That’s what transit advocates from the Riders Alliance urged straphangers to do last Friday morning at Queensboro Plaza, where they distributed their Subway Delay Action Kits to passengers waiting on the platform.
The kits, which resemble the MTA’s emergency instruction card placed in every subway car, tell riders that only Governor Andrew Cuomo has the power to fund and fix the subway. It urges commuters to share their delays, missed appointments and other transit woes with Cuomo through Twitter.
The goal is to flood the governor’s social media feed with stories so he can make funding fixes a top priority come January.
“Delays have tripled since September 2012, which is insane,” said Rebecca Bailin, a campaign manager with Riders Alliance. “Riders are stranded, they can’t get to work. It’s frustrating.
“They’re late to school, to picking up their kids from child care,” she added. “It’s completely unacceptable.”
From speaking to their members at the alliance, Bailin said many straphangers feel powerless when they’re delayed, stuck on a platform or jammed into a subway car that’s not moving. So they came up with the idea of creating cards that enables everyday riders to become “transit activists in the moment.”
Riders can read about the problem, which they are all too familiar with, understand the solution and take action, she said. In addition to sharing on Twitter, they can also sign a Riders Alliance petition online and spread the word to other commuters.
“The more Governor Cuomo is flooded with complaints, and the more other people know Cuomo’s MTA, the more he’s going to be held accountable,” Bailin said.
Danny Pearlstein, policy and communications director with the Riders Alliance, said since Cuomo took responsibility for the Second Avenue line last year, the public has begun to realize that he runs the MTA. More people then understand that he’s responsible for the signal malfunctions and other problems plaguing the system.
“The governor can, in fact, raise the revenue and put a quick plan in place to expedite replacing the signals,” he said, “buying new subway cars and doing what needs to be done to fix the subways.”
A large reason for subway delays, which cost New Yorkers 35,000 hours last year in the morning rush, is the outdated signal system. Pearlstein said the signals are from the 1930s, and are now “beyond their useful life.”
“A lot of them are antiques,” he said. “They have beautiful wooden handles and metal engravings, but the fact is they don’t run 21st century trains very well.”
While the MTA has replaced signals on the L train, and are almost done putting in a new system for the 7 train, the pace isn’t fast enough. Pearlstein said at this rate, they would be done in 50 years.
Given the increase in delays over the last five years, Pearlstein said the MTA should aim to replace the entire signal system in the next 10 to 15 years.
“In order to do that, we need a sustainable, additional funding stream beyond what’s already provided to the MTA, and that’s something only the governor can come up with,” he said. “That’s why we’re asking riders to let the governor know he needs to do this now.”
In the upcoming months, Cuomo, who has embraced the idea of congestion pricing, is expected to unveil a new plan in Albany. Mayor Bill de Blasio, who is constantly warring with the governor over a variety of issues, does not support congestion pricing.
Instead, the mayor is pushing a millionaire’s tax, but that proposal would need to get through Albany first. Experts believe any millionaire’s tax plan would be dead on arrival and would never get through Cuomo.
Pearlstein said the Riders Alliance supports the Move New York plan, a congestion pricing proposal that would impose tolls on the four East River bridges that are currently free: Williamsburg Bridge, Manhattan Bridge, Brooklyn Bridge and Queensboro Bridge.
It would decrease the charges for tolls already in place for bridges like the RFK, Whitestone and Throgs Neck bridges. Drivers going into Manhattan’s central business district would pay $5.54 on the East River bridges, which advocates say are congested because drivers know they are free to cross.
The funds collected would then be invested in mass transit, easing congestion on roadways and other infrastructure issues. Advocate believe it would generate $1.5 billion annually.
Pearlstein said not only would it raise the additional revenue, it would reduce traffic congestion in Manhattan, enabling bus riders and emergency vehicles to move quicker.
But until the governor releases a new plan to fund the MTA’s fixes, riders will remain stuck. The State Legislature will return to session in January, when the governor releases his proposed budget and delivers a budget address.
“We’re urging riders, especially in the holiday season, in the dark days of December when they’re delayed,” Pearlstein said. “Let the governor know so that plan is a really strong plan.”
Jackson Heights resident Ruben Gonzalez was waiting at Queensboro Plaza when the Riders Alliance advocates canvassed the platform for support. He signed their petition.
Gonzalez, who said he takes the R train to and from work, said the subways are especially packed in the morning. He usually leaves his house an hour early because “I know the situation with the trains.”
He said he has seen train delays worsen over time.
“It used to be on time,” Gonzalez said, “40 years ago.”