Schedule Planners as a Resource

The Effective Transit Alliance published its statement on Riders Alliance’s Six-Minute Service campaign, which proposes to run every subway line in New York and the top 100 bus routes every (at worst) six minutes every day from morning to evening. We’re positive on it, even more than Riders Alliance is. We go over how frequency benefits riders, as I wrote here and here, but also over how it makes planning easier. It is the latter benefit I want to go over right now: schedule planning staff is a resource, just as drivers and outside capital are, and it’s important for transit agencies to institute systems that conserve this resource and avoid creating unnecessary work for planners.

The current situation in New York

Uday Schultz writes about how schedule planning is done in New York. There’s an operations planning department, with 350 budgeted positions as of 2021 of which 284 are filled, down from 400 and 377 respectively in 2016. The department is responsible for all aspects of schedule planning: base schedules but also schedules for every service change (“General Order” or GO in short).

Each numbered or lettered route is timetabled on it own. The frequency is set by a guideline coming from peak crowding: at any off-peak period, at the most crowded point of a route, passenger crowding is supposed to be 25% higher than the seated capacity of the train; at rush hour, higher standee crowding levels are tolerated, and in practice vary widely by route. This way, two subway routes that share tracks for a long stretch will typically have different frequencies, and in practice, as perceived by passengers, off-peak crowding levels vary and are usually worse than the 25% standee factor.

Moreover, because planning is done by route, two trains that share tracks will have separate schedule plans, with little regard for integration. Occasionally, as Uday points out, this leads to literally impossible schedules. More commonly, this leads to irregular gaps: for example, the E and F trains run at the same frequency, every 4 minutes peak and every 12 minutes on weekends, but on weekends they are offset by just 2 minutes from each other, so on the long stretch of the Queens Boulevard Line where they share the express tracks, passengers have a 2-minute wait followed by a 10-minute wait.

Why?

The current situation creates more work for schedule planners, in all of the following ways:

  • Each route is run on its own set of frequencies.
  • Routes that share tracks can have different frequencies, requiring special attention to ensure that trains do not conflict.
  • Each period of day (morning peak, midday, afternoon peak, evening) is planned separately, with transitions between peak and off-peak; there are separate schedules for the weekend.
  • There are extensive GOs, each requiring not just its own bespoke timetable but also a plan for ramping down service before the start of the GO and ramping it up after it ends.

This way, a department of 284 operations planners is understaffed and cuts corners, leading to irregular and often excessively long gaps between trains. In effect, managerial rules for how to plan trains have created makework for the planners, so that an objectively enormous department still has too much work to do and cannot write coherent schedules.

Creating less work for planners

Operations planners, like any other group of employees, are a resource. It’s possible to get more of this resource by spending more money, but office staff is not cheap and American public-sector hiring has problems with uncompetitive salaries. Moreover, the makework effect doesn’t dissipate if more people are hire – it’s always possible to create more work for more planners, for example by micromanaging frequency at ever more granular levels.

To conserve this resource, multiple strategies should be used:

Regular frequencies

If all trains run on the same frequency all day, there’s less work to do, freeing up staff resources toward making sure that the timetables work without any conflict. If a distinction between peak and base is required, as on the absolute busiest routes like the E and F, then the base should be the same during all off-peak periods, so that only two schedules (peak and off-peak) are required with a ramp-up and ramp-down at the transition. This is what the six-minute service program does, but it could equally be done with a more austere and worse-for-passengers schedule, such as running trains every eight minutes off-peak.

Deinterlining

Reducing the extent of reverse-branching would enable planning more parts of the system separately from one another without so much conflict. Note that deinterlining for the purposes of good passenger service has somewhat different priorities from deinterlining for the purposes of coherent planning. I wrote about the former here and here. For the latter, it’s most important to reduce the number of connected components in the track-sharing graph, which means breaking apart the system inherited from the BMT from that inherited from the IND.

The two goals share a priority in fixing DeKalb Avenue, so that in both Manhattan and Brooklyn, the B and D share tracks as do the N and Q (today, in Brooklyn, the B shares track with the Q whereas the D shares track with the N): DeKalb Junction is a timetabling mess and trains have to wait two minutes there for a slot. Conversely, the main benefit of reverse-branching, one-seat rides to more places, is reduced since the two Manhattan trunks so fed, on Sixth Avenue and Broadway, are close to each other.

