Last week, the Board of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) approved a $250 million plan to add new amenities, including new lighting and USB ports, to 33 subway stations.
When I read about it in the newspaper, I couldn’t believe it. At a time when train delays have become a regular part of my day, I do not need new fancy lighting, or USB ports in my subway stations; I need to get to work on time so that I do not lose my job.
Instead of focusing on how to make stations seem fancier, it’s time for Governor Cuomo, who controls the MTA, to address the real problem with the system: record delays.
Every New Yorker needs to be able to get to work on time, and should not have to worry about whether we could lose our jobs, miss class at school, or arrive late at a doctor’s appointment. We cannot afford to be late.
Too many times in the past year, I have sat in a subway car, wondering if I will get to work on time. For years, I have left my house at 7 a.m. to get to work. Now, I regularly leave my house up to an hour earlier because I am afraid of subways delays.
I commute every day from East New York to Coney Island, sometimes having to make up to 3 train transfers due to route changes and delays. Last year, I lost my job because I was late too many times. I am a house cleaner and I needed to arrive at my job by 9 a.m. But train delays made me late consistently. Sometimes, when the delays were extreme, I arrived as much as 2 hours late. It did not matter how early I left my house—”train traffic,” “signal problems,” and “track fires” kept plaguing my commute and causing me to be late.
It was frustrating and shameful to constantly tell my employer that I was late because of the trains. And it made my heart sink to see the stress on students’ faces because they were stuck inside a train station when they were supposed to be taking a test in a classroom. I thought of these students when I saw a video online of a college student who missed his graduation ceremony because he was stuck inside a delayed train. No student should be late to his graduation, no parent should be late to their children’s doctor appointment, and no worker should be at risk of losing their job due to train delays.
That is why I joined more than 500 working-class New Yorkers of color with Make the Road New York in Albany on Tuesday to demand Gov. Cuomo, who controls the MTA, to listen and take action to fix this transit mess. It’s a critical part of our Respect and Dignity for All platform, which lays out a list of priorities for working-class people of color that Cuomo, now in his eighth year in office, has failed to address.
New lighting and other amenities in the subway system could be a nice thing–but only if the core system is actually working. Otherwise, it’s a terrible way to spend $250 million. Funding should instead be prioritized for restoring reliable service, and making sure that New York has a revenue source for all the necessary repairs and ongoing maintenance. And for that, we need the governor’s leadership.
I’ve seen the governor use his power to get things done. As a community leader in the campaign to raise the minimum wage, I saw first-hand how, when he wants to get something done in this state, he can. Gov. Cuomo, our city runs on the subway, and New Yorkers need you to address this crisis.
No more delays. Fix the MTA.
Maria Rubio is a member of Make the Road New York, the largest grassroots community organization in New York offering services and organizing the immigrant community. On Twitter: @MaketheRoadNY