Home Service Cuts Dispatches from the service cuts

Dispatches from the service cuts

by Benjamin Kabak

As the first rush hour in the post-service cut era dawned yesterday, riders throughout the city had to scope with a radically altered transit network. As the city’s commuters struggled to adjust to this new reality, service cuts coverage dominated the news. Reporters from various news outlets produced numerous pieces featuring exception reporting on various aspects of the changes, and I’d like to round them up here.

When signs get ost in translation

Although English remains New York’s dominant language, the city is filled with thousands of immigrants who are only just adjusting to life in the United States. Many of the subway and bus changes impact these non-English speaking communities. The M, for instance, ran through Hispanic communities in Brooklyn and Chinese communities in Manhattan while buses no longer serve Haitian neighborhoods.

To track these changes, WNYC’s Matthew Schuerman hit the streets and found signs only in English. The MTA urged those in need of translation services to call an 800 number, but communities were left to fend for themselves. Eventually, street-savvy New Yorkers found their ways to the proper train lines.

Queens residents protest residential bus routes

While many people were out in force protesting against the MTA’s cuts, one neighborhood association in Queens had a different gripe. Residents in Whitestone spoke out against what they saw as a poorly planned rerouting. Their target was the Q15A, an alternate route of the Q15 that was designed for passengers stranded by the elimination of the Q14.

When the MTA put this new line into service, they routed it down a few narrow residential streets, and local politicians requested a route change on the grounds that the streets were too narrow. Yesterday, with protesters watching from the sidelines, a new Q15A and a pick-up truck came to a stalemate as the street was not wide enough to let the two vehicles pass each other. The police had to clear the road, and neighborhood residents have renewed their calls for a better route.

Those who suffer the most

Times columnist Clyde Haberman tackled the service cuts in his latest NYC column this week. He says that the city’s poor are the ones hardest hit by the cuts. As I mentioned earlier today, Haberman’s charge is true because of the general disregard for buses found in American society, but otherwise, I think he misses the point. Everyone will suffer with these service cuts. Trains upon which people from all walks of life rely will be more crowded, and as the wealthiest opt to drive, congestion will slow down the city’s economy.

Union inspections slow down new routes

Over the past few days, I’ve received numerous reports of slower-than-normal commutes on the BMT lines in northern Brooklyn. While some of the delays are due to passengers adjusting to the new service patterns, amNew York says that union inspections have led to delayed service as well. TWU inspectors have done safety checks on the new M trains, and the lines should pick up speed as those inspections are wrapped up.

Fourth Avenue: The deepest cut, oft ignored

Finally, news on a topic I plan to cover more in depth later on: the R train along 4th Ave. is too crowded. When the MTA announced its subway service cuts, most of the attention focused on the new M routing. Lost in the coverage was the reality of longer waits and headways along the BMT 4th Ave. line in Brooklyn. Since the M would no longer be servicing the local stops here, those Manhattan-bound customers would have to wait for only the R train.

These eight-minute headways coupled with fewer trains has led to overcrowding on the R. Gene Russianoff of the Straphangers Campaign, a frequent R train rider himself, said, “One of our people reported heavy crowding on the R at DeKalb, where they got rid of the M. The R is picking up the slack, but waits are near doubling and crowding is significantly up.” I wonder how this line will hold up under the pressure of the new crowds.

You may also like


Max S. (WilletsPoint-SheaStadium) June 29, 2010 - 12:32 pm

What’s with the Metropolitan Avenue bound (M) trains stating “Jamaica Local” on the electronic destination signs? Though I know the (M) does partially run on the BMT Jamaica Line, the train never really gets close to Jamaica or Jamaica Avenue. It seems to me this could be confusing to riders. In Brooklyn it runs along Broadway and Myrtle Avenue. If anything, I think the signs should read “Myrtle Ave Local”. Thoughts?

Jerrold June 29, 2010 - 1:42 pm

Speaking of keeping up-to-date, shouldn’t your name here be “Max S.(Mets-Willets Point)”?