However, to enable more convenient planning, the next goal for deinterlining must be to stop using 11th Street Connection in regular service, which today transitions the R from the BMT Broadway Line and 60th Street Tunnel to the IND Queens Boulevard local tracks. Instead, the R should go where Broadway local trains go, that is Astoria, while the Broadway express N should go to Second Avenue Subway to increase service there. The vacated local service on Queens Boulevard should go to IND trunks in Manhattan, to Eighth or Sixth Avenue depending on what’s available based on changes to the rest of the system; currently, Eighth Avenue is where there is space. Optionally, no new route should be added, and instead local service on Queens Boulevard could run as a single service (currently the M) every 4 minutes all day, to match peak E and F frequencies.

GO reform

New York uses too many GOs, messing up weekend service. This is ostensibly for maintenance and worker safety, but maintenance work gets done elsewhere with fewer changes (as in Paris or Berlin) or almost none (as in Tokyo) – and Berlin and Tokyo barely have nighttime windows for maintenance, Tokyo’s nighttime outages lasting at most 3-4 hours and Berlin’s available only five nights a week. The system should push back against ever more creative service disruptions for work and demand higher maintenance productivity.

71 comments

  1. wiesmann

    Is there any value in having one coordinated timetable update date? It helps when building coordinated timetables, but I suppose it also simplifies the pace of work and communications: regular people and journalists know that in December, this is coming…

    • Alon Levy

      Yes, absolutely. New York does do this internally, updating every six months, but subway timetables are not widely released to the public, since frequency is in theory supposed to be high enough for people to show up without looking at timetables (and even if people did look, the trains are so late they aren’t usually run to a schedule).

      • adirondacker12800

        They used to have sad little racks with schedules in them. They are online these days and anybody who wants to look at them can.

    • Stephen Bauman

      There’s a fairly simple reason for interlining.

      The service level capacity of intermediate stations is about half that of stub end terminals favored by NYC. If interlining were eliminated, service level capacity would be reduced to about 15 to 20 tph vs. the 30 to 40 tph possible with interlining.

      Of course interlining must be properly scheduled. This means balanced merges.

      In the old days, they kept passenger load levels on different routes constant while maintaining balanced merges by varying train lengths not schedule frequency.

      • Alon Levy

        The capacity issue is why there’s branching, not why there’s reverse-branching. You don’t need to have the Queens Boulevard express tracks reverse-branch to Sixth and Eighth Avenues to maintain trunk capacity – to the contrary, more interlining means the schedule complexity is higher and therefore overall capacity is lower. In London, the complexly interlined Northern line, with two separate trunks through Central London, was expected to see a rise in peak throughput from 28 to 32 trains per hour when the southern section was deinterlined with the opening of the Battersea extension (whether this happened, I don’t know – ridership is lower due to corona and working from home), and expects to see a further rise to 36 when work at the Camden Town transfer permits deinterlining the northern section.

        • Stephen Bauman

          The counter example is Manhattan’s Third Ave El. It operated 42 tph with interlining: half the trains turned at South Ferry and the other half at City Hall. Service was reduced to 17 tph, when the South Ferry branch was eliminated in 1950. The stub terminals could not handle additional traffic.

          The more extreme example of interlining is when there are no intermediate stations on the merged section. The BRT operated 66 tph on the merged track over the Brooklyn Bridge between Park Row and Sands St. Trains operated on alternate tracks at either station. Similarly, the BMT operated 52 tph over the Williamsburg Bridge in the preferred direction between Marcy Ave and Essex St.

          It’s difficult to judge London because there are no GTFS static schedules.

          • Alon Levy

            Third Avenue El was a rare example of pure reverse-branching; I think the only extant examples are the Delhi Metro Green Line and the Namboku and Mita Lines in Tokyo. The more usual cases – as in nearly all S-Bahn/RER systems here, or the London Underground, or NYCT – involve lines splitting and merging, rather than a single line that, unusually, branches in the core rather than outside it.

          • Stephen Bauman

            @ Matthew Hutton “There are PDF timetables for the London Underground.

            Thanks. I’m aware of the printed schedules. I can easily analyze GTFS schedules with on my PC. The pdf’s are a bit more difficult to analyze. I haven’t had the time nor inclination to scrape the pdf’s. It’s far down on my to-do list.

          • Matthew Hutton

            The PDFs do include service frequencies at the beginning.

          • Stephen Bauman

            Matthew Hutton @ The PDFs do include service frequencies at the beginning.

            Thanks again.

