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neu York has die world"s highest possible subway building and construction costs—something that neighborhood media, consisting of oered.org, has covered extensively.

But scant attention has actually been paid zu operating costs, meaning ns cost des running und maintaining the subway system rather than widening it. Neu York stadt Transit’s subway operating prices are high von both domestic und international standards—about 60 percent greater than those of the largest European systems, und 90 percent higher than an Chicago.

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Urbanize.LA has covered some von these issues, since los Angeles"s city rail operating expenses are even greater than those des the new York city subway. Die metrics offered are operating and maintenance costs von car-mile and car-hour; this ist because train maintain needs und energy prices generally scale with ns number of cars, and only die train operator ist paid zum the entire train.

For in idea des how neu York to compare to ns rest von the world, ns chart below aussehen at dünn from comparable transit systems bei the U.S. Und major cities around ns world; die American data comes native the national Transit Database, whereas ns European dünn is native the international Community des Metros (CoMET), which also includes neu York city Transit.


Subway system operating costs

Subway network Cost von mile Cost per hour Subway network Cost von mile Cost von hour
PATH $30.00 $560.00
Los angeles Metro Rail $19.00 $395.00
Boston T $15.60 $250.00
New York city Subway $15.10 $275.00
Miami Metrorail $11.70 $260.00
Washington Metro $11.50 $285.00
Madrid Metro $11.00 $215.00
Philadelphia SEPTA subway $11.00 $215.00
Atlanta MARTA $9.60 $255.00
Berlin U-Bahn $9.60 $185.00
Paris Metro und RER $9.60
London Underground $9.30 $190.00
BART $8.60 $300.00
Chicago L $8.00 $145.00

CoMET lists charme separately zum operating costs (excluding maintenance), monitor maintenance, und train maintenance. Neu York"s train maintenance expenses are notfall out von line, but in the various other two category it is far und away ns most expensive.

Why are new York’s subway operation costs dafür high?

The reason why track maintain is deswegen costly ist simple: die oered.orgC subway operates 24/7. While other systems, such together London’s Underground and the washington D.C. Metro, geschlossen down overnight for maintenance, oered.orgCT does not. Instead, that has kommen sie do track arbeit with partial weekend shutdowns, v workers ~ above one track und running trains on ns adjacent track. Weil das safety, every time a train passes on nearby track, the track workers schutz to denkpause what they"re doing.

This renders every job take viel longer than it has to, which in turn drives up costs. oered.orgCT recognizes this ist a problem, which is why enforced its Fastrack program bei 2011, shutting under some present on some nights to speed up repairs.

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MTA workers implement repairs in the Bronx throughout Fastrack work in 2013. MTA neu York city Transit / marc A. Hermann But ns bulk des costs kommen sie from operations, not maintenance—and there, new York has a different set von challenges. As a high-income city, neu York naturally has to pay high wages; oered.orgCT"s gesamt labor cost, including benefits, zu sein about $140,000 über year über worker, compared with $108,000 an Chicago und Los Angeles.

Still, a enlarge difference betwee New York and other urban comes from die number of workers required to move the same number des trains. Bei his masters" thesis, Kyle Kirschling, jetzt a planner punkt oered.orgCT, studied operation costs and productivity on new York’s subway and elevated lines going back to 1870. Ns number von annual revenue car-miles per subway employee bei New York was 14,000 in 2010. An Chicago this number ist somewhere between 14,000 und 16,000, depending on how one allocates bureaucratic workers between rail and bus. On Tokyo’s Metro, the comparable figure is about 18,500. Die trains an Tokyo are famously overcrowded, however Tokyo has high productivity per car-mile, not just per passenger.

What"s more, worker productivity an New York was higher decades ago. über Kirschling"s thesis, ns system gott about 16,000 car-miles per worker in 1935. This figure decreased steeply bei the succeeding 20 years; in the 1970s and ’80s, the was nur 9,000. Since the subway system"s nadir in the 1980s there has been significant improvement in productivity, but die system ausblüten lags.

How did die oered.orgC subway get here?

First, neu York has actually two-person crews on most subway trains, consisting of a train operator and a conductor. This is uncommon worldwide; among ns biggest subway networks, just Toronto und some lines in Tokyo have two-person crews. Elsewhere, crews make perform with nur one driver, who deshalb operates die doors.

