New Yorkers who take the subway Sunday talked about their deep-seated fears of claustrophobia (closed spaces), cleithrophobia (getting stuck underground) and chrometophobia (money).
The grassroots transit group Riders Alliance held an event, “Subway Horror Stories,” at the Atlantic Avenue-Barclays Center station to hear passengers’ tales of lengthy trips, sardine-like conditions, long waits between stops, malfunctioning equipment, and diversions that have been plaguing operations in the weeks before riders get hit with a fare increase March 22.
Shameek Robinson, a 38-year-old from Harlem who works at an education nonprofit, described a subway horror story this way: “When you get an unexpected, significant, negative result from a reasonable expectation.”
His tale of woe was a recent trip from downtown Brooklyn to Harlem that lasted 90 minutes and required two transfers due to a diversion, with a 20 minute wait at the West 4th Street station.
“This was on a Thursday afternoon,” he said.
Switch and signal problems and track work have been scrambling service; earlier in the month, 10 lines were affected during a system signal issue. Most common reasons for the spike in delays are overcrowding, track gangs and repair work, according to MTA statistics. Officials have said the MTA is reviewing how necessary work is scheduled and using real-time monitoring to maintain regular, evenly-spaced service.
Meanwhile, MTA brass has been pressing state officials and the business community on the importance of fully funding its $32 billion capital plan, which will bring the system into a state of good repair: upgrade aging infrastructure, provide boosts such as modern signals to run more trains, and facilitate new train cars and buses.
“Subway service has been a mess,” said John Raskin, executive director of the Riders Alliance.
While weather has put a strain on the system, “this is about equipment that is a century old,” he said.
The Riders Alliance heard from about 30 riders and will continue to collect stories over the next 10 days to send to Gov. Andrew Cuomo and state lawmakers.
Group member Mazin Melegy, 25, complained about waiting a half hour in Brooklyn to squeeze into an L train — he had to let six trains go by before getting on board.
“Everybody does have one,” he said of subway horror stories.
Demetrius Harris, an 11-year-old from Park Slope who takes the train to his Manhattan school, said bad service could mean Friday afternoon detention if he is late.
“It takes long to get to stops,” Harris said he would tell state and transit officials. “Speed it up a little bit.”
His father Elliot, 50, who owns In the Cut barber shop in South Slope, said he is a middle class New Yorker getting squeezed by increasing fares, which cover 60% of NYC Transit operations, according to MTA financial documents.
“Let someone else pay for this stuff,” he said.