Home Superstorm Sandy Reconnected: Full G train service resumes today

Reconnected: Full G train service resumes today

by Benjamin Kabak

MTA crews seen here in late August worked throughout the summer to repair the G train’s Greenpoint Tubes. (Photo: Marc A. Hermann / MTA New York City Transit)

Greenpoint’s and Long Island City’s summer of their discontent came to end this morning as Transit restored G train service between Brooklyn and Queens. After shutting down the Greenpoint Tubes for Hurricane Sandy-related repairs in late July, the MTA celebrated wrapping the work on time this morning, and G trains will operate as they always do, sometimes more reliably than others, for the foreseeable future.

“Superstorm Sandy’s devastating impact on our Subway network posed a challenge never before faced by our organization,” NYC Transit President Carmen Bianco said in a statement. “However we rose to this challenge and are rebuilding our system better and stronger than before. The dedication of Transit personnel in rebuilding the Greenpoint Tubes and ensuring safe, reliable G train service for our customers is part of our continuing efforts to reinforce the system’s infrastructure and safeguard the most vulnerable areas of our subway system for decades to come.”

As the MTA has repeatedly noted, the Greenpoint Tubes suffered a considerable amount of damage during Sandy when three million gallons of salt water (and who knows what else from Newtown Creek) filled the tunnels that connect Brooklyn and Queens. Power cables corroded from the inside while rails and fasteners suffered significant damage. Ventilation, lighting and communications systems were all destroyed and still have not been fully restored. Still, service could resume today.

The shutdown, of course, was not without controversy or questionable conclusions by regular riders of the G train who bemoan service many view as unsatisfactory. In an amusing piece of person-on-the-street journalism, DNA Info reported that some G riders preferred shuttle buses to the subway. The shuttle buses, after all, ran far more frequently, albeit at significantly lower capacities, than the G train did. Business though in Northern Brooklyn and Long Island City are happy to see the subway connection restored even if the G will be undergoing a FASTRACK treatment next week.

Meanwhile, further south, the MTA is pushing to wrap up work on the Montague St. Tunnel by the end of October and will turn its attention to other East River tubes that suffered damage but will not require full shutdowns. As now, the MTA has simply said they will “will also address issues in other under river tubes to make the system more resilient.” Details should be forthcoming soon.

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Bill September 2, 2014 - 12:38 pm

I rode the newly re-opened G this morning.

One nice addition at Greenpoint Avenue is the installation of a second HEET on the northbound side at India Street. Previously there had only been one HEET and 4-5 times a year it would malfunction and there would be no way to enter the platform (except to go back above ground, walk three blocks to the Greenpoint Avenue entrance and enter there).

Greenpoint residents, usually, however, would prop open the emergency exit door so that anybody else could enter. Illegal, sure, but the locals aren’t exactly the most positive when it comes to their feelings on the MTA.

alek September 2, 2014 - 12:55 pm

It will be interesting to see how they will handle the 14th street tunnel shutdown especially it was the last tunnel to get the floodwater pumped out.

The 53rd street tunnel shutdown is not that bad because usually the E is always being rerouted via the F line many times.

John-2 September 3, 2014 - 1:56 am

Seems like the MTA will have to extend full Manhattan M service to at least weekends and put the out-of-system transfer on the G at Broadway back in when the 14th Street tube shuts down (they’ll probably have to be dragged kicking and screaming into 24/7 M service to at least 57th-6th to make up for the loss of the L, but given how heavily used the line is during off hours, having to take two or even three trains to get to the area overnight is going to have a lot of people between Bedford and Myrtle avenues complaining).

Larry Littlefield September 2, 2014 - 2:01 pm

Part of the subway network was shut down. It was very disruptive — but for only five months.

As opposed to night and weekend work at triple the cost over five years.

There is your lesson to apply to the other tunnels. They too could be shut down, with trains shifted to other lines, as long as it doesn’t go on for 20 years (like the Manhattan Bridge outage).

Seth R September 2, 2014 - 2:30 pm

I think you meant five weeks.

Larry Littlefield September 2, 2014 - 3:36 pm

Right, five weeks. But even five months is better than degraded service for five years.

Nathanael September 6, 2014 - 11:14 am

Five months — you’re thinking of the Chicago Red Line shutdown. The key there was that they were able to shift the passengers to the nearby Green Line.

