Since the Riders Alliance began organizing riders, we’ve won significant campaign victories throughout the city. These wins include:
Funding the MTA Capital Program
The MTA Capital Program is a pot of funds that pays for replacement and upgrades for the vital equipment that keeps public transit running: new subway cars and buses, modern signal technology, repairs to stations, and more. When we started organizing riders to push for capital funding, there was a multi-billion-dollar gap remaining in the MTA’s capital budget–no one knew where the funds would come from. Our grassroots members organized to make clear the real-life consequences of failing to fill the gap: higher fares and reduced service for millions of transit riders.
We took to the subway platforms, compiling riders’ “Subway Horror Stories” to show how underinvestment was already causing delays and crowding, and when Governor Cuomo ignored our invitation to ride the subway with us, we brought “Cardboard Cutout Cuomo” for a tour instead. With our work to hold our elected leaders accountable and our allies’ dedicated advocacy, riders were able to secure a commitment of $8.3 billion from Governor Cuomo and $2.5 billion from Mayor de Blasio to help fill the funding gap. Now we continue to organize to hold our elected officials to their promises and guarantee that new equipment won’t be funded by raising fares for New Yorkers who can least afford it.
Tax-Free Transit Benefits
According to our analysis, the average New Yorker earning the median income could save as much as $443 every year with pre-tax transit benefits–but hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers can’t access that tax savings because their employers don’t provide them with an opportunity to set aside funds. Riders Alliance members worked with City Council Member Dan Garodnick and pro-transit allies in the Council to pass legislation that will help an additional 450,000 New Yorkers access cost savings with pre-tax transit benefits.
Our transit benefits law requires firms that employ 20 or more New Yorkers to allow them to set aside pre-tax income to pay for transit–a win-win-win for employers, riders and public transportation. The City Council passed Council Member Garodnick’s bill in October 2014, and Riders Alliance members were proud to join Mayor de Blasio to sign the bill into law that month. Now we are working with the City to implement the legislation, which goes into effect on January 1, 2016.
Bus Stop Countdown Clocks
2.5 million New Yorkers take the bus every day, but bus service hasn’t improved much in decades: many riders still feel abandoned at a lonely bus stop, not knowing when their bus will come. Fortunately, the MTA has successfully installed GPS on all buses citywide, and riders can use smartphone apps or texting to get updates. We believe the City should go a step further and provide a service riders can find in cities around the world: countdown clocks at bus stops.
We worked with the City Council to dedicate discretionary funding for countdown clocks–and won funds from 19 City Council members and two borough presidents to install more than 200 countdown clocks in all five boroughs. Now we are pushing New York City DOT to guarantee that the clocks are installed as soon as possible–with an expected date of 2016.
Improved G train service:
Our members began organizing for better G train service in the fall of 2012. With the leadership of State Senators Daniel Squadron and Martin Dilan, we requested that the MTA conduct a Full Line Review of the G train–and then while the MTA conducted its study, we kept the pressure on with rider outreach, media campaigns and even a tongue-in-cheek “G Train Workout Plan” exercise video.
The MTA released its review in summer 2013, and we won the following improvements: 25% more G train service in the afternoon and evening; reduced crowding in the morning because the MTA will space trains at even intervals; and clear signs on the platform that indicate where the four-car train will stop.
Better buses and train stations in Astoria and Long Island City:
In the winter of 2012, Riders Alliance members surveyed bus riders about their experiences and documented conditions at N/Q train station in Western Queens. With our grassroots membership team, we advocated for “50 Fixes” to N/Q train stations and improved bus service. In the summer of 2013, and with the leadership of State Senator Michael Gianaris and other local elected officials, we won: activation of an N/Q train audio announcement system that lets riders know when to expect the next train, repairs to every N/Q station in Astoria, and increased bus service on the Vernon Blvd. Q103 bus.
Better bus and subway service during R and G train tunnel closures:
When the MTA announced that it were closing R and G train tunnels for Superstorm Sandy-related repairs, the Riders Alliance helped form the Subway Tunnel Closure Working Group. Working with transit advocates, elected officials and community groups, we pushed the MTA to accommodate the hundreds of thousands of subway riders who would have longer, more crowded commutes during this extended period of tunnel construction. The MTA responded to our advocacy and in the fall of 2013 we won: 25% more service on the X27 express bus from Bay Ridge to Lower Manhattan, “gap trains” to add service in the event of delays on the 4/5/D/N/R lines, the restoration of the B37 bus in Bay Ridge to Downtown Brooklyn, and a guarantee that construction on the G train would not coincide with construction on the nearby 7 and L trains.