…Or possibly a case for continuous closures rather than the standard method of construction work.
With 2018 behind us, we can take a look at how good (or how bad depending on who you ask) weekend service last year. Using the weekly maps created for the planned service changes, we can see which lines were the worst to use in the effort to get around in 2018.
For the sake of clarity, this is broken out between full weekend closures, in which the line is out of service for the entire weekend, and partial ones, where either trains bypass the stations in one direction or when service is suspended for only part of the weekend. Also, to prevent the data from being skewed against certain lines, stations and lines partially or fully closed on a continuous basis for rehabilitation work are not included in the final tally.
First off, let’s take a look at the top ten full closures in 2018:
|9||Canarsie||Broadway Jct – 8 Avenue||7|
|8||Crosstown||Bedford-Nostrand Avs – Court Sq||8|
|7||Flushing||Queensboro Plaza – 34 St-Hudson Yards||9|
|4||Culver||Church Av – Coney Island||12|
|1||Jamaica||Crescent St – Jamaica Center||21|
Jamaica “leads” here being out of service for nearly half the year, including most of the summer and a seven week stretch from mid-September to early November, mostly due to constant schedule slippage for the station rehabs along the line. The Astoria line ranks at number two in part due to the ESI rehabs and a track replacement project that occurred over the summer. Some of these entries are due to structure and station rehab projects, as is the case on the Culver and Sea Beach lines, or due to preparation work, in regards to the Canarsie line. The rest were due to a combination of general preventative maintenance or general upgrades along the affected lines.
Full closures were not the only issue to plague weekend riders in 2018. There were a slew of partial, one-directional service outages in place over the year.
|9||8th Avenue||59 St-Columbus Circle – Canal St||11|
|7||Queens Blvd||71 Av – Queens Plaza||10|
|5||Jamaica||Myrtle Av – Marcy Av||15|
|4||Queens Blvd||Parsons Blvd – 71 Av||17|
|3||Jerome Ave||Burnside Av – 149 St-Grand Concourse||17|
|2||4th Avenue||Atlantic Av – 59 St||19|
|1||8th Avenue||125 St – 59 St-Columbus Circle||32|
Central Park West leads the way by a wide margin in terms of partial closures, with the majority of them caused by the ESI station rehabs along the line. That is also the case for the Astoria partial closures as well, whenever that line wasn’t fully suspended. As with the full closures, some of these can be explained by way of other factors. Queens Blvd for instance, was taken out of service in one direction due to the ongoing signal modernization project. This also holds true for the Flushing line. The rest of these diversions were caused by a combination of improvements and track replacements.
For a full station by station breakout, the raw data is available here.
To get a clear picture of the full impact of these service disruptions, as shown below, 75% of the 20 worst lines in terms of complete or partial loss of service were out at least ten weekends in 2018. In the case of some of these service suspensions, it’s the deciding factor for some riders’ travel plans. When service is out in one direction for the better part of the year, like with Central Park West, or completely suspended, as was the case for the eastern half of the Jamaica line, riders either have to make adjustments to their trips and endure backtracking or shuttle buses, or in the case of some, not make the planned trips at all due to a lack of available options.
Some of these service changes are unavoidable due to other factors in play and nobody wants a complete collapse of the subway system just to avoid a few weekends of maintenance work. On the other hand, however, riders do want consistent and reliable service they can depend on, even during off-hours.
Perhaps it’s time for a new approach to the standard 53-hour weekend work schedule that’s been in place for decades now. Over the past few weeks alone, there have been a couple of full-time line closures to minimize the overall impact of construction and maintenance work. For the second year now, the 53rd Street tunnel (which carries the E and M lines) was taken out of service just before the New Year’s holiday, a move to allow for more work to be completed in a longer continuous timespan. This full-time closure has obviously proven its worth as there were only four weekends where that tunnel was out of service, all of which were due to the ongoing signal project. Over the past two weeks, there has been a similar outage on extreme eastern end of the Jamaica line. Time will tell if this particular closure proves successful.
The question remains whether such an approach should be considered on other lines. Can a few weeks of a non-stop closure eliminate the need for these almost constant weekend and late night suspensions and station skips? The better question is will riders stomach such bold changes. Only time will tell, but if anything is to change in terms of these almost non-stop weekend service disruptions, riders will have to accept the short-term pain for a smoother, more reliable ride in the long-term.