Home Queens Permanent G train service cut coming Monday

Permanent G train service cut coming Monday

by Benjamin Kabak

By and large, the service cuts the MTA must enact this summer will not go into effect until June 27, but for riders along the oft-neglected G train, the service cuts start this Monday. According to amNew York’s Heather Haddon, because of repairs to the Queens Boulevard line, Transit will begin to terminate the G at Court Square at all times starting on April 19 at 11 p.m.

Currently, the G train runs from Church Ave. in Kensington, Brooklyn, to Forest Hills from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. and on weekends, but that route is one that is more in name only than in reality. Due to track work, the G train saw Forest Hills during just three weekends in all of 2009, and this year, we’ve witnessed much of the same weekend service reductions.

For New Yorkers, this is but the first of many service cuts, but this one comes with a tradeoff. Overall, 201,000 straphangers along the Queens Boulevard line will find themselves waiting longer and making an extra connection at Court Square to reach their ultimate destinations. According to MTA documents (PDF here), 11,000 riders will have longer weekday evening and late-night rides and 105,000 riders on Saturday and 85,000 riders on Sunday will have increased travel times. Transit, though, will run three additional evening G trains during the weeknight peak times to provide more frequent service along the rest of the IND Crosstown line.

And so it begins.

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SEAN April 15, 2010 - 7:07 pm

It was just a matter of time before the G was trimmed.

Stupid question; is the G even nessessary? Put another way, can the G be combined with another line? I’m not sure but, I figure somebody can give me an answer.

AlexB April 16, 2010 - 1:15 am

It is necessary as it makes stops no other train does, and it cannot really be combined with anything else.

Joe from SI April 15, 2010 - 7:50 pm

Isn’t the G the worst line in the system anyway?

AlexB April 16, 2010 - 1:13 am

No, the C is worse; the N, R, and D run at similar frequencies as the G. The W and B are also worse, but they only exist to complement other lines during rush hour.

Rhywun April 15, 2010 - 8:42 pm

I’ve taken the G maybe twice in 12 years. I see the need for some sort of “crosstown” service – but the G just doesn’t go where I want it to. And the connections have always been bad, too.

Benjamin Kabak April 15, 2010 - 10:50 pm

I find the G train, for what it is, to be very useful. It cuts down my travel time between Park Slope and Williamsburg and between the Slope and my friends’ places out in Forest Hills. I think it gets a bad wrap, but it’s really not a terrible route.

Alon Levy April 15, 2010 - 11:22 pm

Well, your particular travel happens to be exactly on the G’s route, which is unusual for any circumferential lines. A more normal way for circumferential lines to work is that they maximize connection to radials, allowing people to travel from one neighborhood to another without detouring through the CBD.

Benjamin Kabak April 15, 2010 - 11:23 pm

The G wasn’t built as a circumferential route though. You could argue that it should have been, but it wasn’t. For what it is and what it’s supposed to do, it seems to do its job.

Alon Levy April 15, 2010 - 11:32 pm

It was – it was built to connect Brooklyn and Queens without going through Manhattan. It’s not a circle, but neither are other circumferential routes in cities with the CBD on one side of the system. Montreal’s circumferential is a line, Toronto’s proposed Eglinton Crosstown is a line, Paris’s circumferential is two separate half-circles, etc.

The G would’ve done its job if it had connected to QBP and Atlantic-Pacific. It would’ve done its job even better if it had gone to the Bronx or Upper Manhattan instead of acted as the QB local. But it doesn’t do either, so its ridership is puny, and the system suffers from severe lack of crosstown connections except those served by the G directly.

AlexB April 16, 2010 - 1:31 am

Not counting all the stops the G shares with the F, A, L, E, V, & 7, the G gets 43,000 riders per day. If you add up the ridership on the stops served by the G and another train, you get 100,000. I bet close to 60,000 people ride the G train daily. Considering it’s one of the shortest routes in the system and its ridership is constantly increasing faster than the system average, I think it’s doing just fine.

Just because the G isn’t traveling to midtown doesn’t make it circumferential. It’s a shortcut. NYC’s subway organization isn’t really hub and spoke. You can’t have a circumference without a circle.

Alon Levy April 16, 2010 - 3:17 am

To put things in perspective for you, the ridership model the RPA used conservatively estimates 152,000 people would use Triboro per weekday.

