Comptroller: MTA report didn't justify axing station agents
An internal MTA study used to justify the closure of station agent booths across the subway system is “faulty” and “defective,” according to city Comptroller William Thompson.
In a letter sent to the MTA board Wednesday, Thompson blasted the agency’s reasoning in closing 105 booths manned by red-vested station agents later this month, countering many of the MTA’s arguments and the way the survey was conducted.
“The report appears to have been written ... with the goal of demonstrating that the (station agent) program is a failure,” he wrote.
MTA board chair Dale Hemmerdinger and an agency spokesman declined to comment.
Last year, NYC Transit surveyed 110 station agent locations for half-an-hour. Monitors found that the activity level of most of the agents was “low,” and that commuters had few interactions with them, according to the MTA report.
In contrast, Thompson’s office said it found that the station agents were busy, helping passengers a total of 820 times during the observation period. Workers assisted riders every three minutes at more than a third of the stations.
The transit survey also said that agents did not deter crime, with felonies in the system down drastically since 2002. But Thompson argued that the report did not address misdemeanor crimes like theft or harassment, which are more common than felonies.
Transit officials started the station agents program in 2005 at 158 locations in order to provide information, open gates and assist passengers. However, in May, the MTA voted to eliminate the workers through attrition to save $16 million by 2010.
The agents will begin to be phased out on Sept. 20. All of the jobs will eventually be eliminated.