Were I an excitable tabloid headline writer, I would have put something shocking atop this post — perhaps along the lines of “MTA report recommends against running trains underneath Second Avenue.” You see, as part of the presentation to the MTA Board today regarding the revival of the W train, New York City Transit’s subway ops team has prepared a list of alternatives should the Board, for some reason, vote against the W train, and one of those options is the so-called “no-build” analysis. When MTA Capital Construction hands over control of the Second Ave. Subway to New York City Transit, New York City Transit could “do nothing,” the report notes, continuing somewhat tongue-in-cheek:
Not implementing service on Second Avenue would not allow riders to benefit from the significant capital investments made to construct the Second Avenue Subway line.
Of course, the MTA isn’t going to not implement subway service on Second Avenue when Phase 1 opens over the next few months, but the inclusion of the “do nothing” option certainly highlights the absurdity of alternatives analysis. While one of the other alternatives — simply increase N train capacity to Astoria (and, by extension, along the Sea Beach and 4th Ave. lines in Brooklyn) — had its proponents during the April public hearings on the W train, the MTA noted this option isn’t feasible due to the availability of rolling stock on hand and track capacity concerns. Some N train service would have to terminate at Whitehall St. anyway, and having the same route designation for two different services would create passenger confusion.
So ultimately, as the MTA Board’s Transit Committee voted this morning, New York City Transit will bring back the W train in November, the next pick for its workers prior to the expected revenue start date for the Second Ave. Subway. The W will run local from Whitehall St. to Astoria-Ditmars Boulevard as a weekday-only service operating from around 7 a.m. until 11 p.m., thus maintaining current service between Queens and Manhattan. The Q will no longer stop at 49th St., eliminating an unnecessary choke-point between 34th St.-Herald Square and 57th St., and when the Second Ave. Subway opens, the Q will run from 57th St. to 63rd St./Lexington, 72nd St., and 86th St. before terminating at 96th St. and 2nd Ave. The Upper East Side won’t know what hit them.
But there’s a rub, and in a way, I’ve buried the lede again. The Upper East Side may be thrilled with the subway, but they’ll be less thrilled with the headways on the Second Ave. Subway which threaten to be the longest in the city for peak-hour service. During the public hearings on the W train proposal, one person asked the MTA to disclose headways on the Second Ave. Subway, and the answer is in these tables:
As you can see, the MTA isn’t really revising the Q train schedule to respond to shifting demand. Currently, Q trains are relatively empty crossing the Manhattan Bridge into Brooklyn in the morning and vice versa in the evening. When the Second Ave. Subway opens, while the Manhattan Bridge ridership likely won’t change, Q train demand south from 96th St. to parts south in Manhattan will spike, but the MTA is planning to run trains at eight-minute headways. Only weekend, midday and evening Q service will see improvements when the Second Ave. Subway opens, and Upper East Siders are going to be shocked at the long waits, especially when compared with the peak-hour frequencies on the 4, 5 and 6.
Immediately, you may be wondering if 7.5 trains per hour for the Upper East Side is sufficient to meet projected ridership, and it’s not entirely clearly it will be. Based on ridership expectations and current travel patterns, the MTA may expect around 60,000 riders during the morning commute on the Second Ave. stops, but the eight-minute headways allow for service that can carry a bit under 45,000 over three hours. Trains will be very crowded and waits far longer than many expect. That’s due in part to available rolling stock and in part due to capacity concerns over the Manhattan Bridge and through the DeKalb Interlocking. As the Second Ave. Subway gears up for its grand unveiling, crowds and service frequency is a story worth watching.
I went to sleep early on Friday night before an early wake-up call on Saturday for the Brooklyn Half and was out of the house all day Saturday for family obligations. So these are late. But the good (bad?) news is that these myriad changes are still in effect today. As always, these come to me via the MTA and may change without notice.
From 11:30 p.m. Friday, May 20, to 5:00 a.m. Monday, May 23, 1 trains are suspended in both directions between South Ferry and 14 St, and between 137 St and Van Cortlandt Park-242 St. Take 2, 3, 4, 5, A, C, or R trains, or the M3, M100, and free shuttle buses instead.
- 2 and 3 trains will run local in both directions between 34 St-Penn Station and Chambers St.
- For service to/from Rector St and South Ferry, use the Rector St and Whitehall St R stations, or Wall St and Bowling Green 4/5 or transfer between 2/3 and free shuttle buses at Chambers St.
- For service between 137 St and 168 St, use free shuttle buses or the A/C at nearby stations.
