Home View from Underground Daily subway ridership reaches modern high, but what comes next?

Daily subway ridership reaches modern high, but what comes next?

by Benjamin Kabak
As ridership peaks, a typical morning ride on the Q train involves lots of hair and armpits and very little space. (Photo: Benjamin Kabak)

As ridership peaks, a typical morning ride on the Q train involves lots of hair and armpits and very little space. (Photo: Benjamin Kabak)

It’s become an annual ritual for the MTA. Every year as October rolls around, subway ridership spikes, and a few weeks later, the agency announces a new one-day record high. This time around, the lucky date was Thursday, October 29 when Transit recorded 6,217,621 subway entries. It’s a modern record and likely the highest single-day total since the mid-1940s. It’s also an increase of around 50,000 riders over the previous high, set in 2014, and over 300,000 more than the 2013 record. I can’t help but wonder where these riders fit and how we’ll deal with even more over the next few years.

The raw numbers are staggering. When the MTA first started keeping daily ridership totals in the mid-1980s, the first high-water mark checked in at 3,761,759 on a day in December of 1985. As recently as 2003, the highest daily recorded ridership total was still under 5 million, but in the last decade, the subway system has seen unparalleled growth considering the MTA has added just one new station in recent years.

That Thursday in October wasn’t an isolated incident either. The MTA announced that 15 weekdays in October saw ridership top 6 million, and the final day of the month — Halloween with a World Series game — saw 3,730,881 customers. The MTA offered this summary of the crowds:

October 2015’s average weekday subway ridership of 5.974 million was the highest of any month in over 45 years, and was 1.4% higher than October 2014. Approximately 80,000 more customers rode the subway on an average October 2015 weekday than just a year earlier – enough to fill more than 50 fully-loaded subway trains…

Between 2010 and 2014, the subway system has added 440,638 daily customers, roughly the equivalent of the entire population of mid-sized cities like Miami, Fla. or Raleigh, N.C. More customers have led to additional crowding on some lines, creating conditions in which trains are more likely to be delayed, and delayed trains in turn affect more customers than in the past.

Those 50 fully-loaded subway trains the MTA notes, by the way, would each have around 150-200 passengers per car depending upon the rolling stock. The agency isn’t kidding when they claim these trains are fully loaded. You can’t fit too many more people than that on one subway car.

The agency seems to recognize the challenges this high ridership totals bring, which was reflected in a statement by MTA Chairman and CEO Thomas Prendergast. “The relentless growth in subway ridership shows how this century-old network is critical to New York’s future,” he said. “Our challenge is to maintain and improve the subways even as growing ridership puts more demands on the system. We are doing it thanks to the MTA Capital Program, which will allow us to bring meaningful improvements to our customers, such as real time arrival information on the lettered subway lines, cleaner and brighter stations with new technology like Help Points, modern signal systems, and almost 1,000 new subway cars.”

Notice though that none of Prendergast’s “meaningful improvements” involve expanding system capacity or increasing frequency to help with overcrowding. Rather, Prendergast has urged New Yorkers to adjust their working hours — a luxury many people don’t have. Off-peak service too has been more crowded and isn’t nearly as reliable as necessary to achieve significant travel time-shifts, but more on that later.

In its press release, the MTA touts the Second Ave. Subway, CBTC efforts and positioning personnel on platforms to wave people into and out of trains with flashlights, the effectiveness of which I’ve questioned. Service will increase in June, but as Charles Komanoff recently detailed, those service increases won’t keep pace with growing ridership. There is, unfortunately, no good answer, and that leaves those of us who have to take the subway every day, twice a day during peak hours, with no relief in sight.

No matter where you’re riding to or from, subway rides, especially during the morning rush, have become miserably crowded, with passengers forced to let multiple trains pass until even enough room to cram another body into a packed car emerges. Forget about getting a seat unless you board near a terminal. In other words, the subways are crowded, and it shows.

