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NYC’s aging subway fleet elicits complaints, for good reason

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Subway cars are not arriving on schedule, and are breaking down more frequently

Flickr/John St John

New York’s extensive public transit system may best others in size, but in performance? Not so much. Complaints about subway service have more than doubled since 2012, increasing from 28,000 per month to over 70,000. The finding is one of many released in a new study by the MTA and first reported by the New York Times.

On weekdays, only 67 percent of trains reach their final destination within five minutes of their scheduled arrival, with some trains like the 2 and 5 operating particularly sub-par with an on-time arrival rate of less than 40 percent. By comparison, 99 percent of trains in Hong Kong’s public transit system arrive on time.

The distance a subway car travels on average before breaking down has decreased since 2010 too, from 200,000 miles to 120,000 miles. “We’re dealing with an aging fleet,” the MTA’s interim executive director, Veronique Hakim, told the Times.

But Hakim also explained away the functionality issues facing the subway system by noting that the 2010 measurement of distance between breakdowns was “artificially high” because a large number of new subway cars were added to the system that year. A new batch of subway cars are due to arrive this year; the accordion-like open gangway cars that the MTA announced it would be adding to its fleet won’t be arriving until 2020 or later.

The MTA, which is overseen not by Mayor de Blasio but Governor Cuomo, announced a landmark capital plan in April, which divides funds needed to forge ahead with improvements like a new electronic MetroCard system, station overhauls, the Second Avenue Subway and East Side Access.

But despite the system’s ailments and peak ridership—the Times says the subway handles 6 million riders a day, comparable to ridership in the 1940s—Governor Cuomo has tucked a budget cut of $65 million into his executive budget, the Daily News notes. To survive, the cut must pass the budget process.