Home New York City Transit No, Uber isn’t responsible for declining weekend ridership, and other thoughts

No, Uber isn’t responsible for declining weekend ridership, and other thoughts

by Benjamin Kabak
Subway ridership showed a slight dip in 2016 with the weekends accounting for the decline.

Subway ridership showed a slight dip in 2016 with the weekends accounting for the decline.

After years and years of massive growth, something a little bit funny and a little bit predictable happened to New York City’s weekend subway ridership last year: It declined. This is the first year since the Great Recession in late 2008 led to a subsequent dip in ridership in 2009 that weekend trips have gone down, and although many have pointed to Uber as a likely culprit and convenient scapegoat, it is a symptom, rather than a cause, of the downtown.

The MTA released its preliminary ridership figures at its board meetings at the end of February. Overall ridership was 1.7568 billion for the year, off the budgeted amount by around 2.5 percent and slightly off the 2015 pace. Nearly all of the losses came on the weekends.

During the week, the subways are still very crowded. Average weekday ridership is now 5.656 million, up by around one-tenth of a percent over 2015’s figure, and on 39 weekdays (down from 45 in 2015), ridership was over 6 million. But with a few extra weekend days in 2016, ridership sagged. Weekend subway ridership averages dropped from 5.943 million in 2015 to 5.758 million in 2016, a decline of around 3.1 percent.

As frequently happens in transit and rail circles, Uber took the blame. A Times piece called out Uber in a headline, and the interim MTA Chair Fernando Ferrar suggested that the increasing popularity in cab hailing apps in New York City is putting pressure on the MTA’s ridership numbers. When you consider that Uber’s VC money is going toward artificially deflating fares and a trip from disjointed neighborhoods miles away can cost under $15 as they did this past weekend, it’s easy to see why Uber is to blame.

But are nearly 200,000 New Yorkers each weekend giving up their subway rides because of Uber or is Uber (and other city improvements such as Citi Bike) replacing these subway rides for other reasons? I’m inclined to believe the latter. Now, it’s certainly possible that Uber has led to a decline in subway ridership; you can chart the ups and downs of taxi usage in NYC right here. But to believe Uber is the driving force behind subway ridership drops requires you to believe that nearly every single new daily taxi ride in NYC in 2016 replaced a subway ride. That seems like a stretch to me.

So what’s the problem? To me, this chicken-and-egg problem starts with the MTA and the simple truth that weekend subway service is abysmal, unpredictable and unreliable on a week-to-week basis. These three factors alone would be enough in any other city to torpedo transit ridership entirely. That the MTA’s hasn’t cratered on weekends yet shows how resilient the subway is to relatively poor service and how necessary it is for New Yorkers to get around.

Getting around the city on a weekend is a total crap shoot. Between necessary work and the MTA’s lack of transparency regarding changes, weekend service can be slow and frustrating to decipher. Press releases on weekend GOs are often not released until Friday afternoon, just a few hours before changes go into effect, and signs at stations are an indecipherable mess of F trains running on the Q line but only southbound in Manhattan while shutting buses run in Brooklyn and G trains replace F trains to Coney Island, whatever that all means to the uninitiated. This weekend’s changes aren’t likely to be in effect next weekend when an entirely new set of service patterns are briefly established with the same few hours of warning for most people. The Weekender is a graphical mess, and it’s often easier just to walk, bike or, you know, open up Uber, hail a Lyft or flag a cab. T

hat there are viable replacements shows that people aren’t wedded to the subway if it’s not convenient; they’re not, on the other hand, eating into subway service simply by existing. It’s still cheaper and usually faster to take a subway. That said, if your peer group is a bunch of upper middle class yuppies, Uber will be the easy and relatively inexpensive replacement for subway service, especially on the weekends. It’s up to the MTA to combat this decline by offering either better weekend service or a clearer picture of how weekend changes will effect our rides.

Of course, in the end, even as the MTA budget relies on ridership projections, we’re a long way from the bad old days. Total ridership in 2016 was up 77.6 percent since ridership was at its nadir in 1982. That’s impressive growth, but with a system aging and struggling to expand, it’s not impossible to believe that the only way to go from here is down.

