How Screwed Will Your Subway Line Be by the L Train Shutdown? Everybody Else Edition

During the upcoming L train shutdown set to begin in early 2019, the MTA expects 70 to 80 percent of displaced L riders to take other subway lines. This will affect not only those displaced riders, but all the commuters who currently take the lines that will become filled with L refugees. This week, the Village Voice examines the impact on all the remaining lines not yet covered. Click here for previous editions and other L train shutdown coverage.

If you do not take the J, M, Z, A, C, 7, F, G, E, M, or R lines, then I have some good news: You’re probably, probably not screwed during the L train shutdown. You will likely be able to get to work without severe disruptions, even more packed trains, or overcrowded platforms. In most ways, your New York City experience will be much like it is today.

Except — you had to know there would be exceptions — for those of you who take the 3 and the N/W.

First, let’s talk about the 3. There will be a free transfer between the remaining Brooklyn-only L train service at Livonia Avenue and the 3 at Junius Street. This will be the first available transfer for the 27,000-plus people who swipe into the Canarsie–Rockaway Parkway, East 105th Street, New Lots Avenue, and Livonia Avenue L stations every weekday, according to 2016 ridership figures, the latest year for which data is available.

While that’s a lot of people, those riders have a few options for how to approach the shutdown. They can take the L to Broadway Junction and transfer to the A/C or J/Z, or Myrtle-Wyckoff Avenues to the M, or the Junius Street transfer to the 3. (Most, I would imagine, would opt for either the A or the 3, since those lines will get you to Manhattan the quickest.) Those who go with the 3 can then make the easy transfer to the 4 or 5 express trains at Crown Heights–Utica Avenue or Franklin Avenue. Overall, it will be an inconvenience, but I don’t believe it will cause severe crowding (beyond what I’ve already written regarding Broadway Junction).

The other potential trouble spot I’ll flag is in Queens. This is much more speculative, but it’s possible the Queensboro Plaza station could see a lot of 7 riders in the morning rush making a cross-platform transfer to the N/W so as to avoid the hordes of G train riders who will be getting on at the subsequent Court Square and Hunters Point Avenue stations for Manhattan-bound transfers. Whether or not this becomes a thing largely depends on just how bad the 7 crowding is. After all, the people already on the 7 may not really care if G transferees are stuck on the platform. But if the crowding is as bad as I think it will be, some clever folks may realize early on that it’s just not worth putting up with and instead make the 7-to-N/W a regular part of their commute.

“Great,” you may be saying to yourself, out loud, like a weirdo. “So if I don’t take the **deep breath** J, M, Z, A, C, 7, F, G, E, M, R, N, W, 3, 4, or 5 trains then I’m totally fine?”

Actually, that’s not what I’m saying at all.

For you see — and this is the grand finale I have been building to over the past several weeks, so please, bask in the dramatic climax — each and every New Yorker is screwed, in their own little way, during the L shutdown. Consider:

  • Do you know anyone who takes any of the above lines with any degree of regularity? They’re going to be miserable.
  • Do you know anyone who currently takes an NYC Ferry along the East River? Their ferries are going to be overrun with L refugees and their pleasant, taxpayer-subsidized yacht rides will suddenly become a lot less pleasant.
  • Do you ever go within a five-block radius of 14th Street? Do you know anyone who lives or works in that area? It will be clogged with buses, pedestrians, and bicyclists attempting to traverse the city without the L. They, too, will be much less pleasant.
  • Do you or does anyone you know bike over the Williamsburg Bridge every day as part of their commute? The Department of Transportation is expecting cycling traffic over the bridge to increase “at least 300 percent” during the shutdown, which is fantastic for a lot of reasons, but will make for a very congested bridge.
  • Do you take the bus in north Brooklyn or on any route that runs along or near 14th Street? Your buses will be slower and your journeys longer. There will be more traffic thanks to increased Uber, Lyft, and taxi usage — plus, thanks to the lack of all-door boarding, even a nominal increase in bus ridership will lead to much longer boarding times.
  • Do you occasionally go to Williamsburg or Bushwick? That will become much more difficult, inconvenient, and expensive.
  • Do you know anyone who owns or works at a business in Williamsburg or Bushwick? If you do, they’re probably going to go through some very tough times during the shutdown.

