Home Superstorm Sandy A deeper dive into the RPA’s L train proposal

A deeper dive into the RPA’s L train proposal

by Benjamin Kabak
The RPA's plan for the L train involves comprehensive upgrades that would benefit future generations of NYC subway riders. (Via RPA)

The RPA’s plan for the L train involves comprehensive upgrades that would benefit future generations of NYC subway riders. (Via RPA)

A politician of which I’m not a particularly big fan once said, “You never let a serious crisis go to waste,” and as we know, with the L train’s looming shutdown, the MTA has a serious crisis on its hands. What they do with that crisis could change L train service for the good or simply repeat the mistakes of the past in which the MTA, through politics, economics or both, has let prime opportunities to upgrade and improve service slip through its hands. The proposal to maximize the crisis comes to us from the RPA, and it follows Monday’s news that the Sandy-related repairs on the L train’s Canarsie Tubes will likely shutter crosstown 14th St. service as well.

The RPA’s recommendations come on the heels of weeks of discussion over the best way to proceed, and the report is a comprehensive overview of the situation with additional improvements the MTA should not miss implementing. (You can read the whole thing right here as a PDF.) The key takeaways are important. Let’s run them down.

1. Shut down the two tunnels together for 18 months. The RPA does something the MTA hasn’t done yet: take a stand on the preferred approach to work. The report notes: “RPA’s experience and review indicate that … closing both tunnels for 18 months is the most cost effective. What’s more, it creates an opportunity to truly transform the L train. The loss of the L train service to and within Manhattan for an 18-month period will be disruptive, but doubling the construction timeline, along with the higher associated costs and extending the pain of a huge service cut is far less desirable. It’s also not possible to justify the cost of constructing a new tunnel to serve as “swing space” for the tunnel repairs when that additional capacity will go unused after the project is completed.”

2. Piggyback needed L train work onto the Sandy repairs. The RPA urges the MTA to “take advantage of this outage to rebuild a quarter of L stations
to modern standards. The agency also should make a series of additional investments to unlock the line’s capacity, taking full advantage of the agency’s earlier investment in modern train control, known as Communications-Based Train Control. This includes addressing major system bottlenecks, including the 8th Avenue terminal and dealing with crowding issues at the L’s busiest stations by resizing them to meet current and projected ridership demand.”

3. The key to better L service involves tail tracks at 8th Ave. I discussed this element of the proposal on Monday, but it’s worth revisiting. With tail tracks and a diamond switch, trains can enter 8th Ave. at speed, and the MTA has space for storage. The RPA also suggests a series of other station improvements, including ADA accessibility upgrades, wider platforms, and improved passenger circulation particularly at 8th Ave. and Union Square. A proposed entrance to the 1st Ave. station at Avenue A and improvements to the Bedford Ave. stop are already part of the plans.

4. Travel alternatives. The RPA report presented four travel alternatives that should be a part of any L train shutdown. These include a bus bridge over the Williamsburg Bridge, a 14th Street bus corridor with more space for pedestrians and cyclists, expanded service on the G and J/M/Z trains, and free transfers for the East River ferries. I would add more reliable A and C train service at Broadway Junction and an examination of capacity along Queens Boulevard to ensure riders can access Manhattan with minimal disruption.

So what’s stopping the MTA from implementing this holistic vision for L train improvements? It’s not immediately clear if the MTA has access to enough money to perform this work, but with the capital plan due for resubmission, the MTA should take advantage of this crisis. Another problem though are pandering politicians. Just yesterday, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer decided she knows best and urged the MTA to take the worst approach on an L train shutdown. She claims that 7 years of no L train service on nights and weekends would be sufficient and less harmful to business which is in defiance of reality. It’s less cost effective for the MTA and would torpedo train service to Williamsburg and eastward on weekends for seven years rather than 18 months. Plus, the MTA is far less likely to implement transit-prioritization measures such as a bus bridge or dedicated bus lanes on 14th St. for a nights-and-weekends-only shutdown.

There is no way around the reality that a long shutdown will not be much fun for anyone, but with the right planning and the right approach, the MTA could turn this crisis into an advantage for future L train riders. If we miss this opportunity now, will we ever get it back again?

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JJJ April 6, 2016 - 10:23 am

If you could go ahead and add a station at 10th that would be great.

John-2 April 6, 2016 - 2:31 pm

By the time 10th Avenue gets to 14th Street, it’s pretty close to the Hudson River — possibly too close to put tail tracks at the west end of the station. And if you can’t do that, you’re simply recreating the same capacity-limiting problem you currently have two blocks to the east at Eighth Avenue.

Chris April 6, 2016 - 4:54 pm

You could add a middle track to short-turn trains between 8th and 10th.

