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Trains, on time: All hail transit’s turnaround with increasingly punctual performance


When it has come to lambasting the Metropolitan Transportation Authority for delays and breakdowns that make the blood boil and the hair hurt, this column has spared no ink. So let’s spill a little of the stuff (or pixels, to those of you reading on screens) to acknowledge real progress underground.

In the summer just passed, trains’ on-time performance hit 80%, a big jump from 65% just two years ago. Weekdays in August, on-time performance was 84%, the best rate since September 2013. This is real. This is good.

Why: because the vaunted $800 million Subway Action Plan actually worked, especially after Mayor de Blasio was forced to kick in his half of funding. Because clogged subway drains not cleared since the Paleolithic period, responsible for cascading failures, finally got cleared. Because Andy Byford, who runs the trains, has been finding smart ways to shave off a few seconds here and a few seconds there.

Are we there yet? Not nearly, because century-old signal technology and other arcane and rickety infrastructure demands an upgrade.

That’ll be paid for by congestion pricing on private vehicles, a too-long-time coming, with investments to be outlined in a capital plan to be presented any day now. And by right-sizing a bureaucracy that still finds a way to find five people to change a lightbulb.

But on this September Monday, look down the tunnel. There’s light.