Home Service Cuts Gearing up for a summer of some more service increases

Gearing up for a summer of some more service increases

by Benjamin Kabak

What a difference four years make. At around this time back in 2010, New York City and its transit system was gearing up for a day of reckoning. Bus lines throughout the city were to be axed with more bus stops eliminated, and subway service was set to be pared down. Despite record ridership, the MTA’s finances were in disarray, and Albany wasn’t willing to take unpopular steps to shore up the balance sheet.

These days, the MTA’s finances aren’t any more secure than they were four years ago, but the economy on the whole — and key tax revenues — are on the up and up. Thus, the agency is on a better footing and can bring service increases online to meet demand. We heard last week about some major increases in off-peak L train frequency, and that won’t be, according to a report in the Daily News, the only transit bumps New Yorkers will witness this year. We’ll know more once the MTA’s budget is released in July, but as Pete Donohue reported, the MTA is gearing up to add $20 million worth of service.

“The customers want more service and the board members want to give them more service,” an unnamed MTA official said to the News. “We’re looking at the most cost-effective ways to do that.”

And just what are those cost-effective ways? Here’s Donohue’s take:

The presidents of the MTA’s bus, subway and commuter train operations have submitted to headquarters possible targets for funding. Some board members and advocacy groups, like the Straphangers Campaign and the Riders Alliance, also have pitched suggestions. They include extending the J train on weekends to Broad St., extending the B37 bus route to downtown Brooklyn, returning the M104 to 42nd St., restoring weekend service on the Long Island Rail Road’s West Hampton branch and extending Metro-North Railroad trains with additional cars to reduce crowding.

The service upgrades, if ultimately adopted, would mark the third year in a row the MTA put forth major spending programs that boosted bus, subway and commuter train service after enacting deep cuts in 2010…

The MTA executive, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the authority will not restore all of the 2010 cuts, adding that they included bus routes that proved too expensive because of extremely low ridership. This new round also will likely include more nonservice initiatives, such as working to improve cleanliness and customer communications, the executive said.

Based on this list, I’m more intrigued by the cleanliness and customer communications initiatives than I am of the actual service increases. Longer Metro-North train sets at certain hours of the day would be a boon for riders who feel the space limitations, but extending the J train to Broad St. on weekends isn’t anything that impacts that many subway riders. I’m hoping for more once we see the final plans. I am also tempted to say that it doesn’t make sense to bring back many of the axed bus routes, but this position raises the question of induced demand. Can bus service — even those expensive to run — lead to a greater desire for transit service?

Still, investment in more transit service is a positive from the MTA. We saw them pare down service by nearly $100 million a few years ago, and they’ve slowly added it back where demand warrants it. These are moves that warrant support; it’s only too bad the investments come in such small increments. Imagine where we would be and how the transit network could serve the city and the region if money were less of an obstacle.

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Alex C May 18, 2014 - 11:21 pm

Man, just imagine if we had a state government that cared about transit and a governor who didn’t rob the MTA every year. Great to see service increases as they come, though.

Abba May 19, 2014 - 12:51 am

Ben,are the B23 and B71 gone forever?

Elvis Delgado May 19, 2014 - 8:32 am

Extending the J on weekends doesn’t seem all that valuable. The demand for one-seat access to lower Broad Street can’t be great. But how about extending the J (or Z) to Brooklyn – at least during rush hours? Not until the Montague Street tunnel re-opens of course, but am I the only Brooklynite who is inconvenienced by needing to change trains to get into lower Manhattan for work?

JMB May 19, 2014 - 7:45 pm

I feel you 100% on this. If the J were extended to South Brooklyn during peak my commute would improve 100%. Losing the Montague tunnel has been the extra kick to make commuting from Bay Ridge to City Hall a real pain.

Pat L May 19, 2014 - 10:04 pm

Living off the J myself, I imagine the appeal isn’t Broad Street so much as the possibility of transferring at Fulton to the 2/3 or A/C. Most of the area that covers is, in a pinch, walkable from Canal or Chambers, but it would make getting to the lower west side more convenient.

ajedrez May 19, 2014 - 11:33 pm

It would have to be a separate service running through the Montague Street tunnel. Extending the J or Z would interfere with skip-stop service, by having one line be significantly longer and more delay-prone than the other.

