Archive for Rider Report Cards

The MTA went a little grade-crazy today, releasing three Rider Report Cards today with the 42nd St. Shuttle and the 2 and 3 trains getting graded. For the West Side IRT express trains, it was more of the same. The 2 landed a C and the 3 a C-minus. The shuttle, however, reached the Holy Grail of the B-minus. After 10 grades in the C-range or lower, the Shuttle is the first one to achieve a B.

These lines are all very popular and often quite crowded. The 2 runs from Wakefield-241st St. in the Bronx down through Manhattan via the 7th Ave. line and into Brooklyn, terminating at Flatbush Ave. The 3 runs from 148th St. in the Bronx down the same line as the 2 and into Brooklyn, terminating at New Lots Ave. The shuttle spends its days running from Grand Central to Times Square.

As with a few of the other lines, I’m a bit stumped by the train announcements. The 2 got a C-minus for train announcements that are easy to hear. All of the 2 trains are the new R142s with the automatic announcements. If riders can’t hear those announcements, I’m inclined to believe that their ears — and not the trains — are at fault.

Meanwhile, I’m a veteran of all of these train lines. I grew up near the 96th St. express stop and now live near the Grand Army Plaza stop. These trains are often way too crowded, and the constant weekend service changes in Manhattan are driving its riders more than a little crazy.

The shuttle’s report card, on the other hand, is a mess of inconsistencies. Riders complain that the shuttle suffers from too few trains at rush hour, but the MTA can’t really add any more trains on the shuttle. There are only three tracks, and during rush hour, they generally operate at capacity.

From a survey standpoint, the report card numbers are in line what what we’ve been seeing: 5,124 riders graded the 2; 2,373 riders graded the 3; and only 380 riders graded the Shuttle. Below are the top 10 areas of improvement on each line. The complete grades are after the jump.

  1. Adequate room on board at rush hour
  2. Reasonable wait times for trains
  3. Cleanliness of stations
  4. Station announcements that are easy to hear
  5. Minimal delays during trips
  6. Train announcements that are easy to hear
  7. Comfortable temperature of subway cars
  8. Sense of security on trains
  9. Station announcements that are informative
  10. Sense of security in stations

  1. Reasonable wait times for trains
  2. Minimal delays during trips
  3. Adequate room on board at rush hour
  4. Station announcements that are easy to hear
  5. Train announcements that are easy to hear
  6. Cleanliness of stations
  7. Sense of security on trains
  8. Sense of security in stations
  9. Cleanliness of subway cars
  10. Comfortable temperature of subway cars

  1. Reasonable wait times for trains
  2. Adequate room on board at rush hour
  3. Minimal delays during trips
  4. Train announcements that are easy to hear
  5. Station announcements that are easy to hear
  6. Sense of security in stations
  7. Sense of security on trains
  8. Cleanliness of stations
  9. Station announcements that are informative
  10. Comfortable temperature of subway cars

Click here for full grades.

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Five of the New York City subways up for grading could land a letter grade on its Rider Report Card that corresponds with its line letter. While riders can currently submit grades for the A, C and F trains, the B and the D saw their grades collected a few weeks past. Today, the D received its grade, and it exceeded the D bullet that adorns all the trains.

That’s the good news. The bad news: 4084 riders gave the D line – which runs from the north Bronx, past Yankee Stadium, down Eighth Ave. and Central Park West, over the Manhattan Bridge and all the way out to Coney Island along the West End line – another C-minus grade.

And what did these riders say were the D’s biggest problem areas? Take a look:

  1. Reasonable wait times for trains
  2. Minimal delays during trips
  3. Adequate room on board at rush hour
  4. Station announcements that are easy to hear
  5. Train announcements that are easy to hear
  6. Cleanliness of stations
  7. Sense of security on trains
  8. Sense of security in stations
  9. Cleanliness of subway cars
  10. Comfortable temperature of subway cars

Now, I’m a veteran of the D train. For more then twenty years, I’ve ridden it up to the Bronx for Yankee games, and these days, I often take it home from West 4th St. to the Brooklyn. I can attest that those top problems are pretty much dead-on accurate.

