Maximizing Track Access Opportunities in Elevated Track Maintenance
In November 2008, WABC-TV Eyewitness News spotlighted several NYC Transit elevated-track workers reportedly conducting personal business on company time. Following this broadcast, the OIG initiated an investigation to determine the extent to which these employees, who work the day shift (8 a.m. to 4 p.m.), used work time to conduct personal business. However, simultaneous audit work uncovered a more fundamental concern. As we wrote in that report:
While the WABC-TV Eyewitness News report certainly portrayed a disturbing image of track workers idle during the work day, a more fundamentally disturbing question is: Why they were idle? One answer, even for the most dedicated and conscientious of workers is: NYC Transit rules prevent weekday track workers from working on the tracks for fully half of their shift.
Indeed, for safety reasons, and to avoid creating rush hour delays, NYC Transit keeps workers off the tracks during weekdays until approximately 10:30 a.m., and requires that they leave the tracks by 2:30 p.m.
As a result, on any given weekday, these track workers normally can work on the tracks no more than one-half of their 8-hour shifts. Of course, there is a cost for the time that elevated-track workers are unable to access the tracks. OIG estimates that the total cost in salaries and benefits to NYC Transit for time off the tracks would exceed $10 million.
Since workers generally have unrestricted access to the tracks on weekends, they can accomplish more track work at that time. Yet employees generally work Monday through Friday and those who have weekend shifts take a significantly higher percentage of discretionary leave on Saturdays and Sundays than on weekdays. We recommend in this report that given the potential benefits in productivity and cost savings, NYC Transit should concentrate more of the elevated track maintenance workforce on weekends and closely control discretionary leave on those days.
We also found other inefficiencies when we analyzed five weekend workdays in June and December 2008 to determine how quickly workers got on the tracks. On all of these days, the process for clearing workers to enter the tracks for the start of work took between 50 minutes and two hours to complete, reducing work time. The delays were due to recurring communication and coordination problems involving maintenance teams getting permission from central command personnel to enter the tracks.
Additionally, on both work days in December, the trucks that brought equipment, tools and materials to the work site were not coordinated with the time that workers were scheduled to work on the tracks. On one of the days the work trucks arrived 90 minutes after track workers were scheduled to begin work; on the other day the work trucks arrived more than two hours after.