Waiting half an hour for a train or bus? At least you could get a free monthly MetroCard out of it!
Transit advocates with the group Riders Alliance launched a contest to find the worst wait times New York City’s subways and buses have to offer, and are offering the winner a 30-day transit pass.
The public transportation boosters want straphangers to document on social media the lengthy gaps in service they face, also known in transit jargon as headways, for their “Horrifying Headways” contest.
The competition is part of Riders Alliance’s renewed push for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to increase subway and bus service to running every six minutes, and the activists urged Governor Kathy Hochul, who controls the MTA, to scale up funding.
“Right now, Governor Hochul and her MTA leadership are running a transit service that is not frequent enough to meet people’s need,” said Riders Alliance spokesperson Danny Pearlstein.
“More frequent transit service has to be on the table and we want to show them how long riders are waiting,” he said.
— 🚇 Riders Alliance (@RidersAlliance) May 2, 2022
The contest lasts through Oct. 30 and Riders Alliance will announce the winner the following day on Halloween.
Entrants can post a picture on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook — be it a shot of a subway countdown clock, a travel app, or posted schedules — while tagging @RidersAlliance and @GovKathyHochul and using the hashtag #SixMinuteService.
“People are putting up with unacceptably long wait times,” Pearlstein said. “Two Sundays ago, I waited 20 minutes for a bus because of a subway outage that put me on a bus.”
Riders with the advocacy organization rallied outside Barclays Center Sunday detailing their struggles with infrequent transit service, especially outside the traditional rush hours.
Crew shortages and a drop in fare revenue during the pandemic have put the MTA in a tough spot as the agency faces down the prospect of running at a $1.6 billion annual deficit after COVID relief money from the federal government runs out in the coming years.
The MTA recently tasked a senior official known as a “weekend czar” with improving rider experience traveling on Saturdays and Sundays, which is usually when the agency schedules outages to allow for repairs and upgrades.
New Yorkers are returning faster to pre-pandemic ridership levels on the subways, buses, and commuter railroads on those off days than on Monday-Friday, MTA counts show.
While the MTA runs about 60% of subway lines at least every six minutes during rush hour, fewer than 10% of routes do so on Saturdays and only one — the L train — has such frequent service on Sundays, according to Riders Alliance.
MTA Chairman and CEO Janno Lieber has called for more dedicated funding to run the transportation system like a public good, as opposed to keeping it heavily reliant on fares, but Hochul has shied away from budgeting any extra state money for the nation’s largest mass transit system.
“Most transit customers are benefitting from better than six minute headways already, and while the MTA would like to provide even more service, we first need solutions to the looming budget deficit brought on by COVID,” said MTA spokesperson Eugene Resnick.
The governor’s office did not respond to a request for comment by press time.