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HOST: All New York commuters love to gripe about their commute. The subway line people love to hate? The G train. It’s often called the worst train in the city – and it’s even the only line with its own advocacy campaign. Stephanie Kuo reports after years of complaints from riders, the MTA has agreed to look for ways to improve the G.
AMBI_G Train Station fade up at “rush hour,” then fade under NARR.
The G train station at Metropolitan Avenue is packed, with streams of people coming down the stairs onto the platform. It’s rush hour. Deon Brannan charges down the stairs as he hears the Church Avenue-bound train pull up – one hand holding down the top of his Yankees cap, the other swinging a black plastic bag holding his lunch. But he just misses the door. AMBI_bingbong up full. AMBI_train departing up full then fade under NARR.
He throws his hands up in frustration.
DEION BRANNAM (0:10)
Aw man, I be mad. What goes through my head, I be mad. I be pissed. But I just gotta wait for the next one, you know?
He says the wait for the next one can be long.
DEION BRANNAN (0:07)
Oh, shhh—, like 20 something minutes. Yeah, like 22 minutes, you know?
Other G train riders agree. They have some choice words to say about the line.
WATERFALL MIX (0:05)
Late. Unpredictable – I would second that. Tardy. The most unreliable train in New York.
It’s not just riders who are complaining. State Sen. Daniel Squadron represents areas along the line.
SEN. DANIEL SQUADRON (0:11)
Right now, if there were a grade after F, it would be G. The G train has seen the highest increase in weekday service of any line in recent times, and it’s too often the orphan of the system.
The conventional wisdom on the G train is that it underperforms because it’s the only line that doesn’t go into Manhattan. It runs from Court Square in Queens to Church Avenue in Brooklyn. The most common complaint among G train riders is the wait between trains, which is known as “headway”.. The 2012 State of the Subway Report Card by transit advocacy group the Straphangers Campaign found the average headway across the subway system to be about five minutes during the morning rush. The G train runs about every seven. But after 9 a.m., the headway rises to 10 minutes, then as much as 15 to 20 during the afternoon and evening. That’s why the G has become known as the Ghost Train.
MATT GREEN (0:02)
It’s a spook. It’s like, it’s here and there and then it’s gone.
Matt Green is a member of the Riders Alliance, a grassroots organization that advocates for better transit. He does research for the Alliance’s G Train Campaign. Green says he’s found that riders can sometimes wait up to 45 minutes for a train. Riders also complain about overcrowding. G trains only have 4 cars instead of the 8 to 10 on other lines. Green says the problems with the line lead some riders to seek alternatives. But a lot of people who live along the G don’t have that option.
MATT GREEN (0:10)
Other trains, when they’re down, there’s alternatives. You can find another route. But when the G train is down, it’s really the one route people depend on.
But fewer people depend on the G than on any other line in the city. For instance, the busiest stop on the G at Metropolitan Avenue in Williamsburg sees about 13,000 riders a day. Compare that to the 195,000 who pass through Times Square every day. Green says because the line‘s comparatively small ridership creates a vicious cycle among MTA officials.
MATT GREEN (0:12)
I think they’re really focused on supply and demand. And if people aren’t using it, it’s sort of like a cycle. People aren’t using it because the service is bad. But we need people to use the train in order for the MTA to pay attention.
But more people are using the G train. The MTA reports that it saw the largest uptick in ridership of any line in 2012. That’s 2,000 more riders a day, or a little more than 4 percent. Neighborhoods along the G are booming. Williamsburg and Greenpoint are the fastest growing neighborhoods in the city. And the growth along that part of the G is going to continue.
Herbert Kliegerman has been a real estate broker in North Brooklyn for 10 years.
HERBERT KLIEGERMAN (0:09)
We see young people coming in from all around the world. Young students, young people who are coming in for jobs and realizing that there’s an alternative to the Lower East Side.
AMBI_street fade up and under NARR.
Take one look around the intersection of Metropolitan and Union Avenues in Williamsburg, and you’ll see rows of new buildings – sleek, modern and slate gray. Young residents walk shoulder to shoulder along the sidewalk. Two subway stops away, Greenpoint is about to get a 10-building development that will bring at least 4,000 more residents to the area. Kliegerman says that growth is going to force the MTA to improve G train service.
HERBERT KLIEGERMAN (0:07)
Real estate goes with transportation. It’s a necessity. If it’s not addressed, we can’t have a future.
For now, some people who live along the G line have turned to the few alternatives that exist. AMBI_ferry up full then fade under NARR.
The East River Ferry makes four stops in neighborhoods served by the G. It takes riders either to Wall Street or Midtown in about 10 minutes.
MILENA TZANKOVA (0:)
I think it’s much better.
Milena Tsankova lives in Greenpoint and rides the ferry every day. It’s more expensive than the subway, but she says it’s more pleasant.
MILENA TZANKOVA (0:)
Well look at the view. It’s a great way to start your day and end your day.
It’s quite punctual. I only wish they had it more often.
There is a light at the end of the tunnel for residents who still ride the G train. The MTA agreed in February to review service along the line. This will be the third study of its kind. Transit advocates say that earlier reviews of the F and L lines led to improved service.
MTA spokesperson Charles Seaton says the transit authority hasn’t begun looking at the G yet, but will in the next couple of weeks.
CHARLES SEATON (0:05)
We always address service to meet ridership and right now, we just don’t know what we’re going to find at the G.
Even with all the complaints about the G, some riders say the line doesn’t deserve its bad reputation. Greenpoint resident Simone Cuevas says people are just too harsh.
SIMONE CUEVAS (0:12)
A lot of people hate on the G. They say it’s never there, it takes forever to come. No, it’s just like any other train. It’s nice. I like it just as much as any other – actually I like more than a lot others that are in the city.
In fact, according to the Straphangers Campaign’s Subway Report Card, the G is NOT the worst train in the city. That distinction has gone to the C train for four years in a row. The report card says the G actually arrives with above-average regularity. The MTA will report on how it thinks it can improve that when it releases its review of the line in June
Stephanie Kuo, Columbia Radio News