2018-08-22 / Editorials

Mass Transit Or Mass Confusion?

The city Department of Transportation is raising the parking meter rates due to “greater demand.” We think this simplistic solution is actually a losing strategy that contributes to a vicious cycle. There are less spots due to increased demand, a major reason being the mushrooming of ride-share services such as Uber and Lyft. The city has just placed a cap on rideshares, which does not address the cause for its domination of the market, and will just frustrate people who want the service. The real issue is WHY do they clamor for this service so much?

Those same people thronging to rideshares are not riding the trains, therefore ridership is down. This means a loss in revenue for the MTA, so the “solution” again is to raise the fares. Also counterproductive. It does not address the root cause as to why riders are opting out of taking the train. We believe it is pretty obvious people are using Uber et al or even just staying home because mass transit is such a mess. Why else would people pay more, if not because of horrible train service and conditions? You never know if your train will stop where it is supposed to, or whether it will even come. There are constant service interruptions, due to various reasons: construction, which sometimes shuts a line down entirely; “sick passenger,” “police action,” “flooding-fire-and-pestilence”— and the latest, which has just been added to their repertoire is “brakes activated.” How come that last one never happened before, but is now a daily occurrence? Alternate routes are confusing, take you completely out of the way, and if you ever arrive, it takes 10 times as long to go very short distances. There is mass confusion rather than mass transportation. You cannot fathom what they are mumbling about over the intercoms, and even when there is a poster noting the changes, it looks like calculus instead of a detour, or seems like a riddle. We actually saw this recently: “The E is running on the F line and the F is running on the E line”—but not so simply stated. Okay, so you take the E to get to an F stop, but that line has become the E, so maybe take the F, but it’s not running on the F line… what? Why??

The real problem is the transit system has been allowed to crumble and they are now playing catch-up. But you cannot simply take entire lines out of service for a year, nor individual stops. The impact is catastrophic. Businesses have failed (at stops shut down along the N/Q line), neighborhoods are vanishing (along the L line). They need to do repairs in shifts as they have done all along.

Forget about late night travel. There are people working 24-7, maybe millions, who work second and third shifts, so that service is desperately needed. In addition, nightlife these days is often really, really late. Many club events don’t even start until 11 pm, so most people plan on calling a ride-share to get home, 15 minutes by car instead of a three-hour trip—the choice is clear.

One of the city’s main attractions as a place to live and vacation is our mass transit. Unfortunately, it’s been allowed to fall apart to the point we pity anyone who is unfamiliar with the labyrinth of chaos that our subway system has become. It is a major undertaking to strategize a train trip, taking into account all the “service advisories” and “planned work” making you run in circles instead of what used to be a simple, straight shot. Less people will want to bring their tourist dollars here once they realize the nightmare that awaits them.

Rather than punishing residents and visitors by raising rates, they should lower rates and improve service, not try to placate riders and entice tourists with cosmetic improvements. Those are band-aids instead of major surgery. Lower fares and dependable service will guarantee increased ridership. With that increased revenue they’ll be able to invest more into the infrastructure, making it more reliable, which will get even more riders. There’ll be less demand for the Ubers, who will then take less parking spots—creating a productive rather than vicious cycle.

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