It comes as no surprise when New York City’s MTA announced there will be no weekday express service on the No. 7 line for more than a month. With a daily ridership of about 400,000 passengers, the delays will be felt by many.
For anyone who has visited New York City for more than 2 weeks knows there are some issues with the New York City Subway System. For those who live in New York City, you know damn well there are some serious issues with the New York City Subway System. Unfriendly and unhelpful MTA workers. Delays on the train for unknown reasons. Dirty cars. Strange passengers. Mean passengers. Smelly passengers. Air-conditioning during the winter. Heat during the summer. The list goes on.
Of course, you may think, this is New York City — it’s supposed to be like this. Right?
Sure, there’s no denying the strange and inane that is New York City. And there’s certainly no denying the fatalism that many living in the City have. But you often have to ask yourself why the No. 7 Train gets the worst of it.
Would the complete extermination of weekday express service for over a month happen on any Manhattan-bound train other than the No. 7? Chances are . . . no.
Could you imagine no express service on weekdays for over a month happening to the Number 2 or Number 3 trains on the Upper West Side? Or the Number 4 or Number 5 on the Upper East Side? Of course not. There would be a revolution. You’d see front page articles nonstop in the New York Times.
There’s more to the MTA’s decision to terminate No. 7 weekday express service for over a month than the purported need for “track work.” The fact is that unlike the Number 2, Number 3, Number 4, or Number 5 trains, the No. 7 train is distinctly known as the train for immigrants. The No. 7 has been renamed the “International Train,” but everyone who doesn’t believe everything coming from the MTA and the Mayor’s Office knows that it has always been known as the “Orient Express.”
Each and every day, nearly 400,000 riders, most of them minority and recent immigrants whose first language is not English, rely on that No. 7 train to take them from their cheap rents in Queens to their blue collar jobs in Manhattan. The majority of these riders don’t live in fancy apartments, have a retirement plan, have nannies to take care of their children, or a dog walker named Manny to walk little Fido to Central Park. The majority of these riders don’t have a loud political voice. This is the train for workers — the non-unionized kind.
So what kind of message is the MTA sending with its perfunctory message that express service will be cut for over a month — not on the weekends — but on the weekdays for heaven’s sake, when most people in the civilized world try to earn a living?
In no uncertain terms, the MTA, along with Governor Elliot Spitzer, are saying: you don’t matter.
Ridiculous. But it’s not so surprising. The MTA decision reflects a systematic attempt by those in society to stress to immigrants in no uncertain terms that they are irrelevant. Shine my shoes. Clean my car. Stock my groceries. Wash my dishes. You don’t matter.
To be sure, the MTA has offered shuttle buses to stops that have been shut down for the “track work,” express buses to the City and rides on the Long Island Rail Road. Sounds passable on paper but the MTA has yet — during its entire existence as an organization — to provide reliable and efficient “alternative” service when the main service is suspended. It’s like nuclear fusion from cold water. It doesn’t exist except in someone’s imagination.
Practically, there are other problems, too. First, the MTA consistently provides too few buses and does nothing to increase their frequency. So all you end up having — if you can find the buses in the first place . . . the signs are put up by MTA workers who think that having a normal person find the sign for the bus should be a twisted game of hide and seek — is a serious log jam. I can’t even fathom the pandemonium that will occur during weekday rush hour. Second, the rides on the Long Island Rail Road will primarily help those living in Flushing. It won’t help those who live between Flushing and Queensboro Plaza (in fact, there will be no service at all between Woodside and Flushing . . . so to those people, the MTA says, “sorry, you’re just out of luck”).
In the end, the MTA’s decision to cut weekday express service for over a month is not only irresponsible, but is a slap in the face to the immigrant community for which the No. 7 train serves.
The subway system in New York City is unlike any other. It’s a subway system in which people’s livelihoods depend on — rich and poor. The subway was built for everyone, not simply for the rich folks living on the Upper West Side or the Upper East Side that have to get to their important jobs in midtown and downtown.