Home Brooklyn A tale of a viaduct, a sign and the need to pay attention

A tale of a viaduct, a sign and the need to pay attention

by Benjamin Kabak

Manhattan-bound F riders are gearing up for months of inconvenience. (Photo courtesy of @JeffreyNYC)

One of my main themes at Second Ave. Sagas over the past four years has involved New Yorkers’ relationship with transit news. I’ve looked at how the millions of people who rely on the MTA for travel don’t pay attention to the news, how the news doesn’t do an adequate job explaining certain transit stories and how the MTA’s own approach to customer service oftentimes compounds the problem. Nowhere is that more evident than in today’s developing outrage over the upcoming shutdown of stations along the F line in Brooklyn as part of the Culver Viaduct rehab project.

The basis for this tale is a simple one: After three years of planning and the start of Phase 1 of the Culver Viaduct rehabilitation plan, the MTA announced this week that, beginning January 10, Phase 2 shutdowns will begin. In other words, from January 10 through May, as part of a $275.5 million rehab on a structure that’s falling apart, the following changes will be in effect:

  • No Manhattan-bound F or Queens-bound G service at 15th Street Prospect Park and Ft. Hamilton Parkway Stations.
  • No Manhattan-bound F service at Smith-9th Sts Station. Queens-bound G service stops at a temporary platform.
  • All Manhattan and Queens-bound trains stop on the express track at Church Avenue and 7th Avenue stations.
  • Manhattan-bound F and Queens-bound G trains stop at a temporary platform accessed via the Coney Island-bound platform at 4th Avenue-9th Street station.

Somehow, despite years of warning, the locals are outraged. Popular neighborhood blog Fucked in Park Slope is too beside itself for snark while Gothamist is fielding some priceless emails. “We’re new to Windsor Terrace (2 months) and fairly new to New York (6 months),” one Brooklyn resident said. “I’m absolutely livid that this is happening with a week’s notice, especially in the winter. This is the first we’re hearing of this and is part of a chain of the F train messing with us. I’ve lived in cities for the past 10 years and I can tell you this level of fuckery wouldn’t fly in LA or Boston.”

So where to begin? Where to begin? Should we point out that subways in Los Angeles and Boston, you know, shut down over night so that people can’t get home via public transit after midnight? It certainly would be worse living in Windsor Terrace if the last F train departed from midtown at 11:30 p.m. every Friday and Saturday.

But instead, let’s look at some history. In late 2007, New York City Transit unveiled their plans for the Culver Viaduct, and while the timeline has been pushed back and the project slightly scaled down in the intervening years, the same service changes apply. In fact, in a presentation to Community Board 6 in 2007, Transit presented the exact same service patterns going into effect next week. Take a look:

A presentation from 2007 shows plans portending next week's F/G service outage in Brooklyn.

That 2007 presentation wasn’t the only one Transit has delivered to Brooklyn. Take a look at a similar one from 2008. It’s just another in a long line of slideshows Transit’s community relations officials have given to Community Boards. In fact, as recently as this past fall, I sat in on a meeting at which officials discussed these exact service changes.

Furthermore, 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, since 2007, then, Brooklynites knew or should have known that their service was going to be cut for a few months, and if people moving to the area or already living their failed to do adequate research, that’s on them.

Of course, oblivious locals who don’t seek out transit news aren’t the only ones to blame. In fact, I don’t expect people to attend Community Board meetings and few non-members do. But New York’s various news outlets pay people to attend and report on those meetings, and over that last few years, that’s just what they’ve done. Newspapers ranging from The Daily News to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle have covered the work.

My site is but a small fish in the giant sea of New York media, but unfortunately, Brooklyn news outlets haven’t done a thorough job of explaining the impact of the Culver Viaduct rehab. Take a glance through the Brooklyn Paper search results of stories relating to this work. The paper mentions that service to and from Smith-9th Sts. will be impacted, but it doesn’t explore how the need to run F and G trains on the express tracks will lead to trains bypassing 15th St. and Fort Hamilton Parkway. That’s a failure of media.

Finally, the MTA isn’t absolved of all blame either, and in fact, the authority hasn’t upheld its end of the deal. At a Community Board 6 Transportation Committee meeting earlier this fall, committee members specifically asked the MTA to warn the neighborhoods well ahead of time. Instead, the MTA started hanging up signs portending a four-month service outage just seven days ahead of time. Even though the MTA had warned community groups and received a far amount of press coverage, Transit should be papering stations well ahead of the service outages. The authority can’t force news down people’s throats, but it can do a better job of getting the word out ahead of time. One week is not enough lead time for a warning of this magnitude.

This day of outrage in Park Slope and Windsor Terrace highlights how people simply take the transit system for granted. They’d rather every station but theirs get rehabbed and are content to let infrastructure age if it means they aren’t inconvenienced. The millions of New Yorkers who ride the subway every day are also content to ignore the news that impacts their lifeline to the economic hubs of the city, and the media that covers these areas is content to do a half-hearted job of it. The MTA too doesn’t make it any easier. This is outrage that has been in the works since November 2007, and with a little more effort from everyone, it should have been completely avoidable.

