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(New York, New York) – The number of clean subway cars declined between 2011 and 2013, according to the thirteenth and fourteenth annual "subway shmutz" surveys released today by the Straphangers Campaign.
Campaign surveyors rated 52% of subway cars as "clean" in a survey conducted in the fall of 2011. But this fell to 42% in an identical survey in the fall of 2013 – a statistically significant decline. This continues a general trend of a decrease in the number of clean subway cars since 2008. Cleanliness dropped from 56% in 2008 to 51% in 2009, then again to 47% in 2010. There was a modest improvement in cleanliness to 52% in 2011, but a significant decrease to 42% in 2013.
The worst performing line in our most recent 2013 survey was the D, with the smallest number of clean cars at 17% in this survey, down from 49% back in 2011. The best performing line in our 2013 survey was the L with 63% of its cars rated clean, up from 58% in 2011. (See Tables One and Two.)
Nine of the twenty subway lines grew significantly worse, while none improved and eleven stayed largely the same.
The number of budgeted cleaning staff has remained largely the same with 1030 car cleaners and 141 supervisors in 2012 and 2013.
"Transit officials are losing the war against dirty subway cars," said Jason Chin-Fatt, field organizer for the Straphangers Campaign.
The 2011 car cleanliness survey is based on 2,000 observations of subway cars by the Straphangers Campaign between September 8 and December 22, 2011. The 2013 survey covered a nearly identical period from September 4 to December 30, 2013. (See methodology.)
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 twelve 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.
MTA New York City Transit conducts its own semi-annual subway car cleanliness survey.
The average percentage of clean cars in the Campaign’s 2013 survey was 42% compared to New York City Transit’s 92% for clean cars in service in the second half of 2013.*
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.