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MTA ‘Bungles’ Increased R Train Service Promise

The MTA is under fire for not fully delivering on the eight-minute midday service that it promised to riders weeks ago.

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In happier times: On Aug. 22, state Sen. Andrew Gounardes (center, with NYC Transit President Richard Davey and Assembly Member Jo Anne Simon) was all too happy to cheer MTA service improvements. But the agency bungled it, as Gounardes later found out.

The MTA is under fire for not delivering on the eight-minute weekday headways that it promised riders in southern Brooklyn — one of whose representatives happened to be (awkward!) one of the MTA's champions in Albany this year.

State Sen. Andrew Gounardes (D-Bay Ridge) said on Thursday that his office had received multiple complaints from constituents who were waiting as long as 16 minutes in the middle of the day for an R train despite a promise from the MTA that it would subways every eight minutes between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. on weekdays.

The senator accused the MTA of lying about the service increase, putting out a furious statement and tweeting that the agency "bungled" the service rollout.

"After months of hard work in Albany to fight for a rescue plan for the MTA and service improvements for lines including the R and N, I’m shocked and frustrated that the MTA would misrepresent these service upgrades to the riding public," said Gounardes.

The saga began on Aug. 22, when the MTA put out a press release that expanded service between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. would begin on Aug. 28. The release even alluded to the work that Gounardes and others played in getting the MTA more money.

Here's the original release. We highlighted the best part.

But the weekday service improvements didn't start at 10 a.m. as planned. When Gounardes looked into it, he realized that the agency had retroactively changed its press release to say the improved service would start weekdays at 11:30 a.m. due to previously planned track work.

The revised press release on the MTA's website says, "Due to theline track replacement work, increased weekday train service will begin between 11 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. and continue throughout the duration of this project. Once completed, increased train service will begin at approximately 10 a.m."

The track work in question is not on the R line, but is instead a long-term project track repair and replacement on the F line that's jumbled service around the system. That work is slated to last until early 2024. The delay in beginning the more frequent R train service involves New York City Transit having to wait until the end of rush hour service to move work trains out of the way, which the agency claims would lead to massive rush hour disruptions if done before the end of peak service.

According to the MTA, the edit to the press release announcing the service increase was not nefarious but a simple mistake.

"There was an editing error that was inadvertent, the original draft said that between 10 and 11 a.m. during the F line work project project, the increases in service would not be in effect, and then when the project was complete, it would begin at 10 a.m.," said MTA spokesman Tim Minton.

But the problems with the rollout seem to extend beyond even a trackwork issue, as transit watcher Jason Rabinowitz pointed out on Twitter that the agency doesn't seem to have enough crews to run frequent midday service:

The snafu finally brought some bad news to what had been a run of multiple MTA announcements of increased subway service that the agency was able to institute with a $35-million chunk of cash legislators included in this year's state budget. Since the summer started, the agency has rolled out eight-minute weekend service on the G, J and M trains, eight-minute midday weekday service on the C train, six-minute service on weekends on the 1 and 6 trains, and the aforementioned eight-minute midday service on weekdays on the N and R trains.

The service increases are also set to continue through the year, with additional evening service on the C, N and R, more midday service on the G train and more weekday service on the B, D, J and M trains.

The agency also managed to piss off a key ally in Gounardes, who backed legislation that resulted in funding to help the agency fill its fiscal hole. Especially with congestion pricing on the horizon, transit advocates noted that the MTA needs to try to avoid "own-goals" that make Joe Jonas's PR team look like a group of crack professionals.

Danny Pearlstein of Riders Alliance said riders just want the truth — not retroactively, but in the moment.

“Riders know the system is old and that repairs take time but please, level with us so we can plan accordingly," he said. "Public transit shouldn't be a rollercoaster of mismatched expectations."

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