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Peter Green March 6, 2017 - 12:04 am

100 percent correct, Ben! Weekend service is so abysmal that I simply forgo trips I’d otherwise make. I know that’s the same for many friends and family members. I can wait 22 (!) minutes for a 1 train on a Saturday afternoon. If that’s the case, why bother? Sure it’s not easy to run a railroad, especially one that’s in service 24/7, but the MTA does a particularly poor job by this commuter.

Alon Levy March 6, 2017 - 12:13 am

The Schaller study says that the total growth in taxi/TNC ridership in the Manhattan core amounts to 30,000 riders per weekend day and 21,000 riders per weekday; this counts Thursday evenings as weekends and Sunday evenings as weekdays, so actual numbers should be a bit closer, perhaps 29,000 vs. 22,000. Let’s say the citywide numbers are proportional to the Manhattan numbers.

Now, weekend ridership per day in 2015 was 53% as high as weekday ridership. So the 22,000 extra weekday Manhattan riders should be compared in subway-competing power with 29,000/0.53 = 55,000 weekend riders. If 55,000 leads to a 3% weekend decline and 22,000 leads to flat ridership, then ridership without Uber should be up 2%. That might be reasonable… but maybe not. Subway speeds have been in decline. And in the few years to 2015, ridership growth was less than 2% per year.

Jeff K. March 6, 2017 - 12:46 am

We’ve had Fastrack throughout the decade, and years and years of weekend service changes, but the MTA’s only gotten worse at effectively communicating the G.O.s and their reasons (I still remember when they sent you not just the weekend service changes, but the specific work that was being performed), and providing adequate service.
That all would cost a lot of money to improve communication and service – but it costs nothing to blame Uber and Lyft for the ridership drop.

Madbandit March 6, 2017 - 7:25 am

The MTA’s weekend service has become so unreliable, I’m not surprised people are fleeing it in droves.

This weekend I needed to go from W 4th to 86th/2nd (via Lex/63rd). F to the Q. I waiting 15 minutes for the F, and 20+ minutes for the Q. What is normally a 30 minute ride at rush hour, became over 90 minutes.

I wouldn’t even mind severely cut back weekend service in order to save money, or perform needed repairs. But don’t pretend to be a 24/7 service when you run ridiculous headways on the weekends.

smotri March 6, 2017 - 8:30 am

This is it, exactly. I had a roughly similar experience on the Q on Saturday, with non-existent service because of some problem all the way in Queens. On Sunday, I just waited and waited and waited, for something like twenty minutes, in the Times Square station, for an uptown Q, all for a trip that, itself, took only 10-15 minutes.

Eric F March 6, 2017 - 9:01 am

Weekend maintenance, etc. is exacerbated for riders by the circumstance where riders who use particular lines for a daily commute will use different lines for weekend leisure trips. As a result, someone taking the X train each day will not see posted warnings about weekend maintenance rendering the Y train useless on the weekend.

AMH March 6, 2017 - 11:12 am

I always check the listing of service changes online or in the station next to the map–it shows every service change on every train.

David March 6, 2017 - 9:32 am

Even on-train and on-platform communication is consistently lousy. How many times have you been on a train with indecipherable or inscrutable announcements? And that’s when the operator even bothers to inform riders. And while we’re at it, why don’t these fancy new strip maps reflect weekend service changes? I won’t forget, one time I got off the C at Fulton to catch the 4, along with many others, only to learn that the 4 stopped at Brooklyn Bridge that weekend. Shouldn’t conductors communicate information about changes to crucial transfers along the line? I would choose a Citi Bike over a weekend subway for pretty much any intra-boro trip.

Larry Littlefield March 6, 2017 - 9:35 am

“It’s still cheaper and usually faster to take a subway.”

Not if you have a car. Since our car came back from college with our daughter, family members have been using it for trips that were transit trips when it was away.

Because, if you aren’t paying for insurance and maintenance (I am) and driving to Manhattan during rush hours, it comes down to a little bit of gas vs. $5.00 for a transit ride, offset by the difficulty (and in some locations cost) of parking.

We have data on Uber, but what about data on car ownership? It’s hard to get reliable data on it because so many register out of state to avoid paying their share of NY auto insurance fraud.

