Home Asides Station agent dismissals set for Friday

Station agent dismissals set for Friday

by Benjamin Kabak

The news from amNew York is short but to the point: The MTA on Friday will layoff 202 station agents and shutter 44 token booths across the city. This dismissals come just three weeks after the MTA voted to axe these positions following judicially-mandated public hearings. According to agency reports, the May injunction against the dismissals and the need to go through the hearing process cost the authority approximately $49,000 per day. As fewer eyes and ears are now around to greet passengers at station entrances, hopefully the new intercom system will be an effective safety tool and criminal deterrent.

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Sharon August 11, 2010 - 12:44 pm

The new intercoms provide the same benefit that the union and speakers at the public hearing I attended proclaimed. Actually they provide more because the intercoms are where the majority of the people are ON THE PLATFORMS sometimes a football field away. Now lets transition the remaining agents into security role, watching cctv’s, enforcing the fare both on buses and in stations and trains .

Bolwerk August 11, 2010 - 4:30 pm

Station agents probably don’t do much for safety. If anything, they’re probably overall safety-neutral at best or just another victim at worst.

JP August 11, 2010 - 8:58 pm

They dismantled the booth at Canal/6th (A,C,E) almost two weeks ago.

rhywun August 11, 2010 - 10:59 pm

I think the agents are great for tourists, and almost completely unnecessary anymore for natives. I don’t mind seeing them go, but I would at least like to see *much* better info (maps, signage, etc.) at every station to make up for it. The current info you see on the walls (the maps, the advisories) is abundant but not particularly good at actually helping someone find their way around.

sharon August 12, 2010 - 12:09 am


They should install ad supported touch screens raps and add around the frame with a touch screen interactive method and a feature that connects you to a customer support agent who can see you and you can see her. All the benefits of the agents. The screens could also show who is watching the station complex cctv cams ( a must that I think will happen once they get the camera’s installed and doing the basics which is recording)

rhywun August 12, 2010 - 12:34 am

That stuff is a possible long-term goal, but first much work still needs to be done just in the basics of helping people get around with low-tech maps and signage and such. The current stuff is “good enough” for natives, but not at all suitable for newcomers. Heck, I’ve lived here 13 years and even I get baffled when I’m in a new neighborhood – I still get lost on the train and I emerge above-ground only to find I have no idea which direction I’m facing. This stuff was solved decades ago in other cities – why not here?

Andrew August 14, 2010 - 10:00 pm

Don’t most stations have very detailed “neighborhood maps” posted by the exits?

Bolwerk August 12, 2010 - 11:36 am

It’s not a black and white issue. 24/7 agents might make sense in some stations. In others they make sense during rush hours or during the day. In some, they probably don’t make any sense at all. Why would a residential neighborhood with virtually no tourism need one?

Sharon August 12, 2010 - 1:57 pm

I see it the opposite way in some stations and in some areas.

Station agents at stations such as neck road, ave U, Sheapshead Bay, Kings Highway etc are not needed during daylight hours. at night it would be nice to have someone in the station when few people are around

Kings highway is the perfect case, the main entrance is under construction(bus still open) moving the agent to the former part time entrance at QR. No one misses the agent. He is not needed

In many areas of the city many of the residents don’t speak English. the agent is not needed. It would be nice to have security at stations that DO need it.

There are also many apps for smart Phones that give you all the info you need

Bolwerk August 12, 2010 - 5:52 pm

It would be nice to have someone everywhere all the time, but they’re expensive. It makes very little sense to have them when there are even fewer people around.

I still don’t but the security argument. They might call 911 if they actually see something, but they are trained for customer service, not security. If they have any impact at all on safety, it’s marginal. But for the fact that they’re inside those bullet proof booths, they’re just another potential crime victim.

Alon Levy August 12, 2010 - 10:03 pm

In a city that uses faregates, every station must have an agent. However, not all stations need more than one agent.

Andrew August 14, 2010 - 10:00 pm

Why? PATH uses faregates but doesn’t have agents.

Alon Levy August 15, 2010 - 1:25 am

To deter turnstile jumpers.

Andrew August 16, 2010 - 9:13 am

Doesn’t seem to be a problem for PATH. Or for NYCT at unattended entrances, for that matter.

John Paul N. August 13, 2010 - 5:46 pm

A station agent’s primary role should be to provide customer service and assistance with the transit system. Could a machine or electronics (i.e. smartphone apps) replace a station agent? More than likely, yes. The ongoing debate is what should happen to a station agent if her or his job becomes obsolete or redundant? Right or wrong, the unions will defend them as much as possible.

