BY EDITORIAL STAFF
One year after the city’s transit system faced a “summer of hell” due to disrupted train service resulting from emergency repairs, residents of Astoria and Long Island City are bracing for a sequel in western Queens. While two stations—30th and 36th avenues—are scheduled to reopen this summer, two others—Broadway and 39th Avenue—will close and a third–Astoria Boulevard–will be out of service in early 2019.
In April, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) announced that the N and W trains’ Astoria Boulevard station would undergo a major renovation project that will start this summer and include the construction of street-to-mezzanine elevators, two mezzanine-to-platform elevators, repair of structural columns and foundations and replacement of damaged concrete platform surfaces, stairs, light posts and signs. Work is expected to begin in September and the station will remain open until February, at which time the station will fully close for approximately nine months.
In the meantime, the 30th and 36th avenue stations have been closed since October and will remain so through June. The Broadway and 39th Avenue stations—which have consistently been closed for weekend work—will fully close in July for seven months. And work on the Ditmars Boulevard station is currently underway and will be completed by June 2019, although that station will remain open throughout the project.
MTA Spokeswoman Amanda Kwan said that there will be no shuttle buses for commuters when the stations close. She noted that the agency only provides shuttles when an entire line or multiple stations in a row are closed.
Astoria commuters expressed everything from annoyance to patient resignation as they await the completion of the N and W lines’ station upgrades.
“This line is no longer reliable on weekends, and often not reliable in the middle of the day,” said Matt Frank, who picks up the train at the 39th Avenue station. “If I go into the city on weekends, sometimes I run, sometimes I bike. I usually take the R back to 36th Street instead. I no longer rely on the N or W in Astoria on the weekends. It’s been consistently bad since October when they started the enhanced station initiative. I feel the MTA is handling it in a stupid and corrupt way.”
Frank said that taking shuttle buses to Queensboro Plaza, where commuters can catch a ride into Manhattan, has been hit or miss.
“The shuttle bus works well enough when they shut the whole line down, but what happens much more often is that they run one of the directions express and the other normal, and then they don’t run shuttle buses,” he said. “In those situations, the N and W are not reliable.”
Melinda Romeo, who lives near the Broadway station, said that she commutes into Manhattan for work, and she has to plan ahead to ensure she gets there on time.
“I would definitely say leave earlier and just expect delays—there are always delays, we always get stuck somewhere,” she said. “On the weekends now, honestly, I just don’t go into Manhattan. It’s really a pain in the butt.”
At the Astoria Boulevard station, a commuter named David said that he commutes during the week to the Financial District. When Astoria Boulevard’s station closes, he will pick up the train at the 30th Avenue station, which will increase his commute by 10 minutes.
“I actually moved here because my apartment is a couple of blocks from the 30th Avenue stop, and I didn’t realize it was shutting down,” he said. “So, when it did, I was kind of annoyed. I thought about moving to Long Island City, where you have three different train options.”
During his commute, he said that he keeps an eye on delays farther down the line to determine whether to transfer at Queensboro Plaza to the 7 train if the N or W are slowed down.
“You don’t want to get stuck in that tunnel for a half-hour,” he said.
Other commuters said that they were taking the station shutdowns and delays in stride.
“It’s just construction—it is what it is, it happens,” said Keith Moy at the Astoria Boulevard station. “Last week, I was stuck on the train for an hour in a tunnel—signal problems. It’s part of taking public transportation. You could be sitting in traffic, driving. Just deal with it. It’s part of mass transit. You have people yelling at the conductor like it’s his fault. Leave earlier.”
Marissa Guerra, who commutes from Astoria to Brooklyn, said that she has been walking longer distances since the station closures began.
“I love this area—I grew up in it,” she said at the Ditmars Boulevard station. “It’s probably going to take a while for all the train stations to open, so it’s a matter of waiting patiently now.”
Amid all of the summer’s chaos and decreased transportation options, western Queens commuters might turn to taxis or ridesharing options to drop them near a subway.
Danielle Filson, a spokeswoman for Uber, did not have any specific information on how the ride-sharing and transportation network company would accommodate western Queens residents during the station closures. But more than half of the company’s rides provided in the outer boroughs are through uberPOOL, an option that allows drivers to pick up multiple riders who are traveling in the same direction. That option is frequently utilized for riders attempting to reach subway or bus stations during gaps in public transit.
“The majority of Uber rides are now outside of Manhattan in areas like Queens,” Filson said. “And in the past year, trips here have nearly doubled.”
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