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MTA wastes time and money during subway diversions: audit

A NYCTA employee informs straphangers that the 7

A NYCTA employee informs straphangers that the 7 train was out of service from Times Square to Queensboro Plaza and offered alternatives for travel crosstown and into Queens. Photo Credit: RJ Mickelson

Here’s something to think about the next time your train isn’t running on the weekend.

The MTA is horribly bungling its fix-it jobs, costing the agency big bucks while needlessly inconveniencing straphangers, according to a joint audit by the city and state comptrollers. The worst part is, sometimes work isn’t even being done.

“The management of these diversions is wasteful, unproductive and is taking New Yorkers down the wrong track,” State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said Sunday, standing below the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge, where shuttle buses replaced No. 7 train service to Manhattan.

The audit examined 29 diversions over a two-month span in 2010 and found that work started late on 28 and ended early on 21, costing the cash-strapped MTA $10.6 million.

Even when work was done early, trains were not always immediately put back into service. In one instance, work finished 10 hours before subways began picking up passengers.

The comptrollers also said some projects blew the agency’s budget; four contracts alone cost a combined $26.6 million more than expected. If they had checked all diversions (the MTA only gave them access to 29), City Comptroller John Liu said that amount “would absolutely be more.”

Responding to the audit, Transit President Tom Prendergast said although there is “some inherent inefficiency in the diversion implementation process… [New York City Transit] looks for ways to keep unproductive time to a minimum.”

The MTA said service diversions are necessary because the transit system runs 24-7. And although work is coordinated so multiple jobs in the same area are done simultaneously to avoid shutdowns later, “some projects are extremely involved, requiring several shutdowns,” the agency added.

Some weekends as many as 18 lines have been diverted.

The comptrollers also slammed the MTA for doing a poor job telling riders about subway diversions.

“There’s a lot of chaos and frustration among the public,” Liu said.

NYU Student Alex Mayo said he was annoyed that he sometimes has to pay for a cab on weekends when he can’t get home to Clinton Hill by subway.

“We all buy MetroCards and spend money that should be going towards subways,” said Mayo, 21. “People living on the G line should not be taken advantage of.”

(With Tiffany Lo)

When auditors went to 39 subway stations affected by diversions last June and July, they found several flaws with the way straphangers were notified of service changes. They included:

- No more than 20 signs posted in a station — far fewer than the 50 the MTA claimed to have posted.
- No signs in a language other than English.
- One sign in 10 stations along the 1 and 2 lines, though there were none on platforms, in cars or out on the street.
- Signs in only two of 13 elevators at Americans with Disabilities Act stations.
- Not running enough ads in newspapers, despite the MTA’s policy to do so.

(NYS/NYC Comptrollers’ Audit)


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