Gov. Cuomo says the Willets Point AirTrain is still a part of the Laguardia overhaul, but should it be? (Via Gov. Cuomo)

Tuesday dawned with some odd news: An unsigned New York 1 reported alleged that Gov. Andrew Cuomo was gathering officials and dignitaries in Queens to celebrate the groundbreaking of the Laguardia AirTrain. This did not make sense. The AirTrain plan is still half-formed with no firm cost estimate or any sort of plan. Cuomo wants to build a leg from the Willets Point subway/LIRR stop to Laguardia via the Grand Central Parkway because there are no NIMBYs to upset, but that’s about all we know.

As the day unfolded, I wondered what was happening. Cuomo has been known to push through projects without clarity regarding funding sources (hello, New New York Bridge), but even the AirTrain would require some sort of environmental impact study. And so as the press event unfolded, it became clear that it wasn’t about the AirTrain and rather about Cuomo’s $4 billion public-private partnership that will fund the Laguardia rebuild. The AirTrain is still simply in the works, but how firm those plans are remains to be seen.

The plans involve a new Terminal B and Central Hall that should mesh with Delta’s own proposal to renovate its terminal. It’s being funded through private investment (though Cuomo’s statements made it sound like he called in a favor for some federal dollars too), and the project should wrap by 2021, just shy of the end of Cuomo’s potential third term. During the press conference, Cuomo briefly touched upon the idea of an AirTrain. He also claimed it would provide a ride to Penn Station and claimed that East Side Access would connect Penn Station and Grand Central. It was not a banner presser for Cuomo and transit. In the press release, the word “AirTrain” appears exactly once in a quote attributed to State Senator Jose Peralta.

All of this leads me to a question: Is the Laguardia AirTrain proposal real or is it simply vaporware from a governor looking to be viewed as “strong on infrastructure” so that he can position himself for a run at the White House in four or eight years? It is of course far too early to judge, but while the Laguardia overhaul is moving forward, the AirTrain is heading for purgatory.

For now, the only money allocated to the project is a $78 million item in the MTA’s approved capital plan for “replacement and upgrade” of the Willets Point LIRR station. The project will support full-time service for a “large volumes of railroad customers” with “seamless, direct access” to the AirTrain. The LIRR is to perform the preliminary design and environmental review work before transferring the AirTrain project and oversight of the Mets-Willets Transit Hub to the Port Authority for the procurement and construction phases.

The Q70 will be rebranded the Laguardia Link come the fall. (Via Gov. Cuomo)

So where does that leave us? I’ve written extensively about how the no-build option is likely better than the Willets Point routing for a Laguardia AirTrain and how the time is ripe for an N train extension to Laguardia rather than a Willets Point AirTrain. Yet, Cuomo has an idea for this project stuck in his head, and he has shown a willingness to push through this type of work. It may be right to call it vaporware simply because Cuomo is behind it, but for now, it looks awfully akin to transit vaporware.

As now, the LIRR expects to spend the money for the Willets Point work in 2017 and 2018. So it’s likely to be a few years before we even know what the EIS assessment for this LGA AirTrain concludes. For now, then, the best and only transit upgrades that will accompany the new Laguardia is a rebranding of the Q70 as the Laguardia Link complete with pre-board fare payment. It’s a step in the right direction and one that can be implemented in a few months. It’s not a substitute for a real effort to improve transit to the airport, but then again, neither is the Willets Point AirTrain, whenever it rolls around.

Categories : Queens
Comments (84)
DOT's Mobility Report identified just show slowly buses move through New York City.

DOT’s Mobility Report identified just show slowly buses move through New York City.

Every day, the 8.5 million people who live in New York, along with numerous tourists and others journeying in for work or education or fun, have to get somewhere. We have to get to our jobs and our schools, our grocery stores and our parks, and our museums, plays and baseball stadiums. We take subways and buses, cars and taxis, bikes and boats. On some days, our riders are smoother than others, but by and large this transportation network gets us where we need to be.

It’s not, however, all perfect, and lately cracks in a particularly vital segment have been on full display. New York City’s bus network seems to be hemorrhaging riders at a study clip, and although policy-makers have expressed concern over sharply declining ridership figures, they have not yet taken steps to solve New York City’s bus problems. A solution could require a major reconfiguring of how we prioritize traffic and street space, and current City and MTA officials haven’t been willing to dig in for a fight.

