New York City’s economy could wind up taking an almost $400 million a year hit from subway delays, according to an economic analysis released by City Comptroller Scott Stringer on Sunday.

The first-of-its-kind economic analysis looks at three different scenarios that provide a range of costs. Using MTA data on ridership, delays and wait times for trains and average hourly wage data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the analysis examines how New York City’s economy is being impacted.

According to the analysis, the annual economic cost of stalled trains could reach nearly $400 million dollars under worst-case scenarios, with delays on the 5, A, 7, F, and 4 subway trains being the most costly, topping out at a whopping $140 million a year combined. Depending on the length of delays and the economic assumptions made, the analysis shows the annual monetary impact on the city ranges from $170 million to $389 million.

The new analysis follows a straphanger survey conducted by the comptroller’s office last July that highlighted the human impact that subway delays have on residents.

“Several months ago, we did a comprehensive citywide survey to understand the human impacts of subway delays. Now, we understand the economic costs of the crisis underground,” Stringer said. “What these new numbers show is that the cost of inaction is greater than the cost of action; that subway delays take a massive toll on our economy. We need to fix our subways both to improve quality of life and our economy. This isn’t a choice – it’s a must.”

The economic cost of N.Y. MTA subway delays on the city's economy
The economic cost of N.Y. MTA subway delays on the city's economy NYC Comptrollers Office

According to data released by the comptroller’s office, the five subway lines that most negatively impacted economic activity include:

  • The 5 train, with estimated impacts ranging from $12.1 million to $31.5 million annually;
  • The 7 train, with estimated impacts ranging from $13.7 million to $29 million annually;
  • The A train, with estimated impacts ranging from $11.1 million to $28.5 million annually;
  • The F train, with estimated impacts ranging from $11.3 million to $28 million annually;
  • The 4 train, with estimated impacts ranging from $10.5 million to $26.6 million annually.
  • Together, the worst-case economic impact of delays on these five lines tops $140 million.
Estimated annual economic costs to New York City.
Estimated annual economic costs to New York City. NYC Comptroller's Office

“There is no question our subways are in crisis after decades of underinvestment and inaction. With the ‘Summer of Hell’ fading into what could be a ‘Fall of Frustration,’ every level of government needs to step up,” Stringer said. “Our subway system is the backbone to our economy. That means with every delay, there aren’t just lives affected -- there’s an economic consequence.”

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Chip Barnett

Chip Barnett

Chip Barnett is a journalist with more than 40 years of experience. Barnett is currently Senior Market Reporter for The Bond Buyer.