New York City

Stringer: MTA botches elevator and escalator inspections, leading to breakdowns

NYC Transit challenges comptroller’s report

May 1, 2017 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
FDNY officials removed 20 trapped passengers from the Court Street R train station elevator in January. This was the second time since last summer that the elevator stalled with straphangers inside. Photo by Rachel Jo Silver

Subway-riding New Yorkers take it for granted that sometimes they will be required to trudge up broken MTA escalators or take the stairs when they find the station’s elevator broken.

An audit released by New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer on Monday could explain why there are so many breakdowns.

The Comptroller’s Office says the study found MTA did not perform all of its scheduled preventive maintenance on almost 80 percent of sampled escalators and elevators. One third of the preventive maintenance assignments that were scheduled were completed late, if at all. And in many cases, work orders were never created, even after new defects were found during maintenance work or inspections.

The report also says that the MTA does not systematically track whether the defects found in its elevators and escalators are corrected.

These failures can pose safety risks for riders and pose “extraordinary challenges” for seniors and people with disabilities, Stringer said in a release.

“It’s not rocket science – it’s common sense,” he said. “If we aren’t proactively servicing these machines, and if we aren’t repairing them when we find problems, they’re going to break down.”

State Sen. Daniel Squadron, who urged the review, said that elevators and escalators are often the last priority for the MTA.

“I’ve seen busted deadlines and broken escalators repeatedly in my own district, from the East Broadway F, to the High Street A/C and beyond,” he said.

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New York City Transit’s (NYCT) Division of Elevators and Escalators is responsible for maintenance and repairs. The agency disagreed with the report’s methodology and conclusions.

There are 407 elevators and escalators in the MTA system, according to the report. The Comptroller’s Office sampled 36 elevators and 29 escalators of them, for a total of 65 machines.

About a third of these elevators and escalators (21 machines) failed one or more of MTA’s own inspections and were removed from service. Of these, 15 had been serviced approximately two weeks before the Comptroller’s inspection. Stringer’s office says those 15 machines had 62 defects that remained pending even after they were serviced.

The report noted that sometimes maintenance was canceled after it was scheduled. The reasons for the cancelations, however, didn’t meet MTA’s own criteria for canceling preventive maintenance, Stringer said.

The Comptroller’s Office made 13 recommendations. These include setting realistic targets for preventive maintenance, reinstructing all personnel on completing the checklists, and instituting “rigorous procedures” for ensuring work orders are created.

NYCT said in its response that it found a number of inaccuracies in the report. Stringer’s audit, for example, conflates the number of machines with the number of inspections carried out on them, according to NYCT. It also excluded all machines installed after 2011, skewing the results, NYCT says.

Rather than planned maintenance being carried out only 20 percent of the time, it is carried out 96 percent of the time using NYCT’s calculation method.

NYCT has a “robust system for tracking defects and implementing corrective action,” the agency said.

NYCT also points out it is replacing roughly 80 elevators as part of the MTA’s 2015-2019 Capital Plan.

For its part, Stringer’s office says NYCT mischaracterizes the report’s methodology.

The full report can be found at comptroller.nyc.gov/

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