I sort of disappeared on everyone last week. After Monday’s report on the W train, I didn’t have anything else ready for last week, and I was in Los Angeles for a mix of business and pleasure without much time to write. I know a few readers were asking after some additional content, and I’ll try to give a heads’ up next time before I disappear for a week. On the plus side, it’s been a relatively slow news week, but with a transit system that runs 24 hours a day, there’s always something going on.
Being in Southern California for eight days gave me a chance to see life in the automobile dystopia that is Los Angeles. My hotel was a few miles from my office, and I had to drive to work. Leaving at 6:30 a.m. is fine; the three miles went by in a flash. Leaving at 8:30 a.m. was a different story as the local roads were packed. Luckily, I could avoid the freeways at most peak hours, though it took an exceptionally long time to get to Dodger Stadium on Wednesday.
Unfortunately, I didn’t have to chance to explore Los Angeles’ latest transit toy: the Expo Line extension to Santa Monica. It opened a few days before I arrived but wasn’t close to where I was or where I needed to be. On the first business day of operations, a drunk driver snarled morning service by driving onto the tracks. It was a very LA moment. I meanwhile was stuck in areas along Santa Monica and Sunset Boulevards. These areas don’t have much in the way of dedicated transit infrastructure because wealthy residents in the Hollywood Hills and Beverly Hills didn’t want bus lanes skirting their neighborhoods. Sound familiar?
Ultimately, though, Los Angeles is engaged in a much more ambitious transit expansion plan than New York City, and it may come to fruition within the next decade. I’m doubtful it will be ever enough — without a congestion pricing plan — to alleviate LA’s infamous traffic, but it’s forward progress for a region that isn’t known for transit investment.
Meanwhile, in New York, as politicians continue to claim that everything under the sun except for congestion pricing, including more ferries and more bus lanes, will solve Manhattan’s congestion problems, we pick up where we left off: with the L train. The MTA hosted its third meeting on the upcoming shutdown last week, this one in Canarsie, and although the agency had no new information to add to the public presentation, a Riders Alliance survey of L train riders found that the vast majority of them would favor the shorter, full shutdown of the tunnel between Manhattan and Brooklyn.
According to the survey, a whopping 77 percent of riders said they preferred the 18-month shutdown rather than a three-year plan that would lead to an 80 percent reduction in L train service. In either case, trains will still run between Lorimer St. and Canarsie, and L train riders urged the MTA to increase service on lines that feed into or run parallel to the L, including the G, J/Z, M and A/C lines. Straphangers also requested dedicated bus lanes along 14th St. in Manhattan, more biking options and infrastructure, and increased ferry service. The city will and should implement all of these ideas once the shutdown arrives in 2019.
“During the shutdown of the L train, the MTA must adopt an ‘all-of-the-above’ approach to keep residents of Williamsburg, Bushwick, Brownsville, East New York, and Canarsie connected to the rest of our city,” Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams said. “The MTA has the ability and the responsibility to reduce the disruption that Brooklyn residents and business owners will experience, providing a variety of alternate routes including expanded service on other subway lines, a dedicated lane for buses on the Williamsburg Bridge, and more choices for commuters who want to travel by ferry or bicycle. I urge the MTA to continue its dialogue with stakeholders from every community of Brooklyn that depends on the L train to develop a comprehensive mitigation plan, one that fulfills all of the needs unique to those communities.”
The RPA again stressed its call to improve all facets of the L during the shutdown, and I firmly believe missing the opportunity to dig out tail tracks at 8th Ave. could go down as one of the city’s 21st Century transit mistakes. Luckily, there are three years for everyone to sort out the solutions, but it seems that the 18-month survey, as I wrote in Crains New York in April, is the way to go.