Astoria, Transportation
Sep 22, 2017

How to Plan for the N/W Subway Apocalypse

Here’s our overview of transit/transportation alternatives for when the subway shuts down two stations at a time for upgrades.

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Image source: Adam_T4 via the WHA Flickr Pool

I like to use this far out subway image when I write about how wack the system can and will be.

By now you’ve no doubt heard about the future shutdowns of stations on the N/W line—a more substantial timeline is out there. The express stations will not be affected; all local stops will. Here’s the summary:

30th and 36th Avenue N/W stations

  • Closed for 8 months starting October 23, 2017
  • Finished in June 2018
  • NB: Closed during the 2017 holiday season

Broadway and 39th Avenue stops 

  • Closed for up to 7 months starting in July 2018
  • Finished in February 2019
  • NB: Closed during the 2018 holiday season

Shutdowns for upgrades are supposed to launch us into a more advanced version of the subway, at least where the stations are concerned. However, most Astorians would prefer the MTA figure out how to run the trains on time and without incident before anything else gets fixed.

Governor Cuomo boasts: “This is about doing more than just repair and maintain, this is thinking bigger and better and building the 21st-century transit system New Yorkers deserve. We are modernizing the MTA like never before and improving it for years to come.”

So what are you going to do when it comes to moving around for your daily commute and heading into the city for social, recreational, and educational reasons? Even if your station is “safe” in October (e.g., Ditmars, Astoria Blvd, Broadway, 39th Ave on the N/W) your fellow Astorians will descend upon Broadway (already super crowded) and Astoria Blvd (less crowded but rare is the empty seat by the time it arrives one stop from Ditmars) en masse especially during commute time. 39th Ave—an alternative for the 36th Ave folks—may be more sane since that stop isn’t as busy as the others (I remember the days when nobody would get on or off that station; a plethora of hotels and more people moving to Dutch Kills have changed that).

Winter is coming, and this comment over on Astorians has been on our mind:

“I stopped and asked the station attendant what is going to happen, and he said he hasn’t heard if there are any alternatives planned. He was actually really worried about his job and seemed frustrated as well. His advice was to call the mayor’s office to express concern. This is going to make the other stops a mess. And those of us who live close to the 30th or 36th Ave stations are going to have a long walk to alternative stations (especially when it’s 20 degrees in January!) I know this is a bit of a first world problem, but I’m still concerned.”

We’ve also reached out to local experts on retail and rentals to get their take on how these important elements in the Astoria will be affected, and will share that with you when we get it.

Alternative Transportation Options

Here is our list of options for the first set of N/W subway disruptions. For your reference, here are some maps of the transit system:

Subway

As we mentioned above, there will be crowding at Broadway and Astoria Blvd. But if you commute outside of more popular commute hours—say, before 6am and after 7pm—it will be more doable. Here are your obvious subway options during the 30th Avenue and 39th Avenue station shutdowns:

  • 30th Avenue. Use Astoria Blvd Station or Broadway N/W (craptacular options because of crowding, let’s be honest here). If you are closer to Steinway Street, the Steinway M/R is an option.
  • 36th Avenue. Use Broadway or 39th Avenue N/W. Best option (among sad options): Use the 36th Street E/M/R station (plus you can grab a coffee at nearby COFFEED beforehand).

As someone commented [paraphrased], “The M/R is squirrely and doesn’t run all the time.” That actually is true—late nights to early mornings are a bust, but during the daytimes and regular commute times it does. Here is the schedule for the M train and the R train; keep them handy.

Bus

This is going to be an opportunity for Astorians to get to know the local bus routes. Even without a subway SNAFU, it’s good to know these routes, since they go places the subway doesn’t and can be much more convenient at times.

  • Q69. Runs along 21st Street to Queensboro Plaza. It also runs along Ditmars Blvd.
  • Q101. A little outside the N/W area but perhaps it will be an option for some of you. It runs down Steinway Street and heads over the Queensboro Bridge and into Manhattan, where its terminus is around 60th and Second Avenue.
  • Q102. Can be caught at 30th Ave and 31st Street and runs down 31st street to Queensboro Plaza (N/W/7), Queens Plaza (E/M/R), or onto Roosevelt Island, where you can catch the F train, the Tram or the RI Ferry.
  • M60 bus. Goes over the Triboro/RFK Bridge into Mahattan and you can catch the 4/5/6 at 125th Street. Catch the M60 on Hoyt just west of 31st Street.

Bike Share

We reached out to Citi Bike again to see where they are regarding the installation of the bike share system in Astoria. Good news—installation starts today! Here’s what they sent us:

“Citi Bike is headed to Astoria [on Friday], with the first stations slated for expansion including Vernon Boulevard & 41st Ave, and 24th Street & 40th Ave [Ed. note: this is really Dutch Kills]. Once complete later this fall, the neighborhood will have 59 Citi Bike stations as far north as Ditmars Boulevard and as far east as 44th Street. Also on the docket for Queens: Long Island City can also expect several additional stations in the coming weeks, to ensure that bikes are available where and when they’re needed.”

