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The Damage of Delays: The MTA's Unreliability at a New Level

Sonia Chajet Widse

October 17th, 2017


One of New York City’s trademarks is our immense, concentrated subway and bus system, a series of intricate maps, routes, and lines that spans the entire metropolis. The metro system is a tourist magnet (a fact that can be extremely irritating for New Yorkers), but more than that, they are what most New York City high school students rely on to get around on a daily basis. And from there stems one thing that most teens, no matter where in the city they come from, have in common: annoying train stories.


Recently, the unreliability of the Metropolitan Transit Authority (known as the MTA) has increased drastically, with constant delays, route changes, crowded and unkempt stations and fare increases. According to the Daily News, morning commuters end up paying more than $2.75 per ride, and it’s because of delays, which “collectively… fork over 34,900 hours a day, at a cost of $1.2 million.” New statistics from the comptroller say that delays end up costing companies and workers millions of dollars per year in lost wages and hours.


The inconvenience affects all subway-riders, including the hundreds of thousands of students commuting daily. Nora Youngelson, a freshman from Brooklyn, attends high school in Queens and is part of a crew team that practices in Flushing, about an hour from her school. Practice is daily and ends late, and Youngelson said that the MTA has taken a toll on her commute home. On a particular day last week, there were multiple train delays and route changes that made the trip home hard.


“I took the 7 train from Flushing, but then it wasn’t running express so I had to take it 20 stops. Then the G wasn’t running so I had to take the E and then the A/C wasn’t running so I had to transfer to the Q, but then the Q started running on the N/W line… then I had to go around to the J from the F and the F started running on the D line,” Youngelson said. Sound confusing? Imagine doing that in real life by yourself. It took Youngelson six trains and two hours to get home, and then she had to start her homework.


Sadly, this isn’t a unique experience for Youngelson. Freshman Amalia Hirschhorn recounted an experience she had recently when, on a Thursday afternoon, she waited 17 minutes for a train and was late to her babysitting job. She also lamented her daily delays in the B/Q stations. B trains arrive much less frequently than Q’s, which can be incredibly inconvenient. If she misses a B on the way to school, she’ll have to wait for 7 minutes for another, “which is a long time during rush hour morning,” said Hirschhorn.


Serena Phillip, a sophomore at LaGuardia, said she’s definitely seen a decrease in service quality recently (even from an already faulty system). “Route changes have been getting worse,” she said. She also said she takes issue with the fact that trains can often stay in the station for long periods of time without the doors closing. Freshman Miles Bernstein had a similar reaction. He said he was bothered by all the “random service changes” that are constantly happening. Bernstein also added that he generally dislikes “the type of trains they’re running. They still have these old C trains. They break down… there’s always train traffic, and it’s just old.” He said delays, as well as service changes that occur during a given train ride (for example, a train switching from local to express or vice versa without an announcement beforehand) affect him most as a student. Three times -- more than half the days in a school week -- in the past week, he’s been on a train that stopped completely, forcing everyone to get out and walk.


Train traffic, delays, track issues and repairs are all things that obstruct students’ commutes daily and are supposed to be prevented by a quality system. Not to mention many other issues: faulty MetroCard machines, unkempt stations, and fare increases. Additionally, specific disasters such as the Penn Station derailment over the summer and the A train derailment last year create crowds, delays and problems for anyone trying to get where they need to go. While all this is going on, it seems that the MTA still has time to put in TV screens in new Q trains, make foldable seats to cram more people onto L trains and add charging docks to select buses.


All of these improvements are great, but what we want to see is that the MTA cares about real New Yorkers. Commuters and students face problems day after day and one thing is for sure: it’s time for change.

Have a complaint about an experience you had on the MTA? Use this page to get into contact with them:

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