Shortcut is another name for circumferential, really. The actual shape of the line doesn’t matter too much – pure circular circumferentials, such as Moscow’s line 5, are quite rare. It’s more common to have imperfect circles with some tails, or chordial lines that serve secondary downtowns without entering the CBD.

The New York City subway is largely hub and spoke. It’s not as strict about it as the other American subway systems, but it still misses most of the important crosstown connections: anything east-west north of 59th, Bronx-Queens, Brooklyn-Queens away from the waterfront. Just because Jamaica and Coney Island get multiple spokes doesn’t make the subway like the net in Mexico City or Paris or Tokyo.

Al D April 16, 2010 - 9:44 am

The Circle Line in London as well although it’s not a circle anymore (or soon)

AK April 16, 2010 - 1:15 pm

Anymore 🙁 A tragedy for sons of geometry teachers, like myself 🙂

Alon Levy April 16, 2010 - 3:28 pm

The Circle line isn’t really circumferential… it comes from a merger of the inner sections of two radials, the Metropolitan and the District. It enters downtown, unlike proper circumferentials, which go around it.

The Yamanote line in Tokyo is not truly circumferential, either, for the same reason. Its eastern half is radial, and only its western half was built as a CBD bypass (though nowadays the stations on the western half have spawned large CBDs themselves).

AlexB April 16, 2010 - 6:32 pm

The triboro would move 2.5 times as many people as I estimated the G moves daily, but it would be three times as long, so it would be just as effective.

Alon Levy April 17, 2010 - 5:15 am

Cost-wise, it’d be several times more effective. Check surface rail construction costs and underground construction costs.

But your 60,000 number is dubiously high (the Crosstown line excludes the F portion, and Court Square and Lorimer/Metropolitan are dominated by the lines that go into Manhattan); and the 152,000 number is conservative.

Andrew April 18, 2010 - 9:12 am

Underground construction costs? But the G has already been constructed!

Kai B April 18, 2010 - 12:50 pm

Right, ridership is only really low by NYC standards. It keeps dozens of busses of the street. Just look at the mess on the weekends when there’s construction. And that’s on a weekend! Not to mention once you’re actually on a train the ride is quite fast – decent station distances and the well-built wide turns of the IND.

The only exception to this is the awkward meandering when terminating/originating at Court Square due to the storage track in the middle.

Kid Twist April 16, 2010 - 10:02 am

When the Crosstown Line opened, Downtown Brooklyn, specifically the area near Hoyt-Schermerhorn, had several department stores and it was a much more important shopping and employment destination than it is now. From Williamsburg south, the line basically paralleled the Myrtle El, getting people from the near Eastern District of Brooklyn to Downtown. It’s also not all that far from the Navy Yard. Seems to me that it was a useful line that was a victim of demographic changes.

Skip Skipson April 16, 2010 - 9:07 am

Please forgive my transit ignorance

What do you mean by circumferential?

Alon Levy April 16, 2010 - 3:23 pm

Circumferential = line going around the circumference of a circle. In plain English, it means a line that goes around downtown instead of entering it. If you go to Fake is the New Real’s subway map compilations, you’ll be able to see such lines in Paris (lines 2 and 5), Berlin (the Ringbahn, which is a commuter line), Tokyo (Oedo), Moscow (line 5), Beijing (line 2) and Shanghai (line 4). You may also be able to spot the circular line in Seoul (line 2), but it’s much harder.

This is not necessarily the same as a line shaped as a circle. If the metro area doesn’t develop evenly, or has water boundaries, then a circumferential may be on just one side of the CBD, like the G. The circumferentials in Moscow and Beijing are circles, but the Tokyo line has a tail, the Paris line is two half-circles, and the Seoul line has multiple tails; the circles in Berlin and Shanghai have services going the full circle interlined with services using the circle only part of the way.

Andrew April 18, 2010 - 12:09 pm

I agree. The IND planners didn’t envision the Crosstown line as a circumferential line, since that concept didn’t exist in the 20’s and 30’s (although some other transit systems happened to build them for various reasons – in London, for example, what became the Circle line was built to connect the railroad terminals to each other and to the City and West End; its construction predated the advent of deep tube tunneling, and cut-and-cover construction was deemed too disruptive to cut through the heart of Central London). It was built to serve primarily the manufacturing areas near the waterfront in Brooklyn and Long Island City, and, in typical IND fashion, it also attempted to compete with the Myrtle Avenue el. Similarly, the IND planners weren’t known for facilitating transfers to the BMT and IRT!

The line is what it is.

