Tag Archives: straphangers campaign

No. 7 rated best subway line: report

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

File photo


Queens riders rejoice—the No. 7 train was rated the best New York City subway line.

This is the seventh time in 16 years the line has placed first in an annual review conducted by the transit advocacy group, Straphangers Campaign.

The “State of the Subways Report Card,” released every year since 1997, concluded that the No. 7 ranked highest because it comes most frequently. The Flushing to Times Square train also has fewer delays caused by mechanical breakdown, more seats available during rush hour and is clean, according to the report.

Other Queens subway lines also received high praise. The E train was only delayed once every 546,744 miles, the best of the 19 trains. It was also among five trains that made “accurate and understandable” announcements, the study concluded. R train riders, at 66 percent, have the highest chance of grabbing a seat during the most congested times of the day.

The Q train was deemed the dirtiest train, with 17 percent of its trains rated “moderately or heavily dirty,” the report said.

Overall, researchers found that city subways broke down more often in the last two years but were cleaner and announcements were more audible.

The 2 train was ranked the worst subway line.

To see more results from the report, visit www.straphangers.org.



Subway delay alerts jump, F train shows most incidents

| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Wikimedia Commons

The number of MTA electronic alerts cautioning riders about subway delays has jumped in the city, with the F train showing the most incidents in 2013, according to transit advocacy group Straphangers Campaign.

The group’s analysis found that the amount of alerts on delay-generating incidents went from 2,967 in 2011 to 3,998 in 2013, an increase of 35 percent.

“The increase in alerts is a troubling sign that subway service is deteriorating,” said Gene Russianoff, staff attorney for the Straphangers Campaign.

The analysis, which looked at 20 subway lines, but not any of the shuttles, examined only alerts that were deemed “controllable,” excluding incidents such as sick passengers and police activity. Data from 2012 was also eliminated because of Superstorm Sandy’s effect on the numbers.

With 326 controllable MTA alerts in 2013, the F line had the most delay-generating incidents that year.

The J/Z line had the fewest with 53 incidents. It was also the most improved line, with 9 percent fewer delay alerts between 2011 and 2013, and was also the only one to experience a reduction in delay alerts during that period.

The L line experienced the largest increase from 2011 to 2013, going from 96 to 183 delay alerts.

Despite the spike in alerts, Queens fared well compared to the other boroughs.

Queens had the second fewest delay-generating controllable incidents in 2013, with 604. The Bronx had the fewest, with 416. Queens also showed the smallest jump in alerts out of the four boroughs that the subways serve, going from 489 in 2011 to 604 in 2013, a 24 percent change.

Citywide, mechanical problems generated the most alerts and accounted for about 35 percent of them, followed by signals at 31 percent and track incidents at 13 percent.

The MTA has been issuing electronic alerts to riders via email and text message since November 2008. To sign up for the free service, visit www.mymtaalerts.com.




Annual survey reveals dirtiest subways in Queens

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

Photo Metropolitan Transportation Authority / Amy Hausmann


Queens residents are riding on some of the dirtiest subways in the city, according to an annual Straphangers Campaign survey.

Surveyors for the advocacy group found that the number of clean subway cars declined between 2011 and 2013, from 52 to 42 percent.

“Transit officials are losing the war against dirty subway cars,” said Jason Chin-Fatt, field organizer for the Straphangers Campaign.

Last year’s findings, based on 2,000 observations of subway cars between September 4 and December 22, 2013, showed the D line was the dirtiest. Only 17 percent of its cars were clean, while in 2011, 49 percent of them received the same rating.

The best performing line in the 2013 survey was the L with 63 percent of its cars rated clean, up from 58 percent in 2011.

According to the Straphangers Campaign, many Queens lines, such as the F, N and Q, have experienced statistically significant deterioration since 2011. While lines, such as the 7, E, G, J, M and R, have remained statistically unchanged since 2011. None of the lines showed statistically significant improvement.

The dirtiest lines in the borough were the A, with only 26 percent clean subway cars and the F train with 31 percent. At 55 percent, the J train was the cleanest, followed by the No. 7 with 55 percent.

