Why Does the R Train Stop Running in Bay Ridge on the Weekends?

The four Bay Ridge subway stations on the R line have been shuttered for almost 20 percent of the weekends in 2017. Is it for a broader renovation project? Is it for regular maintenance operations? How many more shutdowns remain, and when? Nobody knows! Because the MTA won’t say.

These four stations serve an average of about 32,000 people every weekend, according to 2016 ridership data—or, a little less than half of the neighborhood’s roughly 70,000 residents. Furthermore, these statistics show only rider entry, not exit, so they don’t include residents coming home late Friday night or early Saturday morning, who would have been forced to ride a shuttle bus (or walk, or grab a cab at 36th Street) to complete their trips.

The shutdowns started on the last weekend of April. Weekend service has been cancelled for nine weekends this year.

Weekend
April 29-30
May 13-14
May 27-28
July 1-2
July 22-23
September 23-24
September 30-October 1
October 28-29
December 2-3

Actual service is even worse than that, because these dates only reflect total shutdowns of the four Bay Ridge subway stations for weekend work. These dates don’t include:

  • The six-month closure of the Bay Ridge Avenue station
  • Closures on other parts of the line, as when the R skips local stations between 59th Street and Atlantic Avenue—another common occurrence in 2017 that makes local weekend travel difficult
  • The “Fastrack” maintenance program that shuttered these same stations for eight weeknights over two weeks in November
  • All those times it seemed like service was canceled but was just badly delayed

An analysis of weekend service advisories showed that there weren’t any complete shutdowns in 2016.

A loss of 20 percent of weekend service needs a little explanation, so we reached out to the MTA with questions. A spokesperson checked in with us to see what our deadline was, but did not respond by that deadline.

Here are the questions we sent to the MTA:

1. What is the exact nature of the work being done (i.e. track and tie replacement, signal inspection, signal replacement, etc.)? Is this the same work that was done during this year’s earlier shutdowns?

2. Is this part of a broader project with a start and end date?

If yes, how many more closures are planned, through what date?

If yes, how long until this project has to be repeated once finished?

3. If this is instead part of regular maintenance operations, how many weeks apart does New York City Transit believe is the ideal amount of time between closures to adequately perform the needed work?

4. I also reached out to Councilmember-elect Justin Brannan, who expressed frustration that his attempts to get information on the nature of the project and an advance shutdown schedule hasn’t been fruitful. What is the MTA/NYCT policy on communicating advance shutdown schedules to the public?

5. It is public perception that the number of shutdowns this year has far exceeded the number of shutdowns last year. Is this accurate? Does NYCT keep track of such information? [Author’s note: I was able to determine this on my own by looking over 100 separate weekend service advisories archived on the MTA web site.]

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  • CmplxAdSys

    Probably not very helpful, but I know that for this past closure, the MTA set up structures on the corner of 93rd to assist in some of the work. Also, although I could be mistaken, it looks like the 3rd rail had work done to it after this past weekend, and the tracks were cleaner.

  • Scott Schubert

    What makes the weekend shutdowns much worse is that many of them coincide with holiday weekends with lots of travel or big NYC events. Common sense would be to schedule these during low-usage weekends, not busy weekends.

  • Eric

    I was under the assumption it was to “speed up” (LOL) track work, maybe some still left over from Sandy? Regardless, it’s terrible! The buses are a very poor substitute. I have a car, but for many who do not it almost feels as if you are trapped in the neighborhood. Why don’t they go back to switching one-direction closed one weekend, the other the following? Also, I feel as if other neighborhoods had say into what they would allow to close and when (The big L train shutdown, for example), where as in Bay Ridge they just went ahead without giving anyone a say.

    I’d also like to know why the R moves SO SLOWLY south of 36th St.

  • Eddie Fatoush

    What has Vincent Gentile been doing about this??? NOTHING! I don’t anticipate any change from our newly elected city councilman.

  • Vera Pavlova

    It’s awful. One bus does not a subway car make. I walked home a mile the other night, with my groceries from Trader Joe’s. Another shuttle bus never passed me once.