If you somehow missed the big news this week, boy, are you in for some fun regarding streetcars. Read about Mayor de Blasio’s plan for a Brooklyn-Queens waterfront street first and then browse the reaction to his plan. Earlier in the week, we discovered once again that NYC’s top officials never seem to ride the subway. More on that — and the NYPD overreaction to a few discrete instances of assaults in the subway — next week.

Meanwhile, we have some weekend work to contend with. That snow storm on Friday morning wasn’t enough to send everyone into a tizzy so the service diversions continue as planned. As always, these come to me from the MTA. If there are mistakes, take it up with them.


From 11:30 p.m. Friday, February 5 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, February 8, 1 trains are suspended in both directions between 14 St and South Ferry. Free shuttle buses provide alternate service between Chambers St and South Ferry.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, February 5 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, February 8, 3 trains are suspended in both directions between Harlem-148 St and 96 St. Take the 2 and free shuttle buses instead. Free shuttle buses operate between 135 St and 148 St stopping at 145 St.


From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, February, 6 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, February 8, Crown Hts-Utica Av bound 4 trains run local from 125 St to Grand Central-42 St.


From 6:00 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. Saturday, February 6 and from 8:00 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. Sunday, February 7, 5 trains run every 20 minutes between Eastchester-Dyre Av and Bowling Green. Downtown 5 trains run local from 125 St to Grand Central-42 St.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, February 5 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, February 8, A trains run local in both directions between W 4 St-Wash Sq and 59 St Columbus Circle.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, February 5 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, February 8, A trains are rerouted via the F line in both directions between W 4 St-Wash Sq and Jay St-MetroTech.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, February 5 to 6:30 a.m. Sunday, February 7, and from 11:45 p.m. Sunday, February 7 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, February 8, Uptown A trains run express 59 St-Columbus Circle to 125 St.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, February 5 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, February 8, Brooklyn-bound A trains skip 104 St.


From 6:30 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, February 6 and February 7 C trains are rerouted on the F line in both directions between W 4 St-Wash Sq and Jay St-MetroTech.


From 6:30 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, February 5 and February 7, Uptown C trains run express from 59 St-Columbus Circle to 125 St.


From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, February, 6 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, February 8, Uptown D trains stop at 14 St and 23 St.


From 5:45 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, February 6 and February 7, Norwood-205 St bound D trains skip Bay 50 St and 25 Av.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, February 5 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, February 8, E trains are rerouted via the F line in both directions between 21 St-Queensbridge and W4 St-Wash Sq. Free shuttle busses run between Court Sq-23 St and 21 St-Queensbridge, stopping at Queens Plaza.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, February 5 to 6:30 a.m. Sunday, February 7, and from 11:45 p.m. Sunday, February 7 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, February 8, Jamaica Center-Parsons/Archer bound E trains run express from 21 St-Queensbridge to Forest Hills-71 Av.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, February 5 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, February 8, Jamaica Center-Parsons/Archer bound E trains skip 75 Av and Briarwood.


From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, February 6 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, February 8, World Trade Center-bound E trains run local from Forest Hills-71 Av to 21 St-Queensbridge.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, February 5 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, February 8, Jamaica-179 St bound F trains skip 75 Av, Briarwood, and Sutphin Blvd.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, February 5 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, February 8, Coney Island-Stillwell Av bound F trains skip 4 Av-9St, 15 St-Prospect Park and Fort Hamilton Pkwy. Take the G instead. Transfer between F and G trains at Smith-9 Sts, 7 Av or Church Av.


From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, February 6 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, February 8, Coney Island-Stillwell Av bound F trains run local from Forest Hills-71 Av to 21 St-Queensbridge.


From 11:30 p.m. Friday, February 5 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, February 8, J trains are suspended in both directions between Hewes St and Broad St. J service operates between Jamaica Center and Hewes St. Take free shuttle buses and 46F trains instead. Free shuttle buses operate between Hewes St and Essex St, stopping at Marcy Av. For direct service between Brooklyn and Manhattan, consider using the AC or L via free transfer at Broadway Junction.


From 6:00 a.m. to 12 Midnight Saturday, February 6 and Sunday, February 7, M trains are suspended in both directions between Myrtle Av and Essex St. M service operates between Metropolitan Av and Myrtle Av all weekend. Take the JL and/or free shuttle buses instead. Free shuttle buses provide alternate service between Hewes St and Essex St, stopping at Marcy Av. For direct service to/from Manhattan, use the L via transfer at Myrtle-Wyckoff Avs.


From 11:30 p.m. Friday, February 5 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, February 8, Q trains are suspended in both directions between 57 St-7 Av and Kings Hwy. Q service operates between Coney Island-Stillwell Av and Kings Hwy. Free shuttle buses operate as follows:

  • Express (non-stop) between Kings Hwy and Atlantic Av-Barclays Ctr.
  • Local between Kings Hwy and Atlantic Av-Barclays Ctr, making all stops.
  • For service To Manhattan, take the DFN from Coney Island-Stillwell Av. For service to Coney Island-Stillwell Av, take the DFN at 34 St-Herald Sq or the DN at Atlantic Av-Barclays Ctr.


From 6:00 a.m. to 12 Midnight Saturday, February 6 and Sunday, February 7, Forest Hills-71 Av bound R trains run express from Queens Plaza to Forest Hills-71 Av.