Cars were rated on 20 lines for cleanliness of floors and seats.  The Straphangers Campaign followed the MTA New York City Transit’s official standards for measuring car cleanliness.  The standards for cars that were “basically dirt free” or had “light dirt” are “occasional ‘ground-in’ spots but generally clean.” Cars were rated not clean if they were “moderately” dirty, meaning they had dingy floors or one or two sticky dry spots, or were heavily dirty, meaning they had ” any opened or spilled food, or malodorous conditions, sticky wet spots, or any seats unusable due to unclean conditions.”

The MTA conducts its own semi-annual subway car cleanliness survey. Its average percentage of clean cars in the second half of 2013 was 92 percent—a significant difference compared to the campaigns 2013 survey of 42 percent. The Straphangers Campaign acknowledged the different findings, but said that it was not able to point to factors that came to these results.




MTA to expand trash can removal pilot to 29 more subway stations

| ctumola@queenscourier.com

THE COURIER/Cristabelle Tumola

The MTA is taking out trash cans from more subway stations after an ongoing pilot program has shown that removing them helps alleviate garbage problems.

In the fall of 2011, trash cans were removed from the Flushing-Main Street No. 7 line and Manhattan 8th Street R line stations. After positive results from those two locations, the MTA decided to add two stations each in Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx and Manhattan to the pilot, starting in September 2012.

In Queens, those stations included the A line’s 111th Street stop and the 65th Street station of the M/R line.

The cans removed during the initial pilot reduced the number of trash bags by 67 percent at Main Street and 50 percent at 8th Street, according to the MTA. Also, the stations were cleaner and there wasn’t an increase in track fires.

Following the fall 2012 expansion, there was a 66 percent reduction in the number of bags collected, moderate to heavy litter levels decreased and the rodent population either decreased or was unchanged.

The MTA is now expanding the trash can removal pilot to 29 stations along the J and M lines.

“The results have been for the most part very positive and we have seen some behavioral changes by riders,” said Department of Subways, SVP Joe Leader.  “We will expand the pilot to stations between Broad Street and Jamaica Center-Parsons/Archer in order to gauge the impact along an entire line segment.”

Each day, about 40 tons of trash is removed from the subway system, collected from more than 3,500 trash receptacles, according to the MTA. Despite more frequent bag removal, reinforced trash storage rooms and temper-proof cans, garbage still piles up, attracting rats and landing on train tracks, causing fires. The MTA started the pilot “in an effort to guide customers to take with them any disposables that they carry into the system.”

Commuters heading to work and the free papers handed out at subway stops may be a large part of the trash problem, according to a 2008 analysis of about 75,000 pounds of subway station garbage, which showed that the most common item thrown out at subway stations was newspapers, at 44 percent.

Though trash is an issue, a 2011 Straphangers Campaign subway platform survey found that garbage was not the biggest problem at subway stations. Observing 250 subway platforms, surveyors only saw one overflowing trash can and 15 garbage bags; rats were found on 11 percent of platforms. Problems such as broken lighting fixtures, substantial water damage and peeling paint were found at 50 to 79 percent of platforms.



Queens least improved in subway delays: report

| mchan@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of MTA Flickr/ Marc Hermann

Queens straphangers will have to hold on for a little longer.

The borough suffered a 17 percent spike in subway delays from 2011 to 2012, according to a new Straphangers Campaign report by the New York Public Interest research Group (NYPIRG).

Queens was the least improved in the city when it came to decreasing subway delays last year, the report said. The number of delay alerts jumped from 392 to 458.

Manhattan, which accounted for almost half of all citywide alerts, saw a 16 percent increase in delays over last year. The Bronx saw 17 percent fewer alerts over the same period.

An analysis by the Straphangers Campaign also found the F line had the most delays out of 20 citywide subway lines reviewed. The L worsened the most, with a 60 percent increase in delays.

The G, with 19 percent fewer alerts, had the fewest delays. It was also the most improved line, the report said.

“Thousands of New Yorkers rely on prompt subway service to get around the city on a daily basis,” said Councilmember and Transportation Committee Chair James Vacca. “Delayed trains are an ongoing issue citywide, and it becomes a major burden on straphangers who depend on reliable trains to get to work, school and other places throughout the city.”

Data from the survey were gathered before Sandy, during the first 10 months of 2012. The findings attributed most of the delays to unspecified mechanical problems.

“They swear the services are getting better, but it never does,” said commuter Julio Castillo, 23, of College Point. “I take the 7, F and E and occasionally the N or R from the city, and they all have their fair share of problems.”

