Home F Express Plan Brooklyn Civil War erupts as MTA report recommends restoration of F express service

Brooklyn Civil War erupts as MTA report recommends restoration of F express service

by Benjamin Kabak
An MTA report discusses the restoring F express service in Brooklyn but six popular stations would see reduced frequencies.

An MTA report discusses the restoring F express service in Brooklyn but six popular stations would see reduced frequencies.

Just a day after I explored reasons why a Brooklyn-based F express service won’t work without added East River capacity, the MTA dropped a bombshell on the Borough of Kings. After sitting on a feasibility report for months, if not years, New York City Transit finally unveiled the agency’s official position on F express service, and the agency concluded, with many obstacles still to overcome, that it could implement some form of F express service in the fall of 2017. Agency sources have said that, despite premature word from certain Brooklyn politicians, the restoration of F express service is not a done deal, but already, the controversial proposal that sees local stations lose as much as 50 percent of their current F train service has pit neighbors and politicians against each other as a transit-based Civil War has erupted in Brooklyn.

The idea itself is born out of history. The original pieces of the BMT and IND that make up the Culver Line included provisioning for express service. The IND segments offer full four-track express service between Jay St. and Church Ave. with a stop at 7th Ave. (and a former stop at Bergen St. that was closed following a fire in the late 1990s). South of Church Ave., there is a third track that could support some express service, but until certain interlockings near Kings Highway are modernized, this option is off the table.

The MTA’s proposal — presented here on the agency’s website and further explored in this pdf report — is something of a modified F express service with two-way express service between Church Ave. and Jay St. F trains running express would skip six stations in Kensington/Windsor Terrace, Park Slope, Red Hook/Gowanus and Cobble Hill, many of which happen to be the most popular stations along the F line in Brooklyn. The MTA’s report has determined that the time savings for express riders would outweigh the time lost by local riders, but waits at popular local stations would be long — perhaps even as long as 15 minutes during the end of peak hours. (Analysis by Alastair Coote last year determined that F express service to Ave X would be a net loss for all F train riders, but the MTA’s modified plan seems to cut slightly in favor of express service.)

But there are some problems. It’s hard to overstate how unhappy local riders are over the reduced service, and that’s the big problem. Because of limitations further down the line, including merges with other trains and an East River chokepoint, the MTA cannot run F express service while maintaining local service. The G train doesn’t cut it due to a lack of access to Manhattan and the need for multiple transfers, and the G also cannot access IND Culver express tracks until the switch just west of 4th Ave. The MTA would need another Manhattan trunk link (Coney Island to, say, Second Ave. perhaps) to support current local service and additional F express. This service also reduces frequencies to 4th Ave./9th St., a major transfer point between the BMT and IND and results in less subway service for Smith/9th Sts. station that skirts and serves Red Hook.

The MTA has already had to clarify that this is a proposal only and not one that’s definite. The agency plans to bring it to community groups over the coming months and wouldn’t implement it until late 2017. Still, the F train civil war has come, pitting City Council representative David Greenfield against City Council representative Brad Lander. Following a Tweetstorm well worth reading on Tuesday, Lander released a strong statement against the F train. Noting that the MTA’s report “shows that the total number of riders who will suffer under this proposal is actually greater than the number of riders who will benefit” and F express service “comes at the expense” of many riders, Lander and his co-signers stated they are “furious” with the MTA:

“We are extremely dismayed by the utter lack of process on the part of the MTA regarding proposed new F-Express service between Church Avenue and Jay St-MetroTech stops in Brooklyn. The proposed service change harms more people than it helps, ignores our request for increased service, and pits Brooklyn residents against each other, creating ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ without sufficient information or dialogue.

We made clear from the start that we could only support an F-Express if overall service was increased on the F line and riders at local stops were not harmed. The MTA promised to share information with the community before making a decision – including information about what service increase would be needed to avoid harming riders at local stations.

Instead of providing a fair process, the MTA blindsided our communities, announcing the proposal in a newspaper, before providing any information to community stakeholders or the elected officials representing these areas.”

Meanwhile, Greenfield — who’s also taken to Twitter — at first seemed to think F express service would start this year, but then started patting himself on the back for securing this win for his constituents. “I’m very happy that the MTA has finally released this report, and I’m thrilled that after a decades-long absence, the F express will finally be returning to Brooklyn,” he said in a statement. “This is a long overdue move that will drastically cut commute times for riders in southern Brooklyn and restore transit equity to neighborhoods that have languished in transit deserts for decades.”

I don’t agree that areas of the city with steady F train service are transit deserts, and Greenfield’s claims that this gives service to those who had “none” don’t bear up to scrutiny. It indeed pits neighbors against neighbors and politicians against politicians.

It’s hard to say where this goes from here. The MTA is facing severe criticism from a lot of people who have chosen to live in areas along the F train on the basis of constant service. These people could see a 50 percent reduction in service with more crowded trains, longer exit times and generally worse transit all so that people further down the line could save a few minutes. It’s a bad situation, and if this is the only way to implement the F express service, the MTA should think long and hard about doing so even if it means upsetting some representatives in Brooklyn. Until the MTA can maintain local frequencies while adding express service, the status quo may just be the right answer here.

