An easy answer to the F train problems

By · Published in 2009

The F train, the F train. What do about that the F train? That always seems to be the question, doesn’t it?

In Brooklyn, the train snakes a path from Coney Island up McDonald Ave. through the southern parts of Park Slope and north up Smith St. toward Manhattan. For much of that ride, unused express tracks taunt riders stuck on one of the city’s most crowded rush hour trains. In Queens, meanwhile, it runs nominally express but has been slowed by track work.

Today, though, we’re concerned with that stretch of Brooklyn that runs from Kensington and Windsor Terrace to Park Slope and through the Carroll Gardens/Boerum Hill/Cobble Hill. As Gersh Kuntzman reported yesterday in The Brooklyn Paper, State Senator Daniel Squadron has, at the urging of his fiancee and other constituents, urged the MTA to review performance along the F line. Writes Kuntzman:

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority has begun a full performance review of Brownstone Brooklyn’s underground lifeline after repeated complaints that the train’s name was actually the grade that most riders would give it. The “performance and infrastructure” review, which goes beyond the agency’s normal oversight of the Coney Island to Queens line, came after state Sen. Daniel Squadron cornered the MTA’s Albany-based lobbyist and demanded action.

“I have been getting increasing complaints about the F line from my constituents and, no less important, my fiancee,” Squadron told The Brooklyn Paper. “So I asked the MTA to do a full review, and they agreed.

“There was definitely a sense in March and April, judging from the e-mails to our office, that something was wrong — the delays were longer, the trains more overcrowded,” Squadron added. “When I brought it up to the MTA, they did a quick search that suggested, at first glance, that something was wrong.

While The Brooklyn Paper hasn’t yet heard back from the MTA about the cost of the review or the last time the line was reviewed, I have a suggestion and an observation that will address this problem. Taking a page from the F Express Plan — on hold due to work on the Culver Viaduct — the MTA could simply extend the V train out to Church Ave. or beyond.

Right now, the Culver Line isn’t close to being at capacity. It could easily support the V train running out to Church at rush hour, and as one person commenting on Gersh’s article notes, the MTA could probably even run the V along the A/C through Lower Manhattan to pick up Wall St. commuters bypassed by the F. In one felt swoop, the MTA would make travel easier while alleviating congestion on the Culver line through Brooklyn.

The second solution — an observation — is a call for those people impacted by this service to just wait. On July 5, the MTA will extend G train service south to Church Ave. While not ideal, those who cannot get on the F train due to congestion can ride the G to Hoyt-Schermerhorn and transfer to the A or C. It’s not nearly as convenient as extending the V, but it may serve the same function.

There you go. One problem; two solutions. Who needs a full study anyway?

Categories : Brooklyn

40 Responses to “An easy answer to the F train problems”

  1. Cen-Sin says:

    Having the V and F diverge at W 4 St might be good for picking up more riders, but might cause a bit of lock contention where the:
    1. V merges with the C and E south of W 4 St
    2. V merges with the F north of W 4 St
    3. V merges with the A and C north of Jay St
    4. V and F merges south of Jay St

    What’s worse is, the E train would have to put up with some extra delays because the V shares two stations with it along with the C, and this service pattern would be suboptimal for Jay St once the F trains run express in Brooklyn (the V and F merge at Jay St just to diverge again upon leaving the station). If anyone takes a train that goes over the Manhattan bridge, you know what I mean. This kind of locking contention happens frequently north of Dekalb Ave.

    • Easy solution: Flip the V and C between W 4th and Jay St. There’s no real reason to have the C, E and A run along the same tracks there. The C makes a whopping one more stop than the A during that run, and it’s a stop covered by the E already. By flipping the two lines, you would expand one-seat coverage.

      • George says:

        That wouldn’t solve the merging issues, in fact, you are creating more:

        1. V merges with the E south of W 4 St
        2. C merges with the F south of W 4 St
        3. V merges with the F north of W 4 St
        4. C merges with the E north of W 4 St
        5. V merges with the A north of Jay St
        6. C merges with the F north of Jay St
        7. V and F merge south of Jay St
        8. A and C merge south of Jay St

        Everytime trains merge, the potential for delay increases.

      • Marc Shepherd says:

        Ben, that won’t work. Flipping the V and the C at W. 4th would introduce delays. This is the reason why Sixth Avenue trains don’t use the Cranberry St. tunnel, even though the line was built to allow that option. The MTA has run that service pattern in the past, but it makes W. 4th into a choke point. Every merge/diverge slows down the system, and flipping two lines is the worst thing you can do.

