Wednesday, February 6, 2008

A culture of waste and inefficiency

Recently, (my post of February 1) I wrote about the use of innovative concrete construction which would allow the transit authority to obtain all the benefits of granite or ceramic tiles, while enjoying the cost savings inherent in using concrete. By using other innovative materials and employing fresh thinking, similar savings could be made throughout the system, e.g., composite plastic railroad ties can be substituted for toxic creosote-treated wood, with better performance and lower cost—yet there is no push for this, only the same old familiar refrain of "we need more money". Please bear in mind that it's your money they're asking for.

This narrow-mindedness is pervasive throughout the MTA. A few months back, their knee-jerk reaction to the "lack of cleanliness" noted in the "Rider Report Cards" was to immediately hire an additional 300 cleaners. Have you noticed how much cleaner the cars are since then? I thought not. But there is now another substantial drain on transit resources. A more prudent approach would have been to evaluate the efficiency of the cleaners already employed, then take steps to maximize their effectiveness. I've watched the cleaners at the Coney Island terminus, and they tend to miss every other piece of litter.

Again and again, one finds that the solutions to problems implemented by transit officials invariably adds another layer of cost to the system. Why? The answer seems to be that executives don't advance their careers within the MTA by saving money; they advance by devising grandiose plans which garner publicity. Unfortunately, that approach cheats the taxpayers and riders.

Since it's our money these authorities are spending, I would ask that the MTA adopt the philosophy of Occam's Razor, a well-known principal used successfully by scientists throughout the world. Stated as succinctly as possible, it is: "When confronted by a problem with multiple solutions, the simplest is usually correct." Remember folks, that's "simplest", not "costliest".

No comments: