Wrong and right views of subway service


Earlier this week, lost amidst the brouhaha over the MTA’s capital plan and the TWU arbitration victory, was an internal MTA study on the state of the subways. While the Straphangers Campaign offers up its own take on our transit system, the MTA conducts an annual survey of riders to get their opinions on the underground.

While people love to complain about the state of the MTA and the subway, according to amNew York’s Heather Haddon, the grades weren’t all that bad. On a scale of 10, New Yorkers ranked the subways a 6.4.

According to the report, the MTA is improving in some areas while declining in others. Stations seem safer and subways faster than they were ten years ago. Transit, however, is suffering in areas concerning crowding, buses in general and, of course, fares.

Haddon reports that 75 percent say they were “satisfied overall with subway system.” Twenty years ago, fewer than half expressed that level of satisfaction. The investment efforts are paying off.

Of concern, though, was one category: station smells. Ten years ago, straphangers rated the odor of the system at a mediocre 5.6. Today, the subways are stinkier with a 4.8 rating. This is of course the never-ending problem with operating a 24-hour system. Keeping the smell out is nigh impossible.

While these ratings are generally in line with my views of the subway system, some of the rider opinions expressed in Haddon’s article are patently absurd. One rider — Shawn Kelloway of Brooklyn — had this stupid comment: “Give me a break man. It’s a rip-off.”

The subways are far from a rip-off. With average fares lower than they were 15 years ago and fare-discount options widely available, I think the subways are a good deal. How else can you get from Inwood to Rockaway for less than the cost of a slice of pizza?

7 Responses to “Wrong and right views of subway service”

  1. anonymous says:

    If you don’t mind an hour-and-a-half ride each way.

  2. OJ says:

    It’s actually 2 hours and some change. Comapred to te LIRR , the NYCT are much cheaper. I could afford a monthly card instead of monthly for the metro between inwood and penn station. Plus it has more value. Of course 89 dollars is going to look like a fourtune to someone living in the inter city but it’s defintely a value. I’d still much rather have the 80 dollar price.

  3. Alon Levy says:

    The subway’s cheap compared to what it used to be, but not compared to other subway systems in the world. When you’re cheaper than the profitable Tokyo Metro for short trips, you know something is wrong with your system.

  4. J.W. says:

    I am fine with anyone who wants to criticize the M.T.A., but a lot of it seems fairly small-minded, in my view. The fact that it’s cheaper to ride the subway somewhere else, for instance, means very little; I live here. They could give you free puppies and ice cream in Tokyo, it wouldn’t change the fact that I don’t own a car — and I live here.

    I know a lot of people who are fed up with any number of things about the subway, and I probably agree with most of them. What bugs me is that I don’t know anyone who has anything intelligent to say about how you live in New York without it. And it seems to me that critics who, for instance, say it’s too expensive ought to be able to do that.

    • Alon Levy says:

      I don’t get the point about “I live here.” The lower fares prevalent in most other cities suggest that the MTA could cut its operating costs, translating into some combination of lower fares and higher ridership, and reduced need to go to Albany and beg for money.


  1. […] it wouldn’t net a gold at the Olympics, the M.T.A. can be fairly happy about a recent survey in which New Yorkers said their overall transit satisfaction was 6.4 out of 10. Less positive were […]

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