The G Train

The G train is bad. I say this, 16 years after I moved to New York, 11 years after I left, and I know it’s what every New Yorker knows. Tourists walk too slowly, rent is too high for small apartments, and the G train sucks. What I want to highlight in this post is how the subway’s scheduling paradigm is especially bad for the G train and leads to a vicious cycle making the train less frequent and less useful for passengers.

The role of the G train

The G train is the only mainline subway service in New York that does not enter Manhattan; see map here. It connects what are now the region’s two largest non-Manhattan business centers, Long Island City and Downtown Brooklyn, running vaguely parallel to the East River on the Queens and Brooklyn side of it. To the south of Downtown Brooklyn, it has a tail serving the wealthy neighborhoods collectively called South Brooklyn, such as Carroll Gardens and Park Slope.

I’ve criticized the G before for its poor construction. It misses critical transfers, like the other lines built in the IND program in the 1920s-30s. In Queens it misses Queensboro Plaza and the transfer to the N/W trains on the Astoria Line, and in Brooklyn it misses every single non-IND line except the L (and, at a suboptimal location, the R). This already makes it less useful as a circumferential line – such lines live on convenient transfers to radial lines, because direct O&D service is less valuable to secondary destinations than to primary ones.

But what I realized last week, commuting from Long Island City to Downtown Brooklyn, is more delicate. My hotel was near Queensboro Plaza, which the G doesn’t serve, but the station is served by the 7, which connects to the G one stop away at Court Square; Marron’s new office is in Downtown Brooklyn right on top of the Jay Street station, on the IND-built A/C and F trains, which is either a cross-platform connection or a short walk from the G. So for my trip, the connections worked. And yet, I was regularly facing 10-minute waits on the shoulders of rush hour, and on the subway countdown clock I saw a 15-minute gap.

To explain what went so wrong that the G should have such low frequency at 10 in the morning, it’s necessary to explain how New York City Transit decides the frequency of each service during each time of day.

New York City Subway frequency

In New York, the system for deciding the frequency of each subway service at each time of day is based on average peak crowding. This means that for all trains using the service in a given time period, the crowding level at the peak crowding point of the journey is averaged; frequency is adjusted so that off-peak the peak crowding level is 125% of seated capacity, and at rush hour it is based on published standing capacity per car that works out to about 300% of seated capacity depending on car design.

This system is done per numbered or lettered service. Thus, for example, the 2 and 3 trains run on the same track most of the way, but where they diverge, the 2 is considerably busier, and therefore the 2 runs slightly higher frequency (most ridership on the 2 and 3 is on the shared segment, not the tails). As a result, on the shared trunk, there cannot be perfect alternation of 2 and 3 trains; a few times an hour, a 2 train is followed by another 2 train, which means that on the tail, the frequency is uneven. When two 2 trains follow each other with no 3 between them, the leading 2 train is more crowded than the trailing one; this variation is averaged out in the guidelines – it is not the busiest train that sets the frequency guidelines.

These guidelines are not a good way to timetable trains. The above example of how it can create uneven crowding on the 2 is one problem with this system; if instead there were regular alternation of 2 and 3 trains then the 2 would be persistently slightly more crowded than the 3, just as today there is uneven crowding whenever two 2 trains run with no 3 in between, but the frequency on both the shared trunk and the branches would be more regular. This is especially important on more complexly interlined parts of the network, where the current system leads to large programmed gaps between trains occasionally.

The G is not very heavily interlined; the issue there relates to another criticism of the guidelines, which is that they assume travel demand is fixed. If the ridership on a train is independent of frequency, which it is if the headway between trains is very short compared to the trip time (say, if the trains run every 2-3 minutes), then the sole purpose of service is to provide the capacity the passengers need, and so the guidelines make sense as a way of rationing service convenience. However, in reality, the elasticity of ridership with respect to service provision is not zero. Three years ago I did some analysis of New York’s situation and the existing literature on ridership-frequency elasticity, suggesting it is equal to about 0.4. So the low frequency of the G deters ridership, which then appears to justify the low frequency.

But 0.4 < 1. And I believe that there are two reasons why on the G, and on circumferential lines in general, the elasticity of ridership with respect to frequency should be higher.

