f-train-express-op-ed

People waited on the F train more than any other subway line in 2013. AP Photo/Mary Altaffer.

Every few years, it seems, a call goes out to restore rush-hour express service on the F train. The last time this happened, the campaign died down after the G train, which shares part of its route with the F, was extended to Church Avenue. Some advocates saw this as a case of, “Well, if we didn’t get one of the improvements along the F-line corridor that we wanted, at least we got the other.”

Now, the campaign for express service has risen again, supported by Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, a dozen Brooklyn elected officials and the Transport Workers Union. “The F train should stand for fast service, not failed opportunity,” said Adams. “We need to reduce crowding on these platforms, which are causing significant safety concerns, and we need to alleviate the burden riders are facing with one of the city’s longest commutes.”

For many years, F-train express service was a fact of life. The late Dennis Holt, who wrote the “Brooklyn Broadside” column for the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, remembered standing near the stairway connecting the upper (local) level to the lower (express) level of the Bergen Street station during the 1970s, prepared to run down the stairs if the Manhattan-bound express got there first. This express was discontinued later in the decade, although a co-worker told me that it continued unofficially for a number of years.

When I first heard about the campaign to reinstate F train express service, I supported it unconditionally. After all, what’s as exciting as a fast express train speeding down the middle track, passing local stations one after another?  Then I got an email from an MTA representative who made me see the other side in part. The letter read, “Approximately two-thirds of F riders in Brooklyn are on the northern segment of the Culver Line, between Church Avenue and Bergen Street, and two of the busiest stations on the line — Bergen Street and Carroll Street — are local stops.”

The most telling part of this statement is “Bergen Street AND Carroll Street.” In the old days, Bergen Street was an express stop. But since then, another MTA representative once explained at a meeting, the Bergen Street express platform has been used to store heavy HVAC equipment that can’t be moved easily.

If Carroll Street was local and Bergen Street was express, Carroll Gardens and Cobble Hill residents might learn to live with it. But if both heavily-used stops are bypassed by local trains, that’s a problem. Yes, there’s the G train, but rush-hour commuters generally want to go to Manhattan, and the G train, except for two or three stops in Queens, is “all Brooklyn, all the time.”

One solution might be to run some rush-hour trains that run express in southern Brooklyn — skipping local stops between Kings Highway and Church Avenue — while making all of the busy stops north of Church Avenue. This might not make southern Brooklyn residents’ commute as fast as they would like, but it would be faster than it is now.

The best solution, in my opinion, is to put more trains on the F line, which serves several rapidly growing areas of Brooklyn. This would allow for express service while ensuring that people living near local stops won’t have to wait long for their rides. More trains were put onto the L train — now it’s the F train’s turn. The residents of Park Slope, Red Hook, Carroll Gardens and Cobble Hill, not to mention southern Brooklyn, deserve nothing less.

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Raanan Geberer, a freelance writer, recently retired as Managing Editor of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. He had been Managing Editor of the Brooklyn Daily Bulletin until 1996, when the Brooklyn Daily Eagle was revived and merged with the Bulletin.

 

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