 60,000 to 70,000 delays per month.”
As for the recent fare hike proposal, Pearlstein said, “With three fares hikes in the past six years, and train delays tripling in the same period, yet another fare hike would unfairly leave riders paying more for less.”