Trip length

Circumferential lines in general tend to have shorter average trip time. Between two nearby spokes, say between Downtown Brooklyn and Williamsburg, they are the only real option; between two farther away ones, a direct radial may be an alternative.

The G is different from (say) the Ringbahn in that it misses most transfers, but this should not impact this pattern too much. The missed transfers in Downtown Brooklyn weaken the G for short as well as long trips involving a connection there. In contrast, in the middle the G does make the most important transfer, that with the L, and only misses the weaker J/M/Z.

The 0.4 estimate for ridership elasticity with respect to frequency assumes average behavior for trip length. But if trips are shorter, then the impact of frequency is larger. The 0.4 estimate comes out of an estimate of about -0.8 of ridership with respect to generalized trip time, which includes in-vehicle time, walk time, and wait time, the latter two given extra weight to account for transfer penalty. If one of the three components of trip times is shortened, the other two grow in importance.

The role of options

The G is not usually passengers’ only choice for making the trip. They can connect in Manhattan, or, in some cases, go directly via Manhattan, for example taking the N or R from Downtown Brooklyn to Queens (in the opposite direction, they serve separate station so it’s a harder choice, leading to asymmetric demand). Going between Marron and the East Village, Eric Goldwyn could connect to the L via the A/C/F or the G; I never once saw him use the G, only the lines via Manhattan.

I have not seen the impact of different transit paths on demand elasticity in the literature. It is likely that the elasticity in such case must be higher, because it is standard in economics that demand is more elastic for goods sold on a competitive market than by a monopolist.

Note also that it is to the overall system’s benefit to convince passengers to switch from radial lines to the G. The G is less crowded, so such a switch distributes ridership better on the system. And the G starts out much less frequent, so that even on a fixed operating budget, the impact of a service increase on the G on ridership is larger than on an already frequent trunk.

59 comments

  1. seangillis78

    “This already makes it less useful as a circumferential line – such lines live on convenient transfers to radial lines, because direct O&D service is less valuable to secondary destinations than to primary ones.”
    What do you mean by O&D service?

    I had no idea the G missed basically all the transfers to radial lines – crazy decision.

    • adirondacker12800

      My hotel was near Queensboro Plaza,

      Picking a hotel in Brooklyn might have worked better.

          • Peter

            Maybe we should figure out a way to make the G train shorter to run it more frequently. Same total number of cars, more frequent service, resulting in less empty trains and better service.

    • Tiercelet

      “Origin & destination”? i.e. circumferential trains see higher passenger turnover, since there’s not a strong draw to any particular destination, and they mostly act as one leg of a larger trip?

    • Henry

      The IND was basically constructed totally out of spite by a disgruntled former employee of the BRT, or so they say.
      Most of the poor decisions make more sense if you consider that it was supposed to run the other two into the ground instead of working well with them.

  2. SB

    Should G train run shorter trains with increased frequency?
    Should G train have more free out-of-system transfers?

  3. adirondacker12800

    which is that they assume travel demand is fixed.
    They don’t or they wouldn’t spending all the money they do on checking and averaging peak loading. Which is why the V train came and went. The W sorta kinda replaced it. The G train could and did run all the way out to 71st/Continental/Forest Hills but it doesn’t because that would mean canceling an M or an R along Queens Blvd. They’ve been finagling this and contriving that since they Second System didn’t get built. It’s too bad you find the solutions unaesthetic.

    • df1982

      The problem people have with MTA scheduling is not that it’s “unaesthetic”, it’s that it’s dysfunctional. By attempting to calibrate frequencies to passenger loadings, they end up creating uneven headways all over the network, which leads to lumpy loadings, frequent dispatching delays and unreliable service. This ends up suppressing ridership, so they’re essentially saving pennies and losing pounds.

      By contrast, the Paris metro has a basic service standard that every line has an off-peak frequency of at least every five minutes regardless of ridership, which holds true until very late at night. If crowding (whether at peak or off-peak) necessitates higher frequencies then these are adopted, but you can use the entire network without worrying about being caught out by a 15-minute wait at a lightly used station.

