Volume 23, Number 7| The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | June 25 - July 1, 2010
No more W trains for Whitehall commuters
BY Joseph Rearick
On June 27, the M.T.A. is scheduled to implement a series of service changes to the subway and bus system in an attempt to reduce a budget gap of nearly $800 million. One of the most notable changes for Downtown residents and workers is the discontinuation of the W train, which currently begins at Whitehall Street and services several locations below Canal Street before continuing to Astoria, Queens.
While the cut affects Astoria residents most severely, given the present scarcity of service to that growing neighborhood, the elimination of the W will certainly impinge upon Downtown riders as well.
Matt Soriano, who uses the R and W trains to get to work during the week, fears the elimination of one of his commuting options will significantly lengthen his daily commute.
“If they don’t increase R trains, it could double my commute,” he said on a recent Friday afternoon as he waited in the Whitehall Street-South Ferry station. “If I miss the train, I could wait ten to twelve minutes.”
Fortunately, Soriano relies on the trains for a brief trip to his home by Canal Street, and he understands that the discontinuation of the W comes as a result of dire fiscal circumstances.
“Because there’s another train that goes to the exact same spot, I’m okay with it,” he said. “[The M.T.A.] can’t keep going into debt like that.”
Other commuters, like David Woldin who works Downtown and in Midtown, are less willing to suffer to alleviate the M.T.A.’s pains. He estimates that following the cuts, his commute will be “thirty minutes more when I take it into Midtown,” and dreads the upcoming changes.
“They should look elsewhere,” he said of the M.T.A.’s decision to cut the W. “Plus, they’re cutting bus services. It’ll be hard, but I’ve got to get to work somehow.”
When asked where he might suggest cuts, however, Woldin admitted the complexity of the problem. “I have no idea,” he said. “I take a lot of trains so it’s hard to say.”
Aaron Donovan, deputy press secretary of the M.T.A., hopes to assure riders like Woldin that cuts and reductions in service are necessary and only a small part of the M.T.A.’s greater plan to balance the budget. In an email, he described the entire slate of activities the M.T.A. plans to implement in reducing budget deficits, only one of which is “service cuts to bus, subway, rail and paratransit that are designed to minimize impact to our customers.” He also spoke to the central focus of the M.T.A.’s plans.
“The service changes are just a small part of what is needed to close the budget gap. The majority of what we’re focusing on is ways to save money by taking a look at how the M.T.A. does business,” said Donovan.
This initiative includes the delay and elimination of more than half the projects planned in the 2010 operating budget, administrative reorganization and the laying off of several hundred workers.
On the platforms, the necessity of such concessions is clear to many riders, even those whose commutes will extend significantly. Kelly Benar, who rides the W frequently from Queens to her mother’s home Downtown, prefers the cuts to another potential means of closing the budget gap: fare increases.
“I don’t know the specifics of the problems but if they don’t make cuts, we are going to see much bigger fares,” she said, sitting within the W as it waited to leave from the White Hall-South Ferry station.
Just minutes later, she raced across the platform to catch an arriving R, which left long before its doomed neighbor, the W, closed it doors and departed for one of its final runs.