On New York City’s subway, “R” might once again stand for “rare,” as track work forces the MTA to scale back plans to boost the train’s weekday service.
The MTA and NYC Transit announced last month that starting Aug. 28, straphangers on the ex-BMT R line would only have to wait eight minutes between trains — the result of $35 million in the state budget to increase service on several subway lines.
But less than three weeks later, one state politician who fought for the service bump says things have gotten worse.
“Many R riders contacted me to say service has not improved,” Sen. Andrew Gounardes (D-Brooklyn) said in a social media post Thursday. “In some cases there’ve been 14-16 minutes between trains.”
“The MTA bungled it,” Gounardes added. “Big time.”
The additional R trains came online just as MTA work crews began a six-month project restoring tracks in the 63rd Street Tunnel that carry F trains between Manhattan and Queens via Roosevelt Island.
The work, which NYC Transit President Rich Davey called “unavoidable” in an interview with the Daily News last month, requires shutting down the upper level of the tunnel in order to replace cracking concrete under the tracks and update signal wiring.
“We installed the track on this section of the F line in 1981,” Davey told the Daily News. “It’s over 40 years old.”
MTA officials billed the weekday R train uptick as a way to offset the loss of F train service into Queens during the track work, which is expected to last until spring of next year.
In its Aug. 22 news release announcing the increased R train frequency, the MTA announced that the extra trains were supposed to run between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
That release was later amended to say that the extra service would begin running at 11:30 each morning — 90 minutes later — due to the track work. “Once completed, increased R train service will begin at approximately 10:00 a.m.,” the amended news release says.
MTA spokesman Tim Minton said Thursday that the 11:30 a.m. start was inadvertently omitted from the initial press release when it was distributed Aug. 22. He said that the delay is necessary because work trains serving the 63rd Street tunnel project needed access to a section of the R line in Queens in order to access the work site.
“I’m shocked and frustrated that the MTA would misrepresent these service upgrades to the riding public,” Gounardes said in a statement. “People need to trust that subways will be reliable and dependable, especially as the MTA is asking for more tax dollars and fare increases to pay for service.”
In a statement, Davey, NYC Transit’s president, said that the average wait time on the R line had fallen from 10 minutes to eight-and-a-half minutes on weekdays after 11:30 a.m.
“And we will reduce wait times even further in the coming months after completion of necessary track work,” he added. “We’re grateful to elected officials for their continuing support.”
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