Home Service Cuts The purpose of the station booth closures

The purpose of the station booth closures

by Benjamin Kabak

Attend an MTA hearing on the fare hikes and service cuts and one the many documents available to the public is bound to be 150-page tome entitled “Proposed Station Changes.” That work of art, available here as a PDF, details every single station booth that would shutter under the MTA’s Doomsday budget, and I have to wonder if there is more to it than meets the eye.

For the most part, the plans look as the one above — which you can click to enlarge — does. Stations that currently enjoy station agents at more than one point of entrance will see one of those permanent positions vanish in a puff of smoke. From Union St. to Union Turnpike, stations will see far fewer permanent employees and, in fact, far fewer employees in general.

According to the MTA’s figures, New York City Transit can reduce 808 positions by shuttering what they view are unnecessary booths. The plan would eliminate 570 red-vested Station Customer Assistance workers and 26 station supervisors. Meanwhile, NYC Transit also plans to shutter 29 redundant booths at 36 stations which multiple booths and converting 13 others at high-volume stations — Times Square, Penn Station, etc. — to part-time position. In total, those cuts will eliminate another 212 jobs.

Here’s where it gets interesting. According to the MTA’s report, these cuts will save $25.1 million in 2009 and $52 million in 2010. The savings sound substantial until you realize that $52 million is just 4.33 percent of the MTA’s overall $1.2 billion deficit. Much like the not-so-cost efficient service cuts, the MTA is reducing a lot of staff for little overall savings. I guess every little bit helps.

Meanwhile, the report contains an interesting line. “All stations/complexes will retain one full-time booth,” it says. That includes the above, stations similar to 25th St. along the Fourth Ave. line in Brooklyn. These stations are generally one way on one side, one way on the other with no free transfer between the two. If you have a problem on the southbound side of 25th St., under the MTA’s new plan, you’ll have to leave the station, cross Fourth Ave. and find the station agent in the booth on the northbound side. That’s hardly a model of efficiency.

Now, it’s easy to argue that many of these positions should be cut to part-time anyway. The station agents, after all, are more psychologically preventative than physically useful, but they do play rolls in the event of an emergency. But what if this is just a ploy by the MTA to draw attention to their economic plight? By making the station agent system ruthlessly inefficient as they would at many non-crossover stations, the MTA is begging Albany to intervene before getting around and getting information in the subways becomes a very expensive hassle.

This Doomsday budget really is bleak, and the more we look at it, the more we find not to look. We need a Ravitch-inspired bailout (or better) and soon. March 25 draws ever nearer day by day.

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11 comments

Kevin January 21, 2009 - 2:40 am

The worst thing about the booth closings are that the turnstiles will be replaced by HEETs. Nothing like a massive traffic jam at formerly staffed entrances due to those giant stainless steel monsters.

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Kai January 21, 2009 - 9:45 am

No, this is not true. I can’t find the document this morning, but one of the “cut” documents clearly states that there will not be changes to the existing turnstiles. It even mentions the risk of higher fare evasion as a result.

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Kai January 21, 2009 - 9:49 am

Here we go:

“Eliminating this function results in staffing reductions of
570 SCAs and 26 Station Supervisors. These control
areas will be left unattended with low turnstiles.
Precedence for this arrangement includes the PATH
system, which operates with unattended low turnstiles,
and the SCA areas that are currently left without staffing
during SCA lunch breaks.”

http://mta.info/mta/09/section1v2.pdf
Page 2

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Kai January 21, 2009 - 10:05 am

The Subway cut document states the following:

“Eliminating this function results in staffing reductions of 570 SCAs and 26 Station Supervisors. These control areas will be left unattended with low turnstiles. Precedence for this arrangement includes the PATH system, which operates with unattended low turnstiles, and the SCA areas that are currently left without staffing during SCA lunch breaks.”

(Sorry if this eventually shows up three times. I think my previous attempts didn’t go through because I included a hyperlink in the comment)

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rhywun January 21, 2009 - 10:08 am

So the impact is even less than we thought, because we all know that fare evasion will skyrocket. Further proof that this is a shock tactic, nothing more. And… where’s the TWU? They’ve been strangely silent through all this.

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Kai January 21, 2009 - 10:25 am

I would actually raise the question whether some previously HEETified exits could be re-equipped with low exits. Some are just ridiculous, such as the one I encounter every morning at southbound Spring Street (C,E).

I don’t see too much fare evasion these days, except the occasional child crawling under a low turnstile, often by encouragement of a parent and a booth agent turning a blind eye.

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Marc Shepherd January 21, 2009 - 12:49 pm

If the child is below a certain age, they are allowed to ride free.

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Kai January 21, 2009 - 3:12 pm

Oh. that’s probably what I keep seeing then, hahah.

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rhywun January 21, 2009 - 5:41 pm

I guess I’ve only seen actual turnstile jumpers a few times–always teens–but that was in full view of the clerks. With nobody watching I predict that number to be greatly higher. Clerks may or may not have a great deterrent effect on serious crimes like rape or murder (if you’re deranged enough to commit those crimes, you’re probably too deranged to be deterred by someone watching) but I’ll be they have a far greater effect on minor crimes like fare beating or graffiti.

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Time for Some Brighton Beach Memoirs - City Room Blog - NYTimes.com January 21, 2009 - 1:00 pm

[…] in May. [NewYorkology] Everything you ever wanted to know (and more) about the M.T.A.’s “Proposed Station Changes.” [2nd Ave. […]

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Straphangers poll finds support for station agents :: Second Ave. Sagas | A New York City Subway Blog June 18, 2009 - 1:18 am

[…] question has risen to the forefront in the Great Station Agent Debate of 2009. (More here, here and here.) The Straphangers Campaign has released results of a poll asking its members the […]

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