A never-ending wishlist for transit improvementsBy
Early last month, the MTA announced their latest customer feedback initiative. With the promise of free rides for a few lucky participants, the agency launched a customer survey initiative designed to help the MTA better understand their riders’ opinions of existing services and their priorities for improvement. Three to five times per year, the MTA will approach those who sign up, and as a carrot for completion, some participants will receive a free pass good for 10 rides somewhere.
“We need a larger customer sample to drive our understanding of customer priorities down to finer levels of operation, such as individual subway lines or groups of stations,” Peter Harris, MTA Director of Market Research, said last month. “Our goals are to increase public participation while providing MTA planners with more in-depth, actionable information faster and at no extra cost, which we can do by adding well-designed online surveys to our existing research program.”
The few public responses to the survey announcement show the never-ending litany of suggestions and complaints. An article in The Poughkeepsie Journal highlighted practical and mundane areas of improvement. These suggestions ranged from doing away with a controversial $10 refund processing fee to better identifying Metro-North’s quiet cars to making sure fare vending machines aren’t reflecting the sun. Suburban commuters, it seems, have less to complain about on a day to day level than subway riders.
Within the five boroughs, complaints are endless. Gripes about delays are less indicative of systematic failures than they are of the daily ebb and flow of subway commuters. The louder complaints though concern the infrastructure. As pulsating LED lights have debuted at Bleecker St., riders from outside the core of the system are less than thrilled with station upgrades that seemingly never arrive.
One SAS reader complained of conditions at 191st Street, and I’ve heard similar complaints regarding the stations at 168th and 181st Sts. that are literally falling apart. Chambers St. on the BMT Nassau St. line sits underneath the building that houses much of the New York City bureaucracy, and it too is in shambles.
Venturing outside of Manhattan, we find recent coverage of conditions along the Sea Beach line. From the photos, you would never know some of these station elements date only from the 1980s as stairwells are eroding, and retaining walls at risk of giving out. Station conditions are grim, and it may be still be anywhere from two to six years until the MTA gets around to fixing up these stops. Subchatters are concerned with the structural integrity of the trench walls, and politicians are calling for emergency repairs.
All of which is to say that the list for improvements is endless, and then the cycle starts all over again. Even if the MTA can rehab every single station, they’ll eventually have to start over again as stations that were renovated within the past 15 years start to show their age. It’s the wear and tear of the daily commute played up against a backdrop of an agency that doesn’t have enough money to do what it needs to do and isn’t trusted with the dollars it has.
So the list will grow. Everyone wants his or her own local station to look the nicest, to be well lit, to have less water damage and fewer falling tiles, and when those renovations come, they cost too much and take too long. Just ask anyone waiting endlessly for the Bleecker St./Broadway-Lafayette transfer to finally open.