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Subway report ranks L city’s best, W worst

The transit advocacy agency Straphangers Campaign has designated the L subway line as the city's finest — with the No. 7 runner-up and the W line as the worst.

The Straphangers noted that the L and 7 lines are under a Transit Authority pilot program in which separate managers operate subway lines under a policy of independence and accountability.

The 11th annual "State of the Subways" report deplored what it called an overall "weak showing" for subway service, citing what it saw as worsening mechanical failures and other negatives aspects.

The Straphangers said the L came in first because "it performs best in the system on two measures - regularity of service and announcements." The L performed well above average on three other measures: frequency of scheduled service, delays caused by mechanical breakdowns and the percentage of dirty cars.

"The line did not get a higher rating because it did poorly on offering a chance of getting a seat at rush hour," the Straphangers said. The L runs from Canarsie in Brooklyn to 14th Street/Eighth Avenue in Manhattan.

The No. 7 performed above average on four measures: frequency of scheduled service, regularity of service, delays caused by mechanical breakdowns and chance of getting a seat at rush hour. The 7 did not score a higher rating because if performed below average on dirty cars and adequate announcements.

The W ranked worst because of poor scheduled service and was below average on regularity of service, car breakdowns, car cleanliness and announcements. It did well on offering a chance of getting a seat at rush hour.

"Overall, we found a weak showing for subway service," the report said. "Car breakdowns worsened from a mechanical failure every 156,624 miles in 2006 to one every 149,646 miles last year. Subway car announcements deteriorated from 90 percent in the second half of 2006 to 85 percent in the second half of 2007. Two other measures showed no sign of improvement: regularity of arriving trains and car cleanliness.

Otherwise, the Q was third in the ratings, followed by the No. 1, No. 6, J/Z, No. 5, A, No. 2, No. 3, No. 4, N, E, R, F, D, V, B, C, M and W.

The G train was not rated since the Straphangers reported they were unable to obtain data on crowding of cars on the line, although they reported the G was the system's dirtiest and its cars the most likely to break down.

The Straphangers assigned next-to-last spot to the M train because it did poorly in all categories except availability of rush hour seats and because it is in a tie for the least amount of scheduled service.

The N train came in twelfth. The Straphangers said it offers a good chance for a seat in rush hour, arrives with average regularity, has a low breakdown rate and has good announcements but is less clean than average.

It was the second championship for the L, which came in No. 1 in 2003. The No. 7 won top spot the first four years of the "State of the Subways" ratings which started in 1997. The W also tied for last place in 2007 and 2006.

The Straphangers said the New York City Transit Authority's Line Manager program "appears to be benefiting riders."

Transit Authority officials said that under the program, "the new positions (separate managers for each line) will be responsible for virtually all elements of the day-to-day operations on both of these lines [7 and L] and will be given their own railroads and the responsibility for running them to the satisfaction of our customers."

Reach contributing writer Philip Newman by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 136

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