State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli and City Comptroller John Liu have issued a report accusing the MTA of failing to effectively handle planned disruptions in service for maintenance and inadequately informing straphangers in moves that cost taxpayers millions of dollars.
“Diversions” is the term transit officials use when a section of a subway must be shut down for maintenance. In such cases, electricity is shut off along the track, workers are evacuated and alternate service is provided for riders.
“When the MTA fails to manage its service diversions properly, it’s more than an inconvenience. It’s a waste of taxpayer money and it derails local businesses,” DiNapoli said Sunday at a news conference near the Queensboro Plaza stop.
“Our audit found that MTA’s service diversions are increasing in frequency and leaving taxpayers on the hook for millions of dollars in cost overruns,” the audit found. “The subway system is showing its age, but the MTA has to do a better job managing all aspects of these diversions from rider notification to budgeting.”
The No. 7 line between Flushing and Times Square has had frequent suspension of service on weekends for maintenance work and some regular subway schedules have been modified during non-peak travel, drawing criticism from riders.
“Spending on diversions is not properly managed,” the report said. “The comptrollers reviewed 15 diversions covered by 12 contracts budgeted at $141.7 million. The audit said four of the contracts went over budget.
Kevin Ortiz, a Metropolitan Transportation Authority spokesman, said: “Due to the 24-hour, seven-days-a-week operation of the subway system, planned service diversions are necessary in order to perform maintenance and capital work. We make every effort to minimize customer inconvenience by coordinating work — performing multiple jobs in the same area so that we do not have to go back again.
“However, some projects are extremely involved, requiring several shutdowns. We strive to keep customers aware of the diversions, utilizing station and in-car signage along with announcements both in stations and on board trains. Detailed information is also provided on the MTA website and through our e-mail and text alerts.”
The comptrollers’ audit said the Transit Authority does too little to inform riders of service diversions.
In June and July 2010, auditors visited 39 stations affected by diversions and found:
• no more than 20 signs at any station despite Transit’s claim of posting 50 on each platform
• no signs in any language besides English at all 39 stations despite Transit’s policy
• one sign in each of 10 stations on the Nos. 1 and 2 lines, but no signs at street level, in cars or on platforms
• only two of 13 Americans with Disabilities Act stations had signs in elevators
The audit checked work orders from Jan. 1, 2009, to July 14, 2010.
Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e-mail at timesledge
©2011 Community News Group
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