Last week, subway commuters faced a tangle of delays, detours and cancellations. Electrical problems, switch problems, signal problems and a broken rail wreaked havoc on the A, B, C, D, E, F, M, N, Q, R, W and S lines during Tuesday and Wednesday’s commutes. The MTA insisted nevertheless that things are getting better. To riders forced to walk in the slush instead last week, that sounds absurd — because it is. We now have three months’ worth of data from the results of the MTA’s “action plan” to fix the trains — and the most charitable interpretation of that data is that it will take a long time to fix a mess that was years in the making.
Remember back when it was warm out, Gov. Cuomo declared the subways to be in crisis. In June, he tapped Joe Lhota to serve as chairman to beat the disaster, because Lhota had handled Superstorm Sandy well five years earlier when he oversaw the trains then.
In July, Lhota unveiled his “subway action plan.” He promised to reduce delays through better track and signal maintenance, more reliable subway cars and improved cleanliness and communication. The effort requires an additional $456 million in annual operating spending, including for 2,700 permanent new workers, in addition to the subway system’s preexisting $9.5 billion budget.
These are all good ideas, even if the MTA, under Cuomo’s previous leadership, should have thought of them already.
But Cuomo declared victory too quickly. The governor said in September that “if you were looking very carefully, you would see improvement already.”
Last week, the MTA doubled down on its imagined triumph, noting that “major incidents” are down by 40 percent since July.
That’s not true — or only true if you compare summer and autumn to winter and spring, instead of a season to the previous year’s season. The latter is a far better measure because of similar crowding and weather.
The MTA is slow to release data. But even with this, er, delay, we…