- For service between 168 St and 191 St, use the M3 or free shuttle buses. For service between Inwood-207 St and Van Cortlandt Park-242 St, take free shuttle buses to/from a trains at Inwood-207 St.
From 4:45 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. Sunday, May 22, Flatbush Av-Brooklyn College bound 2 trains skip Jackson Av.
From 11:30 p.m. Friday, May 20, to 5:00 a.m. Monday, May 23, 2 trains run local in both directions between Chambers St and 34 St-Penn Station.
From 11:45 p.m. Friday, May 20, to 5:00 a.m. Monday, May 23, 3 service will operate to/from New Lots Av all weekend replacing the 4 in Brooklyn.
From 11:30 p.m. Friday, May 20, to 5:00 a.m. Monday, May 23, 3 trains run local in both directions between Chambers St and 34 St-Penn Station.
From 11:45 p.m. Friday, May 20, to 5:00 a.m. Monday, May 23, 4 trains are suspended in both directions between New Lots Av/Crown Hts-Utica Av and Bowling Green. For service between Borough Hall and Franklin Av, take the 2 or 3. For service between Franklin Av and New Lots Av, take the 3. Transfer between 4 and 2/3 trains at Fulton St.
From 11:45 p.m. Friday, May 20, to 5:00 a.m. Monday, May 23, 5 trains are suspended in both directions between Eastchester-Dyre Av and E 180 St. Free shuttle buses operate all weekend between Eastchester-Dyre Av and E 180 St, stopping at Baychester Av, Gun Hill Rd, Pelham Pkwy and Morris Park.
From 7:45 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. Sunday, May 22, 5 trains are suspended in both directions between E 180 St and 149 St-Grand Concourse. Take the 2 train instead. Transfer between 2 and 5 trains at 149 St-Grand Concourse.
From 11:45 p.m. Friday, May 20, to 5:00 a.m. Monday, May 23, A trains are rerouted via the F line in both directions between W 4 St-Wash Sq and Jay St-MetroTech.
From 11:45 p.m. Friday, May 20 to 6:30 a.m. Sunday, May 22, and from 11:45 p.m. Sunday, May 22 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, May 23, uptown A trains run express from 59 St-Columbus Circle to 125 St.
From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, May 21, to 5:00 a.m. Monday, May 23, A trains run local between W 4 St-Wash Sq and 59 St-Columbus Circle.
From 6:30 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. Saturday, May 21, and Sunday, May 22, C trains are rerouted via the F line in both directions between W 4 St-Wash Sq and Jay St-MetroTech.
From 6:30 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. Saturday, May 21, and Sunday, May 22, Uptown C trains run express from 59 St-Columbus Circle to 125 St.
From 11:30 p.m. Friday, May 20, to 5:00 a.m. Monday, May 23, D trains are suspended in both directions between 59 St-Columbus Circle and Coney Island-Stillwell Av. fnqr trains and free shuttle buses provide alternate service. N trains replace the D in Brooklyn between Atlantic Av-Barclays Ctr and Coney Island-Stillwell Av.
- Free shuttle buses run between W 4 St-Wash Sq and Grand St, stopping at B’way-Lafayette St.
- To/from 7 Av, use the N, Q or R at the nearby 57 St-7 Av station. Or, use the nearby 50 St 1 Transfer between 1 and D trains at 59 St-Columbus Circle.
- For 47-50 Sts, 42 St-Bryant Pk, and 34 St-Herald Sq, take the F. Transfer between D and F trains at W 4 St-Wash Sq. For service to Grand St, take a shuttle bus at W 4 St-Wash Sq.
- For Brooklyn, take the N Transfer to/from D trains via the passageway at Times Sq-42 St/Port Authority. (Ed. Note: I have no idea what’s happening here as this transfer isn’t actually possible unless the D is running via the 8th Ave. line. Nothing on the MTA’s website indicates that’s happening this weekend.)
From 11:45 p.m. Friday, May 20 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, May 23, E trains are rerouted via the F line in both directions between 21 St-Queensbridge and W 4 St-Wash Sq. Free shuttle buses operate between Court Sq-23 St and 21 St-Queensbridge, stopping at Queens Plaza.
From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, May 21, to 5:00 a.m. Monday, May 23, E trains run local in both directions in Queens.
From 11:15 p.m. Friday, May 20 to 11:45 p.m. Saturday, May 21, Jamaica-bound F trains skip Smith-9 Sts, Carroll St, and Bergen St.
