Spring 2001, p.17

Hey MTA, Here's How to End the Transit Crush

In late march, T.A. joined transit and environmental advocates calling for more subway service. Following the lead of the Straphangers Campaign, the various groups urged the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) to adopt a practical plan of service improvements.

Following are excerpts from the plea for better service, and a list of the public interest groups joining the Straphangers Campaign call for action:

March 30, 2001

Peter Kalikow
Chair, Metropolitan Transportation Authority

Dear Chairman Kalikow:

We write to add our voices to those of riders in the powerful "Subway Squeeze" series noted in the New York Daily News, and to call on you to relieve intolerable levels of subway crowding.

NYC's growing population, MTA fare discounts and system improvements, and a strong economy- have created an explosion of ridership and crowding. Currently, there are one million more riders on an average weekday than four years ago. This is an increase from 3.8 million riders (in 1997), to 4.8 million, per day.

We applaud steps taken by MTA New York City Transit. These include: adding 11% more subway service; the proposed V line; a modest planned increase in the subway fleet; and other initiatives to ease delays, such as emergency medical technicians to help sick passengers. We also acknowledge the serious challenges to reducing crowding. Several lines are running at capacity, and there is a shortage of subway cars.

But much more needs to be done given the 29% increase in subway ridership between 1996 and 2001. Below are some suggestions to ease the subway squeeze:

  • Add more service where currently possible. This is especially necessary in the periods around rush hours. Many trains are packed around the clock and on weekends. Transit guidelines guarantee riders a seat except during rush hour. People would be shocked to learn this based on their daily experiences.
  • Expand the number of the subway car fleet. More subway cars are needed to run more service. On 10 lines-the 1/9, 6, A, C, G, J, L, M, N and R- more rush hour service is possible, with the addition of more subway cars. The MTA plans to buy 1,130 new subway cars in the next five years. However, these cars will replace old cars, not expand the overall fleet. In total, the system will only gain 200 additional cars. You need to: (1) Buy more subway cars; (2) Delay the retirement of still good cars; (3) Speed up delivery of 660 subway cars scheduled to arrive in 2005.
  • Increase the level of service standards. Official "loading guidelines" give riders only three-square-feet of standing room during rush hours. On most of the subway lines, scheduled rush hour waits are six minutes or more. Some trains-the B, C, G, M and branches of the A-come eight to ten minutes apart during rush hour. If one train goes out of service, riders can easily wait 20 minutes. In other world cities, such as Paris and Tokyo, there is no more than a four-minute scheduled wait during rush hour on all lines.
  • Make delays and re-routing less painful. Crowding is made worse by disruptions caused by needed repairs. But there's much the MTA could do to lessen the blow. Take the repairs to the Manhattan Bridge, which will cause the virtual closing of the Grand Street subway station in Chinatown for more than three years. Community leaders are right to ask for beefing up nearby M train service and providing more shuttle bus service. For lesser fix-up projects, the MTA needs to do a better job of letting riders know what's going on through better written notices, clearer announcements and e-mail alerts.

Committee For Better Transit
Environmental Defense
New York City Transit Riders Council
Straphangers Campaign
Transportation Alternatives
Tri-State Transportation Campaign

Support the Straphangers Campaign, www.straphangers.org or 212-349-6460.

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