For a train as popular as the D, wait times are most unreasonable. It’s not rare to stand around for 10 minutes at rush hour until an overly crowded train with inadequate room shows up. The trains creep through tunnels at certain points, mysteriously delayed when there is no train in front of them.

And forget about the announcement. With D trains sometimes stopping at Yankee Stadium and sometimes running express from 145th St. past 161th St., listening for announcements requires Superman-type hearing abilities. I’d also say the cars are a mess and run either too hot or too cold.

While I’ve questioned some of the previous C-range grades, I’d say this one is spot on. Complete grades after the jump.

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In response to those Rider Report Cards, today marked the first day of the expanded service on the L train. While the Internet’s most vocal critic of the L train was too busy celebrating in Denver, others in Brooklyn and Manhattan enjoyed increased service in an effort to ease overcrowding on one of the MTA’s most popular subway lines. [The Brooklyn Paper]

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Continuing the grand tradition of C-range grades from the Rider Report Card, the M – that rarely-used Nassau Street Local – received a C-minus from its riders. One day, the MTA will break this stretch of C grades, and we will celebrate.

The lonely M with just 75 riders on Facebook’s Subway Status application is seen only fleetingly during rush hour in Manhattan. Only seven trains at most run an hour on the M, and the train spends the time from 7:30 p.m. to 6 a.m. running as a shuttle from Metropolitan Ave. to Myrtle Ave. From 6 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., it reaches Chambers St. and during peak hours, extends to Bay Parkway.

As such, only 1360 riders responded to this survey, but that should constitute a sample random enough to get an a good enough picture of the train. Forgetting for a minute that these surveys are largely self-selected and less than scientific, let’s look at the complaints. Top ten improvements please:

  1. Reasonable wait times for trains
  2. Minimal delays during trips
  3. Station announcements that are easy to hear
  4. Train announcements that are easy to hear
  5. Cleanliness of stations
  6. Adequate room on board at rush hour
  7. Sense of security in stations
  8. Sense of security on trains
  9. Cleanliness of subway cars
  10. Station announcements that are informative

Rare are the times when I ride the M. If the train pulls into DeKalb during rush hour, and I’m heading to my gym near Union St., I’ll enjoy the Nassau Street Local for two stops. I’ve never had much of a problem with it, but the old R42 cars certainly don’t lend themselves to cleanliness or good PA systems.

On that end, those J/M/Z cars are due to be retired soon and replaced with spiffy new cars. So the MTA will get some points back there. As it stands, the M could use some improvements. After the jump, the full grade breakdown. For those keeping score at home, that’s three C-minuses, two C’s and a D for the MTA.

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Well, grades for the 5 train are out, and guess what? Yet another C-minus for the MTA.

The 5 – the lesser half of the duo that makes up the Lexington Ave. express – runs from the Bronx into Brooklyn at rush hour and terminates at Bowling Green all other times during its run. It enjoys new subway cars, overcrowded trains and its very own C-minus grade. I hear long walks on the beach and giant rats in its tunnels are some of its interests as well.

How do the riders want the 5 to improve? Let me count the ways.

  1. Minimal delays during trips
  2. Reasonable wait times for trains
  3. Adequate room on board at rush hour
  4. Station announcements that are easy to hear
  5. Cleanliness of stations
  6. Sense of security on trains
  7. Sense of security in stations
  8. Comfortable temperature in subway cars
  9. Train announcements that are easy to hear
  10. Station announcements that are informative

Like I was with the 4 train last week, I’m confused about the train announcement issue. The cars on the 5 line are all R142s. It’s not that hard to hear the crystal-clear announcements on the train.

The delays and crowds go hand-in-hand. Trains along the über-popular Lexington Ave. IRT and famous for their crowds. Try getting onto a 6 local at 77th St. during rush hour. It is neigh impossible. So as the express trains get more and more crowded, it takes longer for people to cram into the cars. They block the doors; they hold up service. Thus, delays are a constant problem on the 5 line, and train spacing becomes an issue.

Otherwise, as you’ll see after the jump, it’s the same old grading story for the 5 train. The MTA now should know which areas need the most improvement. As they demonstrated on the L and 7 lines, they’re willing to make the necessary upgrades. Can they do the same on lines that are already maxed out? Only time will tell.

