G train catch-22

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Riding the G train might seem like a trip into Dante’s “Inferno,” but subway boosters claim it’s straight out of a Joseph Heller novel.

Activists working to better the G train say the Metropolitan Transportation Authority has created a catch-22 by refusing to make any service improvements on the line due to low ridership. But critics claim ridership on the so-called Brooklyn Local remains low simply because service is so bad.

Members of the Riders Alliance claim the MTA is shooting itself in the foot by refusing to run G trains more reliably, allow free above-ground transfers to nearby lines, or add more rolling stock to the diminutive four-car line.

“If they make the changes, the increased ridership will bring in the money that will justify the changes,” said Dustin Joyce, who claims the transit authority’s lack of interest in the line is hindering the growth of G-dependent neighborhoods including Greenpoint, Fort Greene, and Bedford-Stuyvesant, among others. “They could attract a lot more development in those neighborhoods if they had reliable transit.”

Infrastructure and transportation experts including New York University adjunct professor Sarah Kaufman say the MTA must do everything it can to lure more riders rather than let lousy service ride.

“In other cities, transit companies are almost begging people to take transit instead of driving,” said Kaufman. “In New York City, trains are at capacity during rush hour, but that’s not true in the outer boroughs. There is room to attract more people into public transit in the outer boroughs and keep them out of traffic.”

But the MTA refutes the paradox and says it won’t budge until more riders flock to the much-maligned line.

“We schedule service to match ridership,” said agency spokesman Charles Seaton, who added that the MTA has already made concessions G train riders when it dropped its own initiative to eliminate five beloved stops in Park Slope, Windsor Terrace, and Kensington earlier this year.

Activists and experts say simple fixes would attract huge numbers of riders — with the easiest being the implementation of free, above-ground transfers between the G train’s Broadway stop with the J and M trains at Hewes and Lorimer, which shuttle commuters to Manhattan.

“Creating a free transfer between the G and the J and M would be huge,” said Kaufman. “That could really reduce the overflow on the L. They could do these things for a trial period and see if there’s any ridership movement.”

The transit agency says it will not allow the free switcheroo, despite offering a similar transfer between the F line and the 4, 5, 6, N, Q, and R trains in Manhattan.

Many Brooklynites including Riders Alliance member Casey Dinkin and her boyfriend say they stay away from the G line simply because of its terrible reputation.

“We avoid the G at all costs,” said Dinkin, who moved into an apartment on Metropolitan Avenue where she can hop the L train. “If it were better, we would take it. We would go to dinner in Brooklyn instead of going into the city.”

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Reader Feedback

Vatya from Vlatbush says:
"I love doughnuts," Dinkin said.
Dec. 6, 2012, 8:22 am
SoPoNiFi from Fort Greene says:
While I think G train service should improve, Mr. Joyce is wrong - because farebox revenue does not exceed operating costs, every increase in service is a net loss for the MTA [not saying that is why they don't do it, but Joyce claiming 'the increased ridership will bring in the money' is outright incorrect.]

Hopefully Cuomo's promise to "rebuilding better than before" will come true for the G-Line.
Dec. 6, 2012, 10:18 am
Maurice L. from Williamsburg says:
The G-train is the only 4-car train, is known for poor service & long wait times, why not put out a product that attracts customers instead of scaring them away?

When judging to use any product or service you always pay attention to the reputation before usage, why would this service/product be any different? Put out a respectable service & customer usage will likely increase, that's how it works. You can't expect a bad service to have an increase of users, what kind of logic is the MTA implementing here?

G-train riders pay the same fare as any other strap-hanger on any other subway line in NYC, why should we put up with sub-par service?
Dec. 6, 2012, 10:51 am
scott from park slope says:
the G train is an important link in the city's bid to develop new industries in Brooklyn and Queens. Manhattan is established and resists change. the startups and entrepreneurs who are creating the next wave of innovation and job creation can't afford those rents. plus, the G connects those businesses to affordable residential neighborhoods and schools like Pratt which provide the talent they need to thrive. yes, Manhattan is a mainstay now but the economic future of the city rests in queens and Brooklyn and the MTA should act accordingly.
Dec. 6, 2012, 11:11 am
Nick from E. Williamsburg says:
That short train sure does put a premium on having good lungs. Have missed many a train. And the lack of transfers is just criminal.
Dec. 6, 2012, 8:32 pm
Ian from 11211 says:
The 12 tower development in Greenpoint might change ridership enough for them to begin considering improvements.

