Big troubles for Big Apple straphangers

For the third time in less than a week, New York City subway trains were halted [Tuesday] and thousands of commuters were delayed at the peak of the morning rush, this time because of a fire at the Atlantic Avenue station in Brooklyn that snarled service on the Nos. 2, 3, 4 and 5 lines as well as 13 trains on the Long Island Rail Road …

There was a bit of good news recently. After this fire made a mess of the A and the C, service was restored in a matter of weeks, not years as was initially suspected. And yet:

Major subway disruptions have occurred with striking regularity throughout the city in the past two months, unleashing a torrent of frustration from riders and elected officials, coming as they have on the heels of the second fare increase in two years … But transit officials insisted yesterday that the system was better than ever and that they were victims only of higher expectations brought about by their success.

Seems like there are bigger issues looming:

The recent disruptions have occurred at an especially sensitive time for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the transit agency’s parent. The authority’s executive director, Katherine N. Lapp, spent yesterday pleading with state lawmakers for $17.2 billion, the amount officials insist is needed over the next five years to prevent the transit network from declining. Also yesterday, the City Council said it would hold an emergency hearing next week on the state of the subways. “It is clear that this system is in a state of crisis,” declared the Council speaker, Gifford Miller, who is running for mayor. The disruptions have also begun attracting the attention of the authority’s board. “I wouldn’t want to presuppose that because we’ve done a good job, people should be happy about it,” said Barry L. Feinstein, a board member since 1989. “I don’t come from that school.” Mr. Feinstein, the chairman of the board’s New York City Transit committee, said that despite $40 billion in upgrades since 1982, “all the difficulties of the system are just enormous,” from outmoded signals to unprotected wiring. “Those are things that only can be handled on a slow, deliberate pace, picking the priorities of things that should be done, so that mega-problems don’t develop,” he said.

Whole story is here.