March 11, 2015 By Christian Murray
Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer took off the gloves this morning and threw a volley of punches at the MTA concerning its No. 7 train weekday service.
Van Bramer, who was joined by several disgruntled 7 train riders, held a rally at the 40th Street station this morning and said that weekday service had fallen to a new low.
He said that rush-hour commuters have had to contend with trains breaking down, signal malfunctions and overcrowded platforms that have put people’s lives at risk.
“Queens riders are fed up with poor 7 train service,” he said. “Riders are paying for a service that is poor, inconsistent and just plain late.”
He said that the level of service was “outrageous, potentially dangerous and disgraceful.” He said that the MTA, a state-run agency, was not being held accountable and that its standard excuse that ‘it will get better one day’ was inadequate to commuters who have to get to work on time.
He called on the MTA to publicly release detailed information about every disruption (during rush hour) over the last year and to respond to angry riders at a town hall meeting.
But the MTA pushed back. “We will be more than happy to look at the data but what does that accomplish?” wrote Kevin Ortiz, a spokesman for the MTA, in an e-mail. “To confirm what we already know?”
“We are already working hard to make the 7 line more reliable by installing a new signal system, thousands of feet of track panels and making Sandy-related repairs—all vital work to improve service on the line.”
“We understand that these service disruptions are inconvenient to our customers who depend on the No. 7 line and we appreciate their patience.”
But Tara Turtell, one of several angry riders, wasn’t so patient with the MTA recently when she waited in the freezing cold on the 40th Street platform for over 45 minutes. She said that 10 trains came through the station, which were too packed for anyone to board.
Turtell said she got to work an hour late and that she was so cold that she was unable to E-mail her boss as to her delay.
“Unfortunately that was just one of many times the 7 train has made me excessively late to work. When I complain to the MTA all I hear are halfhearted apologies and absolutely no desire to improve, which makes the situation that much more frustrating,” she said.
Van Bramer said that the MTA’s response to the community has been inadequate.
He said that he sent the MTA a letter on Dec. 12 following another period when his constituents were complaining about weekday service.
Van Bramer said he received a response two months later and the MTA wrote that over the course of the past 12 months “there were periods where delays and incidents have spiked.”
Furthermore, Van Bramer said, the MTA stated in that letter that the No. 7 train outperformed the entire subway system as a whole with fewer delays on average.
Van Bramer said that the MTA had promised the community that it would receive improved weekday service—in return for the hardship caused by the weekend outages.
“My question to the MTA: why then has it sunk to new lows over the last four months?’”
But the MTA struck back claiming that Van Bramer was getting in the way of progress by trying to postpone No. 7 train weekend work for events such as the St. Pat’s for All parade.
“It is disingenuous of the councilman to request on several occasions that we postpone work on the 7 line then hold a rally to complain about service,” Ortiz wrote.
Despite the MTAs claims, Pat O’Brien, the chairman of Community Board 2, said the level of service has been unacceptable. “The MTA may call it the 7 line but for all of us it is our life line—to get to work, school and doctor’s appointments.”