It’s all happening guys. Okay, maybe not “all.” But when it comes to the Second Avenue subway line, a pipe dream like no other, even “a little bit” of progress is better than nothing. So, rejoice: Phase I is finally set to be completed this December. The MTA is already test driving trains on the new line, as you can see in the positively riveting video above. And this morning, Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney, who’s brought buttloads of money to the project in recent years, gave the MTA an A+ on its Phase I report card, part of the representative’s initiative to oversee progress.
“Phase I is in the final stages,” Maloney said at a press conference on a new plaza at 63rd Street and Second Avenue, just one of many above-ground improvements that are part of the new line. This first phase alone comes with a whopping price tag of $4.4 billion (about $1.4 billion of that is federal dollars).
Maloney went on to praise the MTA’s completion rates (all of them more than 90 percent) for three new stations: 72nd, 86th, and 96th Streets, all of which will make their debut when the line is finally flowing in December. This will relieve some of the stress placed on the 6 train for riders going back and forth between the Upper East Side and the downtown area, including the East Village. If and when the full project is completed according to current plans, the new line will extend downward to Houston, and eventually, the Financial District.
Back in May, Maloney granted the MTA a slightly lower A- on the report card, and had some stern words regarding the endeavor: “Unless the project is completed by December 2016, the MTA could still wind up with a failing grade.”
The sense of frustration and overwhelming doubt are understandable. For a very long time the only acronym keeping this Second Avenue subway thing afloat was a whole lotta PMA. But the MTA seems to be making a marked improvement in how quickly and efficiently it can complete these massive projects. With the long-ass shutdown of one of the subway system’s major arteries looming, we’re gonna need all the PMA we can get for 18 months of L-pocalypse.
During the 100 years that the Second Avenue subway line has eluded city leaders, the project has seen many fits and starts, scraps and redos. When ground was broken in 2007, “no one was sure whether this was the third or fourth ground-breaking for the subway,” according to one historical account.
The need has became more urgent in recent years, as the city’s subway system has seen a dramatic increase in ridership. In September 2014, 149 million riders crammed into subway cars, breaking a 60-year record. Aside from the annoyance of being smushed up against all manner of unplaceable body parts, overcrowding can be dangerous, and a fire hazard. Packed platforms push people too close to the edge, putting them at risk of being hit by a train.
There has, however, been a slight drop in the super high ridership figures, first seen in the stretch from April through July of this year. No word on exactly what may have caused this decline, though it coincides with Uber’s decision to charge a flat rate of $5 for their Uberpool ridesharing service (other ridesharing apps have followed suit with similarly enticing deals)– making it the “bus for bougie people,” as a friend of mine observed.
Don’t get too excited just yet– while the extension of the Q line in Phase I would relieve some of the congestion (the MTA anticipates at the outset that it will transport around 200,000 riders each day) residents of the Upper East Side will benefit the most from Phase I of the project. And some of them are pretty friggin pumped. As one local “wellness consultant” Linda Orhun told the Times, “I think we should throw champagne on the cars like they do with yachts.”
Let’s just say that when we’re ringing in the End of the L-pocalypse years and years from now, we’re probably gonna be toasting with André. Or more than likely, we’ll be staring at the floor and pretending not to see one another like we do every day.