Straphangers fed up with 7 train delays

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Delayed trains and crowded cars are common complaints for straphangers across the city, but western Queens residents who take the No. 7 train say signal problems along the tracks have given them more than their fair share.

“It doesn’t matter what time we get up,” said Miriam Torres, a Sunnysider who rides the subway on weekdays to take her two daughters to PS 78, at 48-09 Center Blvd. in Long Island City. “It’s always the same situation.”

City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside), U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Astoria) and state Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) rallied with civic activists and residents last Thursday morning near the Vernon Boulevard-Jackson Avenue stop in Long Island City to take the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to task for the more than 100 service disruptions the No. 7 line, which runs from Manhattan to Flushing, has had since Jan. 3.

The information came from the MTA’s Twitter feed for the line, at twitter.com/nyc_7_trains, which also states that 37 of these delays came from signal problems and 10 from switch problems.

“That is unacceptab­le,” Van Bramer said. “That is too much too bear for the residents of my district and all of western Queens.”

In a statement, the MTA said signal delays had been on the rise along the Flushing-bound line due to the age of the system and water-related problems near the Vernon Boulevard-Jackson Avenue stop.

“We performed emergency repairs last month and continue to work to reduce the number and duration of service disruptions, but this section of the line is one of the most difficult areas in the system in which to work due to a narrow tunnel width that prevents repairs and maintenance while trains are running,” the MTA said.

The agency said it also planned to install a modern signal system to the tune of $400 million, although the installation will require more delays, of which the MTA says it will provide advance notice.

Residents at the rally said problems happen so consistently that it has affected their ability to get to school and work.

“If it was once in awhile, we’d understand,” said Woodside resident Johnathan Sirlin. But he said he found himself late to work often no matter how early he wakes up and pointed out that his stop at 52nd Street and Lincoln Avenue is often skipped completely.

Torres said the delays, which can turn her 15-minute trip to school into a 45-minute to hour-long journey, often lead to the platform being so crowded her daughters are standing on the platform’s edge or crushed against the wall.

“They honestly don’t care if we’re hurt,” 11-year-old Billie Jean Torres said of other subway riders. She also worries the delays may lead her to miss the New York State Test.

Van Bramer said with the population growing in Long Island City, a functioning No. 7 train is more crucial than ever.

“Today’s problem will become tomorrow’s crisis,” he said.

Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at rhenely@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4564.

Updated 10:40 am, October 12, 2011
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