Personnel issues with the MTA so are much more contentious than in other areas. If the workforce is too precious to eliminate, why not just retrain to the areas where personnel are needed, like jobs in which workers currently work overtime deliberately to double their salary? You kill two birds with one stone there: reduce overtime and keep the workers.

Bolwerk August 13, 2010 - 6:01 pm

How many such positions do you think there are? I don’t any observers disagree that the MTA is generally overstaffed.

Of course, what they could do is re-focus station agents on station maintenance, but of course the TWU would fight that. It would take retraining too.

John Paul N. August 13, 2010 - 7:39 pm

I agree the MTA is overstaffed. But if the unions are insisting that those jobs should remain, then plan B for the MTA should be to find a way to utilize them in some other capacity, including retraining them for other positions as a promotion, or a position in which they would desire to leave the MTA (on good terms).

Performing station maintenance, is a demotion from station agent in any transit system. If I was a station agent I would be alarmed if that happened to me. I had suggested before that training for station security positions is a reasonable route.

The employees all fear for their job security. That is understandable. But they should aspire for doing something better, even if it means leaving the MTA. But the laid off employees don’t want to leave the MTA, and some of them act so selfishly as if they don’t have the MTA’s interests at heart. So in their self-interests they feed into the populism that actually destroys the MTA’s image, ruining management-labor relations further, and disgruntled employees ruins passengers’ experience, so in the end, it’s a destructive cycle.

John Paul N. August 13, 2010 - 7:44 pm

I don’t know if this something I should advertise, but I learned about it while I’ve been doing my mobile application. The MTA’s IT department is currently short-staffed. So any interested qualified MTA employees should, in theory, apply to work in that department. Of course, the key is qualified, and I would be surprised that a bus driver, for example, would be eligible for the job.

JFCR August 12, 2010 - 2:12 am

As a station agent that is being laid off on Friday, I think everyone is right, when they say station agents are obsolete. The subway system should have more technology in the system,such as touchscreen computers that can make using the system much easier, by providing travel directions, etc… But I must say there r a lot of native NYers who do not grasp the concept of what it means to go uptown or down on the train, especially the 6 line where there is no crossover btw directions. Or there are people that don’t read signs in general, regarding when certain lines run, or regarding service changes. I just think people expect too much for $2.25. Now I know we make a lot 4 an obsolete title. Station agents make $26.70 an hr + 1.20 night diff, but I think our title should have expanded duties such as security guard functions, and powers to write tickets 4 fare beating etc… Our title could even have been merged with the title of cleaner, b/c we all know nyct needs cleaners because the stations are filthy. I think the TWU dropped the ball on this one. I want to see them pull a rabbit out of a hat and get our jobs back. Because make no mistake, john samuelsen & company r advertising this layoff as temporary.

Sharon August 12, 2010 - 2:04 pm

I agree with you 100%. The job role is not obsolete but the talented people forced to do quite frankly mind numing work is cruel.

The union has caused many nice people to loose there jobs Not just at the mta but all over the city

How are all the people at Stella Dora Cookie factory doing?

As for the cleaner title, the job function and training needs to be seriously expanded to justify $25 an hour plus benefits package.

Station agent will not increase in the future, there will be fewer 5 years from now. MVM maintainers will be on the chopping block as well. Once contactless fare payments is widspread, MVM’s will be obsolete. You can pay with your cell phone.

JFCR August 12, 2010 - 2:57 am

Next thing MTA needs 2 figure out is how to get rid of the nagging problem of swipers. These are people making money selling swipes. From what I understand this is a very lucrative profession. Some of these guys make over $200 a day selling swipes. All u have to do is go to any station on the 7 line from main street to 74th and roosevelt avenue & u will see these guys r making a killing selling swipes. This is all at mta’s expense. And in some case like at 103rd corona plaza the clerk may b working with the swipers and getting a piece of the action. Then u have management who knows what is going on, but doesn’t do anything because they don’t want to deal w/ the paperwork or just because no customers bother to complain about what is going on. These swipers usually work in groups and have lookouts, so usually just as the cops go up 1 stairway, they go down the other. MTA needs to find a way to deal with these kinds of problems, because what they’re doing now just doesn’t cut it. Cameras will definitely not get rid of swipers and the MTA is losing a lot of money to these guys, while at the same time they r raising fares & cutting service.

