2003-07-31 / Top Stories

Subway Report Card Gives Canarsie Line One "L"-uva Rating

Subway Report Card Gives Canarsie Line One "L"-uva Rating

Subway Report Card Gives Canarsie Line One "L"-uva Rating

New subway cars on the “L” line, like the one above at the Rockaway Parkway terminal, helped make the Canarsie line earn the top rating as the best of the MTA’s 23 routes.New subway cars on the “L” line, like the one above at the Rockaway Parkway terminal, helped make the Canarsie line earn the top rating as the best of the MTA’s 23 routes.

The NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign this week issued its sixth annual "State of the Subways" Report Card, rating the L as the best of 20 subway lines with a "MetroCard Rating" of $1.30 and rating the 5 as the worst with a rating of 65 cents.

The 42-page report is based on an extensive review of official data on subway service, much of which has not been released before on a line-by-line basis. It includes detailed one-page profiles of 22 lines and a Straphangers Campaign "MetroCard Rating" for 20 of the lines.

The profiles report six measures of service, based on recent data from MTA New York City Transit, largely covering the last half of 2002. The measures for each line are: the amount of scheduled service and the regularity of train arrivals; mechanical failures of subway cars; chance of getting a seat at the most congested point; cleanliness of subway car floors and seats; and adequacy of announcements.

The ratings are a shorthand used to compare lines and based on a formula developed in consultation with independent transportation experts. A line could receive a rating of $2.00 if it scored, on average, in the top 5% on the six measures of service.

The report also found great disparities in performance among subway lines. For example, cars on the L line are nearly four times more reliable than those on the 5. Cars on the J/Z — the dirtiest line — are nearly six times dirtier than cars on the 3, the cleanest line.

Subway cars are breaking down less than they did two years ago, but that they are dirtier, according to the report. Cars are 36% more reliable than they were in the last half of 2000, but 8% dirtier.

"The transit system’s own numbers show clearly that some lines are much better deals than others," said campaign staff attorney Gene Russianoff.

In determining the best and worst lines, the Report Card found:

•The best subway line in the city is the L, with a "MetroCard Rating" of $1.30. The L ranked high because its cars break down the least in the system; the line also has frequently scheduled rush-hour service and performs above average on arriving with regularity and on announcements. The line did not get a higher rating because it performed below average on chance of getting a seat during rush hours and on car cleanliness. The L runs between Manhattan’s middle West Side and Canarsie, Brooklyn.

•The worst subway line is the 5, with a MetroCard Rating of 65 cents. The 5 line has the worst breakdown rate and the poorest regularity of service of all 22 lines; the line also finished second worst in getting a seat during rush hour. The 5 line also performed below average on amount of scheduled service. The 5 line did not receive a lower rating because its cars are slightly cleaner and its performance on announcements is better than the system average. The 5 line operates between the northern Bronx and Flatbush, Brooklyn during rush hours; at other times, the line terminates in lower Manhattan.

"This is the first time the L line has ranked first in the Straphangers Campaign Report since ratings began in 1996," Russianoff noted. "The top performance is due in large measure to the new technology subway cars, which began replacing the line’s aging fleet in 2002."

The report’s key findings also showed the following picture of how the subways are doing:

-Breakdowns: The L had the best record on delays caused by car mechanical failures: once every 298,975 miles. The 5 line had the worst, experiencing breakdown delays more than three times as often: once every 80,724 miles.

•Cleanliness: The 3 was the cleanest line, with only 7% of its cars having moderate or heavy dirt, while 40% of cars on the dirtiest line - J/Z - had moderate or heavy dirt, a much worse performance.

•Chance of getting a seat: We rate a rider’s chance of getting a seat at the most congested point on the line. The report found the best chance is on the D line, where riders had a 54% chance of getting a seat during rush hour. The 4 ranked worst and was much more overcrowded, with riders having only a 29% chance of getting a seat.

•Amount of scheduled service: The 4 and 1/9 lines have the most scheduled service, with four to four-and-a-quarter-minute intervals between trains during rush hours. The B and M rank worst, with nine to ten minute intervals between trains during this period.

•Regularity of service: Two lines tie with the greatest regularity of service: The B and D arrive within two to four minutes of their scheduled interval 92% of the time. The most irregular line is the 5, which performed with regularity only 78% of the time.

•In-car announcements: The 6 line had the highest rate of adequate announcements made in its subway cars, 98%. The 1/9 was the worst, at 82%.

Overall, subway cars are breaking down far less often then they did in 2000, a 37% improvement in performance, reflecting the arrival in service of hundreds of new technology subway cars.

•Breakdowns lessened on 10 subway lines (2, 3, 5, 6, C, E, J/Z, L, M, and R) and grew worse on five (1/9, 4, 7, A and N). The remaining seven lines were either substantially re-routed since 2001 (B, D, F, G and Q) or are new (V and W) since our last Report Card.

•The most improved line for breakdowns was the L. The line went from breaking down every 124,380 miles in the last sixth months of 2000 to every 298,975 miles in the last six months of 2002 - improving its performance by well more than double.

•Overall, subway cars are less clean than they were in 2000. During the last six months of 2000, system-wide subway cars with clean seats and floors declined from 85% to 78%.

•Car cleanliness worsened on 12 subway lines (1/9, 4, 5, 6, 7, C, E, J/Z, L, M, N and R) and grew better on three (2, 3 and A). The remaining seven lines were either substantially re-routed since 2001 (B, D, F, G and Q) or are new (V and W) since our last Report Card.

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