A 39-year paint program starts with six random stations


That guy is waiting for a paint job — or a J train — that is destined never to arrive. (Photo by flickr user silsurf)

The MTA works in mysterious and oftentimes inexplicable ways. This paint fiasco simply symbolizes the whole bureaucratic mess that current CEO Lee Sander seems to want to dismantle. If I were a betting man, I’d say the 39-year paint job effort finishes up first.

Paint fiasco, you may ask? What paint fiasco? Well, think back to July when word leaked out that the MTA couldn’t use $50 million they had set aside in 2006 to paint stations because they couldn’t figure out how to pick which stations should go first.

Well, it took the MTA just seven more months to figure out which stations should go first, and nearly two years after receiving the funds, they plan to start painting in April. Feel free to insert some sarcastic applause here.

So then, how did the MTA pick the six stations that will kick off a mind-numbingly slow process in which 12 stations per year will get paint? Seemingly — as I suggested at the time — by drawing names out of a hat. According to the Daily News, the winning stations are “77th St. (R line), Brooklyn; Grand Army Plaza (2,3), Brooklyn; Canal St. (J,M,Z), Manhattan; Spring St. (C,E), Manhattan; 135th St. (A,C), Manhattan, and 163rd St. (A,C) Manhattan.”

Now, there’s a lot going on here. At the rate of 12 stations per year, it could take the MTA the better part of the next four decades to paint the whole system. What is wrong here? Matthew Lysiak and Pete Donohue explain:

Top transit officials in 2006 announced plans for a decade-long program, initially funded with $50 million in surplus money, to paint every station in the system. That would equal about 46 stations a year, including some being done as part of larger station rehabilitation projects.

Seaton said that schedule has gone “out the window” because the paint jobs are more involved and costly than planners of the program estimated. The early estimates didn’t fully calculate such problems as the extra requirements of removing and disposing of lead paint, Seaton said.


Now, the problem here is that, as KidTwist noted in July, every station needs a paint job, and yet, only two percent of the city’s stations will get what it needs each year.

Meanwhile, their choice of stations is hardly stellar. One of my closest subway stops is the Grand Army Plaza stop, and it’s looking pretty good right now. It was renovated within the past 15 years, and the paint — compared to, say, the 7th Ave. stop on the B and Q — doesn’t look bad at all. But beyond that better choice two blocks away are a multitude of stations that could use a paint job.

Imagine painting your apartment just once every forty years. Now imagine millions of people trampling through that very same apartment every day, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. It wouldn’t look pretty, and you can bet that the subways won’t look too good either if the MTA can’t pick up the pace on these paint jobs.

Categories : MTA Absurdity

10 Responses to “A 39-year paint program starts with six random stations”

  1. ScottC says:

    I used to live by the 7th Avenue B-Q station and it is in horrible condition, much like the 7th Avenue F stop. I guess the real question regarding the station painting, though, is whether the stations undergoing renovations are included in the calculations. If a station is slated to be renovated in this or the next capital construction program (and a renovation includes a paint job), there would be no need to paint it now – that would be quite a waste.

    What the MTA needs to figure out is how to perform preventative maintenance on stations after they are remodeled. It seems like the stations are never cleaned and are just left to slowly rot for 40 years until they are remodeled again. It seems to me that in this case, an ounce of prevention would save money in the long run.

  2. Gary says:

    That picture reminds me of the restroom from Desperado.

    I hope some of that money is heading towards tile scrubbing (not painting over the mess) and leak plugging. Leaks are responsible for some of the most appalling station appearance problems.

  3. Kid Twist says:

    I’m honored, Ben.

    Good choice of photo. It’s a crime that they’ve let Chambers Street deteriorate so much. There was a time when that station was supposed to be something like a downtown Grand Central.

  4. Kevin says:

    The TA has painted a number of stations on the & north of 74th Street and it looks pretty nice so far. Though the number of years this will take is troubling. I wonder what the real reason is for painting only 12 stations a year instead of a more reasonable number of 25 or 30.

  5. The Secret Conductor says:

    the only thing I can think of when it comes to why they picked those stations is because it’s more straight forward painting… I guess.

    a station like chambers street would eat up 5 million of the 50 million lol.

  6. ScottE says:

    Perhaps this is why there is (was) a push for materials like granite, marble, etc. in the new stations. There’s less maintenance, no routine painting, easy to powerwash (if one chooses to do so!), and graffiti can be clenaed off a little easier.

  7. I have about 20 years painting all structures in and outside……..looking for a schedule for painters jobs and title for the painters job………where to apply,what job number and the date and time this exam is open to apply for …..any information would be appreciated………..thank you all


  1. […] a secure infrastructure for the city’s aging subway system? We know they’re painting just 12 stations a year with another handful scheduled for complete renovations each budget cycle. But the system needs […]

  2. […] Pardon Me For Asking clues us in as to why MTA paint jobs at stations seem to move at glacially slow paces. (Related SAS posts here and here.) […]

  3. […] repair and beautification efforts move at a rather slower pace. The MTA is currently amidst a 39-year program in which just 12 stations a year get a fresh coat of paint. By the time this program wraps up in 2047, most stations will be decades […]

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