Poor training for subway operators puts riders at risk, MTA audit reveals
Mar 2, 2018
A damning state controller audit gives the MTA’s schooling of subway operators and conductors a failing grade, noting that its poorly run training programs may be leading to bad rides and safety hazards.
The audit’s findings are in lockstep with a Daily News report Monday, in which veteran transit workers said newly hired operators receive a bad education, causing delays and endangering passengers.
The MTA was also not in compliance in sending train crews for required medical assessments on time, according to the audit to be released Friday.
“Shortfalls in training and medical checkups for subway workers raise concerns not just for rider service, but for riders’ safety,” state controller Tom DiNapoli said in a statement.
“We hope the MTA takes our recommendations in good faith for what they are — informed suggestions for improving the subway system.”
The auditors found the Metropolitan Transportation Authority did a sloppy job of keeping tabs on its operators and conductors’ testing history — which assess the skills they learn during training. Nearly 57% of the 106 operators and conductors sampled in the audit were missing crucial quizzes in their files.
The audit said there appears to be a link between failed or missing tests and the transit workers’ later job performance.
All four operators in the sample who had five or more subway snafus during the nearly three-year audit period had a history of failing grades or missing tests and quizzes.
One who had nine screwups — including accidentally pulling the emergency brake seven times — was missing road test exam results and six quizzes in his file, according to auditors.
The deficiencies went beyond the MTA’s New Train Operator Transition program, which began in 2013. Subway workers are required to take a refresher course every three years.
The audit said slightly more than half of the 45 operators and conductors it examined didn’t pass the test administered at the end of the refresher class. The test-takers who bombed still returned to their jobs.
The MTA said the audit made several critical mistakes, calling its sample size too small. The agency also said the refresher course has graded assessments to guide further training — but they’re not pass or fail tests like the audit described.
“Safety is the number-one priority at New York City Transit and accordingly the accident and injury rates are extremely low for both customers and employees,” the MTA said.
The News reported Monday that veteran transit workers blamed the new train operator program for subway mishaps.
The workers said new hires don’t learn crucial real-world skills like starting and stopping in stations and at switches because two months of their training is spent in a rail yard with little supervision and instruction.
The old school workers alluded to 11 subway blunders between Feb. 8 and Feb. 22 involving operators who went through the program.
Just Tuesday, a subway operator who went through the program in 2014 accidentally sent his local C train onto an express A train track between the Canal St. and W. Fourth St. stations, records show. He has had 13 foulups since 2014.
The state controller also released a similarly disturbing audit about the Staten Island Railway, noting its training files for employees were missing tests or had ungraded exams.