Op-ed | Improving New York City Transit with your help

Subway station agents and MTA NYC Transit President Richard Davey
MTA NYC Transit President Richard Davey chats with a subway station agent behind a booth at Fulton Street.
Marc A. Hermann / MTA

New year, new New York City Transit. We’re starting 2023 energized by the spirit of our “Faster, Cleaner, Safer” customer service initiative.

As we’ve been talking about for a while now, our goal is to increase riders’ satisfaction with the transit system by 10 points by spring 2024. And we’re going to do it by putting New Yorkers first — because listening to customers is the best way to make a positive change.

Transit already regularly surveys riders – most recently last month – so we know what kind of improvements are needed to encourage more frequent trips:
• Safer environment;
• Faster, more frequent service;
• Cleaner stations and vehicles;
• Better weekend service; and
• Enhanced communications.

On safety, 18% of customers reported feeling more secure in December than the prior month, the largest increase since February when we first introduced this survey question. Riders are noticing the increased police presence underground; last month, 52% of respondents said there were too few uniformed officers vs. 66% in October. That’s real growth and we will continue to work with the NYPD to keep up the momentum.

Access-A-Ride customers saw across-the-board improvements in their service throughout 2022. By optimizing schedules, service delivery improved in December, and the driver vacancy rate fell from 24% to 5.4%. As a result, overall satisfaction with our paratransit service jumped 12 points from June to 74%, with the greatest gains coming in Frequency of No-Shows and Driver Helpfulness.

Overall experience ratings from subway customers are similarly trending upward, notching a seven-point increase in December compared to June. The month’s overall satisfaction score rose to 59%, driven by increased ratings of Cleanliness On Board, which shot up by 10 points. Hopefully it will continue to skyrocket this year as we hire hundreds of new cleaners and implement new cleaning protocols.

And, in the next few weeks you’ll see our Station Agents coming out of the token booths to provide direct customer service in our stations.

The December survey also showed us that there’s room for improvement on Bus service. Customers continue to share that reduced wait times are the number one factor that would improve satisfaction and encourage more frequent use, along with faster service, and I’m happy to say we made some gains this year on bus speeds. Overall, customers saw systemwide, maintained speeds two percent above 2019 throughout the year, with priority corridors showing an average improvement of 14%. They should continue to increase following the installation of 300 new Automated Bus Lane Enforcement cameras on nine routes across all five boroughs.

We welcome the opportunities and the challenges that the new year brings. Our North Star goal is clear: seven out of 10 customers satisfied, up from six today. It’s an ambitious target but my faith in our Transit team is limitless. 2023 is going to be our best year yet.

Richard Davey is MTA New York City Transit president.