TAKEN FOR A RIDE
Byford toots horn over subway repairs, but commuters decry delays
Fed up with being jammed in like sardines on overcrowded trains? Tired of wondering if the station ceiling will fall on you? Bugged over conductors saying your train is delayed because of who knows what the heck up ahead?
Buck up, customers! The MTA says the subway is getting better.
“We are beginning to turn the corner,” NYC Transit President Andy Byford declared Monday at an MTA board meeting as his staffers offered up a slew of numbers and statistics to show how they’re fixing the trains.
MTA crews have sealed 2,000 ceiling leaks. They’ve cleared 340 miles of drains. They’ve vacuumed up 285 miles of track — that’s less than half the system’s total trackage, but the MTA says that its vacuum trains at least hit every station.
But riders — “customers,” to MTA bosses — aren’t noticing any improvement yet.
“Really?” said Mike Basil, 37, an autoworker from Brooklyn who waited patiently Monday night for an R train in Bay Ridge. “Nothing seems to be fixed,” said Basil. “Have they ridden the subway?”
“I don’t know what subway they’re riding,” said Anita Stuart, 57, a typist from the Bronx as she boarded a Manhattan-bound D train at 36th St. in Brooklyn. “The delays are still here. You look at the clocks that say [a train will arrive in] one minute. But 10 minutes later, there is no train.”
Even as he touted the system’s improvements, Byford conceded that MTA customers are still unhappy.
“We are as frustrated as anyone that we’re not yet seeing the sea change, the breakthrough in performance, that we all know that we have to have,” he conceded. “We’re going to stick at it.” The MTA’s senior vice president of subways, Sally Librera, outlined some of the work completed by crews since Gov. Cuomo declared a state of emergency on the subways in June 2017.
Crews have fixed more than 13,000 track defects and installed 30 miles of new rail. They’ve inspected signals at 11,000 locations in the system, and cleaned 8,7000 insulated joints on signal wiring.
Mechanical systems on more than 1,600 train cars — a quarter of the fleet — were repaired. Inspections were completed on all 6,418 subway cars, and 800 doors got upgrades.
The result: customers faced shorter waits on subway platforms — in June, waits averaged one minute and 11 seconds.
The data “show that we have turned the corner on our worsening reliability,” Librera said.
“We know that we haven’t won it back yet and that we have more to do … We’re not declaring victory today by any means,” she added.
But not everything is rosy, MTA data show.
Major incidents involving at least 50 trains are virtually unchanged. In August 2017, there were 63 such incidents. In August 2018, there were 62 — a drop of one.
Carl Weisbrod, an MTA board member appointed by Mayor de Blasio, said the intensive repairs have at least stabilized the subway’s woes.
But he said the data touted by Byford and other MTA staff show only a “marginal improvement.”
Many riders don’t even see marginal changes.
“There’s still a significant amount of delays,” said Flora Choi, 30, an artist ot looking forward to the shutdown of the L train next year.
“I feel like a lot of New Yorkers learn to live with it,” Choi said.
NYC Transit President Andy Byford says subways are getting better. Most straphangers, however, would beg to differ.
It feels like sardine city to straphangers, no matter what NYC Transit Prez Andy Byford (below) says.