      Of course, it’s easier in a system that has very little branching, but New York could go a long way towards de-interlining its network, as Alon has outlined in the past, and then adopt similar frequency standards at off-peak times. This would improve rider confidence in travel times substantially, thereby boosting farebox returns (it might not be cost neutral but given the low marginal costs in boosting off-peak service it would probably come close).

      • adirondacker12800

        People would just love exchanging their one seat ride for a two seat ride or their two seat ride for three seat rides so fanboys can plotz over all the trains running.

        • Eric2

          People would prefer a quicker 2-seat-ride over a longer (due to bad headways) 1-seat-ride.

          • adirondacker12800

            I thought the point of deinterlining was that there were tooooooooo many trains to interline them. too many trains implies short headways

          • Eric2

            Too many trains implies a long wait until the train that you want.

          • adirondacker12800

            There are local trains and express trains. If you are at a local station or want to get to one you have to wait for a local. Deinterline things the train you want doesn’t go there anymore. Express trains to the Bronx for instance.
            Shove something in one place something else, far away, bulges. Your brain is going to melt down.
            During rush hours the A train and the D train run every six minutes. They are express trains. The B train runs every six minutes and the C train sucks, Those are local trains. Part of the reason the C train sucks is that they never built the Second System and there aren’t any Second Ave locals running along it’s route in Brooklyn and Queens. The other reason it sucks is that they never built the Second System and the E train doesn’t go down Second Avenue, it goes down Eighth Ave. More C trains means less E trains, which wouldn’t go over well.

            Click to access tecur.pdf

            Go ahead, check the arrival times at the World Trade Center, during morning rush hour and departures during evening rush.
            …..More D trains means less N trains but your brain has already melted down.

        • df1982

          Yep, two-seat rides are intolerable. That’s why the metros in Paris, Tokyo, Seoul, Moscow, etc., etc., have such bad ridership.

          • adirondacker12800

            New Yorkers change trains all the time. Stereotypically across the platform from the local to the express or vice versa. Local to local or express to express makes sense in certain cases. To do that in Paris it’s a hike between the Metro platforms and the RER platforms. The much heralded opening of the Second Avenue subway is a Broadway Express. If you want to go to a Broadway local station you have change trains. People gladly do it because it’s a two seat ride instead of their former the three seat ride.
            Off the top of my head, without thinking about it, Alon’s three seat ride could have been a two seat ride by using the other side of the island platform at Queensboro Plaza. For a cross platform transfer at Union Square. Depending on the time of day and day of the week. Same platform otherwise. There are four other options and even more alternatives that I wouldn’t use. Unless there was a service disruption in which case I know about them.

  4. Phake Nick

    Speaking of reading frequency on countdown clock, is it actually a bad thing for transit service with low frequency?
    Since, with countdown timer, users would know that they need to wait 15 or 30 minutes until the next bus come, yet passengers aren’t captive to the route, with such waiting time they can easily switch to other transit modes, like minibuses connecting with metro, or use other bus routes and connect with tram, or even taxi, and arrive the destination before the next bus even reaching the starting bus stop, resulting in lost of passengers, which will result in further frequency cuts, and enter a repeat cycle of the service becoming more and more unattractive. All that while the cost invested on equipment for arrival estimation could have been use to actually improve service’s frequency.

    • df1982

      The alternative is that people have no idea when or if a train is coming, get progressively more agitated about the wait and have a negative experience of the subway, making them less likely to catch it in future. Countdown clocks take a lot of the stress out of riding: if you know a train is coming in 14 minutes, you can just sit and read a book or whatever, rather than spending the whole time nervously looking down the tunnel, wondering when the train is going to come. As someone who caught the G a lot in pre-countdown clock times, I’m very familiar with this. So no, it’s not a bad thing for transit service with low frequency.

      • Henry Miller

        Just remember that it is a crutch, you want high frequency if at all possible. Given the high costs of a subway (compared to a bus on shared roads) you should never build a subway if you won’t be doing 5 minute headways all day.. o know New York is stuck with some 100 year old decisions, but don’t use their work arounds for those bad decisions be an excuse to do bad service elsewhere.

        • df1982

          I agree, but the subway also runs 24h a day, so there will be times when it will necessarily have lower than turn-up-and-go frequencies. That’s when countdown clocks are particularly helpful.

