C Train Service: "Relatively Reliable"

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Subway doors close on crowded train at West 4th St.

Despite what A and C riders might think, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority said in an official report Friday that the lines are not crowded, though they have room for improvement.

"Average customer loads and service frequencies are withing New York City Transit loading guidelines," reads the 79-page full line review. There are a couple of exceptions, which the agency says it will address (long headways for Sunday morning C train service and weekday morning A service.) It called service on the C "relatively reliable."

But the MTA's conclusions didn't match the experience of many transit advocates.

"Riders are honestly tired of dealing with crowded platforms and trains," Rebecca Bailin of the Riders Alliance said, "and this review only partially solves their concerns."

In fact, the C has been rated the worst line four years in a row by the Straphangers Campaign. 

In its report, the MTA did outline some upgrades. The agency has identified three stations — Franklin Avenue, 168th Street, and 50th Street — where it could reopen entrances that are currently closed (pending funding availability), which would help relieve crowding. (WNYC has reported on the impact closed stairways have on stations.) And improvements that would upgrade signals are coming — when the MTA's capital plan is eventually passed.

But the MTA did not propose addressing what it says is one of the underlying problems. At 32 miles, the A is the longest line in the system, making it "simply more likely to encounter . . . issues on any given trip than shorter lines," according to the report. 

Other weaknesses: the trains are slower, because the number of areas along the track where they have to slow down for track work is increasing. Plus, C cars are the oldest in the system, and their replacement is not imminent, to say the least. The opening of the South Channel Bridge in Jamaica Bay to maritime traffic "is a major cause of delays" for A train service near the Rockaways. And both lines need improved communications infrastructure, the review said.

Brooklyn resident Danna Dennis, who lives near the Ralph Avenue C train station, said she often uses workarounds for the line because she finds it so unreliable.

"There are times I get on the B25 bus, as opposed to taking the train," she said. "I take the 4." She said she'd also walk several blocks out of her way to the Utica Avenue A train station just "to avoid Ralph Avenue, because of the inconsistency of the C."

"You know it's bad when you have New Yorkers saying they'd rather take the bus," she added.

Transit watcher Ben Kabak summed up his reaction to the report:

New York State Sen. Daniel Squadron, who helped spur the MTA to undertake the line review process, said in a statement: "It's good to see some improvements are already on track. Especially peak service adjustments, which began this week. But, it's critical the MTA quickly solve for the bunching, delays, and packed trains the review found."  

The review came out a day after the agency announced a one-day all time subway ridership record. 

Read the report below:

AC LineReview