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John-2 May 19, 2016 - 1:11 am

There has to be a certain lack of institutional memory at the MTA, if no one there’s been around long enough to remember the blowback from the last time split F service bypassed Carroll Gardens and Park Slope stations. Of course they were going to get the same thing this time around, especially with even more people living around the affected stations (and while there is some spare space for more trains per hour on the Sixth Avenue local tracks, all that has to be reserved for the M at least through the reconstruction of the 14th Street tunnel and the restoration of L service to Manhattan. So you can’t even think about bumping up F service to deal with the Jay Street-to-Church Avenue situation until 2020 at the earliest).

Stephen May 19, 2016 - 3:16 am

1. The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. – Problem with that concept here is that everyone is just about the ‘many’ and they all have the same need – improved service for all.
2. Damned if you do and damned if you don’t. – I think Ben’s final sentence says it best: “Until the MTA can maintain local frequencies while adding express service, the status quo may just be the right answer here.”
3. Can’t please all of the people all of the time. – I’d be happy if they pleased all of us most of the time. Perchance to dream.

Kamil May 19, 2016 - 5:09 am

I’m going to go ahead and guess that the well-heeled residents of Park Slope, Carroll Gardens and Cobble Hill are going to win this particular conflict.

Yes, the MTA proposal has pitted neighbor against neighbor. But let’s not kid ourselves about what the end state of the world is going to be.

Marc May 19, 2016 - 7:49 pm

The Slope is divided. Seventh Avenue riders have been asking for express service for four decades: half empty express trains arriving in morning one stop Jay Street while not having to compete for seats with local stop riders on the way home. I remember the articles about it in the neighborhood papers in the 80s and 90s.

Rick May 19, 2016 - 10:56 pm

All that’s really needed is more F’s — enough to run some express service while maintaining current service frequency in Brownstone Brooklyn. How? Well some of the F’s should run to 96th St and 2nd Av instead of out to Queens. To make room, some of the M’s should run to Broad Street. And with extra room in Queens, send the G all the way to Continental Avenue (which will help ameliorate the pending L crisis) Anyway, the 2nd Avenue line is gonna need more than just the Q..Oh, and is it really so hard to fix the switches at Kings Highway and run the expresses up the Culver middle track as well? Why is that such a big deal?

Phantom May 19, 2016 - 6:11 am

Something tells me that you this will be a major error

Which will save all of four minutes for some, at most, but cause huge problems for others.

Rich May 19, 2016 - 6:32 am

As a former regular commuter from 7 Av to Jay St (until last summer), I used to get an express at least 2-3 times a week, and be on a local train passed by an express at least 1-2 times per week, even though there is obviously no official express service. At peak times it is fairly common for some train stop be turned into Express to help try and even out gaps in service – possibly caused by the large number of people getting on/off at the local stations which had been delaying service. The point being that the theoretical/timetabled local service doesn’t exist in reality anyway.

So is this possibly just a pragmatic way of formalising the reality of the current service, and making it more efficient?

EG: Riders know in advance that their train will be express, rather than having lots of grumbling and de-training at York or Jay in the evening when it is suddenly announced that the train is going to run express?

Brooklynite May 19, 2016 - 1:23 pm

The current service pattern is somewhat flexible, as if a local train is late it can be sent express and everyone going to the local stops will take the next one, which is usually right behind it. If this proposal is implemented, an express won’t have any stops to skip to make up time and a local won’t be able to go express because that will mean three consecutive expresses. It’s going to be more of a pain for the dispatchers.

Alex May 19, 2016 - 5:18 pm

I use 7th Ave currently and, anecdotally anyway, have observed a reduction in the number of times they run an express in recent months. When they do, it’s because a train is late and they’re trying to space things out better. Running every other train express would be a very different ballgame from the handful per day that might do it now.

Bgriff May 19, 2016 - 7:23 am

It is fairly common to have one or two trains run express in this stretch during rush hour anyway because of trains getting backed up, and sometimes it can even be a net benefit to the line when it happens — if a relatively empty northbound express squeezes just ahead of a full local in getting to Jay Street, that empty express can then pick up all of the additional passengers further up the line (especially at 2nd Avenue, where passengers often otherwise can’t get on a train at all) and clear the way for the full local behind it not to need to pick up so many passengers.

So conceivably I could imagine that a handful of scheduled express services could be good — similar to what the northbound N currently has during AM rush hour with 4 or 5 trains that run scheduled express in Manhattan over a period of 2 hours. But fully dedicating every other F train to express service seems like madness, unless the lower level at Bergen St is going to be open.

And of course, if the merge happens to fall the other way — if the express is delayed and ends up behind the local — then the struggling packed local train plowing into the Manhattan stations will just further delay the whole line.

