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Cheers, jeers for ‘L’

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Brooklyn’s L train is the second best subway line in the city, but it still isn’t worth the full price of admission, a commuter advocacy group determined this week.

According to the Straphangers Campaign’s twelfth annual “State of the Subways Report,” the L train, which rumbles through Williamsburg to Canarsie, is worth just $1.50 — 75 cents less than riders actually pay for a single fare.

The 7 train, which connects Manhattan to Queens, came in first, with a $1.55 “MetroCard rating.”

“In 2008, the 7 and the L benefited from more independent managers and more resources,” said Gene Russianoff, Straphangers Campaign senior attorney. “As the subways are run by managers with greater authority and accountability, we hope that they can improve service, even if the lines are not getting added cleaning staffing and will absorb cuts in maintenance and station personnel.”

The 42−page report reviewed data on subway service compiled in the last half of 2008 by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority−NYC Transit, which operates the city’s trains. Train profiles included six measures of service, including: frequency of scheduled service; the regularity of train arrivals; mechanical failures of subway cars; chance of getting a seat at the most congested point; cleanliness of subway car floors and seats; and adequacy of announcements.

While the L was found to be the city’s cleanest line — 98 percent of its cars were found to be clean — riders have just a 24 percent chance of finding a seat during rush hour, the worst in the city, according to the report.

Both the 7 and L are run by line general managers who have been given a greater degree of independence and accountability to the riders, along with more cleaning resources, according to the Straphangers. Last year, the L came in first and the 7 second.

The C train, which travels in Brooklyn between East New York and downtown Brooklyn, was the lowest ranked of the 22 trains surveyed, receiving a rating of just 50 cents. The line was found to have the most mechanical failures of all line, with breakdowns every 61,603 miles — five times worse than the N train, which had the best record on delays caused by car mechanical failures: once every 327,191 miles.

The B, which runs from downtown Brooklyn to Brighton Beach, was ranked second lowest overall, receiving a rating of just 90 cents. The highest grade possible is $2.25.

Overall, the report found a decidedly mixed picture of subway service.

The car breakdown rate worsened from an average mechanical failure of every 149,646 miles in 2007 to 134,795 in 2008 — a drop of almost 10 percent.

“This is a poor trend, raising questions about the maintenance of an aging fleet,” the report notes.

Accurate and understandable subway car announcements improved, going from 85 percent in the last report to 90 percent in the current report. And subway cars went from 87 percent rated clean in our last report to 91 percent in the current report.

In a statement, NYC Transit said it welcomes customer feedback, as is evidenced by its rider report card initiative, which helps inform line general managers what areas require improvements.

The agency conceded that the C line has an older fleet of cars, which are scheduled for replacement. The agency said the entire fleet’s mean distance between failures 12−month average now stands at nearly 140,000 miles, compared to less than 90,000 miles in 1999.

“The improvement is due in part to the new R160 subway cars which are now replacing the oldest cars in the fleet and in part to enhanced maintenance of the existing fleet. Our passenger surveys show marked improvement in customer satisfaction on lines where these new cars have been deployed,” the statement reads.

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