Home Buses Liu: Cemusa bus shelters too dirty

Liu: Cemusa bus shelters too dirty

by Benjamin Kabak

A City Comptroller's report alleges that Cemusa has done a poor job cleaning its bus shelters. (Photo by flickr user animalvegetable)

When Cemusa entered into its 20-year contract with New York City to install and maintain bus shelters and newsstands across the city, critics lamented the death of New York’s individuality. Noted that the bus shelters were the same in the Big Apple as they were elsewhere, Brooks of Sheffield called unspecial and unoriginal. Others, meanwhile, had more legitimate complaints as Queens Crap complained of snow removal neglect and Sheepshead Bites accused of Cemusa’s bus stations of peddling in misinformation. Now, the city government is piling on too.

In an audit released earlier this week, New York City Comptroller set his sights on Cemusa’s failure to adhere to its bargain. Bus shelters aren’t as clean or well maintained as the company promised they would be, John Liu’s office said. The full report is available here as a PDF. The short of it from the Comptroller’s Office:

Under the franchise agreement, Cemusa is required, at its own expense, to clean, inspect, and maintain the structures in good repair. With DOT’s approval, Cemusa has outsourced its inspection, cleaning, and maintenance responsibilities to subcontractors. DynaServ Industries, Inc. (DynaServ) is responsible for cleaning, inspecting, and posting advertisements, and Pipeline Construction, LLC (Pipeline) was responsible for repairing and replacing damaged parts and performing electrical repairs and annual electrical inspections. This audit addressed Cemusa’s upkeep of the bus stop shelters, the most common type and widely used street furniture across the City.

The audit concluded that Cemusa needs to improve its oversight efforts to ensure that its subcontractors maintain bus stop shelters in compliance with its franchise agreement with DOT. Cemusa has certain mechanisms in place to assess its subcontractors’ performance regarding the upkeep of the bus stop shelters. However, these mechanisms do not provide sufficient assurance that the subcontractors’ performance ensures Cemusa’s compliance with the provisions of its franchise agreement regarding the upkeep of the bus stop shelters.

For the audit test period, Cemusa’s subcontractor, DynaServ, did not service (inspect and clean) the bus stop shelters at the level required. DynaServ’s productivity expectations (the number of shelters that can be cleaned by each crew in one shift) are overly optimistic and DynaServ has not allocated sufficient resources to ensure that each shelter will be cleaned twice each week on non-consecutive days as required. The audit also showed that Cemusa’s other subcontractor, Pipeline, needed to improve its performance in regard to responding promptly and repairing reported defective conditions. Further, there was insufficient evidence that all electrical inspections were carried out as reported. Based on these and additional factors discussed herein, we lack reasonable assurance that the bus stop shelters are serviced in accordance with Cemusa’s franchise agreement with DOT.

At a certain level, Cemusa disputed the Comptroller’s results. The company noted that Liu’s audit was based on one observable point in time and that the subcontractor routinely upheld its end of the deal. “No trend can be assessed and no conclusion can be drawn,” the company said. Despite protests from the Comptroller’s Office, Cemusa said cleaning efforts are generally sufficient and up to contractual standards.

Still, they agreed with five points from the report. It avowed the need for better subcontractor oversight, promised to clean roof panels more frequently and will establish proactive oversight and monitoring of contractors. After all, with 14 years left in the contract and more ad revenue rolling in, the company has a compelling reason to keep these shelters clean.

In response to the audit, Transportation Nation wondered if the criticism speaks to the problem of privatization. “When a private company manages public space,” Alex Goldmark wrote, “they too, leave it dirty sometimes, just like the DOT did when they managed bus shelters.”

That’s a bit of an oversimplification. The current bus stops, while perhaps not unique or to the liking of those who yearn for old New York, are cleaner, bigger and brighter than the old shelters. They’ve been modernized and are generally well maintained by Cemusa. I’ve watched those in my neighborhood cleaned regularly, and based on my lack of faith in John Liu, I am inclined to believe the City Comptroller’s Office relied upon a less than rigorous audit methodology here.

Still, privatization of public spaces isn’t a panacea. Cemusa may be paying $1.5 billion for the rights to the bus shelters and newsstands, but it still has to confront the same realities of maintenance and upkeep that the city did when it was in charge. From a use perspective, I’m far more concerned with the observations Al Rosen made in May: If the information concerning bus routes isn’t correct, who cares how often the glass gets cleaned anyway?

