Transit Advocacy Group Wants to Turn Your Subway Complaints into a Movement

The Riders Alliance began a campaign today, passing out “Subway Delay Action Kits” to urge NYC subway riders to pressure New York Governor Andrew Cuomo to fix the subways

If you’re mad at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) because of the unreliable L train you take to class, transit advocacy group the Riders Alliance would like you to direct your rage at New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The Riders Alliance held a press conference outside Grand Central Terminal on Monday morning to kickstart a campaign to spread thousands of “Subway Delay Action Kits.” Transit advocates and grassroots activists, joined by New York State Assembly Member Robert Carroll of Brooklyn’s District 44, rallied behind the initiative, explaining their kits were tools to channel New Yorkers’ subway-related anger into pressure on Gov. Cuomo to prioritize improving MTA service.

Carroll and Riders Alliance leaders answered questions about the campaign, chanted slogans and raised signs before distributing their plans, printed on small cards, by the the Grand Central Station 4, 5 and 6 stops. On the cards were four steps for calling out the MTA, including signing a petition, tagging the governor in tweets and getting involved with the Riders Alliance.

But New York’s transit woes have already caused headaches for Cuomo and other officials after months of poor service, an uptick in media attention to the issue and Mayor Bill de Blasio publicly urging the governor to take action. Public outcry has done its fair share, too.

“What our members came up with is a ‘Subway Delay Action Kit’ to allow you to turn your frustration into something productive,” said Riders Alliance campaign manager Rebecca Bailin.

Asked if the new campaign would make a real difference, Bailin insisted that Cuomo would pay attention to a concerted effort demanding that the MTA address its recent shortcomings.

“We’re making this accessible to thousands of riders,” Bailin said. Unlike previous “word-of-mouth” protest, “Now, we’re hoping to expand it to thousands of subway riders so that everyone can know what to do when they’re stuck.”

But many commuters, including some NYU students, can expect to experience far worse than delayed service when the L train will no longer be an option.

Indeed, the L train, which serves parts of Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn, is scheduled to close for 15 months for repairs beginning in April 2019 in order to mend damage caused by Hurricane Sandy, which wreaked havoc on the city’s infrastructure in 2012. The complete shutdown of service is a departure from the MTA’s previous modus operandi.

In the past, the MTA has generally opted to conduct repairs during off-peak hours, such as late nights and weekends, throwing a wrench into subway riders’ trips. The decision to halt service completely, however, would allow for quicker, less costly restorations, proponents of the plan have said.

Carroll, for one, welcomes the approach. In an interview following the event, he told NYU Local that completely shutting down lines for repairs “is something that we should look at more in New York.”

He explained that while the L train does not run through his district, he favors “taking creative solutions” vis-à-vis track repairs “so that we have less ‘oh the train is suddenly not running this weekend,’” situations.

Riders Alliance executive director John Raskin (no relation), told Local that he sees the L train shutdown as a chance to improve New York’s transit infrastructure.

“The L train shutdown is an opportunity not only to take care of hundreds of thousands of riders who will be stuck when the tunnels close, but also to experiment with some new technologies that could be helpful not in an emergency,” he said, citing bus reforms and subway signals.

Additionally, Raskin views the L train project as a test case for whether shutting down subway lines is the best practice when repairs are needed. “Sandy was not the last hurricane to hit New York and we know that we’ll be dealing with similar situations in the future.”