Previous multi-month shutdowns without alternate routings in Chicago were BAD, and lost LOTS of ridership.

Most of the subways in Manhattan, at least, have an alternate which could be used in case of shutdown for repairs.

The Lexington Avenue Line does not. Nothing could handle the crushloads of passengers from it, and they are present right from downtown to the edge of the Bronx. This means the Second Avenue Subway, in some form, needs to be built before this sort of treatment can be applied to the 4/5/6 mainline.

EgoTripExpress September 2, 2014 - 8:10 pm

Agreed. The Manhattan Bridge rehab was so interminable that folks in the ’90s wondered if the Broadway Express was ever coming back.

This and FasTrack really argue in favor of “short-term pain, long-term gain”. That impatient NYers would favor putting up with a relatively short period of major disruption from cut-and-cover versus an interminably long period of piecemeal TBM disruption.

D in Bushwick September 2, 2014 - 11:10 pm

I don’t believe closing down the L train for 5 or more weeks is feasible. Adding ferries wouldn’t work so maybe Bedford Ave riders could backtrack to the M which would hopefully get much expanded service.
But again, the L line is too large to be closed down other than the occasional weekends.

Christopher September 3, 2014 - 9:41 am

When Chicago does their full-line overalls (which they have been doing since the 1990s), they shut down the whole line for a year. What do they get? Rapidly modernized stations, ADA accessibility, upgraded el structure, extensive track work. Also the headache of losing a train line for year, but people seem to manage. NYers could too. Even if we tend to whine more per capita. (Midwest stoicism does have it’s advantages.) Chicago isn’t doing this quite as often as before and has moved to a station by station renewal. They have something called a “Renew Crew” that blitzes a station for top to bottom renewal one at a time. This works better for those lines that don’t require work on the el support structure and track work. We need to figure out more efficient ways to renew and maintain our system. That’s going to come with some headaches, we can deal with it.

Tower18 September 3, 2014 - 12:50 pm

Well the big missing piece here is that Chicago never tried this with a line that has anywhere near the ridership of the NYC lines in question. The Green Line is a joke on the ridership scale, as is the former Douglas Blue. The South Side Red Line has decent ridership, but most people arrive at it via buses, and so weren’t inconvenienced too much by being rerouted “over the top” via the Green.

They’d never try a full, full-time shutdown of the O’Hare Blue, North Side Red, or Brown Lines.

Nathanael September 6, 2014 - 11:17 am

Actually, they tried this (closure of a line with no alternatives and decent ridership) with the Green Line shortly after it was created. The ridership on the Lake St. Line never recovered, and part of the South Side Line never got *reopened*.

You don’t shut lines which have no alternatives. Bad, bad move. Drives people to cars. Even London doesn’t do this; the outer suburban branches never get the “blockade for a week” treatment.

The Chicago Brown Line rehab, instead, closed every alternate station for repairs… when they were done, they then closed the other half.

The Red Line closure, the key really was that everyone could go a block over and catch the Green.

Tower18 September 3, 2014 - 10:28 am

The L will be interesting, only because the alternatives are very painful. Some combination of transferring to the G for either Midtown service via Queens or Downtown via Brooklyn, or backtracking to the M, or walking instead to the J…won’t absorb the L’s ridership during the week.

Bolwerk September 3, 2014 - 11:21 am

With enough frequency, it probably could. A big draw for the L seems to be the transfer at Union Square anyway, and the M can offer a similar transfer at Lafayette.

It’s just the L and J/M are mostly pretty far from each other where it could help most.

Tower18 September 3, 2014 - 7:56 pm

Even if the MTA wanted to, I’m not sure they can jack up the M frequencies enough to replace the L because of 6th Ave and Queens conflicts (how do you schedule the M with the same frequency as the E or F when it shares tracks with both?). J/Z, maybe. G, yes, but if all the G riders transfer to the E or the A/C, those are also pretty much at full capacity (E is maxed out, A/C could probably get 1-2 more trains). I suppose the 7 theoretically has some room for new passengers, but no new trains, after Court Sq.

If we assume this gets done on weekdays, it’s a lot of riders to absorb into the rest of the system.

