Home Asides How much is that snow storm in the window?

How much is that snow storm in the window?

by Benjamin Kabak

The December’s blizzard that struck the city and left much of the subway system paralyzed cost the MTA a pretty penny in lost revenue and unplanned overtime expenses. According to MTA officials, the storm cost $30 million overall. As amNew York’s Theresa Juva details, the authority estimated $16 million in lost fare revenue and $14 million in overtime. As The Post noted, the authority lost “nearly the same total amount in rider revenue for all of last winter” — during storms worse than December’s — “spent much less in overtime.”

As the papers note, in February of 2010, during two different storm, the MTA lost $17 million in fares and spent $8.3 million in overtime. The late February storm saw over 20 inches of snow fall on the city while December witnessed 19 inches blanket New York. These revelations have, of course, led to some more hand-wringing over the MTA’s snow response. Two board members told The Post that costs were so high due to the MTA’s delayed response over Christmas weekend.

James Vacca, chair of the City Council’s Transportation Committee had more choice words for the authority as well. “If they had acted sooner with more intensity of response, their overtime would have been less and more people would have been able to get on and use mass transit,” he said yesterday.

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John January 25, 2011 - 12:03 pm

Of course it’s deceiving to compare the storms by quantity of snowfall. What made the December storm so much worse was the amount of wind. If it had just snowed with little or no wind, they probably would have been mostly fine.

Benjamin Kabak January 25, 2011 - 12:05 pm

Also, it was Christmas weekend.

R. Graham January 25, 2011 - 2:04 pm

Exactly! No wind, no snow drifts and even if plan 4 was put in place a battle with snow drifts in a blizzard of that magnitude is an uphill battle.

That’s why at the yell at me hearings at City Hall even the Transit president conceeded that in the future they would need to consider not providing some services at all. I don’t care how many de-icers and empty trains you run out to the Rockaways, Man vs. Blizzard on the Broad Channel. Blizzard wins every time.

All service provided in under cuts: Blizzard wins every time. It would’ve been the same lost revenue. A better comparison would be Dec blizzard vs the 96 blizzard.

BrooklynBus January 25, 2011 - 2:28 pm

At least in 1996, the costs were covered by insurance and a FEMA claim. The insurance companies removed the blizzard clause from the insurance after paying out about $8 million for that claim which included lost revenue. The MTA may still be eligible for reimbursement from FEMA for any damage to equipment and for extra costs taken as preventive measures prior to the storm. Unfortunately for the MTA, this time there doesn’t seem to have been any measures taken prior to the storm.

SEAN January 25, 2011 - 2:29 pm

I don’t care how many de-icers and empty trains you run out to the Rockaways, Man vs. Blizzard on the Broad Channel. Blizzard wins every time.

All service provided in under cuts: Blizzard wins every time.

That is one of the best comments in a while on this blog. Thanks for the great laugh as I enjoy Man v Food.

ferryboi January 25, 2011 - 12:45 pm

Over $16 million in lost revenue? With the proliferation of unlimited MetroCards, I find that figure hard to believe. Millions of pay-per-ride passengers stayed home that week? I’d think the MTA actually saved some cash by not providing service to passengers who already paid for a monthly MetroCard.

Alon Levy January 25, 2011 - 1:18 pm

The MTA has to pay employees for all hours in the schedule. If service isn’t provided, it still has to pay.

ferryboi January 25, 2011 - 1:43 pm

So how does that translate into $16 million in lost revenue? I can understand an increase in expenses with OT and such, but since a majority of riders buy monthly MetroCards/commuter rail passes, how exactly did the MTA lose so much in revenue?

R. Graham January 25, 2011 - 1:57 pm

That number probably applies to the commuter rails as well.

Alon Levy January 25, 2011 - 4:51 pm

The majority of riders have unlimited passes, but majority doesn’t mean all. As of a few years ago, pay-per-rides, single-rides, and people paying cash on buses were about a third of all swipes. And most likely, such people are less regular riders, who are more likely to choose not to ride in a snow emergency.

Andrew January 25, 2011 - 6:40 pm

It would be interesting to see the breakdown between people who didn’t ride because their train or bus line wasn’t running and people who decided to stay home because of the weather (and wouldn’t have ridden even if their line were running).

Alon Levy January 26, 2011 - 4:39 am

Yeah, it would. But figuring out the breakdown seems difficult. The only way I can think of is to make a model based on relative drops in ridership based on whether there were service disruptions, complete with controls for the fact that areas with more service disruptions are likely to have had more severe weather…

Andrew January 27, 2011 - 10:05 pm

If you have station-by-station entry counts, you could compare ridership at stations that had service to ridership at those same stations on a similar day. That would give you an idea of the ridership loss due to the weather. Assume a proportional ridership loss due to the weather at stations with no service; whatever is left is the ridership loss due to the shutdown.

That isn’t a perfect methodology. Stations with service lost ridership from people who would have liked to get to stations without service. Also, in this particular case, it’s hard to find that “similar day” – this wasn’t just any Monday; this was the Monday following a long Christmas weekend, which would have had relatively low ridership even if the weather were perfect and the transit system were fully operational.

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