March 31, 2014
By Marc Bussanich
Long Island City, NY—The MTA is proceeding with major infrastructure upgrades along the No. 7 train that will shut it down for 22 weekends this year. Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer said he and Long Island residents know the work is necessary, but the MTA has to provide a shuttle bus to Grand Central Terminal so that small business doesn’t lose business. Video
Carmen Bianco, president of New York City Transit, explained to Long Island City residents at a town hall meeting at PS 78Q on Thursday evening that the MTA must perform the work in order to increase the number of trains it could run per hour as well as enhance safety and reliability.
The work, Bianco noted, would increase the No. 7 train’s capacity by about 10 percent—or by about 2 trains per hour. Currently, the No. 7 train carries 500,000 riders each weekday, with 27 trains running per hour at its peak.
There are three main projects associated with upgrading the No. 7 line—installation of Communications-Based Train Control (CBTC), the replacement of critical track panels and reconstruction inside the Steinway Tube under the East River.
The CBTC project, a $750 million project to replace 50- to 90-year-old signaling systems, is the biggest of the three. According to Fred Smith, an MTA senior vice president of capital projects, said that CBTC would prevent recent accidents such as the Metro-North and Chicago Transit Authority derailments.
“What the CBTC project will do for you is significant. You will now have a state-of-the-art train control system. It’s the safest system and the most reliable that’ll prevent incidents like Metro-North and in Chicago. The operator can’t fall asleep, the train stops where it’s programmed to stop,” said Smith.
Councilmember Van Bramer is all for the upgrades but insisted the MTA provide a shuttle bus from Long Island City to Grand Central Terminal or nearby so that small businesses don’t lose the foot traffic they depend on coming from Manhattan.
In an interview, the councilmember said some businesses could go under if the shuttle bus isn’t provided.
“We got restaurants, cafes and cultural institutions that are struggling and are losing money every weekend that the No. 7 train is closed,” said Van Bramer.
He said to Mr. Bianco during the meeting that adding a shuttle bus traveling to Manhattan via the Queens-Midtown Tunnel is doable and asked why the MTA couldn’t do it.
“As a transportation provider, we are always looking for the solution that’s best suited for most of our customers. We know the very best thing we could do is to get our customers over to one of our trains. We know that’s the absolute best solution,” said Bianco.
He said the MTA looked at the bus solution and concluded it had limited benefits.
“We know a lot of the riders aren’t going to Grand Central but other places. So it would benefit a limited number of people with only a limited gain in time,” Bianco said.
But that didn’t seem to convince the councilmember and the attendees in the audience. Bianco said he had data to support the MTA’s case and would submit it to the councilmember for review.
In an interview, Councilmember Van Bramer said Bianco’s consent to provide the data was a positive outcome from the town hall meeting.
“We haven’t seen that data. They [the MTA] pledged to provide that data. We look forward to reviewing it and seeing how that data was accumulated to demonstrate that the shuttle is not good,” said Van Bramer.
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