DOT and MTA Expect to Reveal L Train Replacement Plan This Fall

Advocates suggest a car-free 14th Street with off-board fare collection and level boarding will be needed to keep people moving on 14th Street. Will DOT and the MTA agree? Image: BRT Planning International
Advocates suggest a car-free 14th Street with off-board fare collection and level boarding will be needed to keep people moving on 14th Street. Will DOT and the MTA agree? Image: BRT Planning International

DOT and the MTA have a timetable to release their plan to keep L train riders moving when the western portion of the line is shut down for Sandy-related repairs. The 18-month closure between Bedford Avenue in Williamsburg and Eighth Avenue in Manhattan, which is set to take effect at the beginning of 2019, will disrupt hundreds of thousands of L train trips each day.

At a workshop last night, the agencies said they would release a preliminary plan to handle those trips in the spring, followed by another round of workshops in the summer, after which they will release a final plan in the fall. The plan would then be implemented over the course of 2018.

The report released in the spring will review different options, DOT Senior Director for Transit Development Eric Beaton told Streetsblog. “We want to make sure we’re moving the most people as efficiently as possible, and providing good alternatives, and also are able to talk to people about what the traffic effects would be of doing something, or even the effect of doing nothing,” he said.

There are about 300,000 trips on the L train on a typical weekday, according to the Regional Plan Association, and the vast majority will be affected by the shutdown, since 225,000 trips involve crossing the East River and another 50,000 begin and end in Manhattan.

Officials said they expect 80 to 85 percent of L train riders to migrate to other subway lines. The rest would turn to buses, bicycling, or a free ferry that will provide service between North 6th Street in Williamsburg and East 20th Street in Manhattan.

Even if those projections prove accurate, the number of people who don’t switch to other subway lines would outnumber the ridership on the busiest bus routes in the city. Advocates have called on the city and the MTA to keep people moving with busways and car-free streets, proposals that have picked up support from elected officials and community groups.

While last night’s presentation did not go into specifics, it mentioned “Select Bus Service” as an option for 14th Street and alluded to a similar approach on the Williamsburg Bridge and its approaches.

The concern is that the agencies will opt for garden-variety bus lanes, which remain susceptible to encroachment by cars, instead of fully car-free streets that can efficiently move large numbers of people by bus and bike. Taking full advantage of surface streets to move displaced L train passengers would also minimize crowding on substitute subway lines.

New Yorkers will start to see early construction work in preparation for the MTA’s L train repairs sooner than 2018. On 14th Street between Avenue A and Avenue B, preliminary construction will knock out a travel lane in each direction sometime this year.

If you want to weigh in before the release of the preliminary plan, workshops are happening each of the next three Thursdays: on the West Side of Manhattan on February 23, in East Williamsburg on March 2, and in the East Village on March 9.

  • The 14th St. SBS is nice because it’s something that could benefit people both before and after the shutdown. Bus lanes on the Williamsburg Bridge and shuttle buses, not so much. The MTA and DOT should really be working together to bring SBS to the major Bushwick lines (DeKalb, Gates, Halsey) that would funnel people to the M and J, and would benefit riders beyond the shutdown and beyond the immediate area. Even if they won’t put in full bus lanes along the entire routes, they should at least have proof-of-payment and transit signal priority.

  • Larry Littlefield

    I’m wondering if subway service in my neighborhood will be affected. They’ll have to run more Gs, so they might use this an excuse to have all Fs bypass local stations inbound of Church.
    With the goal of convincing riders to abandon the subway in the run-up to the F express, or use the R at 4th, take a bus to 7th, etc.

    I wonder how many Gs they can turn at Court.

  • sbauman

    Last night’s join MTA/DOT dog and pony show was short on details. Like any major logistic undertaking, the devil is in the details. The MTA wasn’t prepared to divulge any details – even those that they previously announced. Their knee jerk response was we’re still studying it.

    It’s been 11 months since there were public hints that the 14th St Tunnel would be closed. Within that time they should have been able to answer some fairly basic questions like how many more trains (measured in ordinal numbers) will be placed into service on the alternate lines for displaced L Train passengers.

    This is pretty basic stuff. They are planning to provide two new transfers: at Junius/Livonia (2/3/4/L) and Broadway/Lorimer (G/J/Z/M). Those transfers will be useless, if there are not a sufficient number of trains to carry the displaced L Train riders.

    There’s also the question of what sort of L Train service will remain operating in Brooklyn. I saw no mention of service level in the presentation poster. Brooklyn L Train service levels have also disappeared from the MTA’s Q&A on their website http://web.mta.info/sandy/Questions_Answers.htm . I posed the question to the MTA presenter at my table. He talked in circles for 5 minutes and did not come up with any answer. The MTA video https://youtu.be/Gt_JloKcE7s shows this to be 1 train every 8 minutes at the 4:58 mark. That’s 7.5 trains per hour, instead of the current 20 trains per hour.

    That’s roughly 1/3 of the service. The MTA stated they’re assuming 85% of the L Train riders will take alternate lines. N.B. 85% of the traffic won’t fit into 33% of the service. That’s not adequate to provide any sort of reliability. It means the planning should proceed on the assumption that none of the L Train would be available – not just the section in Manhattan.

    Another disturbing aspect is that the outreach is extending only to East Williamsburg or the Grand St stop. Left out of the outreach are the unwashed masses who live further east. They make up more than half the ridership. Their well being does not appear to be a concern to the MTA and NYCDOT. Outreach appears to extend only so far. They will find out, when the trains stop running. There’s no need to stir up the masses.

  • kevin

    It’ll probably be a series of shrugs and Albany asking “what’s the big deal?”

  • StanChaz

    The G train used to run past Court Square to Queens Plaza (the next stop) , and all the way to Forest Hills.
    Now Court Suare is the last stop on the G train.
    At Queens plaza there is a simple direct transfer to Manhattan bound E , R, and M trains
    (unlike the tortuous tunnel transfer at Court Square that does not even provide R train service).
    Restore this G service to Queens Plaza and beyond- giving riders more direct options to reach Manhattan.
    The connecting tracks and signals are there- in fact when there is a problem on the F
    trains they are switched to the G tracks thru Brooklyn, all the way to Queens Plaza and beyond – on the existing G tracks.
    Note tha Queens BORO Plaza is a different (i.e. elevated ) and seperate station, with Manhattan and Astoria bound trains.
    bound trains. It lies above Queens Plaza and slightly to the west. With all the surrounding new construction in that area
    the City & State should offer incentives for builders to create a direct connection between the below ground and
    elevated stations there – or at least offer a free transfer to relieve overcrowding.
    Something needs to be done. Currently the Court Square G transfer point to the #7 train transfer is dangerously overcrowded at
    rush hour- what will happen when thousands more new G train riders attempt to transfer to Manhattan there?
    We need more Manhattan transfer options.

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The MTA and DOT did not indicate any plans for busways on surface streets in a presentation to elected officials last week about the L train shutdown. Image: MTA

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