Categories : Service Advisories
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A streetcar cuts through the rain in Downtown Brooklyn. (Friends of the Brooklyn Queens Connector)

The Brooklyn-Queens Connector is metaphorically and physically heading right toward us. (Friends of the Brooklyn Queens Connector)

After a day of headlines and intense discussion regarding the Mayor’s endorsement of a $2.5 billion waterfront streetcar connecting Brooklyn and Queens, Bill de Blasio’s State of the City speech was almost anticlimactic. His prepared comments contained only a few sentences on the Brooklyn-Queens Connector, and the fact sheet [pdf]his administration released on Thursday was light on details. We haven’t yet seen the report promoting this plan with its projections of 53,000 daily riders and $25 billion in economic activity over some indeterminate period of time, but it’s coming. Or so the mayor said.

“Tonight,” de Blasio said, “I am announcing the Brooklyn-Queens Connector, or BQX, a state-of-the-art streetcar that will run from Astoria to Sunset Park, and has the potential to generate over $25 billion of economic impact for our city over 30 years. New Yorkers will be able to travel up and down a 16-mile route that links a dozen waterfront neighborhoods. The BQX has the potential to change the lives of hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers.”

According to the mayor’s fact sheet, the administration “will begin engaging communities along the Brooklyn-Queens waterfront this year to develop a conceptual framework and expects to break ground on the project in 2019-2020.” That’s an aggressive timeline considering how Community Boards are structured to say no to everything new, and the city is going to have to line up the dollars while assuaging NIMBY concerns. Even with these challenges and a revenue service date that extends beyond de Blasio’s tenure in office whether he wins reelection or not, there’s plenty of reaction to go around.

First, a few of my random one-off thoughts.

In a way, the tweet speaks for itself. We need to be careful about what sort of infrastructure we’re placing in flood-prone areas and how we can best protect these investments. There is also a more expansive conversation to be had about whether or not city policies should be encouraging more development and growth in neighborhoods most vulnerable to climate change and future flooding.

In another vein, although it’s promising that de Blasio is the first city official in a while to look outside of Manhattan for transit expansion efforts, a mix of valid complaints and New York City parochialism has other boroughs peeved. Staten Island is upset that its five-year requests for streetcars has gone largely ignored, and no one is even considering transit through the Bronx, a densely populated borough that desperately needs additional high-speed, high-capacity transit lines. Even certain areas of Manhattan should be miffed as we’re only a few months removed from Phase 2 of the Second Ave. Subway being delayed. There are clear class issues at play as waterfront developers fund their streetcar project while East Harlem has to wait longer for a badly needed Second Ave. Subway. In fact, this speaks to the next issue regarding state and city cooperation.

As Jillian Jorgensen explores, de Blasio’s streetcar proposal highlights the tensions between NYC and Albany with regards to transit planning. We live in a city where our local transit decisions are controlled by the state capital and governor. The only way the mayor can bring projects into being is by bypassing the agencies that run our extensive transit network. Thus, a waterfront streetcar that isn’t part of the MTA’s network avoids meddlesome interference from Andrew Cuomo and the other electeds in Albany.

“I’m agnostic on the politics,” Thomas Wright, president of the Regional Plan Association, said to Jorgensen. “I’m not a political commentator, but yes, it’s obvious that the city is looking for things that it controls, and it control the city streets.”

Others involved in the planning process see benefits to avoiding state agencies. “Everything is within the city family to do it,” Sam Schwartz, a major proponent of the BQX, said “It makes it easier and faster, and in my estimation probably would cost less, than having the feds involved, the state involved, all these oversight committees, whereas the city has a pretty good process.”

Others were a bit more skeptical of the plan. The Transit Center posed a series of questions New Yorkers should see answered before they embrace this plan. Two stand out to me: “If New York City has $2.5 billion to spend on improving transportation, what evidence indicates starting a streetcar system is the best use of the money?” and “What is the anticipated role of streetcars in the city’s transportation strategy?” It’s not really clear if de Blasio (or, for that matter, Cuomo) really has a holistic plan for improving transportation in New York City or anything related to access and mobility. Is this streetcar part of a bigger plan or is it just a cool idea? These are questions the administration will have to answer.

And finally, over at Streetsblog, Ben Fried unequivocally states that the proposal simply doesn’t add up. He looks at underserved neighborhoods and subway connections, questions surrounding the price tag and fare integration, and what should be the cities other transit priorities to conclude “there’s no way this proposal will deliver on the hype. What we’re going to end up with is a highly-subsidized transit route with modest ridership at best.” His critique is well worth a read.

Ultimately, though, I’m struck with a question regarding our assessment of this project. The transit literati will always have their pet projects and their fantasy maps. Right now, the consensus seems to be focusing around the idea that this project isn’t A-Number-One on the priority list, but it seems to be good enough. There’s a powerful coalition of backers who are willing to contribute the resources to see this through. It may not be great, but there appears to be a need for it. It also solves issues of interconnectivity and mobility between neighborhoods. Is that good enough? So long as other, more worthwhile projects aren’t jeopardized, it just might be.

