Tuesday afternoon saw more bad news, in the form of two surveys, head the MTA’s way.
The Straphangers Campaign published the first one — a rigorous scientific survey focusing on the State of the Subways. As I mentioned yesterday afternoon, the L and 7 trains — the two trains operating as guinea pigs for the line manager program — walked away with the top honors. More on that shortly.
The second report, issued by Brooklyn Assemblyman Dov Hikind and based on system-wide observations, found the subways to be structurally unsound, poorly maintained and largely unhygienic. Hikind and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer stop short of charging the MTA with system-wide neglect and are not pleased with the state of the subways.
We start with the Straphangers’ State of the Subways Report Card. This survey has become an annual rite of passage for the Straphangers, and the findings stay fairly consistent on a year-to-year basis. The L line — populated with some of the newest cars in the fleet — pulled in top honors because the trains run frequently, are generally on time, don’t break down too often, are clean and have audible in-car announcements. The 7 followed suit, earning higher marks on seat availability but lower scores on in-car announcements.
These line rankings are well and good, but as Julia noted yesterday, the methodology does not account for overlapping lines. Sure, the W may be the worst stand-alone line in the city, but at no point does it stop at a station where it is the only train servicing that stop. Discounting for this vital fact lessens the overall impact of the results. (For a comprehensive overview of the results, this PDF chart shows the category breakdown, and this one shows the overall rankings.)
The Straphangers’ more important findings came from their overall analysis of the system. According to their findings, subway cars are breaking down every 149,646 miles (down from 156,624 the year before), and only 85 percent of subway announcements are audible, down from 90 percent. That 85 percent seems rather generous to me. At a time when the MTA has less money than ever to reinvest in the systems, these findings do not project to improve next year.
Surveyors found that subway stations throughout New York City, regardless of their size (large, small) or location (underground, outdoors, elevated) had platform conditions that were unsafe, deteriorating and easily recognizable by surveyors. A pattern of neglect, lack of maintenance, shoddy workmanship and seeming indifference has led to system wide safety hazards at station platforms…
Station platforms are cracked, have significant gaps in many locations, and represent serious safety hazards to riders, especially to the most vulnerable, the young and the elderly. Cement fillings and lifted
wooden and concrete beams on the station platforms are poorly connected to the platforms and represent tripping hazards to unsuspecting riders. Rubbing boards placed on the edges of the platforms are deteriorating as well. Riders’ footwear is liable to get caught in the holes of the rubbing boards and many have corroded to the extent that any pressure on them could result in riders falling onto the tracks below.
What is disconcerting is the fact that MTA employees failed to recognize these corrosive conditions when they were readily apparent to surveyors. It is apparent that safety issues at stations are not being taken seriously by the MTA. Each hazard documented was observed visually by surveyors and was easily recognizable as conditions that threatened the safety of subway riders. Additionally, in the rare situations that these safety hazards were recognized, MTA employees performed shoddy work in repairing them and in many instances, these partial repairs created even more dangerous conditions than beforehand. It is most shocking that these conditions are still prevalent throughout New York City after having been pointed out to MTA officials.
While the MTA has not yet issued a statement in response to either of these two reports, these findings highlight the funding problem facing the transit agency. Riders are nervous about their physical safety while stations are decaying and subway cars are breaking down more frequently. As the MTA’s deficit continues to grow, more and more maintenance projects and “state of good repair” renovations have been delayed or postponed until the money materializes.
These reports just remind us that the MTA is facing a crisis both in its wallet and in its system. Hikind is an elected official. Will he do something about it? Will he help deliver more money to the MTA? Someone has to step up. Who knows who it will be?