Nov
05

Thoughts as an L train entrance at Ave. A opens

By · Published in 2019

Alphabet City finally has easier subway access as the MTA marked the opening of an Ave. A entrance to the L train’s 1st Ave. station. (Photo: MTA / Trent Reeves)

As the L train project continues apace, the MTA celebrated a milestone on Monday morning when the agency finally — finally! — opened a new eastern entrance to the L train’s 1st Avenue stop. The staircase leads down to the Brooklyn-bound platforms and connects to the world above at Avenue A, finally opening the subway to the eastern reaches of the East Village and Stuy Town, 95 years and change since the BMT’s 14th Street-Eastern Line opened in June of 1924. A similar entrance on the 8th Ave.-bound side will open in a few weeks and elevators on both sides will be in service when the L project work wraps next year.

The MTA held a perfunctory opening ceremony on Monday morning complete with the requisite comments from local politicians. “The East Village and Lower East Side are some of the biggest [subway] deserts in Manhattan,” City Council Representative Carolina Rivera said, “and these new entrances are going to make a big difference for the thousands of residents who have to walk up to half a mile to reach this station. These accomplishments are helping to restore faith in our city and state’s ability to get big successful projects done right, and I can’t wait for the rest of the entrances, elevators, and the L train project to be completed.”

The mutual admiration society that accompanies these types of projects may seem rote, but it’s important. I’ll explain in a second. In the meantime, you can see some footage from the new entrance in the video embedded below, and the MTA posted a handful of photos on the agency’s Flickr page.

While seemingly minor in the grand scheme of New York City’s transit needs, I think the opening of this new entrance is worth considering. First, entrances like this one are a key part of expanding transit access in the city and should be a normal part of the MTA’s year-to-year strategy. Because of the design of the L train station at 1st Ave. where all exiting and entering passengers are filtered through a small fare control area at the extreme western end of this station, this stop has long been a good candidate for a second entrance, and citing it at the extreme eastern end can held with crowd control while providing better subway access to thousands of riders coming from Stuy Town, Alphabet City and points east.

In fact, as East Side L train ridership has exploded over the past twenty years, it’s almost a scandal that the MTA hadn’t been planning an Ave. A entrance until the Sandy recovery work forced the issue. This is an entrance the city and MTA should have opened 10 or 15 years ago as the East Village population swelled and L train usage grew, and it’s hard to overstate how important it is for encouraging transit use to give people a notably shorter walk to the subway. It’s too bad the MTA’s current cost and construction productivity crisis meant that the agency couldn’t realistically work an Avenue C stop into its L train plans.

Furthermore, openings such as this one give politicians a reason to show up for MTA events. As we saw from the politicians’ statements, local pols like to milk these events as low-hanging, constituent-focused events, and the MTA could enjoy political support by aggressively identifying stations that could support new entrances or where entrances closed amidst crime fears in the 1980s and 1990s are reopened. Plus, as I mentioned, cutting people’s commute times to transit stops — especially when those commutes take potential straphangers past shuttered entrances — can help encourage transit use, and that’s a goal both the city and MTA should be pursuing these days. I’d suggest starting with this comprehensive list of unused station entrances and working from there. If the MTA truly hasn’t opened some of these entrances over ADA compliance concerns, the new push to drastically expand accessibility in the subway should also lead to the reopening of closed entrances.

Yet, not everything is perfect with this new entrance. As you can see from the video above, the MTA is still using the same turnstile design and still included emergency exit doors, both of which are under scrutiny as part of the hand-wringing over fare evasion. Testing new fare gate designs that make turnstile jumping harder and eliminate emergency exits which are easy to prop open could have been a part of the new entrances at Ave. A. Plus, the new turnstiles aren’t OMNY-equipped so another contractor will have to head down into the system in a few months to install the new readers.

These are minor gripes with a good project though, and the MTA should look for low-hanging, lower-cost fruit to help open up transit stations and reduce walking distances to station entrances above ground. It would take only a small political push and can pay immediate dividends for thousands.



37 Responses to “Thoughts as an L train entrance at Ave. A opens”

  1. Larry Penner says:

    Reopening old currently closed NYC subway station entrances and passageways is a worthy cost effective improvement for commuters. Lets hope the MTA will consider including more funding for this in the $51 billion 2020 – 2024 Five Year Capital Plan. There is still time as the Albany MTA Capital Program Review Board is still reviewing this document prior to approval.

    Here is one idea which could benefit thousands of commuters. Until the early 1980s, both LIRR and New Jersey Transit riders exiting east at Penn Station had a direct underground passageway known as the Hilton Corridor. It was also known as the Gimbel’s passageway. Gimbel’s was Macy’s chief competitor at Herald Square. This provided a simple indoor connection to the 34th Street Herald Square IND and BMT subway stations, along with Port Authority Trans Hudson (PATH) station complex.

    Further, there was an underground passageway along 6th Avenue, which went as far north as 42nd Street. As a teenager, I remember avoiding the rain and snow by using this indoor path. It would provide easy access to both the New York public library main branch and Stern’s 42nd Street department store.