    • Tiercelet

      This is an interesting idea, but I’m not sure it actually works out.

      With wait times of 15 to 30 minutes, you’re (hopefully) talking about service that either runs on a schedule or otherwise has known low frequency. If the service actually keeps the schedule, then the countdown clock doesn’t tell you anything you don’t already know–infrequently scheduled service is just infrequently scheduled service, and pick your modality or route accordingly. (Even if the service isn’t scheduled in a meaningful way, if you were expecting it to be infrequent, the countdown clock doesn’t make things worse–I’m disappointed, but not exactly surprised, when I try to take the subway at 1 AM and find a 15-minute wait for the next train.)

      Where the countdown clock actually matters is when the service is unpredictable. But unless your whole system is dysfunctional (…or a bus), that should be a rare event that won’t drive overall trends. If anything, being upfront about route-specific slowdowns increases customer loyalty to the system as a whole, because it lets people go around problems (like by walking to a different route) so the system can still meet their needs.

      • Phake Nick

        Most of the routes weren’t that infrequent. Until a few years ago, single digit headway on some of these routes were norm. But as subway service expand, the buses lose ridership, many routes even those that do not overlap with subway, are seeing their frequency being cut to lower and lower frequency, so as to lower the overall bus network operation cost to match the lost in ridership and revenue, to prevent the company from going bankrupt.
        And because it is gradual wind down in schedule, the schedule change every once in a while, and it is also adjusted according to demand and not for easy to memorize. And of course bus companies aren’t active in advertising their service cuts as they don’t want to actively tell customers their service worsened. As an example of what schedule they are now offering, now a route might depart at :10 :25 :40 :55 in late morning, then in noon when there are slightly more demand, they bump the frequency up to :07 :19 :31 :43 :55, and then after 2pm when it back to 15 minutes headway, it become :07 :22 :37 :52. And with the evening peak hour it return to single digit headway, but after the evening peak the headway got turned back to something like :05 :25 :45. Then they have a different schedule on Saturday and a third different schedule on Sunday. And they don’t announce such timetable either, simply say the headway is “12-20 minutes” for some time slots.

        And this have not account the fact that, during the entire coronavirus pandemic, schedule across the bus network are adjusted every. single. week.

        • adirondacker12800

          Bus drivers got sick every single week. And quite a few of them died. So did the mechanics etc back at the depots. And the administrative/support staff. And their families.

          • Phake Nick

            Hong Kong didn’t have any serious outbreak until last month. The weekly adjustment is mostly according to demand, instead of staff availability. When the big wave actually come and significant part of staffs became infected, they made multiple schedule amendment and route suspension every week. Now many staffs recovered, but as the ridership continue to depress, the bus company want their staffs to take more unpaid leaves so as to cut cost and reduce the amount of money they’re bleeding, and at least partly maintain the schedule of when they had more staffs reduced.

          • adirondacker12800

            Silly me. The topic of the threads is how bad the G train in New York City is. It wanders off to other places but this is the first time anyone has mentioned Hong Kong specifically.

  5. Joe

    From Flushing the fastest route to downtown Brooklyn alternates between the G and one of the Manhattan routes- except when the wait for the G is too long. Greater frequency would make the G consistently the best choice for this trip.
    One of my fantasy map ideas is to send the G up Vernon Blvd, across the river and under 50th St. You’d sacrifice the direct transfer to the E/M, but would gain a much better transfer to the 7 and of course direct access to midtown Manhattan from North Brooklyn.

    • adirondacker12800

      From Flushing the fastest route to downtown Brooklyn
      LIRR to Penn Station then the 2/3 or the A would be faster.
      G up Vernon Blvd, across the river and under 50th St.
      Would be building a very expensive tunnel for short, low frequency – compared to the Flushing Line or the Queens Blvd lines – trains. Send the E train down Second Avenue they could change to whatever the Eighth Avenue local becomes. As a bonus it helps unclog 51/Lexington on the 6 and 53/Lex on the M/8th Ave. local.
      Do that and there’s less or no capacity for Broadway trains on Queens Blvd. Instead of building an expensive tunnel they could use the money to build an El over Northern Blvd, for Broadway trains, which would relieve crowding on the Flushing line and a bit on the Queens Blvd lines.
      Hipsters who moved to Greenpoint because rents in Williamsburg were too high would still have today’s transfers. That’s too bad.

