Home Second Avenue Subway Scenes from inside the Second Ave. Subway and a postmortem on Phase 1

Scenes from inside the Second Ave. Subway and a postmortem on Phase 1

by Benjamin Kabak
Crowds exit the Second Ave. Subway's 86th St. stop on Saturday afternoon. (Photo by Benjamin Kabak)

Crowds exit the Second Ave. Subway’s 86th St. stop on Saturday afternoon. (Photo by Benjamin Kabak)

Since returning from Paris, I’ve been through the Second Ave. Subway twice. On Saturday, I took a ride up there in the snow and snapped a bunch of photos, many of which you see in this post. On Monday, I rode up there with Matt Chaban, and he turned that trip into a story on me and this site for the Village Voice. Each time, I was struck by how this new thing that looks a bit out of place in the New York City just seemed to be another part of our transit network that was just there. Sure, there were some gawkers and subway tourists who rode up to the Upper East Side to check out this new thing, but for so many people, the Second Ave. Subway had, in a week, become routine.

In a way, seeing the Second Ave. Subway — or at least the three stops that make up this new northern end of the Q train — was a very New York moment. We have a reputation to uphold of being utterly nonchalant about everything, and the Second Ave. Subway, this thing that few people expected to become reality and many didn’t even know about or understand in the first place, is one of those things. It’s been open for 11 days, and it’s already just a part of the routine. Hospital workers now take the Q to 72nd St. while Upper East Siders rave about the 11 or 13 minute one-seat rides to Times Square from 86th or 96th Sts. People talk about their 20 minutes of extra sleep per day but treat the space just like a subway stop, albeit one that’s brighter and, for now, cleaner than the rest of the system.

The view of the tracks from the mezzanine at 72nd Street. (Photo by Benjamin Kabak)

The view of the tracks from the mezzanine at 72nd Street. (Photo by Benjamin Kabak)

The subway opened with a celebration on New Year’s Eve and the perfunctory back-slapping that comes along with it. Gov. Andrew Cuomo, our state leader who wasn’t around for the bulk of the planning or construction, but who pushed the project to a quasi-on-time opening, took the microphone. “After nearly a century, the Second Avenue Subway is no longer a dream that only a few still believe is possible. Thanks to the dedication and tireless efforts of thousands of great New Yorkers, the stations are open, the trains are running and it is spectacular,” he said during the opening. “With this achievement, we have recaptured the bold ambition that made the Empire State so great, proving that government can still accomplish big things for the people it serves. New Year’s Eve is all about starting anew and I am proud to ring in the New Year on the Second Avenue Subway and welcome a new era in New York where there is no challenge too great, no project too grand, and all is possible once again.”

It’s a bit of hyperbole, but it’s generally well-deserved hyperbole. The city made a monumental blunder in tearing down the Second Ave. elevated before securing funding to build the Second Ave. Subway over 70 years ago, and this month’s opening rights a historic wrong while bringing transit to one of the few areas of Manhattan still starved of it. By the end of the first week, with service running only from 6 a.m. – 10 p.m., the three new stops were already seeing 93,000 rides per day, and that number will grow as more New Yorkers adjust their routines to account for the new line.

Straphangers at 72nd St. have been enjoying the art at the new stations. (Photo by Benjamin Kabak)

Straphangers at 72nd St. have been enjoying the art at the new stations. (Photo by Benjamin Kabak)

Inside, as I’ve mentioned, the stations don’t look like anything New Yorkers are accustomed to seeing in the subway. The caverns are huge with three-block-long mezzanines spanning each station and no columns along the platforms. The stations are deep too, with long escalators and a variety of elevators. In fact, at 72nd St., one entrance is just a series of five elevators that open at street level, and the renovated 63rd St., a key transfer point between the Q and F, is unrecognizable to anyone who recalls the red false wall that dominated that station for decades. Even the dogs seemed to be enjoying the new station.

It’s certainly appropriate to marvel at the station, and the art — Vik Muniz’s Perfect Strangers at 72nd St., Chuck Close’s incredibly detailed mosaics at 86th St. and Sarah Sze’s blueprints at 96th St. — is worth the price of admission alone. But price — or more specifically cost — remains the elephant in the room. On the eve of the opening, Josh Barro explored the insanely high costs of New York City infrastructure, and Ben Fried at Streetsblog wrote a similar assessment of the dollars. Nicole Gelinas too tried to find a reason for the high costs, but the jury is still out what exactly led to a $4.5 billion bill for three new stations and a renovated fourth. Was it the modern environmental and safety regulations? ADA requirements? Overbuilt mezzanines due to deep-bore tunnels because no one wanted to take the political risk of proposing a cut-and-cover construction? Was it labor costs? Was it good old fashioned corruption?

