Support for InfrastructureUSA.org
has been provided by these organizations and individuals:

John Hennessy III,
P.E.

The Human Cost of Subway Delays: A Survey of New York City Riders

Posted by Content Coordinator on Thursday, July 20th, 2017

NEW YORK CITY COMPTROLLER, SCOTT M. STRINGER
BUREAU OF POLICY AND RESEARCH

Introduction

The subway is the backbone and circulatory system of New York City. It is among the most extensive and well-trafficked subway systems in the world, carrying millions of riders each day to work, to school, to appointments, to cultural events, and to thousands of other activities that could never be sustained without robust mass transit. It is also among the oldest systems in the world, with much of its critical infrastructure dating back to the early 20th century.

Under pressure from this aging infrastructure and record ridership, subway service has declined dramatically in recent years. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority statistics are clear and indisputable: trains are frequently delayed, platforms are overcrowded, and key infrastructure is being extended beyond its useful life. The physical underpinnings of the system are beginning to fail.

While this declining state of physical repair has been well documented, its effect on people’s lives and livelihoods is too often overlooked. This survey, by New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer, aims to address this gap, providing a real-time snapshot of the personal and material consequences of subway delays.

As the findings make clear, when New Yorkers are left stranded on the subway platform or stuck in a tunnel, they are missing classes and job interviews and doctor’s appointments. They are running late to pick up or drop off their children or care for elderly relatives. They are losing wages and putting their jobs in jeopardy. In short, when subway performance declines, so too does the health, financial security, and quality of life of everyday New Yorkers.

Frustration among subway riders is palpable. In this survey of 1,227 straphangers—gathered during morning and evening commutes at 143 stations over a two week period in June 2017—the Comptroller’s Office found the following:

  • Declining subway service has adversely affected the job security, family life, and healthcare of riders. Among respondents who were employed, subway delays caused 74 percent to be late for a work meeting, 18 percent to be reprimanded, and 13 percent to lose wages. An additional 22 percent of respondents were late for a job interview on account of delays and 2 percent said they were fired.
  • Outside of work, 65 percent of parents said that they had been late to pick-up, dropoff, or attend a child’s function in the last three months due to subway delays, and 29 percent of respondents were late for a medical appointment.
  • Residents of lower income New York City zip codes were fourteen percent more likely to be reprimanded at work on account of subway delays than those from higher income areas, seven percent more likely to be late for a job interview, and four percent more likely to have lost wages. Overall, 42 percent of respondents from lower income areas experienced significant delays “Always” or “More than Half the Time,” compared to 34 percent of those from higher income zip codes.
  • Disparities in service were also evident at the borough level, with residents outside of Manhattan reporting far worse service. Sixty-eight percent of Bronx respondents graded subway service a “D” or an “F,” compared to 41 percent of Queens residents, 37 percent of Brooklynites, and 21 percent from Manhattan. In the Bronx, 54 percent of residents experienced significant delays “more than half of the time” or “always,” compared to 45 percent of Queens residents, 40 percent from Brooklyn, and 25 percent of Manhattanites.
  • In the face of declining service, more and more subway riders are left to rely on alternate forms of transit. Due to subways delays (or anticipated delays), 50 percent of straphangers said they were forced to take a taxi or other for-hire vehicle to work, 42 percent walked to work, 40 percent took a bus, 10 percent drove, and six percent biked.
  • While on-train announcements are meant to clarify the causes of delays and, where relevant, provide information about alternative routes, many riders do not find them useful. Nearly 85 percent of respondents graded these announcements a “C” or lower.
  • Subway riders are highly attuned to declining service. Forty-six percent of respondents found service was “slightly” or “far” worse than last year—higher than the 38 percent who saw no difference and the 16 percent who thought it had improved.
  • Overall, 14 percent of respondents graded subway service an “F,” 24 percent graded it a “D,” and 35 percent graded it a “C.”

Subway Survey

Across the city, subway riders are dissatisfied with the MTA. Nearly three quarters of survey respondents graded service a “C” or lower. One out of seven riders gave the subway a failing grade (see Chart 1).

Chart 1: How would you grade subway service in recent months?

New Yorkers in every borough and on every subway line are experiencing delays. Over 70 percent of respondents reported significant delays at least half the time they used transit while only one percent never experienced a significant delay (see Chart 2).

Chart 2: How often do you experience significant delays?

Declining subway service has adversely affected the professional and personal lives of riders (see Chart 3). Among survey respondents who were employed, subway delays caused 74 percent to be late for a work meeting, 18 percent to be reprimanded, and 13 percent to lose wages. An additional 22 percent of respondents were late for a job interview on account of delays and 2 percent said they were fired.

Outside of work, 65 percent of parents were late to pick-up, drop-off, or attend a child’s function due to subway delays and 29 percent of riders were late for a medical appointment. When trains were stalled, the daily lives of subway riders were clearly affected, compromising their job security, family life, and personal health.

chart 3: How Have Subway delays affected you in the last three months?

These effects were particularly acute in the city’s lower income zip codes – where average incomes were below the $62,150 threshold for a three-person household.1 Residents in these lower income neighborhoods were 14 percent more likely to be reprimanded at work on account of subway delays than respondents from higher income areas, seven percent more likely to be late for a job interview, four percent more likely to have lost wages, and eight percent more likely to be late for a doctor’s appointment (see Chart 4). In short, the most vulnerable New Yorkers appear to also be the most vulnerable to erratic subway service.

Download full version (PDF): The Human Cost of Subway Delays

About the Office of the New York City Comptroller
comptroller.nyc.gov
Comptroller Scott M. Stringer is New York City’s Chief Financial Officer. An independently elected official, he safeguards the City’s fiscal health, roots out waste, fraud and abuse in local government, and ensures that municipal agencies serve the needs of all New Yorkers.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Comments are closed.

Receive Infra Update, our email newsletter.

Follow InfraUSA on Twitter Facebook YouTube Flickr

CATEGORIES


Show us your infra! Show us your infra!

Video, stills and tales. Share images of the Infra in your community that demands attention. Post your ideas about national Infra issues. Go ahead. Show Us Your Infra!  Upload and instantly share your message.

Polls Polls

Is the administration moving fast enough on Infra issues? Are Americans prepared to pay more taxes for repairs? Should job creation be the guiding determination? Vote now!

Views

What do the experts think? This is where the nation's public policy organizations, trade associations and think tanks weigh in with analysis on Infra issues. Tell them what you think.  Ask questions.  Share a different view.

Blog

The Infra Blog offers cutting edge perspective on a broad spectrum of Infra topics. Frequent updates and provocative posts highlight hot button topics -- essential ingredients of a national Infra dialogue.