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Riders split on pols’ R train brainstorm

Subway riders and transportation advocates had a variety of opinions on an outside-the-box proposal by a group of Bay Ridge elected officials to split the R train route into two separate sections – one operating strictly in Brooklyn and the other running between Manhattan and Queens.

Under the proposal, the Brooklyn portion of the R train route would run between 95th Street in Bay Ridge and Court Street in downtown Brooklyn, with a second leg operating between Court Street and Continental Avenue in Queens.

U.S. Rep. Max Rose, state Sen. Andrew Gounardes, Assemblymember Mathylde Frontus and Councilmember Justin Brannan are pushing the plan. The pols all signed onto a letter to New York City Transit President Andy Byford requesting that he consider the idea.

The split route would ease congestion in Brooklyn, according to the four lawmakers, who contended that subway passengers in Brooklyn often face delays caused by R train problems further down the line in Manhattan or Queens.

Riders took to Twitter to express their views of the pols’ proposal.

“This makes the train more reliable, I presume?” Joe Muto tweeted. “Turning Brooklyn into a closed loop will prevent meltdowns in Manhattan from having a ripple effect. God knows the R train can’t get any worse. I routinely wait 10, sometimes 15+ minutes during rush hour.”

Another Twitter user, however, recalled that R train service was split into two sections for 14 months in 2013-2014 when the Montague Street Tunnel connecting Court Street and Whitehall Street was off-limits while the MTA was repairing the tube which had been flooded during Superstorm Sandy in 2012.

Having to get off the R train at Atlantic Avenue every morning to switch to a No. 4 or No. 5 train to continue her journey to work in Manhattan “was not fun,” she tweeted.

Talk of changing train routes is premature, according to Danny Pearlstein, policy and communications director for the advocacy organization Riders Alliance.

Pearlstein didn’t take a position on a possible R train split, but said the state legislature should approve a congestion pricing plan first.

“R train riders, like millions of others across the city, need the governor and legislature to pass congestion pricing to fix the subway in the upcoming state budget. Congestion pricing will raise billions of dollars to help fund new signals, new subway cars and new station elevators, ending the transit crisis. Once congestion pricing is passed and the MTA is properly funded, transit officials should take a close look at all serious proposals to further improve subway service,” he told this newspaper.

Under congestion pricing, tolls would be collected from vehicular drivers entering Manhattan below 60th Street. The funds generated by the tolls would be used to fix the city’s ailing transit system.

In their letter to Byford, Rose, Gounardes, Frontus and Brannan contended that the service split in 2013-2014 had surprising benefits for Brooklyn R train riders and should be tried again.

Many commuters braced themselves for what they thought would be a truly miserable commute. However, the split at Court St. insulated the Southern Brooklyn line from traffic delays occurring earlier along the line, improving reliability and commute times for constituents in our district. By bifurcating the R-Train, Bay Ridge commuters were no longer being delayed due to a sick passenger up in Queens,the lawmakers wrote. “We are asking you to study the possible bifurcation of the R-line at Court St. as it had been from August 2013 to September 2014. Considering that this was put in place before, and it was an unexpected success, we expect the MTA to move quickly to re-implement.”

At press time, the MTA had not yet responded to a request for comment.

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