Mike May 22, 2014 - 2:31 pm

You’re not the only Brooklynite who’s been inconvenienced by the loss of Nassau St service via the Montague tunnel. I work in the courts down in Lower Manhattan and quite a few of my co-workers used to take the old rush hour M service and have much longer commutes now that it’s gone. Let me be clear that I don’t think the old Nassau St M train should be reinstated because the current 6th Ave/Queens Blvd M is well-used and more popular than the old M train was and is here to stay (as it should be). And extending all rush-hour J or Z trains to southern Brooklyn does run the risk of messing up J/Z skip-stop service. But maybe they can implement some sort of limited rush J service from southern Brooklyn to Lower Manhattan via the Montague Tunnel and Nassau St that would run from Bay Pkwy or 9th Ave and terminate at Chambers or Broadway Jct. Maybe from 7:30 to 9:00 AM and from 4:30 to 6:00 PM.

Simon May 19, 2014 - 8:35 am

How about service increases on the 2 train? It is packed at all hours on weekends, especially lately with the 3 not running.

Brooklyn Cowbell Guy May 19, 2014 - 9:43 am

Having the 5 run to Brooklyn college instead of Bowling Green would help that problem

Brooklyn Cowbell Guy May 19, 2014 - 9:42 am

Here’s what they should do

M trains should run the full line. Too much crowding & waiting in Queens for the R. Running the M for 10 stops is so stupid. Waiting for a train on 6th Ave on a weekend makes me wanna touch the 3rd rail.

5 trains should be extended to Brooklyn college on weekends. It’s already going to Bowling Green. Have it go further so people along Nostrand Ave don’t have to wait so long & they don’t need to increase 2 service

B trains should run from 145 to Brighton Beach. Would alleviate crowding & wait times along CPW, 6th Ave & E16th St. It would also provide quicker service to those going to Coney Island.

Tower18 May 19, 2014 - 2:26 pm

Not familiar with the weekend situation in Queens, but you could solve the 6th Av problem by running the F every 8 minutes instead of every 10. The F is packed in Brooklyn on the weekends as well, and going to 7-8tph instead of 6tph would cure it. It should also increase reliability too, because the F is frequently delayed on the weekends due to crowding.

Philip Marshall May 19, 2014 - 9:54 am

The LIRR “West Hampton Branch”? I’m pretty sure he means the West Hempstead Branch.

D in Bushwick May 19, 2014 - 12:12 pm

Why don’t the MTA union employees ever wash the grime covered walls at my train station? Once in a blue moon I witness an employee dawdle through picking up some platform litter and empty the garbage cans and that’s it.
Why isn’t regularly cleaning station walls/ceiling/etc. part of routine MTA maintenance? Compare most any other subway station around the world and NYC is just pathetic.

Tower18 May 19, 2014 - 2:27 pm

The general culture of New York is responsible for this. In no other first world city is littering or total disregard for public space so pervasive as in New York.

BruceNY May 19, 2014 - 2:43 pm

It’s not just the littering/spitting/urinating passengers that are the problem. D in Bushwick is right in that the stations are not washed. The platforms may get hosed down from time to time, but the walls are filthy. I just rode up the escalator at 3rd Ave & 53rd St., and the tiles are coated with soot, grime, and stains from leaking God knows what. When Fasttrack first started, I had seen some improvements in washing down stations, but not so much lately.

Tower18 May 19, 2014 - 3:35 pm

To finish my thought, it’s all related, because people come to expect things to be disgusting, so nobody bothers cleaning. If I was a station cleaner, it’d be hard not to feel the same way: I try to take some pride in washing the walls of my station, and the next day, someone wiped shit, sprayed graffiti, stuck gum, vomited, etc. all over everything. EVERY. DAY.

Other cultures would still clean this up “because it’s my job” but it seems New York tolerates general lack of cleanliness more than anywhere else in the developed world.

Phantom May 19, 2014 - 10:47 pm


I hate the soot on light fixtures on platforms and stairways – very common on all lines – rarely cleaned- its not as though this would be hard to do either.

