New York City subway cars are cleaned by hand - and it takes one person 3 and a half hours to do it
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- New York City subway car interiors are cleaned by hand.
- The New York Times found that it takes a single worker three and a half hours to clean a subway car interior, and it's done every eight to ten weeks.
- The New York subways serve a massive population that presents numerous operational challenges, and are generally much-maligned.
In Tuesday's "New York Today" column in The New York Times, author Jonathan Wolfe stumbled across an extremely interesting fact: The interior of a New York City subway car is cleaned by hand - and it takes one person three and a half hours to do it.
Wolfe shadowed 47-year-old Corey Skinner, who scrubs down subway cars at one of the city's 13 facilities. These cleanings are done every eight to ten weeks, and the cars are cleaned overnight.
For 2016, the latest data available on the MTA website, it's estimated that the New York City subways get about 5.6 million riders on a typical weekday.
And they're ... not the cleanest.
Just by virtue of being there (and breathing and sneezing and generally being human), riders make the subways pretty gross. A 2016 study by Travelmath estimated that a subway handrail has 900 times more germs than an airplane seat-back table, which is one of the dirtiest parts of an airplane. You can even see some disgustingly beautiful images of train germs gathered by photographer Craig Ward, if you won't be terrified out of ever riding the subway again.
It's no wonder it has to be cleaned by hand, but it's an intimidating job.
Wolfe's Times column is by no means an extensive profile, but it gives another perspective to the difficulty of maintaining the much-maligned New York City subway system, which regularly makes the news for egregious service interruptions - the most dramatic of which will be its 15-month shutdown of the L train starting in 2019 to make needed repairs to the East River tunnel after it was damaged in 2012 by Hurricane Sandy.
In fact, Business Insider's Josh Barro reports that Cynthia Nixon, who will challenge Gov. Andrew Cuomo in the Democratic primary election to run for governor of New York City, has made improving the MTA one of her key campaign issues.
New York City has one of the oldest public transit systems in the world, and charges $2.75 per ride - although it plans to phase out the current MetroCard system in favor of card readers that can accept payment from a contactless phone, bank card, or smartphone by 2023, reported Business Insider's Antonio Villas-Boas.
Despite the subway's growing pains, global consultancy Arcadis still ranked New York City's public transit the best in North America, thanks to its extensive reach and high ridership. And as Business Insider's Emily Cohn has argued, its round-the-clock operation sets it apart from shinier, admittedly cleaner systems in other major cities. It might not be perfectly clean, but at least it's running - so far.