In neu York the technology weil das this, dubbed one-person train operation, or OPTO, was tested on the l train wie it gott signal upgrades bei 2007, but ns Transportation Workers" Union, which represents neu York"s subway workers, fought kommen sie restore two-person crews. However OPTO ist ubiquitous in Europe, ost Asia, und other American cities, also on lines without die advanced signaling the the wie train has in New York.

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Moreover, ns crews space less efficient than those in other cities. A train operator bei New York zu sein driving a revenue train zum only about 550 hrs a year. Ns comparable figure an London zu sein 720; in Helsinki, the 867. Bei Toronto, through two-person crews, ns figure is about 1,400 or 1,500; in Chicago, it can be together high together 2,000.

This zu sein because von how managers tun können schedule trains" revenue und non-revenue trips. Chicago, weil das example, achieves the high productivity due to the fact that it has actually very wenig deadheading; in “L” train zu sein carrying fare-paying passengers zum almost every mile the travels, vice versa, a new York subway, with a driver collecting wages, spends much more time an non-revenue service heading to and from the railyard.

Aoered.org rail network with high frequency weist peak times and low frequency in less busy hours would oase problems scheduling drivers. The would schutz to give workers payment idle time or count on unpopular split shifts, in which workers work a few hours an the morning and a few bei the evening, rather than eight continuous hours.

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On die 7 line, trains run twice together often during peak hours as they do during off-peak hours. Metropolitan transportation Authority / patrick Cashin an New York, optimal frequency on numerous subway lines ist almost twice as high together off-peak frequency; weil das example, on the 7 line, that every 2.5 minutes at sirloin hour und every five minutes in off-peak times. In London and Toronto ns ratio des peak kommen sie off-peak frequency ist much lower, and an Helsinki, the metro runs at die same frequency native opening kommen sie closing time, simple scheduling.

If new York verlief more trains in the off-hours, operating costs would of prozess rise, however not bei proportion to die increased service, dafür per-mile prices would fall.

Finally, neu York suffers from sluggish trains. The average speed zu sein not deshalb low über the standards des some larger systems, such as the berlin U-Bahn (which opened bei 1902, nur two years before the erste oered.orgC subways). However it is low über the standards des what the stadt could achieve. Average scheduled time is higher now than it was in 1906, thanks to slowdowns since the 1990s, some of which are around safety und others of which are about die pretense des safety.

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The trains increasingly cannot make even their booked time. An internal file circulated in ~ oered.orgCT, leaked independently to oered.org and to the New York jeden tag News, attacks ns agency’s management zum focusing on ns wrong punctuality metrics, und estimates that die average passenger on die subway experience 1.5 minute of delay über trip (not including 1.5 minute of extra time invested waiting zum the train on the platform). The equals about eight percent des the mean trip time. If oered.orgCT succeeds in eliminating those delays, it wollen boost speed by eight percent, reducing operation costs per mile.

Those delays room sometimes die result des poor dispatching, and sometimes the result von train operator going an ext slowly because des confusing signals; a planner hinweisen oered.orgCT said oered.org that the L, die most automated line in the system, has die fewest delays.

How tun können New york increase subway efficiency?

oered.orgCT can’t solve everything about its out-of-control operating expenses; the cannot nah dran down overnight, or cut wages until it couldn"t gain workers zu fill jobs. Yet there are dinge it tun können do kommen sie become much more efficient.

It kann sein transition to OPTO, und increase off-peak train frequency to improve scheduling; this would deshalb absorb conductors make redundant by OPTO. These procedures would boost service weil das free. oered.orgCT could deshalb expand Fastrack to reduce track maintenance costs, und make an ext of in effort to reduce train delays.

If it could reduce its operating costs per mile kommen sie those des the london Underground, chicago “L,” or paris Metro, oered.orgCT would certainly no longer need direct operating subsidies und be ~ above a stabler, more fiscally sustainable path; it would then oase more money to invest bei its resources plan, which zu sein crucial in the years to come.

Alon Levy thrived up an Tel Aviv and Singapore. He spent ten years bei math academia and has blogged weist Pedestrian Observations because 2011, extending public transit, urbanism, and development. Jetzt based in Paris, he writes zum a variety von publications, including Vox, Streetsblog, Voice of San Diego, PlanPhilly, Urbanize.LA, Railway Gazette, and the Bay city Beacon. You kann sein find ihm on twitter