Home MTA Absurdity The MTA’s worst Monday ever

The MTA’s worst Monday ever

by Benjamin Kabak

As far as Mondays go, the MTA’s this week will be one the agency soon wishes to forget.

The real bad news, of course, came yesterday afternoon when the agency announced that the service upgrades promised to the public following the fare hike will be shelved for now. Due to a revenue gap of over $20 million, the MTA is not prepared to extend service on the G, B and W lines as well as the IRT lines starting in June. While the agency says that, if their finances improve, they could implement these service improvements in the next three months, the odds of that happening are low.

On the service, acknowledging this reality so soon after the fare hike is a terrible public relations move by the MTA. As Kevin pointed out on this site, this announcement hits the MTA at its weakest point. The agency, long viewed with skepticism by New Yorkers, has lost any shred of credibility when it needs it the most. Now, the public will not believe that the MTA ever planned to deliver the promised service upgrades. The authority simply used those upgrades to sell the public on a fare hike. And forget congestion pricing; if the MTA can’t make on good on simple service improvements, how are they ever expected to secure the revenue from the congestion pricing plan and ensure that it too goes to service upgrades that will probably never arrive?

Meanwhile, the suspension of the service upgrades was but one piece of bad news for the MTA. A new Quinnipiac poll about congestion pricing revealed a deep-rooted public skepticism toward the agency. On the surface, the poll seems to bring good news to the MTA. After all, two-thirds of all New Yorkers support congestion pricing if the money goes toward transit.

But beware the cloud behind this silver lining. Fifty percent of poll respondents say it is “not too likely” or “not likely at all” the the money would actual go to transit. Respondents don’t feel that politicians would actually deliver on their promises to send congestion pricing revenue to the MTA, and in light of today’s announcement, the other half probably now feel that the MTA would use that money to cover operating expenses and revenue shortfalls rather than investing in proper service increases.

Finally, slipped into an amNew York story about the service changes came the even more bad news: The MTA is anticipating fewer on-time trains in 2008 by nearly five percent. According to Marlene Naanes, “The agency lowered the goal for on-time trains to 92 percent in 2008, down from the 97-percent level that’s been in place for the past two years. Transit officials did not say Monday why they lowered the goal, but said that reasons for delays include more track work on the line and customers holding doors.”

So let me guess this straight: On the same day we find out we’re paying more for the same service, we actually find out that we’re paying more for less on-time service. Yikes. As the ghosts of the oft-delayed trains from the 1970s fill our heads, the MTA can look forward to Tuesday simply because it’s not Monday. The news can’t get any worse today, right?

Photo of the old MTA logo by flickr user joelogon.

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Alon Levy March 25, 2008 - 3:57 am

Hey, it’s not their fault the economy’s in the tanker.

Boris March 25, 2008 - 12:03 pm

Thanks, Benjamin, for the good editorial-type commentary.

Yes, it’s the old bait-and-switch. Zero accountability on the part of the MTA. Firings and pay cuts should occur immediately. Are the accountings of the MTA a matter of public record?

In response to Alon Levy, whether the economy is in the tanker or not, their finances are predictable, meaning, they should have accounted for it. It is unconscionable to raise fares and then, essentially, admit they lied to us…again.

The MTA is a state agency. Maybe we should instate Ashley Alexandra Dupré as the Chairwoman? Could she do much worse?

What can we, as the just average subway riders, do?

MTA Improvement Plans Derailed » trainjotting.com March 25, 2008 - 12:56 pm

[…] SecondAvenueSagas calls it “The MTA’s Worst Monday Ever.” […]

Gary March 25, 2008 - 2:26 pm

The answer may be to install one of these in Sanders’ office:


OK, that won’t solve anything, but perhaps a little schadenfreude would ease the pain.

I agree the timing of this is pretty terrible. They’ve done a poor job of mixing messages recently. Ramming the fare hike through while the congestion pricing debate was ongoing was the worst of it . . . a good PR stunt would be to announce a rollback of the hike if CP were to pass.

jf March 25, 2008 - 3:41 pm

According to ny.com 4.3 million people ride the subway everyday. One has to assume that the average rider is riding twice a day.
That’s 8.6 million rides a day. At an average of $1.31 per ride thats $11.3 million dollars coming in a day.

How could the subways POSSIBLY cost more than $11 million dollars a day to run?
What are the costs? Electricity? Overtime for maintenance workers working at night?
Where is all of this money going?

Second Ave. Sagas | Blogging the NYC Subways » Blog Archive » Mind the credibility gap March 25, 2008 - 4:19 pm

[…] 2nd Ave. Subway History « The MTA’s worst Monday ever […]

Matt March 25, 2008 - 5:58 pm


I recall reading somewhere that the amount of electricity used to power the subway system for one day is about equivalent to the amount used by the city of Buffalo, NY in a year. That costs a lot. There’s also literally thousands and thousands of MTA employees, from train operators to conductors to station agents to cleaners to traffic controllers to bureaucrats and desk workers at the administrative offices. Those salaries really add up. When you add in planned and emergency maintenance costs (parts, upkeep of trains, stations and yards, labor)… I can definitely see how it adds up to that much a day.

timothy donner March 25, 2008 - 6:32 pm

Debt service.

Todd March 25, 2008 - 10:43 pm

The agency lowered the goal for on-time trains to 92 percent in 2008, down from the 97-percent level that’s been in place for the past two years.

I don’t see this as a problem at all. I mean, lowering standards has worked well for public schools, right? In all seriousness though, it’s a goal for a reason. You should work towards a goal by improving things and working harder! Lowering the goal on paper is just an excuse to perform worse without fear of repercussions.

Damn I hate The MTA…

The Secret Conductor March 26, 2008 - 4:30 am

@ Boris

The MTA (as well as other city and state agencies) can only predict how much revenue they will get from property taxes. This is where they say they are having short comings at and the economy does effect how much any city or state agency gets.

I do not think this was a bait and switch. I think they just messed up by counting on something that may not come in. What I do think they should do is put in the changes anyway and figure out how to pay for it later.

As for the congestion pricing, I’m all for it as long as most of the money (65% at least) goes to the MTA construction, maintenance of way, cleaning and buying/upkeep of rolling stock PERIOD. I can only guess what politicians would use the rest for. Personally it should all go to NYC transportation system, but realistically I will be happy with 65% going to the MTA and about 10% going to roads and airports.

Alon Levy March 26, 2008 - 11:31 am

According to ny.com 4.3 million people ride the subway everyday. One has to assume that the average rider is riding twice a day.

No, that’s the total number of daily rides.

Second Ave. Sagas | Blogging the NYC Subways » Blog Archive » Three weeks alter, Sander’s words ring hollow March 27, 2008 - 1:00 am

[…] we sit here, crushed by the MTA’s decisions to postpone the promised service upgrades and downgrade their target goal for on-time train performance. While the finger-pointing can go on, […]

Second Ave. Sagas | Blogging the NYC Subways » Blog Archive » Work continues while service upgrades don’t March 28, 2008 - 5:21 pm

[…] shelved. Coupled with a few other announcements — such as fewer on-time trains — it ended being a pretty bad Monday for the […]


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