City officials are getting into the weeds with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority in urging them to restore full service on the C and F lines, which were subject to cuts and longer wait times at the outset of the pandemic.
Now, after a judge ordered the MTA to hold off for two more weeks on making the changes permanent, Manhattan Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams are joining the Transport Workers Union Local 100 and other elected officials in calling the cuts a public health hazard in the waning days of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“As we begin seeing a steady increase in riders returning to our subways, we need to make sure that our trains are running consistently and reliably to avoid crowded platforms,” said Rodriguez, chairman of the City Council Transportation Committee. “The MTA is constantly reminding us that their main priority has been to keep riders safe. Crowded subway platforms will only jeopardize the health of straphangers and transit workers.”
TWU leaders have retained bus lane critic and city council candidate Arthur Schwartz as an attorney in their lawsuit to place a temporary restraining order on the MTA’s plan to make the cuts permanent. Schwartz said the judge had ruled in his favor allowing for a two-week stay of execution for C and F line cuts, or until about April 7.
The MTA, on the other hand, is undeterred by the case.
“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% of service for approximately 30 percent of pre-pandemic ridership,” MTA Chief Communications Officer Abbey Collins said last week. “Beyond that, we will vigorously defend against these claims in court.”
With headways on the C train going 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, fears abound that an increase in riders into the subway will create crowded conditions on trains and platforms.
“We have a long way to go for our transit system to fully recover from the pandemic, but the picture looks better than it did even a few months ago, with federal aid on the way and ridership increasing. That is why we must speak out against any service cuts in the system. We support the lawsuit by the TWU to reverse service cuts made last summer on the C and F lines. With our recovery process underway, now is not the time to cut service underserved New Yorkers rely on,” Adams said.
Schwartz said in a March 18 press conference that in making these cuts permanent, the MTA would be taking advantage of emergency powers made necessary by COVID-19 and skipping transparency procedures.
The group of opponents to the service cuts now include Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, and City Council Members Fernando Cabrera of the Bronx; and I. Daneek Miller and Adrienne Adams of Queens.