A quiet Friday around here, and a sick day for me. Here are your weekend service changes.

From 11:30 p.m. Friday, February 26 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, February 29, 1 service is suspended in both directions between 14 St and South Ferry. Free shuttle buses provide alternate service between Chambers St and South Ferry.

From 3:45 a.m. Saturday, February 27 to 10:00 p.m. Sunday, February 28, 2 service operates in two sections:

  • Between Flatbush Av-Brooklyn College and E 180 St, and via the 5 to/from Eastchester-Dyre Av
  • Between E 180 St and Wakefield-241 St. To continue your trip, transfer at E 180 St.

From 3:45 a.m. Saturday, February 27 to 10:00 p.m. Sunday, February 28, E 180 St-bound 2 trains run express from Wakefield-241 St to E 180 St.

From 11:30 p.m. Friday, February 26 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, February 29 2 trains run local in both directions between Chambers St and 34 St-Penn Station.

From 6:30 a.m. to 12 Midnight, Saturday, February 27 and Sunday February 28, 3 trains run local in both directions between Chambers St and 34 St-Penn Station.

From 3:45 a.m. to 6:00 a.m. Saturday, February 27, and from 11:00 p.m. Saturday, February 27 to 8:00 a.m. Sunday, February 28, 5 Shuttle service is replaced by 2 trains between Eastchester-Dyre Ave and E 180 St.

From 11:45 p.m. Friday, February 26 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, February 29, Pelham Bay Park-bound 6 trains run express from 3 Av-138 St to Hunters Point Av.

From 5:45 a.m. to 11:59 p.m. Saturday, February 27, Hudson Yards-bound 7 trains run express from Mets-Willets Point to Queensboro Plaza.

From 3:45 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Sunday, February 28, Hudson Yards-bound 7 trains run express from Mets-Willets Point to 74 St-Broadway.

From 11:45 p.m. Friday, February 26 to 6:30 a.m. Sunday, February 28, and from 11:45 p.m. Sunday, February 28 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, February 29, Brooklyn-bound A trains run express from 145 St to 59 St-Columbus Circle.

From 11:45 p.m. Friday, February 26 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, February 29, 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, February 26 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, February 29, Manhattan-bound A trains skip 104 St.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, February 27 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, February 29, A trains run local in both directions between W 4 St-Wash Sq and 59 St-Columbus Circle.

From 6:30 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. Saturday, February 27 and Sunday, February 28, 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 11:45 p.m. Saturday, February 27 and Sunday, February 28, Brooklyn-bound C trains run express from 145 St to 59 St-Columbus Circle.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, February, 27 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, February 29, Norwood-205 St bound D trains skip 14 St and 23 St.

From Saturday, February, 27 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, February 29, E trains run local in both directions between Forest Hills-71 Av and 21 St-Queensbridge.

From 11:45 p.m. Friday, February 26 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, February 29, E trains are rerouted via the F line 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 11:45 p.m. Friday, February 26 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, February 29, Coney Island-Stillwell Av bound F trains run express from Smith-9 Sts to Church Av.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, February, 27 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, February 29, F trains run local in both directions between Forest Hills-71 Av and 21 St-Queensbridge.

From 11:30 p.m. Friday, February 26 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, February 29, L trains are suspended in both directions between Canarsie-Rockaway Pkwy and Myrtle-Wycoff Avs. Take free express and local shuttle buses and AC or J trains.

  • Free local shuttle buses provide alternate service between Rockaway Pkwy and Myrtle-Wyckoff Avs, stopping at East 105 St, New Lots Av, Livonia Av, Sutter Av, Atlantic Av, Broadway Junction, Bushwick Av-Aberdeen St, Wilson Av, and Halsey St.
  • Free express shuttle buses serve Rockaway Pkwy, Broadway Junction, and Myrtle-Wyckoff Avs only, days and evenings.
Categories : Service Advisories
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Had the IND Second System become a reality with a Houston St/South 4th St. tunnel, the L train shutdown would be far more palatable. Click here for a full view of the plans.

It’s hard to escape the pull of the L train these days. Brooklyn residents from Williamsburg to Canarsie are very worried about the looming threat of a shutdown of the Canarsie Tubes due to Hurricane Sandy repair work. The L has become extremely crowded, and the route is one of the few in the city without much redundancy. The real estate market is sinking; business are worried; and a potential multi-year shutdown looms.

On Thursday, the MTA pushed off this work for a few years. While speaking to New York State Senate and Assembly representatives, agency CEO and Chairman Tom Prendergast said the L train repairs would be last, and work won’t start until 2018 at the earliest, nearly six years after the storm surge swept through the tunnel. For now, the temporary repairs will have to hold, and everyone will hold their collective breaths waiting for that next signal malfunction or broken rail.

