Home MTA Politics An argument over improving the G train

An argument over improving the G train

by Benjamin Kabak

A few weeks ago, I mentioned the launch party for the Riders Alliance without providing too many more details about the organization. Pete Donohue profiled their efforts, but as a board member of the organization, I can speak more to their goals. It is a new transit advocacy group that should fill in the gaps left by the others in the field.

Essentially, the Riders Alliance is an organization with an aim of organizing transit riders into political blocks. As many people from one neighborhood want similar transit improvements, the Riders Alliance is focused on garnering grassroots support by organizing riders to pressure elected officials on funding and the MTA on service patterns. Eventually, if the organization can build enough popular support, its endgoal involves long-term solutions to New York City’s transit problems.

One of the Riders Alliance’s early efforts involves the G train. I think the G train gets a bad rap amongst its riders, but it certainly has its problems. Generally, the G train arrives on time and serves as a vital link between neighborhoods in Brooklyn and Queens, but it doesn’t run particularly frequently. The short cars lead to crowded rush hour conditions, and its riders all want more service and better connections to other routes. In a sense, then, it’s ripe for a grassroots organizing effort, and that’s just what the Riders Alliance is doing.

As The Brooklyn Paper noted, the Riders Alliance is calling for better G train service. The group is working with residents to call for more frequent service and out-of-system transfers between the J/M/Z at Hewes St. The MTA isn’t so keen to give on these issues. Here’s the essential debate:

Members of the Riders Alliance claim the MTA is shooting itself in the foot by refusing to run G trains more reliably, allow free above-ground transfers to nearby lines, or add more rolling stock to the diminutive four-car line. “If they make the changes, the increased ridership will bring in the money that will justify the changes,” said Dustin Joyce, who claims the transit authority’s lack of interest in the line is hindering the growth of G-dependent neighborhoods including Greenpoint, Fort Greene, and Bedford-Stuyvesant, among others. “They could attract a lot more development in those neighborhoods if they had reliable transit.”

Infrastructure and transportation experts including New York University adjunct professor Sarah Kaufman say the MTA must do everything it can to lure more riders rather than let lousy service ride. “In other cities, transit companies are almost begging people to take transit instead of driving,” said Kaufman. “In New York City, trains are at capacity during rush hour, but that’s not true in the outer boroughs. There is room to attract more people into public transit in the outer boroughs and keep them out of traffic.”

But the MTA refutes the paradox and says it won’t budge until more riders flock to the much-maligned line. “We schedule service to match ridership,” said agency spokesman Charles Seaton, who added that the MTA has already made concessions G train riders when it dropped its own initiative to eliminate five beloved stops in Park Slope, Windsor Terrace, and Kensington earlier this year.

The Brooklyn Paper calls it a catch-22, and it’s one I’m inclined to believe. The G train has such a negative reputation amongst potential riders who live along the line that many will do all they can to avoid taking it. I’m no exception as a few weeks ago, I opted to take the 7 from Long Island City to Grand Central and the 4 to Brooklyn rather than take the G back to Park Slope. I didn’t want to risk a 10- or 15-minute wait late on a Friday night.

Picking up on this idea, Cap’n Transit notes that the G extension to Church Ave. has seemingly driven ridership and urges the MTA to at least give increased service a try. The only thing they have to lose is money, and they could gain it all back from increased ridership. It’s worth a try.

Ultimately, increased service — and a free transfer I barely discussed here — are simple fixes with which the MTA, if properly funded, could experiment. The MTA should be in the business of maximizing ridership but instead is in the business of maximizing economic efficiency as best it can while carrying billions in debt. A rider advocacy group with the right aim and the right focus could fix these problems, and the G train provides a perfect test run for the Riders Alliance as it launches an ambitious effort to re-imagine the city’s transit advocacy work.

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Alex December 9, 2012 - 11:52 pm

I took a look at the schedule tables and found that the G is actually more frequent during the morning rush than the R train (which I take from Prospect Ave in Brooklyn). Knowing that I use a line less frequent than the G was a tough pill to swallow. 4th Ave local riders are another group that got the short end of the stick after the service cuts of 2010 when they took away the rush hour M supplement.

Bruce M December 10, 2012 - 1:06 pm

I have often wondered why the MTA could not simply extned the J-train during rush hours to 4th Avenue in Brooklyn to replace the M? I must say my sympathies are with you.

Benjamin Kabak December 10, 2012 - 1:09 pm

I’m not defending the move here because I’ve seen how bad it can be for 4th Ave. Local riders. But the point of a service cut is to cut service, and that’s what happened. It’s not a service cut if you just slap a different letter on a train and have it run the same route.

Patrick December 10, 2012 - 2:56 pm

Because if that happens, more people (namely some of these long-time SAS commenters) will start whining about MORE money wasted on sign changing/replacement & useless service. Also, it would probably risk the J to becoming similar to the M (begin & end in Brooklyn), thus making the Z run outside of rush-hour and more whining

Frank B December 11, 2012 - 12:16 pm

The J/Z trains begin in Queens.

Frank B December 11, 2012 - 12:17 pm

And the M train begins/ends in Queens, not Brooklyn.

Patrick December 11, 2012 - 3:39 pm

that’s why I said SIMILAR not EXACTLY

Someone December 10, 2012 - 3:44 pm

If that happens, then there will be less frequent trains running on the J. The J has only 20 spare R160 cars as it is, and people are going to start complaining about the frequency of trains, and thus the MTA has to spend more money, etc etc. Then there will be less money for the SAS and 7 line extension, and so on.

