Council Members Call for Letter Grades on Subway Stations

By Jill Colvin on May 23, 2012 8:46pm 

The MTA is attempting to clean up the 8th St. subway station by removing its trash cans.
The MTA is attempting to clean up the 8th St. subway station by removing its trash cans.
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Flickr/peyri

CITY HALL — Inspired by the city’s restaurant letter grades, City Council members proposed a new grading system for subway stations Wednesday that would slap stations with failing grades for problems including graffiti, garbage, pooling water on tracks and rats.

“I’m suggesting we post a sign on each station. A, B, C, D,” said Queens City Councilman Peter Koo, who proposed the idea during a council hearing on the MTA’s budget Wednesday, where council members voiced frustration about upcominng fare hikes and recent service cuts.

Bronx City Councilman James Vacca, chair of the council’s Transportation Committee, said he plans to introduce a resolution immediately to mandate the grading.

“That’s a good idea,” he said, stressing the need for a transparent system with clear measures that are easy for straphangers to understand.

While the council has limited power over the MTA because the transit authority is a state agency, City Council Finance Chair Domenic Recchia said council could sweeten the deal by allocating funding for station maintenance. He also threatened to revoke funding if the MTA doesn’t clean up its act.

But MTA staffers said they already assess a selection of stations every month and publish the findings publicly by borough and subway line, taking things like graffiti and sanitation into account.

“No,” said MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz flatly when asked whether the proposal would be considered. He argued that grading is unnecessary because, unlike restaurant kitchens, riders can already see the conditions inside a station.

Additionally, the effort would require valuable staff time to assess individual stations, and to update signage every month, he said.

Vacca disagreed, and suggested it was a much-needed measure. “I think that the explanations today are unacceptable, because if they’re going to raise the fares, we damn well need accountability," he said.

The MTA is planning to boost fares by 7 percent in January, 2013, and again in 2015.

Council members proposed slapping subway stations with letter grades, like this.
Council members proposed slapping subway stations with letter grades, like this.
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DNAinfo/Andrea Swalec
Subway riders board a Jamaica-bound E train at Jackson Heights-74th St. station.
Subway riders board a Jamaica-bound E train at Jackson Heights-74th St. station.
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DNAinfo/Tuan Nguyen

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