From 11:45 p.m. Saturday, May 21 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, May 23, Jamaica Center- bound F trains run express from Church Av to Jay St-MetroTech.
From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, May 21, to 5:00 a.m. Monday, May 23, F trains run local in both directions in Queens.
From 11:15 p.m. Friday, May 20 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, May 23, G trains are suspended in both directions between Church Av and Hoyt-Schermerhorn Sts. A and F trains provide alternate service. Transfer between A and G trains at Hoyt-Schermerhorn Sts. Transfer between A and F trains at Jay St-MetroTech.
From 11:30 p.m. Friday, May 20, to 5:00 a.m. Monday, May 23, N trains are rerouted via the D line in both directions between Coney Island-Stillwell Av and 36 St. Free shuttle buses and N trains provide alternate service.
From 11:45 p.m. Friday, May 20, to 6:30 a.m. Sunday, May 22, and from 11:45 p.m. Sunday, May 22 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, May 23, Coney Island- Stillwell Av bound N trains run express from Atlantic Av-Barclays Ctr to 36 St.
From 3:45 a.m. Saturday, May 21, to 10:00 p.m. Sunday, May 22, Manhattan-bound Q trains skip Neck Rd and Avenue U.
From 6:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, May 21 and May 22, Bay Ridge-bound R trains run express from Atlantic Av-Barclays Ctr to 59 St.
From 11:45 p.m. Friday, May 20, to 6:30 a.m. Sunday, May 22, and from 11:45 p.m. Sunday, May 22 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, May 23, Bay Ridge-bound R trains skip 45 St and 53 St in both directions. Take free shuttle buses instead.
From 6:00 a.m. to 12 Midnight, Saturday and Sunday, May 21 and May 22, the 42 St Shuttle service is suspended. Take the 7 instead.
But there’s another story in the document, one regarding money and a desire to provide better service. It’s the story of how the MTA could make F express service if not more palatable for some areas in Brooklyn, at least more justifiable for certain stations. It involves a lesson in late 1990s subway history and approximately $100 million. We start in March of 1999 when a fire destroyed a 70-year-old switch control panel at Bergen St. The MTA was able to restore service to the station faster than expected, but repairs to the control panel weren’t completed until 2007. At this point, the lower level isn’t a functional passenger station.
To realize the best possible F express routing, restoring Bergen St. is essential. The station sees nearly 12,000 passengers per day, and by providing express service at Bergen St., many passengers who will lose service if the express plan is implemented would be spared that fate. But the MTA says this work is far too expensive. The agency would have to include accessibility upgrades to bring Bergen St. into compliance with the ADA; reconstructing stairs, platforms and station finishes; install communications and electrical systems; relocate cables; and restore signals that weren’t included in post-fire restoration work. The cost would top $75 million, and that is, apparently, $75 million the MTA does not have.
Meanwhile, at both Bergen and Carroll Sts., the MTA contemplated the queueing issues that could arise if the express plan is implemented. More crowded local trains means more congested station entrances. The MTA anticipates that riders would have to wait, on average, 32 seconds more to reach the stairs at Bergen St. and approximately 10 seconds more to reach the stairs at Carroll St. “This does not,” the MTA notes, “account for the modest amount of counter-flow that currently exists, which would further delay exiting riders.” Widening staircases and installing one elevator at each stop would cost at least $20 million, the MTA estimates. (The MTA doesn’t really address passengers transferring between the R line and theF train at 4th Ave.-9th Sts., another potential chokepoint that could negatively impact commute times or the effects this new service has on Red Hook, a true transit-starved area.)
At least part of this $100 million expense — widening the staircases, making Carroll and Bergen ADA-compliant — should be included in any final F express plan, but if the MTA wants to do it right, the full rehabilitation of the lower level at Bergen Street should be a pre-requisite. That would make this proposal, warts and all, a bit easier to take even as the gold standard remains maintaining F local frequencies while adding some level of express service.
Just a day after I explored reasons why a Brooklyn-based F express service won’t work without added East River capacity, the MTA dropped a bombshell on the Borough of Kings. After sitting on a feasibility report for months, if not years, New York City Transit finally unveiled the agency’s official position on F express service, and the agency concluded, with many obstacles still to overcome, that it could implement some form of F express service in the fall of 2017. Agency sources have said that, despite premature word from certain Brooklyn politicians, the restoration of F express service is not a done deal, but already, the controversial proposal that sees local stations lose as much as 50 percent of their current F train service has pit neighbors and politicians against each other as a transit-based Civil War has erupted in Brooklyn.
