Koch Is Better, but Subway Delays Are Worse

What do two New York City mayors talk about when they talk on the telephone?

It is not clear how often this type of hizzoner-to-hizzoner tête-à-tête occurs, but it happened last Tuesday, around 5 in the afternoon, when Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg dialed up the cellphone of his predecessor Edward I. Koch to share some good news: The Queensboro Bridge would be renamed for Mr. Koch.

But the conversation, while certainly cordial, got off to a funny start — at least according to the account of Mr. Koch, who shared his recollection of the exchange in an interview last week.

“First thing he says to me is, ‘How are you feeling?’ ” Mr. Koch recalled. “I said, ‘Are you referring to my incident of yesterday?’ He said, ‘No, I didn’t know you had an incident.’ ”

It turned out that Mr. Koch had recently been discharged from Bellevue Hospital Center, where he had sought treatment for bleeding in his mouth after a dental procedure.

Mr. Bloomberg, caught off guard by the news, replied in a characteristically blunt fashion.

“I didn’t even know anything had happened to you — that was just an opening comment,” Mr. Bloomberg said, according to Mr. Koch.

The sitting mayor, Mr. Koch said, continued: “I have better news. We would like to name the Queensboro-59th Street Bridge after you, and we are just calling to find out whether you have any objection.”

Mr. Koch, of course, had no such objection, and told the mayor that he was quite appreciative of the gesture.

“It was a shock,” Mr. Koch said, of hearing the news. “Out of the blue.”

Asked about the exchange on Sunday, a spokesman for Mr. Bloomberg said the mayor’s office did not comment on private conversations.

Delay of the Land

You are not imagining things: Subway delays are getting worse.

Newly released data show that one in five trains on the numbered subway lines ran at least five minutes late in October, down from about one in eight a year earlier.

The subpar performance was particularly pronounced on the Nos. 4 and 5 express trains, where only about 70 percent of trains ran on time on weekdays in October. The No. 4 train’s on-time performance fell 12.7 percent from October 2009, and the No. 6 train had about 20 percent more delays than a year before.

The numbers may be particularly stark on the numbered lines because New York City Transit now has a more precise way to track the progress of those trains, using the same technology that allows for the digital arrival-time clocks that are now common in numbered-line stations. In the past, transit officials used a sampling method to measure the performance of trains.

Transit officials also use a metric called “wait assessment” to measure the reliability of the subways. Based on this statistic, which tracks the interval between the times trains arrive in a station (compared with the scheduled interval), the subway system is performing at the level officials had hoped for this year. The regularity of subway trains declined slightly last month, although trains on the A, B, C, D, E, F, and G lines showed improvement.

Our transit reporter, Michael M. Grynbaum, advises you on the latest chatter from the city’s roads and rails. Check back every Monday. Got a tip? He can be reached at [email protected]

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