Andrew December 10, 2012 - 9:23 pm

The R runs every 6 minutes during rush hours (when service is normal, not when it’s cut back to Jay St.). The G is a bit less frequent than that.

The M was cut because it had very, very low ridership, and the R could easily absorb. While the R may be less frequent and more crowded than you’d like, loading guidelines are not defined based on your personal preferences.

There are lines that run every 10 minutes during rush hours. Both the G and the R are more frequent than that.

stan December 9, 2012 - 11:53 pm

SERIOUSLY, you went to grand central INSTEAD of taking the G on a friday night???

that’s ludicrous!!!

sure, you’ll get a 10 minute wait, but riding the whole way to grand central and then transferring to the 4?!?!?!?!


thanks for being part of the problem.

vanshnookenraggen December 9, 2012 - 11:54 pm

You make a persuasive argument.

Benjamin Kabak December 9, 2012 - 11:59 pm

How exactly am I part of the problem?

From where I was coming from, it was one stop from Vernon-Jackson to GCT, and then the 4 train ride from GCT to Atlantic Ave. is 8 stops. To take the G from 21st to 7th Ave. in Park Slope is a much slower 14-stop ride (with much longer headways). My route is also the recommended route on Google Maps and the MTA’s own TripPlanner, and it’s about 10 minutes shorter than the G train. Why would I ever take the G instead of the 7-4 combo?

LLQBTT December 10, 2012 - 9:57 am

It could be less grief. Sit down relax and read/day dream/etc. no transfer, less crowds, total wait time + xfer time probably the same anyway.

Besides the 4 stops no where near 7th Ave. so maybe your final destination factored into your decision, i.e. the G was not that convenient after all…

John December 10, 2012 - 9:59 am

You’re not part of the problem. And without such a biting tongue, I think what stan is really upset about is the fact that a two-seat ride between 3 boroughs is more attractive and timely than a one-seat ride between two. The only thing that will change that is better headways. The biggest complaint that I always hear when I’m riding the train is how shitty the G train is and how it is always out of service. Being a regular rider of almost every train line, I find this to be a totally baseless argument. Ironically enough, I find the L train to be delayed much, much more than the G train ever is, and the L train is where I hear most people complaining about the G. I think the lack of service on the weekend is another problem, but once the Smith-9 St project is finally finished, hopefully there will be less weekend disruptions.

Side question for you if you know: What did they do with all of the V subway cars? I understand that the G was shortened to 4 cars when the V went into service. Why wasn’t it lengthened back to at least 6 when the V went out of service? Are they using the cars on other lines like the R?

Frank B December 10, 2012 - 12:40 pm

I believe those older R32’s were retired; leaving just the C train (and for now the H Train) as the primary users of the cars.

But I agree, not utilizing these cars for more frequent service or ultimately for longer trains was a ludicrous move. The cars may be almost 50 years old, but an additional old train is better than no train at all.

As I side note, until recently I lived in Park Slope, and I rode the IND Crosstown Line from Park Slope directly to Court Square everyday; despite the fact that I had a 15 block walk to the G rather than a 5 block walk to the BMT Brighton Line (Q).

I ultimately decided the convenience of having a seat for the entire length of the trip was far more convenient and attractive to me rather than having to be packed in a subway car like a sardine during rush hour; I think there was only one instance in the 5 months I had this arrangement where I didn’t get a seat.

I’d sit and study; sometimes I’d even put my legs up. It was fantastic; I always took the G train to Brooklyn, Crosstown Direct. Even all the way back when it ran on the IND Queens Boulevard line. (Though I would transfer from the express at Queens Plaza).

To each his own; while the ride may have been longer from Court Square, keep in mind the G terminates here. I’m never standing on a platform; only sitting on an idling train.

That makes it worth it.

BenW December 10, 2012 - 5:39 pm

My understanding was that the number of cars employed on the G now is the same as when there were 6 cars in the train, they’re just running (approximately) 50% more often.

Someone December 10, 2012 - 9:03 pm

There haven’t been any 6-car trains on the G since 2001. And no, the number of cars available for the G has changed, from 72 cars in 1999 to 52 cars in 2012. 12 six-car trains use 72 cars, 13 four-car trains use 52 cars. The number of trains is more or less the same.

Andrew December 10, 2012 - 9:32 pm

The G required 12 trains in 1999 only because it ran all the way to Forest Hills then. It was significantly less frequent than the G is today.

Someone December 10, 2012 - 9:49 pm

Up until 2010, ten 4-car trains still regularly ran to Forest Hills on non-peak hours. That’s a significantly less frequent volume than before, when the V first went into service.

Andrew December 10, 2012 - 10:45 pm

Only nights and weekends, when service is less frequent. Rush hour service now is significantly more frequent than it was in 1999, when it required 12 trains only because it ran a much longer distance.

Here’s the G train schedule from 2000, when it was still running 6-car trains:

al December 10, 2012 - 1:59 pm

The TA retired the R38 and R44 on A,C. They sent the remaining R32 and R46 they used to run on E,F,G,R,V to cover those lines.

Someone December 10, 2012 - 4:18 pm

There were some R160’s on the E, to make up for the loss of R32s and R46s.

Someone December 10, 2012 - 3:46 pm

They put all the V subway cars on the A/F/R. After the V was eliminated, the G changed assignment to CI Yard, so it uses R68 series cars. There aren’t a lot of R68 cars in stock after it’s been used by the B/D lines. They can only make 4-car sets or 8-car sets.