        Extending the V into Brooklyn probably won’t work either. You’ll note that there is nowhere in the whole system that the MTA runs three services on the same line at rush hour. There is a reason for that. Probably the easiest option is simply to run more F trains, assuming they have the rolling stock available.

        • Yeah. You’re right. I was thinking about that for some reason. Too many merges.

          I don’t believe they can’t extend the V though. At one point, express service was in place on the Culver Line, and the F/G doesn’t run frequently enough to put that track at capacity. Plus, if you’re proposing running more F trains, that’s in essence the same as running V trains over those tracks.

        • George says:

          Don’t think they can run more F trains due to Queens Blvd. express tracks being at full capacity, unless they can find a way to turn trains around before they get to Queens during rush hour. Or they can run some trains local in Queens.

        • Alon Levy says:

          You’ll note that there is nowhere in the whole system that the MTA runs three services on the same line at rush hour.

          The MTA runs the N, R, and W through 59th Street Tunnel, and the 2, 3, and 5 through one segment of Rogers Avenue Junction.

      • Cen-Sin says:

        You might also want to take into account that the crossovers north of Jay St that enable 8th Ave trains and 6th Ave trains to switch to each other’s tracks are just double crossovers — not flying junctions. Every Manhattan-bound train that leaves Jay St or every Brooklyn-bound train that heads for Jay St will be delayed unless it’s the A and F (which can run in parallel); basically every other train combination (A & C, A & V, F & V, F & C) will introduce delays. During rush hours, A and C trains almost come in one after another in quick succession. Any merging or diverging with these two services involved won’t be a good idea.

  2. Think twice says:

    …those who cannot get on the F train due to congestion can ride the G to Hoyt-Schermerhorn and transfer to the A or C.

    And/or ride to 4th Avenue to transfer to the M and R. Better and better.

  3. Mike G. says:

    …”You’ll note that there is nowhere in the whole system that the MTA runs three services on the same line at rush hour”

    Except for the N R W in the 60th street tunnel to 42nd street…

    • V/R/G as Queens Boulevard locals as well although the overlap is only from 9-11 p.m.

    • George says:

      Considering how slow the N R W run from Lexington to Time Square during rush hour though, I’m not sure the Brownstoners in Brooklyn would want something similar there.

      • Cen-Sin says:

        You just reminded us how much we need the SAS line (or how much we don’t need the W); let the R work the local tracks while sending the Q (and the N if there is a W service) to the SAS line.

        • Think twice says:

          Sooner even.

          If the MTA were to open the walled-off upper and lower platforms at Lexington Avenue-63rd Street, then it could serve as the new terminal for the Q and W and still provide a transfer to the F to/from Queens.

          • Cen-Sin says:

            I don’t see any crossovers around the Lexington Ave station. I don’t think it can be used as a terminal unless they install those. Currently, trains would have to run pretty far west just to reach the double crossovers north of 57 St/7 Ave. I have not seen a single terminal where the crossovers are more than a few station length away from the terminal station. Enlighten me if I’m wrong, but your idea is completely workable (and makes sense).

            • Scott E says:

              Cen-Sin is right. There are crossovers between the Q and F on each level just west of the Lex/63rd Station, but the only crossovers between the two Q tracks are just north of 57th/7th. (They’d also need to find a new place to park trains, since that’s what’s done now).
              Also, the entrances at the station are inadequate for another line to be added. Part of SAS involves constructing a new entrance on the east side of the station.

  4. Noah says:

    I think extending the V to Brooklyn is the best answer and have it run express. However the problems above stated are not part of the problem. The idea is not to have the V and F diverge, but to have the V continue on the F the whole way instead of terminating at 2nd ave. The V going onto the A/C is only commentary that as is pointed out isn’t possible, but simply extending the V is. There is only one problem, the G in brooklyn. To make the possible they would have to run the G on the alternate tracks at carrol and bergen and not give it access to Smith and 9th, or they would have to have the V use the alternates. Essentially the Signals in Brooklyn can’t handle the G, F and V as the G and F put the signals at capacity for that area, some service with the G would have to be affected, but the G express will be worthless for rush hour, so there express plans with the G are pointless, the G simply has to terminate sooner and not share track with the F and V.

    • Marc Shepherd says:

      They cannot operate express service until the Culver Viaduct rehab is completed, which will take several years. During that project, there will only be two tracks in operation at any given time.

      Once that project is completed, they will finally be able to restore Culver express service. The likely pattern is the V express terminating at Church Avenue, the G local terminating at Church, and F local going through to Coney Island, as it does today.

      • Think twice says:

        The likely pattern is the V express terminating at Church Avenue, the G local terminating at Church, and F local going through to Coney Island, as it does today.

