Coney Island

D stands for ‘Dirtiest’ train

Survey finds subway line has the most ‘shmutz’

March 21, 2014 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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The D train was the big winner, or loser, depending on which way you want to look at it, of the Straphangers Campaign’s survey of the dirtiest subway trains.

The worst performing line in the group’s most recent “subway shmutz” survey, which covered 2013, was the D, according to the survey results released on March 19. The D, which runs from Stillwell Avenue in Coney Island to 205th Street in the Bronx, had the smallest number of clean cars at 17 percent in this survey, down from 49 percent back in 2011.

Shmutz is a Yiddish word meaning bespattered or soiled.

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D train riders are apt to find more gum stuck on the seat and sticky soda spilled on the floor, the survey found. Passngers agreed. “I always have to check the bottom of my shoes after I come on this train. You never know what you’re stepping in,” said one man riding a Coney Island-boudn D on Friday morning.

The best performing line in the 2013 survey was the L with 63 percent its cars rated clean, up from 58 percent in 2011.

The number of clean subway cars declined between 2011 and 2013, according to the “subway shmutz” survey.

Campaign surveyors rated 52 percent of subway cars as “clean” in a survey conducted in the fall of 2011. But the total fell to 42 percent in an identical survey in the fall of 2013. The figures show the continuation of a general trend of a decrease in the number of clean subway cars since 2008, according to the Straphangers Campaign.

“Transit officials are losing the war against dirty subway cars,” said Jason Chin-Fatt, field organizer for the group.

The 2011 car cleanliness survey was based on 2,000 observations of subway cars by the Straphangers Campaign between Sept. 8 and Dec. 22, 2011. The 2013 survey covered a nearly identical period from Sept. 4 to Dec. 30, 2013.

Subway cars were rated on 20 lines for cleanliness of floors and seats, following Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) New York City Transit’s official standards for measuring car cleanliness, according to the Straphangers Campaign.

Cars were rated not clean if they were moderately dirty, for example, if there was a dingy floor, one or two sticky dry spots. The cars were judged to be heavily dirty if the survey takers found opened or spilled food, hazardous conditions such as rolling bottles, or sticky wet spots.

The nine subway lines that experienced statistically significant deterioration between 2011 and 2013, according to the Straphangers Campaign, were the 1, 2, 3, A, B, D, F, N and Q.

“Will subway cleanliness continue to suffer as budgets grow tighter? We will do another survey next year, compare and find out,” said Cate Contino, the coordinator for the Straphangers Campaign.

Kevin Ortiz, a spokesman for the MTA, said the methodology used by the Straphangers Campaign to judge subway cleanliness is flawed.

“While keeping a fleet of 6,200 subway cars spotless remains a difficult challenge, we adjust to changing conditions and make every effort to strategically deploy car cleaners and maximize available resources. Cars are cleaned regularly at terminals and cars go through a more thorough cleaning when they lay up in yards. During the course of a round trip, customers can accidentally drop drinks, come in with muddy shoes or slush and salt during a snowstorm, but that is not indicative of our car cleaning efforts,” Ortiz wrote in an email to the Brooklyn Eagle.

“By conducting these surveys on subway cars in service, the Straphangers lessen the overall impact of our car cleaners at terminals. It’s like telling someone their teeth are dirty because they haven’t brushed since this morning. We simply disagree with the Straphangers’ flawed methodology,” Ortiz wrote.

For the results of the “subway shmutz” survey, visit




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