If the MTA doesn't own one of the subway's many broken escalators, then the agency is in no rush to get it fixed, a new report finds.
The cash-strapped MTA has let privately owned subway escalators and elevators stay shut down for years, failing to force the companies that own the machinery to fix it, according to an audit by the MTA inspector general released Thursday.
In the worst examples, four Manhattan subway escalators that were supposed to be maintained by private companies were out of service for three years or more, according to inspector general Barry Kluger.
"This is not fair to the riders," Kluger told amNewYork. "While this disservice is largely the result of private owners not meeting their obligations, a share of the fault belongs to the MTA and New York City Transit, which have not effectively managed their own responsibilities regarding this equipment."
Though the MTA is responsible for most subway escalators and elevators, today's audit focused on 33 privately operated ones at 13 Manhattan subway stations, including Columbus Circle, Times Square, Union Square and Grand Central Station.
In most cases, the companies agreed to maintain nearby straphanger passageways in exchange for special permits to build taller buildings or get other perks.
Some other findings:
- While the MTA keeps an online list of out-of-service escalators and elevators, the agency omitted nine that were broken at times, keeping straphangers in the dark about their status.
- There was finger pointing between MTA departments as to who was responsible for monitoring the equipment. The agency didn't even keep a list of which machinery is theirs and which are supposed to be fixed by outside companies.
- In some cases, it took up to 31 months for the MTA to get its legal office to notify the companies that their equipment was broken. None of the companies returned calls from amNewYork yesterday.
Among his recommendations, Kluger said the MTA should try to partner with the city to push companies to hold up their end of their contracts, or for the agency to fix the equipment themselves and then send a bill to the companies.
In response to the audit, the MTA said it would "take a more aggressive approach to address outages ... to restore service as quickly as possible."
Straphangers said they were tired of seeing escalators and elevators out of service.
"Sometimes you have to run up the stairs really far, and it's really annoying," said Alex Evans, 24, as he passed an escalator at Lexington Ave./53rd St. that has been out of service since 2008. "What's the point of having an escalator if it's always broken?"
Follow reporter Marc Beja on Twitter: @marc_beja