Worst on the subways: Straphangers Campaign rates 2013 transit events

Subway riders use their Metrocards to enter the

Subway riders use their Metrocards to enter the westbound platform at the Marcy Avenue station on Monday in Brooklyn. (March 4, 2013) (Credit: Charles Eckert)

Superstorm Sandy-related problems caused three of the 10 worst transit events in 2013, according to an annual report from the commuter advocacy group Straphangers Campaign.

Overrun budgets, reconstruction projects and residual day-to-day problems from Sandy were Nos. 2, 3 4 on the group's list, which also highlighted "grim and dreary" subway platforms and an uptick in subway track deaths.

The No. 1 gripe was one that riders are all too familiar with: fare hikes.

However, the report wasn't all negative: In addition to ranking the agency's worst events, it also ticks off the 10 best things the agency did in 2013.

Topping the best-of list was the pleasantly surprising news that the MTA nearly halved the planned fare hike for 2015. No. 2 was the appointment of new chief Tom Prendergast, which the Straphangers Campaign has said was a smart move, and No. 3 was the expansion of Select Bus Service, which aims to cut down bus travel times.

Still, Gene Russianoff of the Straphangers Campaign said Sandy dominated the narrative for the MTA this year and likely will for years to come.

"I think they have some smart ideas, but the problem is, they really got walloped in a really overwhelming way," Russianoff said.

"It put a lot of strain on the system in terms of costs and construction, and it's something the riders often have to bear," he said. "I think they're off to a good start, but it's still a lot of work to go."

MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz said the agency is "glad Straphangers recognizes all the good things we've accomplished this year," particularly the agency's cost-cutting that "reduced the size of future fare and toll hikes."

"On the negative side, much of it is due to factors beyond our control, most notably Sandy, which we are still addressing every day behind the scenes," Ortiz said.The Straphangers Campaign's 10 worst transit events for 2013

1. Fares increased in March at twice the rate of inflation.

2. Superstorm Sandy racked up damages to the system of $4.955 billion.

3. A "seemingly endless parade of major reconstruction projects" as a result of Sandy

4. Damage resulting from the superstorm "wreaks havoc" on subway's day-to-day operations.

5. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo blocks "lock box legislation," which the Campaign said would have better protected transit taxes.

6. In a report earlier this year, the Campaign found that many of the subway's platforms are "grim and dreary."

7. Washington may let a tax break for commuters fall from $245 per month to $125 per month.

8. More people are on track to die in the subway system this year than at any time since 2008. (The MTA, however, has said the yearly average will end up in the normal range.)

9. The Smith-Ninth Street station took twice as long as expected to rehabilitate.

10. Republican mayoral candidate Joe Lhota, on the campaign trail, said he wouldn't shut down a line to save kittens on the tracks.

Straphangers Campaign 10 best transit events for 2013

1. The MTA cut nearly in half the planned 2015 fare hike.

2. A "new and highly respected" Tom Prendergast took the helm of the agency.

3. SBS expands throughout the boroughs, with even more on the way.

4. Subway ridership grew to its highest level in 62 years, coming in at 1.654 billion in 2012.

5. The agency added $18 million in subway and bus service, including permanent off-hours service on the G train.

6. Bus Time, which tells precisely when a bus will arrive at a stop, came to Manhattan.

7. NYC Transit performed a comprehensive review of the G train.

8. Slowed rezoning of midtown east, which may mean more time to best figure out how to address transit needs around Grand Central Terminal.

9. The MTA payroll tax is upheld by a state court judge.

10. A new app was released that tells riders when numbered trains will pull into a given station.

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