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

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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.
Updated 8:41 am, February 28, 2019
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Reasonable discourse

Keith says:
Photo of a glass, half-full of water. McShane: "I dunno, looks half-empty to me."
Feb. 26, 3:22 pm
TOM from Sunset Park says:
The "R" line has maintained its current level-of-service only because of the demand in Queens not demand at its southern end. Deadheading it at Cort Street(no single-seat ride to lower Manhattan) will only result in a diminution of service over time at night and over the weekends. Check me out.
Feb. 26, 3:40 pm
Henry Ford from Bay Ridge says:
Listen to all the hipster interlopers on the R line, whine about their precious train service. You people think the world should revolve around you.
Feb. 26, 3:52 pm
Larry says:
Personally I think it is a smart idea. The R line is too long and the sick passenger in Queens causing delays in Sunset Park will never end without some sort of changes to the routing. These routes were planned a hundred years ago. Things have changed but the subways haven't.
Feb. 26, 4:13 pm
David from Brooklyn Heights says:
Terrible idea. For years, regional planners have been bemoaning Manhattan's lack of a one-seat ride to JFK and LGA airports. Why eliminate any existing one-seat ride between Manhattan and anywhere else? BTW, passengers can get sick anywhere and cause delays on any line, so that argument to split the R line doesn't hold water.
Feb. 26, 4:55 pm
Hanji says:
I'm just glad our politicians are trying. I never heard ideas about fixing the R train from Golden or Dan Donovan or even Vinny Gentile
Feb. 26, 5:07 pm
Michael from Bay Ridge says:
Why not just run more R trains?
Feb. 26, 6:02 pm
MJ from Bay Ridge says:
The only feasible solution is to add a weekday rush hour service between Chambers Street in Manhattan and 95 Street in Bay Ridge (the old Chambers Street Special).
Feb. 26, 6:37 pm
MJ from Bay Ridge says:
With the increased commuters from Staten Island who transfer between the subway and buses at 86 Street station in Bay Ridge, the demand for extra trains during rush hours is warranted.
Feb. 26, 6:43 pm
Rufus Leaking from BH says:
Plans from your betters! Listen to the people who don't commute daily - they know best comrades!
Feb. 27, 8:02 am
Ro from Park Slope says:
Like MJ, I remember the "RR" special rush hour alternate to Chambers St (where it would meet the current "J") station. The current "R" line is not for Wall Streeter alone, but connects us to TriBeCa and Staten Island (via Whitehall St). Other than that, local trains are meant to make frequent stops. Switch to an express to get to Manhattan more quickly.
Feb. 27, 10:22 am
Mathematician from Brooklyn says:
This idea is terrible -- changing trains at Atlantic Avenue/Barclays is an Olympic feat just getting to the other lines and the numbered trains are always packed. Also, the R is not a “slow” train as people always seem to say. It is a local; it makes a lot of stops. It actually gets in and out of each station quickly.[P.S. Larry, the R used to run only to Astoria and the N to 57th Street and it's not a hundred years since that was changed.]
Feb. 27, 10:28 am
ChrisC from Park Slope says:
Why not at least run the R from Brooklyn to Whitehall or Canal? Then at least you could transfer to another train in Manhattan! Court Street's platform is narrow and like the article said, doesn't have an elevator. Also it's always Queens' fault that the R train is delayed. If something happens that delays trains at 6am in Queens we feel the delay in Brooklyn for the next two hours.
Feb. 27, 10:53 am
CJ the Train Guy from Prospect Heights-Park Slope says:
An RR/MJ/QJ service from 95th to Chambers or a renovated Canal St on the Nassau St (J/Z) could potentially relieve the problem with the R in Brooklyn. The problem is in part due to the loss of a second 4th Ave local during the rush-hour, a route last held by the M line before it was reorganized into its current 6th Ave local configuration. The repeated institution (and inevitable removal) of a second 4th ave local service suggests that it is viable with modifications.Surely, current and future demographic patterns support reviving this service as the neighborhoods served by the 4th Ave lines continue to grow in population. I would propose a permanent second 4th ave local running on a part-time service pattern (e.g.,B line) with fewer cars per train (e.g., C line) running from 95th St via the Montague tunnel to a refurbished south platform at Canal St on the Nassau St line. Terminating at Canal St would allow riders to connect to Broadway and Lexington services.
Feb. 27, 11:37 am
The Hunkster from Bed-Stuy says:
Why not extend the J and the W to Bay Parkway and 86th Street respectively, given the massive real estate redevelopment along 4th Avenue and the surrounding areas and these residents were be taking advantage on this service? This could be applying during rush hours.
Feb. 27, 11:43 am
MJ from Bay Ridge says:
(1) The bottleneck for R train riders is at 59 Street station in Sunset Park. (2) Chambers Street station is currently under some renovation according to NY1. (3) Interestingly, there is a looping possibility for the Nassau Line back to Brooklyn via the Manhattan Bridge after the Chambers Street station.
Feb. 27, 5:35 pm
Suzanne from Bay Ridge says:
The larger problem here is that the R only runs every 10 minutes at rush hour. Why so few trains? This is a band aid solution, let's try to get trains running more often.
Feb. 28, 10:10 am

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