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This rendering shows the proposed Brooklyn-Queens streetcar passing Industry City. (Friends of the Brooklyn Queens Connector)

This rendering shows the proposed Brooklyn-Queens streetcar passing Industry City. (Friends of the Brooklyn Queens Connector)

Mayor Bill de Blasio, in his State of the City speech, is set to announce support for a $2.5 billion plan to build a light rail that would connect the rapidly developing Brooklyn and Queens waterfront areas. The proposal, developed over the past six months by a group of real estate developers, transportation advocates and urban planners calling itself the Friends of the Brooklyn Queens Connector, aims to provide better transit options for job centers in Industry City, Red Hook and the Brooklyn Navy Yards while easing the north-south connections between Astoria, Long Island City and parts south throughout Brooklyn. It is not a slam-dunk proposal from a transit perspective, and the city will have to make the case that it is a sound investment considering the city’s competing needs.

We learned about the plan, in fairly specific detail, a few weeks ago when initial studies were leaked to the press, and on Wednesday, Michael Grynbaum of The Times broke news the streetcar would be a headliner during de Blasio’s speech. He wrote:

The plan, to be unveiled on Thursday in the mayor’s State of the City speech, calls for a line that runs aboveground on rails embedded in public roadways and flows alongside automobile traffic — a sleeker and nimbler version of San Francisco’s trolleys…The streetcar system, which would realize a long-held fantasy of the city’s urban planners, is expected to cost about $2.5 billion, significantly less than a new underground subway line, city officials said on Wednesday.

Its operation, however, remains far-off. Under the plan, construction would start in 2019, after studies and community review; service would begin several years after that, perhaps not until 2024, officials said. Alicia Glen, the deputy mayor for housing and economic development, acknowledged “some significant engineering challenges when you are putting a modern system like this in a very old city.”

But Ms. Glen said the city’s existing transit network no longer met the needs of a metropolis whose commuting patterns have shifted significantly in the last two decades. A streetcar route, she said in an interview, offered a novel and practical fix at a time when federal money for infrastructure is scarce. “The old transportation system was a hub-and-spoke approach, where people went into Manhattan for work and came back out,” Ms. Glen said. “This is about mapping transit to the future of New York.”

A streetcar cuts through the rain in Downtown Brooklyn. (Friends of the Brooklyn Queens Connector)

A streetcar cuts through the rain in Downtown Brooklyn. (Friends of the Brooklyn Queens Connector)

The routing is as reported a few weeks back. The system would terminate in Sunset Park near Industry City, travel through Red Hook and then along the waterfront through Brooklyn Heights and DUMBO to the Navy Yards before passing the Two Trees’ Domino development in Williamsburg and journeying through Greenpoint en route to Long Island City and the western edge of Astoria. While early reports aren’t definite on this number, I’ve been told that, despite renderings, the city would like more than 70 percent of the streetcar route to run on a dedicated right of way. Any mixed-traffic plan should be discarded immediately, but those details have yet to be fully made public.

Some of the city’s transit and development experts are excited by the deal. There is a desperate need for north-south transportation between Brooklyn and Queens,” NYU’s Mitchell Moss said to The Times in an earlier version of Grynbaum’s article. “This is going to do more to encourage more housing than any other transit improvement currently underway.”

Others though are less convinced, and in an explosion of analysis early on Wednesday, various folks who contribute to what has been termed Transit Twitter expressed a healthy degree of skepticism directed toward this project. It isn’t, they contended, on a route that isn’t already served by somewhat nearby subway lines or, in some places, very nearby subway lines, including the G train, and buses that run through the areas don’t have ridership that would lend itself to a successful fixed rail system. Plus, for $2.5 billion, the city could effectively ensure enough money for the MTA to bond out the dollars required to build more phases of the Second Ave. Subway and the Utica Ave. subway, two projects that would be more impactful that a new light rail system not prohibitively far from an existing subway route.

A map of the proposed streetcar route. Click the image to enlarge.

A map of the proposed streetcar route. Click the image to enlarge.

There is the question too of the drivers behind this route. Considering the city’s other needs and potential funding opportunities, why a streetcar and why here? Two Trees seems to be a major player in this effort and in waterfront development up and down this Brooklyn Queens Connector corridor, and they stand to benefit the most from more waterfront access. Plus, as The Times notes, this light rail project wouldn’t require state approval or oversight. Thus, de Blasio can push through a major infrastructure project without running into interference from Andrew Cuomo, his gubernatorial nemesis up the road.

Despite the initial objections and the ins and outs of the politics behind this plan, as I said a few weeks ago, I don’t hate this idea so long as it’s implemented properly. The city has been pushing to bring jobs to both Industry City and the Navy Yards, and while few people would take the 27 minute north-to-side ride from Sunset Park to Astoria, a lot of people would ride from one end to the middle or from the middle to an end. (Anyway, who rides the A regularly from Inwood to the Rockaways? That’s not quite the point of a lengthy transit route.) Plus, with a northern terminus planned for Astoria, it’s not a stretch to see a future connection to Laguardia Airport via the BMT’s Ditmars Boulevard terminal. That’s a far more appealing option than Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s misguided Willets Point AirTrain.

To be a success, this light rail line must run in its own dedicated lane and, for better or worse, be integrated into the MTA’s fare structure. The city should consider upzoning where possible along its route, but already, many including former NYC DOT planning director Jon Orcutt, don’t believe the funding scheme is realistic. That’s part of the case the mayor will have to make.

Ultimately, it’s a big idea and it’s a new idea with shiny technology that we don’t have here in New York City. That angle is going to drive part of the dialogue around this plan, but in reality, we need to see a rigorous defense that justifies $2.4 billion in light of competing needs. Building because some developers are willing to foot the bill simply supports the idea that there are two New Yorks — one where access to money and power gets things done and another stuck depending change but unable to realize it. Transportation investments that will reverberate through the decades deserve a bit more consideration than that.

