In response to start of Amtrak repairs at Penn Station and the displacement of LIRR riders, Governor Cuomo declared the “Summer of Hell.”
On any given day, 7 Train riders are subject to signal problems, switch malfunctions, delays, and terrible service in general. In addition, we deal with trains that are overcapacity and impossible to board on dangerously-crowded platforms. This is not because we are sharing the subway with Amtrak passengers, it is because the MTA has long-ignored the needs of NYCT customers in Queens.
Over the past few years, we have experienced rapidly deteriorating subway service. Customers routinely have to walk home when trains stop running, pay for cab fares, and lose wages from work tardiness. Shuttle busses cannot handle the thousands of people who are just trying to get where they’re going.
On the morning of Wednesday, July 12, train riders were left stranded for upwards of 30-45 minutes after a train stalled at Grand Central. Conductors were instructed to reverse Manhattan-bound trains to their previously-stopped stations, but the communication about what riders should do that followed was insufficient. Our Senior & Creative Director Brandon Mosley was one of those stuck underground.
“As soon as they took us back to Vernon Boulevard-Jackson Avenue, I hopped onto Twitter and Facebook to let 7 Train Blues followers know what was going on,” he said. “At first we told that a train at Grand Central was in a state of emergency, then we were told there was an emergency brake deployment, then we were told that there was a possible injured passenger.”
When riders were given the option to deboard at the Vernon Boulevard-Jackson Avenue stop, the announcements were confusing. “A recording aired that just said there was no service between Hunters Point and 34th Street-Hudson Yards, but it wasn’t clear if service was canceled in both directions.” Riders were confused over the conflicting information. In attempt to help riders, Brandon hopped on Facebook Live to inform riders while he walked from Vernon Boulevard-Jackson Avenue to Court Square for a transfer to the M train.
On 7 Train Blues, one rider commented on an onboard announcement stating that delays were caused by an extra train put into service to accommodate the influx of LIRR riders. In the two years following the “Ask the MTA” Town Hall, the agency has been very clear that no extra trains could be added to the 7 line before the installation of CBTC. Further investigation by Greg Mocker of Pix 11, revealed that the MTA added the extra train for the peak rush hour to accommodate the flood of 300-1,000 LIRR riders expected to consume the platform at Hunters Point. The delays experienced this week—likely continue until September 1—are due in part by trains service being held or adjusted to meet spacing and safety restrictions to make way for that extra train.
Something has to change. While Queens continually gets the short end of the stick, LIRR riders were given free muffins for their inconvenience on the first day of repair work. Access Queens Executive Director, Melissa Orlando notes that, “Queens residents commute empty handed while facing the Summer of Hell, forthcoming L train shutdown, misguided transit proposals, and all of the residential development—where transit is an afterthought. The plight of commuters in Queens is never adequately addressed.”
“We are imploring the MTA to introduce any additional extra trains that can be added into regular service, now. Queens needs on a regular basis, where every day is the Summer of Hell. More importantly, a contingency plan must be put in place for days like Wednesday, when something goes wrong and it takes an inordinate amount of time for the MTA to react.”
Today, Access Queens calls on city and state officials, especially those representing Queens, to demand that the MTA address these issues now. We must also put pressure on the state legislature to correct the larger issues facing public transit in New York. Our MTA liaison could not be reached for comment.