Someone December 10, 2012 - 3:51 pm

And everyone knows that if there are 52 cars/8 car sets, then there are only 6 trains available…

Eric Brasure December 11, 2012 - 3:33 pm

You are correct. The primary problem with the G is not reliability–it is frequency.

Andrew December 11, 2012 - 7:30 pm

G frequencies are pretty middle-of-the-road during rush hours – less frequent than some lines but more frequent than others – and are essentially the same as most of the rest of the B Division at other times.

Eric Brasure December 12, 2012 - 10:20 am

On average, sure, but someone posted a timetable for the morning service to Court Square, and sometimes you have a 5 minute gap, then you have a 12 minute gap. That is problematic.

Andrew December 12, 2012 - 10:24 pm

The worst I see is 9 minutes. And you’re raising an evenness issue, not a frequency issue.

LB December 11, 2012 - 11:53 am

I had a similar dilemma getting to Church Ave from Sunnyside. Google Maps recommended both 7 to the G taking a little over an hour or 7 to the Q taking the same amount of time. The deciding factor for me was the transfer. I don’t have an unlimited metro card so having to pay to transfer from the 7 to the G plus having to walk a block didn’t make sense if the time of travel was the same.

Benjamin Kabak December 11, 2012 - 11:55 am

You don’t have to pay to transfer from the 7 to the G any longer.

Frank B December 11, 2012 - 12:24 pm

That’s correct; there’s now a free transfer. The two platforms are very close to one another, and there’s escalators in place; while it’s not as simple as a cross-platform transfer, it’s much better to grab that seat on the G train!

Someone December 11, 2012 - 4:04 pm

That’s why it’s called an OUT-OF-SYSTEM transfer.

John December 11, 2012 - 4:21 pm

It hasn’t been an out-of-system transfer since last year. It is now in-system via a new escalator connection at 45 Ave/23 St. You don’t need to use caps to yell and prove a point that’s not even correct.

Someone December 11, 2012 - 5:24 pm

I know that the 7 and G has an in-system transfer. I’m just saying that before the transfer was built, a free transfer was provided by paying with MetroCard; no additional charge was added on.

vanshnookenraggen December 9, 2012 - 11:57 pm

I’ve always felt they should take it a step further and build a new station at Union Ave on the J/M/Z that would consolidate Hewes and Lorimer St stations. It would have a direct connection to the G like at Court Sq and speed up travel times on the J/M/Z. With all the growth in north Brooklyn over the last 10 years and projected growth the MTA is going to have to step up at some point.

Someone December 10, 2012 - 3:51 pm

It’s too expensive. The MTA says they do not plan on building a station there anytime soon.

Donald December 11, 2012 - 9:20 pm

How about at the minimum open up the closed staircases at the Hewes end of the Hewes JMZ station? Any one transferring form the G at Broadway must walk to the Hooper Street entrance. If the stairs were open at Hewes the transfer, whether an official out of system transfer or just from someone using an unlimited metrocard would make that connection more useful and appealing.

Dom December 10, 2012 - 1:13 am

While I don’t disagree, and now have a personal stake in the G being a better service (my sister just moved to Greenpoint), the two arguments quoted in the Donahue piece are pretty flimsy because they look like net costs for the MTA. Adding cars is probably the most doable, assuming they have some extra rolling stock they could devote, but even that adds maintenance costs. Adding frequency means more drivers. Saying the improvement would more than justify the costs implies that the proportional change in ridership will be greater than the proportional change in service, and thus cost/rider goes down. So a 25% increase in service would require more than a 25% increase in ridership to be “worth it.” Not impossible, particularly given recent trends, but not easy either. Arguing that better G service would boost development in the neighborhoods it serves means little to the MTA since it doesn’t capture much of that value. The free transfer is a good idea, as I can’t imagine many people actually pay the fare twice to transfer there, so the MTA wouldn’t be loosing money by making it free, since no one currently pays to do it. So the ridership increase could probably offset any losses. But from the MTA’s perspective, putting any of its very constrained resources into the G probably pales in comparison to trying to reduce overcrowding on many of the other lines. A win-win solution would be for the city to try to push job growth to LIC and Brooklyn- move ridership growth to where there’s capacity in the system and give the MTA reason to invest in the G.

Of course, the real problem is that we have a public benefit corporation whose financial stability is so uncertain that it is not focused on providing public benefit as much as reducing public cost.

Andrew December 10, 2012 - 9:53 pm

The free transfer is a good idea, as I can’t imagine many people actually pay the fare twice to transfer there, so the MTA wouldn’t be loosing money by making it free, since no one currently pays to do it.

The issue isn’t people currently paying to make the transfer – virtually nobody does that.

The issue is that the MetroCard system has no way of knowing who is actually transferring and who is simply reentering the system at one of the two stations after having entered the system somewhere else within the previous two hours. A lot of people would end up with free round-trips or stopovers without even realizing it. (And while there is much merit to the oft-proposed idea of allowing unlimited transfers within two hours of the first swipe, the revenue loss to the MTA would be substantial and it would need to be offset somehow.)

Remember that the stations are about three blocks apart and that, during rush hours, only the M stops at the elevated station, while most G riders probably have better ways to get to Midtown. The Lower Manhattan connection might be somewhat more useful, especially during rush hours, but the J/Z doesn’t stop there then.