The idea itself is born out of history. The original pieces of the BMT and IND that make up the Culver Line included provisioning for express service. The IND segments offer full four-track express service between Jay St. and Church Ave. with a stop at 7th Ave. (and a former stop at Bergen St. that was closed following a fire in the late 1990s). South of Church Ave., there is a third track that could support some express service, but until certain interlockings near Kings Highway are modernized, this option is off the table.
The MTA’s proposal — presented here on the agency’s website and further explored in this pdf report — is something of a modified F express service with two-way express service between Church Ave. and Jay St. F trains running express would skip six stations in Kensington/Windsor Terrace, Park Slope, Red Hook/Gowanus and Cobble Hill, many of which happen to be the most popular stations along the F line in Brooklyn. The MTA’s report has determined that the time savings for express riders would outweigh the time lost by local riders, but waits at popular local stations would be long — perhaps even as long as 15 minutes during the end of peak hours. (Analysis by Alastair Coote last year determined that F express service to Ave X would be a net loss for all F train riders, but the MTA’s modified plan seems to cut slightly in favor of express service.)
But there are some problems. It’s hard to overstate how unhappy local riders are over the reduced service, and that’s the big problem. Because of limitations further down the line, including merges with other trains and an East River chokepoint, the MTA cannot run F express service while maintaining local service. The G train doesn’t cut it due to a lack of access to Manhattan and the need for multiple transfers, and the G also cannot access IND Culver express tracks until the switch just west of 4th Ave. The MTA would need another Manhattan trunk link (Coney Island to, say, Second Ave. perhaps) to support current local service and additional F express. This service also reduces frequencies to 4th Ave./9th St., a major transfer point between the BMT and IND and results in less subway service for Smith/9th Sts. station that skirts and serves Red Hook.
The MTA has already had to clarify that this is a proposal only and not one that’s definite. The agency plans to bring it to community groups over the coming months and wouldn’t implement it until late 2017. Still, the F train civil war has come, pitting City Council representative David Greenfield against City Council representative Brad Lander. Following a Tweetstorm well worth reading on Tuesday, Lander released a strong statement against the F train. Noting that the MTA’s report “shows that the total number of riders who will suffer under this proposal is actually greater than the number of riders who will benefit” and F express service “comes at the expense” of many riders, Lander and his co-signers stated they are “furious” with the MTA:
“We are extremely dismayed by the utter lack of process on the part of the MTA regarding proposed new F-Express service between Church Avenue and Jay St-MetroTech stops in Brooklyn. The proposed service change harms more people than it helps, ignores our request for increased service, and pits Brooklyn residents against each other, creating ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ without sufficient information or dialogue.
We made clear from the start that we could only support an F-Express if overall service was increased on the F line and riders at local stops were not harmed. The MTA promised to share information with the community before making a decision – including information about what service increase would be needed to avoid harming riders at local stations.
Instead of providing a fair process, the MTA blindsided our communities, announcing the proposal in a newspaper, before providing any information to community stakeholders or the elected officials representing these areas.”
Meanwhile, Greenfield — who’s also taken to Twitter — at first seemed to think F express service would start this year, but then started patting himself on the back for securing this win for his constituents. “I’m very happy that the MTA has finally released this report, and I’m thrilled that after a decades-long absence, the F express will finally be returning to Brooklyn,” he said in a statement. “This is a long overdue move that will drastically cut commute times for riders in southern Brooklyn and restore transit equity to neighborhoods that have languished in transit deserts for decades.”
I don’t agree that areas of the city with steady F train service are transit deserts, and Greenfield’s claims that this gives service to those who had “none” don’t bear up to scrutiny. It indeed pits neighbors against neighbors and politicians against politicians.
It’s hard to say where this goes from here. The MTA is facing severe criticism from a lot of people who have chosen to live in areas along the F train on the basis of constant service. These people could see a 50 percent reduction in service with more crowded trains, longer exit times and generally worse transit all so that people further down the line could save a few minutes. It’s a bad situation, and if this is the only way to implement the F express service, the MTA should think long and hard about doing so even if it means upsetting some representatives in Brooklyn. Until the MTA can maintain local frequencies while adding express service, the status quo may just be the right answer here.
The first of the MTA’s new wifi-equipped buses hit the road yesterday. A few months ago, Gov. Andrew Cuomo called them “Ferrari-like,” and he seemed awfully happy to be there at the unveiling yesterday. MTA CEO and Chairman Tom Prendergast called these new buses part of the “enhanced experience for our customers,” and the rhetoric around Millennials was kept to minimum. But what do they look like in the while? Sometimes, all you need is one photo.
