|For Immediate Release:
Tuesday, July 12, 2011
|For More Information Contact:
Cate Contino at 212-349-6460 or 516-455-7192
Approximately one in three payphones in New York City Transit subway stations did not fully work in the summer of 2010, according to a survey released today by the NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign.
The campaign tested 740 pay telephones in the 40 most-used underground New York City Transit subway stations and found 31% to be non-functioning (see Table One). This finding cannot be compared with our last survey published in June 2009 due to changes in our methodology. (See Methodology.)
"About a third of subway phones do not fully work," said Cate Contino, coordinator for the Straphangers Campaign. "And that’s a problem for many riders."
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 language changed in 2005 reads: "[Verizon] shall exercise good-faith effort to clear 95% of all known troubles within 24 hours."
Underground stations do not allow for cell phone use. In July 2010, MTA New York City Transit gave Transit Wireless "notice to proceed" wiring the subway system for cellular service, allowing work to being on the 2007 contract. Riders can expect six stations to be wired by the middle of 2012 with the expectation that all 277 underground stations will be wired before the contract expires in 2016.
The survey was conducted between July 14 and August 16, 2010 and gives a picture of the inadequate quality of service in the summer of 2010.
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.
Key findings of the survey include:
A survey was conducted for the MTA by an independent contractor during roughly the same period (July and August 2010) as the Campaign’s survey. It found 30% of payphones to have "service affecting troubles," largely in line with the Campaign's methodology for classifying payphones as non-functioning. The Campaign believes these results to be consistent with the overall findings of the Straphangers Campaign.
However, one regularly scheduled survey conducted by or on behalf of MTA New York City Transit found a better level of subway payphone performance, noted Jason Chin-Fatt, field organizer for the Straphangers Campaign. He noted that the survey used a different methodology, which could 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 second half of 2010.
Chin-Fatt noted the discrepancy between Straphangers and PES survey might have arisen from two major differences.
First, the PES surveys are less thorough. 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.
Second, the PES draws its sample from the entire subway station population (468 stations) and does not restrict itself to the most-used underground stations.
Table One: Best to Worst: Percentage of Functioning Payphones in 40 Most-Used Underground Subway Stations
Chart One: Why Straphangers Campaign Rated 231 out of 740 Payphones as Non-Functioning
Straphangers Campaign 2010 Survey of Underground Subway Station Payphones