Subway platforms are getting cleaner, but graffiti is getting worse: Survey

The J and Z train station at Bowery

The J and Z train station at Bowery has graffiti on many of its walls and signs. (Nancy Borowick) (Credit: The J and Z train station at Bowery has graffiti on many of its walls and signs. (Nancy Borowick))

Subway platforms are on the up and up, as a new survey found that overall conditions on them were better in 2012 than they were in 2011.

The survey, conducted by commuter advocate group Straphangers Campaign, found that cleanliness, floor cracks, staircase and handrail condition, and exposed wiring all improved over the past year, among other aspects.

"We applaud transit managers and workers for improving conditions at many stations," said Jason Chin-Fatt, who oversaw the survey.

"But there's still room for further progress. There's no reason, for example, that riders should have a one in 10 chance of seeing a rat while waiting for a train," he said.

Of the 12 components of platforms the survey covered, two got substantially worse: graffiti and water damage.

MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz said that over the past three years, the agency has removed 98% of reported graffiti with 72 hours of learning of it, and that there's no "empirical data that has shown an increase in water damage" aside from Sandy-related damage.

"Water intrusion is, however, a significant problem that is very difficult to treat," Ortiz said. "And even on a day when it doesn't rain, 13 million gallons of water are pumped from the system."

Some straphangers said they can notice improving platform conditions.

"The platforms are pretty clean - it's the trains that's more of an issue," said Tiara Cowan, 20, of the Lower East Side, adding that she has seen cleaners sweeping the platforms.

Rob Gorski, 34, of the Lower East Side, agreed that overall cleanliness is getting better, but that the graffiti problem isn't much of a problem at all.

"It kind of goes hand-in-hand with life in the city," he said. "It adds to its charm."


Platforms overall are in better condition than they were last year, the survey found. These are the aspects of platforms that improved the most:
-- Garbage bags on platform: Down to 2% of platforms having garbage from 6%.
-- Exposed wiring: Down to 8% from 29%.
-- Staircases/handrails in disrepair: Down to 10% from 15%.
-- Broken lighting fixtures: Down to 20% from 49%.
-- Substantial floor cracks: Down to 20% from 33%.

Here are the parts of subway platforms that got worse from 2011 to 2012:
-- Substantial water damage: Present in 78% of stations surveyed compared to 53% in last year's survey.
-- Substantial graffiti: Present in 27% of stations compared to 20%.


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