Yes, it's harder to get on the Orange Line at rush hour these days

Rusted out old Orange Line train

More Bondo, stat! From the report.

The MBTA last year quietly increased the spacing between trains during rush hour, decreasing the line's peak-time capacity by 25% and increasing the odds that frustrated passengers at certain stops won't even be able to get on a train at all because they're already full to bursting.

The T is now trying to speed up the Orange Line by putting down lines at key stations showing passengers where to stand for faster boarding and by having a sort of relay race at Forest Hills and Oak Grove, where fresh drivers now hop into the cab of an incoming train, rather than waiting for the incoming driver to walk the 382 feet down the platform from one end of the train to the other.

But new lines on platforms do little if the train is already in full sardine mode. Full relief may not come until 2022, when the T expects to roll out the last of the new Orange Line trains scheduled to be built in Springfield (delivery of a few cars could come in 2018, but those will be for testing). The T plans to buy 152 of the new cars to replace the current fleet of 120 cars, which reached their "end of design life" in the last century.

A report issued by the T earlier this week (2.4M PDF) shows that the "headway" between Orange Line trains has increased from 4 to 5 minutes in 2010 to 6 minutes today. In 2011, the T increased the headway to 5 to 6 minutes, "due to lack of vehicles" and then to a full 6 minutes last year, due to "growing ridership and lengthened scheduled travel times," the report states. The result:

Point checks at State Street in July 2015 showed heavy loads, 350 people passed by full trains in PM peak

The report does not specify the reason for the "lengthened scheduled travel times," but the change coincides with the opening of the new Assembly Square station.

The report also lists other key issues on the Orange Line, including the "obsolete" signaling system used on the tracks between Forest Hills and Back Bay, issues with the concrete used to support the tracks and the station power substations on that stretch and leaking tunnels at some stations.


Free tagging: 


Been saying that for years

I'm surprised it's not a thing already.

NYCMTA used to employ "pushers" on the Times Sq. - Grand Central shuttle back before WWII. They were, from what I've read, hugely unpopular, which was probably part of why the MTA did away with them.

July huh maybe check during the fall

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You know schools back, college kids and then see how stuffed the Orange line is.
But wait didn't a previous study say the trains ran 90+ % on time.
One very 6 minutes would be great. Now it is more like trains in 3 , 6 and 14 minutes. how do they get so stretched out?

Do college kids

tend to live on the Orange line? Serious question, most of the neighborhoods it serves seem to be more (non-student) residential or commercial areas, with a few hubs like Sullivan and North Station. I guess JP and Somerville to an extent, but I feel like the Red and Green lines are the student-heavy lines, with the Blue Line now joining in (thanks Suffolk).

and Suffolk, Emerson, Fisher

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serviced bt DTX, Tufts (Chinatown, AND Somerville/Medford)

There are probably more. It's safe to say that ALL transit lines serve college students, as there are more Colleges in Boston than probably any other single area in the country, maybe world.

Fair enough

I was thinking more where students are coming from, not necessarily where the schools are (most of those are also serviced by Red and Green lines as well).

I think there's a big

I think there's a big difference between college students riding the green line (where many of the student live in dorms) and those on the red and orange lines (where many of the students are commuting in). The commuting students seem far less awful. I wonder why that is?

Do that many

take the Orange vs Green there though? Again, thinking about where students live and commute from.

As a Northeastern alum, only

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As a Northeastern alum, only freshmen take the Green Line. After freshman year, everyone realizes that if you want to actually get anywhere, you take the Orange or the 39.

And yes, there are plenty of students who commute to campus via the orange line from JP, Forest Hills, and beyond.

They didn't say that they don

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They didn't say that they don't check in the fall, they just used the July count as an example. And if the trains are crowded in the summer and leaving people behind, I think it is safe to say they will be crowded in the fall. Nor mentioned though, Government Center was still closed when that count was taken. A large number of people that would normally transfer from Blue to Green were still taking the Orange Line instead. I've noticed that the crowds at State and Downtown Crossing seem to be not as bad since Government Center reopened.

Lines on the platform?

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No one knows what those lines are for. No signs, no flyers, no explanations by T employees, no nothing. Plus during rush houi, there's lots of people standing on top of the lines and you cant see them anyway.
But dont worry,"there's another train right behind this one".

