The case for extending the G back into Queens

The case for extending the G back into Queens

Queens subway routes will become significantly more crowded due to the L train shutdown in 2019. To mitigate this overcrowding, we believe the MTA should consider extending the G train further into Queens along the Queens Boulevard line. This would provide G and L train riders with access to an additional connection to the R train, as well as a streamlined commute for the significant amount of commuters traveling between Queens and Brooklyn.

This idea is not without historic merit. For decades, the G train ran between between 71st Continental Avenue in Forest Hills and Smith–9th Street in Brooklyn on weekdays. On weekends, the G operated between Queens Plaza and Smith–9th Street. In December of 2001, with the opening of the 63rd Street tunnel, the G was cut back to Court Square during daylight hours. It continued to run to Forest Hills at night until it was cut back to Court Square full time due to budget cuts in 2010.

The tracks that connect the G from Court Square to Queens Plaza are still in place and are used a few times per week for non-passenger trains. The track near Queens Plaza where the G train used to turn back to Brooklyn is also still in place. This track, known as the D5 track, is presently used to terminate the holiday season “nostalgia trains,” as well as for storing trains during inclement weather events. Just this past March, during a partial subway shutdown due to a snowstorm, a ten-car R train was parked there overnight.

Returning the G to Queens Plaza would allow G and L commuters the additional option of transferring to the Manhattan-bound R train. Queens Plaza is also a much more robust station than Court Square, featuring wider, safer platforms, numerous stairs, and a mezzanine. This would reduce the crowding burden at Court Square. In addition to the R train connection, a free walking transfer to the Queensboro Plaza N and W trains, as well as the Q32 and Q60 buses, could provide much needed additional options for displaced L train commuters, and to reduce dangerous crowding at Court Square.  

Unfortunately, to turn a G train at Queens Plaza would entail having the train cross between all the tracks in the station. The train must proceed from the Queens-bound local track, cross over the Queens-bound express track, and then enter the D5 storage track, where the operator can walk back to the other end of the train and reverse this process, crossing over the Manhattan-bound express and onto the local track, which lines up with the track to Court Square. This procedure could cause delays to E, M, and R train traffic if not carefully timed. (It is worth noting that this procedure is rarely if ever done during rush hour, and, historically speaking, has only been done on weekends when there are fewer trains running.)

A potential alternate routing would be to extend the G, M, or R trains to 179th Street in Hillside, at the end of the F train. The 179th Street terminal has more than enough capacity to be used as a terminal for more than one subway route. It is occasionally used as the terminal for the R train when necessitated by trackwork, and several E trains originate from there every morning. For a time in the 1990s, G trains ran to 179th Street at night.

According to our casual observations, several thousand Queens commuters currently transfer between the E, M, and 7 trains to the G in order to commute to jobs in Brooklyn. Over the last 20 years, many companies have relocated out of Manhattan. Some newer companies, like Etsy and Vice, have intentionally avoided having offices in Manhattan, preferring to call Brooklyn home. The MTA has not responded to this trend by reinstating a full G train route deeper into Queens. Furthermore, when there are detours and delays on Queens subway routes, commuters often transfer to the G as an alternative, especially to access the A, C, F, and L trains to lower Manhattan.

With significant increases in the population along the Brooklyn and Queens waterfront, every effort must be made to increase and improve G train service. Routing the G farther into Queens would provide additional relief to L train commuters during the upcoming shutdown, as well as establishing direct access to Brooklyn jobs for Queens residents. Regardless of the pending L train shutdown, the G train should be restored to its pre-2010 full length Queens routing. Queens commuters have suffered for seven years without it, and we shouldn't have to wait another seven for full service to be restored.

To see all of our ideas on mitigating the impact the L train shutdown will have on Queens commuters, download our full proposal here and let us know what you think on Facebook or Twitter.