As major events go, for many New Yorkers, Superstorm Sandy is beginning to feel like ancient history. The storm swept through the region in late October of 2012, and while we shouldn’t overlook those communities still rebuilding and recovering, large parts of the city were untouched by the storm’s destructiveness. Thus, there is no small bit of cognitive dissonance that arises when something major happens in the name of Sandy repairs.
One of the ways in which Sandy has affected many New Yorkers who never saw the flood waters take out their homes and neighborhoods is, of course, via the subways. We’ve seen the images of flooded tunnels, and Brooklynites in particular have lived through R and G train shutdowns for repairs. Lately, though, other than work piggy-backed onto the 7 line weekend shutdowns for CBTC installation, it seems as though Sandy repairs in the tunnels have come to a standstill. (Other Fix & Fortify work not visible to riders has continued apace.) In April of 2014, we learned that the A and C trains’ Cranberry Tube would be the next to undergo repair work, and as late as November, the MTA had planned to do the work on 40 weekends throughout 2015. Well, here we are in late June with nary a sign of work on the 8th Avenue line.
That’s about to change as the Daily News reports that Fix & Fortify work will begin on the Cranberry Tubes on July 11 and run for 40 non-consecutive weekends over the next 16 months. That means work on the A/C lines won’t end until the fourth anniversary of Sandy, and the MTA will still need to address damage to the F train’s Rutgers Tubes, the IRT’s Clark St. and Joralemon St. tunnels and, of course, the L train work, which might begin before the decade is out.
For the MTA, the slow pace of construction isn’t a new problem. As we’ve seen with other capital projects, the agency can move only so fast, and during my Problem Solvers in March, John O’Grady spoke about the challenges the MTA faces. From the logistics of organizing various crews from various contractors to the difficulties of getting heavy machinery into tunnels built before the era of heavy machinery to the fact that it just takes a long time to move equipment into mile-long tunnels to the reality that only so many contractors are qualified for this work, the MTA can’t spend money as fast as it wants or we want.
Recently, the city’s Independent Budget Office issued a report on the slow pace of MTA spending, and they concluded that the delay in Albany’s addressing the capital budget doesn’t matter because the MTA doesn’t really start spending that money right away anyway. They still have cash on hand — and projects to complete — from previous years’ capital programs. (We still need Albany to act, but that’s another matter entirely.)
The report touched upon Sandy recovery work as well. By the end of 2014, the MTA had committed just 16 percent of Sandy recovery funds — $1.6 billion out of $9.7 billion — to actual work. The rest are in the design and planning stages, and a quick glance through the latest CPOC Board book shows work yet to be done. The MTA, of course, wants to spend money and build, but something — institutional, structural, bureaucratic — slows the pace.
Sandy repairs are going to pick up again and again, but it’ll years until the system is healed. So long as another storm doesn’t sweep in while the MTA is fixing and fortifying, New Yorkers will adjust to the headaches of service diversions as we have regularly on the weekends for years. But don’t be surprised to hear New Yorkers express their own surprise that repairs in late 2016 or 2017 or even 2018 are related to Sandy. Time clears the memory of just what those floodwaters did.
Later this week, when I head off to France for my honeymoon, I’ll have a second opportunity in as many months to walk through one of the Archer Ave. Line stations in Jamaica. The E train will take me from Midtown Manhattan to Sutphin Boulevard on a schleppy ride that woulda-coudla-shoulda been faster had the Super Express plan every materialized, and I’ll head off to the AirTrain by strolling through a station that opened in late 1988 but somehow, less than three decades later, looks post-Apocalyptic. Somehow, we’re okay with ushering tourists into the New York City Subway by showcasing a station with water-stained walls, visibly dusty ceiling panels and inadequate exits.
In one sense, the Archer Ave. subway lines is a quirk of history. It was designed to be part of a large-scale ambitious late-1960s system expansion that the city still badly needs. Very few pieces of that plan survived, and the Archer Ave. subway line was one of them — mostly due to the fact that Jamaica residents wanted to get rid of the elevated lines running through their neighborhood. Thus, the then-newly born MTA prioritized Archer Ave., and what opened in 1988 is a sign of the agency’s struggles to build anything on time, on budget and with any sense of aesthetics.
In another sense, though, the Archer Ave. line is a clear sign that history is repeating. By delving into the archives of news coverage surrounding this subway line, we see some very clear patterns emerge. On October 23, 1973, work began on the Archer Ave. line — a three-stop extension of preexisting subway lines — and the MTA expected work to be completed by 1980 or 1981. Initially, the agency held firm on that 1980 projected revenue service date, but by the late 1970s, the date kept slipping. First, the MTA expected to open the line in 1983, and then, as the city struggled with its finances throughout the mid-to-late 1970s, the agency had to push back the opening date to 1985 or 1986.
