During the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, among its most visible symbols were the almost empty subway cars that ran very infrequently and had few passengers other than a few essential workers and homeless people.
Now that the city is slowly coming back, subway schedules are getting back to normal. The latest development is a restoration of pre-pandemic schedules to the C and F lines, both of which travel extensively into Brooklyn.
The C train runs local on the same Fulton Street corridor as the A express, serving Downtown Brooklyn, Fort Greene, Bed-Stuy, East New York, Cypress Hills and several areas over the border in Queens. The F train, running down to Coney Island, serves DUMBO, Downtown, Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens, Park Slope, Kensington, Midwood, Gravesend and Coney Island.
The increase in service on these lines is due to two factors: more transit aid from Washington, but also a lawsuit filed earlier this month by the Transport Workers Union.
The service cuts began even before the pandemic in January 2020, when the MTA removed 300 new train cars because of technical problems. The cars were mainly used for the A and C lines, but then some F-train cars had to be switched over to make up for the loss. In June, more cars were pulled from service after other mishaps, according to Bklyner.
In February, MTA officials said that reduced service would continue because of a lack of ridership. At the time, the Daily News reported that rush-hour headways increased by more than 50 percent on the F line and by more than 25 percent on the C lines since the cutbacks started.
Charging that the cutbacks had been made without public input in violation of city statutes, the TWU launched its lawsuit earlier this month, headed by attorney Arthur Schwartz. A TWU vice president, Eric Loegel, said that the MTA could actually be exacerbating a potentially dangerous health situation by forcing a growing number of riders onto fewer trains while the pandemic is still on.
Sarah Feinberg, interim MTA NYC Transit president, said on a webinar about the new increase in service: “We’ve had a debate over the last several weeks, couple of months about, you know, with ridership down at in the 30s, should we be right sizing service, should we be changing service for the next six months or for the next year, so that we’re running less service that’s more reflective of the number of people who are riding.–>
“And I’m glad to be able to say this morning that we sort of taken that debate off the table for now. We’ve decided that we’re going to continue to run full service, and in fact, we’re going to, you know, the two lines that have been a little off of full service,” she said. She added that it would take several weeks to reach full service.
Both lines have been operating about 80 percent of pre-pandemic service, with about 30 percent of the ridership, according to transit sources.
The Riders Alliance, a public transit advocacy group, said, “Governor Cuomo heard subway riders’ and transit workers’ demands loud and clear. After we won $15 billion in federal aid to save public transit, service cuts are no way to thank essential workers and rebuild ridership.
“By restoring frequent service on the C and F subway lines, the MTA is delivering for today’s riders and helping bring New Yorkers back to transit,” the group added.