Here’s a shocker from The New York Post: In light of the ongoing R train service changes related to Sandy recovery work, other train lines between Brooklyn and Manhattan are more crowded than ever. This is, I’d say, an ON IT-style story, but on a slow news Monday, it made some headlines in Alexander Hamilton’s old newspaper.
Sarcasm aside, there are some bits and pieces of a more meaningful story in here. Let’s take a look at the story that starts out, hyperbolically, with a quote from a former NFLer:
The R train’s damaged Montague tube was shut down in August, sending displaced straphangers to alternate subway lines. Since then, C-train ridership has jumped 40 percent during morning peak periods, according to new MTA data obtained by the Riders Alliance and Straphangers Campaign. “I feel like a sardine packed in a can,” Ellis told The Post. “It’s the worst feeling in a world.”
The MTA said there were an additional 32 riders per car at the Jay Street-MetroTech station between 8:30 and 9:30 a.m. from September to November of last year, as compared with the months of January to June. The extra passengers bring the C train to a near- capacity level of 98 percent, up from 70 percent. “That’s inhumane,” said Kahtrell Lewis, a 23-year-old member of the Riders Alliance, blasting the overcrowding. “You can’t move. Everyone is on top of each other.” He added that passengers at the Hoyt-Schermerhorn station often have to watch two or three trains go by before they can squeeze in.
The C isn’t the only line where riders are squeezed. The A train saw a 21 percent increase between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. at Jay Street-MetroTech station. And at the nearby Borough Hall station, ridership on the 4 line is up nearly 24 percent from 59 to 73 travelers car, while the 5 train saw a 22 percent increase.
The story came to The Post from the Riders Alliance, of which I am a board member, but I’m not sure the increased crowding is the real issue here. I’ve noticed some more crowded trains on my morning commute on the 2 or 3, but the articles doesn’t touch upon the increased ridership on these lines early in the morning. I’ve also noticed these crowds before the Montague Tube underwent repairs, and it wasn’t pleasant then. That said, the C has long had excess capacity between Brooklyn and Manhattan in the morning, and as much as we don’t like to admit it, so has the 4 and 5.
As always, if any area was designed to withstand the pressures of a 14-month outage, it was this particular corridor between Kings and New York Counties. With multiple options and express and local trains serving all corridors, riders fan out across four or five subway lines, and while trains overall are more crowded, the end result isn’t that one line is overtaxed. There is also no other way to perform urgently necessary work on the Montague Tube.
But what the real story is here concerns the C train. It is terrible. It doesn’t run frequently enough; the rolling stock is decrepit; the announcements are inaudible; the stations — including Hoyt/Schermerhorn — are visually unappealing and are generally downright messes. There’s no easy fix that doesn’t involve a lot of money and a commitment the MTA doesn’t seem able to make right now, but at least more people are paying attention. When more people pay attention, good things can happen. For now, though, Sandy reroutes are going to lead to crowded trains, and the C train in particular won’t get any better. After all, it gets only 2 stars on Yelp for a reason.