MTA considers shutting whole subway lines to do work

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MTA Chairman Jay Walder has suggested it might be a good idea to inconvenience straphangers big time for a short time instead of annoying them for a long time — the common practice during repairs to the city’s subways.

Walder was speaking of what his agency calls “necessary track work.”

He spoke about the problem last week not long after City Comptroller John Liu questioned whether so many “necessary track work” shutdowns and the accompanying transit disruptions really were necessary.

Liu and state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli had just announced they were undertaking a joint audit of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. Liu said they also planned to look into whether the time transit lines were crippled because of “necessary track work” might be mitigated.

Walder said he and New York City Transit President Thomas Prendergast had reached no decision but were looking into the idea of getting track work done faster — even if they had to shut down stretches of subway lines on weekdays.

“The idea is we would get in there and in a very concentrated period of time and get it done more rapidly,” Walder said.

Walder, who came to the MTA from a high-level executive job in the London transit system, said that in London they sometimes close down entire subway lines for repairs and maintenance.

Increasingly, the MTA has come under fire for shutting down the No. 7 line between Queens and Manhattan for multiple weekends.

The two comptrollers said their audit, which could require months, would review the fiscal and community impact of subway disruptions and how effectively and efficiently the MTA managed planned service changes.

“New Yorkers need the MTA,” DiNapoli said. “But they don’t have a lot of confidence that the MTA is doing its best to provide the service the city needs.”

Liu said. “Our examination of the MTA will shed light on whether ‘necessary track work’ has become an overused black hole of an excuse.”

Meanwhile, Long Island Rail Road commuters were reminded Monday of the MTA’s financial straits with canceled trains and altered departure and arrival times.

More service cuts are to come on the LIRR in September.

About six weeks remain until the MTA’s planned shutdown of the V and W subway lines and of the end or curtailment of many bus lines.

The MTA has an $800 million budget shortfall as a result of reduced money from the state and a plunge in tax receipts due to the economic downturn.

The agency plans to lay off 550 bus workers June 27 as well as more than 100 subway workers by early July.

The MTA had previously announced layoffs of 550 subway booth agents, but a judge ordered the layoffs delayed since the agency had not held public hearings.

Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e-mail at or phone at 718-260-4536.

Updated 5:55 pm, October 10, 2011
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