By Olivia Scheck
TIMES SQUARE — The R train claimed the dubious distinction Thursday of being named the city's dirtiest subway line, according to the Straphangers Campaign's 12th annual "shmutz" survey.
An abysmal 27 percent of R train cars were considered clean, compared to 39 percent the year before, the report said. Last year the M train took home the award with a 32 percent clean rating.
Unclean conditions included spilled food, wetness, sticky spots and "malodorous conditions," according to the Straphangers, who are a part of the New York Public Interest Research Group.
The 7 Train was considered the cleanest subway line, with 68 percent of cars making the grade, up from 63 percent last year.
Overall, the subway system took a slight dip this year, with the number of clean cars dropping from 51 percent in Fall 2009 to 47 percent in Fall 2010, the survey found.
One reason for the reported increase in shmutz is the most recent round of budget cuts, which reduced the car cleaning staff from 1,284 to 1,153, according to the Straphangers.
"Last year, we predicted 'more cuts to come means more dirt for subway riders.' And sadly that's turned out to be true," Gene Russianoff, campaign attorney the Straphangers Campaign, in a statement about the report.
MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz said the Authority disagrees "strongly with the methodology and findings of the report."
"Despite reduced funding, we have managed our resources in such a way as to have minimal impact on car appearance by monitoring car cleanliness and adjusting the deployment of cleaning staff to react to changing conditions," Ortiz said.
Russianoff conceded that his group had no specific knowledge about how the MTA employs its cleaning resources.
But he did argue that the Straphangers survey provides a more reliable analysis of subway cleanliness than the MTA's internal report, which he said found 94 percent of cars to be clean.
Straphangers coordinator Cate Contino claimed that the MTA survey was less reliable because it did not include visits to the cars during nights and weekends.
Asked why it's important that subway cars be kept grime free, Russianoff said the issue goes beyond the "ick" factor.
"I also think it's an issue of control," he said. "It sends a message to riders — 'What else isn't going right?"