Even if somehow none of the above applies to you, it’s likely you know someone for whom it does. The shutdown’s ripple effect will be profound. We — each and every one of us — are very, very screwed.

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Can the MTA Bus Plan Actually Make Buses Go Faster?

At long, long last, the MTA finally has a plan to get the city’s buses moving again. The Bus Plan, which was presented to the New York City Transit board on Monday, is a sweeping proposal to reimagine bus service in New York. The set of new projects was met with barely restrained enthusiasm from the transit advocacy community, whose Bus Turnaround Coalition called for just such an initiative in July 2016. In fact, the plan addresses all six recommendations from the Coalition’s website, something New York City Transit president Andy Byford said is not an accident.

The Bus Plan includes a host of important customer-experience improvements — like more and redesigned bus shelters, digital screens on the buses that provide bus stop information, easier-to-understand maps, and new buses. But none of these will do much to speed up service, and that’s the single biggest reason fewer New Yorkers are taking buses.

Darryl Irick, the senior vice president of the department of buses, told Monday’s New York City Transit board meeting that city buses spend half their time traveling under two miles per hour — or not traveling at all — because they’re stuck in traffic, stopped at traffic lights, or loading passengers. This is the single biggest issue any bus plan must address, and the MTA knows it. But how, exactly, does the MTA plan to make the buses go faster? Or, perhaps the better question is: What can the MTA do?

One of the biggest challenges to reforming bus service has been that one public body, the MTA, controls the buses and their routes; another, the New York City Department of Transportation (DOT), controls the roads they use; a third, the NYPD, is largely responsible for enforcing bus lanes and other traffic laws that facilitate speedy bus service; and a fourth, the state legislature, controls whether cameras can enforce bus lane adherence.

This works about as well as you’d expect. There’s only so much the MTA itself can do, and an awful lot it has to work with DOT, the NYPD, and the state legislature on. So it’s worth breaking down the MTA’s Bus Plan into two categories: things it can control and things it cannot.

Things the MTA Can Control

Reorganize which buses run where

New York’s bus network was largely conceived after World War II as a replacement for the streetcars the city had begun phasing out in the 1930s, and many of the current bus routes still follow those old streetcar lines. But New York is not the same as it was in the 1950s, or even the 2000s. A recent report by City Comptroller Scott Stringer on the bus crisis found that “from 2006 to 2016, the number of jobs located in Brooklyn jumped by 49 percent, in the Bronx by 35 percent, in Queens by 34 percent, and in Staten Island by 27 percent, but only 5 percent in Manhattan. As a result of this growth, the share of New York City jobs located outside of Manhattan rose from 35 percent to 42 percent over this period.”

The city’s commuting patterns are very different than they used to be, but the buses aren’t. So the MTA is setting out to “redesign the network from top to bottom” based on demographic changes, travel demand analysis, and customer input. They have already redesigned the Staten Island express bus network, and one of the features is fewer turns on every route, which should speed up service. However, this won’t happen quickly: The MTA has set a target date of 2021 for the systemwide redesign.

Eliminate unneeded stops and expand off-peak service

In the meantime, the transit agency is going for a quicker win by optimizing its existing bus network. Most of these plans are within the MTA’s control, such as eliminating underutilized stops — there is no good reason, in most cases, for a stop on every block — with a general guideline of changing the stopping patterns from every 750 feet to every four-tenths of a mile. However, the MTA cannot control the street design changes it wants in order to facilitate better bus movement into and out of stops; that’s DOT territory. The MTA also plans to expand off-peak service on “strategic routes” starting in the fall, which might mean more frequent service on heavily utilized routes or (here’s hoping) ones that help ameliorate changes from planned subway work.

Install tap readers and introduce all-door boarding

The boarding process on most New York City buses is one of the silliest exercises a New Yorker can undertake. Currently, all prospective bus riders must gather at the front door of the bus and slot their MetroCard into the fare reader (or pay an exact-change fare). Meanwhile, there is a whole other door at the back of the bus no one is allowed to use for entry. The bus must remain at the stop, motionless, until everyone is on board. Then it can proceed roughly 750 feet and do it all over again.