Meanwhile, the L Train Coalition met this week, and they still seem to grasping at straws. As Gothamist’s Miranda Katz reported, in the follow-up to the meeting where they ejected the lone MTA representative, these activists are now demanding a third L train tunnel be built before repair work starts. Here’s how Katz reported it:

The biggest question posed by the dozens of anxious community members in attendance: why isn’t the MTA seriously considering the possibility of building a third tunnel running between Brooklyn and Manhattan before starting repairs to the damaged two?

According to Minna Elias, New York Chief of Staff for Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, this question did come up at the February 5th meeting between elected officials and the MTA, but was deemed unrealistic because it would cost somewhere in the ballpark of $4.5 billion and take longer than the projected timeline for repairs to the existing tubes, which could take between 18 months and 7 years, depending on how much the MTA limits service to get the job done.

“That obviously is the alternative that would cause the least disruption,” Elias said. “They tell us they are concerned that before they would complete such a project and get the money to complete such a project the problems would get worse—they’re concerned about safety is their answer to us. I can tell you that getting the funding to build a new tube would be an extremely heavy lift.”

It’s easy to dismiss this idea, as I did when I first heard about it, but the L Train Coalition, a group that isn’t nearly as plugged into transit as some advocates in the city, hit upon the problem from the get-go. “I don’t think we should just accept the idea that a third tunnel is not possible,” Del Teague, a community activist, said. “I’m concerned that they don’t want to deal with that because they’re afraid they’re going to lose this Hurricane Sandy money. So how come they can’t put pressure on the Feds to let them hold onto it, build a third tunnel, let the third tunnel get built, and then work on the other stuff without losing the Hurricane Sandy money? I know it’s all a big bureaucracy, but things can be done if the government feels that people are going to revolt strongly enough.”

Many at the meeting, according to Katz, asked why other cities around the globe could build a tunnel at a fraction of the cost cited by the MTA. Elias’ response: “New York is unique.” That’s right; we are a special corrupt butterfly where everything we build has to be the Most Expensive Thing ever.

If we take two steps back and set aside the immediate reaction to the idea of a third tunnel — that it would take years to conduct an environmental study, line up enough funding and complete construction and that it would take billions of dollars the MTA doesn’t have — it seems like a common-sense solution. If you have to take a road out of service, you put in a bypass. Thus, if you have to take a tunnel out of service, build a new one first.

In an ideal world, the MTA would be able to build efficiently and quickly such that a new tunnel isn’t a crazy idea, and in fact, in the annals of NYC transit history, another East River crossing near Williamsburg was one part of the grand Second System plan. I wrote extensively of this idea when the Underbelly Project revealed the South 4th St. station to the world. Essentially, the tunnel would be an eastward extension of the middle tracks at the F train’s 2nd Ave. stop to Williamsburg via that old South 4th St. shell, through Bushwick and Bed-Stuy and then down Utica Ave. to Marine Park. It’s a 15 kilometer tunnel that, even at current NYC rates would likely cost $15-$20 billion to construct, if not more. It would be a truly transformative project for a wide swath of Brooklyn and one that could help support an eventual L train closure.

Of course, that’s fantasyland, and here we are, back in reality. The MTA hasn’t put the wheels in motion to build a new tunnel in the 40 months since Sandy, and they’re not about to start. We don’t know why everything costs so much, but I’m comforted that more and more New Yorkers are starting to take notice. Another tunnel, as silly as it may sound, shouldn’t be impossible, but it’s a costly proposition that isn’t a priority. Thus, we’re left with an L train shutdown a few years away but inching closer. The MTA and Daniel Squadron committed to a public planning process to address the effects of a shutdown, but don’t hold your breath for that new East River tunnel. You can blame history for that one.

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Allow me to pose a question to you that is particularly fitting in light of yesterday’s post on the institutional challenges plaguing our subway system. What would you, dear reader, most like to see improved about the subways? In fact, for reasons that will soon become clear, let’s do it as a poll, and consider voting now rather than after reading this post.

What would you most like to see improved about the subways?
View Results

To me, where I sit in year 10 of maintaining this website, these choices are a haphazard collection of problems that do and do not plague the MTA. They come from the latest NY1/Baruch poll that was released earlier this week, and while I suspect my readers will come to a different conclusion, a plurality of New Yorkers, by more than a few percentage points, claimed that the number one thing they must want to see improved about the subway is more transit police. In a subsequent question, only 41 percent of New Yorkers say they feel somewhat or very safe riding the subway at night compared with 51 percent who claim they feel not so safe or not safe at all.

