Home Service Advisories The R train returns to Lower Manhattan, but …

The R train returns to Lower Manhattan, but …

by Benjamin Kabak

Over a month after the storm surge from Hurricane Sandy swamped the BMT’s Whitehall St. station, R train service to Lower Manhattan will return at 6 a.m. on Monday, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Sunday night. There is, however, a key twist though as Whitehall will be serviced by trains that run only between Queens and Manhattan. The Montague St. Tunnel — and thus R train service into and out of Brooklyn — remains shuttered.

“The resumption of service to the Whitehall Street station will restore a vital link to midtown’s west side for Staten Islanders and also ease crowding along the Lexington Avenue Line,” the Governor said in a statement.

Despite this good news, the MTA is issuing word of tempered expectations. Currently, only one escalator at Whitehall St. will be in service as the escalator at the Stone St. entrance remains out of service. The two escalators at the southern end of the station sustained “extensive damage” but one has been repaired. The MTA warns that customers who cannot climb stairs should continue to use Rector St.

To get Whitehall St. station back into service, MTA workers had to repair and replace track, third rail, communications systems, pumping equipment and the electrical systems. Similar work must still take place inside the Montague St. Tunnel. “Transit workers continue to work around the clock to bring the Montague Tube back online,” MTA head Joe Lhota said, “which will complete the R Line link from lower Mnhattan to Downtown Brooklyn.”

According to the Governor’s office, the Montague St. Tunnel should be reactivated by the end of the month. Workers still have to replace hundreds of signal relays, switches and electrical equipment. That official timeline has been pushed back from mid-December due to what New York 1 termed longer-than-expected repairs. The adjoining South Ferry station on the 1 train remains closed until further notice as it sustained serious destruction during the flood.

At this point in the storm recovery, incremental progress is all that we can expect, and once the Montague St. Tunnel returns, we likely won’t have another update for a while. The A train across Broad Channel will remain out of service until the trestle is rebuilt, and it’s currently unclear how long it will take to rebuild the 1 train’s South Ferry terminal. Brooklyn riders will continue to be frustrated, but it sounds like an end is in sight to the pain as the Montague St. Tunnel will race 2013 to see which gets here first.

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Brian December 3, 2012 - 12:00 am

This really surprises me, I was expecting the R to run through the tunnel bypassing Whitehall Street while repairs were made to that station. Surprised its the other way around.

al December 3, 2012 - 12:36 am

What about Broad St. Did they extend the J/Z south?

Andrew December 3, 2012 - 10:59 am

Not yet. As of this morning, the J/Z was still terminating at Chambers.

Bolwerk December 3, 2012 - 4:42 pm

NYCTA announced it’s back tomorrow on Twitter.

Zack December 3, 2012 - 12:18 am

That’s what Prendergast said recently, guess plans changed

Theorem Ox December 3, 2012 - 5:29 am

Looks like we have a Queens Blvd local variant of the W train again!

Jeff December 3, 2012 - 9:23 am

If you put it this way, its actually a revival of the EE Train!

Phantom December 3, 2012 - 5:54 pm

I miss the EE for reasons unrelated to logic

I remember when they had the ancient cars on that line.

Someone December 3, 2012 - 7:20 pm

The EE? Wow, it’s been a long time since THAT service ran…

John-2 December 3, 2012 - 8:39 am

The two escalators at the southern end of the station sustained “extensive damage” but one has been repaired. The MTA warns that customers who cannot climb stairs should continue to use Rector St.

Don’t tell me they have the only working escalator set to go down to the platform instead of up? I thought only WMATA ‘brainstormed’ like that when just one of their deep-station escalators was working.

Andrew December 4, 2012 - 9:22 pm

The escalator is running up.

Alek December 3, 2012 - 8:51 am

What about the late night N service? How that would work? Will the N continue run via the bridge or go to Whitehall and do split service?

Ron December 3, 2012 - 9:25 am

No overnight service according to this:


Streetsblog New York City » Today’s Headlines December 3, 2012 - 9:04 am

[…] R Train Returns to Lower Manhattan, But Will Not Cross River to Brooklyn Until End of Year (SAS) […]

Larry Littlefield December 3, 2012 - 9:15 am

For Brooklyn, this is worse than 9/11. Back then they were able to divert via the Nassau Loop.

