Home View from Underground Subway ridership records underscore need for capital investments

Subway ridership records underscore need for capital investments

by Benjamin Kabak

I’ve used this line before, but here we go: If the subways seem more crowded than ever, that’s because they are. Transit released its final 2014 ridership figures on Monday, and the increase in ridership hasn’t slowed. Overall, ridership jumped by 2.6 percent over 2013, and 1.751 billion people rode the subways, a level not seen in 65 years. It’s amazing then that politicians like to act as though the subways don’t exist — or should be used only as a prop — when they power New York City.

On a daily basis, the crush is obvious. The subways average 5.6 million riders per weekday and around 6 million on Saturday and Sunday combined. Ridership is up by nearly 500,000 people per day since the depths of the recession in 2009 and by over 2 million riders per day over the past 30 years. That’s insane growth considering the system hasn’t added any significant new service since then.

“The renaissance of the New York City subway is a miracle for those who remember the decrepit system of the 1970s and the 1980s, but moving more than 6 million customers a day means even minor disruptions now can create major delays,” MTA Chairman and CEO Thomas F. Prendergast said in a statement accompanying the ridership figures. “We are aggressively working to combat delays and improve maintenance, but the ultimate solution requires investing in infrastructure upgrades such as Communications-Based Train Control (CBTC) signaling systems to accommodate every one of our growing number of customers.”

On a granular level, the change in ridership mirrors long-standing patterns. Areas with massive population growth and development — Long Island City, Williamsburg, Bushwick — have driven ridership gains on nearby subway lines. Overall, Brooklyn led the charge with an increase of 31,000 riders per day while Manhattan entrances jumped by 2.5%, Bronx by 2.1% and Queens by 1.9%. Every single L train station saw ridership gains with Bushwick stations seeing double-digit percentage growth. The MTA attributed the jump, in part, to the CBTC installation which has allowed for more frequent service.

Meanwhile, the M line — rerouted in 2010 to cover for the dearly departed V train — saw ridership jump by around six percent at stations between Marcy and Metropolitan Avenues. The M in fact has led to a growth in ridership by nearly 25 percent throughout its corridor though it’s tough to separate that jump from the overall ridership increase brought on by an improving economy. Meanwhile, ridership in Long Island City grew by 12 percent as well, and the 7 line will see more new riders when the extension to Hudson Yards finally opens sometime ever. In the Bronx, the 2 and 5 led the way with 3.7 percent growth, and in Manhattan, the 2 and 3 set the pace with similar numbers.

Meanwhile, indirectly through Prendergast’s statement and directly from the mouth’s of the city’s transit advocates, the ridership numbers gave those fighting for dollars another platform to call for funding. The Tri-State Transportation Campaign:

The New York City subway system is one of the region’s most valuable assets, but with the delays and crowds that characterize the commutes of millions of daily riders, it is easy to underappreciate. Today’s news that subway ridership increased by 2.6 percent in 2014 is both a significant milestone celebrating the progress and popularity of the system over the decades, but potentially a harbinger of bad news if more investment is not made in the system.

The plan that outlines such investments, the 2015-2019 MTA capital program, has a $14 billion gap. The improvements that reduce delays and crowds are on the chopping block as a result.

As legislators return to session in Albany this week, addressing this gap must be one of their top priorities. This plan outlines the train, track, signal, technology, bus, and station projects that will mitigate delays, crowds and deteriorating service across the entire MTA system.

The Straphangers:

The New York Ci†y’s subways are giving us a degree of mobility unparalleled in America, with access to jobs, family and what makes New York City so appealing. So whether it’s a hipster going clubbing along the L line or tourists from Texas trying a new budget hotel in Queens, we welcome you – and demand that transit officials take action to make our commuting lives bearable.