I’ve been trying to wrap my head around these results all day. Although there has been a slight uptick in subway crime in early 2016 compared with the same period in 2015, the crime stats are well below levels set in 2010-2014, and as recently as twenty years ago, the crime rates were three or four times higher than they are today. Even as NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton expresses surprise at subway crowds and fearmongers over crime, the perception remains — whether due to an increased presence of homeless denizens or lingering fears from people over 65 who remember the Bad Old Days and feel the least safe — that the subways are dangerous.

What needs to be improved about the subways. The results are surprising. (Click to enlarge)

I don’t view crime as the challenge the MTA faces in providing sufficient service for its 5.65 million riders per day, and yet, my top two choices — subways to more places and trains that are less crowded — both finished below something as superficial as cleaner stations. Every day New Yorkers — those who ride the subways because they have to rather than those of us who see it as the way to grow New York City — seem to want more of what they can see and have trouble conceptualizing a subway system the way it could be. (Perhaps that’s part of the psychology behind why Gothamist’s recent post on fantasy subway lines captivated its readers to such a high degree.)

For New York City to grow and remain competitive on the global market, for our streets to become less congested and for mobility to improve, the subway should go more places, and trains, due to increased service, should be less crowded. Of the choices from the NY1/Baruch poll, those are the two things I’d most like to see improved about the subways, and from them flow a host of different issues including the MTA’s inability to spend inefficiently and build quickly, its resistance to international rolling stock design standards, its slow pace of technological advancement, and the intractable labor issues that stand in the way of money-saving train operations improvements. These are the Inside Baseball problems that someone who hates the subways but rides them because they’re cheap, quick and better than driving through New York City congestion doesn’t care to understand.

How can we, as those who support robust investment in transit and desire an MTA that can build on par with London and Paris, let alone other cities spending more efficiently and building farther more quickly, bridge that gap? The NY1/Baruch poll features another dismaying result that shows just how far those fighting for transit have to go because it betrays that New Yorkers do not know who is actually in charge of the transit network. Take a peek at the results.

Who do New Yorkers think has power over the subways? Not the person who actually does. (Click to enlarge.)

You’ll see that 47% of New Yorkers think the mayor has more control over the subways while just 39% pinpoint the governor as the man in charge. Perhaps the results make intuitive sense, but the MTA has so isolated Albany from any responsibility that no one really knows who’s in charge. And if no one knows who is charge, as we saw from Governor Cuomo last year, no one has to act as though they’re in charge. Thus, we have New Yorkers who want more transit cops instead of better service, and a political body that doesn’t really have to do much of anything about any of it. And in related news, the MTA’s 2015-2019 five-year capital plan still hasn’t been approved by Albany, but is it really any wonder why not?

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A sight more common than New Yorkers would like to admit.

For years, civic-minded transit-watchers in New York City have warned of the legacy of deferred maintenance. As the story goes, the systemwide collapse the subway system suffered from the mid-1970s and mid-1980s was a result of defered maintenance brought about by a lack of revenue from fares kept artificially low throughout the early part of the Twentieth Century. It was supposed to be a cautionary tale that ended in 1981 when Richard Ravitch launched the MTA’s capital spending plans. By investing heavily in the system, the MTA could attempt to clear out a backlog of repairs while eying modernization and expansion projects that had lingered in purgatory. It’s a nice story, but the only problem is that, 35 years later, we’re still not out of the woods.

Today, the MTA suffers from a problem vastly different from the one it confronted in the 1970s and 1980s. The subway system is essentially too crowded. Average weekday ridership throughout 2015 reached 5,650,000, the subway system’s highest total since 1948, and a full 48 workdays saw ridership top 6 million. Those figures represent around a 1 percent increase over 2014’s totals, and if we see another jump in ridership this year, it’s not entirely clear where all those people will fit. Because the agency hasn’t caught up to current technological trends, because the MTA can’t really run more trains without a massively expensive and time-consuming investment in upgrading nearly every facet of its operations, subway service is going to continue to sag from overcrowding. The MTA is a victim of its own success and a victim of years of poor management and investment practices.

The latest deep dive into the MTA’s problems comes to us from Robert Kolker. He explored the MTA’s delay crisis through the lens of Friday, October 16, 2015, the day the gap fillers on the downtown local tracks at Union Square decided to take a vacation that threw off service along both the East and West Side IRT routes. The resulting article is a narrative tour de force that sums up the MTA’s nearly intractable problems. The subways are too crowded and too old while the MTA is too broke and too institutionally conservative to solve capacity constraints and technological innovation in a way that keeps up with ridership.