      • Joe

        Most of us can’t schedule our lives around LIRR schedules- you know how often they run on the Port Washington line? And if it’s peak hours, lol at the price.
        The whole point of this post is higher frequency on the G. And with a direct connection to Manhattan you would certainly get far more ridership. I don’t care who lives in Greenpoint, I want them out of cars, and this is one way to encourage that. Extending the G would also make upzoning there more viable. Trains not full? Add housing.
        You don’t seem to get this, but most of us think getting more people to take trains is more important than making life easy for the MTA. “Don’t like it, don’t take it” is an argument for change, not keeping things as they are.

        • adirondacker12800

          You don’t want to pay the LIRR fare I guess your time isn’t valuable. That the fare is higher is political decision and it could be the same as the subway. That it’s the same fare to get to Flushing as it is to get to Jackson Heights is a political one too and they could go to blindingly complicated fare structure like London’s.
          LIRR trains toddle through suburban stations once an hour, off peak. When the MTA has a lot of money it’s twice an hour along the Port Washington branch. That doesn’t make it slower. If you want a leave anytime to go anywhere kind of lifestyle I suggest Times Square, not Bayside.
          Hipsters in Greenpoint don’t have cars. If they do, they know better than to drive into Manhattan. They wouldn’t be able to afford whatever kind of glittery condo you are imagining would replace their tenement. You want to get people out of cars you send trains to Manhattan, not Greenpoint.
          Sending the E train down Second Ave and shoving as many trains as they possibly can through the 60th Street tunnel to Flushing via Queensboro Plaza doesn’t need any new tunnels to Manhattan. The people who are now schlepping on a bus to the Flushing line to change to a Broadway train could have a one seat ride without taking a bus! Instead of tearing down tenements in Greenpoint for condos they could tear down suburban stroad uses along Northern Blvd for condos. Tearing down a car dealership or a fast food joint in the middle of a parking lot gets you a lot more land, cheaper, than tearing down tenements too.
          If your concern is sending people in Auburndale to downtown Brooklyn sending LIRR trains to Wall Street – along the Van Wyck Expressway down to Atlantic Ave – gets them there a lot faster and as a bonus they don’t have to go through Midtown to get to Wall Street. Even less people on the Flushing line! There could be a stop at Union Turnpike for all the people schlepping on a bus to take the E train to the World Trade Center.
          ….. you want to dig tunnels to Manhattan connecting 12 car trains from suburbs through Wall Street back out the suburbs moves a lot more people than 6 or even 8 cars of G train. Hipsters in Hoboken or Jersey city will actually be able to get on PATH trains. Though they’ve gone and built condos in Hoboken and Jersey and hipsters are being pushed out. Like hipsters in Williamsburg were pushed out to Greenpoint and Bed-Stuy.

          • Thomas K Ohlsson

            Reading the comment almost gave me a headake – to long, to stupid…

          • adirondacker12800

            I get headaches thinking about Alon being too stupid to take a two seat ride from Queens Plaza to Jay Street in Brooklyn and instead taking a three seat ride. There are five main choices in choices in Manhattan with varying degrees of transfer walking from “cross platform” to “walk two short blocks in Brooklyn”. I still think a hotel in Brooklyn may have been a better choice.

          • Nilo

            Adirondacker, have you considered just not having a meltdown in the comments instead?

    • Matthew Hutton

      According to Apple maps the fastest route appears to be the 7 to grand central and then the 4. The LIRR if it works is about 2 minutes faster.

      • Joe

        Unless I’m going to Brooklyn Heights the 2/3 or 4/5 are pretty slow. It’s always a contest between the G, or (if the wait for the G is too long) one of the Manhattan Bridge lines.

