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(New York, New York) – The number of clean subway cars declined since 2009, according to the twelfth annual "subway shmutz" survey released today by the Straphangers Campaign.
Campaign surveyors rated 47% of subway cars as "clean" in a survey conducted in the fall of 2010, which was a statistical decline from 51% of cars rated clean in a survey conducted in the in the fall of 2009. This continues a trend of a decrease in the number of clean subway cars, which dropped from 56% in 2008 to 51% in 2009.1
The worst performing line in our survey was the R, with the smallest number of clean cars at 27% in this survey, down from 39% back in 2009. The best performing line in our survey was the 7 with 68% of its cars rated clean, up from 63% in 2009. (See Tables One and Two.)
Five of the 20 subway lines grew worse, while one improved and fourteen stayed largely the same.
The 2010 budget contained cuts in cleaning staff, with car cleaners going down from 1,138 with 146 supervisors in 2009 to 1,030 cleaners and 123 supervisors in 2010.
"Last year, we predicted 'more cuts to come means more dirt for subway riders.' And sadly that’s turned out to be true," said Gene Russianoff, campaign attorney for the Straphangers Campaign.
The car cleanliness survey is based on 2,000 observations of subway cars by the Straphangers Campaign between September 14 and November 20, 2010. The 2009 survey covered a nearly identical period.
Cars were rated on 20 lines for cleanliness of floors and seats, following MTA New York City Transit’s official standards for measuring car cleanliness. Cars were rated as clean if they were "basically dirt free" or had "light dirt" ("occasional 'ground-in' spots but generally clean").
Cars were rated not clean if they were "moderately" dirty ("dingy floor, one or two sticky dry spots") or heavily dirty ("Heavy dirt; any opened or spilled food, hazardous (e.g. rolling bottles), or malodorous conditions, sticky wet spots, any seats unusable due to unclean conditions").
The survey did not rate litter. Since 1997, the campaign has conducted eleven largely similar studies for similar periods. (See methodology.)
Other key findings of the survey included:
"Will subway cleanliness continue to suffer as budgets grow tighter? We will do another survey next year, compare and find out," said Cate Contino, the coordinator for the Straphangers Campaign, who directed the survey.
MTA New York City Transit conducts its own semi-annual subway car cleanliness survey.
Transit's survey showed that the number of clean car floors and seats (those with no or light dirt) "in service" declined slightly from 95% in the second half of 2009 to 94% in the second half of 2010, a statistically insignificant change.
The average percentage of clean cars in the Campaign’s 2010 survey was 47% compared to New York City Transit’s 94% for clean cars in service in the second half of 2010.
The Campaign acknowledged the different findings, but said that it was not able to point to factors that come to these results.
The car cleanliness surveys by Transit and the Straphangers Campaign's surveys use similar although not-identical methodology. For example, we rate throughout the day and night and on weekends. New York City Transit rates on weekdays between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m.
The Campaign credited New York City Transit for recently providing the public with results broken down on a line-by-line basis. (See MTA New York City Transit Committee Agenda, February 2011 Passenger Environment Survey, page 8.11 (pdf). The document can be found at www.mta.info by clicking on "Board Materials" on the lower right hand side of the screen.)
The Campaign urged transit officials to:
1 These percentages reflect the system average without the V and W lines, which were terminated in June 2010. The systemwide decreases in cleanliness from 2008 to 2009, and again from 2009 to 2010, are statistically significant.