Station agents still working in closed booths
The MTA closed 100 station agent booths last month — or did they?
Some agents are still staffing the booths because of a glut of workers on the MTA’s payroll. Other agents, meanwhile, are idling away at stations waiting for NYC Transit to give them work, union leaders said.
“They have a lot of people sitting around to do nothing,” said Andreeva Pinder, a union representative for the stations division.
In total, the MTA plans to cut 772 of the red-vested agents who roam stations helping customers, and close 158 booths in the next few years. The cuts will save the cash-strapped agency $52 million a year.
The MTA eliminated 282 station agent positions in September, but attrition takes time, and about 75 extra workers a day aren’t getting full-time station duties, Pinder said. The agents, who are paid $25 an hour, wait at stations until they are sent to fill in for an absent worker, or reopen one of the closed booths. Some pass the time by wiping down the MetroCard machines or helping customers, Pinder said.
Transit spokesman Charles Seaton said the extra workers allow the MTA to avoid paying overtime when a station agent calls out.
“This was done to maximize savings from the program,” Seaton said. “Extras with nothing else to do will be assigned to help out in stations.”
The MTA estimates that 10 station agents retire or quit a month, but Pinder says the numbers have dropped with the poor economy.
Meanwhile, the empty booths have made for lost tourists and inconvenienced passengers, according to station workers.
“The customer service situation is the worst I’ve ever seen,” said Marvin Holland, a cleaner running for union office. “I’m getting yelled at a lot.”
Agency officials said that at least one booth operator will be on duty in each subway station at all times, and straphangers stuck on the opposite platform can call the worker through an intercom.
Transit started the station agent program in 2005 at 158 locations, more than half of them in Manhattan. An internal study found that the activity level of most of the agents was “low.”
Next year, the MTA plans on spending $5 million to install 83 tall turnstiles typically used at exits not manned fulltime, according to agency documents.