How can a major infrastructure project open decades late and also right on time? Welcome to the new Second Avenue Subway line in New York City.
Three new stations opened for service on New Year’s Day to great fanfare. The stations were packed with long-time locals and tourists alike, all happy to be a part of history. The opening was not without drama but the trains are rolling and the stations are (mostly) ready to handle the initial influx of passengers with significantly easier access to the rest of the city now via the Q line.
The first full run on the new line pulled out of Coney Island-Stillwell Avenue station at 11:09 on Sunday morning. The passengers were mostly typical riders, unaware that the ride was anything particularly special. And it was not the first service to reach the new stations; that honor went to a set of cars that rolled from 57th Street-5th Avenue, not the full Q run. And the crush of inaugural riders slowed service a bit initially as the trains were delayed in stations for photographs. But the service launched and just over an hour after departing from Coney Island the 11:09 train pulled in to 96th Street, completing the first transit of the new line.
After the ride we spent some time exploring each of the three new second avenue stations. They are functional, with wifi and cellular service installed and even a couple USB ports on the platform at the 96th Street station. They are also aesthetically appealing, with art lining the walls at the concourse level above the tracks. But there are lots of little and not so little things that are still not quite right. The new stations are functional but they do not appear to be complete.
The USB charging points are a great example. We spotted 2 USB plugs on a single sign on the 96th Street platform. The sign is adjacent to benches. The plugs are on the side away from the benches rather than being in a place where a rider can sit and recharge a device.
The art concourse at each station is also an interesting choice. It is unclear why the MTA chose to build the extra concourse level in each station. It serves no purpose I can discern other than to house the art work. And some f the art is amazing, but those are incredibly expensive galleries to build underground. And it also means more elevators and escalators that can break and larger areas to maintain. Similar concourses do exist elsewhere in the system; I know that 14th Street-8th Avenue has one. But that space is also used for offices and retail shops. It does not appear that the new Second Avenue Line concourses are provisioned for such.
Looking closely at the construction it appears that the final details were rushed or skipped in some areas to reach the opening deadline. Little things like the emergency exits not being able to lock, for example, will obviously need to be addressed at some point, though not a deal-breaker for launching service.
And at least one station escalator was out of service on the first day.
— Seth Miller (@WandrMe) January 1, 2017
No doubt that the new stations and service will ease the lives of countless residents and visitors. I lived in the area for just over a year when I first moved to New York City and having this train available would have significantly changed my day-to-day experience for the better. But there is still plenty of work to be done. And the new budget for the next phase is even higher than the just opened section. Ouch.
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