Ultimately, it’s likely a combination of all of those factors, but the costs seem to be getting worse. Phase 2, which really should have begun long before Phase 1 ended, won’t see heavy construction begin for a few years, and already, due potentially to some engineering SNAFUs in the initial assessment of the project, costs may be as high as $6 billion for a section of a subway that runs through tunnels built decades ago. New York City will never meet the demands of a growing town if these costs and the construction timelines aren’t seriously compressed. And while Cuomo and the MTA can take a victory lap, they shouldn’t lose sight of the lessons that need to be learned from this project. They shouldn’t, as Cuomo did, get snippy when reporters ask about the future of the project, and cost controls are a long-term issue that must be resolved.

In the coming days, I’ll have more on the new subway section. In the meantime, though, if you’re not near the Upper East Side, try to find some time to check it out. It won’t look as pristine as it does now, and it’s something new and exciting for the New York City subway that seems far more of a place than the 7 train’s Hudson Yards stop. It is, after all these years, the Second Ave. Subway in the flesh.

A Second Ave. Subway-themed newsstand on the platform level at 96th St. sat empty and shuttered on Saturday. (Photo by Benjamin Kabak)

A Second Ave. Subway-themed newsstand on the platform level at 96th St. sat empty and shuttered on Saturday. (Photo by Benjamin Kabak)

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Mike January 12, 2017 - 12:58 am

What are the “engineering SNAFUs” affecting Phase 2? Link?

It seems absurd that a section that uses existing tunnels could cost *more* than one built from scratch.

Billy Gunn January 12, 2017 - 4:36 am

Won’t speak on any SNAFU but I will say that the underpinning of the 125th and Lexington Av Subway station as well as incorporating the existing elevator with the new expansion will likely be very costly.

mister January 12, 2017 - 8:09 am

When the Dey Street Passageway was built, it was built with underpasses below both the 4/5 line and the R/W line. Granted, this will be a significantly bigger tunnel, but this is not something that should drive up costs by $1.5 billion above Phase 1.

JJ January 14, 2017 - 11:45 am Reply
JJ January 14, 2017 - 11:47 am Reply
Spendmore Wastemor January 12, 2017 - 9:35 am

So instead, stop short of Lexington Ave and install a station-connecting people mover, anything from a moving sidewalk to an automated resort-cart thing.
These projects seem to be mostly excuses to burn cash, buy votes and recycle some of the cash into campaign $$ and deniable graft. The transit part in a by-product. Exactly where the money goes is well hidden, but by the total it’s obviously not going for moving people from A to B nor even is it for doing so in tolerable conditions.
The original, cost-efficient IRT stations had artwork, skylights and canopies over the entrances. There are choices between drab utilitarian misery and trying to glamorize a subway stop.

Thus, phase II should be either held until costs are controlled (notgonnahappen), or the Feds should stay out. The State will still bleed the taxpayers, because the majority of voters ain’t paying.

Joseph Steindam January 12, 2017 - 11:36 am

It’s not just underpinning the Lexington Ave Line, although that is a massive challenge (and just as important, making the transfer to the Lex is also a significant challenge), but as the line continues west of Park Avenue (to layup tracks that end between 5th Ave and Malcolm X Blvd) the MN viaduct also needs significant underpinning. Also, mining 125th Street from street level is considered very difficult due to the narrowness of the street and its current traffic levels.

Mr. Wallace January 13, 2017 - 7:35 am

Malcolm X. Blvd = Lenox avenue…
Frederick Douglass Blvd= 8th ave…
Adam Clayton Powell Blvd= 7th ave.


Nick January 13, 2017 - 4:27 pm

Wow what a fucking asshole. Did you just come here to complain about streets named after civil rights leaders? Seriously fuck you

John January 18, 2017 - 1:19 pm

And uses George Wallace as his handle. What a scumbag

Mike Harrington February 24, 2017 - 12:26 am

Honestly, this decoding of civil rights names helps an out-of-towner like me to get some perspective as to where these places are. I think you are over-politicizing this.

eo January 12, 2017 - 7:47 am

How about the idiotic idea to demolish a section of the existing tunnel in order to build a station at 116th? Just merge it with the 106th station and build it at 110th where there is no preexisting tunnel. Tell everyone who complains to either walk or cough up about $1.5 billion so that they can have both 106th and 116th. With two stations, one at 110th and one at 125th your budget is down to about $4.5 billion. I get it, people like to have a station close by, but at these costs we really need to start thinking of increasing the spacing as a way to cut costs. 110th to 96th is 14 blocks, 125th to 110th is 15, but also includes a few long blocks. Yes, it is much more than the spacing on the legacy lines, but with these costs we just cannot match the legacy lines in terms of spacing. The distances are still walkable.

