So why all the hype about bringing back a subpar and ultimately superfluous service like the W?
The easy answer has to do with the general state of the subway system itself, which, as any New Yorker will tell you, is an overcrowded and chronically delayed mess. Subway ridership has only increased since the W’s demise six years ago -- an uptick of almost 200 million additional trips each year, according to MTA figures. “Everybody has experienced getting on a train and having their face shoved into somebody’s armpit just to get to work,” says Cohen. “So, in that sense, any increase in service is a good thing.”
But the biggest perk about the revived W really isn’t about the W at all. It’s about a different subway line -- specifically, the hugely anticipated and long overdue Second Ave subway, which MTA aims to partially open on Dec 30th. The new subway line, which has been in the planning stages seemingly forever, is intended as the biggest solution yet to the overcrowding problem... once it’s finally completed anyway.
Here’s how it all fits together: With the W back up and running, MTA will be able to discontinue Q train service to Queens and ultimately reroute that train to Manhattan’s Upper East Side. There, it will run along the first section of the new Second Ave line, with stops at 72nd, 86th, and 96th Streets.
Within this greater scheme, transit advocates see the W’s return as a significant step toward the Second Ave line finally happening. “It’s a vote of confidence that the Second Ave subway will be opening soon,” says Cohen.
That's not the starring role that the MTA's marquee-themed advertisements would have you believe. Realistically, the W is more of a supporting cast member in the big transit drama ahead. But for a train once deemed totally unnecessary, it’s an automatic improvement.