This is a problem humans have solved, and finally, the MTA is ready to solve it, too. Using the new fare payment technology (well, new for us) to be rolled out across the subways and buses, riders will be allowed to “tap in” at fare readers at both the front and back of the bus. Anyone who has taken the bus in a city with tap-to-pay technology, like London or Paris, knows this will drastically reduce the amount of time buses are stuck at stops. In conjunction, the MTA will step up fare enforcement — although it has yet to provide any details on this, it has plenty of time before the new payment technology rolls out starting next year — to ensure riders don’t abuse the system.

For anyone concerned about how such a system will affect those without debit cards or smartphones, the MTA will debut “contactless transit cards from new vending machines and through an out-of-system retail network.” Meaning, people without (or who do not want to use) credit cards or mobile devices will be able to buy and reload a transit card from vending machines in subway stations or from stores throughout the city. This is similar to London, where Oyster cards, the city’s contactless transit cards, can be purchased at convenience stores around the city, many strategically located next to bus stops.

Things the MTA Cannot Control

Make the lights turn green when a bus is approaching

Traffic Signal Priority is a nifty system that turns traffic lights green for approaching buses. It is already in place on Select Bus Service routes, but the MTA wants to “aggressively increase TSP activated routes” starting this year. Unfortunately, the MTA doesn’t control the traffic lights; DOT does.

Expand bus-only lanes and give buses green lights before other lanes of traffic

Adding more bus-only lanes — or exclusive busways like the Fulton Street Mall in downtown Brooklyn — are other initiatives the MTA must work with the DOT on.

Strengthen NYPD enforcement of bus lanes

Bus lanes only work if nobody’s blocking them, and any bus rider knows that cars clogging bus lanes rank high on the list of reasons buses are so slow. The MTA relies on the NYPD to enforce the bus lanes DOT allows, and the NYPD has been known to occasionally be the ones blocking the bus lanes to begin with. (Board member Veronica Vanterpool told the board meeting that the NYPD was responsible for “some of the most egregious violations” of bus lanes.) See the problem here?

As one possible way to circumvent the issue, the MTA recommends “dedicated transit-priority traffic teams” — though Irick acknowledged during Monday’s presentation that this idea is “not fully baked.”

Add more bus lane enforcement cameras

There was widespread agreement among board members and NYCT management that the police cannot be relied upon to monitor every bus lane in the city at all times. As a result, some type of enforcement by camera — preferably ones mounted on the front of buses — is necessary. But the state legislature needs to approve camera enforcement. Currently, only sixteen bus routes have approval for such enforcement, and those provisions sunset every five years. The MTA — and, to a lesser extent, the NYPD and DOT — will have to lobby in Albany to change the law.


Overall, the most promising measures for speeding up bus service are not entirely within the MTA’s control, but largely rely on other agencies like DOT and the NYPD that don’t have a direct stake in good bus service. While DOT is tasked with providing “the safe, efficient, and environmentally responsible movement of people and goods” — which would seem to include a robust and rapid bus network — it has no financial stake in the matter, nor is it directly impacted by declining ridership like the MTA is.

Of course, this shouldn’t stop these agencies from cooperating with every recommendation in the MTA’s bus plan, but it also demonstrates the plan’s unavoidable shortcomings. Whether or not buses become an exciting transit option in New York is largely dependent on how much traffic and policing authorities — and the state legislature — are willing to make faster bus service a priority. We just have to hope everyone can get along.


The MTA’s BusTime Will Be Fully Operational Across NYC Next April

In the video featured above, the MTA teaches you, in classic infomercial fashion, how to use their new online service that tells you where the damn bus is anytime and anywhere. The program was started back in January of 2012, in which it was deployed to riders in the Bronx, Queens and strictly on 34th Street in Manhattan.

But, according to news yesterday, it will be available in all five boroughs by April 2014 – Manhattan, this very year. Once the fortified island goes online, Queens and Brooklyn will follow.

So, in due time, you’ll be able to go everywhere in the Big Apple and find out just when exactly you missed your bus. It’s always by twenty seconds.

