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Subway elevators and escalators maintained by outside contractors are less reliable than those serviced by the MTA itself, a new study funds.
The report, which surveyed accessibility at subway stations system-wide during the month of January, found that broken MTA elevators are returned to service nearly three times quicker than those run by private companies or other transit agencies.
“We studied the issue for the past month and the results were concerning,” said Isaac Andino, a spokesman for City Council Member Keith Powers, whose office conducted the study. “At any given time, more than 30 elevators and escalators are out of order.”
The worst performing third-party elevators last month included the 39th Street and 6th Avenue elevator at Bryant Park, two elevators at the Howard Beach AirTrain station, the downtown elevators at the 28th Street 6 train station, and an elevator at 44th and 8th Avenue leading to the Times Square A, C and E trains.
The study also cited the privately-managed escalators at 14th street and 4th avenue in Union Square as habitually broken.
As of Monday, 11 of the 21 elevators marked out of service on the MTA’s accessibility dashboard were maintained by someone other than the agency.
All in all, the subway system includes 284 escalators and 353 elevators. Of those, 50 escalators and 56 elevators are managed and maintained by third parties, according to the MTA.
“Although public-private partnerships are often touted as a route to subway accessibility, our review demonstrated that equipment maintained by third-party entities is a mixed bag,” the report reads.
The bulk of the equipment maintained by third parties is the result of a partnership between the MTA and a developer or property owner with interests in or near the station. In other instances, the machinery is managed by another, overlapping transit system such as the Port Authority.
Powers’ study found that, on average, broken machinery maintained by the MTA was back up and running in a day and a half. Third-party equipment averaged more than four days to fix.
Private companies have come under fire for poor maintenance of subway elevators before. In 2018, a study by The Transit Center found that privately-maintained elevators were broken nearly 20% of the time.
The study comes as the MTA has announced a renewed focus on accessibility in the subway system.
MTA chair Janno Lieber announced Thursday a capital plan initiative to install 29 new elevators throughout the system, in addition to seven elevators already slated for stations in Manhattan.
“We talk about system expansion as something like Grand Central Madison,” Lieber said at last week’s meeting of the agency’s board. “There’s also system expansion when you bring transit to people who were not included before and didn’t have true access.”
Eight stations scheduled for accessibility upgrades are part of the MTA’s public-private partnership program.
An agency spokesman told The News Monday that those elevators will be owned and operated by the MTA, but maintained by a third party with “strict performance requirements in place.”
Additional upgrades, including the 29 elevators announced last week, will be maintained by the MTA itself.
“We appreciate the recognition given [in the report] to the MTA’s elevator and escalator maintenance teams, which work diligently to keep facilities working for riders,” spokesman Eugene Resnick said. “Where issues have arisen with outside developers who have the responsibility to maintain and repair facilities, the MTA has been, and continues to be, committed to ensuring they live up to their obligations.”
Powers, the councilman who initiated last month’s study, lauded the MTA for working to expand accessibility, but emphasized the importance of keeping every elevator in service.
“While the MTA is making strides in increasing accessibility across the subway, we cannot forget about the existing elevators and escalators that so many commuters rely on each day,” Powers said. “Maintaining a public transit system that is accessible to all is just as essential as expanding it.”
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