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Years Of 7 Train Work Will Bring Only Two New Trains Per Hour, Unlikely To Keep Pace With Development

7 train meeting

April 6, 2016 By Christian Murray

As residential towers go up and rezonings appear on the horizon, many 7 train commuters are skeptical that a years-long, $1 billion revamp of the line will alleviate overcrowding.

Ronnie Hakim, the president of MTA New York City Transit, spoke at a town hall meeting in Sunnyside Tuesday hosted by Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer and the subway advocacy group Access Queens. She told riders that the agency is close to finishing years of construction work that has led to numerous weekend service outages over the past three years.

Nevertheless, when the work is complete only two additional trains—carrying about 1,200 passengers each—will be able to get through the system per hour. Currently, 27 trains run per hour during peak time.

Several attendees said that this increase is not nearly enough to keep pace with the building boom.

The 7 train is already experiencing record high ridership of about 525,000 per week day, according to Hakim. She acknowledged that “ever increasing ridership will continue to pose challenges.”

Weekend closures between Long Island City and Manhattan will continue until the end of 2017, although the number of outages is expected to decline, Hakim said. In 2013, service was down for 17 weekends, while the number for 2016 was cut down to eight.

Hakim

Hakim

The MTA has replaced most of the elevated track panels that are more than 25 years old, with the remainder of the work expected to be completed by the end of 2016.

The narrow tunnel that links the 7 train between Manhattan and Queens will be fully rehabilitated later this month after being damaged by flooding from Superstorm Sandy.

The line’s 100-year-old signal system is also slated to be replaced in its entirety by the end of 2017, Hakim said. The current “fixed block signal” system restricts trains from getting too close to one another, thereby limiting the flow of trains; it will be replaced by a new “Communication-Based Train Control” system (CBTC).

CBTC provides the MTA with data that tells it where a train is and what speed it is going. The modern system is expected to be more reliable and delays caused by “signal problems” are less likely to occur. Furthermore, when service is down, the MTA is able to get the system back up to full capacity much faster.

While commuters were pleased to hear the work on the 7 line is coming to an end, many urged the MTA for more service, noting the rapid development at Willets Point, Flushing, Long Island City and sections of Astoria.

Judy McClain, the MTA’s senior director of rail service, said that the 7 express train is currently at capacity and it is “exacerbated when service is somewhat irregular.”

There still remains some 7 train capacity on the local track, she said, although that quickly becomes overwhelmed when there is a gap in service.

“The two additional trains will help to some degree, but it really is dependent in terms of when this development comes on line,” McClain said.

She said that there is “a little more 7 train capacity in Long Island City” because the peak point is at Queensboro Plaza, where people transfer to the N and Q trains.

However, McClain said the N and Q trains are currently at capacity. She said that the E and F lines are also quite crowded, although there is some capacity on the R and M trains.

In terms of zoning, McClain said, “we have urged [the Department of] City Planning to focus on those areas and on those lines where we have capacity.”

However, Hakim said increased subway service is just one of many solutions to the transportation needs in the area. She said Select Bus Service and bus rapid transit were among the answers.

Van Bramer told the audience that there would be no rezoning—referring to Queens Plaza/Court Square—without transportation options increasing.

In the short term, Hakim said the MTA will be adding two extra 7 trains per hour in the evenings starting this fall. Furthermore, she said her staff would be making a greater effort to communicate what’s taking place with the public.

Wynton Habersham, an executive with the MTA, said the agency has been increasing its inspections of the system to reduce the chances of signal problems and other stoppages.

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26 Comments

Pedro Valdez Rivera Jr.

Because of the acceleration of commercial and residential development in Hunters Point, Long Island City, Flushing and possibly Sunnyside, which could result in more riders taking the 7 train service, the MTA needs to finish replacing the older R62 subway cars with the newer R188 subway cars, renovating and retrofitting the Steinway Tunnel and replacing the older fixed-block signals with the newer moving-block signals via CBTC.

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rikki

yes but it still wont alleviate the sardine crowding until you are long gone and dead….figure 25+++ years before they think of finishing a new tunnel to grand Central

so your only option till then i find a job where you dont have to use the subway m-f 9-5, what is preventing you from working 2nd and 3rd shift or weekends? or reverse commute to flushing or Jamaica…

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Change is not good

I love the 7 train. Its always clean always on time, it’s the best line in ny. I cant wait till it’s fixed, imagine how great it will be then. Best $2.75 you’ll every spend. Its the best .

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Dan

That’s great they are adding two more trains per hour. Although the 7 is packed at rush hour it still is consistently rated one of the best trains in the city (despite all the whining above) . Anyone who has lived in other neighborhoods e.g. Williamsburg or Far Rockaway would love to have the ‘problems’ we have. Although not ideal, there are other options bus to court square/Queensboro for a different train or LIRR. Many neighborhoods are solely reliant on one train and if you were near the B or 5 train you would be singing praises for the 7.

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rikki

HAHAHAHA I TOLD YOU SO……2 TRAINS PER HOUR WHEN WE NEED 5-6 OR 7.

now start looking for a better job or with hours that are not 9-5 or reverse commute, or work from home…you have been officially warned by the MTA.

you will get a new tunnel after you are dead, or too old to work……

or maybe the LIRR might be nice and run shuttle trains at the new red brick building at 39th and skillman through the new tunnel to grand central…

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Scoler

Is it possible that some people take pleasure in knowing that they’re going in the opposite direction that YOU’RE going? It’s possible.

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rikki

some people are sheep and others can think outside the box. its easy to tell who are the sardines!!!!!

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trebla

If they had built 2 platforms at the new 34th st. stop to accommodate 3 tracks they could have increased capacity on the line.

