EXCLUSIVE: Cuomo’s L Train Plan Still Has Lots of Pain [Updated]

Exit-only stations, massive crowds and scrubbed buses are part of the now overnight and weekend fix.

Andrew Cuomo Photo: Flickr/NYS Governor's Office
Andrew Cuomo Photo: Flickr/NYS Governor's Office

Gov. Cuomo’s proposal to repair the L train’s Canarsie Tunnel isn’t so painless after all — in fact, the MTA may entirely shut some platforms for extended periods to control crowds waiting for slow trains.

The governor got the “L-Yeah!” headline from both the Daily News and the Post after his announcement earlier this month that he would replace the MTA’s plan to entirely eliminate L service between Brooklyn and Manhattan for 15 months with a “nights and weekends,” one-tube closure fix that would maintain service, albeit on a less-frequent basis.

But Streetsblog has obtained a draft MTA memo that reveals the nuts-and-bolts behind the Cuomo plan — and it isn’t as pretty as the tabloid headlines made it sound.

On weekends, as previously announced, there will be 20-minute gaps between trains, up from four minutes. But the memo — “Potential L Tunnel Weekend and Late Night Service Plan With One-Track Closure” — reveals additional pain as well:

  • Stations at First and Third avenues will likely be reconfigured to exit-only. (“That’s just abysmal for the East Village,” said Jon Orcutt, the spokesman for TransitCenter.)
  • There will be no new inter-borough bus route because such a bus will no longer be “time competitive” if the city eliminates the HOV-3 requirement on the Williamsburg Bridge, as it is expected to do.
  • There will be no additional ferry service.

The overnight plan includes the same 20-minute gaps in train service, plus the following difficulties for riders:

  • There will be no additional L shuttle service.
  • There will be no increase in normal G service.
  • There will be the aforementioned need for “metering” at L platforms at Union Square, Third Avenue, First Avenue and Bedford Avenue. If the monitoring of station crowds reveals a danger, the MTA would temporarily restrict access to the platforms.
  • There will be no new bus service along 14th Street, between the boroughs, or in Brooklyn.

But there are some pluses for riders:

On weekends:

  • There will be service on the M line along the Second Avenue line on the Upper East Side. The train doesn’t currently go there, but can be sent along that route so that it can turn around without affecting other lines, a source said.
  • Service on the G train will run every eight minutes instead of every 10 minutes.
  • There will be out-of-station MetroCard transfers between the Broadway stop on the G and the Hewes Street and Lorimer Street stops on the J and M lines. There will be similar free transfers between the Junius Street stop on the 3 train and the Livonia Avenue stop on the L.
  • The MTA will provide additional service on the M14 bus to reduce waits from 12 minutes to 10 minutes. (Reminder: Under the original shutdown plan, 14th Street was slated to become a bus-only route.)
  • There will be a bus shuttle from the L station at Bedford Avenue to the J and M station at Marcy Avenue

And on the overnights, service will increase along the 7 train, but that improvement had already been announced.

MTA officials were none too pleased by Streetsblog’s scoop.

“The alternative service plan for the L train hasn’t been completed yet, so citing draft and outdated reports is not only irresponsible but it does a disservice to New Yorkers and our customers who need reliable, official information,” the agency said in a statement. “The MTA will work with the community to provide the service they need while keeping the L train open in both directions 24/7 and providing full, unaltered weekday service for 275,000 riders a day.”

It is unclear why the statement characterized the Streetsblog-obtained memo as “outdated.” It is dated Jan. 22 — which was yesterday.

In addition to the exit-only changes at Third and First Avenues, Orcutt was surprised that the MTA wouldn’t push ahead with its plans to at least create Select Bus Service on 14th Street — which was a crucial part of the now-scrubbed L-train shutdown mitigation, but is still needed to improve bus service on a crucial corridor.

“The bus lanes are already painted, so the hard part is done,” Orcutt said. “And if you are going to screw up Third and First Avenue stations, you might as well give people better buses. Fourteenth Street needed it already.”

Story was updated at 6:50 p.m. on Wednesday to add the MTA comment.

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