By Bill Parry
Riders of the 7 train couldn’t believe what they were reading when the Straphangers Campaign’s annual rankings came out last week. For the second year in a row, and the eighth time in the last 17 years, the No. 7 subway line was named the city’s best in the advocacy group’s annual report card.
“We were very surprised, it really increased our traffic, especially on Twitter,” Melissa Orlando, the founding member of the social media group 7 Train Blues, said. “There’s such a disconnect. Right when the report came out my train broke down.”
One glance at her group’s Facebook page showed the dismay among its nearly 1,400 members. “Mind is blown!” posted Helenka Kullcza Whelan, “Makes me feel like I’m living in the twilight zone,” wrote Bridget Riley.
7 Train Blues formed nine months ago so riders could share information about the constant delays that plague the No. 7 line as well as service suspension on weekends, dangerous overcrowding and near daily system issues such as stalled cars and signal malfunctions, according to Orlando. The Straphangers Campaign said the 7 ranked highest because it was the best in the system on frequency of service and subway car cleanliness, and it also performed above average on two other measures: delays caused by mechanical breakdowns and seat availability at the most crowded point during rush hour.
“I would like to see them work more rider data into their analysis,” Orlando said. “They weight their metrics and I’d say they need to be adjusted, like the chance of getting a seat during rush hour. That’s become irrelevant as the number of riders has skyrocketed every year. What really matters as I stand on the platform waiting for 15 minutes is wondering if I’ll even get on the train. Sometimes four or five trains go by totally packed.”
The Straphangers report was issued a week after the Citizens Budget Commission said the No. 7 had the worst stations in the city.
“There’s been a very steep decline in service this year, especially when there’s bad weather,” Orlando said. “I’m hoping this report doesn’t set us back. We’ll continue to raise our voices and set the record straight.”
City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) is a member of 7 Train Blues and checks it daily. “As far as my constituents are concerned, I’m not sure the report is worth the paper it’s printed on,” he said. “The day to day reality for 7 train riders is a nightmare.”
State Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) said that despite the report, it’s clear to any resident of western Queens that the 7 line is in dire need of improvement. “If the 7 train is the city’s best, I shudder to think of how bad the others must be,” he said.
MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz said the Straphangers report offered nothing that is not already available on his agency’s website. “Furthermore, their evaluation of our service indicators does not represent the customer perspective,” he said.
Two other elected officials are more concerned with the state of No. 7 subway stations which a new study says are the “worst” in the city. A new study by the Citizens Budget Committee last week showed that 37 percent of the 7 line stations were not in a “good state of repair.”
State Sen. Jose Peralta (D-East Elmhurst) complains that the conditions at the stations angers him. “A lot of the stations along Roosevelt Avenue are in very poor condition,” he said.
“It is my hope that the MTA makes every possible effort to upgrade the stations along the 7 line, especially those at 52nd and 103rd Streets. These stations are not compatible with our 21st century New York City.”
City Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) hates the weekend shutdowns “when there are major events happening in Queens,” but he finds the conditions at the stations “are deteriorating greatly.”
Dromm was less than thrilled to read on Politico that MTA Chairman Tom Prendergast suggested that if Mayor Bill de Blasio failed to meet his demands for more financial support, he might apply cuts to just the city rather that to services across the entire metropolitan region. City Department of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, and MTA board member called that notion “punitive and pretty divisive” as several other board members objected.
“It’s outrageous what he said. I’ve seen Mr. Prendergast not be responsive to the city’s needs before,” Dromm said. “I think he has something against the city and I was glad to see other board members pushing back along with Commissioner Trottenberg. She really stood up for the city.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr