By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
The Brooklyn Army Terminal ferry, which the city installed to relieve R train riders stranded by the closure of the Montague Street tunnel, is fine, but not enough to soothe commuters’ jagged nerves, according to an underdog mayoral candidate who is pushing a plan he said would make life a lot easier for passengers.
Sal Albanese, struck in the single digits in most political polls, far behind Democratic front-runner Christine Quinn, is calling on the MTA to slash the fare on the X27 and X37 express bus lines to $2.50 a ride for riders living along the R train's route. The reduced fare would be in place for the duration of the tunnel repair project. The fare is currently $6.00 a ride.
“The ferry is a nice idea, but it’s not going to do the job,” Albanese told the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. More should be done to alleviate the nightmare riders are facing, he said. “The MTA should step up,” he added.
The length of the tunnel repair project (14 months, according to MTA estimates), coupled with the hornet’s nest of problems getting to Manhattan for people who normally depended on the R train, means that transportation officials should be doing more to help ease the pain, Albanese said.
“We’re talking 14 months without the R train, not weeks, months. It’s not fair to expect riders to bear the brunt of that without offering them something,” he said.
The MTA closed the tunnel on Aug. 3 to repair the passageway after heavy-duty damage from superstorm Sandy was discovered. The tunnel will remain closed until the fall of 2014, according to the MTA. For the next 14 months, the R train will travel from 95th Street in Bay Ridge to Court Street in downtown Brooklyn on weekdays. On weekends, the train will travel over the N line on the Manhattan Bridge. On that route, however, the R train skips several stops in Brooklyn and lower Manhattan.
Granting a request from local elected officials, the Bloomberg administration arranged for a ferry service to be brought to the Brooklyn Army Terminal Pier at 58th Street in Sunset Park. News 12 Brooklyn reported that the ferry takes passengers first to Wall Street, and then to a pier on East 34th Street.
But that service is in place only until Labor Day.
Albanese, a lawyer and former Bay Ridge councilman, issued a transportation improvement plan earlier this year. Among his proposals: putting the MTA under mayoral control, similar to the control the mayor seized over the city’s public school system. “I have called for mass transit to be under the mayor’s control. And I would put riders on the MTA board,” he said. Such a move would mean that riders would have a hand in the MTA’s decision-making process, he said. Many of the current MTA board members “don’t even have a Metrocard,” he said.
Albanese brought his express bus case to the riders, visiting X27 bus stops along Shore Road during the morning rush hour on Aug. 8. Albanese said he received a positive reaction from commuters waiting for the express bus to go to work. “They were thrilled with the idea,” he said.
The $6.00 express bus fare is too much for many commuters, particularly passengers used to paying $2.50 to ride the R train, Albanese said. One woman he met on Shore Road Thursday morning was blunt. “She told me she can’t take the express bus every day. She would have to go without lunch,” he said.