The Montigue Street tunnel is underutilized, since fewer people work in Lower Manhattan and it take so long to get north via tunnel. But if there is a need for a re-route or GO it is essential. Better hope that nothing bad happens between DeKalb and Grand/Canal until it is fixed.

Phantom December 3, 2012 - 6:02 pm


Yes, but the easy R/A/F connection at Jay St/Metrotech, which wasn’t there in 2001, sure mitigates things now.

It sure beats the painful Atlantic Avenue N/R/D connection to the IRT lines for downtown.

Someone December 3, 2012 - 7:27 pm

No, the Nassau St Loop was closed in 1967.

George December 3, 2012 - 10:17 am

Why couldn’t they have they had R train terminate at City Hall instead of 34th street? City Hall didn’t suffer damage from the storm and is big enough terminal for R train service, especially after power was restored downtown.

Jason December 3, 2012 - 2:09 pm

I asked the same thing in an earlier thread. Apparently the lower level terminal (which we all know was never finished) was not extended to handle the longer trainsets of today. The upper level wouldnt work since the “express tracks” dip down well before the station so switching downtown trains back to uptown would be a bit difficult (my best guess at least)

AlexB December 3, 2012 - 2:32 pm

Seems like they could have stopped the trains around at Canal St and used the City Hall station to turn them around.

Someone December 3, 2012 - 7:24 pm

Actually, that could have been considered, and the whole 34th Street terminal hassle could have been avoided.

On another note, they could have used 8-car R160As on the R that terminated at 57th Street, and used 8-car R46s on the R that terminated at 34th Street. The N could then have gone local between 34th Street and Canal Street, and the Q operating express in both directions between 34th and Canal.

Andrew December 4, 2012 - 9:25 pm

There was no R that terminated at 57th, and the 8-car R160’s are fully subscribed by the J/Z, M, and L (and all maintained at East New York).

Someone December 4, 2012 - 10:32 pm

They could have transferred some of the spare R160As on the M to the R and the R143s on the L could have been transferred to the M, using all available R143s and R160A four-car sets. The R could then have used the center tracks between 57th Street and 42nd Street to terminate.

Andrew December 4, 2012 - 10:54 pm

The spare ratio for the R160’s is pretty tight, and the R143’s are needed on the L for CBTC.

I’m not sure why you consider it advantageous to terminate the R over a mile north of where it had been terminating.

Someone December 5, 2012 - 9:10 pm

If there aren’t enough R160As left, then they could have borrowed a couple of R32s from 207th Street as well, assuming that all 222 R32s, all 208 R143s, and all 372 R160A 4-car sets are booked. Besides, if it terminates at 57th Street, then it doesn’t force the Q to go local northbound from Canal Street to 34th Street, the Q can just go express the entire way.

Andrew December 5, 2012 - 10:16 pm

The C is already borrowing some R42’s that usually run on the J to make up for the R32’s in the Rockaways.

The Q should be going local when the R isn’t running, at least during the day. The four local stations between 34th and Canal are busy, and when only the N runs local, it collects very large crowds. In other words – you’d terminate the R before it reaches the core of Midtown in order to underserve four other stations!

But why would you need short trains, in any case?

Someone December 6, 2012 - 10:34 pm

The lower level platform at City Hall is only long enough for a train of 8 60-foot cars. Alternatively six-car-trains of R46s can be used, as they are ~450 feet long as opposed to the lower level platform’s length of 480 feet. In that case, 14 6-car trains of R46s can run on the R as well as 2 6-car trains of R68s, assuming that you borrow 4 cars from the Franklin Ave shuttle and 8 from the B line.

Someone December 6, 2012 - 10:34 pm

Additionally, you wouldn’t have to terminate the trains at 57th Street anymore.

Andrew December 6, 2012 - 11:24 pm

I thought you were suggesting that the R terminate at 57th! It was terminating at 34th.

Full-length trains can relay south of Canal. I assume that wasn’t done with the R because the interlocking or the tracks in the area were still out of service.

Someone December 7, 2012 - 8:06 am

Terminating full-length trains at Canal Street and then relaying them through the City Hall lower level approach tracks would have also been useful.

SomeGuy32 December 3, 2012 - 2:36 pm

The crossover tracks are at Canal street – there are none south of that station until Whitehall, so there is no good spot to terminate trains – and running R to Canal would’ve been pointless

AlexB December 3, 2012 - 7:07 pm

There are crossover tracks just south of Canal. And running the R to Canal would not be pointless. I ride the N and Q daily from Astoria and having the R stop at 34th added about 10-15 minutes to my commute each way because everything got backed up while the R changed directions. At Canal, it would be the only train using those tracks and any delays would not have occurred at Times Square. You should have seen the confusion and craziness in the packs of tourists. Also, some of the busiest stations on the Broadway local aren’t downtown, they are in SoHo and Flatiron.


