Vindication for the G: Study shows every other line has more delays, especially the 2 and 5

G train station in Greenpoint. (Flickr via joseph a)
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The G train, contrary to popular belief, is not at all terrible. 

The only subway line that runs exclusively in Brooklyn and Queens*, the G actually generated the fewest M.T.A.-issued, and M.T.A.-caused service alerts in 2011 of all of the 20 New York City subway lines analyzed, according to a study released this morning by NYPIRG’s Straphangers Campaign.

Of the nearly 2,967 significant-incident alerts that could be attributed to M.T.A. action, or inaction, only 45 were generated by the G line.

The 2 and 5 lines, in contrast, scored the worst in the analysis, generating 251 and 247 alerts, respectively. (The whole list, from worst to best, is here.)

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In late 2008, the M.T.A. launched a text-message and email system alerting riders to service changes. Today, there are more than 76,000 subscribers.

Straphangers analyzed those alerts, and defined as "significant" those pertaining to delays expected to last at least eight minutes. The group excluded alerts that related to problems outside of the authority's control, like sick passengers and police activity.

Asked why the G line scored so well, and the 2 and 5 lines scored so poorly, Gene Russianoff, staff attorney for the Straphangers Campaign, said, “The answer is we don’t know.”

One pattern did emerge: New York City’s very old signaling system causes track delays, with signaling issues resulting in 36 percent of "controllable significant incidents."

Less than a year ago, Russianoff went on a tour of the West 4th Street subway station dispatchers room, which he said, “I swear to God the control room looked like the deck of the Titanic."

“I asked one of the transit workers how they handle the ancient signals," continued Russianoff. "And he said, ‘We try not to touch it at all.’”

M.T.A. chairman Joe Lhota has frequently pointed to the need for updating the system's signals and his agency's response to the report was no different.

"We agree with the Straphangers’ assessment that signal issues contribute to delays," said M.T.A. spokesman Kevin Ortiz. "That is why signal upgrades remain a top priority and are a crucial part of our capital program."

*added "exclusively"