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Despite Slight Uptick in Injuries and Accidents, NYC Mass Transit is Among the Best

New York City’s subway system, operated by NYC Transit, is the fourth largest in the world, with 232 miles of track. It has the most stations of any system in the world, 421. It is the third oldest in the United States. More than eight million people in the New York metro area take mass transit every day in the form of buses and subways.

Public transportation in the New York City region is operated by a variety of agencies. MTA bus operates bus lines in the Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens as well as express buses from those boroughs to Manhattan. NYC Transit operates the subway and 224 bus lines throughout the city. Staten Island Railroad operates the subway on Staten Island. Long Island Rail Railroad operates trains in Suffolk and Nassau counties into Queens and Manhattan, carrying more than 81 million passengers each year. The Metro North Railroad operates in Westchester, Putnam and Dutchess counties east of the Hudson River, in Connecticut and in Orange and Rockland counties west of the Hudson. It carries almost 83 million riders each year. Together, these agencies employ more than 65,000 workers.

The MTA, which oversees these operations, publishes monthly statistics about the performance and safety of the transit systems that serve the New York City region. The report from March, 2014, provides a snapshot of accidents and injuries that occurred in the previous 12 months.

Injuries and accidents among subway riders were down very slightly over March of 2013. However, the 12-month average of accidents and injuries was up slightly – 4.4 percent. The 12-month average of employee accidents and injuries was also up – 14.8 percent. The number of subway fires also increased by 19.3 percent over March 2013.

The 12-month overall average of bus accidents and injuries from bus accidents increased from 2013 to 2014. However, MTA buses did not follow this pattern, and injuries from collisions decreased by 16.4 percent. In contrast, NYC Transit buses had a 74.3 percent increase in accidents per million miles traveled, in effect balancing out the relatively smaller number of injuries experienced on MTA buses. The amount of time lost by bus company employees was down, both in April 2014 from March 2014, and year-over-year average, April 2014 over April 2013.

The figures for accidents and injuries do not include injuries resulting from criminal activity, which declined in the past year, both month-over-month and year-over-year. April 2014 saw 162 major felonies reported, down 9.5 percent over April of 2013. The average for the 12 months ending in April 2014 was down 6.5 percent from the 12-month period ending in April 2013. Reported robberies were also down significantly, from 50 in April of 2013 to 36 in April 2014.

Although the story is mainly positive, the incidents these numbers reflect have a real impact on the lives of individuals injured while riding public transit in New York City. However, by any measure mass transit is still far safer than riding in a personal motor vehicle. And, according to a 2011 story in U.S. News and World Report, NYC has the second best public transportation system in the country, second only to the system in the Denver-Aurora, Colorado, region.

To a New Yorker, that might seem like comparing apples to oranges. However, it reflects other factors in addition to number of stations, number of passengers and number of miles. It includes things such as per capita investment, relative safety statistics, and unique features, such as the 24/7 operation of the New York system. Given the magnitude of the NYC mass transit system, it is remarkable that the city ranks this high. Similar systems, such as those in Chicago, San Francisco and Washington, D.C., do not even appear on the top 10 list of best mass transit systems. They have too many safety problems, accidents and injuries.

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