The Riders Alliance:

People are taking the subway at levels we haven’t seen for generations. Our elected officials should be falling over each other to invest in better subway and bus service, to serve the eight million people who take the subway and bus every day. Instead, there’s a debate about whether to invest even the basic funds required to prevent the subways from deteriorating further. New Yorkers are voting with their Metrocards and relying on public transit more each year. It’s time for Governor Cuomo and state lawmakers to listen to the crowd and increase transit funding to match riders’ needs. If they don’t, riders are in for a future of more delays, dangerous crowding and higher fares. With more people than ever relying on public transit, that shouldn’t be Governor Cuomo’s vision for public transit in New York.

As voters do indeed vote with their Metrocards, is anyone listening? Even as alternatives bloom — CitiBike, Uber, Lyft — six million people per day can’t really be wrong.

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Larry Greenfield April 21, 2015 - 7:11 am

There is no doubt that the MTA needs funding to upgrade the subway system but it’s important to distinguish between ridership and riders. They are not the same. Ridership is a measure of rides, trips or fares paid. Riders, on the other hand, are unique individuals or, in other words, people.

One reason it’s important to draw the distinction is that people are potential voters and their political potential has to be properly measured.

AG April 21, 2015 - 8:43 am

What you say is true – but the demographics of the city are changing. It’s the young and upwardly mobile who are piling in to the system. In the city itself – people of all income levels use it.

In the suburbs – the highest earners are riders of commuter rail who go to their top salary jobs in the city. That’s another reason why Chris Christie’s ideas don’t make sense.

SEAN April 21, 2015 - 7:49 am

One issue I see is that transit riders aren’t part of “the real America” as some polls call it. So convincing them for transit investment maybe a tall order.

Jeff April 21, 2015 - 8:41 am

Doesn’t matter who “real America” is in this case though. We’re talking about New York State and City politicians that the “transit riders” elect.

Quite frankly, transit riders just accept a bad subway system as a fact of life, and unfortunately not enough people care enough to make it a make or break issue for them during elections. That’s the real problem.

LLQBTT April 21, 2015 - 9:17 am

And that’s it. Gov.Cuomo will get the votes anyway as long as he just keeps things in a steady state. So where is his incentive to do anything?

AG April 21, 2015 - 9:28 am

You are correct – but keeping it “steady” means relying more and more on NYC’s economy to float the rest of the state. Look at all the economic initiatives… Billions of dollars being spent to “jumpstart upstate”. While noble – the question is – do you not spend more where economic activity is already being produced… Or do you you gamble? Casinos? That won’t help the economy. Investment by the state has worked in nanotechnology in the Albany area. Agriculture is growing… Other than that – the state economy putters.

The reps from downstate need to make that plain in the Assembly and Senate in Albany. I don’t know if they are afraid of something or not.

Ed April 21, 2015 - 9:01 pm

Spending money upstate may serve to stem the tide of job seekers to NYC. This may actually reduce the crowding of the subway long term. If you abandon upstate be prepared to invest heavily in housing, transport, and social support. I doubt if the city could handle this population influx.

AG April 21, 2015 - 10:24 pm

People from upstate aren’t moving to NYC… They are moving to the south more than anywhere else. To the point of not sure if the city can handle the influx.. HUH? The population has grown by 1.2 million people since 1990… That is the reason the subway is packed now. I’m not understanding what you are saying.

Rob April 22, 2015 - 9:44 am

Few NYC residents are relocating to upstate, unless “upstate” is the northern suburbs of NYC. But you raise a good point about linking downstate and upstate transit investments.

Upstate is failing in part because young people don’t want to live exurban-like settings. A linked agenda — subways & buses for NYC, and better buses (and trams in Buffalo) for upstate — could help reinvigorate those upstate cities, and make them more attractive. Instead, Cuomo is just doubling-down on the suburban experiment.

eo April 21, 2015 - 8:47 am

Has anyone ever looked at the number of people in Albany who have regularly commuted by subway or any means other than car? I am ready to bet you it is less than 20%.