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Mike January 4, 2011 - 2:59 pm

Why can’t (half of) the F train stop at the temporary platform at Smith-9th?

Benjamin Kabak January 4, 2011 - 3:01 pm

If people can’t listen to three years of warnings, do you think they would be able to understand what “ride in the first 5 cars” means? πŸ™‚

Seriously though, it’s a safety issue.

Jerrold January 4, 2011 - 3:30 pm

If they were to do THAT,it would sound like the ghost of the old South Ferry station had come back to haunt us.

Edward January 4, 2011 - 3:35 pm

Man, I don’t miss that old South Ferry station! What a scary little firetrap that place was, and having to wait for the train in front of yours to pull out before your train could pull in, just to get upstairs to miss the SI ferry and wait another half-hour…ugh! Plus, it’s air-conditioned and clean πŸ™‚

tacony palmyra January 6, 2011 - 2:19 pm

145th St on the 3 is still a five-car station, and they still make those announcements for people who wish to get off there.

Max S. (WilletsPoint-SheaStadium) January 4, 2011 - 5:26 pm

What’s the safety issue? One can’t walk through the cars with the operator/conductor cabs anyway, couldn’t the conductor open the front half of the train only?

Or is the concern that the conductor pushes the wrong button since he or she is in the habit of opening front and back at the same time?

Nicolas January 4, 2011 - 6:42 pm

Could be that, but a more common problem is that passengers in the cars that don’t open, realizing that they are missing their stop, pull the emergency brake. Sounds dumb, but happens in transit systems around the world.

Andrew January 4, 2011 - 10:47 pm

That is a concern. That was also a concern on the 1 at South Ferry, but the last five cars were virtually empty at that point, if the conductor did mess up, chances are nobody would fall out. There are lots of people in the last five cars of an F train at Smith-9th, some of them probably pressed up against the doors.

I’d also be worried about people running from car to car at 4th Avenue, holding the doors and possibly slipping.

Mike January 4, 2011 - 5:27 pm

How is that a “safety issue”? Half of the 1 train used to open at South Ferry. Half of the 3 train still opens at 145th Street.

Nicolas January 4, 2011 - 6:45 pm

See above. The two stations mentioned are termini. Also, at South Ferry, at least, you could walk thru the cars to get to open doors. Indeed, I *think* that was why that (modern) generation of IRT cars still had walk-thru end doors.

pete January 5, 2011 - 12:37 am

You cant walk past the conductors position on modern trains. All robo trains have full width cabs.

Bruce M January 5, 2011 - 2:28 am

Yes, and with those full width cabs we no longer have a clear view out the front (or back) of the train. Sigh.

Mike January 5, 2011 - 10:41 am

Ummmm… 145th Street is not a terminus.

And no, you could NOT walk through at South Ferry. The door in the middle of the train was locked (it’s the conductor’s cab), as far as I remember. And even if it wasn’t locked, there wasn’t time to do so from most parts of the train.

I see no reason why they couldn’t open half the train at Smith-9th.

Kyle January 5, 2011 - 3:05 pm

Harlem-145th Street is a terminus of the 3 train.

tacony palmyra January 6, 2011 - 2:22 pm

No it’s not. You’re confusing two stations. “Harlem-148th Street” is the terminus. 145th Street is the station before. This is easily verifiable on the Internet and not worth arguing, c’mon.

Waaahmbulance January 5, 2011 - 10:13 am

Not only would the oblivious pull emergency brake cord in the second half of the train when the doors didn’t open but the amount of people holding the doors trying to cram into the first half of the train would cause massive train service delays.

Gary Wong January 4, 2011 - 3:00 pm

Clearly, people believe stations, tracks, and infrastructure as a whole, are maintained or repaired via magical fairy dust.

Edward January 4, 2011 - 3:06 pm

Blogger-types who live in The Slope and Windsor Terrace have absolutely no attention span, and never, EVER read anything that’s not electronically sent to them on their iPhone or Kindle. I have friends in their 20s who are just so out of it when it comes to directions and finding alternate routes around town. They know their home station and the station near their job and/or Union Square, that’s it. God forbid they read a printed sign or buy a newspaper now and then.

John January 4, 2011 - 3:09 pm

Good point. So why didn’t the MTA send notice to their iPhone or Kindle? Serious question. Do they have an email or text message list they send out service notifications to? Ideally you could sign up for specific lines/stations that you want to be notified about.

Edward January 4, 2011 - 3:17 pm

They could easily sign up for MTA service notices, which many folks (my self included) have been doing for years. Or they could have read online versions of The Post, Daily News, Times, Gothamist, and SAS, all of which have been running stories about the Culver Viaduct work for 3 years now. Guess it’s much easier to be snarky and all put-out about what a mess the MTA is. If the guy on Gothamist thinks LA or Boston’s subway is better, why the hell did he move to Windsor Terrace of all places?

ant6n January 4, 2011 - 3:16 pm

I guess everybody should attend all community board meetings. If they don’t, it’s their own fault if they don’t know the scoop. It’s not like the MTA could put up the information in the stations themselves ahead of time, cuz they like, don’t own the stations … or somthin’.

