The New York City Subway System Is A MESS

Jack Crowe | Political Reporter

Overwhelming rider congestion, delays and cancellations continue to plague New York City’s subway system, with no apparent end in sight.

Nowhere is the city transportation system’s dysfunction more evident than the Lexington Avenue line, the nation’s most travelled subway line. The line, which is comprised of the 4, 5, and 6 trains, is currently stuck in a negative feedback loop in which rider congestion leads to delays that result in greater rider congestion, further delays and cancelled trains, according to an analysis conducted by The New York Times.

The analysis found that delays, produced by an unprecedented quantity of riders boarding trains, has resulted in 14 percent of scheduled trains never arriving at the line’s hub, Grand Central Terminal. Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) officials told TheNYT that the massive number of riders relying on the antiquated system leads to a chain of delays in which trains become so backed up that many of them never make their scheduled stops.

In the last two months, the Lexington Avenue line has reached its hourly weekday rush hour scheduled train count zero times. This failure to hit the scheduled train count is the result of the MTA’s strategy of maintaining a consistent time intervals between trains. When trains are delayed, workers continue to space them at consistent intervals instead of running them closer together, because they believe it is the best way to reduce platform wait time.

The decision to keep trains evenly spaced means many scheduled trains never end up arriving. This phenomenon is exemplified by 6 train data from morning rush hour on July 20. Due to delays, only one southbound 6 train arrived at Grand Central between 8:04 a.m. and 8:23 a.m., rather than the five scheduled trains. When service returned to the normal pacing, two to four minutes apart, the trains that should have arrived during the delay were effectively cancelled. By 9 a.m., only 17 of the 23 scheduled trains had passed through the station.

Whatever the cause, New York City residents that rely on the subway for their daily commute are frustrated by the lack of efficiency.

“At times, it takes an hour and a half to get somewhere, when you should get there in 30 to 45 minutes,” Tameka Mullins told TheNYT. “It’s because the train keeps stopping because of the train congestion. If there were more trains, and it was running more smoothly, then I think that problem would be solved.”

Mullins is not alone in her condemnation, as a 1,000 rider poll released in early July by the New York City Comptroller’s Office found that a majority of respondents were not satisfied with the current system.

“Nearly three-quarters of New Yorkers gave the system a C or lower grade,” comptroller Scott Stringer said during a July press conference. “One in seven riders gave a failing grade. A big F.”

While efficiency issues are most pronounced on the Lexington Avenue line, which hosts more than 1.6 million riders per day, the city’s entire subway system has been placed under greater strain in recent years. There are issues associated with the system’s antiquated tracking system as well as train break downs, but cancellations during rush hour are undoubtedly exacerbating these other issues.

New York City Mayor Bill deBlasio and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed a plan to pay for upgrades to the city’s ailing transit system by taxing the wealthiest 1 percent of residents. The plan would raise the tax rate from 3.9 percent to 4.4 percent for individuals making more than $500,000 annually and couples making more than $1 million.

“Rather than sending the bill to working families and subway and bus riders already feeling the pressure of rising fares and bad service, we are asking the wealthiest in our city to chip in a little extra,” de Blasio said in a statement Sunday.

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