Signs are behind the lines

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At State, anyway, you have to turn around to see the signs posted to all the pillars that show what the lines on the ground are for.

Lines also require trains to stop at an exact point. This appears difficult for many train operators.

I had no idea what those lines were for

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until reading this article. I also haven't seen any signs, but I'll check the walls again based on what ksquared said. It doesnt matter anyway because my strategy to get on the train during rush hour and other busy times , and the strategy of others is to remain fluid. Look for areas on the platform with fewer people. look inside the cars as the train arrives, know which cars are more likely to be full or not full based on boarding patterns at previous stations, then move to the appropriate area as the train arrives.

I've already given up paying

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I've already given up paying attention to the lines. I've yet to see a single train actually line up with them.

If if there isn't another

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If if there isn't another train right behind this one, just wait 6 years when we will MAYBE have all the new trains we should have had 20+ years ago...

People On The Platform Need To Step Back When A Train Arrives...

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... to make room for disembarking passengers to get off the train first. Instead, they often crowd right in front of the doors. This causes significantly increased dwell times, especially during rush hour, and at busy stations like Downtown Crossing and Park Street.

Stressing the simple idea of letting people get off the train before you try to get on would make a much bigger difference than painting lines on the platforms.

Oh don't worry, train

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Oh don't worry, train operators scream that at you over the intercom all day, every day.

I've actually never found this to be a problem at rush hour. It is a problem, however, on weekends and before/after events. Regular daily commuters aren't the ones blocking the doors and not letting people off first - it's infrequent users.


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The condition of much of the T's equipment is an embarrassment. Let's pray that the Orange Line trains don't just fall apart before the new cars arrive. Funny how the MBTA proudly announce the new cars coming online in 2018. We should have wondered what the * was in all the announcements. Now we know. Wait until 2022 to really see relief.

In the meantime, would it kill them to add a few more buses to the 39 route during rush hour to help with the overcrowding heading south from Back Bay?

They are replacing 120 old

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They are replacing 120 old cars with 152 new ones. If they hold off on removing any old cars from service until the first 32 of the new cars are delivered and in service, and then replace the old cars one for one after 32 new cars are already here,they will be able to expand the total fleet without having to wait for all 152 new cars to be delivered.

Hopefully, the T will keep the "good" trainsets

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from the retiring cars as emergency backup or spare sets for the new series. One would hope there's at least some inventory of parts saved after the bulk retire. I am not sure if there is sufficient layover/storage space when not in service, but the few extra tracks are easier to fund than additional trainsets on the dime.

The T does generally do this

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The T does generally do this as standard practice - though not a very good job of it. There is still a train of old red line cars from the generation before the older of the current two hanging out at Cabot, which used to be in use as a work train, but I don't think it even still runs anymore. I believe the green line's wire car (which hasn't run under it's own power in years - and in fact I haven't seen it in the system at all for a while now) is also a conversion of an older car. They also hung onto a few blue line trains after the current ones entered service, though I believe these are all gone now, with the exception of the immobile car at the South Boston training facility, and the shell of a car down in Taunton.

However, if any are kept I would be very surprised to ever see them in revenue service, and I don't expect the T to ever maintain a museum fleet like NYCTA does.

Why trips take longer

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It's not just a new stop at Assembly Square. Every stop takes longer now, because doors are now operated by the single employee driving the train. At almost every stop, the operator has to get up, move to the other side of the cab, open the doors, watch everyone get on and off, close the doors, close the window, move to the other side of the cab, and only then does the train move on. It takes an extra 15 seconds or so per station, and if you multiply that by the number of left-side platforms (when they have to switch sides), that's got to add 3-4 minutes on each trip.

But that's not a new

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But that's not a new procedure. The switch to OPTO happened long before this schedule lengthening.

Also, if they went back to two-person operation, it would cost so much more to run the trains that they'd cut service even further. No thank you. Every other transit system in the world can handle OPTO, we're not special.


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For those of us that aren't as erudite as you, what is OPTO?

OPTO = "One Person Train

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OPTO = "One Person Train Operation"

One crew member to both drive the train and open and close doors.

Single Operator began in 2011 on Orange Line

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The switch to single-operator trains happened c. 2011, right at the same time they decreased the number of trains operating at peak travel times. This helps explain why my commute increased noticeably during this period. I had blamed it on the switch to single-operator, which while surely slowing things to some degree, didn't seem significant enough to explain the extra five minutes (on a good day) on my Malden Center to Chinatown commute. The increase to 6 minute headway explains it.

