Home Service Cuts Report: MTA set to restore some lost services, keep G extension

Report: MTA set to restore some lost services, keep G extension

by Benjamin Kabak

A few weeks ago, during the June MTA Board Meeting, authority officials let slip the word that they were considering some service restorations. With a rosier financial outlook, the MTA estimated that it could bring back around $20 million of cut subway and bus services, good news indeed for New Yorkers used to cuts. Now, with the July meeting on tap, a new report says that the MTA will unveil those service restorations next week, and, as an added bonus, Transit will commit to making the G train extension through Brooklyn permanent.

Pete Donohue has the story:

Transit officials are poised to allocate tens of millions of dollars for additional bus, subway and commuter train service — and plan to make permanent a popular expansion of the G train in Brooklyn, sources said.Metropolitan Transportation Authority executives have been drafting and revising lists of rider-friendly initiatives that include restoring some — but certainly not all — of the service that was whacked in 2010 to close a canyon-like budget deficit, the sources said.

Now, the authority’s finances have improved to the point that transit executives are confident they can ramp up service in parts of the system where planners and managers believe it is most needed and practical. A majority of the restorations will be in Brooklyn and the Bronx, which makes sense because those boroughs were hit the hardest by the bus-heavy budget cuts two years ago, the sources said.

MTA Chairman Joseph Lhota and top transit executives will unveil the service upgrades as they present revised financial plans to the MTA board next week. Some of the dropped routes will be brought back to life — though one source said those will be few in number. In most cases, the MTA will run buses more frequently on certain routes to better meet increased demand, or extend an existing route into a neighborhood where buses don’t currently stop, that source said.

Donohue also reports that the G train extension to Church Ave. will be made permanent, good news indeed for residents and businesses in Park Slope, Windsor Terrace and Kensington who have long been arguing for such announcement. (Considering the ridership numbers, I never thought the extension was in doubt, but political support for transit improvements should be applauded.)

It’s unclear right now how much money will be allocated toward the service restorations. Donohue says the MTA could have as much as $90 million on tap come the end of the year. It’s also unclear which services will be restored and when. Still, this is a welcome development indeed.

Yet, there’s something missing. The MTA can restore services because the economy has improved, but that’s a variable funding source. The authority still needs a reliable stream of money to avoid future service cuts. As Transportation Alternatives noted, this move should be a wake-up call. “These service restorations are good news, but a public utility as vital as transit shouldn’t be subject to the boom and bust of the economy” Paul Steely White, TA’s Executive Director, said. “Today’s news highlights the need for dedicated, sustainable investment in public transit from the state government. Leaving transit funding to the whims of the economy is shortsighted and misguided. When the economy is struggling, reliable and affordable buses and subways are even more important to all New Yorkers.”

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Todd July 16, 2012 - 11:30 am

They should have agents on the platforms in this heat. “Would you pay higher fares to get an air-conditioned trains running more frequently?”

BrooklynBus July 16, 2012 - 12:58 pm

Even if there were a reliable stream of revenue which there is (TBTA tolls) there is no guarantee this money would be used for service improvements but for MTA pet projects like countdown clocks. The vast bulk of the cuts were bus service cuts, but an additional revenue stream would probably go toward capital projects, reducing the deficit, toward the railroads, then the subways and finally buses. it would take much more than a new revenue stream to fix what’s wrong at the MTA.

Frank B. July 16, 2012 - 4:33 pm

I don’t know what you consider a service improvement; but I certainly consider countdown clocks a service improvement, in quality of ride over quantity.

You can’t see it now, but in a few years when the IND and BMT Countdown clocks are up, those countdown clocks are going to be a blessing; imagine you’re at Times Square at 3 in the morning, and you need to go home, say Long Island City, Queens. (Please note that I don’t live in Queens, this is just a general example). Should you take the 7? Would it be quicker to walk to 8th Avenue and grab the E? Perhaps you’re willing to walk home from Queensborough Plaza instead of Court Square if it means a shorter wait on a 95 degree subway platform? Should you hop on the N then?

