Home View from Underground Having a station renovation cake and eating it too

Having a station renovation cake and eating it too

by Benjamin Kabak

In a few years, the stations along the Culver Viaduct will be fully renovated.

The Culver Viaduct β€” a pesky strip of the IND Culver Line that crosses the Gowanus Canal 90 feet above ground β€”Β is in very bad shape. The bridge is structurally unsound, and the stations are decrepit with paint peeling from leaky ceilings and windows boarded up. By 2013, the Culver Viaduct will be fully renovated, and with the completion of that project will come renovated stations and the potential for F express service. In the meantime, service changes and weekend cancellations make for uncertain travel via the F and G trains.

For this mile-long strip of above-ground track, the work is badly needed. Waterproofing has given way to waterlogged and stressed concrete, and this overhaul is the first major rehab since 1933 when the viaduct first opened. It is an old structure and surrounded by buildings, and the MTA knew it would not be an easy overhaul. Yet, many have embraced it. Residents in the area have long recognized how dangerous the viaduct had become and were happy to see the MTA begin work on it.

Happy, that is, until service changes came to rule the weekends. As The Post explained yesterday, the work on the viaduct will result in total weekend shutdowns with shuttle bus service in between Jay St. and Church Ave. for weekends in February, May and November. Brooklyn residents are not happy about this development. “People are going to totally freak out,” Laura Stryjewski said. “Taking the shuttle is a royal pain. This is terrible news.”

Others were even more critical. “They already put us through this six months ago,” Isabel Milenski said to The Post. “It’s like they’re not fixing the issue. The shuttle rides are grotesque. It’s going to be chaotic.”

Milenski’s comment and Stryjewski’s to a lesser extent are both patently absurd. Of course the MTA is fixing the issue; that is, after all, why the Viaduct, a 77-year-old structure, has to be closed for a few weekends during the course of construction. To claim otherwise is simply ignorant.

These comments, featured in a major daily newspaper, are designed to stir up some sort of populist outrage at the MTA. Look at those transit folks, canceling our service and making us take shuttle buses, suggests the tone of the article. I’ve harped on this point before, but it’s worth repeating: This is simply irresponsible journalism. Who cares with some man- or woman-on-the-street thinks about something about which they are largely ignorant? If The Post wants to make the MTA look bad, this hit-and-run journalism is exactly the way to do it. If the paper cared about informing its riders of the MTA’s efforts at restoring this stretch of its track, it could do so in a more newsworthy way.

In the end, though, these attitudes transcend the yellow journalism of The Post and get at a deeper problem with the way people treat transit in New York City. The people who complain about how dirty, dingy and unsafe the Viaduct is are the same folks who complain about shuttle buses and station closures when the MTA gets around to fixing things. These riders want everything, and they want it now. Simply put, they can’t have it. The Viaduct has to be closed because the MTA needs to do major structural repairs to it otherwise the station will remain a part of the city’s crumbling transportation infrastructure. Ever the demanding bunch, New Yorkers cannot have it both ways for once.

For more on the Culver Viaduct project, check out my old posts here, here and here. After the jump, a video from the MTA about the rehabilitation work.

You may also like


rhywun February 10, 2010 - 7:35 am

It’s the media that feed the perception that “people who complain about how dirty, dingy and unsafe the Viaduct is are the same folks who complain about shuttle buses and station closures”. The fact that they hardly have to lift a finger to find a New Yorker willing to complain about whatever topic they’re looking at doesn’t negate the likelihood that the vast majority of folks are actually reasonable about this topic.

Jonathan February 10, 2010 - 8:37 am

Perhaps it’s the prevalence of automobile culture in the local media that makes it so. All those car commercials, all those traffic segments on the news, all that hoopla about recalls; I’m beginning to think that it is a giant conspiracy against public transit.

Chicken Underwear February 10, 2010 - 8:42 am

The Post is terrible. All they do is incite anger. Here they did it twice. First against the MTA for doing what had to be done. But the story is about “Park Slope straphangers” and “Stroller-pushing mothers”. It makes us look like whiners (note the comments).

The Post could have interview residents who live in Borough Park, who are more inconvenienced, they have to get on and off a shuttle bus to get to and from Manhattan. Perhaps the Post could have made fun of them by saying “complicated shuttle bus confuses locals”. But that would have been unpatriotic.

AK February 10, 2010 - 8:48 am

I think it is ignorant to call on the Post to provide anything other than “irresponsible journalism.” πŸ™‚ Of course, Ben’s point applies to news sources that are supposed to be more reputable/objective. I think the best counterstrategy is not to get upset about what people are saying in rag tabloids (or even big, reputable newspapers), but instead provide consistent, objective angles on ongoing MTA news (ala 2nd Ave Sagas). You won’t reach as many people as the tabloids, of course, and that is always frustrating to the little guy trying to change hearts and minds, but you will have many loyal readers who will spread FACTS about the MTA and mass transit, rather than dopey soundbites and misplaced outrage.

zz February 10, 2010 - 10:03 am

Nearly every story by John Montone at 1010Wins follows this same template: The government does something; man-on-street responds with an uncomprehending whine or cynical remark.

It’s tiresome, but it’s good for business to stoke the outrage.

What saddens me more than the poor quality of our city’s journalism is that more often than not, the Straphanger’s Campaign can be relied to step in with a knee-jerk comment that is equally uninformed.

