DiNapoli Takes Issue With Bus Maintenance Costs

A new year has barely begun & New York State ComptrollerThomas DiNapoli is already issuing scathing reports against the MTA. His latest issue revolves around bus inspections & the costs of maintenance being too expensive.

He claims that nearly all of the agency’s hybrid buses have not been properly inspected. Also he claims that 62% of the overall bus fleet failed to meet reliability goals despite maintenance costs which came in near an astounding $780M for 2008. Here is more from his report:

Nearly half of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) bus fleet—including virtually all of the fleet’s hybrid-engine buses—have not been properly inspected according to an audit released today by New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli. In addition, 62 percent of the MTA’s buses failed to meet reliability goals despite maintenance costs that topped $777.7 million in 2008. That amount was double the maintenance costs of other comparable transportation agencies around the nation.

“New Yorkers aren’t getting what they pay for when it comes to bus service,” said DiNapoli. “Other cities across the nation spend much less on maintenance and get better results. The MTA needs to step up bus maintenance performance and bring down maintenance costs.”

Three of the MTA’s seven constituent agencies provide bus service in New York City and Long Island. The MTA’s Regional Bus Operations oversees the authority’s 6,200-bus fleet and maintenance services at 29 depots and two overhaul facilities. DiNapoli’s audit examined records from the MTA’s Regional Bus Operations division between 2007 and 2009.

Auditors found that:

Nearly two-thirds of the 29 bus depots did not meet their performance goals;

Maintenance costs per mile of operation were much higher than other bus fleets around the nation;

584 of the MTA’s 1,255 required maintenance inspections were performed poorly, or not at all; and;

Mechanical failures were more frequent than expected. One depot had a goal of 4,674 miles between failures, but its actual distance traveled between failures was 3,581 miles.

The MTA oversees seven constituent agencies, three of which provide bus service in New York City and Long Island. These bus operations are overseen by the MTA’s Regional Bus Operations. We audited selected aspects of Regional Bus Operations’ bus maintenance program and found that a number of improvements are needed, as routine maintenance procedures often are not performed as required, buses at two-thirds of the 29 depots did not meet their performance goals, and the maintenance cost per mile is unusually high.

For example, we randomly selected 23 buses and reviewed the maintenance documentation to determine whether routine maintenance inspections were performed as required from January 2007 to November 2009. Based on the MTA’s standards, the 23 buses should have had a total of 1,255 such inspections during this period and the inspections should have been performed within certain timeframes. However, we found that 584 of these required inspections (46.5 percent) were not performed on time, were not performed correctly, or were not performed at all. In addition, 17 of the 23 buses were hybrids, which require engine inspections every 48,000 miles.

However, we found that the engine inspections required at 48,000 or 96,000 miles were not performed for any of the 17 buses. The MTA’s inspection standards are designed to comply with the manufacturers’ specifications and keep the buses in good working order. If the buses are not inspected in accordance with these standards, there is an increased risk they could break down or wear out prematurely. This could compromise passenger service and lead to additional, unnecessary costs.

Click here to view the complete .pdf report.

The entire report was very disturbing to read on various fronts. The lack of proper inspection protocol being followed is a slap in the face to the millions who depend on bus service daily. The other front which was disturbing was the overall costs of maintenance. With technology being advanced, costs for maintenance should be considerably cheaper. In an age where the agency is proclaiming financial responsibility, this is an issue that must be addressed.

The comptroller’s suggestions:

Improve the reliability of its bus fleet;

Identify reasons why maintenance costs are so high and develop a plan to reduce them, and;

Prepare a comprehensive maintenance plan that includes information on maintenance program objectives and unscheduled maintenance operations.

come across as pretty basic common sense yet the importance of them being implemented can not be stressed enough. While running a bus system in our region is the most complex of anywhere in the world, it is not a valid reason to skimp on inspections & to have such high maintenance costs. The agency needs to step their game up on both the cost & safety front as anything less is completely unacceptable.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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[…] However with the positive comes the negative which in my opinion curbs what they are trying to do. Whether it was the addition of 2 bus lines to basically replace 1, or bus maintenance costs being too expensive. […]

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