New Yorkers are calling on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to address subway issues after a Tuesday derailment injured at least 39 passengers and caused major disruptions along seven train lines.
The derailment was caused by "an improperly secured piece of replacement rail that was stored on the tracks," the Metropolitan Transportation Authority wrote in a statement, adding that the cause "appears to be human error, not a track defect."
The derailment, however, highlights how an aging infrastructure is contributing to a massive decline in the quality of New York's subway system.
New York is one of few cities that allow their subway to run 24 hours a day, seven days a week. That convenience means the subway suffers more wear and tear than those that operate for a set number of hours. It also means it's more difficult to perform work on the tracks.
In May, the MTA said "decades of underinvestment" in maintaining the subway infrastructure was leading to delays and disruptions. To address the issue, the MTA announced a "system-wide initiative" to tackle track and signal issues, equipment failures, and other problems contributing to delays.
That initiative directs $14 billion over five years toward improving the subway system. Cuomo has also said he will give $1 million "Genius" target="_blank" grants to the three people with the best solutions for the subway system's problems.
The first phase of the initiative is taking place along the Eighth Avenue corridor from 125th Street to Fulton Street. The train that derailed Tuesday was an A subway entering a station at 125th street along that corridor.
The MTA did not say whether the "improperly secured" track replacement was stored on the tracks as part of the first phase of the initiative.
But an attempt to improve the quality of service after decades of neglect ultimately seems to have resulted in a frightening scenario that injured nearly 40 people — and many are calling on Cuomo to channel more resources into fixing the subway system.
Cuomo ultimately controls the funding of the state-operated MTA. He is responsible for appointing six out of 14 MTA board members, giving him a plurality of votes.
Cuomo did not visit the derailment site because he was traveling in Albany, his press office told Business Insider. Joseph Lhota, whom Cuomo appointed as MTA chairman last Wednesday, was on the scene.
Cuomo did not make any kind of public statement on the derailment. His press office released the following statement upon request to Business Insider:
"While the investigation is ongoing, this morning’s subway derailment is an unacceptable manifestation of the system's current state. New Yorkers deserve better. We are grateful to the first responders for their able assistance. It is my expectation that with new leadership brought by Joe Lhota, the MTA will address the fundamental issues plaguing the transit system and overhaul the organizational structure of the MTA. As I have told Joe, any support the MTA needs to get through this crisis, will be provided."
The number of subway delays has more than doubled, to 70,000 a month, from about 28,000 a month in 2012, The New York Times reported in February.
Though these disruptions have inconvenienced passengers, more-dangerous scenarios have taken place of late.
Earlier this month, a power failure caused an F train to get stuck between stations for almost an hour. Passengers stuck in a subway car without air conditioning attempted to claw their way out.
As Cuomo prepares to channel funding toward major projects like a train to LaGuardia, New Yorkers are putting pressure on the governor's office to prevent more fiascos on the existing subway system.