Three NYC women take on a subway challenge to derail proposed MTA fare hike
Three women are trying to break a subway-riding record while gaining support for a petition to stave off next year's fare hike.
"This subway challenge has nothing to do with sandwiches," said Stefanie Gray, 24, a transit advocate for Transportation Alternatives who intends to ride every subway line in less than 22 hours, 52 minutes and 36 seconds (the 2010 Guinness World's Record).
While on the ride, Gray and her partners will hand out fliers asking riders to sign a petition asking the governor to cough up more state funding for the MTA.
The MTA has laid out four different fare increase proposals, with officials saying the plan they'll likely adopt will bring a 25 cent rise in the base subway fare to $2.50, a jump in the 30-day unlimited card from $104 to $112 and a $1 increase in the $29 weekly card.
Gray and two friends swiped their MetroCards to board the downtown No. 1 train from Penn Station without motormen's helpers but armed with smartphones, peanuts, sandwiches, medicine, umbrellas, NYC tap water -- and their stacks of "Stop the Hike" postcards.
"New Yorkers are tired of paying more for less in our transportation," said Gray, of Sheepshead Bay, who conceded she may have a tough time beating the record given that the MTA has experienced "the most devastating [service] cuts in a generation" and that overnight Fastrack repairs mean some lines will be shut down.
The transit advocate worked out the route with a mix of data crunching, friends, gut instincts, and rider knowledge.
"The computer is good for figuring out the shortest way to all the stops, but not the shortest times," between them, she observed.
Gray and MTA chairman Joe Lhota have been having an affectionate Twitter exchange about her quest ("Bathrooms? Like I said, Good Luck!" Lhota tweeted) and Gray hopes he will be at the Brooklyn Bridge-City Hall stop when she emerges there Wednesday from the No. 6 train. "It would be cool if Joe Lhota gave us a high five," said Gray.
Paul Steely White, executive director of Transportation Alternatives, declined to say if Gray would be paid overtime for her marathon time underground. "Public interest advocacy is not a high paying profession, but she'll get a promotion if she breaks the world record," said White.