Home Superstorm Sandy Years-long Sandy shutdowns coming to the L train, but extent remains to be determined

Years-long Sandy shutdowns coming to the L train, but extent remains to be determined

by Benjamin Kabak

The Canarsie Tube shown here in 2012 shortly after MTA crews pumped out the saltwater from Sandy. (Photo: MTA New York City Transit / Marc A. Hermann)

Try as we might, we just cannot ignore the looming effect the MTA’s post-Sandy Fix & Fortify work is going to have on the L train. Nearly one year to the day since we learned that repairs to the Canarsie Tube will cause years of pain for L train riders, Gothamist’s Christopher Robbins dropped a bombshell. According to his sources, repairs on the Canarise Tube could take up to three years, and the MTA is considering a full shutdown of the L train between Brooklyn and Manhattan for at least part of that timeframe.

There’s no real way to sugarcoat this news. Even though Sandy hit over three years ago and even though this work won’t begin until the latter part of 2017, the MTA has to rebuild an East River crossing that sees upwards of 230,000 pass through it each day (with passenger numbers spiking near to 300,000 during its busiest days). The tunnel, you say, also saw 7 million gallons of water enter during the storm and was flooded for 11 days. The damage, MTA officials have told me, is “extensive” and full repair work “incredibly vital.’

But the bad news may be tempered slightly. According to MTA sources I spoke with after the Gothamist report was published, a full shutdown of service wouldn’t last three years. That’s the long-term timeline for all work if the MTA repairs only one tube at a time or otherwise splits up service shutdowns. The MTA feels a full shutdown would last longer than one year — and perhaps up just under two — but the agency is now trying to figure out how best to get in, get out and gone it done. It is, after all, the new mantra driving rehabilitation work.

As Gothamist also reported, the MTA is considering a single-track option through the tunnel. The service could be stacked to allow for at least some capacity, but MTA sources aren’t sure how this would play out. “If one tunnel is down, how bad will the L train be in the mornings just going one way?” Robbins’ source said. “It’ll be packed beyond belief. It’ll be a fight. Is that the smartest way to do it if it’s going to be the difference of a year? I don’t know.”

So far, the worst of the Sandy work that New Yorkers have suffered through has involved subway lines with nearby redundancies. The R train’s Montague St. Tunnel served only 65,000 riders per day; the A and C can run through the F train’s Rutgers St. tunnel on weekends while their own Cranberry Tunnel is repaired. The L train though serves the second-most riders of the East River crossing into Brooklyn and for a large bulk of those passengers — the ones who live in Williamsburg and Bushwick — options are very limited.

“Unfortunately we all knew this day would eventually come on the Canarsie line, because this is, once again, the legacy of Sandy,” the Regional Plan Association’s Richard Barone said to Gothamist. The pain, he noted, “depends on how quickly it takes the MTA to get the job done versus the severity of the shutdown. So if they can get it done in a year, but they have to shut both tunnels down, it’s one thing. If it takes them three or four years to do it, and they have to alternate shutting down the tunnels, you have to question, which is better? Is it better to get it done faster but with massive disruption? Is it even possible to do that? Is there an another alternative that these folks can take to get to Manhattan for work?”

No matter whether the MTA opts for a full 24/7 shutdown or some other option, the agency will have to boost some service on nearby lines. The MTA has acknowledged the need to increase M service, lengthen G trains and institute shuttle buses. This should be a part of a bigger package that will, inevitably, tax nearby lines, but here’s my solution:

  1. Riders who can access other lines should and will. Anyone south of Broadway Junction can take the A or C or J or Z. Anyone near Marcy Ave. can take the M train. Those who lose out most are the ones boarding at stations that have seen more growth in ridership than any other set of stations in the city, and that’s a large portion of those 230,000+ daily crossings.
  2. To deal with them, the MTA should commit to 24/7 M service to Manhattan and…
  3. …the MTA should promise to lengthen G trains to absorb some of the crowds and…
  4. …the MTA is going to have address what promises to be crush crowding at Court Sq. as Northern Brooklyn residents head to Queens’ subways to reach Manhattan.
  5. Citi Bike should be up and running in Bushwick, and DOT should ensure the Pulaski Bridge bike lane is open.
  6. The city should consider making the Williamsburg Bridge bus only or at least reserving a lane in each direction for a constant stream of shuttle buses.
  7. And the city should do what it can to ensure that residents in Williamsburg who would otherwise take the L can access ferry service. Although I’m generally a ferry skeptic, this is a clear time and place where ferry service can help.

Already, Williamsburg residents are worrying about the plans. NY1’s Pat Kiernan put together his proposal for a one-track shuttle — though turning Canarsie-bound trains becomes a potential problem in his scheme. Others are fretting about the end of Williamsburg and a collapse in the Northern Brooklyn scene. Others know this hurts less affluent areas as well. There is simply put no good option.

I have no answers right now. This story will unfold over the next 18 months. But one thing the MTA should do is get out in front of it. The agency plans to work with the communities affected by this shutdown “soon,” per the press office, to discuss proposals and present the pluses and negatives of each plan. This planning process should be very public. After all, the MTA is dealing with a situation where they have to get a few hundred thousand people into Manhattan via alternate routes that aren’t exactly teeming with capacity. But they’re thinking about it. I don’t envy the person who has to tell everyone what they ultimately decide.

It’s a small consolation prize too, but hopefully, when the L reopens, it’ll include more entrances at Bedford and a staircase at Ave. A. All of that work requires significant service shutdowns which, thanks to Sandy, are coming. Senator Schumer is trying to get federal funding, and he’ll have to work to ensure the dollars materializes in time. If there’s a window, no matter the circumstances, the MTA should capitalize on it.

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pea-jay January 14, 2016 - 12:34 am

With the 2av line (presumably) open, hopefully they send night and weekend M trains to 96th to turn around rather than at 57 and cause backups for the F.

Too bad these improvements wont include a station at Ave C, tail tracks past 8th av or 10 car platform lengths. That would make a disruption more tolerable.

Walt Gekko January 15, 2016 - 3:33 am

That is EXACTLY what I would, with the idea of having the (M) go to 96th/2nd on weekends and/or late night to supplement the SAS, when fewer trains overall are operating and delays (with switching) are not as likely. That morphed (after discussing it elsewhere) into an idea of an “Orange (T) ” to 96th/2nd that on weekdays would be a supplement to the (M) along its regular route to 47-50. then running with the (F) to 63rd/Lex and then with the (Q) to 96th, while on late nights and weekends, this would be the line from Metropolitan to 96th/2nd, replacing the (M) during those times where the (M) would normally be running.

So as I would do it, we would have as the 6th Avenue locals:

(F) as it is now at all times

(M) as it is now on weekdays (5:30 AM-11:00 PM)

Orange (T) being a supplemental line (most likely 5-6 TPH) between Metropolitan Avenue and 96th Street-2nd Avenue on weekdays while on late nights and weekends, replacing the (M) on the Broadway-Brooklyn line as this line would be running 24/7 (most likely 6 TPH on weekends and 2-3 TPH late nights).

That to me solves the issues here, especially during the (L) shutdown with the option of making the “Orange (T) ” permanent once the (L) shutdown ends.

EV Resident January 18, 2016 - 5:25 pm

Will the L train still be running from 1st to 8th avenue?

Brooklynite January 20, 2016 - 4:30 pm

If both tubes are shut down, no, as there will be no way to get the Manhattan shuttle trains to the yard for maintenance. The only track connections from the L to yards are at Broadway Junction and Canarsie.

Frank B January 14, 2016 - 12:42 am

Boy… They better open that exit at Hewes Street and create a MetroCard Transfer between the BMT Jamaica and IND Crosstown Lines.

Too bad they didn’t ever, ever considering building a physical connection between the two…

Alex January 14, 2016 - 2:46 pm

This all highlights the problems caused by having competing private (and 1 public) interest running transit way back when. The lack of station and track connections as a relic of 80-100+ years ago still haunts us today through a lack of redundancy.

Imagine having an easy connection from the G to the J/M/Z and all the lines at Atlantic as well as the A/C. Imagine the G having an easy track connection to one of the routes into Manhattan. These are things that, at the time of construction, would have been relatively simple to do with some minor changes to routing. But you had three competing organizations who had an interest in NOT making it easy for passengers to move between lines. There are lots of areas where competition is good, but this is not one of them.

mister January 14, 2016 - 6:00 pm

The G could’ve had a route into Manhattan regardless, since it connects to an IND line at both ends. It was purposefully left out.

The real missing piece of transit infrastructure here is an east river crossing somewhere between 14th and Steinway.

bigbellymon4 January 14, 2016 - 8:41 pm

There never was a plan to put an East River crossing between 14th St and Steinway. However, there were plans to put 2 East river crossings below 14st (Houston Street to South 4th Street shell and Worth Street to South 4th shell, both of which are apart of the IND Second system plans).