Perhaps this could work better if the local trains originate further up the line — maybe at Church Avenue alongside G trains? As proposed, many passengers south of Church are likely to take whichever train comes first since the express savings aren’t huge, so local trains will not be much less crowded than now when getting to South Brooklyn. But if they originated at Church Avenue, local trains would have significantly more capacity to pick up passengers at the busy South Brooklyn local stops, and the express trains would be full enough to justify keeping the service. It would still create longer waits for everyone, but at least it would reduce the potentially dangerous crowding conditions.

Larry Littlefield May 19, 2016 - 7:31 am

I’ll repeat my points from yesterday. The MTA seems to have settled on a proposal that does maximum harm to riders at the local stops. Either they want the idea buried, or people like Greenfield want maximum harm done so they can claim a “win.”

1) They aren’t splitting the F evenly between the two segments of the line. ALL F trains will stop at every stop from Kings Highway to Church, 14 per hour. And some of those on them — those with seats who boarded at close-in stations such as Ditmars and 18th Avenue — will stay put. Thus more than half of the riders will get well less than half of the train capacity. If no one south of Fort Hamilton Parkway would ride the local, why is the local running there? The local stations would end up with perhaps one-third the capacity to Manhattan.

Why aren’t they running locals from the yard up the center express track without stopping, and putting them in service at Church, and then turning the F local there? They discuss this on page 22 of the report, but dismiss it due to “uneven loading” and the need for those traveling from the southern half of the line to the northern half to transfer. But it is the proposed configuration that would cause uneven loading, with crush loads on the local. And if someone is only traveling within Brooklyn how big a deal is that transfer? The G would work for them too.

2) The increased wait times for inner stations is reported as an average at peak hour. That is disingenuous. The report states on page 27 that NYCT Rapid Transit Service and Loading Guidelines require a maximum of 10-minute headways, on average, on each service during weekdays, and express service would run through 8 pm. After 6pm, however, the guideline would not be met.

The public schedule says trains run every 5 to 7 minutes from 4 pm to 8 pm, and service drops off steeply after 6 pm, when my wife returns home from work. Between 6 pm to 7 pm, an even split would mean 5 locals per hour (12 minute headways) and then perhaps four (15 minute headways). Service is already frequently disastrous at these times now. With variability, waits in excess of 15 minutes will be common for F locals at Jay Street — perhaps 2-3 times per week — until the end of the peak period. More than half an hour would not be unheard of.

3) Lying about the impact is not helpful, because what would actually be needed is to discourage riders at bypassed stations from taking the local F. Instead, if the F express was implemented, riders should be told that local F service would be crowded, unreliable, and due to platform crowding, at times dangerous — and told to seek alternatives..

Those living between a local an express station, but now taking the local station, could be encouraged to walk a little farther and take the express. Those now boarding at 4th Avenue could be encouraged to take the R.

Those now boarding at Bergen and Carroll could be encouraged to take the B57 downtown and get a subway there, as many riders in Fort Greene and Clinton Hill do rather than take the G and transfer. Those now boarding at Prospect Park 15th Street and Smith/9th could be encouraged to take the B61 to 7th Avenue or to 4th Avenue for the R. Those now boarding at Fort Hamilton Parkway and living SW of the Prospect Expressway could be encouraged to take the B67/B69 bus to Church Avenue or 7th Avenue.

Others could encouraged to bike to a different station and lock up there.

These options were not discussed because the MTA didn’t want to admit how bad things could be. I’ve encouraged my wife to take the R to the B61 as it is, but she is reluctant to do so because on an average day that adds 15 minutes to her trip. But many is the day that trip takes a half hour longer.

4) Here is what is amazing. There is no attempt to throw the areas losing service a bone. Service on all these bus lines is infrequent. The same neighborhoods now proposed to suffer a cut in subway service were among those that suffered the biggest cuts in bus service in the last recession, with no restorations.

There are no physical constraints against running one bus every 4 minutes on the B61, B67/69, and B57 lines during the times when the F express is running. Only a desire to keep taking away service despite the highest state and local tax burden as a percent of income there is. Or the B75 could be restored as a rush hour supplement, with service extended down Prospect Park Southwest to Park Circle and limited stops inbound of Bartel Prichard Square.

Similarly, there are eight stairways down to 7th Avenue station, and a huge, unused mezzanine. The MTA could convert one of those stairways to a ramp and part of that mezzanine to secure bike parking, with a bike to subway commute as an alternative to boarding a local at the bypassed station. Two more ramps down to the platforms would also provide handicapped access there.

So which is it? Are they trying to kill the F express, with someone else making the kill? Or are they just trying to make things as bad as possible?

Larry Littlefield May 19, 2016 - 10:06 am

Come to think of it the neighborhoods proposed to lose service also lost the M at 4th Avenue, though they gained the G with is a real advantage — for those not commuting to Manhattan.

If the MTA really wanted to do this, they wouldn’t have made the service proposal as bad as possible for those at local stations so those at stations further out could have their local cake and eat their express too. And they would have sought to identify, encourage, and improve alternatives to taking the local F to Manhattan for those now boarding at local stations.

joe shabadoo May 19, 2016 - 10:42 am

They didn’t want to do it so decided to have northern Brooklyn kill it for them. Useful idiot Greenfield is happily going along.

