Bay Ridge resident Lisa Levy says her commute to work is a headache because of the R train. “The R train runs so infrequently at rush hour and breaks down so often that the only thing I know I can rely on is the R train’s unreliability,” said Levy, a member of the Riders Alliance.
“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,” added Levy, who spoke at a rally organized by Councilmember Vincent Gentile outside an R train station on Dec. 11.
Cate Contino Cowit, a coordinator for the Straphangers Campaign, also spoke at the rally outside the station on 77th Street and Fourth Avenue. “I transfer to the R daily. Most days I find myself staring off into the darkness at DeKalb, wondering if I should have stayed on the Q and walked,” she said.
Gentile (D-Bay Ridge-Dyker Heights-Bensonhurst) said he organized the rally to demand that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) do something to improve R train service.
The R train is repeatedly late and overcrowded, according to Gentile, who said the subway line suffers from infrequent service, frequent delays, unkempt stations, inadequate audio systems and the use of older subway cars.
Gentile presented ideas on how the MTA could make the R train run better.
Among Gentile’s ideas:
- 1. Conduct an audit on the R line to find out just how bad the service is.
- 2. Add more trains to the R route.
- 3. Place the R on its own line in Manhattan so that delays caused by waiting for other trains that run on the same line, such as the N, cease to happen. Make the N run express up Broadway in Manhattan and keep the R on local tracks.
- 4. Discontinue the late night R shuttle that forces riders heading into Bay Ridge to get off at 36th Street and wait 20-30 minutes for an R shuttle to arrive.
- 5. Create an R line rush hour special from 95th Street in Bay Ridge to Chambers Street.
Gentile charged that rotten R train service is ruining the quality of life in Bay Ridge.
“Businesses and people are weary of moving here and current residents are even exploring moving out. This is scary. The R train is having a negative domino effect on our great neighborhood,” Gentile said.
MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz offered the Brooklyn Eagle a detailed response to Gentile’s suggestions.
Regarding an R train audit, Ortiz said that “Chairman [Thomas] Prendergast has committed to undertake full line reviews of all subway lines in the system. A review of R service has not yet been scheduled.”
As for getting new trains for the R line, Ortiz told the Eagle that “All subway cars operated by NYCT are in a state of good repair. The R46 cars currently assigned to the R were built in 1976, but continue to provide reliable service.”
“New York City Transit’s (NYCT’s) goal is to provide high quality, evenly spaced service, and to minimize the impact of delays and service interruptions,” Ortiz said in response to Gentile’s recommendation for faster R line service. “The best strategy to reduce delays over the long run is to invest in bringing the subway system into a state of good repair, as many delays are associated with breakdowns of overage equipment. This is why, for instance, the major CBTC signal modernization project is underway along the R in Queens, to replace signals installed 80 years ago.”
Regarding the proposed separation of N train from R train tracks in Manhattan, Ortiz said that “The N and R serve different lines in Queens, but in order to reach Queens, they must use the same pair of tracks under the East River. Consequently, the N and R must share tracks for at least part of their routes in Manhattan.
“NYCT schedules subway service based on Loading Guidelines, an MTA-Board approved policy that provides for fair allocation of subway resources among all lines in the system,” Ortiz said in response to the idea to create an R rush hour special from 95th Street Bay Ridge to Chambers Street. “During the a.m. rush, the R operates at 62 percent of guideline capacity. During off-peak hours, the R operates at only 30-60 percent of guideline capacity. Adding a separate service to Chambers Street cannot be justified by current ridership levels on the R.”