    Both passageways were closed many decades ago by NYC Transit and the LIRR, due to security issues. If reopened today, commuters would have easy connections to the Broadway N, R, Q & W and 6th Avenue B, D, F & M subway lines, along with the PATH system, rather than walking outside on the street exposed to both inclement weather and heavy traffic. By using either the subway or walking, riders would have direct east side midtown access via these subway lines to Manhattan midtown and the east side, along with the Broadway, 6th Avenue, 42nd, 53rd, 59th or 63rd Street corridors, served by numerous subway lines and stations.
    It could be rebuilt in several years for $150 million. I bet it could be completed before the ongoing $11.2 billion LIRR East Side Access to Penn Station.

    (Larry Penner is a transportation historian, writer and advocate who previously worked 31 years for the United States Department of Transportation Federal Transit Administration Region 2 New York Office. This included the development, review, approval and oversight for billions in capital projects and programs for the MTA, NYC Transit, Long Island Rail Road, Metro North Rail Road, MTA Bus, NYC Department of Transportation, New Jersey Transit along with 30 other transit agencies in NY & NJ). .

    • Larry: You have to keep these shorter please. I really don’t want to ask again.

      • Peter says:

        Ben – I LIKE Larry’s digressions, but maybe you can teach him how to make a blog or a medium post and he can link….

        • SEAN says:

          Although I agree with you Ben, this time I’m going to defend Larry here. His comment was on point & he did ad some interesting info that was useful. But as a rule those screeds are just too much & this is coming from someone who loves details on transit issues.

        • James S says:

          Put me on the Larry train. There’s no added cost to hosting a long comment. If people don’t want to read it, they don’t have to. But it adds value to the blog and discussion.

          • SEAN says:

            Just as long as such comments stay on point, don’t ramble into a billion unrelated subjects or aren’t so long that they take an hour to read. Do that & I’m fine with Larry’s musings.

      • AMH says:

        This one actually isn’t too bad.

        SEPTA didn’t close down their giant mezzanines during their crime wave. You can walk all the way from one station to the next outside fare control. If anything, more space and more access points make a station safer. Imagine being trapped on a platform between a closed-off entrance and an attacker. The MTA would be 100% responsible for creating that dangerous situation.

        • Bolwerk says:

          Meh. There are plenty of places an attacker could corner you all over the system. You might well be better off cornered on a platform than on a mezzanine.

          More open spaces, better circulation, more pleasant lighting, and better ventilation are all worthy improvements, but they’re not going to have much impact on crime.

      • John A. Noble says:

        I think “Larry Penner” is a bot and not a real poster. I agree with everyone else here, but I think we’re screaming at a wall.

      • Brooklynite says:

        I dislike rambling tangents as much as the next guy but in this case, I must say I found Larry’s post insightful, interesting, and on topic. Reopening the Gimbels passageway is long overdue.

        On a Walt Gekko-style note, I’m surprised that Cuomo hasn’t tried to get it open as part of his “reinventing Penn and painting everything yellow and blue” initiative.

    • ChrisC says:

      ENOUGH IS ENOUGH

      Ben please just ban him from posting.

      And if he posts again just summarily delete them.

    • MARTIN RZESZOTKO says:

      Are the passages used for other purposes today?

      • Bolwerk says:

        There may be an ownership dispute regarding the Gimbels one.

        • Tim says:

          If they ever go ahead with the 15 Penn Plaza build and tear-down of the Manhattan Mall, you’d have a prime opportunity to connect those into Penn and re-open the passageway as a much wider concourse. I think it was specifically laid out in the 15PP plans.

      • J Adlai says:

        I do know that the 34th street Interlocking upgrade project added new rooms to the passageway between 34th and 42nd, but I’m not sure if the passageway remains wide enough for pedestrian traffic.

  2. ChrisC says:

    It is relativly small things like this that can encourage subway ridership or even just make peeople feel better about the MTA.

    A walk of an extra block when you’re tired after a day at work really can be a killer.

    Even if this new entrance / exit isn’t perfect it means an extra few minutes you can spend with your kids before they go to school in the morning or go to bed in the evening or with a partner who works different shifts to you can really improve your quality of life

    • BruceNY says:

      Yes, it’s true. As a daily user of the new 3rd Avenue entrance at Lexington Av./63rd Street (part of the 2nd Avenue Subway project) I can tell you it really makes a difference to no longer have to walk that extra long block to Lexington anymore, especially coming all the way from York Ave.

  3. AMH says:

    It’s great that they were able to open the entrance before the elevators are in service. I thought the threat of a lawsuit prevented this in the past?

    Now can we get a 2 Av entrance to connect with the M15 (and future SAS)?

    • SEAN says:

      It’s great that they were able to open the entrance before the elevators are in service. I thought the threat of a lawsuit prevented this in the past?

      I think you are correct, but I believe since there’s adequate crosstown bus service that will take you to an accessible station you can get away with not having the elevators up & running right away.