“Bus Time is so helpful to our customers that we have scheduled an extremely aggressive timetable to introduce it to three other boroughs,” MTA Acting Chairman Fernando Ferrer said in the press release.

Apparently, people loved this service so much in the Bronx and Staten Island that the MTA is working into the wee hours of dawn to get it online… in 365 days or so.

Bus riders: plan accordingly.


Mass Transit Update: Here’s What’s (and What’s Not) Running in New York City Today

It’s Day Three of Sandy’s aftermath and, needless to say, New York is still swamped with flooding, power outages, displaced residents, and, most importantly for commuters, public transportation shutdowns. We are told that it will take a few days for the city to be up and running like her old, pre-Sandy self, so we decided it would be appropriate to piece together a “What is and is not list of the MTA lines running today, the 1st of November in the glorious year of 2012.
Check it out.
(Update: Per Governor Cuomo’s announcement last night, the MTA has waived all fares on these services for today and tomorrow. Oh, happy day.)
From what we know, all service on Manhattan subway lines below 34th Street is suspended until further notice due to continued power outage: How can subway stations run if you can’t swipe your MetroCard. With that being said, here’s a modified map provided by the MTA of all the lines you can take, starting this morning at 6. Lines still out of service: the B, C, G, L, Q, R, Z, 3 and 7. Sorry, North Brooklyn folk.
For Manhattan bus-farers, there is limited service on shuttle buses going north on 3rd Avenue and south on Lexington Avenue. For Downtown Brooklyn bus-farers on the Manhattan Bridge, you can take the shuttle bus between Barclays or Jay St/MetroTech and 57th Street/Lexington Avenue. For North Brooklyn bus-farers on the Williamsburg Bridge, you can take the shuttle bus between Hewes Street and 57th Street/Lexington Avenue. If it makes you feel better, the buses that go over the bridges will be free of charge.
Every line but the Lower Harlem line is suspended.
With Long Island’s power flickering as well, the MTA plans to have the Ronkonkoma and Port Washington branches up and running (with limited service) by 5 tonight. Also, there will be shuttle service between the Jamaica station and Penn Station. The rest are suspended until further notice.
Bridges and Tunnels
The Hugh L. Carey Tunnel and the Queens-Midtown Tunnel are the only tunnels closed still. All bridges are open (except there will be limited passage on the Cross Bay Veterans Memorial).
According to MTA spokesperson Kevin Ortiz, you should expect to add anywhere between a half hour to an hour to your commute. But that’s just an estimate.
Good luck out there. And don’t worry — New York City will be back soon enough.

MTA Bus Driver Says Boss Licked Her Face

If this is true, this has to go down as one of the worst workplace intrusions we’ve ever heard.

Yesterday, Nancy Jenkins, a 42-year-old bus driver in the Bronx, said to reporters at The Daily News that she was subject to a tongue lick that spanned her entire face: “He stuck out his tongue and licked me from under my chin all the way up to my eyebrow,” Jenkins said, “It was just so nasty.” Yuck.

The disgusting event happened after Jenkins visited her boss the morning of to receive her assignment at the Kingsbridge Depot. Apparently, the woman was upset at something the supervisor had said to her and, for consolation, he committed the act.

What’s even worse is that the day after the event, which occurred on April 9th, the bus driver returned to work after filing a sexual harassment complaint with the MTA and the supervisor remained in the same position.

Thankfully, the MTA is now taking the complaint and spokesperson Charles Seaton has said that an investigation is underway. As of now, the supervisor has been moved to a different spot and his identity has not yet been released.

But, the President of the Transport Workers Union Local 100, John Samuelson, thinks that all of this is counter-productive. After mentioning that the MTA has a history of “disparate treatment,” he argued that, “if a bus driver licked a supervisor on the face, that driver would have been suspended immediately and then arrested and dragged off the property in handcuffs.”

That point has been proven partly true for Jenkins. The bus driver has been on leave since the incident because, after the event happened, she said that everyone joked at her and no one took her seriously, which gave her more than enough reason to come to the media for justice.

And, with a story and headline like that, it’s ensured that everyone will be listening now. Runnin’ Scared will be on the lookout for more details as the investigation into this creeper proceeds.