As part of its service cuts, the MTA is eliminating over 600 station agents throughout the system. While the authority will have at least one agent at every station at all times, the 2400 agents will be stretched thin, and numerous stops — such as those that are one way only and do not feature an in-system crossover — will be with the bare minimum of agent eyes.
Over the last few months, as these cuts have come into focus, the debate has often centered around the usefulness of the station agents, and today, the Daily News sheds some light on the issue. Station agents, reports Pete Donohue, have placed over 500,000 emergency calls over the last three years. That’s a lot, right?
Well, let’s do some math. In 2009, agents placed 150,624 calls. Some of those, notes Donohue, are follow-up calls to let dispatch know that the problem has been resolved. But we can assume that’s the base number. With 365 days in the year, that averages out to 412 calls per day. There are 422 subway stations throughout the system. So on average each station is reporting slightly less than one emergency per day.
With seven million straphangers passing through the MTA’s turnstiles each day, those 412 phone calls seem rather de minimus. Furthermore, the station agents won’t be entirely eliminated. There will still be 2400 agents staffing the system, and each station, as I said above, will be staffed at all hours. A few people might feel less safe; a few people might be more inconvenienced. I can’t help but think, however, that the concerns about safety expressed by rider advocates are more than a little overblown.
An artistic station agent drew the sign above. It was photographed by flickr user bitchcakesny.