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NEWS RELEASE

For immediate release: For more information, contact:
Tuesday, February 6, 2001 Gene Russianoff or Farouk Abdallah (212) 349-6460



SUBWAY CARS ARE CLEANER, FOURTH ANNUAL "SHMUTZ" SURVEY OF 2,000 SUBWAY CARS FINDS

NEARLY HALF OF CARS RATED CLEAN, COMPARED TO LESS THAN ONE-THIRD IN LAST YEAR'S SURVEY

SECOND YEAR IN A ROW: CARS ON Q AND G LINES THE DIRTIEST; M LINE THE CLEANEST

The number of clean subway cars increased in the last year, according to the fourth annual "subway shmutz" survey by the NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign. Campaign surveyors rated 47% of subway cars as "clean" compared to 32% of cars rated clean in a survey in 2000. Cars on ten subway lines saw significant improvement (3, 5, 6, 7, C, D, E, G, J/Z, and L), while cars on only one line grew worse (1/9). Cars on the remaining nine lines were largely unchanged (2, 4, A, B, F, M, N, Q and R.) (See Table 1 and Table 2)

"Transit officials have made steady progress in the war on subway grime," said Farouk Abdallah, the campaign organizer who directed the survey of 2,000 subway cars on 20 subway lines was conducted between October 2000 and January 2001.

Cars were rated 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.") The survey did not rate litter. The campaign conducted three largely similar studies for similar periods in 1997, 1998 and 1999-2000. (See attached methodology.)

The campaign attributed improved cleanliness to New York City Transit’s decision to devote more resources to cleaning subway cars.

In 1999, New York City Transit restored car cleaners that had been cut in recent years. The move came in response to the campaign’s two earlier shmutz surveys and to public opinion.

As of August 2000, there were 1,119 "budgeted" car cleaners, compared to 958 in 1998. The number of budgeted cleaning supervisors was also increased from 88 in 1998 to 122 in 2000. There were 1,234 car cleaners budgeted in 1994. (See chart)

"More elbows have meant more elbow grease and that’s meant cleaner subway cars," said Gene Russianoff, staff attorney for the campaign.

In mid-1999, the transit agency also began having Work Experience Program participants assigned to subway cleaning duties. As of August 2000, 449 WEP participants were assigned to cleaning subway cars or stations, according to MTA New York City Transit; a total of 103 WEP participants have been hired into full-time jobs between December 1999 and August 2000.

Other key findings of the survey included:

  • For the second year in a row, the Q and G lines had the smallest number of clean cars (18% and 22% respectively.)
  • For the second year in a row, the M train performed best , with 78% of its cars rated clean.
  • The most improved line was the L, going from 21% clean cars in the campaign’s 1999-2000 survey to 73% in the current survey. The only deteriorated line was the 1/9, going from 45% clean cars in 1999-2000 survey to 26% in this survey.
  • The number of "heavily dirty" cars dropped significantly, from 24% in our 1999-2000 survey to 11% in the current survey.
  • The survey’s finding of improvement mirrored the trend in MTA New York City Transit’s own surveys. As the transit agency’s ratings for the third quarter of 2000 have not been released, no comparison to the campaign’s survey is possible. In past surveys, New York City Transit has rated cars as considerably more clean than has the campaign’s surveys.
The campaign continued to call for restoring car cleaners to at least the 1994 level of 1,234 cleaners. Russianoff said, "Adding car cleaners has paid off, but there’s still too many grimy subway cars out there. Now’s the time to build on the progress of the last two years."

The campaign renewed several of its past recommendations, including having transit officials:

  • set higher goals for cleanliness. New York City Transit’s current goal is to have 80% of its cars at least "moderately clean." "That’s a low level of performance," said Abdallah, since a "moderately" clean car can have "a dingy floor and one or two sticky dry spots." The campaign has urged officials to set a goal of having 95% or more of its cars have either no or "light" dirt.
  • produce more timely information on cleanliness. Both the campaign’s survey and New York City Transit’s show that performance varies greatly among subway lines. Since transit officials have complained about the lag time in getting survey results, consideration should be given to having their surveyors use "hand-held" computers. These have been used effectively to monitor conditions in city parks more in "real time."
  • post the results of its surveys where riders can see them. A bill is pending in the state legislature—A. 2236—to require the posting of performance statistics at stations.
This survey was funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, a leader in supporting assessment of public services.

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