Spendmore Wastemor January 12, 2017 - 9:43 am

“How about the idiotic idea to demolish a section of the existing tunnel in order to build a station at 116th?”

To Cuomo & co, that’s a win. Maximizing spending maximizes their influence. To most NY voters, public works money falls from the sky because they pay almost nothing in state income tax and don’t notice the pass-through taxes on business, which they actually pay in the price of goods and services. Federal dollars are treated as if they fall from interstellar space. Most people pay little in Federal income tax; 85% of all Fed tax comes from 20% of the tax payers. Of course nothing is actually free… try running for office on that platform.

JEG January 12, 2017 - 9:56 am

THOSE PEOPLE in EAST HARLEM who pay nothing in taxes, but demand free stuff like subway service. As opposed to hard working taxpayers, who know better. Nothing is actually free you say, and trying running for office on that platform? We have had someone run on that platform and win. Our president-billionaire who has acknowledged not paying federal income taxes over a period of decades.

Spendmore Wastemor January 13, 2017 - 4:51 pm

It’s a touch difficult to figure out what your tantrum is supposed to mean.

The SAS was funded >80% by the Federal government. People from East Harlem to North Dakota were equally on the hook for it, if they pay Federal tax. Many people pay little to nothing in Fed tax, and they are free to vote in favor of more spending while being laregly immune to the tax levied to pay for that spending. Throwing a word-tantrum changes that not one bit.

“Nothing is actually free you say, and trying running for office….”
Congratulations, you’ve succeeded in inverting what I clearly meant. The meaning of my statement was the informing voters that either taxes must rise, spending for stuff they want must be cut or a delayed tax via deficit will occur will result in losing. DT did the opposite, as do most politicians who end up winning.

I have no idea how much DT pays in Federal tax, but if he takes a salary or bonus from his business that is taxable. Mr Trump is entirely irrelevant to the topic, unless your sole aim is to vent about whatever is bothering you.

JEG January 13, 2017 - 7:01 pm

Your comment clearly suggests that the people of East Harlem are out for something free, because they aren’t federal taxpayers. Pretending that you’re actually saying something different, and something without a racial dimension is false. At least own your convictions.

We of course all know how much Donald Trump pays in federal income taxes, as he acknowledged paying none during the second presidential debate.

AG January 18, 2017 - 7:39 pm

“People from East Harlem to North Dakota were equally on the hook for it, if they pay Federal tax”

NYC residents pay more per capita than most of the nation and get back less per dollar…
Plus the feds blow through money like nothing… Ask anyone involved in defense.

In any event – the point of mass transit is to move the most amount of people in the most effective manner. So no – costs need to be controlled – not cutting a station. When the Lexington Ave. line was built East Harlem was already a slum. All that changed are the ethnic groups. The Germans and Italians were replaced by Puerto Ricans and now other groups – including people with higher incomes.

Chaz February 11, 2017 - 10:53 pm

I am “one of THOSE people” who lives in East Harlem (on 106th St) and my federal tax bill was over $38k last year. Sorry to be a whiny bitch, but YES, I, and my neighbours, deserve a subway station at 106th, 116th and 125th as promised when they tool took the two El’s!

Just as with the current administration, Obamacare and the El’s will be/were taken down and a promise to replace them was made — it only took them 50-60 years to complete Phase I.

JEG January 12, 2017 - 9:50 am

So first to make things cheaper we eliminate two tracks, so that the Second Avenue subway will not have express service, and now we start eliminating stations? Any by cutting out the 116th Street station, you’re doing nothing to improve transit for residents in a wide swath of East Harlem, which justifiably won’t go down well with residents or their elected officials.

Eric January 16, 2017 - 5:04 am

You know what, in the long term this works out fine.

Extend the current SAS to 125th St, and then west under 125th to the Hudson River.

Then someday, build ANOTHER pair of tracks – an express line from the Bronx. Have it stop at 125th, 86th, and then Midtown. SAS phase 3 and 4 will connect to this new line, not to SAS phase 1/2. At 125th, the new line it will have a walking transfer to the 4/5/6/Q. At 86th it will have a transfer to the Q.

It would be built by TBM, so it would be independent of existing infrastructure (as deep as you want, etc.). The only complicated part would be a single transfer station at 86th St.

Joseph Steindam January 12, 2017 - 12:06 pm

This could be possible, since the space between the two existing tunnels (ending at 105th Street and starting at 110th Street) accommodate the space for a station (currently planned to stretch from 106th to 109th) and a slight elevation change to transition from the 105th Street area up to 110th St (for some reason, the tunnel at 110th is closer to surface than at 105th).

