Subway system won’t be in good condition until 2067, report says

A state of disrepair is visible at the 175th Street A-Line subway station in Manhattan on Wednesday, September 02, 2015. Photo Credit: Charles Eckert
A state of disrepair is visible at the 175th Street A-Line  subway station in Manhattan on Wednesday, September 02, 2015.
A state of disrepair is visible at the 175th Street A-Line subway station in Manhattan on Wednesday, September 02, 2015. Photo Credit: Anthony Lanzilote

Queens riders are getting hit the hardest with run-down subway conditions, such as peeling paint, crumbling stairs and platform edges.

Half of the worst subway stations are in Queens, home to 15 of the 30 stations in the worst condition, according to an analysis released yesterday.

Woodside’s 52nd Street station on the No. 7 line needs more repair work than any other stop in the system — with almost 80% of the station’s features needing repairs. The 85th Street stop in Woodhaven, meanwhile, on the J line is the second worst, according to a report by the civic group Citizen Budget Commission.

At the MTA’s current rate of progress, all its stops won’t be in good repair until 2067, the report said. Check out your station’s current conditions here.

Other Queens stations that need a lot of work include 30th Avenue on the N and Q in Astoria, and 103rd Street-Corona Plaza on the No. 7.

“It’s a lack of attention towards Queens,” said Brian Zumba, a 19-year-old student at Baruch College and member of the Riders Alliance. “It’s always forgotten.”

The Citizens Budget Commission, a non-partisan civic association, likens the head of the MTA to King Sisyphus in Greek mythology. The metaphor was chosen because as stations are repaired, others are deteriorating during that time.

“The gods condemned King Sisyphus to push a boulder up a hill repeatedly, only to have it roll down to the bottom as he approached the top,” wrote research associate Jamison Dague.

He said that MTA chairman Thomas Prendergast doesn’t deserve that punishment, but the comparison works.

“Trying to bring all subway stations to a state of good repair is a constant struggle,” Dague said. “The task is Sisyphean.”

Only 76 subway stops are considered to be in good condition by the MTA, and more than half are in Brooklyn. Just 14 stops in Manhattan and 14 in the Bronx are deemed in good repair,and Queens only has seven.

Zumba lives off of the Corona stop, and wasn’t surprised by the report.

“I’m used to seeing it in an unkempt state, something that’s broken down,” said Zumba. “The stairs, the paint is peeling off the platform. You see a tremendous amount of pigeon poop. Do they really care enough about the stations to give them a fresh coat of paint?”

MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz said a lot of repair work and upgrades are happening throughout Queens– and that it’s not true that the MTA does not care.

“We have recently invested millions for stations in Queens – Court Sq, 71 Av, and 10 stations in the Rockaways,” said Ortiz. 

“Work is currently planned for stations along the Astoria Boulevard line.  This is all on top of the hundreds of millions of dollars we’re investing for communication based train control, the new signal system we’re installing on the 7 line and Queens Blvd line.”

Some stations outside of Queens that are in disrepair include Manhattan’s 175th Street stop on the A, and Brooklyn’s Borough Hall station on the No. 2 and 3 lines.

“Our crumbling subways are the result of decades of lack of investment in public transit. When we don’t have elected leaders who are willing to put money in our subway system, we can’t have nice things,” said Nick Sifuentes, a deputy director at the Riders Alliance.

The MTA makes repairs in stations by individual parts — which range from tiles and paint to platform edges and stairs. It spent an average of $1.36 million per component it fixed in its capital plan between 2010 and 2014, the Commission says.

Some of the capital plan’s projects won’t be finished until 2019.

“We appreciate the CBC’s thoughtful analysis,” said MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz. “We are pursuing opportunities to squeeze costs from our 2015-19 Capital Program by using negotiated and other innovative procurement methods.”

The Commission calls for money that would be spent on expanding the Second Avenue Subway from the Upper East Side to East Harlem to be spent instead repairing the stations that already exist.

“We respectfully disagree with their recommendation to reduce spending on expansion projects,” added Ortiz.

“At a time when growing ridership is leading to crowding and delays, we must pursue expansion projects that will accommodate more customers as well as provide new connections and opportunities for our customers.”

The Commission also suggests the MTA create station conservancies, similar to park conservancies, that can raise money for individual stops and free up the MTA to spend money elsewhere in the transit system.

The group says there needs to be a credible plan to bring all stations into good condition. “It’s time to think more creatively about how to achieve that,” said its president Carol Kellerman in a statement.

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