BBnet3000 December 3, 2012 - 10:46 am

What accounts for the larger amount of damage in the Montague tunnel? Just time under water?

Jeff December 3, 2012 - 1:24 pm

A lot water in that tunnel than the others apparently.

“After several days of operation, pumps finally managed to draw down the millions of gallons of water that had surged in from New York Bay during Hurricane Sandy. In all, eight of the MTA’s under river subway tunnels experienced significant flooding but none as severely as the Montague Tube, which had water from track to ceiling for a distance of nearly a mile.

Extensive work still remains before R trains can once again use the Montague Tube. More than 300 signal relays were damaged, along with the central instrument house, track switches, stop motors, wiring. Debris had been washed into the tube and the force of the inrushing water from the 14-foot surge that hit lower Manhattan was enough to bend metal. After removing the water, crews spent several days cleaning the tube of muck and sea water debris left behind by Sandy. Crews continue to make headway in replacing relays and replacing damaged switch equipment, replacing wiring and other components.”

R2 December 3, 2012 - 12:35 pm

I think the Joralemon came back into service much more quickly because NYCT actually removed sensitive equipment from that tunnel.

Perhaps they didn’t get to doing the same for the Montague because it might have been last on the list.

Jeff December 3, 2012 - 1:30 pm

I think its more likely due to its location than anything… Similar to how the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel (or whatever they call it these days) was completely submerged and some of the other tunnels weren’t nearly as bad. Water got in through the South Ferry/Whitehall Street station, completely submerging it, which caused water to pour inside the Montague tunnel.

R2 December 3, 2012 - 6:49 pm

I stand corrected. And thank you for continuing to say Brooklyn Battery. Not a fan of the name change.

Phantom December 3, 2012 - 8:18 pm

Real NYers will never use the slave names for our public assets.

Ray December 3, 2012 - 10:12 pm

“Workers still have to replace hundreds of signal relays, switches and electrical equipment.”

Does any of this work provide opportunity to make progress on new signal systems, CBTC, countdown clocks on these lines?

Someone December 3, 2012 - 10:23 pm

No, the only CBTC currently in progress is on the 7. They might continue with the Culver Line and the Queens Boulevard Line in 2013 or 2014. And without CBTC, any countdown clocks installations would be largely inaccurate and/or without data.

pete December 4, 2012 - 9:27 am

Back in 2009/2010 there was an MTA proposal to close lower Broadway line overnight everyday since it is “so close” or had transfers to the 4 in Brooklyn and Manhattan at all the lower Broadway stations. This is the MTA’s wish coming true, just like 5 years of the G train on Queens Boulevard “construction suspension” becoming permanent.

Benjamin Kabak December 4, 2012 - 9:31 am

This is a bad comparison on so many levels.

S. K. Saks December 4, 2012 - 4:01 pm

Wonder why the MTA didn’t want to send the R train over the Manhattan bridge? This way R train riders wouldn’t have to switch to get uptown, or for lower Manhattan they can switch to other trains at Canal rather than having to get off at very crowded Brooklyn station.

Andrew December 4, 2012 - 9:29 pm

Because that would have required service cuts on the B, N, and Q trains (about 30% each, if the R runs every 10 minutes and we assume that DeKalb is maxxed out), and because it would have forced everybody going to lower Manhattan from Brooklyn onto the 2/3/4/5 trains, with no option at Jay Street to transfer to the A/C, which has some spare capacity because the A isn’t serving the Rockaways directly.

Running the R in two segments takes significant stress off the B, N, Q, 2, 3, 4, and 5 trains.

Someone December 4, 2012 - 9:47 pm

The northern terminal for the upper branch of the R is Jay Street-Metrotech, which is a busy transfer point to the A/C. If trains were routed over the Manhattan Bridge, riders wishing to transfer to the A/C would have to make two transfers, either to the F/G at Ninth Street or the 4/5 at Atlantic Avenue. From the F/G you would then have to go to either Hoyt/Schermerhorn Streets or Jay Street. From the 4/5 you would have to go to Fulton Street.


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