Adirondacker12800 March 6, 2017 - 1:18 pm

… one example. Once you have a car, even though you are fully aware of how much the real cost is of driving a mile, instead of going food shopping on your way home from your mass transit trip from work a few times a week, you spend a few of those expensive miles to go to the supermarket once a week… if you have a car some trips are worth the expense… you have your own washer and dryer. it breaks down and for the few weeks while you are deciding to get it repaired or buy a new one… you drive to the laundromat… some trips, that you could do by walking or walking to mass transit, are worth the expense.
…. and most people think in terms of “it’s only some gas” and take more of them.

JEG March 6, 2017 - 10:10 am

There were definitely many weekends during 2016 in which the 6 train did not run in one direction, including some weekends in which there was not service at 63rd Street. As a result if you lived on the Upper East Side in the East 60s or East 70s you definitely thought twice about leaving the neighborhood knowing that you were either going to have a difficult trip out or weren’t going to be able to ride the subway home. That’s where the Second Avenue subway makes a big difference.

JJJ March 6, 2017 - 10:28 am

“F trains running on the Q line but only southbound in Manhattan while shutting buses run in Brooklyn and G trains replace F trains to Coney Island”

It’s 2017. You’d think we’d have screens showing the “actual” routes available.

Its even worse that Google Maps will show you a trip, and then a little asterisk with a TEXT description similar to the above, which contradicts the map.

A week or two ago I arrived at a train station (5th or 6th avenue) and found it was closed – even though Google maps was suggesting I use it (the asterisk did indeed confirm the line wasn’t running). The paper signs inside had maps that seemed to suggest I should walk to 8th avenue to get to where I wanted to go. Sort of. Those trains were terminating at 14th and then there were shuttle buses.

I took a cab.

AMH March 6, 2017 - 11:07 am

Google is worthless on the weekends.

But there is hope: http://tripplanner.mta.info/My.....Start.html

mfs March 6, 2017 - 12:10 pm

you’re kidding, right?

Brooklynite March 6, 2017 - 6:25 pm

TripPlanner actually takes weekend service changes into account, because it has the supplement schedules loaded into it. External services (Google, et. al.) just see a text-only version of the changes and so can’t parse it into usable trip info.

mister March 6, 2017 - 8:55 pm

The Transit App actually give trip and even nearby line info accounting for planned service changes. Friday nights the app can actually start displaying what looks like wacky info when the same train line will be operating down a different route due to construction.


mfs March 7, 2017 - 2:16 pm

I guess the MTA’s tool is more accurate. The only problem is that it’s completely unusable. Kind of like the difference between having blurry binoculars or a high powered telescope that someone smashed on the ground.

Name March 6, 2017 - 2:04 pm

There’s a guy that manually makes weekend maps:

mfs March 6, 2017 - 3:29 pm

Now that’s an actually useful tool- the MTA must have spent $$$$ on the useless weekender, when they really just needed to have someone design it every weekend 🙂

AMH March 7, 2017 - 1:31 pm

Yes, I’ve been saying this for years! They should just hire him.

Lance March 8, 2017 - 8:27 pm

I appreciate the shout-out. I have pitched the idea to the MTA. In fact, I’ve had a long discussion with a couple of guys from MTA Communications on the subject. It’s 2017; it shouldn’t require an advanced degree in transit planning to figure out where trains are running on weekends. It also shouldn’t take such an effort to get a map that at least reflects the planned service on weekends and during late nights. With the On the Go kiosks in about half of the system and the MTA website readily available to anyone with a smartphone, it should be a slam dunk to get a map that correctly shows which lines are being diverted or suspended and which ones are running normally.

They seemed receptive to the idea of taking this in-house, but that was several months ago and we’ve obviously not seen any improvements in terms of communicating these service changes. And quite frankly, that’s really sad, considering how easy it would be to put out maps like the ones I do on a weekly basis. This isn’t some time-consuming project that would take away resources from some other vital necessity. These maps take at most an hour to make, even less when there are recurring service changes.

