Liu questions MTA on rider complaints

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A Metropolitan Transportation Authority official explained at length to a City Council committee last Thursday how the agency responds to complaints from riders, but some committee members said the MTA failed to show instances where anything is actually done about grievances.

City Councilman John Liu (D-Flushing) convened a public hearing at City Hall after MTA Board Vice Chairman David Mack recently suggested that complaints from the public tend to end up in the trash bin.

MTA officials have since disavowed Mack's comment.

The theme of the hearing was "Are average riders heard?"

Deputy Executive Director Christopher Boylan told the hearing that more than 2.3 million complaints are received each year by the MTA via the MTA Web site, e-mail, regular mail, telephone calls, walk-ins and directly to transit employees.

Boyland said the MTA gets around 40,000 e-mails and 12,000 letters a year. The agency responds to e-mails immediately by confirming they are received and sends out letters in 14 to 21 days, he said.

"Mr. Chairman, at the end of the day, there is perhaps no better way to provide our customers with what they want than giving them safe, on-time service," Boylan said.

Cissy Stamm of Manhattan, testifying with her service dog, an Anatolian Shepherd named Wargas beside her, said she felt that she was surely one straphanger who has not been heard.

She said the problem, for her part, was that the MTA is not complying with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act.

"I have been denied entrance to numerous buses because of my dog, even to the point that buses have been taken out of service because of me," Stamm said.

Aaron Donovan, an MTA spokesman, said he could not respond because of current litigation involving Stamm.

Donovan said, however, that "we strongly disagree that we are not in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act."

"It's clear the MTA has established various avenues through which complaints are received," Liu said. "But whether those complaints are actually resolved and how long it takes to actually resolve them is painfully unclear. This only inflates the existing public perception that what MTA Board Vice Chairman Mack said is absolutely true: Complaints from the public are not heard and simply added to the proverbial 'circular file,' " Liu said, holding up a trash container.

Liu said the MTA "needs to have a comprehensive system not just to track incoming complaints, but more importantly track the resolution of those complaints."

City Councilman Oliver Koppell (D-Bronx) called Boyland's presentation "woefully inadequate as far as telling of any resolution of these complaints."

Other Queens council members at the hearing were Joseph Addabbo (D-Howard Beach) and Diana Reyna (D-Brooklyn).

Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e-mail at or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 136.

Posted 6:37 pm, October 10, 2011
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