Home F Express Plan A better-ish F express plan could cost nearly $100 million

A better-ish F express plan could cost nearly $100 million

by Benjamin Kabak

A real F express plan would involve a costly renovation of the lower level at Bergen St., shown here in 2000. (Photo via NYCSubway.org)

As the South Brooklyn politicians fight it out with the southern Brooklyn politicians, the MTA’s report on F service contains a few nuggets of information regarding the potential for express service. It’s a thorough look at transit history and ridership patterns — for instance, we learn that entrances between 7-10 a.m. make up nearly 40 percent of Brooklyn’s F train ridership — and it offers up a defense of some F express service.

But there’s another story in the document, one regarding money and a desire to provide better service. It’s the story of how the MTA could make F express service if not more palatable for some areas in Brooklyn, at least more justifiable for certain stations. It involves a lesson in late 1990s subway history and approximately $100 million. We start in March of 1999 when a fire destroyed a 70-year-old switch control panel at Bergen St. The MTA was able to restore service to the station faster than expected, but repairs to the control panel weren’t completed until 2007. At this point, the lower level isn’t a functional passenger station.

To realize the best possible F express routing, restoring Bergen St. is essential. The station sees nearly 12,000 passengers per day, and by providing express service at Bergen St., many passengers who will lose service if the express plan is implemented would be spared that fate. But the MTA says this work is far too expensive. The agency would have to include accessibility upgrades to bring Bergen St. into compliance with the ADA; reconstructing stairs, platforms and station finishes; install communications and electrical systems; relocate cables; and restore signals that weren’t included in post-fire restoration work. The cost would top $75 million, and that is, apparently, $75 million the MTA does not have.

Meanwhile, at both Bergen and Carroll Sts., the MTA contemplated the queueing issues that could arise if the express plan is implemented. More crowded local trains means more congested station entrances. The MTA anticipates that riders would have to wait, on average, 32 seconds more to reach the stairs at Bergen St. and approximately 10 seconds more to reach the stairs at Carroll St. “This does not,” the MTA notes, “account for the modest amount of counter-flow that currently exists, which would further delay exiting riders.” Widening staircases and installing one elevator at each stop would cost at least $20 million, the MTA estimates. (The MTA doesn’t really address passengers transferring between the R line and theF train at 4th Ave.-9th Sts., another potential chokepoint that could negatively impact commute times or the effects this new service has on Red Hook, a true transit-starved area.)

At least part of this $100 million expense — widening the staircases, making Carroll and Bergen ADA-compliant — should be included in any final F express plan, but if the MTA wants to do it right, the full rehabilitation of the lower level at Bergen Street should be a pre-requisite. That would make this proposal, warts and all, a bit easier to take even as the gold standard remains maintaining F local frequencies while adding some level of express service.

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Walt Gekko May 20, 2016 - 12:47 am

It may be expensive, but long-term, restoring Bergen Street-Lower Level would be money very well spent as:

1. It would make the station ADA compliant, something it likely needs to be anyway with the growing population in the area.

2. It would provide an express stop most immediately for the (F).

3. Long-term, the lower level at Bergen could be used for an SAS line to run via Rutgers and the Culver Express to Coney Island (while the (F) would be truncated to Church Avenue with the (G) as the Culver Local).

The latter is something that came up in a couple of forums as an idea to branch off the SAS when Phase 3 is complete (and depending how things would be built potentially be the sole SAS line below 63rd until Phase 4 is built). This might require for it to happen Phase 3 of the SAS to be moved to 1st Avenue south of say 23rd Street (with the 14th Street stop a transfer to the 1st Avenue (L) station rather than 3rd Avenue), very similar to how the 2nd Avenue EL was years ago. This might allow with fewer sharp curves being able to reach the (F) line and the Rutgers Tunnel after Houston Street and run with the (F) to Brooklyn (while in Phase 4, the SAS would then run most likely under Allen Street until that ends at East Broadway, with the line then running under East Broadway to Chatam Square).

Bergen-Lower Level could actually be part of a long-term project to bring the SAS to the Culver Line in Phase 3.

Vanshnookenraggen May 20, 2016 - 2:13 am

If are going to connect the 2AS to Brooklyn why would you connect it to Culver instead of any other line with much higher demand? Even connecting it just to Fulton St would allow C trains to be used on Culver AND give Fulton St more service. Your 2AS connection seems needlessly complicated for no net gain.