Owen Weeks January 14, 2016 - 8:20 pm

This is incorrect. Sure, there are a lot of ways the IND was designed to put the BMT and IRT out of business (6th ave subway, 8th ave subway, Fulton St subway) but in no way did they ever try to make transfers harder. Look through maps from the 30s to the creation of the NYCTA. There are lots of transfers. The chosen route of the G train is halfway between two stations and I can guarantee you wasn’t chosen for “being conveniently halfway between so we didn’t have a transfer.”

You know that BOTH systems benefit from transfers? A transfer isn’t one way. A transfer makes the line more useful, and brings in more customers. People like to talk about interstate rail doing the same thing, which is absolutely false – you just have to look at the number of “Union Stations” in the US – a union of two independent private companies, meeting at the same station, to exchange passengers.

Because guess what – people transfer both ways! Transfers make for better routes and more riders – meaning more profits for both companies!

Ralfff April 4, 2016 - 10:55 pm

The vanshnookenraggen guy has proposed an in-system transfer be constructed there and I can’t see a downside to the more ambitious of the plans: remove two stops on the JMZ and add one over the G: http://www.vanshnookenraggen.c.....g-and-jmz/

Michael January 14, 2016 - 1:20 am

I’m wondering why can’t the MTA simply create a new limited stop bus line that stops/starts at the Bedford Avenue station in Brooklyn travels non-stop over the Williamsburg Bridge with a quick trip along 14th Street with either Third Avenue or Union Square as the last stop of this bus line. Just run this bus route 24/7/365 for the duration of the tunnel closing, with appropriate time schedules, etc. for the L-train riders. This kind of a bus route would have a known travel time – which would help riders figure out their schedules.

This action plus the transfers to other lines such as the M-train, the A, C and J trains would really help riders, as well as the usual 14th Street cross-town buses, and the L-train running as a short shuttle from 8th Avenue to 1st Avenue under 14th Street. If one wants to keep it simple, just use one full-length train on one track traveling back and forth during the late nights.

Anyway, just an idea.

mtsw January 14, 2016 - 7:46 am

This is a good idea but one that assumes the NYCDOT can manage a way to not have the bridge, and the area near the bridge exits, crammed with traffic during rush hour, which it will be without the L running. “Known travel time” goes out the window when you’re stuck behind some 18-wheeler driving through the lower east side for 12 blocks

Stephen Bauman January 14, 2016 - 9:54 am

It takes 3.5 seconds to load a passenger into a bus without fare collection. It will take 87.5 seconds to load each bus through its two doors (58.3 seconds for 3 doors).

There are approximately 20K passengers peak hour (8-9am) crossing from Bedford to First Aves. At 50 passengers per bus that comes to 400 buses during the peak hour. That’s one bus every 9 seconds.

This means that 10 buses need to be loaded simultaneously in order to maintain the 9 second headway.

The buses will have to stop for traffic lights. A 45 second long red aspect will result in 5 buses backing up. A following bus will not start until its leader has opened up 1 bus length. This means the leader must travel 2 bus lengths (80 ft) to open up this gap. It will take the leader 5.5 seconds to open up this gap. The leader will start at t = 0 and the fourth and last follower at t = 22 sec. This will leave only 23 seconds of green aspect for the following buses to approach this block. Only 2 buses will be able to enter the block during the green aspect interval. However, 5 buses were required to maintain the 9 second headway. Stopping for traffic lights and allowing cross traffic means a single bus lane will provide only 40% of the required capacity. This assumes there will be no traffic in the bus lanes.

That’s only the peak hour. There are 12K passengers the previous hour and 16K passengers the following hour.

Conclusion: buses on a dedicated bus lane cannot hack it.

Benjamin Kabak January 14, 2016 - 10:50 am

Are you making the argument that because the bus can’t handle 100 percent of the load, it shouldn’t be implemented at all? A dedicated bus lane is part of a solution; it’s not the only solution.

Bolwerk January 14, 2016 - 11:27 am

Just curious, where would this lane be? Not on Bedford or parallel to Bedford unless you close a street. (Bedford is one-way northward.)

The ADA crowd could use a bus from Mrytle to Manhattan, I guess? No ADA stations between Myrtle and Union Square.

AlexB January 21, 2016 - 11:55 am

Would have to travel down Roebling inbound and Hevemeyer outbound, at least to get on/off the bridge. Could cut over to Driggs/Bedford (The Bedford stop has an exit at Driggs anyway).

Stephen Bauman January 14, 2016 - 3:53 pm

My response was in response to Mr. Michael’s following quote: “I’m wondering why can’t the MTA simply create a new limited stop bus line that stops/starts at the Bedford Avenue station in Brooklyn travels non-stop over the Williamsburg Bridge with a quick trip along 14th Street with either Third Avenue or Union Square as the last stop of this bus line. ”

I interpreted his remark to imply that dedicated, non-stop, bus lane protected, bus service would be able to handle this emergency by itself. My simple sanity check revealed that it is a 40% solution at best.

Are you making the argument that because the bus can’t handle 100 percent of the load, it shouldn’t be implemented at all? A dedicated bus lane is part of a solution; it’s not the only solution.

Cost also plays a part. This 40% solution also requires 400 extra buses, which the MTA does not have. Their cost is $200M @ $500K a pop.

Their other cost is that the 10 buses that are always loading at Bedford Ave effectively preclude any other surface operations from taking place. That leaves the remaining 60% without a surface option. That should give any logistics planner pause before suggesting a single bus shuttle operation.

I’d suggest a realistic solution be thoroughly vetted before a complete shutdown of the 14th St Tunnels are contemplated. That vetting should start with a simple sanity check like the one I used for using a bus shuttle.

Michael January 14, 2016 - 10:53 am

Understand that I understand the point that you are making.

I was never suggesting that such a limited stop bus line provide the “complete replacement” of the L-line between Manhattan and Brooklyn, but as one of the components.

For example, at Broadway Junction L-train riders could and would be “strongly urged” to transfer to the A, C, J and Z trains. Again at Myrtle Avenue L-train riders would again be “strongly urged” to transfer to the M-train. Then again, at Lorimer Street/Metropolitan Avenue L-train riders would again be “strongly urged” to transfer to the G-train. So that by the time L-trains reached Bedford Avenue, the numbers of riders using the limited-bus I proposed would be reduced – still large numbers of folks but not the full load of the L-train.

I was never suggesting that only “one thing” be done. Again, I do understand that we’re talking about huge numbers of folks, and that managing and transporting huge numbers was never going to be easy.


Stephen Bauman January 14, 2016 - 4:40 pm

For example, at Broadway Junction L-train riders could and would be “strongly urged” to transfer to the A, C, J and Z trains. Again at Myrtle Avenue L-train riders would again be “strongly urged” to transfer to the M-train. Then again, at Lorimer Street/Metropolitan Avenue L-train riders would again be “strongly urged” to transfer to the G-train. So that by the time L-trains reached Bedford Avenue, the numbers of riders using the limited-bus I proposed would be reduced – still large numbers of folks but not the full load of the L-train.

Here’s one problem. The alternate routes must add trains to their runs to accommodate the additional L train riders. The L operates 20 trains to Manhattan between 8 and 9am. They also operate 14 trains between 7 and 8 and 15 trains between 9 and 10. That’s 39 peak period trains that the MTA does not have.

If they had them, where would they run them? The Cranberry St Tunnel is already closed weekends due to Sandy repairs. It’s already operating 24 tph peak. It does not have much wiggle room for expansion. That leaves the J/M/Z which operate 20 tph over the WB. Its expansion capability is limited by weight restrictions on the WB. Remember, the towers are bowing towards one another because of the weight of the trains.

mister January 14, 2016 - 5:10 pm

Cranberry is operating 26 peak period trains.

Theoretically, you are going to try to get as many people onto the M and G lines as possible. M service is going to be hamstrung by the flat Junction east of Broadway/Myrtle, and the G doesn’t go into Manhattan. Lines at the southern end of the G route could probably handle additional traffic (Cranberry’s trains are not exactly crush loaded at this point in time). But it’s the lines at the northern end of the G that are probably most useful, and it’s these lines that are probably least able to soak up additional riders. I suppose beefing up M ridership would serve L riders on both ends.

mister January 14, 2016 - 8:53 pm

Should say beefing up M frequency…

Tower18 January 15, 2016 - 8:38 am

There’s nowhere near enough room on the existing A and C trains to absorb any significant number more transferring passengers from the G (or L at Broadway Junction). This is going to be messy, as sure you can add cars to the G, but then what? Anyone you’re hoping will take the G needs to use the A/C or E/M eventually, neither of which can add *trains* and neither of which has much room on existing trains (A/C have some, but not enough).

