Over the last week or so, there seems to have been at least 1 story a day about the sad state of finances at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA). Today is no different as a report has come out which pours even more salt on the wound. According to the report, the MTA has paid out over $1.1 billion dollars in claims over the last decade. William Neuman of the New York Times City Room Blog has more:
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority has paid out more than $1.1 billion in claims for personal injury and property damage over the last 12 years, according to a new report [pdf] by State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli.
The claims include $285,046 paid by the Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North Railroad to riders who ripped their pants or other items of clothing on the armrests in the M7 train cars. The armrests are notorious among riders on the two railroads because their design makes them uniquely suited to snag on clothing, especially pants pockets. The two railroads received a total of more than 1,400 claims for torn clothing last year, significantly more than the two previous years, when about 800 claims were filed annually.
The report said that overall, the two commuter railroads and New York City Transit received a total of 86,875 claims of all types from 1996 to 2007. Since 1996, 85 cases have been settled for $1 million or more, at a total cost of $233 million, or a fifth of all claims paid.
Over the period covered by the study claims have generally amounted to less than $100 million a year. Last year they reached $144 million because of the settlement of some unusually large claims. The authority’s annual operating budget is more than $10 billion.
The Newsday had their own angle on the report as they showcase how out of the $1.1 billion in claims, the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) is responsible for a spending record of $52.9 million dollars. Here is their story:
A spike in the number of claims by passengers injured in gap accidents led in large part to the Long Island Rail Road paying out a record $52.9 million in property and injury claims last year, according to a report released Thursday by state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli.
The four-page report, which also cites an increase in claims from passengers who tore pants pockets on armrests of the railroad’s 836 M-7 cars, says the Metropolitan Transportation Authority has paid out $1.1 billion in property and injury claims since 1996.
Newsday published a series of stories in early 2007 highlighting a large number of gap injuries and the LIRR’s previously lax efforts to make it safer.
The LIRR said earlier this year it will have spent about $46 million on gap remediation — including past work to shift platforms, current work to attach boards to station platforms and future work to install metal plates at the base of each car door — by 2012.
LIRR spokesman Joe Calderone said they are also addressing the armrest problems and plans to install shorter armrests on trains that don’t snag pockets.
“Gap awareness, due to extensive publicity, reached an all-time high in 2007, which may have contributed to an increase in claims,” he said. “Customer and employee safety remains the LIRR’s No. 1 priority. In fact, the LIRR recently received a national safety award for most improved employee accident rate after showing a 13 percent decrease in our employee accident rate. We urge customers and employees to be aware of their surroundings and take responsibility for their own safety by paying close attention when exiting and entering trains.”
Last year the number of claims filed against the LIRR peaked at 1,936 — a twofold increase over 2003, the report said. The amount of claims paid out similarly jumped from $21 million in 2006 to the $52.9 million last year.
In 2006, however, the LIRR ranked third on a comparison of the impact such judgments and claims have upon riders’ wallets on the nation’s largest commuter rails. Chicago’s system ranked first with 27 cents per commuter trip, followed by Metro-North at 25 cents and then the LIRR with 19 cents.
The report also says the estimated future liability of claims filed but not yet paid by the MTA totaled $1.2 billion last year, a 38 percent increase since 2001.
“Given this trend, the annual cost to settle judgments and claims is likely to remain a significant budget expense,” the report said. “The State Comptroller recommends that the MTA step up its efforts to mitigate safety hazards to workers and commuters.”
After reading the story on Newsday, I decided to check out the 55 comments that were left in response to the story as of this writing. All I can say is wow & not in a good way! It is pretty sad how just about every comment left was blaming Newsday of all people for the money paid out in claims mostly stemming from lawsuits about gap incidents. Here are some of the idiotic comments that were left
- “WRONG. The number of claims was led in large part by the hysterical reporting by Newsday of injuries that were entirely beyond the control of the LIRR. It doesn’t matter how small the gap is, some moron will fall into it and Newsday will blame the LIRR.”
- “And thank you Newsday for making us all nauseatingly aware of the gap and for giving all these idiots the idea to sue for not watching where they are going!”
- ” As for the resulting fare hikes to pay these caims off…Thank NEWSDAY for further degrading the quality of life on LI”
- “Claims paid to morons who don’t look where they walk? This is lunacy-they should fight these lawsuits and the offenders, if they lose, should be dropped in the gap where they belong..”
- ” Thanks Newsday. Thanks 2nd rate Law Schools.”
- “i would like to take this time to personally thank newsday for taking a story, blowing it out of proportion and winning a few awards while contributing to fare increases to pay for lawsuits. next fare increase should be paid for by newsday”
- “And here is the latest scam on the LIRR and we all fall victim to that. People of the “rap” variety get on the train without a ticket. When the conductor comes to check tickets they say, “no ticket” and then have some lame excuse or vague threat in response. The conductor let’s it ride because they don’t want a scene or worse, a racial controversy that hits the papers.”
- ” Newsday should pay every single cent of those judgements.”
Here is the link to the story so you can read the comments that were left.
Here is the link to the full report (pdf) from New York State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli
xoxo Transit Blogger
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