why MTA must STILL improve service on the concourse line!

About three years ago, I argued that MTA should increase service on the IND Concourse Line (the B and D trains in The Bronx) using ridership statistics from 1998-2012.

In the three years that passed, ridership patterns changed, as did rush-hour D service in The Bronx. Unfortunately, that change was a service cut…

(Excerpt from this article.)

…which is nonsensical in light of recent ridership trends. If it wasn’t clear back in 2013 that the Concourse Line needed a service boost, it’s crystal clear now!

I. Changes to Rush-Hour Concourse Line Service

Let’s look at the new rush-hour B and D train schedules, starting with southbound service:

ConcSBSchedDec2015[Fig. 1] Snippet of scheduled southbound Concourse Line service as of December 2015, highlighting the rush hours. Click image to enlarge.

AM RUSH – SOUTHBOUND

The big change here is the service cut on the D; MTA removed one D train, resulting in 10-minute intervals between departures from 7:13 AM to 7:43 AM. 20 express D trains depart Norwood (along with one from Bedford Park Blvd) between 6:16 AM and 8:56 AM – same interval as before; the elapsed time between departures from Norwood is now: 11, 8, 8, 7, 8, 7, 8, 10, 10, 10, 8, 6, 6, 12, 6, 8, 8, 9, 10. This gives an average of 8 minutes 25 seconds (it was 8 minutes before), well below the systemwide average frequency of 5 minutes 44 seconds – itself a decrease! (It was 5 minutes 10 seconds before.)

Seems service everywhere is getting worse.

(Because there is a departure from Bedford Park Blvd at 8:13 AM, I’ll also give the average time between D trains from Bedford Park Blvd8 minutes; it was 7 minutes 37 seconds before.)

There are still 21 southbound B train departures, but with minor scheduling adjustments. Elapsed time between departures from Bedford Park Blvd is now: 19*, 18*, 12*, 10, 10, 10, 10, 10, 9, 10, 10, 10, 10, 7, 10, 10, 9, 12, 8, 7. Excluding the first three intervals (which occur before Concourse Express D service begins), the average is 9 minutes 32 seconds – still terribly infrequent and no better than in years past.

Combined B and D service from the Concourse Express stations (Bedford Park Blvd, Kingsbridge Rd, Fordham Rd, Tremont Ave, and 145th Street) departs every 4 minutes 19 seconds on average (it was 4 minutes 6 seconds before).

PM RUSH – SOUTHBOUND

Aside from minor scheduling adjustments, there are no changes to B and D service. There are 21 B trains flanked by 21 D trains – same as before; the B trains depart Bedford Park Blvd between 3:58 PM and 6:37 PM – also the same as before. B trains depart Bedford Park Blvd every 7 minutes 57 seconds on average, while D trains depart Norwood every 7 minutes 45 seconds on average; combined service departs Bedford Park Blvd every 3 minutes 53 seconds on average. All of these figures remain unchanged since the last analysis.

Now let’s look at northbound service:

[Fig. 2] Snippet of scheduled northbound Concourse Line service as of December 2015, highlighting the rush hours. Click image to enlarge.

AM RUSH – NORTHBOUND

There are some changes to northbound B service during the AM rush. Three B trains now terminate at Kingsbridge Rd; while the MTA’s official B line schedule lists these trains, it doesn’t show that these trains run express after Tremont Ave, skipping 182nd-183rd Streets. There are also a few minor scheduling adjustments to both B and D service, but the service span remains the same. Combined B and D service departs 145th Street every 3 minutes 42 seconds on average (same as before, but 182nd-183rd Streets and Bedford Park Blvd now receive service every 4 minutes 11 seconds on average); individually, B and D train departures average 7 minutes 23 seconds and 7 minutes 14 seconds, respectively. (Some D trains terminate at Bedford Park Blvd, so the average time between arrivals at Norwood is 8 minutes 30 seconds.)

Except for D train arrivals at Norwood (current 8 min 30 sec average versus former 8 min 26 sec average), all other averages haven’t changed since the last analysis.

PM RUSH – NORTHBOUND

As with the southbound AM rush hour pattern, the major story is the service cut to express D service. MTA removed one D train, resulting in 10-minute intervals between departures from 5:47 PM to 6:07 PM. 18 express D trains depart 145th Street between 4:11 PM and 6:41 PM, along with 17 B trains departing between 4:11 PM and 6:49 PM (same intervals as before).

