Tap, tap, tap. Is this thing on? The last few weeks have been exceedingly busy, and regular updates should resume shortly. In the meantime, it’s W Train Monday.
As the Second Ave. Subway slowly crawls to an opening — not on time unless the MTA picks up the pace of testing by a considerable amount, the agency’s Independent Engineering Consultant said two weeks ago — Monday’s commute brings with it a milestone of sorts as a new old train line resumes operations between Queens and Manhattan. The endearingly kitschy signs have been hanging up in N, Q and R trains, and the signage throughout the system has been updated for the impending return of the W train.
As train rebirths go, this one could be more exciting, and the early November return for the W is a nature of the way MTA crews put in for shifts months ahead of time. Although the Second Ave. Subway may open in early 2017 instead of late 2016, the new Transit shifts start tomorrow, and any delay in restoring W service would have resulted in trains that needed to run but no crews to operate them. The W, meanwhile, comes back before the Q is rerouted to the Upper East Side to ensure Astoria has nearly the same level of service as it currently enjoys with the Q and N trains. We’ll come back to the “nearly” element shortly.
For the rail-watchers among us, MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz tweeted out the details of the W train’s first runs on Monday:
W returns! 1st s/b trip of the day leaves Ditmars at 6:53am. 1st n/b trip leaves Whitehall St at 7:06am.
— Kevin Ortiz (@MTA_NYCT_Vocero) November 7, 2016
For those interested in the day-to-day operations of a subway train that hasn’t graced the rails since 2010, the details are less glamorous. The W trains will operate on weekdays only between approximately 7 a.m. and 11 p.m., making all local stops between Astoria-Ditmars Boulevard and Whitehall St. (with one or two unannounced trains operating into Brooklyn to reach the Coney Island Yards). The N will now be express in Manhattan during weekdays but with a stop at 49th St. as all Q trains make express stops along Broadway, terminating at 57th-Broadway until the Second Ave. subway opens. The R train, meanwhile, will get a nice service boost as late-night service will be extended from 36th St. in Brooklyn to Whiltehall St.
This is a whole lot of shuffling around the edges for the big moment within the next few months when the Q begins to run to 96th St. and 2nd Ave., but it will cost Astoria a few trains per day. The MTA assures me that Queens’ peak-hour service will not be reduced, but the off-peak frequency will be slightly lower. This move comes at a time when the MTA has been encouraging more off-peak ridership and is driven by the fact that W trains lay up in Manhattan or Brooklyn, a lengthy ride away from the northern terminus in Astoria.
DNAInfo’s Jeanmarie Evelly reported on the service reduction last week. The scheduling shift means approximately 20 fewer trains per day to and from Astoria:
Frequency of service during rush hours will remain the same, with N/W trains from Astoria into Manhattan running every 4.3 minutes — about 14 trains an hour, the maximum the line can handle — between 8 and 10 a.m., the same as current N/Q service.
In the evenings, N/W trains from Manhattan into Astoria will run about every 4.3 minutes between 5 and 6 p.m. and every 4.5 minutes between 6 and 7 p.m., the same as N/Q trains run now, according to the MTA. Trains will run less frequently from Astoria into Manhattan from 5 to 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. to midnight, and from Manhattan into Astoria from 6 to 8 a.m. and between 11 p.m. to midnight, the timetables show.
The MTA says it will track ridership numbers on the N/Q/W lines in the coming months and make schedule changes if needed.
This is an unfortunate reality of infrastructure decisions made over 100 years ago, but it also highlights how the MTA has often been less than honest about the nature of the service changes. The agency had repeated assuaged Astoria residents service would not be cut, but it’s clear that the area will see fewer trains (and longer waits) during off-hour periods of low ridership. How the area responds — and the limitations of the MTA’s available rolling stock — will dictate what happens next.
Meanwhile, as the W begins its resurrection ride in a few hours, the Second Ave. Subway moves ever so slowly to becoming a reality.
For some more context, the N and W trains are on 10 minute (5 minute combined) headways middays. The winners of the service changes are Q riders, who now get 8 minute headways off-peak in preparation for the SAS extension.
By switching the routes of the N and R in Queens and sending the N into the 63rd St tunnel with the F, the 60th St tunnel would have added capacity for Astoria service.
