MTA Touts Decreased Delays Amid Subway Action Plan, But Finances Remain ‘Dire’

The Union Turnpike-Kew Gardens Station in Kew Gardens.  Eagle  photo by Jonathan Sperling.

The Union Turnpike-Kew Gardens Station in Kew Gardens. Eagle photo by Jonathan Sperling.

By Jonathan Sperling

Subway service hit record levels of reliability last month even though the MTA remains mired in “dire” financial trouble, the agency announced on March 18

Weekday on-time subway performance in February 2019 reached approximately 76.4 percent, an increase from just 60 percent in February 2018 and only 0.3 percent below January 2019, according to the MTA. The agency credited the Subway Action Plan and Save Safe Seconds initiative for the increased reliability, which includes the fewest number of weekday delays that the system has seen in almost five years.

“We are now seeing numbers that show consistent and sustained improvements resulting from the Subway Action Plan and Save Safe Seconds,” said MTA New York City Transit President Andy Byford in a statement. “Our ability to reduce our major daily incidents is resulting in fewer delays, faster trains and an overall better experience for our customers.”

The Subway Action Plan, which was launched in the summer of 2017, utilizes outside contractors and increased workforce hours in order to perform crucial subway maintenance, such as repairing 20,000 track defects, sealing leaks that can cause power and and signal malfunctions, and repairing train door control units on over 1,000 cars to improve reliability, the MTA said.

The Save Safe Seconds campaign has worked in tandem with the Subway Action Plan since its launch in 2018. The initiative has increased track speed limits to as fast as 40 mph in part of the subway system and slated speed increases for parts of Queens and other boroughs, the MTA said.

There were 37,119 in February, a decrease of 38.6 percent compared to February 2018, and the lowest monthly total since August 2014. February 2019 statistics also show a greater durability in subway trains as the “Mean Distance Between Failures” category was 131,798 miles, an increase of 3 percent from February 2018.

Despite the improvements in service, the MTA will still maintain an operating budget deficit of approximately $500 million next year and nearly $1 billion by 2022, according to the agency.

The MTA, along with transit advocates, have repeatedly called on the state legislature to pass congestion pricing, warning that not doing so would force a fare hike of around 30 percent.

"This is another example that the funds invested in the Subway Action Plan by Governor Cuomo, the legislature, and city are delivering sustained improvements and tangible benefits," said MTA President Patrick Foye. "To keep this momentum going, we will need to secure additional and dependable revenue sources so that we can continue the work of improving our system to deliver a service our customers deserve.”