At present, this is a crap-shoot. You don’t know what’s the best solution.

Countdown clocks will change all that, and have specifically given me an incentive to take the IRT over the BMT or IND lines at present. In 5 years, I’ll be able to see which train will arrive next, head over to that platform, and spend as little as time possible in the subway station.

Give me countdown clocks over more frequent trains any day of the week. I don’t need more frequent trains if I know when the next one is coming. 😛

chris July 17, 2012 - 1:35 am

Countdown clocks are good, but more frequency is far better. If for example the overnight trains ran every 15 minutes instead of every 20, you wouldn’t even bother with decision making in your hypothetical example. You’d just wait for the next one.

BrooklynBus July 17, 2012 - 4:45 pm

Time clocks wouldn’t help in the example you cited. If you are want the 7 and you are at Times Square, the clock for the E woud be at 8th Avenue and you wouldn’t be able to see both clocks at the same time anyway. Same thing at Herald Square if the clocks are placed on the platforms, not in one place on the mezzanines where I doubt they will be placed. Makes too much sense. The current clocks have been criticized as to why they are not located on the street so you can decide whether to take a train or a bus.

Anyway the clocks are a service amenity like benches or bus shelters. They are not service improvements.

Benjamin Kabak July 17, 2012 - 4:58 pm

There’s a very significant aspect to the countdown clocks that make them far more than a service amenity. You should read up on the (very costly) upgrades to the communications infrastructure and signal system that accompanied the clocks.

ajedrez July 19, 2012 - 2:34 am

Actually, I think there are a few stations where the clocks are in the area over the turnstiles.

In any case, in the Times Square example, if you see the block says 15 minutes, you don’t have much to lose by going over to the other platform and seeing if the other train will come sooner. Now, if it’s a 5 minute wait then yeah, you’re better off just sitting there.

Andrew July 20, 2012 - 6:16 pm

I am pretty sure that every station with countdown clocks has them in the mezzanine, including one outside each bank of turnstiles. (If any don’t, I can’t think of them, and I get around.)

And once the MTA releases the data to developers, you’ll be able to look up the next few trains even before you reach the station, on a smartphone or computer.

Countdown clocks have saved me time, on many occasions. They alert me to delays, so I can consider taking a different subway line (perhaps as simple as local when I was hoping for an express) or, if I’m not going far, I take the bus or walk.

Not quite like benches or shelters.

Bolwerk July 16, 2012 - 9:27 pm

Hell, they should put this $20M/year or whatever it is toward capital improvements. Replace a few deserving bus routes with LRT (or at least SelectBus, which at least seems to be a cost saver) and use the long-term savings to selectively restore some service cuts. It could have another revenue perk: better transit might encourage more real estate transactions in the future, which in turn means even more money for the MTA on top of saved costs.

Andrew July 16, 2012 - 9:38 pm

As we have all seen, TBTA tolls do not provide nearly enough revenue to adequately support the transit system.

The agency-by-agency and capital vs. operating breakdown can be specified in the law that establishes the revenue stream (as it is in the case of TBTA tolls).

BrooklynBus July 17, 2012 - 4:50 pm

If you remember the promises made at the time, TBTA tolls were to be a steady revenue stream so that transit would not have to worry funding again and wouldn’t be subject to the ups and downs of the economy. I believe you once called me gullible or dumb to believe those promises. But weren’t those the same promises made by those pushing congestion pricing?

Andrew July 19, 2012 - 10:35 pm

Nobody promised that TBTA tolls would solve all problems forever, since that would take a crystal ball. Projections are only as good as the assumptions that go into them. Nobody anticipated the impacts of deferred maintenance or the economic downturn, both of which hit hard just a few years after the MTA was formed.

In any case, it’s 45 years later. Even in the best of circumstances, 45-year projections are inaccurate.

