New York’s C Train Ranked Worst Subway Line for Fourth Year

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s C train, which runs from Brooklyn to Washington Heights in upper Manhattan, was ranked New York’s worst subway line for the fourth-straight year.

An annual survey released today by the Straphangers Campaign, an arm of the New York Public Interest Research Group, found that the C was rated lowest in cleanliness, breakdowns and amount of scheduled service, with about 10-minute intervals between trains.

The Q, which runs from Coney Island-Stillwell Avenue in Brooklyn to Astoria-Ditmars Boulevard in Queens, was ranked the best for the first time in more than 10 years. The Broadway Express dethroned last year’s winner and inspiration for a famous rapper’s stage name, the J/Z line.

The report card can spur the MTA into action, said Gene Russianoff, senior attorney for the rider-advocacy group. Improvements to train lines have followed poor rankings in previous surveys, he said.

“I’m a believer in giving information to the public and hoping they run with it,” he said in a telephone interview.

The MTA, operator of the biggest U.S. transit system, has been struggling with budget gaps worsened by the 18-month recession that ended in 2009. It projects deficits totaling $374 million through 2016. That gap may widen if the agency can’t reign in labor costs and push through a planned 7.5 percent fare and toll increase included in its $13.1 billion budget for next year. The fare increase would be the second in as many years, with a third planned for 2015.

C Gets F

The C’s consistently poor performance is partially due to “lousy cars” and “very limited service,” said Russianoff. The cars are older than many others in the fleet, he said.

By contrast, the Q line provided clearer announcements, better seat availability, cleaner subway cars and fewer mechanical delays than the majority of its peers. The Q’s ranking was a surprise, Russianoff said.

“It’s not like it did really fantastic in any category,” he said. “It just did well in most.”

The survey, while helpful, doesn’t tell the entire story, said Charles Seaton, a spokesman for the MTA, via e-mail. Reported wait times on the C don’t take into account that other lines often share the same track, providing additional options for riders, Seaton said. The agency has ordered 300 new cars to update lettered routes, he said.

Retiring Cars

“Their arrival in a few years will help further modernize our car fleet by allowing us to retire C line cars, which are the oldest in current operation,” Seaton said.

The Straphangers Campaign studied 20 major subway lines. Using data compiled by the MTA’s New York City Transit unit from 2011, the report assessed criteria including seat availability, breakdown rate, clarity of announcements, cleanliness, amount of scheduled maintenance and regularity of service.

Riding the subway has become dirtier for the city’s 5.3 million weekday commuters, with car cleanliness throughout the system down 4 percent from last year. Showing improvement were clarity of announcements and frequency of breakdowns, the report found.

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