By reducing the number of trains, you are obviously increasing the number of riders on each train and so each stop takes longer to load and unload passengers. I have moved my schedule so that I now get up before dawn to make the commute more pleasant. I hope they can sustain the current level of 96 trains during the peak travel period (and my hats off to MBTA maintenance for doing a commendable job with such old equipment) because I can't get up any earlier!

The 2022 date to get all the new trains up and running makes me weep. Four years (if we are lucky) between the pilot trains starting and the last of the new trains going into service? I really don't know if the current trains can make it that much longer.

The issue with the 39 is it

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The issue with the 39 is it getting caught in traffic, not number of busses. Add more busses and you'll just get even more bunching.

It'd be interesting to see them experiment with some express service or limited stops on 39, though. Less bunching.

Begin the Beguine of the Bussy Bunch

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39 buses often start off already bunched at Forest Hills. It is frustrating how many times two 39 buses drive down South St in bound.

Bunching is such a common problem among bus systems it is hard to understand why no one has come up with better solutions. Since the first bus often winds up full and the 2nd bus empty it would make more sense to express the 2nd bus. Yes that would mean juggling the schedules on the fly. God forbid that bus schedulers or drivers be flexible enough to allow for modifying schedules on the fly.

Erm, I see this happen every

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Erm, I see this happen every day on the 22. I've actually been asked by the driver to transfer buses at a stop so the bus I was on could go express.

And the reason no one has solved bus bunching is because there is no real solution to it, besides instructing drivers to try and skip stops when buses bunch together. That can't be done as often as you might like though. Here's a scenario: Bus 1 is full, bus 2 is right behind it empty. The logical solution is to have bus 1 skip a couple stops and let bus 2 pick up those people. But bus 1 can't skip any of the stops if people want to get off at them, which means it still has to stop at them. Even if it discharges only, and people waiting are required to wait for bus 2, the benefit of bus 1 not picking up new passengers is significantly reduced vs skipping the stop entirely.

A lot of thought has been put into this, and there's no real practical solution that works all the time and doesn't degrade the quality of service.

I was worried about increased

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I was worried about increased dwell times when they switched to one-person operation. But in my experience, there was no noticeable difference.

Same lines as on the red line?

Lines were installed on the platform at South Station (maybe other stations, too). I didn't see any signs for them, but I also didn't look for any.

I had wondered if they were supposed to line up with the doors, possibly to help people who are blind - but they don't seem to. I mean, if you stand where a door was on the previous train, that is not necessarily where a door will be on the next train.

That would likely require each operator stopping at exactly the same place each time he/she pulls into a station. Seems unlikely.

It wouldn't work on the Red Line

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The Red Line has two different types of trains. The older kind has 3 doors per car, while the newer kind has 4 doors per car. Therefore, as you described, the doors will appear at different spots on the platform on a train-to-train basis, even if the trains all stop at the exact same position.

I forgot about the different train types.

By the time I'm coming home on the red line, I'm in zombie mode anyway and just following the crowd (I take bus, bus, silver line in the morning).

Why the heck, then, are those line there?


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Still no good reason why the orange and red lines dont have the same cars, different equipment and different maintenance facility. Just dumb since they could have done it when the changed the Orange line

Red Line cars are wider, and

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Red Line cars are wider, and wouldn't fit on the Orange Line.

But supposedly the new cars on order will share a lot of components.


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The same reason the NY subway has two different car widths (IRT vs. BMT/IND) and will never have a fleet of interchangeable cars.

done what?

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… they could have done it when the changed the Orange line

Yeah, because widening a mile-long 80-year old tunnel with four stations is a simple task, just do some overnight excavations and you're done.

the orange line could have matched the red

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It was discussed when they built the new orange line and rejected. The T kept 2 separate maintenance facilities and 2 different car types, manufacturers etc>>>>

Erm, the "new orange line"?

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Erm, the "new orange line"? You do realize that the Orange Line tunnel through downtown (the oldest infrastructure used by the OL) is over 100 years old right?

It's actually older than the oldest infrastructure used by the Red Line, which opened between Harvard and Park four years later, in 1912.

And the T didn't come into existence until 1964 anyway, so no the T didn't consider and reject the idea.

