Op-ed | Customer-focused changes coming to the city’s subways

The formerly-shuttered bathrooms at 14th St-Union Square.
File Photo by Dean Moses

If there’s been a theme to my first 10 months as president of New York City Transit, it’s that customer service is my North Star. That’s the nature of operating mass transit; creating a welcoming atmosphere is just as important as running trains and buses on time. The Transit team is rolling out important changes in coming weeks to help improve satisfaction with the subway system.

First, we’re reopening 24 bathrooms at 12 stations this May. That’s on top of the nine stations that were brought back online in January as part of our phased reopening of these facilities since they were closed at the height of COVID. Additional stations that will have bathrooms open daily from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. with a one-hour closure for cleaning midday are at the following locations:

  • Norwood – 205 St D 
  • Woodlawn 4
  • 168 St AC
  • 72 St Q
  • Brooklyn Bridge – City Hall 456
  • 57 St – 7 Av NQR
  • Atlantic Av – Barclays Center DNR
  • 36 St DNR
  • Coney Island – Stillwell Av DFNQ
  • Euclid Av AC 
  • Flushing – Main St 7   
  • Queensboro Plaza 7NW

We feel comfortable moving forward with phase two after the success of our first wave. According to our “flush counter,” the bathrooms have been used more than 35,000 times overall since January, with men’s rooms far outpacing women’s in usage – 27,000 flushes to 8,400. There have been no significant safety issues or cleanliness complaints from customers or employees, and none of the bathrooms have had to close for maintenance repairs either. 

Transit’s second exciting announcement is that new R211 subway cars are rolling into passenger service on theA  line. The new cars with cutting edge design and technology feature wider doorways to speed boarding and improve accessibility, built-in security cameras throughout the train and digital displays in every car. 

This is the kind of energy we need to build on the gains we’re starting to see on customer satisfaction. Our February 2023 Customer Pulse survey shows that overall approval of the subways continues to climb with a 9 percentage-point rise since October 2022 and a 13 percent bump since June 2022, driven by a second straight month of 85% on-time performance. 

The Buses team is similarly crushing it, maintaining 96% service-delivered for the second month in a row. Satisfaction has improved on all key indicators since the new year, led by reduced wait times, which improved by 5 percentage points. We’re now just one point away from hitting our North Star goal of 70% overall satisfaction for the month of February. Access-A-Ride Paratransit service has already beaten it, with 77% satisfaction. 

None of this would be possible without the 47,000 hardworking men and women of New York City Transit, who – far from resting on their laurels – are constantly looking for ways to further improve service. I look forward to breaking more records together in March and beyond.

Richard Davey is MTA New York City Transit president.