BAY RIDGE — Work underway to better the subway is having an inverse effect along the R line in southern Brooklyn, according to some riders and their elected officials.
“The genesis of this is that evening commutes are getting longer,” said State Sen. Andrew Gounardes, who on Tuesday sent a letter to MTA President Andy Byford calling for relief for R train riders. “What most of my constituents are saying is, ‘Normally it takes me 50 minutes to get home and now it’s taking me an hour and a half.’”
A Bay Ridge resident whose parents both work for the MTA — and who requested anonymity — said this happens to her at least three times a week.
“I definitely have noticed my commute going smoother in the morning,” she told the Eagle. “That said, I leave work after 9 p.m. three days a week. When I get to Atlantic Avenue, sometimes there’s a 13-minute wait. Sometimes I need to take three trains since two express trains are going on the R line, but the R only ever seems to come after I get to 59th Street and wait 10 minutes.”
“Often times, I just walk,” she said, “which isn’t an ideal situation at 10 p.m. when I have work the next day, but it’s better than waiting in a muggy station for a train that never seems to come, and for it only to be packed when it does.”
Gounardes told the Brooklyn Eagle that in previous conversations with Byford, the delays had been connected — at least in part — to construction trains leaving the 36th Street rail yard in the midst of evening rush hour.
“We understand that they have to get wherever they’re going for their overnight shift, but what I want to know is if there is any way we can figure something out to help ease this burden,” the state senator said, stressing that he’s hearing from frustrated commuters at least a few times a week.
This most recent letter — also signed by Assemblymember Mathylde Frontus and Councilmember Justin Brannan — was a follow-up, Gounardes stressed, to previous pleas. “I’m just trying to get some sort of resolution here,” he said. “We understand the work has to be done, but we also have to find a way to ease the congestion in our community for the sake of the whole system.”
According to the MTA, there were several rush hour incidents in September that caused service delays that were unrelated to planned R line work. Agency spokesperson Nancy Gamerman said that a number of short- and long-term plans to improve R train service are already either finished or underway.
Among them, she noted, are schedule and signal improvements, upping of train speeds, and a tunnel repair project between 59th and 36th Street.
Bay Ridge resident Brian Kaszuba, who rides the R to the end of the line coming home, told the Eagle that while he’s unsure if the construction cars have affected his regular commute, he has certainly noticed their effect on late night service.
“I don’t think it effects the rush hour commute, but [it] definitely effects the times around 9 p.m. to 12 a.m.,” he said, noting that he saw this firsthand when coming home from a Mets game at Citi Field last week. “Overnight local schedules that are supposed to start at midnight, I’ve noticed, are being triggered earlier to allow construction cars to get into place on time.”
Regardless, the timing of the worsened delays, Kaszuba noted, is ironic. “The flip side of this is as recently as as a year ago today, the morning commute was delayed because they were still removing work trains as late as 8 a.m.,” he said Friday.
Resident Dan Hetteix — who called himself a heavy R train user — said the line can only get better if the rest of the system does, too.
“I’d love to think that there’s a better way to stage late night work cars but sadly, that’s kinda what local tracks are supposed to be for,” he said. “For better or — mostly — worse, the R line doesn’t only serve it’s passengers, it serves the entire system, and it’ll only get better when the system as a whole gets better.”