For the past several months, many New Yorkers have been bracing for a full shutdown of the (L) line in Manhattan, as the East River tubes are in desperate need of repairs following SuperStorm Sandy in 2012. While the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) was able to make critical short-term repairs to keep trains running, longer-term repairs are needed to keep service safe & efficient for years to come.
Following three years of countless tug-o-war games between agency officials, politicians, & residents over how riders & non-riders alike would cope with the impending shutdown, it seemed like everything was just about ready to go for the April, 2019 project start date. However, just as the new year rang in, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who has been calling a lot of shots across the MTA (since much of the New York City transit system is operated & funded through the state), made a surprise announcement that would change the entire course of the upcoming project.
In Episode 5 of my Transit Tourism series documenting my recent trip to New York City, I will be discussing my first journey aboard the (1) and (W.) subway lines though Manhattan.
Note: When I type in the W in parenthesis to indicate the (W). Line, WordPress changes that to its logo. As a result, I’ve had to make a couple minor changes to prevent this. Unfortunately, this means, you’ll see periods in places where they shouldn’t be. I apologize for any confusion.
After getting settled in my hotel, I wanted to relax a bit since I had arrived in Manhattan a bit earlier than planned. However, I had to be just southeast of Midtown by 4:00pm, so time was of the essence. I could use any extra time that I had to charge my phone somewhere – like Starbucks.
While walking down to the 110th St station for the (1) Train, I managed to capture bus #6696 passing by on Broadway. This is one of many Orion Bus Industries model VII diesel-electric hybrid buses that the MTA possesses. A vast majority of the MTA bus fleet is diesel powered, though diesel-electric hybrid and CNG fleets currently operate. There is even a lease order of battery electric buses on the horizon – using both Proterra and New Flyer made buses. And by the way, Orion was one of the bus manufacturers that was acquired by New Flyer in recent years, resulting in the Orion made buses ceasing production. Today, New Flyer only manufactures the Xcelsior line of 35 and 40-foot buses.
Upon arriving at the 110th St Station, I noticed that complimentary Wi-Fi was available. Over the past several months, the MTA has been installing Wi-Fi routers at each of the stations to provide a better customer experience. Efforts are also being made to allow 4G cellular service available throughout the massive maze of tunnels.
Each station has its own unique characteristics – including tiling. Stations that were built during the early 1900s typically have ornate, classical style tiling, whereas stations built during the mid 1900s have more of a mid century look. Stations built between the 1960s and 1990s feature architecture that was common during that respective time period, and anything built after the 1990s have a sleek, modern look.
If you’re lucky enough, you may enter an older subway station that has relics from yesteryear left over. Old ticketing booths for instance, may still be intact, though they may not be used for purposes such as vending. At some stations, restrooms have been converted into retail shops, where one can grab a snack or a newspaper.
Each of the stations along the numbered lines (except the 7) have digital countdown clock displays that tell customers when their train will be arriving. Along the lettered lines and the Staten Island Railway, LCD displays are being installed to achieve the same purpose.
As the countdown clock above shows, there was only about a minute before my train towards the heart of Manhattan was slated to arrive. I took this time to take the station photos that I’ve showcased in this post thus far, and while I did take some video footage, I did not have enough time to film the train’s arrival this time.
Once the train arrived, I stepped aside to allow arriving customers to disembark, then I entered what was an already packed train. Since the PM rush was approaching, I could totally understand why the trains would be crowded at this time.
To note; nearly all of the trains that operate along the (1) are older R62 and R62A railcars, which are the oldest operating subway railcar fleet for the numbered lines. The modern R142 & R142A trains operate along the (2), (3), (4), (5), & (6) lines, with their rebranded counterparts – the R188 (most being converted R142As) – operating exclusively on the (7). Two sets of R62As continue to operate along the (7), but for how much longer I do not know.
Navigating the Times Square – 42nd St Station, which lies just a stone’s throw away from the famed intersection of Broadway, 7th Ave, and 45th St, can be a bear. If you don’t really know where you’re going, you can get lost. Fortunately for me, all I had to do was follow the signs to the (N), (Q), (R), (W). platform.
While traveling to the Broadway Line platforms for the (N), (Q), (R), & (W). Trains, I snapped a photo of the Times Square Mural on the mezzanine level near the 42nd St Shuttle platform. It’s truly a wonderful mural, depicting a train traveling through a futuristic city. The work was created by Roy Lichtenstein and commissioned by the MTA’s Arts for Transit program.
Okay, now to the (W). Beyond this section of the mezzanine was the stairways to the Broadway Line platforms. I needed to make sure that I was getting onto the correct platform so as to not head uptown by accident.
