Sunday, October 19, 2014

Service Change: NYC, Part 7 - The F, G, N, Q, and R (Including the Highest Elevated Train Station in the World)

"Gosh, Miles, why would you put so many lines in a single post?" Well, blog reader, it pays to check the MTA website beforehand to see what service changes (no pun intended) are in effect on weekends. As you'll see in the post, we ended up taking a lot of pointless train rides just because of weekend service changes. It all started with a trip to Smith - 9 Streets...
That's the aforementioned highest elevated station in the world, at 87.5 feet up. It's served by the F and G trains, the former stopping relatively close to our hotel at 34 Street - Herald Square Station. The entrance was generic, but at least the mezzanine was clean and not dingy (cough, cough, Chambers Street). This station was pretty unique in that it was accessible for people with disabilities, but didn't have an elevator. How did it achieve this? There was a long, twisting ramp from the mezzanine all the way down to the platform. It's something I've never seen before, but I can see why: it's not efficient at all!

The escalator heading down had this weird screen that occasionally flashed obvious advice to passengers (hold handrail, don't run, etc.). Why was it there? I have no idea. The platform was also interesting; it sloped down, and then back up again leaving. I'm not sure why they did it this way instead of the opposite - if it sloped up coming in and down going out, that would help trains decelerate and accelerate, respectively. Seems like the actual layout just makes it a pain for train drivers to stop here.

The entrance sign seems to be a bit cut off.
The mezzanine.
Okay, this mosaic is pretty cool.
Another shot of the mezzanine.
Look at those ramps!
All right, thanks for letting me know.
This is pretty ugly.
Ditto for the platform. But it's not as bad as some other ones (cough, cough, Chambers Street).
Oh, no, it's blurry!
The pictures got out of order and Blogger won't let me put this one back where it belongs, but here's the mezzanine again.
The platform, also out of order.
The trip to Smith - 9 Streets was almost entirely underground, so I won't get into too much detail. We headed down Avenue of the Americas (or 6 Ave), making every stop, as the F is a local. After a while, the train turned onto Houston Street (pronounced How-ston, not Hue-ston), and soon again onto Essex Street. After crossing the East River, we went down Jay Street in Brooklyn. Soon we were joined by the G on Smith Street, then we went above ground after Carroll Street Station.

We came up and made a hard left turn onto 9 Street, and came into the Smith - 9 Street Station. This station was indeed very high up, and the view...well, I'll let the pictures speak for themselves.

The actual station isn't really that noteworthy.
Yup, that looks structurally sound.
I'm not sure what part of Manhattan this is.
What a view! The train gets in the picture, too.
A close-up of the train.
Stopped at the platform.
A G train comes in.
Stopped at the platform.
The G leaving...
...and going over a bridge.
Another nice view.
The station's right next to a massive Lowe's.
That's a big parking lot.
One part of the station is unsheltered.
Looking over the rooftops.
I think this is looking further up Manhattan.
The bridge down to the next station.
An old water tower, I guess?
Another F coming in.
There were a lot of stairs, unfortunately no elevator.
The bit where you can cross over between tracks.
At least there's an escalator here.
I guess that's where we are?
I'm not too sure what this artwork represents, but it looks pretty cool.
Just out of fare control...
Another F train, back on the platform.
And leaving.
For some reason there are two express tracks that pass through here. They're not used for revenue service.
Lots of traffic.
I love how the Freedom Tower sticks up above all the others.
And there's the Empire State Building.
Okay, so here's what we were planning to do: we wanted to take the G to the next stop, 4 Avenue - 9 Street, and change over to an R. The R would then, if the maps were any indication, go over the Manhattan Bridge (it usually goes through a tunnel under the East River, but the maps said that tunnel was being worked on and the R was being routed over the bridge) and take us up to Times Square, just in time for our dinner reservation. Simple, right? Hahaha, wrong.