While riding these new buses with the USB chargers, make sure your cord is long enough pic.twitter.com/bvU3oW1WSH
— Dan Rivoli (@danrivoli) May 17, 2016
More on the new F express plan later. I ended up spending the night in Chicago on business and am still working through the reaction to the MTA’s proposals.
Every now and then, due, at times, to the never-ending rehabilitation of the Culver Viaduct or other track work in the vicinity, the F train in Brooklyn runs express between Jay St.-MetroTech and some station farther south. The transit cognoscenti know to look out for glimpses of a ghost station once that F train nears or leaves Jay St., and over the weekend, as the F went express, an eagle-eyed observer could catch the the abandoned lower level at Bergen St.
As ghost stations go, the Bergen St. lower level is hardly a secret. Multiple doors that are often kept unlocked dot the upper level at Bergen St., and the 1999 fire at that station earned headlines. For those in Brooklyn fighting for the restoration of the F express service, the Bergen St. station may or may not be the lynchpin. Trains can bypass the Bergen St. station, but as you can barely see from the video I shot over the weekend, there’s not much there. The station is an abandoned mess of darkness, and the MTA has used parts of it for storage. Yet, it’s future is as intriguing as its mere existence, a shadow of subway past.
The idea behind the F express service is one I have explored at length in the past, and it’s one that has garnered recent attention. The MTA apparently has a report on the idea sitting in a proverbial drawer, and this report has possibly been sitting in this drawer for three years. Yet, no one has seen the report, and politicians have again been agitating for F express service. The idea is an obvious one: The MTA could use dormant and pre-existing infrastructure — in this case, express tracks along the Culver Line to improve service to those more remote areas of Brooklyn. For some commuters, rides could be shortened by 5-10 minutes.
But there is a rub; there is always a rub. As currently configured, F express service would lead to reduced service for some of the F’s busiest Brooklyn stations. Carroll St., Smith-9th Sts., 4th-9th Sts., and 15th St.-Prospect Park, to name a few, would see less frequent F train service, and the ridership from those stations far outpaces the number of riders who would gain a few minutes from the express service. If the MTA can’t rehabilitate the lower level at Bergen St. to permit passenger service — an undertaking that would be quite expensive, according to 2012 comments from one Transit official, another 11,000 riders would see F service slashed. Simply put, based on current load guidelines, the MTA cannot add F express service while maintaining local service frequencies that handle customer demand.
So why not, you may ask, just run more F local trains? It seems like a simple solution, but it’s not quite that easy. Most importantly, the MTA would need additional Manhattan and East River capacity to run more F trains, and based on various F service patterns — interlining with the G in Brooklyn, the M in Manhattan and the E in Queens — the route cannot support additional trains. Second, the MTA doesn’t have the rolling stock to add F express trains. That’s a more solvable, albeit an expensive one, for a solution that seems to create more problems than it solves. Of course, with an additional East River crossing — perhaps a Phase 5 of the Second Ave. Subway were we all to live that long — the problem would be resolved, but now we’re talking in decades rather than years.
Word is that the MTA’s own studies on the F express plan show little to no net travel gains from the F express plan, but the idea is a political hot potato that the agency isn’t comfortable quashing quite yet. So the idea percolates every few months or years as that idea that will save Midwood from its schleppy F train service. I can’t blame anyone from hoping, but that lower level at Bergen St. seems more like a taunt that a promise of future service. Every now and then, we get a glimpse of a different plan, but it remains out of reach, perhaps for good reason.
Earlier this week, an amusing typo from New York City Transit’s official Twitter account left us with this gem of a service advisory.
— NYCT Subway (@NYCTSubway) May 9, 2016
I spent the week wondering if it was a Hermione-esque witch, one of the three witches from Macbeth or perhaps the Grand High Witch causing problems at 33rd St. Either way, it cleared up quickly. The same cannot be said of this weekend’s service changes. These come to me, as always from the MTA, and they may be incomplete or inaccurate. Check signs; listen to announcements.
From 11:30 p.m. Friday, May 13, to 5 a.m. Monday, May 16, 1 service is suspended in both directions between 14 St and South Ferry. Take 2, 3 and free shuttle buses, which provide alternate service between Chambers St and South Ferry.
From 11:30 p.m. Friday, May 13, to 5 a.m. Monday, May 16, 2 trains run local in both directions between Chambers St and 34 St-Penn Station.
