Could express R train service become a reality?

With R train service broadly panned in southwest Brooklyn, local activists have begun thinking out of the box in hopes of seeing some improvement.

Most recently, Brooklyn South Conservative Club President and 64th Assembly District Leader for the Conservative Party Liam McCabe suggested adding R express service in Manhattan to speed up the commute for Ridgeites heading across the East River, penning a letter to the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) on May 25, explaining why he thinks the express is necessary in advance of launching a petition drive that he hopes will spur the agency to action.

“The R train has been one of the worst train lines for as long as I can remember,” said McCabe, “Poor R train service is particularly inconvenient to Bay Ridge residents, many of whom rely on that line to commute to their jobs in Manhattan every day.”

In the letter, McCabe asks for the R line to run “local from 95th Street in Bay Ridge to 59th Street in Sunset Park, and then run express through Manhattan, only stopping at major off-loading points in the city.

“An R train express is an easy, logical solution to a problem that has been plaguing Bay Ridge for years,” McCabe added, “and I sincerely hope the MTA will support it.”

McCabe’s letter comes in the wake of revelations earlier this spring that R service is getting worse.

In April, Councilmember Vincent Gentile — who last December suggested rush hour R express service be instituted between Bay Ridge and Chambers Street — brought to attention the R line’s slackening performance with the release of new numbers tracking the train’s Weekday Terminal On-Time Performance – as tracked by New York City Transit.

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) – the pol slammed the service and called on the MTA to do right by south Brooklyn commuters.

“These are frightening numbers,” Gentile said in April, 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. This past February, out of 50,277 citywide delays, 19,118 were caused by overcrowding. 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, don’t expect the MTA to debut an R express anytime soon. According to MTA Spokesperson Kevin Ortiz, in order to run an R express line, several adjustments to service would need to take place and the accommodations would prove to be “operationally difficult.

“If the R were to run express, the N would need to provide local service along Fourth Avenue,” Ortiz told this paper. “There are 50 percent more riders on the N line south of 59 Street (not including transfer stations) than there are on the R line south of 59 Street, and these riders would have to transfer for express/Manhattan Bridge service.

“Running R service express on the Fourth Avenue line would therefore inconvenience more riders than it would benefit,” he continued. “The faster in-vehicle travel time benefit for some Bay Ridge riders would not outweigh the added cost, in terms of additional travel time, to riders on the Sea Beach N Line.”

Ortiz also discussed the logistics of implementing such service along the R tracks.

“Running the R express would be operationally difficult, as the tracks and switches along Fourth Avenue are configured for Bay Ridge service to run along the local track and Sea Beach service to run on the express tracks,” Ortiz said.  “An R express would require express and local services to merge south of 59th Street and again north of Pacific Street in order for the R to service Downtown Brooklyn (and Lower Manhattan, once R service is restored).  These merges are not necessary with the current NDR service pattern and would likely adversely affect reliability during peak hours.”

McCabe will kick off his R express petition drive on Friday, June 3 at 8:30 a.m. at the R train stop at 77th Street.

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