Anybody with an unlimited can make the transfer for free. Most of us here probably have unlimiteds – how often have he posters here made that walk? I’ve only done it once or twice.

Patrick December 10, 2012 - 2:44 am

Oh look, there giving the Meg (G)riffin of the Subway system a little more attention, Yay!

John T December 10, 2012 - 7:31 am

Hi – I doubt if adding cars will add riders. The real problem is that hte G is a poorly designed route, taking an indirect path to lesser points of interest (at least for most people). It really should be split like the IND planned – where it turns it should be a crossing, and keep going east down Lafayette, and south to connect to Nostrand Ave. There was even a plan to cross the East River by Greepoint to be a 23rd St cross town – now that would give this line a real purpose.

Yes, connecting the G to the J & M is a good thing however – do people with unlimited cards know that in effect, they already have that transfer? That leaves just pay-per-ride folks, that shouldn’t be hard for the MTA to OK – they do it already for the F at 63rd ST, and did for the G & 7 connection.

John-2 December 10, 2012 - 11:30 am

The G was designed by the city back when a route to downtown Brooklyn that didn’t then go into Manhattan was more of a factor in both normal commuting patters and in the city planners and Hylan administration’s desire to squash the BMT’s current and proposed outer borough elevated system like a bug. So you ended up with a line that pointed away from Manhattan south of LIC (to thwart any BMT crosstown elevated line) and then a line that did a 90 degree turn and pointed towards downtown Brooklyn (to take riders from the Lex and Myrtle Ave. els).

The key gap was any connectivity with the existing non-IND routes it crossed that were headed into Manhattan. That’s been partially fixed over the years with the Court Square and the (far earlier) Lorimer-Metropolitan connections. But there’s still no connection with the J/M/Z at Broadway (what was the point, when the city’s plan was to tear down the Broadway el and replace it with the South Fourth Street super station?), and in downtown Brooklyn, the lone G transfer towards Manhattan is to the A/C at Hoyt-Schermerhorn. Which is fine if you’re going to the far west side of Manhattan, but you can’t get to the east side or even the central part of midtown from the G without a double transfer, and people hate changing trains twice.

The best thing the MTA could do for ridership would be at the very least to allow out-of-station free Metrocard transfers from the G at both Broadway to Hewes and at Fulton/Lafayette to the Atlantic Ave.-Barclay’s Center IRT/BMT complex. That would at least integrate the central and southern parts of the line better with the rest of the system, and might make the G less of a distasteful option for people who could take the line, but avoid it like the plague because of its roundabout route from LIC to downtown Brooklyn.

Andrew December 10, 2012 - 10:02 pm

The only places where the MTA implements out-of-system transfers are where service changes cut off previously existing transfers. When the F was moved from 53rd to 63rd, it lost direct access to the 6, and the out-of-system transfer was implemented to make up for the loss. At the same time, the G stopped running north of Court Square, so the out-of-system transfer to the 7 was implemented to mitigate for the loss of the direct transfer to the R and the direct service further into Queens.

The MTA has never implemented an out-of-system transfer just because it would be nice to have one.

Someone December 10, 2012 - 10:55 pm

The only time the MTA has only implemented out of system transfers was because of the reroute of the F to the 63rd Street line. With that reroute, the V had to run on the Queens Blvd local, with no space for the G, hence, the two out of system transfers.

The Queens Blvd line is the second most used line in the system. By comparison, the Crosstown line and the Jamaica line have a much lower ridership. There is no reason for a transfer from Hoyt-Schermerhorn to Barclays Center because of a nearby connection to the R at Jay St-Metrotech.

Henry December 11, 2012 - 8:11 pm

The thing is, though, is that to get to the 2, 3, 4, 5, B, D, N, or Q, you’d have to change from the G to another train and then transfer again.

Given that the G doesn’t go to major destinations in Queens, most riders who could use the G would be transferring in from other lines, and no one is going to put up with a four or five-trip train ride.

(On that note, they should build an in-system transfer from Fulton St (G) to Atlantic, and while they’re at it they might as well connect the passageway to Lafayette St on the (C).

Andrew December 12, 2012 - 10:26 pm

The passageway would be very long, probably the longest in the system. Anybody who can find an easier route would do so. The desolate passageway could quickly become a security hazard.

Henry December 12, 2012 - 11:12 pm

According to http://www.courts.state.ny.us/.....reamap.pdf , it wouldn’t be a particularly long connection – somewhere in the vicinity of one or two blocks.

Andrew December 12, 2012 - 11:45 pm

Lafayette to Hanson is a very long block.

Patrick December 13, 2012 - 2:04 am

So is 7th Avenue to 8th Avenue at 42nd Street in Manhattan but there’s a connection. And another one between 6th Avenue & 7th Avenue at 14th Street. New Yorkers can walk that “very long block.”

Someone December 14, 2012 - 8:07 am

New Yorkers only walk those very long blocks because the passageways are in the middle of midtown, and are heavily traversed. The Lafayette-Hanson passageway is a very long, lightly traversed block. As Andrew says, it can be a safety hazard because of the light crowd.

Andrew December 16, 2012 - 10:21 am

I didn’t say that New Yorkers can’t walk it. I said that “Anybody who can find an easier route would do so.”

Fake Name December 10, 2012 - 8:51 am

While I’m all for increasing service where it can benefit the surrounding community and better fulfill the goals of public transit, the argument that increased ridership would pay for the service increase is ridiculous. The transit system loses A LOT of money on every rider, and there is no reason to believe that this would change here. The additional trains/cars/motormen cost money, and the farebox has never come close to covering these costs.