First, we waited for a G. The reason we wanted to take a G and not an F was simply because of its notoriety: this is probably the most hated line on the entire New York subway. It's the only one that doesn't go into Manhattan, and the MTA clearly does not care about it. For one thing, the F was using these big long trains that filled the whole platform. So we were pretty surprised when this old, tiny little four car G pulled up at the station.

We left the station, but for some reason we were going really slowly. I was looking out the window, and I saw that we were switching onto the express tracks. Glancing out the other side, I saw that we were going right past 4 Avenue! Now we would have to get off at the next stop and take a train back! To this day, I still have no idea why we skipped that station, but geez, was it annoying!

Look at that rollsign! No electronics here!
Nice that they have forward facing seats. That makes it easier to look out the window to see the STOPS YOU'RE SKIPPING.
A nice view heading out of Smith - 9 Streets.
So we had to get out at 7 Ave. Though this station is underground, it's actually higher in altitude than 4 Ave because of Brooklyn's topography. A G train came going the other way, but we weren't taking chances with that line. We waited for an F, and luckily it stopped at 4 Ave. We then made the transfer from elevated to underground to wait for an R.

7 Ave isn't the nicest station.
Looking back the other way.
Go away, G, we don't trust you.
The mezzanine (we had to cross over).
There's a more welcome sight.
4 Ave Station, back out in the open.
Man, it's bright!
The line goes into tunnel right after the station.
Heading underground.
Once again, it's not a very nice station.
After a few noisy express trains went by, my attention was caught by a piece of paper on the wall. "The Montague Tubes are now open," it said. This meant that the R would be going its normal route, contrary to what ALL the station maps said! We still had plenty of time before our reservation, luckily, so we decided to take the R up to Atlantic Ave - Barclays Center to change over to an N or a Q.

An R coming in.
Well!
I'm glad to see a station that's somewhat nice (Atlantic Ave).
Guess the station used to be called Pacific Street.
Come on, another R?
After waiting for a pretty long time, an N finally arrived. The driver said some gibberish over the loudspeaker, and we were off. As it was a newer train, it had one of those cool LED map screens. But something was wrong with it: it said this train was stopping at all the stations that the R usually stops at! Was it an error? Nope, we stopped at Dekalb Ave, which the N usually skips to get onto the Manhattan Bridge.

So the Q was our last hope. We got out at Dekalb to wait for one, but another sign caught my attention: "All N, Q, and R trains are running via the Montague Tubes this weekend." Look, I know you're excited about the tubes opening again, but do you have to run every train through it? B and D trains were still running over the Manhattan Bridge, why not N and Q trains?

Still, though, the Q would be express at least, so we could still make our reservation. If one ever came. Really, we waited so long for a Q to come that it probably wasn't even worth it. And then, there was another hitch: the Montague Tubes don't have express tracks. Uh-oh...

The N coming in.
Again, this station is somewhat presentable!
Goodbye, N!
Why do they have a signal right in the middle of the platform?
Finally, a Q!
After a few stops in Brooklyn, we crossed the East River (sadly in tunnel) into Downtown Manhattan, where the streets are just as confusing as Boston's. But the train was moving so slowly. We crawled through Whitehall Street and Rector Street (or Rrrrector, as the automatic announcement enthusiastically said) stations, but the worst part was between Cortlandt Street and City Hall. You know that bit on the Red Line just south of Harvard where the train goes around a really sharp corner and screeches a lot? Yeah, well imagine that for the entire distance between two stations. It's really fun. Really. Fun.

Canal Street was the next stop, and then finally we switched over to the express tracks. The sad part is, we didn't even skip that many stops: it really wasn't worth it. And the local trains stopped at 49 Street, literally right outside of the restaurant we had a reservation for. But on the Q we had to go all the way to 57 Street (we could've gotten off in Times Square, but if you've ever been there you know how slowly those crowds walk), and ended up being a half hour late! So the moral of this story is: check the MTA website before doing anything.

So with that, we say goodbye to New York. Boston posts will be coming soon, I have a lot of catching up to do.

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