18 Nov 2008 8:50 am   //   Filed under: New York is different, Over!, Transit

MTA: R.I.P. W, Z?

This is how you get a headline: Let it slip that you’re planning to eliminate two entire subway lines!

The Daily News has a story today speculating that the MTA’s upcoming budget proposal will slash jobs and kill the W and Z trains.

As a reminder to those of you who don’t live in New York, subway lines here are not like subway lines in other cities. Most NYC Subway lines share track with other lines, and most stations are served by multiple trains. So when you eliminate a line, there’s always another train to pick up the slack. How would this work if the W and the Z go to the great rail yard in the sky? Time to play Fantasy Subway:

Let’s start with the Z train, since that’s easiest. It’s an express J. They could have called it the J Diamond. A lot of New Yorkers have never even seen a Z train. Kill it. Over!

The W is more complicated. It’s a daytime local on the Broadway line in Manhattan and then runs local up to Astoria in Queens. It stops running after 9 p.m. weekdays and doesn’t run at all on weekends, when the N runs local in Manhattan to haul tourists from Times Square to Ground Zero alleviate crowding. Eliminating the W without making other adjustments will mean the R will be the only local train on the Broadway line on weekdays. I have a hunch the MTA would just put the weekend schedule in effect all week for the Broadway line: No W, R local, N local, Q express. That makes a lot of sense, but they would have to run more Q trains, especially to pick up passengers riding over the Manhattan bridge to and from Brooklyn, and enough N trains for the rush hour riders in Astoria. An alternative would be to ramp up R service on the Broadway local line during rush hours, and stop the weird rush hour M service on the 4th Avenue line in Brooklyn (which has to share track with the R).*

Most likely scenario: Public outcry will pop this trial balloon. The state will cough up a few more bucks, the MTA will raise fairs fares, and the cuts will hit other things that still hurt the quality of the subway experience but that don’t sound so drastic.

* UPDATE: WCBS-TV reports that the MTA is considering cutting the M line in half, which I’m guessing means stop the 4th Avenue rush hour service. Same treatment may be in store for the hapless G train.