They do not take the subway. For them the subway is the transportation for the masses. They drive everywhere including Manhattan. For them the definition of a successful family/middle-class is one with a large house on a green cul-de-sac with 2-3 cars parked in the driveway because that is what they have achieved and that is what they assume everyone should strive for. Therefore they perceive the subway as service temporary used by people until they “make it” in life and can afford the car-dependent life. With such a view point it makes no sense to invest in the subways — if the goal is for everyone to have a car and be dependent on it, the way to do it would be to under-invest in public transportation. By the way, I am not saying that these politicians in Albany are bad people, they are not (well, maybe some are, who knows, but that is not the point), they just do not understand what is going on with the MTA and the subways and major (but not only) reason is that they almost never use the MTA services. Think about it — the average politician is a lawyer of some sort who has been at least somewhat successful meaning that he/she has made it to the suburbs or some other street with single family homes, better school district and a few cars in the driveway. It is not surprising that that same lawyer does not have first hand experience with the MTA. On top of that add the fact that transportation does not come cheap — most Rapid Bus Transit comes in the hundreds of millions if dedicated lanes are to be provided and the heavy and light rail tend to clock in the billions and come with the NIMBYs, so why should our politician even touch this issue with a ten feet pole?

Unfortunately politics and public transportation do not mesh well. At least not here, not in New York, not in America. To be fair, I do not understand why it is different in Europe. Do their politicians actually take the subway to work?

adirondacker12800 April 21, 2015 - 10:10 am

the average politician is a lawyer of some sort who has been at least somewhat successful meaning that he/she has made it to the suburbs

Legislators have to live in the district they represent.

Larry Greenfield April 21, 2015 - 10:46 am

You could probably say the same thing about the MTA Board members.

anon_coward April 21, 2015 - 11:27 am

except for manhattan, most parts of NYC have a lot of single family homes and a car parked out front or the driveway

Guest April 21, 2015 - 11:46 am

The vast majority of households in NYC are in multi unit buildings. I get what you mean though, outside the five boroughs is mostly auto centric.

tacony April 21, 2015 - 11:51 am

How many “Bronx” state legislators have been exposed for blatantly spending all their time at their other home in Westchester while they maintain an address in their district on paper only? They only get caught when they make it too obvious. I bet half of the state legislators who represent Outer Borough districts haven’t regularly slept there in many years.

But I think it’s more to the point that the subway doesn’t plays a critical role in the life of someone who works in politics in New York. It plays more heavily in say, the finance industry, where employment is heavily concentrated in Manhattan. The guys who run the big investment banks probably see the value of the transit system more than the politicos in Albany, because their workforce relies on it while the state’s political world does not.

You know what transportation infrastructure state politicians use a lot to travel back and forth between Albany and the Downstate region? The Tappan Zee Bridge! That’s why we’re getting a new one. It’s not a coincidence.

Forget the crowded 4/5/6, the lil old G train has almost as many riders per weekday as the number of cars that cross the Tappan Zee. But they’re not the important people.

Thomas Graves April 21, 2015 - 12:59 pm

I think you are exactly right. While some state legislators from Manhattan may ride the subway once in a while, the bulk of them (including outer borough pols)aspire to that car-based suburban life-style you mention. That’s what makes them American. NOT having to use the subway (or other public transportation) is part of the definition of ‘making it’. So why invest in something the least influential people make the most use of? In Europe, or in Japan, where I live, everyone rides the subways and trains; a car-based culture was never the focus of government policy and never took hold to the extent it did in the US. A car is a luxury; most middle and even upper-class people rely on rail/bus for their daily transportation needs. Like a functioning water or sewer system, it’s viewed as an essential part of urban infrastructure. No debate needed.

BruceNY April 21, 2015 - 1:29 pm

This inherent bias against public transportation goes back generations. Robert Moses was an enemy of it, and did whatever he could to shift funding away from it to pay for his parkways and monumental bridges. When the Van Wyck Expy. to the new N.Y. Int’l Airport (now JFK) was being planned, there were efforts to include extending the IND subway down the middle of it, but he put the kibosh on that idea. He specifically had all those pretty stone arch underpasses on his L.I. parkways designed too low to permit buses from using them to prevent the unwashed masses from reaching his parks and beaches.