John-2 April 6, 2016 - 8:51 pm

But in terms of number of trains per hour, it’s all about how fast the trains can enter the terminal station. Having a middle track between Eighth and 10th, or putting storage tracks on the side, does nothing to allow faster entry into the station if there’s now a tile wall at the west end of the 10th Avenue platform, so the L would still be limited to the same number of TPHs it has now, other than probably one extra train to fill the gap for the extra distance on the line.

AMH April 7, 2016 - 10:21 am

He’s saying some trains could be turned at 8th so not as many would need to be turned at 10th.

Brooklynite April 7, 2016 - 2:56 pm

At that rate we could put in switches just west of 6th Av and use the middle track there to reverse selected trains…

EasyAsABC April 6, 2016 - 5:09 pm

You could build the station and put the storage tracks on either side of the station, parallel to it.

Walt Gekko April 6, 2016 - 9:54 pm

As noted in the other thread on this, my plan takes the (L) past 8th Avenue in a northwest direction, becoming a 10th/Amsterdam Avenue line to 72nd Street with provisions to go beyond there later on. Stops as noted on this in the other thread would be 23rd (three tracks as it would double as a short-turn terminal as needed), 31st-33rd, 41st (with a transfer to the 7 if that station is ever built), 49th-50th, 58th-Roosevelt Hospital, 65th-Lincoln Center and 72nd-Broadway (three track terminal) with a transfer to the 1/2/3 and built with provisions to extend the line further up Amsterdam at a later date.

Ryan April 7, 2016 - 9:51 am

I’m not disputing the potential need or market for a West Side Subway but there’s frankly no reason it should be an L extension when there’s room for another 12~15 tph on the 1 (which would suggest the return of the son of the 9 train as a 10th Avenue service), a desperate need for uptown crosstowns (which would suggest a train from Christopher St to Astoria via 10 Av and 86 St), and the potential to send the L to New Jersey instead (which any extension north precludes).

Why is an L extension better than all three of those things combined?

Walt Gekko April 7, 2016 - 4:43 pm

Mainly the fact that this (L) extension would be the westernmost train (excluding the (7) at the Javits Center) in Manhattan to an area that has been exploding in recent years and is only going to continue to explode. It would be only where the (1) would cross at 72nd where I would do this extension of the (L) to since (for now) the 1/2/3 would be able to pick up the slack, however, there would be provisions in place to have this (L) extend further up Amsterdam, most likely first to 116th Street or 125th Street (especially since by the time any such extension got to 125, Columbia would have completed their expansion) and then maybe further beyond that.

Ryan April 7, 2016 - 6:41 pm

You didn’t answer the question.

You explained why a West Side Subway is a good idea, which I agree with.

Why is making it an L extension specifically a better idea than building a separate track pairing branching off of the 7 Av Local pair (on which there’s room everywhere for another 12-15 tph) from 72 to downtown, extending the L across the river to Jersey City, and building an 86 St crosstown connected to the 7 Av trunk line north of 72? All of these are possible if and only if the L is not extended up 10 Av, and all combine to result in more service to more places than an L extension can reasonably be expected to provide.

Tower18 April 7, 2016 - 12:22 pm

If you were theoretically extending the line up or down 10th Avenue, the train would need to turn, and a station at 10th Ave doesn’t leave enough room for that with the river. So if the L were to turn uptown, the station should probably be at like 17th and 10th. There’s a lot more residential and commercial desnsity that point anyway than at 14th/10th.

Ryan April 7, 2016 - 2:58 pm

Even if you’re extending it across the river it might make sense to just turn the train up or down 10 Av to make an easier transfer between crosstown/NJ-bound service and 10 Av uptown/downtown service. I’m not sure. It’s worth exploring in any case. (Besides, going straight across from 14 almost certainly puts you underneath the center of a college campus. That may be a good thing but just as likely is a problem.)

Walt Gekko April 7, 2016 - 4:44 pm


My plan would have it gradually turn northeast after 8th/14th (and moreso after 9th Avenue), where such would eventually land on 10th Avenue around 20th or 21st Street.

Ryan April 7, 2016 - 6:47 pm

Subway tunnels can actually handle pretty tight curve radii and so this would accomplish two things:

1) Require expensive manipulation and remediation of 21~42 blocks worth of buildings instead of 2~3 (depending on how much more than one block you want to count an avenue span as)
2) Preclude construction of 16 St – Chelsea Market station as a complex spanning 15-18 Sts under 10 Av.

Neither of those are desirable.

Tower18 April 7, 2016 - 7:50 pm

Yeah I’m fairly certain there’s some non-trivial infrastructure under 111 8th Avenue and under 9th Avenue. I think I remember reading that’s a national fiber backbone…that’s why Google and a bunch of data centers are in 111 8th.

