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GojiMet86

MTA brass pushed link between subway delays and power problems, causing Cuomo to blame Con Edison

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http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/mta-brass-pushed-link-subway-delays-power-problems-article-1.3769202

 

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MTA brass pushed link between subway delays and power problems, causing Cuomo to blame Con Edison

By: Dan Rivoli

 

Internal emails obtained by the Daily News show an MTA honcho pushing staff to come up with a higher number of subway delays blamed on power issues, before Gov. Cuomo made a public show of citing problems with Con Edison as the single biggest source of disruption for riders.

As the Summer of Hell was in full swing, NYC Transit brass found a creative way to make power-tied delays appear more common. They expanded the types of incidents that could be defined as power-related, including circuit failures, and emergencies — like a person on the track — where the power is intentionally cut off.

The broader definition detailed in emails from July 25 to Aug. 9 allowed the MTA to quadruple the tally of power-related delays, to 32,000 from 8,000.

Cuomo, during an Aug. 9 tour of the subway, said there were 32,000 power delays in a year — calling it the most frequent cause of ruined commutes in the previous 12-month period.

The robust figure helped turn Con Ed into a scapegoat for a large chunk of service problems. The utility has since been ordered to complete tens of millions of dollars in repair work and inspections on NYC Transit property.

“We’re looking at the largest single cluster of delays, which are 32,000 power-related delays,” Cuomo, wearing a white polo shirt and khaki pants, said Aug. 9 before walking the tracks of the Columbus Circle station. “What people tend to forget is the MTA runs on power.”

A spokesman for Cuomo said the governor was simply a messenger.

“We used data provided to us by the MTA,” Peter Ajemian said.

The real number of power delays, according to senior subways performance analyst Kyle Kirschling, was about 8,000. NYC Transit chief of staff Naomi Renek wrote an email to staff members at 6:03 a.m. on July 25, saying that she was “looking for a higher delay number for power.”

Kirschling initially appeared stumped.

“I can’t think of a way to make the ConEd/External power figures higher,” he replied to Renek, NYC Transit Executive Vice President Tim Mulligan and other transit staffers.

Kirschling, in a subsequent email, said Con Ed was at fault for just 3,422 of those delays.

Metropolitan Transportation Authority Chairman Joe Lhota denied anything was wrong with the way transit staffers crunched the numbers. They weren’t cooking the books, he said.

“No one’s running up the numbers in this,” Lhota told The News. “Everything was related to electricity and power.”

Lhota unveiled an $830 million action plan in July to improve subway service and infrastructure. Things are getting better, transit officials said.

The MTA is expected to reveal to its board this week stats showing a drop in the average number of “major power incidents” to four a day in November, down from nine a day in June. The number of major incidents overall dropped 35% over that time — from 81 a day to 53 a day.

‘Expanding the definition’

The MTA emails leading up to the Cuomo announcement detail how NYC Transit pulled off their numerical electric slide.

Con Ed was in Cuomo’s crosshairs in the wake of an epic service disruption on April 21 from a power equipment failure at the Seventh Ave. and 53rd St. station. With subway chaos that could be firmly blamed on Con Ed, Cuomo called on the Public Service Commission to investigate the utility.

Three months after the meltdown, as the commission was close to releasing its findings, NYC Transit officials reviewed their numbers, according to the agency emails. The correspondence involved Renek and other agency execs and staffers, as well as aides from Cuomo’s office.

Renek asked transit staff in the July 25 email to find a way to increase the tally of power-related subway failures.

“Need asap,” she wrote about two weeks before the Cuomo announcement.

Kirschling, the subways performance analyst, replied at 6:24 a.m., offering ways to push the numbers higher.

“By expanding the definition,” he wrote, the number of delays could shoot up to 23,686 delays.

“Expanding” was putting it mildly.

He provided a list of a dozen delay categories that could be lumped together as “power-related” incidents.

For example, he included any delay where the power was cut on the track. That includes intentional cuts during an emergency — none of which have a direct connection to Con Ed.

Kirschling also added delays from malfunctions called track circuit failures that can turn signals red — they made up the biggest piece of the MTA’s statistic on “power-related” delays.

Still, he explained how thin a connection these equipment malfunctions have to Con Ed’s delivery of power.

“I’m not sure if that’s what you’re interested in,” he wrote. “Track circuit failures are related to power, but I don’t think power is usually the root cause.”

Kirschling ended his email by saying that reworking of the delay categories was the best he could do.

Transit sources and power experts told The News that “track circuit failures” is a sweeping category that can be used to cover a variety of delays, most of them outside Con Ed’s control.

“Maybe the wiring went bad or a relay in the signal relay room dropped out,” Robert Lobenstein, a retired general superintendent of NYC Transit power operations, told The News. “It’s not per se a Con Edison problem, no.”