J/Z probably don’t solve any problems because of their Manhattan destination (anyone going above Delancey needs to pile on the F or M anyway, or continue to Fulton for something else).

The M is the only hope, and a lot of L riders West of Myrtle are likely best served by starting their trip riding backwards for the M.

mister January 15, 2016 - 1:32 pm

If you check out the recent A/C Line report, it’s clear that there is some room on the existing A/C trains that move through Cranberry. Obviously, we don’t want to be at 100% of guideline load, but you could absorb a few thousand additional riders on the A/C lines at peak hours. The problem is that the A/C is too far to the south for Bushwick/Williamsburg riders.

Presumably, the G gains a transfer at Broadway to Hewes St. You’re going to need additional service on both ends of the M. Believe it or not, most of the M line actually could accommodate additional trains, but it’s going to increase issues with merging delays. 53rd is operating fewer trains than it did before the opening of 63rd. The QB local tracks could accommodate more trains if we could get the terminal at 71st to turn them around quicker. This is going to require everyone working together, but it can be done.

Tower18 January 15, 2016 - 7:04 pm

The only trains that have room through Cranberry are the odd A trains that happen to have never met a C across the platform, and also don’t meet a G at Hoyt. I’m a daily A train rider and was a bit confused about what they A study concluded in that regard, except they did note that loads were uneven due to G transfers for some trains, and not for others.

mister January 15, 2016 - 10:25 pm

As a regular A rider myself, A gets overcrowded when it has too large a gap between trains. I usually see 3-4 A trains get bunched: the 1st is packed, the second is crowded. The third has a lot of room, and if there is a fourth, it probably has some seats available. The statistics tell the story.

In addition, the Fulton line has a ready made way to add capacity: expanding the C to 10 cars. There aren’t enough cars right now, and there won’t be when the R32s are retired, but in the interim period, The C could be expanded to 10 car trains by doing the following:

-sending the 4 car R179 sets to the G for expanded service there,
-R68s from the G could come over to the C,
-R179 5 car sets should be delivered first and also placed on the C.

Of course, the bigger issue is that the A/C are not going to field the bulk of L riders.

JJJJ January 14, 2016 - 11:01 am

50 pax per bus? Wut? Is this a Greyhound?

Try 200.

AlexB January 21, 2016 - 12:00 pm

200??? Maybe a huge articulated bus. 60 is pretty normal for a full regular bus

Ian MacAllen January 19, 2016 - 1:02 pm

One bus holds roughly 1/3 of the number of people as a subway car. So that’s somewhere in the neighborhood of 25 buses per train. At 22 trains per rush hour, that’s more than 500 buses an hour to meet demand. There would need to be a dedicated bus only lane for the entire route.

AlexB January 21, 2016 - 12:03 pm

A dedicated bus lane can reliably operate a bus every minute or 60/hour. Two lanes can operate 180 buses/hour (I know it seems weird but it’s true). If they had two lanes and used articulated buses, they could move a good chunk of people. Doesn’t have to completely replace the L’s capacity as a lot of people would switch to the G or M or whatever.

Caelestor January 14, 2016 - 2:03 am

I think that shutting down the L full-time during weekdays is out of the question. Maybe for brief stretches during less busy months, but there is generally way too little spare peak capacity to replace 20 full tph without incredibly expensive bus bridges or ferry service. Shutdowns every weekend is rough, but at least there is spare capacity to accommodate riders via the 7/E and M. A continuous bus bridge can also be implemented over the Williamsburg Bridge to allow for easier transfers to the F.

Charles January 14, 2016 - 2:06 am

Recalling the days when the G train ran past Court Sq down the Queens Boulevard line: Would it be possible to have the G, which I believe connects with the F north of Court Square, run on the F train’s alignment to Manhattan? The 63rd Street tunnel certainly seems under capacity with only the F utilizing it at the moment. This wouldn’t just help alleviate the issues with this L shutdown, but creating a one seat ride to Manhattan for the G would, if possible without being prohibitively expensive, be extremely beneifical in the long run.

Michael January 14, 2016 - 2:53 am


Basically the alignment of the G-train tracks “going north” past the Court Square station is the follow the path of the E, M and R trains deeper into Queens and along Queens Blvd as a local train. The F-train tracks to/from the 63rd Street tunnel basically exist east of the Queens Plaza station thus they are in the wrong direction for G-trains to travel to Manhattan. There is simply no way and no where for a G-train from Brooklyn to make a complete 180-degree turn to head into Manhattan by any train tunnel in Queens.

Or look at the track layout in the following way. Imagine that one if traveling west on a train toward Manhattan on the Queens Blvd line. Once past the 36th Street local station, that train could take track switch leads for the 63rd Street tunnel to travel to Manhattan – what the F-train does daily.

Or that train could proceed into the Queens Plaza station and then be presented with three options: that train using or switched to the express track could travel along 53rd Street into Manhattan – both E and M trains do this regularly.

Or that train once at the Queens Plaza station using or switched to the local track, and then again switched for the 11th Street Cut would use the 60th Street Tunnel just as the R-train does daily.

Or that train once at the Queens Plaza station using or switched to the local track – remains on the local track for the trip down the G-train line to Brooklyn. Those are the 4 options for any and all trains traveling west on the IND Queens Blvd line, in the Manhattan direction.

In the east bound direction, all of the tunnels – G-train, 53rd Street, 60th Street, and 63rd Street – are oriented toward taking riders in the eastern direction toward south-eastern Queens. There is no way to take any train coming from any of those tunnels – have that train make a 180-degree turn in one movement and then to use a tunnel for a trip to Manhattan. That is just not possible.


Jeff January 14, 2016 - 6:29 am

There’s a layover track directly east of Queens Plaza which was used to turn G trains around at one point too. Perhaps that can be utilized on weekends when traffic is light.

Michael January 14, 2016 - 11:18 am

Bringing the G-train into the Queens Plaza station only creates one benefit, a possible connection for G-train riders to use the 60th Street tunnel and the R-train.

At the Court Square station, G-train riders currently have access to the 53rd Street Tunnel with the E and M trains, plus the #7 train for travel across 42nd Street.

Bringing the G-train into the Queens Plaza station DOES NOT create a transfer to the 63rd Street and the F-trains. In addition that lay-up exists in the middle of the switch tracks for the 63rd Street tunnel, meaning that full-length G-trains would impact the travel of E, M and R trains through that area. In addition for G-trains to use this lay-up track it has cross from the local to the express track then to the layup track, and upon its return to the platform that train has to again be switched from the express track to the local track to return of the G-train trackage. Basically there are no superior benefits for the hassle of this kind of operation.

Prior to the creation of the enclosed Court Square transfer station – there was a practical benefit for the G-train to travel to/from Queens Plaza. Now that the Court Square transfer station exists, there is little benefit to the hassles of dis-embarking riders and laying-up and then relying G-trains at the Queens Plaza station.


Jedman67 January 14, 2016 - 12:29 pm

You can run the G Trains local to/from QP or Roosevelt Ave, allowing riders from Brooklyn to switch to the E/F/M/R/7. It won’t be fast, but it’s a possibility. I don’t know where trains can turn around in Queens though.

Michael January 14, 2016 - 1:03 pm

Yes, there are several options that are possible. There is a difference between possible and practical, as well as the difficulty of doing the possible and the practical within a given amount of time.

This particular discussion started with a statement that was NOT POSSIBLE! The original poster wondered if G-trains coming from Brooklyn by way of the Court Square station could be turned and directed toward the 63rd Street Tunnel for a direct trip to Manhattan, basically making a 180-degree turn to do so. THAT IS NOT POSSIBLE!

The idea of having G-trains travel from Brooklyn by way of the Court Square station on the Queens Blvd line toward Forest Hills, allowing the riders to change trains and transfer to other trains – is of course possible. That was the original pathway 24/7/365 of the G-train.

The question with the G-train and the Queens Blvd line has always been that the majority of the Queens Blvd riders wanted and needed to travel to and from Manhattan over the decades. As originally built half of the trackage of the IND Queens Blvd line travels to Brooklyn (G-train), and the other half (E & F) traveled to Manhattan. Building the connection to the 60th Street tunnel for the BMT RR-train in the mid-1950’s (RR, EE, N & now R trains) to the Queens Blvd line, and the later addition of the 63rd Street tunnel – now allows those 20 or 30-trains per hour allowed on each track to be used to send trains to where the huge numbers of riders want to go.

Is it possible for the G-train to travel Queens Blvd? Of course it is. Now how much of those 20 to 30-trains per hour budget do you wish to spend to do so?


Rich January 14, 2016 - 11:31 am

I’m not sure I understand. You’re saying none of these options are possible because you can’t turn a train around while in revenue service? Why not? It’s a short-term rerouting. Let’s get creative. Couldn’t you place drivers at both ends of a train? Or better yet, have drivers switch out (and skip one train) at the turnaround station, so the train doesn’t have to wait for the drive to walk the length of the train while it’s in the station.

