Calling for buses and trains to show up on time.
Grassroots organization Riders Alliance hosted a Mobile Phone Bank to Fix the Subways on Thursday, October 25 simultaneously in three locations around the city, including outside the 59th Street Station at Fourth Avenue, Atlantic Avenue/Barclay Center, and in Queens.
The objective of the event was to get frustrated straphangers to call Governor Andrew Cuomo and state legislators to demand that they fund the modernization of the dysfunctional subway system by instituting congestion pricing as the core of the funding plan. With congestion pricing, motorists would be tolled when driving into the business heart of Manhattan.
At the Sunset Park station, Riders Alliance community organizer Michael Maskin, along with other volunteers, was collecting signatures and helping locals take action.
“We are coming together because we are sick and tired of the delays,” said Maskin, who is also the community organizer for Bay Ridge. “And we are raising our voices today to call Albany, call our elected officials, asking them to fix the subways. We are specifically calling them to include congestion pricing in any funding plan in the next budget and urge New Yorkers to call their representatives, especially leading up to the election, asking them to include congestion pricing as a sustainable progressive funding source for fixing the subways.”
Maskin and other organizers have spent time in Bay Ridge talking with riders and having them share their stories of commuting.
“From our perspective, subway delays are more than just a minor inconvenience in someone’s day,” he added. “We hear stories of people that have missed doctor’s appointments, class or work, so there’s a real economic cost to subway delays that goes beyond being inconvenient. Statistically, delays have tripled in the last five years. The time to invest is now because we are running out of time.”
Sunset Park native Kiareixa Perez signed the petition.
“The service is pretty sporadic,” she said. “It’s definitely not reliable and it’s unfortunate because we have a lot of communities here that rely on the subway as a means to get around so it does get in the way of people living their everyday lives.”
The local commuter also mentioned the R train as a specific problem.
“[With the R train], I’ve been as much as three hours late to something that should’ve taken me 45 minutes at most with a 15-minute spare interval for delays. The N trains just have to pick up the slack for the R train pretty often, which is unfortunate.”
Maria Tresa Walles, who spent the day volunteering, stressed the importance of the citywide event.
“Trains are breaking down and they’re not reliable,” she said. “As far as elevators are concerned, lots of them aren’t working so it’s hard for people with disabilities or who have strollers to travel around. You pay so much monthly for a Metrocard, and on the weekends and at night, they’re all messed up.”
“Riders have never come together and really made calls about fixing the subway before,” added Maskin. “This is relatively new way to become civically engaged. We are trying to show elected officials that this is something riders care about.”
Maskin and the Riders’ Alliance plan to host a community meeting in Bay Ridge in November to elicit residents’ experiences.