New York City rally Sunday for subways, buses to run at least every 6 minutes

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Sunday, September 25, 2022
Rally Sunday for subways, buses run at least every 6 minutes
Public transit advocates are rallying in Brooklyn Sunday to urge Governor Kathy Hochul to make subways and buses run at least every six minutes.

DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN, New York City (WABC) -- There are additional calls to improve mass transit after the COVID-19 pandemic, and advocates rallyied in Brooklyn Sunday to urge Governor Kathy Hochul to make subways and buses run at least every six minutes.

The Riders Alliance is calling for an investment of up to $300 million to make it happen, and the group held what it is called a "Countdown To #6MinuteService" outside the Barclays Center station to cap off Climate Week.

Advocates also want Albany to help close the MTA's nearly $1.6 billion deficit.

The campaign kicks off as federal pandemic aid to public transit dwindles, subway crime remains at top of mind, and agency officials newly acknowledge that "shorter wait times and improved service reliability would encourage riders to come back or ride more frequently."

The city recently announced that security cameras, which are already ubiquitous on New York City's streets, will soon be installed in all of the city's nearly 6,400 subway cars as officials work to rebuild riders' faith in the system's safety.

The MTA plans to put two cameras in each train car in a project expected to take three years to complete, Gov. Kathy Hochul said last week as she announced the effort at a rail yard in Queens.

"You think Big Brother's watching you on the subways? You're absolutely right," Hochul said. "That is our intent, to get the message out that we're going to be having surveillance of activities on the subway trains and that is going to give people great peace of mind."

Anticipating possible privacy or civil liberties concerns, Hochul said: "If you're concerned about this, the best answer is don't commit any crimes on the subway."

Daniel Schwarz, the New York Civil Liberties Union's technology and privacy strategist, said expanding subway camera surveillance is worrying given the MTA's lack of transparency around its camera and software systems.

"Living in a sweeping surveillance state shouldn't be the price we pay to be safe. Real public safety comes from investing in our communities, not from omnipresent government surveillance," he said in a statement.

New York City's subway system already has more than 10,000 existing security cameras in its 472 stations.

The MTA received about $5.5 million in state and federal funding to purchase and install the cameras. About 200 cameras will be installed each month, with the project wrapping sometime in 2025.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, New York City's subway system had largely shaken its 1980s reputation as being filthy and crime-ridden, though complaints about overcrowding and reliability persisted. But after the pandemic emptied the system of riders, many New Yorkers began feeling unsafe underground again.

In an MTA survey of riders released this week, nearly 70% said there were too few police officers in the subway system; barely more than 50% said they felt safe or very safe in stations and on trains.

Ridership on the subway system remains down over its pre-pandemic peak, but passengers have been returning in greater numbers recently, with some days exceeding more than 70% of the volume before COVID-19 struck.

So far this year, the number of crimes reported on public transit in the city is averaging slightly below the levels before the pandemic.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report)

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