Home View from Underground The Great G Train Break-Up Claim

The Great G Train Break-Up Claim

by Benjamin Kabak

Hating on the G train has become something of a New York pastime over the past few years. Even people who have no reason to ride the IND Crosstown deride it as an unreliable train. “The G sucks” is a common refrain, if only because it’s what we’re supposed to say.

Lately, with the Riders Alliance (full disclosure: I’m a board member) pushing for necessary and important G train improvements — a full line review, out-of-system transfers — that could boost ridership, G train derision has made a comeback, and the claims are perfectly outlandish. Apparently, on top of being allegedly unreliable, the G train also breaks up relationship. DNA Info’s Meredith Hoffman has this dispatch from some borough-crossed lovers:

Former Park Slope resident Christie Walsh remembers in detail the night she made a trip to Greenpoint and ended up going home with a guy she’d met at a bar. He became her boyfriend — but after a couple of early treks to his place she learned never to venture there during their six-month relationship.

“I always refused to go there,” said Walsh, 26, who now lives in Sunset Park. “After a couple of punishing rides on the G train I decided I wouldn’t do it… Eventually he moved to California. The funny thing is, I’d date someone in California, because I’d like to go to California. I’d never like to ride the G train.”

Walsh and some other Brooklynites say the G train’s slow and unpredictable service has sabotaged relationships — and some have even sworn off G-train dating altogether. “I had to make a rule that was, literally, if you live off the G you’re not for me,” said Bedford-Stuyvesant resident Mutale Nkonde, 26, who lives off the A and C trains, and said getting anywhere off the G involved a nightmarish array of transfers and usually getting lost. “To get to the G is such a monumental hike, it’s two buses plus a long walk.”

The story is replete with other tales of woe. A couple who splits their time between Clinton Hill and Greenpoint claim the G keeps the pair apart more often than they’d prefer. “He lives 3 miles away and it takes 45 minutes, at a minimum, to get there,” one half of the pair said. “So that takes nearly two hours just to see each other. I’m glad it’s there but it’s still a huge pain.”

Others still bemoan the state of the G line’s infrastructure and the problem with short trains. “The thing about the G is it comes middle of platform so if you’re dressed in high heels you have to run what feels like 7 miles to catch the train,” one woman said. “When you get there it looks ‘Law and Order’-ish.”

I have to wonder though if the G train is to blame or if the city’s Manhattan-centric transit options are the real culprits. The G train isn’t that bad. As long as it’s not short-running to Bedford/Nostrand or suffering some other GO service change, it runs regularly and on schedule. I find it to be one of the more reliable lines in that if I miss a train, I know the next one will come after the allotted headway has elapsed and no sooner. The trains are short, and rush hour rides are crowded. But these complaints focus around night time, off-peak service.

As far as cross-borough (or even cross-neighborhood) coupling goes, I’d rather be stuck with the G train than, say, the R or the C. I find waits for those lines to be interminable and less reliable than the Crosstown local train. Plus, once the G arrives, the trip from one end to the other is reasonably speedy whereas the R and C tend to crawl.

But as silly as these relationship complaints are — a strong relationship with two committed partners should withstand no matter the subway line — the story highlights the problem of intra-borough travel. Some areas of the city just aren’t well connected via subway, and the north Brooklyn-to-south Brooklyn transit options are limited. Cross-Bronx travel and many intra-Queens trips suffer the same fate.

Fixing this problem isn’t easy. We’re not going to see new subway lines provide these connections, and buses carry their own sets of reliability issues. The upcoming CitiBike program will solve a lot of problems, notably those Clinton Hill/Greenpoint rides that would take 20 minutes of pedaling. But otherwise, we’re left with the subway system we have until someone is willing to spend the time, money and political capital on expanding it. As long as the city can provide those last-mile modes of transit though, even the shakiest of relationships shouldn’t have to suffer at the hands of the G train.

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49 comments

Larry Littlefield May 1, 2013 - 6:32 am

The whole G train “issue” is pop culture idiocy.

It was built to bring factory workers to jobs in industrial areas in Brooklyn and Queens. Those jobs disappeared, and subway ridership became concentrated on travel to and from the Manhattan CBD. So service was reduced to a ten minute headway. That’s still pretty good by the standards of most transit lines in the world. “Love” and “image” have nothing to do with it.

