Executive Summary

The objective of this audit was to determine whether New York City Transit (NYCT) performs required preventive maintenance services and inspections on its escalators and elevators and makes associated repairs in a timely manner.

NYCT, part of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) system, is responsible for subway and bus operations in New York City.[1]  NYCT’s Division of Elevators and Escalators (E&E) is responsible for the maintenance, repair, and inspections of the elevators and escalators located throughout the subway system.  One of E&E’s key objectives is to ensure that subway elevators and escalators (also collectively referred to herein as “machines”) are functioning safely and available to the public, and that service outages (i.e., instances when machines are temporarily out of service) are kept to a minimum.  Elevators and escalators are essential to ensuring that the stations they service are accessible to all patrons, especially to those who are mobility impaired.

E&E has set an aggregate goal of 96.5 percent availability on average for each of its elevators and 95.2 percent availability on average for each of its escalators.  E&E measures the machines’ “availability” by calculating the percentage of time that a unit is running and available for customer service.  Thus, the time “available for customer service” excludes: (1) when a machine is located within a subway station that is closed for rehabilitation; or (2) when a machine is undergoing rehabilitation performed by an outside contractor.  This means that a machine that is inoperable and being serviced by a private contractor (and, according to a NYCT official, generally removed from the station altogether) is not considered “unavailable” for the purpose of NYCT’s calculation of availability percentages.

Each machine (elevator or escalator) requires preventive maintenance (PM) service, the frequency of which is based on the machine’s age, condition and usage.[2]  There are five levels of PM, with Level 1 being the least extensive and the other levels increasing in complexity up to Level 5.  Under certain circumstances, Level 1 or 2 PM service for a machine can be suspended.  According to E&E officials, Levels 3, 4 and 5 service assignments should not be suspended, with the exception of extenuating circumstances such as extensive work performed just prior to the scheduled maintenance.  PM service is performed by Transit Electro-Mechanical Maintainers (maintainers).

In addition to PM service, there are two categories (1 and 5) of ASME (American Society of Mechanical Engineers) inspections, which are conducted by E&E’s inspection teams.  The PM service assignments and ASME inspections are scheduled in December for the upcoming calendar year.

Deficiencies identified during a PM service assignment or an ASME inspection are categorized as either Type A or Type B defects, depending on their severity.

  • Type A defects are those that pose severe safety hazards; in such instances, NYCT immediately takes the machine out of service until the defect is corrected.
  • Type B defects do not pose safety hazards, and E&E aims to correct them within 90 days.

To address the defects identified during PM service assignments and ASME inspections, supervisors are required to create work orders in the Elevator and Escalator Reporting and Maintenance System (EERMS), used by E&E for, among other things, asset management and to document work orders and repairs.  In addition, E&E uses a computer system called LiftNet that remotely monitors safety devices in each machine.  LiftNet regularly transmits information to EERMS.  When a safety mechanism is triggered in a machine, LiftNet creates an “event,” which is then recorded in EERMS as an “outage.”

Audit Findings and Conclusions

We identified multiple deficiencies in NYCT’s preventive maintenance efforts.  Among other things, we found that:

  • Only approximately one-fifth of the machines in our sample received all of their scheduled PM service assignments;
  • In 31 percent of the instances where PM service assignments for the sampled machines were canceled, the basis for the cancellations as reported in the required memos explaining the reason for forgoing regularly scheduled PM service (suspension memos) was either not supported or not in compliance with E&E policy;
  • Maintainers and supervisors did not complete nearly a quarter of the sampled checklists for PM service and ASME inspections as required;
  • Required work orders were not created on average in 1 out of 4 instances where new defects were noted during PM service assignments and ASME inspections; and
  • E&E does not have a system for tracking when or whether the defects that result in the creation of work orders are repaired.

Audit Recommendations

Based on the audit, we make 13 recommendations, including:

  • E&E should set realistic internal targets for PM service assignments, taking into consideration the needs and safety of the public, as well as available staffing levels, in order to track performance.
  • E&E should require a review of suspension memos to ensure that suspensions of PM service assignments are adequately justified and that the information provided is accurate and matches the information in EERMS.
  • E&E should reinstruct all personnel regarding their responsibilities for completing and approving PM and ASME checklists.
  • E&E should institute a procedure to ensure that work orders are created for all identified defects and that supervisors record work order numbers on checklists for all listed defects.
  • E&E should establish a procedure that ensures that supervisors record in EERMS the date each defect was addressed, as well as the specific repairs performed. This procedure should also instruct supervisors that work orders should not be closed until all required information is included.
  • E&E should ensure that the new Enterprise Asset Management (EAM) system has the ability to track information by individual defects—including their associated codes and the date each defect is corrected—and to generate reports on defects. In the meantime, E&E should look into the feasibility of modifying EERMS to allow for the tracking of the defects associated with work orders.

Agency Response

In its response, NYCT does not acknowledge the audit’s findings or directly address the audit’s recommendations.  However, portions of the response appear to indicate that the agency agrees with three of the 13 recommendations.  NYCT attempts to minimize the audit’s findings in its response.  However, in its attempt to do so, NYCT relies on descriptions of the audit’s methodology and findings that are simply inaccurate.


[1] NYCT is not responsible for the Staten Island Railway.

[2] PM service can be performed in 4, 6 or 8 week intervals.