Home New York City Transit Late-night R train set for Manhattan extension; weekend work for 14 subway lines

Late-night R train set for Manhattan extension; weekend work for 14 subway lines

by Benjamin Kabak
A nine-stop extension of the late-night R train shuttle into Manhattan will launch later this year.

A nine-stop extension of the late-night R train shuttle into Manhattan will launch later this year.

As part of the planning for the Second Ave. Subway, the MTA heard from numerous riders of the BMT Broadway line, and a good number voiced complaints about late-night R train service. Overnight, the R runs only as a shuttle from 36th St. in Brooklyn to Bay Ridge, and according to agency numbers, around 1800 of the 1900 riders are transferring from a subway line that reaches Atlantic Ave. or Manhattan. Come the fall, the R train shuttle will be a bit more useful as the MTA plans to extend it along 4th Ave. and under the East River to Whitehall St.

The agency announced this move earlier this week, and New York City Transit President Ronnie Hakim touted the move in a statement. “This added service will provide off peak customers with additional travel options and add seamless connectivity to vital transit hubs in Brooklyn,” she said.

Board materials released Friday further detailed the benefits: “Late nights when most subway lines are operating on a 20 minute headway, these transfers can be particularly long, especially if multiple transfers, first to the D or N and then to the R shuttle, are required.” It is, in other words, a customer-focused initiative, and a cheap one at that as the MTA claims sending the R to Lower Manhattan will cost only $1 million per year.

The plan is to send the R local along 4th Ave., and the MTA notes that the R would now serve 45th St. and 53rd Sts. in both directions overnight, eliminating conflicts with potential trackwork. It’s a win-win for all and should be implemented around December when the W train returns. But will the 2nd Ave. Subway debut then as well? If you follow me on Twitter, you may already know the answer, but I’ll have more on Monday.

Meanwhile, the weekend service advisories make a triumphant return. These are from the MTA. They may be incomplete or wrong. Pay attention to announcements on your trains and check signs at your local stations.

From 11:30 p.m. Friday, June 17, to 5 a.m. Monday, June 20, service is suspended between 137 St and 242 St. Take the A, C, M3, M100 or free shuttle buses.

From 3:45 a.m. Saturday, June 18, to 10 p.m. Sunday, June 19, service operates in two sections:

  • Between Flatbush Av and E 180 St, and via the to/from Dyre Av
  • Between E 180 St and 241 St. Downtown trains run express in this section. For local stops, take the Bx39 bus or take an uptown train and transfer.

From 11:30 p.m. Friday, June 17, to 5 a.m. Monday, June 20, service is suspended between Utica Av and New Lots Av. Trains operate all weekend between 148 St and Utica Av. Free shuttle buses make all stops between Utica Av and New Lots Av.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, June 18, to 5 a.m. Monday, June 20, trains run local in both directions between 125 St and Brooklyn Bridge.

From 11:45 p.m. Friday, June 17, to 5 a.m. Monday, June 20, service is suspended between New Lots Av/Utica Av and Brooklyn Bridge. Take the 2 Subway3 SubwayD SubwayN SubwayQ SubwayR Subway or free shuttle buses instead.

From 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Saturday, June 18, and from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Sunday, June 19, service is suspended between Bowling Green and Grand Central-42 St. Take the instead 4, 6 or R.

From 3:45 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. on Saturday, June 18, and from 9:45 p.m. Saturday, June 18 to 9:30 a.m. Sunday, June 19, 2 Subway trains replace service between Dyre Av and E 180 St.

From 6:45 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, June 18, Manhattan-bound trains run express from Willets Point to Queensboro Plaza, stopping at 74 St.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, June 18, to 5 a.m. Monday, June 20, service is suspended between Lefferts Blvd and Rockaway Blvd. Free shuttle buses provide alternate service.

From 11:45 p.m. Friday, June 17, to 5 a.m. Monday, June 20, downtown trains run express from 145 St to 59 St-Columbus Circle.

From 6:30 a.m. to 11 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, June 18 and June 19, downtown trains run express from 145 St to 59 St-Columbus Circle.

From 11:45 p.m. Friday, June 17, to 10 p.m. Sunday, June 19, Coney Island-bound trains are rerouted via the N Subway from 36 St to Stillwell Av. Coney Island-bound trains stop at 45 St and 53 St overnight.

From 11:45 p.m. Friday, June 17, to 5 a.m. Monday, June 20, trains are rerouted via the in both directions between 21 St-Queensbridge and W 4 St. Free shuttle buses run between Court Sq-23 St and 21 St-Queensbridge, stopping at Queens Plaza.