        • adirondacker12800

          His trip would be longer if a 5 arrived in Grand Central and he waited for a 4… They have no idea where Brooklyn Heights is and that while it’s downtown, it’s not Downtown Brooklyn either. Or what a Manhattan Bridge line is. They do go downtown, if you are uptown, but they don’t go Downtown in the sense of Wall Street or Downtown Brooklyn.
          I must look friendly or something. Tourists will stop me and ask things like “Where is the blue train”. “Where do you want to go?” comes out of my mouth while I’m thinking “There are no blue trains. If you want to think about them that way, which one? A red train would likely do just as well… ” There’s about a 50/50 chance they want a green train…

          • Alon Levy

            This is a good argument for deinterlining – the current system is confusing for visitors, recent arrivals, and sporadic users. But please be patient, I’ll try blogging about it after I’m done with the four-part series I’m hoping to complete about the politicals, starting with the GLX post I just dropped.

          • adirondacker12800

            I’ll bite. They stop me in the Channel Gardens and ask me where the yellow train is because they want to get to the Museum of Natural History. Because when they asked somebody in Union Square where the red train was they asked “Where are you going” and they sent them to a yellow train and they know where the yellow train station is. Or think they do. Send all the Central Park West expresses down Sixth Ave, they can’t take an Orange train that is going to the Bronx, to get there.

          • Tiercelet

            @Matthew Hutton Well, the station is called “81st St–Museum of Natural History”, it’s not exactly subtle once you’re there. The problem is that because of the interlining, we have a color coding that’s actively hostile to any reasonable conclusions about where the trains go. (This is worst with the B/D/F/M, which are all orange and all follow the same trunk on 6th Ave through midtown Manhattan, but split into three entirely different directions north of Rockefeller Center or going into Brooklyn). So that AMNH stop is served by the 8th Ave local and ONE branch (of three) of the 6th Ave local, whose lines otherwise have nothing whatsoever to do with each other except for kissing once at West 4th St.

            Channel Gardens is the above-ground area at Rock Center, the split-off station where the same color train going the same direction could take you one of three different places if you don’t look at the letters. (And one of the two trains going the right way will take you right past that stop, since it’s express.)

            Although none of this is my personal favorite bit of routing hostility, which is the nearby 7th Ave stop, where the northbound/uptown E train (blue) and southbound/downtown D train (orange) both go the same direction (i.e. …west).

          • adirondacker12800

            Ignoring late night when a lot less routes run local, the Sixth Ave Expresses go up Central Park West and the Sixth Ave locals go to Queens. The color codes go with the Manhattan trunk not the train. If you gave each train it’s own color you’d get the spaghetti bowl on the Vignelli map.
            One of the Sixth Ave, locals, heading to Queens, runs express in Queens to Forest Hills and I have to check which one of the trains beyond that runs local and which one runs express. The other one runs local to Forest Hills and terminates. One of the Sixth Ave Expresses runs local on Central Park West. Which I’m sure you know is a fancy name for Eighth Ave. When it’s running on weekdays. The other one runs express to the Bronx. Makes sense to me.
            North side of Seventh Ave is Eightth Ave. trains and the south side is Sixth Ave. Upper level is for downtown trains, neither of which are heading downtown or uptown at that moment. Lower level is for uptown trains. Which also makes sense to me. If you were on the street on 57th and 7th and wanted to get to 6th, you walk east and if you wanted to get 8th you’d walk west. Why is this confusing?

  6. adirondacker12800

    ……Thus, for example, the 2 and 3 trains run on the same track most of the way,….
    Because they deinterlined the locals and expresses. There used to be two locals. One to 137th and Broadway and one to 145 and Lenox. The expresses ran between Van Cortlandt Park/242nd in the Bronx to New Lots in Brooklyn. Just like today’s 3 train does. On the Brooklyn end. Or E180st in the Bronx to Flatbush, just like today’s 2 train does.

  7. James S

    NYC has a lot of odd missed transfer opportunities. Instead of doing nothing, the city should build more connections. Downtown Brooklyn is a mess with all the weird non-transfer options

    • adirondacker12800

      The people going to or from downtown Brooklyn can change trains outside of downtown. Or not change trains and just walk a few blocks in downtown.

      • James S

        And the rest of us who arent going downtown at all?

        To get from Williamsburg (G) to Prospect Park you need to transfer to the Q. The lines cross, but there is nowhere to transfer.

