Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images

The problems with New York City’s subway system became sharply apparent this year, and now a major investigation by the New York Times lays out why the system is in such poor shape.

In preparation for this, the New York Times interviewed over 300 people ranging from experts on the subway system to contractors.


What they found isn’t pretty:

Century-old tunnels and track routes are crumbling, but The Times found that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s budget for subway maintenance has barely changed, when adjusted for inflation, from what it was 25 years ago.

Signal problems and car equipment failures occur twice as frequently as a decade ago, but hundreds of mechanic positions have been cut because there is not enough money to pay them — even though the average total compensation for subway managers has grown to nearly $300,000 a year.

This lack of budget for basic upkeep as the number of lines hasn’t grown with the number of riders using it. A crammed system is slowly grinding to a halt, perpetually mired in delays, as the NYT explains:

Daily ridership has nearly doubled in the past two decades to 5.7 million, but New York is the only major city in the world with fewer miles of track than it had during World War II. Efforts to add new lines have been hampered by generous agreements with labor unions and private contractors that have inflated construction costs to five times the international average.

New York’s subway now has the worst on-time performance of any major rapid transit system in the world, according to data collected from the 20 biggest. Just 65 percent of weekday trains reach their destinations on time, the lowest rate since the transit crisis of the 1970s, when graffiti-covered cars regularly broke down.


A combination of budget cuts and poor decisions by politicians led to the infrastructure crumbling and the subways only being on time slightly more than half the time.

The New York Times’ report is extensive and it’s a long story—which you can read here—about why exactly the subway system in one of the biggest cities in the world is such a catastrophe.


Hopefully this will shed some light on the issue and get policy makers moving on making some changes.

Lance Tedford spends his energies working on his 1985 Chrysler LeBaron. He is extremely tall and can never die.

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