Pol slams R train for slackening performance

The R train just keeps getting worse, according to data released by New York City Transit, and one local pol is tired of waiting around for it to get better.

According to Councilmember Vincent Gentile, who shared the new numbers with this paper, the R line’s Weekday Terminal On-Time Performance – as tracked by New York City Transit – is down 20 percent in its performance for the period between March, 2015 and February, 2016, compared to the same time period a year earlier, and another six percent in Weekday Wait Assessment (the interval of wait time between trains).

“These are frightening numbers,” contended Gentile, stressing that the R train came in first out of 24 lines for largest decline in performance in the last year. “At least, it’s first in something.”
The local pol – who represents Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights and parts of Bensonhurst – is no stranger to the plight of the R train, and credits the delays to overcrowding that, he says, can be combatted with a boost in train service via the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s capital funds.

“This past February, out of 50,277 citywide delays, 19,118 were caused by overcrowding,” he said. “The time is now for the MTA to keep pace with the surge in ridership with nearly 1.8 billion riders hitting the turnstiles across the city led by Brooklyn’s growing population.”

However, MTA spokesperson Kevin Ortiz is calling foul on the stats.

“The metrics that the councilmember is referring to looks at service comparisons now versus service during the Montague Tube closure. That is an apples-to-oranges comparison,” he said, noting that, during the Montague closure, from August, 2013 to September, 2014, the R line was essentially converted from one long line into two short lines, which artificially increased both Terminal On Time Performance and other service metrics. “The R is a relatively long route and splitting the route in two (1) doubles the number of scheduled train trips, (2) reduces the likelihood of a train reaching the terminal late, and (3) improves terminal departure OTP, making it easier to space trains evenly. So, although performance now appears worse, the R line has actually returned to pre-closure (and pre-Sandy) levels.”

Additionally, Ortiz explained, the R between Brooklyn and Manhattan, in fact, operates well within NYCT’s applicable maximum loading guidelines of 155 riders per car, on average, during rush hours and 88 riders per car, on average, off-peak. During the a.m. rush, though, the R operates at 62 percent of guideline capacity. During off peak hours, with a lower maximum guideline, the R operates at only 30 to 60 percent of guideline capacity.

Gentile argues, service is insufficient either way.

“Clearly, the R-line pre-closure and pre-Sandy levels aren’t good enough for our riders. In addition, I would hope the MTA would want to improve the R train’s 59 percent on-time performance rather than hang their hat on it,” he told this paper. “It’s become common knowledge that the R line is extremely poor, whether we’re discussing its service, train conditions or subway stations.

“While the clarifications in Mr. Ortiz’s response are duly noted, I’m becoming increasingly worried that solutions to improve the line are never offered,” Gentile went on. “I get more suggestions from my staff and constituents than I do from the MTA.”

To boot, he stands by his push for the MTA to utilize its capital funds to better train service as a whole, versus spending the money on technological upgrades like Wi-Fi and cell service – something Ortiz argues is actually costless – to which Gentile responded, if not the cost, let’s share some of the revenue.

“Contrary to the councilmember’s claim, the introduction of cell phone service and Wi-Fi to the subway does not cost the MTA a dime,” Ortiz said. “The costs associated with wiring the system for Wi-Fi is covered entirely by our partner Transit Wireless. In fact, connecting our customers underground is a revenue generator to the MTA as we share rent paid by the wireless carriers and other sublicensees of the network with Transit Wireless.”

“Regarding the Wi-Fi, I hope a large portion of that revenue earned goes towards improving the R line and the subway system overall,” Gentile retorted, stressing that he is still seeking a line review of the R line. “[I] would be more than willing to meet and talk with the MTA – as I’ve mentioned in a handful of letters – about what must be done to ensure that the line is operating efficiently for our commuters. They simply deserve better.”

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