The MTA’s State of Emergency

In late June, Governor Cuomo declared that the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) was in a state of emergency. His announcement came shortly after hundreds of LIRR travelers were stranded outside of Penn Station due to power outages. Since then, the MTA has continued to be responsible for long commutes, delayed trains, and unbearable condition. In mid-July, a track fire at 145th Street caused chaos for hundreds of commuters during the morning rush. The B and C trains were shut down completely and the fire caused partial service suspension on the A and D trains. The chaos was amplified by social media as pictures of passengers packed in underground stations were shared by thousands. The events occurred on top of multiple subway closures and derailments, power failures, and an astronomical number of subway delays.

In response to the state of emergency, Governor Cuomo has pledged to add $1 billion to the MTA’s $32.5 billion capital improvement plan. In addition, he’s charged his newly re-appointed MTA Chairman, Joseph Lhota, with the ambitious task of assessing the needs of the MTA system and providing a detailed plan  with recommendations to improve the system in the next 60 days. While the MTA cannot fix its problems in two months, the governor needs to use this time to create a credible and feasible plan for the failing system that residents, the MTA, and other stakeholders can rally around.

The MTA’s current dysfunction has pushed many New Yorkers to their boiling points and the Governor and Mayor de Blasio, while disagreeing on who’s to blame, have both demonstrated empathy as well as determination to fix the problem. During his press conference about the state of emergency, Governor Cuomo said, “The delays are maddening New Yorkers. They are infuriated by a lack of communication, unreliability, and now accidents. Just three days ago, we literally had a train come off the tracks. It’s the perfect metaphor for the dysfunction of the entire system.” Ben Sarle, a spokesperson for Mayor de Blasio stated, “We are heartened to see these new resources and focus to reverse the deteriorating state of our subways”. Mayor de Blasio has also been photographed taking the subways in an attempt to sympathize with daily riders and understand the hassle that comes with using the MTA to commute to work.

For residents in the Rockaways and other parts of Southern Queens, the increased attention to transit is exciting, yet some feel as if it’s a slap to the face. Dubbed a “transit desert”, Southern Queens residents have firsthand knowledge of how subpar transit can impact their livelihoods. Relying on the A Train or the ferry to get to work means accepting long delays as a fact of life. There are also few alternatives available to residents. Many are hopeful the governor’s call to action will include progress on the proposed QueensRail Line project, which seeks to reactivate the abandoned Rockaway Beach line and create a North-South passageway in Queens. Regardless, residents are furious with current state of the MTA and hopeful that the added attention will improve the commutes for all New Yorkers.