Dec
19

A subway Bill of ‘Yeah, Rights’

By

Welcome to the day of fare hike reckoning. Some time after 9:30 a.m., the MTA Board will vote to approve the fare hike. By all accounts, the rate increase is a foregone conclusion.

While straphangers may enjoy some service upgrades with the fare hike, two city councilmen and a whole slew of rider advocates want the City Council to adopt a Subway Rider Bill of Rights. Modeled after the Taxicab Rider Bill of Rights, the subway equivalent calls for better and more reliable service, among other benefits. Take a look at the ten rights — or “yeah, rights,” as I like to call them — the council members Bill de Blasio and John Liu want the MTA to endorse. (Click the photo for a larger view as well.)

  1. Fares that are affordable and attract riders to use mass transit.
  2. Regular, on-time subway service.
  3. Immediate and real-time notification of service changes and advisories available to passengers on platforms, in train cars, and via internet and ext message with accurate information.
  4. Accurate and user-friendly assistance for riders to find alternative means of transportation in situations where service is interrupted.
  5. Trains and platforms that are kept clean.
  6. A working and understandable public address system on all platforms and in all trains, with in-car announcements alerting passengers to upcoming train stops and platform notifications informing riders of the arrival of the next train.
  7. Well-trained, helpful station and train personnel to provide information and directions, as well as establish a human presence in the subways.
  8. Working payphones in all stations and access to cellular phone service while on platforms.
  9. An MTA website that is user-friendly and can support heavy traffic such as that which may be experienced during an emergency.
  10. An environment as safe and secure as possible from crime and terrorism, with such features as an increased presence of uniformed police officers and bright lighting.

It’s hard to argue with these rights really. We all want fair fares and reliable service as well as a certain level of customer service, but with the MTA’s history, do you understand now why I call them “Yeah, rights”? The public address systems both on trains and in stations are nightmares; the cell phone idea is hundreds of dollars away from a reality; and don’t get me started on those helpful station personnel.

The council members speaking out for the plan were vague about what they expect from the MTA, but they do want a more concrete devotion to customer satisfaction. “It is unacceptable to the New Yorkers who ride our subways every day that these basic levels of service are not already provided,” de Blasio said. “If the MTA sees fit to stuff riders’ stockings with higher fares this holiday season, they should also agree to give those riders the gift that is actually on everyone’s wish list: decent mass transit service.”

Liu chimed in with an apt appraisal of the current leadership situation at the MTA. “With the new MTA leadership, much of the spirit and letter of this Bill of Rights is already embodied in many ways,” he said. “Recognizing this document would serve to formalize the already existing intent and commitment on the part of the new MTA leadership to truly provide customers with utmost service.”

While I’m all in support of a better commitment to customer service, I have to wonder if a largely symbolic Bill of Rights is the best way to achieve those ends. The MTA, to lay it on the line, needs money to accomplish those goals, and ironically, one of the supporters of the Bill of Rights wasn’t too keen on the MTA’s getting more money. If we want to see better PA systems, the MTA needs the funds to install one. If we went the MTA to wire stations to ensure a means of delivery for real-time service updates, show them the money. A Bill of Rights can only go so far.

For its part, the MTA was quick to note recent customer service initiatives. In a press release issued yesterday, the MTA discussed its recent $70-million improvement efforts. “Responding to the needs of subway and bus riders throughout the city, MTA New York City Transit has budgeted nearly $70 million for enhancements in the areas of quality, safety and security,” the release said. “Additionally, NYC Transit has received approval to begin working towards implementation next year of 32 separate proposals for new and increased services, with an annual value of $46 million. We hope that city and state legislators will help secure additional funding so that we can make further improvements to the system.”

Clearly, the answer lies not in a Bill of Rights but in more funds for the MTA. Gary Reilly, Brooklyn transit advocate and fellow supporter of the F Express Plan, beat this drum yesterday during the announcement in support of the Bill. “If we’re to preserve our status as one of the greenest cities in America, we need Governor Spitzer to commit to state funding for mass transit that will reverse the tragic legacy of neglect left us by the Pataki administration,” he said. Hear. Hear.



Categories : MTA Absurdity

9 Responses to “A subway Bill of ‘Yeah, Rights’”

  1. bmfarley says:

    Those are really nice, but one thing diffently different between taxi’s and public transit is that… well, the obvious. Public transit is “public.”

    Taxi’s are private.

    Concerning much of what’s in the proposed bill of rights…. every item comes with additional costs. Those costs are are paid for by the public through fares and public subsidies. So, that bill is really asking for higher fares… which conflicts with the first listed right, “affordable fares.”

    btw, who determines what’s affodable?

    You conclude correctly that ultimately more funds are needed to run operations. This list should move forward as part of some effort to secure those funds. Lobbying state lawmakers, city hall, or seeking a ballot measure. If it does not move forward… well, I think MTA can only respond with “Thank you for your interest. We genuinely appreciate it, but…”

  2. The Urban Ghost says:

    Lets see… where do I begin? Some complaints are very liget while others sounds like the guy who lives in a masion complaining about how he has to take the Lexus to work instead of the Bentley.

