MTA Moves Lehman Students at a Snail’s Pace—at Best

By Hector Bello

Lehman College students exiting the 4 train at Bedford Park Station. Photo by Hector Bello.

Lehman students have not seen any relief in subway delays and service suspensions, despite an MTA announcement in July of 2017 that promised improvements. This hits many Lehman students hard, as the MTA’s dysfunction often penalizes them as they try to get to class on time. 

Danny Rodriguez told the Meridian that he has, “found it challenging to explain to professors why he’s late to class because the subway delays excuse is too commonly used.” Since most professors include a class policy that penalizes students for arriving late, Rodriguez is not the only with this problem.

The Meridian conducted a poll of twenty-three Lehman College students which showed that 84 percent travel to school via mass transit, and that 47 percent have had to explain to their professors the reason for lateness. Nursing major Trinidad Rodriguez says, “I spent almost two years trying to explain [to] my professor why I was late.” Our survey also revealed that 39 percent of students reported being late several times a week because of train delays.    

Lehman’s absence and lateness policy states that students can be absent twice with no penalty. But after their first two absences, students’ grades can be affected, and this in turn can also affect their eligibility for financial aid benefits. 

Doctor Sarah Ohmer, a Lehman professor of Latin American Studies and African Studies, says that after the first two absences, “you start losing five points for every time that you miss class. If you have three tardies that equals one absence. So, if you’re on that subway that is late then it will not affect your grade until it happens several times, then you have to be accountable for lateness.”       

37 percent of students surveyed also consider train delays when choosing their classes. Some do not schedule morning classes because they fear they may not make it on time due to the MTA’s dysfunctional system. Those that do told the Meridian that they must schedule extra time for their trip to school. “For afternoon classes I don’t really care about the train schedule but for morning classes I give myself maybe an hour and a half to make it to school,” says biology major Valentina Castellon.    

“If I bike to school, it will take me less time to make it to school than if I take the MTA.” 

- Business Administration major Michael New

However, one insider was at least optimistic about future improvements. David Alvarado, a contractor for the MTA, said the chance of delays, “depends [on] which train you take. While I find the four-train to be always crowded and in delay, the D-line takes me wherever I need to go fast and efficiently.” He added that many of the delays can be attributed to the advanced age of the trains. “Every time that the train is delayed it is being maintained. You cannot compare a hundred-years-old train with trains such as the one in France or China that are only forty years old … The older the train is, the more maintenance it needs.”

Alvarado noted that Joseph J. Lhota, the new MTA director, “has worked in train systems in Europe and Asia… [And] he plans to bring the same efficiency here to the United States. Let us pray that he improves train traffic in the city.”

Until these improvements happen, though, students are left paying the price—and looking for alternatives. Business administration major Michael New says, “If I bike to school, it will take me less time to make it to school than if I take the MTA.”