That doesn’t give us the right to sit back and ignore a problem that’s staring us in the face. We have to determine and work to implement the best solution we can find. I guarantee it won’t be perfect and our successors will criticize us, but it will still be far better than pretending everything is fine.

Jordan July 16, 2012 - 2:35 pm

In the semi-distant past, when the G was in regular service to Church Avenue, the F would run express from Bergen Street (skipping Carroll St., Smith-9th Sts., 4th Av., 15th St.-Prospect Pk., and Ft. Hamilton Pkwy.). While I recognize that considerable work would be necessary to restore the damaged Bergen Street station, I would also think that traffic volumes would justify the considerable improvement to service levels that would result.

pea-jay July 16, 2012 - 2:53 pm

Two issues:
1-The larger problem with running the F express is re-routing of the M onto sixth avenue . From what I understand the V would have been ideal to send down the culver local to church street allowing the F to run express. That’s not possible now

2-If the V were to be resurrected however (and the M sent back down the Nassau tracks), why would the lower level of Bergen need to be rehabbed and opened? The G and V would provide sufficient service and routing choice for Bergen St.

Frank B. July 16, 2012 - 4:37 pm

Bergen Street is an express station. The lower level containing the express tracks was completely gutted and all tile removed. It’s not in a state where they can just unlock a door and use the station. Work will need to be done, and knowing the MTA, it’ll take a while.

mike d. July 16, 2012 - 5:34 pm

Bergen Street lower level is certainty not worth the expense to be brought back in passenger service.

pea-jay July 16, 2012 - 5:36 pm

But my question is why does it have to continue as an express station? Why couldn’t the F just permanently skip it if there was G and V service upstairs? The V train would provide one seat Sixth Ave service if the F was running express and connections to the F train could be made easily at the Jay St Metrotech or 7th Ave stations. The Bergen st Express station makes no sense to me.

Note, this set up requires V train service via Sixth. Otherwise the F express really is a pain for this part of Brooklyn

Andrew July 16, 2012 - 9:48 pm

Don’t expect the lower level at Bergen to be brought back to service. See the footnote on page 6 of this report.

Running the V train, which doesn’t even exist anymore, into Brooklyn would be quite costly. Do passenger volumes on the line warrant a major increase in service? That same report, on page 12, shows that the Brooklyn end of the F is at 75% of capacity. Unless that’s gone up substantially since 2008, the demand is simply not there for an increase like that.

And riders at local stops – there are a lot of them! – would have worse service than they have now, since any hypothetical V would not be as frequent as the F is now.

Matthias July 16, 2012 - 3:22 pm

Would service levels be improved at skipped stations?

Now, if we could just get the G extended to Queens Plaza off-peak…

mike d. July 16, 2012 - 4:26 pm

It will still screw up the E, M service frequencies when it has to make a turnaround.

Al D July 16, 2012 - 4:06 pm

Not providing a direct, Manhattan service to those stations makes no sense at all.

Jeff July 18, 2012 - 9:17 am

An F express is like the W express in Astoria that was quickly pulled a decade ago. You don’t run an express and skip some of the most frequently serviced stations in your route.

alek July 16, 2012 - 3:36 pm

I wish the MTA would extend the G via Queens Blvd on the weekends allowing the riders not to wait for a long time for the R to come.

Also I would like to see the N returns to Broadway Express.

mike d. July 16, 2012 - 4:29 pm

When Q starts to terminate at 96 St/2 Av, Manhattan. Then we will see the N goes Broadway Express and the W maybe restored in 12/30/2016.

chris July 17, 2012 - 2:07 am

How far into Manhattan do you think the W would go? Would they restore its full length to what it was before?

They have to do something, or else Astoria residents are screwed, going from two lines to one.

pea-jay July 17, 2012 - 2:27 am

Reviving the last incarnation of the W from Ditmars to Whitehall/South Ferry running local on weekdays makes the most sense.

chris July 19, 2012 - 2:15 am

Could they do that without reducing service frequency on the other lines that share the same tracks? I’m not saying they couldn’t. I genuinely don’t know.

