MTA switching tracks; F express on the table

MTA switching tracks; F express on the table
The Brooklyn Paper / Tom Callan

City transit officials now say they will consider running express trains on the F-line subway beginning in 2008 — reversing an earlier insistence that the fast ride couldn’t start before necessary trackwork is completed in 2012.

Andrew Inglesby, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, stunned members of the Carroll Gardens Neighborhood Association on Monday night when he said that if repair work to the elevated track between Fourth Avenue and Smith/Ninth Street was delayed, the agency would go forward with the F express sooner rather than later.

And since delays are inevitable, the possibility of an F express appeared real.

Cobble Hill and Carroll Gardens commuters hailed the news, but it’s unclear how such a service expansion would help commuters in those neighborhoods because the MTA has not committed to adding trains to the new express/local mix. The express would whisk commuters from southern Brooklyn past all stations in Brownstone Brooklyn except for Seventh Avenue in Park Slope.

But Carroll Gardens commuter Gary Reilly, who championed the idea of an express on an online petition early this year, was pleased nonetheless.

“The community’s outcry was heard, and now the express is on their priority list,” he said.

“This is good news,” added Wiley Norvell, a spokesman for Transportation Alternative and a Brooklyn resident. “The city is seriously looking to increase subway capacity at a minimum cost, and the fact that they are looking at it now shows serious interest.”

The news comes with a decidedly negative twist, however. If the F express goes forward because the track repairs are delayed, a planned extension of the G train into Park Slope will also be delayed. Plans to extended G service to Seventh Avenue would have created a direct link between Park Slope and Williamsburg.

The F train did run express between Jay Street-Borough Hall and Kings Highway during rush hour through the 1970s, but it was discontinued for track work.

The dormant F express tracks run below the local tracks between Bergen and Carroll streets and alongside the local tracks on the elevated stretch between Carroll Street and Seventh Avenue in Park Slope. South of the Slope, the express tracks follow a separate tunnel to the Church Avenue station.

An F express would presumably make Brooklyn stops at York Street in DUMBO, Jay Street/Borough Hall in Downtown, Seventh Avenue, and Church Avenue in Kensington — and perhaps make other express stops toward Coney Island.

South of Church Avenue there is only one express track, so express service in that area could only run in one direction, much like the 7 train in Queens.

A 2003 study by Community Consulting Services projected that the F express would shave 20 minutes off the commutes of 40,000 people, mostly in southern Brooklyn. That number will grow larger over the next few years as more apartment towers go up further down the F line.

One member of the MTA board pointed out the irony that the F express could only happen if the track work is delayed.

“A delay wouldn’t exactly be unusual [for the MTA],” said the board member, Norman Brown.