            By analyze the schedules I mean thoroughly dissecting the schedule. What are the variations in headways and travel time at/between various points, are there scheduled merging conflicts (there are many in NYC), etc. Also, I’d like to check the GTFS-RT data vs. the GTFS static timetables to see how well the schedules are maintained, etc.

            London developed its own system for computerizing its schedules long before GTFS was written. They never bothered to change their data format. There used to be a program to convert its schedule to GTFS static. However, it’s out of date and no longer maintained.

        • Si Hollett

          The Northern Line was not deinterlined at Kennington when Battersea opened. There’s a myth, especially among North Americans who are fans of deinterlining, that it would do something for deinterlining, but there’s no reason why it would – the terminating loop at Kennington allowed, and still allows, Charing Cross branch trains to terminate there without interacting with Bank-Morden trains. Deinterlining was always possible and a branch forking off that balloon loop changes nothing other than also allowing trains that would have otherwise terminated to go two stops and terminate at Battersea instead.

          The interlining at Kennington (with a very uneven split) allows Morden to see a few more, much-needed, trains than Bank, which, while it also needs more trains, has more limiting factors stopping higher frequencies. The big one of Bank’s platform crowding has been solved, but there’s still issues of the fleet not being big enough to run more trains, and the (peak-only, in the peak-direction to/from the north, because the station cannot deal with the sheer number of people changing branches otherwise) meshing of services at Camden Town meaning that frequencies must be identical in the peak direction (to/from the north) to split and recombine properly, and similar in the counter-peak direction as almost every train has to turn round and head back the other way.

          Battersea opening, or rather the timetabling work they had to do for it, did allow a further push in peak Morden frequency. In order to serve Battersea, with a stretched fleet, they had to increase short turns in the north, enabling those train miles to be used in the south instead. As well as serving Battersea, they were able to sneak in an extra couple of peak-direction trains from/to Morden to/from the Charing Cross branch – ie more interlining trains vs before!

          The 28tph (22+6) serving Morden northbound in the am peak time thanks to ATO becoming operational in mid-2014 became 30tph (26+4) in December ’14 (the original plan for that change was meant to be 32tph with a 24-8 split), which it remained for some years. And it is now 32tph (26+6) in the peakest hour thanks to the timetable rewrites relating to the Battersea and Bank schemes. That’s where the 28tph increasing to 32tph comes from – not deinterlining, but running more trains on the southern parts of the line (and fewer on the northern parts).

  2. Stephen Bauman

    The 11th St Connector should be eliminated from regular service because it prevents the Broadway (exp & local), 6th Ave local and Queens Blv (exp & local) tracks from operating at their service level capacities.

    Here’s my solution to permit all to operate up to 30 tph, while maintaining interlined service on each.

    The 6th Ave local operates the M and F, each at 15 tph. They use their current routes: F uses 63rd St (to be shared with one of the Broadway expresses); M uses the 53rd St tunnel (to be shared with a route from 8th Ave).

    The Broadway express operates 2 services. Keep the Q going to 2nd Ave, but the N goes to Queens Blv via the 63rd St tunnel.

    The Broadway local operates 2 services. The R and W operate to Astoria.

    The Queens Blv exp operates 2 services. One operates via 53rd St (E) the other via 63rd St (N). The Queens Blv local operates 2 services. One operates via 53rd St (M) the other vi 63rd St (F).

    There are some operational problems on the Astoria Line.

    Ditmars Blv-Astoria cannot turn 30 tph. The MTA has a study that is avoiding the obvious solution. Half the trains could terminate at Hoyt Av, if an additional set of switches were installed south of Hoyt Ave. The MTA study is putting lipstick on a pig by re-aligning the existing switches into Ditmars, without adding tail tracks extending north of it.

    The R and W local services would not have a yard at either of its terminals.

    • Alon Levy

      The easiest way to handle Astoria is to just run less service there. Broadway local doesn’t need 30 peak tph and the Montague Street Tunnel certainly doesn’t (it was running 8 peak tph in 2015 and wasn’t always full to seated capacity).

      We didn’t explicitly talk about deinterlining in our six-minute service paper, first because it’s not currently on the agenda, and second because running all trains on the same Takt and deinterlining interact negatively (i.e. the gain in utility from both combined is more than the gain from just one but less than the sum of the two just-one gains).

