Brooklyn and Queens get ready: The summer of pain on the G train begins today

This column originally appeared in On the road, A weekly newsletter covering everything you need to know about transportation in the New York City area.

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G train riders should brace for a summer of pain starting Friday as an MTA construction project will shut down entire sections of the line for 24 hours a day through September 3.

Lockdowns are divided into three stages:

  • June 28 – July 5: No trains between Courthouse Square and Nassau Street.
  • July 5 – August 12: No trains from Court Square to Bedford-Nostrand.
  • August 12 – September 3: No trains between Bedford-Nostrand and Church Street.

The Crosstown Line is used by approximately 160,000 passengers each weekday.

The closures would be one of the biggest construction-related disruptions to New York City transit service in years. Ever since the New York City Transit Authority announced the closure of L train service between Manhattan and Brooklyn — a plan that former Gov. Andrew Cuomo abruptly changed in 2019 — the transit construction has left many Brooklyn residents frustrated.

“It’s trash,” said Genevieve Camille Morris, 40, of Greenpoint. “It’s hard to get through Brooklyn without the G train.”

MTA officials say the closure is necessary to make long-overdue improvements to Line G. The work will replace 30 miles of track, update signals that rely on technology from the 1930s, lay new cables and replace more than a dozen switches that regularly cause delays.

“These switches are some of the oldest in the system, dating back to the 1930s and 1940s, and they are recurring vulnerabilities,” Sean Fitzpatrick, the MTA’s chief construction officer, said during a committee meeting earlier this week.

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While the work is underway, free shuttle buses will be available to workers along the closed sections. MTA officials said they have worked with the city’s Department of Transportation to clear intersections and add truck loading zones to prevent double parking along parts of the shuttle routes. The agency has also partnered with Citi Bike to give anyone in the city one free ride during the closure using the code “GTRAIN24.”

But G train riders have good reason to be skeptical about the speed of the NYC Mass Transit Authority’s notoriously slow shuttles: They’ve had to use them for months during recent nighttime and weekend closures along the line.

“If I can avoid taking them (the shuttle buses), I will avoid them,” said Matthew Khan, 19. “I know they are free, but they take much longer, and they are more inconvenient.”

Yumi Mounir, 23, is preparing for lockdown by learning to ride a bike for the first time. She said she plans to bike to work in Manhattan instead of dealing with shuttle buses.

The problem won’t go away after this work round, either. The MTA expects more G Line closures at night and on weekends through next year. But by 2027, officials say they will upgrade the line’s signals to allow for faster, more frequent service on the G Line. The improvements could one day allow full-length trains to run on the line, rather than the five-piece trains that force riders to run on the platforms.

Curious passengers

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Question from Phil, from Long Island

Couldn’t the MTA go rogue and implement congestion pricing?

What does Clayton say?

The MTA has all the tolling infrastructure in place for congestion pricing, but maintains it can’t launch it without final approval from three parties: the Federal Highway Administration, the city Department of Transportation, and the state Department of Transportation. The agreement allows the MTA to implement a pilot program using federally funded toll roads to support mass transit. Hochul’s order to pause congestion pricing effectively tells the state Department of Transportation to postpone signing the form.

“We do not intend to go out of style and carry out a coup against the state of New York,” New York Transportation Authority Chairman Jano Lieber said on Wednesday when asked that question.

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