Just a day after the MTA said it will have to delay planned service improvements, the Straphangers Campaign released its annual "Subway Shmutz Survey" Tuesday on the New York City subways, and believe it or not, it shows they're getting cleaner.
The Straphangers Campaign says surveyors rated 50 percent of subway cars as "clean," up from 47 percent the last time the survey was conducted in 2005.
The L train scored highest, with 88 percent of its cars rated clean, up from 61 percent two years ago.
The 7 train came in second, with 78 percent clean cars, a huge jump from 22 percent in 2005.
That L and the 7 topped the cleanliness list is no coincidence, according to the Straphangers Campaign. These two lines got increased cleaners last fall, under a pilot program that ensures cars are cleaned at the both ends of the line on a 24-hour basis.
"There's a direct relationship between the number of cleaners and how clean the system is, which makes sense. The more elbows, the more elbow grease," said Gene Russianoff of Straphangers Campaign.
The L train and the 7 are also the two lines where transit officials are trying out a new decentralized management structure. A line general manager in charge of all operations along each line - everything from train scheduling down to car cleanliness.
"I think the program is working. We congratulate NYC Transit managers and hope that riders on the other 20 lines soon experience the same cleaning benefits that riders on the L and the 7 do," said Russianoff.
At the bottom of the list were the E and Q trains, with just 29 percent of cars rated clean. Still it was a marked improvement for the E, which had only 2 percent clean cars two years ago.
The 4 train suffered the steepest drop, falling from 94 percent clean in 2005 to 38 percent.
The survey was conducted on 2,200 subway cars between September 2007 and January 11 of this year.
Cars were rated based on cleanliness of floors and seats.
In a written statement, transit officials said, "Providing a clean environment for our customers is one of MTA New York City Transit's top goals, but our customers can help us out greatly by properly disposing of their refuse."
Overall, the report found 50 percent of subway cars systemwide were clean - an improvement over the last survey.
For a list of full results, go to straphangers.org/shmutz07
Meanwhile, New Yorkers are criticizing the MTA for putting the brakes on planned service improvements.
Their reactions come a day after the MTA announced it's putting off $30 million in upgrades including new bus routes. The service improvements were promised ahead of the recent fare hikes, but the agency says the cooling of the real estate market is interfering with its plans.
New Yorkers say they are unhappy about the change.
“How do you justify the hike rate to begin with, Îcause the service is awful and there needs to be some scrutiny as to where the money's going,” said one straphanger.
“They’re not doing anything. Look at the trains, the way they are. It's always late. It's filthy and what kind of service do we get? Nothing,” added another.
“What can I do? There's nothing I can do about it. You gotta take the train or the bus, whatever you gotta do. And they're not accountable to anybody and that's really the problem,” added a third.
The MTA says if finances improve by this summer, it may be able to go ahead with the service improvements. They're part of a $60 million proposal outlined by agency chief Elliot Lee Sander during his recent "State of the MTA" address.
MTA Projects Stalled By Sluggish Real Estate Market