Comptroller report: off-peak subway service decreases even as ridership increases

Stephon Johnson | 3/29/2018, midnight
A new report from New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer shows that off-peak subway service has dropped despite a ridership ...
MTA 7 subway train in Queens Wikipedia

A new report from New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer shows that off-peak subway service has dropped despite a ridership increase during those hours.

According to a report released by the comptroller this month, the MTA has failed to adapt to 57 percent of all job growth coming from the health care, retail, restaurant, hospitality and entertainment industries. These are industries that tend to work nontraditional hours. According to the comptroller, many employees in these industries are New Yorkers of color, immigrants and low-income individuals. “Up until 2010, the MTA routinely added trains in the early morning to keep up with increasing ridership,” read the report. “Since the Great Recession, however, while ridership continued to surge between 5 a.m. and 7 a.m., the MTA did not respond accordingly—leaving riders to wait longer periods for trains that are more crowded.”

The report states that since 1985, half of the daily ridership into the Manhattan central business district happened between the hours of 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. That number dropped to 28 percent in 2015. With the growth in tourism, the service sector and a change in leisure patterns, off-peak ridership expanded during the 5 a.m. to 7 a.m. hours and the 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. hours. But the MTA’s service hasn’t reflected that.

According to the report, the neighborhoods most affected by the lack of off-peak service matching up with ridership are Lenox Hill-Roosevelt Island, East Harlem, Washington Heights South, Borough Park, Flushing, Forest Hills, Elmhurst and Jamaica.

Attempts by the AmNews to contact Stringer for an interview were unsuccessful.

“The comptroller’s analysis is spot-on, but the solution is for the MTA to restore subway service, not to funnel city money into the Subway Action Plan,” said a representative from TransitCenter, a transit advocacy group.

Danny Pearlstein of the Riders Alliance agreed with the TransitCenter representative.

“The subway is underfunded,” Pearlstein said. “We’re having a discussion right now about what kind of revenue source would be created to help fund it. We have signals that go back to the 1930s that constantly malfunction. We have train cars, many of which date back to the ’60s and ’70s. It’s a failure of accountability and a failure of maintenance, which comes down to funding.”

The neighborhoods mentioned above have more than 10,000 service sector jobs, which constitute more than half of the employment in the area. However, they get 50 percent less subway service in the early mornings than in rush hour. Overall, the MTA runs 60 percent fewer trains between 5 a.m. and 6 a.m. than it does between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. Between 9 a.m. and 10 p.m., it’s 60 percent less.

Pearlstein said the fate of the subway rests with New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

“The governor runs the subway,” said Pearlstein. “Under state law, he appoints more members to the MTA board than anyone else and he dominates the state budget process. He can practically put anything in the budget and all but require the state legislation to vote on it. Six million people rely on him to fix the subways.”

Pearlstein concluded about Cuomo, “His fight with the city is a distraction.”