Is New York’s Subway Great Again?


Weather: Partly sunny, with a high in the upper 70s. Possible showers in the afternoon.

Alternate-side parking: In effect until Sept. 30 (Rosh Hashana).

Has it been a while since your train had an extensive delay? Did you forget that detour you had planned to survive an L train shutdown?

Have you ditched your MetroCard for the new tap technology at some turnstiles?

If so, you may be wondering: Are the subways great again?

The short answer: not quite. The long answer: They are improving, but they aren’t as good as they used to be.

Here’s a chart showing the subway’s on-time rate from 1988 through June 2019.

In 2003, the system had a near-perfect 97 percent on-time rate.

The on-time rate got worse each year from 2010 — the year Andrew Cuomo first campaigned to become governor — to 2017, when, as governor, he declared a state of emergency for the subway. He pumped millions into the transit system and pushed to make repairs more quickly.

In 2018, the on-time rate improved.

[Read more: Why the subway is no longer a disaster.]

As The Times’s Emma G. Fitzsimmons reported, experts agree that the only way to really improve New York City’s system is by installing modern signals to replace antiquated equipment, some of which was built before World War II.

Today, only two lines have modern signals: the L and the 7. They are the best-performing lines in the city, with on-time rates above 90 percent.

It cost about $400 million for new signals on the No. 7 line. Installing new signals across the entire system is expected to cost billions of dollars.

According to Ms. Fitzsimmons, the next critical moment for the subway will come this month, when the Metropolitan Transportation Authority releases its five-year capital plan, which will outline its priorities for 2020 to 2024.

The leader of the subway, Andy Byford, says installing modern signals is the key to improving service.

Will the M.T.A.’s capital plan include money for that? Transit advocates say it must in order for Mr. Cuomo, who effectively controls the M.T.A., to prove that he is committed to improving the subway.

Want more news? Check out our full coverage.

The Mini Crossword: Here is today’s puzzle.

In upstate New York, leaves aren’t changing color just yet. Blame the warm weather for the delay. [New York Post]

James Baldwin’s former home, a remodeled rowhouse on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, is officially listed under the National Register of Historic Places. [Gay City News]

On Saturday afternoon, 76 people were arrested during a sit-in at the Microsoft store in Manhattan to protest the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency. [CNN]

Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month at the Sugar Hill Children’s Museum of Art & Storytelling in Manhattan. 6 p.m. [Free]

Join the I, Too Arts Collective and the “Minorities in Publishing” podcast for an editor round table as part of the Brooklyn Book Festival at the Langston Hughes House in Manhattan. 7 p.m. [$5 suggested donation]

Enjoy “Black Euphoria: Centering, Uplifting, Empowering Black Womxn & Femmes,” with a panel and party at House of Yes in Brooklyn. 7 p.m. [$30]

“Crisanto Street” and “The Feeling of Being Watched” will be shown at the Hudson Yards Hell’s Kitchen Film Festival in Manhattan. 7 p.m. [$10-$15]

— Julia Carmel

Events are subject to change, so double-check before heading out. For more events, see the going-out guides from The Times’s culture pages.

Plenty of honors have been bestowed upon Walt Whitman, the prolific writer who lived most of his life in the New York area.

In Brooklyn, there’s a middle school named after him. On Long Island, there’s an elementary school and a high school named after him, too.

Between New Jersey and Pennsylvania, there’s a suspension bridge with his name on it.

His birthplace on Long Island is a state historic site. A block in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn, is called Walt Whitman Way.

And to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Whitman’s birth, the United States Postal Service has unveiled a stamp with his portrait.

CreditUnited States Postal Service

There is no monetary value printed on the stamp, which is intended for use on letters weighing up to three ounces.

So, if you want to mail Whitman’s works with Whitman stamps, you’ll need several of them.

An early version of Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass” (145 pages) can weigh more than twice the amount the Whitman stamp can handle: 6.4 ounces.

A book of Whitman’s complete poetry (896 pages) has a shipping weight of 1.4 pounds. A book of his poetry and prose (1,424 pages) has a shipping weight of up to 1.9 pounds.

So, to mail that 1,424-page book, count on using at least 11 Whitmans.

The Postal Service plans to print 12 million of the stamps, according to its website.

Martha Johnson, a Postal Service spokeswoman, said, “We print enough stamps to last about a year.”

It’s Monday — send something by snail mail.

Dear Diary:

I was on an elevator. The door opened and a large man, adorned with rings and chains, got on and took out his phone.

He stared at the screen, and then his shoulders slumped and he let out a disappointed sigh.

“Sorry,” I said.

He looked up, somewhat startled.

“You didn’t do anything,” he said.

“No, I know,” I said. “It just seemed like bad news, whatever it was.”

He smiled.

“Man,” he said with a laugh. “It’s this game. I had a high score, but I clicked out and it reset.”

The elevator stopped at my floor.

“You have a great day,” he said.

“You keep trying,” I said.

“Oh,” he said, holding up his phone, “I will.”

— Hal Ebbott

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