MTA moves to reduce "eyes and ears" of system
MTA station agents will likely be reduced to help the agency cut $200 million in expenses. (Photo by Andrew Hinderaker)
The MTA voted Wednesday to phase out its subway station agents jobs, despite the concerns of rider advocates that fewer eyes underground will make the system less safe.
The MTA plans to eliminate 150 station agents through attrition this year and 120 more in 2010, according to agency documents. At an average loss of 10 agents a month, the red vested subway reps will vanish from city platforms within the next seven years, a NYC Transit spokesman said.
While it makes sense to look for imaginative ways to save money, this is not a smart way to do it, said city Comptroller William Thompson.
MTA officials pledged to man all 468 stations with at least one full-time token clerk 24 hours a day.
The agency moved forward with the $3 million cut yesterday along with 105 other cost-cutting measures to help close a $200 million budgetary hole remaining after a state bailout, officials said. In total, the MTA expects to eliminate more than 1,200 jobs next year across its divisions.We have to have a balanced budget and the economy is slipping away from us, said MTA board chair Dale Hemmerdinger, while discussing the cuts last week.
Transit started the station agent program in 2005 as MetroCard machines made token clerks more obsolete. The agents assist passengers with directions, opening security gates and radioing in security hazards.
Im worried about it, Valentina Nezaj, 19, of Brooklyn, said of the agent cuts. They say in the posters, if you need to report something, tell the station agent.
Norman Pou, a current station agent who has worked in the subways for 18 years, said he calls for help at least four times a day to report accidents, lost children and unruly passengers.
Many stations are desolate, Pou said. If theres no one there, theres no one to help.