Union sues MTA over crowded subways

The city's largest transport workers union and the Fulton Tenants Association held a joint news conference in the West 4th St. subway station on Thursday to announce they'd sued the MTA to force the agency to restore full service to the F and C lines.

"As a union," TWU Local 100 Vice President of Rapid Transit Operations Eric Loegel said, "we've been waging this fight for ourselves as well as the riders."

At Wednesday's MTA board meeting, Interim NYC Transit President Sarah Feinberg explained the agency decided not to fully restore the F and C when it returned the rest of the system to full service because ridership remained so low, but images from Thursday morning's commute showed enough riders crowding platforms and F trains to, if not necessitate additional trains, then at least make it impossible to social distance during this very much still ongoing global pandemic.

In its suit, the union argues this violates the MTA's legal duty to the safety and convenience of the public and to alert the mayor and city council a month before any non-emergency service cuts.

"Nothing has changed for customers on the C and F lines since nearly a year ago," MTA Chief Communications Officer Abbey Collins wrote in a statement to FOX 5 NY, "and we continue to run 80 percent of service for approximately 30 percent of pre-pandemic ridership. Beyond that, we will vigorously defend against these claims in court."   

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The most recent federal stimulus package sends $6.5 billion to the MTA---$1.5 billion less than the agency asked for to balance its budgets through the next four years but enough, said Chairman Pat Foye, to avoid layoffs, furloughs and what he called 'drastic cuts.'

"They're making temporary cuts into permanent cuts at the same time subway ridership is increasing," attorney representing TWU 100 Arthur Schwartz said.

This week, the MTA reported multiple post-pandemic highs in subway ridership. The reduced service cuts the frequency of peak-hour F trains in half and moves peak-hour C trains from arriving every 8.5 minutes to every 12 minutes.

"Certainly understand our colleagues' frustration," Feinberg said. "The reality is, I think, ultimately we need to see where service is going to land over the next several months."