We've all been there. Late to daycare, late to school, late to a doctor's appointment, uncomfortable or scared for our personal safety because of crowded, unreliable, breakdown-prone subways. Now the experience of hordes of long-suffering straphangers has been memorialized in a pamphlet (below) of subway horror stories compiled by the activist group Riders Alliance. The Alliance is pushing for Gov. Cuomo to fill the $14-billion budget gap in the MTA's five-year capital improvement plan. Cuomo has called the budget, which would fund repairing stations and lines and replacing aging equipment and subway cars, "bloated." The Alliance rejects that notion.

"[Cuomo is] basically asking the entire MTA to do their job on a shoestring budget," Alliance spokesman Nick Sifuentes said, noting that Cuomo and predecessor David Paterson have raided more than $100 million from the MTA.

Protesters read aloud outside Gov. Cuomo's Manhattan office yesterday. (Riders Alliance)

Yesterday, the group staged a read-in protest, with activists sharing subway testimonials around a mock campfire outside Cuomo's Midtown office. It can be easy to shrug off individual inconveniences once you've arrived at your destination, but the cumulative effect of 30 pages of subway mishaps is hair-raising. There is a missed job interview, a four hour trip to nowhere, a man with a baby getting shoved in a crowd at the Bedford L station, and a woman whose leg is broken when she is shoved off of a crowded train. The catalogue of catastrophe is cattily dedicated to Cuomo, with the tagline "this book would not have been possible without you."

Here is just a small sampling of The Horror:

  • Thomasin B. of Brooklyn writes that he has ridden four different F trains with broken doors. On each, at first the conductor ordered "step in" "get your bag out of the door," etc. but it still took 10 minutes to get the doors closed. The problem happened again on each trip, then, at a third station, the conductor told everybody to get off and wait for another train.
  • Old-timer Bonnie M. of Brooklyn writes, "This is beginning to feel like the bad times in the '70s again."
  • Barbara F. of Queens says the E train runs "like garbage" and has since she graduated high school in 1986.
  • Several people report regularly seeing fights over dwindling space on the platform.
  • Sherif S. of Jackson Heights typically has to wait for the second F train during the morning commute because the platform and train are so crowded.
  • Ana N. of Manhattan has to wait for the third or fourth 6 train, and it's still so crowded that she has to "stand brushed up against men if I want to be able to get to work on time."
  • Melissa C. of Queens sometimes waits for the fourth or fifth 7 train.
  • Not to be outdone, Simon D. of Greenpoint once waited for five G trains to pass before he could board.
  • Sandra Y. of Manhattan describes riding a crowded 4 or 5 train: "I tried to transfer to the 6 train across the platform and no one would move or get out to let me off—if you move to let someone off, you might not get back on. I pushed my way through and then someone shoved me off the train onto the platform. I fell and broke my fibula. [That's the smaller of the two calf bones.]"
  • Francine A. of Manhattan commutes at 4:45 am and reports sometimes being too scared to enter the station because of rats so numerous they are running along the platform and up and down the stairs.
  • Cynthia D. of the Bronx says that it's always standing-room only on morning 6 trains leaving Pelham Bay, even though Pelham Bay is the first stop.
  • Emily P. of Brooklyn walked 46 blocks home when N, D, and R service out of Atlantic Terminal was canceled due to melting snow.
  • Yamilettes V. of the Bronx commutes to school in Brooklyn and has allowed for more than two hours each way, though officially her trip is supposed to take an hour and 15 minutes. She leaves the house an hour early now.
  • Jasmine R. of Queens, knowing the MTA, left an hour early for her job interview—but still missed it.

The Riders Alliance is also asking Gov. Cuomo to come ride the subway during rush hour so he can experience some of this brutal truth for himself. So far the group's invitations have gone unanswered, Sifuentes said. Members plan to present the little book of horrors to legislators in Albany next week.

We have reached out to the Governor's Office to see if he is having any second thoughts about starving the MTA, and we will update if we hear back.

The full Riders Alliance pamphlet is below, and we appreciate the group getting the colors of the letter bubbles to correspond with actual lines, unlike say the logo for this year's NBA All-Star Game.

Subway Horror Stories - Riders Alliance by johnd7463