The MTA knows that commuters aren’t happy with their rides.
In the agency’s most recent customer survey results, riders expressed displeasure with all aspects of their trips from safety to wait times. Overall, subway user satisfaction was 48%.
Fed-up straphangers rallied at Barclays Center in Brooklyn on Sunday, the final day of Climate Week. The demand was simple: service every six minutes on all buses and trains – all the time.
They called it the “Countdown to #6MinuteService.” The event was organized by local transit advocacy group Riders Alliance, who also called on Gov. Kathy Hochul to invest $300 million into improving service.
“A large portion of the city aren’t car owners or even frequent cab takers," said Riders Alliance member Ronnie Alvarez of East Flatbush in a statement from the organization. "Frequency is equity.”
MTA chairman Janno Lieber insisted that during morning and afternoon peak times, the system already runs at a frequency of about every six minutes. But that’s all they can do.
“The real issue is economics: Can we afford it?” Lieber said on the CBS TV show The Point with Marcia Kramer. “I would love to add more service but first we’ve got to solve the budget problem.”
The MTA has a structural deficit, according to Lieber. He said the organization has lost money because of reduced ridership during the pandemic. When the federal aid the agency received runs out in two years, it will have to confront a revenue shortage, he said.
Public transportation advocates also called on Hochul to pay the MTA’s $1.6 billion deficit as ridership slowly increases. According to daily ridership data for September 13th through September 22nd, ridership on subways reached as high as 75% of pre-pandemic levels, and a low of around 59%. Bus capacity is increasing even slower, between 55-66% during the same time period.
One of the biggest hassles of transit use was wait times and unexpected delays, but cleanliness and safety were also sources of rider dissatisfaction.
The transit system is getting $5.5 million to put two surveillance cameras in every new train car for safer trips, but the subway already has more than 10,000 existing cameras across its 472 stations.
Transit advocates insisted on funding for improvements that acknowledge that “shorter wait times and improved service reliability” will bring riders back and restore service to pre-pandemic levels.