Alfred Beech February 10, 2010 - 10:06 am

Are there still no plans to renovate the Smith & 9th stop? That’s usually the poster child for stations in poor repair, and the last I heard money couldn’t be found for its planned renovation, only for the viaduct structure.

Benjamin Kabak February 10, 2010 - 11:32 am

I believe the current plans are to renovate the Smith & 9th Sts. stops but not the 4th Ave. stop. That stop will get a fresh coat of paint and some cosmetic upgrades but little else unless the MTA can find more money for this project.

rhywun February 10, 2010 - 9:32 pm

Gee, that makes perfect sense :/

Let’s not renovate the station that has more than twice the daily ridership (10,789 vs. 4,464), a transfer, and a heart-stopping (trust me) three-story climb required to execute said transfer. Hmph.

Sara February 11, 2010 - 2:26 pm

But the image depicted above appears to be the 4th Ave stop!

Do you think they’ll put real glass windows in?

Alon Levy February 10, 2010 - 11:31 am

If only the TA hadn’t taken down the original connection from the Culver Line to the 4th Avenue Subway.

Anon256 February 10, 2010 - 1:00 pm

That would not be much help for F/G riders at stations from Church to Bergen. For many riders south of Church, changing at Coney Island may now be a quicker option than the shuttles. If the MTA really wanted to provide mitigation for those south of Church they could run F trains through Coney Island and nonstop via the unused Sea Beach or West End express tracks onto 4th Ave and Manhattan, but it’s not as though any other part of the city gets that level of mitigation during weekend service cuts.

paulb February 10, 2010 - 3:43 pm

Whaaa? Do you mean the route of the old Culver shuttle? I thought that was part of the Fifth Avenue el. There was a connection to the Bay Ridge BMT, also?

As to the media’s poker faced, if not downright meretricious, elevation of the most idiotic “man on the street” opinions to supposedly serious contributions to public discourse, it’s a syndrome that it seems to me badly infects national journalism, too.

AlexB February 10, 2010 - 5:38 pm

I think the rendering of the renovated 4th Ave station is obsolete. When the MTA reconstructs the viaduct, I don’t think they are going to bring the stations themselves up to par, except in minimal ways, just the structure. It’s a shame because the 4th Ave station could be very beautiful.

Anon256 means (I think) that he would prefer to see F trains start from Church Ave, head south to Coney, then follow the Sea Beach (N) Express into Manhattan, becoming the normal F at Bway Lafayette. It would be a hugely roundabout detour, but might save time for people if they are coming from close to Coney to begin with.

Jerrold February 10, 2010 - 6:32 pm

I was wondering about the same thing.
It looks like he was probably thinking about the old Culver shuttle, which connected the Culver line to the West End line.

On a related subject, it’s interesting to reflect on how, over the years, the Transit Authority has played “musical chairs” with the subway lines. In my lifetime, the D train used to go down the Culver line, then the Brighton Line, and now it’s on the West End line.

rhywun February 10, 2010 - 9:39 pm

I’ve only lived in NYC 12 years, in Brooklyn 3 years, and I still have little to no idea where any of the lettered trains that isn’t the R train (the one I live on) goes. The B, D, and Q are a complete mystery to me. The F and N less so if only because I have actually used them, in other parts of the city πŸ™‚

Josh February 11, 2010 - 11:34 am

Maybe I’m the only one, but I didn’t think those shuttle buses were really all that bad.

Sara February 11, 2010 - 2:20 pm

Yeah, I like to complain as much as the next guy, but the shuttle buses really weren’t bad. Either the MTA was trying to suck up to us or else make up for the smaller capacity of a single bus, but they were running buses much more frequently than trains. I think people complain because it takes a bit more of a mental step to go outside your usual routine. The shuttle buses weren’t unpleasant, though. Additionally, the B75 (for now) mirrors the route of the F/G from Jay St to Prospect Park.

Sara February 11, 2010 - 2:21 pm

Aside from that, does the photo seem like they spliced in the existing track area with the rendering of the platform? The lighting on the track area is much harsher.

Andrew February 11, 2010 - 10:23 pm

One slight clarification: the inference I make from your writeup (which I’m not sure you intended) is that one of the project goals is to make an F express possible. That’s not the case – express service was possible before the project started (although the Bergen Street interlocking was only replaced in early 2008, and until then it wasn’t really practical), and it will be possible once the project is finished, but it isn’t possible while the project is underway, since two tracks at a time are out of service for construction.

And, again, I remind you and your readers that there are numerous other express tracks that exist and are available but still aren’t used for normal service. If there isn’t demand for additional service beyond the existing local service (i.e., loads on the existing local doesn’t exceed or at least approach to NYCT’s loading guidelines), and demand at the local stations is strong enough that diverting some of the existing locals to the express track would be counterproductive, then using the express track for regular service is probably not a good idea.

Given that the M is slated to be removed from the West End and 4th Avenue lines soon, I would suggest that, if NYCT is in a position to add service in a few years, the ridership numbers might support restoring the M (or equivalent) rather than increasing Culver service beyond the 15 tph provided by the F alone (and that ignores the G) – the D and R never exceed 10 tph.

A tale of a viaduct, a sign and the need to pay attention :: Second Ave. Sagas January 4, 2011 - 10:53 pm

[…] the MTA has released its own video on the project; and crews have been working on the viaduct for nearly ten months. In other words, […]


Leave a Comment