Earlier this week, NYC DOT released a new Mobility Report [pdf], and the colorful document highlights how New York City is more crowded than ever before and traffic speeds, especially in Manhattan’s so-called central business district south of 60th Street, have never been slower. “With record tourism, jobs and population growth, New York City is now experiencing packed subway trains, along with a 300% surge in daily bicycling since 1990,” DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg noted in a statement. “The report’s conclusions are clear: As we move forward, policy makers will need to redouble efforts to chart a course that supports mass transit and other options to keep a growing and thriving New York City moving.”

If only it were that simple. As the population grows, mobility has slowed, and buses have been the biggest victims of slow speeds. The numbers are stark. In 2000, annual bus ridership hit 699 million, and that number held steady until 2010 when the MTA slashed numerous bus routes and generally reduced service throughout the city. Since then, and despite a rollback of some of the cuts, annual ridership hit 651 million last year, and there is no indication this trend will reverse.

Bus ridership has been steadily declining since 2010.

Bus ridership has been steadily declining since 2010.

The report discusses the rise of cycling as a popular means of filling in holes in the transit network and solving many people’s last-mile problems, but it seems to lay the blame of the bus decline squarely on the shoulders of speed. Using BusTime data, DOT found that travel speeds in Manhattan, where ridership has sunk the most, are slowest, and in many spots, buses are traveling slower than a healthy adult can walk. For example, a westbound M42 averages 3.2 miles per hour between 2nd Avenue and 6th Avenue between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. on a weekday. For many people, it is literally faster to walk.

That bus speeds are so slow is no big surprise, but what can we do to fix it? The report indicates that speeds are the cause for a decline, but it falls short of identifying any cures. Generally, three issues create slow buses. First, the boarding process where riders dip their MetroCards (and often struggle with it) is slow and clunky, creating very long dwell times at stations. Second, buses are subject to the whims of the street. Without dedicated infrastructure, buses get stuck in traffic, and even in places where dedicated lanes do exist, enforcement is spotty. Queue-jumping technology, or signal priortization, was supposed to be a part of the city’s Select Bus Service offerings, but it still hasn’t been rolled out. Add it all up, and you get slow buses.

From where I sit, fixing the buses would involve a massive philosophical change in which pre-board fare payment is the norm rather than a feature of a souped-up express bus. It would involve rethinking the bus network to ensure that buses provide connections between where riders are and where they want to be. It would also require a major push to bring dedicated bus lanes to far more areas of the city. Buses shouldn’t be a secondary mode of transit, subject to congestion; buses should get priority over surface congestion.

Ultimately, if the city is serious about eliminating congestion, especially in Manhattan, the answer will be some form of pricing model, but that will lead to the need to invest in buses. And to do that, the city has to start respecting buses. Otherwise, they will be forever stuck in traffic, inching slowly down their routes, sometimes faster than walking, usually slower than biking, and always a second-class mode of transit.

Categories : Buses
Comments (92)

As the MTA has put the capital funding debacle temporarily in the rear view mirror and gears up for a planned December unveiling of the Second Ave. Subway, nearly 90 years in the making, something akin to benign neglect has settled over the MTA Board. Thanks to inaction on the part of the Governor who is supposed to pass along nominees, 14 out of the 23 MTA Board spots are currently holdover appointees (with some held over from as long ago as 2006) while two vacancies have sat empty for years and three other appointments are set to expire at the end of the month.

Now, for the second time in two years, the governor has passed along a slate of names for certain open positions — including three mayoral nominees — late in the legislative calendar. There is hope that the State Senate will have time to consider and confirm these appointments, but similar to last year, the legislative calendar has only five days remaining before breaking until January. With so little time left and based on conversations I’ve had, it isn’t in fact clear if Cuomo wants many of these nominations confirmed.

Kate Hinds of WNYC broke the news of the new appointments via Twitter tonight:

Of those listed, Vanterpool, Jones and Rodriguez, all de Blasio nominees, along with Peter Ward, a Cuomo appointee, had been sent to the Senate last year, but the Senate claimed it simply did not have time to assess these candidates. They’re joined this year by TWU President John Samuelsen, who would fill the union’s non-voting representative seat on the Board, and Charles Phillips, a major Cuomo campaign contributor. It’s not quite clear whose seat Phillips would fill, though all indications are that Allen Cappelli, a smart, loud and vocal advocate for sensible transit policy, will be off the Board.

In her story on the appointments Hinds gets into the motivation behind Cuomo’s inaction. When asked why he waited so long again to send these names to the Senate, the state’s chief executive said simply, “I don’t know.” It’s also still not clear if the rumblings of a conflict of interest with regards to the mayor’s appointment of Ydanis Rodriguez have been resolved.