By the mid-1980s, the MTA and the feds were at odds over construction progress and quality. The federal Urban Mass Transportation Administration temporarily cut off MTA funding for both the 63rd St. tunnel and Archer Ave. extension over concerns related to leakage — a common theme in recent years — and concrete delivery issues. By then, it was clear that the opening for these new projects would be delayed again.
Eventually, the Archer Ave. line opened in late 1988, and no one was impressed. News coverage focused on how Archer Ave. was a tiny part of a larger, unfulfilled plan and one that didn’t solve the region’s transportation issues as it went nowhere. The Times editorial board thought the MTA had overplayed its announcements of new service, and residents told the agency to stop tooting its own horn. Today, these stations are hardly crown jewels of the subway system.
But what can we learn from Archer Ave.? Obviously, the need to invest system-wide in expansion and not just in piece-meal projects should be lesson number one. But lesson number two is that the system should not be starved of money for expansion simply because a project doesn’t open on time. We can look bad and sigh at this history, but when I ride the E to the AirTrain on Wednesday, I won’t really care that Sutphin Boulevard opened in 1988 instead of 1981. That’s ancient history to me and millions of New Yorkers who can enjoy the benefits, albeit limited, of construction from decades past.
All of which is a 600-word parable to get us to today. At both Second Ave. and Hudson Yards, the MTA is struggling to meet deadlines. The 7 line extension is likely to open 20-22 months late, and the MTA is working furiously to fulfill a promise to open Phase 1 of the Second Ave. Subway by the end of 2016, already years late. Politicians are starting to notice as the delays garner more headlines and lead to grumpy constituents, but their responses are more worrisome than anything else.
While speaking of the Second Ave. Subway last week, Councilman Ben Kallos had words about the neighborhood. “The businesses simply can’t survive, our constituents can’t survive an entire decade of construction,” he said. He’s not wrong, but the unsaid “or else” is more concerning. If no one can survive long construction projects, then any other future subway expansion is doomed. The MTA can’t use cut-and-cover construction so capital expansion efforts will require years of work. The 8 or 10 years on the East Side is less than the 15 it took to build Archer Avenue, and that just might be part of the cost of an expanded subway system.
At Hudson Yards, where relatively few people have felt the direct effect of construction, Councilman Corey Johnson essentially threatened future funding. “It doesn’t inspire confidence of the city putting money into these projects if they’re not going to get done in time,” he said to NY1. Johnson’s comments underscore how politicians view capital projects not as long-term benefits but as ribbon-cutting opportunities. Here, the subtext is that if those who find funds aren’t in office to enjoy the headlines, they won’t deliver, future growth of the city be damned.
I’ve said this before, but ultimately, the opening date of these projects doesn’t matter in the long run. In the short run, the city and MTA should better respond to concerns of residents and businesses suffering from the effects of life in a 10-year construction zone. But in the long term, the city should continue to fund growth. In 28 years, much like I won’t care on Wednesday about when Archer Ave. opened in the 1980s, no one on the Upper East Side will care that the first stops under Second Ave. opened a few months or a year later than expected. Starving our future over that delay is particularly short-sighted at a time when no one is leading on transit growth.
If you read one thing this weekend, check out the service advisories from the MTA. If you read two things, make sure to check out Cap’n Transit’s post tying together Select Bus Service flashing lights and the TWU’s response to the failure-to-yield law. It’s an important piece of analysis on a debate that’s been dividing potential transit allies.
Meanwhile, service advisories:
From 11:30 p.m. Friday, June 19 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, June 22, 1 trains are suspended in both directions between 14 St and South Ferry. Take 23 trains and free shuttle buses instead.
- Uptown trains skip 18 St, 23 St, and 28 St.
- Downtown trains skip 28 St, 23 St, and 18 St, days and evenings.
- Free shuttle buses provide alternate service between Chambers St and South Ferry. Transfer between 2 and 3 trains and shuttle buses at Chambers St.
From 11:30 p.m. Friday, June 19 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, June 22, 2 trains run local in both directions between Chambers St and 34 St-Penn Station.
From 6:30 a.m. to 12 Midnight, Saturday, June 20 and Sunday, June 21, 3 trains run local in both directions between Chambers St and 34 St-Penn Station.
From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, June 20 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, June 22, Woodlawn-bound 4 trains run local from Grand Central-42 St to 125 St.
From 7:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. Saturday, June 20, and Sunday, June 21, 5 trains run every 20 minutes between E 180 St and Bowling Green. Eastchester-Dyre Av bound 5 trains run local from Grand Central-42 St to 125 St.
