By Abhinandan Gaba
Even with the increased safety issues on the MTA, CUNY students line up on platforms and at bus stops because they have no other option to get to class.
Freshman Sonchita Paul hates relying on the trains to get to City College from her home. She does it three times a week because driving to college isn’t an option because she does not have a license yet. She says that these trains “are hot zones for mentally ill people.” Many of these people “don’t keep to themselves” and make the long commute to college even more difficult. Once she was standing being a homeless man on the train“who decided to take a leak.” In order to protect herself she now “walks like a dude” and attempts to keep herself out of sight to not be considered an easy target as a person of color.
Commuting makes Usri Paul’s long day more stressful because the “MTA does not make me feel safe taking the train,” the Baruch College finance major said. The senior takes the F and 6 train early in the morning and late in the evening. Driving is out of the question because finding parking would only add more stress to Paul’s commute from Jamaica. She once had to evacuate the train because someone was reported to have a knife.
If Talha Islam had an extra $100 to spend each day getting to and from his home in Jamaica, Queens to LaGuardia Community College, the sophomore would consider taking a taxi than the E train. He has seen “homeless people approaching passengers and making comments that would make anyone insecure.” He says experiences like “make it hard to have a fresh mind to start our day.” Since the Sunset Park shooting he has become more vigilant, such as not wearing headphones anymore on the subway. But even on the day of the R train attack, he took the train.
Denise Pilar stopped taking the subway on April 7 because she had heard of multiple incidents and “decided to take precautions.” Even though taking the bus adds 15 minutes to her commute from Jamaica to Queens College, it’s worth it to the English major because of the increased violence on the train. The junior says she once saw a “homeless man screaming that someone was going to kill themselves and he pushed the emergency button and started talking to the operator.”
“Many college students are striking out on their own for the first time, and should not have to worry about their safety when using a public utility,” said New York City Councilmember Carlina Rivera, a member of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, through a spokesperson.