November 28, 2007

NY Times: For Riders of a Stepchild Line, Even an 'F' Looks Good

How do you think the MTA will respond to the results from its recent Rider Report Card for the G line?

For Riders of a Stepchild Line, Even an ‘F’ Looks Good
New York Times
November 25, 2007

The culture of the victimhood designated on subway maps by a green line snaking from Queens to Brooklyn is well established. And so, when it comes to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s rider report card program, which solicits rider evaluations, there is little suspense.

“Everybody knows what the rider report card on the G is going to be,” said Teresa Toro, transportation chairwoman of Community Board 1 in Brooklyn. Indeed, there is gleeful expectation among some of the train’s riders and advocates, from blogs (“Is the G an F?”) to civic groups, who, with regard to the line’s pending grade, are generally hoping for the worst.

Ms. Toro, for her part, has urged riders to candidly respond to the transportation authority on her blog Save the G, which takes its name from a coalition of community advocates in Brooklyn and Queens. For each line, the agency distributes paper report cards to riders at train stations for one week, and riders have additional time to fill out identical report cards online. The deadline for the G train was Thursday; Marisa Baldeo, an M.T.A. spokeswoman, said the results would be announced in December.

Among G riders, the train cuts a tragic figure: It is the system’s neglected stepchild, singularly destined never to reach Manhattan shores. That the G consists of 4 cars instead of the standard 8 or 10 only adds to its punch-line potential. A result, though, is that the very notion of including the G in the rider report card program, which extends to every line in the system, amounts to a boost of self-esteem for those who hope that a bad grade will spur improvements.

“For once,” Ms. Toro said, “the G is being measured right along with all the other lines.” In the social sense, at least, the G train has arrived.

Still, seasoned G train advocates emphasize that they have been voicing their concerns for years and that the line still has a long way to go. James Trent, chairman of the transportation committee of the Queens Civic Congress, a member of the Save the G coalition, said that given the G’s eternal and much-publicized woes, he did not find the rider report card program particularly encouraging.

“I can’t believe that they’re waiting for responses on the card to find out what people think of the G,” Mr. Trent said. “They know that already.”

The Straphangers Campaign, a rider advocacy group, has issued report cards on individual lines, based on M.T.A. statistics, since 1997. While the G ranked fifth among the 22 lines in the group’s 2007 report, many argue that the line’s quirks and variables make it difficult to evaluate, resulting in grade inflation.

In the opinion of Gene Russianoff, a spokesman for the Straphangers Campaign, if the G train in its current incarnation were to disappear, its riders in all likelihood would happily let it slip into history. As Mr. Russianoff summed it up: “Writers in Greenpoint and Williamsburg won’t write poems about it.”

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