R they serious? Straphangers blast pols’ proposal to again split Bklyn, Manhattan R-train service

R they serious? Straphangers blast pols’ proposal to again split Bklyn, Manhattan R-train service
Photo by Maya Harrison

Local pols must pump the brakes on their renewed calls to again split R-train service between Brooklyn and Manhattan, because another bifurcation would mean longer commutes for many straphangers, and do nothing to improve the core problems plaguing the beleaguered line, according to riders.

“I work in Manhattan as a personal assistant, so I take the R over five times a week, carrying bags and notebooks,” said Brooklyn Heights resident Sofia Lecho. “It would be extremely inconvenient on my daily commute to split the train up.”

A quartet of Southern Brooklyn officials including Rep. Max Rose (D–Bay Ridge), state Sen. Andrew Gounardes (D–Bay Ridge), Assemblywoman Mathylde Frontus (D–Coney Island), and Councilman Justin Brannan (D–Bay Ridge) on Feb. 15 sent a letter to Metropolitan Transportation Authority bigwig Andy Byford — who oversees the state-run agency’s local arm, the New York City Transit Authority — demanding he look into ceasing interborough R train service like transit leaders did for several months following superstorm Sandy.

Between August 2013 and September 2014, local R trains terminated at Downtown’s Court Street station, where on weekdays Manhattan-bound straphangers could freely transfer to 4 or 5 trains to continue on to the distant isle, and on weekends could take R trains following the N line over the Manhattan Bridge and into the outer borough, as workers shored up the R line’s East River–spanning Montague Street tunnel.

Many riders at the time told this newspaper that the change in service brought newer subway cars to the line and faster travel times for Kings County commuters.

But after news of the proposed second split broke, other straphangers took to Twitter to blast the pols, with one suggesting the foursome instead advocate to improve service on existing express-bus lines to Manhattan, and others pointing out logistical concerns surrounding a second bifurcation, such as Court Street station’s lack of accessible entries for disabled persons, and that the plan could result in more crowding and train delays at other Southern Brooklyn stations.

The critics included one Bay Ridge–based rider, who wondered why the quartet returned to a scheme that officials only adopted in the wake of a rare, and extremely devastating circumstance.

“The solution to fixing the R train should not be to revert to something that was implemented as a result of a natural disaster,” tweeted Bay Ridgite David Troise.

And another commuter, who said she did not want to relive the ordeal of her extra-long rides from Bay Ridge into Manhattan, questioned how many of the pols who signed the letter actually rode the train during the first bout of split service.

“Commuting during the Montague tunnel shutdown was worse than what we’re dealing with now,” Nancy Ford tweeted. “Which of these four representatives made that commute everyday?”

A rep for Brannan said he rode the bifurcated R train into Manhattan three times per week back then, while working for former Councilman Vincent Gentile. But reps for Gounardes and Frontus said their bosses did not regularly take the train to the distant isle at the time, because Gounardes was working for Borough President Adams, and Frontus was running a local do-good group, Urban Neighborhood Services, within walking distance of her Coney Island home.

A spokesman for Rose — who authored the letter to Byford — did not immediately reply when asked about how often the freshman Congressman took the R train into Manhattan during the post-Sandy repairs, but previously pointed to Rose’s Feb. 20 tweet when asked for a comment on locals’ objections to the proposal.

“The R train is a nightmare, plain and simple,” Rose tweeted. “@JustinBrannan @agounardes @FrontusforNY and I want to consider anything and everything to make it work better for our constituents. It’s time to think outside of the box.”

Not all R riders panned the call for another Southern secession, however. One Ridgite agreed with Rose, saying the line needs a quick fix while straphangers wait for longer-term improvements — which won’t come for at least a decade, since Byford’s $40-billion so-called Fast Forward Plan to shore up the beleaguered transit system is not fully funded, notes that signal upgrades will not be made along the R line for at least five years, and even then will not extend south of Downtown’s DeKalb Avenue station.

“I’m interested in this idea because it’s something,” tweeted Nicole D’Andrea. “We’re not getting new signals for 10-plus years, and so we need to try something to make the R better. Because we cannot keep living like this for ten more years.”

Reach reporter Julianne McShane at (718) 260–2523 or by e-mail at jmcshane@schnepsmedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @juliannemcshane.