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NYC subway sees ‘dramatic’ improvements in service, MTA says

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But improvements can’t continue without a dedicated revenue source, such as congestion pricing, officials argue

Scott Lynch

Your morning commute may still feel like a slog most days of the week, but believe it or not, subway service is getting better.

The MTA’s numbers for January show what the agency says is a “dramatic” improvement in service from the same time last year: This January, weekday on-time performance was at 76.7 percent, compared to 58 percent last year; on weekends, it was at 83 percent, compared to 64.7 percent in 2018. And there were 42,348 weekday delays, which seems like a lot—until you compare it to the 76,287 that occurred in January of 2018.

(Aaron Gordon points out in his Signal Problems newsletter that January 2018 was a “historically bad” month for the MTA, so it gives the agency a low point of comparison for the most recent numbers.)

“Our concerted efforts are paying off in the form of fewer delays, less waiting, faster trips and an overall better experience for our customers,” New York City Transit president Andy Byford said during a press conference at the Fulton Center transportation hub.

MTA officials say that that Subway Action Plan, which was put into place by Gov. Andrew Cuomo during the terrible-for-transit summer of 2017, is largely responsible for the subway’s recent improvements. The fixes that have been implemented include signal repairs, getting debris off of the tracks, and fixing rails. Not mentioned by the MTA is the Save Safe Seconds campaign, which is working to get trains moving faster—and has been making progress since it was implemented last year.

The agency also used this as a chance to nudge the state legislature to give the thumbs-up to congestion pricing, which Cuomo has been touting hard in recent months. Officials noted during the press conference that not only does the MTA have a growing budget deficit, it does not yet have funding for its capital plan for 2020-2024. Without congestion pricing, they claim, fares could go up by as much as 30 percent in order to fill those funding gaps. (The MTA’s board is due to vote on the next fare hike at a meeting this week.)

“[I]n order to achieve the subway system that New Yorkers deserve and that [New York City Transit] employees are capable of delivering, we need sustainable, adequate funding through means such as congestion pricing,” Byford said during the presser.