New York: Cutting Service Without Cutting Abundant Access

GTrain-e1264194117440The U.S. service cut epidemic — the result of transit agencies relying on recession-sensitive funding sources — is about to touch New York again.  But as in the first round of San Francisco cuts, the New York MTA planners are doing their best to reduce service but not the abundant access.

As with everything in New York, the details are complicated, but here’s a simple example.  The G subway line is the only line running directly between Queens (the top of this map) and Brooklyn (the bottom).  It has long included a segment from Court Square to Forest Hills where G trains run alongside two other subway lines, the E and V which connect Queens directly to Manhattan.  (Full subway map here.)

In happier times, a transit agency could indulge the preferences of people from Forest Hills who want to get to Brooklyn without having to change trains.  But when service needs to be cut, it’s far better to cut this duplicative segment than to cut a segment that is somebody’s only service.  And that’s usually the real-world choice.

So in future, the G will run only as far as Court Square, and passengers who want to get to/from Forest Hills and Brooklyn will need to use the E or V between Court Square and Forest Hills, then change.  But as a result, frequencies and unique services will not be cut as much as they would have been otherwise.  That’s the only way to get through a service cut without reducing the abundant access.

Full coverage of the service cuts is at Second Avenue Sagas, which often features thoughtful and detailed commentary on New York transit issues.  Thanks to Alon Levy for the tip.

8 Responses to New York: Cutting Service Without Cutting Abundant Access

  1. EngineerScotty January 25, 2010 at 12:01 pm #

    It’s nice, of course, to have redundant services to cut. For many transit agencies, service is already spread too thin–and cuts mean either decreasing frequencies beyond what is tolerable, or eliminating routes altogether.

  2. Yonah Freemark January 25, 2010 at 2:29 pm #

    Good point on the G — and I’d suggest that the replacement of the Queens portion of the M train with the V is also a good decision. It will provide people living in Middle Village direct access to Midtown, something they haven’t had in decades, and it will eliminate the very underused rush-hour M to Brooklyn.
    It will also relieve 2nd Avenue/LES station customers the awful heat they experience during the summer as a result of V trains sitting around, spewing air-con exhaust at their terminus…
    I’m impressed by the thoughtfulness with which the MTA is choosing to move ahead with these cuts.

  3. Cap'n Transit January 25, 2010 at 2:54 pm #

    From a practical point of view, the G hasn’t run to Forest Hills in years. It’s true, I occasionally see it coming down the track, but then it’s like “Oo, the G!” a ghost train. There have been so many service outages that you can’t depend on taking it to Brooklyn. So I won’t miss it if they completely eliminate it.
    What’s frustrating is that transfer at Court Square. When the G runs to Queens Plaza, you can transfer across the platform, or at worst up and over. But at Court Square it’s a long haul between the two stations, with – get this – a one-way moving sidewalk!
    If they had some way of turning the G at Queens Plaza, that would make it a lot easier.

  4. Greg January 25, 2010 at 7:45 pm #

    “The G subway line is the only line running directly between Queens (the top of this map) and Brooklyn (the bottom).”
    That’s not correct. The A, J, M and Z trains run directly from Brooklyn to Queens. The G is the only train that runs ONLY in Brooklyn and Queens.

  5. anonymouse January 25, 2010 at 10:29 pm #

    They do have a way of turning the G at Queens Plaza, although it’s kind of a pain. There’s a layup track between the two express tracks north/east of Queens Plaza. A terminating G would have to unload at the local platform at Queens Plaza, then wait for an opportunity to cross the express track to get to the layup. On the way back out, it would be able to load on either the local or express track. Assuming that this only runs during off-peak hours when there’s no V train, you only have to worry about getting in the way of the E on the express and the R on the local, which shouldn’t be too terrible of a problem. And there’s almost certainly enough room that even one or two R’s stacked up waiting to enter Queens Plaza wouldn’t affect service on the N/W. And during the hours that the G currently runs to 71st/Continental, this shouldn’t be a problem at all, because it’s off peak and service is nowhere near saturating the line capacity.

  6. Alon Levy January 26, 2010 at 1:33 am #

    Greg: the A, J, and M cross from Brooklyn to Queens far east; they do not link Long Island City with Downtown Brooklyn quickly the way the G does.

  7. anonymouse January 27, 2010 at 12:35 am #

    The A and M end in Queens without connecting to anything else (well, except the JFK Airtrain for the A, but that’s not useful for intra-Queens travel). Only the J can really be said to connect Brooklyn to Queens, and that’s in a very different part of the two boroughs from the G. Also, I looked it up: on Saturdays the base headway for the R and E is 8 minutes, so the worst case is that the G has to wait for the E to pass, forcing the R to wait behind it for 2 minutes, and the chances of that happening with 8 minute headways are fairly small.

  8. AlexB January 31, 2010 at 10:59 am #

    If the G ran like it’s supposed to, it would cut 20 minutes off a trip that can take over an hour. There is no bus route that replaces the direct service the G provides. To get from local stops in Queens to the G requires two transfers, one of which includes a very long underground walk. It’s a big pain and not providing this service isn’t saving that much money.