From 11:45 p.m. to 6:30 a.m., Friday to Sunday, June 17 to June 19, and from 11:45 p.m. Sunday, June 19, to 5 a.m. Monday, June 20, Jamaica Center-bound trains run express from 21 St-Queensbridge to 71 Av.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, June 18, to 5 a.m. Monday, June 20, Manhattan-bound trains run local from 71 Av to 21 St-Queensbridge.

From 11:45 p.m. Friday, June 17, to 5 a.m. Monday, June 20, Jamaica Center-bound trains skip 75 Av and Briarwood.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, June 18, to 5 a.m. Monday, June 20, Brooklyn-bound trains run local from 71 Av to 21 St-Queensbridge.

From 11:45 p.m. Friday, June 17, to 5 a.m. Monday, June 20, Jamaica-bound trains skip 75 Av, Briarwood, and Sutphin Blvd.

From 11:45 p.m. Friday, June 17, to 5 a.m. Monday, June 20, Coney Island-bound trains run express from Jay St-MetroTech to Church Av.

From 11:45 p.m. Friday, June 17, to 5 a.m. Monday, June 20, service is suspended between Church Av and Hoyt-Schermerhorn Sts. A F provide alternate service.

From 6:30 a.m. to midnight, Saturday and Sunday, June 18 and June 19, Forest Hills-bound trains run express from Queens Plaza to 71 Av.

From 6:30 a.m. to midnight, Saturday and Sunday, June 18 and June 19, Rockaway Park shuttle service is replaced by A service.

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Frank B June 18, 2016 - 9:31 am

Wow, it looks like the MTA is actually becoming more competent. This was a problem for years.

Of course, I would have just argued to eliminate the R entirely overnight, and extend the J Train down 4th Avenue; This would have essentially done the same thing (as well as providing a useful connection at Fulton Street) but I’ll take what I can get.

AMH June 20, 2016 - 9:36 am

That’s a great idea!

Ash June 20, 2016 - 1:32 pm

Frank B:

Can the MTA send the J south via the Montague tunnel?

Some allege that the MTA had not repaired that approach to the Montague tunnel with the Montague tunnel rehab, and as a result, is not sending trains there ever since Sandy.

Brooklynite June 20, 2016 - 6:10 pm

The Nassau connection to Montague has been in service since January 2016. However, because of incorrectly placed cables anything older than an R46 is banned from the tunnel, so most of the J’s fleet is ineligible for the extension…

Tower18 June 21, 2016 - 10:51 am

What does the age of the car have to do with incorrectly placed cables?

Brooklynite June 21, 2016 - 10:58 am

The older cars are built to a slightly different loading gauge, because their walls are vertical rather than curved slightly inwards along the roofline. Because the Montague contractor was given the newer cars’ loading gauge to work with, the older cars don’t fit. The issue was discovered when an old train ran through just before opening and I haven’t heard of any fixes being done yet.

AMH June 21, 2016 - 12:02 pm

Wow, this explains so much. I wondered why there were GOs sending the N/R over the bridge immediately after the Montague tunnel re-opened. Was this the same contractor that built South Ferry to the wrong loading guage?

mister June 22, 2016 - 8:05 am

Incidentally, it was! Judlau!

Phantom June 18, 2016 - 4:19 pm

I ride the R every day

I had never thought of this idea of extending the shuttle, which will be very useful and I imagine fairly easy to do

capt subway June 19, 2016 - 12:28 am

It’ll run for one week, maybe two at best, and then be “supplemented” out of existence. It’s just another elaborate hoax perpetrated by the MTA on the riding public (who pay for this crappy service with the shekels earned in the sweat of their brows) about how they’re “improving” service.

mister June 19, 2016 - 8:04 am

They haven’t done that with the M train’s weekend shuttle extension, I doubt they’ll do it here either.

mister June 19, 2016 - 8:08 am

This is a really good idea. I always thought that if the R were ever extended, it would only go as far as Pacific, but this allows it to have a direct connection to the A/C/F at Jay street.

At least the R shuttle directly connected with a line that served its major trunk line (the N) and also connected with another line at 36th street (the D). Late night 5 riders go from having a one seat ride from Lexington to having to make the two transfers, ditto for M riders from 6th ave. Extending the late night 5 train and the late night M train would be good next moves.

pete June 19, 2016 - 11:55 am

In 2010 as part of the proposed massive budget cuts, Lower Broadway line was supposed to be shut down late at night (N goes over the bridge at night), since all the Lower Broadway stations are within rifle shot range of another line’s staircase. Instead of Whitehall, use South Ferry 1 or Bowling Green 4 train. Instead of Rector, use 1’s Rector or 4’s Wall Street. Instead of Courtlandt, use 4’s Fulton Street. R’s City Hall, walk to 4/6 City Hall. The Lower Broadway line was built as ruthless capitalistic competition to the IRT, in 2016 now merged into the NYCT, Lower Broadway line is redundant off hours. The Lower Broadway line only needs to be open for CAPACITY reasons during rush hour, not transportation desert reasons.