Whether this is forward progress remains to be seen. Cuomo has an MTA Board now that, with a few exceptions, isn’t pushing back on his policies and poor funding practices. He hasn’t been too willing to approve the Mayor’s nominations who would be a bit more vocal regarding some of the state’s poor practices, and so he has seemingly been content to let the holdover Board members continue in their roles. We’ll find out over the next few weeks if the Senate is under pressure from Cuomo to hear these nominees, but it wouldn’t surprise me if the 2016 legislative session ends with, again, no action on MTA Board appointments. After all, the MTA has long been another pawn in the battle between Cuomo and de Blasio.

Categories : MTA Politics
Comments (10)

Some weekend reading for you: Alon Levy doesn’t much go for the Triboro RX plan the RPA has been pushing as part of its fourth plan for New York City, and he wrote a long post explaining why. I’ll likely delve into it next week, but it’s worth a weekend read if you need some transit words to while away some time. Don’t skip the comments either.


From 11:30 p.m. Friday, June 3, to 5:00 a.m. Monday, June 6, 3 service is suspended in both directions between Crown Hts-Utica Av and New Lots Av. Free shuttle buses operate all weekend between Crown Hts-Utica Av and New Lots Av making all station stops.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, June 3, to 5:00 a.m. Monday, June 6, 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 23 trains at Fulton St. For service between Crown Hts-Utica Av and New Lots Av, use free shuttle buses.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, June 3, to 5:00 a.m. Monday, June 6, 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 free shuttle buses at E 180 St.


From 7:45 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. Sunday, June 5, 5 trains are suspended in both directions between E 180 St and 149 St-Grand Concourse. For service between E 180 St and 149 St-Grand Concourse, take the 2 instead.


From 3:45 a.m. Saturday, June 4 to 10:00 p.m. Sunday, June 5, 34 St-Hudson Yards bound 7 trains run express from Mets-Willets Point to Queensboro Plaza, stopping at 74 St.


From 11:30 p.m. Friday, June 3 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, June 6, A trains are suspended in both directions between 168 St and Inwood-207 St. Free shuttle buses operate along two routes:

  • On Broadway, between 168 St and Inwood-207 St, making stops at 175 St, 181 St, 190 St, and Dyckman St.
  • On Fort Washington Av, between 168 St and 190 St, making stops at 175 St and 181 St.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, June 3 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, June 6, A 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, June 3 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, June 6, Downtown A trains run express from 145 St to 59 St-Columbus Circle.


From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, June 4 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, June 6, A trains run local in both directions between 168 St and 145 St.


From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, June 4 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, June 6, A trains run local in both directions between 59 St-Columbus Circle and W 4 St-Wash Sq.


From 6:30 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, June 4 and June 5, C trains are suspended in both directions between 145 St and 168 St. Take the A instead.


From 6:30 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, June 4 and June 5, Downtown C trains run express from 145 St to 59 St-Columbus Circle.


From 6:30 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, June 4 and June 5, 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, June 3 to 10:00 p.m. Sunday, June 5, Coney Island-Stillwell Av bound D trains are rerouted via the N line from 36 St to Coney Island-Stillwell Av.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, June 3 to 6:30 a.m. Sunday, June 5, and from 11:45 p.m. Sunday, June 5 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, June 6, Manhattan-bound D trains run express from 36 St to Atlantic Av-Barclays Ctr.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, June 3 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, June 6, E trains are rerouted via the F in both directions between 21 St-Queensbridge and W 4 St-Wash Sq. Free shuttle buses run between Court Sq-23 St and 21 St-Queensbridge, stopping at Queens Plaza.


From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, June 4, to 5:00 a.m. Monday, June 6, E trains run local in both directions in Queens.


From 11:15 p.m. Friday, June 3, to 5:00 a.m. Monday, June 6, Coney Island-Stillwell Av bound F trains run express from Church Av to Jay St-MetroTech.


From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, June 4, to 5:00 a.m. Monday, June 6, F trains run local in Queens.


From 11:15 p.m. Friday, June 3 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, June 6, G trains are suspended in both directions between Church Av and Hoyt-Schermerhorn Sts. AF trains provide alternate service. G trains will operate in two sections between Court Sq and Bedford-Nostrand Avs, and between Bedford-Nostrand Avs and Hoyt-Schermerhorn Sts, every 20 minutes. To continue your trip, transfer at Bedford-Nostrand Avs.


