subwaygrades2.jpgNew NYC Transit Authority president Howard H. Roberts, who replaced Lawrence Reuter just a few weeks ago, is apparently a man who doesn't mind being raked over the coals. And by that, we mean he appreciates the public's opinion so much that he wants straphangers to grade the subways and buses. Eliciting complaints from New Yorkers might seem like an invitation to an avalanche of abuse, but in a NY Times article today, Roberts doesn't seem like a man afraid to get his hands dirty.

“I want to know what passengers want,” Mr. Roberts said yesterday during a wide-ranging interview that touched on topics as diverse as dirty subway cars and his affinity for the poetry of Robert Frost.

“I think too often people sit around in offices like this and say, ‘O.K., I know better than the customer what it is they want and so this is what we’re going to do.’ I want the customer to drive the priorities.”

The first subway report cards would appear on the 7 train this summer, which seems like a good place to start if looking for an earful, given the recent round of weekend service disruptions. They'll be handed out as passengers leave stations and feature pre-paid postage so opinionated riders can just vent and drop in the nearest mail box. Roberts' plan is to have customer satisfaction cards on every line in the city by fall, and the cards themselves will ask passengers what the three most urgent improvements need to be made on each line. Only three?

One 7 rider gave an okay to the Daily News, "It's more democratic than when they just decide for us." We think it's a good move (it's also a page out of the Straphangers' notebook) but the real test is whether the Transit Authority will act on the suggestions.

And the MTA is expanding 7 service for the upcoming subway series game between the Mets and Yankees.

(Background image is brooklyn bound c train, by vinny716 at flickr)