UPPER WEST SIDE — A failing MTA maintenance system is a major contributing cause to incessant disruptions in subway station elevators and escalator service, according to an audit released Monday morning by New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer's office.
The MTA failed to perform all the preventative maintenance assignments it had scheduled for roughly 80 percent of 65 elevators and escalators sampled between Dec. 28, 2014, and July 2, 2016, the audit says.
A third of the assignments on the sampled machines weren't completed on time, and for 32 percent of the elevators and escalators, preventative services came too late, As a result, 21 machines failed the MTA's inspections and had to be removed temporarily from service.
"The MTA skips and often delays preventative maintenance for subway elevators and escalators, and when you don’t give your machines the tune-ups on time, there’s a logical outcome: They break down," Stringer said at a press conference outside the 72nd Street station on the Upper West Side Monday morning.
”Where an ounce of prevention would mean a pound of cure, we have what amounts to a maintenance mess," he continued. "When we allow our elevators and escalators to break down, it means we're not being a city that’s truly open and accessible to all.”
Broken elevators and escalators limit subway access for older adults traveling to doctors' appointments and senior centers, people with disabilities commuting to work, and parents with young children pushing heavy strollers, said advocates testifying at Monday's conference.
"When they break down, they stay broken down; not for weeks, not for months, but in some cases for years," said state Sen. Daniel Squadron, who represents northwestern Brooklyn and lower Manhattan.
Irregular inspections aren't the only flaw in the MTA's system, according to the Comptroller's office. A survey of 949 checklist reports filled out by New York City Transit's Division of Elevators and Escalators — the MTA unit responsible for the machines' maintenance, repair and inspections — found that in one of four reports noting new defects in machines, there was no evidence to indicate employees filed work orders to fix the problem.
NYCT also has no system for tracking the completion of work orders once they're created, the audit says.
“The maintenance system is a failure. They are not doing the repairs, they are not tracking the repairs. When they do repairs, the elevator has to shut down," said Stringer, whose office offered 13 recommendations for the NYCT.
These include setting "realistic internal targets" for preventative maintenance service assignments, re-educating personnel on the proper way to complete their reports, and creating a new "Enterprise Asset Management" system to ensure that work orders are created and identified defects are fixed.
”The findings in this audit should be a wakeup call to the MTA," Stringer said.
This isn't his first report on the MTA's shortcomings in maintaining, repairing and inspecting subway station elevators and escalators, as Disabled in Action vice president Edith Prentiss pointed out Monday.
But Stringer said the MTA should take notice after his latest report.
"What I would say to the MTA today is ... we expect you will put reforms in place to begin a robust pre-maintenance plan, because that’s the only way we’re going to continue to maintain our elevators and escalators.”
The MTA did not respond to a request for comment, but an early review of the audit by the NYCT objected to its methodology and findings, Stringer's report says.
By excluding all elevators and escalators installed after 2011, "the Audit was skewed toward machines that are more likely to break down," the NYCT was quoted as saying.
In his own experience as a commuter using a wheelchair, Sasha Blair-Goldensohn said he encounters an average of of at least one elevator outage per week on the trip between his home on the Upper West Side and his office in Chelsea.
"I think [the MTA] know[s] to some extent the worse the elevators are, the people who rely on them are not going to use the subways," said Blair-Goldensohn, whose recent op-ed in the New York Times called the city's subway "by far the least wheelchair-friendly public transit system of any major American city," averaging 25 elevator outages a day.
"I find when I get to a station, and the elevator is out of service, there's not a line of people on wheelchairs there... They've stopped trying."