Coulda been a contenduh! But service glitches thwart plan to set subway world record
Stefanie Gray's failed attempt to set the world record of riding every subway line mirrored the frustrating, time-gobbling obstacle course many straphangers say they encounter every day.
A bevy of delays, evacuations and unannounced cancellations (see sidebar below) prevented Gray and her two companions, Meredith Sladek, 28, from Stapleton, S.I. and Stevie Summerise, 27, from Kensington, Brooklyn, from beating the Guinness World Record set in Jan. 2010 of 22 hours, 52 minutes and 36 seconds. The trio set off at 12:37 p.m. Tuesday from Penn Station to inspire New Yorkers to sign a petition at stopthefarehike.org that asks Gov. Andrew Cuomo to restore the $260 million in lost transit funding.
By 2:45 p.m. Wednesday afternoon, Sladek had peeled off to go home and sleep while Gray, 24, and Summerise were stuck in the Bronx at East 180th St., with the D, 4, 5 and 6 routes still to complete. Gray estimated they would finish at Brooklyn Bridge-City Hall around 7:20 p.m.
"We did make one legitimate mistake by missing one stop, but I really do not think the error is on my end," said Gray, noting the bevy of bewildering service hiccups she encountered. The unforeseen problems "absolutely backs up our message that we're paying more for less: The service is terrible!" said Gray. Since two men set the record in January 2010, she noted, "we've lost two train lines, 36 bus lines and a lot of service frequency," which would probably thwart any attempt to beat the 2010 record.
"There's a reason it's not easy to set a new record for hitting 468 subway stations in a system that runs 24 hours a day when there are basketballs falling onto tracks, tripping trains' emergency brakes, there are police investigations we can't control and signal problems we try to fix as fast as possible," said MTA spokesman Adam Lisberg. "We try to minimize these, but if you ride for more than a day, you will encounter," some delay-causing glitches, he said. Lisberg disputed Gray's contention that subway riders are now paying more for less. "If she's saying that service is worse now than in 2010, she's just wrong," he said.
Having slept in only five second increments in what at night becomes a giant moving (sometimes) dormitory, Gray and Summerise were exhausted, but determined to plug on.
"I like to finish what I start - unlike MTA construction projects," she quipped.
Also, she decided while in transit to try for "a separate women's record." Even if service conditions remained the same from 2010, she explained, women face challenges in a marathon subway ride that men do not. "If you're riding while female," she noted, "you just can't pee any where."
Among the problems Gray cited that stopped the trio from achieving the world's record:
-- Police evacuated all the passengers from the N train at Canal St. with no explanation. So much for that quick trip to Astoria.
-- They were prevented from embarking on the M line after finding out that service ended overnight.
-- The A train was delayed for 40 minutes in the Rockaways during rush hour.
-- MTA employees at the Metropolitan/Middle Village stop refused to unlock the bathrooms they had planned to use. "We had to hold it like crazy," Gray said.