Alex December 10, 2012 - 11:30 am

This is all correct. But it also serves to remind us that adding subway capacity (or adding any kind of transportation capacity or infrastructure for that matter) is not done so to make money. It’s done to better connect the city and to spur growth.

Andrew December 10, 2012 - 10:47 pm

And given that funding for capacity expansion is very, very limited, it is important to make sure that we get as much bang for the buck as we can.

Buying additional subway cars to run on the G, when the G isn’t overcrowded at current headways, doesn’t give much bang for the buck.

Henry December 11, 2012 - 8:12 pm

If the SIR is due to get replacement rolling stock sometime soon and the farebox recovery on that is in the low teens, the G could use some new cars.

Londoner December 10, 2012 - 9:43 am

Those in Brooklyn may be interested to hear the story of London’s G-train, the London Overground. This links stations exclusively outside the central zone forming (as of yesterday when the last link opened), an orbital link around the inner suburbs.

The line was a much-maligned, low-frequency (2-4 trains per hour), always-late, overcrowded service just like the G (I took it when last in new york to confirm the similarities). The line got taken over by Transport for London (our MTA) 5 years ago, given a cleanup and an increase in frequency (now up to 16 tph). Since then ridership has quadrupled to levels way beyond expectations, they’re adding a 5th carriage to the service, and hand-wringing about what happens once that capacity boost gets filled (the line is shared with freight so train paths are limited). Just went to show how much latent demand there was once the service was half-decent.

More info here:

Andrew December 10, 2012 - 10:09 pm

The G runs 6 trains per hour for most of the day, more during rush hours, and it is not generally overcrowded.

The G is not Silverlink. It is operated by the same agency that operates the other subway lines and it is subject to the same loading guidelines as the other subway lines.

Kai B December 10, 2012 - 10:10 pm

I wouldn’t necessarily compare the G to London Overground. The SIR would be a better comparison, or perhaps the commuter railroads in the City Terminal Zone.

The G-Train is already run by NYCT, has at least 6 tph most hours of the day, and is already seeing significant ridership increases.

I do think the Overground story is a great one, however.

Eric Brasure December 11, 2012 - 3:50 pm

Wasn’t the East London line subsumed into the Overground system? That used to be part of the Underground system.

D in Bushwick December 10, 2012 - 10:16 am

Extend the G Train from Long Island City to Queens Plaza and then onto the F line to continue into Midtown. It would end at 57th St or maybe Rockefeller Ctr but capacity may be an issue there.
This could make the G much more useful even though its bad rap is often exaggerated.

Benjamin Kabak December 10, 2012 - 10:17 am

You can’t turn trains at 57th St. or Rockefeller Center. That’s a non-starter.

Ron December 10, 2012 - 10:50 am

You also can’t go from Queens Plaza to the F line towards Manhattan.

Someone December 10, 2012 - 4:03 pm

Here is a track map:



An alternative is to end F express service at Parsons-Archer, and make the G go local from Court Sq to 179 St. Also you can make the M go express to 179 St instead of local to 71 Av.

This method uses more trains but requires fewer transfers.

Someone December 10, 2012 - 9:50 pm

Besides, why would you want to reverse onto the F tracks north of Court Square?

Someone December 14, 2012 - 8:12 am

There is a solution that no one will ever try because it is so unconventional, and it wouldn’t be allowed anyway.

The G train goes up to 71 Avenue. Then it reverses direction, toward 57th Street. The G train goes out of service at 57th St and reverses at 2 Ave.

Afterward, it takes the same path back to Church Ave.

Someone December 10, 2012 - 3:52 pm

There are no sidings at 57th or Rockefeller.

Daniel December 10, 2012 - 4:26 pm

Actually, I wondered about similar possibilities. I realize these options would require costly capital expenditures, but they would also break the chicken-and-egg problem that exists today by providing new incentives for increased service and ridership:

1) Break the connection between Court Square and Queens Plaza, and bore new tunnels from Court Square north to the F line. Extend G service through the 63rd St. Tunnel, down the Sixth Avenue line, and terminate at Second Avenue (where the V used to terminate).

2) Bore new tunnels north from Court Square, but go under the F line and keep going north, toward LaGuardia. Connect the line to the F on the north side going toward Manhattan, and you have two new lines serving LaGuardia. One line is an extended “G” providing service to LaGuardia for Queens and Brooklyn residents (which creates additional pressure for the MTA to finally offer above-ground transfers and such). The other line runs from LaGuardia to the 63rd St. tunnel and into midtown/downtown Manhattan; UES residents could take the Second Avenue Q to 63rd St. and transfer to the LaGuardia line; UWS residents could take the B/D to Rockefeller Ctr or Bryant Park and transfer.

Both of these would undoubtedly be expensive options, but I’m curious whether they’d drive usage enough to be worth it. In either case, increasing the desirability of G line access could cause a positive cycle that the line desperately needs.

Someone December 10, 2012 - 5:44 pm

1. Is the MTA going to waste money just so the G train can get a few extra stops? The GG, when the IND originally built, ran as a Queens Blvd local down to Church Avenue. If a connection is to be built, build a junction between the E/M section of the 53 Street line and the existing G line, which the MTA is not planning to do anytime soon. And this will make a line that is the shape of the existing M line. Besides, the G will now be orange, and the MTA will not waste time to change 1377 pairs of rollsigns for the G from lime green to orange.