Kolker’s piece is a treasure trove of information on delays. As we learn, the MTA is pushing around 500,000 delayed trains per year, and the agency’s on-time performance numbers are abysmal. Even if wait assessment is a better indicator of reliable service, only 70 percent of trains are arriving at their terminals within five minutes of their scheduled times, and last year, just 43 percent of 4 trains, 39 percent of 5 trains and 46 percent of 6 trains were considered on time under the MTA’s loose definition.

As Kolker reports it, the MTA, in part, blames its crowds. There are too many people trying to shove themselves into trains that don’t run frequently enough to catch up with demand, and delays stem from everything from sick customers (which one MTA official blames on riders who skip breakfast) to extended dwell times. Here’s Kolker on these delays:

MTA executives are naturally defensive about the criticism. They argue that, unlike in the ’70s, the current problems are a result of their own success — the subways are more popular than ever and therefore more crowded. Six million people use the subways on a busy day now; since 2010 the system has added nearly half a million daily users. The 6 line alone is up by 200,000 daily riders compared to a few years ago. “It’s like the sponge is soaked and we’re adding more water,” says Calandrella. Rush-hour crowds can start at six; the evening rush extends past nine.

Fifteen of the subway system’s 21 lines (not including the shuttles) have maxed out the number of trains that can ride safely on the routes, and ten of those 15 lines are at peak riding capacity, which means when something goes wrong, the dispatchers have no wiggle room. The MTA has blamed some 40 percent of delays on the system’s high ridership numbers, and the agency has few good options for tempering the crowds, including converting the train-car stock to “open gangway” cars, which annex the dead space between cars and convert it into usable space for passengers, increasing capacity by perhaps as much as 10 percent. Other cities have taken to rationing access to crowded stations or jamming passengers into cars Tokyo style.

Throughout the article, Kolker traces budget issues, the slow pace of CBTC rollout, and the challenges the MTA has in bringing system expansion on line. The three and a half new stations that Phase 1 of the Second Ave. Subway promises to deliver sometime later this year or early next hardly seem sufficient considering crowds throughout the rest of the city. Despite all these real-life challenges that we know exist, I am struck by Kolker’s kicker. He writes:

There’s another argument that the real problem behind the increase in delays isn’t the culture of subway ridership or even a budget shortfall but the culture of the MTA. When the agency lowered its on-time goals, was it being realistic or accepting defeat? I’m reminded of the recent comptroller’s report and its condemnation of the MTA’s dysfunction. “Transit officials,” the report concluded, “had no formal corrective action plans or programs to minimize the chronic underlying problems that caused delays.” Instead, the delay problem is being picked apart by more than a dozen task forces, studies, and initiatives. It’s like they say in track-safety school: There’s no such thing as a simple shortcut. Only quicksand.

So where do we go from here? Based on the need to line up funding and conduct environmental studies and figure out why everything in New York City has to cost so damn much, the MTA’s 20-year needs look laughably out of reach, and yet, New York City needs the MTA to realize its 20-year needs tomorrow and its 40-year needs by the time 2020 rolls around. That ain’t happening, and as we’ve seen, even modest service increases that have to be planned six or eight months in advance can’t keep pace with ridership growth.

Is the answer open gangways, an idea the MTA is barely embracing in an order of 790 new subway car that are supposed to last throughout most of the rest of your life and mine? Is the answer a stagnant New York that can’t grow because the subways have room for marginal growth? Is the answer a city-run network that starts with a questionably-motivated streetcar that won’t see service for eight more years? Is the answer sighing in frustration while Paris and London engage in massive transit expansion projects while New York spins its wheels? It’s hard to be optimistic when the answers seems frustratingly insufficient and ineffective, but it’s hard to see where else we are right now other than stuck in a rut too deep to escape.

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The PATH oculus nears its opening. (Photo via @WTCProgress)

In a few weeks, the Port Authority’s long-awaited, $4 billion subway stop designed by Santiago Calatrava will open for passengers, and when it does, it will open not with a bang but with a deafening whimper. This project, a toxic mix of bureaucratic bumbling, absurd cost overruns, conflicted city and state oversight driven out of control by a lack of interagency cooperation and onerous security concerns, and a starchitect who took advantage of a client unwilling or unable to a say no, doesn’t even have the Port Authority’s enthusiastic support, and the agency essentially said on Monday it won’t even hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a building so important that it could wind up on New York State driver’s licenses.

The news of a quiet opening came to us from Dana Rubinstein. As she reported, the Port Authority is too embarrassed by the bad publicity and price tag attached to this project to hold an opening ceremony. There will be no ribbon-cutting, no giant scissors, no self-congratulatory press conference. Instead, New York City will get a $4 opening for a $4 billion colossal.

