F outta here! F express will halve rush-hour service at Brownstone stops

Stop and stairs: Commuters use the narrow exit at the Bergen Street Station — the Metropolitan Transportation Authority predicts rush-hour straphangers at the station will have to stand in line on the platform for around 42 seconds to even get on the staircase once it introduces the express F service next year.
Community News Group / Ruth Brown

F this!

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority will cut rush-hour F-train service in half at six Brownstone Brooklyn stops next year in order to create an express service for more far-flung users of the line, officials announced Monday, angering local straphangers who say they will have to suffer longer wait times and dangerously overcrowded stations as a result.

“I’m not happy,” said Windsor Terrace resident Aurelie Letocard, who rides the F between Jay Street–MetroTech and her home near the 15th Street-Prospect Park stop during her daily commute to and from Manhattan. “Jay is already absolutely horrible, so if people hear it’s an express and don’t take it, the platform is going to be extremely busy.”

And the transit agency’s own data is providing them with ammunition against the plan, which will see every second orange bullet heading towards Manhattan in the morning, and Coney Island in the evening, zoom past the Bergen Street, Carroll Street, Smith–Ninth, Fourth Avenue, 15th Street, and Fort Hamilton Parkway stops starting in fall 2017.

A study — which it completed a year ago but refused to release until this week — found 51 percent of passengers on the line will be “inconvenienced,” waiting up to five minutes more for their rides, and predicts particularly bad bottlenecks at the Bergen and Carroll stops as crowds attempt to exit their narrow staircases.

Councilman Brad Lander (D–Park Slope) laid into agency honchos at a hearing in City Hall on Monday after learning about the plan via a Daily News report that morning then finally getting a look at the long suppressed study, accusing them of sucker-punching him with the scheme that will “screw” tens of thousands of his constituents.

“Now that I’ve read the report I understand why you’ve blindsided us,” he said. “Stations, your own data shows, will be nightmarish.”

Lander is one of many Downtown leaders who previously supported reviving the express — a longtime cause celebre of Southern Brooklyn reps and residents, who stand to shave up to seven minutes off their commute — but only on the condition it comes with more trains to bolster the local service, and now say they can’t support their neighbors’ good fortune if comes at their expense.

“It just doesn’t work without additional trains,” said Gary Reilly, a former Community Board 6 chair, who was one of the plan’s most vocal Northern supporters. “We always wanted to see an increase in overall service on the line so you’re not robbing Peter to pay Paul.”

The study argues the spurned straphangers will still benefit from the trains racing past their noses because their own carriages will feel a little less like sardine cans, but riders say that won’t make up for the chaos on platforms or the delays.

“I’d rather be on a more crowded train that gets me there quickly than a less crowded train that takes longer,” said Mike Racioppo, who is the vice-chairman of Community Board 6, executive director of neighborhood group the Gowanus Canal Community Development Corporation, and lives off the Carroll Street stop.

A spokesman for the authority stressed that it is still at the beginning of the planning process, and said its reps will embark on a tour of meetings with relevant community boards and politicians’ offices.

But the study doesn’t portend well for their chances of convincing the agency to add more local trains — it claims there are none to spare, and the line only has room for one or two more an hour anyway — or restoring and reopening the fire-ravaged lower level of Bergen Street as an extra express stop — which it says would cost more than $75 million.

What the F: Half of F trains will race past the Smith-Ninth stop as of next fall.
Photo by Tom Callan

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