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Phil

Interesting timing with this article, we’re currently going on an 18 hour “signal problem” at Willets Point. Does ANY other line have these problems that last for days at a time?

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mendel

We definitely need someone with authority(MTA personnel or MTA cop) to insist that folks who block the doors move in to the center of the car. Tokyo subways are famous for agents with helmets who physically squish uncooperative passengers in. Similarly, passengers on the Q32 and Q60 busses rigidly occupy the aisle seats as if they were on a plane and try to intimidate you if you ask them to let you in to the window seat. They never slide across.

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In my day...blah, blah, blah...

You’re so right! Monday and Thursday morning were a nightmare on 40th. On Monday, this guy was chastising the middle dwellers on the 7 b/c they didn’t want to squeeze in and spare their comfort. I can’t even type this without getting really aggravated thinking about it! I hate the AM commute, the 7 and inconsiderate riders.

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silent majority

So true people get on the train and do not have consideration for the other people trying to get on behind them. People start pushing they get aggravated and then there are shouting and screaming matches and sometimes turns physical. I don’t think new trains styles are going to help. You cant cure stupid/ ignorant/selfish with new trains.

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Philip

If people don’t move towards the middle then block the doors so the train doesn’t move until they do. It’s the only way they’re gonna learn.

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A couple thoughts

While 2 extra trains per hour may not keep up with development, it is definitely appreciated. As is the fact that the weekend service disruptions should be wrapping up by the end of this year. What isn’t mentioned here is the idea of creating an LIRR/Metrocard that allows people to take the LIRR into Manhattan from Flushing, Jamaica, Woodside, and LIC for a reasonable price. I have heard that the LIRR is often half empty during rush hour, which is ridiculous considering how overcrowded the 7 is. And aren’t both the LIRR and the subway system part of the same MTA? Opening up the LIRR to average New Yorkers (who can’t afford to pay $300/month for metro-card + LIRR) would make a huge difference in alleviating pressure on the 7 train.

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Phil

It’s $8.25 to Penn Station. Not that bad, considering it’s only a 12 minute ride. Of course whether it’s “worth it” depends on how much you want to pay, and how close you live to Woodside Station and how close you work to Penn Station. If you have a walk or transfer from either station, the time advantage rapidly disappears

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VelvetKnight

Whether it’s “worth it” also depends on how convenient Penn Station is for you. For example, if you’re going somewhere on the east side, you’re probably not saving a lot of time for all that money. And even for people on the west side, the transfer points along the 7 can be easier than dealing with Penn Station.

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Sunnysider

Can we please get those new trains where it is all one train so we can fit more people in. The 7 is one of the most narrow trains so it can fit fewer people. We are packed like sardines. I feel like a redesign of the trains would help fit in more people. Also, can we get 2 extra trains per hour in the morning too? Rush hour is 7-9am as far as I can tell.

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John Cowan

The IRT tunnels (numbered lines) are inherently narrower and the IND/BMT (lettered lines) cars can’t fit into them. This is because they were separate companies originally. The Astoria line (N, W) was originally shared between the IRT and the BMT (using IRT-type cars), but was converted for BMT-only operation back in 1949. This was only possible because the line is entirely elevated, and even then the Astoria platforms had to be shaved to accommodate wider cars.

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Phil

“Van Bramer told the audience that there would be no rezoning—referring to Queens Plaza/Court Square—without transportation options increasing.” Good. Do the same for Flushing, which has the infrastructure of the sleepy suburb it was for most of its history, not a Chinese boomtown.

Local 7 trains are a joke in the mornings. The MTA acts as if rush hour ends at 9 in terms of frequency, even though it acknowledges the truth that it extends to 10 by the fact that it keeps running express trains until then. I shouldn’t have to wait 8-9 minutes for a local train (which, not surprisingly, is then extremely packed) during morning rush hour. Try getting on at 40th Street. You better either be wafer-thin or ready to push the dozen people blocking the door who refuse to move in.

They need to change the way trains are routed so that half of the outbound trains turn around at 61st street and serve local stops. It’s absurd to wait so long for a train when trains going in off-peak direction come literally every 45 seconds.

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Eamonn

I agree. i get on at 52nd street but I really do feel the riders at 40th st particularly get screwed and most of the time no one moves in to make any room for them. It almost make it necessary to walk to 33rd to have a prayer of getting on a train. They should make a dedicated bus lane along the Queensboro bridge to lean on the road infrastructure rather than purely giving it to cars. b

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Early riser

Try 6am. That is rush hour. No express at that hour and going into Manhattan is like sardines as well. Imagine you are barely awake but have to hang on to whatever you can in a super packed train. At that hour the majority of the riders are blue collars who also carry big bags. It’s awful enough that everyone have to get up in early hours and continue sleeping on the train…

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mb

I commute at 6am too. I take the Q39/32/60 to the E or M train. You can see where the busses are at bustime.mta.info so there is no guess work or waiting around. Much better

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Adam

There is also overcrowding on the Local 7 until 33rd Street when a lot of people get off for LaGuardia College.

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A.Bundy

The day when the 7 train is a comfortable ride is the day hell freezes over. Dont ever expect a seat, or even room to get in. Thats the rule of thumb these days. I mean, it’s literally the slowest train. It sometimes takes 15-20 minutes to go from 40th st to QB plaza, and then its slow as molasses on the N/Q in the tunnel. what really bothers me the most is the fake/lying announcements, like there’s train traffic ahead of us, when the train is 15 minutes late, what kind of traffic is there ahead? In any case, my best bet is to get out of this horrid city once in for all.

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rikki

again you are the problem, the 7 train is fine you use it at the wrong times and in the wrong direction, solve that and you will be a whole lot happier.

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