The L train from Brooklyn into Manhattan is packed on a weekday afternoon.
FADE IN [doors]By the time the train pulls up to the Bedford Avenue platform, the last stop before Manhattan, the cars are standing room only.
CROSSFADE TO SUBWAY AMBIBut Bushwick resident Aaron Schragg says this is nothing compared to rush hour.
The platform will be crowded — full — at eight o’clock, five after eight.
Every once in awhile at rush hour, the whole thing will basically just shut down, almost with no explantation, and they’ll say basically good luck. Or at least that’s what it feels like. John Light:
Sitting next to Schragg on the L train is Carla Cubitt. She’s also a Bushwick resident — and she says service on the weekend is particularly frustrating.
Then they have the shuttle bus, and then you like get off at Lorimer and then… sometimes I’ll just give up and go home if it’s not really an emergency.
This crowding on the L line, and on other trains in Brooklyn in the Bronx, is a relatively new phenomenon.
FADE OUT SUBWAY AMBI
Population follows transportation. Build it — the it in this case being public transportation — and they will travel.
Between 2010 and 2011, Dekalb [De Cal B] Avenue — that’s Aaron Schragg’s station — added 40,000 passengers. Other stations in Brooklyn and the Bronx experienced even larger increases in that time — up to twenty percent more riders. Cate Contino oversees a transit advocacy group, called the Straphangers Campaign — and she says the MTA has some planning to do.
We all know that the city’s population is increasing over the next 20 years. All the projections show that. So the MTA will be forced to think pretty critically in the near future about how to meet those rising demands. [cut stammers]
But the MTA has been struggling. In 2010, it made deep service cuts, eliminating 5 bus routes and scaling back service on some train lines. The same year, the G train added five stations in South Brooklyn — but that service could end in 2013. At a press conference earlier this month, New York City public advocate Bill de Blasio railed against that plan.
Bill De Blasio:
[full] This is where the New York economy is going.
The existing subway system is big enough, says Cate Contino with the Straphanger’s Campaign. But she says the MTA needs to improve the infrastructure. For instance, the signal system could be computerized. That would allow more trains to run closer together. But Contino says that would take government funding that the MTA doesn’t have right now.
Overhauling the signal system is going to be a multibillion dollar project that’s been pushed off for dozens of years at this point. The majority of the signals in the system date back to the earlier part of the twentieth century.
Historian and mapmaker John Tauranac suspects that, eventually, the transit authority will have to expand. But he thinks the MTA won’t feel enough pressure until all of Brooklyn, and the Bronx, have the clout Manhattan does.
Money is power. The moment that neighborhoods start being gentrified, they will exert power on politicians, and on the MTA, et cetera, to improve service.
The MTA did not respond to repeated requests for an interview. But in March it released a report online saying that around eighty percent of trains arrive on time. And a press release acknowledged the growing ridership figures, beginning with the line: “Everyone knows there is no better way to navigate the city than riding the subway.”
John Light, Columbia Radio News