When I was in high school, it took me about 45-50 minutes to commute to midtown during rush hour. That was taking a local train all the way, due to construction on the Manhattan Bridge.
Now, it takes me more than an hour to commute an equivalent distance!
If I take a local train the whole way, it takes me 60-65 minutes!
If I take an express train, it isn’t any faster. First, the N is local in Manhattan, which decreases the savings I would get from the N. Second, the trains all get backed up at DeKalb Avenue and into the Manhattan Bridge. There’s no benefit to taking the express when it gets stuck for 10-15 minutes.
The Manhattan Bridge is falling apart. To conserve the bridge, the MTA adopted a policy “At most one train can be on the bridge in each direction at a time.” However, that means that trains back up on both sides of the bridge.
The express trains interleave at DeKalb Avenue. The N goes along 4th avenue in Brooklyn and then up Broadway in Manhattan. The D goes along 4th avenue and then up 6th Avenue. The Q goes along the Brighton line and then up Broadway. The B goes along the Brighton line and then up 6th Avenue.
Do you see the problem? If a B train gets delayed, then it backs up at DeKalb avenue. The D train gets stuck at DeKalb avenue. This causes the N to also get backed up, because it can’t pass the D.
Under normal circumstances, the backup would occur on the Manhattan Bridge. However, the MTA has a policy “Trains can’t wait on the Manhattan Bridge”. This means that the backup occurs at DeKalb Avenue (the stop before the Manhattan Bridge). This also means that any delay affects *ALL* trains, rather than just 6th avenue or Broadway.
If *ANY* of a D, N, Q, or B gets delayed, then the N gets delayed. The result is that there’s no benefit to taking the express.
As another complication, sometimes there’s so many people that I wouldn’t fit on the express train. (I’m not pushy enough and I don’t like squeezing in.) The MTA cut back on the number of trains, even during peak rush hour. On the local train, I can usually get a seat.
After a couple of tries, I took the express and discovered that it wasn’t much faster than the local. It’s at best 5-10 minutes faster, and it’s frequently not faster.
If I take the local train, at least I can get a seat and use my phone on the train. I’m giving up on taking an express.
That is an interesting symptom of the decline. In 1992, it took me 45-50 minutes to commute to midtown during rush hour. Now, it takes me 60-65 minutes. The Manhattan Bridge is falling apart, due to lack of maintenance. Even for an apples-to-apples comparison (local all the way), it was 15-20 minutes faster 20 years ago, to go an equivalent distance! (I got off at a different stop in Manhattan in high school, but it really is an equivalent distance trip.)