Walt Gekko May 20, 2016 - 2:44 am

Connecting the SAS to Fulton is what I would be looking to do in Phase 4 and is something I have brought up many times over the years. That plan would have the main SAS line run via a new Schermerhorn Street tunnel to what currently is the Transit Museum at Court Street (which would be put back into revenue service) and then come in on the as-present unused (in revenue service) track at Hoyt-Schemerhorn and then run local to Euclid (extended late nights to Lefferts).

The idea noted here for Phase 3 would be IN ADDITION TO that. This idea for Phase 3 is a new one that was originally suggested by others in other forums.

Vanshnookenraggen May 20, 2016 - 4:06 am

Got it, and agreed.

bigbellymon4 May 21, 2016 - 6:29 pm

I understand the ideas for SAS your stating, but how many different routes are you going to place on 2 tracks? Granted a line entering at the Rutgers can leave SAS at 63rd (while the Q runs up to 125th), but we should be trying to look for ways to de-interline, not interline even more.

Walt Gekko May 23, 2016 - 7:31 am

One thing that was suggested for Phase 3 was to make 55th Street a three-track, two-platform station to make up for the fact 72nd is only two tracks when it was originally intended to be three. Do that, and 55th can serve as the terminal for an SAS line via Rutgers and at no point do you have three lines operating along the SAS. Also, with CBTC and the fact 125 is scheduled to be three tracks, you could likely run three lines with the (Q) at 12 TPH and two SAS lines at 9 TPH each (and if CBTC allows for more than 30 TPH, possibly even all three lines at 12 TPH each), especially with the longer spacing between stations as in the past.

Want to make clear the SAS via Rutgers idea was NOT mine originally but was posted by others in other forums. I just think it’s a good one and a viable way to have a Culver Express many are clamoring for.

Vanshnookenraggen May 20, 2016 - 12:53 am

Just up CBTC for Cranberry St tunnel and run rush hour E trains out to Church Ave. The Jay St switches will need upgrading but they will need that eventually. Culver Express will only work with an additional service. The E trains that run out of 179th St will balance the F express perfectly.

bigbellymon4 May 21, 2016 - 6:18 pm

The Jay Street switches may be able to handle the added E trains rolling through, but can Canal Street switches do the same? Some A’s to Brooklyn have to wait outside the station when a C proceeds them and is still crossing over to the express at Canal. If there are 4 E’s from/to 179th during rush hour, once Cranberry Tube work is done they can roll through without CBTC (if MTA can handle 30tph with no issues).

Vanshnookenraggen May 22, 2016 - 8:49 pm

Fair. I’ve waited at Canal St way more times than Jay St, or really most other stations, because of backups.

Walt Gekko May 23, 2016 - 7:40 am

Which is exactly why in my past plans to extend the (E) to Euclid (and late nights to Lefferts) if you had the (C) run via Culver Express to Coney Island (and the (F) truncated to Church Avenue) I would have done it where during rush hours, (E) trains going to Brooklyn would run via with the (A) to/from 42nd Street on the express track while those that would go to Chambers-WTC (including all such to/from 179) would run as they do now (with a supplemental (K) train at all times operating its old route from Chambers-WTC to 168 to accommodate those too lazy to walk to the current (A)/(C) platform at Chambers or are looking for local stops on CPW and points north). You would have to have some (E) trains terminate at Chambers during rush hours anyway due to capacity issues at Hoyt-Schermerhorn.

That’s also why my plan in Phase 4 would be to have the (T) continue to Brooklyn via a new Schermerhorn Street tunnel that would see Court Street go from being the current Transit Museum back into being an active train stop and then run as the Fulton Local to Euclid (again, extended late nights to Lefferts when the (C) that would in this become express in Brooklyn to Lefferts would not be running).

John-2 May 20, 2016 - 1:14 am

Just to repeat from a couple of days ago, the F express needs lower Bergen to at least give riders at the three local stations to the south the option of taking the first train that comes in — if it’s an F, they can continue on to Jay Street or into Manhattan; if it’s a G, they have the option of changing at Bergen to the next train that arrives — local upstairs or express downstairs. And the same thing goes in reverse during the PM rush — passengers going to Carroll, Smith-9th or Fourth Avenue can take the first F that arrives in Manhattan, and if it’s an express, go upstairs at Bergen to change for the next F or G train that arrives.

