The G Train: Maybe Not So Bad!

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g train via stephen rees

The G train gets a bad rap. It’s the only major line that doesn’t go into Manhattan. It’s tiny. It’s called out for being late and unreliable. But a recent analysis by programmer Alex Barkan reveals something interesting: the train that everyone loves to hate is actually pretty decent.

Barkan (of web development blog Hot Cashew) gathered up two years’ worth of MTA service announcements for the B, Q, F, G, and L trains, filed the information into a database, and then graphed the results.

g train incidents graph  via hot cashew

What he found is that the G train had the fewest incidents of all. Even after normalizing the results by dividing the number of incidents by the number of stations serviced, the G was still ahead.

Some commenters remained unconvinced, arguing that the problem with the G train is more inherent, stemming from an infrequent schedule which results in frustratingly long wait times. Barkan responded with another analysis.

train schedule graph via hot cashew

Again, the prejudices seem to be unfounded: according to MTA schedules, the G train arrives as often as the rest, and, according to the MTA’s most recent on-time performance data, it arrives within five minutes of its scheduled time 92% of the time.

So why is the G train the straphangers’ punching bag? Barkan offers some theories:

1. G train run through popular areas whose commuters are more vocal, visible, and stay out later. Catching a train after a party at 3am is much more painful than catching it sober at 7pm.

2. Some of the G train stops are packed with rats. An extra minute there is more excruciating compared to a station that merely smells like piss, or is perhaps outdoors.

3. The few service changes that the G suffers are actually more debilitating to the commuter because of a lack of good alternatives. Coming home late form work? Sorry you gotta take the shuttle bus! This being the only Brooklyn cross-town train means if the G is down, you go from a 20 min train ride to a 1+ hour bus ride (if you can catch the bus). That stays with you.

How do you guys feel about it? Have you had bad G-train experiences? Am I the only one has anthropomorphized it into an endearing underdog? It’s doing its best!

Graphs via hot cashew; photo of G train via Stephen Rees.

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