November/December 1998, p.9

Snails, Sardines & Subways

Read the latest news about this issue.

As transit riders are all too aware, they have more company than ever on their commutes these days, thanks to the popularity of the MetroCard. But while ridership is way up, service is not keeping pace. By next year, weekday subway ridership will have grown 17% since 1997. But officials plan to add only 4% more service. Bus ridership will grow 36%, but only 9% more service is planned. The result is elbow-in-the-ribs crowding and slower commutes.

During the morning rush on three October Thursdays, Transportation Alternatives volunteers and staffers descended into the subways to help the Straphangers Campaign distribute fliers urging riders to demand more service and funding for transit.

While the MetroCard has been a huge success, the MTA cannot count on retaining this new-found ridership in the face of service declines. The Straphangers and T.A. are urging that a larger share of the estimated 1.1 million more fares expected by 1999 be plowed directly back into system improvements such as more trains and buses and station upgrades. The powers that be in Albany have other priorities, though, like servicing MTA's huge debt. Instead of getting city and state funding to pay down debt, officials are content to let fare box money carry the load, which leaves few resources for system expansion. Unless this orientation changes, expect a fare hike sometime in late 1999. Maybe then, MTA execs will discover the limit to how much sardines will pay for the privilege of being canned while traveling at a snail's pace.

Contact the T.A. office if you'd like to volunteer for future transit leafleting events (212-629-8080).

Ask Governor Pataki to support more funding for transit to end the crush.

Write to: Gov. George Pataki, Governor's Executive Chamber, Albany, NY  12224; or call (212) 681-4580; fax (212) 681-4643.