New York Subway System Is Crumbling Case Questions

New York Subway System Is Crumbling Case Questions

1. What are the steps in rational decision making?
2. What are two models of nonrational decision making?
3. What are four ethical questions a manager should
ask when evaluating a proposed action to make a
decision?
4. Competitors using analytics have what three key
attributes?
5. What is Big Data?
6. Describe the four general decision-making styles.
7. How does artificial intelligence support human
decision making?
8. Can you name the nine common decision-making
biases?
9. What are the advantages and disadvantages of group
decision making?
10. What are four group problem-solving techniques?
Understanding the Chapter: What Do I Know?
New York’s Subway System Is Crumbling
With 472 stations, the New York City subway system is
the largest in the world, with a long and rich history.
The system was first established in 1904 in the borough
of Manhattan, before expanding to Brooklyn, Queens,
and the Bronx by 1915. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) oversees its 27 subway lines.183
Subway ridership had grown to 5.7 million daily passengers in 2017, double the number two decades earlier.
The level of service and quality, however, has not kept
up. Tunnels and track routes are crumbling. Signal
problems and equipment failures have doubled between
2007 and 2017, and the system has the worst on-time
performance of any major rapid transit system in
the world. These problems are not due to acts of nature
like a flood. Rather, decades of poor decision making
seems to be a key cause, according to The New York
Times.
184 Let’s take a closer look at what’s been plaguing the Empire State’s transit system.
THE BIG APPLE’S TRANSIT PROBLEM
The derelict state of the New York City subway system
is partly due to poor decision making by the MTA and
other state-level government officials. Some decisions
were made for political reasons or based on decisionmaking biases, and sometimes officials simply refused
to make a decision at all. This type of governmental
dysfunction is not out of the ordinary, but it is surprising given the number of people who rely on the subway
daily to get around.
Politics was the first problem with the city’s decision
making. The MTA decided in 2008 to renovate stations
by installing glass domes and mirrors. These cosmetic
improvements were to be made in the home district of
New York’s then Assembly speaker. The Times reported
that the Assembly speaker demanded the project be
completed; otherwise, MTA’s budget would be vetoed.
The project cost $1.4 billion (more than the annual
budget of the entire Chicago rapid transit system).185
Not a penny was spent on signals or tracks, which are
vital to keep the trains running safely and on time. The
executive director of TransitCenter told amNewYork
that there “has been sort of the lack of accountability
in Albany and the continual depletion of resources
from the MTA and misprioritization on cosmetics
instead of the nuts and bolts of actually running the
system reliably.”186
The MTA tried to minimize future political decision
making by assembling an independent Transportation
Reinvention Commission in 2014 to study the city’s
deteriorating system. The Commission was made up of
successful transportation leaders from all over the
world. It provided seven strategies to rehabilitate the
subway system, including capacity expansion, a dedicated transportation fund, and congestion pricing.187
You might imagine that the Commission’s findings
then provided a starting point for the MTA’s future
decisions. This was not the case. For example, the
Commission diagnosed capacity expansion, not cosmetic remodeling, as a major problem for the subway
system. Capacity expansion would allow the subway to
continue to handle increased ridership in a safe, sustainable way.188 Instead of investing in capacity expansion, however, as NBC New York reported, the agency
decided years after the Commission’s report to again
invest in cosmetically remodeling dozens of stations,
this time to the tune of $1 billion.189
The MTA’s choice to make cosmetic repairs wasn’t
the only example of poor decision making. State leadership contributed to the problem as well. For example, the MTA owed Albany for expenses related to the
subway system that the state had incurred. The agency
could have been allowed to keep the money and invest
Management in Action
Individual and Group Decision Making CHAPTER 7 277
in its crumbling infrastructure, but state leaders
instead ordered the MTA to bail out state-run ski
resorts. The New York Daily News reported that in
2013 around $5 million was sent to the Olympic
Regional Development Authority, which operates the
state ski resorts.
Lawmakers and transportation advocates questioned the decision to bail out ski resorts when the subway system urgently needed attention. A state senator
told the Daily News, “The MTA needs more money, not
less. It’s having enough trouble funding its own needs.