While it seems like it could be feasible, I imagine the Environmental Impact Statement selected the 106th and 116th Street station options instead of a single 110th Street station for a few reasons. I can’t say I’ve read the EIS all that closely (and the station sites may have been determined in an earlier study), but if I had a guess, I’d come up with these reasons in favor of two stations instead of one:
1) Projected ridership levels may have warranted two stations instead of 1, so you avoid platform crushes (and possibly also station entry/exit overcrowding).
2) With MTA planning the 125th Street curve, the 116th Street station (with an exit at 118th) helps cover more of the northeastern corner of Harlem than a 110th Street station.
3)No one anticipated the type of costs that are now associated with building these stations with the Phase 1 specifications.

Nathanael January 12, 2017 - 12:29 pm

Given that the SAS acts as a “super-express” for the Lexington Avenue Line, I think this is a genuinely good idea. A station from 105th to 110th would make a great deal of sense….

David January 13, 2017 - 1:20 pm

How does SAS act as a “super-express” for the Lex? It’s a local subway. The closest thing to a super-express line in the area is the MNR mainline up Park Avenue… though past and present choices have ensured that we will likely not see rapid transit-like service on that infrastructure in our lifetimes.

Tom January 13, 2017 - 2:40 pm

Isn’t part of the unfortunate point that the original tunnels were built when they thought they could use older construction methods and maybe even cut and cover? Now that we have to (?) use super deep tunnel boring construction methods, aren’t the existing tunnels are way too shallow to be used?

John-2 January 13, 2017 - 3:45 pm

They could probably get away with it if the station is at 110th, because even with deep bore drilling, there still has to be street level disruption where the station boxes are built. But local opposition might keep that from happening, even with a second entrance at 113th Street.

R.V. January 16, 2017 - 9:56 am

The existing tunnels are not too shallow. 96th street is not as deep as the two stations to the south and the tunnel connects to the previously constructed tunnels.

Eric F January 12, 2017 - 9:17 am

I tried to take my first ride on the SAS yesterday afternoon. Unfortunately, after waiting 15 minutes at 63rd for an uptown Q train that never came, I gave up. I hope to try again soon. It sounded like there were general problems on the Q/F line yesterday, and the issue wasn’t related to the SAS stub, but disappointing nonetheless.

I have some sympathy for Cuomo’s answer to Hinds’ question. I see this dynamic constantly in sports journalism, where the winning super bowl coach in his post-game press conference is immediately asked about signing his free agents or whether he’ll stay on next season. Let the guy enjoy the victory for 15 minutes first, people.

That said, totally agree that Phase II should have been well underway by now.

JEG January 12, 2017 - 9:26 am

He’s been governor for six years, and still hasn’t proposed a funding plan for one of the most important state agencies, that permits the MTA to follow through on its 5 year capital spending plan, without resorting to vast amounts of new debt. Meanwhile, projects like East Side Access are taking decades to complete and cost many billions of dollars more than comparable project in Europe, and there seems to be no effort on the part of Cuomo to figure out why.

Eric F January 12, 2017 - 10:03 am

The East Side Access project — if it’s ever done — will have taken over 20 years of construction. Absolutely unbelievable. The rumors are that a realistic completion date would be at least 2024 vs the 2022 current schedule. You’d have to surmise that a fair chunk of the workforce that would have been using this if built on the original five year schedule will have retired by the time this thing is done.

Bgriff January 12, 2017 - 1:23 pm

Not to mention that tunneling under the river was already done prior to that 20-year timeframe.

Ed January 14, 2017 - 9:20 pm

East Side access is the F35 of transit infrastructure.

SEAN January 17, 2017 - 7:35 pm

But unlike the F35, ESA has real value & is necessary.

Brooklynite January 19, 2017 - 10:03 pm

Just how necessary is it to build eight more tracks in the biggest train station in the world?

AMH January 23, 2017 - 1:35 pm

If I may add, how necessary is it to build eight more terminal tracks in the biggest terminal in the world? If these were through-tracks, connecting to Brooklyn or New Jersey, we would not need eight and they would add a great deal more value.

Tim January 24, 2017 - 9:32 am

Eveyrone realizes that the F-35 cost is TCO for the lifetime of the airframe, right? Ok Good.

As to ESA, it should’ve been one 4 track cavern, and send the tunnels south and west to Penn with bellmouths for possible southern expansion. Instead, they bricked up the TBM and left it sitting in the way.

JEG January 12, 2017 - 9:22 am

The 72nd Street station has been packed in the mornings, and with more than 1,000 people on the ten car train, the Lexington Avenue line has to be seeing some decrease in crowding during rush hour. And yes, getting from an apartment on First Avenue to a Midtown office in about 20-25 minutes is a significant improvement.

John A. Noble January 12, 2017 - 11:54 am

I’d be curious to see the ridership numbers, but I doubt there’d be much of a drop on the Lexington Av subways at all. I have a feeling that a significant number of the Second Avenue Subway riders are not former Lex riders, but instead people who used to take buses or cabs or just never rode the subway for whatever reason.

