For immediate release: For more information, contact:
January 24, 2000 Gene Russianoff or Neysa Pranger at (212) 349-6460

SUBWAY CARS ARE CLEANER,
THIRD ANNUAL “SHMUTZ” SURVEY OF 2,000 CARS FINDS
BUT OVERALL CLEANLINESS IS “POOR,” WITH 68% OF CARS RATED DIRTY;

CARS ON G, 6 and Q LINES THE DIRTIEST; M LINE THE CLEANEST
IMPROVEMENT DUE TO RESTORING CAR CLEANERS, SAYS GROUP

Findings     Methodology     Charts & Table     Credits    


Findings

The number of clean subway cars increased in the last year, according to the third annual "subway shmutz" survey by the NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign. But the overall cleanliness of subway cars remained "poor," with 68% rated "dirty" systemwide.

Campaign surveyors rated 32% of subway cars as "clean" compared to 27% of cars rated clean in a survey in 1998. Cars on eight subway lines saw improvement (1/9, 3, C, E, F, L, M and N), while cars on five grew worse (5, 7, D, Q and R). Cars on the remaining seven lines were largely unchanged (2, 4, 6, A, B, G, and J/Z). (See attached chart and tables.)

“Subway cars grew cleaner in the last year, but there’s still a long way to go before the war on subway grime is won,” said Neysa Pranger, coordinator for the campaign who oversaw the survey.

The campaign surveyed 2,000 subway cars on 20 subway lines between August, 1999 and January, 2000. Cars were rated for cleanliness of floors and seats, following MTA New York City Transit’s official standards for measuring whether car cleanliness. Cars were rated as clean if they were "basically dirt free" or had "light dirt" ("occasional ‘ground-in’ spots but generally clean.") The survey did not rate litter. The campaign conducted two largely similar studies for the periods between July through September in 1997 and 1998. (See attached methodology.)

The campaign attributed improved cleanliness to New York City Transit’s decision to devote more resources to cleaning subway cars.

In 1999, New York City Transit restored car cleaners that had been cut in recent years. The move came in response to the campaign’s two earlier shmutz surveys and to public opinion.

As of August 1999, when the survey began, there were 1,112 "budgeted" car cleaners, compared to 958 in 1998. The number of budgeted cleaning supervisors was also increased from 88 in 1998 to 117 in 1999. There were 1,234 car cleaners budgeted in 1994. (See attachment.)

"More elbows have meant more elbow grease and that’s meant cleaner subway cars," said Gene Russianoff, staff attorney for the campaign.

In mid-1999, the transit agency also began having Work Experience Program participants assigned to subway cleaning duties. Transit officials did not provide a breakdown of how many of the 278 WEP participants (as of August 1999) were assigned to cleaning subway cars or stations.

Other key findings of the survey included:

The campaign continued to call for restoring car cleaners to at least the 1994 level of 1,234 cleaners. Russianoff said, "Adding car cleaners has paid off, but there’s still far too many grimy subway cars out there. Now’s the time to build on the progress of the last year."

The campaign requested a written evaluation by transit officials of how cleaning resources are managed, as well as the impact of the WEP participants on subway car cleanliness.

The campaign renewed several of its past recommendations, including having transit officials:

This survey was funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, a leader in supporting assessment of public services.


Survey Methodology

Background

This report is intended as a follow-up to the April 1998 and February 1999 NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign surveys, Subway Shmutz: Cleanliness in New York City Subway Cars. The methodology followed in this survey is largely identical to that used in the earlier reports. One modification is noted below.

Preparation

In July 1997 and again in August 1999, our project directors accompanied members of the New York City Transit Passenger Environment Survey (PES) staff on an in-field mock rating of some 20 cars on two subway lines. This session included clarification of New York City Transit’s own rating system (described below). We also received the actual survey form used by PES staff. The PES looks at several measurements of the subway car environment, including car and seat cleanliness. Our survey is an in-depth measurement of car floor and seat cleanliness only.

