MTA plans cleaning cuts amid fiscal, ridership woes

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A drop in subway riders, coupled with the MTA’s financial straits, have forced transit officials to begin drastically cutting back the number of people who clean the city’s subway cars and stations.

The No. 7 and L trains, which employ more cleaners than other lines, will suffer heavy cuts.

New York City Transit Authority President Howard Roberts said, “This is the reality of the numbers and the financial pressure we are under.”

Roberts told the monthly meeting of the Transit Committee of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority Monday that more than 350 cleaners, painters, maintenance and managerial jobs are slated to be cut next year.

The total cuts of cleaning staff will bring a $33 million saving, transit officials said.

The cuts would involve 63 subway car cleaners and 25 station cleaners, as well as 308 management jobs.

The MTA has already been eliminating subway station personnel.

The MTA has borrowed $25 billion over the past few years and the interest is expected to consume $1 billion by next year.

But revenue is also down from a 3.5 percent decrease in numbers of subway riders over the past year as a result of a worsening economy.

Prominent in the cleaning staff cuts will be the No. 7 and L trains. Both had received extra cleaners — more than other lines — as part of a pilot program.

Roberts said there are already gaps in the cleaning schedule.

“The basic problem is that we need a cleaner in every station for every tour [work shift] every day and we are a long, long way from that,” Roberts said.

The Transit Authority had good news about breakdowns of subway cars.

Roberts said following nearly two years of worsening breakdowns, subway trains traveled an average of 185,000 miles this past year before breaking down, a nearly 40 percent improvement.

“We have turned the corner,” Roberts said.

The N line led the transit system in reliability and the A trains came in last.

Answering complaints about poor subway service on weekends, transit officials said that is when maintenance work is done and there was no way around it.

Roberts said the only other time it could be done was at night.

“This is New York City,” Roberts said. “It is not practical.”

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

Posted 6:31 pm, October 10, 2011
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