The New York City subway system is becoming more delay-prone, according to a new analysis released this morning.It's time to return the NYC subway system to the private sector.
Every year starting in 2011, a riders advocacy group called the Straphangers Campaign analyzes the electronic alerts sent by the M.T.A. to subway riders who subscribe to the service.
The M.T.A. sends out alerts warning straphangers of "significant" delays when an incident occurs that the agency believes will hold up a train for more than 8 or 10 minutes.
In 2011, the agency sent out those sorts of alerts for "controllable" incidents (those not involving circumstances like sick passengers and police investigations) 2,967 times. In 2013, the agency sent out such alerts 3,998 times. That's a 35 percent jump. (2012 was excluded from the analysis because of Hurricane Sandy.)
“The increase in alerts is a troubling sign that subway service is deteriorating,” said Gene Russianoff, staff attorney for the Straphangers Campaign, in a statement.
Gregory Bresiger wrote in 1998:
No New York City public institution better illustrates the rise and decline of the city than the subways. The subways were primarily built by private-sector entrepreneurs at the turn of the century.
On Oct. 27, 1904, the Interborough Rapid Transit (IRT), the first subway line in the city, began operating from lower Manhattan. It was an immediate success. A journalist wrote the new lines were "architecturally superlative executions." A transit trade journal called the subway stations "dignified and artistic efforts of the highest order." One historian called these private lines "a great public work."
Today, with more than a half century of public ownership and operation of the subways, imagine anyone making those kind of comments about the New York subways!
Private subways-even though highly regulated, even though the fare was held to a nickel by government decree--fueled the expansion of the city. As lines were extended, neighborhoods and shopping centers grew around the stations. But by 1940, through rigorous regulation and through Communist labor unions that sabotaged private ownership, the subways were taken over by the city.
The supporters of city-owned subways promised that new lines would be built. The system, which by 1940 was a mix of private and public lines, would be unified under public control, which would mean economies of scale. The fare would never rise. The system would be run on "a self-sustaining basis," which would mean no tax dollars would have to be poured into it. The riders would no longer be "exploited" by entrepreneurs in search of profits. Unions would be controlled because their members would be governed by civil service regulations. There would be no closed shop. Every one of those promises has been broken.