Greenfield Revs Up Efforts to Bring Back F Express Service in Brooklyn

Photo by JP Updates. Councilman David Greenfield, center, urges the restoration of F line express service in Brooklyn at City Hall on March 2, 2016.

The F train carries hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers into Manhattan every day. For many Brooklynites, the F line is the only reliable transportation option, but it has increasingly come to stand for frustration: delays, crowding and an impossibly long commute.

Carlo Scissura, the president and CEO of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce and a self-proclaimed “southern Brooklyn boy at heart,” says the F train should stand for the future, but “the MTA has allowed it to stand for failure.”

Speaking ahead of the Transportation Committee’s preliminary budget hearing on Wednesday morning, Scissura was just one voice among a large number of transportation advocates and community representatives joining the persistent efforts of City Councilman David Greenfield, who is pushing for renewed service to the F express line.

Greenfield is chair of the Committee on Land Use and represents the 44th district, which covers Midwood, Borough Park and Bensonhurst — areas where the F train passes by.

More than 40 years ago, the train skipped local stations and made stops at Jay Street-MetroTech, Seventh Avenue-Ninth Street, Church Avenue, and 18th Avenue. As with the 7 line in Queens, the F train would run express stops to Manhattan in the mornings and back to Brooklyn in the evenings. Under the current structure of that line, between Jay Street and Church Avenue, the F train makes seven stops that it shares with the G train. During the morning rush hours on weekdays, a passenger leaving the Coney Island-Stillwell Avenue station at 8:03 a.m. would arrive at East Broadway in the Lower East Side, the first F stop in Manhattan, 43 minutes later, according to the MTA’s TripPlanner. An express service would help reduce that travel time.

Standing on the steps of City Council with Scissura, Greenfield joked that he was getting nervous about the different F words that the train line stood for — but put forth, in all seriousness, an F the line doesn’t stand for: fantasy.

“Most of the plans around transportation in New York City and New York State are fantasy plans,” he said, adding that whereas these plans can be great, they often involve projects costing billions of dollars and take decades to realize.

The express line for the F train, by contrast, is a near-reality: the middle tracks – which were laid in 1933 and operational from 1968 to 1976 – are already there. Greenfield, who remembers the express train from childhood, has long demanded the reinstatement of that service, in addition to the release of a long-promised study examining the feasibility of F express service. This has been met, though, with “excuses, delays, lies,” and finally silence, he said.

A spokesperson for the MTA told JP that the agency is looking into restoration of the F express service but there have been no official plans undertaken by its president, Thomas F. Prendergast.

“We have studied the pros and cons and have not yet had a chance to present the issue to our new Transit President,” said Kevin Ortiz of the MTA.

Greenfield said that very little would be needed to have the F express train running in “literally a few weeks,” adding that it “defies common sense as to why this hasn’t happened so far.”

Councilman Mark Treyger, whose 47th district covers parts of the F line, explained that “when it comes to service enhancements and building new lines, the MTA loses our address. When it comes to service reductions and service cuts, they seem to know exactly where southern Brooklyn is.”

Photo by JP Updates. Councilman Mark Treyger advocates transit equality for residents of Southern Brooklyn at City Hall on March 2, 2016.
Photo by JP Updates. Councilman Mark Treyger advocates transit equality for residents of Southern Brooklyn at City Hall on March 2, 2016.

In spite of an agreement between Mayor Bill de Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo to provide $26.1 billion for MTA capital programs, improvements to the F train – which include current local line issues like signal malfunctions – have yet to come to southern Brooklyn.

The F train ranks seventh among the system’s 20 lines, according to the NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign in its September 2015 report. During rush hour, trains stop at F stations an average 4 minutes and 45 seconds, compared to the system average of 5 minutes and 44 seconds.

“The idea that [people here] deserve less than anyone else in other parts of Brooklyn is outrageous, quite frankly,” Greenfield said. But he’s convinced that transit equity is en route.

Calls for improvements for the F train have garnered more support recently. The councilman told JP to expect the rollout of a grassroots campaign over the next few months from groups like the Riders Alliance, Transportation Alternatives, and the Straphangers Campaign – as well as locals whose daily lives are impacted by F train service.

For now, Brooklynites who want to experience F express service, they need only go on the Queens route.

Screengrab via MTA website
Screengrab via MTA website

03/02/2016 5:24 PM by Leila Roos

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