Maintenance and Inspection of Event Recorder Units (Follow-Up)

Issued Date
October 21, 2021
Metropolitan Transportation Authority - New York City Transit


To determine the extent of implementation of the seven recommendations included in our initial audit report, Maintenance and Inspection of Event Recorder Units (Report 2018-S-19).

About the Program

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) is a public benefit corporation chartered by the New York State Legislature. MTA’s New York City Transit (Transit) is the largest public transportation agency in North America and one of the largest in the world. As of August 25, 2021, Transit has 6,455 subway cars that travel over 665 miles of track and covered over 325 million miles during 2020. In 2000, Transit began to deploy its New Technology Train (NTT) cars (R142, R142A, R143, R160, and R188). In June 2020, the R179 train cars were deployed into revenue service. The NTTs are installed with Event Recording Units (ERUs) or “black boxes.” ERUs are a valuable safety feature that allow for the monitoring of the train equipment and technical analysis of incidents/accidents based on data they record. ERUs are installed in the cars used by train operators and conductors. Each ERU has different capacities and attributes based on the model and age of the unit. In 1998, the Federal Railway Administration established that the ERUs must have a minimum of 48 hours of recording memory capacity.

As of December 31, 2020, the average weekday ridership was 2,040,580, and in 2019, the average weekday ridership was 5,493,875 – a 62.8% decrease in weekday ridership.

The objective of our initial audit, issued on July 18, 2019, was to determine whether Transit complied with maintenance and inspection requirements pertaining to ERUs and whether Transit had a corrective action plan to fix ERU deficiencies that are identified. Our prior audit found that Transit was not in compliance with its ERU maintenance and inspection policy. For instance, train car inspections were not always done timely, and for 129 inspections, maintenance personnel did not provide evidence that they downloaded information from ERUs to ensure that they were functioning correctly, as required by Transit’s work manuals. Model R142 cars, which were brought into revenue service in 2000 after the federal guidance was issued, were also not up to industry standards of 48 hours of recording capacity, and Transit could not retrieve a download when it is requested for a non-emergency incident/accident, primarily in cases where the ERUs have only 12 hours of memory capacity before their data is overwritten. Transit did not fulfill some download requests as a result of this.

Key Findings

We found that Transit officials have made progress in addressing the issues identified in our initial report. Of the seven prior audit recommendations, four were implemented, one was partially implemented, and two were not implemented.

Key Recommendation

Officials are given 30 days after the issuance of the follow-up review to provide information on any action planned to address the unresolved issues discussed in this review.

Carmen Maldonado

State Government Accountability Contact Information:
Audit Director: Carmen Maldonado
Phone: (212) 417-5200; Email: [email protected]
Address: Office of the State Comptroller; Division of State Government Accountability; 110 State Street, 11th Floor; Albany, NY 12236