From 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Saturday, June 4, L service will operate in two sections. Between 8 Av and Broadway Junction, and between Broadway Junction and Rockaway Pkwy, every 24 minutes. To continue your trip, transfer at Broadway Junction.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, June 3 to 6:30 a.m. Sunday, June 5, and from 11:45 p.m. Sunday, June 5 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, June 6, Manhattan-bound N trains run express from 59 St to Atlantic Av-Barclays Ctr.


From 6:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, June 4 and June 5, Manhattan-bound R trains run express from 59 St to Atlantic Av-Barclays Ctr.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, June 3 to top 6:30 a.m. Sunday, June 5, and from 11:45 p.m. Sunday, June 5 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, June 6, R trains are suspended in both directions between 59 St and 36 St. Take the N instead.

Categories : Service Advisories
Comments (3)

For certain reasons, The New York Times seems to bury its urban policy editorials on Saturdays, and a pro-congestion pricing missive published on May 21st continued the trend. I didn’t have an opportunity to write it up last week, but for a few reasons, it’s worth revisiting. It’s a ringing endorsement of the Move New York plan, but I worry that supporters are putting too much hope on a plan that, when judged on its merits only, is very worthwhile but isn’t the single silver bullet it is often made out to be.

Coming in between a story on the overwhelmed subway system and a look at northeast transit infrastructure, the editorial trumpets the traffic pricing plan as the way to “save New York’s overwhelmed subways.” That’s a lofty goal considering the systemic problems with the subway and the organization running it right now. Some relevant excerpts:

The real reason for this sorry state of affairs has been not poverty but an impoverished imagination and a dearth of political will. Enter a group of Democrats in the State Assembly with an ambitious plan, introduced in March, that could significantly improve the city’s transportation system if the rest of the Legislature and Gov. Andrew Cuomo get behind it. Called the Move NY Fair Plan, it would collect about $1.35 billion a year in new revenue through bridge tolls, congestion pricing and a per-mile surcharge on taxi rides in Midtown and Lower Manhattan. The money would help pay for more frequent service on existing train and bus lines and new service in parts of the city that are so far from subway lines that officials and residents refer to them as “transit deserts.”

…The biggest chunk of the money from the new tolls and fees would enable the M.T.A. to borrow money for much-needed repairs and upgrades. For example, the authority would be able to more quickly replace its aging switching and signaling system with more reliable and efficient technology. That would allow it to run more trains, since it would be able to safely reduce the distance between them. The agency would also be assured of the money needed to finish the second phase of the Second Avenue subway line up to 125th Street…

Move NY would also give the M.T.A. the money and authority to establish new subway lines. One of the most promising proposals is for a line to connect the Bronx, Queens and Brooklyn over existing rail tracks,…which supporters call the Triboro Rx…Similarly, the plan includes a proposal to turn existing Long Island Rail Road tracks between the Atlantic Terminal in Brooklyn and Rosedale in Queens into a new subway line…Finally, the legislation would set aside money for transit projects in the Hudson Valley and on Long Island. It would also create new bus service and reduce fares on express buses. And it would give money to neighborhood community boards to invest in local projects like bike lanes, bus depots, public plazas and station repairs.

Considering the MTA needs four or five years of Move New York revenue to fulfill the planned budget for Phase 2 of the Second Ave. Subway alone, that’s a lofty goal for what is, in New York City, a relatively paltry $1.35 billion a year. Of course, the MTA can bond out that money against revenue-generating projects but between all of these competing projects plus the need to expand service rapidly to make up for the demand congestion pricing will place on the transit network, that $1.35 billion won’t go nearly as far as The Times hopes.

And that’s the key: By itself, Move New York is a very worthwhile piece of a larger transportation puzzle. It should help alleviate congestion on city streets while providing another stream of dollars for transit investment, but it’s not the silver bullet.

In a Tweetstorm in response to The Times editorial, Yonah Freemark of The Transport Politic summed up this argument.

The MTA needs money, and the city’s streets need to be cleared of as many cars as possible. But the MTA also needs political support, massive cost and work rule reform, a plan to build and deliver projects quickly and efficiently, and operations reform. Move New York is a start, but it’s one piece of the puzzle, not the entire puzzle itself.

Categories : Congestion Fee
Comments (95)
The RPA's plan for the L train involves comprehensive upgrades that would benefit future generations of NYC subway riders. (Via RPA)

An 18-month L train shutdown should bring other improvements for riders of the crowded subway line. (Via RPA)

I sort of disappeared on everyone last week. After Monday’s report on the W train, I didn’t have anything else ready for last week, and I was in Los Angeles for a mix of business and pleasure without much time to write. I know a few readers were asking after some additional content, and I’ll try to give a heads’ up next time before I disappear for a week. On the plus side, it’s been a relatively slow news week, but with a transit system that runs 24 hours a day, there’s always something going on.