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Miles Bader July 12, 2012 - 5:04 am

Hmm, who comptrols the comptroller…?

Al D July 12, 2012 - 9:29 am

The IG

Phantom July 12, 2012 - 6:30 am

Tell that crook to shut his gob

Andrew July 12, 2012 - 8:53 am

He’s not only saying that they’re not cleaned. He’s saying that they’re not maintained properly.

The information about bus routes has been wrong from day one, and there isn’t even enough space for multiple bus routes.

BrooklynBus July 12, 2012 - 12:36 pm

There’s definitely room for two maps and one schedule. A second schedule could also be accommodated if they slightly reduced the size of the maps. Since most stops have only a single route, even if only one route were accommodated, it would be an improvement since they can be seen at night.

You are correct about the info being wrong since day one. But rather than update the schedules, they have all been removed. Now they are also removing the bus maps and the route numbers and replacing them with Transit Tips which were deigned to be a placeholder until route maps and schedules were available. Some shelters do not even have the Transit Tips, only a white light.

Andrew July 12, 2012 - 11:06 pm

The layout was clearly designed for one route only. That was a design flaw. (I’d designate the side glass panel, and perhaps the rightmost rear glass panel, for additional routes.)

And do MTA staff have the ability to update the maps and schedules or does everything have to flow through Cemusa? If the latter, which I’d guess, that’s another design flaw.

I preferred the old shelters. The new ones may be sleek, but they don’t provide as much protection from rain and, of more direct relevance this time of year, they provide no protection at all from sun.

BrooklynBus July 12, 2012 - 11:17 pm

The new ones have seats which is a plus, but thy should have had 5 seats not three. They also protect you from wind a little more than the old ones and look nicer.

It’s the MTA’s responsibility to provide the maps and schedules and DOT’s responsibility to install and update the information. DOT has delegated that responsibility to CEMUSA who in turn delegated it to a subcontractor.

I didn’t see anything in the audit about passenger information or CEMUSA’s responsibility to update it. Did you?

Andrew July 13, 2012 - 12:01 am

Some of the old ones had seats too – granted, not most.

I think the Guide-a-Rides are updated directly by MTA staff. What you describe is unnecessarily cumbersome, and it may explain why the information was never kept up-to-date.

BrooklynBus July 13, 2012 - 10:28 am

The Guide-a-Rides are updated by DOT. At least that was the original agreement unless it changed, but I doubt it. I don’t remember any of the last generation of bus shelters with seats or the generation before them having any seats. There were a few very old wooden shelters with seats from the 1930s, 40’s or 50s. They provided excellent shelter against all the elements but that was before Disabilities Act requiring increased clearance for wheelchairs.

Andrew July 13, 2012 - 7:29 pm

I’ve seen MTA staff updating the Guide-a-Rides. It looks like there’s been a change since the 80’s.

A small number of the old shelters had benches:

And I don’t mean this:

BrooklynBus July 14, 2012 - 7:46 pm

It was DOT’s responsibility until at least 2000. Can’t find any info on the net as to whose responsibility it s now. But if you’ve seen MTA staff updating the signs…

Al D July 12, 2012 - 9:31 am

The bus shelters need a BusTime display.

mike d. July 12, 2012 - 1:29 pm

Its going to take 1 to 2 years… guess what no funding to put info on the boards.

Bolwerk July 12, 2012 - 9:33 am

Those shelters were always barely better than nothing. In the rain or snow, they’re just slightly better than sitting in the open air.

SEAN July 12, 2012 - 10:51 am

There are bus stops in Co-op City still with the old style shelters.

David Brown July 12, 2012 - 12:42 pm

Liu may be a crook, but he was on point with the cab pick-up issue, and he showed some courage taking on the Governor and Mayor, and was vindicated in Court. He is right on this issue as well, and hopefully the shenters will be improved. He may be the best of an extremely bad lot running for Mayor (And this from a Conservative Republican). We need someone to take on the MTA and make sure that they pay their workers a fair wage and stop wasting taxpayers money on projects lik the Broadway-Lafayette Train Station

AG July 12, 2012 - 2:14 pm

David Brown – the only way Liu could get elected is by cozying up to unions like transit workers… Just like medallion cabs have more political clout than they livery cabs… hence his speaking up for them.
That aside – yeah hopefully the shelters will get approved.