The problem is relief. The MTA did not anticipated annual ridership growing by 70 percent since 1995, and while the agency is happy to have added the equivalent of a small city to its daily ridership since 2010, the daily riders aren’t quite as thrilled. As now, the only core capacity increases are Phase 1 of the Second Ave. Subway, due to open next year, and Phase 2 of the Second Ave. Subway, due to open in a decade if we’re lucky. Beyond that, we have no Crossrail (let alone a Crossrail 2) or Grand Paris Express on the horizon. We have a 20-year needs assessment from late 2013 and constant fights over dedicated bus lanes and short-term band aids for long-term problems.

I don’t have the magic bullet or the one great answer. We know now that the MTA should have been aggressive in its ridership projections two decades ago, but who knew grow would be so extreme in the intervening 20 years? It’s time now though to plan for 2035, and as we sit here today, the subways are close to maxing out. It costs too much and takes too long to build anything that can be a short-term fix, and as New York continues to grow, we are facing a transit capacity crisis without an easy answer.

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Rick December 11, 2015 - 12:56 am

The system has two East River tunnels (Rutgers St and 63rd St) are operating at half their capacity.

Eric December 11, 2015 - 6:25 am

Those tunnels have nothing to connect to. They continue into the 6th Ave line which is at capacity (2 local and 2 express services).

When SAS stage 3 opens, the extra 63rd St tunnel space can be used.

Larry Littlefield December 11, 2015 - 9:43 am

And if the SAS is hooked to the Rutgers tunnel east of 2nd Avenue station, and the Rutgers/DeKalb connection is built on the other side, instead of having the train go downtown, you can get people from Brooklyn traveling to East Midtown without using the Lex too.

Rick December 11, 2015 - 11:42 am

The 63rd Street tunnel should run Queens locals down both the Brodway line and the 6th Av line. The Astoria line should fully utilize the 60th Street tunnel. The Rutgers Street tunnel should be occupied by both F and V trains, with the M restored to Broad Street destination ( extended through the Montague Street tunnel to Bay Parkway during rush hour, thus mobilizing another half-empty East River tunnel).

John December 11, 2015 - 3:03 pm

Disagree about the M. The M greatly assists load-sharing with the L since its route change in 2010. It would be silly to curtail it again.

tacony December 11, 2015 - 8:22 pm

Yes, it’s obvious that routing the M to directly serve Midtown has been a huge game changer. It’s been credited with boosting real estate values along B’way and Myrtle, although it’s obviously hard to isolate the impact from the fact that the line happens to traverse some of the most rapidly gentrifying parts of the city anyway.

But the center of employment in Manhattan is 34th Street, and the Nassau Street trunk line was designed for a world where Downtown was the place everyone wanted to go. Having your pick of the J to Downtown and the M to Midtown is really ideal.

mister December 11, 2015 - 5:28 pm

Capacity is not determined by number of lines, but by number of trains. The 2 routes serving the 6th avenue express tracks operate far less service than the one route that serves the Lexington Avenue local tracks, and barely more than the E line.

There remains capacity to add trains on certain trunk lines, Broadway and 6th avenue are the most obvious ones. Fixing a number of broken junctions throughout the system could open up even more capacity (Looking at you Rogers junction).

Eric December 13, 2015 - 9:44 am

As a rule of thumb, in most parts of the system, each line takes half the capacity of the track it’s on. The 6 is an exception since it does not share tracks with other lines. So its capacity is double most other lines.

On Broadway and 6th Ave, the frequency of each line should indeed be increased.

mister December 13, 2015 - 5:08 pm

This is certainly not a rule of thumb.

For one, there are current examples that demonstrate this to be false. The 60th St tube that the N, Q and R currently share is one example. A less obvious one is just east of Franklin Av on the Brooklyn IRT, where the 2, 3 and 5 briefly all share a track.

