Home F Express Plan In defense of the F Express plan

In defense of the F Express plan

by Benjamin Kabak

I always thought everyone supported the F Express Plan. Who wouldn’t want more train service and express train options for underserved and overcrowded parts of Brooklyn? It seemed like a no-brainer to me. Boy, was I naïve in this thinking.

Last week, Gersh Kuntzman’s Brooklyn weekly The Brooklyn Paper ran a scathing (and, in my opinion, very short-sighted) editorial entitled “Who needs an F express?” As you may have guessed from the non-too-subtle title, Kuntzman, supposedly a champion of Brooklyn, isn’t in favor of this added train service on tracks that have existed since these subway lines opened in the 1930s.

In response to this outrageous editorial, I wrote a letter to the editor. The letter, co-signed by the other two major proponents of the F Express Plan, Gary Reilly, the driving force behind the F Express and author of Brooklyn Streets, Carroll Gardens, and Jen from Kensington (Brooklyn), disputes every contention made by The Brooklyn Paper in its editorial. While we hope the letter will appear in an upcoming issue of the paper, here it is in its entirety:

We were dismayed, surprised and saddened by your Sept. 15 editorial entitled “Who needs an F express?” Chock-full of misconceptions, gross oversimplifications and simply wrong information, the editorial provides a disservice to residents of not just Carroll Gardens and Cobble Hill but to all Brooklynites who stand to benefit from express service along the F line and an overall increase of service along the Culver Line.

First among your charges is that due to a supposed bottleneck at York St., “there may not be enough capacity to add trains.” This is an unfounded claim. Elsewhere in the system – the 7 line comes to mind – where express and local tracks feed into one, express service and increased train capacity have led to a lessening of crowded trains. If our greatest concern is one focusing on a scheduling issue past Jay St./Borough Hall, the real location of the bottleneck, then we have nearly won the battle for express service.

Next up is your claim of “simple populism” levied against our local politicians. These politicians are signing on to the research we have conducted that shows our proposal is more than just “simple populism.” As we have stressed over and over again, we don’t need to build new subway tracks to increase service along the Culver Line. The express tracks – the only unused express tracks in the City – were built with the subway line in the 1920s. We don’t need the hard work, vision or money to build new subways; we just need an MTA willing to utilizing underused tracks.

With our plan encompassing V service into Brooklyn past its current Second Ave. terminus and F express service into Kensington and beyond, we fail to see how Brownstone Brooklynites won’t enjoy any benefits. The V will, in our plan, service the current F stops, and the F will service the express stations. Both trains will run frequently, and both will be less crowded.

Overall, it is true that Brooklyn – much like New York City on the whole – needs a bold vision to bring about the next generation of transit enhancements. But we can’t afford to ignore or dismiss the solution right under our noses. Brooklyn needs a restored F express and extended V local, and everyone will benefit from that service.

We like to hope that there’s no such thing as bad publicity. Even if Kuntzman is against the F Express Plan for reasons unknown — or at least, just plain wrong — to us, he’s keeping the issue on the forefront of public discourse in the fair borough of Brooklyn. But I can’t stress enough the F Express Plan as we propose it — with added V service past Second Ave. and the utilization of existing, unused express tracks — would be a boon for an undertaxed neighborhood. The MTA is willing to make it happen when they can; the rest of Brooklyn should cheer this news.

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hbk216 September 18, 2007 - 2:53 am

Nice response in regards to his article. I can see what his points are even if I don’t necessarily agree with them. I have not kept up with this project from the start but I do have a question.

In general how do the residents feel about the express not being available for their use? I imagined if I was a resident trying to get express service, I would be a tad bit upset at the least to not be able to enjoy it fully.

I will support anything that brings more use of the severely underutilized & misused G train. The V will always be a horribly executed idea but it has a chance to get somewhat better with this proposal.

David September 18, 2007 - 2:54 am

Sorry for the anonymous comment, that was me. I guess being signed into WP did that.

Marc Shepherd September 18, 2007 - 8:25 am

The editorial is, of course, poorly informed. There are many places in the subway system where two lines merge into one. The A/C is an example, where local and express come together before Jay Street. The F/V would be exactly analogous.

But your plan makes the error of touting the F as the express, when clearly it’s the V that should be express. The benefit is that people at local stations who are accustomed to taking the F, will still take the F. People at express stations will simply have one new option (the V) that they never had before. Any plan is to be preferred that minimizes the number of passengers who need to learn a new service pattern.

