Just before Christmas, The MTA finally released their L Train shutdown plan.
There were few surprises in this plan, as it more or less mirrors all of the MTA & DOT’s initial thoughts which were discussed at public and community board meetings that were held only in Brooklyn and Manhattan. No meetings were held in Queens, which will be significantly impacted by the L train shutdown (in the form of more crowding on E, M and 7 trains). As the LIC Post reported, Queens is practically omitted from the L shutdown plan.
Last spring, I worked with Access Queens to put together a plan to reduce the impact of the L shutdown on already overcrowded Queens subway routes (primary the 7 and E trains). This set of recommendations has been endorsed by state Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan, and the Court Square Civic Association.
Most of these recommendations have been seemingly ignored in the first version of the MTA’s L train plan. Out of six potential new free transfers, only one has been included.
The MTA’s current plan now includes a new free transfer between the G train at 21st street (in LIC) and the 7 at Hunterspoint avenue. This idea came direct from the Access Queens recommendations.
it is a very worthwhile transfer: it allows G & L commuters who don’t have unlimited cards the ability to get off the G one stop earlier than Court Square (which is currently a two train terminal station prone to back-ups) and grab the 7 – a block away and with less stairs and potentially less crowding at Court Square (where the current G/7 transfer is frankly horrible at rush hour-complete with broken escalators and a station that was never designed to be the hub it has become).
While I applaud the MTA for recognizing a good idea and apparently implementing it, I do question why they are not acting on the other five free transfer proposals.
Here they are, straight from the Access Queens presentation:
1) G at Court Square to Queens Plaza E, M and R trains.
This transfer would be a 5 minute walk, shorter if quicker on your feet. It would give displaced L train riders the ability to also transfer to the R train. It would be really awesome to have when there are service disruptions on the E and 7 – which of course are often. It could also alievate some crowding at Court Square – which again is a station that was never designed to be a major transfer hub. Court Square is overcrowded today. It doesn’t take a genius to see that it will become dangerous during the L train shutdown.
2) G at Court Square to Queensboro Plaza N, W and 7 trains.
The same logic behind the above transfer applies here: it gives pay-per-ride commuters direct access to the N and W trains, and provides another option instead of waiting in line to get onto an already at-capacity E, M or 7 train.
3) Connecting all the Queens Plaza stations with a free transfer
This one has slightly less to do with displaced L commuters and more to do with giving all Queens commuters a new option when service on one route or the other is snarled. The L shutdown will bring up to 20,000 commuters per hour to Court Square. This crowding will negatively affect the E and 7 in untold ways. The ability to transfer between all of the routes at this station would be a huge help on those frequent occasions that service is disrupted. The only reason a physical connection was never built between these stations was due their original construction as competing routes owned by separate private companies nearly 100 years ago. We, the commuters of Queens, need this.
Brooklyn commuters are going to get spanked on this one. There are two additional free transfers that the MTA could allow at Hoyt street. Neither of these options have made it into the MTA’s plan. Why? Are pay-per-ride commuters, some of the poorist in NYC, not worthy of more options?
4) G at Hoyt to the 2/3 at Hoyt
This option would allow displaced L and G rider direct access to the 7th avenue corridor. It would relieve crowding on the A and C trains, which will already be overburdened with L riders transferring at East New York.
5) G at Hoyt to the B,D,N,Q & R at Dekalb ave
According to the MTA’s own data, this is literally one of the most requested free transfer within the NYC subway system. A secondary play on this could be a G transfer from Fulton Street to Atlantic Avenue, where the 2,3,4,5,B,D,N,Q and R trains stop. The distance between stations is comparable.
The kicker here is that it would not cost the MTA a significant amount of money to enable these transfers. Reprogramming Metrocards to enable these transfers is a negligible cost (we’re talking about a minor software change here. Any competent programmer could do it within a week). It is extremely doubtful that anyone without an unlimited fare card is making these transfers today, and if there are any pay-per-ride commuters paying to make these transfers today, this would constitute a two-fare zone. Last I checked we moved away from two-fare zones back in the mid 1990s and we absolutely should not be backsliding into forcing commuters to pay twice just to get to and from school and work. Disturbingly, Governor Cuomo just last month vetoed a bill that would have enabled an additional free transfer for pay-per-ride commuters.
It’s not just about pay-per-ride customers of course. How many commuters even realize these stations are relatively close and no more than a 5 minute walk from each other? These days, commuters tend to either mob the next available in-station transfer to get away from overcrowded, delayed trains, or go on the street and get a cab with their favorite ride sharing app. This of course leads to more traffic on the roads, more accidents, and more deaths. This is behavior we really need to strive to modify, but we can’t do that when subway service is horrible, and riders are not aware of all of their options.
One would have hoped that the MTA would be doing everything it can to help commuters in the face of a severe service disruption. By rejecting all but one of Access Queens’ six free transfer proposals, they have instead chosen to highlight how little they really want to do to help commuters out. This is just one more indignity being pushed upon Brooklyn & Queens commuters.
In the weeks to come we’ll cover a few others in depth.