Audit: Subway Delays are Getting Worse; L Train is Least Sucky Train in City

MTA_NYC_Subway_J_train_leaving_Lorimer_St.It’s not your imagination: Subway service really was suckier than usual in 2014, according to a new audit by the state comptroller’s office, the Wall Street Journal reports. Maybe it’s because NYC subways are operated on infrastructure older than your grandma? The audit also ranked trains by on-time performance, which provides useful information for those who want to convincingly use the age-old New Yorker excuse for being late (“The trains were delayed”). 

The audit measured on-time performance, based on how often a train reaches the end of its line within five minutes of the scheduled time. On average, in 2014, on-time performance fell to 74% on weekdays and 81% on weekends. Here are the best performers and the worst offenders.

  • The L train wins the prize for best on-time performance, at 94%. If you’re late for a meeting in Williamsburg, maybe don’t blame the L train. Say you got stuck in beard oil quicksand.
  • The 4 train had the most delays of all in 2014–50,328 incidents–and the worst on-time performance. It arrived at its destination on time less than 50% of the time. Always blame the 4 train.
  • The humble J train had the fewest weekday delays in 2014, with just 5,522 incidents.
  • Graphic via the Wall Street Journal

The audit offended MTA officials, who said on-time statistics don’t accurately measure the success of the system. “We disagree strongly with many of the audit’s conclusions, beginning with its emphasis on on-time performance times,” said MTA spokeswoman Amanda Kwan. They’d prefer to go by “wait assessments,” which measure how often subway lines stick to the scheduled wait time between trains arriving at stations. To improve wait assessments, the MTA often intentionally holds trains to smooth out regularity of the line as a whole, which can negatively impact on-time performance. But wait assessments also worsened in 2014, the audit said.

Perhaps the worst news from the audit: The MTA has slackened their standards for on-time performance in 2015, from a goal of 92% to 75%, saying the higher goal was “unrealistic.” It’s now the lowest goal of any public transit in the country. “The MTA has actually lowered its own expectations for addressing subway delays,” state Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said. “We’re encouraged that MTA has put more money toward improving the ride for straphangers. Hopefully it will help improve on-time performance.” If it doesn’t, though, prepare to hear a lot more of that gratingly friendly delay announcement as you panic about being late to work.

[via The Wall Street Journal]

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