Because some of the commuters who regularly ride the L train are the same ones who regularly complain via social networking sites, it's tempting to shrug off the L's notoriety as so much amplified hipster whining. But the stories are true! The MTA has admitted that L service has gotten a lot worse since they ceded control of the line to our robot overlords.
In February 2009, the L became the first line in the transit system to switch over to an autopilot system called "Communications Based Train Control" [CBTC], which was supposed to relieve overcrowding by running trains closer together than the old signal system allows. The MTA spent $340 million to rig the L line with computerized signals that automatically detect and pilot the train. But the Post reports that the new system is still limited by the old infrastructure, which has been causing the new signals to short out and make the brakes seize up. Delays ranging from 15 minutes to nearly an hour have been common.
"There's a fluke in the system. It's constantly happening," one train operator told the Post. Even MTA spokesman Charles Seaton concedes that the system has experienced a "higher than expected failure rate." And one straphanger spoke for thousands when he described his L train commute as, "a nightmare from hell." That hell-mare is currently spreading to the 7 line, where the MTA is spending $453 million to create another "robotrain." But Seaton says not to worry, because they'll be using a different contractor on that one... an innovative new company called Skynet.