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Over the last few years, as gentrification and population expansion have spread eastward into Queens and Williamsburg, the 7 and L trains have become notoriously overcrowded. Blogs wrote about it; newspapers wrote about it; heck, even the MTA knew about it. But not until those two lines received bad grades (7, L), in the highly unscientific Rider Report Card surveys did the MTA do anything about it.

Better late than never I guess.

Beginning in December, the MTA announced on Thursday, the L and 7 lines will see more frequent rush-hour service in an effort to alleviate chronic overcrowding. Both trains received D grades in the “Adequate room on board at rush hour” category.

According to the MTA, the service upgrades, tabbed to cost $2.6 million a year, will cover rush hour on the 7 and across the board on the L. The details:

Rush hour service, when both local andexpress trains run every two to two-and-a-half minutes, will now begin at 7:10 a.m. and end at 9:05 a.m. Previously, rush hour service began at 7:20 a.m. and ended at 8:50 a.m. During the a.m. peak hours, service on the 7 will increase by 8-percent. Between 8:30 p.m. and 10:30 p.m., Main Street-bound 7 local and 7 express service will operate every four to five minutes apart, instead of the current five to six minutes, a 25-percent increase in service.

Service on the L line is being added … to respond to a larger than anticipated growth in ridership on the line. During the weekday morning rush hour, L trains will run approximately 3.5 minutes apart, instead of every four minutes. Manhattan-bound train trips will increase from 15 train trips to 17 train trips, a 13.3-percent increase in service. In addition, two trains are being added to the schedule during the “shoulder hour” between 9:30 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. During the midday time period, 10:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., L trains will run every six minutes apart instead of every eight minutes. In the evening hours, between 8:00 p.m. and midnight, L trains will run every five to 10 minutes apart instead of every six to 12 minutes.

The MTA officials, of course, had to find the cloud in this silver lining. In discussing these service upgrades, MTA NYC Transit President Howard Roberts issued something of an ominous statement. “We’ve heard a similar message from riders on other lines, and while we’re looking at what we can do to alleviate congestion I can’t promise we’ll be able to add service on every line,” he said.

So all you folks on the 4 line hoping for more service should just keep waiting — or cramming yourself into cattle-car rush-hour trains.

Roberts also laid the blame for the L train service increases on the seemingly never-ending signal replacement project. “The Canarsie Line has seen a substantial growth in ridership since 1998, but the old signal system prevented us from adding the amount of service necessary to meet demand,” said Roberts. “With the addition of more equipment on the line in the form of new R160 cars, and the completion of Communications Based Train Control (CBTC) signal installation, we can finally provide relief for our riders – especially in Williamsburg and Greenpoint where ridership has grown the most.”

In the end, I’m glad to hear about increased service. For months, all we’ve heard from the MTA all calls about their financial woes and the possibility that service may decrease. Those bad grades certainly silenced those cries. While the East Village Idiot, a frequent victim of the L train, is rightfully annoyed at the MTA, the fact that the MTA is responding to the demands of the riders is a positive sign, even if this move came a few years too late.

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Oct
12

My kingdom 4 a ‘C’

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Guess what? Another subway grade came out today, and you’ll never believe what riders gave to the Eastern Parkway Express. That ol’ green 4 train got, you guessed it, yet another C grade. It’s the fourth C or C- in the MTA’s long trek toward mediocrity.

For the 4 line, over 4200 riders responded to the survey, making it the most ranked line in the system. Coincidentally (or not), it’s also the most crowded. And what exactly are the problems with the 4? Let’s take a look, top 10 style:

  1. Adequate room on board at rush hour
  2. Minimal delays during trips
  3. Reasonable wait times for trains
  4. Station announcements that are easy to hear
  5. Sense of security on trains
  6. Cleanliness of stations
  7. Sense of security in stations
  8. Train announcements that are easy to hear
  9. Station announcements that are informative
  10. Comfortable temperature in subway cars

Of course, the 4 is overcrowded. I would expect we’ll hear the same about the 5 and 6 trains too when those grades come out. I also wonder if some people were grading the East Side IRT as a whole when they issued grade for the 4 train. I’ve never noticed much of a problem with comfortable temperatures inside the new 4 trains. The platforms are a different story.