In any event, the Lexington Avenue subways are so overcrowded that I doubt a 5-10% drop in riders would even be noticed.

JEG January 12, 2017 - 12:02 pm

Not many people are commuting to Midtown or further south by bus, and if you’re suggesting that people who live along First, Second, and Third Avenues are “wealth” and can afford to take cabs everyday, then you are mistaken. And you don’t think removing 10 percent of the riders off the Lexington Avenue line would be noticed? Then you never tired to get on a 6 train at 68th Street and had to let one or two trains go by because there was absolutely no room.

John A. Noble January 13, 2017 - 9:31 am

I rode to and from 68th Street every day for six years, until relatively recently. It was beyond horrible. So often the trains were so late and overcrowded that they didn’t even stop at 68th Street.

I think you’d need at least a 20 percent drop in ridership for the Lexington Avenue line to become tolerable. In any event, my statement above could very well be wrong, and I’m curious to know the actual truth.

IP January 15, 2017 - 3:18 pm

If people keep complaining about how horrible Lex line, then use SAS. Even if it takes a little longer, at least the ride is far less stressful. It’ll take time to adjust.

Tim January 24, 2017 - 9:37 am

I live at 80/1st, the new stop is amazing. Headways could be better, but the trains are huge and empty compared to the Lex. I love it.

AG January 18, 2017 - 7:43 pm

5-10% Not be noticed? Are you kidding?

Paul Berk January 12, 2017 - 9:35 am

At least now the city is getting its money’s worth from the 63rd street line. Wasn’t the original rationale for that a new Queens super express?

Larry Littlefield January 12, 2017 - 10:22 am

The first phase, and the 106th and 116th stations, are about serving residents and allowing them to travel to the CBD.

The rest of the line is about serving destinations for people living in the entire city and beyond.

The 125th Street station would allow residents of the Bronx and Westchester to change to the SAS and access the 200,000-plus jobs on the Upper East Side, including the hospital/Rockefeller University complex on the East River.

Stations at 42nd Street and 55th Street would allow residents of the East Side and perhaps Queens and Brooklyn who were willing to walk a little to travel to East Midtown while avoiding the crowded Lex.

Stations at 28th and 14th (I think the number of stations can be reduced by one to speed trains) would allow access to more medical facilities with tens of thousands of jobs.

The station at 14th Street would allow a change of trains from the L. And if the SAS were then connected to the F line north of Delancey, that would allow changes from the J/M as well, along with the F itself. And if the Rutgers-DeKalb connection were built in Brooklyn, a line running through Atlantic Terminal could then run up Second Avenue, allowing those throughout southern Brooklyn to get to the East Side while avoiding the Lex.

(I think phase IV of the SAS is not needed given all the excess capacity downtown on the Nassau St and BMT Broadway lines and Montingue Street tunnel).

JEG January 12, 2017 - 11:57 am

I agree that riders needing to get to lower Manhattan have other lines and ways to connect to get to the Financial District. As such it seems like after Phase 3 (whenever that becomes reality, if ever), taking the T line into Brooklyn makes sense.

Larry Littlefield January 12, 2017 - 12:10 pm

The point about origins vs. destinations gets the “Second Avenue Snobway” objection to the project — that it primarily benefits the rich people of the Upper East Side.

First of all, the East Side isn’t a rich relative to the rest of Manhattan as it was in the 1970s. But the portion of it that primarily benefits Upper East Side residents is the part that just opened. The rest of it is intended to improve access from the whole city and beyond to East Midtown and to all the hospital complex on the east side.

It isn’t a “snobway.” If anything, it is the Health Care line, potentially serving tens of thousands of hospital employees, customers, and ambulatory health care patients.

As for Phase IV, when the line was planned vastly more people worked in Lower Manhattan than do today (and far fewer lived there). There is still crowding on the 4/5 downtown, but only due to all the people passing through the area on the way to East Midtown.

Running (say) the Sea Beach up to 125th Street as the T might draw many of those people away, particularly if underground passageways were added from the 42nd Street and 55th Street stations across to Lexington Avenue.

Stephen Smith January 12, 2017 - 12:57 pm

Rents in all of Manhattan are pretty high nowadays, but the far Upper East Side has the lowest rents below Harlem, aside from Chinatown. It was overbuilt in the post-war era (and even after the 1961 code – it was the only residential neighborhood in the city with a significant number of development sites to be zoned R10; now parts of Long Island City and downtown Brooklyn match it, but the far East Side has been zoned that way for generations), and has declined in a way that all “hot” neighborhoods used to (and still would, if not for the extremely strict zoning that prevents overdevelopment).

