Creeping Subway Despair Confirmed By Data


New Yorkers are as entitled to complain about the subway to one another as they are obligated to defend it to everyone else. Both activities sustain us sufficiently to endure the reality of the subway, which is not very good at all:

The NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign today released its third annual analysis of thousands of MTA “electronic alerts.” It showed that the number of alerts of delay-generating incidents had increased by 35% in two years ­– from 2,967 alerts in 2011 to 3,998 in 2013.

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

The data compared 2013 to 2011, since 2012 was a natural outlier. It also excluded “sick passengers” and police incidents, which don’t really tell us much about the MTA but which I’m still kind of curious about anyway. Where the story becomes vividly real is in the NYPIRG’s data on individual trains, which are falling apart.

The F had had the most MTA electronic alerts of delay-generating incidents of the 20 subway lines reviewed in 2013. Alerts for delays on the F comprised 8% of 3,998 controllable MTA alerts.

The L worsened the most — by 91% — from 96 MTA alerts of delays in 2011 to 183 alerts in 2013. (See Table Three.)

The four boroughs served by the subways all grew substantially worse between 2011 and 2013: Bronx (up 25%), Brooklyn (up 39%) Manhattan (up 39%) and Queens (up 24%)

“Mechanical problems” generated the most alerts — 35% — or 1,411 out of 3,998 alerts in 2013, followed by “signals” (1,230).

The number of mechanical delay alerts increased 51% between 2011 and 2013; the number of track delay alerts increased 101%, from 254 in 2011 to 510.

I also checked on the raw data, which is messy but navigable, to see what was going on with sick passenger/police numbers. It turns out kind of a lot! Sick passengers (immobile, giving birth, passed out, dead) were cited in 345 warnings in 2011 and 829 in 2013. GET WELL NEW YORK. Warnings labeled police/NYPD/FDNY jumped from 667 to 893, but labeling is less consistent so I wouldn’t read too much into that. Those aren’t service issues, exactly, but when you’re stuck in a tunnel with nothing but a book you don’t want to start and a phone that can’t quite connect the difference doesn’t really seem that significant.

This seems like a good time to mention that New York’s bus system is criminally under-appreciated, and that you can get live bus times from your phone at basically any time. [Photo via the MTA]