Rating System

PES surveyors evaluate the cleanliness of subway car floors and seats with a four-level rating system in which a score of 1 represents the highest cleanliness rating and a score of 4 represents the lowest. The following definitions are from the New York City Transit’s Passenger Environment Survey, 1st Quarter 1997 and are still in use:

score   PES
 terminology 
 PES
 definition 
 
1
 
None
 
Basically dirt free.
2 Light Occasional "ground-in" spots but generally clean.
3 Moderate Dingy floor, one or two sticky dry spots.
4 Heavy Heavy dirt; any opened or spilledfood, hazardous
(e.g. rolling bottles) or malodorous conditions, sticky wet 
spots, any seats unusable due to unclean conditions.

The PES notes that "the nature of the dirt (e.g. spilled food, malodorous floor/seat condition, etc.) is also considered in addition to just the volume."*

 

In our study, we used a numbered system identical to the one listed above. However, we modified the terms to describe each rating. We believe our definitions more accurately reflect the meaning behind each score:

 score    PES terminology   Straphangers Campaign terminology  
1
None Extraordinarily Clean
2
Light Clean
3
Moderate Dirty
4
Heavy Heavily Dirty

Survey

Our project directors trained 14 additional surveyors. During the period August 19, 1999 to January 3, 2000, this team rated exactly 100 subway cars on each of 20 lines. (This is the one modification of the methodology used in the two previous reports; in 1998 and 1999, the NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign rated approximately 100 cars on each line.) This is similar to the size of PES samples. We dropped from consideration three lines operated by New York City Transit–the Grand Central-Times Square, Rockaway and Franklin Avenue Shuttles–because they are not rated in the PES survey. The measurements were taken both on weekdays and weekends, during rush hours, and during evening and overnight hours.

Differences between Straphangers Campaign survey and PES

While we attempted to duplicate New York City Transit’s respected PES as much as possible, there are some differences which extend beyond terminology. These two differences between the PES and our survey may account in part for differences in findings.

Unlike the PES, for instance, our survey takes into account conditions measured during the overnight and weekend periods. In addition, we sometimes surveyed at terminals and the PES typically does not. New York City Transit officials suggested in 1997 that this may account for differences in findings. However, we avoided surveying cars in terminals where cleaners were actively working.

Analysis of Survey Data

All survey data submitted was visually inspected for error and then coded for entry into a Microsoft Excel 8.0 spreadsheet format. After entering the data, we calculated both by-line and systemwide totals. The percentage of cars rated "dirty" and "heavily dirty" were combined to offer a measurement of the proportion of cars with an unacceptable level of interior dirt. Similarly, "extraordinarily clean" and "clean" rating totals were combined to reflect the proportion of subway cars with an acceptable level of dirt. Systemwide car cleanliness proportion is significant at the .05% confidence level within plus or minus 3%. By-line cleanliness levels are significant at the .05 confidence level within plus or minus 6-10%:

   LINE 

 CONFIDENCE
INTERVAL


1/9


  plus or minus


10%

2


10%

3


9%

4


10%

5


9%

6


7%

7


9%

A


9%

B


10%

C


10%

D


9%

E


10%

F


10%

G


6%

J/Z


9%

L


9%

M


9%

N


10%

Q


7%

R


10%



System Total


3%

Table one notes that in the period between the 1998 and 1999-2000 surveys, car conditions improved significantly systemwide. By-line car conditions improved on eight lines and deteriorated on five others. Significance of these results was established with a one-tailed Z-test at the .05 level.


Credits

The NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign wishes to thank 14 volunteers who assisted in the survey. They are: Sabrica Barnett, Michele Bonan, Peter Chung, Susan Craine, Vincent Grippo, Michael Hernandez, Derek Iannucci, Tracy Lerman, Monty Littlejohn, Elisabeth Marks, Christopher Mule, Rachel Tronzano, Alexander Vasquez and Philip Wittman.


top   |   Straphangers Campaign Report Index   |   Straphangers Campaign Home   |   www.nypirg.org   |   E-mail straphangers@nypirg.org