The G (or a temporary new route sharing the G route) could turn around at Queens Plaza and take the 60th St tunnel to Manhattan and 14th St / Union Square. Or it could continue to 36th and take the 63rd or 53rd St tunnels to 14th St / 6 Ave. There are quite a few options there.

Why are these ideas impossible? Or am I completely misunderstanding the problem?

Alex January 14, 2016 - 2:38 pm

You COULD do it but it would be a pain operationally. Plus service on the M and R would have to be cut back and would likely experience less reliable headways. And the only tunnel that has spare capacity is 63rd St which leads you to either the 6th Ave or Broadway lines, both of which are full up (especially once the 2nd Ave line opens and you likely have the return of the W to replace the Q in Queens).

If there were a direct connection from the G to one of the tunnels it might be worth reworking things. But given passengers would spend just as much time (or more) going backward on the G in Queens before doubling back to head into Manhattan as they would simply transferring at Court Sq, it’s just not worth it.

The one thing that MIGHT be worthwhile and feasible is creating a crossover at Hoyt-Schermerhorn so some G trains could run into Manhattan. But, again, you have a capacity issue with the A/C.

aestrivex January 14, 2016 - 5:05 pm

It isn’t possible to turn at Queens plaza because there’s no track that the G could use to go from the uptown platform to the downtown platform without using the single layover track that Jeff mentioned above. There’s only one such track, both drivers would need to be on the train while it’s in the layover, and it would delay the E and M trains getting in and out of queens plaza while it’s there. It would be a nightmare.

The suggestion to build a spur to connect the G to the 63rd street tunnel, and running it to the Broadway line and down to Whitehall St, would make good sense. Running regular G service along that configuration might be worthwhile regardless of the state of the L train.

You could also send it along sixth avenue and terminate at 2 Avenue like the V did.

Michael January 15, 2016 - 6:03 am

One point that some folks are missing is that a G-train that terminates at Queens Plaza in order to use the center layup track that is beyond the station – HAS TO BE CLEARED OF PASSENGERS BEFORE the train can enter that layup track!

The train simply can not have riders on the train when it uses the layup track! So yes, that G-train could indeed enter the Queens Plaza (from Court Square) get switched from the Queens-bound local track to the Queens-bound express track to the layup track, reverse controls, then proceed back into the station on the downtown express track and then get switched back to the local track so that G-train can head back to Court Square.

For all of that hassle, a train load of folks were just dumped on the Queens bound platform but what those folks really want is a Manhattan bound train! Those folks now have to use the stairs to the Manhattan bound side of the station to catch what? The E & M trains to Manhattan which could easily be done at Court Square? The R-train to Manhattan using the 60th Street tunnel – yeah sure. The F-train to Manhattan – why? That’s what the M-train is for! The Court Square station also has the #7 train which means that there are two pathways to the Lexington Avenue line or the westside of Manhattan – making access to the R-train less likely to be heavily needed.

Now while some folks are trying to suggest routing G-trains through Queens Plaza as some kind of solution – they are not remembering the history of just why the G-train now terminates at Court Square, and the changes to that station that made it a transfer station.

In addition some folks somehow think that the MTA is going to allow G-trains to wrong-rail and then “back up” on the downtown express track in order to reach the 63rd Street tunnel – all in the path of E and F trains running about every 2 minutes apart in the direct path of such G-trains – are talking pure fantasy!! Or that they have not closely examined the track map to truly understand why what is being suggested will simply not happen, ever.

In what universe is the ridership on the G-train ever approaching the ridership of the E, F, R and M trains to ever think of negatively impact the movement of those trains? Even with new added L-train riders?

There is a big difference between something being “do-able as an idea by just looking at a track map” and the real world. In the real world it is simply not possible to get G-trains over to use the 63rd Street Tunnel given the current tunnel and track arrangements, and the level of train service provided now.

In the real world – it is simply not possible to build a new set of track pathways that connect the G-train from Court Square to the 63rd Street tunnel in a timely cost-effective manner given the huge amount of under-pinning and construction work needed to create such tunnels, especially under very active railroads! The LIRR being nearby does not help either but complicates the situation. Have some folks forgotten the huge amount of work being done to have the LIRR use the 63rd Street tunnel to get to/from Grand Central Terminal? Have some folks forgotten what it took and what it cost to get the F-train off the Queens Blvd line to use the 63rd Street tunnel?

I thought the goal was to help L-train riders travel to and from Manhattan easily while the L-train 14th Street Tunnel is closed for Sandy Repair for up to 3-years?

Just keeping it real.

aestrivex January 20, 2016 - 2:36 pm

When faced with difficult circumstances, sometimes it is helpful to find an unlikely solution by thinking big.

If the G connection to use the 60 or 63 tunnel could be built in two years or so, with moderate disruption, perhaps the L work could be delayed until then.

Will it realistically happen? No.

Should it be part of a long term capital plan *anyway* just because it would be of substantial benefit to G riders regardless of work on the L? I don’t know, maybe. Probably not, because it would cause all sorts of other problems. But it’s still a good idea.

Is it that bad to think big?

Brooklynite January 20, 2016 - 4:32 pm

Exactly. I’m not sure whether the G to Manhattan connection is warranted, as the whole point of the G is to avoid Manhattan. A project like extending platforms on the M line should be doable in a year or two, all things considered. That would be an automatic 25% capacity increase on the M, which will be extremely valuable when the L closes.

Eric January 14, 2016 - 12:12 pm

There is plenty of room to build a new track connection between Court Square and 21 St-Queenbridge, connecting the G to the 63rd St tunnel. It would be complicated, going under buildings and possibly the Queens Blvd line, but there are no geometric restrictions.

Eric January 14, 2016 - 3:40 am

This is not currently possible.

It might be a good idea to build a track connection to do that though.

Alex January 14, 2016 - 11:41 am

I noted this on Twitter to Ben yesterday… Why ISN’T there a connection that allows the G to run into Manhattan? Looking at the track maps, it’s almost as if they intentionally built it so that it couldn’t. A simple crossover at Schermerhorn would make it possible but it doesn’t exist. A connection would be a bit more complex on the northern end but when they were building the IND it seems like it would have made sense to connect it to the 53rd St tunnel. Track capacity on those connections today of course would have to be considered, but at least there would be better options as an L alternate.

Curious if anyone has any theories or actual knowledge about why the crosstown was built that way.

Rich January 14, 2016 - 11:52 am

I believe the G tracks do technically connect to Queens Plaza, and on to 36th. The issue as I understand it is that trains would have to turn around, putting a dent in dwell time that would hold up other trains, but I don’t see why we can’t look at creative solutions to that for a temporary service. Why not have a driver at the other end of the train ready to go? There are ways to do that, right?

Eric January 14, 2016 - 12:22 pm

Along those lines: why not combine the R and the G, i.e. as the R leaves Manhattan it stops at Queens Plaza, then reverses direction and continues on the G route to Brooklyn. To replace the lost Queens Blvd service from the R, you could add a new line, using Broadway, the 63th St Tunnel, and Queens Blvd local tracks.

Rick January 14, 2016 - 7:42 pm

Absolutely. With motormen at both ends, G trains can turn around at QP into the R tunnel to Manhattan.
There’s another improvement that would be inexpensive and of permanent value: build side platforms along both J/Z/M tracks on the Williamsburg bridge, with station entrances via elevators on Bedford and Wythe Avenue.

Alex January 14, 2016 - 12:35 pm

Sorry, I should have clarified. A connection that doesn’t require reversing. It might be possible to reverse lines, but I’d imagine it would be tough during rush hour. Such a complex routing has the potential to really gum things up when frequencies are higher.

Charles January 14, 2016 - 1:46 pm

Thank you all for your insight – I absolutely agree that, building a short stub tunnel to connect the G to 21st/Queensbridge to follow the F train alignment via 63rd Street, and possibly have a new terminal at 2 Av where the old V train used to end, would be hugely beneficial. It would maximize capacity of the 63rd Street tunnel, which seems to be the only under-utilized East River tunnel besides the Montague St tube, and providing a one seat ride to Manhattan for G train riders would be hugely beneficial – not to mention, the service redundancy would help alleviate the issues with shutting down the L for the long term and for any work that needs doing in the future. In my opinion, even if building this connection costed $1 Billion, the cost benefit would be worth it:
-Boost East River capacity in the 63rd Street tunnel
-One seat ride to Manhattan for all G train riders
-Redundancy for L train riders for this project and in the long term.

aestrivex January 14, 2016 - 5:12 pm

Terminating it at 2nd Avenue is possible. But the sixth avenue line already has heavy service, especially since M service would be expanded.

Another possibility would be to send the G through the 63rd street tunnel, along the broadway line, and terminate at Whitehall like the W did.

