The Other Underground Pest

September 26th, 2010 by An Phung

They move with rapid speed beneath the city as vessels of germs and odor. They’re unsightly, massive and oftentimes the cause of our anxiety and tardiness. No, it’s not New York City’s infamous subway rats. It’s the New York City Subway system. And these days, rat infestations are probably near the bottom of a long list of problems plaguing the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

The M.T.A. is weathering its fair share P.R. issues, including budget cuts that resulted in the demise of the V and W lines. Things went from bad to worse when the M.T.A. laid off agents and proposed fare increases that are currently under review in a series of public hearings over the next two months. And just when things couldn’t get any worse, maintenance and construction work caused the disruption of 18 subway lines this weekend. This left an aftermath of delays, slow speeds and express trains forced to impersonate local trains.

So how should the city’s straphangers combat this latest inconvenience?

People at the 96th Street station on Broadway, a stop for all three trains on the red line, were seen boarding the fleet of buses that were out in droves today. These shuttle buses provided commuters with service to uptown and The Bronx. Some boarded their slow moving train, and in a gesture of defiance and silent protest for the M.T.A’s poor service, got off before the doors even closed. The platforms were crowded, construction was loud and travelers were agitated.

“I wish I knew when this would end,” said an M.T.A. worker, when asked when he thought the weekend schedule will resume again.

The worker, with bullhorn in hand, heralded the shuttle bus option and provided answers and directions to frustrated riders. His employment with the M.T.A. prevented him from sharing his name or giving riders alternate solutions. But the New York City police officer next to him was less shy. When asked what she suggests for alternatives to the subway she said, “Take the bus or stay home.”

The M.T.A. employee urges travelers to check their website frequently for updates on service changes. Careful planning and leaving extra early will also help prevent tardiness. Commuters should also take heed and check for services changes communicated on colorful posters tacked around their stations. Weekend construction and maintenance will continue well into next year, with interruption to service that will be less chaotic than what was seen today.

Perhaps the rumored bike-share program will be the real answer to the subway problems. After all, it is easier to outrun those pesky rats (and rates) on wheel than on foot.

Today's M.T.A. service status at 4:38 PM

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