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Subway Workforce Dwindles as Pandemic and Hiring Freeze Take Toll


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Subway Workforce Dwindles as Pandemic and Hiring Freeze Take Toll

BY JOSE MARTINEZ  APR 18, 2021, 9:06PM EDT

SubwayJobs_1.0.jpg

A conductor on a Manhattan bound L train leaving DeKalb Avenue, April 15. 2021.

Hiram Alejandro Durán/THE CITY

The MTA is operating a pared-down workforce that’s shed more than 2,600 subway jobs since 2019, figures obtained by THE CITY show — leaving fewer employees to operate trains and maintain a system struggling to rebound from the pandemic.

Data from internal New York City Transit “personnel strength” reports reveal the number of workers within the Department of Subways has shrunk by nearly 9% since January 2019, when there were close to 30,000 employees on the payroll.

Track workers, tower operators, train crews and dispatchers are among those who have exited en masse in the last two years as a hiring freeze, retirements and the COVID-19 crisis helped reduce the number of subway workers at the MTA to 27,248 by February.

Figures reviewed by THE CITY, and confirmed by the MTA, show the subway division has 2,623 fewer jobs from a little more than two years earlier. The union for transit workers contends that long-term attrition could affect safety and reliability as more riders return to the subway.

“If they don’t fill spots, the tracks aren’t going to be safe, the system is not going to be maintained,” said Tony Utano, president of Transport Workers Union Local 100. “Eventually, it is going to have an impact.”

Many of the positions opened during the last year, when subway ridership, at its low point in April 2020, plummeted by more than 90%. MTA data shows two days last week where the number of subway trips climbed above 2 million trips, about 34% of the pre-pandemic norm of more than 5 million.

“As service comes back, it’s very important that they fill those positions,” Utano said.

Transit officials have been encouraging riders to return to the subway, which experts say is central to the city’s economic recovery as more people get back to offices, ball fields, bars, theaters and restaurants amid an increase in vaccinations and decrease in COVID cases. 

But a recent MTA survey of more than 33,000 New Yorkers found riders are more concerned about crime and harassment on trains and in stations than they were six months ago.

‘Not Enough Bodies’

Data shows the number of track workers fell from 1,993 in January 2019 to 1,721 in February 2021 — a decrease of 13.6%. The subway conductor ranks dropped to 2,346 — down nearly 12% from 2,664 just over two years earlier. In January 2019, there were 3,598 train operators, but by this February, that figure had dropped 11.5% to 3,182.

There were also fewer tower operators, train dispatchers, station agents, signal maintainers and station cleaners, according to the figures. The MTA also lost nearly 160 workers to COVID-19, a spokesperson said.

“It’s people leaving, it’s people retiring,” Utano said. “Look, the virus had an impact.”

In January, THE CITY reported that worker shortages and illnesses among subway train crews had caused more than 4,200 one-way subway trips to be canceled the previous month. 

“There’s just not enough bodies,” Eric Loegel, a TWU Local 100 representative, said at the time. “There’s not enough qualified conductors and operators.”

As the pandemic-driven drop in ridership tanked MTA revenues, the agency put off hiring new classes of train operators and subway conductors and suspended many capital projects.

SubwayJobs_2.jpg

Hiram Alejandro Durán/THE CITY

Sarah Feinberg, the interim head of New York City Transit, last month pledged to restore full service on the C and F lines after it was scaled back on all lines in the early stages of the pandemic.

An MTA spokesperson on Friday said the agency is running full service on most lines and making moves to close gaps in the subway workforce. 

“We are hiring to fill operating positions affected by normal attrition and we will continue to hire as required to provide our customers with the safe, reliable service they deserve,” said the spokesperson, Andrei Berman.

The Cuts They Planned

In the months before the pandemic gripped New York, the MTA had announced plans to slash 2,700 jobs by the end of last year as part of an agency-wide reorganization that was signed into law in 2019.

The state legislature directed the MTA to come up with an organizational restructuring plan. In February 2020, the agency’s chief transformation officer described the planned cuts as “reduction in force” designed to “transform the MTA to become the center of excellence worldwide in mass transportation.”

The planned cuts were postponed that March.

But with billions of dollars in federal aid for the MTA secured as part of the nearly $2 trillion COVID-19 stimulus package, Utano said the agency needs to pick up the pace on hiring.

“We can’t go on forever like this,” he said. “They’ve got the funding now — they need to start hiring.”

Source:  https://www.thecity.nyc/2021/4/18/22390464/nyc-subway-workforce-dwindles-as-pandemic-takes-toll?fbclid=IwAR3feqJ-5JWeIKL-usV1t5L9FVCh566OrZT4cWInfmZh6Qf3sPBiaUOPqKg

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So basically, MTA wanted to get rid of 2700 jobs already in 2019, and as a result of coronavirus shed 2600.  Management got exactly what it wanted.  Completely naive for anyone to think they're going to suddenly turn around and hire more people.

As long as the State, City and the agency itself continue to be as toxic and politically mismanaged as they currently are, not a damn thing will change.

