Op-ed | Fostering an ‘environment of action’ within the city’s transit system

MTA New York City Transit President Richard Davey
MTA/Marc A. Hermann

One of the most rewarding aspects of my job as president of New York City Transit is that I get to hear from riders directly – what you like about the subway and bus system and especially what you don’t. Whether it’s through online surveys, public comments at MTA Board meetings, or lately in-person Transit Talks, New Yorkers are never shy about what they’re thinking, and I appreciate their candor.

I’m making it my mission to foster an environment of action, where our team at Transit not only listens to these concerns, but we also do something about it. Case in point, we’ve been hearing a lot about weekend service lately. Customers want to use mass transit to get around anytime, but they’re having a harder time on some weekends when service can be limited because of ongoing maintenance and construction.

My job is to find the middle ground, where we can be responsive to riders’ needs today while still getting important track work done to ensure long term service reliability. That’s why I’m appointing a weekend service czar to plan, coordinate and implement a service plan that can thread that needle. With ridership patterns changing, we need to be nimble. Weekends are recovering much stronger than weekdays post-COVID, so the old game plan for minimizing disruptions isn’t going to work. I know we can do better.

We’re applying the same focus to delivering accessibility upgrades across the subway system – which has long been another priority for riders. It was announced at the end of July that a new street elevator is on the way at Queensboro Plaza in Long Island City. A private developer building nearby will pay to install and maintain it on the north side of the station. This the second transit improvement bonus to be approved by the City Planning Commission under Zoning for Accessibility and it marks the first use of ZFA outside Manhattan.

The new privately funded elevator will complement ongoing MTA capital work at Queensboro Plaza that includes the installation of two other elevators that make the station fully accessible, one that connects from the street to the station’s mezzanine and another that connects the mezzanine to platforms above. We’re using every possible strategy to make the system more inclusive for New Yorkers with disabilities, parents with strollers, seniors with mobility issues and more.

Getting close to 100% accessibility won’t happen overnight, but we’re not losing sight of the small things in pursuit of our grand vision, like making sure all subway cars have functioning air conditioners. Currently, just 0.1% of cars are found hot on a given day, even during recent heat waves. There were 45% fewer hot cars this June compared to June 2021, and we’re continuing to identify and inspect cars for working AC before they enter service. We’ve identified the car types whose AC systems fail most often, which are 35-40 years old, and have become better at identifying failures in the shop and repairing them before they get placed back in service.

There’s no issue too big or too small to raise with us, so please keep the feedback coming. It helps our Transit team to serve.

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