Home MTA Economics Weekend M to Manhattan, G expansion among MTA service upgrades

Weekend M to Manhattan, G expansion among MTA service upgrades

by Benjamin Kabak

As part of the MTA’s plan to spend $40 million in unexpected state revenue on its customers, Transit will expand weekend service on the M to Manhattan and will increase G train service during the afternoon rush, as outlined in its line review. Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced these enhancements as well as some added bus service that will total $7.8 million, and the MTA plans to invest another $5.9 million in the customer experience and station environment as well.

“For the second year in a row, the state has invested in significant enhancements and expansions to our state’s transit system that will improve the experience of the eight million commuters who use the MTA,” Governor Cuomo, who continued his streak of taking credit for the MTA’s good news, said in a statement. “In the last two and a half years, our administration has made real improvements to the nation’s largest public transit system, implementing reforms that have improved services and made the MTA more efficient by reducing costs, cutting waste and putting the needs of straphangers and commuters first.”

According to the release, these service improvements will benefit nearly 90,000 passengers daily. G trains will operate every eight minutes from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. on weekdays, cutting headways down from 10 minutes. On weekends, M trains will run from Middle Village, Queens to Essex/Delancey, providing riders with a direct connection to the F. Currently, M riders must make two transfers — from the M to the J and the J to the F — for service into midtown and points north. The M will not operate north of Essex/Delancey or along the Queens Boulevard line.

The other half of the investment picture involves nearly $6 million for other improvements. Transit will hire more cleaners for tracks and stations and will begin to adjust turnstile and Metrocard Vending Machine layouts as well. I hope to have more on these efforts later in the week.

Additionally, Transit will restore some bus routes lost to the 2010 cuts and beef up service on other lines. The newly restored routes include the B37 and B70 in Brooklyn, weekend M8 and Q31 service, Sunday Q77 buses, and additional hours of operation for the S93. The MTA also plans to add a yet-to-be-determined Select Bus Service route and will study bus service in Co-Op City to identify routing gaps and potential solutions. I question the wisdom of restoring service along bus routes that didn’t have the ridership to support it, but perhaps the attention devoted to these lines over the past two years will drive up ridership.

Outside of the city, the LIRR will invest $2.6 million in added service as well. Trains will run every 30 minutes on the weekends to and from Ronkonkoma and Port Washington. Weekend service to Greenport will be extended, and five peak-hour weekday trains will be added on crowded routes. Metro-North has a more modest ask as the railroad will get an additional $1.7 million to “add real-time customer information displays at all of its stations in New York State by 2020.”

For the MTA’s customers, this news is good. After years of service cuts, expanded service is welcome even if the subway enhancements are limited to two lines with relatively low ridership. The fundamental problems of comprehensive access and more frequent service on lines at or near capacity are side-stepped in this plan, but on the other hand, the MTA had only limited resources for expanded service. Officials acknowledged too that the long-term financial picture remains unsettled, at best.

“We have listened to our customers, and we are responding with more bus, subway and commuter rail service as well as enhancements to make that service more reliable and more enjoyable,” MTA Chairman and CEO Thomas F. Prendergast said in a statement. “We are committed to aggressively reducing our costs, and to strengthening service whenever we have sustainable resources to do so. But our Financial Plan remains fragile, and our financial challenges – both short and long term – are numerous. The revised Financial Plan puts our customer needs first while also allocating resources to longer-term challenges like reducing pension liabilities, lowering retiree health care costs and providing initial funding for our next Capital Program.”

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Kevin July 22, 2013 - 10:31 am

Thank goodness they’re extending the M on weekends. Queens Blvd local service on weekends is atrocious with the R running every 10 minutes. I guess the M will be a 19/7 line now?

Benjamin Kabak July 22, 2013 - 10:34 am

I’ll update the post to be clear, but the M will not be running on the Queens Boulevard line on the weekend. It will run from Middle Village through Williamsburg over the Williamsburg Bridge to the LES. Essex and Delancey will be its terminal.

