Home F Express Plan Getting to the root of the Culver Viaduct Rehabilitation plan

Getting to the root of the Culver Viaduct Rehabilitation plan

by Benjamin Kabak

For some time now, I’ve been pushing hard for the F Express Plan. Taking a cue from Gary who originated the idea, the F Express plan has gone from a pipe dream to a proposal that enjoys the support of a few MTA board members. In fact, it even landed my name in the pages of Metro.

But along the way, we’ve hit a roadblock, and last week, the frustrations boiled over when two members of the City Council announced that they wouldn’t vote for the fare hike without the F Express Plan. They questioned the Gowanus Viaduct Rehabilitation project, the MTA’s repeated excuse that express service along the Culver Line wouldn’t be possible until 2012. None of us — not Gary, not Kensington (Brooklyn), not the councilmembers — had really received an adequate explanation. But I think that’s changed.

I’ve been in touch with Jeremy Soffin, the MTA’s deputy director of media relations, in an effort to get the bottom of the Culver Viaduct Rehabilitation project and its effects on the express tracks. Here’s what Soffin said to me in an e-mail:

The Culver Viaduct Rehabilitation project requires the reconstruction of the viaduct and all four tracks on the viaduct. During the project, two of the four tracks will be taken out of service at any given time for a period of four years, precluding the implementation of any express service on this segment of the F line. The project is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2012. As part of this project, G service, which currently terminates at Smith-9 Sts, will be extended to Church Av Station.

It’s my understanding that crews will be working not only on the tracks but around and underneath them too. With the recent attention to track worker safety, the MTA isn’t, rightly so, about to start screwing around with train bottlenecks on a large viaduct. With the current F and G trains relying on just two tracks for their routes and turnarounds, the tracks simply cannot support adding more trains.

To me, it sounds like the folks along the Culver Line are in for a rough ride. The project is scheduled to take four years, and it will probably result in delays and trains crawling over the Gowanus Canal.

I’m not too happy to hear that we are probably at a temporary dead end on this plan, but I won’t give up. I have to hope that those who are in a position to be heard by the MTA can give it the old college try. Maybe something can be worked out; maybe it can’t. But now we know why the F probably can’t run express until 2012. But we certainly don’t have to like it.

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Eric August 30, 2007 - 9:44 am

Presumably, there are switches along the F line that allow trains to move back and forth at different places along the route. Why couldn’t express trains run on the express line, switch over for Smith/9th, and then switch back for the rest of the route? Is that too complicated? [not being facetious – I just don’t know]

Gary August 30, 2007 - 9:48 am

Thanks Ben. We do need to keep the pressure on. I know that de Blasio’s office was scheduled to meet with MTA on this topic within the past two days.

The ecxtended G service may alleviate some of the overcrowding on the F line . . . anyone from Church Ave and 7th Ave, etc. who connects to thge A train at Jay Street will now have the option of taking a G to Hoyt Schemerhorn.

Not ideal, but if you’re on your way to work and a G comes in, you’ll take it rather than wait for the F you know will be crowded.

Oboe August 30, 2007 - 9:57 am

Dude, City Council members don’t vote on fare increases.

Benjamin Kabak August 30, 2007 - 10:00 am

Oboe, you’re right. “Vote down” is the wrong phrasing. They have expressed the sentiments that they do not support the fare hike without additional service on overtaxed lines in return.

adamess August 30, 2007 - 10:12 am

Eric: They could do that, in fact that is basically what the A/C does when traveling between Manhattan and Brooklyn — the line is 4 tracks to accommodate simultaneous express and local in both boroughs, but in and around the tunnel between the boroughs, it is only 2 tracks. A and C trains end up merging onto the same tracks temporarily.

An F express plan would require a similar arrangement as the line is only double tracked in and around the Rutgers St tunnel.

The problem is likely that while the line might be able to handle the F and the V at once, running an F, F express, and G simultaneously over the same tracks on the viaduct could lead to a huge buildup of traffic, especially if the construction makes traversing the viaduct very slow.

Still it is something worth thinking about…

sg August 30, 2007 - 11:51 am

“taking a cute from Gary”

Was that a Freudian, Ben?

Benjamin Kabak August 30, 2007 - 11:54 am

That, sg, was a typo. Now it’s fixed.

kvnbklyn August 30, 2007 - 12:10 pm

This wouldn’t preclude rush-hour direction express service on the outer part of the line (past Church Ave.). During morning rush hours F trains could use the center express track and G trains could provide the local service toward Manhattan. In the evenings, it would be reversed. Trains could be more or less timed to meet at Church Avenue so people on the G local could transfer to the F in the morning and from F to G in the evening.

Jim Brennan August 30, 2007 - 1:07 pm

Someone needs to call Jim Brennan’s office to get his honest take on the F Express idea.

Clarence August 30, 2007 - 1:27 pm

Time to get on a bike!

Actually, a few months ago I decided to make it my primary mode of transport. It has been a wonderful decision, yesterday I had to take the subway for the first time in weeks. Man, it took me over twice as long to get home.

Marc Shepherd August 30, 2007 - 2:25 pm

The A/C analogy doesn’t work, because there are only two services merging. In this case, you would have three services (F, G, and V) trying to share one track. You can’t do that without introducing switching delays.

grownANDsexy August 30, 2007 - 8:04 pm

Does anyone know why the express tracks were shut down in the first place?

I do know that currently the signals on the express track only allow one train at a time between 4th ave and Jay street (one really long absolute block). I do not know how hard it will be to correct that.

