When the MTA instituted its service cuts in late June, one change was long overdue. Instead of having the litte used V train terminate at 2nd Ave. in Manhattan, New York City Transit rearranged subway service so that the 6th Ave./Queens Boulevard Local route made use of the old Chrystie St. Cut, crossed the Williamsburg Bridge and terminated at Middle Village, the northern end of the BMT Myrtle Ave. line. Designed to alleviate overcrowding on the L and provide a one-seat ride to Midtown from areas of Brooklyn and Queens with high population growth, the rerouting has been a success.
Earlier this week, NY1’s newest transit beat reporter John Mancini hit the Orange M line to chat with riders about the service changes, and most believed it was a change for the better. “I live in Ridgewood, Queens, I work here in Greenwich Village. And basically now for the first time I have a one-seat ride to work. It’s taken probably 10 to 15 minutes off of my commute. I used to have to take the M to the F, which you could never get on at rush hour. So I’d have to take it down to Chambers Street and get on the 6. It took forever,” Christopher Crowe told Mancini.
The piece is a short one from Mancini, and in it, he talks to a few happy riders and a few others wary of the changes wrought by better transit service. “People who can’t afford to pay these rents will have to be moving out of the area. I mean because you are going to bring more of a crowd that can afford to pay this, and then the poor people that are here can’t afford to pay what they are paying now,” Ariel Lopez of Bushwick said.
In two quotes from two strangers on a train, Mancini captured both the essence of the service change and a problem with the MTA’s approach to service demand. When the V became the M, the Lower East Side and Alphabet City lost a train. No longer does every 6th Ave. local stop at 2nd Ave., the station closest to thousands of people who live on the far East Side. Those folks in a growing area were without one of their trains, and the neighborhood lost some of its bus service as well.
Across the Williamsburg Bridge, however, New Yorkers found reasons to cheer the service cuts. Although some Middle Village residents who work in Lower Manhattan or near Foley Square have a schleppy two-seat ride, those bound for Chelsea or Midtown no longer have to transfer or brave the crowds along the L train. The M has gone from a much-maligned shuttle to a useful train, and this was a service change that should have been made years ago. Unfortunately, the MTA is not in a position to adjust service to meet demand as fast as we’d like.
On the other hand, increased transit service comes with a cost. Neighborhoods are suddenly more accessible and more desirable for renters. Bushwick residents will see their rents creep up, and we can see in Brooklyn and Queens along the Myrtle Ave. line a harbinger of things to come for Second Ave. With more transit service, properties become more valuable, and thus, landlords can charge more. It’s an efficient market economy at work even if it penalizes those who were looking for a deal.
The Orange M will never please everyone, and at some point, if the MTA can introduce F express service in southern Brooklyn, the new routing will come under some form of scrutiny. For now, though, the new route is earning praise, and amidst a bad year for transit in New York City, this useful change is as welcome as any service cut can be.