Max S. (WilletsPoint-SheaStadium) June 29, 2010 - 4:03 pm

Yeah, but I still call it Shea :-), besides there’s still nice nostalgic signs that say Shea Stadium – Willets Point. I’m still curious regarding the (M) Jamaica Local that doesn’t run on Jamaica Avenue or into Jamaica, Queens.

ferryboi June 29, 2010 - 4:35 pm

Could never understand the MTA’s naming system. The old “M” was listed as the “Nassau St Local” even though it run under Nassau St for two whole stops. The “J” is the “Nassau St Express” even though it makes local stops on Nassau St (!?). The “N” is the “Sea Beach Express” although it makes all stops on the Sea Beach Line. It should be named the “4th Ave Express” since it runs express under 4th Ave. Agree that the new “M” should be listed as the “6th Ave-Myrtle Local” but try telling that to the MTA. And what happened to the word “TO” on route signs? It’s kinda confusing to see a sign that shows a destination without the word “TO” as in “7th Ave Local TO South Ferry”.

Benjamin Kabak June 29, 2010 - 4:41 pm

I can’t speak to the Brooklyn naming conventions. I think those are remnants of a time when the BMT, IND and IRT were all independent systems. I can, however, answer the Nassau St. question. Subway lines are given colors and route designations based upon their Manhattan trunk lines. So the 7th Ave. lines are red, Lexington green, Broadway yellow, 6th Ave. orange, 8th Ave. blue, crosstown grey, and Nassau St. brown. Now that the M’s Manhattan trunk route is 6th Ave. instead of Nassau St., it flips from brown to orange.

ferryboi June 29, 2010 - 5:23 pm

Thanks Ben. I knew as much about Nassau St, but it’s still confusing since Nassau St ain’t exactly Broadway or Lex Ave. It runs for a few blocks thru the Financial District. A better name would be “Wall St Local” or “Financial District Express” or some other name that better describes the J/Z route, which was built to serve the Wall St area, not just Nassau St.

Dan June 29, 2010 - 12:39 pm

It’s also sad that they didn’t update all the maps on trains. In particular, I was on an M train last night on Queens Blvd that had the old map (with the G and V running there instead of the M). Luckily, it was one of the newer trains with the automated stop thing, but still something that should have been done.

Tom S June 29, 2010 - 12:42 pm

Any word on how popular the M train is, and if it’s picking up riders who would otherwise take the L?

Benjamin Kabak June 29, 2010 - 12:43 pm

Too early to say for sure, but those I’ve spoken with have been enjoying the one-seat ride to Midtown. It’s a change the MTA should have implemented years ago when they could have extended the J or Z to Bay Parkway to maintain service in Brooklyn.

Jerrold June 29, 2010 - 1:47 pm

Remember that they DID try it years ago, with the KK, later called the K. Wasn’t it a one-seat ride on a route that went over the Williamsburg Bridge, and then up Sixth Ave.?

Tom S June 29, 2010 - 2:33 pm

I suspect the demographics have changed since the K train was canceled in 1976.

Justin Samuels June 29, 2010 - 4:19 pm

Williamsburg and Bushwick have since gentrified, and now have many people living there who work in Midtown, or even in neighborhoods like Chelsea, Gramercy, or the Village. Many students there as well. So yes, the M on 6th Avenue is good for them.

BrooklynBus June 30, 2010 - 11:06 am

The reason the K was cancelled was due to lack of ridership. I’ve always believed if it had terminated in Canarsie rather than at Eastern Parkway, it could have been successful. If you could have boarded the K in Canarsie, you would have stayed on it to get to midtown. Being forced to take the L and change at Broadway Junction, and having the choice of the Eighth Avenue Express, or the K which ran less often, most would not choose the K.

Aditya June 29, 2010 - 1:45 pm

While waiting for the F on West 4th St yesterday and this morning, I’ve noticed that the M wasn’t much fuller at that point than the V used to be. Not sure how popular it is on other parts of the route, but it sucked to be waiting for the F to get to 2nd Ave and see the new M pass by, not much more popular than my beloved V. I hope that as commuters find out about the changes the M’s popularity will justify eliminating the V, because for now, with reduced service at 2nd Ave, Alphabet City is really getting screwed.

And, on another note, with this morning’s “smoke condition” at Bway / Lafayette, I spent over 10 minutes in a crowded F on 2nd Ave, when neither the train crew nor the booth clerk bothered to make an announcement that the train wouldn’t be running. Passengers had to go back upstairs and ask the clerk in person, because apparently making the announcement was not her responsibility. This is really sad, you’d think that with toll booth jobs being cut, they would leave the most helpful staff on the job. This woman clearly couldn’t have cared less about informing rush-hour commuters about suspended train service.

Jerrold June 29, 2010 - 1:59 pm

You ain’t kidding that Alphabet City is getting screwed.
I don’t live there myself, but I feel sorry for the people who now don’t have the M8 crosstown bus on weekends.

