G notes: Commuters sick of paying for transfers on Brooklyn Local

G notes: Commuters sick of paying for transfers on Brooklyn Local
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

Riders of the Brooklyn Local want a free Manhattan transfer.

G train commuters are sick of paying to switch to nearby lines that cross the river — and they’re pushing the Metropolitan Transit Authority to link the vital borough-traversing route with transit hubs in Williamsburg and Downtown.

Subway activists say the MTA could easily allow free above-ground transfers between the G train’s Broadway station and the J and M line steps away at Lorimer Street or Hewes Street, and between the G train’s Fulton Street stop and the 2, 3, 4, 5, B, Q, R, N, and D trains close by at Atlantic Avenue–Barclays Center.

“We’re not asking to build an expensive new connection between stations,” said Greenpoint resident Greg Richane, a member of the newly formed transit advocacy group the Riders Alliance. “We just want people to be able to transfer for free when the G train crosses other lines, which is something the MTA can provide basically for free.”

Straphangers say a free above-ground switcheroo isn’t a pie-in-the-sky request considering the agency already offers a similar street-level link in Manhattan between F line at Lexington Avenue — 63rd Street and the 4, 5, 6, N, Q, and R lines at Lexington Avenue–59th Street.

Supporters say a link to the J and M trains would help commuters across North Brooklyn — even those who favor the L train.

“People would have a lot more options if they put in the free transfers,” said Karen Nieves, a member of Community Board 1 and the Riders Alliance, which held its second-ever meeting on Nov. 27. “It would take a lot of the pressure off the over-capacity L train.”

But the MTA says free transfers aren’t necessary

“[New York City Transit] does not have a policy of providing never-before-offered external transfers via the sidewalks except where mitigating a service change,” said spokesman Kevin Ortiz.

The fight for free transfers comes just months after commuters saved the crucial one-seat link between North and Brownstone Brooklyns from a proposed service cut that would have nixed four beloved stations in Park Slope, Windsor Terrace, and Kensington.

And activists aren’t stopping at free transfers: members of the Riders Alliance are also pushing for more frequent service, better communication about delays and disruptions, and a return of full-length trains on a line often bemoaned by commuters for being just four cars long.

Straphangers say the G train’s struggles are a bit of a catch-22 — improvements on the line are slow to come because ridership is comparatively low, and ridership remains comparatively low because service improvements are slow to come.

“This morning I was waiting for the G and I finally gave up because I knew that by the time it came, it would be so packed that I wouldn’t be able to get on,” said Greenpoint resident Summer Greenstein, who lives right off the Brooklyn Local but often ends up taking the bus instead.

Activists and politicians are hoping to build a critical mass of straphangers to turn the G into a line that makes the borough proud.

“As the neighborhoods surrounding the G continue to grow, it’s vital that their lifeline grow with them,” said State Sen. Daniel Squadron (D–Brooklyn Heights).

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