Benjamin Kabak January 4, 2011 - 3:20 pm

That’s not the point. Various media outlets have attended the CB meetings and have reported on them, including The Brooklyn Paper, the Daily News, the free dailies and The Post. The MTA’s sent out numerous press releases about it. What more should they do?

As I said in the post, the signs should have been up weeks ago as CB6 said, but beyond that, residents should stay up-to-date on the goings-on at their local subway stations. There’s no excuse for ignorance when the information is out there especially if someone’s moving to a new neighborhood and not doing the right amount of research first.

Josh January 4, 2011 - 5:23 pm

I live in Windsor Terrace and I’ve known our station would be shut down since they announced the Culver Viaduct work years ago. However, they never announced specific dates. Knowing work is going to happen and knowing WHEN work is going to happen are two very different things. Signs should have been up weeks ago and should have been up everywhere. To date, there are still no signs at my station (only on some trains) and even though I receive MTA text and email alerts for the F line, I haven’t received an alert about the upcoming work. This is a really big failure on their part, and they deserve all the flack they get, regardless of how clueless some riders may be.

Jerrold January 4, 2011 - 8:05 pm

Excellent point, Josh!
These communities are being screwed by the ridiculously short notice, NOT by the fact that it’s being done altogether.

Benjamin Kabak January 4, 2011 - 10:54 pm

Agreed. They needed to give more than a week’s notice. There’s no doubt about that.

Rob January 5, 2011 - 9:01 am

I agree with that.

Is it possible the MTA didn’t set a hard start date until the last minute? I’m not sure whey they made it official it was going to start on Jan 10 vs. when they put some signs up about it.

Emily January 5, 2011 - 10:55 am

I completely agree. I’ve been reading everything I could about this project for the last few years. I knew ages ago that my station (15th Street) would be out of service for a couple periods of time.

I am furious that so little notice of the exact timing has been given (especially since I just got my new, more expensive transit pass). There should have been a minimum of one month’s notice for this major of a project.

Also, I’ve seen the “temporary platform” at 4th ave. There is ONE stairwell that leads to it — it’s going to be a huge traffic jam at peak travel times.

Andrew January 6, 2011 - 10:29 pm

Your station won’t be out of service. One track will be out of service. You will still have southbound service.

Emily January 8, 2011 - 6:02 pm

Yes, I understand that. I wasn’t clear in my initial posting. I have understood from the first announcement of this project that I would have limited service for a few periods of time. Better?

It still doesn’t excuse the lack of notification of when it would actually begin.

Andrew January 10, 2011 - 7:33 am

OK, just making sure you don’t think the impacts are worse than they are.

You do make a fair point regarding unlimited cards, and I do think the date should have been posted on the website several weeks in advance. But the major media blitz, including posters in stations, should have begun a maximum of a week before the closures. Nobody’s going to “mark their calendars” (except us); the idea is to tell people that a big change is about to start very soon.

Also, if you had bought your card before December 30 at the lower price, it would have still been valid, assuming you’re activating it by today.

Emily January 12, 2011 - 8:54 pm

I had planned to buy my new card on December 28th, when I got back to NYC after being away for Christmas….but that didn’t happen since I couldn’t get back to my apartment til the 30th!

Edward January 4, 2011 - 3:20 pm

Would it have made it any less inconvenient if the MTA posted signs in September or October? Will people move out of Windsor Terrace or take four month vacations in the Hamptons until the track work is done? The Culver Viaduct work has been blasted all over the media for years now, and this part of the project is only a surprise to dimwits who don’t know what a newspaper website is.

C B January 4, 2011 - 5:31 pm

Since your reply to anyone who is upset about this inconvenience is to tell them to stuff it, why bother responding at all? And yes, for those of us who have the option to plan some aspects of our jobs (hours, etc.), knowing when a service outage will begin and end is very important and useful. But I shouldn’t say that, because you will find some way to shoot me down for my stupidity, lack of attendance at board meetings, etc.

Edward January 4, 2011 - 9:47 pm

Well, now you know a full week ahead of time. Feel better?

Alon Levy January 4, 2011 - 8:28 pm

Would it have made it any less inconvenient if the MTA posted signs in September or October?


AlexB January 4, 2011 - 3:26 pm

Just looked through the link to the presentation to the community board with the nice renderings of the renovated Smith-9th and 4th-9th stations. Those stations are NOT getting renovated like that anymore, right?

Benjamin Kabak January 4, 2011 - 3:32 pm

I believe the 4th Ave. station rehab has been scaled back, but the Smith/9th St. station is due for a some major cosmetic upgrades and structural reinforcement.

Jerrold January 4, 2011 - 3:37 pm

Coming to think of it, what occurs to me now is:

In May, when the few months of no Manhattan-bound service at those stations are over, are they THEN going to do the same thing with the Coney Island-bound service for a few months?

Edward January 4, 2011 - 3:42 pm


Jonathan January 4, 2011 - 4:14 pm

I live not far from the Dyckman St IRT station and I think Transit did a good job getting the word out about the current half-closing while that station is being renovated. Perhaps people in Brooklyn just aren’t paying attention.

