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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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.

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.

Categories : Buses
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It's a bit dark but the ghosts of Bergen St are visible this weekend as Manhattan-bound F trains run express.

A video posted by Second Ave. Sagas (@secondavesagas) on

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.

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.

Categories : Service Advisories
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Gov. Cuomo praised the MTA's new three-door articulated buses for their "European flair" and "Ferrari-like" design. The New Flyer-produced vehicles will hit city streets beginning next month.

Will technology-enabled buses or simply more frequent bus service attract more riders?

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.

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Dude.

Despite an ongoing MTA etiquette ad campaign, recent observers spotted an increase in manspreading.

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?

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A Saturday evening, Manhattan-bound Q train had no empty seats to spare. (Photo: Benjamin Kabak)

While working on a somewhat related piece tonight, I started collecting a series of numbers regarding the last few decades’ worth of subway ridership that I wanted to share. These numbers tell a story of a city that’s growing and a transit agency that’s going to struggle to keep up. They tell the story of planners potentially caught off guard and economics and construction timelines that are impossible to sustain. The numbers leave many questions up in the air, and I’m not quite sure what the next few decades will bring.

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.

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Spend your weekend pondering the short-term fate of the L train or perusing some immediate solutions to the city’s transit capacity crisis. Else, you could check out a plan to provide discount transit fares to low-income New Yorkers. Or prepare for your weekend travel. The service advisories follow. As always, they come from the MTA and are subject to change without warning.


From 11:30 p.m. Friday, May 6, to 5:00 a.m. Sunday, May 8, 1 service is suspended in both directions between 137 St and Wakefield-242 St. Take ac trains, M3, M100, and free shuttle buses. For service between 137 St and 168 St, use free shuttle buses or the a at nearby c stations. Transfer between buses and a trains at 207 St. For service between 168 St and 191 St, use M3 or free shuttle buses, or use the a at nearby stations. For service between 207 St and Wakefield-242 St, take free shuttle buses. For Dyckman St, use M100 bus (free shuttle buses overnight) to/from the Dyckman St a station.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, May 6, to 7:30 a.m. Sunday, May 8, and from 11:45 p.m. Sunday, May 8 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, May 9, Woodlawn-bound 4 trains run express from Grand Central-42 St to 125 St.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, May 6, to 7:30 a.m. Sunday, May 8, and from 11:45 p.m. Sunday, May 8 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, May 9, Woodlawn-bound 4 trains skip Astor Pl.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, May 6 to 7:30 a.m. Sunday, May 8, and from 11:45 p.m. Sunday, May 8 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, May 9, 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, May 8, 5 trains are suspended in both directions between E 180 St and 149 St-Grand Concourse. 5 service operates every 20 minutes between Bowling Green and 149 St-Grand Concourse. For service between E 180 St and 149 St-Grand Concourse, take the 2. Transfer between 2 and 5 trains at 149 St-Grand Concourse. As a reminder, 5 trains from Manhattan skip 138 St-Grand Concourse. Transfer to the 4 at 125 St.


From 3:30 a.m. Saturday, May 7 to 10:00 p.m. Sunday, May 8, 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 6 trains and free shuttle buses at Parkchester.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, May 6, to 5:00 a.m. Monday, May 9, Bronx-bound 6 trains run express from Grand Central-42 St to 125 St.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, May 6, to 5:00 a.m. Monday, May 9, Bronx-bound 6 trains skip Astor Pl.


From 3:45 a.m. Saturday, May 7 to 10:00 p.m. Sunday, May 8, 34 St-Hudson Yards bound 7 trains run express between 74 St-Broadway and Queensboro Plaza.


From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, May 7, to 5:00 a.m. Monday, May 9, A trains run local between 125 St and 168 St.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, May 6, to 6:30 a.m. Sunday, May 8, and from 11:45 p.m. Sunday, May 8 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, May 9, Inwood-207 St bound A trains run express from Canal St to 59 St-Columbus Circle.


From 6:30 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. Saturday, May 7, and Sunday, May 8, 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, May 7, and Sunday, May 8, 168 St-bound C trains run express from Canal St to 59 St-Columbus Circle.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, May 6, to 6:30 a.m. Sunday, May 8, and from 11:45 p.m. Sunday, May 8 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, May 9, Norwood-205 St bound D trains run express from 36 St to Atlantic Av-Barclays Ctr.


From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, May 7 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, May 9, D trains stop at 135 St in both directions.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, May 6 to 7:00 a.m. Sunday, May 8, and from 11:45 p.m. Sunday, May 8 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, May 9, World Trade Center-bound E trains run express from 71 Av to Queens Plaza.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, May 6, to 5:00 a.m. Monday, May 9, World Trade Center-bound E trains skip Briarwood and 75 Av.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, May 6, to 5:00 a.m. Monday, May 9, Jamaica Center-Parsons/Archer bound E trains skip Spring St and 23 St.