Isn’t the issue with sending the R to Astoria the fact that a Bay Ridge-Astoria R wouldn’t have access to a yard anywhere along its route?
For this you would give up half the capacity of an East River tunnel (i.e., 63rd St)??!!! Damn mine ears! Look, the unused express tracks on the Sea Beach line can be used as a train yard for the R. Or something. There’s always something. We can’t walk away from half the 63rd St tunnel’s capacity at a time when the subways are ridiculously overcrowded. And, you know, if the trains coming south from Lex-63rd are both express in Manhattan — the 2nd Av N and the Forest Hill Q — then there is no need for any track switching south of 57th Street. As for the Forest Hills switch to the 4/5/6/ with at Lex-59, this is much less important if Upper East Side access from Forest Hills is available by switching to the uptown Q at 63rd-Lex.
While the R previously used to run to Astoria, the MTA set up the current routing of the N and R (R to Forest Hills, N to Astoria) to give the R access to a yard at one of its terminals. I suppose it makes it easier to dispatch trains and alternate frequencies if train lines have access to yards. This setup would deprive the R of that luxury.
Also, Astoria riders would demand a replacement express service in Manhattan if the N is removed as well. But since the N would have to be an express to access to 63rd Street line (and it makes sense to keep it that way since it arrives in Manhattan as an express), either the R or W would have to join the express line between 49th and 42nd Street, and then split off south of Prince Street to serve Lower Manhattan. This is a lot of interlining to manage, and it could put the express track over capacity and result in a lot of bunching on the express track, and really meager service on the local track with whatever train you keep running local.
The other problem you’d have is Queens Blvd. passengers looking to access the 4/5 at 59th Street. Run Broadway service through 63rd Street, and they would end up with the far-less convenient Metrocard transfer between 63rd-Lex and the 59th Street station (they could still access Lex via the E/M and 6 at 51st Street, but that would both irk people used to the express and create a double-train change for those going to Fulton, Wall or Bowling Green).
You could even maintain the Lex-59th St transfer access for riders on the Queens Blvd line and still run the N,. with the F, through the 63rd St tunnel. If you made that N-R switch, the 11th St connector would be empty — abandoned. So you could bring G trains from Brooklyn into Queens Plaza, then reverse them through the 11th St connector into the 60th St tunnel (The only construction this would require would be to install a switch track north of Queens Plaza so that the southbound M could enter the station on the middle track.) Then E and M train riders could transfer to a Broadway G and the 60th St tunnel would carry the G and, from Astoria, the R and the W. Think what a difference a one-train G ride to Manhattan would make during the 14th St. tunnel shutdown.
Maybe they could switch the N and the R in Brooklyn also (R to Coney Island, N to Bay Ridge)? Or, at that point, might be easier to describe it as running the R express and the N local in Manhattan.
Merging delays if southbound a F and N get to 36th St at the same time, anyone? Same if a northbound M and N get there at the same time. They already delay the northbound F if an E train gets to the 63rd St junction first.
Wow I’m surprised you’re back Ben… thought you disappeared for good. Do you still make all that ad money every time I check in every day to see if there’s a new article?
So will the D/N/R all be running local on 4th Avenue late nights? That’s a nice service bump if so.
Replacing the Q with the W in Astoria is definitely a service cut to some degree, though that’s balanced out some by giving Astoria riders the option of a one-seat ride to Lower Manhattan.
Could the MTA really increase service, though, if ridership demands it, like they say? I don’t think that single track at Whitehall Street is really equipped to handle much more than 6 or 7 trains per hour. And if it does, that would create delays in R service, as W trains would have to sit and wait at Rector for that track to become available.
Not to mention weekday N trains no longer having to switch to/from the local tracks at Prince St, eliminating that chokepoint.
Looking forward to this for my commute from Bay Ridge. Of course, this morning I was on the first N train!! …. that had to go local in Manhattan due to a sick passenger on the N express in front.
Ahh N train.. everything changes and yet you remain the same.
So I’m curious: how do these service levels compare to how the W ran before it was discontinued? Did Astoria get a service bump in 2010 that’s now being undone, or will it be less than it was before?
From what I can remember of the old W train schedule, it seems to be the exact same schedule as 2010 or close to it.
It was also M23SBS Monday! And Bus Lane Blocking Monday, of course.