Kevin July 22, 2013 - 11:33 am

I guess my brain misplaced the commas when it said Middle Village, Queens.

Alex July 22, 2013 - 12:12 pm

You’re right though, Kevin. The R’s frequency is terrible. I live on the other end on the 4th Ave line in Brooklyn. The loss of the rush-hour M on 4th Ave in 2010 was a real blow, but it was Queens riders’ gain. Although we’re all screwed on the weekend (still).

Kevin July 22, 2013 - 1:31 pm

Yeah I know how bad the 4th Avenue local can be too. Had to wait over 20 minutes for a northbound R during the PM rush at Union Street a few weeks ago. The lack of the M train in Brooklyn is a real pity.

Berk32 July 22, 2013 - 1:40 pm

do you find the train to be crowded when it does show up?

SEAN July 22, 2013 - 1:53 pm

Can someone be kind enough to explane something to me?

On weekends the Queens Boulevard line opperates two expresses E & F, but there’s only one local the R & it opperates at a 12-minute headway vs 8 to 10-minute headways for the other lines. Long story short, how does a local that is so vital to so many neighborhoods run not often enough? You can say the same for those along the 4th Avenue line as connections between lines are just as important as the neighborhoods they serve.

You can illistrate this by comparing Forest Hills, Rego Park & Jackson Heights. Rego Park is totally dependent on the R while Forest Hills has E & F service as well. But Jackson Heights aditionally has the 7 in the area afording greater travel flexability.

Andrew July 22, 2013 - 7:10 pm

The R runs every 10 minutes on weekends, not 12.

The off-peak loading guideline is 125% of a seated load – so as long as the average R train, at the most crowded point on the line, is carrying no more than the number of seats on the train plus 25%, the guidelines don’t call for any extra service.

And I do believe loads on the R are within guidelines, at both ends of the line.

But even if not, I wouldn’t be too optimistic for a service boost. In 2010, when service was cut (from every 8 minutes to every 10 minutes on the DFGJMNQR on Saturdays and the ADEFGNQR on Sundays, and from every 6 minutes to every 8 minutes on the 1 on both Saturdays and Sundays) in 2010 to “adjust scheduled train frequencies to match those typically required by construction work,” the MTA acknowledged that loads would exceed guidelines on four lines (1FNQ). If loads on the R have grown to the point that they now exceed guidelines, it would probably still be kept at 10 minutes. Of course, running either the E or the F on the local track would be an option, and it might make sense, but it would obviously delay (and upset) through riders to Jamaica.

Phantom July 22, 2013 - 7:34 pm

The R train, which I take every work day, is OK.

It is as reliable as any other line and you have a better shot at a seat than on many other lines

The moaning and graoning about it is 99 percent exaggeration.

The only legit complaintis that it does not run 24 hours. All else is bullshit.

SEAN July 22, 2013 - 7:41 pm

Thank you for that as well as the schedule correction. Amazing what a 2-minute varience can do to a schedule.

Andrew July 22, 2013 - 7:18 pm

Just for reference – the rush hour R is at least as frequent as the rush hour B, C, D, G, J, M, N, Q, and Z. (I deliberately did not combine the J and Z – the frequency at the skip-stop stations is determined by one or the other but not both.)

(Reliability is a different story – as a long line with several merges, the R suffers more than most.)

And I believe that peak loads on the R out of Brooklyn are still lower than on any other line in the city. That’s not to say that trains aren’t crowded, only that they’re less crowded than other lines elsewhere.

Kevin Zeng August 21, 2013 - 4:14 pm

I need to Bring back the Brown M train to Bay Parkway on the D train West End Line Station.
1. D, N, and R train are too crowded at Atlantic Avenue-Barclays Center and 36th Street Station.
2. Waiting for the R train is too long for 20 minutes everyday at Prospect Avenue Station due to the lateness of this train.
3. The R train is too slow and too crowded.
Brown M train will be running from Essex Street to Bay Parkway on the D train West End Line Station. Brown M train will be running on the 4th Avenue Local line.

llqbtt July 22, 2013 - 2:52 pm

Anything to try and help out the L! Wonder if they’ll 4 car OPTO it, 8 car OPTO or the 2 man crew.