      I’m assuming that the smoothest way to do it without cutting 11th Street Connection is to run the E and F trains every 6 minutes all day and then set up a rush hour-only V train that runs 179th-QB express-53rd-Sixth local-turn at 2nd Avenue (or maybe Smith/9th if Rutgers needs more than 10 peak tph, which it might). The only other IND/BMT trains that run more than a train every 6 minutes at rush hour right now are the non-track-sharing L and the A, and the A derives its need for this much service from trunks where it shares tracks with other lines that would be boosted in its stead. The advantage of the weird V is that while it does overserve the Sixth Avenue local tracks, it can be slotted in and out with minimal changes between peak and off-peak; already a bunch of rush hour Es go to 179th and not Jamaica Center because Jamaica Center can’t turn that many trains.

      • Stephen Bauman

        My plan was based on the premise of how to achieve service level capacity on the named services. It was not based on perceived current need per se.

        Travel patterns have changed considerably, since the Flushing and Astoria Lines were deinterlined. There is a definite need for more service between Queensboro Plaza and Lexington Ave@60th St, as a result of many more people transferring from the Flushing Line. This need could be handled by relaying BMT trains north of Queensboro Plaza. However, NYCT’s fumigation policy would prevent more than 15 tph operation. That’s why I suggested an additional stub end terminal at Hoyt Ave.

        Jamaica Center’s inability to turn more than 12 tph is a good argument for interlining. BTW, have you ever wondered why this stub terminal with tail tracks cannot turn trains around more frequently? Why was the diamond crossover placed 300 ft from the Jamaica Center platform?

        Regarding the L train. What happens when more than the current 20 tph are required? The intermediate stations can handle between 30-40 tph. The limitation is the turn capacity at 8th Ave. BTW, the 14th St Line used to handle 24 tph and was interlined with the Fulton St El to Lefferts. Its running time between Lefferts and 8th Av-14th St was less than the current time for the A, even though it had more stops.

  3. Allan Rosen

    You have conveniently summarized why Operations Planning and the MTA is just totally incompetent. However, 6 minute service is a simple, unrealistic, and wasteful solution. Service on routes and parts of routes must be tailored to meet demand for an effective and efficient transit system. You wouldn’t expect a medium sized suit to fit everyone comfortably. But that is exactly what you are proposing for our transit system. Interlining is also an important feature for an effective transit system. So while the MTA is wrong on how it plans, you and Riders Alliance are just as wrong, but for different reasons.

    • Alon Levy

      You can’t do all of this, is the point. When you micromanage service based on crowding guidelines, you evidently can’t actually meet these guidelines. Scheduled gaps on the 2 and 3 trunk vary between 2 and 7 minutes within the span of one off-peak hour. This isn’t about individual ops planners being bad at their jobs; it’s about the job demanding this micromanagement instead of realizing that crowding occurs on trunks and not branches and therefore it’s fine if the 2, 3, 4, and 5 trains all run on the same headway (every 5 minutes peak, every 6 off-peak).

      And what you call “an important feature for an effective transit system” doesn’t really exist elsewhere. London and Tokyo have elements of it but never anything as pervasive as what New York does in which around two-thirds of the system is in one connected component of the track-sharing graph. Paris runs Métro lines separately from one another; there’s a bit of branching but no reverse-branching.

      • Allan Rosen

        I am not for micro managing service based on crowding guidelines which the MTA is doing. You can have the same service level for all trunk lines as they used to do. The micromanaging started when they started looking for ways to cut service to save money. I remember when all lines operated at maximum capacity during rush hours and scaled back as demand warranted. That’s how to run the system. Not pick an arbitrary one size fits all headway. They gradually started to scale back on the shoulders, so instead of providing maximum capacity for the two hour rush, the maximum is now only provided for the peak 45 minutes. That increases crowding as well as delays.

        Interlining is important in NYC because it minimizes the number of transfers needed and therefore reduces trip time for passengers which is more important than how fast individual trains operate. It may be less important in other cities because of how the system was built. NYC was built for interlining and it should stay. People don’t want to change four times to make one trip.

        • adirondacker12800

          Interlining is important in NYC
          Yokels from the hinterlands find it offensive and want New Yorkers to change trains multiple times so the out of towners are less confused. They also come up with cockamamie things like running all the Seventh Ave trains down Nostrand and all the Lexington Ave. trains to Utica and New Lots. Or running all the 8th Ave trains local on Central Park West and all 6th Ave trains express.

    • Eric2

      Bad metaphor. A medium sized suit doesn’t fit large or small people. But a frequent transit system does work for all passengers.

      • Allan Rosen

        Great metaphor. It may work for the passengers. Why would a passenger care if there are only three passengers on the bus? But it’s totally inefficient for the operator when they need a seated load in both directions for the entire bus route to break even. Who will pay for all that unneeded service?