It’s not a perfect solution, since it puts passengers on the Manhattan-bound side in the same position those at 86th on the Lex were in for years — waiting at the top of the stairs to see if the local or the express comes in first (though someday, B Division countdown clocks should should solve that problem). But it does offset a bit of the 50 percent cut in F service, while keeping Bergen closed means the F local’s the only option (riders at Fort Hamilton Parkway or 15th Street will be able to take the first inbound train, and if it’s a G, change at Seventh Avenue for the next F that arrives).

Larry Littlefield May 20, 2016 - 7:21 am

As noted in the prior post, there are much cheaper alternatives, albeit operating alternatives with ongoing costs.

The number of F trains could be increased in the peak period outside the peak hour, so the average wait time would not exceed 10 minutes. The MTA offers no promises.

The number of F trains could be increased in the peak hour once 96th Street and Second Avenue is available as a terminal.

Service on the B57 bus line could be ramped up to once every 4 minutes or less when the F express is running, with local passengers encouraged to hop a bus to Jay Street and board the subway there.

More service could be added on the 4th Avenue line, with those boarding at 4th Avenue and 9th Street encouraged to switch to that line if they are going to Manhattan. More B61 service might entice some in Windsor Terrace to take the train to the bus.

And finally the F local could relay at Church, so some of the space on it would not be occupied by those boarding further south. That would SAVE the MTA money.

The MTA seems determined to not throw a bone to the “inconvenienced passengers.”

al May 20, 2016 - 11:01 am

Modify work rules to expand OPTO to all trains 300 ft & 5 (60′) cars in length. Currently, only the Franklin shuttle has something like this. This would allow for 22tph on F local + G and 15 tph on F express, with Jay St as coupling/decoupling station.

Brooklynite May 23, 2016 - 2:34 am

While thinking outside the box is a good thing, in this case coupling and uncoupling at Jay Street is not workable. The slow speeds needed, as well as the time needed between the first and second sections departing/arriving, would totally kill capacity.

Also, the G currently has OPTO on weekends.

David Brown May 20, 2016 - 9:03 am

This is one big game. The MTA had Decades to bring back F Express, and over a Decade to reopen Bergen why now? Because they need Bergen to help with the increased amount of G Trains that will be needed due to the L shutdown. Everyone knows that there will be a hue and cry over 18 months of that shutdown and you will get the Gale Brewer’s of the World demanding 7 years to finish the job. By giving a reopened Bergen ( along with a free Broadway transfer to the J & M to and from the G and F Express) they can make that offer 18 month shutdown in exchange for those goodies, or 5-7 year shutdown no goodies, and the faster ( and yes more economical) option will probably prevail.

Stephen Bauman May 20, 2016 - 10:43 am

They can always short turn G trains at Bedford-Nostrand. This will permit increasing G service levels between Broadway (transfer to J/M/Z), Metropolitan Ave (transfer to L) and Court Sq (transfer to 7/E/M) without adding more stress to the Culver Line.

Their big problem will be turning G trains at Court Sq.

John May 20, 2016 - 2:10 pm

Short-turning trains at Bedford isn’t a great fix because that cuts out the A/C transfer at Hoyt.

Walt Gekko May 20, 2016 - 2:55 pm

And with that (L) shutdown, I also would be having an OOS transfer at Fulton Street to the 2/3/4/5/B/D/N/Q/R at Atlantic-Barclays and encourage those having to take the (G) to go Fulton (or Hoyt-Schermerhorn) if at all possible as I think Court Square is going to get so severely overcrowded they might otherwise run the G, M and R all to 179 so the G can stop at Queens Plaza.

John May 20, 2016 - 3:12 pm

Will they have room for the G past Court Square? If they extend it (and I doubt it would go to 179, but probably Forest Hills) they will have to curtail some R or M service, neither of which is feasible.

