As part of the MTA’s plan to spend $40 million in unexpected state revenue on its customers, Transit will expand weekend service on the M to Manhattan and will increase G train service during the afternoon rush, as outlined in its line review. Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced these enhancements as well as some added bus service that will total $7.8 million, and the MTA plans to invest another $5.9 million in the customer experience and station environment as well.
“For the second year in a row, the state has invested in significant enhancements and expansions to our state’s transit system that will improve the experience of the eight million commuters who use the MTA,” Governor Cuomo, who continued his streak of taking credit for the MTA’s good news, said in a statement. “In the last two and a half years, our administration has made real improvements to the nation’s largest public transit system, implementing reforms that have improved services and made the MTA more efficient by reducing costs, cutting waste and putting the needs of straphangers and commuters first.”
According to the release, these service improvements will benefit nearly 90,000 passengers daily. G trains will operate every eight minutes from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. on weekdays, cutting headways down from 10 minutes. On weekends, M trains will run from Middle Village, Queens to Essex/Delancey, providing riders with a direct connection to the F. Currently, M riders must make two transfers — from the M to the J and the J to the F — for service into midtown and points north. The M will not operate north of Essex/Delancey or along the Queens Boulevard line.
The other half of the investment picture involves nearly $6 million for other improvements. Transit will hire more cleaners for tracks and stations and will begin to adjust turnstile and Metrocard Vending Machine layouts as well. I hope to have more on these efforts later in the week.
Additionally, Transit will restore some bus routes lost to the 2010 cuts and beef up service on other lines. The newly restored routes include the B37 and B70 in Brooklyn, weekend M8 and Q31 service, Sunday Q77 buses, and additional hours of operation for the S93. The MTA also plans to add a yet-to-be-determined Select Bus Service route and will study bus service in Co-Op City to identify routing gaps and potential solutions. I question the wisdom of restoring service along bus routes that didn’t have the ridership to support it, but perhaps the attention devoted to these lines over the past two years will drive up ridership.
Outside of the city, the LIRR will invest $2.6 million in added service as well. Trains will run every 30 minutes on the weekends to and from Ronkonkoma and Port Washington. Weekend service to Greenport will be extended, and five peak-hour weekday trains will be added on crowded routes. Metro-North has a more modest ask as the railroad will get an additional $1.7 million to “add real-time customer information displays at all of its stations in New York State by 2020.”
For the MTA’s customers, this news is good. After years of service cuts, expanded service is welcome even if the subway enhancements are limited to two lines with relatively low ridership. The fundamental problems of comprehensive access and more frequent service on lines at or near capacity are side-stepped in this plan, but on the other hand, the MTA had only limited resources for expanded service. Officials acknowledged too that the long-term financial picture remains unsettled, at best.
“We have listened to our customers, and we are responding with more bus, subway and commuter rail service as well as enhancements to make that service more reliable and more enjoyable,” MTA Chairman and CEO Thomas F. Prendergast said in a statement. “We are committed to aggressively reducing our costs, and to strengthening service whenever we have sustainable resources to do so. But our Financial Plan remains fragile, and our financial challenges – both short and long term – are numerous. The revised Financial Plan puts our customer needs first while also allocating resources to longer-term challenges like reducing pension liabilities, lowering retiree health care costs and providing initial funding for our next Capital Program.”