From 11:30 p.m. Friday, May 6 to 4:30 a.m. Monday, May 9, 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 11:30 p.m. Friday, May 6 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, May 9, Jamaica Center-Parsons/Archer bound F trains run express from 4 Av-9 Sts to Jay St-MetroTech.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, May 6 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, May 9, Jamaica Center-Parsons/Archer bound F trains skip 14 St and 23 St.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, May 6 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, May 9, Church Av-bound F trains skip Sutphin Blvd, Briarwood and 75 Av.


From 11:15 p.m. Friday, May 6 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, May 9, 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 6, to 6:30 a.m. Sunday, May 8, and from 11:45 p.m. Sunday, May 8 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, May 9, Manhattan-bound N trains run express from 59 St to Atlantic Av-Barclays Ctr.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, May 6, to 6:30 a.m. Sunday, May 8, and from 11:45 p.m. Sunday, May 8 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, May 9, Brooklyn-bound N trains skip 49 St.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, May 6, to 6:30 a.m. Sunday, May 8, and from 11:45 p.m. Sunday, May 8 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, May 9, Brooklyn-bound Q trains skip 49 St.


From 6:30 a.m. to 12 Midnight, Saturday and Sunday, May 7 and May 8, Manhattan-bound R trains run express from 71 Av to Queens Plaza.


From 6:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, May 7 and May 8, Manhattan-bound R trains run express from 59 St to Atlantic Av-Barclays Ctr.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, May 6, to 6:30 a.m. Sunday, May 8, and from 11:45 p.m. Sunday, May 8 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, May 9, R trains are suspended in both directions between 59 St and 36 St. Take the N instead.


From 6:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, May 7 and May 8, Downtown R trains skip 49 St.

Categories : Service Advisories
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The MTA has published two proposed plans for the L train shutdown.

The MTA has published two proposed plans for the L train shutdown.

One new to New York could be forgiven for believing as though L train riders are the only people to ride the subway or be inconvenienced by long-term construction work. For six months, the entirety of the focus of news coverage of the MTA’s Sandy recovery efforts has revolved around the L train, and while L train shutdown fatigue may be settling in three years ahead of the planned work, with so many daily riders, ahead of tonight’s public meeting, the drumbeat will only grow louder as the MTA has unveiled their potential options for the work.

Before I delve into the details, it’s worth noting that, no matter the MTA’s ultimate outcome, many L train riders have easy access to alternative routes. Every one traveling near or to the east of Broadway Junction can access the J, A and C trains (or even the 3 train), and those who live in Bushwick and the southern parts of Williamsburg can get to the M. The G, with all of its flaws, provides a connection to Queens, and the MTA has expressed a willingness to improve G train service and lengthen G trains during any L train work. Other routes will be more crowded and trips will be slower, but along with a bus lane across the Williamsburg Bridge, the infrastructure is in place to handle the L train shutdown. In other words, it’s not nearly as bad as the dire predictions of doom and gloom make it out to be.

The duct banks that line the Canarsie Tube will have to be rebuilt entirely.

The duct banks that line the Canarsie Tube will have to be rebuilt entirely.

That said, it’s not pretty. By itself, the L would be the 10th busiest subway system in the United States, and a prolonged shutdown will lead to disgruntled commuters. To that end, the MTA is officially consider two options. Gone is the idea, pushed foolishly by Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, of work only on nights and weekends. Besides a potential seven-year timeframe under that approach, MTA officials determined that, per The Times, the “complex work could not be done in such a narrow window.” WNYC notes that air quality concerns foreclose the nights-and-weekends approach. The MTA also has said that building a new tunnel is too costly and time-consuming to be a viable option.

So what remains is either an 18-month total shutdown of the Canarise Tunnel or a three-year partial shutdown which would see service reduced to around 20 percent of its current volume. In each case, the MTA would run L trains between Rockaway Parkway and Lorimer Ave., but the three-year plan would create a gap in service between Lorimer and Bedford Avenues. Meanwhile, J and Z trains would operate as local and M train service would be increased. The agency would lengthening G trains to bolster capacity, and the MTA plans to work with the city to increase East River ferry service. The MTA has also expressed a willingness to establish bus-only lanes across the Williamsburg Bridge which I have long believed to be key to an alternative service arrangements. In the event of a partial tunnel shutdown, L trains would continue to run under the East River but only approximately 4-5 times per hour in each direction.