Hopefully this means all Citi Bike stations in Astoria will be up and running by October 23.

Astoria Ferry

The new Astoria Ferry will be a prime alternative for people living off of 30th Avenue especially west of Crescent Street. NB: There is no free transfer between the Ferry and any transportation with MTA transit, so it essentially a two-fare ride.

Vehicle

There is also the Green Taxi program, UBER, and Lyft, though the second two may do surge pricing during commute times. There are no dollar vans in this part of Astoria, but perhaps one will pop up during this time. You never know…

Telecommute

This is a good time to ask you boss if you can telecommute at least once a week. During the 2005 subway strike, this was a solution for a number of people—essentially taking themselves out of the equation. Working at home is an option, of course, but there are plenty of cafes in Astoria, not to mention coworking spaces now, including WeWork and Spaces.

And while we know this all sucks, it seems like there is no way around these closures if stations are going to be brought into the 21st century. There are a couple of options that could be implemented—allow train traffic on one side, but that means additional train delays and a longer time for construction; stop the subway from operating 24/7 and do the work between 1am and 5pm every night, but that has its inconveniences, too. Bottom line: this work to upgrade the subway stations will inconvenience Astorians, no matter how you slice it.

Did we miss any transportation/transit options? Do you know something we don’t know? Leave us a comment!

This post has been edited.

About Meg Cotner

Meg Cotner was trained as a harpsichordist and now works as a freelance writer and editor. She is the author of "Food Lovers' Guide to Queens," and is a skilled and avid home cook, baker, and preserver.

27 Comments

paul

How much do you want to bet that 1) the stations will take 12-16 months to renovate rather than 8, and 2) that they’re going to look and function almost exactly as they do now with no real improvements? Just sayin’, from long experience w MTA ‘improvement’ projects.

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Ilena

Hi, I love the bus so wanted to add a couple tips.

Q69. Runs along 21st Street to Queensboro Plaza. It also runs along Ditmars Blvd. This bus connects to the F train at Queensbridge

Q101. A little outside the N/W area but perhaps it will be an option for some of you. It runs down Steinway Street and heads over the Queensboro Bridge and into Manhattan, where its terminus is around 60th and Second Avenue. This bus makes stops at Queensboro Plaza and down Northern Blvd provided connections to the R train

Q102. Can be caught at 30th Ave and 31st Street and runs down 31st street to Queensboro Plaza (N/W/7), Queens Plaza (E/M/R), or onto Roosevelt Island, where you can catch the F train, the Tram or the RI Ferry.

M60 bus. Goes over the Triboro/RFK Bridge into Mahattan and you can catch the 4/5/6 at 125th Street. Catch the M60 on Hoyt just west of 31st Street. This bus connects to the 2/3 at 125th and Malcolm X, the ABCD at 125th and St. Nicholas, and the 1 train at 116th and Broadway

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EMD

Presumably the whole N line in Astoria will also be slowed down since both 30th Ave and 36th Ave stops are local, but other local station will be open. So in theory the trains will need to slow down while passing the two stations under contstruction.

There are also no signs at 30th Avenue yet alerting the public.

This isn’t going to be pretty.

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Gloria Choi

Q66 is a good option for those near 35th Ave. The bus takes you to the F train 21st Queensbridge stop. The bus also doesn’t stop many times given the distance it covers. It almost feels like an Express bus. The time it took me to get to midtown was comparable to my typical N-train commute.

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Sara Noemi

Couldn’t this also take you to the Queensbridge Plaza stop? If it counts as a transfer, it’ll be better than walking to the other stops when snow/ice hits.

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Marissa

It’s really frustrating that the MTA did not widely publicize this to the larger NYC area. All NYC residents have been well aware of the L shutdown but I never heard about this until a week ago. I just moved to Astoria (30th Ave) and it would have absolutely made an impact on my decision to do so and I would have certainly negotiated my rent more. With that said, brokers in the area should be up front about this as well, I certainly won’t refer them any customers knowing they withheld super important information.

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Lar

Same! I’m on 30th Avenue — all the way over by the water. It’s already almost a mile to get to the 30th Avenue N/W. Walking even further is not an option. This is total bull$+¡t.

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Cassie

I just moved to the 30th stop to! Is there any information about this anywhere else? I haven’t found anything at all other than this article.

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Bea

Same here! Moving tomorrow a block away from 36th Avenue stop. Now I’ll only get the noise, but not the convenience.
My broker, of course, didn’t mention it.

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Lauren G.