Gonzalo Rojas, 65, of Fresh Meadows said traveling during rush hour on the weekdays is not a problem. But he said he’s brought to a halt on weekends.

“I work on Saturdays, and there are always problems with the trains being delayed with lines being changed or just stopped for some reason,” he said.

The analysis was based on the MTA’s free Email and Text Message Alert System, which informs users of incidents that will result in an at least eight-minute delay, NYPIRG said.

However, MTA spokesperson Kevin Ortiz said using the system “as a barometer of individual subway line performance does not paint a full picture of service issues.”

But he touted the mobile alert system, which launched in 2008, as an informative tool to get up-to-the-minute notifications.



Survey shows improvement in subway platform conditions

By Queens Courier Staff | editorial@queenscourier.com

File photo


A majority of subway platform conditions have improved over the last year, according to the Straphangers Campaign’s second annual “State of the Stations Platforms” survey.

These conditions include garbage bags on platforms, staircases in disrepair, exposed wiring, floor cracks and lighting.

Again this year, the presence of garbage cans and the lack of overflowing garbage cans was found on nearly 100 percent of platforms.

The only two conditions to grow worse in the past year were substantial water damage, which increased from 53 percent of subway platforms to 78, and graffiti, which grew from 20 percent to 27.

The survey consisted of 251 subway platforms, which were identical to the ones rated last year.

“We applaud transit managers and workers for improving conditions at many stations,” said Jason Chin-Fatt, the Straphangers Campaign field organizer who oversaw the survey. “But there’s still room for further progress. There’s no reason, for example, that riders should have a one in ten chance of seeing a rat while waiting for a train.”

Photos courtesy of the Straphangers Campaign



31 percent of riders have no love for MTA

| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photo file

A recent Straphangers Campaign poll found that about a third of New York City Transit riders can’t find a single reason to praise the MTA.

In honor of Valentine’s Day, the transportation advocacy group asked 252 people what they love about subways and buses.

The most popular answer was convenience, but riders also liked the fare discounts, their fellow riders and that their bosses couldn’t reach them while on the bus or subway.

Those last three answers, however, followed well behind the second most popular reason: “I don’t use the word ‘Love’ in the same sentence with ‘MTA.’”

Poll results:

5% My Fellow Riders
5%  The Fare Discounts
38% The Convenience
4% My Boss Can’t Reach Me
31%  I don’t use the word “Love” in the same sentence with “MTA”
17% Other



MTA announces fare and toll hike proposals

| ctumola@queenscourier.com

Photo courtesy of MTA

Today the Metropolitan Transit Authority officially announced its proposals for the fare and toll hikes that are planned for March.

The agency said that the increases will bring in “vitally needed revenue to support the New York region’s transportation system.”

The MTA is considering four options that would increase bus and subway rides.

On October 10, the New York Daily News published those options ahead of time. Though the MTA would not confirm whether those were its actual proposals, the ones it revealed today did reflect the ones the paper released.

Two options keep the base fare at $2.25; the other two raise it to $2.50.

If the base fare stays the same, the cost of a weekly unlimited MetroCard would go up from $29 to $34 and the monthly from $104 to $125. The seven percent discount for every $10 put on a MetroCard would be lowered to five percent.

The second option would raise unlimited rides to $32 and $119, but eliminate the discount.

If the MTA raises the base fare to $2.50, then straphangers would keep the seven percent discount, but pay more for an unlimited MetroCard ($30 and $112).

The final option would keep weekly unlimited MetroCards at $29, and only increase the monthly by $5, but the base fare would be $2.50, and there would be no discounts.

There are also four proposals for express buses. Again, two would keep the base fare, which is currently $5.50, and the two others would raise it 50 cents. The options would also have similar trade-offs for MetroCard discounts and unlimited rides.

Most of Long Island Railroad and Metro-North tickets would go up by 8.19 to 9.31 percent, said the MTA.

These hikes would be the fourth increase in five years for subway, bus and commuter rail fares and that is one too many said public transportation advocacy group, the Straphangers Campaign, following the MTA’s fare proposals announcement.

“Blocking or reducing the fare increase is possible, if we get more help from Albany,” said Straphangers spokesperson Gene Russianoff. “One promising plan is to generate new revenue by both raising and lowering tolls on city bridges and tunnels in line with where there is the most and least congestion.”