From 11:45 p.m. Friday, June 19 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, June 22, 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.
- Transfer between trains and shuttle buses at E 180 St.
From 11:45 p.m. Friday, June 19 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, June 22, Pelham Bay Park-bound 6 trains run express from Parkchester to Pelham Bay Park.
From 11:45 p.m. Friday, June 19 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, June 22, Flushing-Main St bound 7 trains run express from Queensboro Plaza to Willets Point.
From 11:45 p.m. Friday, June 19 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, June 22, A trains are suspended in both directions between Ozone Park-Lefferts Blvd and Rockaway Blvd. Brooklyn-bound A trains skip 88 St. Free shuttle buses provide alternate service via 80 St.
- Free shuttle buses operate between 80 St and Ozone Park-Lefferts Blvd, stopping at 88 St, Rockaway Blvd, 104 St, and 111 St.
- Transfer between shuttle buses and A trains at 80 St.
From 11:45 p.m. Friday, June 19 to 6:30 a.m. Sunday, June 21, and from 11:45 p.m. Sunday, June 21 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, June 22, Inwood-207 St bound A trains run express from Canal St to 125 St.
From 6:30 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. Saturday, June 20 and Sunday, June 21, 168 St-bound C trains run express from Canal St to 125 St.
From 11:45 p.m. Friday, June 19 to 6:30 a.m. Sunday, June 21, and from 11:45 p.m. Sunday, June 21 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, June 22, Coney Island-Stillwell Av bound D trains run express from Atlantic Av-Barclays Ctr to 36 St.
From 3:45 a.m. Saturday, June 20 to 8:00 Sunday, June 21, Norwood-205 St bound D trains are rerouted via the N from Coney Island-Stillwell Av.
- To Bay 50 St, 25 Av, Bay Pkwy, 20 Av, 18 Av, 79 St, 71 St, 55 St, 50 St, Fort Hamilton Pkwy, and 9 Av, take the D to 62 St-New Utrecht Av or 36 St and transfer to a Coney Island-bound D or N.
- From these stations, take a Coney Island-bound D or N to 62 St-New Utrecht Av or Stillwell Av and transfer to a 205 St-bound D.
From 12:30 a.m. Saturday, June 20 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, June 22, E trains run local in Queens due to.
From 9:45 p.m. Friday, June 19 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, June 22, Jamaica-179 St bound F trains are rerouted via the M line from 47-50 Sts-Rockefeller Ctr to Roosevelt Av.
From 12:30 a.m. Saturday, June 20 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, June 22, Jamaica-179 St bound F trains run local in Queens.
From 11:45 p.m. 5:00 a.m. Monday, June 22, Coney Island-bound F trains skip 23 St and 14 St.
From 7:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Saturday, June 20, and Sunday, June 21, L trains operates in two sections.
- Between 8 Av and Broadway Junction.
- Between Broadway Junction and Canarsie-Rockaway Pkwy, every 24 minutes.
- To continue your trip, transfer at Broadway Junction.
From 11:45 p.m. Friday, June 19 to 6:30 a.m. Sunday, June 21, and from 11:45 p.m. Sunday, June 21 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, June 22, Coney Island-Stillwell Av bound N trains run express from Atlantic Av-Barclays Ctr to 36 St.
From 11:45 p.m. Friday, June 19 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, June 22, Coney Island-Stillwell Av bound N trains are rerouted via the D line from 36 St to Coney Island-Stillwell Av.
From 11:15 p.m. Friday, June 19 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, June 22, Coney Island-Stillwell Av bound Q trains run express from Prospect Park to Kings Hwy.
From 6:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. Saturday, June 20 and Sunday, June 21, Bay Ridge-bound R trains run express from Atlantic Av-Barclays Ctr to 59 St.
From 11:45 p.m. Friday, June 19 to 6:30 a.m. Sunday, June 21, and from 11:45 p.m. Sunday, June 21 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, June 22, Bay Ridge-95 St bound R trains skip 45 St and 53 St. 36 St-bound R trains stop at 53 St and 45 St.
Thanks to a confluence of circumstances — including some holdover appointees and others schedule to expire — this week witnessed a flurry of MTA Board appointees. While none have been announced officially, it’s clear now who Mayor de Blasio and Governor Cuomo have tabbed for the board, and their appointees betray a transit divide.
Early in the week, Gov. Cuomo nominated his buddies. He named former aide Lawrence Schwartz and Peter Ward, head of the New York Hotel & Motel Trades Council, to the Board. Neither have any transit experience to speak of, but both are what some with less diplomacy might call cronies of the governor. Much as he did with the Port Authority, the governor has appointed his friends and allies to a board with particular importance to the region’s transit system.
