Tuesday, January 12, 2010

MTA Responds With NO To Roosevelt Island's Plea For More Subway Service During Tram Outage - Are Subway Pushers Our Only Hope?

You Tube Video of Roosevelt Island's Future Subway Solution?

Last December, Assembly Member Micah Kellner initiated a meeting between the MTA, Roosevelt Island Residents Association (RIRA), Roosevelt Island Operating Corp (RIOC) and other public officials to try and find solutions to Roosevelt Island's F train subway problems, particularly those arising from the service shutdown of the Roosevelt Island Tram due to the scheduled March 1, 2010 start of the Tram's Modernization Program. Roosevelt Island residents are concerned that the F subway train will be even more overcrowded than it is now with increased passengers resulting from the Tram shutdown. RIRA's proposal included:
  • Increasing morning capacity by providing 4-5 "specials" that extend the Q service to Roosevelt Island
  • 4-5 trains, one every half hour, in the morning rush between 6:30-9:00. For example, the schedule might be 6:50, 7:20, 7:50, 8:20, 8:50. The exact times are to be refined later.
  • Special-Q service will take an uptown Q train from the 57St-7Ave terminus and send it outbound via 63St tracks to 21St-Queenbridge. Once there, the train will "turnaround" on the Queens-bound track (motorman switches to West end of train) and await a Manhattan-bound F train to pass on the Manhattan-bound tracks. After the F train passes, the Q train will switch tracks and follow to the F train. Once the Q train arrives at Roosevelt Island, the doors will open on the empty train and passengers will board quickly. The Q train will continue on 63St tracks (stopping at 63St-Lex) and continue down 7Av and Bway on the normal Q train service.
  • These Additional Q trains will *NOT* add load to the 63St connector interlock (in Long Island City) nor the Rockefeller Center interlock, i.e., we are avoiding two congestion points.
  • For Roosevelt Island commuters, they can transfer at 63St-Lex, continue on 7Av-Bway (a block away from the F train route), or transfer at Herald Square to the F train.
  • The extra service is only for the morning rush. No additional evening trains are requested.
RIRA Roosevelt Island MTA Proposal

The general consensus of those attending the meeting was that the MTA does not think there is an overcrowding problem at the Roosevelt Island F train subway station nor will there be one during the Tram outage. ( Here is the MTA's F Train Ridership Performance Study). Neither will the MTA refrain from the weekend F train subway disruptions during the Tram outage. That consensus was confirmed by the receipt of this response from the MTA sent to RIRA President Frank Farance.:
The MTA has provided a written response to the proposals submitted by the Roosevelt Island Residents Associations (RIRA) at the December 9 meeting on Roosevelt Island F train subway service during the Tram outage scheduled to begin on March 1 2010.

At the December 9th meeting with NYCT, RIOC, RIRA, and elected officials, you requested data on our ridership. Attached please find data on F train ridership at Roosevelt Island. Data is collected by recording MetroCard swipes at the Roosevelt Island subway station. Please note that Mr. Sean Singh at RIOC has done extensive analysis of our data. He may be a good resource for you.

In addition, the following is a summary of the various suggestions for Roosevelt Island subway service submitted by elected officials and residents and our responses to them:
(A) Extend the Q train to the 21st Street/ Queensbridge Station to supplement F service
In the past, trains were able to terminate at the 21st Street/ Queensbridge Station. At that time, however, trains did not operate through to eastern Queens. In 2001, we completed the 63rd Street Connector project which links the 63rd Street tunnel tracks to the Queens Boulevard Line. The tracks that were used to terminate trains at the 21st Street/ Queensbridge Station now are used as through tracks for F service, which runs every 4-6 minutes during rush hour. In Manhattan, the 63rd Street tunnel tracks have connections to the Sixth Avenue tracks (with access to BDFV service at 47-50 Streets/ Rockefeller Center) and the Broadway Line tracks (with access to Q service at 57th Street).

Extending the Q train to the 21st Street/ Queensbridge Station to supplement F service is not operationally feasible because there are only two tracks at the 21st Street/ Queensbridge Station, and, given that F trains run through the station on those tracks, there is no place to turn around Q trains. In order to ensure safety, whenever trains change directions on a non-terminal track, such as what is suggested at the 21st Street/ Queensbridge Station, it is necessary to change the direction of the signal system. As a result, other trains would need to be kept at a safe distance until the turn-around operation is completed. To terminate Q trains at the 21st Street/ Queensbridge Station, it would be necessary to stop F trains on both tracks for several minutes to give Q trains enough time to switch tracks, change directions, and change crews. As a consequence, there would be significant delays in F service in both directions, which in turn would delay E and V service, which share tracks with the F train.
For safety and operational reasons, NYC Transit does not schedule trains to turn around on the same tracks used by through trains.

