Changes to the MTA’s Access-A-Ride program leave disabled New Yorkers unsure if they’ll be picked up in a cab or a van, and no guarantee they’ll get where they are going on time.
A pilot ehail program in effect since 2017 gave more paratransit driving work to green and yellow taxis — a cheaper option than having the agency pay about $70 per ride to transport people in traditional Access-A-Ride vans.
But a curtailment of the pilot ehail program that took effect in March is causing problems for disabled people.
“What they’re offering is a new and improved version of e-hail is essentially making Access-A-Ride unusuable,” said Beth King, 63, a psychologist who lives in Bay Ridge.
More frequently, Access-A-Ride passengers who seek taxi rides are being transported in multipassenger vans instead.
“What they’ve decided that they’re going to do group rides as much as possible,” said King.
Her complaint about group rides is a common one from Access-A-Ride users: passengers are often taken far out of their way to pick up additional riders.
MTA spokesman Max Young said Access-A-Ride customer service complaints are down by 39% from last year, and noted the agency is working to rapidly increase the disabled access to the subway by the end of 2024.
“We know we have a long way to go to improve paratransit services while we simultaneously improve accessibility in the subway system,” said Young. “We’re working hard to do so with significant public input and outreach.”
About 4,000 cab drivers are signed up for the Access-A-Ride program right now. The MTA hopes to double that figure by the end of the year. Increasing the number of drivers would help the agency reduce wait times for riders, but cabbies have to be trained and undergo drug and alcohol testing to get in.
The MTA has also put in place a pilot program for 1,200 Access-A-Ride users, which allows them to order handicap-accessible cabs on-demand for just $2.75. The agency has extended that program through the end of the year.
In the meantime, the other 37,000 other daily paratransit riders in New York City are eagerly awaiting improvements from the MTA — just as they’ve done for decades.
Schumer wants investigation into Chinese-designed New York subway cars
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) is calling for a federal probe into a plan for a Chinese government-owned corporation to design new New York subway train cars.
Schumer told the Associated Press in a statement Sunday that he requested that the Commerce Department conduct a “top-to-bottom review” after train-manufacturer CRRC won a contest to design the cars.
CRRC has previously been given contracts in Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston and Philadelphia, according to the AP.
Government officials and security experts have reportedly warned that allowing a Chinese-state company to design U.S. transit systems could leave it vulnerable to cyberattacks and cyberespionage and sabotage.
Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) spokesman Max Young told the AP that it has “robust” safety standards.
“The MTA has robust, multilayered and vigorously enforced safety and security standards, but we support efforts of government agencies to bolster that work,” he said.
CRRC said it would invest $50 million to develop the train cars after it won the bid.
A spokesman for CRRC Sifang America, the company’s Chicago subsidiary, told the AP that most of the train parts it plans to use are made by American companies.
Spokesman Dave Smolensky told The Hill in a statement that the company “fully supports Senator Schumer’s efforts to ensure the nation’s transit systems meet the highest cybersecurity standards and we are eager to address any concerns the Senator may have regarding our U.S. operations.”
“A review will demonstrate to lawmakers there are no examples of a passenger railcar manufacturer, including CRRC, installing any type of malicious software or exposing a transit system to any type of cyberespionage,” he added.
Smolensky said that it is “not possible” for CRRC to put malware into the cars.
The Hill has reached out to Schumer’s office for additional comment.
Relations between the U.S. and China have become strained in recent weeks after the countries failed to reach an a trade agreement and instead pledged to raise tariffs on each other in an escalating trade war.
Bad welds are latest woe for NYC’s newest subway cars — MTA blames manufacturer
They’re shiny and clean and all of them were supposed to be on the subway two years ago.
But New York’s newest subway cars face yet another problem with their manufacture — and an official of the transit workers’ union calls them “lemons.”
A handful of the new R179 cars, which run on the J/Z and A/C lines, have shoddy welds on their collision pillars, a part of the cars’ structure meant to protect train operators in crashes, NYC Transit president Andy Byford said.
The problem isn’t severe enough to require the cars to be pulled from service, Byford said at an MTA meeting last week.
Bombardier, the Canada-based company that is building the cars at a factory in upstate Plattsburgh, reported the problem with the cars.
“This is very disappointing from Bombardier and rest assured I’ve made it very clear to them that that is my position,” Byford said.
The $600 million, 300-car delivery was supposed to be completed by early 2017.
The R179s are supposed to replace the R32 subway cars, which were first delivered in during Lyndon Johnson’s presidency and are the oldest rolling stock on any subway system in North America. R32s — dubbed “Brightliners” when they were first delivered — have distinctive corrugated metal exteriors.
“This is bad news for riders who want to retire the R32s,” said Andrew Albert, the rider advocate on the MTA board.
The bad welds are the latest problem the MTA has had with Bombardier’s delivery of the R179s. The MTA pulled dozens of the new cars from service in January because of mechanical problems.
“These things are lemons,” said Transport Workers Union Local 100 head of trains Eric Loegel. “We’ve known about a number of mechanical problems with them for a while.”
NYC Transit employees complain the windows in the cars’ cabs uncomfortably press into their chests when they lean outside as trains enter or leave stations. They also say the space between the ends of the cars is so small, larger crew members can’t squeeze through them when they are required to do so.
MTA spokesman Shams Tarek said those issues are being addressed.
Around 190 R179 cars now run on the subway, with roughly another 126 on the way. Bombardier is providing an extra 16 cars because of its extensive delays in delivery.
Bombardier spokeswoman Maryanne Roberts said the company values its partnership with the MTA, and is working to resolve the issues with the R179s as quickly as possible.
Bombardier products are also causing troubles on the Metro-North Railroad and the Long Island Rail Road.
Bombardier and German technology giant Siemens bungled the installation of a $1 billion federally-mandated project to install life-saving positive train control equipment on the two commuter systems.
The problems on that project led the agency’s leaders to demand an appearance by the CEOs of Bombadier and Siemens at the next MTA board meeting on May 22.
Man dies after walking between subway cars in Bronx, MTA urges caution
A man was killed by a subway train Monday morning in the Bronx after he fell between cars, police said.
The victim, who police said was in his 30s, fell beneath a northbound No. 5 train as it left the Jackson Ave. station in the borough’s Woodstock neighborhood at around 9:15 a.m.
He was dead when emergency responders arrived, an FDNY spokesman said.
The man is the fourth person to be killed on the rails in New York City over the last nine days, and at least the eighth to be struck by a train.
Last Tuesday two straphangers were critically injured after falling between subway cars in Manhattan and Queens. On Saturday, another 34-year-old man feel between cars on an F train is it entered the York St. station in Brooklyn at around 3:40 a.m.
“We cannot stress enough how dangerous this is and urge all of our customers to never walk between cars unless told to by an MTA employee,” MTA spokesman Shams Tarek said.
Three homeless men have also recently been killed by subway trains while they were walking on the tracks.
Last Saturday a homeless man died after being struck by the Times Square Shuttle while walking through the tunnels near Grand Central Terminal. On Friday, a 60-year-old homeless man was struck and killed by a No. 4 train after he was seen struggling to get back onto the platform at the 28th St. station.
On April 28, a man in his 60s who appeared to be homeless was killed at the Grand Central Terminal subway station after he was seen on the tracks.
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