The problem is it was NEVER common on the lower montauk for through trains. LIRR zipped through with equipment moves at track speed, probably a good 20-30mph), and that was up until what, 3 or 4 years ago? More recently(maybe a year, two tops) I happened across an NYAR freight moving at speed down these tracks, not stopping at any crossings.
The concern I'm giving voice to is one a lot of other people living by the tracks in queens share. They took a perfectly functional system (triggering signals before a train shows up) and made it less safe, for no reason. I can assure you, the public doesn't care if they 'downgraded' the route and now consider it 'industrial' vs 'secondary'. Grandma on the corner over there doesn't know the difference and doesn't care. She doesn't want to be walking through the crossing and having a huge train creeping up a few feet from her frail body before the gates/flashers go off.
If they left the system as is - with crossing gates doing down in advance of the trains arrival, the train could still stop at each crossing and provide an extra ounce of safety.
With the new configuration, you loose the advance warning and instead startle people who see a train coming and gates not going down - going against everything we're all taught from childhood, in drivers ed, and past personal experience.
This new configuration also completely eliminates any crossing protection against runaway incidents - not like we've never had those around here before, either via crew mistakes or vandals releasing breaks. Crossing protection was added to the bushwick route specifically in the aftermath of a runaway incident.
This 'stop & proceed' being common practice elsewhere does not change the fact that it was never common practice at most of the crossings on this route. I don't think it's going to be accepted, and I hope it's highlighted as a factor in whatever official report comes out - because if the system had not changed, and the gates activated like they used to, this accident wouldn't have happened - regardless of if the train then stopped and proceeded or was a runaway or being controlled by someone who forgot the rules.
Stand on a corner near most of these crossings and ask people what they expect to happen when a train is coming - they'll say the gates go down. Expectations no longer align with reality, which is a problem when you're dealing in public safety.
Tommy to answer your question: I'd say it's switched a few days per week, and now there's the train to/from WM on the old secondary track (which i assume might also switch wheelspur, or that will be a separate train - either way WM is to be a daily run). When they are switching, they go over the crossing often, over the span of a few hours. When they're going to LIC, it's just a straight shot down the old secondary. Basically it's used often and is not a once a week or once a month operation.