Boro Board Rips V Line Service
"Stop taking stuff away from Queens. You have to start giving us something," Borough President Helen Marshall told representatives of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, New York City Transit, at the December meeting of the Queens borough board last week. Marshall made her remarks during an update on V line service presented by Joseph Raskin, MTA assistant director of government and community relations, and Glenn Lunden, of the MTA division of operations planning.
Raskin and Lunden made their presentation on the first anniversary of the inauguration of V line service, Dec. 16, 2001. V line trains replace part of the G line, which formerly ran to 71st and Continental Avenue, Forest Hills, along the R line tracks. F trains have been rerouted through the 63rd Street tunnel and replaced at the 53rd and Lexington and 53rd and Fifth Avenue stations by V line trains. G line trains now stop at Court Square, where they formerly went on to Queens Plaza.
Despite Raskin's and Lunden's assurances that the route changes had improved service and lessened waiting time and train overcrowding, Marshall, Deputy Borough President Karen Koslowitz and the community board chairs who make up the borough board said the service changes have done nothing to alleviate inconveniences for riders.
As city councilmember, Koslowitz had represented Forest Hills and Rego Park. "The people I used to represent don't like the V," she told Raskin and Lunden. "Now they have to take the E train farther downtown. They feel they've been shortchanged." Councilmember David Weprin said the elimination of the transfer point of the Fifth Avenue and Lexington Avenue stations for Queens bound riders on the E train during the morning rush hour hit riders with a "double whammy." Joseph Conley, chairman of Community Board 2, agreed. "It's a difficult time for the minimum-wage earners who live in Queens and go to work in Brooklyn," he said. "Now there are two express trains missing from the mix and they have to transfer to get on the G train." Frances McDonald concurred. "What you're telling me is, if I get on a V or an F train in Queens and want to go to 53rd Street and Fifth Avenue, I have to go to 57th Street and Sixth Avenue and walk. That doesn't make sense."
Raskin's assurance that the V train was less crowded was no consolation to his audience. Another board member noted, "People who want to go to Fifth Avenue can't take the F train and the E is packed." The general reaction to the V train, board members concurred, is: "People don't like it."
Work on the 63rd street connector, through which the F and V lines now run, began in the 1960s, Raskin said. Work was halted during the budget crisis of the 1970s and the connector and the Archer Avenue station were the only parts of the project completed. After a series of public hearings, a basic service scheme was devised and the connection linking the local and express tracks was built, a project seven years in the making.
Constructing one-third of a mile of connector track while maintaining service on the E, F, G and R lines was "an immensely complicated business," Lunden commented. He noted that the $645-million project involved building track, installing a traffic control system and a master tower, and devising an operations system to accommodate full subway service.
The signal system allows for a maximum of 30 trains an hour running on the express track, Lunden added. "We could increase capacity only by adding local trains," he told the board. "Rerouting the F trains through the 63rd Street tunnel and sending the V trains through 53rd Street increases the amount of service to the 6th Avenue stations during morning and evening rush hours by 40 percent. Rebalancing the mix of express trains between Queens and 8th Avenue increased service on the E line by 25 percent. We cut the G line so it stops at Court Square and increased the frequency of those trains during the 8 and 9 a.m. rush hours." He added that use of the MetroCard has speeded up the transfer between the G and 7 trains.
Lunden told the board that V trains carry 7,000 people, or 700 per train, during the weekday rush hour. Guidelines allow for three square feet of space per passenger on rush hour trains, a statement that drew derisive comments from some board members.
He added that the new traffic control system works fairly well. "The G train has seen a big improvement in reliability," he said. "The new service plan for the trains meets service demands. The confusion over which train to take, the F or the V, was short-lived. We focused on changes to Queens service because that made the most sense. Raskin concurred. "21st Street was never meant to be the last stop in Queens," he said.
In other business, Eric Anderson of the New York City Economic Development Corporation presented a request for an authorization of the sale of a plot of land to Ideal Steel Corporation after an environmental assessment. The company's present location would be returned to residential zoning, Anderson said, and private homes would be built on the site. The new site for Ideal Steel is in an area zoned appropriately and would put $288,000 in city coffers. Some contamination of the site will be remediated at a fairly low cost.
"I worked with Archie Spigner when he used to represent the area, and Ideal Steel was always a good community neighbor," Spigner's successor in the 27th council district, Leroy Comrie, said. "I think it would be beneficial to the community." James Davis, chairman of Community Board 12, and those members of the city council delegation present concurred, voting in favor of the sale unanimously.