Larry Littlefield January 12, 2017 - 3:16 pm

I think there are two issues there. First, the “packing the bulk” amendments in the Giuliani Administration, pushed by Municipal Art Society types, capped towers and in effect downzoned R10. Not much has been built since.

The key is the way it interacts with rent regulations. Without the height limits, one could in effect build the excess floor area of low-rise, occupied, rent regulated buildings through a zoning lot merger, allowing that bulk to be transferred to an open site adjacent. That’s what the MAS sought to stop. Now you have to empty all the buildings to build an equal amount of floor area compressed onto lower floors.

I never spent much time there, but a relative’s health issue had me spending a lot of time near the Hospital for Special Surgery last summer (to be repeated this spring). Last time I drove, this time I’ll take the SAS aside from bringing the patient to and fro. I was surprised at the number of rotting, run down, mostly but not completely vacant building in the area — presumably being emptied over decades for redevelopment.

A downside of rent regulation, possibly the largest. If rent regulated tenants could be shifted to other rent regulated buildings nearly to make way for development, more development would be taking place.

Meanwhile, I was stunned when the Upper East Side ended up with the lowest average market rate rents in Manhattan south of 110th Street, a distinction it has held ever since.

Stephen Smith January 13, 2017 - 8:55 pm

And I think it will stay the cheapest after Chinatown (maybe it’ll even get cheaper than Chinatown one day?) even with the 2nd Ave. subway. I think the power of overbuilding (or at least, as close as you can get to it in post-1961 NYC) is stronger than the power of transit. The 2nd Ave. subway is deserved given the density, but the far UES was never really a transit desert to begin with, given proximity to the Lex and Midtown and the buses.

AMH January 23, 2017 - 1:43 pm

Interesting, I always thought air rights transfers were good for preservation (and keeping existing residents from being forced out) so it seems strange someone like the MAS would oppose them.

Justin Samuels January 13, 2017 - 6:19 am

I would have no problem if the Nassau Street line were used as a part of phase 4 so Second Avenue Subway riders go to Brooklyn. This would give 4th Avenue Subways direct access to the East Side. The platforms on the Nassau Street line likely need widening.

Still I wouldn’t have a problem of phase 4 is built as planned to Hanover. Trump has said he will spend one trillion on infrastructure. The MTA has it’s lobbyists read. I also think once the full length Second Avenue subway is funded, they also need to use the Metro North area row to have the Second Avenue Subway fill a void in the transportation of the Bronx caused by the demolition of the 3rd Avenue elevated. The 2 and 5 trains are overcrowded as a result.

paulb January 14, 2017 - 8:50 am

Where would a Dekalb-Rutgers connector be constructed? Between York and Jay St/Metrotech or south of there but north of Bergen st?

Larry Littlefield January 15, 2017 - 10:13 pm

Where it was planned during the time when half the Manhattan Bridge tracks were out for 20 years.

There would be another branch off of the BMT north of the Gold Street interlocking. It would merge into the tracks approaching the Rutgers tunnel past York Street station.

Branch off to the Second Avenue Subway north of Delancey Street, and any train going through the Gold Street interlocking could be routed up Second Avenue.

Tower18 January 12, 2017 - 11:42 am

If the ridership figures are apples to apples, I don’t know about the 200k projection, but ridership for the new Q stations seems pretty good for the first week.

96 St-Lex: 28,060 average weekday
96 St-2 Av: 12,185 1/5

86 St-Lex: 65,948 average weekday
86 St-2 Av: 18,918 1/5

68 St-Lex: 35,640 average weekday
72 St-2 Av: 21,664 1/5

Obviously 86 St isn’t comparable, but those are sizable numbers, many of whom we can reasonably assume are not new riders, but have switched from using the Lex stations at the same streets, which has knock on effects to everyone else’s commute.

Larry Littlefield January 12, 2017 - 12:14 pm

That’s 52,800. Multiply by two and it’s only 105,600. There may also be an uptick on people boarding at 63rd and Lex.

It may be that the MTA needs to make some bus changes to get more people to choose this line. With some 1st/2nd avenue buses turning around at 96th and dropping people right at the station entrance. And more service on Lex/3rd for those continuing to East Midtown.

Tower18 January 12, 2017 - 4:36 pm

If even half of those riders are being siphoned away from the Lex, it’s a huge win, I don’t care about projections.

That’d be 21% fewer riders at 96th, 14% fewer riders at 86th, and 30% fewer riders at 68th.

While the individual station ridership numbers aren’t massive (although they are just as busy, or businer, as 6 train stations at 103, 110, 116, Astor Pl, Spring St, etc.) the potential *decrease* at Lex stations is the key from a system point of view.

Plus the data reflects only the first week, and some have pointed out that the bus networks isn’t taking the stations into account. It will only grow.

Duke January 13, 2017 - 11:44 pm

I would also stress that it is going to take time, years even, for people’s travel patterns to fully adjust to the new line.

