For pretty much everyone with a job on planet Earth, commuting is the most forgettable, maybe worst, worst, worst, worst, part of their day. In New York City, six million people take the subway every day, commuting is more that just a tedious inconvenience — it can be a time-wasting, life-threatening, health-endangering disaster that could leave you trapped in box in a dark tunnel with hundreds of other panicking people.
That’s because the New York subway system, one of the largest in the world, is woefully bad at its job, for some very specific reasons. On Wednesday, the New York Times took a closer look at why, exactly, every subway line in the city has decided to be a piece of crap, and what we can do about it now. One thing’s for sure: it doesn’t look good. Here are five statistics that explain more.
Overcrowding ruins everything
Simply put, there are too many damn people on the trains. The system experiences about 75,000 delays per month, and overcrowding is responsible for approximately one-third of them. There are other reasons, of course but overcrowding is the first and foremost.
5. More riders per year
In 1990, one billion people rode the subway every year. In 2015, that number had nearly doubled to 1.8 billion.
4. Oh, and more riders per day, too
And every day, more and more of those people ride the subway. In 1990, four million people rode per day; now, it’s up to six million.
3. The trains themselves are small
Unfortunately, even as more and more people piled on the trains, the subway didn’t get any bigger, adding only 27 new cars in service, from 5,255 to 5,282, and actually reducing the total miles of track.
2. Very, very few trains are on time
The Times reports that only four lines out of 20 in the city have on time rates above 70 percent. Every other line is somewhere in the 60s or 50s (or even in the 30s and 40s, for the 2, 4, 5, and 6 lines.)
1. Every stop is supposed to take 30 seconds, but it doesn’t
Overcrowded trains make it so that it takes longer for people to get on and off, which, over dozens of stops, means delays start to stack up. The Times sent someone down to Grand Central to time it during rush hour, and reported that trains would spend much longer than 30 seconds waiting for people to get on and off, step out of the way of the doors, and cram in.
There’s no easy solution
There are plenty of futuristic innovations that could make the subway better, but the real problem is simple. There aren’t enough trains and train lines to handle all the people in the city.
“The only truly effective way to address crowding on the subway is to run more trains,” John Raskin, the executive director of the Riders Alliance, an advocacy group told the Times. “It’s not a cheap or quick solution.”