2008-07-31 / Top Stories

L Train Is Tops In Latest Subway Report Card

By Neil S. Friedman

If you commute on the Canarsie subway line, you're in for an "L"-uva ride, even though you may have to stand during rush hours. On Tuesday, NYPIRG's annual Straphangers Campaign rated the L train, with a terminal at Rockaway Parkway, the best among the city's 22 subway lines.

It appears the New York City Transit Authority's decision to create a general manager position for the Canarsie line, as part of its management pilot program. The No. 7 Flushing line, which was also assigned a general manager, came in a close second. The general managers have been given a greater degree of independence, as well as accountability to the riders on these two lines, which appears have proved beneficial to date.

According to New York City Transit leadership, "The new positions is responsible for virtually all elements of the day-to-day operations on both of these lines and the responsibility for running them to the satisfaction of our customers."

"Riders on the L and 7 are benefiting from more independent managers and more resources, but the subway system as a whole performs weakly," said Gene Russianoff, Straphangers Campaign senior attorney. "Subway car announcements are worse, with no improvement in the number of regular arrivals or clean cars."

The 44-page report is based on an extensive review of official data on subway service. It includes detailed one-page profiles of 22 lines and a Straphangers Campaign MetroCard Rating. The L got a rating of $1.40 out of $2.00, which was twice the last place W train's 70-cent ranking.

The survey shows six measures of service, based on recent data from New York Transit, mostly for the last half of 2007. The measures are: the amount of scheduled service; 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.

Other findings show how the subways are doing:

•The L ranked highest because it performs best in the system on two measures—regularity of service and announcements—and well above average on three other measures: frequency of scheduled service, delays caused by mechanical breakdowns and the percentage of dirty cars. The line did not get a higher rating because it performed well below average on the chance of getting a seat during rush hour . The L runs between Canarsie and 14th Street/Eighth Avenue in Manhattan.

•The W line has a low level of scheduled service and performs below average on four other measures: regularity of service, car breakdowns, car cleanliness and announcements. The W did not receive a lower rating because it performed above average on the chance of getting a seat during rush hour. The W line operates between Whitehall Street in lower Manhattan and Astoria, Queens. In last year's survey, the W tied for the worst line with the C.

•Overall, there was a weak showing for subway service. Car breakdowns worsened from a mechanical failure every 156,624 miles in 2006 to one every 149,646 miles in 2007. Subway car announcements deteriorated from 90% in the second half of 2006 to 85% in the second half of 2007. Two other measures showed no sign of improvement: regularity of arriving trains and car cleanliness.

•The car fleet breakdown rate worsened from an average mechanical failure every 156,624 miles in 2006 to every 149,646 miles in 2007. This is a troubling trend, raising questions about the condition and maintenance of the aging transit fleet. Seventeen lines worsened (1, 4, 6, A, B, C, D, F, G, J/Z, L, M, N, Q, R, V and W), while just five lines improved (2, 3, 5, 7 and E).

•Accurate and understandable subway car announcements worsened, going from 90% in the second half of 2006 to 85% in the second half of 2007. We found that: fifteen lines worsened (1, 3, 7, B, C, D, E, F, G, J/Z, M, Q, R, V and W) five lines improved (2, 4, A, L and N) and two remained unchanged (5 and 6).

•Subway cars arrived with nearly identical regularity, with 87% regular arrivals during the daytime in our last report, to 86% in this report. Thirteen lines got worse (1, 3, 4, A, B, D, E, F, G, M, N, V and W) and nine improved (2, 5, 6, 7, C, J/Z, L, Q and R).

•Subway cars did not change on cleanliness, staying at 87% rated clean in both our last and current reports. Ten lines worsened (1, 5, B, D, E, G, M, N, R and W), ten improved (2, 3, 4, 7, A, C, F, J/Z, L and Q) and two did not change (6 and V).

•Chance of getting a seat at the most congested point on the line. The best chance is on the Q line, where riders had a 58% chance of getting a seat during rush hour. The 2 and the 6 ranked worst and were much more crowded, with riders having only a 24% chance of getting a seat.

•Regularity of service: The L and the J/Z lines had the greatest regularity of service, arriving within two to four minutes of its scheduled interval 92% of the time. The most irregular line is the 4, which performed with regularity only 78% of the time.

•In-car announcements: The 2, 5 and L lines had a perfect performance for adequate announcements made in its subway cars, missing no announcements, reflecting the automation of announcements on these lines. In contrast, the B was the worst, missing announcements 29% of the time.

For the complete Straphangers Campaign report go to www.straphangers.org.

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