When Iva Dixit boarded a D train Friday night at 10:00 p.m. after dinner and a movie at Lincoln Center, she was anticipating a 45 minute commute home to Sunset Park.
According to the New York Times' subway calculator, the route from Columbus Circle to 9th Avenue usually takes about 55 minutes on a rough day. But it took Dixit nearly an hour just to get to Atlantic Terminal.
That’s when things got worse.
Dixit told Gothamist/WNYC that shortly after leaving Atlantic Terminal her train just stopped. There were no announcements for over an hour. For Dixit, that was a boundary that had been violated.
“The kind of contract we have with the MTA, that we understand you are a complete and utter mess but at least explain to us the reason why were going to be 15 minutes late to work or getting home today,” Dixit said. “That was where it clearly escalated into Apocalypse territory.”
There were lights, but no cell service. Panic set in.
"At one point three different men started banging on the doors trying to pull the doors apart, the ladies next to me started crying out of frustration," she said.
Then the train moved a little, and it stopped again for nearly an hour, according to Dixit.
“I thought it was a good character building exercise, to just sit there completely helpless because there’s quite literally not a single thing you can do,” she said.
In the end it took her three hours to get home that night. She said it was the worst MTA experience of her entire seven years in New York—worse than that time a knife fight broke out on the subway.
Dixit Tweeted her complaints and the agency’s Chief Customer Officer Sarah Myer responded personally, explaining that a convoy of seven work trains needed to butt in front of her D train.
On Monday, the MTA confirmed it was 14 work trains, not seven, that needed the tracks on Friday night. They were dispatched from the 38th Street Yard and Coney Island yard in Brooklyn for repair work on the 6th Ave and 4th Ave lines.The weekend service alert notes nearly every line was disrupted that weekend.
But the MTA denied that Dixit’s train was stuck for two hours. It notes that the longest delayed train Friday night was a D train that was 76 minutes late arriving at Stillwell Avenue.
“The delay was spread across multiple stations and at no point was the train stuck motionless for that period of time,” spokesman Shams Tarek told Gothamist/WNYC.
When asked for a response to the MTA’s denial that her train was stuck in a tunnel for nearly two hours, Dixit replied, “I’m...not entirely sure how to respond to that. I already lived through that hell journey once so I don’t want to relitigate it all over again and bicker over time stamps.”
The friend Dixit was with prior to getting on the D train confirmed the three-hour timeline to Gothamist/WNYC and shared a text exchange, which shows Dixit saying she got off the train after 1:00 am Saturday morning.
Another rider tweeted that they too were stuck on a D train in a tunnel on Friday night.
The MTA’s own records show the D train saw the largest drop in weekend On Time Performance (how often a train gets to its terminal within five minutes of the scheduled arrival time) of any line last month. A drop of nearly 10 percent compared to the same time last year, to 72.3 percent.
This comes as the MTA has boasted improved service, with weekday On Time Performance hitting an average high of more than 80 percent for the 14th month in a row.
“As our Chief Customer Officer noted over the weekend, we know we let people down and are revisiting the service plan so this doesn’t happen again. We’re also working to ensure that crews effectively communicate with customers on trains that incur delays,” Tarek wrote.
The MTA’s $51.5 billion capital plan recently passed by the board, which seeks to modernize signals and elevators, will require extensive evening and weekend work. The MTA will have to balance running evening and weekend service and getting work trains where they need to go.