Against all odds, New York City subway has bounced back from its shoddy performance of the past two years, with a major milestone being this past month.
For the first time since 2013, the subway’s on-time performance has surpassed 80 percent—which represents a huge improvement over its worst month, January 2018, when on-time performance was at just 58 percent.
Other metrics point to continued improvements throughout the subway system: There were just 45 major incidents on weekdays in June, compared with 62 the previous year; and train delays hit their lowest number since September 2013, with 30,434 recorded last month. (There were 56,233 the previous year.) Additionally, NYCT president Andy Byford noted during a press conference that customer complaints are down year-over-year, which he says is “empirical evidence” that things are getting better for commuters.
Per MTA officials, there are a few reasons for these service improvements. The Subway Action Plan, which was put into place by Gov. Andrew Cuomo during the terrible-for-transit summer of 2017, is one of those. It’s led to a number of commute-improving changes, from the visible (clearing litter off of street grates, deep-cleaning subway cars and stations) to the behind-the-scenes but no less important (modernizing signals, repairing track defects).
Officials also gave props to the Save Safe Seconds campaign, which was implemented last year is working to get trains moving faster. According to Sally Librera, the head of the MTA’s Department of Subways, it has now been implemented at 124 locations throughout the system.
But however impressive these improvements are, MTA officials acknowledge that they’re still not enough. “We’re still not satisfied,” Byford said during the press conference. “We know we still have a long way to go, but we’re clearly moving in the right direction.”
He noted that the revenue expected from congestion pricing—which won’t be implemented for at least another year—will help the MTA achieve more of its modernization goals, including replacing the system’s outdated signals with new, automated technology. “Resignaling the subway is the most transformative thing we can do,” Byford said, pointing to the recent implementation of communications-based train control on the 7 line as an example.
That sentiment was echoed by the Riders Alliance, which released a statement on the uptick in performance metrics. “These latest improvements show the MTA is capable of change and winning back New Yorkers’ trust,” said Danny Pearlstein, the organization’s policy and communications director. “Today’s improvements are a down payment on what is possible with a modern, rebuilt transit system. The test of that will be whether the capital plan makes the sweeping and substantive investments we need in fixes for public transit that last.”