It would be pretty amazing if they could bring back real express service on the F. While I am pretty sure that express service from King Highway to Bergen Street wouldn’t work too well (unless somehow it is shown that the population along the line has grown), express from Church to Bergen would be very nice.

I don’t know how this will effect the G train if the V is allowed to enter Brooklyn. There are no switches that will allow the G train to terminate at Hoyt-Schemohorn unless they add one. The G can’t terminate at Smith and 9th due to the tracks being in use by the F express. It can’t terminate at Church Ave because the V train will be terminating there… then again there might be enough room for the G and the V to terminate at Church but it will be a tight squeeze. There will be delays getting into Church ave for the local lines.

Then there is the question of having more trains. With extended service further out means that there will be a need for more trains in order to keep the schedule of a train every 10 minutes (more or less). There will need to be more V trains and maybe more G trains (at least during rush hour) to cover the extended time it takes for a train to return to the original terminal.

Sorry for the long post… I have always been interested in transportation management, engineering and urban design.

Todd August 30, 2007 - 8:54 pm

I’d bitch about the work they’re going to do on the viaduct, but considering the MTA’s approach to “work”, I’m pretty sure there will only be noise for about 15 minutes each day.

kensingtonbrooklyn August 30, 2007 - 9:15 pm

Its dissappointing the MTA is taking this off the table until 2012. With the congestion much of the other lines will feel from Atlantic Yards people will need an alternative and continue to move in large numbers along the F line. I’m w Gary and plan to keep the pressure on!

Carolyn Konheim August 31, 2007 - 1:38 pm

When our websote gets back up, you will see a detailed operational and cost-benefit analysis of running the V into Brklyn and the F as a peak direction service from Church to Coney Island. It’s in the comprehensive 2003 plan: “Better Transit for Brooklyn, a Draft Brooklyn Transit Agenda.” It was developed with 15 of Bkn’s community boards. has been th subject of a public hearing by the NYS Assembly and is unanimously endorsed by the Bkn delegation to the Assembly and by all transit advocacy groups.

In 2002, the MTA’s response to the 2001 draft Agenda was that they couldn’t expand F service until the Bergen St control station as rebuilt (should be done by 2008) and that they could not run more peak hour trains because the B Div has not one spare car–and, in response to questioning at a NYMTC hearing on the 2006 TIP, the MTA con firmed it has NO intention of expanding its smallest ever fleet. In fact, it plans to scrap 907 existing cars as new ones are delivered over the coming year. That’s why the #1 priority for any improvement in service must be to salvage the best 200-300 cars and rehab them at a third of the cost of new cars. The companion measure is that they need to find new storage capacity for the added fleet (such as returning to lay by tracks, now that graffiti is more under control) or they could run more off-peak service.

Marc Shepherd September 1, 2007 - 7:46 am

To the question above…I think there would be more than enough capacity to turn two services at Church Avenue, which was built as a proper terminal, much like Forest Hills–71st Avenue. The other possibility is that the express trains would continue to Kings Highway or Avenue X, so only the G would have to turn at Church Avenue.

Yes, it would require more rolling stock, and the express tracks would have to be re-signaled.

grownANDsexy September 2, 2007 - 5:21 am

@ Marc Shepherd
Yeah, I thought about it some more and I do think Church Ave can handle 2 train lines especially since the G doesn’t run as often as the V does (except rush hour).

I think Forest Hills–71st Avenue isn’t a great example. The R and V trains practically are on top of each other entering Forest Hills–71st Avenue… and forget about it if the train crew can’t get someone off the train.

Forest Hills–71st Avenue actually has MORE capacity then Church Ave (twice as much).

I think the best solution is that the G (because is smaller and more controllable) should terminate at 18Ave middle track and just turn around there. It creates a bottle neck at Ditmas Ave though…

@ Carolyn Konheim
I don’t think the F express from Kings Highway to the city (and the reverse in the afternoon) will work. You end up skipping many of the neighborhoods that get on the train at those stops, Kings Highway makes a terrible terminal for V tains, and everyone will end up jamming Church Ave and 18 Ave stations to get on the express because those are the only 2 stops the locals can get that express train.

Are those 5 stops skipped in Brooklyn really going to get you there faster if you have to wait 1-2 minutes at 18 ave and church ave each for trains to open and close doors because so many people want to get on? Then, just for the train to be packed as it enters 7 Ave so you can wait again as people try to get on?

The F train should be express weekdays from Church to Jay Street in Brooklyn both ways, but I don’t know about the benefit of making it express all the way to Kings Highway. I think all you will end up with is just getting yourself 2 minutes ahead of schedule AND create bottle necks due to the local V train needing to terminate at Kings Highway… or worst, at Coney Island along with the F train.

Alon Levy September 3, 2007 - 2:29 am

I just looked at some subway schedules, and saw that express lines save very little time. On average, an additional station in a train’s way adds 40 seconds in dwell time plus the time it takes to decelerate and then accelerate again. Overall express service rarely saves more than 10 minutes.

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[…] the MTA starts work on the Culver viaduct rehabilitation plan, the F/G station at Smith-9th Sts. that serves Carroll Garden, Gowanus and Red Hook. Metro guesses […]

Another delay mars Smith/9th rehab project :: Second Ave. Sagas December 21, 2012 - 9:20 am

[…] the MTA first announced the Culver Viaduct rehab in 2007, plans called for a completion by the end of 2012. Well, here we are at the end of 2012, and the end is nowhere in sight. Over the course of the […]

Someone December 21, 2012 - 4:41 pm

I am sure that the CBTC installation on the Culver line precludes any hope of the F express before 2015.


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