Edward January 4, 2011 - 4:18 pm

Or Brooklynites have become a bit snarky over the past few years after all those LA/Boston hipsters decided it was just THE place to be and didn’t bother to research the transit system and it’s much-needed repairs πŸ™‚

Riders uptown and it other parts of NYC know how to read and deal with repairs as they come, but our Slope brethren are are a special breed unto themselves and deserve much more coddling, hence the apoplectic responses on Gothamist.

Mark January 4, 2011 - 4:31 pm

It would have been nice to see them remove the viaduct and go underground like the rest of the F line in that area. Probably at 10x the cost though.

Edward January 4, 2011 - 4:33 pm

Would you really want to take a train under the Gowanus Canal? Yuk! And yes, it would cost billions of dollars to tunnel under the canal, which is the reason the Culver Line has a viaduct in the first place.

New York Online | More Reasons to Dislike Brooklyn - NYTimes.com January 4, 2011 - 4:49 pm

[…] project, they are ripping mad about the one week’s notice about the interruptions. Where did communication break down? [2nd Ave. […]

Brian January 4, 2011 - 5:21 pm

I think everyone is missing the point. We know that there is track work and maintenance that needs to be done, we aren’t stupid. But it’s the gaul of the MTA to do this effective the month of a price hike, and without offering reduced fare MetroCards to people who can prove they take, and have taken, the F train from these stops. Over 16% price hike – 1/2 of service = Disrespect.

Gary Reilly January 4, 2011 - 5:31 pm


That’s just irrational. The fare hikes suck. No argument there. These repairs, which cost north of $200 million dollars, have been in the works for several years. The fare hike was approved months ago. This is a crucial repair project.

The fare hike is not the fault of NYCT/MTA. It is the result of the abject failure of leadership, duty and responsibility by lawmakers in Albany to adequately fund mass transit. This failure notably includes the recent failure to pass congestion pricing, but stretches back two decades to the Pataki administration’s decision to saddle the MTA with debt rather than fund capital expenditures.

As Ben notes there is plenty of blame to go around. There’s also too much magical thinking from the riding public, and too little thoughtful reporting from the media when it comes to transit.

Jerrold January 4, 2011 - 5:55 pm

I had been thinking that they would start the “reverse” work (Coney Island-bound side) right after this work finishes in May.

As per the info that I just now accessed on THIS page:


The “reverse” work will be going on between fall 2011 and spring 2012.

Ed January 4, 2011 - 5:56 pm

I can’t tell you how many times I see people waiting for a train that is not running (or stopping at that platform) with signs right next to them explaining that the train won’t be there. Is this just plain stupidity, or what?

Jerrold January 4, 2011 - 6:15 pm

This business about waiting for a train that will never come reminds me of a story that was published many years ago in (I think it was) the “Embarrassing Moments” column in the Daily News.

A woman gave her friend detailed directions how to get to her house, and told her “And don’t ask other passengers for directions. They will only confuse you.” The guest arrived a little later than expected (cell phones did not exist in those days), and told her hostess, “After waiting a half hour for that train to show up, I finally did ask some people. They told me that that train only runs rush hours.”

Peter January 4, 2011 - 9:41 pm

I agree. It seems that unless the people who put up the signs also string up that yellow ribbon, people won’t read the signs (and it’s not just people who don’t speak English).

Another display of brilliance is when a train pulls into a station when it’s going to be taken out of service for some reason.

Someone will see every single person get off the train, and then they go and sit down – “Lucky me, I’ve snagged a seat!”


warren January 4, 2011 - 6:08 pm

Price hike: $2.50.

Especially CHEAP for a subway system that reaches the North Bronx, Queens county.Nassau County border, South Far Brooklyn, all parts of Manhattan and available 365 days a year and 24 hours per day.

$2.50, so cheap.

Quinn Hue January 4, 2011 - 6:31 pm

The fare is 2.25 with your PayGo MetroCard. And 2.10 with discounts. It reinforces your point even more. People really do not pay attention to the news.

Nicolas January 4, 2011 - 6:56 pm

I dunno. I live in Paris now, where the 10-ride ticket comes to 1.15€ / trip, about $1.55 at current exchange rates. Service is good, though it does shut down for 4+ hours at night (night bus routes pick up the slack, and cost the same. Since there is no traffic in the midnight hours, they are pretty fast).

Paris is not known as otherwise being an inexpensive place… this is just a funding issue.

All transit fares are just taxes: there is no link between the price charged and the service provided. The system is funded with a combo of user taxes (fares) and general taxes, hopefully levied on the people who benefit from the system without using it (drivers come to mind: less congestion. Also city dwellers: less pollution. Transit workers: their jobs, free travel. Etc.)

Alon Levy January 4, 2011 - 8:34 pm

The fares in New York are well above the average in most European cities – if I remember correctly, the exceptions are London, Stockholm, and for some trips Munich, at least if you compare unlimiteds to unlimiteds (New York’s unlimited monthly discount is unusually small). NYCT fares are about the same as Tokyo subway fares, despite the factor-of-3 difference in farebox recovery.

ant6n January 6, 2011 - 1:44 pm

German speaking cities have higher fares, at least for single ride tickets. in Berlin (proper) a single ride (which includes transfers for 2 hours) costs like 2.10 euros (2 euros if you get 4 tickets). I don’t even dare check Switzerland.

