It's no secret that the subways are more crowded than ever (which leads them to being later all the time, which leads to them being more crowded), but newly released MTA data show that 10 of the city's 20 lines are packed to capacity at their peak times. And that they already have the most trains running that the current infrastructure can accommodate. So without major overhauls like the modernized signal system Gov. Cuomo doesn't want us to have, all transit honchos can do to address the problem is fiddle around in the margins.
Specifically, subway ridership is higher at every hour of the day than it was in 2008, and in addition to the 10 lines with all the trains carrying all the people they can—the 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 E, L, N, and Q all fall into this category—another five have all the trains running on them that they can, meaning they too are near becoming sweaty, fibula-threatening sardine cans. The only lines with wiggle room at the moment are, by the MTA's accounting, the 1, B, D, G, and J/Z.
Delays are also up, in part because of the crowding, but also because of planned maintenance work and guidelines put in place in 2003 that slow trains passing near workers.
So what does the MTA plan to do about the crisis that forces straphangers to wait for the third, or fourth, or sixth train before there is space to board? This year, it's tinkering with schedules to prioritize even spacing of trains, which also means de-emphasizing the focus on on-time performance. It is also specifically targeting the 6, 7, and F lines for tweaks, including more "Step Aside" markings on platforms and shorter train announcements to decrease the time trains spend in the station. On those three lines, the agency is also ramping up rail testing and repairs, and it is moving signal staff along the 6 line in Manhattan.
Oh, and you know conductors' standard non-"train traffic ahead" explanations for delays: a sick passenger or a police investigation? The MTA says it will "improve communications during disruptions" and work with the NYPD to control crowds on platforms during incidents. Here's hoping something sticks.
The full presentation is below.