MTA System Fighters Research Memo Revised

Everyone knows the MTA systems aren’t perfect. Governor Cuomo himself deemed this a problem, stated that “New York City’s transit system are in a ‘state of emergency’.” He also stated that subway “delays are maddening New Yorkers” who are “infuriated by a lack of communication and unreliability”, which we can all agree with. Governor Cuomo even went as far as ordering the MTA to address this issue.

The MTA then made this a priority and has tried to better manage its short-term inspection, repair, and replacement schedule for tracks, signals, and subway cars to avoid unexpected disruptions to the schedules of nearly 6 million daily subway riders. However, their side task was to partially repair the damage done by cutbacks to inspections, maintenance, and repairs made in the wake of the 2008 financial and economic crisis. And even as the MTA’s budget for pensions, health care, and debt continued to grow. The MTA also announced plans to deploy medical crews more quickly to passengers in need of assistance, thus reducing delays due to sick or incapacitated riders.

Every month, the MTA reports information to its board on specific areas of subway performance. This includes the percentage of subway trains that arrive at their stop on time; the average distance, in miles, that a subway car can travel before breaking down; the number of “major incidents” that disrupted service for 50 or more subway trains at once; and the percentage of weekday passengers’ journeys that arrive within five minutes of the scheduled time.

The good news is, however, the MTA has stabilized its operations, and at the same time, stopped the declines in performance. Also, Governor Cuomo wasn’t wrong to note that Lhota had “stabilized the subway system.”

However, the MTA has not regained its performance levels of the early 2010s. Despite  improvements over the past year, nearly three times as many weekday trains experience delays compared with 2011, when Cuomo first took office. Trains are still almost 30% more likely to break down. The MTA hasn’t stopped the decline in ridership that resulted from its recent declining performance. A month after Governor Cuomo’s declaration of emergency in 2017, the MTA launched a “subway action plan,” promising to “deliver improvements within the year.” The MTA would mainly focus on track and signal-system improvements and train-car reliability, deploying hundreds of new workers toward inspecting, repairing, and replacing track segments. On top of that, they will be ensuring that the system’s early-20th-century signal system did not break down as often.

The MTA has also made changed management. In January 2018, Andy Byford, a veteran of mass-transit systems in Toronto and London, joined the MTA as president of New York City Transit, in charge of subways and buses. In late October, Byford told 60 Minutes’ Bill Whitaker, “I absolutely want New Yorkers to start feeling, by the end of this year, it’s definitely getting better.”

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