2. The F could be extended, using the turnouts after 21 St-Queensbridge, but the G cannot be extended because of money.

Solution: Extend the G on both ends: to Coney Island as a local to the F between Bergen St and Church St, and a local for the F on the Queens Blvd Line from 36 St to 71 Av (E/F/M/R/G). Additionally, extend the Queens Blvd Line (F/G) past 179 St to Nassau. Now that’s what I call a good investment.

Daniel December 14, 2012 - 11:49 am

Given the costs involved in boring a tunnel between Court Square and 21st St-Queensbridge, I seriously doubt the MTA’s problem with this plan is that it would have to make new orange rollsigns.

Henry December 11, 2012 - 8:19 pm

1. That creates a new service in the shape of an upside down “U”, and the point of the G is to facilitate non-Manhattan bound traffic anyways.

2a. A northward extension of the G would parallel the Astoria Line for relatively few benefits (LaGuardia wouldn’t attract a significant large amount of riders, especially when cabs have guaranteed trunk space for luggage and the train does not).

2b. Adding a LGA line to the F is a non-starter. You’d only be able to do that by either interlining three locals or cutting back the M in the middle. Interlining three locals would cause frequencies on Queens Blvd to drop (undesirable) and delays would have ripple effects across the system. Cutting back the M would defeat the purpose of even introducing the old “V”, and would leave Jamaica Line riders without a connection to Midtown yet again.

Daniel December 14, 2012 - 11:55 am

I accept your points on #2. It would be far more expensive and for far less benefit.

However, on #1, I simply do not get it. The “point” of the G is to provide service along the current G line. If you extended it from its current terminus in Court Square westbound into Manhattan, it would still serve all of its current stations. However, it would do so while also providing G line passengers a one-stop connection to Manhattan, which would increase ridership and justify increasing service along the G line. This would benefit people who use the G line even more than if you just limit it to “facilitating non-Manhattan bound traffic”.

Flatbush Depot December 10, 2012 - 10:29 am

(G) to Continental on the weekends with headways unchanged would be nice, then change headways later if it gets enough riders

Frank B December 11, 2012 - 12:30 pm

That existed. The G ran to 71st-Forest Hills Weekends and Late Nights when the V didn’t run. There’s no logistical reason it can’t.

The real problem is the lack of funds to do so.

LLQBTT December 10, 2012 - 10:40 am

The G definitely needs 1 or 2 more train sets in the AM rush towards Court Sq. Also, if you look at the schedule (At MTA on the Go), you’ll see that the headways vary greatly. For example, at Metropolitan Ave. G are scheduled at 8:04, 8:12, 8:17, 8:23, 8:32, 8:40, 8:48, 8:56 & 9:02

In practice, the 8:12 is late and the 8:17 is right behind it and thus empty. Soon after, there is a 9 minute gap in service, and subsequently trains are about 8 minutes apart until 9:00 when 1 is curiously only 6 minutes later.

I would imagine that these odd headways are to accomodate the F.

It is between the 8:23 and the 8:56 that service needs to be adjusted and at least 1 more G needs to be added. These trains are ridiculously crowded.

al December 10, 2012 - 2:43 pm

The 8:12 train should be a 6 car train. The same applies with the 8:32 and 8:40 trains.

Andrew December 12, 2012 - 10:28 pm

You’re probably right that the uneven scheduling is dictated by the shared segment with the F. Would it make sense to hold trains at Hoyt so that they’re evenly spaced north of that point?

Larry Littlefield December 10, 2012 - 11:09 am

Big picture: after a huge increase in money for education, the Campaign for Fiscal Equity is making the case that NYC residents get inferior schools due to inadequate money. (The big increase went mostly to an enriched pensions).

Of course NYC taxpayers and riders are paying more to the MTA too. (The increase went mostly to past debts, and to a lesser extent pensions).

One the thing the city could do is cut off money for the MTA to shift even more to the schools. The funding for the private bus takeover, for example. Depending on the relative power of different unions.

But the big picture is this: the unions, contractors, policitians together have set up a situation in which everyone else will get what they deserve — less and less for more and more. In this context, demanding more from the evil MTA is a fanstasy.

Bolwerk December 10, 2012 - 12:53 pm

I actually believe them when they say the scheduling matches the ridership. They probably really won’t get much additional ridership if they keep the current service patterns. I suspect it’s true people aren’t going to move to those neighborhoods because the G gets a little better. Most of those hoods are pretty well “gentrified” anyway; the last major outpost is Clinton Hill Bed-Stuy.

New service patterns might do the trick, but I don’t know what could work. Changing the service pattern with the most useful potential extension takes Queens Boulevard’s more valuable service to Manhattan. The other options are extend G service along the F (warranted? I have no idea) or extend G service with a new subway line. I’m guessing they simply don’t have the money for the latter, and rightfully or wrongfully don’t see a need for the former or latter.

Someone December 10, 2012 - 4:10 pm

If you re-assign some R46 cars to Ci instead, then there goes your 8-car sets and additional ridership. Also, extending the G to 71 Avenue again would help.

On a different note, the MTA needs to extend the E all the way to Belmont Park.

