Putting Riders First for a Change

Protesting a foregone conclusion at hearings, riders take their case public
Wiley Norvell
(646) 873-6008
July 13, 2010

Tonight, the MTA begins a series of court-mandated public hearings regarding the closure of subway station booths. While the hearings themselves are a victory for riders and workers, their outcome will be anything but helpful. The decision to close the booths has already been made. And worse, riders that do show up to be heard by the MTA board will be pushed to the back of the line behind elected officials that took no significant action to stave off these recent cuts.

Before the MTA’s hearing, Transportation Alternatives and the NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign held a “People’s Hearing” for frustrated subway and bus riders. Riders emphasized the importance of station booth workers, but also addressed the current vicious cycle of service cuts. They were joined by station booth operators whose jobs are being eliminated. The People’s Hearing protested Albany’s unwillingness to come to riders’ rescue and the theater of public hearings with predetermined outcomes.

“Another hearing, another song and dance. The riding public takes a back seat while the same politicians who pillage transit funds in the State Capitol get on a soapbox here in New York City to proclaim their outrage at transit cuts,” says Paul Steely White, Executive Director of Transportation Alternatives. “It’s time to break the vicious cycle and start putting riders first.”

“Today’s court-ordered MTA hearings are a great frustration to the riders and workers who oppose these 44 booth closings. On one hand, we desperately want a real forum to make our case to decision-makers. On the other hand, we know our words tonight will fall on deaf ears,” says Gene Russianoff, Senior Attorney at the NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign. “These closings will go forward regardless of what we say, which is why we have organized our own forum where affected riders can at least speak before an audience of their fellow New Yorkers.”

"I used to depend on the B71 to take my child to her school every morning. Our options now are either a long walk to a subway and another subway -- not easy with a stroller -- or a car service, which is of course very expensive and worsens the city's traffic problem," says Juliette Dellecker Michaelson, a parent from Prospect Heights. “The thousands of people who depended on that bus route are now left without a viable alternative.”

“I’m a foster mother and like millions of other New Yorkers, I use mass transit to get around. Last Monday, I was in the Bronx to register my foster child for summer camp. I waited with other senior citizens for over 35 minutes in the scorching heat before the Bx15 bus arrived,” says Madeline Green, a retiree in East Harlem. “When is someone in Albany going to listen to people like me?”