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Crazy train—Report: MTA’s impact on lives of commuters

Cyril Josh Barker | 7/13/2017, 9:35 a.m.
Almost three-quarters of people who use New York City subways reported being late for work over the past three months, ...
Scene of recent subway train derailment in Harlem Photo by Bill Moore

Almost three-quarters of people who use New York City subways reported being late for work over the past three months, and 2 percent lost their jobs. The numbers come from an eye-opening report released recently by City Comptroller Scott Stringer.

The results are from a major citywide survey of subway riders, highlighting the effects of subway delays on people’s lives and livelihoods and illustrating widespread dissatisfaction with service. More than 1,200 in-person surveys gathered at 143 stations from 150 ZIP codes across all five boroughs revealed that residents in lower-income communities are more likely to be reprimanded at work, lose wages or suffer other consequences as a result of delays than those living in higher-income areas.

Breaking down the numbers, 22 percent of those surveyed said delayed trains caused them to be late for a job interview, 18 percent were reprimanded by their supervisors and 13 percent lost wages.

Half of those surveyed said that when they were delayed they had to take a cab or another for-hire vehicle to work, 42 percent walked to work, 40 percent took a bus, 10 percent drove and 6 percent biked.

“This is a crisis—there’s no doubt about it. Delays are rising, service is declining and New Yorkers are frustrated like never before. What we show here is that behind every delay, there’s a human cost, and behind every service disruption, there are lives affected. This report shows that inconsistent and delayed service is impacting New Yorkers in big ways and small, each and every day,” Stringer said.

Major concerns about the MTA have been highlighted in recent weeks by the subway derailment at 125th Street that left 40 people injured and the start of the “Summer of Hell” that began this week at Penn Station to make way for massive repairs through Sept. 1. Transit officials predicted delays to service in and out of the city.

In late June, Gov. Andrew Cuomo declared a State of Emergency for the MTA, citing that “more than 5 million customers use the MTA’s rail and subway system every day, many of whom have no other means of affordable and safe transportation to meet their daily needs.”

MTA Chairman Joe Lhota responded to Cuomo’s challenge by announcing he will conduct a top-to-bottom audit to overhaul the organization and present a plan within 60 days to modernize the subway system. The agency will do a comprehensive audit of the challenges facing it and the limitations of the organization to identify strategies for short- and long-term transformational change. Thirty days later, the MTA will then put forward a detailed, long-term plan.

“Millions of New Yorkers depend on the MTA every day, and we must rebuild confidence in the authority with a complete overhaul of the system—identifying the root causes of our problems and taking immediate and decisive action to fix them,” Lhota said. “It is our responsibility to transport people as safely, quickly and efficiently as possible, and the current state of the subway system is unacceptable.”