Patrick December 10, 2012 - 6:51 pm

There goes commenters talking about a SUBWAY train to Nassau County. It’s called a City Subway for a reason, no L or 7 trains out to New Jersey, no 1/2 or 5 trains up through Westchester & damn sure no A/E/F/J/3 or 7 extension out to Nassau. The system is extensive enough with 421 stations with at least another 20 stations in another slow but will be well worth the 30 year wait. You want to expand, find a way to take Staten Island commuters Off the boat with that subway connection that was forgotten about. Nobody say NOTHING about the VNB rebuild contract, it didn’t mention jack about possible or provisions for rails.

Side note: Anybody else noticed how close we are to C service in Manhattan?

Phantom December 10, 2012 - 8:11 pm


VNB rebuild?

Patrick December 10, 2012 - 8:54 pm

The $235.7M construction project to begin next year on completing the broken HOV link between Staten Island & Brooklyn. You never heard?


Phantom December 10, 2012 - 10:15 pm


They shouldn’t fix it

When it was intact, a huge percentage of the vehicles on it had only one driver

There was zero enforcement

Patrick December 10, 2012 - 10:46 pm

what do you mean intact? I-278 never had a continuous Bus/HOV lane between the two boroughs

Someone December 10, 2012 - 9:07 pm

Do you notice how fast other subways around the world are expanding? A decade ago, most of Beijing’s subway lines did not exist, and now it has higher ridership than the NYC Subway, which has been in service for 108 years. The Shanghai Metro which also has higher ridership than NYC’s subway opened just 17 years ago. We are far behind in comparison.

On a side note, what VNB rebuild are you talking about?

ajedrez December 10, 2012 - 9:43 pm

They’re rebuilding the upper level deck on the VNB and adding a bus/HOV lane.

Patrick December 10, 2012 - 10:36 pm

Beijing’s population is more than double than NYC. If NYC’s population doubles within the next decade then yeah lets scream expansion

What the hell you talking about “we are far behind in comparsion”, The New York City Subway are in the Top 10 in Annual Ridership Around the World as of 2011

Someone December 11, 2012 - 8:17 am

Beijing has 2.18 billion rides a year. NYC has 1.644 billion. Do you know how far behind we are? More than half a billion rides.

Patrick December 11, 2012 - 10:10 am

How much rides you want to squeeze out of this small city. We can NEVER get up to Beijing’s numbers UNLESS we make the SIR, LIRR, MNR & PATH part of the New York City Subway.

Also, NYC has to get through the hard-asses that run local NIMBYs before even considering expanding

Frank B December 11, 2012 - 12:43 pm

That SIR part of the subway part doesn’t sound like a bad idea…

Rot in hell, Mayor Hylan!

Someone December 11, 2012 - 9:18 pm

They should probably reopen the North Shore branch, since it’s 95% intact anyway and all there is to do is restore the tracks, third rails, signals, and stations, and it’s all set.

Alon Levy December 11, 2012 - 10:00 am

Okay, let’s look at rail ridership per capita in various cities, including not just subways but also commuter rail, which is where the big US underperformance is. All numbers are given in trips per person-year, metro area-wide.

Tokyo: 400
Osaka: 270
Paris: 210
Berlin: ~200
London: I would guess 150, assuming half of National Rail’s ridership is in Greater Greater London (it’s 100 ignoring National Rail)
Lyon: 130
Hamburg: 120
New York: 90

Henry December 11, 2012 - 6:41 am

The main issue with more G ridership is also where it goes – that’s (sorta) been fixed in Brooklyn with the extension of the G, but in Queens you can only directly transfer from the 7, E, and M. If you’re on the N, Q, R, or F, it’s still significantly easier to take the train in Manhattan because the G doesn’t connect to those lines. It also only stops in Long Island City, which is on the way to a lot of major destinations in Queens (the airports, Flushing, Jamaica), but isn’t a big destination like those areas as of yet.

Connecting to the 2,3,4,5, B, D, N and Q from the G in Brooklyn requires a bunch of convoluted transfers, and no one is going to attempt that when most trunk lines intersect with one another in Manhattan or Downtown Brooklyn. This problem is a lot easier to fix though – if one were to build a transfer corridor between Fulton St (G), Lafayette Av (C), and Atlantic Terminal, you’d pretty much solve all the connection problems.

Patrick December 11, 2012 - 10:43 am

I pictured them doing that connection before the completion of the Sports Center. It would probably involve turning Lafayette into an Express station & Hoyt into a weird looking Local station

Henry December 11, 2012 - 8:23 pm

If the MTA really cared about all its transfer stations being expresses (They don’t – see Bleecker and 51st St on the 6), then you could probably pull a Chambers St-Park Place-WTC and build a second passageway to Hoyt.

The C needs the extra ridership from a forced transfer anyways – it’ll provide a justification for more frequent service.

Patrick December 11, 2012 - 10:22 pm

Even if my plan or your plan was ever announced, *sigh* once-again local NIMBYs will succeed in shutting it down quickly.
I realized if Lafayette was to be turned Express: the tunnel, tracks, and the Clinton-Washington Avenues station would have to be reconstructed so the A dives underneath the local tracks & platform on the commonly-known local side at Lafayette, like at 168 Street. And also bypass Hoyt, which would look weird because the MTA will want to keep the tracks to the Transit Museum. Now if the Museum ever gets relocated, it’s a different story, and can possibly green-light a T extension into Brooklyn at a later time

Frank B December 11, 2012 - 12:53 pm

Yes, there really seems no better way to mitigate the problem than that; Barclays might even be interested in helping fund the transfer a la CitiGroup with both the 1990 and 2011 Court Square transfers; moving walkways under Ft. Greene Place could connect the C and G trains very nicely; solving a problem which has persisted for 3/4 of a century; the lack of BMT and IRT connections to the IND in Brooklyn.