        “As it does today” is actually pretty bad. When (and if) the viaduct and Bergen lower level is done I say give us Gravesenders and Flatbushers a break:

        V, G local to Church
        F express to Church, then local to Stillwell.

        Heck, I’d bypass 7th Ave and run it like Central Park West with it’s super long express from Inwood/Grand Concourse straight through the Upper West Side to Columbus Circle.

        • Alon Levy says:

          The way the trains run on Central Park West is a great example of how not to do things. The lack of express service on CPW makes the locals inconvenient, since they don’t connect to anything. Conversely, the stopping pattern in Upper Manhattan, where every second or third station is express, makes the locals underused, lengthening their headways, which hurts the CPW stations even further. The IND really deprecated its locals, and it shows. A better way of running things would be like the IRT lines, which have an express stop every 3-4 stations.

          • Think twice says:

            The Culver is pretty straight-forward. A 7th Avenue bypass (if we ever get that far) should be, as all things, done on a trial basis to gauge headways, travel patterns, etc.

        • Matt says:

          Bypassing 7th Ave wouldn’t be smart, logistically. It’s in the middle of one of the densest commuting populations. Having it be an express stop would be important for taking pressure off the local trains. As far as I can tell, most heavily used stops on the Culver line are 7th Ave, Carroll St, and Bergen St, and only 7th Ave has an express platform (disclosure: 7th Ave is my stop 🙂

    • Cen-Sin says:

      I disagree. Even though it’s only a matter of lettering and labels, whichever train runs out to Coney Island should be the express. The reason is simple: those who live the farthest from Manhattan get an almost equally short ride compared to those who live closer. Why would you make people transfer just to have a faster ride? Trains starting out at Church Ave will practically be empty until Jay St (where it would’ve made enough stops to have a large number of riders) while local trains from Kings Highway or Coney Island would be packed. It certainly makes sense to have the more crowded trains run express than to run local picking up even more riders!
      I know some people will point out service patterns like the B and the Q in Brighton and use that as an example to support the pattern where the express terminates at Church Ave. The problem with that is: it’s a bad example. Historically, both the Brighton local and express ran to Coney Island without sharing any tracks west of Ocean Parkway. However, the lower level of West 8 St was repurposed so that it would serve the F train. Why not the upper level for the F? There is simply no arrangement that will allow local trains to terminate anywhere between Dekalb Ave and Coney Island while letting express trains pass right through. So express service to Coney Island was doomed after the decision to connect the F to West 8 St. This is the case for many other lines as well (which many may accept as “how it was meant to be”). Utica Ave was never meant to be a terminal for the current 4 train. There were plans for an extension via Utica Ave. And in fact, the station was designed to be a transfer point for trains to/from the different lines. To point out successful lines that implement the service pattern (express trains run to the end of the line while local trains terminate sooner): the A & C, the 2 & 5 (Bronx terminals), the B & D (Manhattan and Bronx terminals), and the 4/5 & 6 (Manhattan terminal).
      My point: Just run the V local. It’s local in Queens already, or we could swap the V and F north of Rockefeller Center and in Queens.
      By the way: the G can never run express. Arrangements are such that the G can only run local from Bergen St onwards. If the V runs to Church Ave or beyond, it could certainly switch to and from the local tracks.

      • Alon Levy says:

        You’re right, and I’ll add that the B’s terminal is only three stops away from Coney Island, and that the B and Q run together for a long stretch, making it feasible to transfer from the Q to the B for the express service and then back to the Q.

        • Cen-Sin says:

          I don’t know about morning rush hours, but I find it hard to do that since I leave for work around noon. The Manhattan-bound B doesn’t really catch up to the Q until Newkirk Ave. By then, it’s advantage in speed is pretty much negated for someone coming from Coney Island. The Q would only be 1 to 2 minutes behind the B by Dekalb Ave. Going home from Manhattan is the same story. Taking a Q and then transferring to a B and then hoping for a transfer to an earlier Q would never work. It used to be that I would reach the earlier Q 40% of the time by Sheepshead Bay or Brighton Beach. Now that the southbound B and Q share tracks south of Kings Highway, this possibility has been eliminated because the earlier Q is almost guaranteed to have left the Kings Highway station before the B pulls in. What I do know is, we’ll get a chance to catch up with earlier Q trains once the station work at Ave U and Neck Road is done.

      • George says:

        What about the 3 & 4 in Brooklyn? I never use that line so I have no idea how effective that is, but is there a reason why the 3 runs to ENY and not the 4, or people just prefer to take a longer time to get to Manhattan (or love switching trains)?

