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MTA Promises 'Top-to-Bottom' Review of How It Deals With Delays

By Gwynne Hogan | June 21, 2017 12:21pm | Updated on June 22, 2017 7:49am
 MTA head Veronique Hakim apologized for miserable subway service.
MTA head Veronique Hakim apologized for miserable subway service.
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DNAinfo/Ben Fractenberg

FINANCIAL DISTRICT — The MTA will conduct a "top-to-bottom" review of how subway delays are handled amidst growing commuter discontent over train service, officials said.

Interim Executive Director of the MTA Veronique Hakim apologized to straphangers for a slew of miserable commutes this week and said the agency needed to improve how it communicates with riders at a Wednesday morning MTA board meeting.

"We understand that everybody is frustrated with this. They have a right to be. You have a right," said Hakim. "I am directing a top-to-bottom review of how we handle and how we respond to delays in the subway system."

"You have heard us describe the old, aging subway system. That is not going to be fixed overnight, but how we respond to events can certainly be improved."

Hakim said she would report back to board members with ideas for improving the MTA's response to system malfunctions at a later date, though she didn't say when. 

She also pointed out that the agency is investing $2.1 billion, the most ever, to upgrade antiquated signal systems which are also the cause of delays and pointed to Gov. Andrew Cuomo's upcoming genius competition to fix the subway. 

"We're attacking this with an all hands on deck attitude in a number of ways," she said.

At a Monday board meeting, MTA officials said they would be nixing some pre-recorded messages in favor of having train operators explain subway issues to riders in an effort to better communicate with straphangers.

Hakim's comments come amid mounting frustration from riders from increasingly frequent delays during rush hour and an alphabet soup of snarled trains on Tuesday morning with delays on the 2, 4, 5, 6, A, C, E, B, D, F, M, and L trains. After the morning debacle, The MTA flat out apologized on Twitter.

Snarky signs, mirroring subway service change signs, spotted throughout the subway system this week, rated the MTA an "F" for nonsense.

In response to mounting pressure from riders to Cuomo to get him to step up and improve service, the governor announced Tuesday he was pushing through a bill that would allow him to appoint two more members to the board, though he made no mention of subway delays.

"The MTA is in a state of crisis. Historic underfunding leaves it with obsolete equipment going back to the 1940s. The bureaucracy is dysfunctional," Cuomo said on Tuesday.

But John Raskin, the executive director of the Riders Alliance, an advocacy group for subway riders, took issue with the steps Cuomo has taken so far — a new capital plan which broadened the MTA's budget to invest in new expansions to the subway system that he said "did nothing to fix the day to day problems on the subway system" and an effort to add new members to the board, which he said "every serious observer knows is not actually the barrier to improving public transit."

"The governor has yet to produce a plan for how he [improve the subway system], or a the timeline for a plan, or a notion of how he find funding to make that possible," he said.

"Taking responsibility is a necessary first step," Raskin said. "The next step is a plan and that is something that riders are still waiting for."