MTA budget woes make for dirtier stations
(Photo by RJ Mickelson/amNY)
Straphangers, start bringing a broom on your commute.
Because of budget constraints, the MTA has curtailed station cleaning, with Transit officials acknowledging they are down by about 100 workers.
The agency has also slashed overtime for cleaners, and workers say they simply can't keep up with the mounting trash.
Maintenance took a hit, said Mark Jones, a commuter from Harlem, who said a rat recently boarded the No. 6 train he was riding. I feel like it is going to get worse before it gets better.
Station cleaners sweep platforms and stairs, remove graffiti and clean token booths and MetroCard machines. Busy stations receive 24-hour cleaning, with workers floating among most of the other stations throughout the day.
In recent years, the cleaning department has struggled to keep up with the surge in ridership. In 1993, the MTA employed 1.5 station cleaners per million riders. By 2007, the ratio had slipped to 1 cleaner for every million, according to Transit figures.Stations aren't a priority, said Marvin Holland, a subway cleaner running to lead the union's stations department. You are dealing with more trash, which leads to more rodents.
The MTA started a pilot program in 2007 to provide 24-hour cleaning to stations and subway cars across the L and No. 7 lines. Workers were assigned just to those lines and Transit conducted cleaning blitzes to improve conditions.
In a survey last year, the Straphangers Campaign found that the L and No. 7 made big improvements and were the system's cleanest. A 2008 Transit report found that track fires also declined on the lines.
But running the pilot sapped precious manpower, which has fallen in the last several years as cleaner jobs went unfilled to save money, Holland said. A hiring freeze implemented earlier this year has compounded the problem.
Cleaners are now often scurrying to hit as many as five locations in one shift, whereas in the past they would usually just do two. And now stations only have cleaners on-site for an average of four hours a day, according to the Transit report.
Given these personnel constraints, it is not difficult to understand why station cleanliness is a source of chronic customer complaints, the report said.
As manpower has slipped, stations at times go an entire weekend without cleaning, Holland said.
Straphangers said they have noticed the fallout.
We need the cleaners, especially on the weekend, said Elizabeth James, 59, of Brooklyn. It is dirty. It's just a lot of paper.
During a forum last week, NYC Transit President Howard Roberts acknowledged that that cleaner shortage has become a problem, but said the MTA's poor finances have tied his hands. Roberts hoped to pay for more cleaners through cost-reductions, but the MTA's budget has ailed more than expected.
The MTA didnt responds to requests for comment.
Anastasia Economides and Marlene Naanes contributed to this story