Being in Southern California for eight days gave me a chance to see life in the automobile dystopia that is Los Angeles. My hotel was a few miles from my office, and I had to drive to work. Leaving at 6:30 a.m. is fine; the three miles went by in a flash. Leaving at 8:30 a.m. was a different story as the local roads were packed. Luckily, I could avoid the freeways at most peak hours, though it took an exceptionally long time to get to Dodger Stadium on Wednesday.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have to chance to explore Los Angeles’ latest transit toy: the Expo Line extension to Santa Monica. It opened a few days before I arrived but wasn’t close to where I was or where I needed to be. On the first business day of operations, a drunk driver snarled morning service by driving onto the tracks. It was a very LA moment. I meanwhile was stuck in areas along Santa Monica and Sunset Boulevards. These areas don’t have much in the way of dedicated transit infrastructure because wealthy residents in the Hollywood Hills and Beverly Hills didn’t want bus lanes skirting their neighborhoods. Sound familiar?

Ultimately, though, Los Angeles is engaged in a much more ambitious transit expansion plan than New York City, and it may come to fruition within the next decade. I’m doubtful it will be ever enough — without a congestion pricing plan — to alleviate LA’s infamous traffic, but it’s forward progress for a region that isn’t known for transit investment.

Meanwhile, in New York, as politicians continue to claim that everything under the sun except for congestion pricing, including more ferries and more bus lanes, will solve Manhattan’s congestion problems, we pick up where we left off: with the L train. The MTA hosted its third meeting on the upcoming shutdown last week, this one in Canarsie, and although the agency had no new information to add to the public presentation, a Riders Alliance survey of L train riders found that the vast majority of them would favor the shorter, full shutdown of the tunnel between Manhattan and Brooklyn.

According to the survey, a whopping 77 percent of riders said they preferred the 18-month shutdown rather than a three-year plan that would lead to an 80 percent reduction in L train service. In either case, trains will still run between Lorimer St. and Canarsie, and L train riders urged the MTA to increase service on lines that feed into or run parallel to the L, including the G, J/Z, M and A/C lines. Straphangers also requested dedicated bus lanes along 14th St. in Manhattan, more biking options and infrastructure, and increased ferry service. The city will and should implement all of these ideas once the shutdown arrives in 2019.

“During the shutdown of the L train, the MTA must adopt an ‘all-of-the-above’ approach to keep residents of Williamsburg, Bushwick, Brownsville, East New York, and Canarsie connected to the rest of our city,” Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams said. “The MTA has the ability and the responsibility to reduce the disruption that Brooklyn residents and business owners will experience, providing a variety of alternate routes including expanded service on other subway lines, a dedicated lane for buses on the Williamsburg Bridge, and more choices for commuters who want to travel by ferry or bicycle. I urge the MTA to continue its dialogue with stakeholders from every community of Brooklyn that depends on the L train to develop a comprehensive mitigation plan, one that fulfills all of the needs unique to those communities.”

The RPA again stressed its call to improve all facets of the L during the shutdown, and I firmly believe missing the opportunity to dig out tail tracks at 8th Ave. could go down as one of the city’s 21st Century transit mistakes. Luckily, there are three years for everyone to sort out the solutions, but it seems that the 18-month survey, as I wrote in Crains New York in April, is the way to go.

Categories : Superstorm Sandy
Comments (29)
Come December (or so), the W train will return to the subway map. (Via MTA)

Come December (or so), the W train will return to the subway map. (Via MTA)

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:

NorthboundQ

SouthboundQ

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.

Comments (122)

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.

Categories : Service Advisories
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A real F express plan would involve a costly renovation of the lower level at Bergen St., shown here in 2000. (Photo via NYCSubway.org)

As the South Brooklyn politicians fight it out with the southern Brooklyn politicians, the MTA’s report on F service contains a few nuggets of information regarding the potential for express service. It’s a thorough look at transit history and ridership patterns — for instance, we learn that entrances between 7-10 a.m. make up nearly 40 percent of Brooklyn’s F train ridership — and it offers up a defense of some F express service.

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.

Categories : F Express Plan
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An MTA report discusses the restoring F express service in Brooklyn but six popular stations would see reduced frequencies.

An MTA report discusses the restoring F express service in Brooklyn but six popular stations would see reduced frequencies.

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.

Categories : F Express Plan
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