Fudging Numbers to Make the NYC Subway Look Better


New York Governor Andrew Cuomo's staff is criticized for inflating power-related issues as the cause of subway failures. Transit officials apparently broadened the definition of power issues so that Con Edison, the local utility company, would be given more of the blame when subways aren't running. Emails were discovered before Governor Cuomo was scheduled to give a breakfast talk, during which he said the number of outages due to power failures was 32,000 in the past year, while the actual number was more like 8,000:

When you we're a kid and you had a train set you had to plug it in. We have to plug in the MTA every morning and the MTA does not control the power supply to the MTA. Over the last 12 months, 32,000 delays because of power related issues and they can either be a power surge or power shortage, but 32,000 delays. The MTA doesn't control the power, Con Edison does. Con Edison has a duty to safely, prudently and effectively provide electricity that powers the subway system. Con Ed is a regulated utility under the state's Public Service Commission. April 21 after the last outage I ordered an investigation of the Con Ed infrastructure after a particularly devastating failure. The investigation goes on but PSC has already found that Con Ed must make immediate and significant improvements in this system because the reliability depends on it.   

The chief of staff of the transit agency wrote in an email that they were "looking for a higher delay number for power." The expanded definition was that ConEd "caused or contributed to" delays. One example is when a person jumps or falls onto the tracks; ConEd will shut off the power for safety. With the new definition, the delay becomes ConEd's fault.

Cover image source.


  • We certainly can use numbers to our advantage when trying to persuade others. How does this situation "cross a line"?
  • What should Governor Cuomo do now? What, if any, statement would be appropriate?
  • Do you remember "Bridegate" in New Jersey? How is this situation similar or different?