Streams

MTA Cuts Get Lost in Translation

Monday, June 28, 2010

The M train icon on subway signs for the New Utrecht line are blacked out--but several people weren

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.)

Tags:

More in:

News, weather, Radiolab, Brian Lehrer and more.
Get the best of WNYC in your inbox, every morning.

Comments [3]

Dispatches from the service cuts :: Second Ave. Sa

[...] track these changes, WNYC’s Matthew Schuerman hit the streets and found signs only in English. The MTA urged those in need of translation services to call an 800 number, but communities were [...]

Jun. 29 2010 12:18 PM
Ray Y

That's inconvenient! At least we see that there's an upside to taking public transportation--there's more than one way to get to some place. This summer has been a bunch of fare hikes and service cuts. The largest fare hike for the Metro in DC recently went into effect this past weekend, and I've heard there have been many frustrations--as I can imagine for any kind of fare hike. But here's something to be excited about: saving up to 40% on your commute through employer benefits! Check it out at www.commuternation.com/nyc. There's also a sweepstakes going on where you can win up to a year of free commuting!

Jun. 28 2010 05:55 PM
MTA Cuts Get Lost in Translation | Transportation

[...] (Matthew Schuerman, WNYC)  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. (More here) [...]

Jun. 28 2010 05:52 PM

Leave a Comment

Register for your own account so you can vote on comments, save your favorites, and more. Learn more.
Please stay on topic, be civil, and be brief.
Email addresses are never displayed, but they are required to confirm your comments. Names are displayed with all comments. We reserve the right to edit any comments posted on this site. Please read the Comment Guidelines before posting. By leaving a comment, you agree to New York Public Radio's Privacy Policy and Terms Of Use.

Sponsored

Latest Newscast

 

 

Support

WNYC is supported by the Charles H. Revson Foundation: Because a great city needs an informed and engaged public

Feeds

Supported by