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NYC transit 2016: Where subway Wi-Fi is coming, new Citi Bike stations

Overcrowding on the subways is likely to worsen in 2016, but New Yorkers can look forward to speedier bus service, Wi-Fi at stations and fewer shutdowns on the No. 7 line.

The big question, though, is whether the Second Avenue Subway's will open on the Upper East Side before 2017.

Here's a look at what transit riders can expect in the year ahead.

More Wi-Fi coming to subway stations

Emailing your boss or friend that you are
Photo Credit: Can Pac Swire via Flickr

Emailing your boss or friend that you are running late because of a sick passenger or train traffic will get easier next year, as well as distracting yourself while waiting on the platform.

In the first half of 2016, Wi-Fi will be added to 37 stations in southern Manhattan -- including West 4th Street, Canal Street (both the Chinatown station near Broadway, and the Tribeca one off Sixth Avenue), Wall Street (on both the 2,3, and 4, 5 platforms) and the three Chambers Street stations.

Brooklyn will also be getting Wi-Fi for the first time. Six stops in northern Brooklyn, on the L and G lines, will be connected by mid-2016. Passengers won't have to wait until Manhattan to vent on Twitter about the L.

New subway, bus boss

Ronnie Hakim, who currently heads New Jersey Transit,
Photo Credit: MTA

Ronnie Hakim, who currently heads New Jersey Transit, will bring gender diversity to the MTA's current leadership when she starts running New York City Transit on Dec. 28. Hakim will be the first woman to be in charge of New York City Transit, according to an MTA spokesman.

Outside of New York City Transit, the MTA's chairman, all six of its agency presidents, and nineteen of its 21 board members are men. The MTA fired its female LIRR president in 2014.

Hakim will be in charge of the subways, buses, Staten Island Railway, and Access-a-Ride.

At New Jersey Transit, she was in charge of 15 commuter and light rail lines, 261 bus routes, and accessible service for passengers with disabilities. In the past, she worked for the MTA for 23 years, including as an executive vice-president at Capital Construction. During that period, she worked on projects like the Second Avenue Subway and East Side Access.

No. 7 train gets reworked

The line had its ups and downs in
Photo Credit: Getty Images

The line had its ups and downs in 2015. Riders created a very active social media group this year with more than 1,400 members called "7 Train Blues," as well as a more policy-oriented group called "Access Queens." Despite its woes, which included an umbrella on the tracks and ice memorably knocking out service for hours on a February weekday , the No. 7 was also named the best subway line by the Straphangers Campaign.

Next year will be somewhat easier on riders, officials say, with eight planned weekend shutdowns, several fewer than the 11 this year.

During those closures, the MTA will be working on both modernizing the No. 7 train's signal system, and repairing the Steinway Tunnel, a 121-year-old tube under the East River used by the line between Manhattan and Queens. Like many subway tunnels, it was seriously damaged by saltwater during Superstorm Sandy. It is also so narrow that any work requires a tube shutdown, since crews can't safely be in the tunnel with a live train.

The MTA is also still upgrading the signal system on the No. 7 to communication-based train control, a more modern system used by the L train in Manhattan and Brooklyn. Some of the current signaling on the No. 7 is 90 years old.

Workers will also be installing new tracks. More trains will be able to serve booming Queens once the upgrades are complete, but the work often angers riders and local officials. The MTA said it will avoid shutdowns when the Mets have home games, as well as during the Lunar New Year celebrations.

"Replacing old tracks means a smoother, faster ride for customers, and installing a modern signal system means less crowded and more reliable commutes," said James Ferrara, the acting president of New York City Transit.

Access Queens, which runs "7 Train Blues," said members were gratified that work was getting closer to being finished, and that there would be fewer weekend shutdowns this year. They hope the MTA will add more rush-hour trains, and do a full review of the line. "Access Queens looks forward to ongoing and future improvements on the 7 line, as well as to an ongoing, productive dialogue with the MTA," said Hayes Mauro, a group member who lives in Sunnyside.

The Second Avenue Subway

The construction of the Second Avenue Subway on
Photo Credit: MTA

The construction of the Second Avenue Subway on the Upper East Side has been an odyssey for the city. But after decades of false starts, construction of its first phase is 90% complete, and expected to open in December next year, officials said.

