The M train icon on subway signs for the New Utrecht line are blacked out--but several people weren't aware the line was changed.
Tens of thousands of New Yorkers faced longer and more inconvenient commutes this morning as a result of the MTA's bus and service cuts. They were most poignantly felt, however, by immigrants who had no idea that the changes were coming because they don't speak or read English well or at all.
One of them was an elderly Haitian gentleman, waiting for the B23 bus on Cortelyou Road and East 16th Street in Flatbush, Brooklyn, at about 6:45 this morning. When I told him in school French that the route was eliminated, he seemed sheepish--but also shrugged it off, and said he'd go down to Foster Avenue, about a 12 minute walk away, and take the B8 instead.
(A dollar van service, Brooklyn Van Lines, was trying to pick up the slack by operating the same route. But by 8 a.m. one of the drivers, Osmond Thorne, reported he had picked up only one rider.)
About two miles west of there, a young woman in a hijab, a Muslim head scarf, who also did not speak English, stood on an elevated subway line on her way to Park Slope. A D train came and went and she didn't get on--despite the fact that the D train is the only line running there anymore. The M had been rerouted. But her reaction was similar to the elderly Haitian: a little confused, but quick to come up with an alternative route (take the D to 36th and then transfer to the R.)
This confusion isn't coincidental: All, or almost all, of the MTA's publicity on the changes has been in English--and perhaps for good reason. It's awfully hard to squeeze all of that information onto the small placards at bus stops in just one language, let alone the five or six major ones spoken in New York. A New York City Transit spokesman, Charles Seaton, says each notices about the service changes includes a phone number to call for information in a wide variety of languages. (When we called it, however, we had to wait four minutes to get an operator, and the hold patter was all in English.)