Duke May 19, 2016 - 10:35 pm

I’d speculate that this service is deliberately set up to fail, so the MTA can say “see, we tried running express service and it didn’t work, now stop asking for it”.

But while that is the sort of thing I wouldn’t put past a couple other transit agencies out there, it seems a bit out of character for the MTA.

lordgh May 21, 2016 - 6:58 pm

just transfer to the G if you don’t want to wait sheesh

NakedHiker May 19, 2016 - 8:55 am

Lots of local stops around the city have tons of ridership. The problem here is the transition from an “express” (or, more precisely, “always”) stop to a local stop. The key is running enough local service. Wouldn’t adding more (and full-length) G trains help?

AMH May 19, 2016 - 12:06 pm

I think what would help would be having a transfer to the F at Bergen St. Stations north of 7 Av have G service, but no easy transfer to F express trains, so most will not use it.

will May 19, 2016 - 9:31 am

The F and G trains
should be split with the locals terminating at Church St. And the going all the way to Coney Island. Not only you will have empty locals for the Carrol section of Brooklyn but also a speedy service for southern Brooklyn where reaching Manhattan is a chore. This service arrangements have been in service for years on the Pelham line. And that’s the most busiest local in the whole system

Brooklynite May 19, 2016 - 2:16 pm

Exactly. At least IND section riders would get empty trains…

SEAN May 19, 2016 - 10:02 am

A tree burns in Brooklyn?

joe shabadoo May 19, 2016 - 10:14 am

Ben, I think this statement is incorrect based on my recollection of the report.
“The MTA’s report has determined that the time savings for express riders would outweigh the time lost by local riders….”

The report said, again, IIRC, that the amount of time saved is higher than the amount of time lost, but more people would lose.

paulb May 19, 2016 - 10:20 am

I always thought from the way it was built that the G was supposed to be the local and F the express, to Church Ave. But that was before the ramp to the Culver line?

Larry Littlefield May 19, 2016 - 10:46 am

Yes that was the original service pattern. But if you are going to talk about what was “supposed to be” when this was designed, the city-owned IND was supposed to “recapture” the West End line from the privately run BMT and hook it into the Smith/9th Line, along with the Culver Line.

In that case, the Culver line could have been an F local and the West End line a D express.

After unification, the Culver Line was in fact attached at Church Avenue, but the West End line was not.

paulb May 19, 2016 - 1:19 pm

I see how it was simple to extend the IND from Church Ave to the Culver line via the ramp. But there was a way to hook the Culver viaduct to the Fourth Avenue line? Seems impossible. Or would the IND/West End connection have been made via the elevated structure that got torn down toward the end of the ’70s? I realize this is a digression so feel free to ignore.

Brooklynite May 19, 2016 - 1:26 pm

I haven’t heard of any proposals for the West End either. The second branch of the Smith Street line (aka Culver Viaduct) was always supposed to be via Fort Hamilton Parkway, I believe.

Larry Littlefield May 19, 2016 - 1:57 pm

Could have hooked into the West End line there.

Brooklynite May 19, 2016 - 2:13 pm

The Fort Ham line was supposed to be underground. If you have a link or reference I’d be glad to take a look, but I don’t think a connection to the West End El was planned.

Astoria rider May 19, 2016 - 4:27 pm
Larry Littlefield May 19, 2016 - 1:57 pm

“There was a way to hook the Culver viaduct to the Fourth Avenue line? Seems impossible.”

The Culver Viaduct was hooked to the 4th Avenue line, and before that the 5th Avenue elevated. It came in through the lower level at 9th Avenue station. The right of way was only replaced with houses within the past 15 years.

“Or would the IND/West End connection have been made via the elevated structure that got torn down toward the end of the ’70s?”

I don’t know, but I suspect might have involved rebuilding that structure at both ends and connecting with it.

Brooklynite May 19, 2016 - 2:15 pm

Then it’s not the viaduct that was connected to 4th Av, but the BMT section south of Ditmas. Using the Culver shuttle to run trains Jay St – Church Av – 9th Av area – West End elevated would be an enormous(ly impractical) S curve (look at it on a map).

John-2 May 19, 2016 - 8:50 pm

I’ve never seen anything either on hooking up the West End line with the IND at Church. But given the mindset of the city’s subway people in the quarter-century after unification that “Everyone wants to ride the IND” (see the botch they made of Brighton service for a generation after the Chrystie connection opened, with three Sixth Avenue services to Coney Island), it wouldn’t be out of the question that some Brainiac in the 30s or 40s thought West End riders would much prefer the roundabout trip through Park Slope and Carroll Gardens than the straight shot up Fourth Avenue and over the Manhattan Bridge.

Ferdinand Cesarano May 19, 2016 - 10:52 am

Editing note: “It’s hard to overstate (not ‘understate’) how unhappy local riders are over the reduced service.”

In other words, no matter how strongly you put it, you won’t be overstating their unhappiness.

