Sandy Update: Where are the L and G trains?By
As the Monday morning rush hour has come and gone, we’ve quickly learned that northern Brooklyn and parts of Queens are struggling under the demands of less than 100 percent transit service. With the L and G trains still shuttered due to flooding, residents of areas served by these trains were left with packed M and J trains, very long lines for buses and a growing sense that the MTA views them as second class subway citizens. When, they ask, will service be restored or alternate transportation options be available?
With a crowd swell of voices calling for the restoration of service, the MTA has stressed the attention it will pay to the L and G trains. In a statement this morning on Twitter, the MTA said that getting the G and L back up is “our highest priority.” They offered up more in a subsequent statement:
The MTA is very much aware of the difficult commute for our customers who usually take the G and L trains, as well as the crowding at the Marcy Avenue station. Getting the G and L running again is our highest priority, and crews are working around the clock on both. Pumping the water from those flooded tunnels is only the first step; signals must be fixed or replaced and then tested, among other restorations, before we can safely start service again. We know this is an inconvenience for our customers in the affected neighborhoods, and the entire agency is focused on getting those lines running again.
In other statements, though, MTA officials let slip their on takes on the G train. To The Observer, Adam Lisberg, the MTA’s head spokesperson, talked of ridership. “The answer on the L is that it’s impossible to turn trains around easily mid-route for a Brooklyn shuttle service,” he said. “[It's] very difficult to set up because of the track layout. They may try now that other lines are getting better service, but that’s just a discussion at this point. As for the G, enough of it is parallel to other lines—plus the naturally low ridership.”
(Later, Lisberg offered up some sympathy and an explanation for G train riders though. “Water that has sloshed in by way of Newtown Creek is obviously going to be more of concern,” he said to Capital New York. “The signal damage in the G tunnel, I’m told, is very severe.”)
Brooklyn politicians though have objected to the MTA’s approach. “The G train is not a second class line,” City Council Member Steve Levin said to The Observer. “It’s essential for the MTA to recognize that. For the last couple of years, ridership has been way up on the line, as many new businesses and residents have become reliant on the G train on a daily basis—not only to get into Manhattan but to travel within Brooklyn and to Queens.”
He continued: “I understand the constraints the MTA is working under, and it’s enormous constraints, what I expect them to do is provide the fullest service possible. I’m not an engineer, and I appreciate how complex the system is, but I expect that my constituents are treated the same as subway riders in every other neighborhood.”
Council Member Diana Reyna issued a similar call: “The task before the MTA is difficult but not impossible, and alternatives must be provided to those commuting to work.” Are the J and M trains — plus subsequent transfers — sufficient alternatives? Riders trying to get to work and school are saying no, and L and G train service may not return for a few days yet. It’s a bad situation made worse right now.