Since the MTA insists they don't do out of system transfers, maybe its time to start lobbying for a very expensive underground-to-elevated fare zone transfer.
Dec. 6, 2012, 9:36 pm
Jim from Cobble Hill says:
Wouldn't it be nice if the G train shot straight into Manhattan after Greenpoint Ave and went under 23rd st (L train style) all the way to the West Side? Maybe some of that NJ tunnel money that Christie turned down can make that happen... but we'd need to add more so that the unions and politicians could skim their minimum.

Mayor moneybags needs to realize that the subway is what gets the "little people" (I'm sure we're not even "people" to him) into Manhattan to make it actually function, and the heart needs a bypass if you know what I'm saying.
Dec. 7, 2012, 8:24 am
Mike from Williamsburg says:
I stumbled upon this facebook group calling for the G to run through Manhattan in a circle. They say it'd use 99% existing infrastructure.,-73.973007&spn=0.141017,0.216637
Dec. 7, 2012, 12:23 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
Part of the reason why the G doesn't get a lot of ridership is because it's the only subway line to not enter Manhattan at any point. Another reason is that in the lower part of Brooklyn, it doesn't have much of its own route, so many see no difference in taking it compared to the other lines that go further down especially if this is south of either Church or 4th Avenues. If ridership isn't that high, the MTA believes that it makes no sense to give it extra cars, because they will see it as a waste of money to them. As good of a transfer it will be to have the G connect with the J, it comes to one problem here. Who is going to pay for it? My feeling is that the straphangers who push for this usually want motorists like myself to foot the bill for them via massive toll hikes even though they are going to be using it more, which is a reason to increase the base fare for subways, but they have cried foul to that. Of course, everyone wants everything, but doesn't want to pay for it.
Dec. 7, 2012, 2:30 pm
ty from pps says:
Tal -- Thank you for your wisdom.
Dec. 7, 2012, 5:59 pm
Paul A. from Bay Ridge/ Ft. Hamilton says:
Tal Barzilai where the hell is Pleasantville, N.Y.???
Dec. 7, 2012, 9:10 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
Paul A., I will answer that when you can find where brain is.
Dec. 7, 2012, 9:17 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
One other thing, the MTA collects money from all downstate NY, not just NYC, so being from there, I do have a say in this since it's my taxes as well.
Dec. 7, 2012, 9:20 pm
ty from pps says:
So, Tal... Would you think it better if the MTA discontinued Metro North? You always talk about driving to New York. Why don't you just take the train that stops in Pleasantville? Hmm... ya know, since you're already paying for it.
Dec. 7, 2012, 9:49 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
Ty, many of the tolled highways and crossings in downstate NY also go to the MTA as well, and when those hikes go up, they are not in quarters like the subway fares.
Dec. 8, 2012, 8:50 pm
ty from pps says:
Dec. 9, 2012, 11:31 pm
Other Michael from Park Slope says:

ave you ever ridden the G?

I just recently started and was surprised at how many people where on the train.

You are correct, it does not go to Manhattan, but many people to it to get to the train that takes them to work or school in Manhattan.

If you are not going to leave Pleasantville to comment on transportation issues in Brooklyn you can at least look at a map
Dec. 10, 2012, 5:59 am
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
Other Michael, I was looking at a subway map when I was making my comments here, so I do know about the route of the G. For the record, I have ridden this line a few times, though not a lot, because it doesn't enter Manhattan. Unfortunately, for the G, much of the Queens portion, which is the other half of this line, was cut off, though it was only doing part time service months before that. On the current route, the lower half is pretty useless because many of the lines it follows goes further down, so riders there have no use for it. However, the upper half does serve a purpose since it runs by itself there for the most part. Due to the fact that it has low ridership, the MTA sees no reason to make any improvements there, which is why some have called it the Ghost Train. More importantly, the MTA has not been a city agency since 1965 when it was given to the state. Also, most of the funding actually come from motorists such as myself who give the bulk of it, which is why I feel that the base fare should be hiked. I can't understand why those of you who use the system more don't want to give extra to something that will actually help you, but rather have someone else foot the bill for you. BTW, I was applauded greatly at that MTA hearing over at Baruch College for saying that. Another thing is that the MTA wouldn't have to raise so much if not for those fare beaters, so you better think twice before you plan on jumping the turnstiles or sneaking onto city buses without ever getting seen.
Dec. 10, 2012, 2:50 pm
ty from pps says:
Tal -- Where oh where do you get this idea? "Also, most of the funding actually come from motorists such as myself who give the bulk of it..." Please, sir, show us the proof to support this comment.
Dec. 10, 2012, 7:02 pm
ty from pps says:
I'll help you out...

