Earlier this morning, I examined the MTA’s report card from the Permanent Citizen’s Advisory Committee to the agency. The MTA got slammed on its capital construction programs and technology implementation efforts while it earned praise for sustainability initiatives and leadership.
Now, let’s tackle New York City Transit’s write-up. The subway-operating agency earned high marks all around from PCAC. Again, the full report is here as a PDF, and I’ll run down the highlights right now.
The committee appreciates the leadership at NYC Transit. Howard Roberts, agency president, is praised for his “openness, thoughtfulness and foresight.” Roberts has come across the same way to me in my interactions with him, and he’s the right man for the job right now.
In terms of organization, PCAC also praises Joseph Smith and his efforts at consolidating the NYC Transit bus operations. The committee report offers up a qualified assessment of the line manager program: “It has imparted a sense of ownership to managers and helped quantify what it takes to provide a reliable level of service and well-maintained stations. However, it is still not clear how success is going to be measured.” I believe the Rider Report Cards are supposed to provide for a measure of success, but whether those are reliable remains to be seen.
Unfortunately for straphangers, PCAC’s most glowing praise refers to services that will soon be cut. The resumption of late-night 3 train express service from 148th St. in Harlem to Times Square is called “one of the most commendable achievements by NYCT” in 2008, and the shortened headways on the 1, 4, 6 and 42nd St. Shuttle “were appreciated.” With the planned service cuts designed to increase headway throughout the system, these positive gains may be short-lived.
The PCAC’s NYC Transit Riders Council also recognizes the success of the Select Bus Service in the Bronx. “As a joint MTA/NYCT project with the New York City Police Department and the New York City Department of Transportation, this is an excellent example of cooperation among various agencies,” they write. “The NYCTRC is pleased to see this promising start to implementation of SBS throughout the City.” The report calls upon Transit to provide more Select Bus Service with an eye toward the parts of Queens that don’t enjoy subway access.
As far as construction and system upgrades go, NYC Transit received mixed marks. The Myrtle-Wyckoff modernization project was haled as “an excellent example of station modernization.” The continued decrepitude of the Chambers St./Nassau loop continued to alarm the committee. “Unfortunately, this effort, costing $30 million, hardly made a dent in the overall deleterious condition of this once beautiful station,” the report says. “There is severe water leakage damage, peeling paint, loose wires, and a general ragtag condition throughout the facility. This situation is hardly appropriate for the New York City Hall location which is above the station.”
As they did with the MTA, PCAC reserves its most scathing language for the South Ferry debacle. “The Agency needs to identify where and why these errors occurred and describe steps that are being taken to improve project management.”
Escalators and elevators continue to haunt New York City Transit. While Transit has met its goal of 67 elevator stations by 2010 ahead of schedule, escalators are another beast. Six of the 12 new motion sensitive escalators at Herald Square were listed in a fourth-quarter report as “out of service awaiting contractor to perform warranty repair work.” Perhaps Transit purchased a few lemons.
On the communication front, again, Transit receives some mixed grades. PCAC likes the Rider Report Card program and calls it a definite step toward a better rider experience. They fault NYCT though for the state of its public address system. That’s not a surprise.
In the end, while the MTA is puttering along, New York City Transit seems to be thriving. They’re making smart choices that are designed to benefit the maximum number of riders. If Albany sits up and takes notice, they will see a city that needs this transit system and a transit system excelling at a time of great future uncertainty.