These days, you can’t seem to talk about nuisances and pests of New York without mentioning the MTA. If you are like me, you are probably dreading the proposed fare hike on unlimited metrocards starting in January 2011. Don’t get me started about weekend service interruptions, and all the poorly marked signage that accompanies them.
With all these changes, haven’t you ever wondered if there’s something you can do to change things, rather than accept the MTA status quo?
Transportation Alternatives (TA), a non-profit advocacy group for pedestrians, cyclists and now subway riders may have some clues to help shake up the MTA and get legislators to listen to subway riders like you and me. Through its recently launched Rider Rebellion, TA is urging straphangers to sign on to the “Transit Rider Bill of Rights”. I spoke to Brodie Enoch, Public Transit Rider Campaign Manager, to find out more about their grassroots mass transit reform campaign.
Q: Tell me about the “Rider Rebellion”.
A: It would have been really easy for us to bash the MTA and what’s been done has been done, and in some cases it’s deserved bashing. We went a little bit further and went after the role Albany has been playing in this whole deal. We put people into office our elected officials who are supposed to be overseeing what’s going on with the MTA. And for years, the MTA has been allowed to fall into a place where things don’t make sense. Albany has taken money out of the mass transit budget and we as riders of mass transit are paying for that. That’s how the Rider Rebellion came into play. In order for anything to actually be done about this it was going to have to be from the ground up. We the people are the ones who have to band together and say we’ve had enough of what’s going on and someone needs to take a serious look at this.
For years, the people in this city had become complacent when in comes to mass transit. So what the subways are dirty? So what lines are being cut? So what fares are being raised? I think the view came from the fact that nothing can be done. There’s nothing you can do. You can’t change the fares. You can’t help get subway cars clean and you can’t help get busses here on time. You can’t do anything about that. We’re here at the rider rebellion to tell people that yes there is something that can be done and yes there is strength in numbers.
Q: What are you doing to confront the upcoming MTA fare hike?
A: One of the things we’ve done is we’ve come up with our Rider Bill of Rights, which is what we’re asking Community Boards and other organizations to adopt. In getting the people to endorse the Bill of Rights, we’re asking them sign petitions to let their elected officials know how they feel about what’s going on with not just money being taken out of the budget, but now with fares going up. We also have a text campaign. This rally, the Voter Transit Rally is the first major implementation to since they’ve decided to raise the fares.
Q: What kind of response are you hoping for from the MTA, since the fare hike has already been voted on by the MTA Board?
We’re hoping that we can get some legislation passed on a couple of these issues, like dealing with the make-up of the board. We want them to understand that we are here in force and that we have over 10,000 people. Give us a few months and we’ll have 20, 000 people. If we continue to grow, we’re going to be enforcing this.
The Rider Rebellion Voter Transit Rally featuring Rev. Al Sharpton will be held October 27th at Union Square from 5:30 pm – 7pm.
This interview was edited for clarity.