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Report: All These Subway Delays Are Costing NYC More Than Just Its Sanity

Turns out this is costing you more than just your sanity.
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Turns out this is costing you more than just your sanity. Photo by Ali Philippides

A report from the Independent Budget Office says that delays during morning rush hours cost employees over $1 million per day in lost time and productivity. Hellish morning subway commutes like this or this or this or ah hell what's one more this cost the city more than its sanity, according to a new report from the IBO. Specifically, the steadily worsening subway service over the years culminating in our current big time problem costs commuters somewhere in the range of $307 million per year.

Starting with a look at the increase of subway delays from 2012 to now, the IBO found that on-time terminal performance, which the MTA defines as trains "that arrive at the end of their route (the terminal) no more than five minutes later than scheduled" dropped from a recent high of 84.8 percent in 2011 to 61.7 percent in May this year.

The report also found that the number of subway delays increased from a recent low of 18,254 in November 2012 to 67,453 in May of this year. That's a 237% increase in delays. If you're reading this article while waiting on a subway platform, we'll give you a couple hours to let those numbers sink in.

Concluding that in fact, delays are up and trains aren't moving as fast, the IBO made an equation that goes

(share of trains subject to minor/medium/major delay) x (the total number of passengers traveling on that line) x (average delay in minutes for each train subject to minor/medium/major delays)

to try to determine how much time and therefore how much money the average subway rider (who, according to the most recent Census data, made an average $34.72 per hour in the case of city residents and $68.08 per hour for non-city residents) loses because of delays between 7 a.m. and 10 a.m. on weekdays.

Commuters lost 34,900 hours to delays in May this year according to the IBO's calculations, a 45.5 percent increase over the monthly average of 24,023 hours of delays in 2012. Even making allowances for a percentage of rush hour subway riders who aren't on their way to work and therefore aren't losing as much money, a number the IBO pegs at 17.9 percent of the 1.24 million commuters on the subway, the IBO determined the "resulting value of the time lost each morning rush hour due to delays is $864,000 for city commuters, $257,000 for noncity commuters, and $109,000 for subway riders making nonwork trips, for a total daily cost of $1.23 million." The report goes on to say

Multiplying this figure by 250 nonholiday weekdays in a year gives a total annual cost of delays of $307 million for delays during the 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. morning rush: $216 million for city resident commuters, $64 million for nonresident commuters, and $27 million for people not traveling to work. Given the trends of the past several years, the amount and therefore the cost of delays are likely to increase in the future.

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, who asked for the analysis, put out a statement in the report's aftermath saying "Our city’s annual loss of $307 million to preventable subway delays is a critical derailment of the economic lives of many businesses and New Yorkers, particularly those from economically challenged communities who feel any hit to their wallet harder than those with access to alternate commuting options." A critical derailment, get it? You get it.

The IBO admitted that the MTA introduced a new way of measuring train delays right before they came out with this report, and a spokesperson for the MTA touted the agency's new on-time performance metrics while once again calling on Mayor Bill de Blasio to fund a piece of part-time MTA chairperson Joe Lhota's subway turnaround plan.

"The subway and our unparalleled 24-hour-a-day mass transit network are the engines that power a city economy that continues to grow and outpace the nation," spokesperson John J. McCarthy told Gothamist in a statement. "Chairman Lhota's Subway Action Plan is stabilizing the subway by targeting the biggest drivers of delays across the system - and that is exactly why we need City Hall and Mayor de Blasio to commit to paying its 50% share to fully implement the Plan."

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