Manhattan Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez, who chairs the City Council’s Transportation Committee, and Bronx Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz, chair of the Assembly’s Corporations, Authorities and Commissions Committee, embarked on the two-day, five-borough “Riders Response” transit tour during the MTA’s “Summer of Hell.”
The results of the tour were shared prior to a City Council hearing on the subway system on August 8.
“The most important part about this is that riders recognize that we are working to hear directly from them, their frustrations, their experience, feedback and suggestions,” Rodriguez said. “They are frustrated, they need answers and they need answers now.”
The Inwood councilman said he’s been taking the trains since the 1980s. He has dealt with delays and out-of-service trains regularly, he said.
But to get a better sense of the issues plaguing riders from across the city, they brought a team of volunteers to survey commuters. They collected close to 2,000 surveys and spoke to dozens of straphangers, Rodriguez said.
With delays, derailments and power outages affecting riders everyday, the councilman said it’s important to “take our transportation system to the 21st century.” According to Rodriguez, the MTA plans to upgrade its transportation signals by 2045, a pace he indicated was too slow.
“If we follow that schedule, I will be 80 years old. I would like to be 60 years old,” he said. “I hope in the next eight years, starting now, all the transportation signals will be upgraded so that the trains can be running more often and with more efficiency.”
Elected officials representing different parts of the five boroughs joined the two legislators throughout their trip to highlight local transportation problems. Assemblyman Joseph Lentol joined the lawmakers at the Lorimer Street/Metropolitan Avenue station in Williamsburg on Friday afternoon.
Lentol said the L train is especially overcrowded, particularly during rush hour.
“If you come here in the morning, you cannot get on a train, I don’t care what car you go to,” he said. “You always have to get here early to make sure you get on a train.”
Another option Williamsburg riders have at the station is the G train, which Lentol said was “never on time.”
As the MTA prepares to shut the L line down in 2019 to repair the Canarsie tunnel, Lentol said the MTA’s plan to add more cars and take more passengers on the G train works.
“I think we have to be right on top of them,” he said. “We have to have all hands on deck.”
Lentol said he believes alternative means of transportation, including larger ferries, more buses and increased subway capacity on the J and M trains are all part of the solution.
“We have to figure out bus routes for people to get to Manhattan,” he said. “The logical choice is the Williamsburg Bridge and creating a bus lane for that.”
He noted that more than half of his constituents are cyclists. Lentol said the city will need to accommodate more bikers getting to work during the L shutdown.
“There should be more bike infrastructure, more protected bike lanes, as well as more places to hook up your bike when you get to work,” he said.
Dinowitz added that during the tour, he learned that there are many transit issues in Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx, in addition to Manhattan.
“The issue of what’s going to happen to all of the people who take this train is high on that list,” he said, referring to the L line. “It serves so many people and it can’t be ignored. We have to do the right thing by them.”