The MTA’s Inspector General released a report last month titled “IMPROVING STRUCTURAL INSPECTIONS AT MTA NEW YORK CITY TRANSIT.” And with an all-caps title like that, you just know it’s important to pay attention. In fact, that’s the whole point of the report: that more attention needs to be paid to the neglected parts of the New York City subway station in order to provide a safe ride for the millions of travelers who use public transportation. The Inspector General writes that in order “to safeguard riders and employees” there must be regular inspections of “NYC Transit structures for defects. These inspections are also vital to the agency’s proper management of its limited resources for maintenance and capital repair.” So, this makes sense—inspect subway stations in order to both ensure safety and maintain an efficient budget. Isn’t this the standard? Isn’t this what’s done? Unfortunately, no. The report continues, “Our audit of structural inspection practices, though, finds that NYC Transit has not inspected some critical support structures on a regular and timely basis, and in some cases has not inspected certain critical structures for decades.” Decades? DECADES??? Oh, cool. I will never feel safe again.
Although the official report doesn’t say that all riders are in imminent danger and that we should all avoid the subway until things there get fixed up lest we fall to our deaths as the F train we take every morning plummets from the trestle of the Smith/9th St station (the highest elevated station IN THE WORLD), the report also doesn’t say that we’re not in imminent danger. Some of the problems the independent auditors found include the facts that “although annual inspections of elevated station supports are required by NYC Transit’s guidelines, the appropriate in-house unit has not been conducting such inspections” and “while NYC Transit previously agreed to implement our recommendations to regularly inspect hard-to-reach station ceilings in accordance with our earlier related report, it has not yet done so. Indeed, these inspections are currently two years behind schedule, with inspection consultants not yet even hired.” Also, “NYC Transit has not been inspecting abandoned sections of stations that provide structural support for the active sections of the stations; agency officials did not even
have an inventory of these abandoned structures.” Yeah, I will definitely never feel safe again.
But is there anything positive about this report? Well, Thomas Prendergrast, the new head of NYC Transit (replacing mayoral candidate, Joe Lhota), did issue a response that is reassuring in the sense that he seems amenable to implementing the recommendations, stating, “We are in agreement with the substance of your findings and all recommendations and are taking a number of actions with respect to the structural inspection process at NYC Transit.” But, I mean, we’ll see. Although the Inspector General says that he feels “encouraged by NYC Transit’s response,” I am still sort of in shock that these inspections and safety measures hadn’t been taking place the whole time. Ignorance is bliss, I guess. But also, ignorance is ignorance. And don’t you want to be informed? Don’t you want to know not just the fact that several subway lines are compromised, but which stations are actually in the worst shape? All I have to say is, sorry if you live off the D. Stay safe out there.