Report: MTA Projects Late, Some Over Budget

The Metropolitan Transit Authority is not doing enough to alert riders of subway service disruptions, according to a joint audit report released Sunday by the New York state and city comptrollers. The report also said the MTA is starting projects late and some contracts are over budget.

According to transit records, 3,332 service diversions were underway between January 1, 2009 and July 14, 2010. The audit sampled 50 of those diversions, finding inefficiencies.

"When the MTA fails to manage its service diversions properly, it is more than an inconvenience. It wastes taxpayers money, it derails local businesses," state comptroller Tom DiNapoli said.

The audit also found subway diversions were increasing. Between 2008 and 2010, weekend diversions increased from 47 to 74 and the number of long term diversions increased from 7 to 57. Plus, auditors looked at worksheets for 29 diversions, finding that 28 of those started late and 21 ended early, even though workers were paid for the entire time allotted for service.

"If you cut 10 percent of these inefficiencies -- a relatively small amount -- the MTA would be saving over $10.5 million on the sample we looked at. Transit simply must do better," DiNapoli said.

New York City Comptroller John Liu echoed the state comptroller's sentiments. Liu said the MTA and the city need to restore faith for city straphangers. "There are diversions going on right now and there is a lot of chaos and frustration among the public. That doesn't send the right message to our New Yorkers, that we want to them to rely on mass transit, that we want there to be less vehicular traffic," he said.

The MTA said service diversions are necessary to perform maintenance and capital work, but they try to alert riders as much as possible. "We strive to keep customers aware of the diversions, utilizing station and in car signage along with announcements, both in stations and onboard trains," the MTA said in a statement.

However, the comptrollers' report found that at the 39 stations affected by diversions in June and July of 2010, no signs were posted in any language other than English and that there were no more than 20 signs at each station, despite the claim by Transit officials that 50 signs are posted at each platform.

In a response to the state comptrollers office, the MTA agreed with some recommendations, including ensuring schedule diversions start and end on time and monitoring how much is spent for service diversions.