The overall number of repairs needed in New York City’s subway stations has increased, leaving fewer stations in good condition as the system has deteriorated faster than the pace of repairs, according to an analysis of MTA data by New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli.
"Years of underfunding for the MTA capital program has translated into a longer list of needed repairs in New York City’s subway stations, fewer stations in good condition, and ever-increasing rider aggravation," DiNapoli said. "The rising number of potentially hazardous worn or damaged platform edges is particularly troubling. On the plus side, the MTA has been able to reduce the number of the most serious station defects, but a lot more needs to be done to address declining station conditions. It is up to the MTA to prioritize its limited resources to ensure its next capital program improves service and conditions for riders."
MTA’s New York City Transit division surveys stations every five years, looking at structural components (e.g. stairs, platforms, ventilators) and architectural components (e.g. tiles, lighting, walls and ceilings), and rating their condition from 1.0 to 5.0. Under 3.0 is considered in good repair and 3.0 and over are worn or damaged. Serious conditions are rated 4.0 or higher. The MTA recently completed its latest survey, which is based on 2017 observations. The Office of the State Comptroller’s analysis is based on that survey.
Of the nearly 15,500 subway station structural components, the 2017 Transit survey found that 29 percent were worn or damaged, up from 27 percent in 2012. A significant concern is the deterioration in platform edges, which are important to rider safety. A decade ago, Transit made a concerted effort to fix crumbling platform edges after several passengers fell onto the tracks, but the share of edges in need of repair has grown. The latest survey found that 65 percent of platform edges were worn or damaged, up from 43 percent in 2012 (57 percent needed repair in 2007). The number with serious problems (11 percent) went virtually unchanged from 2012 to 2017.
One-third of all stations (158) had serious structural deficiencies (those rated 4.0 or higher) in 2017, down from 188 in 2012. Transit reduced the total number of serious structural deficiencies at all stations by 25 percent between 2012 and 2017 to 474 structural components. The overall number of serious architectural defects was reduced by 89 percent. Despite these efforts, the total number of structural defects (rated 3.0 and above) increased by 8 percent, to 4,491. In addition, only 26 of the 471 stations surveyed (5.5 percent) had all of their structural and architectural components in good repair, half as many as in 2012.
Among the four boroughs served by the subway system, only Brooklyn had a decline in the share of structural components in disrepair since 2012, from 32 percent to 26 percent. Still, the structural components at only 11 of its 170 stations were in good repair, compared with 29 in 2012. More than two-thirds of the structural components at Brooklyn’s Borough Hall 2/3 station were worn or damaged.
Stations in Queens had the largest share of worn or damaged structural components in 2017 (44 percent), followed by the Bronx (34 percent). At Queens’ most heavily used station (Main Street station on the No. 7 line) 45 percent of the structural components were worn or damaged. Not one of the Bronx’s 70 stations had all of their structural components in good repair, compared to 12 in 2012.
Manhattan had the lowest share of structural components in disrepair (24 percent), but only 8 (including 4 that recently opened) of the 150 stations in Manhattan had all of their structural components in good condition, compared with 15 in 2012. The report found that 78 percent of the structural components at the Times Square shuttle station were in need of repair.
Among other issues, the MTA’s survey revealed:
- Only 31 stations had no structural deficiencies, down from 57 stations in 2012;
- 67 stations needed repairs to more than half of their structural components, down from 86 in 2012;
- 149 stations had all of their architectural components in good repair, 8 more than in 2012;
- 17 percent of station stairs were worn or damaged, an improvement since the 2012 survey (23 percent). Less than 1 percent of stairs had serious defects in 2017;
- Tiles or other finishings on more than one-third of platform floors, walls and ceilings needed repair, virtually unchanged from 2012;
- Nearly all station lighting was reported to be in good condition, an improvement from 2012;
- All of the components required painting at 17 stations, up from 6 stations in 2012.
Stations restored to good repair can quickly deteriorate. In 2007, 52 stations had all of their structural components in good repair, but only 8 were still in good repair ten years later. Similarly, of the 57 stations that were in good repair in 2012, only 10 were still in good repair five years later.
DiNapoli’s analysis of subway conditions can be read here https://osc.state.ny.us/osdc/rpt5-2020.pdf.
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