Alon Levy January 7, 2011 - 10:01 am

The unlimited monthly fare in Berlin is 74 Euros, just less than the unlimited fare in New York. But Berlin offers an unlimited annual ticket for €695, with €57 deducted from your bank account every month.

It boils down to German cities offering a much bigger unlimited monthly discount.

tacony palmyra January 6, 2011 - 2:32 pm

Toronto’s base fare is $3 (and the USD to CDN conversion rate is close enough to $1 to 1)!

Peter January 4, 2011 - 6:37 pm

It’s all well and good to say that people ought to attend Community Board meetings and be full participants in their communities, but we all know that 90% of people won’t, and many of them have very good reasons – jobs, kids, etc – for not following every twist and turn of a project that has drawn on for years. “If people moving to the area or already living their failed to do adequate research, that’s on them.” – what, really? Ben, I think you’re a bit too deeply embedded in the world of transit to fully appreciate the fact that this information is not nearly as accessible to the layman as it is to an expert in the subject. Sure, it exists on the internet if one cares to find it, but why would most people even think to look? You expect someone who just moved to Windsor Terrace to say “Hey, I wonder if the MTA is planning to shut down my new train station for six months. I better do some Googling!”

The average New Yorker has no interest in the subway beyond getting themselves from point A to point B, and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s fair to expect riders to check signage posted in stations and the MTA website, but combing newspapers and blogs for transit news should not have to be a part of the average commuter’s day. I think it’s reasonable to expect that news of major changes is featured prominently and in a timely way in stations, trains and at MTA.info. And on that front, the MTA has failed utterly regarding this Culver work. I am an F rider, and as of this morning, there was not a single sign posted at 15th Street station. I spotted a sign on my train Monday morning, but my train today had nothing (other than an old notice about the Jay St-MetroTech renaming). Because I am interested in transit news, I knew something like this was coming, but a regular rider would have been blindsided.

I would also note that the sign I saw (the one pictured at the top of this post) directs readers to “visit MTA.info” for more details. I challenge you to find this info on the website! There is no mention on the homepage. The most promising link – “planned service changes” – brings you to this page (http://travel.mtanyct.info/serviceadvisory/), which likewise has nothing. Only by searching for F-line alerts after 1/10 do you retrieve information. (The full Culver info page is accessed via the MTA Agency Links menu on the homepage, then NYC Transit, then the little blue “service notices” box in the corner – how intuitive!) For the web-savvy, this information is not so difficult to get, but think of all the many non-savvy riders: the elderly, non-English speakers, people without home internet connections. The MTA has a responsibility to inform those people as well!

So, I think readers have a right to be pissed – not over the mere fact of the service changes; these things are an unfortunate fact of life – but certainly over the miserable job the MTA has done of communicating.

Joe Steindam January 4, 2011 - 8:04 pm

I’ll concede to Peter one thing, by just going to the MTA website, you’re not going to find this information easily. You have to search for it, which for something this big, you shouldn’t have to do. The same holds true for the Dyckman Street work, and for the work on the West End line stations. These are all happening and yet finding information on them is difficult unless you know what you’re looking for.

There should be some “Improving, Non-Stop” button, with all the Press Releases, planned service changes (related to these construction projects) and additional information on these projects. It’ll definitely be a better asset than the existing planned service change page or the capital construction dashboard.

Benjamin Kabak January 4, 2011 - 10:59 pm

Two points:

1. I’m not telling people to attend community board meetings. In fact, I say that explicitly in the post. No one in the city goes to community board meetings except people with an axe to grind and CB members. But the media attends CB meetings, and the media reports on these happenings. I expect people to at least stay up-to-date on news that impacts their neighborhood and their commute before getting outraged about it. As I wrote last week, if people are surprised about fare hikes after many articles and signs in the stations, they should be paying more attention whether they have, as you right say, no interest in the subway beyond its ability to get them from point A to point B.

2. I agree that the MTA has done an awful job with this. They mailed out the press release today, six days before work is to begin when they’ve known about this timeline since at least October. That’s a huge failure. They’ve also made it impossible to find the information online. In the instructions they mailed to reporters, they said to go to the Transit homepage, find the blue box at the top that says “Special Service Notices” and click on this link. That’s not intuitive or easy to find at all.

It’s really a problem that stems from multiple factors. The MTA is as to blame as the media who do not report the whole story and the riders who are unaware of the work going on around them. Considering a temporary platform has been built along the Viaduct, it wouldn’t hurt to do some research, right?

Andrew January 6, 2011 - 10:32 pm

Why aren’t the Community Boards getting the word out? Isn’t that why they’re informed in the first place?

J January 4, 2011 - 6:51 pm

While I am chafing a little bit at the obnoxious comments about Park Slopers and people not reading (Edward), I do have to agree that it’s been a long time coming for the Culver Viaduct. When I moved six months ago, I was unwilling to consider living in South Park Slope and Windsor Terrace because, among other reasons, I knew that F and G line service would be significantly altered over the next few years.