The Port Authority’s Executive Director Patrick Foye issued a statement to Capital New York in which he explained his concerns with a ceremony. “I’m proud of the work that the Port Authority and hundreds of skilled union workers performed on the Hub,” he said. “Since I arrived here, I have been troubled with the huge cost of the Hub at a time of limited resources for infrastructure so I’m passing on the event.” He later said in no uncertain terms, “The thing is a symbol of excess.”

Meanwhile, as the building gears up for its silent opening, the Port Authority has conducted a few preview tours of the space, and the early word has been decided mixed. Justin Davidson, writing in New York Magazine, found the space visually arresting but also could not look past the price tag. Meanwhile, The Post’s Steve Cuozzo, a frequent critic of the expense of new transit buildings, did not mince words in slamming the building.

The Oculus, which will partially open to the public the first week in March, is as functionally vapid inside as it is outside. It’s a void in search of a purpose other than to connect a bunch of subway and pedestrian corridors and concourses with one another. The ribs rising to a 22-foot-wide skyline frame an impressive ovoid space, for sure. How could a white marble floor 392 feet long, 144 feet wide and a ceiling 160 feet high at its apex not be impressive?

But what will the public find on the vast, 56,448-square-foot floor? Nothing. Not a seat. No newsstands or snack concessions. No central information kiosk like the one that provides a focus to the main hall of Grand Central Terminal, to which Calatrava and the Port Authority presumptuously compare the hub.

Why? An empty floor was Calatrava’s idea. But also, the PA plans to pimp out the Oculus as an event venue, and any installations would get in the way. (How transit riders will make their way around weddings and corporate celebrations remains to be explained.) …The passageways, to open later this year, will let you walk underground all the way from Brookfield Place in Battery Park City to William Street via the MTA’s Fulton Center — although, except in a blizzard, most of us would rather enjoy the sights and sounds of the streets.

At a time when urban design is focused on vibrant street life and local pride, the Calatrava hub is mall above a modestly-used subway station. Its cost is disproportionate to its impact as, on a weekday, the Port Authority counts around 50,000 passengers — on par with the 14th St. subway station that spans the 7th Ave. IRT and 6th Ave. IND and 14th St. BMT platforms. On weekends, the $4 billion subway station sees around just 10,000 riders on Saturday and under 9,000 on Sunday, placing its weekend tally on par with the 6 train’s Parkcester Ave. or 28th St. stations. Imagine if someone proposed spending $2 billion on those stations, let alone $4 billion.

Ultimately, Foye is rightly concerned about the role this building plays in the transit discussion. He has repeatedly called it a “boondoggle” and isn’t afraid to address the fact that the Port Authority isn’t getting much bang for its buck. After all, the $4 billion investment doesn’t include increased service to and from Jersey City, a guarantee that the Port Authority won’t curtail 24-7 PATH service, a connection to Brooklyn, or a one-seat ride to JFK.

We don’t know what future awaits the PATH Hub. As of mid-2013, the Port Authority had hoped to draw retailers willing to spend $550 per square foot to rent out the commercial space, which would make the building yet another mall and one that sits just a block away from the mostly-empty Fulton St. Transit Center, another $1.4 billion expense of questionable return. Yet, will New Yorkers care in 20 or 30 years?

As Nicole Gelinas astutely said to Dana Rubinstein, time has a way of wiping away memories of lost opportunities and too many dollars spent. She said, “It, along with Fulton Center, looks like dead space to me, but we never know how the city will embrace these things until they’re 20 years old. They aren’t really ours; they belong to people who will never know they weren’t there (provided they don’t fall apart).”

New Yorkers of 2035 or 2045 might view the Calatrava hub as something that’s a natural part of the landscape, a mall like the Time Warner Center that no one really wanted but grew to an accepted part of the New York City landscape. But today it reeks of excess and waste that we cannot claw back. That missed opportunity will ring through the decades as well, a sad reminder of opportunities squandered at a time we could least afford to flush transportation dollars down an oculus-ringed drain.

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The escalators at 86th St. are just one of the many elements of the Second Ave. Subway project that remain outstanding. (Photo via MTA)

The escalators at 86th St. are just one of the many elements of the Second Ave. Subway project that remain outstanding. (Photo via MTA)

There is nothing quite like the fear of missing a looming deadline to inspire anyone to work a bit harder and a bit faster, as the MTA and its contractors are currently learning. Faced with the (for-some-reason) daunting task of delivering a major capital project somewhat on time (but only after years of shifting expectations), with ten months to go before 2016 runs out, the agency is entering acceleration mode and plans to spend $66 million worth of expenditures to speed up to work to ensure the Second Ave. Subway is ready for revenue service by year’s end.