I cannot imagine that any commenters who are saying “It’s NBD, just walk to the next stop” have lived in Astoria long, and definitely do not live off the 30th Ave N/W (where Manhattan bound riders are redirected to Broadway or Astoria Blvd. with some regularity, as trains often skip this stop – both for announced and unannounced reasons. I also often walk home from Astoria Blvd. as Queens bound trains love to unexpectedly go express to there from. QBP). I am two blocks from 30th Ave but about 10 minutes from either of the other two stations. My “35 minute commute” to midtown already often takes much closer to 60 minutes due to train delays, sick passengers, etc. Adding an extra 10 minutes of walking on anything other than a beautiful day (like in 80+ degrees today or 20 degrees in January), leaves me disheveled by my professional work environment’s standards (law firm), meaning I need to hide to cool down/warm up and freshen up when I get to work, making me appear even later. Congestion of travelers earlier (school students, teachers) means allowing “additional travel time” doesn’t really help – instead, you just end up waiting on the platform longer. I’ve been in Astoria a long while and seen significant rent increases over time. I pay to be two blocks from the train; for next 8 months, I’m really just paying to be late.

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Anthony J Vella

I love this blog been reading about Astoria here for quite some time. This article is overly dramatic. We as MTA customers complain about how the MTA needs to fix things, to make our commute less stressful, then when the MTA decides to fix things we complained about how inconvenient the construction was or is going to be. We need to suck it up

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Andrea

Maybe 5-6 minutes if you’re not walking with small children.

But even if it’s manageable for most to walk, this is a huge deal to the businesses around the closed stations, who will need to weather 8 months of far fewer customers.

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Peter

There has already been major intermittent train stoppage during the day, evening, and weekends while work is being performed for months now. Regular service is decent at best. Bad on average. The local population has already increased to the point where rush hour trains are filled to capacity and the building of major new housing projects is only going to make population density worse thus creating an additional burden by an already over burdened subway system. I’m all for new shiny stainless steel and live Internet stations etc, however PARAMOUNT , as many have said here and in other forums, is to first ensure that there is adequate service and trains to handle the already over taxed system and growing ridership. What is being proposed is not just going to be a minor” inconvenience”, but as the MTA and city planners will soon find out, a major catastrophe. I don’t mind leaving 15, 20, or even 30 minutes earlier for work, but this will not solve the problem. I can see many thousands of employees getting to work late on a regular basis, some possibly losing or even quitting their jobs. And I haven’t even touched on the handicapped and disabled riders and what it will mean for them. The real estate market here which has enjoyed a very healthy period indeed, will in fact most likely suffer, as did the Upper East Side during the construction of the 2nd Avenue subway. Dear MTA and City Planners, please heed the message from those you serve: first improve the service schedules and ride as well as adding more trains and capacity. THEN make the stations look pretty and more modern and 21st. Century. I need a dependable ride to work which will get me there on time in “relative comfort”, NOT the ability to read my emails or text while on the train or waiting for one, nor more stainless steel and shiny windows and LCD screens to announce late train arrivals or other inane announcements and advertisements. Beautification is all fine and dandy, but paying $5.50 a day is becoming dear to many and for that the least we should expect is to get where we need to be on time, NOT in fashion. IMHO

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Frances Christian

I agree. Did they even consider the facts re: the increased population, the delays that happen on a daily basis, the cost of stress added to riders. Will they be running shuttle buses to Queensboro Plaza to help riders get to work on time. You can’t just ignore the obvious burden on the lives of the people.

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Lauren

This~ “However, most Astorians would prefer the MTA figure out how to run the trains on time and without incident before anything else gets fixed.” Absolutely nails it. Apparently they don’t have enough money to modernize the signals, but they DO have money to waste on “station beautification?” Nicer stations are fine, but that should be a secondary concern AFTER they get the trains running efficiently. It’s going to be a nightmare for over a year on not just the N/W, but on the M/R and other lines that have to pick up the slack. UGH

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Meg Cotner

Ha! I am sure you’re not the only one. It has indeed crossed our minds that rents – at least for new leases – may decrease because transportation convenience will take a hit with these closures. I’ve reached out to a local real estate expert and hope to hear his thoughts soon.

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Maria

To all the commenters who turn up their noses and suggest we all walk, do you all ever think about others? People with a cane, in a wheelchair, elderly? I’m so glad We <3 Astoria is giving us options, and other readers are as well. Thank you!

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Mackenzi Farquer

Exactly. I also think about pregnant women, those with strollers or young kids. I know my walk will go from 10 min to about 20. Something to think about when it’s ice cold outside, too…

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Sara

Soooooo frustrated that the MTA is closing these stations for seven months and yet they are not installing elevators. Egregious!!!

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Fiona

According to google maps, these stations are all 0.3-0.4 miles from each other. That’s a 6-7 minute walk. This reaction seems like overkill.

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Meg Cotner

Perhaps to you but there are folks that find the extra travel time a burden. One point we wanted to make is that even if the extra distance is not a big deal, the crowding will be oppressive and frustrating during commute times especially. We wanted to suggest a bunch of options in the hopes that maybe people can find the best fit for their own situation. Having choices is empowering.

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Lesley

Sure – but that is added to the distance one already travels to the train. For me, this turns my .5 mile walk to a 1 mile walk to the train. This is forecasted to be a very snowy winter. I do not find much joy in walking a mile each way in the snow.

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