MTA crisis hits healthcare workers hard

As tough as it can be to depend on the subway, healthcare workers say their commute is the worst. So why is getting to work such an extra-long haul for people in the medical industry?

"It takes me almost two and a half hours," said Anna Couch-Superville, who commutes from Staten Island to Starrett City In Brooklyn to her a job as a home health aide. "Especially bad weather, it gets worse."

When her bus runs late or she runs late and misses it, she must walk five blocks to the Staten Island Ferry, ride it to Manhattan, and then take three trains and two buses to get to work, hopefully on time.

"We could do a press conference talking about the pain that our transit crisis inflicts on probably every profession in the city," said City Councilmember Mark Levine, chairman of the health committee. He acknowledges that the MTA works flawlessly for few, if any, populations in this city.

About 500,000 healthcare workers in the five boroughs spend more time commuting than those in any other industry, with an average commute of more than 51 minutes, according to a new study conducted by the independent think tank the Center for an Urban Future.

"No one has it worse than healthcare workers in New York City today," said Jonathan Bowles, the executive director of the Center For An Urban Future. He blamed a number of factors for the plight of the commuting healthcare worker in this city.

"Healthcare jobs are not mostly in midtown and downtown Manhattan," he said.

And outside of Manhattan, public transit riders, such as home health aide Maria Arrieta, encounter transit gaps.

"The commute is very bad sometimes," Arrieta said.

The report found that healthcare workers are especially reliant on buses, with 80,000 daily bus commuters—more than the retail and food service industries combined.

In addition to an overhaul of the subway signal system and other older technologies in the MTA's subway action plan, Bowles and other advocates and elected leaders called for the agency to improve bus service and a reconfigure the city's public transit routes to eliminate transit deserts.

"There's ultimately no way around the need for more money," Levine said.

Funding proposals range from congestion-pricing plans to taxing ride-sharing vehicles to taxing millionaires to legalizing and then taxing recreational marijuana. But the state and the city continue to debate from where the money to solve the subway's state of emergency will come.