38% comes from "farebox" funds
12% comes from toll revenue (keep in mind the MTA runs and maintains roads, bridges and tunnels)
4% comes from "other revenue" like vending rents, advertisement, etc.
8% comes from local and state subsidies
38% comes from dedicated taxes... including a small portion of sales tax, NYC real estate and transfer taxes, the MTA payroll tax.

PLEASE oh, wise one, does that equate as "Most of the funding comes from motorists"?!?!?

Keep in mind 8.2 million of the 19 million residents of New York State live in New York City.
Dec. 10, 2012, 7:10 pm
Other Michael from Park Slope says:
The G train has been pretty crowded the last few times I have been on it.

and Tal, go back to the map. Do you see how the G train connects neighborhoods to the trains that go to Manhattan. Like the F, A, 7 and L. A lot of people use it to make a lot of short trips. Without the G, they would be clogging up your precious roads.

I am not saying that my tax money should not be used to fund he mostly empty Taconic State Pkwy, but maybe I should.
Dec. 11, 2012, 3:09 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
Ty, the last portion you mention is from the rest of downstate as with state subsidies and tolls. Therefore, I do contribute up to 58% in what I have to give to them by what I am using, which is a majority that last time I checked since that is over half. In other words, you just did prove that the rest living outside. Some of those other taxes I do pay for, I have used some of those tolls from time to time, and there some of my tax dollars going to those subsidies since it's from the state. The percentage was from adding those parts up. How again are motorists not giving the most of the funding to the MTA when three out of the five portions are most likely from them? As for the G, maybe if it was going back up to 71st Avenue, it could get more ridership or even past Church Avenue in that matter. Unless the F is really going to go express where it follows the G, which it hasn't despite this, more will be riding the F because it goes further down especially for a one seat ride rather than switching when they don't need to. How about making a free transfer between Livonia Avenue (L) and Junnis Street (3), because there is even a walkway for that but no free transfer despite that? All the MTA needs to do there is just extend the fare control to allow for that when there is already a way to make that transfer available.
Dec. 11, 2012, 5:31 pm
AJ from Formerly from Clinton Hill says:
It really is a catch-22 since neither side will budge. However when the powers that be bulit the line in the 30's Brookyn was a different place. When it declined the G bore the brunt of the cuts since it did not go into manhattan. now that the econmy is favoring Brooklyn again i think the MTA should wake up and smell the coffee. It's pretty unfair that that some of the G-Train stations look so bad Broadway being the worst. Oh and BTW before the V came to town the G had 6 cars, which when i was a kid was better becasue you ran less. The problem was that if you missed it you had to wait FOREVER!
Dec. 11, 2012, 6 pm
ty from pps says:
Wow, Tal. I actually couldn't read all of the crazy you just wrote... I was exhausted by the 4th sentence.
Dec. 11, 2012, 7:36 pm
Other Michael from Park Slope says:

True story.... I rode the G today. From 7th ave to LIC at 9 am and back at 1 pm. It was packed.

people use it for the same reason they use the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail. It connects to the Manhattan bound trains.

and I am still offended that my taxes pay for the Taconic. When I get to decide what type of trees are planted on the shoulder.
Dec. 12, 2012, 7:26 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
I could do without the personal attacks which I consider a hit way below the belt even for the likes of you streetsblogger guys, Ty and Other Michael. Back to the issue. One of the problems with not entering Manhattan is that the subway line goes on the periphery which is being taken over by zealout bikers who bring their bikes on the subway and thereby squeezing out the non-biker majority. Don't shoot the messanger when you know it could be true. In any event, Ratner and his cronies down at the arena in Brooklyn are laughing all the way to the bank while my commuting route is being taken over by bikelanes and imminent domain.
Dec. 17, 2012, 11:26 pm

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