(*D express trains continue to make an extra stop at 161st Street – Yankee Stadium on event days.)

The average time between D train departures is an unacceptably high 8 minutes 49 seconds (it was 8 minutes 20 seconds before), way below the systemwide average frequency of 6 minutes 13 seconds (which, like the systemwide AM rush average, is also a decrease in service – it was 5 minutes 33 seconds before). The average time between B local trains, however, is even worse – 9 minutes 53 seconds (same as before).

No wonder the Straphangers Campaign rated the B one of the worst in the system! (The D didn’t do as badly.)

Combined B and D service at the Concourse Express stations departs every 4 minutes 39 seconds on average (it was 4 minutes 31 seconds before).

So as we clearly see, Concourse Line service still sucks – and so do the rush-hour D service cuts. Next, we’ll look at recent ridership trends – do they support MTA’s cuts?

II. Changes to Concourse Line Ridership

In recent years, systemwide subway ridership rose to record levels. Is the Concourse Line part of that wave? Let’s take a look.

(As before, I define Concourse Line ridership as the total ridership at 155th Street – 8th Avenue, all stations from 167th Street to Norwood, and half the ridership at 161st Street – Yankee Stadium station – a station also served by the 4 train. I exclude 145th Street ridership figures from the total since it is also part of the Inwood and Central Park West lines; including its ridership could confound the data.)

WEEKDAY RIDERSHIP

[Fig. 3] Weekday Concourse Line ridership, 1998-2015. Click image to enlarge.

In 1998, 64,282 riders per weekday used the Concourse Line; in 2015, that figure rose to 90,964 – a 41.5% increase. (Systemwide weekday ridership grew 42.6% from 1998 to 2015.)

The slope of the trend line decreased slightly, from an expected gain of 1,359 riders/year in the last analysis to 1,347 riders/year. However, this difference is less than 0.9%, and actual growth exceeded that predicted by the trend line since 2012:

2012-2013: +1,442 riders/wkday
2013-2014: +4,364 riders/wkday
2014-2015: +987 riders/wkday
TOTAL growth, 2012-2015: +6,793 riders/wkday (well above predicted growth of 4,077 riders/wkday)

WEEKDAY RIDERSHIP GROWTH

[Fig. 4] Area graph showing changes in weekday Concourse Line ridership growth over time, with systemwide growth overlaid for comparison. Click image to enlarge.

Since 2012, weekday Concourse Line ridership grew by 8.1% – a rate that exceeds the systemwide average of 5% over the same time period! Except for an anomalous drop in 2005 (due to station rehabilitations at several nearby 4 line stations) and the recession-related drops in 2009 and 2010, weekday Concourse Line ridership growth remains positive.

From 1998-2015, average weekday Concourse Line ridership growth was 2.1%/year with a standard deviation of 2.6%; average weekday ridership growth systemwide over the same interval was also 2.1%, but the standard deviation was lower – 2.4%.

Weekday Concourse Line ridership has grown for five straight years – yet MTA’s only adjustment to Concourse Line service in that time – or the last seventeen years, for that matter – was a service cut. I don’t think I’m alone in thinking there’s something seriously wrong with that!

WEEKEND RIDERSHIP

[Fig. 5] Weekend Concourse Line ridership, 1998-2015. Click image to enlarge.

In 1998, 71,717 riders per weekend used the Concourse Line; in 2015, that figure rose to 110,655 – a 54.3% increase. (Systemwide weekend ridership grew 69.5% from 1998-2015.)

However, weekend ridership fell in 2015; systemwide weekend ridership fell 0.7%, while the Concourse Line took a much bigger 4.5% loss. What worries me about the Concourse Line hit is that weekend ridership at nearby 4 line stations all increased by double-digit percentages! To me, this is a clear sign of discouraged ridership – people are sick and tired of perpetually crappy weekend D service and crummy stations.

If anything, MTA should attract riders away from the overcrowded 4 and toward the D, not the other way around! In my view, this is easily done by running the weekend D every 8 minutes, as it did before the June 2010 service cuts, to match current weekend 4 service. Station rehabilitations would also encourage D ridership – and my readers know I’ve called for such rehabs for years!

