Anyone who lives in this part of Brooklyn can tell you with certainty that our public transportation leaves a lot to be desired. Only one line, the G, runs through Greenpoint — a stubby and slow train route exclusive to Brooklyn and Queens that can make you feel like it chooses when to run out of spite. If the G’s not running, you can always hoof it the Bedford or Metropolitan L, though, with massive repairs over the years, that option isn’t a guaranteed fail-safe.
Brooklyn resident Emmett Adler decided to investigate the crux of the MTA’s issues through his documentary, End of the Line, now streaming on major platforms such as Amazon Prime, Apple TV, and Google Play. The film depicts the nation’s largest public transportation system in shambles, with elected officials and MTA board members passing the buck and pointing fingers at each other.
Adler started working on the project in 2016, when it was impossible to foresee just how bad things would become. “Things have fallen apart because of a lack of accountability,” Adler told Greenpointers last fall, “An educated electorate is key, and this is a microcosm of what goes on nationally.”
While big shots like former governor Andrew Cuomo and former mayor Bill de Blasio declined to appear on camera, other politicians were not as camera-shy. Antonio Reynoso, former city council member and current Brooklyn borough president who Adler followed over the years, candidly speaks out on the incompetence rampant at both the city and state levels.
“Black and brown communities have been neglected,” reflects Reynoso on the potential L train shutdown.
If there’s a protagonist here, it’s Andy Byford, the Brit whose reputation as a transit whisperer preceded him when he took over as MTA president in 2017. Adler scored an exclusive interview with Byford, who comes across as forthright and a little regretful.
Byford carefully avoids calling Governor Cuomo out directly, though he mentions several times how often he was excluded from conversations and big decisions. Byford was ostensibly brought on as the public face of the then-looming L-train shutdown. In January 2019, when Cuomo struck a last-minute deal to avoid a major shutdown, it occurred without Byford’s buy-in, undermining his credibility.
With the shutdown avoided, the passage of congestion pricing, and a new reorganization plan offered up by the MTA, the end of 2019 looked like a promising time for the future of the MTA. Then came coronavirus.
“I don’t think I can adequately express what the pandemic did to this organization,” an MTA official says through tears. With a massively declining ridership causing the organization to rapidly lose funding, the MTA became focused on simply keeping their heads above water. The film wraps up in 2020, though the story lingers on.
Much like the G train itself, End of the Line is slim and compact, presenting a thorough run down of how things got so bad.