The C Doesn’t Stand for Clean

Most New Yorkers would probably agree that if there was a cleaner alternative to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s (MTA) train system, they’d take it in a heartbeat.  Anyone who has taken public transportation in New York have had the experience of riding in a filthy train. Unfortunately, this occurrence is a much greater issue than we thought. And it brings up an important question: Should riders have to pay what they do to ride in unsanitary conditions?

There have been numerous reports of cleanliness decreasing among train lines. According to the Straphangers Campaign’s surveys, 42 percent of trains checked in 2013 were clean, which is a ten percent decrease from the 2011 survey.  The worst of the lines was the D train, where a mere 17 percent of people considered it clean.

The MTA and the Straphangers Campaign both claimed that this was a result of fewer cleaning workers because of budget constraints.  In addition to fewer cleaners, Straphangers Campaign’s field organizer Jason Chin-Fatt believes that lack of cleanliness is due to increased ridership.  When approached by Metro News he said, “When ridership goes up, there’s more opportunities for people to spill coffee and food.”

The D train isn’t the worst of it.  The C train wins the award for worst overall service.  It was ranked last in the 15th annual State of the Subways Report Card.  It doesn’t stop there.  According to the Wall Street Journal, the C train “has finished dead last in the ranking six times since the rankings were first issued, the most of any line in the subway system.” Riders agree as well. “I live closer to the C but I take the Q. It’s faster and less crowded, and it comes more often,” said Roy Gabay, 48 years old, of Fort Greene, Brooklyn, who was interviewed by the Wall Street Journal. The C train service is so terrible that Straphangers Campaign ranked the value of a C-train ride at 85 cents, which is much lower than the $2.50 base fare set by the MTA.

The London Underground is one of the oldest subways in the world, yet it’s regarded as one of the best metro systems to date. Opened in 1863, the London Underground, (also known as “The Tube”) has air-conditioned cars and is fairly cheap in the expensive country.  It also has an 83% approval rating by the Straphangers Campaign compared to the New York Subway, which has a 75% approval rating. If London can keep a great metro system for over a century, why can’t the MTA?

London Underground subway car interior
London Underground subway car interior

The City Council pitched a proposal to fix our stinky subway problems back in 2012. “Let me make a suggestion to the MTA: We grade the restaurants, right? A, B, C. So we should grade all the stations in the MTA system,” said Councilman Peter Koo at a budget hearing.

As it turns out, the MTA does grade the stations on cleanliness, but does not share this information to the public. However, they have stated on their website that they plan on improving cleaning in several stations. According to the 2014-2017 MTA Financial Plan, it lists “Additional improved station cleaning at 10 heavily used stations/complexes in each borough” as one of their service quality improvements. Although its only 50 out of the 468 stations the MTA has in total, it’s a good place to start.