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.