BruceNY May 19, 2014 - 11:56 pm

That is the same excuse that permitted all of the trains to be covered in graffiti 30-40 years ago. As soon as a train was repainted or washed, the vandals would return overnight to strike again. “We can’t keep up”.
But once the TA made a concerted effort to eliminate the problem, and dilligently followed through on their strategy, the problem went away! The only reason the stations are allowed to become as filthy as they are is because the current MTA bureaucracy simply does not make fixing the problem a priority, and does not train and manage cleaning crews to perform to a higher standard. Why are PATH stations so immaculate by comparison?

Lady Feliz May 21, 2014 - 12:26 am

Totally. You’d think PATH trains were running in an alternate version of Manhattan, one where walls are cleaned and riders don’t piss on platforms.

tacony May 19, 2014 - 3:56 pm

One would hope that this vague idea of “working to improve cleanliness” involves actually cleaning the stations thoroughly. It’s pretty easy to improve things when the current baseline seems to be pressure washing the floors once a season (at best?) and an employee half-heartedly sweeping up some litter with a dustpan once a day. The walls and ceilings appear to never be cleaned in any way.

Phantom May 20, 2014 - 3:36 pm

If there was a methodical station by station roll out of an anti littering campaign – including well publicized tickets for all transgressors – it would do a world of good.

The acceptable level of litter, like the acceptable level of crime, is zero.

And I’d target the ” free newspaper ” distributors who are a big source of incoming littering. At many stations, or the stairs leading down to them, they leave piles of their junk newspapers to be blown around by the wind.

Freedom of the press does not give any freedom to litter.

Chris C May 19, 2014 - 4:07 pm

Instead of complaining on a blog why not complain direct to the MTA?

If you are not happy with their response then complain to your State Assembly Representative, State Senator and the Governor as these are the people who ultimatly control the purse strings.

Tell them if they won’t do anything to improve things then you’ll vote for candidates who will.

D in Bushwick May 19, 2014 - 7:41 pm

If Mayor de Blasio made it a priority to convince the MTA to rediscover the recipe for soap and water, he would find an incredible amount of public support. Shame them in their decades long indifference and dirty habits.
Otherwise, there are no potential state assembly lapdogs who would dare tamper with such a dollar-killing topic meaning voters won’t get that chance.
We also need to ban plastic bags and disposable plastic packaging if the oceans matter.

Phantom May 20, 2014 - 3:38 pm

Chris C

I’d bet you five bucks that the MTA brass reads this blog.

Benjamin Kabak May 20, 2014 - 3:39 pm

Many do. I’m not sure that extends to the comments.

Phantom May 20, 2014 - 5:13 pm

They’d be nuts not to read the comments, as well as the posts.

The quality of the conversation here is high. And some of them are probably transit geeks like us. Who knows maybe some of them are regulars here!

Andrew May 19, 2014 - 3:52 pm

It can’t be too valuable to extend the J train to Broad Street on the weekend, but how much can it cost? It’s opening one station, which would likely be staffed by one person. Fulton Street station is otherwise open, even though the J platforms aren’t. It may be the cheapest service extension possible in the system.

But if anything from the JMZ trains is going to be extended, probably extending the M to Queens Blvd on the weekends would impact the most riders.

sonicboy678 May 19, 2014 - 5:29 pm

The only reason I can see an extension of the J to Broad Street is for anyone that (hypothetically, though there may very well be a few people that do) need to transfer to Broadway-7th Avenue trains (2 and 3).

Michael May 20, 2014 - 5:54 pm

One reason to extend the J-train to Broad Street during the weekends has to do with the upcoming work on the Cranberry Tunnel used by the A and C trains.

If the Cranberry Tunnel has to be closed periods of time for renovation work due to Hurricane Sandy, the J-train between Broadway-Nassau-Fulton Streets and the Broadway-Junction station becomes important as an additional route between Manhattan and Brooklyn.

As the recent G.O. involving the A and C trains, the bus shuttle operation, having additional connections between Manhattan and Brooklyn like the J-train and the L-train become important.


ajedrez May 21, 2014 - 2:32 am

On a side note, it also helps whatever few people are traveling from Staten Island to points along the J.

Mike May 22, 2014 - 2:50 pm

That’s right. I hadn’t thought about that. If Cranberry shuts down, A and C riders only have the R to connect them to Lower Manhattan and the R doesn’t stop all that close to the Fulton St area. They really should have a second option for getting into Lower Manhattan if Cranberry is shut down. The J would be a good option in this case.


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