MTA Plans Unprecedented Overnight Subway Shutdowns

The pilot program begins on the Lexington Avenue line in January.

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    NEWSLETTERS

    The MTA is looking to speed up construction work, putting out crews on weeknights instead of just weekends. Officials argue the move will be less disruptive, but commuters are split. Andrew Siff reports.

    The MTA revealed Monday that it plans to shut down entire sections of subway lines overnight for several different periods to complete track work and maintenance, rather than do the repairs in pieces on weekends.

    Transit officials plan to pilot the unprecedented program on the Lexington Avenue line between Grand Central Terminal and Atlantic Avenue starting Jan. 9 by shutting down parts of the 4, 5 and 6 trains between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. for several days in a row.

    During the shutdown, crews would repair tracks and signals, and perform a "thorough cleaning" of the roadbed, according to the MTA.

    The MTA says the plan was created as a way to minimize its weekend disruptions, while also saving more than $1 million.

    “We are one of the few transit systems that operate around the clock, so it’s always a challenge
    to find time to do work on the tracks, especially with ridership up on weekends and overnight,”
    said MTA New York City Transit President Tom Prendergast. “Closing segments of lines so that
    we can get in and get the work done quickly benefits everyone – it’s safer for workers, less
    disruptive for riders and gets projects done more quickly for everyone.”

    But some commuters aren't buying it. "That would be worse," said Deborah Pinkston of Riverdale. "People work late. Night shift, working till midnight -- how are they gonna get home?"

    Kathy Cruz of the Bronx added, "I for one get off work at 12 midnight. Big inconvenience."

    The MTA projects a $1.3 million savings by shifting repairs to the overnight hours with lines completely shut down -- compared to the current practice of squeezing in the work around less-frequent trains.

    The MTA also hopes to reduce accidents. In recent years, several maintenance workers have been hit by trains while they performed construction jobs. Another safety enhancement from shutting down a line completely during work: the authority could shut off power to the third rail.

    The agency estimates the new technique could tackle a project in nine days, compared to 36 days of disruptions on weekends.

    One straphanger agreed with the MTA's assessment, saying of weekend disruptions, "It can be chaotic," said Mike Flanagan. "Sometimes you're just waiting forever. It's not good."