Walt Gekko May 21, 2016 - 4:29 pm

If they have the cars, it would be better to run all three to 179 because that I think is going to have to happen anyway UNLESS you want to split the (M) into the (M) as it is now and the (T) as a 24/7 line to 96th Street-2nd Avenue (which I originally suggested because of BOTH the notorious conga line at 71-Continental and CBTC work that likely can’t be delayed by the (L) tunnel shutdown). Running all three to 179 allows the (F) to run express on its full route and you can more easily do workarounds with the locals if there is a conga line east/railroad north of Parsons Boulevard.

Brooklynite May 23, 2016 - 2:37 am

Culver currently has roughly 22tph. They would have to quadruple capacity on the G (double length, double frequency) before Bergen becomes a problem.

Phantom May 20, 2016 - 9:53 am

The F express plan solves a problem that does not exist.

The time and money spent on it could be spent on something that would be useful to people in Brooklyn or NYC as a whole.

lordgh May 21, 2016 - 6:27 pm

well here is the problem F trains are constantly delayed by G trains making the F express will eliminate this problem. Adding select E trains at rush hour to church will offset the gap at local stations when combined with the frequency provided by the G eliminating the reason to keep the F local. The F express will boost reliability on the line by removing the G from it’s path.

victor May 20, 2016 - 11:09 am

How fun is it to wait at a staircase to see which platform a train will next arrive? The only real advantage as John-2 said is that the G-train becomes more useful for local riders, and mainly in the evening.

Astoria rider May 20, 2016 - 11:20 am


TimK May 20, 2016 - 12:17 pm Reply
Astoria rider May 21, 2016 - 6:57 pm

Anyone but the MTA would have gotten it done 100 years ago.

TimK June 2, 2016 - 12:05 pm

Well, no. 100 years ago the technology to do this didn’t exist. Some places had automatic displays that told passengers where the next train at a platform was headed, and that was it.

I agree that the MTA is behind the times on this, but “100 years” is a ridiculous exaggeration.

victor May 20, 2016 - 12:49 pm

Well all you really need is a next train sign that lights up. Or those announcements saying the next {local,express} train is 1 station away. It still seems messy.

mister May 25, 2016 - 8:18 pm

It happens frequently at Nostrand Avenue on the Fulton IND.

Larry Littlefield May 20, 2016 - 11:42 am

Frankly if the F express stopped at Bergen how much of an express would it be? Only five stops would be skipped out of 22 in Brooklyn.

I’m surprised that instead Greenfield isn’t demanding that the F express battery run past 7th Avenue.

Which wouldn’t be so terrible IF service were added, perhaps heading to 96th Street and Second Avenue, and the local started at Church so stations inbound would actually get half the capacity.

Marc May 20, 2016 - 2:16 pm

Greenfield may be counting on the 7th Avenue Park Slope riders blunting some of the opposition in Brownstone Brooklyn.

Walt Gekko May 20, 2016 - 6:42 pm

Where Bergen Lower Level is likely to be most important is not necessarily now, but in the future as I posted above with the suggestions of having the SAS at the end of Phase 3 be connected to the Rutgers Tunnel, with what eventually would be a branch of the SAS (most likely labeled (V) ) running via Culver Express to Coney Island 24/7 (and the (F) is so truncated to Church Avenue). That would be why I would work on the station as that area likely needs ADA access anyway.

lordgh May 21, 2016 - 6:29 pm

The real time savings will come from the improved reliability from no longer having to wait for G trains to pass

Tom May 20, 2016 - 11:53 am

I agree wholeheartedly with this article. I may be a skeptic, but I suspect that the MTA (especially in its current state of funding) doesn’t really want to do anything. They were getting pressure from south Brooklyn to run expresses, and they suggested this small scale plan as a straw man- let north Brooklyners quash the call for an F express rather than have the MTA do it themselves. We shouldn’t be fighting against each other about whether or not to run expresses, we should be working together to make a workable plan for all. I know $100 million isn’t small change, but it isn’t huge for the MTA either, and most of that is to make Bergen ADA accessible, which is a good and needed thing regardless of the outcome of the F express.

Matthew May 20, 2016 - 2:43 pm

I suspect The MTA released the F Train study now because they have finished most of the negotiations for the 5 year capital plan. If they had release the study earlier people would have started calling for Bergen St. improvements to be included in the funding for the capital plan which would have led to earmarks that would pull funds from other projects and cause delays. Now that the 5 year capital plan is finalized they are in a great spot to start seeking funding for side projects such as this. By releasing the F Train Study they are mobilizing public support for rebuilding the Bergen Street Station as a compromise between the interests of northern Brooklyn and southern Brooklyn.