But the jist is there

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Those S.O.B.s back in 1912 were very shortsighted in their decision making.

Personally, I blame the Patrick/Romney/Swift/Celucci/Weld/Dukakis/King/Dukakis/Sargent/Volpe/Peabody/Volpe/Furcolo/Herter/Dever/Bradford/Tobin... Administration for screwing us straphangers.

the orange line is new since

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the orange line is new since 1987 and yes there was discussion about having a single car for both the red and orange lines. It was rejected i suspect because it would have costs jobs. There is no reason that both can not have the same train. Yes the evolved differently over the years but both had major updates during the 1980's and later during the big dig. I point this out because it is a prime example of the T never looking forward always reacted, Also why the new orange line cars are 20 years overdue when and if they arrive in 2018.


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If you look at the report, you will notice a map giving the ages of the different sections of the Orange Line. The Central Subway was opened in 1908. Do you really think it is a simple proposition to widen a subway tunnel its entire length?

But sure, as long as you think the Orange Line only runs from Forest Hills to New England Medical Center, it's only 29 years old.

*cracks knuckles*

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*cracks knuckles*

Where oh where do I begin...

There is one part of the Orange Line that opened in 1987 - the Southwest Corridor portion from Tufts Medical to Forest Hills. And Haymarket-North dates to the 1970s (with a rebuild in the 2000s) But Tufts Medical to Haymarket still uses the circa-1908 tunnel.

There was no major work on the Orange Line during the 1980s apart from the Southwest Corridor.

As for the Red Line, you are correct, it did receive major work in the 1980s, in the form of platform extensions to accommodate longer trains.

The only Big Dig-era work was the 2000s rebuild of Haymarket and North Station, to eliminate the Causeway St Elevated on the Green Line.

HOWEVER, converting the two lines to use the same loading gauge would essentially require ripping out and rebuilding every single station on one of the lines, and possibly widening the older, downtown tunnels at the same time. It's not a simple matter of running one line's trains on the other. Red line trains do not physically fit on the orange line, and vice-versa.

We're talking about a project that would cost BILLIONS of dollars, and require years of service interruptions, all to promote fleet commonality? Between two subway lines that don't have a track connection anyway?

The layout of the T means that, unlike NYC or Chicago, for example, rolling stock is captive to individual lines. Thus the only possible benefits of fleet commonality might be saving a little money by having to stock a smaller number of parts. It's not like they could divert trains to different lines during a service disruption, or change service patterns (e.g. introducing Forest Hills - Alewife trains).

I can explain this further if you still don't get it.

look i get it

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The trains do not fit because when the had the chance the did not do it. it would not have been billions. There were opportunities in the 1970's and again it he 1980'.s You can be as mocking as you want it was openly discussed both times. As was making the new orange line the same LRV as the new at the time green line trains. There should have been more attention to having common components. instead they went with having separate lines and separate maintenance facilities .

There was no major work on

There was no major work on the Orange Line during the 1980s apart from the Southwest Corridor.

I believe the downtown Orange Line station platforms were extended to accommodate six-car trains at that time (around the same time when this was done to Red Line stations). That's still a lot less work than making a tunnel wider.

The yellow chevrons on Red

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The yellow chevrons on Red Line platforms are from construction surveyors. They should really be removed if they're not being used any more.

Drop backs

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On page 21 of this report they are using drop-backs to allow faster turns at terminals on the Orange Line. This is kind of a buried lede—a low-cost remedy to allow better operation, since you don't have trains waiting to get in to the station while an operator ambles down the platform.

Of course, god forbid they would do the same thing at Alewife, where there are constantly delays at rush hour for the exact same reason.

Malden Center

A lot of new housing going up in Malden Center, plus the huge Partners building at Assembly. Join the crowd!


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What is going to take?

The floor to fall in and have 100's of people hurt? They should have thought about the lifespan of these trains decades ago, and to know that they are currently providing service to thousands of passengers every day in their operational state makes me sick.

Are they going to wait until something happens and then do something.. which they can't do anything about for 3 years!

This isn't the Mattapan line that can be shut down if something breaks, it's 3rd busiest subway line in the system for crying out loud.

There is NO WAY, that those trains can survive another two winters. Am I alone here?

I'm glad, I bike.