Tommy Creegan, a power distribution maintainer and a Transport Workers Union Local 100 rep for third-rail workers, was skeptical that transit circuit failures could be Con Ed’s responsibility, unless its power stopped reaching MTA equipment.

“I don’t see how Con Ed ties into the track circuit,” Creegan said.

A day after Kirschling’s response, Cuomo’s office reached out to NYC Transit for an update.

Cuomo’s deputy press secretary Maxwell Morgan checked in with Renek, emailing her and another governor’s aide, Maria Michalos.

“Naomi, do we have the total real number of power-related delays over last 12 months? Higher than the 8k?”

Renek responded with an explanation.

“The 8k is the real number of power-only incidents,” she wrote. “However, incidents coded as signal can also be power-related. We can safely say that track circuit incidents are power-related, although power is not the root cause.”

Soon, she and Morgan were hashing out how to spin the numbers to the public.

“How would you massage that language?” Morgan wrote. “Could we say ‘power-related issues caused more than 32,000 delays?’ ”

Renek replied that it was better to couch the numbers by saying power “caused or contributed to” the delays.

Cuomo seized on the 32,000 figure during his Aug. 9 tour of the subway’s power systems at Columbus Circle. He also announced that the Public Service Commission he controls ordered Con Edison to work with the MTA to fix the power problems.

Con Ed — which did not work with the MTA on creating the statistic — has spent about $50 million since the PSC ordered the utility to work with the MTA in November.

“No one feels we’re being blamed; there are electrical equipment changes and upgrades needed with the transit system that will help improve service,” the utility’s spokesman Michael Clendenin said in a statement.

“We’re pleased to offer our expertise and assistance in making improvements that will benefit all commuters.”

Charlie Hall, senior vice president at WSP, the engineering firm contracted to oversee Con Ed’s work with the MTA, said the rationale behind the broader definition of “power-related” delays was appropriate.

He said a power-related incident was “when a component fails and it’s driven by electricity.”

He said that NYC Transit signals are vulnerable to fluctuations in Con Ed’s power supply.

“It’s not the equipment that’s causing it. It’s the drop, it’s power quality,” Hall said. “It dips and it spikes.”

After Cuomo’s tour, there was a question about how the 32,000-delay figure had been pulled together.

“I don’t know the source of the 32,000 figure, though I remember discussing it,” Kirschling wrote in an email 18 minutes after Cuomo spoke.

Kirschling showed his math, detailing how he arrived at the figure. He informed Renek that nearly 5,000 power-related delays on transit equipment were double-counted in the final figure.

So even the “expanded definition” of power-related delays actually topped out at 27,000 — not 32,000.

But then he explained that his “original and more modest definition” would have shown just 8,347 delays over a year. Of that, just 3,422 — about 41% — were tagged as a Con Ed failure.

In an interview with The News, Lhota dismissed Kirschling as a “bean counter.”

“It all starts with and begins with power, the source of which comes from Con Ed,” he said.

Lhota defended the decision to include all types of delays that Kirschling put in the final tally, even where power was removed for emergencies.

“Are you gonna tell me power cut from the tracks is not a power-related problem?” he said to The News.

 

 

Edited by GojiMet86
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Wow. I hope these idiots get skewered alive for such clear fraud. That’s 50 million dollars obtained with falsified data. Disgusting. Absolutely disgusting.

But somehow, not surprising. The ignorant, buck-passing chickens at the top no longer stun me. As long as they cover/kiss Cuomo’s ass, their kind will remain. 

Edited by RR503

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Never a good sign when ConEd comes out looking like the innocent victim in a story.

Still, it's not like the ConEd repairs weren't needed and/or important, regardless of how they were brought about. 

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1 minute ago, QM1to6Ave said:

Never a good sign when ConEd comes out looking like the innocent victim in a story.

Still, it's not like the ConEd repairs weren't needed and/or important, regardless of how they were brought about. 

I remember when ConEd was like "Nope, it wasn't us" :D

  • LMAO! 1

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5 hours ago, QM1to6Ave said:

Never a good sign when ConEd comes out looking like the innocent victim in a story.

Still, it's not like the ConEd repairs weren't needed and/or important, regardless of how they were brought about. 

Sure, but now there may be legal repercussions about this falsification of data. ConEd is a investor-held company, and I would not be surprised if their shareholders want the company to claw back money taken via BS.

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Yet again we see an agency that doesn't take responsibility for their own problems and they COOK the books.  Well where are the people saying that there aren't two sets of books? These are the sorts of incidents that show that this agency can't be trusted with anything. Let's hope there is some transparency with new people coming in, but I'm not holding my breath.

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On 1/22/2018 at 1:23 AM, bobtehpanda said:

Sure, but now there may be legal repercussions about this falsification of data. ConEd is a investor-held company, and I would not be surprised if their shareholders want the company to claw back money taken via BS.

At least they can't undo the repairs they made. I hope.  

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