Where Have All the R Train Riders Gone?

jay street metrotech lawrence mta c train r train

In August, the R train stopped running into Manhattan on weekdays for Sandy-necessitated repairs to its tunnel. Instead, it now crawls from the Heights to the end of the earth, otherwise known as Bay Ridge. This inconvenienced commuters along Brooklyn’s western corridor who would’ve ridden the local into lower Manhattan, now required to transfer at some point to an other Manhattan-bound train, whether at Atlantic-Pacific or a later station. And, according to new data, the brunt of this new burden has surprisingly been borne by the C train, whose morning rush-hour ridership (the peak 8:30am to 9:30am hour) has increased 40 percent, Gothamist reports—that’s an average of 32 riders a car at superstation Jay Street-Metrotech (whose R-train transfer opened in 2010), the Post adds, from September to November of last year as compared to January to June. Ridership went up 24 percent on the 4 train and 22 percent on the 5 train at Borough Hall, and 21 percent on the A at Jay Street.

The MTA isn’t that worried, though, because trains are still running below capacity. The C train is now on average 98 percent full, whereas it used to run at 70 percent. (This is more or less what the agency predicted; it never planned on increasing service, despite closing down a major transit line.) But those on the ground are more than annoyed. “I feel like a sardine packed in a can,” a former NFL wide receiver told the Post. “It’s the worst feeling in a [sic] world.”

Presumably, overcrowding on these lines would be even worse without the newly introduced ferry service in Sunset Park, which chiefly services R train riders from that neighborhood and Bay Ridge. (A van shuttles riders from R train stops to the out-of-the-way ferry terminal.) The pilot program was extended in August to last until this month, and was just extended again, until April, the Brooklyn Paper reports.

Some believe the R train shutdown doesn’t deserve all of the blame for the increase in ridership. I’m one of those C train riders, not because of tunnel repairs but because I have to get to DUMBO (so I only take it one stop!), but in my experience, the A and C trains empty out significantly at Jay Street; it can be tricky to get on, but only because of the narrow platforms and the streams of exiting passengers. From Fort Greene to Bed-Stuy, C train ridership has increased over the past few years as those neighborhoods continue to develop. Between 2007 and 2012, the number of riders getting on at Lafayette Avenue increased more than 14 percent; at Clinton-Washington, more than 23 percent; at Franklin Avenue, almost 30 percent. Surely more R train riders are transferring; but maybe also some of the blame for sardine-canned C trains should be shouldered by gentrifiers?

Follow Henry Stewart on Twitter @henrycstewart

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