The proposals that the MTA announced Monday would raise the tolls for many area bridges and tunnels. Though E-ZPass customers would still pay less than other drivers, everyone will be paying more.

Those increases include raising the tolls for the Queens Midtown Tunnel, Robert F. Kennedy Bridge, Throgs Neck Bridge, Bronx-Whitestone Bridge and the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel from $4.80 to $5.30 for E-ZPass holders and from $6.50 to $7.50 for other drivers.

Tolls for the Cross Bay Veterans Memorial Bridge would go up between 12 and 33 cents, depending on whether the driver has an EZ-Pass or is a Rockaway resident.

In November, a month before the MTA votes on how it’s going to raise tolls and fares, the agency is letting the public weigh in on the options in a series of public and video forums. It is also accepting public statements via email and regular mail.

“The public will have significant input into our decision-making process. In the spirit of transparency, the public will assist in shaping our fare policy,” said MTA chairman and CEO Joseph J. Lhota. “These proposals have been designed to balance our need for revenue with public involvement. We need to hear from the public. Feedback evaluating the specific alternatives we’ve put forward is particularly useful, but we value all our customers’ input, and we’ll consider changes to our proposals based on what we hear and read.”

Subway announcements now ‘clear and accurate': survey

| brennison@queenscourier.com

File photo

Gone are the days when subway announcements sounded as if they were spoken from Charlie Brown’s teacher. A new survey by the Straphangers Campaign found a majority of delay and disruption announcements, 59 percent, to be “clear and accurate” for the time since 1997.

“We found that transit officials are doing a better job keeping riders informed,” said Straphangers Campaign Field Organizer Jason Chin-Fatt.

When it came to basic announcements — made at or between stops and includes the station, any transfers, destination, etc. — 85 percent were clear and accurate, the survey found.

The previous 10 surveys by the organization found a majority of the announcements to be garbled or incorrect; only 40 percent of notifications in 2010 were rated as good.

The No. 4 line produced the clearest and most accurate basic announcements, earning a 100 percent rating. The L, N, Q, and No. 6 rounded out the top five, all earning 99 percent ratings.

Riders of the R suffered through the worst basic announcements — just 56 percent were rated clear and accurate.

The lines with the most garbled notices were the C, B and R train — each having at least 25 percent of announcements as inaudible.

The 2012 survey was conducted between January 17 and April 29.

MTA to hike fares in ’13, ’15 & ’17

| brennison@queenscourier.com

File photo

City straphangers are getting a brief reprieve from a 2013 fare hike, but will soon be paying more at both the turnstile and MetroCard machine.

The MTA approved a preliminary budget including a bump in 2013 fares, followed by further increases in 2015 and 2017. A $1 “green fee” will also be added to newly purchased MetroCards. Tolls and commuter line fares will rise as well.

Fares were originally intended to be boosted beginning in January, but will be held off until March.

The biennial increases will net the agency $450 million next year and an additional $500 million in 2015.

Details on the hikes have not been released and will be made available later this year ahead of November’s public hearings.

“They should not increase the prices,” said Nesto Murdolk, 40, of Bayside. “There’s no way people can afford it.”

New Yorkers are frustrated at being “fed a steady diet of fare increases without corresponding improvements in service,” said Ya-Ting Liu, the transportation advocate for Transportation Alternatives at a June 25 MTA hearing.

Fares have been raised three times since 2007.

Other residents see the need for an increase to cover the MTA’s deep debts.

“I think it is necessary because of the running deficit,” said Bayside resident Fred Z., 71. “We’re going to have to increase taxes or get money from the fares.”

Gene Russianoff of the Straphangers Campaign said there is a fine line between the agency’s financial woes and providing a service, though he says that the MTA is not to blame.

“We think that the state doesn’t fund transit well enough,” he said. “There should be more support, rather than getting it all from the riding public.”

The MetroCard surcharge will produce about $20 million for the MTA — $18 million from the fee and $2 million in savings through printing fewer cards.

It is not known when a proposed $1 surcharge for new MetroCards will go into effect, though it will likely be enacted along with the March fare hike.

“My feeling is that people should be reusing their cards and part of it is a monetary benefit to the riding public,” Russianoff said.

Many cards are tossed aside with money amounting to less than one fare remaining. The MTA projects that $56.2 million will remain on MetroCards at the close of 2012. The number includes money on cards thrown away, lost or yet to be used.

— Additional reporting by Greg Giaconelli