The plan is set to come before the MTA Board during this week’s meetings, and if you read between the lines — or even if you read the lines themselves — it seems as though the agency is worried about that promise made all those years ago by MTA Capital Construction President Michael Horodniceanu to deliver Phase 1 of the Second Ave. Subway by the end of 2016. As the agency board materials note on page 131 of this pdf, “Failure to enter into the proposed Acceleration Agreements and implement the proposed acceleration plans will increase the risk that Revenue Service will not commence until sometime in 2017 which will also have a financial impact on construction management support costs as well as the operating budget and prolong crowded conditions on the Lexington Avenue line.”

That the project could face challenges meeting the December deadline is hardly breaking news by now. While the federal government has long doubted the 2016 date and believes a 2017 opening is more likely, the MTA’s Independent Engineering Consultant first warned of delays in December and reiterated this stance in January. In this month’s update, the IEC again raises concerns. It notes that certain major test dates have been postponed and design and scope change orders continue to be issued this late in the game. With the acceleration work set to reduce the project contingency, the MTA is fast running out of wiggle room.

That brings us to this request for accelerated work. As the MTA notes, perhaps discouragingly and perhaps alarming, in its request to enter into these agreements, opening up four new stations “presents logistical challenges unprecedented in modern New York City Transit operation.” With three different contractors working on three different stations at the same time, the MTA sees “enormous” and “complicated” challenges. That the language is so dire consider the relatively modest scope of Phase 1 of the Second Ave. Subway should give us agita regarding the future of any massive subway expansions in line with those underway by New York City’s international peer cities.

The acceleration work involves some relatively basic elements of the construction. Crews will begin to work extended shifts and some weekends to complete the stations, and the outstanding elements all involve what you would expect this close to completion. Behind-the-scenes power and mechanical rooms need more work; fan rooms, elevators and escalators must be ready; and finishes, testing and commissioning need to be complete before the Second Ave. Subway is certified for revenue service.

Meanwhile, as part of another modification (page 128 of this pdf), the MTA also just realized it is required to install 36 fire dampers at the 63rd St. station and somehow just discovered that the tunnel from 57th St./7th Ave. to 63rd St./Lexington is in bad shape. Here is how the Board materials describe the situation:

The tracks in the tunnel south of the 63rd St./Lexington Avenue Station to north of 57th Street and 7th Avenue Station were built in the late 1970s as part of the “New Routes” 63rd St. Line. These tracks never had regular train service, and have been rarely used, except for occasional re-routes. Currently there is no scheduled revenue service over them however, this will change once SAS service begins with the ‘Q’ train scheduled to operate along these tracks and continuing to the new 2nd Avenue Subway. Given the significant water ingress that has been constantly present in this area since its construction, the northbound and southbound tracks in this section have experienced severe degradation.

NYC Transit has determined that this tunnel section must be addressed immediately including the replacement of track, tunnel lighting, antenna cable, emergency alarms, emergency telephones, etc. The above track replacement and associated signal equipment work will be addressed through a third-party contract and NYC Transit in-house forces will address the remaining work, all of which must be completed in time for SAS Revenue Service. However, in order to perform this work, the water condition must be addressed first. NYC Transit has directed that the specialized chemical grout (NOH2O) and methods that were successfully employed on other MTACC and NYC Transit projects, be utilized in this tunnel section.

Now, you might be wondering how the MTA is only now just discovering this problem in a rather vital stretch of track key to launching the Second Ave. Subway, and for that, I have no answer yet. I will inquire this week as to how this just came to light. Contractors began this mitigation work in early January and should be able to finish in advance to ensure revenue service by the end of the year. The Board materials, however, note ominously that “the schedule impact of these modifications is still under review and any schedule adjustments will be addressed in a subsequent modification.”

This is a sprint now and the hurdles just keep on coming. Anyone out there expect to ride this new subway before we flip the calendar to 2017? With the obstacles, self-imposed or otherwise, in the MTA’s path, that is looking like one tough deadline to meet.

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Friday was indeed a good day for Bert and the National Associate of W Lovers as we learned that the MTA will be restoring W train service to Astoria later this year in order to prepare for the debut of the Second Ave. Subway. The Q will run to 57th St./7th Ave. until the Second Ave. Subway “later this year,” per the MTA. That may be an optimistic timeline for Upper East Side service, but one way or another, this subway line will open soon. The W lives to tell that tale.

For a visual representation of what this service change means, check out this unofficial mock-up of future service a Redditor published a few weeks ago. The MTA has yet to release their own map showing the change or addition of the Second Ave. Subway, and I wonder why. They could opt to follow the WMATA’s strategy of showing lines in progress to build public knowledge and excitement, but it seems that we won’t see an updated map arrive until the subway is just about to open, as we did with the 7 line.