Bolwerk August 12, 2010 - 11:47 am

$200/day? It sounds unlikely, more like middle class anxiety about street hustlers and drug dealers walking away with big tax-free bucks – and some TWU anxiety about evil, neglectful management thrown in for good measure. If you have an unlimited, you might be able to swipe people in four times an hour (perhaps moving between stations) and, if you keep it up for eight hours, you might make $75 or so working by yourself. Start splitting that between a group and it’s even less money.

Maybe you can get a little more business with 2-3 cards, but are there really that many people willing to be suckered by those guys? And that’s not taking into account the high risk of being caught, regardless of what management does.

(And how is it management’s job to catch these guys? Isn’t that the job of the booth worker, or whoever is watching the video camera? All that needs to be done is to call the police.)

Sharon August 12, 2010 - 2:18 pm

There is a few solutions

1) Mta upper management should have filters that identify when a particular metrocard serial number is used at a station and use the data including the times to have police pick these punks up
2)Metrocard data can be superimposed over CCTV camera feeds at the turn styles to match the swipper with the card and use the images to charge the swiper even when the police did not directly observe the activity. Fines Double for each offense. Community service in the subway required after 2 convitions
3) $100 fine for anyone caught buying a swipe from a known swiper. I would give one warning for the individual. The reason is that most people who BUY swipes would not if they knew there was a strong possibility of paying a fine. Plus the public in NYC due to language issues does not know many of the rules

Laid off station agents can be brought back to help in the efforts.

TWU needs to wake up and smell the cofe about the public’s hatred of the agents that due to their obsolete job roles they perceive as lazy and unhelpful

JFCR August 12, 2010 - 3:01 pm

My point was not to say that it is managements job to catch the swipers; it’s not. It’s managements job to go around and check on employees whom they know are allowing the swipers to stay in business on their stations. Secondly, has anyone been to junction blvd or 103rd corona plaza on Monday morning. When the mvm’s are all jammed and the line at the booth is stretching down the stairs to the street, and the station agent is making over $20,000 in farecard sales, the swipers could b making more than $200 a day. Next, the police cannot be in all places at once which is why the swipers go to more than one busy station at the same time. Finally if u live along the 7 line, most of the people along the line r hispanic and do not speak english. So if u r offering 2 sell someone a swipe for a dollar, the machines don’t work, and the line at the booth is stretching down to the street level, I highly doubt if I am going to worry about getting caught. Also these swipers sell swipes for a living,they start at 5:00am & sometimes sell swipes until way past midnight. Thay have no other job. That’s how lucrative swiping is, especially on the seven line. If u don’t believe me, go to junction or 103rd corona on Monday mornings and u can c. There is also a way 2 bend the cards a certain way 2 make them swipe even if they contain no money.

Bolwerk August 12, 2010 - 6:04 pm

Well, it’s management’s job to _fire_ those employees, but I guess the TWU would fight tooth and nail against that.

I don’t expect the police to be everywhere, I don’t expect the station agents to protect me, and I don’t expect zero crime or fare evasion. But I really need to see verifiable statistics if I’m going to buy this claim that swipers make $200+/day. I can buy that the MTA takes a nasty hit thanks to illegal swiping (they are, afterall, considering getting rid of unlimiteds), but I have a much harder time buying the idea that turnover for those selling illegal swipes is so good that they’re pulling in a middle class income.

There are of course people in the world who manage to make a lot of money engaging in illicit trades, but most people who try are marginal and desperate. This $200+/day swiping scheme rings of kind of (sub?)urban legend that brought us the “strapping young buck” buying T-bones and taxi fares with federal welfare money, Reagan’s fantasy about the Chicago welfare queen, or the usual rap music-promoted myth of a luxurious life of hos and bling from the proceeds of drug sales. As Levitt and Dubner said, most drug dealers live with their moms.

Alon Levy August 12, 2010 - 10:10 pm

Bolwerk, generally I agree with most of this comment. But Levitt and Dubner aren’t the best source on, well, anything. If you want a popular source on drug dealers, go to David Simon and Ed Burns. Top drug dealers do, in fact, make millions, and can afford luxurious cars, but can’t spend the money too flashily or else they attract police attention. Even street-level dealers working for major gangs get much more money than a welfare recipient – for an example, look up the Sepulveda gang on Google.

Bolwerk August 13, 2010 - 5:17 pm

I know Levitt and Dubner are randroids espousing pop economics, but the comment is pretty funny and it would be intellectually dishonest to appropriate it without giving credit to the source. Yes, top-level drug dealers make millions, though their lives too are often cut short by occupational hazards.

