September 6, 2007

Crains NY article: G-Train riders want some respect

From the September 3, 2007 issue of Crain's New York Business:

G-Train riders want some respect
Truncated Queens service, unreliability bedevil customers of forgotten line

by Erik Engquist

Riders of the G train know it as an unpleasant oddity. It's the only line that never touched Manhattan. Each train has just four cars. Stations are shabby. And service is spotty, especially at the Queens end of the line.

Tired of such treatment, one group of G stalwarts is fighting back. The Save The G Coalition is surveying riders before launching a big push for improvements. As thousands of apartments go up in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, ridership is rising and crowding has become commonplace during rush hour.

"Many people have told me they cannot get on Queens-bound trains," says Teresa Toro, Save The G's blogster. "Sometimes I've had to stay on the platform [and let a train pass], which was unthinkable four years ago."

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is taking a wait-and-see approach. It is collecting rider "report cards" for every line and plans to look at the G's grades in the next few weeks. "We will analyze the results and develop plans to improve in areas where our riders feel we're lacking," says an MTA spokesman.

The service gaps are obvious to James Trent, transportation committee chairman of the Queens Civic Congress.

"The MTA cut the trains in half. They no longer go to Forest Hills, and they make travelers walk several hundred feet [to transfer]." Mr. Trent says. Stations are dingy and poorly maintained, he adds.

The MTA shortened the trains and the line itself early this decade. Now, trains fill just half the length of the platform, leading commuters to do what the Straphangers Campaign has dubbed the "G-train sprint," lest they miss the all-too-rare departures and have to wait an average of 10 minutes for the next one - during rush hour, no less.

Supporters say that the G has been caught in a Catch-22: neglected because it lacks riders in off-hours and lacking riders because it's neglected. "If you make service so infrequent and so unreliable, fewer and fewer people take it," says Ms. Toro, who chairs the Transportation Committee of Community Board 1, which represents G-dependent Greenpoint. "We understand that the [MTA's] budgets are in trouble, but we want to make sure that the G is not forgotten," she says.

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