The Straphangers Campaign has released their latest report card on the city's subways. It uses a funny little ranking system where the price of a ride represents a scale. So if a subway line were 100% sensational, for instance, it would be ranked $2. But no line is perfect on a 101-year-old system, so the closest we get is the 6 train, which gets a $1.35.
What about the two lines of Washington Heights? The 1 and former 9 trains get a better score than the A train: $1.25 versus 85 cents. According to the survey, the IRT West Side Line (a.k.a. the Seventh Avenue), which was actually one of the system's first routes, arrives very frequently, breaks down less than average, and has clean cars (I dispute that, but OK ...). About the only drawback is the on-car announcements aren't always audible. For the A train -- the IND Eighth Avenue -- the best the survey has to say is you're more likely to get a seat. In terms of frequency, mechanical failures and announcements, it doesn't score so well. This may be the rankings overall, but when faced with the choice from where I live, I have to consider which tunnel I want to walk through to get to the subway.
Both stations nearest to me (for the 1 and the A) are inside cliffs at street level with Broadway. They are two of the (if not the) deepest in the system, because they have other neighborhoods above them. But the pedestrian tunnel to the 1 train is much longer and more annoying because bicyclists insist on riding through it at high speed (despite a big sign at the entrance saying otherwise). The A train tunnel is not as bad. So there's a trade-off: If the 1 tunnel were the shorter one, I'd probably take the 1 much more often, but as a result, I alternate.