As for street-level gang foot soldiers, I can buy that there exists a street gang that offers those kinds of “wages,” but does it really sound believable to you that the bulk of street gangs offer a reasonably high pay? I’m not sure what welfare typically offers, but I would guess it’s a low bar. Is drug dealing really a viable alternative to even a minimum-wage job?

Alon Levy August 14, 2010 - 2:46 am

Marijuana isn’t; cocaine and heroin are. The touts and lookouts don’t get paid a lot, but they get their perks and bonuses. The corner managers can get middle-class wages. People wouldn’t be dealing drugs if it didn’t pay so much as to be attractive despite the danger.

Bolwerk August 14, 2010 - 12:11 pm

I’m sure all that happens, but I think it’s a fair bet that most are making nothing or very close to it. Of course, most people who don’t end up dead or in prison don’t stay in gangs very long – probably because there really is little reward, and the appeal wears off quickly after adolescence.

If there’s money to be made from illicit activities, it’s probably more sophisticated mob groups making most of it. Not impoverished teenagers.

Alon Levy August 14, 2010 - 4:18 pm

Drug gangs are exactly what sophisticated mob groups look like. They just have less allure because they’re black or Hispanic instead of Jewish or Italian, and because the population they serve is still dirt poor so it doesn’t reminisce about the good old days.

Paulp August 12, 2010 - 8:48 pm

There is no way in the world you are a station agent who is losing their job. No way No how.

“As a station agent that is being laid off on Friday, I think everyone is right, when they say station agents are obsolete.”
(so you should lose your job?)

“It’s managements job to go around and check on employees whom they know are allowing the swipers to stay in business on their stations.” (what?)

“This is all at mta’s expense. And in some case like at 103rd corona plaza the clerk may b working with the swipers and getting a piece of the action.” (tying to get someone fired?)

either you are a masochist (sic) or a fraud: I prefer to believe a fraud.

Bolwerk August 13, 2010 - 5:20 pm

Dude, it’s the Internet. If someone says he’s a hot chick, he’s a hot chick. If someone says he’s a station agent, he’s a station agent. If somebody says he’s a bondage-practicing lesbian vampire from another planet, he’s a bondage-practicing lesbian vampire from a another planet.

JFCR August 13, 2010 - 1:55 am

This is in response to Paulp. I may be wrong, but u have the same initials of someone I know who works 4 TWU Local 100. My apologies if I’m wrong. U say I should lose my job, fine, but once metrocards r phased out, what other duties will s/a’s have. Because it seems to me that the union is opposed to combining titles to save jobs or to expand the duties of s/a’s without the company agreeing to fork over more money. Next it seems to me that not enough has been done to try 2 get the more senior employees of the mta to retire. Granted some of these clerks might lack the age or time needed 2 leave, but there is a large group of workers that can leave but refuse to. Now those r the people that should b the ones leaving & if the don’t the union should be working with management to push them out.

Bolwerk August 13, 2010 - 6:03 pm

I’m not trying to be rude, but it would be a little easier to follow what you’re saying if you hit the “REPLY” button at the end of the post you’re replying to rather than posting a new top-level post every time you say something.

Paulp August 16, 2010 - 4:55 pm

Apology accepted. I did not say you should lose your job..you did. To call yourself obsolete and then ask for sympathy is ridiculous.

Just how should people be “forced” to retire? Any ideas on that one? Come on guy, enough already.

JFCR August 13, 2010 - 2:49 am

Secondly, going to the rest of Paulyp’s comments, its common knowledge on the 7 line regarding where the swipers work and which clerks allow the swipers on their stations. U can ask any clerk on the 7 line which clerks r working w/ the swipers or r handcollecting & they can tell u. Also many of the clerks stealing from transit r the ones with over 20 years of service, r set in their ways, and feel they don’t have to worry about their jobs because they have seniority. As for trying to get someone fired, that’s not the case, because all anyone with common sense has to do is go to anyone of those stations on the 7 line, stay there 4 a half hour, and can c what’s the deal. Then if they want they can take matters into their own hands. Those r the kind of clerks that should be taken out of the booth in handcuffs like @ astoria blvd last month & lose their pensions intead of allowing transit to lay of new employees who r dedicated to their jobs and r trying to build a life 4 themselves. Now am I a fraud or r people in the union just trying to protect people who should be fired because they r doing the wrong thing, and because exposing these things will just make the public hate station agents even more than they do now.

Paulp August 16, 2010 - 4:58 pm

silly arguments. if anyone gets caught stealing from MTA they get fired. palin and simple. senority cannot save them. people hate station agents? I don’t. I hate the fact that my wife and kids have to travel on station sides where there will not be one.


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