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Annual Report Pegs Sandy as Best and Worst of City Transit in 2012

Annual Report Pegs Sandy as Best and Worst of City Transit in 2012
The departure of MTA Chairman, fare hikes and increased subway crime rate are "worst." Added service and increased ridership are "best."

The Straphangers Campaign released its third annual report Thursday morning, detailing the best and worst of New York City transit events in 2012. Superstorm Sandy topped both lists – for the five billion dollars in damages it left behind, and for the swift response of transit employees which ultimately led to the reopening of most flooded subway stations just days after the storm made landfall.

“I think those people affected [by Sandy] would tell you their commute was filled with havoc and long lines, and of course the system shut down for only the second time in its 108 year history,” Gene Russianoff, staff attorney for the Straphangers Campaign, said in a phone interview. “But at the same time, it was just short of a miracle that so many of the subways came back up and running so quickly.”

The departure of Joseph Lhota, the MTA’s Chairman since January 2012 who is considering a mayoral bid this year, was slotted as the third worst event for the year in New York City transit. The report notes that with Lhota’s exit, “there have been six MTA leaders in the last six years … That has not helped the cause of winning safe, reliable and affordable transit.”

Increased fares followed closely on the “worst” list. The MTA approved a move to boost the base fare last month from $2.25 to $2.50, as well as increase the price of 3—day MetroCards from $104 to $112. As a result of the fare hikes, New Yorkers “pay the highest share of operating expenses of any transit system in the U.S.,” according to the report.

A bump in the crime rate on subways – most notably seen in the recent deaths of two New Yorkers who were pushed onto the tracks – was also on the list. The report found that 7.38 major felonies are committed on the subways everyday, which it notes is the highest rate since 2006. The New York Police Department has attributed the increased crime rate to stolen iPhones and iPads.

On the other hand, the added $30 million in bus and subway service was at the top of the campaign’s “best” list. Alongside the added service, the new connection between the uptown 6 Bleecker Street and the B, D, F and M at Broadway Lafayette was noted for its accessibility to disabled commuters.

An increased subway ridership, currently at the highest it has been in 45 years, was included on the “best” list.

“There were some vivid, awful things that happened, storms and sensational crimes, and there were a lot of other things that make life easier for people who take the subways and buses,” Russianoff said. “So you’d have to say that it was a mixed year.”

The Straphangers Campaign, launched in 1979 by the New York Public Interest Research Group, works to maintain a “decent, safe and affordable” transit system, according to the commuter advocacy group's website.

The lists are created based on reviews of computer records and conversations with people, but in the end Russianoff said the lists ultimately reflect the views of the members of the Straphangers Campaign.