As things stand, the Q is not a viable substitute for many riders of the 4/5/6 because it does not stop on the east side anywhere between Union Square and 63 St. It does, however, provide a one seat ride to Times Square and the west side of midtown where one did not previously exist.

So, SAS phase I won’t realize it’s full utility until people have a chance to move residences or change jobs in a way that takes advantage of the new connection – e.g. a person who works in Times Square is more likely to consider renting an apartment at 85th St and 1st Ave now that there’s a one seat ride between the two places. These sort of changes take time to happen.

IP January 15, 2017 - 11:53 am

Yes, it is a viable substitute if there are problems on Lexington line. These problems happen quite often.

Tower18 January 16, 2017 - 8:58 am

It would be wrong to assume that everyone who lives on the East Side, and uses the Lex line, *also* works on the East Side, near the Lex line. The reason the UES stations are busy is because people live there and start their trips there, not necessarily because their destinations *also* are on the same line.

Simply having an East Side direct route to the West Side should have ancillary effects (in addition to reduction of crowding at paired Lex Ave stations) of:

-more efficient crosstown bus service
-less crowding at 59 St, and the N/R/W transfer
-less crowding at 51 St, and the E transfer
-less crowding at 42 St and the shuttle

Tim January 24, 2017 - 10:28 am

Access to Hudson yard via a Q/7 ride could be a big driver.

BruceNY January 14, 2017 - 1:13 pm

…”There may also be an uptick on people boarding at 63rd and Lex.”

Yes, I would be one of those. I formerly used the N/R/W stop at 60th and 3rd however. 63rd is that much closer for me. However, I did have to use the 6 train at 68th one morning this week; I was able to board no problem, and the train ran at a more suitable speed downtown vs. the usual crawl I expect at that hour.

Wacko Jack January 12, 2017 - 12:44 pm

The bus stops at 96 and 86 on the M15 SBS have not been restored yet.
Same with the M86 SBS. That is still skipping 2nd Ave.

Will January 12, 2017 - 12:48 pm

Reduce cost by eliminating the 125 st. Curve and cut and cover IRT style stations close to the streets. These new stations are overbuilt and vanity projects. Have the line go the Bronx and take over the Pelham line and the dyer ave line

Benjamin Kabak January 12, 2017 - 12:51 pm

Just to be clear, this is not what a vanity project looks like.

Larry Littlefield January 12, 2017 - 3:18 pm

The curves sounds like an excuse. Yes a curve and a station complex should cost more than a simple local station on straight track. Who knows. What the MTA paid for the three new local stations on straight track might be fair for such construction, but no more. And the rest of it should cost less.

Bgriff January 12, 2017 - 1:29 pm

I don’t really understand the massive elevator banks underground at 63/3 and at street level at 72/2 and am curious what drove those. 72/2 especially, since 86/2 has a comparable entrance with escalators/stairs available only on one corner of the intersection, but still only one street-level elevator.

It would be nice for the sake of people with limited mobility if these stations were all built with double elevator banks everywhere, as at the newest DC Metro stations, to provide redundancy when elevators break. But that doesn’t seem to be the rationale here.

And 63/3 already had the cavern available to build escalators. Yes, it’s deep, and it’s a lot of escalators, but the elevators are not well-suited to serving such a busy station.

Jim Kingdon January 12, 2017 - 7:30 pm

Someone may know more of the story than me, but I think it mostly has to do with difficulty locating entrances (almost everyone in that neighborhood was concerned about having an entrance right next to their building).

BruceNY January 14, 2017 - 1:10 pm

I don’t think that was the case at 63rd St. Fifteen or 20 years ago I went on a Transit Museum tour of unused/abandoned stations including the 3rd Ave. entrance at 63rd. We climbed bare concrete stairs all the way to where the token booth level is directly beneath 3rd & 63rd. It seemed designed very similarly to the Lexington Ave. entrance, with provisions for escalators. I was very surprised to find that they did not use these and instead put in four elevators (one of which was already out of service this past Tuesday). Considering the MTA’s track record of maintaining homeless urinals, I mean elevators, I really wonder what the rationale behind this is?

smotri January 13, 2017 - 10:54 am

Those elevators at 72 St are FAST!

Eric January 16, 2017 - 5:43 am

The rational is to spend more money to enrich more contractors.

