It’s the most disparaged subway line in the entire MTA system. “The line to nowhere,” They say. The line is the G train, and They are those who don’t use it. For those who do ride the G, it’s the best train in New York City. The A is known as the 8th Avenue Express and the F is called the 6th Avenue Local. The G is the crosstown line, snaking through Brooklyn from Church Avenue in Kensington north through Greenpoint, with (currently) two stops in Queens and ending at Court Square, without ever going into “The City” on the way. It’s the only non-shuttle subway line that avoids Manhattan.
The G train opened as the GG in 1933 as part of the IND system, using the double-letter code of the day for local trains. It was a simple shuttle between Queens Plaza and Nassau Avenue in Greenpoint, with plans to expand the line further. In 1937 the crosstown line extension to the Culver Line opened, with transfer points to the BMT’s L train at Metropolitan Avenue-Lorimer Street and to the A and C trains at Hoyt-Schermerhorn Street Station. The last stop was Smith-9th Streets in Brooklyn, and simultaneously the line was extended in Queens to 71st Avenue in Forest Hills. In 2009, it was extended to Church Avenue during a rehabilitation of the Smith-9th and Fourth Avenue stations, and upon project completion, an outcry of public opinion convinced transit officials to maintain the Kensington terminus rather than cutting the line back again. In 2010, the Queens end of the line was changed to the Court Square interchange with the E, M, and 7 lines.
During its history, the G train has had shifting terminus points at both ends and its car length juggled as ridership numbers ebbed and flowed along with the changing turn-arounds. The line’s nadir was the stretch of time corresponding with New York City’s financial and social troubles in the mid-to-late 1970s. A general lack of basic maintenance resulted in the line’s stations growing dirty and dingy, and service cuts made for long waits in unpleasant and sometimes unsafe conditions. The G train was given a reputation as a line to avoid.
With the explosion in population and popularity of Brooklyn in the past thirty years, there has been an increase in people living, working, creating, and hanging out in the borough, with the crowds and high prices in Manhattan becoming what to avoid. Even though the line’s shady reputation remains intact in the minds of many, the G train now boasts a ridership growth that is out-pacing any other line in the MTA system. Service has increased, stations have been rejuvenated, and, for those heading from South Brooklyn to Williamsburg, Greenpoint, or Bushwick, the line is now one of Brooklyn’s best-kept secrets. All that’s needed now is to increase the train length from its current four cars to six.
That’s coming, and more. Many Brooklynites do work in Manhattan, and with the planned renovation of the L train’s Canarsie Tunnel beginning in April of 2019 to repair damage from Hurricane Sandy, the 225,000 commuters that use that tube every day will have to find an alternate route to work. That means transferring to the G train, northbound to the E, M, and 7 lines to midtown and southbound to Hoyt-Schermerhorn Streets for the A and C lines to the Financial District. To accommodate an anticipated huge increase in ridership, the MTA plans to add four cars to each train and to add trains, especially during rush hours. The secret will definitely be out, though the perceived inconvenience will probably not change the minds of too many of those new riders that the G train sucks. While they’re riding it, it just might.
For now, and then after, the G train is Brooklyn’s very own subway, and while for many it’s the train to nowhere, for us, it’s Brooklyn’s own, and we love it.
Great Brooklyn neighborhoods and attractions on the G line:
Greenpoint (Greenpoint Avenue; Nassau Avenue Stations)
Numerous TV/ Independent Film Production Studios
Greek Theatres/Greek Restaurants
Williamsburg (Metropolitan Avenue; Broadway; Flushing Avenue)
Music Hall of Williamsburg
Transfer to the L to Bushwick
Bed-Stuy (Flushing Avenue; Myrtle-Willoughby Avenues; Bedford-Nostrand)
Billy Holiday Theatre
Clinton Hill (Classon Avenue; Clinton-Washington)
St. Joseph’s College NY
Ft Greene (Fulton Street)
Arts Hub/Cultural Center
Downtown Brooklyn/Boerum Hill (Hoyt-Schermerhorn Sts.)
City Point Mall
Fulton Street Pedestrian Mall
Downtown High-Rise Construction
Cobble Hill/Boerum Hill (Bergen Street)
Smith Street Restaurant Row (North end)
Carroll Gardens (Carroll Street; Smith-9th Streets)
Smith Street Restaurant Row (South end)
Gowanus (Smith-9th Streets; Fourth Avenue-9th Street)
Park Slope (Fourth Avenue-9th Streets; Seventh Avenue; 15th St.-Prospect Park)
Best neighborhood to live in (Time Out NY, 2012)
Windsor Terrace (15th St.-Prospect Park;, Ft. Hamilton Parkway)
Kensington (Church Avenue)
Eclectic mix of restaurants and people