The MTA could then easily upload these maps to their website and beam the data to the kiosks and give riders the information they so desperately crave, as opposed to leaving them in the dark to figure out the MTA Weekender map. While it doesn’t seem like much, things like this go a long way to making the subway more accessible, even during major service changes like the ones we saw last month.

Quinn March 9, 2017 - 9:13 am

The MTA is notorious for having a not invented here attitude, giving suggestions is a dead end. You should hit up AMNY or Metro. Post the weekender on the front page every Friday along with an advert. You should probably also get a sponsor.

BrooklynBus March 9, 2017 - 10:39 am

Very sad especially since Prendergast realized this a problem and several years ago he issued an internal memorandum instructing all department to fairly analyze every suggestion to change the MTA culture.

The problem exists also within the MTA. Some departments are not even receptive to suggestions received from other departments and will find any excuse to dismiss them.

AMH March 10, 2017 - 1:17 pm

Great idea! Kickstarter?

Adirondacker12800 March 6, 2017 - 2:18 pm

You have to generalize your view of the subway. It’s very quaint and antique-y to think of the subway in terms of “Broadway Express” or “Sixth Avenue Local”. They don’t shift the numbered trains around much but the lettered trains,some of them can change alot. Ask any one who lived through rebuilding the bridge.
“The F runs on Q” is “The Culver trains are running on the Brighton Line” and the Culver trains are running on the Brighton line no matter what the letters change to in the future or if we come up with a radically different scheme or they build the Triboro. The trains that normally run on the Culver are going to be running on Brighton, no matter how they are identified. The line to Canarsie is going to be the Canarsie line until we all start calling Canarsie something else and the train to Van Cortlandt Park is going to be going to Van Cortlandt Park for a long time. Even if it’s a Seventh Ave Express. It could be. That was the service pattern for a long time. If I remember correctly, even though it was a Seventh Avenue express it was still the 1 train. Generalizing your view can be very handy.

VLM March 6, 2017 - 2:30 pm

It is not the responsibilities of a few million paying MTA customers to “generalize their worldviews” so they can understand the arcana of anachronistic routing designations for subway lines. It’s the responsibility of the MTA to present information in a way that’s clear and comprehensible so that people can easily ascertain alternate routing during endless weekend service changes. And they fail miserably at it.

Adirondacker12800 March 6, 2017 - 2:58 pm

If you don’t generalize your view two months from now when the W becomes the V and F starts running express… you can’t wrap your head around the Culver trains are running on the Brighton line.
They may have done this for a Fastrack. The A, C and E are running the tracks the B,D,F and M use too. I’m not gonna go look which of those only run during weekdays. …. the Eighth Ave trains are running on Sixth Ave. It’s doesn’t matter what letter they use or that one or two them doesn’t run on the weekend. The Eighth Ave trains are running on Sixth Ave. Or vice versa.

There are unusual circumstances very rarely when you will see a numbered train on a lettered track. You will never see a lettered train on a track where the numbered trains run. They are too wide.
the official concept is that A division trains never run on B division tracks ( they do but the doors are never going to open for you or they are running in places you can’t go. ) or vice versa. The IRT trains are narrow, the BMT/IND trains are wide. They are never going to be on the “wrong” tracks. Ever. It’s a useful concept now and then. Generalize your view.

Alexander Vucelic March 12, 2017 - 8:14 am

Isn’t it mind boggling that 80 years after the NYC subways were nationalized and 45 years since the NY region commuter rail was also nationalized … there is zero commonality between the systems ?

It’s insane that trains are different widths, use different current, and can’t run on each other’s tracks.

Adirondacker12800 March 12, 2017 - 2:26 pm

Not at all. Doesn’t bother anyone who appreciates the scale of operations in and around New York… It’s unfortunate that you got the box of Crayolas with only eight colors.

AMH March 13, 2017 - 12:58 pm

The subways weren’t nationalized, they were taken over by the city and the state. And commuter rail receives federal oversight from the FRA, but it’s state-run, not national. Still, I agree that the commuter systems should have been merged more by now with through-running.

The B-division of the subway has already been merged from two private systems. The A-division has narrower tunnels, and there’s just no way to change that without wasting billions of dollars that could be better-spent. It’s what you get when a businessman builds a railroad to prevent competitors from using his tracks.

