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.
Showcasing another photo from my recent (May, 2017) trip to New York City this month, I want to delve a bit into the New York MTA’s Select Bus Service.
Select Bus Service (or SBS) is considered a premium transit service and operates similarly to HART’s MetroRapid in Tampa. Uniquely branded buses are used along each route, which comprises of limited stops and specially designated shelters, as well as off-board fare collection. Each SBS stop has ticket vending machines where you can purchase a MetroCard and then validate for use on the SBS line. Once your card is validated for use on the SBS line, a paper receipt will print. You’ll want to keep this receipt handy at all times, as ticket inspectors will board buses at random to combat fare evaders (and believe me, fare evaders are NOTORIOUS for boarding SBS lines).
The above photo shows one of the newest buses in the NYC MTA bus fleet, some of which are used for SBS lines. #5997 is among the many 2016 New Flyer diesel Xcelsior articulated buses that are assigned to the Q44 SBS line, which connects the heart of Queens to the Bronx Zoo. These buses are equipped with complementary Wi-Fi access and USB charging ports so that you can sit back and relax while your device charges. I took full advantage of both features – to charge my phone so that I could take photos along the (7) train later, while being able to post my trip adventures on Facebook.
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.
Some of you may recall my blog post about not beating a train at a crossing several months ago and why you should never ever attempt to risk your life for the sake of “saving a few extra minutes”. Well recently, the New York City Metropolitan Transportation Authority (or MTA) has been putting out a railway safety campaign along its commuter rail system to inform people on the dangers of doing certain things along its tracks.
Here are three videos that the MTA published during the month of June.
Don’t beat the train at its crossing. NEVER attempt to drive around lowered crossing gates.
Pedestrians should not do the same. ALWAYS wait for the train to pass and the crossing gates to raise before continuing your walk.
Trespassing is ALWAYS illegal. NEVER walk along or on railway tracks, they are considered private property and can bring forth DEADLY results.