Home MTA Politics Squadron: ‘Review weekend ridership’ on the L, F

Squadron: ‘Review weekend ridership’ on the L, F

by Benjamin Kabak

When The New York Times broke the news earlier this week that weekend subway ridership was on the rise, I knew it would only be a matter of time before New York politicians began to call for investigations, studies and audits of the MTA. With weekend service marred by construction projects and route diversions, these politicians wouldn’t let an opportunity for exposure slip by, and perhaps, something good could come of their calls as well.

The representative who rode to the proverbial rescue is one who has worked closely with the MTA, and his results have produced good in the past. Daniel Squadron, the State Senator from New York’s 25th District who represents the Lower East Side and Williamsburg, put out a call for a study. This isn’t the first time Squadron has issued such a call. In fact, in 2009, he urged the MTA to assess the F train performance, and the authority eventually vowed to make some improvements to the much-maligned route in Brooklyn.

This time, Squadron has written to request a review of the L train’s performance. Using the report from The Times, the Senator said in a statement, β€œToday’s report underscores the fact that weekend subway service is simply not keeping up with New York. Working together in 2009, we improved F service and created a model for future progress. Now we must reapply that experience and ensure dependable service every day of the week.”

A letter he penned to Transit president Thomas Prendergast expressed similar sentiments. “At some stations on the L and F lines weekend ridership is as high – or higher than – weekday ridership,” he wrote. “Yet the trains’ schedules do not account for the higher weekend usage. I would also like to request that the MTA review weekend ridership on the L in Williamsburg and the F in the Lower East Side, with the goal of creating a schedule that is more reflective of ridership patterns. This would not just make the subway more convenient for riders. By drawing weekend visitors to these neighborhoods underground and off of surface transit, it would also improve quality of life in these areas.”

I am certainly sympathetic to Squadron’s calls, and I’m glad he’s the one latching onto the report. But from the get-go, I wonder how much Transit can do to improve the situation. I took a look at the turnstile data from June to check out what The Times discovered, and I was surprised to see a nearly negligent difference between weekend and weekday ridership at the Bedford Ave. stop in Williamsburg. But east of Williamsburg, ridership drops precipitously. The same happens to the F when you compare weekend travel to Second Ave. with the rest of the line.

It seems as though Squadron and others want the MTA to add service to the lines for the weekends, but it doesn’t make much sense. As long as train crowds are within load guidelines and demands further along the routes do not dictate more frequent service, the MTA likely won’t add routes to service a few stops. They could, however, look to shorter service. The L train has a switch just east of Bedford and one past Myrtle/Wyckoff. It’s possible that the authority can run extra trains from 8th Ave. to Myrtle Ave. and then them back around to provide more service over the popular parts of the route.

Right now, though, the MTA has its request, and it knows its limitations. Work must go on, and service demands generally aren’t as high on the weekends as they are during the week. The authority can’t handle a few isolated peaks at the expense of its bottom line, and the valleys are steep. But Squadron has issued its charge, and the authority will respond in turn.

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Alex C July 14, 2011 - 1:55 am

As a rider of the F line my current biggest concern is keeping those darn R46’s off the line! They’ve put 2 8-car trains of R46’s back on the F after the move of the G to Coney Island Yard. The G got R68’s and four of the freed-up R46 sets are now on the F as 2 8-car trains. I can tell you the sheep certainly don’t appreciate losing a few of their new shiny trains for the older models. As for weekend ridership, it’s fine. Trains aren’t any more crowded than weekdays in BK and Manhattan. The few times I’ve taken it to Queens to see family it’s been a ghost town in that borough on the weekends.

Benjamin Kabak July 14, 2011 - 1:57 am

I’ve heard about the R46 switch. Not really sure what’s going on there. I’ll have to touch base with Transit and see what they say.

Al D July 14, 2011 - 9:26 am

And curiously that was one of the mitigation strategies offered resultant from Squadron’s prior letter, all R 160s as soon as they (then) came on-line, and yet here we are again.

John-2 July 14, 2011 - 1:19 pm

A few R-46s on the F is nothing compared to what’s going to happen on the Lexington Ave. local a few years from now when the riders find out they’re going to lose all their R-142’s to the 7 and get the R-62s back again.

Bolwerk July 14, 2011 - 4:05 pm

Hmm? Why is this happening? Because of CBTC?

I figured the 7 would just get new equipment.

Andrew July 14, 2011 - 10:04 pm

The oldest IRT cars are less than 30 years old and are still in very good shape. How would it make sense to replace them with new cars?

Bolwerk July 15, 2011 - 4:53 pm

I guess, but the R188 doesn’t start delivering until 2016. The R62s will be getting pretty close to the end of their official operating lives by then.