Adirondacker12800 March 13, 2017 - 1:55 pm

The Lexington Avenue line considered in isolation would be the second busiest system in the country. It’s okay if the Lexington Avenue local never goes to New Rochelle and Metro North doesn’t go to Brooklyn. It’s okay. Just bouncing back and forth between the Brooklyn Bridge and Pelham Park the local is at capacity and you want to serve New Rochelle or Brooklyn you need more tracks. If the sorta kinda half of the A division that it the Lexington Avenue lines would be the second biggest system in the country, merging it with something else doesn’t buy you much. . . it’s okay. Really it is…

mfs March 6, 2017 - 3:31 pm

EXACTLY. Information delivery is the worst part of the MTA, from the platform signs, to the trackwork signs, to its website, to platform announcements to on-train announcements. The only three things that work well to deliver info are the system map, bustime and the mobile site status alerts.

SEAN March 6, 2017 - 11:16 am

Meanwhile Uber has been running into both PR & financial headwinds as of late. As a result, they may not exist two years from now. Considering how much cash they have been burning through over the past year, I’m shocked they are still a thing as John Oliver would put it.

John S March 6, 2017 - 12:55 pm

I read a post from the folks behind the Transit app that Google Maps and Apple Maps (I never touch it, can’t speak to it) hastily scrub through the Weekender website and attempt to incorporate the service changes into their transit directions. Given that there’s an actual data specification for keeping Google Maps et al. current (GTFS), it’s a disgrace that the MTA doesn’t properly offer up this data for all to use. If they claim to be planning the work until Friday, that mostly speaks to bad planning – and they could have a tool for quickly updating this info, so it’s accurately shared with all in a timely fashion. Speaking of disgraces, the Weekender app not having the SAS in it is right af the top of the list…

Adirondacker12800 March 6, 2017 - 2:45 pm

That plainly speaks to that there more than the blue subway line and red elevated line in New York City. That they are planning things until Friday afternoon because stuff happens at noon on Friday.

BrooklynBus March 6, 2017 - 1:29 pm

Ben, you are çorrect. Besides all the reroutes and delays from weekend construction, weekend trains are often overcrowded especially in Manhattan despite service planning guidelines calling for most to have a seat. People who stand during the week don’t want to stand or be packed like sardines on weekends also. Uber is just an excuse. The MTA is causing the problem.

Just like the MTA was responsible for the gyosy cabs that began paralleling bus lines in 1975 which evolved into the dollar vans. That summer the MTA severely cut bus service on the most crowded lines in the city due to a budget crisis. That’s right. They did not target the least utilized lines as in 2010. B46 rush hour service was cut by 50 percent although buses were jam packed before the cuts. The people needed some way to get to the train and it took only three days for the gypsy cabs to take over. During the first three days private cars gave people rides.

I documented all of this in a report I wrote a few years later for the Department of City Planning.

So why did the MTA do this and how did they justify it? They believed and still believe there is no relation between the amount of service provided and the revenue they receive. If service is cut, they inaccurately believe people will just wait longer. If it is increased, they do not figure any increased ridership in their budget projections. When you hear the Q52 extension will cost an additional $500,000 per year, that assumes ridership will not increase.

Back to Utica Avenue in 1975, when packed rush hour service was cut from every 2 minutes to every 4 minutes, it was justified with a statement that the inconvenience will be minor since you will only have to wait two additional minutes for a bus. Nothing was mentioned about not being able to fit into the buses.

So using Uber as an excuse is nothing new for the MTA. It is part of constant deception by the MTA and DOT. A statement they frequently use that SBS cuts travel times between 10 and 30 percent does not mean your bus ride will be that much quicker as a rational person would infer. It really means that you will save that amount of time only if you board at the first stop and ride all the way to the last stop which virtually no one does. So you are really talking about average time savings of less than between 5 and 15 percent on the SBS portion of the trip. When you factor in additional walking times to and from the wider spaced bus stops and the portion of your trip that is not SBS, the actual time savings for your total trip is much less. For short trips, the extra walking time might cancel out your quicker bus ride altogether.

