Yes, the Upper East Side of Manhattan has hijacked the Q train from Astoria for the stunning new Second Avenue subway, but Queens got the W line back in return.
This was not a completely fair exchange. But Queens straphangers who ride the F train can walk right across the platform at the redesigned 63rd Street stop in Manhattan and catch the Q train on its long journey downtown to Coney Island.
After nearly a century of false starts, New York City got its act together to open a subway line that can make the most cynical of city dwellers proud. MTA employees are working the crowds at the three new stations – 96th Street, 86th Street and 72nd Street – passing out subway maps, smiling (that’s right) at gawking passengers and answering questions about the art on the walls.
This is not your typical underground experience and we’ll see how long the inspiring settings in the stations can be maintained before the NYC Transit regulars – rats, trash and vagrants – move in.
As a public space, the new stations function as efficient transportation hubs with long escalators carrying riders many flights down. Once the riders enter the turnstiles, the white tile walls on the block-long corridors do double duty as an inviting passageway and a subterranean art museum filed with mosaics by well-known artists.
It’s not every day that straphangers stop to take selfies next to artworks depicting typical New Yorkers who confront life on the subways.
The extended Q train brings much-needed service to the far East Side, a transit orphan since the Second Avenue el shut down in 1942 and the Third Avenue el closed in 1955.
But the real test begins this week. The line’s other role is to siphon off 200,000 riders from the nearby Lexington Avenue line, where the notoriously packed 4, 5 and 6 have been carrying 1.3 million people daily.
Only then can the MTA be sure its ambitious East Side Access project to bring Long Island Railroad riders into Grand Central Station in 2022 will work. Adding LIRR commuters to the unrelieved Lex at Grand Central would be catastrophic.
Amid all the fanfare, kudos to U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney, the Astoria and Upper East Side congresswoman who waged a fierce battle to get the Second Avenue subway rolling. She, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and MTA Chairman Tom Prendergast made a formidable team and reminded us that miracles can happen after all.