Then there are previous examples. Both sides of the Manhattan Bridge have hosted 3 services in the past, as has the Montague tunnel.

Finally, you can’t say that a line takes up half the capacity of a track without considering how many trains operate on that line. For instance, the Central Park West Local track is served by the B and C locals, with a combined 15 trains per hour. When you consider that the E and F share tracks, and they operate 15 TPH apiece, it becomes clear that a third service is certainly possible on CPW.

The fact is that the 6th and 8th avenue expresses and both sets of tracks on Broadway could accommodate additional service. The question is more one of how to access that capacity: It’s easy on Broadway, slightly more difficult on 6th avenue, and nearly impossible on 8th avenue without some new infrastructure. But even if new connectors similar to Chrystie St/60th St/63rd st needed to be built, they are certainly cheaper than building all new trunk lines.

Nick December 11, 2015 - 1:05 am

I’m genuinely curious—and open to the likely fact there are very legitimate answers—as to what, exactly, takes so long about subway expansion here versus other cities. The Beijing Subway opened in 1969 and is the second longest subway system in the world after Shanghai, with 300+ stations/miles of track and 18 lines, 16 of which entered service in the last 2 decades. There are plans to add 650 miles of track by 2020.

What prevents New York from equally aggressive plans (obviously expansion will not focus just on adding new track). Is it the bedrock that so significantly slows drilling? Is it the history of the system and the city? The density of super and sub-surface infrastructure and development? Is it political? Is it the fact the trains run 24/7? Is it financial? Shouldn’t such rapid growth in ridership make the expense capitalization feasible?

I’m sure it’s an amalgam of many reasons, and I’m sorry if this question ignores previous posts or articles I’ve not read, but I’d love to know. I’m not even sure the lengthy article in The Atlantic really answered the question.

Michael December 11, 2015 - 2:40 am

Subway expansion is simply “not easy”!

With the first major subway in NYC starting construction in 1900, and opening in 1904 – that was by “cut and cover” basically a huge open trench dug into and along Broadway north of 42nd Street to the northern tip of Manhattan (with an elevated section in Harlem, deep tunnels in Washington Heights, and elevated trackage in the Bronx!) A huge open trench dug across 42nd Street, and from there a huge open trench on Park Avenue South/Fourth Avenue, Lafayette Avenue all of the way to City Hall. With major blasting of rock well and usage of steam engine driven devices well before electricity was plentiful. Plus the relocation and replacement of utilities, securing of the various various and trolley, omnibus and elevated rail-lines along the entire route. As well as providing walkways for residents and businesses, putting up wooden street coverings as the work progressed. The hiring of thousands of men to the brutal manual labor in a time of few to zero worker rights, as well as the deaths of workers involved in the efforts and accidents. Yes, there were accidents and deaths – blown windows and shops due to dynamite, cave-ins and other problems. All of this over a century ago when Manhattan had less of the population that it does now, and the same could be said of Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx.

The first section of the subway opened in 1904, between City Hall and 145th Street on Broadway, and a month later up to 145th Street in Harlem. The other sections opened later, but the construction work was well underway, and toward completion. The other subway and elevated lines in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx that came later or were tied into the subway network over time added to what’s become the public transit of today. In addition to the many changes of the public transit rail network, there’s also the building of the many commuter railroad systems within, about and around the city – that has added to the current transportation network.

Over a century later – with the building of thousands of tall and taller buildings, the installation of numerous utilities and facilities underground, with millions of more folks living and working in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx, let alone the surrounding suburban areas. The complete disruption of city streets and city-life for long periods of time – often several years – is a tall order. There’s plenty of documentation on the hardships of the current and previous projects involving the building of the Second Avenue subway, and the other subway, surface and elevated lines.