The other point, which I should have thought was obvious, is that the express surely won’t be 24/7. No one is suggesting that the Culver Line needs two full-time services. So the F should retain its current pattern of serving all stations at all times. The V would be a fill-in service, as it is today on the other parts of its route. This would be much simpler, as no one would ever board an F or V and be in any doubt as to where it’s going.

Gary September 18, 2007 - 8:50 am

Marc, you have a good point. The important thing is we get the enhanced service up and running.

Ben, great work. I’m putting up a post now.

And don’t forget to vote today if you are a Brooklyn Democrat – it’s primary day.

(Rev) Daniel Meeter September 18, 2007 - 8:59 am

It’s too bad that the opposition to this possibililty feels like an example of the Brownstone Island problem, that the rest of the borough doesn’t matter.

We have to support the MTA trying a number of alternatives, like what happened with the B and D, and the best way to do it is by actually running them; these can’t be perfectly predicted.

Imagine if the G were to be extended to Stillwell Ave as part of the mix, either the local or express. Think of all the Russian and Polish riders suddenly taking it between Brooklyn and Queens. Think of all the Bangladeshi and Arab and Indian riders doing the same on the weekends and at nights. Think of all the Latin Americans taking it between Kensington and Jackson Heights on the weekends. If the G were permanently extended out to its off-hours terminus on Queens Boulevard, the access to LaGuardia and Shea and Flushing would be much improved. The G ridership would increase tremendously, not just for Park Slopers going to to party in Williamsburg!
The track capacity is there.

T to Governor's Island September 18, 2007 - 12:08 pm


I love your reply to the shortsighted op-ed, but the F express tracks aren’t the only ones not in service.


Peter September 18, 2007 - 4:20 pm

I assume the reason that the F will be express and the V will be local is because that’s exactly how it’s set up already in Queens. It’d be confusing to make the F express in Queens and local in Brooklyn (and vice versa for the V)

Marc Shepherd September 19, 2007 - 8:12 am

Peter, in the first place the MTA hasn’t said what service pattern they will offer. Actually, they haven’t committed to running any new service all, much less which line will operate as the express. There are probably not many people using the F to commute between Brooklyn and Queens without changing trains, so the point you raised isn’t likely to confuse anyone. And there are other services that are express for part of their route and local for another.

T, yes it’s true that there are other sets of unused express tracks. But the point is to offer services to meet demand, not to run services just because they are possible. For example, consider the unused Astoria Line express tracks. The MTA ran the W as an Astoria express a few years ago. The community actually complained, and asked for more local service, so now both the N and the W are local in Queens.

Benjamin September 19, 2007 - 3:55 pm

What is needed for underserved and overcrowded parts of Brooklyn, as well as the rest of the City, including Staten Island, is more subway lines. Pure and simple. Until we face up to that fact, we will be only doing things on the margins like express buses, congestion pricing, etc.

Benjamin Kabak September 19, 2007 - 3:58 pm

Benjamin: I’m with you. But until someone takes the initiative to drive those proposals through the necessary funding and review procedures, we should be making the most of the current tracks.

And T: As Marc noted, these F Express tracks are the only legitimately underused express tracks. Those other third tracks you mention are good, but most wouldn’t do much to alleviate over crowding on busy train lines.

David December 3, 2007 - 8:30 pm

I always get so annoyed how crowded the F train gets. And for some stupid reason they wont use the express trackson the F. In fact if you look on caroll street, there is a barrier to stopa train from entering the tunnnel on the express track. I’m always wonder, why the hell would they remove it? On my commute home i get on an A train at 59th street, then at Jay St. I transfer to the F. Now I’d rather go on a faster, and less crowded train, wouldn’t you? At Jay Street the F train is packed to the max. I live on avenue I, so i could just take the express to 18th ave, and wait for a local tp take me to ave. I. WHY CAN’T THAT HAPPEN?!!!

Alex Holub March 13, 2016 - 5:49 pm

With the opening of the first phase of the Second Avenue subway later this year, there is talk of reviving the W train as a Broadway local to Whitehall. Here’s the perfect opportunity for an F express. The W could continue to Brooklyn becoming the Brighton express. Meanwhile, the B becomes a 6th Ave/Culver local to Church Ave (Kings Highway rush hours).
The F becomes a 6th Ave/Culver express bypassing Bergen Street. F would run local on weekends.


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