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Subway line managers make a difference: MTA

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A City Council committee heard testimony as to whether the New York City Transit Authority’s appointment of managers for each subway line was worthwhile and by most accounts the answer was yes.

NYCTA President Howard Roberts told the Council Transportation Committee, headed by Councilman John Liu (D-Flushing), that he began a pilot program of separate managers on the L and No. 7 lines Dec. 6, 2007.

The separate managers system was later expanded to all 22 subway lines.

Roberts said he made the decision because “we needed to reorganize the Department of Subways to provide the accountability necessary to yield measurable improvements in service.”

Roberts explained that “customers would, under such a system, have a recognizable face in the form of a line general manager to associate with each of the lines and accountability was thereby established at the local level.

“And, perhaps most importantly, having a complete responsibility for your own subway line — running your own railroad — is a terrific job that is bound to bring out the best in an individual,” Roberts said at the Sept. 23 hearing.

Roberts said the Transit Authority’s Rider Report Cards, which straphangers fill out and return to the agency, have reflected a steady improvement in service since the change.

Gene Russianoff, attorney for the transit advocacy agency Straphangers Campaign, told the committee that “we believe that the line general managers system offers tangible benefits.”

“The 7 and the L — the first two lines in the line general manager program and which were given new managers and more cleaners — came out on top on the Straphangers Campaign annual State of the Subways report card both in July 2008 and July 2009,” Russianoff said. “We wrote in the 2009 report: ‘The 7 and L got benefits from more independent managers and more resources.’

“As more subway lines are run by managers with greater authority and accountability, we hope they can improve service, even if the lines are not getting added cleaning staffing and will absorb cuts in maintenance and station personnel,” Russianoff said.

Curtis Tate, president of the Transport Workers Union, Local 100, said: “Thus far, the line managers program has yielded positive results. So long as it remains tied to meaningful policy and orientation, this should continue.”

At the outset of the hearing, Liu told Roberts he was to “highly commend” No. 7 Line Manager John Hoban.

“John was a great help to us when fire broke out in downtown Flushing and the service on the No. 7 line was disrupted for a number of hours,” Liu said. “He was there all day and into the night.”

Last October a fast-moving fire engulfed more than a half a dozen buildings on Roosevelt Avenue and interrupted service on the nearby No. 7 line.

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

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