Categories : Brooklyn, Queens
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  • MTA announces record ridership on Metro-North, LIRR · In what has seemingly become a regular rite of passage for the region’s commuter rail lines, the MTA yesterday announced record ridership on both Metro-North and the LIRR for 2015. Metro-North saw 86.1 million customers last year, and the LIRR carried 87.6 million customers, the highest total since 1949. Metro-North’s ridership has doubled since the agency came into being in 1983.

    The MTA believes that a mix of a younger ridership base that doesn’t want to drive (coupled with how miserable it is to drive into New York City) along with a strong regional economy has led to this higher ridership levels. “When ridership set records back in 2008, many said it was because of high gasoline prices, and that certainly is one factor,” MTA Chairman and CEO Thomas F. Prendergast said. “But gas prices have sunk to low levels and the trend is continuing. We are seeing the confluence a strengthening regional economy, healthier downtowns around the region, a new generation of millennials who values public transportation, and greater productivity on board our trains through the proliferation of smartphones, tablets and laptops. Customers are also responding to improvements we have made, including more frequent trains, improving on-time performance, a fleet of modern new electric cars, expanding availability of real-time information, and more channels for customer communication.”

    Interestingly, the MTA notes that Metro-North’s gains in non-commuter trips is increasing faster than its regular commuter base, and the railroad reports that its stations west of the Hudson are seeing higher spikes in ridership than those to the east. The Port Jervis Line and Pascack Valley Line saw gains of nearly 5 percent. Meanwhile, the MTA notes that ridership should continue to increase over the next six years when the East Side Access project comes online, and Metro-North begins service into Penn Station shortly thereafter. Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s main line expansion project as well as local pols’ push to introduce a Freedom Ticket could lead to higher ridership numbers as well. It’s all part of an improved mobility picture for the New York region. Now how about that capital funding? · (25)

The MTA’s new subway stations, such as 34th St.-Hudson Yards, are fully accessible, but the feds are putting pressure on the agency to make more older stations accessible as well. (Photo by Benjamin Kabak)

When it comes to the Americans with Disabilities Act, the MTA has a rather tortured history with accessibility improvements the agency needs to make. Due to ever-spiraling costs and issues regarding available space, the agency has likely not fulfilled its obligations to make stations accessible during rehabilitation work, and it has hid behind the shield of its list of 100 Key Stations that will be fully accessible within the next few years. A new report though exposes these efforts for what they were: insufficient and likely wasteful.

Most recently, the MTA has used accessibility issues to stonewall on reopening closed entrances. The agency has claimed at various points that restoring station access via entrances closed in the early 1990s would trigger ADA requirements that make efforts to reopen closed stairways cost-prohibitive. That seem concern didn’t lead the agency to make the Smith-9th Sts. station fully accessible during a multi-year, multi-hundred-million dollar renovation effort, but I digress.

Late last week, Andrew Tangel of The Wall Street Journal brought some attention to this issue. I quote at length:

The cost of making the New York City subway more accessible for disabled riders could rise by more than $1.7 billion as federal regulators prod the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to add elevators to more stations in the 111-year-old system. The higher price tag through 2019 for subway-station improvements represents an unforeseen potential expense for the MTA as it struggles to pay for a backlog of repair and expansion projects…

At issue is how the nation’s largest transit system complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act, a 1990 federal law aimed at making public spaces accessible to those who have difficulty climbing stairs and may rely on a cane or wheelchair. The MTA quantified the potential increase in station costs in a recent filing for investors who buy the authority’s bonds, citing stricter federal guidelines for complying with the 25-year-old law. The Federal Transit Administration’s push is the latest bout in a decadeslong fight over making MTA’s sprawling network more accessible for the disabled. Advocates for the disabled and a former top MTA official say the authority has moved too slowly in making the city’s now 469 subway stations more accessible. An MTA spokesman said the authority is sensitive to disabled riders’ needs and has been working to improve accessibility…

As pressure to accommodate disabled passengers began to grow years ago, the MTA and other transportation agencies around the country invested in making bus systems more accessible and paratransit services that offer automobile rides for the disabled, said Howard Roberts, a former top official at the MTA. “It turns out that was a horrendously bad decision,” Mr. Roberts said. “It probably has turned out to be … a hundred times more expensive to go with buses and paratransit than it would have been to bite the bullet and simply rehabilitate the stations and put elevators in.”

…The federal government, which provides a major chunk of funding for transportation funding nationwide, aimed to clarify how local agencies should comply with the law, this former federal official said. That could mean triggering ADA-required improvements—including expensive elevators—sooner than local agencies might have planned. That has resulted in a behind-the-scenes tug of war between federal and MTA officials. Inside the MTA, officials have balked at the suggestion the agency must install elevators when it makes repairs to subway-station staircases, according to people familiar with the matter…A Federal Transit Administration spokeswoman said in an email that the agency has been “advising MTA for years to comply with ADA during renovation projects.”

You may wonder why no one has sued the MTA over ADA violations, and this is a question I’ve asked recently as well. I’ve been led to believe that the disabilities advocacy groups are facing funding issues and simply have not been able to raise the money to fund the lawsuits necessary to force the MTA’s hand on this issue. (Roberts’ words too are rather damning for similar reasons.)