        • Phake Nick

          Cost of addirional off peak service on metro is relatively low, you need extra train driver, you need power to run the train, but the vehicle is already there and the station is also operating there already. So it is a trade off between train driver staffing vs planning staff staffing, with passengers also benefitting if it lean toward the more frequent and uniform side

          • Stephen Bauman

            Cost of additional off peak service on metro is relatively low,

            It cost a little more than $2500 per train-revenue-hour to operate a NYCT subway train in 2020, according to the NTD.

          • Frederick

            2500/2.75 = 909 passengers

            Except for Far Rockaway, it is not that difficult to find 909 folks entering one train in an hour, no?

          • Allan Rosen

            I was thinking more about bus service where 20 minute service is adequate because the bus carries only ten persons at a time. Operating those routes at every six minutes even with added ridership would average three or four persons per bus. Doesn’t make economic sense.

          • Phake Nick

            @Stephen I assume that “cost per train revenue hour” have evenly spread the cost of acquiring and maintaining a metro train across all the hour it operate, and didn’t take into account trains aren’t being used off-peak are simply sitting in depot either for repair or idling, thus have limited extra variable cost to bring those into service.

            @Allan The 100th most frequent bus route in NYC that would be covered by the proposal have 2.2 million annual ridership as of 2019. That is 6000 passengers per day roughly. Uniform 6-minutes off peak frequency from 6 to 22 would mean 160 departures, aka average 38 passengers per departure. Of course there are more people using the bus in peak hour and there will also be people using the bus deep into the night, thus off peak mid day ridership figure would be lower than this number, yet it will probably still be more than 3 or 4 per bus.

          • Stephen Bauman

            I took the total operating cost and divided by the total number of train-revenue hours. Here’s the NTD’s definition for train-revenue-hours:

            The hours that trains travel while in revenue service. Train revenue hours include:
            • Revenue service
            • Layover/recovery time
            Train revenue hours exclude:
            • Deadhead
            • Operator training
            • Maintenance testing
            • Charter services

            Here’s their definition for train-hours:

            The hours that trains travel while in revenue service plus deadhead hours. Train hours include:
            • Revenue service
            • Deadhead
            • Layover/recovery time
            Train hours exclude:
            • Hours for charter service
            • Operator training
            • Vehicle maintenance testing

            The difference is only deadhead hours. The difference between the two is less than 5% which won’t affect the ballpark $2500 figure by much.

          • Alon Levy

            But there are huge fixed costs – the variable costs are a lot lower.

            (And also, it’s weird that layovers count as revenue-hours. The train is literally not earning revenue – it’s turning back. My train operator labor efficiency numbers when I compute them myself, as in Helsinki and Tokyo, exclude layover time.)

          • Stephen Bauman

            If fixed costs are really independent of train frequency or number of trips, then they should not enter into a calculation of the extra operating cost for running additional trips. The NTD does provide additional breakdowns on the operation costs. Some of this might be assigned to fixed costs. I wish increased, fixed frequency advocates would provide cost estimates for their proposals and present how they arrived at their estimates.

            Whether or not layover hours should be included in train-revenue-hours depends on the use for this statistic. I agree it should not be included for estimating train operator efficiency.

            Somebody sent me a copy of the complete Division B crew assignments about 20 years ago. I used it to estimate operator efficiency (train hours traveled divided by employee hours charged). I believe the number came to below 50% but I cannot swear to it. One aspect that lowered this figure was the elimination of split shifts.

            OTOH, recovery time is part of the operating schedule. It its inclusion is warranted in calculating the variable operating cost. Otherwise, the same service level could be provide by fewer trains and resulting less maintenance, operating personnel, etc.

          • Alon Levy

            Part of the inefficiency is peaky schedules, is the point. That’s why in the admittedly small dataset that I have, cities with a lower peak-to-base frequency ratio get more service-hours out of every train operator (link. In addition to those, Berlin is around 910 hours/year, from 790 drivers inc. some supernumerary ones, 22.1 million train-km, and an average speed of 30.5-30.9 km/h depending on year, with more or less flat all-day 5-minute frequencies on all lines.

          • Phake Nick

            @Stephen Baumen “total operating cost and divided by the total number of train-revenue hours” is correct.
            But what matter here is not “total number of train-revenue hours”.
            It is that the “total operating cost” would not change much even if you change the “total number of train-revenue hours”.

