MTA shares plans for UWS subway closures

A rendering of planned upgrades to the Cathedral Parkway-110th Street subway station, which will close this spring for construction. Image: MTA
Increased ridership at nearby stations anticipated during closure of B and C line stops; bus service to be boosted if ridership jumps more than projected
By Michael Garofalo

During the upcoming six-month closures of three Upper West Side subway stations for renovations, MTA officials anticipate that most riders’ best option for alternative service will be to walk to nearby stations.

The 72nd Street, 86th Street and 110th Street B and C train stations along Central Park West will each close on a staggered schedule for construction work this spring. The first station to close will be the Cathedral Parkway-110th Street stop on April 9, followed by the 72nd Street station May 7 and the 86th Street station June 4. Each station is expected to reopen in under six months.

“Basically, we project that for most people the best alternative will be to walk to the adjacent station,” whether a neighboring stop on the B and C line or a station on the Broadway line a few blocks west, Judy McClain of New York City Transit Authority’s operations planning department said at a March 26 presentation on the closures to Community Board 7.

McClain added that increased bus service on routes that run near the stations is not currently planned, but that it could be added based on ridership demands. “Our projections show that not many people will shift to the buses, but we are going to be having some buses available when we start the closure in case we get more riders than we think,” particularly on the M10 bus, which runs north and south along Central Park West, and the M86 crosstown bus, she said.

NYCT will monitor ridership on other bus routes in the area as well. “Right now we predict that we do have the capacity to carry the riders, but if that isn’t the case we’ll have buses ready add to those routes,” she said.

Andrew Albert, a co-chair of Community Board 7’s transportation committee and a non-voting member of the MTA Board, said that the stations would be “markedly better” once upgrades are complete, but expressed concerns about the challenges posed by increased ridership at stops adjacent to the closed stations. If there are additional riders at nearby stops, Albert said, “that means longer boarding times, which means longer dwell times for the trains, which means less keeping to schedule.”

Several attendees requested that the MTA consider adding shuttle bus service between the 110th Street and 59th Street-Columbus Circle stations.

“The idea of a shuttle bus going to 59th Street benefits the system in a number of ways,” said Mark Diller of Community Board 7, adding that it would reduce overcrowding on platforms and staircases at stops near the closed stations and instead direct passengers to the 59th Street-Columbus Circle station, which is larger and features connections to more subway lines.

Albert said he plans to speak to NYCT President Andy Byford about the issue.

Platform edge work will require train diversions on weeknights and weekends, during which trains will typically run on the express track in one direction between 59th Street-Columbus Circle and 125th Street; customers with destinations between those points will be able to “back-ride” on a local train in the opposite direction. Diversions will occur before, during and after the station closures. According to the MTA, the temporary station closures will allow for construction work to be completed more rapidly than would otherwise be possible.

The station renovations are part of the MTA’s Enhanced Station Initiative, a billion-dollar plan championed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to upgrade 33 stations citywide. The 110th Street station renovations will cost an estimated $30 million, while the 86th and 72nd Street stations are expected to cost $28 million and $25 million, respectively. This $111-million phase of the initiative also includes improvements to the 163rd Street-Amsterdam Avenue station.

The project includes repairs to crumbling concrete ceilings, leaks and water damage and corroding steel columns, among other station deficiencies, using materials and design intended to reduce future maintenance costs and requirements. The renovations also include a range of aesthetic upgrades, including improved lighting, platform countdown clocks, new wayfinding dashboards and redesigned station entrances.

But the top concern on the minds of many attendees were new features that won’t be included in the redesigned stations — specifically, elevators and escalators to make the stations more accessible and bring the stops into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

In response to questions about elevators raised by several individuals at the meeting, MTA officials said the agency’s capital program includes a separate pot of money for ADA compliance and accessibility outside of the funding dedicated to the Enhanced Station Initiative. By the end of 2019, the MTA aims to have equipped approximately 143 of its 472 stations with elevators. Byford has directed NYCT staff to study feasibility and costs of installing elevators in every station in the system.

Less than a quarter of the city’s subway stations are currently wheelchair accessible. On March 13, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York joined a lawsuit against the MTA and NYCT alleging that the transportation agencies violated the ADA by failing to install an elevator as part of a $27 million station renovation project in the Bronx.

“There is no justification for public entities to ignore the requirements of the ADA 28 years after its passage,” U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said in a statement announcing the complaint. “The subway system is a vital part of New York City’s transportation system, and when a subway station undergoes a complete renovation, MTA and NYCTA must comply with its obligations to make such stations accessible to the maximum extent feasible.”