It is beautifully easy to draw nice colored lines on maps of wonderful fantastic subway ideas and plans. In the early 1970’s, while in high school I read the city’s first Master Plan of 1968 – a very large document produced for each of the 5 boroughs. In this document were the plans for the Second Avenue Subway for the newly created MTA, among other transit and transportation improvements, as well as plans and improvements for many other aspects of the city. These plans would be modified over the decades while still retaining the basic ideas for improving transit along the east-side and in Queens. The mid-1970’s city’s fiscal crisis as well as the many, many other changes, events and happenings have taken place since those bright optimistic plans were created.

Needless to say – getting “stuff” done now is a much different environment than a century ago. Today there are environmental concerns; fiscal and funding concerns (really important); a very much different physical and infrastructure situation underground and above ground; political and governmental concerns; real estate and traffic concerns; a whole different worker, worker wage and workmanship situation; plus a whole host of issues that I know I have missed. It is a complete “night and day” difference between the situation of when the subways were first built – and today.

The situation today is for practical purposes “alien” to what existed a century ago. Why is that important? Simple – because many folks, too many folks operate under the simple assumption that building new subway lines is “cheap” and “easy”. A truly utterly laugh-able assumption.

Anybody can play “planner” with a few colored lines on a map. The real world today requires and demands so way much more! Actually getting things done – built and operating – is simply not an easy task!


Nick December 11, 2015 - 5:00 am

Mike, I appreciate the comprehensive and historical response, but I’ll admit I’m not satisfied.

I am well aware of the difficulties entailed in the construction of the original New York subways. These ambitious and dangerous projects were undertaken at the same time the Wright Brothers were flying for less than a minute at a time, and yet now a single commercial flight can transport hundreds of people halfway around the world in half a day.

Yes, subway construction yields enormous aboveground impact; yes, there are innumerable subsurface infrastructural obstructions; yes, financial woes in the mid 70’s had an deleterious effect to both priorities and timelines. I am more than happy to acknowledge these factors. In fact, I acknowledged them in my first post.

I want to be clear: I am under no assumption that building subway lines is “cheap” or “easy”, and readily agree with you that playing “‘planner’ with a few colored lines on a map” is in no way similar in any way to the difficulties in subway expansion. To be honest, I’m not really sure why you mentioned that; the comparison is, as you said, laughable.

I suppose it would be easier to phrase my question in the inverse, because, despite how frustrating it is to me and millions of other subway riders in New York, I can partly understand why it’s taking so long (for all the reasons you and I both have enumerated!).

The question could read as this: Precisely because subway construction and expansion is so difficult, how is it that cities even larger and more populous than New York, such as Seoul, Shanghai, or Beijing, with busier subway systems, can expand at such a more aggressive clip than the MTA does, and how were such comprehensive systems built in a relatively short and recent period of time in the first place?

What factors are present and/or missing in these case studies versus New York that enable, say, Beijing to put forward such an aggressive plan for expansion?

Chris C December 11, 2015 - 6:02 am

In countries like China if the Government wants to build something then it basically just goes ahead and builds it.

They don’t have to do those pesky environmental impact studies for example or go through endless planning inquiries or community boards or city council hearings.

They don’t have to meet endless regulations either.

Nor do they have to satisfy the demands of various self appointed guardians of the the community or the desires of elected politicians to have something with their names on at an opening ceremony.

Webster December 11, 2015 - 9:06 am

That’s never been a satisfactory explanation, for me, either…my short answer is funding and poor planning, both of which have been consequences of specific demographic and economic trends over the last 20-30 years. They’re now slowly changing, but not fast enough to change the past…

A significant degree of studies DO go into projects in China, but most projects are planned/executed in their entirety, rather than in pieces. For example, the main parts of the HSR network was mostly planned at one time, beginning in the 90s, while work didn’t begin until the late 2000s (something like 20 years or so). However, most of the subsequent lines proceeded, rapidly, since all the work was done. Most of the first wave of the network had a 15-20 year incubation period. That doesn’t really gel with the international perception of projects in China.