The journey to launch the new line goes back to the 1920s, when the route was first proposed by a state agency. Since then, construction has been derailed by the Great Depression, World War II, the city's financial woes in the 1970s and the challenges of building in one of the densest neighborhoods in the country. Ground was was finally broken in the latest incarnation of the massive, $4.45 billion construction project in April 2007, and it is scheduled to open in December next year.

An independent consultant said earlier this month that there is a "moderate risk" that the Second Avenue Subway won't make that December 2016 deadline. The MTA is behind on some work, such as track installation and construction of entrances at the future 72nd Street station. However, the MTA said they are confident the new line will open next year.

"The governor has been very clear that the Dec. 31, 2016, date is a date that we're meeting," said chairman Thomas Prendergast. "We're confident we're going to meet that Dec. 31, 2016, date for phase one of Second Avenue."

The MTA is also considering bringing back the W when the Q train is diverted to the Upper East Side's three new stops, giving that neighborhood a new travel option to go to the western half of Manhattan. Riders will be able to take the Q directly from the Upper East Side to such stops as Times Square-42nd Street or Herald Square-34th Street without transferring.

The W would likely run between Astoria-Ditmars Boulevard and Whitehall Street if the Q stopped running to Astoria. If Astoria gets the W, bringing more service, it would originate in Astoria; the N train may also then go express again as well in Manhattan. It was changed to local when the W was cut in 2010, officials say.

The MTA will announce proposals next fall to
Photo Credit: Charles Eckert

The MTA will announce proposals next fall to hike subway and bus fares, as well as tolls at all crossings in 2017 just some or all toll crossings?

But it's not all doom and gloom for straphangers -- the MTA will also consider the "Freedom Ticket," an innovative proposal by rider advocates, when it looks at fares.

Under the plan by the Transit Riders Council, commuters would pay $215 for unlimited railroad, subway, and bus trips within New York City. Currently, a monthly MetroCard and an LIRR ticket in the city east of Jamaica costs more than $330 a month combined. Thousands of railroad seats are going empty every morning and afternoon during rush-hour, while the subway is the busiest it's been since World War II, the Council's analysis says. The E and F lines, for instance, are running at 95% capacity during rush-hour in Queens. Overcrowding on all subway lines causes thousands of delays each month, according to MTA data.

The fare proposal would help the MTA slash hours from subway riders' commute every week without much cost, while lowering the number of people packing onto some of its most crowded lines.

Select bus service

The MTA wants to add select bus service
Photo Credit: MTA

The MTA wants to add select bus service to several new routes in 2016, and plans to spend $13 million through its next capital plan, which goes through 2019. The service speeds up lines with off-board MetroCard swipes and dedicated bus lanes. The MTA and city DOT are planning the new service in the spring for their second busiest bus route in the city, the B46, which runs through Bushwick, Bedford-Stuyvesant, Crown Heights, and Marine Park. It connect transit-starved areas with four subway lines, as well as 30 other bus routes. The MTA and city DOT are also planning a select bus route on the M23 along 23rd Street in Manhattan, the B82 in southern Brooklyn, and the Bx6 in the South Bronx.

Help Points, New Rail

The MTA will add hundreds of new Help

The MTA will add hundreds of new Help Points next year, which can help riders get directions and alert the Rail Control Center and nearby station agent if there's an emergency, such as a person falling or jumping on the tracks. Passengers can also use the Help Points if they drop a cell phone or keys on the rails. A worker will then help retrieve the item for the rider. The MTA will also be installing "continuously welded rail," which is less likely to break, has fewer vibrations, and is quieter. But it won't help with loud screeches, which come from subway cars turning on curves and worn brakes.

Citi Bike

The ride-share program and the city DOT will
Photo Credit: drpavloff via Flickr

The ride-share program and the city DOT will add new Citi Bike stations in Manhattan and Brooklyn next year. New bikes will go higher in the Upper West Side and Upper East Side in Manhattan in 2016. In Brooklyn, stations in Red Hook, Boerum Hill, Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill, and Gowanus will be added. This year, 134 new stations were added in neighborhoods like the Upper East Side and Upper West Side, as well as Long Island City and Williamsburg. Citi Bike has 92,000 members now, and almost 900,000 riders have purchased one-day or weekly passes. Its cyclists have taken more than 9.6 million trips this year, up 23% from 2014. In 2017, Citi Bike will spread to neighborhoods that include Harlem, Astoria, and Crown Heights.


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