Urbanely March 6, 2017 - 9:49 pm

Your comment about the SBS is insightful. SBS is widely hailed as a panacea, but I’d like to see more data on the real time savings. That said, I guess some savings is better than none or worse, added time on bus trips.

I am definitely part of the crowd that just avoids the subways on the weekends. For my workday commute I often board the train at the 4 stop on the J line and ride to the third to last stop in Manhattan. On a good day, the J/Z runs every 10 minutes. It is usually standing room only by the 12th stop. We’re often leaving people on the platform several stops after that. There’s no way I’m dealing with that on the weekends as well, with the added insult of an even longer wait time.

I think the real solution is to require elected officials and MTA officials to ride the rails with the rest of us. Not just for photo ops, but actually ride to get to and from meetings. They won’t be allowed to use any government cars until public transit is more reliable. Let’s see how long they’ll tolerate these conditions.

BrooklynBus March 7, 2017 - 3:32 pm

Part of the problem seems to be the MTA is just ignoring local bus routes. This morning I had to drop off my car for servicing. I drove to the facility in 30 minutes. Guess how long it took me to get home by bus, train and another bus? Are you ready? Only 33 minutes with excellent connections. Had I taken two buses instead, it would have taken 20 minutes longer. Incidentally, both buses, the B82 and the B1 were jam packed. But I noticed a B44 SBS and local pass by, both nearly empty. All buses except the B1 were in the middle of the route.

One point is that if you are going to use articulated buses which cost more to operate, they shouldn’t be nearly empty unless you are near the end of the route. Maybe you need to mix bus types. Another point is that riders need the flexibility to decide how they want to travel without being punished with double fares. If a train and two buses is quicker than just two buses, it shouldn’t cost you extra.

There is so much the MTA can do to improve service without huge service expenditures but they want you to believe SBS and shorter routes which increase the amount of transfers and fares you need are the only answers to better bus service. They also blame all bus delays on traffic conditions when the truth is overloaded buses due to inadequate service and poor scheduled running times that do not reflect reality play just as much a role in causing bus bunching and unreliable service.

Adirondacker12800 March 7, 2017 - 3:45 pm

It’s intriguing that it seems every time you have something to say it involves cars. Intriguing.
…..why shouldn’t you pay more for extra convenience? You pay more, alot more, for the convenience of a car. And I can understand that perhaps you have to be frugal in other parts of your life so you can afford a car. . . but you don’t expect most of us to generate a lot of sympathy for someone who had to pay two fares for more convenience when he went to get his car serviced? Do you? Someone who uses his car so much he doesn’t have an unlimited MetroCard? Hmmmm….. you aren’t complaining about buses you are complaining that it wasn’t door-to-door service that would have made your car ownership more pleasant. Here’s a hint if you want door-to-door there are these things called cabs. Some people call them taxis.

BrooklynBus March 7, 2017 - 6:40 pm

You are making a lot of assumptions. First, I did not have to pay a double fare. I was talking about many others who do and how unfair it is. I certainly wasn’t looking for any sympathy. Also, I have no trouble afforded a car and do not have to sacrifice anything for it.

I also said nothing about bus service not being door to door, so I do not know where you got that from.

And actually I was complimenting the MTA that taking three vehicles only took three minutes more than a car which is highly unusual. Usually mass transit takes two to four times as long as driving. I can drive to Belle Harbor in Rockaway in 15 minutes. If I had to use mass transit, it is three buses taking at least 90 minutes. Better bus routes could greatly reduce that time.

Adirondacker12800 March 7, 2017 - 6:54 pm

You said ” want to travel without being punished with double fares. ” to engender sympathy with someone somewhere who had to pay a double fare. If it wasn’t you who was it and why did it occur to you if you have an unlimited, realize that the majority of people do and even if it was a double fare, wouldn’t be paying it.
You didn’t actually whine that you didn’t get door to door but you did whine that poor horribly abused you had TWO choices for using the bus. And the second one was slower than using your car. Poor widdle you who had to do without his car.
Then your rip the MTA again and try to sucker us into thinking you’d take the bus to the Rockaways.
You aren’t complementing the MTA you are concern trolling for cars.

BrooklynBus March 7, 2017 - 8:33 pm

What is your problem?

