Bronx subway stations — especially on the 1 train line — are old. Really old.
But that’s not the biggest problem, according to state comptroller Thomas DiNapoli. Instead, he’s holding a report claiming these subway stations are in desperate need of structural repair.
DiNapoli took a closer look at a 2017 survey the Metropolitan Transportation Authority conducted on the state of its subway system. Although the MTA is planning a number of upgrades and renovations to stations over the next four years, DiNapoli isn’t waiting, pushing forward some of his office’s own money now with the hopes of getting some of these stations into better shape sooner rather than later.
DiNapoli looked at a number of factors at stations, like floors, walls, platforms, stairs, lighting, ventilators and windscreens. He concluded that none of the Bronx’s 70 subway stations were up to snuff, including those on the northern end of the 1 line. In other words, every station needs at least one structural repair.
“Years of underfunding for the MTA capital program has translated into a longer list of needed repairs in New York City’s subway stations, fewer stations in good condition, and ever-increasing rider aggravation,” DiNapoli said, in a statement.
Structural issues range from peeling paint to crumbling platform edges or station ceilings. And it’s not just something noticed in reports. Just last summer, part of the ceiling of Brooklyn’s Borough Hall station collapsed in a heap of plaster.
Whatever shape the Bronx subway stations are in, however, it’s not easy to take an objective look since they’ve barely changed in decades. Ruben Reinoso rides the 1 train from Manhattan to the West 242nd Street station every day, but admits that the physical station was not the highest priority for him.
“To me, it’s difficult to say, because the stations here are pretty well-kept,” Reinoso sad. “But I’m used to the ones down further, in Manhattan, and those are not well-kept. So it’s like I don’t know what standard to hold them to.”
Most of Reinoso’s subway gripes are more focused on late or canceled trains, not how the station itself might look or feel.
While riders might not necessarily notice what’s happening at stations, the MTA believes DiNapoli is blowing what the authority believes are smaller issues well out of proportion. The comptroller’s conclusions are flawed, according to MTA spokesman Tim Minton, as the issues found at stations are merely cosmetic, “affecting neither safety nor the customer experience.”
In fact, Minton added, those issues are so low on MTA’s priority list, they are “understandably not prioritized for immediate repair.”
Bronx 1 line stations do suffer from peeling paint and other cosmetic issues, according to the MTA’s own analysis of thousands of painted station components citywide.
But what has probably stood out the most for straphangers in recent months have been the 1 train’s plague of weekend closures throughout the summer for track and switch maintenance.
Track conditions were not part of the comptroller’s report.
Repairs and upgrades are taking place. The West 242nd Street station got a facelift in 2014 with not only a fresh coat of paint, but also revised canopies and pedestrian bridge. At the same time, some stairs were replaced, new windscreens were installed, and guardrails were restored.
Last year, the work continued one stop down at West 238th Street, which included the installation of new staircases, guardrails, handrails and canopies.
The MTA even installed some new turnstiles.
Yet, if the MTA may not pay a lot of attention to the Bronx, it might be because stations in the outer borough may not be as heavily trafficked as they are in other parts of the city, especially Manhattan.
The West 231st Street station, for example, handled more than 3 million passengers in 2018, according to MTA ridership data. However, West 238th had just over 960,000. Being at the end (or beginning) of the line pushed West 242nd up to 2.3 million riders, but that station is barely inside the top 200 most trafficked stations in the city.
Overall, the Bronx produced a little more than 139 million subway passengers last year — the fewest of the four boroughs were such data is collected. Queens made room for 100 million more riders in 2018, while Manhattan came close to hitting the 1 billion mark.
While the subway still has a long way to go, the MTA has made strides in recovering some of the most serious structural defects in the last four years, DiNapoli said.
“On the plus side, the MTA has been able to reduce the number of the most serious station defects, but a lot more needs to be done to address declining station conditions,” he said. “It is up to the MTA to prioritize its limited resources to ensure its next capital program improves service and conditions for riders.”