JJJJ January 12, 2017 - 1:38 pm

Isnt Moynihan Station opening soon?

hasan January 16, 2017 - 10:30 pm

This might be off topic, but i haven’t been able to get an answer for this anywhere. why does the Q train take the 63rd st tunnel rather than the 60th st tunnel to make the turn onto 2nd ave? This would allow for easier connection to the Lexington avenue line. Of course I realize there might be technical reasons that prevent this, but i really don’t know much about that aspect. I’d love to know the reason. I’m actually taking the Q to 2nd avenue for the first time Wednesday, but i have to get to 59th and Lexington afterwards, and doing so from 63rd street is a pain. Any information would be appreciated. Thanks!

mister January 17, 2017 - 8:05 am

From a technical perspective, the recent construction was built to tie into the 63rd tunnel because that tunnel had provisions to tie in the 2nd avenue line. So it was fairly easy to connect it, whereas the tie in to 60th street would have been more difficult.

From a planning standpoint, connecting the Second Avenue Subway to the 63rd tunnel allows Second avenue trains to operate without needing to share tracks with the Broadway Locals (R and W). If the Q connected to 60th street, all 4 services would need to share tracks, and there wouldn’t be enough capacity.

Tower18 January 17, 2017 - 10:58 am

Not only that (capacity for 4 services on 1 track), but the merging required would be ridiculous and would constrain service even further. At 57th, you have the Q on the center tracks (headed into Central Park for 63rd St) and the N/R/W on the outside tracks (headed for 60th St). If you wanted to connect 2nd Av to the 60th St tunnels, you’d have to merge the Q onto the local tracks, only to branch it off 2 stops later. You’d have a result like the 8th Av line between Canal and Hoyt-Schermerhorn, which sees capacity drop below the maximum of a line with 3 services, due to merging constraints.

But another, perhaps more crucial issue is that giving the Q an easy transfer to the 4/5/6 at 59th St is specifically *not* the point. The point of the 2nd Av Q is to take people OFF the Lex. Dumping them back onto the Lex at the most crowded point would be counterproductive. If people on the UES want the Lex, they should take it, not take the Q and transfer.

Madbandit January 17, 2017 - 12:41 pm

Hit the nail on the head. For UES residents near the new train, it’s about new options, and reducing crowding on the Lex, while not being a direct supplement for the Lex. I’m 2 blocks from the 86 station, and I love how I can take this down the Broadway line, or transfer to the F at 63rd, or a variety of other instances where the 4/5/6 would not make sense, or take longer.

Now if only the MTA would have less weekend construction.

On Saturday, what would’ve been an easy Q->63rd->F->Smith/9th in Gowanus became Q to Dekalb, walk to Hoyt-Sch., G to Smith/9th. On the way backit took 4(!) trains, G, A, J, and 6 to get back. 45 minutes became 90.

Spendmore Wastemor January 17, 2017 - 5:15 pm

“Now if only the MTA would have less weekend construction.”

I’d say one all that weekend work is an indicator that work is being done. The alternative in current practice is to do it during the week. You sure you want that?
Personally, I think each line should have an annual construction shut-down of 0 (if no major work is required) to 14 days. This would reduce though not eliminate the massive time-waste in current practice.
As it stands, they are extraordinarily inefficient on those projects — ask anyone who has been a contractor or MTA employee for a while. I knew someone who was an electrician for them, his crew now (he’s a foreman) does 4-5x the amount of work per person-hour as he did years ago while an MTA employee.

Joseph Steindam January 18, 2017 - 7:39 am

In a way, there’s a certain logic to your proposal, because it’s true that there’s significant inefficiency in the MTA only permitting work overnight or on weekends, those closures stretch out the work significantly, as it takes time to stage and protect work crews before the work can even start.

But I think the “0 to 14 days” metric is off base for a realistic length of time to complete work. If I recall correctly, when Cuomo proposed his 30 stations initiative last year, with the intent of shortening the time needed to update and rehabilitate subway stations, his timeline was either 2 or 3 month full closures to finish the stations, and these were mostly smaller stations (not transfer complexes). During these closures, I believe there is an expectation that MTA will need to offer a shuttle bus to cover the gap in service.

This is all to say that full closures create a lot more headaches in terms of navigating passengers around the closed area and bringing passengers from the closed area to access service. Where there are easy options to divert people (the Montague Tunnel is the best example of this) mitigation can be light or non-existent, but in areas with fewer options, those diversions become costly in their own right, and may overturn any savings in construction costs.

TomSchmidt January 20, 2017 - 7:16 pm

Took my first ride on the stub way today. I walked 30 blocks from my appointment to get the free transfer at 63rd and Lex, and rode up to 96th. VERY smooth ride. VERY fast, too. It was like a subway amuse bouche, delicious but over too soon.

The entrance at 63rd and Lex is a joke, however. Horrible long time, five minutes to get to the track, it seemed. Exit at 86th was deep but not that bad.

I walked to Lex and took the 4 train to the Bronx. Woulda been nice to transfer at 125th.

T-bo May 2, 2018 - 8:06 pm

No more posts on the Q extension in 14 months? How about discussion of how the trains have become ‘sleeping cars’ again?


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