Andrew July 17, 2011 - 9:02 pm

They’ll probably still be around until the late 20’s if not 2030. They’re the oldest cars to not have been through the deferred maintenance era.

It would have made more sense to plan the CBTC schedule around car replacement dates, since the R142 retrofit job can’t be cheap. But the signals on the Flushing line are quite old already, and I don’t know if pushing them another 10+ years is wise.

Bolwerk July 18, 2011 - 3:37 pm

Obviously they’ll be phased out over time. I would expect to see them start being replaced by the 2020s, regardless. The earliest go back to 1982 or so, and presumably they’re going to want the entire IRT to go CBTC at some point in the next 20 years.

Andrew July 19, 2011 - 11:34 pm

The oldest of the cars date to 1984. They will last at least 40 years, probably closer to 45.

CBTC is being installed to replace signals that are old and in need of replacement. After Flushing, which still has many of its original signals, the focus will shift to the IND (first Queens, and then I’d guess one or both of the Manhattan trunk). Most of the IRT has been resignaled since the IND was built.

SEAN July 14, 2011 - 4:26 pm

I thaught the next fleet of cars the R-179’s were scheduled to be opperated on the 7?

Alex C July 14, 2011 - 4:29 pm

The 6’s R142A’s are currently in a program to become CBTC-ready 11-car sets for the 7. The R188 contract includes an additional “C”-car for each 10-car (5+5) set, making them 5+6 sets. Once the overhauls are complete the 7’s cars go to the 6 and the 7 gets the now-named-R188 sets with CBTC signalling equipment and software installed.

Al D July 14, 2011 - 4:56 pm

No wonder Walder wants to retrofit the older cars with the new technology. Try to placate the 6 line upscale demographic (Manhattan) for the sure to follow complaints.

Andrew July 14, 2011 - 10:06 pm

There’s plenty of upscale demographic along the 1 and 3.

Most people really don’t care what type of car pulls up as long as it’s air conditioned and reasonably clean.

John-2 July 15, 2011 - 8:27 pm

But you will get the complainers over the tight bucket seats on the 62s vs. the R-142s bench seating, along with the digital signs and the more audible PA announcements. It wouldn’t surprise me if the MTA tries to smooth things over/share the pain by shifting some of the 4’s R-142s over to the 6, and making both lines a mix of new technology and older trains (which would take the 6 back to where it was just over a decade ago, when the R-62s and Redbirds were mixed on the line).

Andrew July 17, 2011 - 9:04 pm

Some people will complain. Most won’t care. (And speaking of upscale demographic, how about the R32’s on Central Park West?)

There’s no need to have both Pelham and Jerome maintain R62A’s.

Junior F November 20, 2011 - 11:20 am

The R142A from the R188 baseorder starts service next month on the 7 line and The R62As are scheduled to start being delivered to the 6 as well next month but two sets at a time it will be two 5 sets being trasffered the 6 by the end of 2014 will have 360 R62As and just 4 R142As but those R142As will be bumoed to the 4 to keep the 6 R142As and the 7 will be operating cbtc in late 2015 just thought u should know as well the R62As that are going to the 6 will be retired in 2027 hope this helps πŸ˜€

Junior F November 20, 2011 - 11:23 am

The R142A from the R188 baseorder starts service next month on the 7 line and The R62As are scheduled to start being delivered to the 6 as well next month but two sets at a time it will be two 5 sets being trasffered to the 6 by the end of 2014 the 6 will have 360 R62As and just 4 R142As but those R142As will be bumped to the 4 to keep the 6 R62As and the 7 will be operating cbtc in late 2015 just thought u should know as well the R62As that are going to the 6 will be retired in 2027 hope this helps

Junior F November 20, 2011 - 11:28 am

Please discard my 1st thread my typing was really bad

Alex C July 14, 2011 - 4:33 pm

As for the two R46 trains, it’s apparently due to a few R160 trains being moved to Coney Island Yard from the F’s Jamaica Yard to make up for the R68’s Coney Island now provides for the G. Odd that the R46 sets run even on weekends. Even if a few R160’s were moved to C.I., one would think there would be enough to cover the E/F on weekends, as there used to be enough to cover the E, F and some R runs on weekends.

Andrew July 14, 2011 - 10:14 pm

The R46’s on the F are the ones that used to be on the G before it got R68’s.

The G got its R68’s from the N. Which means the N needed more R160’s, which it got from the F.

Does anybody really care? The R46’s have more seats – there were a lot of complaints when they were first taken off the line.

Alex July 14, 2011 - 3:27 am

Ever since they discontinued the V, the M, which is supposed to replace the V in Manhattan and Queens, doesn’t run on weekends where V used to run, therefore creating larger gaps for the local train in Queens (where shoppers commute to their destinations) and a larger demand for Sixth Ave – Queens corridor.