Nathaniel July 12, 2012 - 1:14 pm

Sad to say, but I predict that if the MTA ever hires a company to install platform screen doors, with our luck, they’ll hire someone like Cemusa.

nycpat July 12, 2012 - 4:03 pm

Platform sreen doors aint never gonna happen!

Bolwerk July 13, 2012 - 12:43 am

And they probably shouldn’t. The lowest hanging safety fruit is encouraging additional transit use by drivers, not encouraging additional safety on transit.

BrooklynBus July 12, 2012 - 2:59 pm

The sloppiness in CEMUSA’s work is obvious just from the shelter pictured. Why woud you spell out “Street” and abbreviate “Av”? Makes no sense.

BrooklynBus July 12, 2012 - 3:00 pm

I got it reversed. The spelled out Avenue and abbreviated St. Same difference.

SEAN July 12, 2012 - 3:42 pm

Perhaps St. was ment to represent saint & not street? LOL

BrooklynBus July 12, 2012 - 7:56 pm

Reminds me of my GPS that thought dr was doctor instead of drive. It kept telling me to get on the FDR doctor.

SEAN July 13, 2012 - 5:15 pm

Was it a Garmin? Garmins do nutty things like that.

BrooklynBus July 14, 2012 - 2:38 pm

Yes, it’ was a Garmin. She also told me to make a left turn into the concrete wall after I got on the Drive. When I refused, then she told me to turn right into the East River. She thought I was on East End Avenue and couldn’t tell I was on the Drive or the Doctor.

Spendmore Wastemore July 12, 2012 - 6:30 pm

MTA is barking at the wrong tree; compared to the subway stations the bus shelters shining spires of immaculate transit.

Bruno August 11, 2012 - 9:36 am

Does anybody know how to get a job at Cemusa or Dynaserv.

Ken September 1, 2012 - 6:54 pm

The Cemusa newsstands (and bus shelters) on New York streets are unsafe. They are dangerous to newsstand occupants, to employees, to city inspectors and to the general public. They are a disaster waiting to happen. This is a claim made by a former designer and Cemusa senior engineer, who designed them. The former Cemusa senior engineer made this claim in a lawsuit against Cemusa in New York County Supreme Court (Case Index: 102209/2009). These serious allegations should be promptly investigated by the authorities and the dangerous newsstands and bus shelters should be immediately removed from the city sidewalks. For additional information contact attorney Robert Brill at 212-935-7900.

JenB September 10, 2012 - 7:52 pm

Cemusa is a shady, corrupt company with NYC’s Commissioner of the Department of Transportation unwittingly in the palm of their hands. Cemusa and their parent company, FCC, are a scary bunch. Internal emails written by top officials have surfaced where they refer to themselves as Hitler fighting against the Allies. Who sides with Hitler? In these emails which they talk about fighting a war against the Allies, they are referring to their fight to bury a whistle-blower who is only try to protect innocent New Yorkers from having heavy panes of bus shelter glass shattering on their heads.

The city is well aware of all this, the Comptroller’s office wrote a scathing report about Cemusa’s failures to comply with their contract. At least 14 new lawsuits have popped up in the last 12 months, since September of 2011, accusing Cemusa of cost-cutting measures that lead to collapsing bus shelters like the case where a 300 pound glass panel fell on and permanently disabled an eleven month old baby, in the Bronx. All this is pretty shocking, but even mundane issues like not having a light on in a bus shelter can be pretty scary when you are waiting for a bus at night and can make people more vulnerable to crime. Such as a robbery that took place at an unlit bus shelter, at night, at the corner of Fort Washington Ave. and 187th St., in Washington Heights. The unlit bus shelter issue is ongoing. They are reported directly to the Commissioner of DOT, 311 and Cemusa. Cemusa ignores the complaints and the city turns a blind eye.

Any company that refers to themselves as Hitler and whistle-blowers as the Allies has their priorities all messed up.

Cemusa simply needs to start complying with the contract that they signed and the city’s safety codes. Then we will all be better off.


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