Larry Littlefield September 4, 2014 - 11:08 am

“Walking instead to the J…won’t absorb the L’s ridership during the week.”

It will if all the trains that used to run on the L are shifted to the J.

The “L” trains from Canarsie could be re-routed to the Broadway Brooklyn line at Broadway Junction. A shuttle could run from Broadway Junction to Bedford Ave.

Nathanael September 6, 2014 - 11:21 am

You have a lot of redundancy in NYC. Diverting trips from the L tube will not be a huge problem. It would be much better if the transfers between the L and G and between the J/M and G were fixed first, though… the legacy of three competing companies is still hurting.

Bolwerk September 6, 2014 - 2:58 pm

Sort of my answer to Tower18’s comment above too: between people who can adjust what route they take and people who can adjust their schedule to travel off-peak or adjust in other ways (e.g., drive, carpool, bike, walk, bus), it probably amounts to not much more than a massive annoyance.

Jerrold September 3, 2014 - 6:07 pm

At that time, there were also some fears being expressed that the Grand St. station would wind up being shut down permanently.

Jerrold September 3, 2014 - 6:12 pm

My comment was in response to EgoTripExpress.
It wound up all the way down here.

Seth R September 2, 2014 - 2:28 pm

It’s so ironic to me that G train riders have been demanding full-length trains that will obviously less frequent, and then prefer Shuttle buses that are much shorter but run way more frequently.

Eric September 2, 2014 - 5:32 pm

It might not be the same riders.

Bolwerk September 2, 2014 - 6:24 pm

Don’t take it too seriously. Most people without train service in this city would probably be thrilled to get G Train levels of service.

Epson45 September 2, 2014 - 4:38 pm

Today’s WSJ article pointed they are not quite done with the Greenpoint tube, expect a couple weekend shut downs: http://online.wsj.com/articles.....1409621452

Nathanael September 6, 2014 - 11:23 am

Interesting article. Can anyone explain to me why the IRT tubes need so much less work than the BMT and IND tubes?

Michael September 8, 2014 - 1:10 pm

At the time of Hurricane Sandy and subway tunnel flooding – as reported in the news at that time, the MTA had only a certain number of pump trains. The MTA had to deploy those pump trains to prevent damage to the subway tunnels and trackage. Decisions had to be made relative to where those pump trains were located, where the tunnel flooding occurred, how much water was flooding various tunnels, what electric pumps were still in operation (and where) and the “vital-ness” of particular tunnels. Plus there were some in hindsight “lucky” events, such as the new South Ferry terminal taking a huge flooding that diverted large amounts of water away from the Joralemon Tunnel, but flooding both the old and the new terminals. Another in hindsight “lucky event” was the distribution of the various kinds of pumps and their power sources. In addition, the MTA took various steps to reduce that flooding and damage to trains, stations and tunnels – some of which proved to be very helpful overall. All of this was discussed for weeks in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.


Michael September 3, 2014 - 1:08 am

Just a couple of points:

1) Most folks in using transit prefer to be moving toward their destination. Thus time spent waiting for the bus or train is often seen as “unproductive” – if one has to spend 20 minutes waiting for the train, and then actual traveling-time the train or bus arrives – those 20 minutes count toward just how much it took overall to travel to the destination. Those 20 minutes are “not free or cost-less” but rather figures into a person’s calculation and opinion of the transit service.

It is not at all “strange” that plenty of transit riders would praise frequent service. While it makes economical sense to group larger numbers of riders on a transit vehicle, there is a balancing act between wait times, movement-traveling time and over-all travel time. All of this has an effect upon the political support for transit. For most folks transit is a means to an end, not the end in and of itself.

On Staten Island because it is well known that transit sucks with a long history of long wait times for buses, ferries and the SIR – there is not a lot of political support except by those who have no other means, and those who use transit for work-related trips where their car is not feasible. Getting folks out of their cars to use transit becomes an uphill battle, that public transit can not often win. The creation of the Catch-22 cycle between frequent service and ridership (more riders equal better service, but there will not be more riders until the service gets better) becomes a no-win battle.

