Gentile makes final push, urging MTA to fix ailing R trains
In light of the “summer of hell” on New York’s commuter railways, city Councilmember Vincent Gentile, in a letter to returning MTA Chairman Joe Lhota, made a second call for an audit of the infamous R train, citing specific improvements that are necessary for commuters, in what could be Gentile’s last push effort to rehabilitate the problematic subway line before he leaves office.
In the letter, dated July 24, Gentile lists a number of actions he would like to see take place, including restoration of the “Chambers Street Special” for a shortened R train to run from 95th Street to Chambers Street — which in the past has provided faster, more frequent service from Bay Ridge to Downtown Brooklyn — and an increase in R-train service frequency, particularly during evening hours.
Gentile went on to list the major problems residents have to deal with on the R line, including excessive lateness, overcrowded trains, unkempt stations, inadequate audio systems and the use of older subway cars.
He cited a recent report by the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG) that said R trains were found to break down more often, were scheduled to come less frequently and arrived later than average.
“For Bay Ridgeites, they have experienced much more than ‘a summer of hell’ on the railways,” said Gentile. “Bay Ridgeites have lived with the R train nightmare for decades. For them, the R train ridership, you need to declare ‘Enough is enough.’”
Others speaking out in support of Gentile’s initiative include Brandon Muir, executive director of Reclaim New York. “New York City’s transit problems have become a daily occurrence threatening the livelihoods of commuters. The MTA has especially let the service on the R train get worse,” said Muir.
“What’s worse, all we hear are excuses,” he added. “Audits have been requested and are long overdue. Taxpayers and riders deserve answers as to why they aren’t getting the service they pay for. They’re getting taken for a ride alright, but not to any place they want to go.”
On Tuesday, Lhota unveiled a plan to overhaul the subway system with measures including pulling seats from some cars on the L line and Grand Central-Times Square to make more room for commuters, adding more cars to trains (provided station platforms can handle them), more frequent station cleanings and car inspections, and a larger NYPD presence on the trains.
Lhota’s plan requires $456 million in operating costs and $380 million in capital funding and wants the city and state to split the operating costs. Gov. Andrew Cuomo today officially released the state’s 50 percent share of the money needed, but Mayor Bill de Blasio insists that the city has already paid its share, and is refusing to pay any more.
With the ongoing battle between city and state for funding, commuters see no light at the end of the proverbial subway tunnel.
“R train riders in Bay Ridge have few other options, and that’s why improving service is so important. All over the system, the clock on riders’ patience is ticking and it’s time for Gov. Cuomo and Chairman Lhota to come up with a plan that improves reliability and increases capacity on our subway system with honest accounting and sustainable funding,” said Rider’s Alliance Senior Organizer Masha Burina.
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