Statement of the Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee to the MTA
Before the MTA Board NYC Finance Committee
May 20, 2009
I am William Henderson, Executive Director of the Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee to the MTA. The PCAC is composed of the members of three riders’ councils established by the State legislature in 1981 and addresses regional issues as well as coordinating the work of the councils.
We are pleased that the State has placed the MTA’s finances on a somewhat more firm financial footing and that you are today considering the restoration of the severe cuts contemplated in the MTA’s Additional Action for Budget Balance (AABB). The PCAC supported a responsible solution in which those who benefit from our regional transit system contribute more toward its operation and maintenance, allowing service to be maintained and direct impacts to the riding public to be avoided.
We are troubled, however, by some of the definitions of direct impact that are being advanced today. Specifically, I speak of the decision to eliminate through attrition Station Customer Assistants in all subway stations and Booth Agents in selected subway stations. Anyone who truly believes that elimination of a customer service presence in the subway system does not impact the quality of service has apparently not spent much time in our subway system. We recognize that riders’ needs have changed with increasing use of time-based MetroCards and MetroCard vending machines, but Booth Agents and Station Customer Assistants remain a vital element of customer service. The proper approach to resolving issues with station staffing is to make it more effective, not to eliminate a substantial portion of the staffing.
When NYC Transit established the Station Customer Assistant program, they said that it represented “a renewed commitment to customer service by NYC Transit.” I’m not sure what the eventual elimination of this program represents, but whatever it is, these changes in station staffing are not good for the system or its riders.