Now some of you may be asking, where exactly was I going? I was heading to the Cooper Union for a presentation. Since the (N) & the (Q) go express down Broadway and do not serve the 8th Ave station, I needed to catch either an (R) or a (W). train to get to my destination. Since the (W). was restored back in December, 2016, I wanted to have at least one ride on the line – especially being that I didn’t know how long the presentation would last. If it was something that would keep me at Cooper Union past 9:00pm, then there may not be an opportunity to catch the (W). to Whitehall St – South Ferry due to it ending service during the 9:00pm hour.
It took maybe about 8 minutes before the (W). arrived. While waiting, I saw (Q) Express train & an (R) Local train stop at the station. I wasn’t so much looking for photos of the (Q) & the (R) because of the time crunch. I can always do some bus fanning outside Cooper Union if I had extra time. Once the (W). train did arrive, I was on my way again! The train wasn’t really crowded at all, unlike the (1) train that I boarded earlier, and the trip went without incident – all smooth sailing to 8th St!
To close this post, let me mention the types of railcars that travel along the Broadway Line. The (Q) primarily uses newer R160A & B trains, while the (R) primarily uses the older R46 trains. The (N) & (W.) use a mix of older R68 & R68A trains & newer R160A & B trains. However, uncommon occurrences do happen – where an R68 or R68A may spring up on the (Q) or even more rare…on the (R).
Do you like what you’ve been able to read so far? Let me know by commenting on this post. I will have Episode 6 up in a week hopefully. In the meantime, please keep a watchful eye on tropics, as we still have some time to go before November. It looks like we may be seeing a Tango dance between Jose & Maria this weekend. Putting anything even remotely funny aside though, my thoughts and prayers go out to all those affected by Irma & Maria. I have many friends who have relatives and friends in the Caribbean and it really breaks my heart to see the devastation left behind by these storms.
Over the weekend, I began hearing some speculation that the New York City MTA was going to reopen the “newer” South Ferry subway station on Tuesday, June 27, 2017. If such an opening were to materialize, it would mean that the “newer” station would be open by the July 4th holiday, and would also solidify the “hints” that the MTA was dropping in their notification of weekend service changes for the (2) and (3) trains.
Sure enough, that speculation proved to be true…
…Gone are the days of hearing trains screech their wheels at the South Ferry Loops…
…Gone are the mad rush hour shuffles to get to the first five cars of the train to get off at the South Ferry Loops…
…And gone are the other knacks associated with boarding trains at the South Ferry Loops – the announcements, the conductor routines, having to maintain antiquated gap fillers, etc.
…All thanks to hard work and yes, tons of funding, to get the “newer” station back online…just a bit over four years after the loops reopened, and almost five years since SuperStorm Sandy flooded much of Lower Manhattan’s subway tunnels.
The MTA’s “Fix & Fortify” Capital Program, launched after the devastation caused by Sandy, is aimed at rebuilding and restoring storm-damaged infrastructure that the agency owns and operates. This work has encompassed numerous projects, but the South Ferry station restoration project has been among the largest to date – costing $344 million dollars (that’s over half the amount spent on constructing the station in the first place, which was $500 million). In addition to restoring storm-damaged infrastructure, the MTA is also making efforts to strengthen its transit network against future storms. One of the most noticeable features of the newly reopened South Ferry is the addition of heavy metal flood doors at the station’s entrances – designed to keep flood waters out of the station.
Other features that customers may notice different from the original opening of the “newer” station in 2009 include LED lighting (the original station had fluorescent lights), larger station name text font along the platform walls (the original station name text font was very small), and of course the addition of Wi-Fi service (so that customers can surf the web while waiting for their train). Of course, long-time customers can’t help but notice how the “newer” station handles more trains than the loops can – not to mention that all 10 cars of the train can be boarded without major issues.
So with all of these new bells and whistles in place for the “newer” South Ferry, let’s just hope that no more large storms come around and flood the station again.
The final countdown is on for the many transit fans in New York City to get photos and videos of the old South Ferry Loop subway station before it shuts down for good.
While an official reopening date has yet to be announced by the New York City MTA for the “newer” South Ferry platform – which was damaged by SuperStorm Sandy in 2012, hints have been dropping that the “newer” station will be open before the July 4th holiday. This flyer regarding weekend work on the (2) and (3) lines states that the (2) will detour down the South Ferry-bound tracks to terminate at Rector St during the weekends of June 19th and 26th, but afterward, trains would terminate at the “newer” South Ferry.
I can only guess that at this point, the MTA does not want to announce a date too soon when work is still wrapping up on the rebuilding of the “newer” station. There has been quite a lot of work done on the station and some work will continue on even after the “newer” platforms have reopened. One key element that will be present when the reopening does happen is the water-tight doors that will seal off the platform section if flooding occurs. I’m also hearing that the rebuilt platform will pretty much look identical to how it did when it first opened in 2009, but with some cosmetic changes and LED lighting (instead of fluorescent).
