Split decision: MTA must again separate R-train service between Bklyn and Manhattan, local pols demand

Ride the new Brooklyn local — while it lasts
Community Newspaper Group Will Bredderman

Call it another Southern secession!

The Metropolitan Transit Authority must again consider separating R-train service between Brooklyn and Manhattan, in order to immediately reduce commute times for Southern Brooklynites who ride the beleaguered line, a quartet of pols demanded in a letter they fired off to the chairman of the state-run agency.

“For years, the R train has suffered from inexcusable delays, poor service, and sudden schedule shifts,” the pols wrote in their Feb. 15 missive. “We believe we have a solution that is relatively cheap, quick to implement, and has successfully reduced delays in the past.”

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) all signed the letter sent to Transportation Authority bigwig Andy Byford, who runs the agency’s local arm, the New York City Transit Authority.

Last May, Byford announced his so-called Fast Forward Plan to modernize the city’s beleaguered transit system, a $40-billion scheme that calls for upgrading the R train’s nearly century-old signal infrastructure, one of the main causes of delays, along with expanding accessibility to subway stations, and adding hundreds of new subway cars and city buses within the next decade.

But the plan — which 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. And those provisions are neither quick nor comprehensive enough, according to the pols.

“Putting Southern Brooklyn through another 10 years of a commuting nightmare is simply not an option,” they wrote. “It is time for us to think outside the box.”

A more viable solution, the foursome proposed, would be to again split R-train service between the two boroughs at the Downtown Court Street station, which the agency did between August 2013 and September 2014 while workers repaired the line’s East River–spanning Montague Street tunnel in the aftermath of superstorm Sandy.

During that time, Manhattan-bound Southern Brooklyn straphangers on weekdays freely transferred to 4 or 5 trains to continue their journeys to the distant isle, and on weekends took the R line over the Manhattan Bridge into the outer borough, where trains then followed the N-train’s route.

The previous bifurcation was “an unexpected success,” the pols said, because it siloed Southern Brooklyn riders from delays that occurred at other citywide stops along the R line — claims supported by this newspaper’s reporting at the time.

“By bifurcating the R-train, Bay Ridge commuters were no longer being delayed due to a sick passenger up in Queens,” the legislators wrote.

And one long-time R train commuter enthusiastically agreed, saying the previous division of service made her daily commute from her home in Bay Ridge to her Downtown office a breeze because the local R trains were far less crowded.

“It was the best commute I’ve ever had in my life, and I was so angry when they went back to normal service,” said Brooklyn Paper Assignment Editor Courtney Donahue. “When I was leaving work at night, there was no one on the train, because Court Street was the first stop.”

A Metropolitan Transportation Authority spokesman did not immediately reply to inquiries about whether or not agency honchos would heed the pols’ request to study the bifurcation, how much the split service would cost, and whether or not the Southern Brooklyn portion of the R line would ever receive signal upgrades.

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