In new role, Johnson surveys subway riders
by Benjamin Fang
Jan 09, 2019 | 3949 views | 0 0 comments | 268 268 recommendations | email to a friend | print
For 45 days, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson will serve as acting public advocate until that vacancy is filled with a special election on February 26. He intends to make the most of it.

On Monday, Johnson began a five-day subway station tour in the five boroughs. He began in Jackson Heights at the 74th Street and Roosevelt Avenue station, talking to commuters and asking them to fill out one-minute surveys.

They survey asks riders how frequently they use the subway, how satisfied they are with service, the average length of their typical ride, and their top concerns or complaints, among other questions.

“Everyday we hear from the MTA what the numbers are,” Johnson said. “But it’s actually important to hear from commuters, from riders themselves, not just statistics spit out by by the MTA, which most people think are unreliable and they don’t trust.”

The tour, which included a stop in Bay Ridge on Tuesday, is meant to shine more light on the plight of straphangers who suffer from delays and other issues, Johnson said.

The speaker’s team collected more than 200 responses within a few hours. He said he hopes to have more than 1,000 responses when the tour is over.

Johnson’s office will then analyze the data and pass on the numbers to the MTA. He noted that the City Council has budget hearings coming up in the next few months, so the statistics could be referenced in those hearings as well.

“Yes, it will be passed onto the MTA,” he said. “Andy Byford, get ready.”

Johnson added that in addition to collecting data, the tour is meant to show empathy to riders and the problems they experience daily.

Councilman Daniel Dromm, who joined Johnson at the station, said one problem at this particular location is the lead-based paint that has been chipping off the 7 train trestle. It took years to get the MTA to act, he said.

“When we look at the neglect that the MTA has posed on the community over years and years, we need to hear from riders to know even more information,” Dromm said.

They were joined by newly elected state lawmakers Jessica Ramos and Catalina Cruz, both of whom spoke about Albany’s role in finding a solution to the subway crisis.

Ramos, who does not have a driver’s license, said having this data helps the legislators make their case that a funding solution needs to be enacted.

“If they were hearing us loud and clear, we would be making sure the Fast Forward plan would be a priority,” she said, “and that we’re finding the money in the budget to make it reality.”

“Having concrete numbers is really going to help our argument at the state and city level,” Cruz added, “to make sure they are paying attention to the issues of our community.”

Johnson also indicated support for municipal control of the subways and buses. He compared it to the mayoral control of New York City public schools, which was also once in the hands of state government.

“It’s a very detailed conversation we have to have,” he said. “I’m going to have more to say in a detailed way over the next two months on it.”

Those details that need refining include bonding authority and the debt the MTA has accrued. The Long Island Rail Road and Metro North would also need to be separated from New York City Transit.

But conceptually, the acting public advocate said he’s in favor of the city controlling the subways and buses. He at least wants to have the conversation, and will put out a plan soon.

“Give me 60 days,” Johnson said.
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