On another note, even though I prefer the R46’s, I prefer frequency over “newness.”

Al D July 14, 2011 - 9:28 am

The V did not run on the weekend.

Benjamin Kabak July 14, 2011 - 10:20 am

I’m seconding what Al D said. Like the B, the V did not run on weekends. The local service along Queens Boulevard is the same as it was before the M/V switch.

AlexB July 14, 2011 - 3:45 pm

I do think running the M to Forest Hills on the weekends would be a good idea. I imagine there is still a good deal of interborough travel in NYC on the weekends as people visit friends instead of going to work in Manhattan.

Bolwerk July 14, 2011 - 4:07 pm

What gets me is they don’t always run the M when the L is out between Myrtle and Lorimer.

John Paul N. July 15, 2011 - 4:02 am

…as in this weekend.

The weekend M G.O. to 57th Street is a relatively new one, instituted only when the Nassau/Chrystie Street cut was reopened. Otherwise Ms would have gone to Chambers Street, if they were chosen to be extended at all.

If there is too much unused capacity on the Broadway Brooklyn line during this particular L service disruption, the MTA will frown upon that.

Bolwerk July 15, 2011 - 4:05 pm

Of course, nothing would have stopped them from running a special M service even back then.

Hell, for that matter they could probably have a few special trains every morning that still go downtown and to Brooklyn – if the ridership is there. Just announce when they run (once an hour?) and let people show up, like they do with buses. Many people can be flexible if they know when they need to be somewhere. It’s why even rural rail transit works.

John Paul N. July 17, 2011 - 5:23 pm

I do wonder how successful the limited scheduled service is in New York. The A service to Rockaway Park is there either because there is a good demand for it or it is to appease West Rockaway pols and constituents.

Bolwerk July 18, 2011 - 3:39 pm

Third possibility: it may help to give the A another terminal at rush hour.

Andrew July 14, 2011 - 10:17 pm

It would be nice, but it would have to be canceled most weekends for GO’s, just like the G was. It doesn’t make sense to pay crews to run a service that isn’t going to run!

Andrew July 14, 2011 - 10:16 pm

Except for the G, which ran on paper (so the MTA had to pay crews to run it) but rarely ran in reality.

Joe Steindam July 14, 2011 - 8:09 am

The L crush was pretty bad this past weekend, it was definitely crowded getting on at Union Square heading into Williamsburg, but it emptied out significantly after Lorimer, there were no seats, but there were only a couple of people standing. But I was thinking that the horrible conditions on the G last weekend might have added to the misery on the L. At least that was my thought process there.

On a slightly related topic, when I was on the L this past weekend (I don’t normally ride the L and before last weekend, I don’t remember the last time I was on the L), I noticed that the countdown clocks are no longer showing arrival times for trains. Does anyone know if there’s a problem with the L version of the Countdown clocks?

Al D July 14, 2011 - 9:32 am

They are out here and there, but generally they are up. I don’t know what the % up-time is or what was contracted for.

John July 14, 2011 - 11:41 am

I live off the L. I noticed awhile ago that sometimes late nights and nearly all the time on the weekends, the countdown clocks normally aren’t in use. I don’t know why this is.

AlexB July 14, 2011 - 3:46 pm

Which is weird, because that’s when you really want to know how long it will take.

John Paul N. July 15, 2011 - 4:07 am

Which car did you take? As a DeKalb Avenue rider, the first and last cars tend to be the most crowded after Lorimer.

Kai B July 16, 2011 - 5:49 pm

Generally great uptime from my experience. However, twice in the last three or four weeks they went nuts during the AM rush and showed the next train arriving in something like 29 and 34 minutes, confusing the hell out of the riders, especially since the automated announcements read the same.

Meanwhile, the line was running normally.

Al D July 14, 2011 - 9:29 am

During morning rush hours, they turn some trains at Myrtle-Wyckoff.

John Paul N. July 15, 2011 - 4:11 am

This is indeed in the schedule. Very relieving as well. After seeing a fairly empty train followed by a packed train at DeKalb, I know which one I would take.

BBnet3000 July 14, 2011 - 10:32 am

They keep two sets of (schedule) books!

Steven M. Bellovin July 14, 2011 - 12:17 pm

Myrtle-Wyckoff is a very good place to turn L trains, since there is a stub third track just east of there. (I remember they used to turn some trains there in the late 1960s; I didn’t know that that was still done, since it’s a been a long time since I lived in Canarsie.)

Benjamin Kabak July 14, 2011 - 12:19 pm

That stub third track is exactly why I suggested it. It’s a thought. I’m not sure how feasible it is though.

Max S. (WilletsPoint-SheaStadium) July 14, 2011 - 1:46 pm

They used to a run a rush-hour express from that third-track stub I believe…. unless that’s where the local waited for the express to pass by first?