Meanwhile, although Bill de Blasio hasn’t seemed to grasp the importance of transit to New York’s success and, in particular, his affordable housing initiative, he at least has people whispering sweet somethings about MTA Board appointees. The Mayor named City Council Transportation Committee Chairman Ydanis Rodriguez, the Tri-State Transportation Campaign’s Director Veronica Vanterpool and community leader David Jones to the Board.
So who are all of these appointees replacing? de Blasio’s picks will fill one vacant seat and replace John Banks and Jeffrey Kay, two holdovers from the Bloomberg Administration, giving the mayor control over his four seats. The governor’s men have earned a more skeptical look from the transit-erati as Ward is replacing Allen Cappelli. The Staten Island native, and one-time Carl McCall campaign guru, has been an outspoken supporter and defender of transit. He understands the need to fund the capital campaign and, as a Paterson appointee, hasn’t fallen in line with the Cuomo party line of seemingly pretending not to know what the MTA is. Cappelli says he wanted to be appointed, and Staten Island pols say that, contrary to tradition, they weren’t consulted. But them’s the politics these days. When the MTA Board meets next, it will look quite different indeed.
So two pieces of news — one big and one small. First, the big. I’m getting married this weekend!
Second, this is the weekend the MTA is extending weekend J train service to Broad St. For riders of this line, the weekend extension provided a connection to Fulton St. and its slate of trains. It also eliminates a transfer at Chambers St. for access to Lower Manhattan. It’s ultimately not clear how many passengers will benefit from the service. The MTA claims 14,000 weekend riders will enjoy this service, but even if that’s high, sending the J a few stops further south is a low-cost customer-friendly improvement that will help those who need and use it.
Anyway, it’s a light weekend of service changes. Travel safe. I’ll see you on the other side of getting married.
From 12 noon to 5:00 p.m. Saturday, June 13, the 116 St station is EXIT ONLY. Use the 110 St or 125 St stations instead.
From 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. Sunday, June 14, the 77 St station is EXIT ONLY. Use the 68 St or 86 St stations instead.
From 11:45 p.m. Friday, June 12 to 6:30 a.m. Saturday, June 13, Inwood-207 St bound A trains run express from 59 St-Columbus Circle to 125 St.
From 12:01 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Saturday, June 13, Queens-bound A trains run local from 168 St to 59 St-Columbus Circle.
From 6:30 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Saturday, June 13, 168 St-bound C trains run express from 59 St-Columbus Circle to 125 St.
From 5:45 a.m. to 8:00 Saturday, June 13, Coney Island-Stillwell Av bound D trains are rerouted via the N from 36 St to Coney Island-Stillwell Av.
- To 9 Av, Fort Hamilton Pkwy, 50 St, 55 St, 71 St, 79 St, 18 Av, 20 Av, Bay Pkwy, 25 Av, and Bay 50 St, take the Coney Island-bound D to 62 St-New Utrecht Av or Stillwell Av and transfer to a Manhattan-bound D.
- From these stations, take a Manhattan-bound D to 62 St-New Utrecht Av or 36 St and transfer to a Coney Island-Stillwell Av bound D or N.
From 12:01 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Saturday, June 13, Coney Island-Stillwell Av bound D trains run local from 145 St to 59 St-Columbus Circle.
From 12:30 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Saturday, June 13 Jamaica Center-Parsons/Archer bound E trains run local from Queens Plaza to Forest Hills-71 Av.
From 12:30 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Saturday, June 13 E trains run local between Forest Hills-71 Av and Roosevelt Av.
From 12:30 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Saturday, June 13, Jamaica-179 St bound F trains run local between 21 St-Queensbridge to Forest Hills-71 Av. Coney Island-Stillwell Av bound F trains run local from Forest Hills-71 Av to Roosevelt Av.
From 11:15 p.m. Friday, June 12 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, June 15, Coney Island-Stillwell Av bound Q trains run express from Prospect Park to Kings Hwy
It’s no secret that the MTA has long struggled with opening dates for their capital projects. From staircase replacement projects to supposedly normal state-of-good-repair work like the Culver Viaduct rehabilitation to the 18 month-and-counting drama at the site of the 7 line’s future 34th St. terminus, the MTA simply cannot deliver on time. Whether it’s due to union featherbedding, contractor corruption, or the complexity of large-scale infrastructure work, the problem affects the agency’s credibility and New Yorkers’ collective ability to enjoy a subway system.
