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Lax cleaning practices in NYC subways pose safety risk, audit finds


An audit of MTA New York City Transit's (NYCT) subway system found that only 3 percent of its tracks near underground stations were cleaned according to the agency's own standards.

The lack of upkeep has resulted in the collection of dirt and debris that could lead to track fires, train delays and rat infestation in many underground stations, according to an audit released yesterday by New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer.

Per MTA's current standards, crews are supposed to visit each underground station and clean track beds once every three weeks, city officials said in a press release. Additionally, a vacuum train known as VAK-TRAK is required to pick up trash from the tracks every six months.

City auditors found that 269 of the system's 276 underground station tracks were cleaned less than once every three weeks, and that NYCT's vacuum trains frequently break down. The VAK-TRAK trains also could not pick up debris on the track 70 percent of the time, city officials said.

Despite a 34 percent increase in operating revenue between 2008 and 2013, the agency spent less money on employing staff to clean the stations. NYCT also cut the number of track cleaning employees in half, city officials said.

In a statement, Stringer called the state of the subway system "a daily, stomach-turning insult to millions of straphangers."

His audit recommended buying newer vacuum cars, increasing staffing levels and developing a system to ensure track beds are cleaned frequently.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 5/15/2015