I favor that idea slightly, because it would equalize capacity a bit along the Broadway and 6th avenue trunks, and because the G has poor connections to the BMT trunk lines in Brooklyn.

I can’t think of any reason why either solution would cause any scheduling or tracking problems.

Chris January 14, 2016 - 5:11 pm

The Crosstown was designed to avoid Manhattan. Building a loop to allow Crosstown trains to turn into Manhattan would never be used therefore be a waste of funds (money has always been finite, even during the New Deal)

Greg January 14, 2016 - 8:05 pm

Looking at the track map, a possible solution at the northern end of the G to create peak capacity into Manhattan could be the following:

– Direct the M train into the 63rd street tunnel, joining the F train after 36th street station (no conflict with the E)
– Divert the C train onto the A train tracks north of 59th street Columbus Circle
– Use the center turnback track north of Queens Plaza to run extra services short between Queens Plaza and World Trade Center which would show up at Court Square basically empty

It is basically a shuffling of services to transfer the free capacity in the 63rd St tunnel down to the 53rd street tunnel where it is useful.

mister January 15, 2016 - 1:37 pm

There’s a reason why more people opt for 53rd than 63rd. Shuffling the M up to 63rd will make E trains beyond crush loaded, since 53rd customers who presently opt for the M will now need to squeeze onto E trains. Also, I don’t think WTC terminal has the capacity to turn that many trains, and the C would have to merge with the A and the D north of 59th, which also doesn’t work

Just add 2-3 more M trains and be done with it.

Larry Littlefield January 14, 2016 - 7:55 am

In a less bureaucratic world in which people connected to the government, in the unions, as contractors, or on Wall Street didn’t count so much more than the serfs, and lawsuits didn’t delay things forever…

The MTA would dig up 14th Street west of 8th Avenue while the L line was shut, and install tail tracks.

Tail track don’t need anything other than to exist. Not signals, power, ventilation, anything… because ideally trains would never go there. But they allow the signal system to allow trains to come into the station faster, because an out of control train could be stopped by the last signal before hitting the wall.

That would increase capacity.

Bolwerk January 14, 2016 - 9:28 am

I’d think the 8th Ave. tail tracks could be added without a major shutdown elsewhere.

Larry Littlefield January 14, 2016 - 9:43 am

They should do it now anyway. How does ridership on the L compare with the entire LIRR?

From 2001 to 2002, New York City transit and its contractors completely rebuilt a mile of subway — signals, power, everything — after 9/11 in less than one year, starting from design. Under budget.

For once, the whole ripoff edifice should be suspended. This isn’t one mile, it’s one block.

And then afterward, run 30 trains per hour rather than 20, with half relaying at Myrtle.

g January 14, 2016 - 11:32 am

True but from a PR/political perspective it would mollify people somewhat if the MTA promised expanded L service when the rebuild was complete. The two technically have little to do with each other but it would give cover to an (unavoidably) bad situation for commuters.

Bolwerk January 14, 2016 - 12:14 pm

Right, not complaining. It’s something that should have happened a while ago.

Rich January 14, 2016 - 11:36 am

That’s a great idea. I had assumed they would keep the L running within Manhattan as a shuttle, but I guess that’s not totally necessary.

Alex January 14, 2016 - 4:40 pm

Actually that’s a good question. Could they keep it running in Manhattan if there’s no access to a yard? There’s also very little space to lay up out of use trains, though I suppose you could use some of the Manhattan side of the tunnel for that assuming the heavy work is further down under the river.

aestrivex January 14, 2016 - 5:15 pm

You could in theory, if you don’t offer revenue service in either tunnel, but keep one open either as a layup zone or to get trains to/from the Canarsie yard while you work on the other tunnel.

Otis Boone January 14, 2016 - 8:12 am

Question from an ex-Californian: Storms rain freshwater. The tunnels end well-past the East River shorelines and water tables. So how did they fill up with seawater- holes in the tunnels under the river; flooding of the rivers/bays far enough ashore to spill down the subway stairs, etc?

I’m from Sacramento where we had floods from heavy storms and crested rivers and backed up sewerage, but I can’t grasp what Sandy did here. Help?

g January 14, 2016 - 8:22 am

The storm surge from Hurricane Sandy pushed into the harbor, flooded low lying areas, and poured salt water down a bunch of vents (and sometimes stations) into the tunnels.

Larry Littlefield January 14, 2016 - 9:11 am

The flooding went way inland. That’s why it was such a disaster. The storm surge was 10 feet higher than high tide in New York City.

kevdflb January 14, 2016 - 10:27 am

The Storm surge, which coincided with high tide raised sea levels significantly. So sea water pushed several blocks inland, then poured down entrances to the tunnels and filled ’em up.

Duke January 14, 2016 - 9:28 pm

Also key to understand here is that the East “River” is not really a river, it’s a tidal estuary connecting New York Harbor with Long Island Sound. The water in it is not quite as salty as the ocean but it’s not fresh either.

Even the Hudson, which is more of an actual river, has some level of salt in it up as far as Bear Mountain or so, and remains tidal all the way up to Troy.
This is why New York City grew to such prominence: in an era where ships were the predominant means of long distance travel, it sat atop a harbor with naturally deep waters at the mouth of a river that was naturally navigable up to nearly 150 miles inland, and provided the only means of crossing the Appalachians between Georgia and New Brunswick that stayed at a low elevation and avoided having to climb over mountains.

Elvis Delgado January 14, 2016 - 8:41 am

Here’s an idea which will never be implemented:

Build a new, parallel two-track tube ASAP, into which the ‘L’ service can be diverted. Then fully rehabilitate the existing tunnel and use it for the increased services that are badly needed even today [after new lines in Brooklyn and Manhattan are built to feed it, of course]. This is an analogue of the ‘Gateway Tunnel Approach’ to Hurricane Sandy damage, and it would cost money, so it’s not going to happen.

Benjamin Kabak January 14, 2016 - 10:51 am

If you’re going to build another East River crossing, you’d probably want to do it east of 2nd Ave. to the old South 4th St. shell. Building L train redundancy via 14th St. won’t work for a number of reasons.

Jedman67 January 14, 2016 - 12:38 pm

Would a replacement tube cost significantly more than the shutdown/rehabilitation?

No doubt that a new subway line connecting at 4th street would be more efficient transit planning, but that’s fairly unlikely any time soon. Doubling the L tunnel capacity and sending a branch into Queens parallel to the BQE (also never gonna happen, but we can dream) would make more sense to me.

mister January 14, 2016 - 6:07 pm

Such an alignment would serve only to replace the Williamsburg bridge.

During situations like this, non-revenue track connections could have been a life saver. For instance, if the L had just one connection to something else in Manhattan, 14th could have become a peak direction tunnel. Instead, there’s no possibility of going that route, because you can’t send that many trains into Manhattan with no way back out and no storage yard.

adirondacker12800 January 14, 2016 - 6:37 pm

Because the designers decided that building infrastructure that would be used once a century was a bad idea. As far as they knew the autogyro buses would be landing on the top of the Chrysler Building and Rockefeller Center, connecting to the El that ran along the 60th floor.

Stewart Clamen January 15, 2016 - 12:28 pm

Surely the Williamsburg Bridge Trolley lines can handle some of the load! 🙂

paulb January 14, 2016 - 7:28 pm

Only 80 years overdue! I imagine the L tubes could hold out long enough. It would serve far more people than the vaportrain to Laguardia, even if that condensed into non-vapor.

Bolwerk January 14, 2016 - 9:47 am

I’d be tempted to suggest the waterfront light rail idea be implemented from 59th and Lex to the Williamsburg Bridge with a stop at Lorimer or Bedford, but unfortunately I doubt NYC could do that in the time it takes to just do a shutdown. That covers most of the Midtown East access problems L riders would face, and would be useful in its own right.

Herb Lehman January 14, 2016 - 9:51 am

Serious question here, not a snarky one: How come it would take so much longer to repair the L train tunnel vs. the R’s Montague Street tunnel, which was repaired in about eight months, if I recall correctly? Wasn’t the surge situation in lower Manhattan far more severe?

I like Ben’s ideas, but it will hurt even if all seven of them are implemented. There’s no way around the fact that this is going to hurt. Also, I can’t begin to imagine how Pat Kiernan’s idea would work.

John January 14, 2016 - 10:10 am

The Montague tubes took almost 14 months, not 8. And the three year proposal is if they shut one tunnel down at a time and did the work piecemeal. A full shutdown of both tunnels for 24/7 work would take a projected 12-24 months, similar to the Montague project timeline.

Herb Lehman January 14, 2016 - 10:45 am

You’re right. I don’t know why I remembered 8 months … especially since I walked right past the station every day at the time. Sorry about that.

Rob January 14, 2016 - 9:57 am

L train though serves more riders than any other East River crossing? That’s hard to believe – even more than 53 St?