As you can see, the feds are applying pressure as they can — which could end up jeopardizing the MTA’s access to certain federal dollars — but ultimately, this is an issue of misplaced priorities and lost opportunities. We can debate for hours whether the ADA, an unfunded federal mandate, is a net positive for everyone, but the MTA should be creating an accessible system that doesn’t rely on the money-suck that is Paratransit. For the dollars flushed down the drain, the MTA could have vastly expanded elevator access at subway stops around the city. Instead, only 22 percent of stations are accessible, and as the population ages, this problem will become more pronounced. Your ideas for solving this are as good as mine, but the MTA could start by reassessing its interpretation of the ADA.

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NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton, left, found the subways to be quite crowded during a ride last week. He shouldn’t have been so surprised. (Via Twitter)

I don’t tend to cover subway crime much on these pixeled pages. As a storyline, subway crime tends more toward clickbait than real coverage with the city’s tabloids preying on decades’-old fears of the subways a hot bed for crime. The reality is far more boring with the NYPD reporting less than seven major felonies per day in the subway, a far cry from even as recently as 1997 when major felonies topped 17 per day. The subways are very safe, and that truth makes for dull press.

Now and then, though, something related to subway crime draws me in. This story is tangentially related to the “spate” of subway slashings. I use “spate” with some trepidation as six incidents in January is hardly a sign of a return to the bad old days, but these crimes follow a pattern. Two people have a heated interaction on a crowded subway car or platform, one slashes the other and flees. The cops have made three arrests and are investigating the other three, including one that unfolded this past weekend.

The slashings, in and of themselves, are warnings to be wary of altercations underground, but the NYPD’s reaction has been telling. To assess safety underground, NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton last week decided to ride the subway — with some fellow higher-ups and a security detail — to assess the safety of the subways. He proclaimed the subways “very safe” and added, “As [NYPD Chief of Department] Jimmy [O’Neill] and I found out this morning, they’re jammed in there like sardines. It’s amazing anyone can assault anyone. People can’t move in some of those cars.”

So it is early 2016 and apparently news to the police official in charge of the entire department that the subways are crowded and room is at a premium. Stop the presses indeed.

Bratton’s attitude and words are indicative of a bigger divide in New York City politics that comes about from granting so many top officials, elected and appointed, the perk of free parking and drivers. These leaders do not take the subways and view the subways and subway riders as “other.” Rather than experiencing the city as so many New Yorkers do on a daily basis through the lens of an hour or more spent riding subways each day, they view the subways as this thing that people who aren’t them — people who are the Other — use. The subways remain vaguely unknown and unsafe. Thus, crowded trains are all hours are viewed as a sign things are hunky dory underground.

It’s true as Bratton surmised, that crowds indicate safety. On a basic level, this indicates safety in numbers as the more riders there are, the safer we all feel. Plus, if millions of people didn’t feel safe taking the subway, the trains would be as empty today as they were during the doldrums of the late 1970s and early 1980s. As an infrequent rider, Bratton drew that seemingly common-sense solution, and he’s not wrong. But he’s also not quite right.

As trains get more crowded, the safety concerns manifest themselves in other ways. Subway riders — especially women — are more worried about sexual harassment and assault in the subways. After all, crowded trains give those so inclined cover for inappropriate contact or worse. Bratton wouldn’t pick up on that nuance if he were only last week discovering how crowded trains were. Riders too are worried about confrontations as space on peak hour trains is at a premium. These slashings have arisen over disputes over seats or standing space or those blocking doorways. With trains packed, we grow protective over our square feet, and watching the MTA’s service strain to meet peak-hour capacity means tense crowds and confrontations that can spiral out of control quickly. This too is not something an infrequent rider would immediately notice.

So what’s the solution? I don’t believe we should force politicians to take the subway. Such a requirement leads to disenchantment and bitterness, and it doesn’t help anyone understand the ins and outs of daily life with the subway. Rather, officials and politicians should take the subway because they want to learn and understand what their constituents experience and want to see the city through the eyes of its millions of transit riders. It’s an instructive way to understand the concerns of the millions of people who ride the subway each day. Thus, politicians and key officials would learn how safety concerns are implicated and what crowded trains mean, and subway riders would become the Normal rather than the Other. As the Other, we’ll be treated at arm’s length. As the Normal, conditions can improve in the right way for the better.

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Although late-January isn’t always a transit-rich time of year, this week proved to be a busy one. In case you missed anything, you can read about the community concerns over the looming L train shutdown, the ultimate fate of the 7 line extension stop at 10th Ave., the problematic R train, the near-term future of the Second Ave. Subway, and, of course, open gangway rolling stock which is coming soon to New York. If that’s not your thing, how about some weekend service advisories?


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, January 29 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, February 1, South Ferry-bound 1 trains run express from 14 St to Chambers St.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, January 29 to 6:30 a.m. Sunday, January 31, and from 6:30 a.m. Sunday, January 31 to Monday, February 1, Flatbush Av-Brooklyn College bound 2 trains run express from 14 St to Chambers St.


From 10:00 p.m. Saturday, January 30 to 10:00 a.m. Sunday, January 31, Van Cortlandt Park-bound 1 trains run local from Times Sq-42 St to 96 St.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, January 29 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, February 1, 3 service operates to/from New Lots Av all weekend, replacing the 4 in Brooklyn. 3 trains will run express in Manhattan.