(It is kind of like that old phrase, the “beatings will continue until morale improves”. Smile)

2) On the L-line (14th Street-Canarsie) during the installation and testing of the CBTC system, for weeks and months at a time, L-train riders suffered days, weeks, weekends and months of interrupted service. The MTA regularly published the schedules of bus substitutions, closed stations and tracks, reduced service (trains often running at 25 or 30 minutes apart during the day, at nights and on weekends), etc. The installation and testing of CBTC on the L-line took a number of years to complete.

While many folks rightly marvel at the current L-train CBTC service (rightly so), such service improvements were not “cost-free” or in any sense “easy” upon the riding public during those periods. Just how does one measure the disruptions for transit riders who had to suffer through that period?

While there is a definite benefit to the idea of closing down subway lines for periods of time for major repair work – such as the Montague Tunnel repair work, the Greenpoint repair work, and the various short-timer Fast Track operations. There is also a cost to the riding public, that usually might not be easily shown on the spreadsheets. Those kinds of costs can include any or all of the following: additional waiting time for alternative travel methods, increased travel time, trips not take due to the hassles and disruptions, etc.

The bottom line point: There is no magic bullet – what worked well in one situation or circumstance might not be appropriate for another situation. There are several things to consider – sometimes weekend re-routes/bus substitution might be appropriate for one situation, while closing a major portion of subway line down with bus substitutions/train reroutes might be better in another situation. There is no magic bullet – no one solution that fits all situations.


Bolwerk September 3, 2014 - 9:53 am

#1 is quite irrational in this case. G Trains come every 6-8 or 8-10 minutes at peak and daytime off-peak, and most people won’t wait that long. Bustitution probably means spending more time at stop lights not moving in the direction of your destination than the maximum possible wait time for a daytime G train.

Michael September 3, 2014 - 10:54 am

I will use the following quotes from the cited article:

“The shuttles, which each fit about 50 people, are scheduled to run every two to three minutes on the McGuinness Boulevard route and every four minutes on the Manhattan Avenue route until 8 p.m., according to a spokesman.”

“At night, the buses run about every five minutes, the spokesman said.”

“Meanwhile, the G train is scheduled to run every 8 to 20 minutes, depending on the time of day, with each four-car train fitting about 580 people.”

“Taveras once waited 20 minutes for the train to leave the Court Square station, making her total commute about 30 minutes, she said. But with the shuttle, she said she zips to work in just 10 to 15 minutes.”

The bottom line is simple – there is NOTHING IRRATIONAL about wanting less waiting time, and having movement toward one’s destination.

You’re citing a 6-8 minute wait for a train as somehow “better” than a 2-3 minute or 4-minute wait for a shuttle bus. Now there may be other issues such as traffic on those streets, but those riders did not cite that as an issue. Just what does a rider “get” for spending the extra time waiting for the train?

Of course for the MTA the provision of those shuttle buses is expensive and not sustainable as a regular transit service. As I said that there is a balancing act between the goals.

However (in my mind at least) there is no way to say that a 4-minute wait for a shuttle bus is so very much worse than a 20-minute wait for a subway train, especially during the late nights or midnight hours!

Just how does one quantify the hassle of waiting 20 minutes for a train, and getting to work late? As compared to a trip that the rider appreciates as “zipping along” to work? Or even to suggest that the rider is being “irrational” for not wanting to get to work late?

People in general remember when transit screws up, the buses and trains are late, the convoluted trips to destinations, service disruptions, etc. All of that ties into the political support for transit.

My last quote from the same article:

“Though riders said they love the free buses, many people held out hope that repairs would bring a brand-new, better G that’s just as consistent as the shuttles.”

In this case, “consistent” means reliable service as a goal. For most folks – transit is a means to an end, not the end in and of itself.

Bolwerk September 3, 2014 - 11:43 am

Eh, those are anecdotes or at best ad hoc. Even if service is better at night for some people, it’s only for people who live near the shuttle and don’t connect back to the G for any reason. Everyone else (most people) is still worse off, and a bustitution of the entire G Train even at night is probably impractical.

Okay, Taveras “once” waited 20m at Court Square. Supposedly. Taveras never experienced a traffic jam? A bus breakdown? This is almost an Entertainment Tonight level of irrelevant. It doesn’t say what her work schedule is, but if it’s daytime presumably her average wait for the G is somewhere around half the interval between trains. That comes to 3-5 minutes.

there is NOTHING IRRATIONAL about wanting less waiting time, and having movement toward one’s destination.