I’m also a little puzzled about something I noticed in the full grades (available after the jump). “Train announcements that are easy to hear” received a C. Now, as far as I know, every single car running on the 4, except those put in service as extra trains before and after Yankee games are of the R142 variety and have automated announcements. How can those be hard to hear?

I do wonder what these grades will look like when a Second Ave. subway exists to alleviate some of that massive rush hour overcrowding on the 4. Click through for the grade breakdown.

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So with apologies to Shawn Carter for that headline, I come bearing bad news for the J and Z trains. The rider report card results are out, and the BMT Nassau Street Lines pulled down the MTA’s first C-.

For the MTA, this is their third grade of the year. Last week, the L received a C, and at the end of August, the 7 also received a C-. With these three grades in the books, the MTA is pulling down a 1.78 GPA. Clearly the agency has lots of room for improvement.

But for the J and Z — a rush-hour skip-stop train running on the same tracks — the news is worse than it seems. These lines are soon to be on the receiving end of some fancy R160 cars, and the MTA thought things were going well. Not quite, reports Metro’s Michael Rundle:

Overall the J/Z line scored a C- grade, with eight grades at a D+ or lower and only one grade above a C+, in the NYC Transit’s latest Rider Report Card. In comparison, the L train, graded last month, scored an overall C and received only one D…

“The news [riders] are giving us doesn’t reconcile with the statistical performance standards we are currently using,” said NYC Transit President Howard Roberts, in a statement. “Clearly we need to take a harder look at not only what we’re doing but how we’re doing it.”

Similar to results released for the L and 7 trains, no attribute scored higher than a B-, and none scored lower than a D. On no attribute was there more than a one letter grade distinction between any of the three lines.

At this point, we’re still waiting for the final results of the report card. But based on the previous results, the subways on the J/Z line are overcrowded, unreliable and dirty. That’s no surprise. How the MTA is going to fix a system that riders seem intent to grade in the C/C- minus range is up for debate.

Meanwhile, I’m getting reports that, despite having completed the survey, folks on the 7 line are still receiving report cards. Um, that’s just a huge waste of paper and people’s time. But, hey, it could be worse. At least the subways didn’t lose to the Indians 12-3 last night.

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Update 1:26 p.m.: The MTA has released the complete survey info. You can get it at the bottom of this post.

=======

The MTA is learning that when you ask honest opinion, you’ll get back an honest answer. And when it comes to the quality of service in the subways, honesty doesn’t lead to high grades.

Later today, the Authority will release the results of the rider report cards for the L train, but The Times’ Cityroom blog already has the story. While the 7 train received a C-minus a few weeks ago, the L train improves on that grade. By a little.

The old BMT 14th St./Canarsie line received a C from its riders. Sewell Chan, with an assist from transit beat writer William Neuman, has more on the grade breakdown:

The mediocre grade is somewhat surprising, given that New York City Transit has spent millions on a computerized system of speakers and electronic signs on the crosstown L line. Yet straphangers who took the survey were unimpressed; they gave a C grade when asked if station announcements on the line were easy to hear and a C-minus when asked if the announcements were informative….

Overall, L train riders said overcrowding was their top priority. Transit officials said they will go ahead with plans already in place to add trains to the line…The top three areas in which L riders wanted to see improvements were more room on board during peak hours; fewer delays during trips; and shorter wait times for trains.

For those of you keeping score — or is that grading? — at home, the L received a D for the “adequate room at rush hour” category only because giving out an F was not an option a few customers must like feeling as though they’re on an overstuffed cattle car. (Ends up that F was an option!) I’ll have the full grade breakdown later today.

The MTA must be at least somewhat discouraged by this news. As Chan and Neuman note, the MTA has invested a highly-publicized $17.6 million into installing train information screens (that don’t work in an ideal way) and the capacity for automated trains (that don’t seem to work yet either) along stations in the L line. When train information displays at on the Brooklyn-bound 1st Ave. L platform are displaying the minutes until the next 8th Ave.-bound L train, L train riders are apt to rate the line poorly.

