G Train Shutdown Meeting: A Recap

by Heather Van De Mark on

Earlier in the month, State Senator Daniel Squadron held a community meeting at the Polish & Slavic Center regarding the G train’s summer shutdown for Hurricane Sandy repairs. Representatives from NYC DOT, MTA, the Economic Development Corp (EDC) and 94th Precinct were present, as well as elected leaders: Assembly members Joe Lentol and Maritza Davila, and State Senator Martin Dilan.

The MTA noted that due to Hurricane Sandy nine river/subway crossings were severely damaged including the Greenpoint tube which was categorized as “devastated,” having waters flood to the ceiling. Repairing the tube is scheduled for two phases. Phase 1 already occurred during 12 weekends in 2013. View the 2013 repairs on the MTA site. Phase 2 is set to begin July 2014.

Phase 2 of the hurricane repairs will entail a full closure of the G train tube between Greenpoint Ave and Court Square in both directions for five weeks straight from July 26 to September 1. The repair will include fixing fans, pumps, lighting, putting down new tracks, and more.

To help ease the transportation burden that will be caused from the shutdown, two free shuttle buses will be running. One will run between Court Square and Nassau Avenue station via Manhattan Avenue and another between Court Square and Metropolitan/Lorimer station via McGuiness Boulevard. These shuttles will run 24/7 and operate every 2-3 minutes on weekdays and 5-8 minutes on weekends. There will also be free transfers available between subway stations and the shuttle bus. Officials are working to get the shuttle bus schedules onto the MTA bus time tracking apps.

G train summer shutdown shuttle map, MTA.com.

MTA representatives also said that the G, L, and M trains will be getting a permanent increase in service starting June 8, 2014. Additional service includes making G trains come every 8 to 8.5 minutes during peak hours (3-9pm on weekdays), adding more weekend service on the M, and additional service to the L during the 5-week closure.

A representative from Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney stated that this community deserves a full comprehensive transportation study. [Author’s note: A lot of people—officials and residents alike–have agreed that the need is there, but how does a transportation study happen, and is anyone actually working on that?] The rep also stated that CW Maloney was working on extending the B32 bus line, which currently runs from Williamsburg Bridge Plaza to Long Island City, into Manhattan, no word on if that expansion would happen before the G train shutdown.

The NYC Comptroller, Scott Stringer, said a few words, “We’re looking at long-term infrastructure planning on these corridors” and his office is attempting to “look at the G train holistically.” He offered a contact number, 212-699-3500, and said residents should call regarding audits.

A representative from EDC also said that East River Ferry Service will be an option during the 5-week closure. Granted, she added that the India St. Landing is still shutdown and there was no timeline for when it would be back up. In the meantime, there is a free shuttle available during commuting hours stopping at India and West St. to take Greenpoint residents to the N. 6th Williamsburg Landing. For more details, visit the East River Ferry website.

DOT assured the audience that they’ll be doing work now on top-level streets to that street construction will NOT be an issue during the summer. DOT went so far as to promise that the Pulaski Bridge construction that is going to happen this spring will absolutely be complete before the G train shutdown.

Questions & Answers
The meeting was then opened up to hear from the community. Below is a summary of questions and answers, as best as I could keep up:

Q. Will MTA be adding cars permanently to the G train? (The number of cars on the G line, regardless of the construction, was a big topic of conversation at the meeting.) Some people complained of crowding in the cars, others were concerned with the safety issue of running along the platform to catch the train. It was also brought up that the lack of ridership is a reflection of the inefficient scheduling NOT a reflection of lack of need.

A. The MTA believes that 4-trains is sufficient for the level of ridership, and mentioned that they would be increasing service permanently in June. They promised to continue to monitor the line. They also said that they were still trying to improve the stopping locations, and have been adding signs as a first step.

AM Lentol enthusiastically stated that he’ll personally go see for himself the G train ridership during rush hour, “I’ll do it, I’ll take my own survey!” He affirmed that “we have to look ahead” with all this new development.

Q. Can you redefine what “rush hour” is for the G train? That may make the results of the monitoring more accurate.

A. Squadron pointed out that they did in fact do that for the L train and it turns out the L has nearly as many riders on Friday and Saturday late nights as it does during the weekday commute. The panel seemed in favor of this action.

Q. When will the G train get countdown clocks?

A. This maintenance work is unrelated to that, and realistically countdown clocks are 3-5 years away. Apparently, the letter trains run on a different signal system than the # trains; thus, the signal system needs upgrading before having the capability to have countdown clocks.

Q. Can the B32 schedule (the bus that runs along Kent Ave in Williamsburg and Franklin St in Greenpoint) be increased?

A. MTA will consider it. The B32 was rolled out last year, hence the 30-minute schedule, which is the standard for new lines. They’ll monitor ridership and increase the schedule if demand calls for it.

Q. Can the free shuttle run up to the Queens Plaza, so people can transfer to the E, M, R lines?

A. MTA will consider it.

Q. Can we get free transfers at certain locations where there is no connecting station, for example between the G line and the J/M line?

A. There will be free transfers during the shutdown. MTA considers that a starting point for a larger conversation on a free transfer between stations in the future.

Q. There will likely be an increase in a street traffic—what will happen to traffic when the Pulaski bridge is up?

A. DOT said that the bridge is controlled by the Coast Guard and there’s nothing they can do about it. Interestingly, State Senator Squadron jumped in and gave the DOT a little more responsibility than they wanted to take, saying, “I guarantee they [the Coast Guard] will work with you.” The DOT said they’ll attempt to work out a plan for daylight/rush hours.

Q. When can we get Citibike?

A. DOT said that it’s a franchise issue and that don’t run Citibank, so they don’t know about the expansion. For a second time in the evening, Squadron gave the DOT more responsibility than they wanted to take, stating, “DOT has enormous authority over Citibike.” He requested that the plan to expand be accelerated for this 5-week shutdown. DOT left it unclear.

Q. A resident asked if there would be an increase in traffic enforcement during the shutdown?

A. The Captain [Author’s note: Unsure who spoke on behalf of the 94th precinct.] of the 94th Precinct said that there is no plan for an influx of officers, but that they’ll be monitoring it. There was discussion about notifying the city wide traffic unit about the train shutdown, so they can help monitor the street level transportation issues.

Q. Can the MTA better coordinate the signals, so people don’t run to the trains?

A. They’ll look into improving the Greenpoint Ave. [Author’s note—not sure 100% sure if the issue was at the Greenpoint Ave station] announcements.

Q. Can the MTA print schedules for the train?

A. Printed schedules are available at the station agent office, but they will try to make them more readily available, particularly during the 5-week shutdown.

Q. How exactly are you planning on handling issues when things go wrong?

A. This is an “all hands on deck” situation. Officials will be checking-in one week into the closure.

Q. And the final, super important question-—will the subway actually reopen on September 1st?

A. Absolutely. The MTA feels confident and are committed to finishing on time.

AM Lentol mused, “There are going to be problems. There always are.”

This shutdown will certainly cause issues, but this meeting—where political officials came to listen to community residents concerns and suggestions is a step in the right direction. Communication, transparency, accountability. Hopefully, we’ll see more forums like this in the future on other critical community issues.

Heather Van De Mark

Heather Van De Mark

Heather is a designer/writer specializing in non-profit organizations and social causes. Originally from central NY, Heather settled into the charming Greenpoint neighborhood in 2011. While most of her community activism takes place from behind a computer screen, Heather can often be found at CB1 meetings, the McCarren Park track and any of the parks along the waterfront.