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Posted (edited)
8 minutes ago, R10 2952 said:

So basically, MTA wanted to get rid of 2700 jobs already in 2019, and as a result of coronavirus shed 2600.  Management got exactly what it wanted.  Completely naive for anyone to think they're going to suddenly turn around and hire more people.

As long as the State, City and the agency itself continue to be as toxic and politically mismanaged as they currently are, not a damn thing will change.

Well they can't on the one hand ask riders to please come back and use the trains and buses, then on the other hand, continue to run the garbage service we've been getting, then have their hands out asking for funding from the Feds to maintain service that they're not providing. It's a joke. I can tell you right now, that some riders are pissed about it. People missing doctors' appointments or having to drive because the service is so unreliable. You can't have it both ways. Riders will vote with their feet, which is what is happening. 

The people saying oh adjust the service don't use it, so they are only looking at it from the operations side. Riders are not going to put up with the garbage service that have options. They will drive, take Uber or what have you. I myself only use the (MTA) once or twice a week now. I'm getting around by car for all other trips.

Edited by Via Garibaldi 8
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6 train is 6 minutes during rush hour. 1 minute dwells at each express station. F train might as well be LIRR headways during rush hour. Weekends are still standing room only most lines at 12-15 minute headways. You need to WALK east/west through manhattan to get to the trunk line that is your destination. Regardless of distance. it will be faster than 1 transfer on weekends always. Atleast after Byford, A trains aren't cancelled every hour turning the A train into 25-35 minute headways  at noon in manhattan, or 45 minutes at Lefferts or Far Rock. 

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On 4/19/2021 at 3:15 PM, R10 2952 said:

So basically, MTA wanted to get rid of 2700 jobs already in 2019, and as a result of coronavirus shed 2600. 

Weren't those 2700 jobs supposed to be in the office buildings and not operations, and supposed to be spread over all the operating agencies and not NYCTA?

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43 minutes ago, Deucey said:

Weren't those 2700 jobs supposed to be in the office buildings and not operations, and supposed to be spread over all the operating agencies and not NYCTA?

They never cut there. They have so many redundant positions in office buildings. It's a joke. You're talking about an agency that has no idea who was what, since they have no organizational chart anywhere. Insanity when you think about it.

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51 minutes ago, Via Garibaldi 8 said:

They never cut there. They have so many redundant positions in office buildings. It's a joke. You're talking about an agency that has no idea who was what, since they have no organizational chart anywhere. Insanity when you think about it.

I thought Sarah got mad applause for making one?

I remember someone here mocking it.

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5 minutes ago, Deucey said:

I thought Sarah got mad applause for making one?

I remember someone here mocking it.

That's news to me. Even if she did, there are still so many redundant positions.

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Posted (edited)

Well thanks to ridership Jumping more than "expected"  and some bucks Uncle Joe has given them TA has starting hiring again..

New TO classes start in May, they calling CRs  in for medicals..

F Line goes back to "normal"  weekday Headways on May the 3rd, Kings Highway service restored..

C Line goes back to Normal soon after....

Upcoming Picks No job Cuts from A or B Division..

Edited by RTOMan
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4 minutes ago, RTOMan said:

Well thanks to ridership Jumping more than "expected"  and some bucks Uncle Joe has given them TA has starting hiring again..

New TO classes start in May more to come not sure about CRs...

F Line goes back to "normal"  weekday Headways on May the 3rd, Kings Highway service restored..

C Line goes back to Normal soon after....

Upcoming Picks No job Cuts from A or B Division..

Sounds great, but I haven't heard squat about any bus operators being hired, nor cleaners. The buses are filthy, and the trains are going back to being dirty as well.

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Just now, Via Garibaldi 8 said:

Sounds great, but I haven't heard squat about any bus operators being hired, nor cleaners. The buses are filthy, and the trains are going back to being dirty as well.

They dropped the dime on bus operators big time so i don't know...

As for cleaners? They are keeping most of them in the barns cleaning inspected trains and buses since there really aren't a lot of them..

Only ones we will see mostly is the contractor ones here now..

The union signed off on it so TA is gonna use it... 

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Just now, RTOMan said:

They dropped the dime on bus operators big time so i don't know...

As for cleaners? They are keeping most of them in the barns cleaning inspected trains and buses since there really aren't a lot of them..

Only ones we will see mostly is the contractor ones here now..

The union signed off on it so TA is gonna use it... 

I know... There aren't many cleaners at all, which is another problem, and the few they have aren't really cleaning. They're just spraying that crap everywhere. You get on the bus and touch something, that stuff is sprayed everywhere. Floors filthy. Windows filthy... They spent $250 million last year on "cleaning"... A joke... I hear union strong, union this, union that... Have to wonder what in the hell the unions are thinking to sign off on things like this.

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1 hour ago, Via Garibaldi 8 said:

I know... There aren't many cleaners at all, which is another problem, and the few they have aren't really cleaning. They're just spraying that crap everywhere. You get on the bus and touch something, that stuff is sprayed everywhere. Floors filthy. Windows filthy... They spent $250 million last year on "cleaning"... A joke... I hear union strong, union this, union that... Have to wonder what in the hell the unions are thinking to sign off on things like this.

Your guess is as good as mines...

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