The issue with regulatory studies, here, I would say, are that they don’t encourage projects to be consolidated or completed in tandem. For example, ARC/Gateway, East Side Access and “West Side Access”, if planned as one, large project (e.g. Cross Rail or Grand Paris Express) could have been more useful and, potentially, cheaper by actually rationalizing how both railroads would connect to GCT and Penn. Building each of these projects, separately, may be adding unnecessary capacity and costs. This kind of planning (http://www.rethinknyc.com/newlga/) has not been a strength of many agencies, in this country. THAT is what has been lacking, I would say.

There’s a certain degree of expedience afforded when large projects are executed at once, rather than in phases (i.e. SAS).
Funding or financing large projects from the outset and finishing it, more quickly, is cheaper in the long run, even if the up-front costs are higher.

From my perspective, the largest issue with rail transit in NY is that there’s never been any rationalization: PATH should have been merged into the subway system, while LIRR and Metro North should have been consolidated and run as metro services, within the city…The way the network is currently operated places unnecessary strain on the system, I believe. Technological and compatibility issues aside, the point is that this should have been a goal that informed the way all projects were executed (e.g. the WTC PATH Hub and the previously mentioned projects).

In any case, the city may not need to build many new lines, if at all. I think the subway might have more than enough capacity if signaling and equipment could accommodate higher frequencies. On the one hand, I find it a bit strange that we never talk about the hole the MTA has been in, as they perpetually attempt to reach a state of good repair while also facing pressure to expand service. We talk about the MTA’s cost issues, but I still see the overwhelming issue as one of funding…We should have simply funded most of the critical needs in an effort to modernize the system, decades ago. Again, this is the difference between the NYC subway and those in London and Paris. It’s nice to talk about managerial issues, but I don’t buy that they have been contributing the lion’s share to this gap.

In any case, China is an interesting case.

As for funding (well, most of these projects are actually financed), I’d like to point out that most Chinese cities have two major things going for them: 1) the volume of riders is usually going to be higher, equaling higher profits/returns (and, in fact, this was guaranteed as a matter of policy since only certain cities above a certain population threshold have historically even had access to funding/financing for metro projects) and 2) the entire land system in China operates as value capture for local and provincial governments.

This makes extending vast lines of credit to these cities more palatable for the central government (specifically, the central bank), because everyone knows they will make a profit from land valuation – this is one of the reasons why there’s been some paranoia about losing control of the property market; no one wants it to be too hot or too cold.

From my perspective, this is why so many cities are extending metro lines so far out, instead of providing less expensive housing in the central areas.

In this respect, I have always found it curious that NYC never found it expedient to grant (or simply create a new class of) air rights for subway stations. If my knowledge is correct, this is how the MTR in HK funds itself: there are levies on development.
It seems ridiculous that the city isn’t pursuing this.

AG December 11, 2015 - 5:46 pm

Well paragraphs could certainly be written – but a government which does what it wants when it wants can get things done super fast. Nowhere in this country will be able to do what Shanghai did with it’s Maglev train to the airport. Even in LA – which everyone seems to think is doing things so quickly now… Look how long it is projected for them to get their “Airtrain like” connector to LAX. Just as with all their other light rail expansions – that will probably be later as well. It’s not just a NY issue… It’s national. That said – China can get things done faster than just about any nation. Though could probably build Crossrail (London) in half the time too. China’s (Chinese cities) not really a good comparison.

webster December 12, 2015 - 12:14 pm

That oft hailed maglev is a white elephant…and the original scheme has yet to materialize: only the initial segment – which is awfully useless.

The timeline of a lot of Chinese projects are grossly exaggerated, anyways, since nothing is typically announced until all of the studies are completed and decisions made.

It’s not an issue of governance, it’s an issue of funding/financing.