Nobody really cared about the Montague tunnel shutdown since there were so many alternatives 1 block away from each closed station.

Brooklynite June 19, 2016 - 6:37 pm

At the same time, how much would it really save to shut those stations down for five hours a night?

pete June 20, 2016 - 7:57 am

$45*5*3=$675 a night for station agents. ~$240K a year. Not sure about what the track wear/turnstyle wear amortization is.

pete June 20, 2016 - 8:00 am

The R train should really shut down at 8-9PM anyway, like the M gets shut down, due to years of constant CBTC construction on Queens Blvd line and the 5-10 trains deep line to enter queens bound 71 Ave on local track.

Brooklynite June 20, 2016 - 6:12 pm

The issues with offpeak QBL service are a) adjacent track flagging, which is difficult to fix without a union work-rule overhaul, and b) poor fumigation at 71st Av. The latter could easily fixed with a rule change, or with a few extra platform CRs.

Michael549 June 20, 2016 - 6:44 pm

In addition to your point.

The N & R midnight hour and weekend service IS THE ALTERNATIVE when there is construction or similar G.O. type work being done on the Lexington Avenue line.

The #4, #5 & #6 midnight hour and weekend service IS THE ALTERNATIVE when there is construction or similar G.O. type work being on the Broadway line.

Both The N & R, and the #4 & #5 are the alternatives when there are problems with the #1 line. Yes, there have been plenty of problems on the #1 line.

For the past 25 plus years, there has been frequent construction work at South Ferry, and/or the World Trade Center area, and/or the Fulton Street Transit Hub – very frequent disruptions of subway service. The amount of “money saved” would be negligible compared to the constant disruptions for transit riders.

The #1 train South Ferry loop station sits under the Whitehall Ferry terminal and park plaza area. The September 1991 fire that destroyed the ferry terminal allowed for a re-thinking of that transfer hub. The 10-year not so temporary small terminal and the usual frequent closures of #1 train service. The first bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993, other happenings meant modifications to both #1 & R subway stations. Building the newer larger Whitehall Street Ferry Terminal was conducted while keeping a part of the older terminal in operation, resulting in frequent closures of #1 train service. The second bombing of the World Trade Center in 2001, beyond the destruction and loss of life, resulted in the year long stoppage of all #1 train service due to the severing of the transit line at Cortlandt Street. A new complete transit tunnel had to be constructed before trains would roll. The completion of the new Whitehall Street Ferry Terminal with an internal weather-proof connection between the ferry and the #1 subway! The constant series of construction activities at the World Trade Center requiring the suspension of #1 service. The construction of the new South Ferry subway station hub meant frequent subway transit disruptions. The change-over and usage of the new South Ferry train station and completed construction of the South Ferry park plaza.

The constant changes to the A, C, #4 and #5 train services & connections during the decade-plus long construction of the Fulton Transit Center. Then on top of that the needed required responses to Hurricane Sandy’s damage to the southern tip of Manhattan. Several stations and tunnels were flooded resulting in major damage that is still being repaired. The 14-month long suspension of the R-train service to/from Brooklyn during the Montague Street tunnel repair, and NOW the extensive repair work to the Jorelemon Street tunnel. Basically through out this two-decade plus period there have been continual transit disruptions requiring those various subway lines to be the alternatives of the others.

The idea of closing the “lower” Broadway line for some kind of cost savings is a supremely SILLY IDEA!

The amount of “money saved” would be supremely negligible compared to the regular disruption for transit riders.


tacony June 20, 2016 - 11:34 am

The problem with the NYC subway is that during off-peak hours it runs so incredibly infrequently that forcing people to transfer dramatically increases their travel times. If the Broadway line in Lower Manhattan only needs to be open for capacity reasons during rush hour, it also needs to be open at 3am so someone can take their train home instead of waiting up to 20 minutes for the 4 train and then waiting up to 20 additional minutes for the train when they transfer back to the R. These are transfers that would take no time during rush hours when the trains run at reasonable frequencies, but late nights you’re talking about huge increases in travel time.

Michael549 June 19, 2016 - 6:14 pm

As I understand it, the MTA also received many complaints from Brooklyn R-train riders about the long waits for R-train service during the late night hours.

From other transit forum members, there seemed to be a practice of dispatchers taking out too many R-trains from service at Whitehall Street – and sending those R-trains back to Queens – at a time when the Brooklyn R-shuttle service has not started. This practice left Brooklyn R-train riders waiting on the platforms and at local stations for very long periods of time – without train service, especially at a period when N & D trains are still running express per their schedule.

There would be crowds at 36th Street and 59th Street waiting for Brooklyn-bound R-trains with waits of 40-minutes (or longer) as D & N trains were running express to/from their destinations.