          • Stephen Bauman

            More train-revenue-hours means more employee-hours for operating trains, maintaining trains, maintaining the tracks on which they operate, etc. They may not require more station agents, administrative personnel, etc. Additional train-revenue-hours definitely translates into more operating costs.

    • Phake Nick

      @Allan Rosen, Alon Levy,
      I think it is not impossible to manage frequency based on crowdness, but some conditions:
      – It have to meet some basic level of frequency to make the system useful, unless a place have really low demand like some sort of rural station
      – The scheduling should be done per physical track instead of per service pattern line. This could a,)ensure load are balanced across different trains, b.) enable each train stations and platforms get a more useful and more equally distributed schedule for its passengers, c.) reduce the chance of conflict and delay between trains, and d.) force planning of service to be centric about local demand on each section of track instead of generically based on what people are using currently. Hopefully this can also be done with fewer workload for schedule planner as there would be fewer conflicts,

      • Eric2

        When a system is interlined as much as NYC, it is basically impossible to schedule per track, because changes on one track affect all the others. (Another reason to eliminate interlining)

        • Allan Rosen

          The system exists to serve the riders, not to serve schedulers. It may be more difficult to schedule with interlining but interlining serves the passengers better than without interlining. People prefer not to transfer and perhaps wait on deserted stations which are deemed unsafe. Interlining requires fewer transfers and serves the passengers better and that all that matters.

          • Alon Levy

            All of these demands together make for impossible scheduling, is the issue. And interlining doesn’t actually serve passengers when it results in 16-minute waits in the middle of the day because of cascading delays.

          • Allan Rosen

            How do you know that those 16 minute waits are the results of delays and are not scheduled 15 minute service intervals with only one minute delays? I have rode the NYC subway system for over 65 years and we never had 16 minute waits in the midday years ago and there was even more interlining back then. How do you explain that? The delays today are due to fewer trains or are caused by the massive amounts of construction. They are not due to interlining.

          • Alon Levy

            I know because I know what the scheduled frequency is; it’s 12 minutes, not 15. At one point a 12-minute F headway even turned into a 20-minute gap due to propagation of delays between the F and G, which is an artifact of interlining.

          • Allan Rosen

            Sorry, I don’t believe the delay was due to interlining. I can believe interlining causes delays when trains are running at the minimum possible interval like every two minutes. Neither the F or G has great headways or anything approaching that. The F is never less than six, and the G isn’t less than ten. The delays would have to be caused by something else like, construction, sick passenger, crowding, or perhaps just incompetence. You are just against interlining and will look for anything to show it shouldn’t exist. You don’t even recognize the biggest advantage of interlining, reduced transferring. You shouldn’t try to find negatives while ignoring any positives. That is not being objective. You are no better than the MTA who draws predetermined conclusions, then fits their data to fit those conclusions. Nothing is black and white.

          • Alon Levy

            You don’t need to believe me; Uday found the exact line diagram from that day and showed how the delays propagated.

            And the F absolutely is worse than six. Standard weekend headway on the F is 12 minutes and I would constantly share photos of the countdown clocks on Twitter when I was in LIC in October.

          • Allan Rosen

            If the headway is only 12 during middays, how could you blame the delays on interlining? Sounds to me there are other factors at play.

          • Alon Levy

            Can you look at the thread? See for example here. And before you tell me this is just about the headway mismatch, the E and F headways on weekends are 12 minutes and yet they have 2- and 10-minute gaps on the shared section.

          • Allan Rosen

            According to Uday, the problem stems from the M not having the same headway as the E and F. So why not make all the headways the same? Probably because the MTA would rather have messed up service to save a few bucks. The problem for the delays lies with the MTA, not interlining.

          • Matthew Hutton

            Historically the trains would have exceeded the speed limits to make up time to be fair. And they would have been happy to depart with stuff stuck in the doors.

          • Matthew Hutton

            The F train runs on the same tracks as the E, M and G trains in places.

            And aaside from the G they also run on the same tracks as other lines.

          • Allan Rosen

            Alon’s point was the interlining of the F and G caused problems. I showed that the headways were not close enough for interlining to have an effect. So now, you move the goal posts blaming other lines the F shares trackage with saying the E or the F contributed with the delays with the G. Show a specific example to prove that was the case and no other factors other than interlining were involved.

            Regarding your second point, it is not possible for trains to leave with stuff stuck in the doors and that never happened years ago. Doors have to be closed and lock for the motorman to get indication to move the train.

