F train commuters can’t count on express service yet.
After Councilmember David Greenfield announced the return of the long-discontinued service on Tuesday, May 17, and people from the northern parts of the borough expressed objections to restoring express service between Church Avenue and Jay Street-Metrotech at the expense of local service along the stretch, the MTA responded, explaining that the earliest the service – gone for almost three decades – could return would be fall, 2017, and there were many miles to go, and many meetings to hold, before that could happen.
“It’s not happening this summer,” said MTA Spokesperson Kevin Ortiz. “What’s happening this summer is maintenance work that is going to require us to bypass some southbound stations along the F. This is completely unrelated to the F express and its different stations.”
Ortiz said that, due to the summertime maintenance work, Avenue I, Bay Parkway, Avenue N, Avenue P, Avenue U and Avenue X would be skipped heading toward Coney Island.
“If we were to move forward with the F express, it would start in earnest in the fall of 2017,” Ortiz stressed, noting that right now – with the completion of a feasibility study — is “the start of the process,” which would also include soliciting input from affected communities, elected representatives and other stakeholders.
Greenfield’s disappointment in the MTA’s position was palpable. In a statement, he said, “I was told by top MTA officials that F express service will be returning to Brooklyn. While there is a normal process that every recommended MTA action has to go through, I can’t imagine that after studying the issue for years and issuing a strong recommendation to bring back the F express, the MTA Board would flip-flop and screw over hundreds of thousands of Brooklynites.”
According to the study posted on its website by the MTA, adding peak express service between Church Avenue and Jay Street-Metrotech would result in “net passenger travel time savings and potential operational benefits.”
While, the study said, “Express riders during the AM peak hour would save on average 3.4 minutes… local riders would lose on average 1.3 minutes, for a net travel time benefit of 27,000 minutes. The maximum northbound travel time savings would be 7.3 minutes.” However, according to the study, “more riders would experience longer travel times, thanks to “heavier” ridership between Church Avenue and Jay Street.
Asked about the likelihood of the F express coming to fruition, Ortiz said he “didn’t want to speculate. We’ve laid out what F express service would look like, given the resources we have. We plan on having robust discussions with our board and with the communities.”
Representatives for southern Brooklyn, where residents’ commutes via the F are often long and painful, had reacted with elation on receiving word that some express service – discontinued for three decades – was in the offing for this summer.
However, elected officials representing constituents living in the northern part of the borough fiercely disagreed, with Councilmember Brad Lander tweeting out, “It pits Brooklyn residents against each other, creating ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ without sufficient information or dialogue. We made clear we could only support skipping local stops (as part of F express service) if overall service were increased on the F line.”
In addition, Borough President Eric Adams chimed in, stressing that “riders along the route have been unified in their shared desire for improved commutes, including the restoration of express service,” and calling for “a comprehensive community vision for the restoration of express service, one that protects the interests of commuters who rely on local service as well.
“Progress cannot be defined by taking resources from one neighborhood and giving them to another,” Adams added. “There are critical transportation needs in southern Brooklyn just as there are along the Brownstone Belt, and the increased ridership along the F line necessitates real investment beyond this limited plan, including bus and ferry service that has yet to be equitably expanded to all parts of our borough.”
For Greenfield, however, those arguments don’t carry sufficient weight to derail F express service. “We have been waiting for this for years, and it wouldn’t make sense to change course now just because a few politicians are upset about having to wait 1.2 minutes at a handful of stations in neighborhoods that already have great mass transit options,” he contended.
Additional reporting contributed by Anna Spivak.