Study finds 50% of subway platform lights broken

A rat wanders the subway tracks at Union Square Tuesday, June 15, 2010 in New York. Rats have infested multiple subway lines in lower Manhattan and often live right in the station walls, according to a rodent expert overseeing what officials say is a new approach to battling rats in the nation’s largest subway system. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
Frank Franklin II
By Philip Newman

The Straphangers Campaign checked the city’s subway platforms and found that neither rats nor missing trash bins are the worst problem but rather peeling paint, water damage and broken lights.

The transit advocacy agency conducted its examination of 250 subway platforms in 120 randomly selected stations last summer in what was termed the “State of the State Platforms.”

“We found the good, the bad and the ugly — from no subway station platforms having overflowing garbage cans to clearly unacceptable conditions such as peeling paint in three-quarters of platforms observed,” said Jason Chin-Fatt, who headed the project.

The Straphangers looked into conditions on platforms, including missing floor tiles, cracks in floors, peeling paint, water damage, exposed wiring, broken handrails and staircases, broken lighting, graffiti, rats, missing and/or overflowing trash bins and big bags of garbage.

The more positive news was that 100 percent of station platforms had garbage cans with none of these cans overflowing, but 6 percent of the time inspectors observed large bags of trash on platforms.

Among conditions rated as “bad” were:

• rats (11 percent)

• underground station platforms, including roadbeds, staircases or handrails in disrepair (15 percent)

• substantial areas of missing tile (15 percent)

• substantial graffiti (20 percent)

• exposed wiring (28 percent)

• cracks in floors (33 percent)

Some 50 percent of light fixtures were broken and 53 percent had a lot of water damage, and the worst aspect of the report was peeling paint at 79 percent of station platforms.

Joseph Lhota, who recently took office as the Metropolitan Transportation Authority chairman, recently said the paint problem should be high on the maintenance list.

It was the first State of the Stations by the Straphangers Campaign, which has long issued periodic reports such as Best Subways, Pokey buses and Schmutz (cleanliness) checks.

Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e-mail at timesledgernews@cnglocal.com or phone at 718-260-4536.

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