Notwithstanding the 2015 ridership loss, the slope of the trend line increased, from an expected gain of 1,919 riders/wknd in the last analysis to 2,075 riders/wknd – an 8.1% difference.

2012-2013: +7,969 riders/wknd
2013-2014: +4,166 riders/wknd
2014-2015: -5,190 riders/wknd
TOTAL growth, 2012-2015: +6,945 riders/wknd (still above predicted growth of 5,757 riders/wknd)

WEEKEND RIDERSHIP GROWTH

[Fig. 6] Area graph showing changes in weekend Concourse Line ridership growth over time, with systemwide growth overlaid for comparison. Click image to enlarge.

Since 2012, weekend Concourse Line grew by 6.7% (in spite of the aforementioned 4.5% loss in 2015) – exceeding the systemwide growth rate of 4.9% over the same time period! As mentioned before, the anomalous drop in 2005 was due to station rehabilitations at several nearby 4 line stations, and 2009 ridership fell due to the recession.

From 1998-2015, average weekend Concourse Line ridership growth was 2.7%/year with a standard deviation of 4.9%; average weekend ridership growth systemwide over the same interval was 3.2% with a standard deviation of 3.2%. Until last year’s drop, weekend Concourse Line ridership had also grown for five straight years – from 2010 to 2014.

Methinks it’s time for MTA to encourage weekend D ridership by increasing service; if you (re)build it, they will come (back)!

ANNUAL RIDERSHIP

[Fig. 7] Annual Concourse Line ridership, 1998-2015. Click image to enlarge.

In 1998, 20,285,518 riders used the Concourse Line; in 2015, that figure rose to 29,225,737 – a 44.1% increase. (Systemwide annual ridership grew 47% from 1998-2015.)

The slope of the trend line increased from 441,199 riders/year in the last analysis to 452,397 riders/year at present, a 2.5% difference. As with both the weekday and weekend trends, ridership growth generally exceeded that predicted by the trend line:

2012-2013: +1,161,488 riders/yr
2013-2014: +1,336,026 riders/yr
2014-2015: +10,918 riders/yr
TOTAL growth, 2012-2015: +2,508,432 riders/yr (greater than predicted growth of 1,323,597 riders/yr)

Remember that, aside from construction-related changes, the 2010 weekend service cuts, and the December 2015 rush hour service cut, there haven’t been any meaningful changes to Concourse Line service in nearly two decades!

ANNUAL RIDERSHIP GROWTH

[Fig. 8] Area graph showing changes in annual Concourse Line ridership growth over time, with systemwide growth overlaid for comparison. Click image to enlarge.

Since 2012, annual Concourse Line ridership grew by 9.4% – exceeding the systemwide growth rate of 6.5% over the same time period! Except for an anomalous drop in 2005 (due to station rehabilitations at several nearby 4 line stations) and the recession-related drop in 2009, annual Concourse Line ridership growth was positive over the last 17 years.

From 1998-2015, average annual Concourse Line ridership growth was 2.2%/year with a standard deviation of 3.1%; average annual ridership growth systemwide over the same interval was 2.3% with a standard deviation of 2.6%. Annual Concourse Line ridership has grown for six consecutive years!

III. Concluding Remarks

The ridership charts above clearly show that Concourse Line ridership rose substantially; in the last three years, growth in weekday, weekend, and annual Concourse Line ridership exceeded systemwide growth. However, the only meaningful non-construction-related changes to service in the last 17+ years were service cuts!

Methinks it’s time for a change – one that sees SERVICE INCREASES on the B and D lines; we’ve waited long enough!

  • Roll back the December 2015 rush hour service cut on the D – and increase rush-hour D service! (At least every 7 minutes!)
  • Expand the PM rush hour span by at least one more hour. (You’d think the MTA would’ve done this in response to the crazy crowds on Yankees game nights, but alas!)
  • Increase rush-hour local B service in The Bronx. (At least every 7.5 minutes!)
  • Roll back the June 2010 weekend service cuts; run weekend D service every 8 minutes instead of every 10!
  • Rehab the Concourse Line stations!

Yes, I’m aware that service increases and station rehabilitations need funding – but there are ways to acquire such funding. Nevertheless, these improvements are long overdue – and after 17 years, methinks I’m not the only Bronx resident tired of waiting!

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