Alon Levy April 18, 2010 - 4:05 pm

The IND planners didn’t envision the Crosstown line as a circumferential line, since that concept didn’t exist in the 20’s and 30’s

Lines 2/5 in Paris? The Berlin Ringbahn? The original Yamanote Line (i.e. the Shinagawa-Ikebukuro bypass)?

But it doesn’t matter, because even in 1920 it wasn’t hard to figure out that the optimal Brooklyn-Queens connection was one that maximized transfer opportunities instead of minimizing them. The IND’s hatred of transfers with the IRT and BMT is precisely what made most of its lines so bad.

Andrew April 18, 2010 - 8:42 pm

Paris had even better examples: the Petite Ceinture and the Grande Ceinture. But they were not built in order to meet a modern planner’s conception of a circumferential line – nobody thought in those terms back then.

In any case, the G is not a circumferential line. A circumferential line would be much further east, directly connecting outer sections of Queens and Brooklyn. As I said, the line was built largely to provide access to the industrial waterfront and to Downtown Brooklyn – just like the lines that enter Manhattan, it runs directly through what used to be (and to some extent still is) a major employment center. That’s not what circumferential lines do. You’re focusing too much on the “doesn’t enter Manhattan” factoid.

The IND wasn’t interested in transfers with the competing private systems. I don’t like it either, but it’s what we’re stuck with now.

Alon Levy April 19, 2010 - 2:15 am

No, circumferentials frequently enter important secondary business districts. Lines 2 and 5 served some key regional centers as the Place de la Nation.

But it doesn’t really matter what the definition is, because the important areas on the waterfront were often centered on the LIRR stations, which the IND purposely avoided.

(Yes, I know it’s a fact of life that the IND was not interested in transfers. This is part of its incompetence: recall that the city planned to take over the private systems while designing the IND. Making the IND unification-compatible would’ve required trivial route modifications.)

Andrew April 19, 2010 - 7:19 am

Very nice. But it still isn’t a circumferential. It doesn’t connect the outer sections of Brooklyn and Queens – it connects the inner sections of Brooklyn and Queens. It isn’t much of a shortcut from outer district to outer district, as all it avoids is a double crossing of the East River, which doesn’t take much time. If you’re going from, say, Forest Hills to Park Slope, you’re better off taking the F the whole way.

Perhaps the reason the G doesn’t function very well as a circumferential is that it isn’t one.

At first, the IND plan was to “recapture” only selected private routes, not entire systems. Unification came later. The IND directly duplicated several preexisting lines – 6th Avenue, Fulton, probably Jerome – and was more interested in putting them out of business than in facilitating transfers to the competition.

That said, much of the IND suffers from this design flaw, yet most IND lines have quite healthy ridership levels. Perhaps convenient transfers aren’t quite as critical as you’re making them out to be.

Alon Levy April 19, 2010 - 8:23 pm

Um, the only IND line that gets higher ridership than the IRT line it competes with is the Queens Boulevard line. Check the numbers in the Hub Bound report for each track pair.

But sure, convenient transfers don’t matter. People just love to walk 500 meters out of system all the time, and to ride buses timed to miss their train or ferry connections. That’s why the G and the Staten Island buses are so popular – they give people the opportunity to experience the magic of waiting. If only SBB stopped depriving people of this with all of its timed transfers, maybe Swiss rail ridership would rise to American levels some day. I can’t wait!

(In the 1920s, the sections served by the G were in the middle of the city; the sections on the Bay Ridge freight line were the outer sections. Like other circumferential lines, it didn’t go through the outer districts, but through the era’s middle districts.)

Andrew April 19, 2010 - 11:21 pm

“Quite healthy ridership levels” doesn’t mean “greater ridership than anything else in the area.” Nor did I say that convenient transfers don’t matter – I merely suggested that you’re focusing on them a bit too much. Any single IND line has greater ridership than most entire transit systems. Would improved transfers increase ridership even more? Certainly. But the IND manages to carry a lot of people even with suboptimal transfers.

(Incidentally, I’m not sure what information you’re getting from the Hub Bound report. You’re certainly not picking on up Jerome vs. Concourse, since that’s well north of the cordon, and by the time the 4 enters the CBD, it’s already picked up people off the White Plains Road and Pelham lines, not to mention an exceptionally busy station at the heart of the Upper East Side. You’re seeing Broadway vs. Central Park West – and should it come as much of a surprise that a line along a busy commercial and residential street performs better than a line alongside a large park? That has nothing to do with transfers.)

