The L Train Is the Cleanest Subway, But Which Train Is the Dirtiest?

So fresh and so clean.

I don’t know about you, but whenever I get on the L, I always think to myself how can so many people possibly fit into one tiny confined space without someone or many people just totally losing it and screaming while trying to make a break for the exit and fresh air how clean it is. And as it turns out, science backs me up! Nice. I love when that happens.

Well, “science” in the form of the latest annual subway cleanliness survey as performed by NYPIRG’s Straphangers Campaign. The “shmutz” survey found that subway cleanliness declined from 2011 to 2013 and that while some lines—like the L, the 7, and the E—showed significant cleanliness improvements, others—like the A, the N, and the 2—have dramatically declined. But which subway line is the dirtiest of them all? Well, that honor goes to the one and only D train.

That’s right. As it turns out, D is for Dirty. And it’s not just the D train. The Straphangers Campaign’s findings report that almost every line (save for the magical L!) has gotten significantly grimier in the last couple of years. But D might also be for Dubious (h/t Virginia Smith, but also, I’ll show myself out, thanks and good night!) because the Straphangers Campaign findings are dramatically different than the findings of the MTA-financed biannual study on subway cleanliness, which reports a 2% increase of cleanliness. So, what the hell’s going on over here? Who do we trust? Do we trust anyone? Ever? About anything?

Well, via Gothamist, an MTA spokesman, Kevin Ortiz, says, “During the course of a round trip, customers can accidentally drop drinks, come in with muddy shoes or slush and salt during a snowstorm, but that is not indicative of our car cleaning efforts. By conducting these surveys on subway cars in service, the Straphangers lessen the overall impact of our car cleaners at terminals. It’s like telling someone their teeth are dirty because they haven’t brushed since this morning.  We simply disagree with the Straphangers flawed methodology.”

“Flawed methodology?” Is the Straphangers Campaign just going to sit back and take that harsh insult? Of course not. A Straphangers Campaign spokesperson, Cate Cortino, “says the organization is careful to not count litter—such as bags or empty food containers—in its surveys… noting that their surveyors do count items like pooled liquid or chicken bones because the MTA regards them as being hazardous.”

Cortino continues, “One of the things that’s happening here is that the number of cleaners has remained the same, while ridership has exploded. There’s far more people riding the subway, so yes, they are going to spill things. It’s not going to be as clean.” But then also adds, “We don’t want to be unfairly harsh to the MTA. But at the end of the day, this is the rider’s experience. Who are you going to believe? The MTA or what you see with your own eyes?”

Which, yeah! Who do you want to believe? The MTA? The Straphangers Campaign? Or your own eyes? Which have clearly seen over and over and over again that the C is by far the grossest train on the tracks. C is for Crusty after all. And, you know, Cromulent.

Follow Kristin Iversen on twitter @kmiversen

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