Tower18 May 19, 2016 - 10:54 am

I maintain that this is meant to fail, and all parties can claim that they tried. This idea was never going to be put to bed once and for all without an *actual* attempt.

Either it will be killed before ever being implemented, or it will be implemented and will be so bad it will be rolled back quickly with a “we told you so”.

Astoria Rider May 19, 2016 - 11:10 am

What some have already mentioned sounds like the best idea:
Rush hour F locals terminate at Church Ave
Rush hour F expresses go on to Coney Island

South of Church riders would get 50% less service in exchange for express service.

If anything (as the extra time waiting for an express negates time savings), this will allow for better load balancing

Larry Littlefield May 19, 2016 - 11:33 am

Again, the idea seems to be to allow those south of Church to have their (local F) cake and eat it (express F) too, while imposing the maximum harm on those inbound of Church with no mitigation.

“South of Church riders would get 50% less service in exchange for express service.”

Some might take that deal, even if it turned out that EVERYONE lost time as a result. Stopping and starting, being jerked forward and back, with people pushing on and off, is uncomfortable.

ajedrez May 24, 2016 - 2:11 am

And the advantage is that the MTA saves some money in not having to run as many trains south of Church.

Frank B May 19, 2016 - 11:26 am

No express service below Church Avenue makes this a real loser idea for me for me before the service starts. The whole point would be better service for people far deeper into Brooklyn.

Kill it. Until express service can be established further down the line, Culver Express Service will only serve to anger a lot of straphangers, and kill the idea for good in the future when we actually are able to have that full express service throughout the route.

Brooklynite May 19, 2016 - 1:29 pm

The ridership at the stations south of Kings Highway is relatively miniscule, so it would be even less worth it to operate such a service than this proposal is.

Herb Lehman May 19, 2016 - 12:26 pm

It’s easy for me to say this as someone who rarely rides the F in Brooklyn, but…what a real loser of an idea this is.

I suspect the MTA brought out this proposal, as Larry alluded to above, as a way to drive home the point once and for all that an F express train is a nonstarter given current constraints.

I also suspect that Mr. Greenfield rarely rides any trains himself. No commute times will be “drastically” reduced by an express train. In a best case scenario, an express would save 2-3 minutes. In a more likely situation, the express train stops and starts constantly while waiting to merge back in with the local trains at Jay Street, all the while reducing service to stations that are already hard pressed for enough trains as it is.

Speaking generally, express trains are only useful when they actually increase capacity. In this case, it won’t, and almost everyone loses. I think this idea will die a very quick death.

AMH May 19, 2016 - 12:52 pm

Quite right. A good example of this is the afternoon J express run from Marcy to Myrtle, which adds two switching moves without saving much time. (It makes more sense in the other direction, since it prevents a conflict at Myrtle.) Awhile back the pols were saying that an F express train would save 45 minutes and reduce transfers, neither of which is remotely possible.


Herb Lehman May 19, 2016 - 1:45 pm

To be fair to Mr. Greenfield, an express train that runs properly will *feel* drastically faster to the rider. I’ve taken the 2/3 express from Chambers to 72nd many times. When it goes at full speed (or what passes for it these days), it feels *worlds* faster than taking the 1 local. By my watch, though, it saves 6 minutes. And the hypothetical F express would skip a lot fewer stations than the 2/3.

Brooklynite May 19, 2016 - 2:02 pm

If MTA make the timers less restrictive along the viaduct and in the shortcut under Prospect Park, there is potential for significant time to be saved. Imagine flying down the hill from Smith-9th, in either direction, while accelerating?

John Doe Smith May 19, 2016 - 2:00 pm

Thats wrong.
The express doesnt merge into the local.
The local merges into the express.

AMH May 19, 2016 - 12:46 pm

I knew this would be contentious. I thought there might be a few rush-hour expresses, but not half of all F service. It was interesting to see how the information came out, one councilman saying that it was a done deal (even before the study had been released?) and another blasting the MTA for an announcement that they did not make, and for not taking public comments, even as the MTA released the study for public comment. I don’t envy whoever has to mediate these two guys.

AlexB May 19, 2016 - 1:16 pm

This express proposal is talking about a minute here, maybe four minutes there. I challenge any regular F rider to time how long it takes to get from Bergen to Jay St, especially in the southbound direction. It should take 1.5-2 minutes but it often takes 4+. You can literally here the train slowly rumbling over each switch between the Crosstown and Culver Express tranks.

ALL F trains could be saving minutes every day if the MTA installed higher quality switches at this merge and did better coordination between the F and G. I think the better solution is for these council members to divert funds to installing CBTC signalling (as they’re doing now along the F in Queens) along the Culver and 6th Ave lines as fast as possible. Instead, they’re arguing about service patterns that won’t even come about for over a year. Even if you gain a few minutes from Church, you’re just as likely to lose them at the merge at Jay St anyway.

The point of an express line is not just to provide a faster service, it’s to better serve the busiest stations and keep those riders from disrupting the local service. This would do the opposite. If they want to do it now, it should be a specially timed service running every 20 minutes, advertised with signs at Church St: “Express on the :00, :20, & :40!” with extra G trains thrown in on the local to help while the F runs express. Operating half the Fs express is ridiculous.

