State Senator Daniel Squadron recently learned a critical lesson in politics, commuting — and love.
Elizabeth Weinstein — Squadron’s better half — was among the many constituents who complained to him about the often interminable wait and overcrowding on the F train. “My wife, actually my fiancee at the time, made a big point about highlighting how the F train has gotten a lot worse,” Squadron revealed.
Where once it was a bearable commute, the past decade has seen a steady ridership increase along the F line, making rush hour a test of will, and the limits of bodily contortion.
Action came as swiftly as the ‘I do’s’ the couple exchanged over the summer: Squadron ordered a full line report from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.The lawmaker said the agency agreed that there was a need for the study, and will produce a full report next week, only a few weeks late.
Charles Seaton, a spokesperson for New York City Transit, which oversees the buses and subways, confirmed the request from Squadron. “A report has been requested, it has not been completed yet. NYC Transit is following his request,” Seaton said.
Squadron said he would wait to see what the report finds, but hopes that issues of spacing of trains, and overcrowding can be addressed. Even though the study is not being conducted by an independent party, the lawmaker said he “has every reason to hope it will be” objective.
Park Slope resident Gene Russianoff, staff attorney for the Straphangers campaign, a commuters advocacy group, said the MTA was only “somewhat clueless” when it comes to respond to commuter concerns or changes in ridership. “There is knowledge, and there is ability,” he said. “There are 6,200 subway cars and a finite amount of service.”
In its annual State of the Subways report, Russianoff’s group determined that the F train was worth 95 cents,less than half the price of admission. The study found a 50 percent chance of getting a seat during rush hour, but gave the line an 83 percent reliability rating, how often trains arrive without gaps in service.
Russianoff said he welcomed the state lawmaker’s request for a full line report. “My view is that squeaky wheel gets the oil, and when I hear a legislator is pushing this, I think it is a very good thing.”
Gary Reilly, the transportation chair of the Carroll Gardens Neighborhood Association, has proposed extending F express service to Brooklyn, allowing the V line to continue all the way to Kings Highway, well past its current terminus on Second Avenue in Manhattan.“Putting express tracks back in service would relieve a lot of the overcrowding,” he suggested. As it stands, Reilly said, the biggest issue of the F is the overcrowding during rush hour. “Its important that people understand that when you talk about express trains, you are talking about increasing service,” he said. Russianoff agreed, but cautioned that express service on the F could be years away. “Residential growth along the line really justifies it,” he said.
Meanwhile, Squadron said it didn’t take much coaxing to prompt his calls to the MTA. “There is something special when your wife starts complaining,” he noted.