Along the Far West Side, the MTA’s troubles with getting the 7 line extension past the finish line and more comical than anything else. No one lives there yet so lives haven’t been disrupted and promises that were broken were made originally only to convention goers. The real estate interests constructing the Hudson Yards development will have their subway long before the buildings are complete.
The Upper East Side though is a horse of a different color. The MTA originally hoped to finish Phase 1 of the Second Ave. Subway in 2011 and then planned for a mid-2015 debut. As early as 2009, the agency had to push back the projected completion date to 2016 with a threat that work would continue into 2017. For Upper East Side residents who have lived with construction for nearly a decade already, further delays now would be infuriating.
Meanwhile, in 2009 and again in 2011, the Federal Transit Administration disputed the MTA’s timeline. While the agency pledged to open the $4.4 billion Phase 1 project by the end of 2016, the feds viewed a $5.5 billion extension opening in early 2018 as the most likely scenario. Over the past five years, the MTA has doubled down on the 2016 date while New Yorkers, rightfully skeptical of the lessons learned (or not learned, as the case may be) from the 7 line, still aren’t surprised by the feds’ timeline.
Yesterday, in prepared remarks first identified by Andrew Siff of NBC 4 and later in questions posed by the House Oversight Committee, FTA officials first doubled down on the 2018 timeline but then later walked it back. Federal officials acknowledged that the MTA’s 2016 revenue service date is achievable, but both the MTA and FTA seemed to agree tacitly that it will take a concerted oversight effort by agency officials to realize this earlier date.
The FTA’s pre-printed statement is decidedly less optimistic than the FTA’s subsequent comments during the hearing. Matthew Welbes, executive direct of the Federal Transit Administration, had this to say in his prepared remarks [pdf]:
In February 2015, FTA and the MTA executed an amended FFGA for the Second Avenue Subway Phase I project reflecting the changes in cost and schedule to the project. The amended FFGA includes a cost of $5.57 billion, and a revenue service date of February 28, 2018. As in the original FFGA, the amount of Federal Capital Investment Grant funding remains unchanged, with the local project sponsor covering the cost overruns.
In government-speak, that paragraph means the Full Funding Grant Agreement between the FTA and MTA acknowledged significantly higher costs and a delayed opening date. The MTA — or in this case, New York State — will foot the bill on cost overruns.
During subsequent question by Rep. Carolyn Maloney, Welbes walked back some of the FTA’s statements. When asked about the differing timelines, he provided the following explanation:
“When we executed the revised Full Funding Grant agreement in March, the schedule is that the project is supposed to open by by February of 2018. And that was based on what we agreed to with the MTA. If the MTA can deliver the project sooner, we would be proud to see that happen. It looks like the project is trending, based on our data, toward an opening of closer to, maybe early in, sometime in 2017. So the truth is probably somewhere between December of 2016 and our February of 2018 opening date. If the MTA does some of the aggressive schedule management steps that they have planned, they may very well achieve that December date.”
A revenue service start date early in 2017 wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world for the MTA. True, the feds’ outcome means a 30-block, $5.5-billion subway that takes nearly a decade to construct. True, those costs are higher, on a per mile basis, than any other comparable project. But for the MTA, a delay of only a few months would represent a significant improvement over its experiences on the West Side.
The MTA in response, meanwhile, defended its own timeline. “?The MTA reports our projections for megaproject cost and completion every month based on our own understanding of the work done so far and our best estimates of the work still to be done,” the agency said in a statement. They insist that the Second Ave. Subway’s first riders will be able to ride a 96th Street-bound Q train before the year is out.
For her part, Rep. Maloney urged the FTA and MTA to find a way to get this project completed by the end of next year. “I think,” she said, “that would build up a lot of credibility by everyone.” That’s no small point considering the MTA’s lobbying for nearly $15 billion in additional capital spending right now, but the concern is a missed deadline. Do you believe the MTA or the feds? And what happens when the Second Ave. Subway doesn’t open by the end of December of 2016? It’s a future no one wants to contemplate but one that isn’t too far off right now.
Over the weekend, Dan Rivoli of the Daily News wrote a feature on the MTA’s capital funding woes. For the transit literati, Rivoli’s piece travels no new ground, but it’s an important one for the debate and discussion over the MTA’s funding. While Gov. Cuomo shows no willingness to act before the legislative session ends in two weeks, Rivoli’s piece allows the MTA and its supporters to drive the conversation and keep the pressure on the governor to respond.