(B) Rerouting every other R train via Roosevelt Island
This is not operationally feasible. From an operational standpoint, R trains running via the 63rd Street F Line to Manhattan would be unable to resume their normal route via the Broadway Local tracks because the only track connection between the 63rd Street Line and the Broadway Line is via the Broadway Express tracks at the 57th Street station. Those tracks are used to terminate Q service from Brooklyn and thus any through R trains diverted via the F line would be blocked by Q trains that are turning around. As mentioned above, for safety and operational
reasons, NYC Transit does not schedule trains to turn around on the same tracks used by through trains.

Even if this plan were feasible, it would lead to significant overcrowding on the remaining R trains operating on the regular R route. From a ridership perspective, rerouted R trains would bypass the Lexington Avenue/59th Street station, which is a major destination for R riders. This would leave only half of the R trains available at Queens Plaza for the large volume of riders transferring to/from E trains, leading to overcrowded conditions on those R trains.

(C) Rerouting every other V train via Roosevelt Island
This would lead to significant operational complexity and overcrowding on the V and E. From an operational standpoint, V trains today must share tracks with R trains between Forest Hills-71st Avenue and Queens Plaza, with E trains between Queens Plaza and 5th Avenue/53rd Street, and with F trains between 47-50 Streets-Rockefeller Center and Lower East Side-2nd Avenue, while E and F trains must share tracks between 75th Avenue and the 36th Street Interlocking.
The existing operation is highly complex and requires careful scheduling to ensure even headways and loads within NYC Transit guidelines. Taking half of the V trains and merging them “early” with the F at 36th Street would make the operation even more complex and would introduce additional potential perturbations, as this is a merge point that is not normally used during rush hours.
As a result, there would be a higher likelihood of delays on all four rush hour Queens Boulevard Line services (EFRV).

From a ridership perspective, the rerouted V trains would skip major destinations at Lexington Avenue/53rd Street and 5th Avenue/53rd Street and would not be available to provide valuable capacity through the 53rd Street Tunnel to relieve the heavily utilized E train. The passenger capacity of the V train through the 53rd Street Tunnel is particularly critical at the 23rd Street-Ely Avenue station, where G riders transfer to/from the E and V trains. With V service cut in half at that station, E trains would become very overcrowded.

(D) Extending the Q through the 63rd Street Tunnel to Queens
This is not operationally feasible. As discussed above, it is not feasible to extend the Q train only to the 21st Street-Queensbridge station, because for safety and operational reasons NYC Transit will not turn around terminating Q trains on the same tracks that are used by through F trains. Extending the Q train farther into Queens is not feasible because there is not enough capacity on the express tracks (EF) to handle any additional trains during rush hours, nor is there capacity during rush hours at the Forest Hills-71st Avenue terminal for local trains in addition to the current R and V trains. Furthermore, there are not enough cars available to extend Q trains to Queens, without reducing service elsewhere.

(E) Keep the first car of the southbound F train closed until Roosevelt Island
Closing the first car of the train is not operationally feasible and would lead to inconvenience and overcrowding for riders on the F in Queens.

From an operational standpoint, the doors on the trains are not designed to be turned on or off one car at a time, but rather are designed to be opened and closed in tandem. A member of the train crew would have to manually turn the doors of one car off before departure from 179th Street and then turn them back on at Roosevelt Island, which would delay service and inconvenience through riders from Queens. In Queens, closing off one car of the train would lead to longer dwell times at stations, as riders move back to the adjacent car to board; this would reduce throughput on the critical Queens Boulevard Line express tracks, which the F shares with the E. Because of ridership volume at F stations in Queens, closing off the first car of the train until Roosevelt Island would lead to overcrowding in other cars, particularly the car adjacent to the closed car. If the first car were closed off, it would cause major platform circulation problems at the Roosevelt Avenue station, where a heavily-used staircase serves the front end of the Manhattan-bound platform.
On a more positive note, it looks like the MTA may have responded to one Roosevelt Island resident's quest to get some down escalator service to the Manhattan platform. Remember new Roosevelt Island resident Trevre who has been having a series of email communications with the F Subway Line General Manager including this one:
... Also all four escalators on the lower part of the station always run up. Why not run two down and two up, at least in the morning when everyone is leaving anyways.
Well, I received this message from Trevre:
Looks like they got the hint
Image of Trevre In Front Of Down Escalator To Roosevelt Island Subway Platform

Trevre is referring to the Roosevelt Island escalator closest to the Queens end of the Manhattan bound platform that is now operating in the down direction after many years of only going up.


Anonymous said...

Ever since after the holiday break all escalators are going up again. It would be really interesting to know why this is so complicated to maintain one of the escalators to go down.

I am actually impressed with MTA's response. They made the effort and took the time to explain why none of the suggestions would work. I personally am not too sure that the trains are going to be super-crowded with the tram out of business for a while. We'll all live.

The only thing that is bothersome is that there will be weekends when the train only runs in one way and we have to take the 10+ minute ride all the way into Queens just to catch a Manhattan bound train. I hope the RIOC will do the right thing and offer red bus service to Manhattan on those weekends. I thought it was an essential service during the last outage.