Can I get an express F, please? Activist seeks trains for empty tracks

Can I get an express F, please? Activist seeks trains for empty tracks
The Brooklyn Paper / Tom Callan

Nearly 2,000 F-line straphangers — including a local Councilman — have signed a petition asking for the city to restore express train service on the slow-moving line whose name is often used as an abbreviation for an epithet.

But don’t trade in that Jonathan Lethem tome for a People magazine just yet — Transit officials say that F riders won’t lose any reading time for at least another five years.

New York City Transit spokesman Charles Seaton said this week that the agency can’t consider restoring express service — which existed as recently as the early 1980s — until 2012, when a planned reconstruction of the elevated track between the Fourth Avenue and Smith and Ninth Street stations will be complete.

He said that “express service would not be possible” until then because track work associated with the job will require the G train to run to Church Avenue on the F route, taking up the track that would be available for the South Brooklyn fast lane.

“New York City Transit will review the feasibility of F-line express service [when that project is complete],” he said, adding that the final decision will be based on need.

The F express campaign took off last week when Carroll Gardens straphanger Gary Reilly posted an online petition on his blog, firstandcourt.blogspot.com.

Reilly — a lawyer and urban planning buff who passes his commute with books about the history of the world’s greatest underground transit system — has already gotten the support of Councilman Bill DeBlasio (D–Carroll Gardens), who vowed to push the MTA to consider the bill before 2012.He said nearly 2,000 people signed his petition

“This is a logical way to create faster commutes and accommodate all the people who are moving to South Brooklyn,” said Reilly, who takes the F from the Carroll Street station, which wouldn’t be an express stop if his dream became a reality.

An express F ran between Jay Street-Borough Hall and Kings Highway during rush hours through the 1970s, when it was discontinued for track repair work. The dormant express tracks run below the local track between Bergen and Carroll streets and beside the local tracks on the elevated portion to Seventh Avenue in Park Slope. South of the Slope, the track follows a separate tunnel to the Church Street station.

Transit experts have said in the past that an F express could stop at York Street station in DUMBO, Jay Street, Seventh Avenue and Church Avenue, before running local to Coney Island.

A 2003 study by traffic planners Carolyn Konheim and Brian Ketcham of Community Consulting Services projected that the F express would shave 20 minutes off the commutes of 40,000 people. The number is projected to grow exponentially over the next few years as more apartment towers go up along the Brooklyn’s southern edge.

The F already runs express through Queens. But history shows that the ride to a South Brooklyn express won’t be easy.

The MTA considered an F express once before, about a decade ago — but train never got on track because of multiple funding and logistical snafus, including a fire that broke out at the Bergen Street station in 1999. Damage caused in that blaze is only now being repaired.

One transportation consultant, who has studied the F express option, said New York City Transit would “eventually” restore the service.

“They will, as long as people keep [asking] for it,” said the consultant, George Haikalis.