All the transfers in the world wouldn’t increase G ridership by a huge margin. I’m not sure why you’re even bringing up Staten Island buses – Staten Island is basically a suburb with standard suburban transit usage patterns: mostly for trips to areas with very limited parking (i.e., Manhattan), since nearly everybody has a car. Bus ridership in Staten Island is heavily peaked and heavily ferry-oriented. All the transfers in the world wouldn’t persuade Staten Islanders to give up their cars.

The IND built lines to Jamaica and East New York (and beyond); in those terms, the Crosstown line is very much inner. As designed (although it never operated quite like this), the full GG route ran from Jamaica, along the Queens Boulevard line all the way to Queens Plaza. Rather than entering Manhattan, it swung south and ran fairly close to the water. It met back up with the IND in Downtown Brooklyn, first with a cross-platform transfer to the A at Hoyt-Schermerhorn and then feeding the local tracks of the line to Church Avenue (the 6th Avenue line fed the express). The IND’s circumferential lines were proposed as part of the so-called Second System: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wi.....System.jpg

The IND planners weren’t living in 2010, using 2010 vocabulary and applying formulaic 2010 techniques. Perhaps we shouldn’t be trying to pigeonhole everything they did into 2010 categories. And rather than criticizing them for not applying modern techniques (or, rather, one person’s idea of modern techniques), we should take what they left us, for better or for worse, and see what we can do with it.

Alon Levy April 20, 2010 - 1:06 am

What’s an “entire transit system”? I’m not being facetious here. In countries where city planners are even mildly competent, even small cities have higher rail traffic densities than New York. For example, the average subway line in Lyon carries 180,000 people per weekday, several times as much as the G.

Better transfers would almost certainly improve G performance. I read once in a secondary downtown report that people who work in Downtown Brooklyn have a transit mode share of about 50%. The G is effectively the only missing service – from any other direction, the subway connections are such that few people would drive. It’s just people who live in Queens and don’t live right on top of the G who have an incentive to drive it. Similarly, it’s only people who live in Brooklyn away from the IND who have any reason to drive to Long Island City.

The CPW route is yet another example of poor IND planning. They built 6th Avenue Line under an el; they could have built one under Columbus, too. But that assumes the IND planners were interested in improving transportation rather than in bankrupting the IRT and BMT. There were many others – see the total lack of convenient transfers the IND deemed as wrong-direction, to the point that the useful transfers at 53rd/7th both require walking up the stairs.

The reason I bring this up is that the people who design subways in the US today have the same mentality – one that likes complex service patterns, prioritizes flying junctions and neat uptown/downtown distinctions over transfer convenience, and has no concern for cost control. And, um, it’s not just me being concerned about this. On transit blogs, it’s everyone with any non-US transit backgrounds. Probably everyone else who recognizes that whatever else the lines on the Second System were, they were all radial, connecting Manhattan to an outer borough.

Andrew April 20, 2010 - 6:38 pm

I give up. If anybody else is still reading this, I think I’ve made my point more than adequately. If not, ask away.

Donald April 15, 2010 - 11:18 pm

I ride the G every weekday between Williamsburg and Downtown Brooklyn. While the G does seem to get a bad rap I don’t think it’s any worse than any other train. It’s actually fairly reliable in the morning hours. I take the train from Metropolitan and it’s usually there between 7:36 and 7:39 every morning. I do, however, wish it made more direct transfers. It’s really close to the M/R and the 2/3 in DoBro but requires a walk outside and an unlimited Metrocard. All in all I don’t think I could live without it.

Think twice April 15, 2010 - 11:28 pm

The Rapid Transit Commission’s 1905 plan and the Public Service Commission’s 1914 plan for the B’klyn–Queens Crosstown were more integrated and comprehensive. It was the Board of Transporation’s anti-traction ferver that made the IND’s version so overly uncooperative with the existing IRT and BMT. (From where I live in Marine Park the G train would be very useful to get to where I volunteer on the weekend, but it’s painfully hard to reach without going out of my way with an extra long bus ride to the F train or getting out of Atlantic/Pacific and walking to Lafayette/Fulton.)

I’m a little surprised that the IND didn’t go whole-hog and build express tracks between Hoyt–Schermerhorn and Queens Plaza. Getting people from Downtown BK to LIC faster may have made it a more attractive alternative to using Manhattan’s express trunk lines.

