G train catch-22

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

Riding the G train might seem like a trip into Dante’s “Inferno,” but subway boosters claim it’s straight out of a Joseph Heller novel.

Activists working to better the G train say the Metropolitan Transportation Authority has created a catch-22 by refusing to make any service improvements on the line due to low ridership. But critics claim ridership on the so-called Brooklyn Local remains low simply because service is so bad.

Members of the Riders Alliance claim the MTA is shooting itself in the foot by refusing to run G trains more reliably, allow free above-ground transfers to nearby lines, or add more rolling stock to the diminutive four-car line.

“If they make the changes, the increased ridership will bring in the money that will justify the changes,” said Dustin Joyce, who claims the transit authority’s lack of interest in the line is hindering the growth of G-dependent neighborhoods including Greenpoint, Fort Greene, and Bedford-Stuyvesant, among others. “They could attract a lot more development in those neighborhoods if they had reliable transit.”

Infrastructure and transportation experts including New York University adjunct professor Sarah Kaufman say the MTA must do everything it can to lure more riders rather than let lousy service ride.

“In other cities, transit companies are almost begging people to take transit instead of driving,” said Kaufman. “In New York City, trains are at capacity during rush hour, but that’s not true in the outer boroughs. There is room to attract more people into public transit in the outer boroughs and keep them out of traffic.”

But the MTA refutes the paradox and says it won’t budge until more riders flock to the much-maligned line.

“We schedule service to match ridership,” said agency spokesman Charles Seaton, who added that the MTA has already made concessions G train riders when it dropped its own initiative to eliminate five beloved stops in Park Slope, Windsor Terrace, and Kensington earlier this year.

Activists and experts say simple fixes would attract huge numbers of riders — with the easiest being the implementation of free, above-ground transfers between the G train’s Broadway stop with the J and M trains at Hewes and Lorimer, which shuttle commuters to Manhattan.

“Creating a free transfer between the G and the J and M would be huge,” said Kaufman. “That could really reduce the overflow on the L. They could do these things for a trial period and see if there’s any ridership movement.”

The transit agency says it will not allow the free switcheroo, despite offering a similar transfer between the F line and the 4, 5, 6, N, Q, and R trains in Manhattan.

Many Brooklynites including Riders Alliance member Casey Dinkin and her boyfriend say they stay away from the G line simply because of its terrible reputation.

“We avoid the G at all costs,” said Dinkin, who moved into an apartment on Metropolitan Avenue where she can hop the L train. “If it were better, we would take it. We would go to dinner in Brooklyn instead of going into the city.”