In an effort to improve its internal metrics, New York City Transit recently reevaluated the way it judges on-time train performance. Now that the agency is counting delays brought about by service changes or construction and maintenance disruptions, the numbers look ugly. According to a report released today, Transit’s on-time rate has plummeted to 50 percent on the weekends and 75 percent during the week. “I actually have a couple of horror stories here with respect to the different lines that have particularly low absolute on-time performance,” NYC Transit President Howard Roberts said, referring to the 1 line which had been slowed due to the ceiling collapse at 181st St.
While I understand the need to measure on-time train performance, I have to wonder if this is the right metric. New Yorkers don’t really expect subway trains to run “on time” because the schedules, while available, are rarely used and aren’t considered gospel. The better indication of on-time performance involves train wait times. If I just miss a B train during the day, I expect to wait 8-10 minutes for the next one. If I’m waiting longer than that — no matter what time the schedule comes — I consider the next train to be late. I also come prepared for longer headways on the weekends considering the extent of the service changes. My approach, though, is simple: If the trains run on time, great; just don’t make me wait longer than I ought to for the next one.