The real G train issue is OPTO. As ridership increases, the MTA will have a choice — more trains, or more cars per train. If you want more trains, you want OPTO.

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tacony palmyra May 1, 2013 - 9:29 am

service was reduced to a ten minute headway. That’s still pretty good by the standards of most transit lines in the world..

Is that true? I was under the impression that most subway systems offer better frequencies than the NYC subway. London and Paris certainly do.

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Eric Brasure May 1, 2013 - 10:06 am

I’ll defer to the good Mr. Littlefield, but London and Paris certainly do run trains at much better than 10-minute headways. Ditto the Washington DC metro and the Prague metro.

I don’t have any first-hand experience with other subway systems.

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Bolwerk May 1, 2013 - 10:54 am

It’s probably about what off-peak in DC looks like. Paris and London are some of the more exceptional rapid transit services in the world.

Larry is more or less right. The G sucks refrain is more meme than reality. The G is actually a very reliable train. The people who complain about it could simply learn the schedule (which, okay, the TA isn’t too forthcoming about).

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Eric Brasure May 1, 2013 - 11:58 am

I ride the G nearly every day, and I agree, the G is pretty good. It’s certainly better than the C or the R trains which I go out of my way to avoid having to take if at all possible.

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Neenya May 2, 2013 - 12:14 pm

It’s what off-peak in DC is supposed to look like – rarely what it actually does. I moved back to New York about a year ago, and I would take the G train forever rather than permanently return to WMATA.

As for finding the schedule, I’ve never used it, so I have no idea how accurate it really is, but it was extremely easy to find. MTA website -> click schedules -> click G train.

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Bolwerk May 2, 2013 - 3:06 pm

IIRC, it’s pretty accurate. I don’t see why they don’t post them on the platform in the G’s case, given that evidently a lot of G users are less competent with web surfing than you.

Eric Brasure May 2, 2013 - 7:04 pm

You’re never going to get New Yorkers to consult a subway schedule before they leave their apartment. It’s just not how we use the subway.

Tower18 May 1, 2013 - 11:29 am

10 minute headways aren’t anything special amongst the top-flight systems in the world (in fact, as noted, it’s actually pretty crappy compared to systems in major European cities) but it’s about on par with other systems in the US.

Chicago Red Line: 3-6 minutes peak / 7-8 minutes off-peak (doesn’t go to 10-minute until 1am)
All Boston Lines: 5-7 minutes peak / 7-12 off-peak
San Francisco MUNI: 7-8 minutes peak / 10 off-peak
DC Red Line: very frequent rush / 5-6 mid-day (true off-peak on individual lines in DC is pretty terrible)
And so on.

The thing with the G is that off-peak, when it really matters, it runs every 10 minutes. But so does EVERY OTHER B-division line, except the L. So it’s really no worse than anything else in terms of frequency. The problem is having to transfer to get to your destination. It drives me nuts when they don’t hold off-peak A/C trains at Hoyt-Schermerhorn when a G is arriving. Then you’re stuck for a long time.

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Bolwerk May 1, 2013 - 11:44 am

Not really the same problem, but I think the sheer lack of redundancy is another problem for the G. If the M poops out in Ridgewood or Bushwick, you can probably get the L or J. Some people might be roughly equidistant from the L and J in Williamsburg.

The problems are problems of perception, mostly. (And maybe picking a crappy neighborhood, if it really is so bothersome.)

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Tower18 May 1, 2013 - 12:03 pm

True, although the B38 parallels the most isolated parts of the G, and has pretty decent frequency. But “buses, ewwww” of course.

Bolwerk May 1, 2013 - 12:12 pm

I’m not part of the “buses, ewwww” crowd, but local/limited buses aren’t much better than last mile feeders. A number of buses parallel those parts of the G; the B54 and B52 are others. There used to be two other train lines going through that area – the Myrtle El and the Lexington Avenue El. Buses replaced them, at least in part.

This is one more case where the obvious modern solution would be surface light rail, which NYC refuses to embrace.

Tower18 May 1, 2013 - 12:14 pm

That buses sentiment not directed at you, apologies!

Bolwerk May 1, 2013 - 12:57 pm

I didn’t think you did. Just wanted to be clear that I don’t think that way.

Still, I don’t think buses are so great for trips of that length.

