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am New York | January 30, 2012

By Marc Beja

A majority of riders said their commute has worsened in the last three years, according to a survey by Transportation Alternatives.

Of the nearly 700 people surveyed last week, 61% said their subway or bus service has gotten worse since 2009; 13% said it had improved and the remaining 26% said it's stayed the same.

"Especially on the weekend, it's awful," said Karl Green, 39, of Staten Island, as he waited for a downtown train Sunday. "The trains don't run on time, it's always packed, and trains are not going where they're supposed to be going."

Green, a security guard from Staten Island, said he was extra-peeved because he had to walk three avenues when his bus didn't show.

"It just runs when it feels like it," he said.

The MTA declined to comment on the poll, whose results were obtained by amNewYork before their release Monday. Last year, the agency found that most of the subway and bus riders it polled were "satisfied" or "very satisfied" with the service.

Since 2009, the cash-strapped transit agency has raised fares and made some of the worst service cuts in its history in 2010 when two subway lines were eliminated, along with dozens of bus routes.

Paul Steely White, Transportation Alternatives' executive director, blamed the worsening service to "years of declining transit funding from Albany" that amounted to about $260 million less than the MTA was expecting.

A spokesman for Gov. Andrew Cuomo did not return messages for comment.

"This survey confirms what every bus and subway rider in this city knows," White said. "Our commutes have gotten worse.

From higher fares to longer wait times to overcrowded trains, transit riders have seen the quality of their commutes drop precipitously over the last three years," he added.

Councilmember James Vacca, who heads the council's transit committee, agreed.

"What the MTA went through in 2009 and 2010 is having an effect on us," said Vacca, who said he regularly rides the Lexington Ave. line to get to City Hall. "I often feel like a sardine much more than I did in 2008 and 2009."

He said the MTA should look for "fiscally neutral" ways to restore service cuts while scaling back on places where there is redundant service.

"We want to encourage people to use mass transit, but it's taking people longer to reach their destinations," said Vacca (D-Bronx), though he added that the tight economy has made it difficult to find extra money from the city, state or federal governments. "I don't want to hold out false hope that there is a pot of money somewhere that hasn't been tapped," he said.

Most straphangers interviewed by amNewYork said they had noticed service getting worse in recent years.

"The first thing that suffers in budget cuts is transit," said John Sykes, a graphic artist who lives in midtown, as he waited for a downtown A train at Penn Station. "There's fewer trains and more people on them because of budget cuts."

But some said their commute had improved.

"It's gotten faster, and you see when your next train is coming [in stations where there are countdown clocks]," said Erica Bedre, 25, a law student from the Bronx.