AG December 12, 2015 - 1:30 pm

Doesn’t matter if it’s a “white elephant” or not (which I don’t know the numbers anyway)… This was not a discussion about the ability to get things done. Studies or no studies… No way that gets built that quickly in any major US city. Their subways sure aren’t white elephants but they get done faster than any here – for those same complex reasons.
LA’s airport connector might end up being a waste too (I doubt it gets the usage of JFK’s Airtrain) – but fact is it’s taking them longer for that that it took to build the Shanghai Maglev project – which was many times more complicated.
Again – there are a variety reasons why China is not a good comparison. Fact is they do get infrastructure done faster – just won’t happen here. So no need to compare. London or Paris is a better comparison – forget Chinese and other Asian cities.

mister December 14, 2015 - 7:06 pm

This is a well written and well thought out comment. A few observations:

It’s not just an issue of funding; mismanagement does appear to have an effect on the prices that MTA pays for their projects. As Ben and others (like Alon Levy) point out frequently, what MTA is paying per mile for many of these projects is not even close to what other Metro systems around the world are paying.

However, a lack of funding and, really, leadership, has been hampering any attempts to improve the system. They haven’t had a comprehensive plan for system expansion in decades, the closest thing was the brief time period when Lee Sander proposed a number of expansions. Instead, what we get are piecemeal proposals from politicians that have little chance of completion. In addition, there remains no comprehensive plan to provide a constant source of revenue for the MTA’s capital program. Your comments on value capture highlight what should be a primary source of revenue for MTA, but which no one has really made any serious attempts to try and do (except what Bloomberg did with 7 west).

I think your point about capacity is on the mark. NYCT is relying on CBTC to increase capacity, but they are only hoping to achieve a modest increase of 10%, which would only result in an additional 3 tph on most lines. Many systems have achieved this level of service without needing CBTC, and some CBTC manufacturers have claimed that they can achieve 90 second headways (45 tph), well above what NYCT is aiming for. Lastly, NYCT is also struggling to even meet the level of service that they have been able to provide historically, the E and F operate at a combined 30tph, but NYCT can’t get that level of service on the Lex Express. If they could find a way to achieve levels of service that many other systems are capable of reaching, we could make better use of the existing infrastructure.

Eric December 11, 2015 - 6:18 am

For an even more shocking example than Beijing, look at Guangzhou. It only started building a subway system in 1993 (first segment opened 1997), and it already carries 30% more passengers than the NYC subway.


Webster December 11, 2015 - 8:21 am

It’s also a larger city…

Eric December 13, 2015 - 9:47 am

No, it’s smaller. It covers a region of about 13 million people as opposed to 20 million for NYC.

The entire Pearl Delta region is ~45 million, but that includes other cities like Hong Kong and Shenzhen whose own subway systems are approaching the ridership of NYC’s.

Roger December 11, 2015 - 10:56 am

That is why America needs a dictatorship. As China has proven, dictatorship at its best can achieve spectacular economic growth rate unimaginable by democracies.

Tower18 December 11, 2015 - 11:24 am

“That’s a bold move, Cotton. Let’s see if it pays off for him.”

Bronx Resident December 11, 2015 - 6:23 pm


And America is a plutocracy, and those that have the money could care less about investing in public good without profit. Especially in cities.

Historically federal and state governments have cut funding for cities in favor of suburbs and roads.

Eric December 13, 2015 - 9:49 am

And dictatorship at its worst…?

The main reason China is experiencing so much growth is simply that it started out poor, so it was able to gain quickly from outsourcing as soon as trade barriers went down.

AG December 13, 2015 - 10:43 pm

In many ways it is just coming full circle. Before it was so poor – it was the original global trading nation.
In any event – you make the situation there sound so simple. It has no modern precedent. The size of their middle class is approaching the total size of this nation.

Alon Levy December 14, 2015 - 12:02 am

In 2015, the US possibly will have had faster economic growth than China. (Yes, yes, China claims to be growing 7%. And the US claimed Iraq had WMD.)