From 11:45 p.m. Friday, May 13, to 5 a.m. Monday, May 16, 3 train service will operate to/from New Lots all weekend, replacing 4 service in Brooklyn.
From 11:30 p.m. Friday, May 13, to 5 a.m. Monday, May 16, 3 trains run local in both directions between Chambers St and 34 St-Penn Station.
From 11:45 p.m. Friday, May 13, to 5 a.m. Monday, May 16, 4 trains are suspended in both directions between New Lots Av/Crown Hts-Utica Av and Bowling Green. For service between Borough Hall and Franklin Av, take the 2 or 3. For service between Franklin Av and New Lots Av, take the 3. Transfer between 4 and 2 3 trains at Fulton St.
From 3:30 a.m. Saturday, May 14 to 10 p.m. Sunday, May 15, 6 trains are suspended in both directions between Pelham Bay Park and Parkchester. Free shuttle buses operate between Parkchester and Pelham Bay Park, stopping at Castle Hill Av, Zerega Av, Westchester Sq, Middletown Rd, and Buhre Av. Transfer between trains and free shuttle buses at Parkchester.
From 4:45 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, May 14 and Sunday, May 15, Main St-bound 7 trains run express between Queensboro Plaza and 74 St-Broadway.
From 11:45 p.m. Friday, May 13, to 5 a.m. Monday, May 16, A trains are rerouted via the f in both directions between W 4 St-Wash Sq and Jay St-MetroTech.
From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, May 14, to 5 a.m. Monday, May 16, A trains run local between W 4 St-Wash Sq and 59 St.
From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, May 14, to 5 a.m. Monday, May 16, A trains run local between 125 St and 168 St.
From 6:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday, May 14, and Sunday, May 15, C trains are suspended in both directions between 145 St and 168 St. Take the A instead.
From 6:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday, May 14, and Sunday, May 15, C trains are rerouted via the F in both directions between W 4 St-Wash Sq and Jay St-MetroTech.
From 11:45 p.m. Friday, May 13, to 10 p.m. Sunday, May 15, Norwood-205 St bound D trains are rerouted via the n from Coney Island-Stillwell Av to 36 St.
From 11:45 p.m. Friday, May 13, to 6:30 a.m. Sunday, May 15, and from 11:45 p.m. Sunday, May 15, to 5 a.m. Monday, May 16, Coney Island-Stillwell Av bound D trains run express from Atlantic Av-Barclays Ctr to 36 St.
From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, May 14, to 5 a.m. Monday, May 16, D trains stop at 135 St in both directions.
From 11:45 p.m. Friday, May 13 to 7 a.m. Sunday, May 15, and from 11:45 p.m. Sunday, May 15 to 5 a.m. Monday, May 16, World Trade Center-bound E trains run express from 71 Av to 21 St-Queensbridge.
From 11:15 p.m. Friday, May 13 to 5 a.m. Monday, May 16, E trains are rerouted via the F in both directions between 21 St-Queensbridge and W 4 St-Wash Sq. Free shuttle buses operate between 21 St-Queensbridge and Court Sq-23 St, stopping at Queens Plaza.
From 11:45 p.m. Friday, May 13, to 5 a.m. Monday, May 16, World Trade Center-bound E trains skip Briarwood and 75 Av.
From 11:30 p.m. Friday, May 13 to 4:30 a.m. Monday, May 16, F trains are suspended in both directions between Coney Island-Stillwell Av and Church Av. Free shuttle buses make all station stops between Coney Island-Stillwell Av and Church Av. Consider using the D, N or Q between Coney Island-Stillwell Av and downtown Brooklyn or Manhattan.
From 11:15 p.m. Friday, May 13, to 5 a.m. Monday, May 16, Jamaica-bound F trains run express from 4 Av-9 St to Jay St-MetroTech.
From 11:45 p.m. Friday, May 13 to 5 a.m. Monday, May 16, Manhattan-bound F trains skip Sutphin Blvd, Briarwood and 75 Av.
From 11:15 p.m. Friday, May 13 to 5 a.m. Monday, May 16, G trains are suspended in both directions between Church Av and Hoyt-Schermerhorn Sts. a and f trains provide alternate service.
From 11:45 p.m. Friday, May 13, to 5 a.m. Monday, May 16, Coney Island-bound N trains run express from 34 St-Herald Sq to Canal St.
From 11:45 p.m. Friday, May 13, to 6:30 a.m. Sunday, May 15, and from 11:45 p.m. Sunday, May 15 to 5 a.m. Monday, May 16, Coney Island-bound N trains run express from Atlantic Av-Barclays Ctr to 59 St.
