Transport Workers Union Local 100 announced the launch of a lawsuit Thursday morning against the Metropolitan Transportation Authority for allegedly foregoing the public review process before imposing service cuts to the C and F trains.
Headed up by attorney and City Council candidate Arthur Schwartz, the suit’s objective is to place a temporary restraining order on the cuts before they are made permanent and as ridership continues to make strides toward recovery.
But according to the MTA, headways on these lines are shorter than they were when cuts were imposed back in late March 2020 when staffing trains became difficult due to COVID-19.
Eric Loegel, the vice president of Rapid Transit Operations at TWU believes the agency is creating a hazardous situation for commuters and employees in forcing growing ridership onto fewer trains in what appears to be the tail-end of a pandemic.
“The big deal is that this is also a matter of public safety. As you can see, this is a busy place right now. It may not be what it was pre-pandemic, but there are still millions of people riding the train. When you eliminate 1/3 of the rush hour trains on the F line, which is one of the busiest lines in the system, you are creating a situation where there would be greater crowding, which obviously in a pandemic is not a good thing,” Loegel said.
Headways on the C train went from eight or nine minutes to 12 minutes during peak hours while on the F line wait times went from four minutes to eight minutes, according to the MTA.
“As we have said, nothing has changed for customers on the C and F lines since nearly a year ago, and we continue to run 80 percent of service for approximately 30 percent of pre-pandemic ridership,” MTA Chief Communications Officer Abbey Collins said. “Beyond that, we will vigorously defend against these claims in court.”
Schwartz plans to argue that in making these cuts permanent starting March 21, the MTA is taking advantage of emergency powers made necessary by COVID-19 and skipping transparency procedures. Schwartz says the plaintiffs hope to be in court on Sunday to waylay these actions by the MTA through a temporary restraining order.
“There is a provision in the public authorities law that… basically says that the New York City Transit Authority isn’t a free agent to make these kinds of cuts. It says that the New York City Transit Authority, before making the cuts, has to give 30 days notice to the mayor and The law says they also have to give 30 days notice to the board of estimate, whose powers were assumed in 1989 by the New York City Council,” Schwartz explained. “So our position, and then the city council had a right to ask for public hearings. So what the authority has basically done is moved into a permanent cut of these runs, they haven’t given notice to the mayor, they haven’t given notice to the city council, and they have not allowed the opportunity for the public to weigh in on the necessity of these cuts.”
The plaintiffs say that 36 out of over 100 runs on the F train were cut early in the pandemic leaving MTA staff assigned to those runs to be reassigned. Going forward, these cuts will be unnecessary as there are currently crews available despite the 154 fatalities in the MTA workforce due to COVID-19 and considering those who are out sick as well as new hires, according to Loegel.
Earlier this week, the MTA celebrated the fact that ridership numbers have grown 300,000 daily during the darkest chapter of the health emergency to 1.9 million rides on Friday.
Loegel claims crowding during peak hours is already common on the C and F lines.
Arthur Schwartz has made himself known for attempting the stop transportation improvement plans, in recent years, however.
In 2019, a discredited claims that a bus lane going south of Fresh Pond Road in Ridgewood would be damaging to business. Later on that year, he also failed to stop the city Department of Transportation from launching the 14th Street busway, which has been credited with helping reduce people’s commute times significantly.