Bolwerk December 14, 2015 - 11:05 am

Are you crediting Obama’s socialist soviet caliphate?

Larry Littlefield December 11, 2015 - 9:55 am

NYC’s total employment has soared to a level that was inconceivable even 15 years ago. Ridership is also soaring. Crains dot the skyline. So why is the MTA facing a financial problem? Why are services constrained, and being cut per user? Why are class sizes up? Why have taxes been increased?

I know why, which is why I’ve been so ticked off for 20 years.


But I would hope that others might finally start to ask these questions and demand answers.

david December 11, 2015 - 11:07 am

Are all lines operating at “capacity”, and if so, what are the limiting factors for each line? How is maximum practical TPH determined? For instance, what stops the 6 train from running at 30 TPH? Rolling stock limitations, signaling, terminal capacity, dwell times, interlining, vertical circulation, labor…?

How much room does the MTA have to increase service in the most crowded corridors?

Rob December 11, 2015 - 2:17 pm

I think the biggest limiting factor in TPH is the automatic block signaling system that a majority of NYCT lines use. CBTC was installed on the L line and saw a huge increase in TPH and reduction of headways. The plan is to eventually install CBTC on all lines (the 7 line is next) but due to the complexity of the NYCT system it will take a long time.

Bronx Resident December 11, 2015 - 6:25 pm

Isn’t CTBC already being installed in the 7?

God I hope that the Lexington Avenue line is next.

Larry Littlefield December 11, 2015 - 8:43 pm

There are multiple constraints on capacity, and to increase service you have to remove them all.

1) Signal capacity.
2) Station dwell time.
3) Terminal capacity.
4) Trainset availability, and therefore trainset storage.
5) Active (not retired) workers.

If you’ve got plenty of all of these, you run into the final constraint. Money not used for debt service or retirement benefits.

al December 13, 2015 - 6:35 pm

There are also the equipment performance and passenger capacity per rail car considerations. The better the service and emergency brakes, the closer together you can run the trains. The more persons you can carry per railcar (or per train length), the more you can carry per train and per hr (all other things equal). The more doorways per train length, the more passenger streams you create, the higher the passenger board and alight rate, the lower the station dwell time.

mister December 12, 2015 - 12:42 am

CBTC rollout is being determined by a number of factors, the primary factor being when the existing signal system reaches its end of life and needs replacement. As such, the Lexington Line’s signals were replaced at some point a while back, and are not quite ready for a replacement. The published schedule for installation of CBTC is, at this point:

-Canarsie (completed)
-Flushing (under construction)
-Queens Boulevard, 50th/8th ave to Kew Gardens (in design)
-8th avenue, 59th/CPW to Jay-MetroTech (?)

After this point, it gets a bit cloudier, but the next few lines are:

-6th avenue

After that point, I think Lexington starts to get into the mix, but exactly when is anyone’s guess.

pete December 12, 2015 - 11:56 am

100s of grade timers installed in the 1990s and 2000s is what limits TPH, not ABS.

22r December 14, 2015 - 1:55 pm

if Moscow can figure out how to run 40TPH-60TPH on their ancient lines (and they have), New York should be able to figure it out too….

Tower18 December 11, 2015 - 11:28 am

Rather, Prendergast has urged New Yorkers to adjust their working hours — a luxury many people don’t have.

The irony is, people already have adjusted their working hours. Many workers in certain industries are now arriving to work between 9 and 10, rather than between 8 and 9, and are staying past 5:00. Except, the MTA still dramatically ratchets down service around 9:00. The C train for instance has a level of service at the 9:00 hour that is the same as the 2:00pm hour. But get on a C train in Brooklyn at 9:15am and it’s just as packed as at 8:15, possibly more so.

If the MTA really wants people to shift their working hours, show me the money…keep rush, or almost-rush service through 10:00. And through ~6:00 in the evening.

