New York, NY— Relying on internal MTA documents never released publicly, New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer has released a shocking report indicating the MTA has misrepresented its performance for years.
Agency insiders were aware that false data was regularly released to the public. In January 2016, an internal memo noted that “much of the delay data is incomplete or unreliable, particularly the classification/categorization of delays and the assignment of delays to particular incidents.” Despite multiple warnings, MTA officials continued for years to publicly promote misleading information around delays, resulting in the agency being portrayed in a more positive light.
“It is an insult to anyone who has ever been late to work or stranded at the station that MTA leadership passed along bogus delay data just to make the agency look good, even as its own staff were raising red flags,” said Comptroller Stringer. “While the new leadership deserves credit for trying to clean things up, the MTA still has a long way to go to ensure accuracy and reliability and to regain the public’s trust. For too long the MTA has failed to transparently report what is actually going on underground, a problem which can only mean more delays and more frustration for the working New Yorkers who rely on the subway every day.”
From mid-2015 forward, numerous in-house MTA analyses concluded that the Authority’s internal systems could not accurately identify the causes of delays.
A July 2015 internal MTA memo described the methodological breakdowns in stark terms: No policy or guidance exists on how dispatchers should properly identify the cause of a particular delay. Dispatchers rely on train crews to report the cause of delays, and these explanations are suspect.”
Throughout 2016, MTA officials repeatedly asserted that subway service was improving based on apparent increases in “Wait Assessment” scores.
However, internal analyses obtained by the Comptroller’s Office showed MTA alleged improvements in “Wait Assessment” were statistically insignificant and false. Technological advancements in data collection made clear that “Wait Assessment” scores had actually gotten worse.
For nearly a decade, the MTA further distorted its disclosures by effectively hiding delays it had chalked up internally to “Unknown” causes and burried the “Unknowns” without any explanation. The MTA Board from 2013 through mid-2018, the MTA hid 525,710 delays internally grouped under “Unknown.”