Where’s Governor Andrew Cuomo? That’s a question a lot of New Yorkers are asking in the wake of several days (weeks, really) of subway problems that have plagued commuters. The latest: a power outage at Brooklyn’s DeKalb Avenue subway station, which made Tuesday morning’s commute even more hellish than normal.
And while Cuomo has spent plenty of time touting big-ticket transportation projects in recent months—the opening of the Second Avenue Subway, the debut of the new span of the Kosciuszko Bridge—he’s remained fairly silent on the rash of issues on the subway. And commuters, along with NYC lawmakers, are pissed.
The Riders Alliance, a transit advocacy group that has been one of Cuomo’s biggest critics regarding the transit system’s flaws, will hold a rally outside of the governor’s Midtown office tonight “to demand he take action to fix and fund our subways.” As Gothamist points out, the Alliance has previously criticized Cuomo for moving funds from the MTA’s operating budget—so, fixing the snafus that cause day-to-day problems—to its capital plan, which funds projects like the Second Avenue Subway.
City officials are also starting to push back on these seemingly endless transit problems: As the New York Daily News reports, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams has called for a study that will determine how the incessant subway delays impact the borough’s economy. “It is time for the governor's office and the MTA to prove how seriously the state takes the impact that an underfunded and outdated transit system has had on straphangers' daily lives as well as our local and statewide economies,” Adams told the Daily News.
(A Cuomo spokesperson responded as such: “We expect more from the local officials who should be productive in helping us improve the system instead of grandstanding.”)
But there’s no denying that bad service from the MTA is taking its toll on New Yorkers: Subway ridership was down in 2016, the first time that’s happening since 2009, and the system’s packed trains and perpetual outages may be to blame. As we previously reported, “overcrowded trains and platforms cause delays, which then cause angry passengers who may eventually turn to other methods of transportation.” (And hey, Citi Bike, which is primarily used by commuters, did experience a rise in ridership last year.)
To critics, this appears to be a case of the Governor focusing on big-ticket items rather than the less flashy—but ultimately, extremely necessary—issues that plague many commuters.
“As the subway system declines, Cuomo continues to fixate on shiny mega-projects,” Streetsblog writes. “Two weeks ago, in the midst of a series of subway and LIRR breakdowns, the governor spent an entire day celebrating a new highway bridge. In between this week’s two subway meltdowns (so far!), he announced a design contract for his billion-dollar AirTrain boondoggle.”
Harsh words, but not entirely unfair. New Yorkers, meanwhile, are left scrambling—and the city, which has no real control over the MTA, can only implement alternative methods of transit (Citi Bike, the new citywide ferry service, an impractical streetcar) in an attempt to fill in the gaps.
As the Riders Alliance notes, “Any one incident can be explained, but in the aggregate it’s clear that subway service is deteriorating and that riders are increasingly miserable.” Here’s hoping Cuomo is listening.