John S December 11, 2015 - 5:31 pm

Amen to that. I used to take a downtown 6 to work from 125th and I found that a little after 9:15 am, trains were few and far between. Headways seemed to from about 3-4 minires to 8 minutes, which is downright painful when running to work in the morning.

AG December 11, 2015 - 5:42 pm

In my office – most people are in by 730 am…

mister December 12, 2015 - 12:44 am

The A/C report, released today, states exactly this, and restructures a trip on the A line to accommodate this. The C is unchanged, but realistically, the C operates at the same frequency middays as it does during the PM rush, so you probably aren’t going to see a change.

Tower18 December 12, 2015 - 10:20 am

Came back here to post exactly this. Very convenient timing. The report states, in fact, referring to the Fulton St corridor in Brooklyn (emphasis mine):

Although this growth has been distributed across the day, the greatest ridership growth by volume has occurred during the AM peak in recent years, with pronounced growth toward the latter end of the AM peak when scheduled train service transitions from peak hour frequencies to less frequent midday levels. Comparing average weekday ridership on the Fulton St corridor (between Rockaway Av to Lafayette Av) in 2014 and 2010, nearly as many additional riders in 2014 boarded between 9:00 and 9:30 (694) as between 8:00 and 8:30 (748), but riders in the later half-hour period were distributed amongst 7 rather than 13 A/C trains

mister December 14, 2015 - 3:07 pm

Yep, an interesting note. Indicates that growth is indeed occurring during time periods when there is an availability to add more trains.

What may need to happen, and this goes back to Ben’s original point, is more service added at time periods outside of the traditional peak rush hour. The only potential issue with this is the impact it will have on capital improvement and maintenance work that is undertaken during the weekend and midday periods.

TOM December 11, 2015 - 9:19 pm

So we’re agreed buses can’t do the job. Only subways will get it done. Right? So why are we wasting $$$ on BRT/SBS?

Phillip Roncoroni December 11, 2015 - 10:15 pm

Because when subway construction costs $1-2 billion per mile, politicians think BRT/SBS is “good enough,” even though it isn’t, and has higher long term operating costs.

Eric December 13, 2015 - 9:54 am

Well, we should have BRT, but we shouldn’t be wasting money on it. Separate lanes are just a matter of painting the street, and off-board fare collection machines are cheap. These two measures give 90% of the benefits of BRT between them, and they save money in the long run by significantly decreasing the operational cost per passenger.

Justin Samuels December 12, 2015 - 12:33 pm

What everyone is forgetting here is that we will need substantial federal involvement to seriously expand subway networks in NY/NJ area. NY alone doesn’t have that kind of money, and in other countries they have a lot more national government contribution. Which our government is capable of doing when they want to. Look at the new Amtrak tunnels in which the federal government is funding at 50%, plus absorbing cost overruns! If the federal government were paying for 50% of the remaining phases of the Second Avenue Subway, Utica Avenue Subway, Penn Station Access, or Rockaway Beach LIRR reactivation they could already be DONE!

Larry Littlefield December 13, 2015 - 10:48 am

Where is the federal government going to get the money? Do you have a fantasy that the rest of the country is going to subsidize NYC, after 220 years of the reverse?

The federal money is going to senior citizens, increasingly, more and more. And to debts those who are senior citizens now ran up in their lifetimes. It will have less and less for anything else.

And whatever money the federal government provides will usually come with cost increasing rules that exceed the value of its contribution. That is almost certainly the case for the most recent MTA capital plan.

adirondacker12800 December 13, 2015 - 1:29 pm

From taxes.

Bolwerk December 13, 2015 - 4:27 pm

“Print money,” pay people to do work. Pretty much nothing could be better for the economy right now.

22r December 14, 2015 - 1:57 pm

and as everyone has already said: it’s not just about the amount of funding, it’s figuring out how to get our inefficient bureaucracy to actually use to efficiently


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