As for Europe (and Japan), the higher cost of gasoline (relative to the US), and more crowded geography have always made public transportation more highly viewed as an essential service for all, not something that only successful people strive to escape from. It probably doesn’t help that the cost to build one mile of subway in New York is at least double what it costs in other first world countries.

Bolwerk April 22, 2015 - 3:07 pm

Most BRT that makes sense – the sort where existing lanes are taken and given to buses – costs in the low seven figures per mile to implement. Light rail maybe costs in the mid eight figures, and might even be capable of alleviating subway lines under some circumstances.

AG April 21, 2015 - 8:40 am

Both the mayor/city council and the governor/state senate need to wake up. The subway system is the lifeline of NYC. NYC increasingly is the economic engine of the state. This shouldn’t even be a debate that both need to provide more funding for capital projects. A more aggressive roll out of CBTC needs to be in the cards.

Herb Lehman April 21, 2015 - 9:44 am

“We are aggressively working to combat delays.”

Does that mean the MTA is finally going to get serious about door holders? That’s the biggest source of delays. Their much-ballyhooed courtesy campaign addressed everything except holding train doors. Issue heavy fines, have platform conductors at busy stations do more beside just waving flashlights, electrify the doors… do *something*.

sonicboy678 April 21, 2015 - 8:22 pm

That’s one of the sources, sure; however, there are even bigger fish to fry. If anything, door holders shouldn’t be the primary focus. I understand that they are noisome (especially for IRT routes), but they’re less controllable than things like switches and signals.

Brooklynite April 21, 2015 - 10:50 am

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again. With MTA’s inability to control costs and deadlines on its capital projects, other alternatives must be explored. There are numerous efficiency improvements that can be made at little cost. Note: CBTC isn’t as crucial as it’s made to seem
People run 40tph with block signals.

capt subway April 21, 2015 - 12:25 pm

The best they ever did with the existing wayside block signals was about 33-34 TPH – and that was in the old days (pre 1970) when “key-by”, i.e. passing a red automatic signal at 5mph or less, was still permitted. The best they can get at present is 30 TPH, and that is scheduled only on the Queens Blvd express tracks. In addition TPH is even more severely constrained by terminal capacity – how many trains can a terminal really process per hour. Most 2 track terminals ending in a bumping block, such as TSQ on the #7 or Flat on the #2 & #5 can at best handle 27-28 TPH – and that’s under optimal operating conditions. The slightest glitch and the whole show quickly goes down the drain.

A great efficiency improvement that the MTA could implement right now? Roll back the idiotic “new” flagging rules (i.e. the procedures involving temporary lamps or flags, flagmen, portable trips, speed restrictions and such which are put into effect when ever work is being done on or near the tracks) to where they were before 2008 and that idiot Harold Roberts, the TA Pres at the time, in a sop to the TWU track workers, had the rules rewritten is such as a way as to seriously screw up service delivery. These new flagging procedures have made a total balls of service ever since and been the cause of constant major delays (except during the peak periods, when flagging is not permitted), the overall slowing down of service due to much added running time and the “thinning” out of service (i.e. eliminating scheduled trains).

So, bottom line, as ridership continues to grow TA management continues to come up with new ways to slow the trains down and run fewer of them. They’re philosophy is “slower is faster, less is more!”.

And you’re dead right about CBTC. They keep selling it as the panacea for all the subways problems. Total BS. CBTC will result in no dramatic improvement in service. At best you may be able to squeeze an extra train or two through with CBTC up & running.

Brooklynite April 21, 2015 - 3:36 pm

I know that Moscow, for instance, has been running 40tph with block signalling for many years. It’s not the signalling that’s the problem. You’re absolutely right about terminal capacity – there are some terminals that have absolutely abysmal capacity (Flatbush for instance). Times Square on the other hand has always had a few cars’ worth of overrun track, so that trains could enter at speed. That allows TSQ to turn as many trains as it does. The problem with expanding terminals, however, is how much that costs.