Brooklynite May 19, 2016 - 1:47 pm

When there is no interference from G service, the F is actually tolerable along that segment. Sure, it may crawl over the switches at 20mph, but that’s difficult to fix without tearing the tunnel apart. CBTC is not the panacea it is portrayed to be, so aside from MAYBE getting the speed up to 25mph it won’t do anything in this case. A more advanced system, which would tell G’s to slow down or speed up to merge cleanly with the F, has been done in other cities but is simply too massive of a solution for this problem. If every other F is sent express conflicts with G service will get 50% less frequent, at least southbound.

Furthermore, the point of having half the F’s run express is to provide consistent headways. Because the local stop ridership north of Church is roughly equal to the ridership at all other Culver stations, it makes sense for each group to get 50% service.

Every-20-minutes services are ill-advised because the slightest disruption anywhere along the route will make a noticeable difference in service.

Larry Littlefield May 19, 2016 - 2:10 pm

“Because the local stop ridership north of Church is roughly equal to the ridership at all other Culver stations, it makes sense for each group to get 50% service.”

Again, the local stops north of Church are proposed to get less than half of the service to Manhattan. The locals would run from Avenue X, and some people stay on them because they had a seat. The local stops north of Church would have half the riders but perhaps 1/3 of the room.

The MTA could have proposed that the local start from Church, but did not.

Brooklynite May 19, 2016 - 2:12 pm

That is completely true, and the lack of consideration of a zoned express is one of the things that suggests this proposal is a political game to convince everyone that the plan won’t work, rather than a serious suggestion. Same thing as the “plan” they released for the single-tube shutdown along Canarsie…

Alex May 19, 2016 - 5:34 pm

Yes, exactly. The notion that every rider south of Church will always take the express is fantasy. This is even more the case if you with such long headways. Most people will realize they’re better off taking whichever train comes next rather than holding out for an express that may be 10-15 minutes away. I can see the southbound locals in the evening being VERY crowded coming out of Jay, where you already have inconsistent headways due to the F’s long route that it largely shares with the E and M.

All of this reminded me of the long-defunct W express in Astoria. They cut it precisely because the N local was packed while the W express was underused. It’s a case study that shows cutting service to high ridership stops to give a few people a slightly shorter ride just isn’t worth it.

AlexB May 20, 2016 - 10:53 am

The N in Astoria was the one that ran express. The W ran local. When the cancelled the W, the N starting running local and the Q was extended to Astoria.

When the Q runs along 2nd Ave, presumably, the N will run express again and the R and W will go back to being the locals.

ajedrez May 24, 2016 - 2:16 am


The W was created in 2001 to replace the B on the West End Line. The northern terminal was Astoria, so it ran peak direction express…for a few months because of the overcrowding on the N locals. (The July 2001 map shows it, the December 2001 doesn’t).

In 2004, the W became the Astoria-Whitehall Line, and then was cancelled in 2010.

AlexB May 19, 2016 - 6:31 pm

The question of speed is not one of 20 v 25 mph, it’s one of 5 v 25 mph and sometimes 0 mph when it’s stopped waiting for the G. It’s a difference of 2+ minutes which is comparable to what the express offers at the expense of a huge headache for the skipped local stops.

The slightest disruptions anywhere along the route will make a noticeable difference in service with express/local service no matter what the headway of the express is. Minimizing the # of express trains minimizes the disruption.

The advanced system that communicates with the G is a better way to save time than running express trains which are merely likely to save a few minutes.

Brooklynite May 19, 2016 - 6:45 pm

The issue of merges slowing service and reducing capacity is certainly a real one, but the advanced system that would overcome it presents enormous expense and years of disruption to install. Given that this junction is not even at capacity, such a solution is a bit out of scope. I can think of two realistic options:
1) give the F 100% priority at the junction.
2) de-interline, thus removing the conflict altogether.

Option (1) would cause delays in G service, especially when Fs are bunched together. Option (2) is sort of what is happening with this proposal, as 50% of F trains will no longer interact with the G.

It seems that you’re mixing up the two issues of junction-induced delays and the F express, which are somewhat distinct. And yes, there are plenty of issues with this proposed F express service, nobody is denying that.

AlexB May 20, 2016 - 11:06 am

They are somewhat distinct but they happen to occur at the same place. The junction of the express and local is just a bit north of the Crosstown/Culver junction. The point I’m trying to make is that managing these complicated junctions properly with the best hardware and signalling system available should be the primary long term focus for the MTA if the goal is increasing the reliability and speed of the F train. Sure the express might help some people, but most of those time saving could be lost in merging delays if not managed properly, so what’t the point?