Chris July 22, 2013 - 10:36 am

Queens Blvd. service won’t get any better. They’re running from Middle Village to Delancey, not from Forest Hills.

SEAN July 22, 2013 - 10:38 am

19/7? What is that.

Benjamin Kabak July 22, 2013 - 10:43 am

There’s no M train service past Myrtle Ave. from around 11:30 p.m. – 5:30 a.m. each night. That’s 18- or 19-hour service essentially depending upon when the last trains pass.

SEAN July 22, 2013 - 1:17 pm

Duh, that’s not the way I read it, I should have figgured it out earlier.

Jason Rabinowitz July 22, 2013 - 10:40 am

MNR doesn’t have info display screens at all stations? Finally, something the LIRR has that MNR won’t have for another 7 years! lol

SEAN July 22, 2013 - 2:15 pm

The LIRR also has regular status anouncements as does NJT at it’s stations, but MNR doesn’t unless a train is delayed. The one thing MNR has going for it is that most stations are in fairly good shape compared to the LIRR.

Alon Levy July 22, 2013 - 11:52 am

What’s the cost of these service expansions per revenue vehicle-hour (or car-hour)? Would be interesting to compare different modes – I expect trains to have much lower marginal costs than buses but higher fixed costs.

BoerumHillScott July 22, 2013 - 12:20 pm

According to APTA, the national average for operating cost per vehicle revenue hour is $199 for heavy rail and $120 for fixed-route bus.

Of course, the heavy rail numbers are largely driven by NYCT while the bus numbers include many lower cost areas.
A heavy rail car can also hold more people than a bus, and goes at a higher average speed.

Bolwerk July 22, 2013 - 12:23 pm

NYC also has a pretty massive bus fleet. I hate to think how we manage to drive the vehicle operating costs up so much. 😐

BoerumHillScott July 22, 2013 - 12:31 pm

I found some 2007 numbers that say NYCT operating costs per vehicle revenue hour were $136 an hour for bus and $155 an hour for subway.

BoerumHillScott July 22, 2013 - 12:39 pm

OK, one more set of stats, this time from 2008.

NYCT bus costs $22.25 per vehicle revenue mile and MTA bus costs $19.23 per vehicle revenue mile, much worse than the national median of $10.13
NYCT subway costs $ 9.35 per vehicle revenue mile, a bit better than the national median of $10.83.

Alon Levy July 22, 2013 - 2:33 pm

I know the averages; what I’m curious about is the marginal numbers. It comes from something I read a few months ago about a proposed service cut in Vancouver, which would save $11 per revenue train-hour cut (car-hour?). Driverless trains have very low variable costs, but I’ve never seen any marginal numbers for trains with drivers or for buses.

Bolwerk July 22, 2013 - 3:28 pm

I don’t know how useful that fixed/variable cost information is, in any case. For practical purposes, we can probably extrapolate marginal cost from existing data, the kind BoerumHillScott provided (but NYC-specific). What we need to know to see if it’s worth it is how much is revenue they bring it, and whether that new revenue exceeds new costs.

Eric July 23, 2013 - 7:52 am

Why would marginal be different from average? Labor, fuel, and repair costs for a trip are pretty much the same no matter how many other trips there are.

Alon Levy July 24, 2013 - 1:52 am

Because on-board labor, cleaning, repair, and energy are not the entire cost. I don’t think they’re even the majority of the cost. Try dispatching, administration, and track maintenance.

