G Unit

Transit-rights group Save the G sticks up for the city's most maligned line



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TRAIN IN VAIN Passengers  on the G line are used to service interruptions.

TRAIN IN VAIN Passengers on the G line are used to service interruptions.

G-train passengers are used to putting up with a lot of crap. In addition to the ribbing they take from their better-connected friends for riding the "loser line," the MTA has been cutting back service on the train for the better part of two decades. After years of marginalization, G-liners have gotten tough—and organized. Enter Save the G, a conglomeration of riders and community groups based along the G corridor that has been actively fighting—and occasionally beating—the MTA since 2001.

The main sticking point for Save the G, according to the group's organizer and full-time transit-rights advocate Teresa Toro, is the MTA's repeated attempts to permanently terminate the line's service at Court Square in Long Island City, Queens, cutting Brooklynites off from much of Queens and easy transfers to midtown. The MTA has met with community resistance to the plan since the mid-1980s, when Greenpoint resident John Leon successfully rallied the neighborhood to stop the Court Square termination. But it wasn't until the 2001 introduction of the V train that the fight really got ugly. The MTA insisted that service had to be cut in Queens to make room for the new line, but after heated public hearings and town-hall--style meetings organized by Save the G, the MTA backed off and agreed to continue service to Queens nights and weekends, when the V is not running.

"You always want total victory, but we'll take what we can get," Toro sighs. She also points out that, thanks to Save the G's efforts, the MTA installed moving sidewalks at Court Square, helping to shuffle the massive crowds that pour out of the G train daily at rush hour into the 360-foot-long tunnel that connects them to the E and V lines. And in what was likely a preemptive move to placate riders, special turnstiles were installed at Court Square, allowing commuters to make a free "street transfer" to the 7 line. The group's tenacity has impressed one of the city's top transit watchdogs, Straphangers Campaign senior attorney Gene Russianoff, who calls the G train "the punching bag of the Transit Authority." He says, "This seems like a 30-year war. I give [Save the G] high marks for perseverance. They've hung in there when a lot of groups wouldn't have."

Still, Toro points out that the "war" is far from over. Rumors have recently swirled on the Straphangers website that the MTA is once again planning to terminate the G at Court Square (the MTA denies this), and the MTA has gone ahead with one person train operation (OPTO) on the G, which many consider dangerous, as it means fewer conductors watching out for public safety. Also, Toro wants to see each G restored to six cars—the number was cut down to four in 2001, in part to use the extra cars to build the V train. Toro says the truncated trains force many commuters to do a dangerous dash to make their connection (according to the MTA, shorter trains mean less time between trains during rush hours). Leon also notes that Greenpoint—where the G is the only option—has seen a population explosion in recent years, so the shorter trains mean crowded cars. With the drumbeat of gentrification growing louder in South Williamsburg and Bedford-Stuyvesant—not to mention major service interruptions on the L—crowding on the G line is only going to increase.

Even as the need for better G service grows, Toro concedes that many of Save the G's goals probably won't be realized anytime soon. Her main concern at the moment is throwing the organization's weight behind a commuter- friendly candidate in the upcoming governor's race. "The MTA is set up as a public authority that really only answers to the governor. Unfortunately we have a governor who has essentially declared disinterest for the rest of his term." She goes on to say that "we would really like any gubernatorial candidate who considers the way the MTA treats its customers."

For more information, go to www.savetheg.org.

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