Quiet acceptance as FASTRACK returns to 7th Ave.

By · Published in 2012

Transit’s whole FASTRACK program is starting to become old hat for New York City subway riders who rely on late-night weekday service. The merry-go-round stops on the West Side again this week as the West Side IRT will be without service for four nights beginning Monday at 10 p.m. As in the past, the MTA will be terminating all 3 service at 10 p.m. while the 1 and 2 will run only between their northern terminals and 34th St./Penn Station. West Side redundancies, however, will ease commuters’ angst.

The map, which I’ve borrowed from February’s announcement, appears above, and the changes, which last from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. each night through Friday morning are as follows:

  • The 1 will run between 34 St-Penn Station and 242 St
  • The 2 will run between 34 St-Penn Station and E 180 St; Rerouted via between E 180 St and Dyre Av
  • Free shuttle buses run to/from 3 stations at 148 St, 145 St, and 135 St.
  • The 4 will be extended to New Lots Av early, trains run local in Brooklyn
  • The 5 will run its regular route between Flatbush Av and E 180 St; Rerouted via the 2 between E 180 St and 241 St.
  • 42 Street Shuttle runs all night.

As I’ve noticed in the past, the West Side routes are better equipped to handle FASTRACK than the East Side. Those who are traveling between Brooklyn and Manhattan on the 2 or 3 will be able to rely on the BMT and IND lines on the West Side or the 4 and 5 in Lower Manhattan. Brooklyn travelers on the East Side IRT won’t have to change to the 2 or 3 for local stops.

Still, although Transit has shown great results from this program, I can’t help but feel that FASTRACK is a last resort of sorts. The MTA could not accomplish this work without shutting down its 24-7-365 subway system for a few hours each day for consecutive days four days a week. Basically, for the first time in New York City history since the dawn of the subway era, the system has been shut down over night. It’s acceptable because of the redundancies in place, but it serves as an indictment of the decades of deferred maintenance.

The future brings more challenges for subway riders as FASTRACK expands. When it reaches beyond the core of Manhattan, redundancies fade away. The IND isn’t an avenue block away from the IRT as it is through most of Manhattan, and many areas are accessible via only one subway line. Still, these are lines that are just as important for mobility as the routes that snake through Lower Manhattan and into Midtown.

FASTRACK is the new normal, and it’s not going away any time soon. That said, we’ve reached this point because of a lack of political and economic support from Albany and a clear sense of construction oversight from the MTA. After an initial flurry of complaints concerning the service changes, the public hasn’t made many sounds of outrage and the media has largely ignored this every-other-week story. Will subway service always shut down periodically on a line every few weeks or can we escape this cycle? Do people care enough or are we just accepting of what is thrown our way when it comes to rapid transit during off-peak hours?

21 Responses to “Quiet acceptance as FASTRACK returns to 7th Ave.”

  1. Kevin Li says:

    Which would be better from west side to Brooklyn travel… taking the shuttle from Times Square to Grand Central or taking the Q from Times Square to Atlantic Avenue?

  2. Alek says:

    Is the 2 running express between 10pm-Midnight? Just asking.

    The other plus side of the 7th ave fastrack is the 5 running on Lexington Ave Line express track overnight so for those people who wants to get to midtown during late night can get the 5.

  3. Chris says:

    I appreciate the sentiment about deferred maintenance, but I don’t understand why Fastrack is so bad in principle. My understanding (which, admittedly, is what the MTA has claimed about this program) is that this maintenance can be done much more efficiently and safely for workers by shutting down the line where alternates exist. Maybe they wouldn’t have to do so many weeks of this if the maintenance had been done regularly in the past, but there don’t seem to be (as you note) many complaints. I surmise this is due to the generally excellent communication about these closures. This is to the credit of the MTA, unlike highway agencies that often shut roadways down with little notice.

    • Jordan says:

      This makes perfect sense to me too. If it takes “X” hours of shutdown to attend to the required work, then the only question is when – not whether. The time then should be selected for lowest impact. From 10 pm until 5 am strikes me as better than 5 am until 10 am, for example. And it’s even better to have seven consecutive hours of shutdown, than the 10 or more one-hour shutdowns it would take to do the same work, given the added inefficiencies involved in repeatedly closing/opening a line to do work in short bursts.

  4. BoerumBum says:

    Ben, we usually see eye-to-eye on things, but this is one issue where I consistently disagree with you. I’m generally a fan of FastTrack, as it’s well communicated and efficient. I’d much rather have a week of pain, that has been broadcast widely enough for me to plan around it, than go back to the old normal of waiting for a train for an hour late at night and have it never arrive, because there was uncommunicated work being done.

    Track maintenance has to be done, and I’d rather have it done all at once than spread out over random nights and weekend in a seven month window.