I remember the days when Alphabet City politicians were calling for the “elimination of the two-fare zone”.
Many years later, the MetroCard came along and eliminated ALL two-fare zones.
The discontinuation of weekend service on the M8 was a lousy thing to do to a neighborhood in which most people need a bus just to get to the subway.

Justin Samuels June 29, 2010 - 4:17 pm

So just walk to the L, the Lexington Avenue line, or the F. The reason why there are so many fat people is because people think they’re too good to walk a few blocks.

Jerrold June 29, 2010 - 7:11 pm

That’s like saying “Why have buses at all?”.
By that logic, they might as well get rid of ALL the buses, at least in Manhattan, and tell everybody to get off their fat asses and walk to the subway.

That’s how much sense you’re making.
In other words, not much.

Brian | BK Southie June 30, 2010 - 7:36 am

Aditya, I don’t think you’re ever going to see any significant changes in ridership on the morning downtown/afternoon uptown trips. It’s value will be for people coming from the JMZ line in Brooklyn going to work in Midtown.

I can only speak to the way it was nine years ago, but I would have loved this train when I lived in Southside Williamsburg. I usually took the J/M/Z across the bridge to Essex. I swear, half the train got out to make the transfer to the uptown F, and the stairwells at that station aren’t really up to the challenge. And then I’d usually watch one or two F-trains that were completely packed from its Brooklyn pickups pass by before I could squeeze into a train that was merely crowded.

So that’s who will get the best use out of the new routing. That won’t come as very much consolation to you, I’m afraid. (Or me, since I now live in South Brooklyn and had been taking the M to get to downtown Manhattan.)

Al D June 29, 2010 - 1:44 pm

The M is now the Jamaica Lcl (on the eastbound/southbound displays)!

My rush hour M’s seemed both behind schedule and were crowded the entire length (from B’way-Bklyn to Rock Ctr), and it got slammed at 34 St from the transferring PATH riders. The V must have been more frequent and also on the afternoon trip out, there seemed to be less or delayed F service. The afternoon was the first 6 Ave local in awhile, and the M seemed delayed and was followed immediately and in order: a second M, a Z (R42) and another M along Broadway-Brooklyn.

The Chrystie St connector’s tunnel walls were much newer looking. The M ran through the connector are very slow speeds.

FIND was out and conductor announcements were back. (So much for technology!!)

Lastly, it occurred to me that this would have been the perfect opportunity to use the video monitors on the R160 to broadcast the changes, but all that was there was same old, same old. Again, MTA paid for something they are not using…

DMIJohn June 29, 2010 - 1:54 pm

My 4th Avenue R Train was packed to the gills and running super slow. I decided it was better to switch at Atlantic Pacific to the 2,3 train for downtown service today.

Alon Levy June 29, 2010 - 2:13 pm

I’m not in New York for another 3 weeks… but for me, today the RER A was not especially crowded. It was in the peak direction at the peak time and the car had more than 200 people, but due to the unique bilevel configuration – three doors per car, two levels in between every adjacent pair of doors – there was more space, on a par with the off-peak Lex trains rather than the peak Lex trains. It was actually more pleasant than yesterday, when I was on one of the older single-level trains, which do not have air conditioning.

Taking train lines in Paris, I started thinking about the language issue, too – not just because I have limited French skills, but also because there’s a fair number of non-French-as-first-language immigrants here. Multilingual TVMs are a common solution, but they’re easy. I think it’s a serious benefit that New York’s standard transit card can be bought at a TVM, which avoids the problem with understanding an unfamiliar language in a noisy environment.

IanM June 29, 2010 - 3:17 pm

Finally – I thought I was the only one who noticed that the loss of the M along 4th avenue has been widely ignored in coverage of the cuts, despite being one of the most severe subway cuts. It’s one of the few (only?) instances, unless I’m mistaken, of an area losing a train entirely without any sort of (even inadequate) replacement. Former W riders get a local N, V riders get the new M, etc., but 4th avenue just loses the M outright, despite being an area with a large and growing commuter population.

I know there are probably areas that are hit even harder by bus cuts, but in terms of subway cuts, I can’t help but feel like the 4th avenue line got singled out for the most straightforward and blatant shafting. Am I wrong?

ferryboi June 29, 2010 - 4:29 pm

No, you are not wrong. I suspect that since the 4th Ave line runs mostly through Sunset Park, the MTA figured (probably correctly) that most residents of Asian and Hispanic heritage would not complain because many do not speak English and/or don’t know how to fight the system and complain. And many white, middle class residents of Bay Ridge don’t take the “R” all the way to Manhattan, relying instead on the X27/28 to get to work. MTA might as well make the “N” run local on 4th Ave to pick up some slack since it already runs local in Manhattan.