So with all of this said, you might be wondering, “why not just have the (2) train service the South Ferry Loop when it’s being detoured?” From my understanding, the MTA is concerned that rail operators on the (2) and (3) trains might not have the proper training to operate the train doors properly. Only the first five cars of the train can be opened at the loop, a key reason why the “newer” station was built (it was not feasible to expand the loop to accommodate 10-car trains).
To wrap things up, I’m very glad that I got to visit New York City while the South Ferry Loop was still open. I’ll discuss the loop more during my Transit Tourism series on my recent trip. But in the meantime, I already have a video up on YouTube showing the loop, and the adjoining Whitehall St station, that you can watch. I will make an update to this post when the official reopening date for the “newer” South Ferry platform is announced.
It’s a long time coming for the New York City Subway – the return of “W” service to Manhattan and Queens!
Back in 2009, during the height of the recession – many transit agencies were forced to cut back service in order to trim down their budgets. This came at a time when transit ridership was hitting all-time highs due to higher gas prices and unstable economic conditions. The New York City MTA was not immune to these circumstances and enacted a rash of service cuts in 2010 that included the elimination of the “W”, replacing it with “Q” service in Queens.
Fast forward to 2016 and the Second Ave Subway – which has been marred in delay after delay during the past several decades – is set to open its first segment this December. In preparation for the launch of “Q” service to 96th St, the MTA is bringing back the “W” to compensate for the loss of service that the re-alignment of the “Q” will bring to Queens. These changes in fact; will bring the “N”, “Q”, “R”, and “W” trains all back to their pre-2010 levels – except of course that the “Q” stays in Manhattan and Brooklyn.
The MTA has put together a comprehensive guide to the realigned services, including where and when you can catch each train. Please be sure to pay close attention so that you can plan out your commute. The realigned services kick off on Monday, November 7, 2016, with the first “W” trains departing at 6:30am.
Oh, that South Ferry…
Because the “W” terminates at the Whitehall St/South Ferry station in Manhattan, I thought that this would be a good time to also post an update on the reconstruction of the “newer” South Ferry station for the “1” train. As many know, the “newer” station was damaged due to Superstorm Sandy.
Since earlier this year, work officially began on gutting out and rebuilding the “newer” South Ferry “1” platforms – which lie below the “older”, curvier “1” platform. In addition, the “newer” entrances to the station’s mezzanine level have also been undergoing reconstruction – namely replacing the elevators and escalators in and out of the station. As a result – customers have been having to rely on the “older” entrances at Whitehall St and the Staten Island Ferry building to access the “older” platform for the “1”. The free connection between the “R” and the “1” continues to be maintained via the mezzanine passageway between the respective platforms.
With the return of the “W”, all station signage is being updated to reflect the connection to the revived service and this will no doubt bring forth a very rare opportunity for transit fans to get photography and video action of the “1”, “N”, “R”, and “W” trains together while the “older” “1” platforms remain open. As I will say right now, enjoy this opportunity while it lasts! Because come the fall of 2017, the “older” “1” platform will close (very likely forever this time) in lieu of the “newer” platform reopening.
On Sunday, September 13, 2015, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority of New York opened its 469th subway station on Manhattan’s West Side! The new 34th St/Hudson Yards station for the busy Line 7, which runs from Manhattan to Flushing, marks the beginning of a new era where an area of New York City now has access to subway service.
An overview of Line 7
Line 7, commonly referred to locally as the “7-Train” first opened on June 22, 1915 between Grand Central Station and the Vernon Boulevard – Jackson Avenue Station. On March 14, 1927, the previous western terminus at Times Square opened, with the current eastern terminus at Flushing – Main Street opening a few months later on January 2, 1928. Express services have been in place on much of the Queens segment, by which is mostly elevated, since 1917 – though there have been periods by which express services were suspended for a time. Local services are distinguished by a circle on signs whereas express services are distinguished with a diamond. Both shields are in a raspberry color with the “7” in white – as show at the top of this post.
The entire line itself is currently undergoing a massive modernization project that will bring forth the latest generation of railcars, the R-188 (though some railcars are actually converted R-142A cars), along with Communication-Based Train Control (or CBTC). The latter will allow trains to run more efficiently under the Automatic Train Control (ATO) system that is currently used on many subway lines in Paris, France. The older R-62A that originally ran on Lines 3 and 6 are gradually being replaced by the newer stock, allowing them to be shifted to other compatible lines. It is to note that the entire New York City subway system is not streamlined on the same rail gauge due to the system being constructed by different companies during the early 1900s.
