Recently, the New York Times performed an extensive report on subway projects in New York City. It focused on East Side Access project which is meant to connect the Long Island Rail Road to Grand Central Station, and the Second Avenue project, which connected the Number 7 line to Hudson Yards. The initial questions arose with the East Side Access project when an accountant discovered 900 employees on payroll for only 700 jobs to be performed. But this was just the start of the issues, as research soon exposed machines being operated by more than twice the number of workers necessary, workers being paid to perform outdated or flat-out unnecessary roles, and excessive management expenses, among many others. Most concerning about these subway projects are the way in which they are designed. Three entities play large roles: the Metropolitan Transit Authority, construction companies hired for various sub-processes, and labor unions for construction workers. Only the construction companies and labor unions are responsible for negotiating the contracts surrounding these projects, especially troublesome when considering that the taxpayer-funded M.T.A. is responsible for paying for the projects. Furthermore, both the labor unions representing workers and the construction companies, who receive a percentage of the total cost as repayment, are incentivized to drive up the total costs of projects. Clearly, many levels of the subway construction projects are bound to be mismanaged.
The route of the tunnel that will connect Grand Central to the LIRR.
The projects could be criticized for their definition from the start. The Second Avenue project was completed in a decade while a comparable project in Paris took only six years. This discrepancy highlighted inefficiencies in New York’s subway construction processes. Mistakes were also clearly made in selecting who would be in charge of the project. One M.T.A. employee was quoted as acknowledging that the 500 consultants they had hired to run the East Side Access project simply were not getting the job done well. Another executive at an outside firm said he believed some work that was completed by these consultants was only being performed so they could justify their high pay levels. The article does not identify any clear mistakes in terms of project planning, but it is safe to say that the severe over-employment of the East Side Access project drastically raises total costs. Accordingly, this means crash costs that could be incurred to speed up processes are almost out of the question as the project is already so expensive. An example of their failure to mitigate risk can be seen in higher accident rates. Although parties involved have argued that more employees increase safety, the Second Avenue project had 5.5 safety incidents per 200,000 work hours, outpacing the national average of 3.2 incidents. Clearly, increased employment is not resulting in savings from fewer mistakes. Finally, the controlling of the project structure can be questioned. The status quo of how these projects are contracted and negotiated in New York City is in line with the management of the East Side Access project and the Second Avenue project. Officials, when asked about the obvious issues in the process, admitted that while things were not ideal, they were unlikely to change soon. Such admissions show a clear failure in controlling projects going forwards. Overall, the various parties responsible for the state of New York City subway construction are severely lacking in their project management and thus introducing serious inefficiencies. Worst of all, these inefficiencies are paid for by citizens with no ability to change the status quo.