From 10:00 p.m. Saturday, January 30 to 10:00 a.m. Sunday, January 31, Harlem-138 St bound 3 trains run local from Times Sq-42 St to 96 St.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, January 29 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, February 1, 4 trains are suspended in both directions between Crown Hts-Utica Ave/New Lots Ave and Bowling Green. Take the 2 or 3 instead. Transfer between 4 and 23 trains at Fulton St.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, January 29 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, February 1, Pelham Bay Park-bound 6 trains run express from 3 Av-138 St to Hunts Point Av.


From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, January 30 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, February 1, A trains are suspended in both directions between Euclid Av and Ozone Park-Lefferts Blvd. Free shuttle buses provide alternate service. A service operates in two sections:

  • Between 207 St and Euclid Av.
  • Between Rockaway Blvd and Far Rockaway, every 20 minutes.
  • Free shuttle buses operate between Euclid Av and Lefferts Blvd, stopping at Grant Av, 80 St, 88 St, Rockaway Blvd, 104 St, and 111 St. Transfer between A trains and free shuttle buses at Euclid Av and/or Rockaway Blvd.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, January 29 to 6:30 a.m. Sunday, January 31, and from 11:45 p.m. Sunday, January 31 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, February 1, Brooklyn-bound A trains run express 59 St-Columbus Circle to Canal St.


From 6:30 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, January 30 and January 31, Brooklyn-bound C trains run express 59 St-Columbus Circle to Canal St.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, January 29 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, February 1, Jamaica Center-Parsons/Archer bound E trains skip 75 Av and Briarwood.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, January 29 to 6:30 a.m. Sunday, January 31, and from 11:45 p.m. Sunday, January 31 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, February 1, Jamaica Center-Parsons/Archer bound E trains run express from Queens Plaza to Forest Hills-71 Av.


From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, January 30 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, February 1, World Trade Center-bound E trains run local from Forest Hills-71 Av to Queens Plaza.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, January 29 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, February 1, Coney Island-Stillwell Av bound F trains are rerouted via the E local from Forest Hills-71 Av to W4 St-Wash Sq.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, January 29 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, February 1, Jamaica Center-Parsons/Archer bound F trains skip 75 Av, Briarwood, and Sutphin Blvd.


From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, January 30 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, February 1, Coney Island-Stillwell Av bound F trains run local from Forest Hills-71 Av to Queens Plaza.


From 11:30 p.m. Friday, January 29 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, February 1, J trains are suspended in both directions between Hewes St and Broad St. J service operates between Jamaica Center and Hewes St. Take free shuttle buses and 46F trains instead. Free shuttle buses operate between Hewes St and Essex St, stopping at Marcy Av. For direct service between Brooklyn and Manhattan, consider using the AC or L via free transfer at Broadway Junction.


From 6:00 a.m. to 12 Midnight Saturday, January 30 and Sunday, January 31, M trains are suspended in both directions between Myrtle Av and Essex St. M service operates between Metropolitan Av and Myrtle Av all weekend. Take the JL and/or free shuttle buses instead. Free shuttle buses provide alternate service between Hewes St and Essex St, stopping at Marcy Av. For direct service to/from Manhattan, use the L via transfer at Myrtle-Wyckoff Avs.


From 11:30 p.m. Friday, January 29 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, February 1, Q trains are suspended in both directions between 57 St-7 Av and Kings Hwy. Q service operates between Coney Island-Stillwell Av and Kings Hwy. Free shuttle buses operate as follows:

  • Express (non-stop) between Kings Hwy and Atlantic Av-Barclays Ctr.
  • Local between Kings Hwy and Atlantic Av-Barclays Ctr, making all stops.
  • For service To Manhattan, take the DFN from Coney Island-Stillwell Av. For service to Coney Island-Stillwell Av, take the D,F, or N at 34 St-Herald Sq or the DN at Atlantic Av-Barclays Ctr.


From 6:00 a.m. to 12 Midnight Saturday, January 30 and Sunday, January 31, Forest Hills-71 Av bound R trains run express from Queens Plaza to Forest Hills-71 Av.

Categories : Service Advisories
Comments (2)

The L train riders have a problem. Due to the millions of gallons of saltwater that flooded the Canarsie Tubes during Hurricane Sandy, a prolonged shutdown of the L train’s connection to Manhattan is all but inevitable. This work isn’t expected to start until mid-2017, and the agency is struggling to determine if a three-year shutdown that may allow single-tracking is preferable to a 14-18 month total shutdown of service. From local businesses to housing to daily commuters, the L train shutdown is a Problem with a capital P.

Even as plans are up in the air, Northern Brooklyn residents aren’t happen. Therein lies the MTA’s problem. Based on a general distrust of an agency that has failed to deliver projects on time and on budget and has a reputation, deserved or otherwise, for a lack of transparency (we always knew that lingering trope about two sets of books would come back to bite), New Yorkers simply do not trust the MTA. So when the MTA says it has to shutdown the L train for a prolonged period of time but doesn’t sufficiently explain the depths of the work or the extent of the damage, the public who would have to suffer through longer trips on crowded trains will be skeptical and angry.

Yesterday, that anger unfolded in an entirely unproductive and childish way that benefits no one involved in this process. What was supposed to be a private meeting during which community leaders were to voice their concerns turned into a public forum for politicians to grandstand and business owners to vent. To more or less ended when community leaders kicked out the MTA representative they had invited to attend the meeting to hear their concerns. It’s my understanding that, when the MTA accepted the invite, they did so telling the community that plans were not ready for public discussion. The community members acknowledged this limitation but then were critical when the MTA failed to disclose plans the agency didn’t have. It was, in essence, a public ambush that ended with an eviction. It’s made for a nice bit of theater but has led to more distrust on both sides of a process that needs to be collaborative and cooperative.