Bolwerk May 1, 2013 - 11:00 am

Obviously longer trains AND OPTO would be wacky.

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digamma May 1, 2013 - 7:23 am

The unreliability of the G is not backed up by any data, but Everyone Knows it.

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Nyland8 May 1, 2013 - 8:22 am

“Some areas of the city just aren’t well connected via subway, and the north Brooklyn-to-south Brooklyn transit options are limited. Cross-Bronx travel and many intra-Queens trips suffer the same fate.”

Sounds like yet another compelling argument in favor of the Triboro Rx. The fact is, when it comes to outer-borough travel, any subway that DOESN’T take you through Manhattan should be adored by everyone – not only by those who need and use it, but by those who never leave Manhattan and won’t have to contend with the extra crowding of those just passing through. Right now there’s only one line that does that.

The G Train: Love It Or Lose It.

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paulb May 1, 2013 - 8:24 am

I like this entry.

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BBnet3000 May 1, 2013 - 8:48 am

Off Topic: I had a strange idea yesterday about extending the G’s crosstown route by building a connection to Queensboro Plaza and Astoria. It seems like theres room to build such a connection with the current streets and land uses between Court Sq and Queensboro, i just cant figure out if this actually makes any sense.

Note: I am well aware that any building priority really should be building connections between the G and the lines it crosses in Brooklyn, and that the area around Queensboro may well have filled in by the time all that is done (around 400 years from now).

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alen May 1, 2013 - 9:42 am

until a few years ago the G ran to 71st continental

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Eric Brasure May 1, 2013 - 10:11 am

It doesn’t really make any sense, no. Astoria doesn’t need more subway service, and I can’t imagine there’s enough ridership between Astoria and the G to justify it.

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Bolwerk May 1, 2013 - 11:40 am

Sure it does, all the way to the airport. Though, I don’t think the G is the right way to meet that goal.

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Eric Brasure May 1, 2013 - 11:50 am

The best way to accomplish subway service to LaGuardia is still an extension of the Astoria elevated line. And we might actually have it now if NIMBYs hadn’t killed it in the ’90s.

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petey May 1, 2013 - 9:18 am

christie walsh and mutale njonde sound like a mature and thoughtful persons.

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alen May 1, 2013 - 9:41 am

that’s why i take the LIRR from queens to brooklyn or drive

$3.75 per leg on the weekend is not a bad deal to save a few hours in travel time

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Simon May 1, 2013 - 9:49 am

“He lives 3 miles away and it takes 45 minutes, at a minimum, to get there.” RIDE A BIKE. Or, heck, WALK.

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Eric Brasure May 1, 2013 - 10:07 am

She’s also lying. I live in Greenpoint and a friend of mine lives in Bed-Stuy, off the Bedford-Nostrand G. I’ve gotten home in as little as 20 minutes from his apartment.

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MH May 1, 2013 - 9:52 am

This is funny and absurd. How does one blame their failures in dating/relationships based on a subway line? There are worst transit situations when it comes to dating. For example the R is a pain but it does not run late night (except in BKN). Also, most lines run local at night with approximately 30 minute headways. Plus, you can know someone who lives in a neighbor where no subway is within reach and in order to get to the subway, they have to rely on a bus.

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Eric Brasure May 1, 2013 - 10:14 am

I used to live in Astoria, and for a while I dated a guy who lived in Fort Greene. That was a pain in the ass.

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MH May 1, 2013 - 11:07 am

But you had to transfer at some point to reach Fort Greene from Astoria, if I’m not mistaken. That’s a different issue and understandable. But it sounds like these people don’t have to commute far nor transfer to get to link up with their significant others.

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Eric Brasure May 1, 2013 - 11:51 am

No, I rode the N all the way, from Ditmars to Atlantic/Pacific.

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D in Bushwick May 1, 2013 - 1:57 pm

The G was a pain in the ass or your boyfriend was a pain in your ass?
Couldn’t resist…

Bolwerk May 2, 2013 - 3:50 pm

You couldn’t resist parading how reflexively your mind wanders to fantasies about penile-anal contact when someone passingly mentions being homosexual?

R2 May 1, 2013 - 10:21 am

The G really isn’t as bad as perceived and if you use an app like Embark NYC to get the schedule, wait times are minimal.

