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Public Records Suggest Some MTA Officials Barely Ride The Subway

Jen Chung / Gothamist
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Jen Chung / Gothamist

New evidence appears to confirm what everyone suspected all along: many of the people in charge of fixing the subway—as in, the executives and board members appointed by Governor Cuomo—don't regularly take the subway.

According to records obtained by the Daily News, at least two high ranking MTA officials swiped their free MetroCards just one time between January 2015 and December 2016. Five of the top executives and board members averaged one trip per week. And nine others used their cards between 12 and 85 times over that two year period.

The average New Yorker, meanwhile, spends over six hours per week commuting—more time than residents spend in any other American city, according to a 2015 report from the City's Comptroller office.

The data on the swiping habits of MTA executives and board members comes courtesy of a Freedom of Information Law request filed by the News six months ago, seeking the number of times that each agency-issued MetroCard was swiped, and to whom those cards belonged. While the MTA complied with the first part of that FOIL, they refused to disclose which cards were used by which officials, citing the information's potential to "endanger the life or safety of a person."

"I think the MTA doesn't come out looking really good, just giving the MetroCard numbers," Gene Russianoff, a spokesperson for the Straphangers Campaign, told Gothamist. "The whole point of this is that people want to know where the money is going,"

Prior to 2008, MTA board members were given free lifetime MetroCards and E-ZPasses. That policy was later amended so that board members were only permitted to use their lifetime cards for official business. The News does acknowledge that board members may be using personal MetroCards for trips not related to MTA business, though that still wouldn't explain why some top brass hadn't used their cards to attend the board's monthly meetings.

In response to the News's story, Michael Sciaraffo, one of the people trapped on the overheated F train last month, told Gothamist that he plans to "publicly challenge Governor Cuomo, the MTA Board and Chairman and all MTA executives, to spend an entire day with me traveling across the city on multiple subway lines so they can experience the daily hassles, frustrations and lack of safety mechanisms that everyday NYers experience every day, for themselves."

After being asked by the Times last month when Governor Cuomo last took the subway, the governor's office refused to respond. Similarly, Mayor de Blasio has previously said that he thinks New Yorkers don't want him taking the subway.

"It shouldn't be seen as some punishment," Russianoff said. "You have 6 million people riding the subway every day, and it's really hard to get a feel for it unless you're smack dab in the middle of it."

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