Caelestor January 14, 2016 - 3:25 pm

If you factor in nights and weekends, definitely.

mister January 14, 2016 - 5:28 pm

If that sounds like it’s hard to believe, that’s because it’s not true.

According to the 2014 Hub bound travel data over at NYMTC.org, The following east river tunnels had more 24 hour in-bound traffic than 14th:

53rd street: 152,655
60th street: 138,914
Cranberry: 136,756
14th Street: 114,670

For special mention, the Manhattan Bridge tracks carried 97,682 and 99,137, so combined, they also carried more than 14th street.

Gorski January 14, 2016 - 11:09 am

There’s a lot of capacity available over the Williamsburg Bridge–even at rush hour, there’s still often five or six minute headways between M, J and Z trains (ask me how I know…). The problem is that there’s not a lot of spare capacity on the 6th Av local, where already there’s 1 M for 3 Fs during rush, and they’re pretty tight.

So there should be a slight increase in M service, but the MTA should consider adding a ‘K’ service that would follow the pre-2010 routing down to Broad St, which would allow M service to double. Then supplement it with shuttle buses that run express from each L station between DeKalb and Bedford to a corresponding J/M/Z stop.

aestrivex January 14, 2016 - 5:20 pm

How would a K line running from Myrtle to Broad help anything?

It’s not like the Myrtle Av branch is the bottleneck or that the Nassau St branch is in heavy demand.

AlexB January 21, 2016 - 12:11 pm

The problem is that where the M and J/Z merge at Myrtle, the outbound M has to cross over the inbound J/Z to get to the Myrtle branch, limiting capacity to 18 trains/hour. It kills inbound capacity when you have outbound trains going to Middle Village.

Peter January 14, 2016 - 11:24 am

The idea of a dedicated busway across the Wburg Bridge is intriguing. Could this be the excuse we need to finally construct a proper BRT route in the heart of the city and demonstrate its utility? The emergency nature of the project and the fact that it would be sold as a temporary situation could be enough to overcome the usual opposition to taking lanes from private cars. But once it’s up and running people discover that: real BRT actually works wonderfully for passengers. Drivers redistribute themselves and there’s no significant adverse impact on traffic.

You could see such a setup becoming permanent, even after the L restoration, despite the inevitable bitching about broken promises. But opponents would find it difficult to argue with statistics showing that the buses actually work. It could be the crack in the dam to unleash support for other stalled BRT projects.

Bolwerk January 14, 2016 - 11:54 am

What’s this obsession with proving BRT “works”? It has been working fine for years on First Avenue. It could be improved there, but has certainly works. Several cities have BRTized bus corridors, many quite successfully. It works.

But in this case, there is no path for replacing the L Train with BRT. No long, straight, wide boulevard between 14th Street and Bedford Avenue. The conditions that typically allow BRT to work aren’t there, and buses have a marginal role to play in replacing the service here. Most of the traffic will need to be dispersed across other subway lines.

Peter January 14, 2016 - 1:19 pm

Full-fledged BRT includes physically separated travel lanes and prioritized signals — something which has not yet been implemented in NYC, largely because of DOT meekness in the face of opposition to loss of space for private autos.

Any number of streets in Williamsburg could support a dedicated bus lane if you eliminate a curbside parking lane – you could potentially have the route running eastbound and westbound on adjacent avenues, to avoid eliminating all on-street parking on a single road. The routing on the Brooklyn side would change after the tunnel restoration, when the function of the route would shift from replacing L service to augmenting it. And crucially, dedicated bridge lanes could serve as the Brooklyn-Manhattan transfer point for any number of routes.

mister January 14, 2016 - 5:31 pm

Why should we implement BRT following the route of an existing heavy rail line? I just don’t understand why people will want to ride a bus across a bridge when there’s already a train that does this.

Bolwerk January 14, 2016 - 6:14 pm

We must prove buses are a viable form of transportation, even where they’re not. Prove it, or die an agonizing, fiery death.

Eric January 16, 2016 - 12:36 pm

If the train is already full – like the 4, 5, 6, E, and L into Manhattan – then a separate bus lane would be a useful supplement to the train.

mister January 18, 2016 - 2:25 pm

Not really, because very few people are going to trade out the quicker train for a slow bus ride.

AlexB January 21, 2016 - 12:13 pm

The whole point of the discussion is find a way to provide a replacement service for the L. A bus could stop at all L train stops and then use the bridge busway to get to Manhattan, adding capacity without further burdening the J/M/Z

Eric January 14, 2016 - 12:51 pm

Isn’t SBS real BRT?

aestrivex January 14, 2016 - 5:26 pm

No. The Institute of Transportation and Development Policy did a report rating BRT systems throughout the united states on their adoption of BRT features and the effectiveness of those systems.

They rated SBS in New York, and the Silver Line in Boston as “Not BRT”.


Bolwerk January 14, 2016 - 6:05 pm

They don’t own the term BRT, and the concept predates their work in the area by perhaps decades.

SBS has some issues, but it’s certainly BRT by most people’s definitions including the Federal Transit Administration’s.

aestrivex January 14, 2016 - 6:30 pm

Fine, call it BRT or not as you like, but the last time I checked SBS doesn’t have signal prioritization or separated lanes. Why not?

Eric January 16, 2016 - 12:33 pm

Those are major things, particularly separate lanes.

I thought SBS was supposed to have both of them though, at least on part of the routes.

aestrivex January 20, 2016 - 2:29 pm

SBS has signal prioritization at five or six individual traffic lights in the Bronx. First Avenue SBS has no signal prioritization at all. Effectively SBS does not have signal prioritization which is a major component of all BRT systems.

SBS has, to my knowledge, absolutely no physically separated lanes. It has separate lanes. While physically separated lanes are not required for most definitions of BRT, virtually all BRT systems in the world outside of the US have them on at least significant portions of the route. Enforcement of traffic in BRT lanes is slightly improved from four years ago but still not great.

Andre L. January 18, 2016 - 12:07 pm

BRT is an inferior technology worth of third-world cities. It should be rejected the same way we reject discharging untreated industrial effluents into rivers. I wish there were some federal action to stop funding of any new BRT that relied on federal money and that BRT projects were preemptively excluded from consideration for TiGER grants and the like.

Rich January 14, 2016 - 11:42 am

This is probably too pricey, but what would it take to build a connection between the L and the G? If the L could be temporarily rerouted via the G to Queens Plaza and/or 36th, that would help tremendously. Wouldn’t a connection between the L and G be advantageous to have around for future temporary reroutings anyway?

Chris January 14, 2016 - 5:21 pm

Lots of underground utilities (of which not all may be mapped) which would have to be relocated, demolition of the buildings on the western end of the block at Union/Metropolitan (to allow for, even then, a really tight curve radius), all causing huge, costly disruption for absolutely tiny benefit.

It’s never gonna happen.

Matt F. January 14, 2016 - 12:48 pm

Here’s how I predict the one-track option would work.

“L trains run in two sections: from 8th Ave to Bedford Ave, and from Bedford Ave to Rockaway Parkway. Trains stop at 3rd Ave in the peak direction only.” This works with departures every 10 min on the 8th Ave – Bedford part of the train.

Morning departures, westbound — Bedford, 7:00; 1st Ave, 7:03.5 min; 3rd Ave, 7:05 min; Union Square, 7:06.5 min; 6th Ave, 7:08 and every 10 min thereafter

Morning departures, eastbound — 8th Ave, 7:02; 6th Ave, 7:03.5; Union Square, 7:05 min; 1st Ave 7:06.5 and every 10 min thereafter.

This uses two trains, with trains waiting for an extra 2.5 minutes at 8th Ave. The single track from Bedford to 3rd Ave is occupied westbound from 7:00 to 7:05 and eastbound from 7:05.5 to 7:10. The 3rd Ave stop is peak-direction only to relieve part of that crunch; alternatively the departures might be every 12 min instead.

Caelestor January 14, 2016 - 3:32 pm

It’s actually explained in the link that a single tunnel could operate on 12-minute intervals as follows: Trains #1 and #2 depart Lorimer and Bedford simultaneously, respectively, and run express to Union Square / 8th Ave. Trains reverse simultaneously and return express to Lorimer and Bedford respectively. 10 tph in each direction, so half capacity.

I’d imagine there would be a shuttle on the other tracks btwn 1st and 8th Aves. 3rd Ave would probably be shut down since Union Square is nearby.

Matt F. January 14, 2016 - 5:02 pm

I think my proposal is closer to what the MTA does and would do: this adds at most one transfer to commutes, allows Bedford Ave riders to go east, and uses the interchange which is available to turn trains around at Bedford but not at Lorimer. I’m using the track diagram at http://www.nycsubway.org/perl/.....east_2.png.