Bolwerk July 24, 2013 - 10:53 am

I still think average is more useful. I guess you’re right that marginal cost and average cost might look vastly different. Marginal cost is just the cost of one more unit of a good (e.g., a train running the route). It probably pretty much is crews, energy, and maybe additional wear/tear on the train (depending how maintenance is done in the first place).

Consider that marginal cost can change drastically once you get to the point where you need more equipment or facilities or labor. As things are going now with these minor service boosts, the effect on existing maintenance/overhead is probably minimal to non-existent. I would guess no new equipment is being added or anything like that. I suspect existing cleaners can handle the slightly higher train frequency.

And there are so many train runs each day that this probably isn’t changing the average much either.

Alon Levy July 24, 2013 - 12:05 pm

Marginal is also useful when evaluating more rush hour service versus more off-peak service, precisely because you don’t need more equipment for off-peak and the schedules are easier (no split shifts).

Nathanael July 25, 2013 - 9:53 pm

Marginal is the only interesting number when you’re evaluating *adding* or *removing* a service.

Average is actually practically useless. If you’re trying to compare yourself to “world standards”, you have to look at departmental costs, which is a whole ‘nother thing.

Bolwerk July 26, 2013 - 11:26 am

Well, sorta, maybe. The interesting number when adding or removing a service is contribution margin, so that you account for revenue. In FREE MARKET CRAPITALISM™ you want to figure out something like this and aim to be in the profit zone, though in HURRR SOCIALIST TRANSIT you probably are trying to keep losses below a certain point.

My guess is, for that kind of evaluation, you would need to subtract traceable cost (which may or may not be the same as marginal cost) of new service from marginal revenue from new service, and determine if the number meets or exceeds some minimum – either covers fixed costs of new service or at least or least minimizes loss to an acceptable level. Not really sure though, I took my B or B+ or whatever in managerial accounting and never really looked back. 🙁

If you are just interested in figuring out costs for other analysis purposes (e.g., setting fares), some kind of average seems about as good as anything, especially given our fare model. What Alon was interested in was comparing costs across modes, which I don’t think marginal cost sheds very much light on.

Bolwerk July 22, 2013 - 12:21 pm

What new fixed costs would those be? The cost of running an additional train seems to all be variable to me. If the fixed costs are things like track and signal maintenance, or dispatching, which probably aren’t appreciably increased by adding such a small number of additional trains, there shouldn’t really be any new ones. The rolling stock is probably already there, so no new amortization.

Alon Levy July 22, 2013 - 2:35 pm

There won’t be any new fixed costs; that’s why the cost of a service expansion or the savings from a service cut can help us figure the variable cost.

Bolwerk July 22, 2013 - 3:23 pm

Actually, no. Sorta need to correct myself: I guess any additional employees would technically be a fixed cost because they are a long-term obligation. A variable cost is something that stops costing when production stops (e.g., a de-powered train would still have amortization costs, but wouldn’t draw additional electricity). A crew doesn’t stop drawing a salary because it drives less – or if it stops driving, as the case may be. One man in the two-man crew is definitely a needless cost, but a fixed cost nonetheless.

Speaking of that, I wonder if they will do OPTO to Essex.

Berk32 July 22, 2013 - 12:02 pm

Curious how they’re going to turn M trains around at Delancey/Essex.


I guess have them pull in on the northbound J track then reverse right away – J trains run at best every 10 minutes on weekends – so as long as they’re scheduled right its no big deal.

Epson45 July 22, 2013 - 12:28 pm

The nycsubway.org track maps are full of errors.

Use this track map: http://b24blog.blogspot.com/p/.....miles.html

It shows the current track config at Essex St. M train can terminated at the middle track. Queens bound J train can switch track right near Essex St and will not impact either services.

Berk32 July 22, 2013 - 12:55 pm

ah – so they can swap for weekend service.

Thanks for the link – nice to have 1 complete map that’s accurate.

Andrew July 22, 2013 - 12:15 pm

Running the M into Manhattan is a big improvement, but if it could run to 57 St, that would make it much more useful.