From 11:45 p.m. Friday, May 13, to 5 a.m. Monday, May 16, Brooklyn-bound Q trains run express from 34 St-Herald Sq to Canal St.
From 6:30 a.m. to midnight, Saturday and Sunday, May 14 and May 15, Manhattan-bound R trains run express from 71 Av to Queens Plaza.
From 6:30 a.m. to midnight, Saturday and Sunday, May 14 and May 15, downtown R trains run express from 34 St-Herald Sq to Canal St.
From 6:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, May 14 and May 15, Bay Ridge-bound R trains run express from Atlantic Av- Barclays Ctr to 59 St.
From 11:45 p.m. Friday, May 13, to 6:30 a.m. Sunday, May 15, and from 11:45 p.m. Sunday, May 15 to 5 a.m. Monday, May 16, R trains are suspended in both directions between 59 St and 36 St. Take the N instead.
From 6:30 a.m. to midnight, Saturday and Sunday, May 14 and May 15, 42 St Shuttle service is suspended. Take the 7 instead.
There is something so glaringly obvious about proclaiming frequent service as the main driver behind transit ridership growth that we often tend to overlook it when discussing adding riders. Yet, every now and then, it’s worth remembering the basic maxim of transit planning: Above all else, frequent, reliable service is the key driver behind good and popular transit networks.
Recently, it seems, the MTA has forgotten this truth. Despite massive growth in ridership, service increases have been incremental with, thanks to TWU work and shift selection rules, long lead times before the MTA can institute shorter headways. In return, the MTA has turned toward gimmicks to, as officials claim, attempt to attract Millennials to transit (even though Millennials are already major transit users). We’ve seen the MTA to discuss USB- and wifi-enabled buses, and we’ve heard MTA CEO and Chairman claim a long wait for a train is more tolerable so long as the station has cell service. As I said in March, this is lipstick on a pig.
Meanwhile, recently, in Boston, the MBTA had to scale back certain plans for the extension of the Green Line, a costly plan that involves no tunneling but with a scope that grew out of control. To regain control of a project out of budget, the MBTA cut ostentatious station designs with reduced footprints for headhouses and fewer escalators and elevators. These stops won’t be grand designs, but they’ll be functional with constant service. That, Yonah Freemark at The Transport Politic recently wrote is what counts, and it’s worth looking at Freemark’s framing:
Given how reliant the people of New York City are on their Subway, an outsider just looking at ridership data might conclude that the system must be paved with gold, or at least its stations must be decent to look at. After all, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to assume that the comfort of a transit system plays an essential role in encouraging people to abandon their cars and get on the train or bus. That’s why, some would argue, it’s so important to put amenities like USB charging and wifi into transit vehicles.
Yet anyone who has ever ridden the subway knows first hand that its success has nothing to do with aesthetics or access to luxury amenities. Stations are hardly in good shape, trains are packed, and cell service is spotty at best. People ride the subway in spite of these things; they ride it because it’s fast, it’s frequent, and it’s (relatively) reliable.
Too often, this simple fact is ignored by public agencies actually making decisions about how to invest. New York’s own $4 billion World Trade Center Transportation Hub—perhaps the world’s single-most expensive station—is evidence of that; rather than improve service frequency or speed, officials chose to direct public funds to a white monument that does nothing to actually ease the lives of daily commuters.
So be wary when Gov. Cuomo starts touting technology as the solution to the MTA’s woes. No amount of wifi-enabled stations, USB charging points or video screens will eliminate the fact that the MTA should be running more service and building out capacity. More frequent service is what makes transit appealing, and everything else is just a distraction from the real drivers of a better transportation network. We shouldn’t lose sight of that in an era in which the political discussion is dominated by technology rather than by service levels.
As the subways grow more crowded, the way we take up space has garnered more attention. No one should care how we spread out, sit, or stand on a subway car that’s mostly empty, but when every square foot is precious, straphangers who take more than their allotted space come under the microscope. “Manspreading” was seemingly the 2015 word of the year in New York City as the unfortunate tendency of some riders to reserve space and take up multiple seats by spreading their legs became the Internet’s cause du jour. And now a Hunter College professor has taken a closer, observational look at subway etiquette.
The report — available here as a pdf — used observations across a variety of subway lines in both the fall of 2015 and the spring of 2016 to identify certain etiquette trends. Observers found manspreading to be a steady issue while door-blocking was more prevalent. Pole-hugging, another etiquette violation, wasn’t nearly as widespread, and riders eating made up only around 1/2 of 1 percent of subway passengers.