All things being equal, less waiting time is not irrational. But being unable to distinguish between time spent waiting for a train and extra time spent in traffic is irrational. It’s probably very normal and human, but still irrational. You’re better off waiting 10 minutes for a 5 minute train ride than 1 minute for a 15 minute bus ride.

Just what does a rider “get” for spending the extra time waiting for the train?

In this case? Less time waiting at stop lights between between Court Square and Brooklyn, let alone presumably variant traffic considerations.

However (in my mind at least) there is no way to say that a 4-minute wait for a shuttle bus is so very much worse than a 20-minute wait for a subway train, especially during the late nights or midnight hours!

But 20m waits only happen late nights. They aren’t normal service.

Michael September 4, 2014 - 1:13 pm

“But 20m waits only happen late nights. They aren’t normal service.”

Very sadly, but very much so not true!

Every person who has any experience with mass transit in this region KNOWS just how NOT TRUE the above cited statement is – examples abound from the MTA buses, the subways, Metro-North, LIRR, PATH, NJ Transit, etc.

As a person who lives on Staten Island, and uses the buses, SIR and ferries to get around – a twenty minute time is not “un-normal” but rather normal! In fact several of the buses, SIR trains and ferries run 30 minutes apart as part of their NORMAL daily schedule!

Plenty of persons that live on either branch of the Rockaways subways lines can easily report without any effort that 20-minute waits between the scheduled trains is the NORMAL.

Needless to say, but lots of riders over the years have complained about long wait times between buses, bus bunching, long wait times for trains, etc. Needless to say, there have been countless G.O.’s where the MTA has said that the trains will be running 20-minutes and more apart.

Long wait times (up to 20 minutes and beyond) are not some “highly unusual” or “rarely if ever seen”, “once in a purple moon” scenarios, but rather a common feature of transit in NYC.

Even if you want to keep the topic purely on the G-train, to say that 20-minute wait times are not “normal”, but rare instances except for the midnight hours – then you would have to discount the very many complaints about G-train service over the years! Plenty of riders for long periods of time have complained about how “slow” the G-train is.

If you want to say that transit should be “better” because it does not have to compete with regular street traffic as a street bus has to – that might be a fair statement. On the streets where those particular shuttle buses were running, I truly doubt that there where extensive traffic delays or congestion – that affected many of the shuttle bus trips regularly. When a rider describes her trip as “zipping along” – it is implied that street traffic was not a problem along that route for her.

I generally agree with the statement that transit should be better, and I truly do wish transit were better.

If you want to say that some of those shuttle bus riders then had to switch to the remaining service on the G-train to continue their journey – fair enough. They probably found the shuttle buses waiting at the station and were soon on their journey. As stated the shuttle buses were scheduled to be frequent.

Often you have made the statement that wait times have to looked at the “mid-point” – that is even if there is 10-minute wait for service, most folks will only be waiting 5 minutes. You’ve used a variation of this argument several times. As plenty of transit riders have experienced (through daily observation) the bus or train pulling out of the station or bus stop, just as they have arrived – and they have to wait for the next bus or train, how ever long that takes. (Myself and plenty of other folk have had to wait an hour for the ferry, given the buses & subways.)

On the G-train in particular one of the long standing complaints – arrival at a time where one has run for the train (due to the short trains on normal-sized platforms) or miss the train to wait a long time for the next train.

Just some points.

Bolwerk September 4, 2014 - 2:14 pm

Um, focus plz? We aren’t talking about “the MTA buses, the subways, Metro-North, LIRR, PATH, NJ Transit, etc..” We are talking about the G Train. Daytime service maxes out about 10TPH, or a train every 6 minutes. Minimal daytime G service looks like it’s around minimum 6 TPH (a train on average every 10 minutes). Without a problem somewhere, nobody is waiting 20m for a G Train during normal weekday operating hours. It doesn’t happen until after Midnight or before around 5am. This can be verified on the schedule.

Sometimes hourly service is perfectly reasonable for transit, if that is what the demand is. It needs to be admitted that such service has narrower use than, say, the NYC Subway, but it exists for good reason.

BruceNY September 3, 2014 - 6:34 am

This would appear to be another case of Transit working hard to get get a major repair job done on time–in contast to capital construction projects.


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