Opinion: The Subway is New York’s Dying Life Line. Here’s How We Revive It

Shaeleigh Severino is a New York City Council Candidate for the 32nd District in Queens.

Growing up in Ozone Park, Severino is no stranger to the delays and inconsistencies found in New York transportation. As City Councilwoman, Severino aims to make transportation more accessible, clean and dependable.

New York City wouldn’t be what it is — financial capital of the world, cultural foodhub, lively metropolis — without our public transit. The subway lines that run beneath our streets are the veins and arteries that keep our city running. Without safe, reliable public transportation, our city would grind to a halt and whole communities and neighborhoods would die off.

Unfortunately, many of New York’s communities are already suffering from poor management and worse budgeting. Constant fare hikes. Delays. Failing infrastructure. A lack of accessibility. The issues plaguing the MTA are plaguing our communities, many of them working-class, BIPOC neighborhoods in the “outer boroughs” of Brooklyn, the Bronx, and my home borough of Queens. Few areas in the city have suffered more than District 32.

Having grown up in Ozone Park, I know all too well the delays and difficulty of just getting from Point A to Point B. I remember the hours-long wait times at the 88th Street A train stop to get into the Rockaways. I remember waiting for the Q8 for what felt like an eternity every morning before school, my arthritis causing my joints to ache as a crowd grew around me at the stop. So often I would end up late for class — my own education the victim of unreliable public transit.

Our city’s transit system has left behind our most vulnerable populations — from the elderly and disabled communities, to every day New Yorkers — despite the fact that we continue to pay higher fares for worse service.

That is why one of my top priorities as a City Councilmember will be to fight for improved, fully accessible public transit service throughout District 32. I will fight for track repairs to the A-line to combat unreliable service. I’ll push to expand late-night 99 services to our district, ensuring that Queens residents get the same service that the other boroughs already enjoy. And I will lead the charge in replacing our old, unreliable MTA buses with a new, all-electric fleet.

But New Yorkers rely on more than just the roads and subway lines for their commute, which is why I will support alternative transit systems that expand our city’s options and improve our sustainability. I will support the creation of a five-borough ferry system that is built and owned by the city. Additions to the ferry will start with the expansion from Rockaway Beach 105 Point to a new Canarsie Pier to Brooklyn Army Terminal/Pier 11. And I will ensure the coexistence of the Queens Greenway and the Rockaway LIRR stop, which will create more space for pedestrians and cyclists without sacrificing service options for commuters.

I will also support the expansion of programs like CitiBike to Jacob Riis Park, Rockaway Beach Boardwalk, and Spring Creek Park, and equitably implement e-bike legalization, including regulations that protect and support food delivery workers.

As a person who lives with a disability, I know first-hand the struggles our community faces with lack of accessibility, reliable service and personal safety. That is why I will fight for accessibility and ADA-compliance at every transit station throughout the city. I will advocate the integration of the city’s taxi fleet with a low-cost Access-A-Ride that works in conjunction with the subway and buses. And I plan to work closely with the MTA’s newly-installed Chief Accountability Officer to ensure that the needs of New Yorkers with disabilities are always prioritized.

On the roads, the city needs to do more to secure the safety of our pedestrians and drivers. According to a recent study by New York Times, at least 243 people died in traffic crashes in NYC — the highest rate since Mayor Bill de Blasio introduced “Vision Zero” in 2014. I will back the expansion of Accessible Pedestrian Signals at all crosswalk areas for the visually and auditory impaired and support the placement of additional speed cameras at busy intersections to ensure violators of speed laws no longer get away with endangering the lives of New Yorkers.

Every New Yorker deserves access to affordable, accessible public transit. Our trains, buses, ferries, bike-shares and cabs are the infrastructure that keeps our city running. In 2021 — in the greatest city in the world — we cannot tolerate delays, fare hikes, inaccessible stations and dangerous roads any more. We must put an end to transportation deserts and connect every corner of our city with safe, reliable transit.

I will work to ensure that our community is not only safe and protected, but able to thrive with more efficient, affordable and sustainable means of transit. The people of Queens face some of longest commutes in the country. Our city’s public transit is about more than roads and subways cars, it’s about the promise of equitable transportation for everyone.

As District 32’s City Councilmember, I will keep that promise.