          • Matthew Hutton

            I’ve been on a Paris metro train with stuff stuck in the doors that left the station and that was the 1990s. I’ve been on a Moroccan train more recently were the doors were wide open when the train was doing 60mph.

            No way New York subway trains didn’t do the same back in the day.

          • Allan Rosen

            I used to work for Car Equipment. I even took a five-day course just on car doors and was tested on what I learned. So, I can l can unequivocally state that the train cannot leave the station without indication. The only things that could get stuck in doors are soft material under about one or two inches thick which wouldn’t affect indication.

            If the conductor isn’t properly doing his job, a piece of someone’s clothing could get stuck and a passenger could be dragged. But to say that trains always left the stations with stuff stuck in the doors may be possible in other systems, but it isn’t possible in NYC.

  4. Phake Nick

    Tokyo is now ending its night service earlier while starting its day later to allow more time for maintenance, which by allowing maintenance staff work continuously for a longer time would also reduce the total amount of maintenance staff needed simultaneously across the whole network. They also cited automation which require deploying and withdrawing machines to and from tracks taking extra time eating up available maintenance time as reason that longer maintenance time being needed

    Maybe NYC instead of making temporary maintenance windows, should have periodic permanent time slots that break the now-7×24 sevice and allow more extensive maintenance to be conducted in order to facilitate the continuance of reliable service and reduce unexpected service disruption?

  5. Stephen Bauman

    The question of non-uniform headways and interlining isn’t as bad as has been mentioned. Also the cause for non-uniform headways must be also be considered: by design or by indivudual delays.

    Uniform headways along interlined sections are important for maintaining schedules, when significant numbers of passengers are going to stations along the interlined section. This is true going downtown from upper Manhattan or the Bronx. Passengers entering at 145/135/125th (ABCD), 96th (123), 125th (456) because most are heading for destinations before the interlined routes diverge in Brooklyn.

    It’s less true for the F/G and E/F sections discussed. How many people who enter at/after Church Ave are headed to a destination before or at Bergen St? How many people who enter at/after Union Tpk are headed for Forest Hills or Roosevelt Ave? Most of the passengers who enter these trains are taking them to points beyond the diverge points at Bergen St and Roosevelt Ave. What’s important in this case is that each of the individual routes maintain a uniform schedule.

    If the interlined routes have scheduled headways that are multiples of one another, then it’s possible to write schedule that will avoid merging conflicts. Otherwise, scheduled merging conflicts are inevitable. Either one or two headway intervals must be adjusted to avoid such conflicts passengers must live with the scheduled merging conflict.

    The next question regarding interlining has to do with how to resolve merging priorities, when one of the lines misses its merging slot. This should be the province of train supervision, which totally lacking in NYC. London started automated merging 65 years ago. It’s merging algorithm could handle delays.

    • Alon Levy

      The E/F get extensive ridership on the shared trunk line. The main destination is Manhattan, and when the train comes every 12 minutes, people would ride whichever comes first rather than wait for the one closer to their exact destination in many cases.

      The F/G interlining is different, yeah. But the problem there is that the headways are different, not that the shared section is awkwardly timetabled as with the E/F.

      • Stephen Bauman

        Unless I were going to a destination along Seventh Avenue, I would definitely make it a point to choose either the E or the F. When the GG provided the only local service along Queens Blv and both E and F were interlined from 179th St and operated via 53rd St, I might take the first express and then change at Fifth Ave.

        Rerouting the F via 63rd St made this option moot. The only stops where the E and F are now interlined are: Briarwood*, Union Tpk, 75th Ave*, 71st Ave and Roosevelt Ave. The asterisks are only part time. The number of passengers whose origin and destination are these stations is quite small, regardless of how heavily used the E and F are used.

        I’ve checked the static GTFS schedule for 2022-12-18, the Sunday before Christmas. The E and F operate each operate at 12 minute intervals during the afternoon. However, the next train wait time at Union Tpk, Forest Hills and Roosevelt Ave is 6 minutes. They are operating with uniform headways, while the express track is interlined. The only time when there are uneven wait times between an E and following F or an F and following E is during night time hours. The E and F are not interlined during these hours, except at Briarwood, Union Tpk and 75th Ave. Uniform headways are impossible because of the run time difference between the E local and F express.

        Whatever the Queens Blv shortcomings might be, they are the fruits of careful planning and not the result of interlining.

        • adirondacker12800

          You know how the subway works. It all gets very confusing for yokels from the hinterlands who want to know where the blue train is.

  6. Onux

    “office staff is not cheap and American public-sector hiring has problems with uncompetitive salaries”

    The first part of this statement appears to contradict the second.

