Home Service Cuts Requiem for a Z

Requiem for a Z

by Benjamin Kabak

Brooklyn Borough President sings a (hopefully unnecessary) swan song for the Z train.

I like what city officials and transit advocates are doing right now. They’re keeping the attention on the MTA’s budget issue in ways that attract cameras and press coverage. Now if only they focus the rhetoric and get the politicians listening.

A day after a very contentious public hearing, two borough presidents and leading members of the Straphangers Campaign gathered in Lower Manhattan to eulogize the doomed Z train. Bobby Cuza had more about this funeral for a train set to vanish if state and city funds don’t find their ways to the MTA:

Transit advocates held a mock funeral today to mourn the loss of the Z line, which the Metropolitan Transportation Authority has put on the chopping block. “Yea, though the Z walks through the valley of the shadow of death, it will fear no MTA plan,” said Gene Russianoff of the transit advocacy group, The Straphangers Campaign.

While the Straphangers Campaign staged the mock funeral with tongue firmly in cheek, it says the loss of the Z train is no laughing matter. Along the same line, the MTA plans to shorter the M train and eliminate J/Z skip-stop service. Although the agency will add extra J trains, the changes will add time to riders’ commutes.

“Someone coming from Parsons Boulevard-Jamaica will have about seven minutes added to their trip one-way,” said Russianoff. “So when you calculate that twice a day, five days a week, that’s an hour of additional commuting time those riders are going to have.”

Joining Russianoff were Manhattan Beep Scott Stringer and his Brooklyn counterpart Marty Markowitz. Stringer had all the right words. “I’m here to tell you that we believe in resurrection,” he said. “And we believe that this battle, which now heads to Albany, we have not yet begun to fight.”

But Markowitz’s presence is far more problematic. According to one report, Marty sounded like, well, himself. “Though the Z train begins in Queens and ends in Manhattan, it is—like the J—Brooklyn to the core,” he said to the cameras. “When trains like the Z die, our City’s economy dies with them. This is why we grieve at this mock funeral today. Let’s hope these are not the Z’s last rites.”

As Cap’n Transit succinctly pointed out, Markowitz has been a vocal opponent of bridge tolls, and right now, those bridge tolls are the MTA’s last and best hope. As I mentioned yesterday, we are again seeing a dearth of leadership and rhetoric. It is, as a mentioned, comforting to see Russianoff on the front lines, but we need to see more pressure on Albany and more pressure on city officials — like Markowitz and Stringer — to embrace East River tolls. A healthy MTA for 100 percent of New Yorkers is far more important than placating the 4 percent of Brooklyn drivers who would be impacted by East River tolls.

But in the spirit of the day, I’ll toast the Z, a train I’ve had the pleasure of riding once in my nearly 26 years of life in New York City. No matter my own ridership figures, nearly 80,000 people will miss it, and that’s a big deal.

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Kid Twist January 16, 2009 - 9:09 am

I’m sorry, but I can’t take anything seriously if Marty Markowitz is involved. What a blowhard.

Streetsblog » Today’s Headlines January 16, 2009 - 9:21 am

[…] Straphangers Stage Mock Funeral for Z Train (NY1, Cap’n Transit, 2nd Ave Sagas) […]

Cap'n Transit January 16, 2009 - 10:19 am

Where’d you get that ridership number, Ben? It means that there are more Z train commuters than people who commute from Brooklyn to Manhattan by car.

Benjamin Kabak January 16, 2009 - 11:45 am

Those numbers were in this post linked above. I’m going to see if I can track down more accurate numbers.

Cap'n Transit January 16, 2009 - 12:29 pm

I believe the number, but here’s what I’m saying. According to the 2000 census, there were 901,027 (legal) workers over age 16 in Brooklyn. According to the Tri-State Transportation Campaign factsheet (PDF), just 3.1% of them commute to Manhattan by car, for a total of 27,932. Some of them probably take the tunnel, and already pay a toll.

That means that Markowitz is bellyaching about tolls for a population less than 36% of the ridership of the Z line.

Alon Levy January 16, 2009 - 5:19 pm

The part about “increasing commuting time by one hour per week for some residents of Brooklyn and Queens” is misleading. People living at the Queens end of the line will take 5 more minutes to get to Manhattan; twice a day over five days a week it adds up to 50 minutes, but that’s a far cry from “increasing commuting time by one hour.”

The 80,000/day figure is for the entire J/Z, not just the Z. The Z runs six trains per hour, two hours a day. 80,000 people per day would be 6,500 people per train; to put things in perspective, the 4 and 5 average 1,300 at rush hour.

John January 16, 2009 - 6:11 pm

50 minutes is pretty dang close to an hour. The hour figure was also calculated out over the course of a week, they just used 7 minutes per way per day rather than 5.

Alon Levy January 16, 2009 - 9:52 pm

I don’t mind the difference between 50 and 60 minutes; I mind that they’re making a five-minute increase in commute time seem like a huge deal.

Cap'n Transit January 16, 2009 - 7:33 pm

Thanks for that clarification, Alon. If we assume 1,000 people per train, that means 12,000 riders a day for the Z. It will inconvenience more than just those 12,000, though, because the 12,000 will be crowding onto the J and M trains. So that’s at least half as many people as the car commuters.

Benjamin Kabak January 16, 2009 - 7:37 pm

I think there are more than 12 or 24 Z trains a day though, no?

Mr. Eric January 16, 2009 - 8:49 pm

Most Z trains don’t even do a round trip as a Z.

Alon Levy January 16, 2009 - 10:03 pm

No, there are only 12, or maybe 14. There is skip-stop for just over two hours, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, during which time the J and Z run every ten minutes each.

Benjamin Kabak January 16, 2009 - 10:08 pm

Oh right. That makes sense. I forgot it runs on limited hours.

Alon Levy January 16, 2009 - 10:02 pm

According to the Straphangers’ Campaign, at its most crowded, the J/Z has seats for 53% of the passengers, i.e. 80 people per car, or 640 per train.

I don’t think the MTA is intending to just eliminate the trains that would be Z’s, reducing the Jamaica Line to ten-minute service. That would increase crowding to Lexington levels. More likely, it is intending to give all stations 5-minute service, which would actually reduce average commute time by 2.5 minutes for people living near the local stations.

Benjamin Kabak January 16, 2009 - 10:04 pm

I don’t think that’s what the MTA papers and reports have said. They’re eliminating service, not increasing it.

Alon Levy January 17, 2009 - 2:27 pm

Cutting the Z would simplify service, and might make it feasible to run trains on slightly longer headways, say 7 minutes instead of 5. Right now the J/Z runs at 5-minute headways, but most stations get 10-minute service, which is very inefficient.

Congestion pricing foes stage G train funeral :: Second Ave. Sagas | A New York City Subway Blog February 17, 2009 - 1:16 am

[…] time we have eulogized a train line facing its final few weeks of existence. In mid-January, we remembered the Z while we blamed this financial crisis in part on the grandstanding politicians who showed up for […]


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