Let’s see how this unfolded via Twitter coverage:

Following the meeting, an MTA spokesman express the agency’s commitment to cooperation, saying: “The safety of riders must be the number one priority. The Canarsie tube suffered serious damage during superstorm Sandy, and it must be repaired. The MTA is looking for the best ways to mitigate the service disruptions and customer inconvenience that will result from this critical repair work. As we have made clear both prior to and at the meeting, we are committed to maintaining a dialog with the affected communities as we analyze the options. As the process moves forward we will continue to listen to ideas from our riders, local businesses and elected officials.”

From where I sit, the path forward is simple but will take some trust-building on both sides. The MTA has to be transparent with the state of the Canarsie Tube. If riders and residents fear for their safety, the MTA hasn’t done a good job explaining what work needs to be done and why or what the status of the tube currently is. While those aware of the extent of Sandy’s damage could point to the R train’s Montague St. Tube as a good example, the MTA can’t work from the assumption that casual L train riders know or care about work that happened on the R line. While you and I may pay attention to these things, for the vast majority of New Yorkers, the subway is the line they take on a daily basis, and L train riders through the Canarise Tube aren’t R train riders through the Montague St. Tube. Sandy was now over three years ago, and memory fades fast.

On the other hand, the community should be understand about expressing their concerns in a collaborative and cooperative process. If they’re not getting answers, the solution isn’t to expel the person listening to their concerns from the meeting. Rather, work together to find out a way forward. Furthermore, politicians like Sen. Martin Dilan shouldn’t threaten access to billions of dollars of badly-needed funding to fulfill a personal vendetta. That is a counterproductive step in a process fraught with complications.

So now a detente settles in until the next meeting in February. This work is still far off, but the path forward is opening up. We’ll see how the sides respond next time, but hopefully, transparency and maturity will rule that meeting. Otherwise, it’s going to be a long few years for L train riders.

Categories : Superstorm Sandy
Comments (34)
The 7 line extension will open in September, but the station at 41st St. and 10th Ave. remains lost to time.

The 7 line extension station at 41st St. and 10th Ave. remains lost to time.

Every few months, the long, lost 7 line station at 41st St. and 10th Ave. makes an appearance in the news, and we can all hope for a few minutes that everyone will come to their senses. Today, this station — a victim of a game of political chicken between the MTA and New York City that saw everyone else lose over a matter of a few hundred million dollars — made waves when NYC’s Economic Development Corporation released an RFP for the Covenant House at 41st St. and 10th Ave. With scenic views of the Port Authority Bus Terminal ramps, this spot is primed for development, and it would seem to be an ideal vehicle through which a second stop for the 7 line extension could arrive. Don’t get your hopes up.

The story broke first on Curbed on Wednesday afternoon. Buried in the RFP for the site (pdf) is a brief reference to the MTA and its work assessing the area around 41st St. and 10th Ave. As you may recall, the 7 line extension originally included two stations, but when costs climbed, the city refused to cover the overruns. Since the MTA wasn’t going to spend a dollar more than it needed to of its own scarce capital money on a project entirely funded by the city and the city didn’t need to spur development in a neighborhood already being developed, the station was axed from the extension. Over the years, a few half-hearted, 11th-hour attempts by, variously, the real estate industry and Sen. Chuck Schumer went nowhere, and the extension opened last year with just one stop.

The MTA didn’t foreclose on the idea of a station there and left provisioning in place for a station with two side-platforms at this spot in Hell’s Kitchen. Now, we see that the agency, at a low level, is doing its diligence with regards to this station. Here’s what the RFP says:

The MTA is in the process of preparing the conceptual design study of the Tenth Avenue Station for the No. 7 Train Extension. The goal of the study is to arrive at a conceptual design of the station facilities and infrastructure on the Project Site to a level of specificity that will assist in determining the dimensions of any required MTA Easements, volumes of space, impositions or encumbrances. At the time that the study is complete, the Developer will be expected to work with the MTA to finalize the MTA Easements and adjust its Proposal accordingly. The Developer is encouraged to design and incorporate the MTA Easements so that the MTA Easements appear uniform with the overall Project. The Contracts of Sale will require that, as a Condition to Closing, the Developer shall have coordinated with the MTA, and shall have accepted and accommodated within its site plan the MTA Easements as set forth in the abovementioned conceptual design study.

That paragraph is dense with legalese and real estate-ese, but ultimately and unfortunately, it urges us not to hold our breaths expecting a station at 10th Ave. any time soon. While the MTA may be preparing a conception design study, the purpose of this study is simply to ensure the i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed with regards to the Covenant House spot. The easements are future considerations. Should the MTA eventually decide to build the station, whatever development grows at this spot would have to support the necessary land grab and construction work without sacrificing the integrity of the mixed-use development that will soon rise there. It’s nothing more than a hedge against future uncertainty and not a true conceptual design that will see the light of day.

The reality is that, despite Dan Doctoroff’s come-to-Jesus moment seven years too late, we missed the best chance we had of seeing a stop at 10th Ave. Instead of a $500 million project, a new station built around an active subway line is likely to cost upwards of $800 million, and the MTA has no plans to fund this station. It’s not a part of the 2015-2019 capital plan, and based on the agency’s short- and long-term needs, it’s not likely to be a part of the 2020-2024 plan unless someone else fronts the dough.

