The MTA today confirmed rumors that it is considering resurrecting the W train—that local line from Astoria to Whitehall Street that got the axe in 2010, when the MTA budget deficit was a comparatively-paltry $1.2 billion.
Pending the outcome of a public hearing this spring, the MTA stated on Friday that it could have the W up and running again before the end of the year.
Indeed, the return of the W train is planned to precede the late-2016 opening of the first phase of the Second Avenue Subway, at existing Lexington Av/63 Street, as well as new stations at 72nd Street, 86th Street and 96th Street. The MTA will reroute the Q train, which currently serves Astoria along with the N, to 2nd Avenue between 63rd and 96th.
"The W line would effectively replace Q service in Queens," the MTA announced today. The local train would not, however, run on weekends or late nights.
Some mass transit advocates said that they were pleasantly surprised by the news. "My Astoria friends are thrilled," said Nick Sifuentes of the Riders Alliance. "The MTA clearly needed to do something to make sure that Astoria service continues unabated, but it's kind of funny—I don't think anyone expected it to come back."
Here's a full breakdown of the proposed service changes along the N/Q/R/W line:
N Line: Service in Queens and Brooklyn remains the same, but trains operate express in Manhattan on weekdays during peak hours, midday and evenings.
Q Line: Northern terminus temporarily changed to 57 St/7 Ave until the Second Avenue Subway opens. At that point, trains will operate from 96 St in Manhattan to Coney Island-Stillwell Av in Brooklyn, stopping at: 86 St, 72 St, Lexington Av/63 St, 57 St/7 Av and all express stops on the Broadway Line in Manhattan. During late nights, the Q will run local between Brooklyn and Manhattan via the Manhattan Bridge. Service in Brooklyn remains the same.
R Line: No service changes.
W Line: Restoration of weekday service, making all local stops from Astoria-Ditmars Blvd to Whitehall St via the Broadway Line. No service on weekends or late night.
Incorporated into the subway system in 2001, the W ran from Astoria all the way to Coney Island until 2004. That year, the W switched to a local route from Astoria to Whitehall. Along with the V train and several bus routes, it was nixed as part of the largest service cut in the MTA's history—at a time when Astoria was seeing an influx of new residents. ("To cut the only service to this neighborhood in half would be like choking the breath out of this community," Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr. said at the time.)
Compared to the MTA's more ambitious and money-sucking projects (consider the Second Avenue Subway's illusive Phase II), reinstating the W would be relatively cheap and easy. For starters, all of the tracks and stations already exist. And according to AM New York, the MTA has already budgeted for new W train signage and maps. (The MTA says the total cost for implementing the proposed service changes is about $13.7 million.) John Montemarano, the MTA's director of station signage since 1994, estimated over the summer that his crew would need about four months to prep the system.
Bill Reese, who works in publishing, hosted a boozy funeral for the W back in June 2010, cramming the train's last ride with fellow W enthusiasts. Reese moved to Greenpoint after the W decamped, but has since moved back to Astoria—in time for the return of his old reliable.
"I can't say that I have a fondness for the W on a real personal level, or that I was emotionally devastated [when it left]," he told us on Friday. "But I definitely remember right after they made those budget cuts that it was a lot longer to wait for trains, and that they were more crowded when they showed up."
Judging by the below footage, a raging subway party in 2010 is basically the equivalent of 2016 rush hour.
UPDATE: An earlier version of this piece inaccurately described the W as a Queens-Manhattan train from its injunction in 2001. In fact, the W ran to Coney Island from 2001-2004.