Yes, flagging is hilariously inefficient. What I have never understood is why they don’t just install a temporary barrier (even something as simple as those rolled-up orange plastic “fences”) between active and closed tracks. If there’s no risk of a worker going on to an active track, there’s no reason for flagging. But, as you said, there is no flagging during the peak, so that’s not going to help expand rush hour capacity.

There are many improvements like interlining that I have elaborated on previously, but one of the simplest things they could do is be competent. There are many things that could be solved if there was somebody was in charge of actually making sure it works. Why does the R have 20+ minute gaps almost every weekend? Just last night I waited 20 minutes for an F at 8:00pm (although the website proclaimed a good service), and the train then proceeded to be “held momentarily by the dispatcher” on several occasions. Why are there timers springing up in the most unnecessary places? Why is MTA’s signalling so incompetently designed that it is necessary to lower acceleration rates on trains (aka disable field shunting)? Granted, the signalling issue would take some money to fix, but there are numerous other things that would be so cheap to improve.

And of course, CBTC isn’t going to do much of anything. I question whether or not it’s actually needed at all. On the L it has barely increased capacity despite years of shutdowns. We don’t know what will happen with the 7, but there’s not much reason to hope for much better. The issue with the L could be resolved by adding two switches! Wow, how simple. (That would let westbound trains reverse at 6 Av and avoid burdening the terminal.)

capt subway April 21, 2015 - 4:26 pm

The crappy service on weekends is almost entirely due to weekend GOs and all the related super restrictive flagging. In order to accommodate the new flagging procedures service is regularly “flexed” or “stretched” out and running time is added. Almost all the lines that are scheduled on an 8 minute headway are flexed out to 12 minutes. Do the math on that. And, of course, a 12, with one train maybe running a little ahead and the following train running a minute or two behind can quickly stretch out to a 16, 17, 18, 20 minute headway. In fact, except for the heavy shopping weekends before Xmas, rarely is the regular timetable, with the full complement of scheduled trains, ever actually run.

As the senior manager of the IRT Schedule section I regularly supervised this kind of trashing of weekend service up, until 2009, when things got just too outrageous. I had my time so I retired.

Most people simply do not realize the degree to which crappy service is all part of a carefully thought out master plan – and not just an accident of bad stuff happening out on the road.

Brooklynite April 22, 2015 - 12:30 am

Yes, I’ve heard that they run supplement schedules because they clearly cannot handle 18tph on a track when the adjacent track has work being done. It’s pretty pathetic actually. What can be done to fix the situation? And what is this ultimate master plan? It doesn’t sound like lower ridership would be beneficial to anyone.

The thing is though, that the current capacity crunch is during the peak. (If we had actual capacity issues on weekends that would be a whole other problem!) You’ve worked in Scheduling, surely you know of cheap improvements that could be done to improve peak-hour throughput. I’ve been wondering – just how bad of an effect on service does the constant merging and diverging (Rogers Jct in particular) have?

Stephen Bauman April 22, 2015 - 10:26 am

Here’s a link to peak am rush hour service in the mid 1950’s. You will note that the Flushing Line operated 36 tph peak. The tracks at its Times Square terminal, then as now, extended beyond the end of the station. These over-run tracks permitted trains to enter the station at higher speed, thereby increasing its throughput. OTOH, its Main St terminal lacks over-run tracks. Even though this terminal has 3 tracks, its capacity is significantly lower than Times Square.

The switch tracks at Times Square are close to the station’s entrance. This design permits departing trains to clear the interlocking in less time and thus increase the terminal’s throughput. The switch has been moved 250-300 feet away from the station entrance at newer terminals. This has drastically reduced their capacity.

Terminals generally are not the limiting factor of a line’s capacity. The solution is to have multiple terminals at each end. This matches the lower terminal throughput the higher capacity of intermediate stations. It’s why some Flushing Line trains operate short runs, terminating at Willets Point or 111th St. Similarly, the E and F trains ran on different “branches” between Forest Hills and the 179th Street terminal. These “branches” were on adjacent tracks but solved the lower terminal capacity problem.

