Map: No subways for western ManhattanBy
While I’ve mostly viewed the MTA’s FASTRACK program as a necessary evil, next week’s treatment along the 8th Ave. line allows us a glimpse at an interesting “what if” in New York City subway history. What if the city hadn’t built the 8th Ave. tunnels during its subway-building phase?
The 8th Ave. line was one of the main drivers behind Mayor Hylan’s plan to build an independent subway system, and after a groundbreaking in 1925, it opened in 1932. It was the first city-owned route, and the A train, made famous by Billy Strayhorn and Duke Ellington, has served Harlem and beyond since then. These days, the Eighth Avenue route is one of the longest in the city, running from the Far Rockaways to Inwood. Next week, it will detour.
As part of the FASTRACK maintenance plan that shuts down service on one line during the week from 10-5 p.m., the MTA will tackle that 8th Ave. line beginning on Monday. The C train will shutdown at around 10 p.m. while the A will run along the D and F lines from Columbus Circle to Jay St. It will make local stops as the E does as well along the 6th Ave. line with a southern terminus at 2nd Ave. Once upon a time, IND trains via the 53rd St. tunnel ran either to the Hudson Terminal or 2nd Ave., and that is essentially what the E is doing again.
As FASTRACK goes, this is a relatively easy service change. The 6th Ave. line will be rife with trains, but there will be subway service south of 42nd St. and west of 7th Ave. during the overnights next weekend. It leaves a wide stretch of Manhattan very, very empty, and that’s not something we’re used to seeing. The walk from Hell’s Kitchen or Chelsea to the subway will seem even longer for a few nights.
Meanwhile, future plans for FASTRACK are taking shape. As Pete Donohue reported in Wednesday’s Daily News, the MTA is eying a northern expansion of FASTRACK for 2013. Once the midtown-to-Brooklyn work is completed this year, the authority will look to shutdown service from midtown to 125th St. This is, of course, a tougher routing as the IND routes specifically do not allow for any re-routing, and the West Side IRT isn’t particularly near any other line north of Columbus Circle. Those will be a more onerous set of service changes.
Still, Transit officials say they will charge full steam ahead next year. “The plan is to use 2012 as a period to learn what went right, what went wrong and what we have to improve, and use that as a base when expanding to northern Manhattan and the outer boroughs,” Transit President Tom Prendergast said to The News.
During FASTRACK fourth year, in 2015, the agency hopes to bring it to the Outer Boroughs. As far as I can tell, FASTRACK in the Outer Boroughs will be particular difficult to implement because the authority will have to do away with the notion of alternate service. There is no alternate service for, say, the 4th Ave. line, New Lots-bound trains or folks traveling along the Queens Boulevard line. While these areas are in need of the most work, they also have the least amount of system redundancies. The work must go on, but we don’t have to like it.
On that note, expect a lighter schedule for the rest of the week. I’m out of the city and down in Philly for a few days, but I’ll check back in if any big subway news happens.