Home Asides L train set for service bump

L train set for service bump

by Benjamin Kabak

Back in October, the L train made some headlines when the MTA promised service increases. With communications-based train control on tap, Transit knew it could respond to complaints of overcrowding once the technology is ready, and in October, the agency issued a 14-month timeline. Things, it seems, are moving quickly.

As Newsday reports today, the MTA will roll out massive service improvements along the L this weekend. “The MTA will add nearly 100 trains each week along the L line starting Sunday, providing much-needed service for the route, which has seen sardine-like conditions for more than a decade,” Marc Beja reports. “Starting this weekend, 16 additional round trips will run each weekday, 11 more will go on Saturdays and another seven on Sundays, an MTA spokesman said.”

The service increase will cost around $1.7 million annually and should help significantly alleviate the L train’s crush capacity problems. “This is not going to be the silver bullet, but this is real good news for L train riders,” State Senator Daniel Squadron, who has long fought for more frequent L service, said. “Anyone tired of the crushing crowds and overflowing trains will now have an L train trip less likely to feel like hell.” I’m not sure what other silver bullet Squadron wants, and this will be welcome news for L riders.

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Andrew June 8, 2012 - 7:22 am

This is good news.

Does the weekday increase require more cars? The morning rush is when an increase is most needed, but I don’t know if there are enough cars available for an increase then.

Bolwerk June 8, 2012 - 10:46 am

~17 TPH at that time. Can they even fit more cars given the limitations of their terminals?

al June 8, 2012 - 12:53 pm

Assuming the NTT don’t all of a sudden develop mechanical or electronic problems, Midday, Evening, and Weekend service should run without problem. If they schedule inspection and maintenance properly the Canarsie Line should have train sets to spare. What could be problematic are peak hr service increases. They might have to operate with fewer spare trains that exist to account for mechanical breakdown.

Andrew June 8, 2012 - 6:53 pm

That’s why I was asking about the morning rush specifically. Does this imply an improvement in car reliability?

al June 9, 2012 - 12:43 pm

Probably fewer spares. According to the Daily News, they are bumping up peak tph from 17 to 19.

Streetsblog New York City » Today’s Headlines June 8, 2012 - 9:00 am

[…] L Train Service Is About to Get a Big Boost (Second Ave Sagas) […]

Al D June 8, 2012 - 9:00 am

I don’t know what his silver bullet is either, but I know this much, the building continues. Big buildings ,little buildings and everything in between. And it’s nearly all residential. From the waterfront all the way to the Myrtle-Wyckoff. So there will be continued pressure on the L for a long time to come.

SEAN June 8, 2012 - 10:26 am

Silver bullet didd you say? I thaught the L train bullet was gray. LOL

AlexB June 8, 2012 - 10:43 am

What does 16 extra trains per weekday mean for headways during the morning rush? They used to be about 4 to 5 minutes between train on average. The L should be more like the 6 and 7 with trains 2 to 2.5 minutes apart.

JMB June 8, 2012 - 10:45 am

Having more trains on the L is always good, but I thought the biggest delay on this line was that there were no tail tracks after 8th avenue, so all Manhattan-bound trains end up crawling into the terminal thus making a fast turn-around difficult?

Kai B June 8, 2012 - 10:19 pm

Completely anecdotally here, but as a five-year rider of the L-train, it has been my observation that in the last six months trains actually enter 8th Avenue much quicker, only doing the crawl for about a car’s-length at the end. Not much of a delay at all.

Not sure if this has to do with CBTC or something else.

John-2 June 8, 2012 - 10:53 am

So basically, service on the Canarsie Line will be back to the levels of when the BMT Standards traversed the tunnels of 14th Street and Wyckoff Avenue. CTBC restores what 45-plus years of growing hyper-concerns over safety (and tort lawyers) took away. Hopefully, the MTA does have all the bugs on the system finally worked out, and it’s not going to be a situation of “add a train, lose a train” if new glitches keep popping up.

al June 8, 2012 - 12:55 pm

The BMT Standards 8 car trains were 536′ long. The NYCTA run with 8 car 480′ trains.

Andrew June 8, 2012 - 6:58 pm

CBTC wasn’t installed on this line to increase capacity – the old signals could accommodate 20 tph, and loads only called for 12 tph when it was selected for CBTC. In fact, it was selected as a testbed in part because ridership was pretty low. If only they had known…

R. Graham June 9, 2012 - 6:23 pm

Actually it’s just the opposite. The one thing that was touted regularly about starting CBTC out on the L was that you could run more trains, closer together and faster at that because the trains communicate with the signals and the signals communicate with each other. The old block signal system, yes could handle additional capacity, but not safely at higher speeds. Which is why grade timers and wheel detectors have been added over the years due to incidents of the past.

Future growth was indicated as one of the main factors in testing the new technology on the L by ordering the special R143 cars to replace the slants.

Andrew June 10, 2012 - 9:45 am

Maybe I wasn’t clear – CBTC certainly does have capacity advantages over old fashioned signals. But that’s not why CBTC was installed on this line.

The signals on the Canarsie line were original to the line, and they needed to be replaced. At the same time, NYCT recognized that the capacity benefits of CBTC would be useful on other lines. Canarsie was picked as the testbed in 1997 because it was an isolated line with relatively low ridership, so that the inevitable glitches wouldn’t hurt too many riders.

