Train Dysfunction Frustrates Lehmanites and Local Riders

By Perla Tolentino

A view of the Kingsbridge Road subway station of the 4 Train, close to Lehman’s entrance to the Student Life Building and Sports Field. Photo by Perla Tolentino.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) transports more than 5.6 million New Yorkers on a daily basis. But recently, despite official pledges to improve the system, Lehman students and many other riders suffer the consequences of poor subway service on their daily commutes. 

Jeanine Guido, a Bronx resident who takes the 4 and 6 trains daily, said, “Some of the main delays I experience everyday are due to medical emergencies and lots of investigations and train traffic issues… trains are running slow in the mornings and they are very unreliable. It’s almost certain that you will get to work late.” 

Data released by Mass Transit Magazine shows a total of 65,487 train delays this October alone, which is more than triple the average from six years ago. According to the Fiscal Brief of the New York City’s Independent Budget Office, the average number of delays per month in 2012 was approximately 20,000. This year, the MTA posted 6,229 times in their alerts section for the first 10 days of November. These accounted for elevator and escalator outages, NYPD investigations, sick passengers, signal problems and track incidents. 

Three consecutive injuries were reported by the New York Post on Nov. 1. A man fell on the tracks at the 96th Street subway station of the 1 train around 2:47 p.m., causing major delays. He survived but bled profusely from his head. Two hours later, a passenger broke a leg on the train tracks of Jay Street, while another was struck by an N train.

These incidents have been escalating, despite the “action plan” the MTA anticipated since July of last year. According to “Bloomberg Online”, the plan concluded that more than $830 million was needed to fix the main causes of breakdowns and delays. This budget was also supposed to cover the expenses for new cars as a way to prevent overcrowding issues and to improve maintenance for elevators and escalators. 

With these costly projects and the continuous decrease in riders, the MTA’s debt is projected to reach $3.3 billion by 2022, according to the comptroller’s office. The surprise resignation of MTA chairman Joseph J. Lhota the day after midterm elections, poses another challenge for the MTA  regarding the end of incidents and delays. 

The result of such incidents is an increase in rider frustration. “The 4 trains are always crowded and delayed,” complained Michael Spencer, a Bronx resident who travels to Brooklyn every day.  “People are rude due to constant pushing, causing fights, accidents and more delays. I’ve been late to work so many times due to signal problems and sick passengers that I decided to use another route instead.” 

“I usually ride the 2 train in the mornings and the 4 in the afternoons. Sometimes the 2 train doesn’t work on the weekends and we have to take a bus, so getting to our destination takes extra time,” said 25-year-old Ellieth Recarte, a junior English major at Lehman.  She added, “Most of my friends come from Brooklyn all the way to the Bronx and they experience horrible delays.” 

Fordham Road D train subway station where a man was attacked with a hammer and an 11-year-old boy was robbed his phone. The D train also stops at Bedford Park Boulevard, which is connected to Lehman. Both incidents were reported by NBC News Channel 4. Photo by Perla Tolentino.

For those Lehmanites residing in New Jersey, the story is the same, but the commute is even longer. Joseph Yeboah-Mensah, an adjunct professor of mathematics, says, “My biggest frustration is when I have to come in the mornings.  There is always some kind of delay. I usually take the NJT, A and 4 train to come to Lehman. [At night] sometimes I get home by midnight when I finish my 7:50 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. statistics class.” 

Maria Sarmiento is another NJ resident who works in Brooklyn. She was on the New Jersey Transit the day a man was struck and killed on the tracks near Brick Church on Oct. 2. “I remember I took the train around 6:15 p.m. and made it home by 10 p.m. since we were forced to take a longer alternative route.” 

Claudia Drobchinskaya, a Brooklyn resident who rides the D and B trains, talked about difficulties with both lines. “I take the D and B train daily. Trains are always late and crowded, you have to ride standing in one leg and with your bags on top of your head if possible [and there] is always a sick passenger or a police investigation.” She continued, “When the D or B trains are down, I take the F, but I feel unsafe since there’s many substance abusing passengers.” 

Lidia Ochoa, a 25-year-old CUNY LaGuardia Community College student from Queens who rides the F train daily, concurred. “There are many crazy people in the F trains, either because of drugs or mental problems. They scream or start acting weird on the trains, it is very uncomfortable”.  

Some platforms have also proved more dangerous. New York Daily News reported the case of 55-year-old Edwin Pinez who was pushed to the tracks by a younger suspect for no apparent reason. The incident took place on the 4, 5 and 6 train Brooklyn platform before 8:00 am on Nov. 9, 2018. Pinez was later treated at New York Presbyterian Hospital.

Meanwhile, the MTA continues to search for solutions. NYC Transit Authority’s CEO Andy Byford told the New York Times that delays can take up to 90 minutes to fix depending on the nature of the accident. His main goal is to reduce the number of delays by 10,000 every month. Byford had proposed platform doors as a solution to track accidents and stated that the cost of installing of these across all stations would be more than $1 billion. This proposal has now been postponed, with Byford instead investing in more elevators and escalators.

“It’s fair to complain,” Recarte said, “since we’ll have to pay $126 dollars for a monthly metro card, but the service doesn’t change.”