|For Immediate Release:
Thursday, February 8, 2007
|For More Information Contact:
Charity Carbine at 212-349-6460
Neysa Pranger at 212-349-6460 or 917-532-0567
Approximately one in four payphones in New York City Transit subway stations does not fully work, according to two surveys released today by the NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign.
In one survey of 886 telephones at 100 randomly selected subway stations, 29% were found to be “non-functioning,” with problems ranging from no dial tone to coin slot blocked (survey margin of error is +/- 4%). This finding is consistent with 2006 findings when an identical campaign survey also rated 29% of phones non-functioning.
In a second survey, the campaign tested 537 pay telephones in the 25 most-used New York City Transit subway stations and found 22% to be non-functioning (see Table One).
“This survey provides a benchmark for the new leadership at the MTA and New York City Transit. We hope they do better,” said Neysa Pranger, coordinator for the Straphangers Campaign.
Verizon’s current contract with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority does not require any minimum number of payphones be kept in working order. Previous contracts called for 95% of phones to be “fully operative and in service at all times,” but new language reads, “[Verizon] shall exercise good-faith effort to clear 95% of all known troubles within 24 hours.”
“Given the importance of being able to communicate with the outside world, especially during times of delay and emergency, we’re disappointed the MTA and Verizon removed the guarantee for a minimum level of service operability,” said Pranger.
In August of 2005, the MTA released a Request for Proposal seeking bids from companies to install cell phone service in subway stations. However, plans to wire 277 subway station platforms have stalled over disputes to wire subway tunnels as well.
The MTA has recently said that as many as half of subway riders do not own cell phones and that the overall number of payphones in the subway system is on the decline.
Pranger noted the combination of fewer phones and a potential changeover to favor cell phone users is “worrisome for those riders that can’t afford phones but need to stay in touch.”
Both surveys were conducted between July 3, 2006 and January 23, 2007.
Other key findings of the survey include:
Telephones were deemed non-functioning if the handset was missing or unusable; there was no dial tone; surveyors were unable to connect a call to a 1-800 number; the coin slot was blocked; coins deposited did not register; or the telephone would not return a coin.
In the survey of the 886 phones in the 100 randomly-selected stations, the leading reason for phones being rated as non-functioning was no dial tone (30%); followed by coin falls through (19%); coin slot blocked (16%); and cannot connect to a 1-800 test number, won’t return coin, and bad handset (12%). (See attached Chart One.)
One regularly scheduled survey conducted by or on behalf of the MTA found a better level of subway payphone performance, noted Charity Carbine, field organizer for the Straphangers Campaign. However, she noted that the survey used a different methodology, which might explain the difference in findings.
For example, in its Passenger Environment Survey (PES), New York City Transit’s Operations Planning Division found 92% of subway pay telephones to be in working order during the first half of 2006. Carbine noted the discrepancy between Straphangers and PES survey might have arisen from two major differences. First, the PES draws its sample from the entire subway station population (468 stations) and does not restrict itself to the most-used stations. Second, these surveyors do not perform a coin drop to test the phones, rating telephones as functioning if the surveyor notes an undamaged handset and is able to contact a specific 1-800 test number.
Additionally, surveys conducted for the MTA by an independent contractor during approximately the same time as the Campaign’s survey (July to December, 2006) found 74% of payphones to be functioning properly. We believe these results to be consistent with the overall findings of the Straphangers Campaign.
The full report can be viewed at http://www.straphangers.org. The survey work of the Straphangers Campaign is supported by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, a national leader in encouraging citizen-based assessment of public services.