I found the passages on manspreading to be instructive. In the fall studies, observers found that 8.5 percent of seated male riders engaged on some form of manspreading, but this figure dipped to just 2.9 percent on crowded cars. “This finding suggests that manspreading is not a biologically-based phenomenon due to the body dimensions of males as some have argued,” they wrote. “Rather, its occurrence appears to be situational and depends upon the population density of the riders in the car.” In the spring, these totals jumped to 14.4 and 9.6 percent of riders, but the Hunter professors attribute this, in part, to a renewed focus on manspreading during the spring observations.
Interestingly, though, the Hunter observers spotted a problem the MTA has recently identified as a cause for delay. The study calls the phenomenon “disorderly exits,” and we know it more commonly as door-blockers. Riders will not get out of the way of open doors as straphangers attempt to enter and exit subway cars or those entering will board before everyone exiting has alit. Thus, passengers have to queue up to funnel through a confined space, and train dwell times at stations (and thus delays) are increased. In crowded cars, disorderly exits were observed during over 30 percent of peak rides this past spring.
The MTA has started an aggressive campaign of public address announcements aimed at reducing delays due to crowds, and I’ve worried this comes across as victim-blaming. Since the agency isn’t or can’t run enough trains to meet demands, they’ve taken to lecturing riders for delays that are kinda, sorta beyond the riders’ collective control. The Hunter study though suggests that perhaps riders on both sides of the doors are to blame for these delays. Some people can’t wait to run unto a train while refuses to clear the doors at busy stations. Delays mount one way or another.
It’s tough to draw sweeping conclusions from an observational study, but the authors offer up a few words of advice. They note, interestingly, that females are less likely to enter a subway car that’s relatively empty, and they have some words of wisdom on boarding. “If the subways are to run more efficiently and attenuate the frustrations of riders due to delayed trains,” they write, “then one priority should be to focus on reducing the incidence of disorderly exits.” Easier said than done, eh?
Let’s start in September of 1996. Right before MetroCard discounts were announced, the average daily subway ridership was 3.684 million. Four years later, in September of 2000, daily subway ridership hit 4.745 million. Last October, average daily subway ridership reached 5.974 million. So in the span of 20 years, the MTA saw, on average, 2.3 million more entries per day or an increase of nearly 66 percent. That is, simply put, remarkable growth. On an annual basis, in 1992, overall ridership was below 1 billion; in 2015, that total topped 1.762 billion.
On the other hand, in the intervening twenty years, the MTA has opened a new station, and that new station has been open only since September. The agency is currently constructing three more with the first substantial addition to the subway map in a generation set to open within the next seven months (give or take a few), but this seems like a woefully inadequate response to a system that would have felt downright empty in the early 1990s as compared with our packed trains at most hours of the day.
This is, in a nutshell, the capacity crisis that has gained recent headlines. As I wrote last week, there are few immediate solutions and most transportation proposals seem to be bespoke ones driven by outside interests. The Brooklyn-Queens Streetcar, for instance, is going to do diddly-squat to help a Bronx commuter find a few square inches of space or a Q train rider at 7th Ave. fit into a Manhattan-bound subway at 8:30 a.m. Bike share solves some of the city’s last-mile problems, and despite my annoyance with the attention on ferries, they can help around the margins. But when a good year for the ferry system means 1.2 million riders over the course of 365 days (or 20 percent of today’s total subway ridership), we’re really comparing apples to oranges.
Today, we’re living with the consequences of both deferred maintenance and a lack of foresight. At some point in the 1930s, for a variety of historical and economic reasons, New York City simply stopped expanding its subway, and a few decades later, the city stopped investing in regular upkeep. Thus, when the state took over, it had a backlog of maintenance and no money for expansion. Today, the subway still needs money for maintenance, but the MTA can’t expand fast enough or cost-effectively enough to meet demand. (In 2007, when the Second Ave. Subway broke ground, annual ridership was 1.56 billion — over 200 million less than it is now.)
So what happens? I’ve been beating the drum for open gangways for a long time, and it’s a solution the MTA needs to explore and adopt as soon as possible. It’s also imperative to find a way to build faster and cheaper. Many options are simply fingers in the dike of a flood of riders, and without a commitment to a high-volume, cost-effective expansion effort, the subways are going to be this crowded for decades to come. And what happens if ridership growth continues on its upward trajectory? That may just be a question without an obvious answer.