Besides GOs, the only other thing that drives me batty (operationally) is the slog between Court Sq and 21 St – Van Alst

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Bgriff May 1, 2013 - 10:24 am

I bet there are people who find themselves less desirable in the dating pool by virtue of living on, say, the Dyre branch of the 5, or the Lefferts branch of the A, but they somehow don’t have the same media clout of those poor souls living in rapidly gentrifying, by-and-large safe neighborhoods on the G. I wonder why that is?

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MH May 1, 2013 - 11:41 am

So you’re saying that Bed-Stuy is considered “safe?” The Myrtle-Willoughby station on the G is right by the Marcy projects and other different public housing facilities. Every line goes through safe and rough neighborhoods throughout their routes for the most part.

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Bolwerk May 1, 2013 - 12:18 pm

“Safe” is always relative. Don’t join a street gang, and don’t look to buy drugs, and you’re probably going to be pretty safe.

Oh, and try not to be swarthy. Then maybe the police won’t bother you either.

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Jerrold May 1, 2013 - 6:53 pm

I am against all racial or ethnic discrimination.
Having said THAT, now let me ask you if you actually believe that most crime victims in this town are people who provoked it by getting involved with drugs or gangs.

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Bolwerk May 1, 2013 - 11:33 pm

No idea about most – are we talking about white collar crime or just street crime, and then only of the violent variety? – but a good lot of violent crime is related to those things.

The point is, if you get do involved in such things, you put yourself in a riskier position. The act of simply looking for drugs can be like wearing a sign saying “I have some cash on me and I want no police attention.”

Jon May 1, 2013 - 11:59 am

I’m all in favor if these articles keep crowds down on the G.

E -> G has become my route of choice out of Midtown East into Brooklyn in the evenings. The alternative to a seat, consistent trip times, and comfortable ride on the G is sardine can crowds and unreliable evening wait times on 456.

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BenW May 1, 2013 - 12:30 pm

I live on the G, and my significant other has been known to tease me about it. That’s after she connects to the G from the E at Court Square… having connected to the E from the Northeast Regional at 34th St. Penn Station, and to the Northeast Regional from the Red Line at Union Station. People who think that Greenpoint/Park Slope is a dealbreaker can bite me.

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pete May 2, 2013 - 8:57 pm

Your call girl or internet GF? $70-$200 in transit fares for a booty call isn’t realistic unless you are a CEO, Lawyer, or politician.

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Jerrold May 1, 2013 - 1:01 pm

I just now heard on WINS-AM that the G received the Straphangers’ Campaign BEST rating for on-time performance, and the F received the WORST rating.

The announcer joked that G stands for “Good” and that F means “Failing”.
(For a moment in the middle of her saying that sentence, I thought she was about to say “G stands for Good and F means Fucked Up”.)

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Epson45 May 1, 2013 - 6:12 pm

G is God, F is Funk

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D in Bushwick May 1, 2013 - 2:00 pm

I’ve made my peace with the G Train and now it’s okay.
Yes, the popular perception is worse than the reality – much like Bushwick.

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Duke May 1, 2013 - 8:01 pm

People are just whining and being stupid. 45 minutes is not a long time to travel to see someone. You won’t have to run to catch the G if you pay attention and figure out where on the platform it stops (CCTV monitors are at the back end of the train, marker with the number “4” is at the front – or just pay attention to where everyone else is standing). And wearing heels on a trip that involves walking is a violation of common sense regardless of whether you have to run to catch anything, so just wear normal shoes.

There. All problems solved.

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joe May 6, 2013 - 11:51 am

I stopped riding the G to E to get to Midtown in the mornings only because the cars got fuller and fuller as time went by. Over the 12 years I’ve lived in Fort Greene, G service has only gotten better, save for the endless single-track, limited service periods, would love to know why such a short line requires never ending service cuts. Otherwise it is way, way, way more dependable than the C or the R.

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Ian May 7, 2013 - 12:20 am

Christie Walsh sounds like a real treat.

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Michael May 9, 2013 - 3:46 pm

Please. My girlfriend lives in the Bronx and I live in Queens and we have been together for over a year. I happily take the 7 to the 4 to the BX12-SBS. We usually meet in Manhattan after work and switch off where we go. Arthur Avenue is great and so is Skillman. These people wouldn’t have stayed together anyway.

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