By now I am sure you have all heard about the MTA’s plan to shakeup management of the NYC Subway by undergoing massive reorganization. When I first heard about the news, I wanted to write an entry. However I thought it would best if I gave it some thought before commenting. So with the thinking process mixed in with other things needing attention, I am now getting down to writing my feelings on the idea. In case you missed it, here is the cliff notes version of the plan. The MTA is looking to give each subway line their own boss who would be in charge of everything from track repair to the cleanliness & everything in between.
I will be honest, I thought this was a horrible idea when I first heard it. I immediately asked myself why is the MTA looking to add another layer of bureaucracy to what is already a huge mess from management ranks to the very top. However when I sat down & thought about it, I realized this idea could possibly work although some legitimate roadblocks are in the way of this actually doing so.
On one side of the coin, a plan such as this is essentially eliminating several layers of management that are not needed. This move now puts all of the leadership responsibilities on individuals who actually do the operating as opposed to someone just being what I like to call a “Title Only” employee. I can guarantee you one thing many “Title Only” employees who line the walls at locations on Broadway, Jay St., & Livingston St. are worried & as they should be!
Clean stations & trains which were 2 big issues in most of the “Rider Report Cards” should see an improvement under such a management style. One would think so considering that one person is in charge of 468 stations under the current way of doing things. Seriously why do you think it takes forever to get something done! One person responsible for the overall state of all stations is why we have the disaster we have today. When you think of it in that prospective along with the reality of this individual not really answering to anyone, it is to be expected that the overall situation would reek of chaos.
NYC Transit President Howard H. Roberts Jr is used to this sort of management style. He helped the agency implement a similar plan back in the 1980’s for the agency’s bus operations. During the 1980’s, managers were hired to run each borough individually. So we can at least know that this sort of plan is not foreign to the powers that be within the MTA.
However all is not peachy in regards to this plan. Now lets look at the potential downfalls of this plan. For starters while competition can bring out the best in people, the same can be said for it bringing out the worst in people. Unlike buses, implementing this sort of management style faces major hurdles with subways.
Lets look at a possible issue with timeliness as this will be a major category for assessing the performance of lines. Right now as we know it, many connections are made between lines at different points in the system. What happens when a manager does not want to jeopardize his line’ schedule by waiting for a connecting train which is now a competitor of softs?
Unfortunately this is not the only issue that can throw a wrench into these plans. By putting managers in charge of individual lines, what happens in locations such as the 59th St M.T., DeKalb, Murphy, E. 180th St….. when decisions have to be made as to which line gets priority? Do you see how this could turn into some unneeded drama as people fight for their line since the bar has been raised to a competitive level? I don’t know if things will turn into a live WWE PPV, but the possibility is definitely there for some heated drama!
One has to seriously wonder if such a plan can possibly work for what is by far the most complexed subway system in the world. Lets use the DeKalb complex as an example. Who exactly would have the final say on what line would have priority in the case of a delay considering multiple lines pass through? We will have individual line managers who will stick up for their line & rightfully so especially if this new structure has incentives attached to it. This kind of potential drama which is guaranteed to come to fruition at some point will lead to infighting about how “Person A” caused “Person B’s” line to be delayed. See where this is going……
Now lets look at the possibility of timeliness issues that I previously mentioned. The first two lines to start this new structure will be the 7 & L. These lines are what I call the ultimate “softball” choices as both lines share no trackage, signals or tower with any other line. So in theory these lines avoid the drama I outlined could & probably will come of such a structure. However this does not mean everything is in the clear.
While the 7 & L are loners, they do have scheduling setup in mind to match ridership demands for transfers to other lines at key stops in the system. The 7 has the key transfer to the N & W at Queensboro Plaza & the L has the A, J, & Z at Broadway Junction but more so the J & Z. What happens when you have the MTA encouraging self sufficiency which can lead to poor communications between so called “competing” operations? Well one can only imagine that riders would suffer under such circumstances as they are the ones who depend on these key connections & poor communication especially during high headway periods are not good for anyone involved.
All of this might seem like I am looking to automatically shoot down the hopes of the new brass to better our system. However I am not doing this as I like millions of others want to see the vision of the new brass lead us to a system we can be proud to use daily while going about our lives. Unfortunately when one looks towards the future, they must also objectively look at what can hold us back from reaching everyone’s desired goal of the best transportation system possible!
xoxo Transit Blogger