Of the 8.5 million New Yorkers who use the New York City transit system on a daily basis, you’d be hard-pressed to get a positive word out of a single soul. Inevitable delays, crowded trains, dirty buses and the veritable “ratpocalypse” plaguing the city’s subway tunnels make for an often unpleasant commute — and for similarly unpleasant words hurled in the direction of the Metropolitan Transit Authority.
But the MTA has spun the chaos wrought by Superstorm Sandy into a rare bout of good p.r. Through its active Flickr stream, YouTube channel and Twitter account, the organization is taking the opportunity to give New Yorkers an inside look at the cleanup process.
The MTA has released more than 200 YouTube videos over the past two years and normally posts one or two each week — mostly uninspiring PSAs or the agonizing records of board meetings. But since the storm hit, their video team seems to have been working overtime. The MTA has uploaded 15 videos in the past week alone showing their storm cleanup work.
The clips have provided a stark view of the major damage that disrupted the city’s entire subway and rail network. Downed trees, twisted rail tracks and the floodwaters that have inundated many subway stations leave little to the imagination; for possibly the first time, New Yorkers have a clear explanation for why the subways aren’t running on schedule.
Nearly two weeks later, some trains are still not back to normal, most notably the L train, which connects the hipster enclave of Williamsburg in Brooklyn with Manhattan’s heavily flooded East Village. The Montague Street Tunnel, which brings the R train under the river between Brooklyn Heights and Manhattan’s Battery Park, was also inundated by millions of gallons of water and is still being dried out.
Fixing these problems has required bringing in powerful machinery — not to mention an Army Corps of Engineers “dewatering” team from Illinois — as well of thousands of hours of overtime work by MTA employees. But the MTA is keeping commuters updated on every movement via YouTube and social media. It’s all very 21st century for a transit system with its roots in the 19th century. And riders, inconvenienced or not, are gaining a modicum of respect for the authority that is normally among the most hated-on in New York City.