AlexB May 19, 2016 - 1:32 pm

If the MTA and F train riders do want the F express to be frequent, they should consider it with a wider group of service changes:

Bring back the V as the Brooklyn express and keep existing F service the same. Have the V run with the M in Queens. It would probably be easier if it used the 63rd St tunnel instead of the 53rd St one, but it could work either way. If there’s capacity issues at the Forest Hills terminal with the M and R, extend the V to 179th. There is room on the 6th Ave local and the 53rd St tunnel for 5 or 6 more trains/hour during peak (Vs every 10-15 minutes). Make the V the express in Brooklyn, improve the track switches on the center track south of Church, and provide a real service to South Brooklyn. Adding this V would create more merging trains and therefore somewhat more delays, but it would work.

The Q is moving to 2nd Ave in 7-? months and the W is coming back. Extend it to Bay Parkway (like the old M used to), via the Broadway local, 4th Ave local, and West End lines. This will encourage some riders to use the 4th Ave local instead of the Culver at 4th Ave-9th St and some riders coming from Gowanus would use Union St instead of Carroll and Pacific instead of Bergen.

Brooklynite May 19, 2016 - 1:59 pm

First thing to keep in mind is that MTA has a car shortage at the moment. It’s going to take some tricks to make service during the L shutdown as it is, because of the need for additional G and M trains. Ergo, the W to Bay Parkway isn’t likely to happen soon. Also, the M ran empty along West End, and along 4th Av the R’s issue is reliability rather than capacity; throwing more trains at the line isn’t solving the problem.

That said, there is definitely more capacity along 6th Avenue. However, the QBL express is full and the local has issues terminating at 71st. Sending a local to 179 isn’t very useful because they will run empty. I would suggest running those extra trains up to 96th/2nd to boost frequencies there. Even though it’s only three stops, SAS needs to have good service to compete with the 25tph the 6 offers. Since this 6th Av service to 96th would operate every 10-15 minutes as you said, I’d run it to Church via local. 2/3 of F trains would run express Jay-Church, while the V and the leftover Fs would run local and terminate at Church.

Bgriff May 19, 2016 - 2:31 pm

This is actually a pretty good idea. We’re all so used to the common refrain that “QBL is full” that it is easy to forget that there are other options, including one prominent new one. It would be better if the MTA were more capable of closely managing the many merges and de-merges this creates along various lines, but it still might be worth trying, and I agree that the Q train is quickly going to be overwhelmed handling 2nd Avenue by itself.

Larry Littlefield May 19, 2016 - 3:11 pm

I didn’t think of that, but you are right. There will soon be an alternate terminal, to be used by the Q but possibly used by some Fs as well.

John-2 May 19, 2016 - 3:44 pm

Extra F trains to 96th St. via Second Avenue might be workable after the 14th Street tunnel is repaired. But it would be pointless to do it in 2017, if a year or two later it will have to be taken away in order to jam the maximum number of M trains through the Chrystie Street connection and up Sixth Avenue to handle the displaced L train passengers.

Astoria rider May 19, 2016 - 4:37 pm

Does anyone know how many tph 96 st will have?

Astoria rider May 19, 2016 - 4:38 pm

I.e. so that we dont end up like jamaica center.

Brooklynite May 19, 2016 - 6:29 pm

It should be the 8-10tph that the Q currently runs during peak hours.

Astoria rider May 19, 2016 - 6:50 pm

I mean what it can handle as a max.

Second Avenue Saga May 19, 2016 - 8:39 pm

96 St will have tail tracks.
TPH max should be 20tph

Astoria rider May 19, 2016 - 5:47 pm

Anyway a limited F to 96 could run like the E to 179…dont show it on maps making it semi unofficial. So it wouldnt be pontless when the time comes to jam more M’s.

Brooklynite May 19, 2016 - 6:30 pm

The whole idea of running services not shown on the map is one to be avoided if possible. We shouldn’t be introducing more, in the center of the city no less.

AlexB May 19, 2016 - 6:48 pm

The MTA isn’t shutting down 14th St until 2019. Because of the at-grade merge at Myrtle St, the MTA already is running the maximum number (18 tph) of Ms over the bridge. The V would not detract from that service while the L is out of commission.

Astoria rider May 19, 2016 - 6:52 pm

The M runs every 10 minutes or so…thats 6/7 tph…not 18.

AlexB May 20, 2016 - 10:49 am

Correct, but it shares tracks with the J/Z which run about 9/10 tph, bringing the total to about 18 tph – or what the junction at Myrtle can accommodate.

AlexB May 19, 2016 - 6:38 pm

Turning the Qs from Astoria into Ws and running the N express in Manhattan will already help to solve some of the reliability problems with the R. Those issues stem partly from the N switching from local to express between Prince/Canal and the Ws will fill in gaps between the Rs – consistently from 57th in Manhattan to 36th in Brooklyn. Throwing trains at the problem will help. People are more concerned with wait times rather than train speeds.

tacony May 19, 2016 - 1:58 pm

The MTA would need another Manhattan trunk link (Coney Island to, say, Second Ave. perhaps) to support current local service and additional F express

Would this not work? Sounds like a good plan as the SAS will only have Q trains running relatively infrequently during rush hours.

Is the M still a constraint in Manhattan though?