Andrew July 20, 2012 - 6:39 pm

Service will run exactly as it did before 2010, except that the Q will continue north of 57th.

lawhawk July 16, 2012 - 3:50 pm

Donohue says the MTA could have as much as $90 million on tap come the end of the year.

What happens to that money. Is it used for paying down debt, capital projects, or otherwise rolled into the next year’s budget? $90 million isn’t a lot in a multibillion dollar budget, but $90 million as applied to debt could reap greater rewards than if applied in other places of the budget – namely reducing the debt load ($30 billion give or take) that has overtaken other parts of the budget. Back in 2011, the debt service was 17% of the total budget, and that was set to rise – I don’t have the 2012 figures handy.

Reducing the debt burden should be a major priority since it constrains what the agency can do long term and eats up limited capital.

pete July 16, 2012 - 6:20 pm

The whole purpose of the MTA is to collect debt AKA print money. NYS Constitution bans the state from any debt with a maturity of more than 1 year without public referendum. So quasi governmental corporations were invented in NYS to create tons of debt for the NYS government.

Nathanael July 18, 2012 - 2:59 am

Biggest issuer is the Dormitory Authority last I checked.

Edward A. July 16, 2012 - 9:56 pm

Speaking of debt, how much debt does the MTA have right now?

Jerrold July 16, 2012 - 3:59 pm

Also, how about putting back some of those Manhattan bus cuts?

Like the Ave. B bus, the bus along Broadway south of 23rd St., and weekend service on the 8th/9th Sts. and 49th/50th Sts. crosstown routes.

Al D July 16, 2012 - 4:44 pm

The Ave B bus always struck me as curious as it was a busy feeder to the Union Sq station, so I can’t quite figure out why it was discontinued?

Jerrold July 16, 2012 - 5:13 pm

I know. I can remember many years ago when the Ave. B bus line was a separate private bus company, as was the Fifth Ave. bus in those days.

WilletsPoint-SheaStadium July 16, 2012 - 4:01 pm

In terms of restoring subway service, I think the BMT 4th Avenue Line in Brooklyn is very deserving of it’s former Rush Hour/Midday counterpart via Nassau Street. I think the (M) in it’s current configuration has proven to be quite popular and shouldn’t be changed. However, extending the (J) from Broad Street down the BMT 4th Avenue Line to at least 9th Avenue on the West End Line would provide great relief to the low-frequency service provided by the (R).

Separately, the (F) should not run express on the Culver/Crosstown ROW. Riders of the ‘local’ stations are more often then not looking for direct service to Manhattan. Also, running the (F) express there would also add an extra seat for riders transferring from the 4th Avenue/9th Street Station.

I think once the Second Avenue Subway opens we’ll see a return of the (W) or some Broadway Local to Astoria to replace the Broadway Express that will run to 96th and 2nd Avenue.

Frank B. July 16, 2012 - 4:44 pm

My question is, why are the BMT Culver Line Tracks (I.E. Below Church Avenue) not being utilized? The same for the BMT West End Line Tracks. They have peak-direction express track that can be used. If it is so controversial to have express stops for the F train in politically-powerful and more transit-dependent places like Park Slope and Carroll Gardens, then why don’t we utilize the express track below Church Avenue instead, in more automobile friendly neighborhoods like Ditmars Park, Midwood, and Sheepshead Bay?

They are using Transit to commute into Manhattan weekdays, and their own cars for pleasure weekends. Surely there would be less controversy running the F Express in these stations instead?

mike d. July 16, 2012 - 5:37 pm

look at the ridership data on Culver line, south of Church Avenue. Plus MTA is doing CBTC testing on express track along the Culver line even on the Culver Viaduct.

alek July 16, 2012 - 6:12 pm

It would be a good idea to extend the J to 4th avenue line since the Z doesn’t run often. The J should do it when the Z is not operating on the weekdays.

mike d. July 16, 2012 - 9:17 pm

There is not enough train cars to support the J extension to the 4 Avenue line unless bring back the V line and return the M original routing before the doomsday service cuts.

