— Jody Avirgan (@jodyavirgan) July 30, 2014
Shortly after the Straphangers released their annual State of the Subway Report Card, a producer at WNYC, issued what I think is the quintessential New York take on these rankings. As you can see, his belief is that if your train isn’t at the bottom, you’ll be outraged and appalled. He’s captured the essence of the way New Yorkers tend to project their feelings on the subway, but even then, things aren’t that bad. Mostly, we get to work on time, and we get where we’re going relatively quickly even if things aren’t perfect.
So just how imperfect are things? According to the Straphangers’ rankings this year, somehow, the 7 train came out on top while the 2 train ended up at the bottom of the list. Sometimes, I think these rankings are, much like the U.S. News & World Report lists, designed to be different each year so we have something to talk about, but who am I to complain? These rankings are, after all, fodder for today’s post.
This year, the 7 line emerges victorious. Despite our seemingly endless wait for a new station at 34th St. and 11th Ave., apparently, this line with its service patterns and CBTC-inspired weekend shutdowns along with a creaky tunnel and constant crowds came out on top. The Straphangers say a ride on the 7 is $2 — though we’ll come back to that later — and praised the train for its “frequency of service”, lack of delays caused by mechanical breakdowns and, somehow, seat availability during rush hour.
On the flip side, my dear 2 train came in dead last. I ride the 2 fairly regularly in Manhattan and Brooklyn and, absent some crowding, don’t find much wrong with it. The Straphangers, though, fault the line for irregular service, mechanical breakdowns and seat availability during rush hour (but does any subway line worth its salt have seats available during rush hour?). What’s odd about the 2 train’s ranking is that its cars’ mean distance between failures is still well over 125,000 miles. But as this rolling stock is the oldest of the new breed and other lines are receiving the latest and greatest, the numbers start to sag a bit. However, in the Straphangers’ first State of the Subway report, the 2 train’s old redbirds latest just 71,000 miles on average between failures. My, how our expectations have changed.
The rest of the report card is a succinct summary of the subways. Most of the lines are very crowded at rush hour; announcements on newer rolling stock are easier to hear; trains themselves aren’t that dirty (while stations can appear dirty or grimy); and regularity of service is a low-level problem but one that’s more obvious than others.
Overall, though, for yet another year in a row, the Straphangers have determined that no subway line is worth the price of even a discounted MetroCard swipe, and this has always rubbed me the wrong way. By undercutting the value of a MetroCard, the Straphangers are urging everyone to think that we’re getting ripped off. Even as the group has tried to increase the dollar value of its rating to meet fare increases, the perception is that we’re not getting what we paid for. For at most $2.50, I can get just about anywhere reasonably quickly. I’d say that’s a good deal, warts and all.