The New York Post would like you to know that subway delays are up.
Subway delays are the bane of any New Yorker’s existence. They hit seemingly at random but also only when the trains are crowded and un-air-conditioned and only when one is running late. Or at least that’s how it seems to feel. According to New York City Transit numbers, as shown above, subway delays are actually on the rise this year.
I briefly touched upon this uptick in delays on Friday. Over the weekend, Patrick Gallahue of the New York Post explored just how NYC Transit is planning on addressing these delays. With the average number of delays up 27 percent over the 12 months prior to March compared with the same time period a year ago, the MTA is trying to beef up how it is assessing subway delays and how it responds to them.
The agency is planning to use a system similar to the one that the NYPD employs for statistical analysis of criminal offenses, known as CompStat, to investigate why an increasing number of trains are lagging behind schedule.
“We are undertaking a major effort to categorize all the reasons [for the delays] and try to deal with them on a systematic basis,” NYC Transit President Howard Roberts said [Friday]. “Essentially, we will adopt something very close to the city’s CompStat system for crime and apply it to on-time performance.”
CompStat is an interesting model for the MTA to pursue. Initiated in the early 1990s by William Bratton, then the NYPD head, the program analyzed crime reports in a way that helped police leaders from the chief on down to precinct commanders identify trends and criminal hotspots. It was supposed to be responsible for an improved city response to rising crime rates and helped turn the tide against a crime in the Big Apple.
The only problem is that those assumptions — that CompStat worked and was the driving factor behind a reduction in crime — have been challenged by economists, urban planners and other academics. Steven Levitt of Freakonomics fame wrote an article (PDF) noting that various other factors including increased police presence contributed to the reduction in crime as much if not more than the CompStat reports.
But indisputably, the CompStat approach here will help the MTA. By implementing an analytic software tool, the MTA will be in a better position to note which lines are suffering from which types of delays. As the line manager program expands, the people in charge — the analogous NYPD personnel would be the precinct commander — could address the problematic hotspots along their subway lines. Everyone wins.
Of course, this all seems like common sense, and of course, the MTA will be unable to avoid delays caused by chronic door-holders. But this new system should benefit everyone. As William Henderson, a member of the Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee, said to The Post, “There are probably some delays you can’t do much about. The challenge is to find the delays you can do something about and try to put something in place to reduce those.”