Joe June 29, 2010 - 6:22 pm

The Broadway lines are already long and local for most of their routes, making the N local along 4th avenue would be nice to have more service, but would probably mean big drop offs of people taking the Broadway lines if they have another choice (maybe the 7th Ave or 6th Ave lines).

The loss of the M really sucks for ever expanding Park Slope. With most new construction in the neighborhood between 3rd and 5th avenues all the way from Flatbush to the mid 20’s, the R will be packed tight from now on without the M. The assistance from the M keeping crowds reasonable from DeKalb to 36th Street will be sorely missed.

ferryboi June 29, 2010 - 6:34 pm

I don’t envy Park Slope/Sunset Park riders like I used to. MTA is making it hard to go a few miles to Manhattan. Never thought I’d see the day when a commute from Staten Island to Manhattan via the ferry would be an easier and faster commute than subway from Brooklyn! Will cross my fingers and hope the DOT doesn’t mess around with boat schedules during rush hour.

Alon Levy July 1, 2010 - 11:36 am

4th Avenue has the local R.

The reason it’s not widely noted isn’t demographics. White Bay Ridge would get more train crowding, too. Rather, the reason is that the L is a lot more crowded than the BMT Southern Division.

Andrew July 2, 2010 - 7:37 pm

Oh, stop whining. The M from south Brooklyn was one of the emptiest lines in the system, and the R wasn’t far behind it. Now the R is a little bit more crowded. I’m sure it’s more crowded than Park Slopers would like. It’s still not overcrowded by any stretch of the imagination. (These are probably the same Park Slopers who complain that they need an F express because their F is overcrowded. It’s a lot more crowded than the R, but it still isn’t overcrowded.)

Rather than relying on gut feelings of what’s crowded, NYCT has numeric guidelines. If the average rush hour car on the R has more than 175 people, it’s overcrowded. On the smaller cars on the M, the number is 145. Some lines approach or even exceed their guidelines. The R doesn’t.

The service cut on this corridor wasn’t an accident that somebody overlooked – on the contrary, it was the whole point of shifting the M. If there was any subway service worth cutting, it was the second 4th Avenue local.

That said, there were some other service cuts similar in magnitude that really have been entirely ignored here. The loss of the W in Lower Manhattan had a similar effect to the loss of the M through Park Slope: a drop from 16 tph to 10 tph. And the loss of the M in Lower Manhattan cut service on Nassau Street from 18 tph to 12 tph. (There was never any desire to cut service on Queens Blvd or at the Broadway local stops north of Canal! That’s why other services jumped in to replace the V and W.)

I spent several rush hours looking around at the changes. The crowding is MUCH worse on the J/Z in Lower Manhattan than on the R in either Manhattan or Brooklyn.

But the J/Z doesn’t go to Park Slope, so I guess it doesn’t matter.

Ed June 29, 2010 - 9:08 pm

I’ve been taking the Lexington Avenue trains to and from work over the last couple of days, though I usually avoid them, and not only have I noticed them to be more crowded, but I’ve noticed more delays and service outages. The delays are due to the usual “incidents” and “train ahead”, though there was one “train out of service”.

This is probably coincidence, but I didn’t connect this with the service cuts and maybe I should have. Though service is not supposed to be reduced on this line, I wonder if “service cuts” is code for “fewer trains running slower on the entire system”.

Andrew July 2, 2010 - 7:38 pm

No. I don’t think there are any chances to the weekday schedules on the IRT, except maybe on the 1 and the 7. And the MTA doesn’t save a penny by running less service than what’s scheduled.

BrooklynBus June 30, 2010 - 11:12 am

Overcrowding on the R especially at DeKalb is exactly what I predicted and told the MTA at the hearing. Even if they go out to DeKalb to witness the overcrowding, they will not see the full effect because of the people choosing to stay on the Q to Canal and then ride back downtown which I am sure is occurring when it gets very bad.

Andrew July 2, 2010 - 7:40 pm

Overcrowding on the R at DeKalb is nonexistent. People going to the City Hall area have always been better off staying on the Q to Canal and taking the R or 6 downtown. And the 2/3 and 4/5 stop much closer to the former M than the R, so that’s probably where a lot of people are diverting. In any case, if they’re not on the R, they don’t count towards the R’s loads.


Leave a Comment