Yes I was trying to engender sympathy for those who have to pay a double fare because no one should have to in order to make a short trip. You should be charged by the time you are on the system not the number vehicles your trip requires. You can take an unlimited number of trains for one fare, but not three buses or a train and two buses and that isn’t fair.

And almost 50 percent do not have unlimited passes. And that number will declare be with reduced benefits. So soon you will not be able to state that a majority has an unlimited pass.

And no I was not complaining that two buses and a train took longer than a car. I was surprised that it was that quick and thought my trip was great. I was only complaining that the buses were crowded during the non rush hour.

And no I did not try to sucker not anybody into thinking I would take three buses to the Rockaways. I was complaining that the trip takes so long by mass transit.

And you just seem to be jealous that I can afford a car. This discussion is not about cars. It is about mass transit.

Adirondacker12800 March 7, 2017 - 8:38 pm

My problem is that you are fairly consistently a concern troll. I don’t feed trolls.

AMH March 10, 2017 - 1:21 pm

“If a train and two buses is quicker than just two buses, it shouldn’t cost you extra.”


BrooklynBus March 10, 2017 - 6:23 pm

Here are my ideas on the fare which I also sent to the MTA.


22r March 6, 2017 - 1:54 pm

I would take the subway on weekends more if it weren’t for Uber/Lyft/Juno/Gett. That’s not because I prefer cars, it’s because the subway service has been so unpredictable, trending toward abyssimal. I’m also biased though because I’ve been sick a lot lately and the subway is a 15 minute walk from my apartment and it’s been cold out.

Bgriff March 6, 2017 - 4:23 pm

FWIW, maybe this just feels worse than usual since the recent 6th Avenue work was one of the all-time most confusing and disruptive GOs.

The MTA has gotten a lot better in recent years with posters in the stations. It’s easy to forget how bad it used to be — the consolidated list of system-wide changes, for example, is a fairly recent innovation. It used to be a thicket of individual black-and-white posters showing only changes affecting the lines at the station you are currently at.

Not only do stations now have a consolidated list of changes, but line-specific posters often feature a modified, color map showing the service for major changes. And I’m not sure why the MTA doesn’t send out the press release until Friday, but the consolidated list of changes in stations goes up on Wednesday, and the search service changes by date feature on the MTA’s website is usually accurate two weeks or so out.

(Putting the consolidated list of changes on the opposite side of the display from a subway map is a rather cruel trick on tourists though. “F runs on A from Jay Street to West 4th Street” … now run around to the other side of the sign and see if you can find those stations.)

Some credit is also due that service changes usually slow down around the holidays and during peak summer tourist season, when the most unfamiliar riders are in town. I imagine the confusing 6th Avenue changes were specifically flagged to be done in the dead of winter … no one expected there would be several weekends of fabulous springtime weather bringing throngs of people out of their houses in mid-February.

All that said, the logical next steps would be:
–Make the Weekender map a live display of service, perhaps using the standard map rather than the unfamiliar Vignelli diagram, and perhaps post that map in stations somewhere
–Try to find a way to plug in to Google Maps and other similar services

Adirondacker12800 March 6, 2017 - 6:25 pm

in other words the Sixth Ave train is running on the Eighth Ave line. Tourists aren’t going to know that but the Sixth Ave trains are running on the Eighth Ave tracks. Doesn’t matter what letters those trains are using. Tourists want to know where the blue train is and have more serious conceptualization problems. Ask them where they want to go and tell ’em it’s easiest to use the N train. Which used to have yellow sign but doesn’t anymore. …. worrying about tourists has lot of problems that are not easily solved. Some of them unsolvable because their brains melt down if they have to think about more than two trains.
…the MTA is not going to worry about how Google wants information. And how Bing wants information and some warez kiddy writing an app wants it If this hasn’t already happened they – Google, the MTA, the MTA, BART, the MTA, SEPTA, the CTA, the RTA etc. come up with one and everyone worries about doing the one standard.

Tom March 6, 2017 - 6:00 pm

To quote the article:

“It’s up to the MTA to combat this decline by offering either better weekend service or a clearer picture of how weekend changes will effect our rides.”