Andrew July 16, 2012 - 9:52 pm

Because trains run to serve people, not to serve tracks. Running some trains express implies thinning out service at the local stops. Most people would have to wait twice as long for a train, while a small number of lucky ones will have a slightly faster ride.

Remember the W Astoria express in 2001? It carried light loads while the N local was overcrowded.

Andrew July 16, 2012 - 9:59 pm

This is very good news, and I look forward to seeing the list.

But I’m confused about this:

A majority of the restorations will be in Brooklyn and the Bronx, which makes sense because those boroughs were hit the hardest by the bus-heavy budget cuts two years ago, the sources said.

Is that really true? Wasn’t Manhattan harder hit than the Bronx? If my addition is correct, the Bronx cuts netted $7.0 million while the Manhattan cuts netted $12.2 million. (Feel free to check my math: http://www.mta.info/nyct/servi.....uction.htm)

Bolwerk July 16, 2012 - 10:24 pm

Maybe he meant the riders were hit the hardest. Manhattan riders presumably have the best alternatives. Some Bronx pols were howling about 1- or 2-seat rides becoming 3-seat rides, which meant poorer people had to pay twice for a crappier trip.

I seem to recall Walder citing one case of a Manhattan express bus paralleling subway lines that cost something like $70/rider in subsidies.

Andrew July 16, 2012 - 10:36 pm

This is the Bronx pol’s howl:

His complaint was that former Bx20 riders who wanted the A train had to take the Bx10 to the Bx7 and transfer a second time, and for an extra fare, to the A train. In fact, they can take the Bx10 to the 1 train and, if necessary, transfer again to the A at either 168th or 59th (although the 1 and A run close enough through most of Manhattan that I think most riders would be better off just staying on the 1, especially if they’re going to Midtown).

And contrary to his protestations, the transfer corridor at 168th is very heavily used and is quite safe. It may not be the prettiest setting, but it works fine. And the transfer at 59th is even easier.

Kai B July 17, 2012 - 12:17 am

I seem to recall Walder citing one case of a Manhattan express bus paralleling subway lines that cost something like $70/rider in subsidies.

The infamous X25 express bus from Grand Central to Wall Street:

chris July 17, 2012 - 1:39 am

I would rather they put any surpluses towards building the station that was cut in the vicinity of 10th Avenue and 41st Street that the 7 extension was supposed to have. And I don’t buy that it would cost 100s of millions of dollars like they said. If they incorporated it into a new (or future) building, they could probably cut 30-40% off the costs.

chris July 17, 2012 - 1:45 am

This is kind of off-topic a bit I guess, but what would all of you think of extending the L train one more stop west to 10th Avenue? I think it would be great. The Meatpacking District/HighLine would have it’s own subway stop, instead of the long walk from 8th Avenue.

Matthias July 17, 2012 - 11:56 am

There have been various ideas tossed around for extending the 14th St Line. Here’s one.

BrooklynBus July 17, 2012 - 4:57 pm

As I’ve often said, it was a big mistake not to extend the L to and connect with the High Line to 42 Street or beyond. Could have been done for a fraction of what it cost to extend the 7.

Jaime July 17, 2012 - 9:46 pm


ajedrez July 19, 2012 - 2:38 am

I don’t see how The Bronx was hit particularly hard. I’d say either Manhattan (because of the number of cuts) or Queens (because of the severity of some of the cuts, like the Q76 on Saturdays) was hit harder.

Chris July 27, 2012 - 10:47 am

Why cann’t the MTA. restore off peak hourly service Monday f- Friday on the Upper Port Jefferson of Long Island Railroad.. This type of service was last operated in 1977. I have the schedule to prove it .

Benjamin Kabak July 27, 2012 - 10:49 am

The idea is to restore service that has some demand behind it. I take it a train that hasn’t run in 35 years is hardly in demand.


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