Our Poorly Managed Transportation

7 Train drain leak6(MSCC) John Mudd, February 15, 2016 — During calmer off peak hours, a docile and subtle charm rests upon the faces of New York City subway riders. However, peak hours are a different story. That calm, easy demeanor of earlier is replaced by a ferocious urgency; we become a herd ready to nudge, push, and trample you under our hooves, eager to keep up with our raving city. The city’s transportation system is hard pressed to keep up with us desperate passengers, who ebb and flow within its tunnels. And from the looks of it, the MTA shows no willingness to keep up with our desires to succeed.

Step out of the limousine-like mentality and tread in the shoes of this working class man, who rides the underground rails daily and is nowhere near retiring…

I’m staring at the cracks and crevices and looking deep into the heart of darkness; I am repulsed by the lack of care given our most valuable commuter asset. I am busting at the seams while swimming in the crudeness of our transit system: My latest rant is sparked by a leak; a hazardous non-stop leak along the corridor leading to the 7 train.

The leak: On a sunny summer day, after sloshing through the stream of water dribbling steadily from a nearby drain down the sloping walkway leading to the 7 train, I alerted a station attendant and a toll booth operator. A day or two later, the MTA’s concern manifested in the placement of two “caution” cones. And after several more days of commuting through the deluge with no more than two orange cones as a fix, I called the MTA (511). I seriously doubted I was the only person complaining about the dirty flow of water that could send you sliding to your death! Was I?

Finally, a response concerning my logged complaint arrived six day later by email from Sharon Adams.

This is to acknowledge your call to MTA New York City Transit. The MTA is committed to providing safe, courteous, reliable, and accessible service. Please be assured that all comments, suggestions, compliments and complaints we receive from our customers are forwarded to the appropriate managerial personnel for review and any necessary action. We encourage you to continue to e-mail us at, via the “Customer Self Service” link, with your comments and concerns. We look forward to serving you better now and in the future. Please note your reference number above. Thank you for contacting us. Sharon Adams, Customer Services.

Oh how very nice—they are encouraging me to correspond!

I was about to give up after that enlightening correspondence, when I was contacted by Tracee Carrasco, a WCBS-TV Reporter (Twitter: @CarrascoTV…everyone is looking for twitter followers), after seeing my letter(s) that I sent to the Community Board, City Council, police department, and others.

After giving her additional details about the incessant leak, Tracee immediately called the MTA. That very afternoon I received a message that they were working on the problem. After work I walked [indirectly] home through our subway system to see what “working on the problem” meant. There were hordes of workmen meandering on the 7 train platform; the station manager and several other workmen were trying to get the drain to cough up the mesh and other garbage that was clogging its long, snaking esophagus. It was a staggering amount of staff to the rescue, more than I’ve seen in my 30-plus year life in New York City (okay I’m exaggerating), at least half that [?]. Although there was real intent to resolve the clogged drain, the water on the pedestrian pathway was being ignored. Mop buckets were sitting idle on the 7 train platform. And I suppose this is understandable: cleaning would be a difficult task to manage during rush hour. But at least something was being done: it’s amazing what a little press inquiry can do!

Soon after all was resolved, Tracee emailed me: “ Hi John, happy to help! I’m glad the problem was resolved. Please feel free to contact me anytime with community issues or story ideas!” She is thanking me, but the gratitude goes to her for resolving the saga of the hazardous leaking drain, of which I was ineffectual to bring about. It was at least ten days I frustratingly surfed atop the dribbling water as it flowed down that ramp! And for at least ten days I watched the same film with not a single rewrite (until now) of its near fatal ending: me hanging ten in a hospital bed dressed in a body cast.

At long last—problem resolved! A good thing, of course, but there are still other concerns. The pervading filth, lack of maintenance, service, and air quality down in the depths of our subway system infringes upon the health of everyday commuters. I do my best not to touch handrails; in my mind’s eyes, I see a filthy, dripping gooey-like substance hungrily waiting to latch onto my flesh—a vision perhaps conjured from a mysterious series of hard fought battles with colds, flus and the unstoppable flow of phlegm. It is increasingly important for me not to miss work—got to keep paying the bills. This anxiety is further induced by watching others pulling their sleeve over their hands before touching the handrails. I am certain it’s the only time they are even “wiped” (if you can call it that) considering the MTA’a efforts to clean some of subway station entrances; notably the 40th and 42nd Street entrances. At 40th Street, the aroma of piss grips your nose hairs and hangs on for dear life, well after you trudge deeper into or out of our underground transportation system. I am certain most entrances are in a similar state. Certainly the entrance at Bryant Park’s 40th Street and 6th Avenue could easily win the “Worst and Dirtiest” Award. And how about those benches? On an early morning ride I’m hard pressed to sit on any of them— along with the handrails, I am very doubtful they are being sanitized on a daily basis, if at all. And don’t even get me started on the subject of trash on the trains!

We should be testing the air quality of our subway system. If the lack of care and cleanliness is any indicator, I suspect air quality and ventilation is not even on the list. Why are there endless service interruptions “due to construction”? The added Hudson Yard stop seems to have slowed service on the 7 train—perhaps it just seems so because there are no trains waiting for us at the 42nd Street Port Authority stop ? (The Hudson Yards, a massive development project on the west side of Manhattan, warranted an additional subway stop on the 7 train).

How can we prompt better service and maintenance of our transit system? Where is the accountability? Communication between the MTA and the public is in as much desperate need of improvement as the subway’s conditions. Clearly my phone calls, complaints, and pleadings with workmen and tollbooth operators did little to nothing to initiate a response for the leak. We have been much too passive. We should expect more from our transit system.

Many thanks for the concerted effort from the community Board (Christine, Jesse…) for getting the word out and Tracee Carrasco for your interest in reporting and contacting the MTA.