    1) Fares that are affordable and attract riders to use mass transit.
    While many can not offord 4 dollars a day, you still have o admit, its not stupid high. Unlimited Ride cards make it better because the more you ride, the less you pay per ride.

    What I find amazing about this is that the same people complaining about fares are complaining about congestion pricing that is SUPPOSED to help keep subway fair down. Poor people do not drive their cars to manhatten every day…

    2) Regular, on-time subway service.

    I was on the train today and do you know what/who was holding up service? The passengers. Passengers literally holding the doors and standing their for a good minute. Now what is one minute? Depending on how long the train line is and how many more people end up waiting on the platform downstream that would have gotten on the train or waited for the next one… well lets just say that a minute can turn into a train being 5 minutes late by the time it reaches downtown (especially if the train ends up so late that they cross another one in front of you).

    3.5 minute headways??? Holding the doors is the number one delay problem behind sick passengers (and door problems aka train problems)

    3) Immediate and real-time notification of service changes and advisories available to passengers on platforms, in train cars, and via internet and text message with accurate information.

    The people WHO WORK in the system do not get the right info so how can the passengers get it? The D line not running is not relayed to the conductor/train operator on the A train. The 1 train is flodded but the station cleck tells the customer to take the 1. The conductor tells the passengers at 34 street that the 123 is available.

    They are working on this now testing it on the L line.

    4) Accurate and user-friendly assistance for riders to find alternative means of transportation in situations where service is interrupted.

    Station agents are not told much if anything at all.

    5) Trains and platforms that are kept clean.

    Passengers biggest offence is throwing trash on the floor.

    6) A working and understandable public address system on all platforms and in all trains, with in-car announcements alerting passengers to upcoming train stops and platform notifications informing riders of the arrival of the next train.

    Being tested on the L line

    7) Well-trained, helpful station and train personnel to provide information and directions, as well as establish a human presence in the subways.

    Most employee maral is low. They feel transit doesn’t care about them so why care about transit. They are not provided the material to be helpful (nor are many transit workers encouraged) and anything that they should be doing on their own isn’t done do to the work less – pay me more additude.

    For the most part transit does not train, does not have a internal POSITIVE influencing mechanizm for employees to have better interactions with customers, and materials are not provided to the station agents to help the customers (bus maps, train maps, line schedules, line bus maps).

    8)Working payphones in all stations and access to cellular phone service while on platforms.
    No cell phones on stations… working pay phones is a must.

    9) An MTA website that is user-friendly and can support heavy traffic such as that which may be experienced during an emergency.

    The MTA website should be a major destination for travelers and everyday city dwellers alike. Why does their have to be a google mash-up from some other web author and not be on the MTA website? Resturant listings, shops, musuems, event listings, planners, emergency updates, schedule changes, text alerts, art work submissions, employee interanet, and so on!!! The site could be a money maker instead of a drain.

    10) An environment as safe and secure as possible from crime and terrorism, with such features as an increased presence of uniformed police officers and bright lighting.

    Better lighting is a must. Police are omnipresent on the L, J and A (only from BWJ to Queens) lines but other lines seem to lack any force. Transit security guards would be a good idea on most trains…. just to be eyes and ears.

  3. paulb says:

    How is the subway supposed to have an effective overhead public address system when I can’t even hear my personal headphones sometimes no matter how I adjust them? This is pointless. The store where I work has an overhead and, ditto. In very crowded, noisy, spacious areas these systems just have limitations. The stations are all on a high speed data network. Put up some flat panel displays and use text to communicate service changes. Surely this could be done without waiting for the computer train control systems to come online.

  4. paulb says:

    P.S. A “Subway Bill of Rights.” Eyewash. The high school student in me wants to answer with a loud Bronx cheer. What an insult to our intelligence.

  5. Gary says:

    Ben great post – where did you get that graphic? I feel like I wrote my post yesterday in cuneiform by comparison.

    paulb, would you prefer they said nothing? Your idea for the flat panel displays is a good one. What my ideal would be is for automated signalling and train control . . . like in Singapore, or on the Airtrain. Go one line at a time if necessary, so that excess personnel can be lost to attrition and/or transitioned to new roles (improved station presence) gradually.

    urban ghost – As for passengers holding open doors, that’s one of the things that makes bringing back corporal punishment a la Singapore tempting. But short of that, those people should be pulled off the trains and ticketed. The MTA could stand to put out a PR campaign (on their own trains) on subway etiquette as well.

    Lastly, this isn’t on the list, but video cameras in the subway cars and to a lesser extent in stations would be a good deterrent to crime, and seriously cut back on graffiti (speaking of corporal punishment . . .)

  6. digamma says:

    I don’t think this Bill of Rights would accomplish much. If you look at the taxicab riders’ rights those are all things that, if violated, you can call and have them take action for. Same with the air passengers’ bill of rights in the EU – if an airline tries to violate it, you point at the law and say “you can’t do this.”

    If MTA fails to provide “regular on-time subway service” what are you supposed to do? Demand your $1.67 back?

  7. Don't hold your breath says:

    Don’t hold your breath for a good PA system or train arrival information, Siemens has been flubbing those contracts for years.

    See today’s NY1:
    http://www.ny1.com/ny1/content.....;aid=76706

    They should be BANNED from ever bidding on a NY contract again.

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