For his part, Howard Roberts was gracious in receiving the bad news. He said to Chan and Neuman that due to the overcrowding — which the MTA hopes to alleviate — and the constant service changes and shuttle buses, he was “not totally surprised” by the mediocre grade. But the MTA is now pulling down a C/C- on your typical grading scale.

I hope the MTA has plans to address the myriad concerns raised in these reports. We’re hearing the same issues — overcrowding, poor rush hour service, incomprehensible announcements — over and over again. And while a C may be good enough for the President of the United States, it sure isn’t acceptable to those of us riding the New York City subways every day.

Click here for a full breakdown of the report card

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Back in May, New York City Transit President Howard Roberts announced his plans to have riders grade the subway lines. When the first report cards came out, I was underwhelmed. They offered little in terms of creativity and a lot in terms of your standard subway gripes.

Now, it looks like the first set of results — an underwhelming C- for the purple 7 trains — are proving that, yes, the subways have problems we all know about.

Late this afternoon, conveniently on the day before the start of a three-day weekend during which approximately no one will read this news, the MTA issued a press released discussing the findings of the rider report card for the 7 train. The results, linked in the previous paragraph, are less than stellar for the popular IRT Flushing line.

Before we delve into the complaints, let’s start out with some good news. The MTA received a high rate of response to their surveys. They handed out 88,000 report cards over a three-day period in July, and they received back 16,000 responses. Statistically, an 18 percent response rate is stellar. People want their voices heard when it comes to subway issues.

MTA CEO Elliot “Lee” Sander recognized the people’s voices as well. “The response to the Rider Report Card was phenomenal,” Sander said. “Clearly, riders wanted to express their opinions and we will respond with several initiatives to improve service in the areas where they feel we’re lacking.”

But the reality of the situation is a bit grim. Riders want their voices heard because they’re less than thrilled with the level of service. A C- is barely passing. The MTA asked the straphangers to rate what they see are areas in which the MTA needs to improve. The results please:

  1. "Adequate room on board at rush hour"
  2. "Minimal delays during trips"
  3. "Reasonable wait time for trains"
  4. "Train announcements that are easy to hear"
  5. "Station announcements that are easy to hear"
  6. "Cleanliness of stations"
  7. "Working elevators and escalators"
  8. "Sense of security on trains."
  9. "Cleanliness of subway cars"
  10. "Sense of security in stations"

To anyone who rides the overcrowded, oft-delayed, somewhat dirty subways, these results tell us nothing new. We know the subways are overcrowded; that’s why the MTA is trying to build the Second Ave. Subway. We know train announcements are unintelligible. We know the subway’s aren’t the safest things in the city.

Now, we also know that Joe and Jane Straphanger are thinking along the same wavelengths as those of us that read and write about the subways on the Internet. Of course, with this all in mind, the MTA has to address these concerns, and I think they’re working on it. With limited financial flexibility and few miles of unused tracks, the Authority can only do so much.

Of course, my 15-minute wait at 11:40 p.m. tonight for any downtown train on the BMT platform at Union Square is hardly comforting. But at least the MTA and NYCT are listening, and hopefully Sander and Roberts mean business when they say service will improve. Time will be the judge of that.

Update: I missed this link last night: Howard Roberts has released the full results of the survey. While the C- sounds mediocre, the overall results are not pretty to say the least. Take a look:

Minimal delays during trips C-
Reasonable wait times for trains C
Adequate room on board at rush hour D
Sense of security in stations C
Sense of security on trains C
Working elevators and escalators in stations C-
Signs in stations that help riders find their way C+
Signs in subway cars that help riders find their way C
Cleanliness of stations C-
Cleanliness of subway cars C-
Station announcements that are easy to hear D+
Station announcements that are informative D+
Train announcements that are easy to hear D+
Train announcements that are informative D+
Lack of graffiti in stations C+
Lack of graffiti in subway cars C+
Lack of scratchitti in subway cars C-
Courtesy and helpfulness of station personnel C
Comfortable temperature in subway cars C
Ease of use of subway turnstiles C+
Availability of MetroCard Vending Machines B-
Overall performance C-
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