      If I’m wrong please let me know.

    • Subutay Musluoglu says:

      The future transfer to Second Avenue Subway Phase 3 will be achieved at the 3 Avenue Station on the L. That station’s eastern end is just shy of Second Avenue, so it is a lot more practical to make the connection there than digging a block long passageway from the 1 Avenue Station.

      • smartone says:

        I always thought Second Avenue Subway should cut diagonally under Sty town and then go down Avenue – sinceVillage near 2nd avenue has NRQ and 6 train stations nearby

        • Subutay Musluoglu says:

          The current Second Subway Subway plan emerged from the MESA study of the 1990s, and during the conduct of that study an alignment that swung further east was studied and ultimately ruled out for reasons of infeasibility. It bore some resemblance to the Avenue C “cuphandle” alignment that had been proposed in the MTA’s “Grand Design” of the late 1960s, which called for a loop link between the IND on Houston Street and the BMT on 14th Street.

          • Subutay says:

            Should have added that MESA stands for the Manhattan East Side Alternatives Study. This study process led to the Second Avenue Study Environmental Impact Study, which yielded the current four phase plan to build a full length Second Avenue Subway along Manhattan’s East Side.

  4. Corey says:

    I remember reading (and I’m pretty sure it was on this site) a few years ago that an L train stop at Ave C isn’t possible because the tracks are on slope too steep for a platform. True?

    • smartone says:

      YesI thought it was this and the water table that prevented a subway stop east of current one.

      I would also think that a subway stop before Bedford would be high on list as well since the waterfront in Williamsburg has exploded with apartments the past 20 years

  5. SEAN says:

    “The East Village and Lower East Side are some of the biggest [subway] deserts in Manhattan,” City Council Representative Carolina Rivera said, “and these new entrances are going to make a big difference for the thousands of residents who have to walk up to half a mile to reach this station.

    Amazing what a single entrance to a station can do for a neighborhood. Perhaps this is the spark the MTA needed to undue some of the damage they caused by closing station entrances & making the system more difficult to use.

  6. Terry says:

    The curvy new passageways at the WTC area, are pretty dangerous at night, esp. b/w the E and the R/W.

  7. David Brown says:

    If I could pick three entrances to reopen. 1: 34th St ( Gimbals Passageway). 2: Bergen St ( F & G) as part of F Express and rebuild of lower platform. 3: Hoyt. One of the most depressing stations. Really could use a renovation and the reopening could be part of it.

  8. John says:

    I noticed they opted to take the stairs straight down to platform level for fare control, as opposed to at the First Avenue end, where fare control is at the mezzanine level. That allows the MTA to only need two elevators for ADA access instead of three or four, though it does seen to create a bit of a logistic concern, in that the signs still show First Avenue will be the 24/7/365 main station entrance, but ADA customers will have to use Avenue A, with no booths, just card machines and gate entry.

  9. Brooklynite says:

    To chime in on the Midtown closed passageways train: yes, ideally both Gimbels (widened if possible) and the passageway from 34-6 to 42-6 (the part that isn’t the new master tower for the 6th Avenue line) would be reopened to passengers. Also, one of the schemes being looked at for the ongoing Shuttle rebuild involves converting the Track 3 trackway (which will be abandoned) to a passageway connecting the shuttle platform to the 6th Av line. This passageway, if extended all the way across to Grand Central and connected to the aforementioned two, would truly create a cohesive net of underground passageways – Grand Central, Times Square, PABT, Herald Square, and Penn would all be connected underground.

    Regarding something slightly more realistic, I think the lowest hanging of all low hanging fruit concerns closed entrances at ADA-accessible stations. Franklin/Fulton has an entrance at the west end of the IND platforms, 125/CPW has entrances at the south end, and there are a couple of others. Of course, as we have seen with the “L Project” staircase reopenings, ADA is an excuse not to do anything that is handwaved away when convenient, but there’s absolutely no reason why these entrances (each a block away from the nearest open one) can’t be reopened to increase station coverage as the IND intended all those years ago.

    • david Brown says:

      There are always reasons for not reopening entrances. 1: The amount of foot traffic you will add may not justify the cost. 2: Economics. 3: Safety. Those three come to mind. Obviously Mid-Town Manhattan would make more sense then say a station that is not often used. Hoyt is a special case. It is a station that can add more passengers if the station would be renovated. But as of now, it is one station that reminds me of the subways shown in the movie ‘The Warriors’ cold, dark, and frightening. Is it the worst? No West 4th wins that hands down (the smell made me sick any time I transferred there so I avoided it like the plague}

  10. Matt F says:

    Also, two NW stops in Astoria got new exits last year as part of the Enhanced Station Initiative: Broadway and 30 Av. New staircases go directly from the Astoria-bound platforms to the street, reducing congestion for people getting off trains in the evening rush hours. https://new.mta.info/system_modernization/astoria

  11. The Hunkster says:

    At least it’s the critical first step for a much more resilient L train.

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