Now with Crosstown being what it is, the bottleneck IMO is Queens; too many trains, not enough lines. If they ever revive Lower Montauk, maybe they can reroute 63rd Street Tunnel routes to there and free up space on Queens Blvd. to the G train again.

AlexB April 16, 2010 - 1:10 am

I ride the G all the time, just never to work. I’ve lived in 5 different neighborhoods in NYC and they’ve all been within a 15 minute walk of the G.

It would be useful if they would terminate the G at Queens Plaza when the V isn’t running. There would be capacity without the V to turn the G around at the extra track between the inbound and outbound express tracks just east of Queens Plaza. It would really save a bunch of people (such as myself) a lot of trouble. Court Sq is only convenient for the Flushing line and QB express, not the QB local or Astoria line.

A very useful and expensive connection would be double tracking the Franklin shuttle again and connecting it to the G in the vicinity of the Bedford-Nostrand stop, providing a huge shortcut from many parts of central Brooklyn to north Brooklyn and Queens via the transfers at Prospect Park and Franklin.

Andrew April 16, 2010 - 6:42 am

The problem with Queens Plaza is that the G comes in on the local track. It risks interfering with the R there, but it can’t get out of the way of the R while an E is in the area, since it has to cross the express track to get to the spur track.

At night, when there’s no R and when the E drops to a 20-minute headway, it wouldn’t get in anything’s way. But it also wouldn’t be terribly beneficial from a connectivity standpoint. (It would make for more convenient transfers between the G and E, of course, but that’s it.)

Jay April 16, 2010 - 7:17 am

Curious as to how they could connect the Franklin Ave shuttle (elevated) to the Bedford-Nostrand G station (subway). What would you suggest, running elevated over franklin up until Lafayette Ave or something and then turning right and diving down into the 3rd track at Bedford? Or push it back one stop to the unused 3rd track section of Classon and have it run into and terminate at Bedford?

Curious minds are curious.

Al D April 16, 2010 - 9:47 am

This is actually a service increase! Since the G basically ends at Court Sq full time anyway, and they are adding evening trains, I say it’s a service increase! But MTA needs to add 1 or 2 trains to the morning run between 7:45 and 8:45. Those 4 cars trains are generally at and over capacity by then.

JPN April 16, 2010 - 9:53 am

Whatever happened to “Save the G“?

PBK April 16, 2010 - 10:04 am

If the IND Second System had been constructed, the G would have played a much larger role in things. Pictures of the shell constructed at the Broadway stop can be seen here.

Also, although it’s now ‘official’ that the G will no longer run to Forest Hills, it’s been my impression that the MTA has been cutting it back to Court Square at the drop of a hat for lots of years already.


Alon Levy April 16, 2010 - 4:14 pm

The Second System would’ve improved things marginally. The IND would still have had zero connections to A-P, QBP, or Hunterspoint Avenue.

Alfred Beech April 16, 2010 - 10:09 am

Weren’t the number of cars per train cut in order to facilitate the extension to Forest Hills? Will the G trains now be returned to their former capacity?

Marc Shepherd April 16, 2010 - 11:29 am

How often is the G full, in relation to other trains? That’s the real question.

Andrew April 16, 2010 - 6:31 pm

No, the maximum number of cars is used during rush hours, not at night or on weekends. The number of cars per train was cut for two reasons: (a) to allow for an increase in service between Queens Boulevard and Manhattan (i.e., the V), and (b) because the switchover between the weekday 6-car operation and the weekend (OPTO) 4-car operation was onerous (i.e., time-consuming and therefore expensive).

NYCT has loading guidelines that apply systemwide, and loads on the G are within them (except, I suppose, for that period in the evening when the extra trips are about to be added).

Changing the signs in advance of service cuts :: Second Ave. Sagas April 19, 2010 - 5:07 pm

[…] along Queens Boulevard, and the G gets scaled back – the last being a permanent change that happens tonight – Transit will have to change approximately 2750 signs at 154 stations. The subway map, too, […]

Greig August 7, 2010 - 5:48 pm

I love the G. I love public transportation. More money for transit and less money for war. I will never understand why people continue to argue about this stuff. It is a no-brainer. More money earmarked for education, transit, and health will make this city a better place.

New bus route from LIC to Williamsburg in the works | Queens NYC December 11, 2012 - 2:00 pm

[…] transfer point), or better yet, extend it back to Forest Hills as it used to be years ago before they cut service. Both Brooklyn and Queens are growing and changing, and becoming destinations. Here’s […]


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