It sounds like a commute designed in purgatory: Ghost Train, meet the Tunnel to Nowhere.
The G train, which connects Queens and Brooklyn without veering into Manhattan, is widely derided as the train that “doesn’t go anywhere” (mostly by people who consider Queens to be nowhere). Similarly, the 63rd Street Tunnel–a.k.a. the Queens Connector–was mocked as the “tunnel to nowhere” when it first opened in 1989. (It was closed soon thereafter.)
The connector, due to reopen in January, will make life easier for the beleaguered hordes of Queens commuters who stream into Manhattan on the E and F lines, adding between 15 and 17 E and F trains an hour during off-peak times.
But opening the tunnel will sink the G train further into outer-borough oblivion. Because the connector will run exactly where the G train now rumbles, the G line will terminate at Court Square come August, instead of continuing into Jackson Heights and Kew Gardens as it now does. G train riders trying to transfer at Court Square will flood the cramped little station, and the one direct connection between the heavily populated parts of central Brooklyn and Queens will be cut.
That means that the journey from, say, Greenpoint to Astoria becomes a logistical nightmare: Get on the G, get off at Court Square, transfer to the E or the F, ride that train one stop to Queens Plaza, then get out, walk a couple blocks and get on the N. That adds up to three different trains and a walk for a trip of only a couple of miles.
The thousands of people that rely on the E and F to get into Manhattan clearly need relief. But because subway officials measure congestion only at points where people enter Manhattan from other boroughs, nobody really knows how crowded the G train is.
“That is the one train that we have difficulty getting ridership information on,” agreed Steve Weber, senior transportation planner at the Regional Plan Association, which supports the plan to open the tunnel. “The G train, because it doesn’t ever go into Manhattan, doesn’t ever cross what we call ‘the cordon,’ so it doesn’t get its ridership measured.”
Most people riding the G train last Friday knew nothing about the cutback. “Why are they going to do that?” asked a bewildered Felipe Zuluaga, 21, who rides the G to Queens Plaza every day.
Jennifer Nany lives in Brooklyn and commutes to Astoria, but she was blase about the new changes. “I’m always complaining about the G,” she said, shrugging. “It’s dirty, it’s crowded, it’s always late–I’m used to it.”
But Shenell Banks, who rides the G from the Bed-Stuy Myrtle/Willoughby stop to Court Square, pointed out that the cutoff will make another, longer trip even more painful: “For people that go to Riker’s Island to visit their family members, they’re going to have to make an extra transfer,” she explained.