City report finds that subway delays have skyrocketed since 2012, costing commuters time and money

Photo via Wikimedia Commons

A report released by the Independent Budget Office (IBO) this month found that subway delays have dramatically increased in the last five years, costing taxpayers millions.

The report, titled “How Much Time and Money Are New York City Subway Riders Losing to Delays,” found that the average number of delays per month has skyrocketed since 2012 — from 20,000 delays a month to more than 67,450 in May 2017.

Using data from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the IBO did a deep dive into the number of delays, the main causes of delays and how much these delays cost taxpayers.

The report found that since March 2014 overcrowding has been the most common reported cause of delays. In January 2012, NYC Transit reported 4,222 weekday delays due to overcrowding, about 19 percent of the 22,240 weekday delays.

By May 2017 total weekday delays had jumped to 67,452, with 26,990 (or 40 percent) due to overcrowding.

The report also calculated passenger hours lost due to minor delays  the share of trains subject to minor delays multiplied by the total number of passengers traveling on that line and the average delay in minutes for each train subject to minor delays.

Passenger hours lost to delays on a weekday during the morning rush have increased on every line by at least 24 percent. The lines that saw the largest increase were the J/Z line (71 percent), C line (69 percent) and 7 line (62 percent).

The average number of passenger hours lost during morning rush hour increased to 35,000 hours, or by 45 percent, since 2012.

The report also found that more than 40 percent of the cars on the subway fleet were at least 30 years old, which helps explain the more frequent breakdowns.

The IBO calculated the delays’ cost to taxpayers and found that the dollar value of the hours lost to delays is about $307 million annually.

Though they described that finding the total cost of delays for approximately 1.5 million riders is a “challenging exercise,” they calculated the loss to cost $864,000 for city commuters, $257,000 for non-city commuters, and $109,000 for subway riders making non-work trips.

Total personal income for city residents is estimated to be $504 billion annually, so in addition to money, the IBO argues that the cost of time for straphangers should not be overlooked.

“It is likely that much of the cost of the time lost to subway delays actually falls on the commuters rather than their employers,” the report stated. “As long as the necessary work is completed, the employer has lost little, if anything. But employees have given up some of their non-work time, usually without compensation.”

This is also true when employees must leave home earlier to ensure that they get to work on time.

Commuters have grown increasingly frustrated with the inaction of MTA officials and the growing delays. Gov. Andrew Cuomo appointed Joe Lhota to run the agency and has announced his Subway Action Plan to try to stabilize and modernize the system.

To view the full report, click here.

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