So ultimately, the MTA and NYCEDC are doing what they have to do to preserve the slight hope that someone will fund a station in the future. Whoever builds something at 41st will have to plan for some work underneath the building that’s unlikely to begin any time soon, and that’s all this RFP is about. As frustrating as it is, the 7 line stop at 41st St. and 10th Ave. is no closer to reality today than it was a week, a month or a year ago.

Categories : 7 Line Extension
Comments (27)

Over the past few years, local subway riders on the BMT 4th Avenue line have had a rough go of it. After over 20 years of ample peak-hour service — both the M (or N) and R trains served 4th Ave. from the mid-1980s until 2010 — R train riders have suffered through reductions in service, 13 months of transfers due to Sandy work and, now, constant complaints about reliability. Since the Montague Tubes reopened following Fix & Fortify work, riders have loudly voiced their views that R service isn’t satisfactory and has gotten worse. Pols are picking up the cause, but the MTA says it won’t do anything until the Second Ave. Subway opens.

The exact nature of the complaints from riders are standard throughout the system, but from constant stories, it sounds as though the R train in Brooklyn has been particularly unreliable lately. A letter from City Council member Vincent Gentile to the MTA noted “many late and overcrowded trains, infrequent service, frequent delays, unkempt stations, inadequate audio systems, and the use of older subway cars.” Some of these complaints are valid and systematic; the MTA hasn’t overhauled some pretty sorry stations along 4th Ave. in decades. Some stretch the bounds of pity. The R train’s rolling stock, for instance, is perfectly adequately and won’t be due up for replacement until the latter part of the 2020s. And some — infrequent service, for one — are a direct result of the loss of the M train.

The R, in other words, is the perfect storm of problems for the MTA. It runs through rapidly expanding (and gentrifying) neighborhoods and offers Bay Ridge its lone, slow subway connection to Manhattan. The pure data is hard to pinpoint, but experiences and anecdotes suggest the service along this line has not been up to snuff lately. As the R stretches from Forest Hills to Bay Ridge and shares tracks at various points with the N, Q, and M lines, the challenges are extreme.

In writing to the MTA last month, Gentile offered up a laundry list of solutions. His letter said:

First, if nothing else, conduct an audit to find out just how bad the service is and exactly what is needed to alleviate the trouble. Second, add more and newer trains to the R route to increase frequency and decrease late arrivals of the R. Third, put the R train on its own line in Manhattan so that delays caused by waiting for other trains that run on the same line, such as the N, cease to happen. Fourth, speed up the installation of platform countdown clocks and add other amenities on the subway cars such as digital stop trackers. Finally, if you do not replace the train cars entirely, at the very least add new audio systems that riders can actually hear and decipher in the event of an emergency or delay. Currently, a majority of the audio systems on the R train fleet are inaudible and/or incomprehensible.

In addition, I am proposing several changes to the scheduling for the R line that I also request be made as soon as possible. First, discontinue the late night R shuttle that forces riders heading into Bay Ridge at night to get off the train at 36th Street in Sunset Park and wait upwards of an additional 20-30 minutes for an R shuttle to arrive and complete their trip home. Second, since the TA itself claims many delays on the R line result from the length of the entire line itself, I am advocating the creation of an R line rush hour special from 95th Street in Bay Ridge to Chambers Street and back. This special segmented line will address and alleviate some of the delays experienced by Bay Ridgeites who work in lower Manhattan.

This is a jumble of ideas, again some better than others, but it seems indicative of the need for additional peak-hour service along 4th Ave. In addition to the letter, Gentile, along with Daniel Squadron, the Straphangers Campaign, and the Riders Alliance, has urged the MTA to conduct a full line review — essentially an audit — of R train operations to determine how best to improve the line. These line reviews can be modest and may fall victim to politics, but auditing service along particular lines is something the MTA has said it will do regularly.

Yet, the MTA is a bit resistant to the idea that the R is problematic. Internal load guidelines — also established by the MTA and loosened in 2010 — have determined the R to be at 62 percent of capacity during a.m. peak hours and between 30-60 percent of capacity during non-peak hours. This has always raised questions regarding induced demand and chicken-and-egg problems. Can the MTA improve service and boost ridership by increasing service and improving reliability?

In response to the request for an audit, though, the MTA told R train riders they will have to wait a bit longer for improvements. Here’s the agency’s statement:

Chairman Prendergast has committed to undertake full line reviews of all subway lines in the system. Since 2009, NYCT has completed reviews of the F, L, G and recently the A and C lines. Since all of the reviews conducted thus far have focused on the subway’s lettered lines (like the R), NYCT plans to select one or more lines on the numbered lines as the next line(s) to review. A review of the R has not yet been scheduled because if we were to conduct a line review of the R now, it would be obsolete almost immediately, because the opening of the Second Avenue Subway will significantly change overall service on the Broadway Line. The opening of Second Avenue Subway will affect how many people ride the R and how the R operates, so it would be premature for us to conduct an R line review on the cusp of such a change.

So the R could be doing better, but it’s not at capacity. Meanwhile, we’re on the cusp of major changes to the BMT once the Second Ave. Subway opens (whenever that might be), and for now, R train riders are stuck with what they have, an M-less ride down 4th Ave. Is that a satisfactory response? It’s hard to say.

Categories : Brooklyn
Comments (108)
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