        • adirondacker12800

          The actual park or the station on the Brighton Line called Prospect Park? I’m going to assume the station. What stations do you have in mind? ……..You aren’t under the impression that new stations should be built, are you?
          The NYC Subway map is rather abstract. It’s only vaguely geographically accurate. Very vaguely when it comes to downtown Manhattan or Brooklyn. If I had the very peculiar urge to get from a Q train station to a G train station I use Atlantic on the Q and Lafayette on the G. That’s not “downtown”. Perhaps the periphery but it’s not downtown. Then walk two blocks. on the street, where the concourse could be but nobody sane wants to build one because the two dozen people a week who might want to do can do it on the street, armed with their unliimited OMNY card.

  8. Noah

    Improving the G would cause property values to skyrocket and accelerate gentrification and displacement in Brooklyn. Many working class people have no real alternatives to driving anyway.

        • Alon Levy

          Not quite priced out. It’s a pretty obscure point about gentrification, but for the most part it comes out of ethnic assimilation. So mid-20c Greenpoint was ethnically Polish, but by the early 21st century the descendants of working-class Polish immigrants are for the most part ordinary, increasingly middle-class white Americans, so Greenpoint exchanges population with other white places like other white neighborhoods, the suburbs, or other parts of the US. Same thing for the Jewish Upper West Side and Greek Astoria. In all of these cases, the average person migrating out of the neighborhood got better off as a result.

          Kiryas Joel is unique because of the issue of Haredi birth rates, but there too the residents seem to be better off as a result of suburbanization, especially by their own internal measures, for which the ability to control women’s movement is a positive and not a negative.

          Actual displacement, i.e. people getting worse off as a result of moving out of a gentrifying neighborhood, is real, but it’s a recent trend and doesn’t really exist in Williamsburg – try actually black neighborhoods like Bushwick. And even Bushwick is pretty unique, in not-New York displacement is much more common in declining than gentrifying black neighborhoods.

          • adirondacker12800

            …. you do understand that the observant, in Europe, spoke the vernacular, just like they speak English here, and moving from Europe to a neighborhood where the other wave of immigrants speak your European vernacular can be helpful?…….
            I picked Kiryas Joel because it’s easily definable, they’ve managed to incorporate it as it’s own town. The other places other sects suburbanize to are more ….diffuse… and don’t have Wikipedia articles I know about.
            Me and the little old lady neighbor, from Rego Park, have discussed this briefly. She pointed out that people who don’t worry about the trayf in the supermarket can move anywhere. For instance, the Adirondacks. We are part of the wave of Eastern Europeans who pushed out the Northwestern Europeans. From that perspective it’s just another wave of immigrants pushing out the previous wave. It just that in the past it was one wave of working class immigrant followed by a different wave of working class immigrant and today it’s college graduates from the hinterlands not immigrants.
            And briefly discussed that lots of those single family and small multifamily buildings were owner occupied. The renters had problems in the past too but the W.A.S.P reporters back in the day were more focused on bulldozing it all down and building towers in the park. I suspect there is bias in there too. One wave of working class replacing a previous wave isn’t as interesting to college graduate reporters interviewing other college graduates. They can purr about the the different things they sit at their keyboard and type about.

    • Tiercelet

      This is exactly why transit activism must not be isolated from housing and general development activism.

      Whether it’s bad transit, trash everywhere, high crime, food deserts, or whatever–fixing any problem means improved desirability means increased demand. We have to match increased desirability with increased housing to avoid displacement, and there’s no political will for that (since it cuts into profits). This is a *huge blind spot* for far too many activists.

      But the argument that “things have to stay terrible or we’ll lose our homes” just doesn’t work. The displacement will still happen, because one way or another, either those problems are going to be solved or the whole community is going to become uninhabitable. Even in the “best” case where the community really holds the line, build-nothing-fix-nothing NIMBYism just gets you a long period of low quality of life, until there’s finally a tectonic shift and turbo-gentrification anyway.

      I want nice things for everyone. But you don’t get that by being afraid of nice things.

    • Joe

      The whole point is to create alternatives to driving… And displacement caused by global warming is going to be a hell of a lot worse than displacement caused by better subway service.

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