I was recently with some New Yorkers and we got on to the topic of their subway system. I made a comment about how extensive their network is and how their express trains work so well for traveling further distances.
They responded by basically saying: “Yeah, it’s great, when it works.” They then went on to tell me that most of the time they just use Uber to get around the city because the subway has become so unreliable.
Admittedly, I don’t use the NYC subway system enough to comment on its declining performance. But this recent New York Times article describes it as an utterly failing system.
Here is a diagram from the article that shows performance on every line (2007 to 2017), measured as a percentage of trains that reach their destinations on time (i.e. less than 5 minutes late):
In 2007, more than 90% of trains reached their destinations on time. Today, the weekday average is around 65% and some of the lines are in the 30s. This is the worst it has been since the 1970s when NYC was almost bankrupt.
Apparently this also awards NYC’s subway the title of the worst on-time performance out of the world’s top 20 biggest systems.
I suppose one of the lessons here is that subway lines on a map will always be far sexier than the nuts and bolts of maintenance, performance, and ridership. But we can’t forget the nuts and bolts. Maybe those are the most important parts.