Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Doomsday on the Broadway Local: Day 3

Day Three of the new regime was utterly uneventful, at least in my part of the world. My morning commute was so mundane that I can barely remember it. The train (an N) was not very full and not very empty. My evening did bring me to and from the 57th Street station, and I was able to find out what I've been wanting to know about track usage. As I suspected, both the N and the Q are running on the outer, "local" track; the inner tracks are going unused. I wonder if they will now be considered "abandoned" by the MTA. I don't know how far they extend north past the station, not sure if they rejoin with the outer tracks or end up at one of those strange spring loaded bumper situations that you see now and then. I'd like to find out.

My train from 59th Street toward 57th was quite the stop-and-go - with more stop than go. I had just missed a Q train coming in from Astoria, and boarded an N that arrived on its heels. Of course, being so close behind its forerunner it moved at a snail's pace. We spent a good long while stopped at 5th Ave, and wave after wave of people poured through the open doors filling up what had been a nice emptyish car. We then hovered for a while longer between 5th Ave and 57th Street, presumably just waiting for the signals to clear so that we could enter the station.

My way home an hour later though was empty as could be. I hadn't waited long for a train, but I couldn't have been too close behind one as there was an R in the station when I arrived and we didn't have any delays or slow speeds in our travels. It's a ride I make weekly, and last week I couldn't even get a seat. Strange things afoot? Perhaps.

I was interested to see that at 57th, the signs on the inner tracks - previously the northern terminus of the Q - have not been altered to reflect the route changes, though the signs of the outer tracks do reflect the Q-for-W switchout. Of course, it's much easier to slap a "Q" sticker over the old "W" emblem that used to be there than to resurface an entire sign. Upstairs was even easier: there's just a square black swath where the "W" used to be, and long live the N Q R, I guess.

And of course the hysterical blinking of the "next train this side" arrow sign is a thing of the past, as is the mad dashing of people sitting in a Q on what is really the Queens bound side waiting for it to make up its mind to head on south to Brooklyn anyway, and then rushing up over and around to make the N, R, or W that appears over on the true Brooklyn bound side... I can't help but feel that good old 57 has lost some character in all this. No longer a terminus, now just a humble pass through. Kinetic energy lost. And after all that construction to put in those ridiculous elevators too. Why ridiculous? Because they only descend to the mezzanine. Stairs remain the only access to the train platform level. If anyone can explain that one to me, I'm all ears.

Other signage mishaps noticed today: at the southwest corner of 53rd and 3rd Ave, the V has been covered with an M on the stair side of the entrance, but not on the side that faces out toward the street. Details, details, MTA. Tee hee.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Doomsday on the Broadway Local: Day 2

Now this is what I'm talking about! Today was a total frickin mess. Not just for me, but for everyone as far as I can tell. One of the infamous "track fires" really jacked up the morning commute, taking the newly routed M train out of commission entirely in midtown. And, what's that? The Queens bound Q was stopped dead in its tracks at the 57th Street station? Curiouser and curiouser. What ever did go wrong, dear MTA?

Oddly, as of 10am nothing much was being mentioned on mta.info. Certainly nothing about cutting the Q route short - just a brief blip that there had been "delays" on the R line but that service had returned to normal, and the same for the E. Funny, that's not quite the story I got from my co-workers who had to walk half way across town to get to the office.

As for my own commute this morning, it was as cursed as yesterday's was charmed. A train rolled through as we were making it up the first set of stairs, and when we made it up to the platform we could see that there were zero trains hovering at the Ditmars station - leaving our wait time at absolute maximum.

When a train did come - and a Q train at that, so I know that they were running the full length at some point during the morning - it wasn't the worst I've seen it. Believe it or not there are times that the train is standing room only when it reaches Astoria Boulevard. But no, today it was the 30th Avenue crowd that got the screw (a pretty common ocurrance, and one of the main reasons we moved north), and it only got worse from there. By QBP it was an absolute crush. Frankly, you couldn't pay me enough to have a morning commute that involved getting on a yellow train at Queensboro every morning. Talk about not worth it.