Another excuse why our grandfathers enjoyed higher rush hour service levels is the “key-by” myth. It simply did not happen to any great degree. Moreover, the key-by procedure reduces capacity. Capacity is governed in part by how quickly a train can stop on entering a station. That’s achieved by a train entering a station at speed and applying its brakes. A train creeping into a station at 5 mph for the station’s entire 500-600 foot length takes considerably longer.

Studies show that a properly designed signal system’s contribution to capacity is marginal at best. CBTC is no magic bullet. To confirm this, one need only notice that the 14th Street Line operated 24 tph in 1954 and today operates only 20 tph.

Rush hour ridership is significantly below the figures from 65 years ago, despite the increase in daily ridership. The extra ridership during off-peak hours more than compensates for the lower rush hour ridership. This makes the capacity and CBTC issues an even greater red herring. The capacity exists to increase off-peak service levels. The fact that off-peak service exhibits near crush load conditions points to unresponsive management.

Brooklynite April 22, 2015 - 1:37 pm

Yes! Everything you just said is correct. Here’s the million-dollar question though: what has changed from 1950 to today, and what can we do to return to that state?

Stephen Bauman April 22, 2015 - 6:10 pm

The first question to be asked is when is it necessary to reduce over-crowding. It’s no longer the traditional rush hour. Simply operating the 1954 schedules isn’t going to solve today’s over-crowding. It’s management’s function to analyze demand and loading and adjust schedules to meet the former and thereby reduce the latter. The good news is that crowding takes place, when/where additional capacity exists. It’s purely management inertia.

The 1954 signal system is largely intact. If there were sufficient equipment and personnel, the 1954 peak service levels could be operated today. The 14th Street Line is a notable exception. CBTC requires that all trains be equipped with special equipment. Certain critical equipment that was specified by the MTA is no longer manufactured and the MTA did not equip enough trainsets to meet the 1954 service levels. The same scenario is being played out on the Flushing Line’s CBTC conversion. They are equipping 46 trainsets for CBTC operation. That comes to 40 operating trainsets with 20% spares for maintenance. That’s enough operating equipment for only 30 tph operation. Operating at 36 tph as during the 1950’s will no longer be possible.

capt subway April 22, 2015 - 10:34 pm

What you say is quite true. And it is true that the #7 has multiple terminals – but only at the north end, MS, 111, WP. At the south end everything is in / out of T Sq. And that is the limiting factor.

Another factor is indeed key-by. Trains used to close in on each other, within a car length. It was not an option. In the old days you were expected to key-by and close in. This was part of the job description. TPH of roughly 2 trains was probably lost by disallowing key-by.

To all this you can add just lousy train operation. (BTW I was a motorman for almost 10 years, at one time or another on all three divisions, so I’ve got a pretty good idea of how things work.) Today guys just don’t close in on their leaders, even with signals allowing. If your leader is already pulling out of the station and you lay way back and wait for everything to turn green before you start moving in – well, you’ve just blown half a minimum headway, at least. I see it all the time here on Queens Blvd. The leader is pulling out of Roosevelt and his follower is laying back somewhere around 65 St – total BS – and totally inexcusable.

Maximum TPH is not achieved by running at full speed into the station. In order to do that there can’t really be anyone in front of you, a condition that generally only exists off-peak, at nights, on weekends. In the peak it is achieved by staying right up on the tail or your leader. As an old timer motorman who broke me in on the #6 once told me: never let more than one yellow signal get between you and your leader. Amen to that.

Stephen Bauman April 23, 2015 - 12:24 am

A stub terminal’s capacity is determined by the amount of time it takes trains to pass over the switches. This includes the train transit time and the time to move the switches. If you stood with a stop watch and timed the movements in and out of Times Square, you would discover each train movement takes about 40 seconds. At t=0 trains enter and leave simultaneously straight in/out. The switch is clear at t = 40 seconds. At t=90 seconds the follower crosses over to the empty track. The switch is clear for another movement at t=130 seconds. The train that came straight in at t=0 now crosses over at t=135. The switch is clear at t=175. At t=180 a second follower enters and the first follower leave simultaneously straight on to repeat the cycle. That’s 40 tph throughput which in the nominal capacity for intermediate stations. The over-run tracks permit trains to enter at 15 mph rather than 10 mph.