With that said, it is not unsurprising that the MTA put long term warnings out but did not remind people a little closer to the actual date. A major overhaul like this really does require a bigger publicity campaign, beyond a little-watched youtube video buried on mta.info. Pre-recorded announcements in F line stations perhaps, or even printed FAQ guides might have cooled tempers.

All in all though, this overhaul needs to happen and that’s about it. People can learn to (gasp!) take a bus to another line. And, for all that complaining, a shocking number of people in that part of Brooklyn either own or have access to automobiles.

Alon Levy January 4, 2011 - 8:42 pm

These are really two different types of issues. Yes, the viaduct has to be repaired, and given that NYCT operates 24/7 closures are inevitable here. But this doesn’t mean the MTA gave people adequate notice.

“Pay attention” is the slogan of the bad designer, or maybe the transplanted 19th-century Prussian. The good designer realizes that making sure his customers know what’s going on is what he’s paid for, and plans accordingly.

cbmd January 4, 2011 - 9:04 pm

I pay attention to my transit issues. I know how to read service change posters, and I actually appreciate the updated color/layout design of the new ones. As a fellow city employee, I feel bad for MTA workers who get shit upon by our moronic fellow riders. I think, given the size, scope, and ridership of the NYC system, they are doing a mildly decent job. Shit, it’s not the 70s anymore, right?

That said, they really fucked the dog on this one. The MTA is intentionally suppressing the information until the last minute, because they know the shitstorm this is going to cause. Absolutely no signage on any F trains I’ve seen and ONLY signage on the G trains. ZERO signage in the 15th St station. I spoke to a station attendant, “We’ll distribute the brochures this weekend.” Absolute bullshit. The only way to get the information off mta.info is if you enter “Jan 10” into the F or G database. They are not exactly making it easy for folk to figure this out.

You notice they aren’t closing service at the precious 7th Ave station…because they don’t want to inflame the hordes of Slopey douchers. Who’s expendable? The regular Brooklyn folk living outside the hallowed world of PS 321. Give me a break.

The system must be serviced, but this is a piss poor way to go about informing the public. And for those of you spouting off about paying attention to Community Board meetings and the rest–give me a break.

John-2 January 4, 2011 - 10:25 pm

I’m not going to argue with the MTA’s crappy community involvement, but if you’re going to get mad at someone for them not closing the Seventh Avenue station, blame John Hylan and Jimmy Walker — they were the mayors back in the 1920s and early 30s when the decision was made to build a Culver Express with only stops at Bergen, Seventh Avenue and Church Avenue.

Seventh Avenue can stay open not because there are a bunch of people with clout living there, but because it’s an express platform, and since the express and local tracks diverge between Seventh and Church, there’s no way to even build a temporary platform underground at 15th Street or Fort Hamilton Pkwy., the way they’re doing it with the four-across track alignment at Fourth Avenue and Smith/9th. The MTA is just working with the track alignment they were handed 80-plus years ago.

Chris O'Leary January 5, 2011 - 10:21 am

I’ll reiterate what John-2 said, because among the comments here and on Gothamist, there seems to be a boatload of ill-informed riders who seem to think this closure is a conspiracy against them. cbmd’s comment falls exactly in line with that: rather than trying to understand WHY the Seventh Avenue station will stay open, they immediately spout some sort of conspiracy theory about the haves and have-nots.

The same thing happened on Gothamist – one commenter insisted “this is all about money,” claiming the MTA would never close stations in Lower Manhattan – all while ignoring the fact that there are no elevated tracks in Lower Manhattan.

The ability of people to jump to such nonsensical conclusions astounds me… and it goes to show you that no matter what the MTA does, they just can’t win among the riding public.

Andrew January 6, 2011 - 10:36 pm

Half of the Cortlandt Street R station in Lower Manhattan has been closed for years. The other half reopened in late 2009 after several years of closure. And the Cortlandt Street 1 station has been closed since 2001!

Ben January 5, 2011 - 6:55 pm

I agree with all your points except for re: not closing 7th Avenue. The only reason for that is because it’s set up as an express stop, not due to demographics.

Zelda January 4, 2011 - 9:22 pm

I pay attention and had been dreading this impending work for years since Smith/9th Street is the closest subway stop walkable from Red Hook where I live.

And then a few years back the MTA announced that the work was cancelled due to the budget shortfall (articles like this shttp://ny.curbed.com/archives/2008/06/24/smith9th_st_station_not_getting_fd_after_all.php and this http://www.nyctransitforums.co.....hp?p=32790). And since then I didn’t hear another peep about the station closing and I travel to Smith/9th every week. Nothing.

Until today via @NewYorkology on Twitter.

I ride my bike in decent weather and am on the bus the rest of the time. And in a pinch (like last week during the blizzard when no buses were running, or on the mornings I can’t afford to gamble on whether or not a bus will show up in a half an hour) I guess I can walk to Carroll Street, 30 or so minutes vs 20 or so to Smith/9th. But seriously, fuck the MTA and their bullshit customer service. If time permitted, I would happily walk to Manhattan every day.

And their current propaganda campaign about “always improving” is beyond laughable.