Alex C July 14, 2011 - 6:28 pm

Assuming one of these days they finally get the CBTC signalling system working 100% right, using that third track could be an option…but not really. The problem with the L is that 8 Ave is a terrible terminal. With just two tracks that end at a wall with only a storage track at the other end, it physically limits how many trains per hour the line can handle. People have complained that the MTA isn’t running more trains on the L with CBTC, but the problem is the 8 Ave terminal. Siemens’ CBTC is a moving block system and can handle trains being extremely close to each other. Canarsie, Atlantic Ave and even Myrtle would give the line three possible southbound terminals to handle extra traffic, but 8 Ave is one small, cramped terminal; no place to turn that many trains. Incidentally, South Ferry now suffers from the same problem…

Andrew July 14, 2011 - 10:21 pm

It’s feasible, but it has to be used in a way that doesn’t starve the rest of the line. So a 5-minute headway on the inner section and a 10-minute headway on the outer section is probably OK, but an 8-minute headway on the inner section and a 16-minute headway on the outer section isn’t.

Alex C July 15, 2011 - 12:12 am

The biggest problem in the end would probably be the MTA’s rather long fumigation process, which does nothing but hold up trains before they turn. Myrtle could be (with proper headways) another terminal for the L like Kings Highway is for the F at rush hours (almost every other train during rush turns there), but fumigation and 8 Ave terminal make that difficult.

Andrew July 17, 2011 - 9:06 pm

Some rush hour trains do terminate at Myrtle.

Bolwerk July 14, 2011 - 4:11 pm

They do it when the L is undergoing repairs, which often means during weekday afternoons. Maybe I never looked too hard, but they seem to leave riders south of Myrtle without much direction during those times.

Here is a track map.

John Paul N. July 15, 2011 - 4:20 am

The official announcement is usually “some L trains terminate at Myrtle-Wyckoff.” This is usually every other train. What is implied but not said is “there are fewer trains between Myrtle-Wyckoff and Rockaway Parkway and trains come twice as long than normal.” I would suggest the “Please allow additional travel time” be quantified with a number.

Kai B July 16, 2011 - 5:54 pm

They do this during morning rush hours. Not sure what percent it is but I’m quite used to hearing this automated announcement in the morning:

“Ladies and Gentlemen: The next L-Train arriving on the Rockaway Parkway-bound track (awkward pause) TERMINATES at Myrtle Avenue”

John-2 July 14, 2011 - 1:28 pm

Short-turning extra L trains at Myrtle or extending the M train to Continental on weekends would seem to be the two best ways to alleviate the crowding problem coming in from Williamsburg (adding the M wouldn’t help riders near L stops west of Myrtle, but it would be an option for people living between the Canarsie and Broadway-Brooklyn lines in the southern part of Williamsburg, which would then reduce the weekend crush loading on the L, while also taking some of the crowding on weekends off the F in Manhattan and Queens).

Christopher July 14, 2011 - 2:04 pm

It’s not just crowding. It’s unreliability on the L. Some of that is caused by the MTA, some is caused by things police situations. I regularly encounter train clocks off or train control problems. Trains not running. Slow trains through the tunnel between 1st and Bedford. Last weekend it took me over an hour to get from 8th Ave to Myrtly-Wyckoff. It should take an hour. Most of that time wasted was crawling through the tunnel. We couldn’t have been going more than 5 miles an hour.

Al D July 14, 2011 - 2:25 pm

That’s highly unusual. Of course this happens every once in a while, but the beauty of the L is that is independent of every other line, no merges, diverges to slow things up. Plus on the western portion, I think that the only timer (other than 8th Ave) is between Graham and Grand on the eastbound side. Otherwise, it is a straight shot between every station. Now, there is 1 slow train set, an R143, that creeps along. I need to note the car numbers next time I have the misfortune of getting on it.

John Paul N. July 15, 2011 - 4:28 am

Other than the occasional slowdown, I am actually very pleased. Although I don’t travel on the L into Manhattan at morning rush hour, at other times, what used to be 4-5 minutes between Bedford and 1st Avenue pre-R143 is now close to 3 minutes. Sounds minor, but it feels very noticeable.

Andrew July 14, 2011 - 10:22 pm

Sounds like there may have been a CBTC outage of some sort. If CBTC goes down, there is no signal protection, so trains have to operate very slowly.

John Paul N. July 15, 2011 - 4:39 am

It should not even take an hour between 8th AVenue and Myrtle-Wyckoff. πŸ™‚ But I have experienced frustration. I may have taken the slow R143 mentioned by Al D recently. It didn’t seem like the train that was in front of me was slow (because I saw that train pass by and I missed it), but the train I was in felt like it couldn’t accelerate well.

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