Brooklynite May 19, 2016 - 2:01 pm

The M is indeed a constraint, especially so during the L shutdown. I assume Ben meant that, after Phase III of SAS is done, trains could turn north at Houston St before the M merges in.

That said, of course, a 5tph Church-96th local is something that should be considered. It would make SAS service more frequent (thereby more attractive) and would ensure that people can fit onto trains at Culver local stops.

Larry Littlefield May 19, 2016 - 3:42 pm

AM rush is 14 Fs and what, 10 Ms? Room for 6 more I’d say if they had a place to terminate.

Now they’ll want to run more Ms during the L shutdown, that is true. But not before or after.

And in any event, some of those additional Ms could turn south to Chambers, with their riders transferring to the greater number of Fs.

Brooklynite May 19, 2016 - 3:56 pm

If we’re going to be running enough F trains that they’ll be half-empty enough to take substantial amounts of M refugees, just turn those slots over to the M in the first place. The Culver express is less of a priority.

Astoria rider May 19, 2016 - 4:22 pm

F trains will never be empty. Delancey st and 2nd ave will make sure of that.

Ethan Rauch May 19, 2016 - 4:26 pm

Skipping those six stations would save relatively few commuters maybe what, 5 minutes, including additional wait time for the next express? (The McDonald Ave el isn’t one of the most heavily used lines around, anyhow.) And at the same time others would be inconvenienced by sparser peak period service. Methinks some people want to the MTA to do this for the same reason a dog licks its butt: because it can.

Alex May 19, 2016 - 5:52 pm

The MTA estimates even less: about 3.5 minutes on average. And with such long headways, who’s going to take the chance waiting around for a express that could be 10 minutes away? The locals will be bursting at the seems while the express will be half empty.

Ralph May 19, 2016 - 5:10 pm

Brad Lander is a liberal hypocrite. He’s from the mid-west and doesn’t understand New Yorkers. New Yorkers are always on the move, in a hurry and if it shaves minutes off our commute and can get us to work on time, its good. Having some F trains is not going affect my commute and it may be it as those south of Church Ave will leave the local F trains empty so I can finally a seat on the ride to Manhattan. Lander is only out for himself – he wants to be Mayor or Senator one day – and if he really cared about the majority of his constituents, he would never have got involved with the bag tax he pushed through the city council 2 weeks ago. We who live in the city don’t shop by car; rather we shop a little here and a little there and whenever we get off the subway on the way home from work. Therefore, we can’t go around carrying reusable cloth bags or plastic bags in our pockets. The five cent tax pushed by Lander is ridiculous and shows that Lander is out of touch with the voters. I voted for him last time cause I am a good Democrat, but a five cents here, five cents there will get me to vote for a Republican or whoever runs against him in the primary. I overlooked the situation when he voted himself a 32% salary raise, but this five cent tax is what changed my mind about Lander. He deserves to be voted out of office next year.

PJH May 19, 2016 - 7:14 pm

I’m with you! I plan to sell out my values at the ballot box for a nickel, too.

VLM May 19, 2016 - 7:48 pm

New Yorkers are in such a hurry that more of them should wait longer for worse transit service? Your comment here is as nonsensical as all the rest of your partisan clap-trap you post.

John Doe Smith May 19, 2016 - 9:31 pm

5 cent tax on bags will make you suck Rush Limbaugh’s d!${?
He did say he loves plastic bags.
Have fun.

Meanwhile, i love my beaches without dolphins caught in 6-pac nets.

Dj Hammers May 19, 2016 - 5:57 pm

Honestly, the only way to really implement express service without making people unhappy is to have more trains to-from Manhattan. The idea of having another service run between 96th and CI makes a lot of sense; provide extra service to SAS to attract more people away from the Lex, while allowing for more Fs to run local in Brooklyn. Together with a restoration of Bergen St lower level, this would be very effective.

paulb May 19, 2016 - 6:07 pm

That Bkln Eagle story explains it. An entirely new link from the Culver line, vicinity Ditmas, to the West End line, vicinity New Utrecht. Probably just for inbound West End and outbound Culver trains. Thanks! I’d never heard of this proposal.

There’s a ramp or bay in the center of the Culver Viaduct above 2nd Avenue. I always thought it was for storage, but maybe it was intended to link the viaduct to the subway below 4th avenue?

Brooklynite May 19, 2016 - 6:33 pm

I’d never seen that Brooklyn Eagle article either. Hey, I learned something new today.

That ramp on the viaduct served some sort of postal facility, I believe. In any case, it’s pointing in the wrong direction to ramp down to the 4th Avenue subway.

Second Avenue Saga May 19, 2016 - 8:54 pm

If you haven’t already done it, the MTA is taking comments at the bottom or the page (click HERE).

I submitted the idea of a rush hour F local from Church to 96 St/2nd Ave.

Add like 4tph from 96 st and the yuppir Park Slope riders only get a 25 reduction in service in exchange for seats on the train.

charlie May 19, 2016 - 8:56 pm

Could we work out a pattern like the 6, half Parkchester, half Pelham Bay Park?


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