In the piece, Rivoli runs through the laundry list of projects the MTA can’t see through in the short- and long-term if the funding doesn’t materialize. Future phases of the Second Ave. Subway would be in jeopardy; rolling stock upgrades would be delayed; countdown clocks, a MetroCard replacement and other technological upgrades wouldn’t be funded. The money would go toward maintaining the current system and generally keeping the trains running without allowing the MTA to meet demands of high ridership and a growing city. “The status quo,” Allen Cappelli, an MTA board member, said to Rivoli, “is not good enough.”
Of course, Cappelli is right, but the more I thought about it, the more I thought about how right he is, capital funding or not. Right now, today — and especially during the weekend — the status quo isn’t good enough. The Daily News published Rivoli’s article on Saturday night, a few hours after I had gotten a text from my sister complaining about a 20-minute wait, with no announcement of a problem, for an N train on Saturday afternoon. It was also a few hours after I had to wait eight minutes for a 4 train at 7 p.m. and when headways were nearing 10 minutes on Brooklyn-bound 2 and 3 trains. It came after a week during which I saw similarly lengthy headways during peak-hour, mid-week service and at a time when it’s getting tougher to find seats on just about any train on a weekend.
The MTA has long maintained that service is good enough. But recall that they changed their own internal load guidelines back in 2010 so that a line isn’t eligible for more service until a quarter of a subway car’s off-peak passengers are standing. If we’re not there yet, we’re getting awfully close. These load guidelines, meanwhile, lead to longer waits and generally disgruntled riders.
As many of you know, I spent much of May traveling. I rode the U-Bahn and the S-Bahn in Berlin, the Tunnelbana in Stockholm, the CTA’s subways in Chicago and Boston’s T. The longest waits I’ve had for a train during mid-day, off-peak and peak hours have all been in New York City. If that’s the status quo the MTA is seeking enough money to maintain, the status quo is not good enough.
It’s hard to say what the best solution is. Any increase in service involves massive costs in that the MTA would need to hire more employees (already a source of lost cost cavings opportunities thanks to Cuomo’s utter capitulation to the TWU last year), buy more rolling stock, and upgrade the signal systems. Running more frequent four- or five-car sets during off-peak hours could solve some of the problems associated with headways but not necessarily address the issue of crowding. And of course, without action from Albany one way or another, the money to improve the not-good-enough status quo isn’t there.
The MTA certainly isn’t wine and roses. They bleed money on capital side at rates well above any comparably system or city throughout the world and haven’t shown much willingness in recent years to push for OPTO or ATO measures that would save oodles of money. The governor isn’t listening to its leaders or the people of New York who need investment in transit, and we’re stuck with this insufficient status quo. If you think too hard about the future, it’s not necessarily a pretty picture, and it’s one New York, Albany and the MTA may be rushing headlong toward.
As Denise Richardson, the head of the General Contractors Association said to the Daily News, “We’re violating one of those cardinal principles of long-term capital planning, which is to take a long-term view and not just be responding to the emergency priorities.” Waiting for the emergency will mean it’s already too late.
This week was a bit of a milestone for the Second Ave. Subway. While we were debating the fate of the Q train, the MTA quietly announced that the first train had rolled down the tracks underneath Second Ave. The work train you see above took the ride from the old tracks to the new near 63rd St. At some point soon — hopefully by the end of 2016 — New York City will finally have a piece of the Second Ave. Subway. What the future holds is up to Gov. Cuomo who appears unwilling to act and unwilling to lead.
As you mull over our governor’s abandonment of the city’s transit system, get ready for weekend work. You know the drill.
From 11:45 p.m. Friday, June 5 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, June 8, South Ferry-bound 1 trains run express from 14 St to Chambers St.
From 11:45 p.m. Friday, June 5 to 6:30 a.m. Sunday, June 7, and from 11:45 p.m. Sunday, June 7 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, June 8, Flatbush Av-Brooklyn College bound 2 trains run express from 14 St to Chambers St.
From 6:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. Saturday, June 6, and Sunday, June 7, 3 trains are suspended in both directions between Crown Hts-Utica Av and New Lots Av. Free shuttle buses provide alternate service, and operate all weekend between Crown Hts-Utica Av and New Lots Av making all station stops.
From 11:30 p.m. Friday, June, 5 to 7:30 a.m. Sunday, June 7, and from 11:30 p.m. Sunday, June 7 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, June 8, 4 trains are suspended in both directions between Crown Hts-Utica Av and New Lots Av. Free shuttle buses provide alternate service, and operate all weekend between Crown Hts-Utica Av and New Lots Av making all station stops.
From 11:45 p.m. Friday, June 5 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, June 8, 5 service is 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. Transfer between trains and shuttle buses at E 180 St.
From 11:45 p.m. Friday, June 5 to 4:00 a.m. Monday, June 8, Pelham Bay Park-bound 6 trains run express from Parkchester to Pelham Bay Park.
