Mollie Kuritzky, Grade 10, Staff Writer
Many New Yorkers can relate to the stress of a crowded platform, an empty platform, or really any kind of platform at all. With the state of violence on the subway, and more importantly the excessive news coverage of said violence, many riders are on edge, all the time. Weekday ridership in June 2022 was 59% of ridership numbers in June 2019, the state comptroller reports. Though much of this decrease can be credited to covid, how much more can be blamed on peoples’ fear for their own safety?
Michelle, a 10th grader, says that she carries pepper spray, as a means of protection, and has “[to] be looking around my surroundings and making sure who’s around me all the time, because the trains are scary.”
The trains being considered “scary” has become a commonly held opinion amongst commuters since the recent acts of violence. Like in April, when a gunman opened fire on a Manhattan-bound N train, hitting 10 people. Or when a month later a man was shot in the chest aboard the Q train. Both attacks received national news coverage and became a go-to talking point for people claiming that New York was “done.”
Though neither of these instances seem to be gender-motivated, male students appear to be more confident on the subways than female ones. When Isaac, a 10th grader, was asked if he feels comfortable riding the subway, his response was yes. In his explanation, he referenced his belief in “the power in numbers.” When a second 10th grade boy, Aidan, was asked the same question, separately, he had an almost identical response, even going as far as to reference the same idea of power in numbers.
Well, if it isn’t an attack that people fear, it could just be freak accidents they’re worried about. In June, a 37 year old man was dragged by a train, causing him to fall into the tracks and be struck by another train. The cause of the initial dragging is unclear, as the police believe his clothes were stuck in the door, while the transit president claims it was unrelated to the train’s doors. Whatever the true cause of the tragedy was, the man ended up dying in the hospital the next day.
If the idea of “the power in numbers” is at all true, the decline in ridership is not helping solve the problem of crime, and it does not help the transit system’s mounting debt. Debt leads to lower quality service, and possibly more deadly mechanical malfunctions. And yet, knowing that less riders only hurts the problem, the decline in ridership is partly due to the many violent events that have occurred in the subway system this year alone. And so results from this chicken-or-egg dilemma, a vicious cycle, in which progress can never be made, and improvements are slow coming. If this pattern continues, the NYC subway system, a staple of the city's culture and fame, may become obsolete, and be demoted to the same status of the formerly used subway tokens: a thing of the past.
Drawing by Ophelia Clarke Wade