MISSED SIGNALS: Train woes continue

Cyril Josh Barker | 7/27/2017, midnight
Another derailed train, more delays and a mayor, governor and transit head who can’t seem to decide who’s responsible as ...
Subway at 125th Street following the derailment Nayaba Arinde photo

Another derailed train, more delays and a mayor, governor and transit head who can’t seem to decide who’s responsible as commuters continue to suffer.

As the “Summer of Hell” presses on, elected officials and the community are taking a closer look into how public transit continues to affect their lives. Meanwhile, MTA Chairman Joe Lhota unveiled an action plan for the subway.

At a time when an action plan seemed like the light at the end of the tunnel, another trail derailment last Friday turned the subway into a nightmare for commuters. Reports indicate that an “abnormal condition” on a train car caused a Q train to derail south of the Sheepshead Bay station.

More than 130 passengers were on board at the time of the incident, and train service on the line was snarled for eight hours during morning rush hours. This is the second derailment on a subway in the last several weeks. Dozens were injured when an A train derailed at the 125th Street Station in Harlem June 27.

At a news conference on Tuesday, Lhota unveiled the $836 million NYC Subway Action Plan, the MTA’s new plan to stabilize and improve the system and lay the foundation for modernizing the New York City subway.

The announcement comes fewer than 30 days after Gov. Cuomo declared New York City’s subways to be in a state of emergency and directed Lhota to provide a plan for immediate action that puts customers first.

A record volume of customers, aging infrastructure and a lack of capital expenditure necessary to grow the system are key factors the plan will seek to remedy. The initial phase of the plan will attack the key drivers of 79 percent of the major incidents causing delays on the system, including signals, tracks and power.

“New Yorkers are rightfully frustrated with the current state of the subways, and their demands for better service have been heard. We are committed to earning back their trust by implementing solutions that will enhance the customer experience in the short- and long-term,” Lhota said. “The NYC Subway Action Plan marks the beginning of a new chapter for the MTA and provides an opportunity to stabilize and improve the system and lay the foundation for modernization.”

Components of the first phase include signal and track maintenance, expanding major overhaul capacity from 950 to 1,100 cars per year to increase reliability, increasing the frequency of station cleaning by 30 percent and overhauling digital communications assets.

Since its announcement, the plan has been praised for addressing what seems to be a never-ending issue.

TWU International and Local 100 President John Samuelsen said in a statement that Lhota’s plan embraces many elements of TWU Local 100’s Work Boots on the Ground plan to fix the subways.

“We’re gratified the MTA in many areas has agreed with the men and women who know the subway the best—transit workers,” Samuelsen said. “We can and will do our part to end this reliability crisis. Our elected officials now have to step up and provide the necessary funding to get the job done. No more political games. No more shirking responsibility.”

Cuomo pledged his support for the MTA NYC Subway Action Plan. He called for a State of Emergency for transit after June’s derailment.
“The MTA is in crisis, and hard-working New Yorkers deserve better. The plan outlined by Chairman Lhota is substantive and realistic,” he said. “I am fully committed to making it a reality. I accept the 50/50 split of funds, and the state will do its part. Government is about making a positive difference in people’s lives.”

Riding an F train in Brooklyn this week, Mayor Bill de Blasio spoke about growing concerns over the subway system. He again passed the blame to the state, which is in charge of the MTA.

“The state and the MTA are responsible for the operations of New York City’s subways. It’s been that way for decades. The State of New York is responsible for making sure our subways run,” he said. “When it comes to the MTA, in the last weeks, we’ve heard all sorts of different explanations. There’s only one explanation—the State of New York is responsible for the MTA, period—for the expense budget, for the capital budget, for the whole thing.”

Last weekend elected officials, including City Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, Comptroller Scott Stringer and Congressman Adriano Espaillat, held a community discussion for constituents in Washington Heights to address the subway crisis.

“The City Council, through the Committee on Transportation, will work to address the problems plaguing our city’s transit system by holding an oversight hearing to closely examine areas where the MTA has fallen short,” Rodriguez said. “We need a safe and reliable public transportation system—the status quo is unacceptable. State partners must live up to their responsibility to the people of New York City by stepping up and providing real leadership and investment in the MTA.”