As for the R143 order, it wasn’t even sufficient for the service that was operating for the past few years – that’s why 32 R160’s were added to the tail end of the order. The R143 order allowed for service increases elsewhere, specifically on the Manhattan Bridge routes in 2004, by displacing the R40’s and R42’s to those lines.

R. Graham June 10, 2012 - 11:53 pm

But the one point missed is where I point out that I honestly do recall future growth being mentioned as one of the main reasons for the R143 order with CBTC signal technology pre-installed. Unlike the R160s which come with the room for adding the technology as opposed to having the actual specs on board on delivery.

You are right about low ridership but the future growth was key. NYCT having some substations along the way of Canarsie, meaning they are well familiar with Real Estate and they were well versed early on with what was starting to take place when the order was put through. Which is why they had hoped to have had a full roll out by now, but Siemens mistakes have prevented such. They knew ridership was going to explode. They wanted to be prepared for the day. Otherwise they would have focused the efforts more so on the 42nd St Shuttle line and had a smaller portion of the R142 order installed with the tech and specified for the shuttle line itself. Since it’s not a 24 hour line testing overnight without riders on one track would’ve been simple and easy.

Matthias June 11, 2012 - 12:00 pm

It also had a lot to do with the fact that there is no route-sharing along the entire line.

Andrew June 11, 2012 - 11:06 pm

In a very generic sense, yes, CBTC does allow for more future growth. But when the project was started on the Canarsie line, nobody had any idea that there would be such rapid growth – otherwise more than 212 R143’s would have been ordered! In fact, the old signal system could have handled 19 tph just fine.

As I said, the R143’s expanded the fleet elsewhere. There weren’t enough of them for much of an expansion on the Canarsie line itself.

The shuttle wouldn’t have been a good testbed, since it’s far too simple – each track has a single train running back and forth, with the interlocking only used for equipment moves. And, perhaps more importantly, the signals on the shuttle weren’t in need of replacement, while the signals on the Canarsie line desperately were. (Had Canarsie not gotten CBTC, it would have gotten a new wayside signal system instead. Leaving the signals alone was not an option.)

Alon Levy June 9, 2012 - 10:46 pm Reply
John-2 June 10, 2012 - 10:34 am

There are safety concerns and then there are hyper-concerns. The BMT was trying to break a strike with replacement personnel in 1918 when Malbone happened; the modern system has been flooded with grade timers and wheel detectors to the point that the ‘rapid’ in ‘rapid transit’ has been all but eliminated from many sections of trackage, even when fully-trained people are in charge of the trains and control towers.

Andrew June 10, 2012 - 1:05 pm

Keeping trains safely separated is not a hyper-concern. It’s the basic function of a signal system, and if the only way to bring the signal system into compliance with its own purpose is to install grade timers, then I’m afraid those grade timers have to be installed.

(When were the last wheel detectors installed, 2001? The ones at Canal were taken out when the signal system there was replaced.)

Fully-trained people make mistakes from time to time. Layton Gibson was a fully-trained person, but he killed himself and injured dozens others through a mistake. I’d like a signal system that ensures that such mistakes are not lethal.

John-2 June 10, 2012 - 3:37 pm

I’m not saying there shouldn’t be protections within the system, just that the system in some areas has been set up now assuming that all T/Os are potential Layton Gibsons. The system had fatalities relating to human error in the years after 1918, but it’s only in the past 25 or so years that the system’s speed restrictions have grown into areas where they hadn’t been before as a precautionary measure. There’s no reason why an R-46 on the A running along CPW shouldn’t be able to make the 3 1/4 mile jaunt from 125th to 59th at the same speeds as a R-10 did half a century ago.

CTBC should help alleviate some of that problem as it’s rolled out, since it should allow for faster speeds within the blocks (though as the WMATA Red Line disaster showed, even computer control systems can run afoul of failure to maintain reliability).

Andrew June 10, 2012 - 8:28 pm

What happened on the Williamsburg Bridge in 1995 was a basic and fundamental failure of the signal system. It wasn’t some sort of extreme or marginal case – it was a demonstration that the rolling stock was capable of performing outside the envelope assumed by the signal engineers in 1918. Ignoring the problem was not an option.

CBTC will help a lot, since CBTC calculates the safe stopping distance at the actual speed the train is operating at, not only in the worst case. And where speed controls are necessary, they’re a lot less crude in CBTC.

The WMATA crash in 2009 had nothing to do with computers and had everything to do with a signal system that was not fail-safe and an agency that appears to have little regard for safety.

Andrew June 8, 2012 - 6:54 pm Reply
John June 9, 2012 - 8:38 am

I’m a little disappointed that there hasn’t been any signage in stations and on trains, at least not that I’ve seen. The MTA has been a lot better about posting service changes due to planned work, so why not give themselves a pat on the back by making sure everyone is also duly informed regarding service increases?

R. Graham June 9, 2012 - 6:24 pm

Because if something doesn’t go right initially then you have to following up with postings on your failure.

Kai B June 10, 2012 - 1:24 pm

AM NY kind of took care of that for them with their Friday cover story. It’s pretty hard to ride the subway on a weekday morning without seeing the cover page.


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