The last stronghold for the “Redbirds”
In 1997, I had an opportunity to ride Line 7 for the first time while in Flushing for a family wedding. At this point in time, the 7 was being operated with “Redbird” (R33 WF and R36 WF) railcars from the the 1960s – which were used during the World’s Fair (these were known for their red color, though they were originally painted in turquoise). There were several instances where my family and I rode trains from Flushing – Main Street to either Grand Central or Times Square. Riding the “Redbirds” was definitely a sight in its own respect, especially being that they all have since been retired – being replaced by R-142 and R-142A stock. Perhaps on day, I’ll be able to hitch a ride on a heritage train trip using one of these wonderful railcars.
Unfortunately, I don’t have any photos of the subway from my 1997 trip.
Below is a listing of all stations along Line 7. <E> indicators are present for express services.
Flushing – Main Street <E> Mets – Willets Point <E>
103rd St – Corona Plaza Junction Blvd <E>
90th Street – Elmhurst Avenue
82nd Street – Jackson Heights
74th Street – Broadway
69th Street 61st Street – Woodside <E>
46th Street – Bliss Street
40th Street – Lowery Street
33rd Street – Rawson Street Queensboro Plaza <E> Court Square <E> Hunter’s Point Ave <E> Vernon Boulevard – Jackson Avenue <E>
—EAST RIVER— Grand Central Station <E> Fifth Avenue <E> Times Square <E>
10th Avenue (Provisional Station – Not yet funded) 34th Street – Hudson Yards <E>
Extending Line 7 westward or southwestward has been in the books since the 1990s, although a longer range proposal to eventually carry the line all the way into New Jersey appears to be dead. The 34th St – Hudson Yards station was originally a part of New York City’s bid for the 2012 Olympics, which London eventually earned. The station was originally projected to open in 2013, but was delayed several times – partly due to the Olympics going to London, but later due to problems with installing the inclined elevators. The elevators – a first for New York City’s subway system – were installed due to the station’s depth. While there are escalators available, the elevators serve as the main point of egress between the upper mezzanine (fare control) and the lower mezzanine, as well as to comply with ADA requirements. Below the lower mezzanine is the the island train platform and the dual tracks. To the south of the station is a garage to store trains overnight, something not possible at the previous terminus at Times Square.
A provisional station is located at Tenth Avenue and was slated to be built in the original plans, but after the 2012 Olympic bid went to London, the plans were dropped due to funding constraints.
New subway station openings can be a fanfare for transit fans, and as such was definitely the case for 34th St/Hudson Yards. While the fanfare is more subtle in other cities like Paris, it is quite impossible to hold back hundreds of budding railfans from getting their first glimpse of the new station. Simply do a search on YouTube for “hudson yards subway” and you’ll see what I mean.
It’s been almost two months since the New York City MTA reopened the old South Ferry Loop subway station, and customers are very delighted to see the vital transit link restored. During the past several weeks, I’ve watched at least two dozen YouTube videos (some from die-hard transit fans) of the station in action; from the trains screeching around the looped platform, to the gap fillers expanding and contracting. As I mentioned in a previous post, the 100+ year old station reopened to passengers on April 4, 2013, following the destruction of the newer replacement station that was due to SuperStorm Sandy. In this post, I will highlight some of the things that I’ve observed through news reports, other blog postings, and yes…those YouTube videos.
There’s been quite a lot going on this week in respects to public transit. Rather than creating 6 or 7 different posts, I’ve decided to list everything in one single post. Each tidbit of transit news is grouped by geographical region (or Focus Area) that I cover.
As the month of March comes to a close, I want to take a moment to provide an update to the restoration of service to the South Ferry Loop station along the New York City Subway – Line 1.
Just a couple days ago, on March 29, the NYCMTA released a set of new photos of the restoration work nearing completion. Among the highlights, we see that there is a new connector hall between the older loop platform and the newer concourse level. This will allow customers entering from the newer station entrances to gain access to the older loop platform, as well as those exiting Line 1 trains to connect to Line R trains at Whitehall St station.
The question remains however; when will the restored station open? The timeframe still points towards the first full week of April, but no exact date has been set. Once the station does reopen, things will be a lot better for the thousands of customers who rely on the South Ferry station to get them to and from Manhattan.
I know I’ve been talking quite a lot about the Paris Metro as of late. However, I don’t want to leave the New York City Subway out of my discussions, as there’s much to talk about on that system. Particularly, I will be speaking of news that the New York City MTA will be, for the first time in the agency’s history, reopening a previously closed subway station.
During the lifetime of a subway system, many stations may permanently be closed to passengers for a variety of reasons. Common reasons include: the distance of the station in comparison to adjacent stations (stations too close to each other), cost of maintaining the station (too expensive to maintain and keep open), and the design of the station (either the station is obsolete or too oddball to keep open). In any case, once a subway station is permanently closed to passengers, passenger access will be permanently sealed and trains will simply pass through the corridor without stopping.