Serious question: does the MTA really want to do this? What does the MTA really want and who drives their priorities? Is their priority to serve everyone, all the time? Or would they rather serve peak periods, and reduce/limit off-peak to allow them to do maintenance with less hassle? Or is it save money (in which case they should run as few trains as possible, seeing as each one loses money)? Should the MTA encourage people to use Uber so they could run fewer trains?

I’d prefer/support a high quality transit system all the time, but I’m not sure everyone feels that way.

Brooklynite March 6, 2017 - 6:35 pm

Ben, you hit the nail on the head. Weekend service is infrequent, unreliable, confusing, and slow. That said, just like in any government bureaucracy somebody high up needs to take the initiative for any of this to change. For example, the countdown clocks on the lettered lines that are being put up around the system right now were decreed, and shoved through, by Governor Cuomo. Otherwise, your typical bureaucrat will remain satisfied with doing his job exactly as he’s done it for the last decade, because implementing change opens him to risk but not to reward.

Will anyone be a champion of weekend service?

mister March 6, 2017 - 9:13 pm

It’s still cheaper and usually faster to take a subway.

I’m not so sure about this. I took a lengthy Sunday trip from one end of Brooklyn to the other. On the way out there, my wife and I took a bus to the L train. We used Bustime to have a short wait for the bus, and didn’t have to wait long for the L either. After getting off the train, we had a decent walk to reach our final destination, but overall the trip went smoothly. Afterward, our hosts paid for us to take a ride back in an UBERpool. We went a bit out of our way, and riding in a car with another random person wasn’t the best situation, but it was marginally faster than taking the bus/train combo, required far less walking, and only cost $7. For my wife and I, that would have been a trip on the MTA of $5.50. You can see how someone who routinely had bad experiences on the subway would opt for Uber instead.

22r March 8, 2017 - 1:36 pm

Yea, with UberPool being so cheap, the subway is starting to only make sense for when both your origin and destination are on the same MTA line (and near the station) when it’s a trafficky-time of day.

Tower18 March 8, 2017 - 10:14 am

I have a car and live in North Brooklyn. I never use the car during the week for commuting. However, unless going to Manhattan, I generally don’t take the subway on the weekends anymore. I live here, so the reroutes aren’t *confusing* per se (although the recent 6th Avenue closure was a doozy for sure), but they do dramatically degrade already unreliable service, even if you don’t require multiple transfers.

I’ve also noticed weekend work or weekend problems remaining through Monday morning. Just this week, there were massive delays on the A/C in Brooklyn on Monday morning, apparently due to unfinished weekend work. I don’t know why, but I waited 25 minutes for an R at Union St at 9am on Monday, before eventually being picked up by a D making local stops.

25 minutes for a train at weekday rush hour, mta.info says “Good Service”. This is why people don’t bother on the weekend.

Phantom March 8, 2017 - 10:31 am

I don’t think that weekend service is all that bad, and I live on the dreaded R line. The service is once every 10 minutes on a Saturday. That’s really good.

Some construction projects take place on the weekend. I’m glad that this work is being done.

C’mon, enough with the complaining.

LLQBTT March 8, 2017 - 10:52 am

When weekend work keeps my line from going to Manhattan, I won’t go to Manhattan unless I absolutely cannot avoid the trip.

LLQBTT March 8, 2017 - 10:54 am

Sorry, one more comment. I thought FASTRAK was supposed to replace much of the weekend work on trunk lines. Ben, can you comment?

mister March 9, 2017 - 8:04 am

Unfortunately, there’s no way that a 7 hour shutdown can replicate a 53 hour continuous shutdown. Some work that is done on weekends (signal upgrades, switch replacement, track cuts) can only be done over long periods of time, since the work is extremely disruptive.

smotri March 9, 2017 - 8:30 am

These signal ‘upgrades’…I mean, really, why then are there often delays that are caused by…signal problems?

JJJJ March 9, 2017 - 11:05 am Reply
Phantom March 29, 2017 - 6:39 pm

Long time no post.

Hope that all is OK.

Benjamin Kabak March 29, 2017 - 6:51 pm

Work’s been busy. I owe everyone, myself included, some content. There’s always twitter if you need a fix. I do appreciate the thought!


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