The MTA became the popular girl at school almost overnight as first Governor Andrew Cuomo and now the federal government is paying mind to New York City’s neglected and notoriously underfunded transportation system. Today, Senator Chuck Schumer announced that he’ll call for sorely needed funding from the Federal Transportation Authority (FTA) to improve the “packed to capacity” L train.
Over the summer, when the State failed to approve the multibillion-dollar budget the MTA needs in order to officially run, the agency entered “crisis” mode, and we were reminded just how much of a monster our janky little subway, bus, and ferry system truly is. An agreement wasn’t fully hammered out until October, and even after that the state transit board still hasn’t officially approved the $26.1 billion improvement plan. A plan, mind you, that comes up short of the money the MTA requires to bring some much-needed updates to its long-crumbling transportation infrastructure.
But last week, something really, really weird happened. Despite his schoolgirl bashing of the MTA (hey, she may be ugly– but we’ll defend her at all costs), Governor Cuomo announced a series of improvements to the system that include some things that were promised way, way back (countdown clocks), but also some pretty wacky stuff. For instance, more On The Go touch screens, which have proved almost completely useless, except for toddlers who confused them for giant iPhones. Gothamist pointed out that this might be because the Governor has never been on a city bus and, despite numerous requests, has only ridden the subway during rush hour “in cardboard form.” Needless to say, we concur.
Senator Schumer, however, has decided to step in (so far in press release form, which is slightly better than that Cuomo cardboard cutout). He acknowledges that the L train, specifically, serves “rapidly growing neighborhoods” and has seen a passenger increase of 98 percent in the last 20 odd years. “Trains and platforms are often bursting at the seams with overcrowding,” Schumer’s office writes. The Bedford stop alone has seen a 250 percent increase in traffic during that time. (Maybe a better solution is to manufacture a holographic L train that tricks tourists into thinking they’ve made it to Williamsburg– they’ll never know the difference!)
There’s no doubt this is going to be an expensive-ass project, hot damn. It’s going to cost taxpayers a whopping $300 million just to run two additional L trains per hour. But that means 2,200 more passengers per hour will be moved along the line between Brooklyn and Manhattan. The funding would cover the MTA’s list of “Canarsie Line Power Improvements” aimed at increasing L train capacity via more entrances/exits, elevators for people with disabilities, and new Metrocard access points. (Still no love, however, for James Murphy’s musical turnstiles.)
We can’t say we won’t be happy to see improvements on the L train– that is, after we make it through all those interminable weekend shutdowns and service changes. However, we’re still wondering, “Why me? Why now?” We’re guessing The Bedford Stop had something to do with these feds finding out that the L train actually exists. But just wait until these guys hear about the nuances of G train service.