The top map shows the effects of a three-year one-tube closure, and the bottom shows alternate routes for an 18-month shutdown. (Click to enlarge)

The top map shows the effects of a three-year one-tube closure, and the bottom shows alternate routes for an 18-month shutdown. (Click to enlarge)

Publicly, the agency hasn’t expressed a strong preference for one approach or another, and officials say they want to hear out the concerns of the community of L train riders before making a final decision. But in comments to the press, MTA CEO and Chairman Tom Prendergast seemed to indicate which way the winds are blowing. Emma Fitzsimmons reports:

After receiving input from residents and businesses, the agency plans to decide which option to pursue within three months. Asked whether he would rather close the whole tunnel at once, Mr. Prendergast said the agency was committed to hearing from the community before making a decision. But he noted that when people learned more about the plans, they often favored a full closing.

“I think there is an ‘Aha’ moment they have in their minds, like, ‘Geez if it’s only one in five people you can carry, maybe it would be better to have two tracks,’” Mr. Prendergast said in reference to closing the tracks in both tubes, the more efficient of the two options.

I’ve advocated for 18-month total shutdown. Get in and get out quickly seems to be better for the neighborhood that three years of frustratingly insufficient service.

Meanwhile, along with word of the potential approaches to the closure, the MTA released photos and a B-roll video of current conditions in the Canarsie Tube. You can see the footage below, and the MTA stressed that the tunnel remains safe. That said, despite protestations that trains will have run for six years before work begins, the MTA says it has no choice. “A collapsed duct bank could derail a train, and the worst place to be with a derailed train is in an under-river tunnel,” Prendergast said to reporters. “The longest distance between emergency exits is in the under-river tunnels.” That is, of course, the worst case scenario but one that inches ever closer to reality.

Finally, MTA officials confirmed that the shutdown would allow for new entrances to be constructed at both the Bedford and 1st Ave. stations to improve station access and passenger flow. The agency has not discussed the possibility of using a full 18-month shutdown to build tail tracks west of the 8th Ave. station, a move many transit advocates see as vital to improving L train service and line capacity.

The fun starts tonight with the first of two public meetings. Details are here, and I would expect a raucous and irate crowd. But the L train is just one part in a complex transportation network. Everyone will get through it. Read More→

Categories : Superstorm Sandy
Comments (99)
Gondolas, now a thing. (Photo via East River Skyway)

Can we not with this again?

I have a few more thoughts rattling around my head on the heels of yesterday’s exploration of crowded subway conditions. In particular, it’s worth discussing briefly a few other ideas around the margins of New York City’s transit capacity issues and whether or not these ideas solve, exacerbate or simply skirt the problem. So let’s discuss three proposals that won’t address the capacity crunch and one that will.

1. Gondolas East River Skyway. Remember that ridiculous gondola plan from late 2014 in which a real estate executive proposed an East River gondola system connecting Williamsburg with the Lower East Side? Thanks to the looming L train shutdown and DNA Info’s willingness to respond to a pitch email, it’s back in the news. Dan Levy wants to spend $135 million of private money to construct two stops in Williamsburg and one near Delancey St. He claims by running 40-person cars every 30 seconds, he could shuttle 200,000 people over the East River during the L train shutdown, but the math doesn’t work. The vast majority of subway ridership arises during peak hours, and even if Levy’s plan can be achieved, the most the gondolas could in an hour is 4800 passengers, a far cry from peak hour L train ridership. Plus, gondolas simply dump passengers into the subway at another point down the line, and thus, capacity problems are not resolved.

2. Ferries. I have lots of thoughts on ferries and none particularly positive. The mayor is sinking a lot of money and time into his five-borough ferry system (air pollution concerns be damned), but its returns will be marginal. It’s great for people who live and work near the water and don’t mind paying an additional fare for another mode of transit. It may won’t be totally useless, but it’s not a panacea. For $180 million, the city could do more to help improve freedom of movement for many more.

3. Brooklyn-Queens Streetcar. Does this take people from where they are to where they want to be? Not really, if you drill down on the plan. Plus, a large percentage of riders will be looking to transfer to the subway anyway, thus adding riders or simply shifting them around. Again, for $2.5 billion, I would expect more.

So what’s the solution that could be implemented quickly and at a reasonable cost? It’s all about that bus.

By investing in better bus routing and better bus infrastructure (including a massive rollout of pre-board fare payment, dedicated lanes and signal prioritization), the city could bolster a means of transportation that can add capacity to the core network and get people from where they are to where they want to be. Despite campaign assurances, de Blasio has dragged his feet on expanding Select Bus Service, and while buses have a reputation as an underclass means of mobility, a robust network can help move everyone. Buses will, by necessity, be a big key to moving people during the L train shutdown, but turning a pair of Manhattan avenues into dedicated bus-only lanes should happen sooner rather than later. Restructuring routes to include more cross-borough options would be a big help as well. Yet, buses seem to get the short shrift in conversations concerning capacity. That attitude should change.

As a postscript, I would note that bikes too can help, but I see this as a scale issue. You would need far more robust bike infrastructure from lanes to parking to alleviate capacity concerns. A few hundred people biking won’t make the subways emptier.

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