        • Cen-Sin says:

          The track configuration actually enables the 4 train to continue to/from New Lots Avenue. However, it’s inefficient to switch between the New Lots line tracks and the IRT Eastern Parkway line’s express tracks. The Utica Avenue station was designed to serve trains from two merging lines: the Utica Avenue line and the New Lots line. The New Lots line exists and is served by the 3 train, but the Utica Avenue line does not exist. If the MTA were to try to implement the service pattern I described, Utica Ave would be the bottleneck for express trains continuing from New Lots Ave. Until the Utica Avenue line is actually built, the optimal configuration would be the express trains terminating before the local trains.
          You can see that the express tracks end in a stub while the local tracks curve southeast.

  5. Gary says:

    Ben always good to see some attention paid to the Culver Line . . . and such lively discussion of alternatives.

    The F train is soon to get much more functional: uptown 6 connection at broadway lafayette under construction; connection to the M & R under construction at Jay Street; and the viaduct reconstruction when complete makes enhanced F/V service possible.

    The five year horizon for the F is looking brighter.

    Now if we could reopen the station entrance on the other side of 4th Avenue, restore express and local service and get those stations renovated and ADA complaint, we’d be golden.

  6. anonymouse says:

    When the Culver Viaduct is fixed, the most reasonable service pattern is having the V and G be the local from Bergen to Church (their 8 minute headways are nicely compatible), and run the F express on that section. Switching the V and C through downtown might be an option, but to really make it work you’d need more precise timekeeping than NYCT is capable of. The major bottleneck is going to be the crossovers at Jay St (in either direction) as the V slows down and possibly stops to wait for a passing A train (northbound) or F train (southbound), holding up the F or A behind it (and vice versa for the C). West 4th is actually not a problem due to the wonderfully overbuilt junction there, where the trains stay out of each other’s way. But if they manage to get delays down to a low and predictable level, who knows, maybe they can have all kinds of through services like the IND did in the early days.

  7. Kris Datta says:

    Too bad the (MTA) doesn’t have enough money at the moment to expand service. Oh well…

    After the Culver Viaduct project is complete, extending the V to Church as the express would be a good option. The F should be the express, since it is a very long line and makes a lot of stops. However, to do this, V service has to be expanded because I’m sure Park Slope residents would not like waiting 8 minutes for a V at a local station.

    • Marc Shepherd says:

      You’re assuming the future V would be the same as the current V. Right now, the V is a fill-in train: there are no stations where it is the only service. If it were providing Culver local service, it could not operate every 8 minutes during rush hour.

      That is why I believe the V will most likely be extended as a rush-hour or daytime express. Those at express stops will gain a new option; those at local stops won’t lose anything. Actually, the V could run out to Kings Highway, which would provide relief to those much farther out. It would be the analogue of the B on the Brighton Line.

  8. Matt says:

    As long as we’re waiting for the 2011 viaduct rehab to be completed, why not go for broke? There’s a single express track all the way out to Kings Highway, which allow express service all the way out there in the peak direction.

    In an ideal world, this is the service pattern I would prefer:

    AM rush hours:
    F local from Stillwell to Kings Hwy, express to Manhattan (18th Ave, Church Ave, 7th Ave, Jay St, then merge to local 6 Av line), Coney Island-bound express to Church Ave, then local to Stillwell.
    V local from Kings Hwy to Manhattan in both directions

    PM rush hours:
    F express from Manhattan to Kings Hwy (Jay St, 7th Ave, Church Ave, 18th Ave, Kings Hwy), then local to Stillwell. Manhattan-bound local from Stillwell to Church Ave, then express to Manhattan.
    V local from Kings Hwy to Manhattan in both directions

    Late night and weekends:
    F local, all Culver line stops
    No V trains

    If that proved too tricky, you could just run the F express in both directions to Church Ave, then local between Church Ave and Stillwell, with the V terminating at Church Ave. Late nights and weekends there would be no V and the F would make all local stops. You could also argue that this pattern is more fair to residents at, say, Avenue P who otherwise have no express service and the same long local ride to Manhattan they currently have on the F.

  9. AlexB says:

    All the ideas where the V is extended as the Culver local are great, but meaningless until the Culver Viaduct rehab is done. I think the MTA should look into two temporary extensions of the V to aid the F: 1) To Jay St, using the express tracks at the lower level of the Bergen station to turn the trains around (would require track rehab); and 2) To Bway Junction via the Chrystie St Connection and Jamaica express. These extensions wouldn’t relieve crowding further into Brooklyn, but it would relieve the burden of the F at Delancey St where half of the JMZ riders transfer to the F. Option 1 would also help the F train by absorbing riders at E Bway, York, Jay, & possibly Bergen (if renovated). Option 2 would obviously do a lot to help the not crowded JMZ, but could convince rider on the crowded L and AC to transfer at Bway Junction.

