Paying More For Less

In a story that will anger NYC Subway riders more than they already are, a dirty secret known to most transit aficionados has come out showing that we are paying more in fares but getting less service compared to 10 years ago. Uday Schultz of Streetsblog NYC has more:

Subway service today is atrocious, that much is clear. During rush hours, crowding and delays have reached crisis proportions, and off-peak, the wait for a train can seem interminable.

There are a number of culprits, including the failure to adequately maintain and upgrade track and signals, and the profusion of unnecessary timers slowing down trains. But one simple factor doesn’t get mentioned enough: During off-peak hours, the MTA doesn’t run as many trains as it used to.

The service reductions mainly stem from the financial crisis of 2008, when MTA revenues nosedived. While Albany enacted an MTA funding package in 2009 to prevent a total collapse of service, the agency balanced its budget with a round of deep service cuts in 2010.

For subways, the cuts mainly affected off-peak service. It’s a logical way to allocate resources when budgets are tight, but those times are also when subway ridership has recently seen significant growth. Off-peak service still hasn’t been restored to its former levels, so more people are riding the subway at times when the MTA is running less service than it provided 10 years ago.

These service cuts are especially painful for people who work outside conventional office hours, including New Yorkers doing shifts on nights and weekends. Let’s look at a few examples to see how these systemwide service cuts have contributed to the diminished utility of the system.

Back in 2008, the midday A train came as frequently as every six minutes during on weekdays. Similarly, on Saturdays, going northbound, service every eight minutes began at 6:30 a.m. and lasted until about 5:30 p.m. That’s 11 hours of frequent, useful A service. On Sundays, too, the MTA delivered, with trains running every eight minutes in the late afternoons, getting people home promptly before the week began again.

Today, during weekday midday hours, the A runs a measly seven or so trains per hour — once every nine minutes. On Saturdays, the window of eight-minute headways lasts about nine hours, not 11. And on Sundays, service every 10 minutes is as good as it gets. Keep in mind that the A splits in two at Rockaway Boulevard, so what may be barely-adequate on the main line equates to 20-minute headways on the branches to Lefferts Boulevard and the Rockaways.

On the R, weekend trains ran every eight minutes for 10 hours on Saturday, and six of Sunday in 2008. But today, the line runs no more than every 10 minutes on the weekends.

Most disturbing is the J. The 2008 version of J train service often arrived every eight minutes during off-peak hours. Today, the only time the J arrives more frequently than once every 10 minutes is during the weekday rush.

This is just a sample of the service reductions. While the MTA has restored some of the service cut in 2010, especially rush-hour service, off-peak service on most if not all subway lines remains below the level of 10 years ago. It has become the new normal.

Sadly the line in the article of service being below the level of 10 years ago equating to being the new normal is 100% accurate. It is quite pathetic that in this day & age as population increases dramatically throughout the system, the agency gets away with not only poorer service but less of it overall. A lot of this falls back on not only the agency itself but the politicians who purposely go out of their way to not properly fund the system.

xoxo Transit Blogger

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