I don’t see why we’d be sending MTA resources to
ski slopes.” The MTA does not oversee state-run ski
resorts, but it sent the money anyway.190 The agency’s
board hired a law firm to investigate the decision. It
was found to be legal, but the board still labeled it as
inappropriate.191
IT’S IN THE DATA!
Why all these poor decisions? One reason is that leaders may not have been utilizing data to support their
actions. For example, the MTA’s sloppy data collection prevented it from adopting congestion pricing, a
strategy of increasing fares during times of peak ridership (similar to Uber’s “surge pricing”). Supporters of
congestion pricing told CBS News that this scheme
would address gridlock and raise money for mass transit. Skeptics of congestion pricing included Bill de
Blasio, New York City’s mayor. De Blasio believed
congestion pricing in general was a burden on middle
class and low-income commuters.192 These conflicting
views, coupled with a lack of evidence to support an
ideal solution, may have led to indecision on fare
price increases.
All these issues have made the subway situation so
bad that New York’s governor declared a “state of
emergency” for the system in 2017.193 Riders also
made declarations of their own. A group of them rallied at the State Capitol in Albany in 2018. The protestors, representing subway riders, told amNewYork they
were “desperate for change” and that state legislators
could not leave Albany without approving new funding for the system.194 New Yorkers’ patience had
reached its end.
A NEW DECISION MAKER
ENTERS THE PICTURE
Andy Byford became head of the New York City
Transit Authority (NYCTA) in January 2018. The
NYCTA is the division of the MTA that oversees the
New York City subway and bus systems. Byford came
from the Toronto transit system, where he executed a
five-year modernization plan. The plan significantly
improved the subway system, and Toronto earned
“outstanding public transit system of the year” in
2017. A Toronto transit activist told the Guardian that
upon his arrival in Canada, Byford had been “looking
for, in the short term, quick wins.” Byford understood
that a reputation for indecisiveness doesn’t bode well
for a new leader. “That’s the basic thing any new
manager does: they come in and want to be seen as
doing something . . . ” said the activist.195 The question is whether Byford can duplicate Toronto’s success with the New York City’s subway system, which
is four times bigger than Toronto’s.196
Byford doesn’t just make decisions for the sake of
expediency in pursuit of quick wins. He first wants to
study the New York subway system by riding it to
work every day. He believes this experience will garner
useful feedback from commuters and MTA employees. Byford cultivated this hands-on style in Toronto,
where he once spent hours navigating the subway in a
wheelchair with a member of the system’s accessibility forum. This experience provided him useful
insights about the challenges faced by those who have
a mobility impairment. Gathering first-hand information meant he could make more informed decisions to
their benefit.197
The new NYCTA chief’s style seems to be making
an impact at the MTA as well. His influence stems
from serving on the 2014 MTA Transportation
Reinvention Commission. In that role, Byford was able
to help convince the agency to halt the $1 billion modernization project it had slated for summer 2018
because it did not address urgent needs. Not everyone
is in agreement with halting the project, though, including the MTA chairman. He argues that fresh paint, better lighting, and working MetroCard machines are
more about safety, not luxury.198
Byford doesn’t seem to be a fan of cosmetic makeovers. He told The Wall Street Journal that, “We’ve got
to get the basics right, day in, day out.” These basics
include service reliability. Byford plans to shake up the
agency’s workforce, processes, and infrastructure in a
new plan to be released in late 2018. The plan will not
be centered solely on his views though. Byford wants to
engage city board members in the process as well. This
way, even if they don’t agree with his plans in the end,
they won’t feel shut out of the process.199
Byford must effectively balance time and discussion
if he wants to get past the indecisiveness of his predecessors. The Journal reports that it could take up to 40
years to modernize the subway’s signal system. Byford
wants to speed the process up, but not at any cost. For
example, an MTA spokesman mentioned in 2018 that
wireless technology might speed up modernization
efforts. Byford was cautious though. “I would need to
be convinced that an alternative is viable because we
don’t have the time to waste going down a blind alley,”
he says.200
Will Byford’s decision-making style put the subway
system back on track?