Benjamin Kabak January 4, 2011 - 11:02 pm

Both of those links say the Viaduct will be rehabbed in 2010, and that’s exactly what happened. As much as I love them, Curbed hasn’t done a thorough job covering the Viaduct rehab, and they’re a real estate site, not a transit-related or news-related site. If you’re only reading online news sources, Gothamist has been on top of this story.

Don Anon January 5, 2011 - 12:34 am

The map from the Times included in the second link says 2010 “at the earliest.” That was from two years ago.

To be sure, the MTA could say to the riding public, “You were warned.” But that’s hardly fair warning for a major service disruption, and it’s pretty awful customer service.

The MTA shouldn’t expect the riding public to be obsessive compulsives who spend all their free time on railfan websites. Why not start a public awareness campaign (signs in stations, press releases, etc.) more than a week ahead of time? They’ve done so in the past for other major work.

Benjamin Kabak January 5, 2011 - 12:38 am

How about this one from 2009 from the Daily News that has the exact service changes we’re seeing this week laid out for all to absorb? Don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying the MTA is blameless here. They clearly are. But this project isn’t a secret, and many people are acting as though this is the first time they’ve heard of it.

Do I expect every-day riders to read Subchat or refresh the MTA’s website everyday? No. Do I expect them to note that work is happening on the Viaduct and remember news that will impact their commute? Sure. Maybe that’s foolish of me.

Jesse January 4, 2011 - 10:48 pm

cbmd – Look at the graphic in the post. The trains are skipping Ft. Hamilton and 15th Street because the express track physically bypasses those stations, as anyone who has been on a train that ran express between 7th Ave and Church Ave has surely noticed. It has nothing to do with who lives near each station.

Zelda – The G train will still be stopping at Smith and 9th going towards Carroll Street, and both the F and G will be stopping there going towards 4th Avenue.

Andrew January 4, 2011 - 11:22 pm

The problem with announcing this sort of thing too early is that people see the signs and then forget about it before the work starts. Then they get thoroughly confused when the date finally comes around. And at the same time, those signs distract attention from what’s actually going on.

A few more days would have been nice, but a few days definitely makes more sense than a few months.

NYCT has a lot of precedent with 24/7 station bypasses, either one direction at a time (Brighton line, Dyckman, Rockaways) or full bidirectional closures (Pelham line). I don’t think those stations had more than a week’s notice. How is this any different? Two stations will be losing northbound service and one station will be losing half of its northbound service.

The only thing I would have done differently – and I don’t know if this was feasible – is to start by closing the southbound platforms rather than the northbound platforms. That way, most people would first encounter the closures going home from work, when they probably aren’t in a big rush.

If the question is how to best inform the public of service changes, the answer is not necessarily to post signs well in advance. The answer might be to make a targeted effort to get the word out a few days ahead.

Don Anon January 5, 2011 - 12:38 am

Please tell me you don’t work for the MTA. By your logic, it would be better to give no advance notice at all. Wouldn’t want people to forget!

Benjamin Kabak January 5, 2011 - 12:40 am

In my opinion, the signs should have gone up on Dec. 11 and stayed up for four weeks. That would have given everyone one full month to ready themselves for it. Transit knew well before then that this project was happening.

Don Anon January 5, 2011 - 6:32 pm


Jon January 5, 2011 - 1:05 am

If the F/G was run by a service-driven company like Apple, McDonalds or JetBlue, they’d probably have a few staffers, working a temporary info desk at each affected station, handing out information and answering questions.

The MTA obviously can’t do that for every service situation, but when it’s a major one impacting a sizable population of people* for months, the MTA has a responsibility to push that information out as much as possible to the affected core, not hope that the general public will discover it on their own. In other words, if you want to communicate directly to the people who regularly use these two stations, put some effort into communicating with those people for several weeks. You have a captive audience that can only get into those stations via a few routes and stand on a limited set of platforms.

* How many people board these stations each day? And how many will now have to trek to the R or 7th St.?

Joe Steindam January 5, 2011 - 10:59 am

2009 statistics are available here: http://www.mta.info/nyct/facts.....ip_sub.htm

Church Ave: 9,174
Fort Hamilton Pkwy: 4,816
15 St-Prospect Park: 5,977
7 Ave: 10,643
4 Ave-9 St: 10,895 (includes BMT stop)
Smith-9 Sts: 4,579
Carroll St: 9,786
Bergen St: 10,154

It’s not going to be easy for a lot of people, but the work needs to be done.

Andrew January 6, 2011 - 10:39 pm

Note that the three affected stations are the lowest-ridership stations in the area. Systemwide, they aren’t particularly high-ridership – the busiest is ranked 240th out of 422 stations.

Marty Barfowitz January 5, 2011 - 1:17 am

The local press has been too obsessed with bitching and moaning about bike lanes bike lanes bike lanes to use up any column inches on a small, meaningless little story like the F train being shut down for months.

Never mind that bike lanes are going to be coming in real handy for all those former subway commuters.

Al D January 5, 2011 - 12:36 pm

All the local press do is complain, tell half the story and then get facts wrong. Occasionally, that guy Holt over at the Brooklyn Eagle has something thoughtful to say about transit.

