If you’ve traveled the New York City subway system lately, you may have noticed grime, crumbling, litter, rodents, flickering lights and even crime. “Why doesn’t this city fix this mess,” you may have wondered. The short answer is that the city can’t afford to maintain its subway lines.
The long answer, however, tells a much more winding story.
Poor use of government funds
According to the New York Times, the subway transport system is in deep financial disarray. The government funds subway maintenance and new development, but it leaves project management to other contractors. This is where the problem began for a project that began in 2006.
The East Side Access subway line was supposed to connect Manhattan to Long Island. It was also supposed to cost seven times less than it did, as estimated by international averages. Agreements between the labor unions and companies failed to consider cost-effective planning.
One of the major cost inflators was the problem of overstaffing and excessive contract pay. New York government officials did not have a say in labor conditions, which allowed companies and unions to ignore employment budgets. Experts in the industry were surprised upon visiting the site because so many workers appeared to be unnecessary.
The longer that development drags out, the greater financial drain it may be. The New York Times points out that a similar project takes six years in Paris, but around twice that time in NYC. This issue expands the overstaffing and cost issues because twice the amount of money may be wasted over the years.
If any of the hundreds of East Side Access workers or its site’s visitors had become aware of the situation and raised their concerns sooner, the city would have saved billions of dollars that could have improved the existing subway lines.
In order to encourage this kind of reporting, whistleblower laws protect individuals from retaliation and the government may even offer them a reward for raising the alarm.