(Also, I believe this idea was on vanshnookenraggen’s blog a while back; extending the BMT Franklin Avenue Shuttle to Bedford-Nostrand on the IND Crosstown via its middle track. That would solve the problem quite nicely, wouldn’t it?)

Jason December 11, 2012 - 1:18 pm

“(Also, I believe this idea was on vanshnookenraggen’s blog a while back; extending the BMT Franklin Avenue Shuttle to Bedford-Nostrand on the IND Crosstown via its middle track. That would solve the problem quite nicely, wouldn’t it?)”

How could they go about this? Continue an elevated stretch of the shuttle up Franklin, then somehow hook west, then east and then dive underground into the middle track at Bedford? Never gonna happen.

Frank B December 11, 2012 - 1:28 pm

Here’s the link to his proposal:


vanshnookenraggen December 11, 2012 - 6:03 pm

No the whole thing would be rebuilt as a subway. It’s the only real place for a physical connection. I proposed building a single track shuttle with provisions for a second if demand rose and if the need for through service from Brighton Beach to Court Sq ever arose.

Someone December 11, 2012 - 9:37 pm

Rebuild the whole thing as a subway? The entire line was rebuilt only 13 years ago, and I doubt the MTA would want to again refurbish a line that has recently been renovated.

Henry December 11, 2012 - 11:08 pm

It’d certainly make the transferring less convoluted (for some trips), but the issue of requiring 2-4 transfers to use the G as a circumferential line would still exist.

Eric Brasure December 12, 2012 - 10:22 am

The C and G trains don’t need to be connected. You can transfer between then at Hoyt.

Henry December 11, 2012 - 8:39 pm

As an far-fetched solution to the G’s lack of connectivity in Queens, one could extend the G and hook it up to the LIRR’s Port Washington Line. Infill stops could be added at:
BQE/Queens Blvd
74th St/Queens Blvd
Broadway (Transfer to the (M)(R) at Elmhurst Av)
Corona Av
Junction Blvd
108th St
Parsons Blvd

It’d provide a connection from the G to Flushing, and frequent subway service as far as Bayside and Great Neck.

It won’t happen, though, because LIRR riders would get very upset at their loss of direct service to Penn & a slower ride.

Henry December 11, 2012 - 9:12 pm Reply
Someone December 11, 2012 - 9:23 pm

Very nice map. The station placements seem possible, that is, if the MTA had the money.

There is one thing: How are you going to connect the Crosstown Line with the LIRR and how are you going to displace the LIRR rolling stock and get new rolling stock for the G?

Other than that, it’s very good. It even proposes reopening abandoned stations (Queens Blvd/Albion Ave, Whitney Ave/Broadway), which requires little work anyway (in the case of the Whitney Ave station) since there are already pre-existing underpasses and provisions for platforms.

Henry December 11, 2012 - 9:46 pm

In between 39th St and 57th St there appears to be enough room in the Main Line ROW to have the G go above ground and merge with the current track.

The M7s could replace some of the older M3s, and I think the MTA is going to place an order for new B division rolling stock soon (R211).

It’s not going to happen due to lack of money and the complaints that upset Port Washington riders would have, but it’s something that would give the G a lot more potential.

Someone December 11, 2012 - 9:55 pm

What I meant to say was, what about the actual junction with the Crosstown Line? Where is that going to be, if it ever existed?

Henry December 11, 2012 - 9:57 pm

Extend the G to either Sunnyside Yard or where Amtrak splits from the Main Line.

Someone December 11, 2012 - 10:13 pm

Yes, but where on this map is the line splitting off from the current G line? The junction point with the current LIRR branch is perfectly clear. It’s the split from the subway portion of the G that is confusing. For example, s it splitting from the subway at Queens Plaza? 36th Street? Court Square?

Someone December 11, 2012 - 10:14 pm

I meant to say “is it splitting…”, sorry

Henry December 11, 2012 - 10:30 pm

It’d be a new tunnel extending from Court Sq.

Someone December 11, 2012 - 10:36 pm

Oh, I get it now. North of Court Square, there would be a junction to the currently-LIRR Port Washington Line. You’d have to dig through the existing Amtrak tracks and make 2 new portals, though. Otherwise, that sounds like a good idea, hypothetically.

Someone December 17, 2012 - 12:39 pm

There’s another problem with this plan. The Port Washington branch is single-tracked in certain places.

Someone December 11, 2012 - 9:51 pm

Unrelated, but there should be a F (and perhaps G) train extension to Belmont Park. New stations are proposed at: 188 St, Francis Lewis Blvd, Hollis Court Blvd, Springfield Blvd, 222 St, Jericho Turnpike, and Belmont Park.


It’d provide riders from Manhattan, western Queens, and Brooklyn a means of direct access to Belmont Park.
Unfortunately, this will never happen because the MTA is too lazy to spend money on this.

Tower18 December 12, 2012 - 12:23 pm

Also, nobody cares about Belmont Park. The 8 people that want to get there can take LIRR.

Someone December 16, 2012 - 8:51 am

The LIRR is only open race days. This extension will be open 24/7.

Someone December 16, 2012 - 8:54 am

And besides, that’s probably the best placement of the ~84 new R211 cars that’s coming in 2019…

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