Blame it on the Train

Subway Line Promises Little but Disappointment to Straphangers


Most of my experience with the C train has been limited to that of a bystander on a platform. I have ridden it on occasion, when my travels have taken me to Chelsea and beyond. But with the exception of about five stops, I am unsure of the train’s route. I do know that it stops at 59th Street–intermittently and seemingly only when I have been waiting a very, very long time for the D. After a long stretch of nothingness, an approaching light at the end of the tunnel is enough to evoke an elated hop out of even the weariest of travelers. However, the realization that chugging forward is a dirty blue sign with a yellowing “C” on it can be sickening.

I was worried at first that my grumpiness regarding the train was simply a manifestation of my impatient nature, but it seems that I am not the only person who feels this way. According to the Straphangers Campaign’s annual subway report, the C line has been deemed the worst in the city. The report found that the C, for the second year in a row, is both the dirtiest and the slowest line in the subway system.

According to a recent article in the New York Post, the report found that the M had the fewest delays due to breakdowns, but that overall, the 7 train is the best line in the system. Apparently, the 7 is very clean, hardly ever breaks down, and usually has an available seat. While I personally prefer the E, I can see the general appeal of the 7, especially as it is above ground for most of its route. I should point out, however, that while I have waited for well over half an hour for the C train in less than desirable subway stations, I have never felt unsafe while actually riding it. Certainly this speaks more to my luck than it does to the safety of the train, but it is at least one check I can swipe in favor of the line. Ironically, it was while riding a late night 7 train that the only other passenger in the car offered me and my friend weed before enthusiastically insisting we check out his “concert” the next night.

There was one particular occasion on which I desperately needed the C train. I was in a hurry, and a very necessary detour to the Whole Foods restroom had set me well behind schedule. There I stood, watching brightly lit trains with orange signs pass me by, not a blue dot in sight. Finally, an A rolled up. Alas, A trains run express and do not stop at 23rd Street. Another A, emptier than the last, appeared. As the doors closed, I noticed an unassuming little sign posted on a supporting beam. C trains, it seemed, were running on the express track this weekend, and were therefore of as much use to me as the A, which would have provided a cleaner, less bumpy ride. I swore loudly as the C finally pulled up, taking me in approximately the direction of where I needed to go.

I would have thought the City might have tried to fix at least some aspects of the C line. Perhaps the cars could be cleaned or traffic flow could be corrected in some way. They could repair the engines so they stop breaking, maybe. I suppose it would be asking too much to hope for all of these changes, but with the vast improvements the MTA has made to other lines within the last year, some soapy water and a scrub brush doesn’t seem so very excessive.