The MTA reactivated the Chystie St. Cut earlier this week when service changes forced the M up Sixth Ave. to replace the V train. While commuters along 4th Ave. in Brooklyn have found R trains more crowded, others in north Brooklyn and parts of Queens are enjoying an easier trip to Midtown. Today, I have a guest post from Jowy Romano of the Subway Art Blog about the way the service changes are impacting his ride to work for the better. It hasn’t been the smoothest of sailing yet this week, but for many in fast-growing areas of Brooklyn, this service change is a welcome one.
When the MTA announced its doomsday service cuts, unlike most straphangers, I was actually excited about them. The revamped M train was to replace the V train in Manhattan. This would affect my commute significantly, since I normally take the J train into Manhattan and transfer to the F train at Essex Street / Delancey Street. The changes would create a new line that I could take all the way to work at 23rd Street and would give me time to sit and read on my commute rather than having to worry about transferring halfway through.
Naturally, I decided to experiment with the M train for the first time on D-Day. When my usual J train pulled through Myrtle Avenue – Broadway, I let it pass and hopped on the M train that arrived on the adjacent track. I knew that this would be a bit of a risk, considering the M train is local in Brooklyn and might get me to work late. Of course, the first thing it did was spend the next five minutes idling in the station.
The rest of the ride in Brooklyn was relatively smooth until it got to the Williamsburg Bridge, where it crawled into the Essex Street station and took another few minutes waiting for the track switch into the Chrystie Street cut. It stopped again at the track switch onto the Sixth Avenue line before pulling into Broadway – Lafayette. I finally arrived at work with one minute to spare (the J and F train combination gets me to work 10 minutes early).
At the end of the day, I decided to give the M another chance. I waited at 23rd Street station and watched four F trains pass by before the M came. It was crowded when I got on, but at the next stop it cleared out enough for me to get a seat. I would have pulled out a book, but I was too busy watching people’s reactions to the new train route. I would have expected to see a few people curse and walk off the train at Broadway – Lafayette due to the announcement the train would not stop at Second Avenue, but no one did—the MTA did a pretty good job of posting advisories about the change.
At Essex, the M pulled into the second Brooklyn-bound track, which was unexpected because that track is normally only used when there are service changes. This solves the problem of the track switch-related delays that I experienced on my way to work that morning, but in that direction only (there is only one Manhattan-bound track at Essex). The rest of the ride was fairly smooth, so I decided I would get up a little earlier the next day and give the M another shot.
I figured I wouldn’t learn much more about the new line on my third trip, but I was wrong. My old pal the J train got rerouted back towards Queens after getting to Myrtle Avenue due to some delays, giving me more reason to take the M again. Five minutes later, I hopped on and was feeling pretty good until the train reached the Williamsburg Bridge. The conductor announced that a smoke condition at Broadway – Lafayette was causing the delays. We were stuck on the bridge for about 25 minutes. It was with all this time to think that I realized a potential problem with the new M—the JMZ line will now be affected when the Sixth Avenue line is delayed.
We finally reached Essex Street, which was in a state of utter chaos. The platforms were packed with confused people and at least 15 MTA employees in vests were directing people, some of them giving misinformation. Ironically, the M train I was on ended up being rerouted back onto its old route, which loops back to Brooklyn towards Bay Parkway. Yes, that’s right—it missed its old line and could not be without it for more than two days.
So I switched to the F train, which very slowly made its way to 23rd Street. I was 25 minutes late to work.
The new M clearly has a lot of problems, some of which will be easy to iron out over time, others that will probably never be addressed. Barring any more unforeseen “smoke conditions,” I think I will continue to take it. Being able to avoid the Essex / Delancey transfer is priceless and, with any luck, I’ll even get some extra time to sit and read during my commute.
Jowy Romano is the editor of the Subway Art Blog, a site that focuses on sign manipulation and other forms of subversive art found underground.