A New York Times investigation reveals why the NYC subway system is such a mess
- The New York Times published an investigative report on Saturday that explained why the New York City subway system has become increasingly unreliable.
- The report found that a combination of decreased funding, financial mismanagement, and generous union deals contributed to the subway system's declining performance.
- Just 65% of trains reach their destination within five minutes of their expected arrival on weekdays, which is the lowest rate among any major metropolitan rapid transit system, according to the report.
Using the New York City subway system can be a frustrating experience, a fact residents often take for granted. But the New York Times published an investigative report on Saturday that outlined many of the reasons why subway performance has declined rapidly in recent years.
The report found that a combination of decreased funding, financial mismanagement, generous union deals, and a lack of accountability among various city and state organizations created an environment that prioritized short-term political benefits over the long-term health of the subway system. Now, only 65% of trains reach their destination within five minutes of their scheduled time on weekdays, which is the lowest rate of any major metropolitan rapid transit system.
And while the number of people who ride the subways each day has almost doubled over the past 20 years to 5.7 million, the system has become less reliable. The percentage of trains that are over five minutes late to their destination has increased in 14 of the past 15 years.
According to the Times, that level of performance is no accident. This is what the paper found after interviewing more than 300 people and digging through thousands of pages of city and state records.
- The New York City government, which is responsible for about 10% of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority's budget, has decreased its contributions by nearly 75% since 1990.
- While former Governor George Pataki was in office, the state government decided to stop offering subsidies to the M.T.A. Now, the authority is funded through fares, tolls, and tax revenue.
- The state government decreased subway maintenance funding during the 1990s, despite the fact that the state's overall budget nearly doubled. It has also diverted a minimum of $850 million in tax revenue intended for transit spending to tax cuts and other priorities over the past 20 years.
- Current Governor Andrew Cuomo's administration made the M.T.A. spend $5 million to assist state-run ski resorts after a difficult winter.
- The percentage of the M.T.A.'s budget that is used for debt payments-17%-is around three times higher than it was twenty years ago.
- While the M.T.A. has faced decreasing funding, members of the Transport Workers union saw their salaries increase by 19% between 2009 and 2016. The average annual salary for a subway worker is $170,000 each year, while subway managers make an average of $280,000 per year.
- After the financial crisis in 2008, the M.T.A. lengthened the intervals between maintenance time on subway cars from 66 to 73 days, and increased the amount of time between comprehensive overhauls from six to seven years.
M.T.A Chairman Joe Lhota gave the following statement to Business Insider:
"I believe that the New York City subway is the circulatory system that allows the economic engine of our region to function and flourish. And like all circulatory systems that are overused and not maintained, they become sclerotic. It doesn't have to stay this way. In July, I proposed a Subway Action Plan to get the subways back to a state of reliability and to begin the process of modernization. Unlike the naysayers, I believe the subway system can be fixed and put back on track. Our survival as a city depends on a reliable mass transit system. We know what has caused the problems. Now let's fix it."
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