Despite facing a fare share of criticism over and some mixed results from its line manager program, the MTA is set to expand their program after a 10-month experiment.
Last year, when the Rider Report Card results highlight deficiencies in service and general feelings that the MTA was out of touch with its riders, New York City Transit President Howard Roberts introduced the line manager program. In the intervening months, the L and 7 served as guinea pigs, and now the MTA will spread the joy of oversight to other subway lines but on a more limited basis.
According to William Neuman of The Times, with money tight at the MTA — the agency is facing a potential $1-billion deficit — other subway lines will get only managers and not the other amenities, such as 24-hour cleaning crews, that the L and 7 currently enjoy.
Neuman has more:
Mr. Roberts said that the rest of the numbered lines would get general managers this fall, with the new positions being phased in over the next several weeks. Early next year, the rest of the lettered lines will shift to the new structure. Each line will also be part of a group of four to seven lines that have common responsibilities. For instance, the Nos. 1, 2 and 3 lines share several miles of track, so track maintenance would be the responsibility of a group manager.
Mr. Roberts said that once the reorganization is complete and the employees are moved to their new jobs, the changes will result in a slightly leaner work force, with 70 fewer positions and a savings of $7.3 million a year.
Meanwhile, the results of the current line managers are decidedly mixed. The MTA highlights on-time statistics to show the effects these managers are having, but numerous lines without the managerial oversight have enjoyed increased on-time numbers as well. Furthermore, as Neuman notes, on-time numbers for the 7 and L are actually off pace from the days before the line manager program.
Riders themselves have not noticed widespread improvement in the system, and I have a feeling that the latest round of rider report cards will reveal similar or identical grades as those doled out last year. Some riders, Neuman writes, say “they had noticed small improvements like trains arriving at stations with greater regularity, easing rush hour crowding in the cars. And many said that stations and train cars on the two lines were noticeably cleaner than elsewhere in the subway system.”
In the end, I have to like this program because of its intent. It saves the MTA money, and it shows that the agency is willing, finally, to listen to its customers. We can’t expect overnight results from an organization that has long resisted change, but we can hope that, as the powers-that-be receive more feedback and suggestion from the riders, they’ll be willing to take the steps necessary to improve our subway service.