John Paul N. January 5, 2011 - 5:57 am

Do people from the MTA read news articles and blogs and their comments, or do they just assume that people will always bitch and moan and act out any time there’s a station closure or other long-term service disruption? If it’s the latter, MTA management will never know why the public reacts the way it does (or learn the underlying reasons), and will not know how to respond in a more satisfying way.

At the very least, brochures should have been mailed out and received to residences and businesses in the affected neighborhoods at least two weeks before the closure. They should not have to mail out fliers only to announce new bus routes, as I bet the Country Club neighborhood in the Bronx is receiving.

R. Graham January 5, 2011 - 10:56 am

Thank you! I was just going to say this. The most effective way to get to the people is to MAIL out the same brochures that state Culver Rehabilitation Construction Project to all affected neighborhoods. They should have mailed one out when they began discussing the idea of doing this work and mailed one out four weeks ago so people could absorb this information before going on holiday vacation.

Andrew January 6, 2011 - 10:40 pm

A mailing was sent out before the Brighton project began. I’m surprised there was no mailing here.

meJane January 5, 2011 - 6:48 am

For real??? You lay out how the media has been totally neglectful of reporting the crucial facts here, and how the MTA did a half-assed-at-best job of publicizing the service changes, you allow that you don’t expect most people to attend community board meetings….and then you blast people for not knowing the full scope of the disruption? Screw you.

VLM January 5, 2011 - 11:03 am

It was in the Daily News. Read the paper now and then before telling others to screw themselves.

R. Graham January 5, 2011 - 11:52 am

Read the whole post and don’t just pick the drips and draps you find convenient. It was clearly written that the MTA is at fault, but also the media for lack of reporting the details of this project since the media attends the community board meetings. It says nothing about it being the fault of the people for not attending CBMs.

The people being blasted for not knowing anything are those who just moved into the neighborhood and didn’t do they’re reseach on the area before moving in. Also he makes mention that this has been reported on in the news YEARS AGO! If you’ve lived there for the past five years and you didn’t know that something was going to eventually happen then something is clearly wrong. Me personally I want to know where the nearest precint is, nearest fire house, supermarket, schools (whether I have kids or not), transportation. And if the nearest station looks in disrepair I’m going to wonder why and then I’m going to wonder if anything is going to be done about it.

Scott E January 5, 2011 - 7:29 am

There has been a lot of discussion in previous months about the designs and redesigns of the Service Advisory signs. But when I see signs that look like the one above: unframed, discolored, translucent (and soon to be torn, crooked, and frayed), it makes me feel as if the signs are about as reliable as the rolled-up masking tape holding it up.

If something is going to be in effect for 18 months, at least take some pride in your message. Make the sign a bit more permanent.

Andrew January 6, 2011 - 10:45 pm

It’s going to be in effect for 4-5 months, not 18. Taping a notice to a window isn’t elegant, but it’s probably more noticeable there than anywhere more polished.

Streetsblog New York City » Today’s Headlines January 5, 2011 - 8:58 am

[…] Riders Gripe Over MTA’s Long-Planned, Critical Culver Viaduct Rehab (News, 2nd Ave Sagas) […]

Ed Ravin January 5, 2011 - 1:08 pm

What about double-stopping the F train at Smith/9th? First open the front half of the train, close the doors, then the operator pulls the train forward and the conductor opens the rear doors. It would slow everyone’s ride down by at least 3 minutes but both halves of the train get to access the platform safely.

Andrew January 6, 2011 - 10:46 pm

That would kill the line’s capacity.

And even if all it does is slow down everyone’s ride by 3 minutes, multiply that by the number of through riders and compare it to the number of people who want to get on or off F trains at Smith-9th.

John January 5, 2011 - 3:53 pm

A devil’s advocate question. What, if the MTA had announced this procedure six months ago, would have been the difference?

Andrew January 6, 2011 - 10:47 pm

There would have been a lot of whining in July, and then everybody would have forgotten about it, and then there would have been a lot of louder whining when the project started up and caught everybody by surprise.

jj January 5, 2011 - 10:08 pm

morons are always whining and complaining

For Brooklyn F riders, all’s well that ends a week later :: Second Ave. Sagas January 6, 2011 - 11:31 am

[…] an intense debate over some Brooklynites’ shock at the looming closure of stations along the F line, the […]

Jason Porter January 7, 2011 - 8:05 pm

I have a quick question. Is the lower level of the Bergen Street station part of the Culver Project of is that going to remain dormant?

Benjamin Kabak January 7, 2011 - 8:23 pm

It is going to remain dormant. That was destroyed in a fire around 15 years ago and needs significant work to get it ready for any sort of service. If Transit reexamines the F express plan after the Viaduct work is through, they may look again at Bergen, but for now, nothing.

Media Hit: BIT on the Culver Viaduct :: Second Ave. Sagas January 12, 2011 - 2:49 pm

[…] the Culver Viaduct controversy swirled last week, the local Brooklyn media profiled the upcoming work and brouhaha over those who […]

Viaduct shutdown weekend finally arrives :: Second Ave. Sagas January 14, 2011 - 8:01 pm

[…] had Brooklynites up in arms, work delayed by a snow storm that didn’t deliver much snow and a local media appearance all […]


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