Once the mid-night hours Brooklyn R-train shuttle was in operation, coordinating the mating of N & D trains with the shuttle train movements could easily add to the travel times of many riders. One could easily spend up to 20 minutes waiting for an N or D train for a trip to 36th Street or 59th Street, and another up to 20 minutes just waiting for the R-train shuttle to their final destination. Similar travel times would await those traveling north bound in Brooklyn during these times also.

Running this kind of longer “shuttle” operation provides Brooklyn R-train riders with better connections to other transit lines, as well as responds to customer complaints.

Similar to the #3 extension to 42nd Street, and the extension of other shuttle operations over the years/decades – this one provides much quicker travel options and the greater ability to transfer to other lines in a timely manner.


al June 20, 2016 - 11:21 am

The MTA can run more trains with existing vehicle miles and staff count. They just need to run more 2-5 car trains. On can picture this late night R running 4 car (R46) or 5 car (R160) trains.

Brooklynite June 20, 2016 - 6:13 pm

That was done until the 1980s or so, when it was discontinued because it cost more money to uncouple and couple all the cars than it saved in fleet wear and tear.

Kai B June 20, 2016 - 9:47 pm

I believe safety concerns were also a reason this was done/started in the 1970s. Less cars means more passengers per car.

Demetria June 20, 2016 - 1:17 pm

Fantastic news, a small change with a large resulting benefit. The next step should be to extend the M – its ridiculous that its only direct “trunk” connection is with the J – the only north/south line that doesn’t hit midtown.

Michael549 June 20, 2016 - 4:57 pm

A review of years & decades old subway maps will show that the MTA reduces transit service during the mid-night hours and often weekends especially in low traveled areas.

The rush hours has the huge amounts of ridership – think of a graph with two huge mountains of folks in the mornings and evenings representing the rush hours. All of the valleys or low laying spots on the graph represent the weekends and midnight hours. Basically many, many fewer folks used (and uses) the subways on weekends or midnight hours.

The city’s 1970’s fiscal crisis & later budget issues, plus the MTA’s own financial owes has an impact on the services provided. The trains do not run for free, the workers do not get paid in peanuts, and subway lines do not repair themselves.

Midnight hours being the lowest traveled times the MTA reduces Manhattan trunk lines to 1 or 2 train services with one or both of those services making all local stops. Branch line service in the Bronx, Queens and Brooklyn are also reduced often to one train route serving the line, and where needed a shuttle route for a branch segment.

Basically the westside line is reduced to the #1 & #2, the Central Park/8th Ave reduced to the A, D & E, the Sixth Ave has the D & F trains, the Broadway line has the N & Q trains, Queens Blvd has the E & F, and Lexington Avenue line the #4 & #6 trains.

Everything else is either a single route line (#7, L, J, SIR) or a branch shuttle: #5-Dyre Shuttle, M – Metropolitan Shuttle, S- Rockaways, R – Bay Ridge Shuttle, etc. Branch shuttle routes often only went as far as the nearest transfer junction for a connection to a longer running route.

There have been various Brooklyn midnight shuttles along Bay Ridge, Sea Beach and West-End lines over the years. While direct service to & from the Rockaways ran during the rush hours and weekdays – often for late nights, weekends and midnight hours a transfer to a Rockaway shuttle was needed.

Of course some riders on the branch shuttle routes will have to transfer trains, sometimes multiple times to complete their journey. Usually all stations were served, and one could actually get from here to there, even if it would take some time.

For Twenty Years, the #6 Lex. Ave. local was reduced to running just from 125th Street to the Bronx – leaving the #4 train as the sole east-side local midnight hours service running the full-length of the Lexington Avenue line. Of course the A-train is all local midnight hours in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens (since the mid-1970’s) and now the Rockaways. Sometimes a branch shuttle gets extended like the #3 shuttle, or the R-train Brooklyn shuttle.

Every trip down subway map memory lane shows that the current practice of extending the M-train to either Essex Street/Delancey Street or Chambers Street on the weekends is a recent change. Since 1969 the M-shuttle has operated on weekends, late nights and midnight hours from Broadway/Myrtle Avenue to Metropolitan Avenue. That WAS the regular off-hours pattern of the “blue”, “brown” and now “orange” M-trains!

Even in the early 1970’s, when the AA and EE routes existed, the full-length GG ran at all hours & times, the usual M-train shuttle operated during the weekends and late nights.

Even the history of the prior MJ – the Myrtle Avenue elevated train line from 1944 to 1969 from Bridge & Jay Streets – downtown Brooklyn to/from Metropolitan Avenue (replaced by the B-54 bus) did not have “M” service direct to Manhattan on the weekends or midnight hours!



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