Although the W train grabbed headlines earlier, the MTA announced a few other Second Ave. Subway-related milestones. The 96th St. station is now running on its permanent power supply though power lines have become a controversial part of the eventual Phase 2 work. More on that next week. Additionally, the final track crossover north of 72nd St. was completed. The MTA will award final contract modifications next week. As hard as it is to believe, a part of the Second Ave. Subway will soon become a reality.

Meanwhile, as we look forward to new subway service, we have to contest with weekend changes. After the jump, this weekend’s slate of service advisories, as sent to me from the MTA. Read More→

Don’t call it a comeback, but six years after getting unceremoniously dumped by a cash-starved MTA, the W train will make its triumphant return this fall, the MTA announced today. As part of the plan to maintain current subway service levels for Astoria once the Second Ave. Subway opens and the Q is diverted to the Upper East Side, the agency will restore the W train in a few months, before the Second Ave. Subway opens, effectively replacing the Q in Astoria. It’s a clear sign the opening of the Second Ave. Subway is drawing nearer and a welcome development for Astoria residents and businesses who were worried about the fate of their neighborhood’s subway service.

As of now, the MTA plans to restore this service ahead of the opening of the Second Ave. Subway so that the diversion of the Q to the Upper East Side is a seamless one, and while rumors of delays have swirled for months, the MTA still plans to open the Second Ave. Subway by year’s end. Along with the re-introduction of the W train, the BMT service patterns will revert back to their old configuration as follows:

  • W trains will make all local stops between Astoria-Ditmars Boulevard and Whitehall St. during weekdays. There will be no W service on weekends or late nights (which is in line with current Q service to Astoria).
  • N trains will run express in Manhattan between 34th St. – Herald Square and Canal St. on weekdays. N trains will run local on weekends and late nights.
  • Q trains will continue to run local in Brooklyn and express in Manhattan to 57th St./7th Ave. until the Second Ave. Subway opens, and then, Q trains will run to 96th St./2nd Ave. with additional stops at Lexington Ave./63rd St., 72nd St./2nd Ave. and 86th St./2nd Ave. The Q will not stop at 49th St.
  • R train service will be unchanged.

As the MTA notes in a release touting the news, “The changes, including the restoration of the W, maintain service frequency and loading guidelines for customers in Astoria and avoid significant deviations from current service that might confuse customers on those affected lines. Customers on the Broadway Line will also benefit from an increase in choices for express and local service in Manhattan.” The agency plans to hold a hearing on the new service patterns this spring, and the service additions, including operating the Q to Second Ave. and restoring the W, will cost around $13.7 million annually.

The good news here is for Astoria riders who were quite concerned with the planned diversion of the Q train. The MTA had stated its commitment to maintain service levels, and today’s news fulfills that promise. By restarting the W a few months before the Second Ave. Subway opens, operations will be seamless, and new signage will be in place throughout the system. (Never mind the reality that, just a few months ago, the MTA removed the last vestiges of the W train from strip maps on the 1.)

The bad news, if you want to call it that, concerns the W’s southern terminus. By ending the train at Whitehall St., the W does little for Brooklyn R train riders who have complained about unreliable service, long headways and crowded trains. Even some rush hour W service into Brooklyn would have been welcome, but that’s a battle riders can keep fighting. With W trains restored, the opportunity for those riders to make their case is stronger. Overall, though, this news is an expected and welcome development as the city inches closer to opening the Second Ave. Subway, 90 years in the making.

For those curious, the MTA’s press release on the W train and the latest on progress on the Second Ave. Subway is available here on the agency’s website.

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The Mayor unveiled additional details on the Brooklyn-Queens Connector earlier this week in Red Hook (Photo via Mayor's Office)

The Mayor unveiled additional details on the Brooklyn-Queens Connector earlier this week in Red Hook (Photo via Mayor’s Office)

After days of discussion amongst the transit literati and a short delay due to the TriBeCa crane collapse, Mayor Bill de Blasio held his long-awaited press conference to release more details on the Brooklyn-Queens Connector earlier this week. Despite the pomp and circumstance and despite additional glimpses into the plan, de Blasio’s presser led to more concerns and more questions than the initial proposal had, and the consensus regarding this project and its $2.5 billion price tag focuses around the idea that the mayor has not rigorously defended the real estate-backed streetcar.