Just like yesterday, though, this could have been a quirk of timing. I'm having a royally bad day, and I just might have gotten smashed into the one spot of trouble they had all day.

My evening commute was just about standard - standard crappy, that is. Crowded hot platform, and some weird announcement that really didn't make much sense about Q trains running local from 59th to 42nd? Well there's only one non "express" stop in that run, which is 49th. And it's not as if there's even a separate express track there; the trains just sometimes don't stop for the play-going crowd, and no one really gets why.

The Q train, when it came, was not quite shoulder to shoulder, but let's just say I don't actually choose to stand that close to anyone but my husband. Somewhere around 39th Ave, a woman standing near me did what I'd been thinking hard about doing, and asked a strapping young man to give up his seat for the VERY pregnant blond who'd been leaning on the doors near us. She was clearly embarrassed, but took the spot with great relief nonetheless. Seats started freeing up in earnest around the Broadway stop out in Astoria, much to my relief.

So, are we beginning to see the backlash of the doomsday cuts? I fear the answer is yes, but in truth I know that it is too soon to say...

Monday, June 28, 2010

Doomsday on the Broadway Local: Day 1

Today being the first real day of the new regime, the "Doomsday" cuts and changes set into action, I was prepared for the worst. Given that I live at the second stop on the Astoria line I wasn't too worried about my morning commute - though by Queensboro Plaza things can sometimes get pretty harry if the trains have gotten behind. The view from the bench... well, it's best left undescribed.

But this morning's ride in on an N - though I was hoping to see one of these Queens Q trains, I had an early doctor's appointment to make so I couldn't wait around - was if anything a bit less crowded than usual. That could of course be specifically because I was out a good half hour to 45 minutes earlier than normal, but it's hard to say.

(And while I'm at it, can I just say what is UP with the north staircase of the southbound track of the Astoria station? Come on people. Get that sh*t fixed already.)

When it came time to come home, I set my jaw and prepared for the worst. But descending the escalator at 59th street I was surprised to see a much smaller crowd on the platform than usually greets me at just-after-six. Again, you never know; it could have been timing. I could have been 30 seconds behind back-to-back R trains - happens more often than you'd believe, and it clears out the joint pretty good. Either way though, I got a seat all the way home, and thank the public transit gods because my kidney was killing me.

So day one for doomsday wasn't very doomy at all, at least for my rides on the good old Broadway Local. What this means, nobody knows. Perhaps we'll know more tomorrow.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

RIP, W... RIP, V...

Yes, it's true. Yesterday was your last chance ever to ride the W train, or the V. And things they are a-changin' - beginning Monday, the M will be an orange train and start its upward swing through midtown and into Queens, and the Q will move past 57th street and all the way on up to Astoria. We've seen Q trains up here before of course, mostly when 7 train service is disturbed. But for keeps, now that's just something else entirely.

There is, of course, a certain justice in the Q train finally serving Queens.

These things happen. Train lines come and go, get renamed, get new routes. And I guess I've just been in New York long enough now that I'm seeing it happen with my own eyes, on my own lines. What's worse that the rerouting, though, is that service is being cut. What is that delusional claim they make? From zero passengers standing to 10 - 12? (I hope they mean per 20 square feet of car space, because that's how it already is during rush hour.) I fear for my evening commute. But only time will tell.

It seems that few will mourn the loss of the V train - except for me, that is. I liked that train, mainly for its *not* being the E train, which is always packed to the gills with people in too much of a hurry to realize that, uh, they could just take the V, which was always half empty. Which was of course why I always liked the V train so much. Will the rerouted M be the same? I'm sure I'll have occasion to find out.

The WFP has struggled valiantly to at least get the MTA to back off of eliminating student metro cards. (Come on folks - are you gonna push them down and take their lunch money too?) And it looks like they're making some headway on that front. But it doesn't seem that any amount of pleading (or demonstrating, or petitioning...) could save these lines, a number of bus slashes, and the service cuts that are now under way.

Thanks much Bloomie, our independently (extraordinarily) wealthy third term mayor! Just a little food for thought: you know this town completely falls apart without usable public service, right? Kay. Just makin' sure.

And yeah, I am so totally getting the t-shirt.