They told him to take a hike.
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority won’t acquiesce to a Ridge councilman’s demands for better R Train service, but the spurned pol said the agency’s reasoning ran off the rails. Councilman Vincent Gentile (D–Bay Ridge) petitioned the authority for at least the third time this year to audit Bay Ridge’s only subway, which he and straphangers say is overcrowded, battered from age, and perpetually late. But the authority says it could cram another 67 people per car during morning rush hour before the trains hit capacity — a claim Gentile called bogus.
“When you talk about capacity from 95th Street to 59th Street — where riders can catch the first express — you’re packed like a sardine can,” he said. “By the time you get to 77th Street, the third stop going to the city, you can’t find a seat. So to tell me that we don’t have a capacity problem is nonsense.”
But Gentile’s proposed audit, which he said would identify inefficiencies and “force the authority to act” on them is not coming any time soon, according to transit spokesman Kevin Ortiz. The authority will instead audit some numbered subway lines in the near future, because it has audited five lettered lines since 2009, he said.
Gentile proposed a rush-hour express train from Brooklyn to Chambers Street and back, but the authority said fugheddaboudit. He’s also demanding countdown clocks and new public address systems in R stations, the latter of which Gentile said “sound like Charlie Brown’s teacher,” but the authority told him to keep wishing, instead responding that riders could access train-arrival information via smartphone apps sometime in the next few years.
Ortiz acknowledged that the train cars on the R line were old — they’ll collectively celebrate their 40th birthdays in 2016 — but said they continue to “provide reliable service” and that new ones will not come until after the authority finishes installing a computer signal system along the R in Queens sometime in the “early 2020s.”
Gentile hopes his squeaky wheel will get the grease, but the authority hasn’t doled out much oil. The pol sent the authority a letter in January demanding an audit, but the agency shot back an Orwellian reply that it would make the trains run on time by adjusting the schedules. He held a rally over the summer calling for an audit when the authority found $1 billion in additional revenue, but the agency denied him then, too. Now they’re telling him an audit isn’t in the cards — let alone new trains or an express service.
Bay Ridgites living and working along Fourth Avenue should, however, be enjoying quieter trains and less vibrations — the authority replaced tracks and ties with newer, less rattle-prone ones in October after complaints from Gentile and the community board.
Still, the only thing reliable about the R train is its unreliability, said Lisa Levy, a member of the Riders Alliance commuter advocacy group who spoke at the rally.
“Often I’ll be on the R train on my way to work when the train’s route changes, which means I have to double back and add 30 minutes to my commute,” she said.
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