David Brown May 20, 2016 - 6:55 pm

That is the horse trade that I mentioned before. Keep in mind the MTA is also doing CBTC on the Culver Line, Queens Blvd and 6Th Avenue Lines, and this year will be awarding a contract for the Rutgers Tunnel What do they all have in common? Hint it is the 6Th Letter of the alphabet. I suspect that work on the F Train and other things involving that line ( including Station upgrades which I suspect include Bergen Street and East Broadway)should be going on for many years.

Cq May 22, 2016 - 11:42 am

I have been saying this for 2 months that the only way this will work is that to make the f local run between 96 St -2 av & church av , this way the local makes a quick turn around between the vital local stations on the f which is 63 st to 7 av , plus it will be a bonus line for the east side at rush hour because the Q will be still every 8-10 minutes and the Lexington Ave line being the mess it always will be. It benefits all in Manhattan and Brooklyn. All coney island f trains can be express, transfer to G or f local for 4 av at 7 av

Cq May 22, 2016 - 11:47 am

People seem to forget that you can transfer between the f and r at Jay St it’s a less confused transfer as well

Michael549 May 22, 2016 - 5:41 pm

There is a big difference between “Being able to do something”, and whether “one should do something”.

Can the MTA send trains between the 96th Second Avenue station and by the Brooklyn F-line to Coney Island?

Sure – The MTA can! The MTA can run their trains anywhere they darn well please – it is their railroad! The dreams, cries, moans and groans or the fondest wishes of transit fans – have little to do with it. The MTA runs their railroad as they please, because it is their railroad.

Transit fans who propose various routings and ideas have to keep certain realities in mind. All of the various subway pathways (Sixth Avenue, Lexington Avenue, etc.) can handle a certain amount of traffic – generally at most 30 trains per hour per pair of tracks. Whether that number can be increased is debate-able, but the number is generally accepted as the limit.

In addition there are certain stations, pathways and corridors that are connected – joined at the hip – with particular capabilities, as well as ridership needs that have to be met.

If 30-train per hour is your “transit budget” – then the question becomes one of where to “spend” the capacity. It well known that the Queens Blvd line requires 15 trains per hour (tph) for the E train, and 15 tph for the F-train due to the huge rush hour ridership requirements of the Queens Blvd line. So there’s not any “extra space” available. Other corridors have similar constraints on “extra space” – Sixth Avenue, Eighth Avenue, Lexington Avenue, etc.

Can transit fans propose that the MTA send trains between the 96th Second Avenue station and by the Brooklyn F-line to Coney Island?

Sure – They can! They just have to figure out and declare the kinds of trade-offs that they are willing to make to achieve their dreams.

The MTA report on the F-Train Brooklyn Express clearly showed how there is little to no “extra capacity” add extra trains along Sixth Avenue and the Queens Blvd corridors. From the MTA point of view that means that F-train route has 15-tph to work with to create its rush hour Brooklyn express service, AND to service its Brooklyn local stations.

Of course there is the political angle. Ever try taking frequent train service away from a well-to-do politically connected very high ridership neighborhood? Especially when that neighborhood has had such frequent rush hour service for decades. Transit fans with long memories know that that just how the F-train has remained all-local since the mid-1970’s! Those who do not learn their history …

I’m getting pop-corn!

Panthers May 23, 2016 - 1:21 pm

Here’s a simple fix:

Rebuild the Culver Shuttle Let the “V” run from Coney Island through the shuttle, up 6th avenue and to 96th and 2nd avenue. Have that run as an express.

Cq May 22, 2016 - 12:02 pm

This way you can use the Q and F like the 2 & 5 interchangeable between 96 St & coney island like 241 St and Flatbush av

Cq May 22, 2016 - 12:07 pm

This goes for if there are issues on the lines they can use each other tracks for thru service it’s NYC and options should be available . It is feasible

Nathanael May 22, 2016 - 10:35 pm

So apply for a federal Core Capacity grant. If they’ve done their homework this should qualify. The program was designed for Chicago but New York fits into it.


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