    • AlexB says:

      By “a week of pain,” do you mean shutting down a line 24/7 for a whole week? I don’t really think that’s a good idea if you can avoid it at all. There isn’t enough spare capacity in most of the system and I’m not sure there are enough “extra” buses around, or space on the street, to carry an entire line’s worth of commuters.

      • BoerumBum says:

        No, by ‘a week of pain’, I meant FastTrack; the duration of which is consecutive weeknights for one week.

    • Kai B says:

      Was doing the “glance at a neighbor’s newspaper” thing (sorry) on a crowded L-train. I believe it was AMNY, and there was a full page ad about the current FASTTRACK.

      Also saw tons of posters and announcements w/ visual display on the countdown clocks at stations that support this.

      Combined with all the media mention, I honestly think they’re doing a good job announcing this. Certainly easier to understand than weekend service changes with their “skip a bunch of uptown stations” here and there type of changes.

  5. AlexB says:

    Isn’t the transfer between the Broadway-Lafayette stations and the uptown 6 train supposed to be finished by now? Any word on when that will open exactly? It would help Brooklyn bound 2 or 3 riders if they could take the D or B to Broadway Lafayette to get to the 4/5/6, at least for the uptown trip.

    • Jordan says:

      Well according to the TA, it’s scheduled to open “by the end of June 2012” (see http://www.mta.info/news/stories/?story=616 ). So give them another five days! But, if you want to be realistic, I wouldn’t hold my breath.

    • JMB says:

      I transfer there everyday, its definitely not close to finishing. The renovated platforms still have large bare patches waiting for tile and I peaked through the blue construction wall to glimpse the underpass or whatever to the uptown side…I didnt see too much.

      If i had to guess, more like the end of 2012 this will be wrapped up.

  6. James says:

    For MTA to actually accomplish maintenance tasks in a shorter amount of time rather than 13 consecutive weeks on a particular section of track should be applauded. Your disdain for FASTRACK is evident in every article you pen.

    To keep the subway running 24/7 and in a state of “ok” repair this program is the best solution.

  7. CB says:

    I don’t think he has disdain for FAST TRACK, and personally I don’t mind it. I think, from reading this thread and this post, that what he’s saying is this is what we get after years of neglect and an uncooperative revenue source. This is the best thing that we have right now, and its creative, and it apparently works. I’m all for it, despite the fact that when I leave my office tonight I’ll have to wait for a C train to get me to 72nd street instead of the normal 2 train that gets me pretty fast…

    When does it expand to the other areas of Manhattan and Bx/BK/Q?

  8. Josh says:

    “When it reaches beyond the core of Manhattan, redundancies fade away. The IND isn’t an avenue block away from the IRT as it is through most of Manhattan, and many areas are accessible via only one subway line. Still, these are lines that are just as important for mobility as the routes that snake through Lower Manhattan and into Midtown.”

    On the other hand, I think outer borough riders may already be accustomed to these kinds of interruptions. The next time I see a sign that says “no G train service between X and Y stations, replacement shuttle buses available” will certainly not be the first.

    • Kai B says:

      True, it quite common for sections of two-track lines to be entirely out of service for an entire weekend, so I guess four weekday nights isn’t a huge stretch.

  9. Al D says:

    When I read the accomplishments, one has to wonder whether the system was (is!) on the brink of complete collapse! They are performing ongoing essential, basal system repairs, and each FASTRACK seems to yield the same general results, i.e. they have a loong way to go before they can declare the system in a good state of repair. For example, on the 4 5 6, they declare all the rubbish that was removed. However, just north of Union Square on the southbound side, there is cache of debris that seems like a FASTRACK work candidate.

  10. Michael says:

    In a perfect world, we wouldn’t need FASTRACK, but as long as maintenance is needed FASTRACK is by far the best way to provide it.

    Honestly, I am amazed with the eternal budget and labor problems the MTA has had, that it took 70 years after unification to implement. The past practice of maintaining the system with local or express trains flagged through on adjacent tracks is dangerous, expensive and highly inefficient. This should only be done in emergency repair situations. Closing down sections of track completely allows workers to keep working safely without constant delays to workers and transit riders.

    As long as nearby subway (a few blocks away) or replacement bus service is provided and well advertised, FASTRACK should continue and be expanded to every week if the MTA can afford to pay for the additional maintenance.

    Adding more station connections like Jay St Metrotech and Bleecker/Broadway Lafayette also makes the system more flexible to adapt to FASTRACK closures. Maybe one day Broadway Lafayette can be joined to Prince St. to help lower manhattan transfers when the lexington line is shut down.


  1. […] will do the same to New Lots Avenue. The Shuttle will operate through the night. Check out the map here, and plan […]

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