By Philip Newman
“Given the importance of being able to communicate with the outside world, especially during times of delay and emergency, we're disappointed that the MTA and Verizon removed the guarantee for a minimum level of service operability,” said Neysa Pranger, coordinator for the Straphangers Campaign.Verizon's current contract with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority does not require the utility to keep any minimum number of telephones in working order as the previous contract did but says the telephone company “shall exercise good faith effort to clear 95 percent of all known troubles within 24 hours.””This survey provides a benchmark for the new leadership of the MTA and New York City Transit Authority,” Pranger said. “We hope they do better.”The Straphangers conducted a survey of 866 subway telephones and found 29 percent did not work. Problems ranged from no dial tone to blocked coin slots. A second survey of 537 phones in the 25 busiest subway stations found 22 percent of telephones out of order.Surveys conducted last year resulted in about the same level of problem subway phones, the Straphangers said.The agency said a second survey found 29 percent of phones broken. The survey also indicated that the overall number of telephones in subway stations is on the decline.Pranger said the combination of fewer phones and the possibility of a changeover that favors cell phone users is “worrisome for those riders who cannot afford phones but need to stay in touch.”Surveys were conducted between July 3 and Jan. 23. Stations with 100 percent of phones working were 86th Street (4-5-6), 72nd Street (1-2-3) and 77th Street (6).The worst was Jamaica Center (E-J/Z) in Queens with just 29 percent working. Flushing Main St. (7) had 86 percent working, while 74th St.-Broadway/Jackson Heights-Roosevelt Ave. (7) had 68 percent working.Reach reporter Phil Newman by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 136.