From 6:45 a.m. Saturday, June 6 to 7:00 p.m. Sunday, June 7, Brooklyn Bridge-City Hall bound 6 trains run express from Parkchester to Hunts Point Av.
From 11:45 p.m. Friday, June 5 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, June 8, Times Sq-42 St bound 7 trains run express from Mets-Willets Point to Queensboro Plaza.
- To 111 St, 103 St, 90 St, 82 St, 74 St, 69 St, 52 St, 46 St, 40 St, and 33 St, take the 7 to Junction Blvd, 61 St-Woodside, or Queensboro Plaza and transfer to a Flushing-Main St bound 7.
- From these stations, take a Flushing-Main St bound 7 to 61 St-Woodside, Junction Blvd, or Mets-Willets Point and transfer to a Times Sq-42 St bound 7.
From 11:45 p.m. Friday, June 5 to 6:30 a.m. Sunday, June 7, and from 11:45 p.m. Sunday, June 7 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, June 8, Inwood-207 St bound A trains run express from 59 St-Columbus Circle to 125 St.
From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, June 6 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, June 8, Inwood-207 St bound A trains run local from Canal St to 59 St-Columbus Circle.
From 6:30 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. Saturday, June 6 and Sunday, June 7, 168 St-bound C trains run express from 59 St-Columbus Circle to 125 St.
From 6:30 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. Saturday, June 6 and Sunday, June 7, Brooklyn-bound C trains skip 50 St, 23 St, and Spring St. To/from these stations, take the E instead; transfer between trains at 42 St-Port Authority, 14 St, W 4 St-Wash Sq or Canal St.
From 11:45 p.m. Friday, June 5 to 6:30 a.m. Sunday, June 7, and from 11:45 p.m. Sunday, June 7 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, June 8, Coney Island-Stillwell Av bound D trains run express from Atlantic Av-Barclays Ctr to 36 St.
From 12:15 a.m. Saturday, June 6 to 6:30 a.m. Sunday, June 7, and from 12:15 a.m. to 5:00 a.m. Monday, June 8, Jamaica Center-Parsons/Archer bound E trains run express from Queens Plaza to Roosevelt Av.
From 12:30 a.m. Saturday, June 6 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, June 8, E trains run local between Forest Hills-71 Av and Roosevelt Av.
From 11:45 p.m. Friday, June 5, to 5:00 a.m. Monday, June 8, Coney Island-Stillwell bound F trains are rerouted via the E line from Roosevelt Av to W 4 St-Wash Sq, and then via the A line to Jay St-MetroTech.
From 12:30 a.m. Saturday, June 6 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, June 8, F trains run local between Forest Hills-71 Av and Roosevelt Av.
From 7:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Saturday, June 6 and Sunday, June 7, L trains operate in two sections:
- Between 8 Av and Broadway Junction.
- Between Broadway Junction and Canarsie-Rockaway Pkwy, every 24 minutes.
- To continue your trip, transfer at Broadway Junction.
From 5:45 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Saturday, June 6 and Sunday, June 7, M trains are suspended. J trains and free shuttle buses provide alternate service.
- Free shuttle buses make all M line station stops between Metropolitan Av and Myrtle Av.
- Use the J for service between Myrtle Av and Essex St.
- Transfer between shuttle buses and J trains at Myrtle Av.
- For direct service to/from Manhattan, use the L via transfer at Myrtle-Wyckoff Avs.
From 11:45 p.m. Friday, June 5 to 6:30 a.m. Sunday, June 7, and from 11:45 p.m. Sunday, June 7 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, June 8, Coney Island-Stillwell Av bound N trains run express from Atlantic Av-Barclays Ctr to 59 St.
From 11:45 p.m. Friday, June 5, to 5:00 a.m. Monday, June 8, Coney Island-Stillwell bound N trains skip 49 St.
From 10:45 p.m. Friday, June 5 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, June 8, Coney Island-Stillwell Av bound Q trains run express from Prospect Park to Kings Hwy.
From 11:45 p.m. Friday, June 5 to 6:30 a.m. Sunday, June 7, and from 11:45 p.m. Sunday, June 7 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, June 8, Coney Island-Stillwell Av bound Q trains skip 49 St.
From 6:30 a.m. to 12 Midnight, Saturday, June 6 and Sunday, June 7, Forest Hills-71 Av bound R trains run express from Queens Plaza to Roosevelt Av.
From 11:45 p.m. Friday, June 5 to 6:30 a.m. Sunday, June 7, and from 11:45 p.m. Sunday, June 7 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, June 8, Bay Ridge-95 St bound R trains skip 45 St and 53 St. 36 St-bound R trains stop at 53 St and 45 St.
