Home Rider Report Cards The long, slow trek from Coney Island to Jamaica brings home a C-minus

The long, slow trek from Coney Island to Jamaica brings home a C-minus

by Benjamin Kabak

Ah, the F train. You know, loyal readers, that I’ve been waiting for this Rider Report Card to show up for a while. The F, you see, the latest recipient of a C-minus grade, is a frequent topic around here.

One of the longest – and slowest – routes in the system, the F starts out at Coney Island and runs, as we know, local, painfully, slowly local up the Culver Line and through Brooklyn. It crosses into Manhattan via the Rutgers St. tunnel before taking the local route up 6th Ave. It crosses into Queens via the 63rd St tunnel with a stop on Roosevelt Island before running express out to 179th St. in Jamaica via Queens Boulevard.

For months, the F has been the focus of Gary Reilly’s advocacy work. With unused express tracks from Jay St on south, the F rides along one of the most underused and overcrowded sections of track in New York City. We’ve tried for months to convince NYCT to run the F as an express and the V as a local out to Church Ave., but four years of construction on the Gowanus Viaduct has rendered this opporunity moot. Instead we’ll just suffer the ails of an overcrowded train.

Gary and I aren’t the only ones bemoaning the F. The 13,000 riders who gave the train a C-minus are right there along with us, and on the top of the list of complains are those same two issues an F express would alleviate: The trains are too crowded and too slow, and they don’t arrive often enough. No kidding.

This time, however, the fix will be easy enough, and NYCT knows it. When the construction is completed, riders on this line will reportedly enjoy express service through parts of Brooklyn. Hopefully, with some trains running express through rapidly-growing population centers in Carroll Garden, Park Slope and Kensington, this line, well under capacity, will see an increase in service across the board as well.

Meanwhile, as to the other top complaints – station quality and the quality of announcements – the F has a long way to go. Old cars with aging public address systems do not lend themselves to intelligible announcements, and with service changes planned for the next few years, this problem will only get worse before it gets better.

What follows are the top ten complaints for another C-minus grade joining a long line of mediocre grades. After the jump, the full grade breakdown.

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

Rider Ratings of F Service 2007 Grade
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 D+
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 B-
Availability of MetroCard Vending Machines B-
Overall performance C-

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Todd December 5, 2007 - 10:20 am

I’m having serious trouble believing these grades. Aside from the joke catagories of ‘Ease of use of subway turnstiles’ and ‘Availability of MetroCard Vending Machines’, the F line should have earned an F.

Kid Twist December 5, 2007 - 10:31 am

I’ve found that the F has some of the easiest-to-use turnstiles in the entire system. They’re easily my most favorite!

Marc Shepherd December 5, 2007 - 1:41 pm

There’s not a lot of nuanced opinion in these grades. In fact, most of them are interchangeable. Part of the reason is that most voters spend most of their time on just one subway line, and don’t have a good perspective on the whole system. I mean, if F riders had to ride a C train for a week, suddenly they’d realize they have it pretty good.

The B– on availability of MetroCard Vending Machines is pretty hard to figure. How much more available could they be?

As Ben notes, the F express (which, of course, should be a V express) won’t be physically possible for another four years. There’s not much that can be done about that, unless you want the Culver Viaduct to collapse.

Benjamin Kabak December 5, 2007 - 1:43 pm


I’m also mystified as to the causes behind the low grades for “Ease of use of subway turnstiles.” As most New Yorkers really too challenged to figure out how to use subway turnstiles. It’s just not that hard.

Scott December 5, 2007 - 3:22 pm

I’ve got a couple of theories on what might drag down the turnstile grades (even though they’re already among the highest):

– How often do you, or the person in front of you, repeatedly swipe the Metrocard and see the message “Swipe card again” over and over? (this, by the way, is part of the drive towards the RFID/PayPass type of system — no magnetic strip reader to get dirty, so less chance of problems)

– HEETs (High Entry/Exit Turnstiles – those enter/exit revolving door things) are a real pain in the butt. They are extremely slow, especially when you’ve got a line of people, and if you’ve got large bags or packages, you may be in trouble. (Ever take the LIRR to tracks 1 or 2 at Flatbush/Atlantic Ave and then go down the stairs the HEETs entering the subway system?)

– We all know (or should know) about subway courtesy — let passengers leave the train before boarding. But what happens when you’ve got a line of people on both sides of the turnstile? Let incoming passengers through first, and a crowd develops waiting to exit. Let passengers exit first, and someone coming in might miss their train. Leave via the Emergency Exit door, and an alarm goes off and you risk getting smacked around by MTA Police. The HEETs only slow this down even further. If someone swipes their card, and then another person exits through the turnstile, do they lose the fare?

Marc Shepherd December 5, 2007 - 3:56 pm

Scott makes a good point. I had forgotten about HEETs. And they are a nuisance at high-volume entrances and exits, some of which formerly had standard turnstiles and staffed booths.

I’m not sure whether that’s where the B– is coming from, though.

Ed December 5, 2007 - 11:58 pm

Keep in mind that the F has a split personality. In Queens, where it runs express, and in most of Manhattan its a beautiful line. Its probably the quickest way to get downtown from upper midtown in the city, though it doesn’t go to lower Manhattan. As the train runs through the Lower East Side the Mr. Hyde part of its personality emerges.


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