The line ahead does not have to be void of trains for one to enter a station at full speed. All that’s required is there be a green aspect at the signal protecting the station’s entrance. That train will encounter a signal with a yellow aspect in the middle of the station and a red signal with tripper up protecting the station’s exit. A train entering @ 30 mph with a service braking rate of 2.5 mph/sec and a length of 600 feet will require 20 seconds to come to a complete stop. This includes 12 seconds of braking and 8 seconds of traveling at 30 mph before applying the brakes. After 30 seconds of dwell time the train leaves the station. The train will travel 1500 feet, assuming an acceleration of 2.5 mph/sec for 12 seconds to 30 mph and 28 seconds traveling at 30 mph. The train’s rear will be 900 feet beyond the station exit. It will be one block length beyond the station. This means the follower will encounter a green aspect at the station’s entrance only 90 seconds after its leader encountered it. That’s 40 tph operation with trains operating at full speed and never encountering a red signal to key-by.

capt subway April 22, 2015 - 10:56 pm

BTW I’ve seen that level of service map. The track capacities shown are for theoretical design capacities, which have never been realized in the field. EG: as regards the #7 Flushing Line: as far back as the mid 1950s the line required 36 trains for peak service. This does not mean 36 TPH, this means at the very best 34 TPH, actually more like 32 or 33 TPH since, of those 36 trains, at least 2 or more are sitting motionless at the north or south terminals.

Rest assured, I know this for a fact since, in the years I worked in the TA Schedule Dept, for a number of years as the senior manager of the IRT schedule section, I had these actual paper timetables from the 1950s in my files.

Stephen Bauman April 22, 2015 - 11:20 pm

The linked map was part of the Transit Authority’s first annual report. It shows both actual service levels and capacity. It shows the Flushing Line was actually operating 36 tph and that this was the line’s capacity going through the Steinway Tunnels.

If you find a paper schedule from this period, you will find there were 36 trains scheduled during the peak hour period. This service level was not sustained longer than the single peak hour period. The shoulder hours that bracketed the peak hour operated at fewer than 36 tph. This will account for the discrepancy between the peak hour service rate and the amount of equipment assigned to provide this service.

Larry Littlefield April 21, 2015 - 1:11 pm

YOUNG “People” AND RECENT IMMIGRANTS are taking the subway at levels we haven’t seen for generations. Our elected officials should be falling over each other to invest in better subway and bus service, to serve the eight million people who take the subway and bus every day.


Alon Levy April 21, 2015 - 4:42 pm

The high subway crowding shows that the state needs to engage in large-scale investment into airport connectors. I propose a new express line connecting JFK, LaGuardia, Newark, and Midtown, separate from all other existing subway and commuter rail infrastructure. Travel must be civilized!

Rich M April 22, 2015 - 12:04 am

The city owns the subway infrastructure and according to the master lease agreement they are responsible for the infrastructure. Up until the 1990s the city played a large although shrinking part in the capital financing. The city and the real estate industry reap the benefits of increasing rents and real estate taxes subsidized in large part by the riders. Tricle up economics. It’s really sad that low income New Yorkers who depend on the system the most will most likly derive the least benefit from the Manhattan centric improvements they are helping to finance while their trasnsit needs out in the boroughs are ignored. I laugh when the MTA talks how 4/5/6 riders will benefit by less crowding on their trains when the 2nd Av extension opens up. If ridership drops on the Lex the first thing the MTA will do is “adjust” service. I actually doubt Lex riders will see any difference. When the 96th stub line opens the first thing riders will look for is a transfer to the Lex that 2nd Ave riders are expecting to be there.

wise infrastructure April 22, 2015 - 12:47 pm

There should be an in stystem transfer between the 63rd street line and lex/60th.

The best way to accomplish this is to have the lex express station moved north for one or two blocks. Given the cost of the 2nd ave project, the cost of the platform extension would be minor and would create a major station.


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