From 6:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. Saturday, June 6 and Sunday, June 7, Bay Ridge-95 St bound R trains run express from Atlantic Av-Barclays Ctr to 59 St.
From 6:30 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. Saturday, June 6 and Sunday, June 7, Bay Ridge-95 St bound R trains skip 49 St.
Despite the ongoing drama with the 7 line extension — the MTA now anticipates opening the 34th St. station in September or October, 21 or 22 months late — the agency continues to push the party line that the Second Ave. Subway will open by the end of December of 2016. A recent media tour of the construction site revealed significant progress, and the MTA says the project is 82.3% completed. Still, Upper East Side residents I’ve spoken with are skeptical as the work has been marked by constant missed deadlines and broken promises.
Meanwhile, across the East River in Queens, Astoria residents are beginning to take notice of the looming completion of Phase 1 of this project, and they’re worried. When the MTA first unveiled plans for the Second Ave. Subway, it was billed as a northward extension of the Q train from 57th St. and 7th Ave. to 96th St. and 2nd Ave. via preexisting tunnel to 63rd St. and new tunnel underneath 2nd Ave. This was 11 years ago when the W split the Queens load with the N train, and extending the Q north would have no affect on service to and from Astoria.
Since then, the W has gone the way of the dodo and the Q serves a vital part-time link for Astoria subway riders. In fact, the BMT trains from Queens have seen massive growth over the past decade, and residents and politicians alike have called for more frequent service, especially during off-peak and weekend hours. Thus, the threat of a Q train service diversion has many nervous. Today, Dan Rivoli, the new Daily News transit beat writer, and Chris Sommerfeldt delved into this issue and for some reason, the MTA played its cards awfully close to its chest. The two write:
In diverting the Q line to the East Side, NYC Transit has not decided if the N can handle riders in Astoria “or if there will need to be trains added,” according to an email obtained by the Daily News. The email was sent to at least two riders who inquired to the MTA about Q service in Queens by Joseph O’Donnell, outreach director for the megaproject.
MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz stressed the transit agency is not planning a service cut. “While the route letters may change, and exactly what will happen hasn’t been determined yet, we have no plans to reduce service on the Astoria or any other line,” Ortiz said…
Sen. Michael Gianaris of Astoria said that while the MTA’s assurances sound good, he wants to make sure capacity on the Astoria train lines is maintained. But given the crowds of waiting commuters he sees from his district office, “what they really should be doing is increasing service,” he said.
As Rivoli and Sommerfeldt’s person-on-the-street interviewees note in the article, a service cut for Astoria seems ludicrous, and the MTA has maintained since eliminating the W in 2010 that the Second Ave. Subway opening would not lead to less service for Astoria. Still, I can see why some people in Queens may be unsettled by the MTA’s less-than-comforting remarks. At some point soon, the MTA should announce that some version of the W will return with part-time service into Astoria, and the MTA should consider restoring N express service in Manhattan during peak hours as well. For now, we don’t know what the service patterns will be, but in less than a year and a half we will. It should bring comfort to Queens even if the question remains unsettled for now.
The revolving door atop the MTA’s power structure continues to spin as New York City Transit President Carmen Bianco announced his plans to retire this summer. Bianco, 63, took over the role in April of 2013 when Tom Prendergast was elevated to MTA Chair, and he had previously spent over three years as the Senior Vice President of Subways. He was the seventh New York City Transit President and, outside of Howard Robers, the shortest-tenured one.
As with any agency head, Bianco’s time as president has seen its ups and downs — though the downs were brought about by forces of nature largely outside of anyone’s control. As VP and later President, he led an agency working to overcome the damage wrought by Superstorm Sandy and developed the early years of Transit’s $4 billion Fix & Fortify spending plan. Meanwhile, on the positive side, the subways now serve up to 6 million riders per day, and overall daily NYC Transit ridership has topped 8.2 million. The team Bianco put into place is working to increase subway capacity too, though changes (cough cough open gangways cough cough) can’t come soon enough.
MTA officials, meanwhile, praised Bianco and pledged to conduct a wide search for his replacement. “Carmen Bianco is a one-of-a-kind leader as well as a trusted friend, and while I understand why he is ready to retire now, we will all miss his detailed experience, his thoughtful perspective and his constant drive to make transit better for both our customers and our employees,” Prendergast said in a statement. “Through initiatives like establishing the FASTRACK program for subway maintenance and aggressively bringing new technology into the system, Carmen made the organizational culture of New York City Transit reflect the priorities that our customers expect. He will be missed.”