Some trains will have to last

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Some trains will have to last until 2022 (when the last of the new trains will be put in service), and that's assuming everything stays on schedule. As someone who relies on the T to get to work, I'm very worried.

The sky's not falling

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Or specifically, the floor won't cave in. The photo is of a cosmetic flaw. I've had cars with worse that I have driven for more than 3 years after said corrosion appears.

Much like my junk boxes, the issues would be with motors and brakes, which seem to fail a lot. Thankfully for safety, when the brakes fail, they are deployed.

I mean, holes in the roof would lead to wet commuters when it rains, but I don't see the machines literally falling apart.

I didn't say the sky is falling

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I'm just saying that something catastrophic is bound to happen to vehicles that are heavily used in this manner, and that are working decades past their retire date.


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That's kind of like saying the sky is falling. I mean, if a bunch of large stuff fell out of the sky and hit a bunch of people, that would be catastrophic.

Being an Orange Line rider, my #1 fear is that after going from 120 cars in service daily to 96 cars in service daily, will we have enough functioning vehicles when the new cars start coming online. A worst case scenario is a train just utterly stopping between stations and the T being unable to move it. These junk boxes will not literally fall apart, just stop working.

Better Chance

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Of getting injured on the T than something falling from the sky on you.. Especially on the Orange/Rusty Line.

When I said I was very

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When I said I was very worried, this is what I meant. I am much more concerned about the number of old cars they can keep running in the next 6 years than I am about floor failures. The T maintenance crews do a great job keeping these things going and I don't think they'd send out something that is dangerous. But they can only work so much magic and if we lose more cars, and ridership continues to increase, things are going to get much worse before they get better.

The total fleet is 120 cars,

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The total fleet is 120 cars, but the greatest amount scheduled to be in service during the peakwas 102. There always have to be some percentage of the fleet out of service for inspections and maintenance. As the cars aged, it was difficult to keep 102 out every peak and the requirement was cut by one train to 96 cars a few years ago.

My bad

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I saw that in the report, to boot.

Still, when does 96 become 90? 84? 78?

Settle down Beavis,

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Settle down Beavis,
They have been replacing the floors on the cars, you can see where new floor panels have been cut in at the high traffic areas by the doors, They have been replacing the corroded sheet metal that covers the side sills (frame members) as exemplified in the photo. Some of the cars have had brighter LED light fixtures installed. If you look at the failure rate numbers in the linked report, while they fluctuate up and down from quarter to quarter, they are better today than they were in 2010.

The problem is not motivation

The problem is not motivation but time. So giving some horrible accident scenario to make someone finally take action means nothing as there's just no meaningful action one can do to fix it than what they are already doing now with the coming of the new trains. If an accident comes now, it won't lead to some great impetus to get it fix faster. It means we have no trains available for the OL to use - probably meaning no orange line existing for years. Okay the state can't just close it down. So probably busses on the whole line for years.

Of course if the Orange Line needed to be bustituted

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for some reason, it would affect every bus line in the city. We don't have enough buses in the fleet to serve current demand as it is, and if dozens were needed to serve the Orange Line, it would take away from the rest of the fleet. Many routes have 1 or 2 buses serving the entire route at times, and to take those area could mean two-hour headways for some routes.

Let's hope that never happens.

Every picture tells a story.

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Every picture tells a story. These decaying trains are absolutely a hazard to riders' lives. The MBTA is gambling with human lives every time they put a piece of duct tape and superglue on parts that are falling apart (or have already fell off!!) just to save a buck.

Six-minute peak headway is

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Six-minute peak headway is brutally high.

I did some temp work in NY/NJ area years ago, and sometimes worked with crews doing traffic counts.

I remember the project engineer explaining to me about headways. We were working at Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn, near where the track for the inbound (Manhattan-bound) 2 & 3 trains and the track for the inbound 4 & 5 trains merge to a single track. Their theoretical best for that platform was about 90-95 seconds - physical limitations of speed, acceleration time, braking time, unloading time, loading time, how far out a departing train had to be to clear the block signal so the next train could enter, downstream congestion, etc... They did have a sufficiently large fleet to maintain that headway for some length of time.

If I recall correctly, they were pretty close to that 90-95 sec figure during the early part of rush hour. As crowds increased (both in the trains and on the platforms) during rush hour, however, loading and unloading took longer - pushed the headway to about 120 seconds.