The general details we know: The $2.5 billion investment will, according to de Blasio, create $25 billion in economic activity and 28,000 temporary jobs over the next 30 years. It will, he claims, draw 50,000 riders per day (somehow from an area that generally borders water on one side), and while fares will be pegged to the cost of a Metrocard, revenue from ridership is supposed to cover 66 percent of the streetcar’s operating costs. (For what it’s worth, New York City Transit’s farebox operating ratio of around 53 percent is highest in the nation.) As Yonah Freemark noted, it will not connect to L, J/M/Z, N/Q or F trains in Brooklyn or Queens, and it is not yet guaranteed to be integrated into the MTA’s fare system. (That’s a major point, and I’ll return to it shortly.)

Based on the chart below, it also seems as though the Mayor is exaggerating the differences in travel time. Many of these current travel times are worst-case scenarios based on maximum waiting and missed transfers.

Screen Shot 2016-02-18 at 12.06.07 AM

The city hasn’t released detailed models concerning ridership. It’s not clear, for instance, as Katie Honan asked, how many Queensbridge residents work in the Navy Yard or how many Red Hook residents need direct access to Industry City. In other words, the 50,000 daily ridership figure still seems to resemble wishful thinking. Meanwhile, de Blasio is already kowtowing to motorists on the issue of parking, and he claims the streetcar will be so successful that the MTA could reduce B61 service. That’s quite a claim considering a key driver of the streetcar is the way it doesn’t involve the state-controlled MTA (and in fact, Gov. Cuomo is content to keep his hands — and state money — off the streetcar plan). It’s the perfect storm of a mess of an idea that should raise serious concerns as to how the proposal was developed and why.

Meanwhile, across the board, reaction has tended toward the skeptical. The Awl hates it; Gizmodo hates it; and Ben Fried at Streetsblog further elucidated his skepticism of the plan. While I still want to like this plan and support it especially in light of the fact that we need to find lower cost ways to expand the reach of transit in NYC, the questions surrounding the special interests backing it and the fact that this isn’t a particularly transit-starved corridor in a city filled with actual transit-starved corridors are concerning.

All of that said, let’s talk about fare integration. I’ve buried the lede here, but over the past few days, we’ve learned that, as now, the streetcar will not be a part of the MTA’s fare system. Much like the new East River ferry routes that should arrive in 2017, de Blasio claims a streetcar ride will cost the same as a swipe, but he can’t yet guarantee the swipe will include a transfer to or from the subway. This is a fatal flaw in the plan and one that will doom the Brooklyn-Queens Connector to a second-rate transit gimmick that cannot fulfill its ridership potential.

First, the idea that integrated fares are key for network acceptance and use is well established. To a rule, fare integration increases ridership and transit miles traveled, and without fare integration, the mayor will be asking riders of a system built with the promise of serving 40,000 NYCHA residents to pay two fares if they use the streetcar as a feeder to the subway. And nearly all successful streetcar networks work because they are feeders to and from the subway; just take a look at the map of the Paris tram system.

Without fare integration, potential riders will eschew the Brooklyn-Queens Connector for the MTA’s integrated network. These potential riders will take the subway to a bus because that additional fare — today, $5.50 per round trip — simply isn’t part of the economic equation, and in fact, a non-integrated fare defeats the purpose of expanding transit access.

Overcoming this problem is a seemingly simple negotiation with the MTA, but the City Hall-Albany relationship is anything but simple today. Still, without that transfer, this is a streetcar doomed to fail from day one. New York City, much like everywhere else, needs an integrated transit network. We shouldn’t build without one.

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A bit of a late notice on this one, but it came together on the edge of last minute: Wednesday, February 17 — or tonight, if you’re reading this after midnight — I’ll be hosting a Q-and-A at the Transit Museum on the MTA’s fare collection efforts through the years. The talk is related to the museum’s current exhibit on 370 Jay St. and the secrets behind the building’s wall. I’ll be speaking with the MTA’s Chief Operating Office of Revenue Control Alan Putre, a 30-year veteran of the agency’s fare collection initiatives.

Putre has worked through a variety of tectonic shifts in the MTA’s approach to revenue. When he started, fares were a dollar, and riders paid with tokens. Today, a Metrocard swipe costs $2.75, and most purchases are processed electronically. The city’s obsession with the money train, fueled in part by a controversial dud of a Wesley Snipes-Woody Harrelson movie, came and went, and now, even the Metrocard may be on the way out. We’ll discuss processing and safeguarding billions of dollars in tokens and what lies in store for the MTA’s fare collection efforts.

The event kicks off at 6:30 p.m., and while I anticipate a talk of around an hour, the museum will be open until 8:30 so you can browse the exhibit (and the killer collection of vintage train cars). Tickets are $10 (unless you’re a museum member) and you can buy them right here. There’s no better way to spend a Wednesday evening in February.

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