When a New Yorker is gripping a subway railing and racing the clock to make it to work or to pick up a child from school or to catch a plane, the brain sometimes considers the sheer number of factors that determine whether you will get there on time or obliterate your day.
There could be signal problems or a sudden burst of rain that bogs the whole system down. A track fire or a “police investigation” that occurred an hour before your trip might have triggered cascading delays. A sick passenger on a train from a different line that happens to stop on the same platform as your train will wait for EMS, and you will wait with her. A car on a train six stops ahead of yours with a door problem becomes your problem. An emergency brake somewhere in the system forces your local train to go express or your express train to go local.
Waiting in a tunnel, the motor eerily quiet, the air-conditioner briefly silenced, your blood-pressure rising, the PA offers no information, let alone assurance. You wonder: Is it a little problem? Or a lot of little problems? Or is it all one big problem?
John Raskin, who founded the Riders Alliance in 2012, has looked for the last seven years at the manifold problems that affect not just one rider’s harried trip but the millions of trips NYC transit users make every day. On WBAI’s Max & Murphy Show on Wednesday, Raskin, who has announced his departure from the group, talked about the progress that has been made in addressing some of those issues.
But Raskin also talked about the big problem that unites all of the other challenges facing transit in New York City: The lack of accountability in the system as it now exists. Right now, the structure of the MTA allows elected officials (chiefly the governor) to deflect responsibility for performance. MTA reorganization might change that picture, and congestion pricing is a step toward increasing not just funding for but also political stakes in improving riders’ lives. But, Raskin noted, in years ahead the challenge will be to maintain that accountability for the next governor and others.
Hear the interview with Raskin below, or listen to the full show, which includes a discussion of the Department of Justice announcement that it would not prosecute Officer Daniel Pantaleo in the death of Eric Garner, as well as a conversation on where the mayor’s Borough Jails plan stands.
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With reporting by Cyan Hunte.