Epson45 July 22, 2013 - 12:30 pm

Problem is 6 Avenue line will at some point in time have maintenance work and MTA does not want to screw anymore services.

Andrew July 22, 2013 - 7:21 pm

Not just maintenance work – the interlockings at West 4th and 34th are scheduled to be resignaled within the next few years. Queens Blvd. also has a number of interlocking jobs coming up. And then comes CBTC.

So expect a lot of capacity-constraining GO’s. The chances of the M being extended north of Essex are small, unless one of the other lines is given the boot in its place.

Andrew July 22, 2013 - 8:48 pm

By the way, in case anybody thinks I’m arguing with myself, Andrew 12:15 pm is different from Andrew 7:21 pm.

Ian MacAllen July 22, 2013 - 12:17 pm

M Service directly to the Lower East Side on the weekends will likely add a serious boost to the gentrification happening along the route in Bushwick and Ridgewood. It will mean out of the way places like Bossa Nova Civic Club are suddenly a much easier destination for the last remnants of hipsters clinging to the Lower East Side and further open up areas that would otherwise require a transfer to Manhattan. Perhaps even, in the same way the L connected the East Village and Williamsburg in the 90s, better M service connecting Ridgewood and Bushwick to the Lower East Side will rapidly transition the neighborhood.

Joe July 22, 2013 - 2:35 pm

The J already provides direct LES Bushwick service on the weekends, although this will improve the frequency at least. But this extension really helps the people that live far out on the M line that will no longer have to transfer to a J train to get to Essex/Delancey or beyond.

Ian MacAllen July 22, 2013 - 4:12 pm

I think when people talk about gentrifying Bushwick, the J really isn’t on anyone’s radar; that’s not to say its not servicing Bushwick, but the the hipster / yupster / yuppie party is happening along the L and the M, much less so out along the bed-stuy border.

Nets Cowbell Guy July 22, 2013 - 12:34 pm

Would be nice if the B ran later & on weekends. Would provide more service on CPW, 6th ave & east 16th. Makes getting to Coney Island faster.

vanshnookenraggen July 22, 2013 - 2:26 pm

I know this would be a bit confusing for some but why not have the M terminate at Chambers St on the weekends? Seems like a better place to terminate trains and would allow for transfers to the BMT Broadway and IRT Lexington lines.

ohjk July 22, 2013 - 3:32 pm

id love to see this but it would be confusing to have the line going to stations it does not go to mon-fri, no?

Austin July 22, 2013 - 4:17 pm

As a Ridgewood resident, I’m thrilled with this change. Extending the route to 57th street would have been great, but any viable alternative to the L is most welcome.

Fbfree July 22, 2013 - 5:23 pm

Why aren’t timed transfers set up between the Manhattan bound M and J during shuttle times? They run exactly the same number of trains (except between 12pm and 1am where the M has higher frequency). A little shuffling of the turnaround schedules on the J should make a cross-platform transfer possible. Is the J’s tunning time so inconsistent that it cannot hit a 4 minute window at Myrtle?

BBnet3000 July 22, 2013 - 5:44 pm

Somebody should mention that this money could be paying down debt, which would lower fares or allow for more service to be provided in the long run.

Oh well.

Phantom July 22, 2013 - 7:36 pm

Hi from London.

Where subway trains are way slower than in NYC and where there is no AC !!

Alon Levy July 22, 2013 - 11:40 pm

But the tracks are clean.

Phantom July 23, 2013 - 1:43 am

The tracks are clean but many trains are littered!

As there are no litter baskets in the stations – a legacy of IRA terrorism – there is no place to bring newspapers to so they just leave them on the train.

Nathanael July 25, 2013 - 9:54 pm

The new “S stock” is really nice, though. NY is getting antiquated designs by comparison.

Andrew July 22, 2013 - 9:13 pm


Unfortunately, the item-by-item cost and revenue projections are not given – but there’s still a lot of detail.


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