    • Alon Levy

      It doesn’t contradict. The issue is that white-collar labor in New York is expensive, and the MTA doesn’t get that if it wants to be able to fill positions in a timely manner, it needs to be paying competitive salaries, which beyond the entry level are six figures. Everyone has internalized memes about how labor is overpaid that they don’t ever notice how it’s frequently underpaid.

      • Matthew Hutton

        Public sector jobs generally probably have the wrong balance between pensions and pay too.

        Nurses for example in Britain get like £30k a year but have the pension that someone on £50-55k is recommended to get and one that realistically someone on £75k would get.

        • Alon Levy

          Yeah, the US has that in droves. The fringe rate in the American private sector is a factor of 1.3: for every $1 you get in gross pay, your existence costs your employer $1.30 in wages and benefits. In the public sector it’s a factor of nearly 2, same as in Europe for everyone.

        • adirondacker12800

          Or the people making more have stingy employers and their pensions are too low.

  7. Matthew Hutton

    Private sector pensions are too stingy. But public sector pensions are also too generous compared to wages.

    The pension industry produces recommendations about what pension you need for a given income. The public and private sectors should match that.

    • adirondacker12800

      Private sector pensions don’t exist. If you are lucky your employer has a 401-k plan or something similar.

      • Alon Levy

        In the US, yeah. But note that workers who can choose between a public-sector job that pays $75,000 plus $70,000 in fringe and a private-sector job that pays $110,000 plus $35,000 in fringe almost always go for the latter, and even the fringe that does exist only survives because of preferential tax treatment, on the theory that it’s a humiliation to have to buy health insurance on the Obamacare market. (In Belgium, this includes benefits for a company car, backed by the right-liberals because they think cars are good and tax-subsidizing them is good.)

        • Matthew Hutton

          Nurses are leaving the NHS for supermarket jobs at £11/hour with legal minimum 28 days holiday 3% pension contribution and some discounts on gym membership vs a nursing job on £10.50 an hour plus £5 an hour in pension contributions, very strong sick pay and 35 days holiday. And also with more discounts with https://www.bluelightcard.co.uk/

          • Phake Nick

            Eh, nursing work have more stress and other challenges than supermarket jobs, that is probably the main motivation for them to choose a job with worse pay and less holiday?

        • adirondacker12800

          If they aren’t getting health insurance through their employer it’s a small employer. I don’t know what other myths legends and fables you’ve been listening to. I don’t know or care what percentile 75k a year is in or 110k. I can easily find out that the median wage in the U.S. is just under 32 dollars an hour and that annualizes to 64k. Your upper middle class biases are showing. Again.

          • Alon Levy

            The average wage for an NYCT worker is closing in on $100,000/year. The median wage in the US is not too relevant to New York, or to the New York public sector, which has very little unskilled labor and a lot of both white-collar and skilled, physically demanding blue-collar labor. Bus and train drivers earn $85,000/year.

          • Matthew Hutton

            Train (and to a lesser extent bus) drivers are also responsible for a lot of people. It’s effectively a management position.

          • adirondacker12800

            Your pay doesn’t determine whether or not your employer is required to provide health insurance. You can’t bitch about fringe benefits unless you understand how they work.

    • Phake Nick

      Now in Hong Kong, retirement plan for public and private worker have merged since year 2000 when mandatory private retirement fund system was created, where employers and employees have to each contribute equivalent of 5% salary (total 10%, max cap of 400USD total per month, exemption to people earning less than 900 USD per month) every month to any of approved private companies on a list, where employees can then decide their investement strategy for the amount of money inside their retirement account in the company-chosen fund corporate, but only among a list of investment fund approved by the government. Companies and/or employees can make additional contribution but I don’t know any single people or company who do this.

      It have been a popular way to get “quick money” from the system by declaring permanently leaving Hong Kong or early retirement, to get the sum of money that would otherwise be made available only after 65 years old. The government is also considering a possible way to “solve housing problem” by allowing young people to take money from this fund for their first home purchase. In other words most people simply see this fund as an amount of individual’s money locked up from the person for a long period of time.

      There’s also another problem that these funds withint government approval charge higher management fee than funds in the general market.

  8. Nathan Williams

    284? Holy crap. The MBTA has, like, 10 people building crew and vehicle schedules. Maybe.

    Admittedly they pretty much are just doing the buses, what with the rail setups being pretty simple, but something is out of whack with one or both of those agencies’ staffing.

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