    As discussed in previous comments, a switch of the 8th ave/Fulton trains and 6th ave/Culver trains is not possible at Jay St without causing serious delays due to the way the switches are set up, but it is possible at W 4th because of the flying junction. Switching the C and F or V is not helpful, but switching the V and E could be. The E could run down 6th Ave and Church Ave and terminate as it does now at WTC (making the Queens-downtown commute a bit faster). The V could run down 8th Ave and Houston and terminate as I described above at Bergen St (option 1). If this happened, F train riders could get off at Bergen, walk downstairs, and get a seat on an empty V train to take them to 8th Ave. Or, if the V were extended via the Chrystie St connection (option 2), it would provide another way to 8th Ave from the F that skips a stop (2nd Ave). It would provide a real crosstown service from the LES to Chelsea via the village, creating a sort of horseshoe around central Manhattan, and give JMZ riders direct and convenient access to the west side for the first time.

    The V train is an interesting discussion because it is redundant and can do anything we want it to, providing “extra” service where necessary. It also always brings up the history of the IND and its variety of routing possibilities.





    • Cen-Sin says:

      1. Bergen Street’s lower level as a turn around area poses several problems. Trains terminating on the same track as the trains that pass through would cause some delays; doing it twice (V and G) makes it a big delay. Not only will F train riders have to wait for the G train at Church Ave/Smith-9 Sts, but they will have to wait for V trains to leave Jay St. Of course, they could always open up the lower level and riders would just run down the stairs for the the V. There might also be capacity problems during rush hours; only the Brooklyn bound track can store the V trains while they’re waiting to switch to the Manhattan-bound track. They could always move the trains further down (storing 2 or 3 trains on a single track, or install a double crossover in place of the single crossover.
      2. The V over the Nassau St line would be a questionable idea. We’re trying to cram the J, M, Z, and now the V into two tracks between Essex St and Marcy Avenue; 3 services serving a single track in a one direction is a bad idea; 4 isn’t better (assuming the J and Z are considered separate). This might work out very well. I like the transfer options. And do we know which direction the masses of transferring Nassau line riders are coming from?
      3. Swapping the E and V within their trunk line segments would mean swapping their colors as well. At the same time, even with the flying junctions, delays will crop up frequently. If there were only two services being swapped, there would be no problem at the flying junction, but there are two services being swapped and two that are not. There will be a merge for local trains going in both directions. Then again, maybe I don’t really understand your third point fully.

      • AlexB says:

        1. Currently, the F has to wait for the G at Smith-9th and for the V at 2nd Ave. Under what I described, the F would still have to wait for the G and the V, only now it is at Church Ave and Bergen St. Considering there are no other trains using the lower level tracks on the Culver express, I don’t see why using those tracks to turn around the V would be a big problem.
        2. Currently, the J, M, & Z line combine for a total of 18 trains/hour over the Williamsburg Bridge. If you add the V train, that comes to a total of 28 trains/hour. This is difficult, but not impossible.
        3. There would be a merge if the V and E were swapped. Theoretically, it could be done without delays, but in real life, it would probably lead to some delay. The positive trade off would be that there would be a real crosstown route, from the LES to Chelsea/W Village, that would allow JMZ riders to get to the west side with only 1 transfer, instead of the 2 it requires now.

  10. IanH says:

    As soon as the Culver Viaduct Project is complete, they can have the F and the V swap north and south terminals. This means that the F would take 71st Avenue in Queens and Church Avenue in Brooklyn via 63rd Street tunnel on weekdays and resume its normal route between 179th Street and Coney Island on weekends and late nights, leaving the V Train to operate the F’s current route on weekdays between 179th Street and Coney Island via 53rd Street tunnel. This give the F Train a chance to go local in Queens while the V run express in Queens and Brooklyn. In addition, the V can take 2/3’s of the R160 cars and 1/3rd of the R46 cars. The F would be all R46 cars again. Since the new cars have the new electronic strip map and the Flexible INformation Display, they can change between the V and the F at either Coney Island or 179th Street and the R46 cars can be taken out of service when the V is not operating.


  1. […] requested a comprehensive M.T.A. review of the plagued orange line, and others are chiming in with solutions to make it work better. [Pardon Me for Asking and 2nd Ave. […]

  2. […] year, under pressure from State Senator Daniel Squadron, the MTA conducted an internal review of F train operations, and the results were decidedly not […]

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