Op-ed | Welcome back to school, and to the NYC Transit system!

NYC Transit President Richard Davey
New York City Transit President Richard Davey speaks at the Pokey and Schleppie Awards in Manhattan on Aug. 8.
Photo by Kevin Duggan

The start of a new school year means a return to mass transit for thousands of students across the City. It’s also a return to the office for many New Yorkers, and our team at New York City Transit is working hard to set them up for success this fall with an extreme focus on understanding our customers’ experiences and our collective goal of exceeding their expectations.

First, by improving customer communications. Knowledge is power, and we want New Yorkers to have all the information they need to plan their commutes – whether it’s through on-board announcements or outreach in the field. To coincide with the first week of school, our Customer Ambassadors are returning to the Bronx to help returning students navigate the bus network, which was revamped this summer as part of the borough’s Local Bus Network Redesign.

The MTA is also launching a new weekly newsletter to help customers better plan their weekend travel. It’ll cover planned service changes on not only the subways, but also Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North. We want to eliminate the confusion some customers experience when there’s limited service due to ongoing maintenance and construction. Last month, I announced that I’m appointing a weekend service czar to develop and implement a service plan that allows for this important work to continue while getting riders where they need to go in a timely manner. As I said at the time, weekends are recovering faster than weekdays post-COVID, so it’s worth revisiting the old game plan for minimizing disruptions.

We can and will do better, and not just on weekends. I want to improve customer wait and journey times across the transit system every day, especially on Buses. I mentioned the Bronx Local Bus Network Redesign – so far, it’s been a big hit with customers, inspiring confidence in the MTA as we proceed with the next redesign in Queens. We’re currently filtering through comments on the proposed draft plan, which came out in March.

In the meantime, we’re working with our partners at the NYC Department of Transportation to increase bus speeds by creating new bus priority corridors. Mayor Adams has pledged to install 150 miles of new bus lanes and busways over the next four years. The MTA and NYCDOT will also work together to expand automated enforcement and transit signal priority to keep these lanes moving and free of private vehicles.

And when it comes to our station and stop environments, we’re taking a new approach to cleaning. Under a new initiative called ‘Mop My Stop,’ crews will improve subway stations while repairing structural defects along the track – doing things like washing floors, cleaning benches, replacing lights and painting. We’re also making it easier to track operability of station escalators and elevators with a new dashboard.

Promoting a safe atmosphere is the last piece of the puzzle. We know that perceptions of crime and disorder are keeping some people away, and we won’t let that stand. Under the leadership of Mayor Adams and Police Commissioner Sewell, more officers have been assigned to the transit beat. They’re patrolling the spaces where New Yorkers tell us they feel most vulnerable – on platforms, onboard trains and throughout stations.

None of these initiatives would work without the tireless efforts of our employees, who have taken up the mantle and are working day in and day out for a better customer experience. We owe them a great thanks this Labor Day and every day.

Richard Davey is MTA New York City Transit president.