Brooklynite January 14, 2016 - 10:11 pm

Under the two express shuttles proposal, Canarsie trains would run to Bedford, reverse and return to Canarsie. Express shuttles would use the other track at Bedford, and while the Lorimer express shuttle would share a track at Lorimer St with the Canarsie service, minor scheduling tweaks would make this not too much of a problem.

tacony January 14, 2016 - 1:05 pm

All of the above proposals should be used, but in addition, instead of running the MTA’s typical shuttle bus substition (which seems like it must be extremely expensive and inefficient anyway), use this as the excuse to push through for an M14SBS route with off-board fare payment and camera-enforced dedicated lanes the whole route, with stops only at the subways, that runs over the Williamsburg Bridge to meet Bedford. The bus would then turn at N 7th onto Driggs to return to the city.

Parking would have to be prohibited on one side of Bedford and Driggs between the bridge and N 7th St, but considering that the L is the most kvetched-about train in the city, one might hope people would accept its outage as being serious enough to warrant such a drastic step.

The existing M14A and D, and the existing B62 on Bedford/Driggs would continue to make local stops, but the new SBS route would only stop at subway stations along the route.

Turn the shutdown into an opportunity.

Larry Littlefield January 14, 2016 - 1:27 pm

There is only one other form of transportation that can carry this number of people. Walking. I think the Willie B bike/ped path has capacity.

NYC should organize a gigantic weight loss effort in concert with the shutdown.

Chris January 14, 2016 - 2:59 pm

Maybe bring back the K train as a super-express on the Jamaica line, terminating at Broadway Junction? Only two stops between Broadway Jct and Manhattan that way, and it could be sent up 6th Avenue or 8th Avenue as needed.

Chris January 14, 2016 - 3:00 pm

Or actually doesn’t have to terminate, just send it down the canarsie line from Broadway Jct

Chris January 14, 2016 - 3:08 pm

Or crazy, almost completely impractical idea, but it doesn’t hurt to think big: cut the tracks, build a temporary pontoon bridge and bypass the tunnel entirely.

Gian January 14, 2016 - 5:28 pm

I agree with what was said in the post, but allow me to amend #6 with the following:
– Make the M14 an SBS route, with bus lanes covering as much of the route as possible
– Institute temporary bus lanes on the Williamsburg Bridge, Bedford Avenue, and Roebling St
– Extend M14 service across the Williamsburg Bridge via the new, temporary bus lanes to Bedford Avenue station on the L, making limited stops on the way

This way, customers can transfer from buses to trains at Bedford Avenue, and then be shuttled to 14th St in Manhattan, where they can get back on the L from 1st Avenue, or simply remain onboard the bus. As this will improve service on the M14, a route that should be SBS regardless, and allow customers to remain onboard for service across 14th St, eliminating the need for two transfers that a simple shuttle service between 1st Avenue and Bedford Avenue stations would create, I believe this is the optimal solution. When the tunnels re-open, M14 service can be cut back to it’s original eastern terminus.

mister January 14, 2016 - 5:53 pm

This was always going to be the toughest Sandy pill to swallow.

Ferries are nice, but at the end of the day, they are only going to help a limited number of L line riders. Also, there is no way anyone is going to be able to build a massive new piece of infrastructure between now and when this shutdown begins. So, I expect extra G service (whether that is longer trains or more of them, or both), Ben’s 24/7 M, and a Metrocard transfer between the G and the J/M line. People headed towards lower Manhattan and “the Valley” will opt for a J/M ride. People destined for Midtown will probably take the G to Queens. Hopefully, CBTC will allow for a boost in 7 service, and maybe some extra M service through 53rd will help out there.

The remaining R32s dodge the scrapper yet again. These cars just keep rolling along.

Bolwerk January 14, 2016 - 7:16 pm

All we need to do is build a canal from the waterfront to Bedford and North 7th.

Samuel January 14, 2016 - 7:39 pm

The Winter for 2016 is terrible many track problems are arising we have lots plus to much passengers on trains. These create many problems for the IRT IND and BMT Lines. CBTC or not. Newer signaling or not. If tracks and tunnels aren’t repaired and fixed it will be a problem for the MTA. The water that freezes in the cracks have been expanding for awhile. A train can break a brittle track in a instant. Tracks can’t be wielded 123. People have to go places but the train stations need repair a 100+ year old system cant run forever without maintenance. The MTA can’t rush to build a extension. People need to stop complaining about the subway. It is a 100 Years old. Newer trains wont solve the problem. The solution to the problem will be to allow them to fix the station. This is the 21st century if we even had more subway extension more people would complain about this.

Brooklynite January 14, 2016 - 8:36 pm

What if 10-car trains are run on the L, at least on the express shuttles (Bedford-8 Av and Lorimer-Union Sq)? The platforms are 540′ long I believe, so they’d easily fit nine cars, and they can fit ten if the first two and last two doors of the train are cut out. Bam, capacity increases by 25% with no additional train service.

mister January 14, 2016 - 9:12 pm

I’m just curious, in this “double express shuttles” plan, what does the Bedford-8av shuttle connect to on the Brooklyn end? Regular trains from Canarsie will be terminating at Lorimer (and how this service is relayed without interfering the the shuttles is not made abundantly clear). So in theory, everyone can walk over to the shuttle platform and wait for the Lorimer-Union Sq shuttle. But how do they get from Lorimer to the Bedford Shuttle? It sounds like we’re running this shuttle just for the Bedford riders, which is not enough.

I think we just want to single track service through one tunnel. It might make sense to double up peak direction trains and maybe even skip 1st and 3rd in Manhattan. 10 car trains might help a little, but there is no clean solution to this problem.

bigbellymon4 January 14, 2016 - 9:27 pm

I’m guessing that Canarsie trains would terminate at Bedford (the side where the tunnel will be closed) while the Man-Bklyn Shuttles pass. However, when the Lorimer-Union Sq shuttle passes Bedford Av, Canarsie-Bedford trains will have to wait until it empties, refills, and passes Bedford in the Manhattan-bound direction before trains can continue the relaying process at Bedford.

Brooklynite January 14, 2016 - 9:34 pm

Canarsie trains will run to the closed-tube track at Bedford and reverse there. The 8 Av shuttle will reverse at Bedford, while the Union Sq shuttle will reverse at Lorimer, on the open-tube track, while not interfering with the Canarsie trains. It would mean some juggling and service reductions on the Canarsie service for sure.

bigbellymon4 January 14, 2016 - 10:16 pm

However, the crossover is between Bedford and Lorimer, which means that the Lorimer-Union Sq has to pull in and leave before any train from Canarsie terminating at Bedford (on the closed-tube track) starts to return to Canarsie (unless you are single-tracking from Bedford to Myrtle-Wyckoff, which is where the next crossover is).

Brooklynite January 14, 2016 - 10:59 pm

Yes, the Lorimer-Union Sq shuttle will share that section of track with the Canarsie service. The shuttle will run every 12 minutes, however, while the Canarsie service will probably run approximately every 6 (or 50% of regular service). Should be sufficient.

mister January 15, 2016 - 1:48 pm

For the record, that’s not what Pat Kiernan’s proposal stated, but your idea is pretty sound in my opinion. The trick would be getting people to understand exactly what is happening at the whichever Lorimer Platform happens to be serving both the Union square shuttle and Canarsie trains.

Brooklynite January 14, 2016 - 9:04 pm

Assuming the tube is fully closed: shuttle buses from each L station between Myrtle and Bedford direct to the nearest JMZ stop would be called for. The fewer transfers, the more appealing the options are.

ajedrez January 15, 2016 - 1:21 am

You could also beef up service on the existing routes that connect the (L) to the (J)(M)(Z). Maybe add some limited-stop service as well.

H_Wander January 14, 2016 - 9:43 pm

A crucial point that I haven’t seen brought up yet here- the single transfer passageway between the Manhattan-Bound L and the G at Metropolitan Ave is narrow (2-3 people wide I believe), with stairs, sharp turns, and little visibility at corners. It feeds into a sharp downhill ramp and an equally narrow passageway to the L in the other direction.

Lines already form on the (shallow) platform for people transferring off the L and heading into this passageway- it’ll be much worse if mass numbers are transferring off to the G. With bidirectional pedestrian traffic through that tunnel- we’ll be talking about a 100-foot, crooked, long two-person wide bottleneck.

Imagine hundreds of people grouped on the platform waiting for people to filter down the steps and into this narrow passageway. Imagine people trying to walk out on the platform coming from the either way, into this crowd which has gathered right next to the train pulling out of the station. Imagine elderly, overweight, disabled or bag-laden people, and children, filing into this passageway (where they can’t see the exit until they’re at the very end). That hallway can’t handle that kind of capacity and would be a huge safety liability.

Add as many cars on the G train as you like (and up the frequency while you’re at it), there’s no getting around this bottleneck, unless there’s another passageway I’m not aware of. If transferring mass numbers of people onto the G is part of their solution, they’ll need to either 1) post staff at either end to do crowd control and direct traffic (and they’d probably need metal barrier fences too), allow for an out-of system free transfer above ground (and back into the primary G entrance), or break out the shovels. I don’t see the last one happening… what about the others?

Brooklynite January 14, 2016 - 10:00 pm

What would probably end up happening is that the passageway would be closed* and a direct above-ground route made available, with the emergency gates kept open on both ends.

*If it is left open, everyone will try to use it. Closure is more effective in this case.

mister January 15, 2016 - 1:52 pm

When the 53rd/Lexington Escalator replacement project was performed, the transfer between the 53rd st lines and the Lex Local was made a one-way transfer. Perhaps something similar could be done here.

bigbellymon4 January 14, 2016 - 10:10 pm

Before CBTC was installed on the L, there used to be a double crossover between 1st Av and the tubes. If the MTA installs a new crossover there (currently there are no crossovers, just a space), here is my idea for service on the L:

Weekdays 5:30am to 12 midnight
8th Av to 1st Av; 8 min headways, relaying on the space between the crossovers and closed tubes
Bedford to Canarsie; normal headways if Bedford has the sufficient terminal capacity, relaying on the Bedford platforms
Bus shuttle to Marcy Av from Bedford and Metropolitan/Lorimer Avs.

Weekends 5:30am to 12 midnight
8th Av to Union Sq; 10-15 min headways, relay at 3rd Av platforms
Bedford Av to Canarsie; normal headways if Bedford has the sufficient terminal capacity, relaying on the Bedford platforms
Bus Shuttle to Marcy Av from Bedford and Metropolitan/Lorimer Avs.

Weeknights 12 midnight to 5:30am
Bedford Av to Canarsie; 20-25 min headway
Bus Shuttle to Marcy Av from Bedford and Metropolitan/Lorimer Avs.

Basics for this to work
Depending on the terminal capacity of Canarsie, some J-trains run from Chambers to Canarsie at all times.
Increase the service frequency of M-trains.

To accommodate work being done at Bedford, trains could terminate at Lorimer and proceed empty to Bedford some weekends and weeknights.

Yes, the L-train has plenty of riders but understand that a permanent closure of the tubes will be better than a single track procedure. With the Monatgue Tube closure, that project came in early and was under budget with a full closure. If the MTA can do a full closure of the 14th St tubes and also come in early, under budget with the station renovations at 1st and Bedford, within 2 years, that would be beneficial to all riders than a partial closure that makes work stretch for 3-4 years. So, although none of us want a full closure with this type of ridership on this vital link to Willamsburg and Bushwick, a full closure will have a higher efficiency than single tracking.

Alan Minor January 15, 2016 - 2:57 am

There are four closed staircases at the Metropolitan Av G station; three of them could easily be re-opened. There’s one on the southeast corner of Union Avenue at Grand Street. Another is located at the north corner of Union Avenue at Hope Street. The final one that could be readily opened is across the street at the north corner of Union Avenue at Powers Street. Re-opening these staircases would expand access and allow for easier egress.

At any rate, any plan that does not call for re-opening closed entrances at the Broadway G, Broadway Jct A/C/J/L/Z, Chauncey J/Z, Flushing Av J/M, Halsey St J, Hewes St J/M, Junius St 3 and Metropolitan Av G stations is flawed. (You could make arguments for the Kosciuszko St J and Gates Av J/Z stations, too.)

Tower18 January 15, 2016 - 8:46 am

Can’t some L trains be sent over the J/Z from Broadway Junction? Could give some amount of L riders direct Manhattan service, albeit to Broad St (or to transfer).

aestrivex January 15, 2016 - 6:25 pm

That track configuration is easy, but it is already be easy enough for riders between Broadway Junction / Canarsie to transfer at Broadway Junction. And the bulk of the ridership is not along that part of the line.

The Canarsie/Broad suggestion is a bit more logical than the Metropolitan/Broad one. But for most riders, neither of those options would be a better replacement than switching to the M at Myrtle/Wyckoff

smartone January 15, 2016 - 5:17 pm

The answer

Marion January 15, 2016 - 9:55 pm

As for the L train shutdown, its easier if the line is completely closed from 8 Av to Lorimer Street for the 12-15 months. As for “service increases”, these would be my suggestions (or what the MTA would LIKELY do)

– AM/PM Rush Hours, Add “special” J trains that operate ONLY from Myrtle Av to Chambers St, make all J/Z trains run local west of Myrtle Av, so that the WB Bridge accommodates 25 tph (J/M/Z). Since Broad St cannot handle (realistically) more than 12 tph, terminate the special J trains at Chambers St (it would be about only 1 train every 12 minutes). Obviously, the R160 cars currently used on the L would be used on the J/M/Z, while the R143 cars would run the Brooklyn L train (at a frequency of about 1 train every 7 1/2 minutes) between Lorimer St and Rockaway Pkwy)

-Middays, there will probably be no service increase for the J/M services at that time, and people will be forced to crush onto the trains that are already provided. IF and ONLY IF they’re lucky, they might bump up the J/M train service to 8 minutes rather than 10 during middays, but not likely.

-Weekends, the M train will likely be extended to 47-50 Sts like it has been done when the L has been suspended between Manhattan and Brooklyn previously.

DO NOT expect there to be a sudden expansion just to accommodate the L train people.

As for the G train expansion, the length of the G trains should be doubled to the full length trains, so that customers can transfer to Manhattan trains at Court Sq or Carroll St.

Recommendations that could be given to people
1. Take the court Sq-bound G train. Transfer at Court Sq for the Manhattan-bound7 train (it can handle quite a few riders, especially since most 7 train customers use the N train at Queensboro Plaza)
2. Take the Church Av-bound G train. Transfer from the G train at Carroll St to Manhattan-bound F trains (the F train in that section of Brooklyn can handle the ridership there too).
3. Take the Church Av-bound G train. Transfer from the G train at 4 Av-9 St to the R train (A LOT of EXCESS Capacity there).
4. Transfer at Hoyt-Schermerhorn to the A/C trains. (already suggested in previous posts).

Its just that people are LAZY! there are options, people just have to find them and not expect solutions to be planted at their feet.

Old New Yorker January 17, 2016 - 4:21 pm

What does NYCTA Director of Corporate Communications care if the subway system is a mess on his watch? His bicycle still works…

Benjamin Kabak January 19, 2016 - 5:40 pm

I prefer not to do this, but if you can’t provide additional context to your repeated remarks or refrain from unfounded personal attacks, I’ll have to revoke your commenting privileges.

AlexB January 21, 2016 - 1:57 pm

This comment is mainly about a strategy to increase capacity on Broadway line over Williamsburg Bridge (2nd paragraph).

My gut tells me the only way to repair the tunnels is one track at a time on weekends over many years. The L is just too good and has too many riders to shut down completely. If it does get shut down completely during an AM or PM peak, I think the only ways to deal with it are to provide bus service on temporary dedicated lanes over the bridge to Union Sq., possibly run a single track shuttle, and maximize car length and train frequency on the G, with improved/re-opened transfer at Hewes/Broadway. The other obvious, and possibly most effective, option is to shift as many people as possible to the trains going over the Williamsburg Bridge:

The problem with that is the train junction at Myrtle between M and J/Z only allows a capacity of 18 trains/hour due to an at-grade junction (outbound Ms have to cross over tracks of inbound J/Zs to get onto Myrtle branch). Capacity could be significantly increased to at least 24 trains/hour if you do the following:
– Rebuild the old upper level station and track at Myrtle and terminate the M there, Middle Village-Myrtle only. This short M would run at much higher frequency than current M, like every 4 minutes. It only takes 12 minutes to get from Middle Village to Myrtle so you’d only need like 7 or 8 six car train sets. This also allows for smoother operations in perpetuity when the M terminates at Myrtle.
– J/Z trains run on express track from Broadway Junction to Marcy at increased service (at least 15 trains/hour). The occasional J/Z train may have to terminate at Bway Junction if Jamaica Center can’t handle over 12 tph.
– New ‘K’ trains run local over Canarsie, Jamaica local, 6th Avenue local, effectively replacing M in Manhattan all the way to Forest Hills. Unlike at Myrtle, there is a flying junction between the Canarsie and Jamaica lines. This would be about 10 trains/hour, better than current M. I’d assume almost all 14th St Tunnel L train riders from Broadway Junction to Canarsie would switch to this.
– Increase bus service north of Broadway on B32, B62, B24, B57, B38, B52 and B20 to encourage people to use this improved ‘K’ service. Better G service with a reopened Hewes St exit and free transfer from G at Broadway would draw riders from Greenpoint and North Williamsburg, and certainly Bed-Stuy/Clinton Hill area.


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