Plus there’s a parking garage in the basement of that building, so you probably can’t tunnel there anyway.

No the turn up 10th isn’t a problem except that you can’t have a stop at 14th/10th exactly…that’s it. A 2-track line could easily make that turn without much trouble.

Eric April 6, 2016 - 5:46 pm

That would be just a 5 minute walk from 8th Ave, and almost half its walkshed would be in the river.

You could have the L turn north on 10th, 11th, or 12th Ave and have it stop around 23rd St. But all that should be coordinated with long term plans for both the L and 7, which haven’t been decided on.

Caelestor April 6, 2016 - 7:07 pm

I’d imagine the L would be extended up 10th Ave with stops at 23rd St, 34th St, 41st St, 57th St, and 72nd St / Broadway – but that’s a $5-10 billion project in the long term.

Walt Gekko April 6, 2016 - 9:55 pm

Didn’t see yours until after I posted mine:

Mine is the same stops as yours except with an additional stop at 49th-50th.

Walt Gekko April 6, 2016 - 9:55 pm

And one more at 65th-Lincoln Center.

Ryan April 7, 2016 - 9:55 am

Extend the 7 south and you get a way better transfer in Chelsea that services a place people actually want to go, and even without a southern extension you can probably set up a connection of some sort in Hudson Yards.

Apropos of nothing, there’s no reason for whatever hypothetical 10 Av subway service to have stops at 41 and 50 instead of a single stop at 45-48 properly servicing Hell’s Kitchen.

Walt Gekko April 7, 2016 - 4:49 pm

41st is specifically so there is a transfer to the (7) if that station is ever built (and this would likely spur that) and 49th-50th is a major crosstown area.

The other stops on this (L) extension are where they are as I would do it for a reason:

23rd: Major crosstown street.

31st-33rd: Straight two block walk to Penn Station, also would be one block north of MSG if as some have suggested should a new MSG is built from 28th-30th and 9th-10th Avenues.

41st: Transfer to (7) as noted.

49th-50th: Straight walk to many offices and also a booming area. Might actually see heavier ridership on weekends than weekdays.

58th Street: Roosevelt Hospital, also straight shot to Time Warner Center two blocks east.

65th Street: Lincoln Center, also major high schools in area as I remember.

72nd Street: Terminal with transfer to 1/2/3.

adirondacker12800 April 7, 2016 - 5:31 pm

You could transfer to the Flushing line at 34th/Hudson Yards.

Marc Shepherd April 6, 2016 - 10:27 am

There are probably major hurdles to re-configuring the 8th Avenue terminal with tail tracks and a new diamond crossover. It would undoubtedly require property acquisitions and condemnations in a very highly trafficked part of town. I don’t see that happening, desirable though it may be.

On top of that, the cost would probably run into the billions. Cry all you want that it would be cheaper in Paris, but the costs of doing work here are what they are, and no one yet has demonstrated that they have a cheaper way.

The proposed station reconfigurations are all very doable, and make a ton of sense.

Avi April 6, 2016 - 10:42 am

How deep are the L train tracks? Between depth and the fact that it runs under the street, the tail tracks could likely be done via tunneling with no disruption to property on street level and therefore no land acquisition required.

Marc Shepherd April 6, 2016 - 11:13 am

…no land acquisition required

The only way to know that, is to know what is underground along every single inch of the proposed route. I sincerely doubt you have assessed this.

The project could very well require a permanent ventilation shaft, and it would certainly require one or more temporary shafts for the extraction of spoils.

Avi April 6, 2016 - 11:51 am

Your initial comment: It would undoubtedly require property acquisitions and condemnations

My initial response: could likely be done via tunneling with no disruption to property on street level

Then you claimed: The only way to know that, is to know what is underground along every single inch of the proposed route. I sincerely doubt you have assessed this.

Now I’ll ask the same question back to you. Have you assessed every single inch underground. I hedged my initial statement, you gave yours as a statement of fact. The burden of proof is on your statement of fact. Given that you have no more evidence than I do, I will stand by my guess that a tunnel under the street could be done without property acquisition. If you have assessed every inch under 14th street between 8th and 10th Avenue please share your results with us.

Larry Littlefield April 6, 2016 - 12:37 pm

Perhaps when he refers to somebody “owning” the NYC streets and having to get paid, there are placard holders parking in the area.

Marc Shepherd April 6, 2016 - 2:52 pm

You are correct. I meant “most likely”, not “undoubtedly”.

AlexB April 6, 2016 - 11:04 am

You’d have to dig up 14th Street from halfway between 8th and 9th to about half way between 9th and 10th Avenues for about a year or two. It would suck and would cost a billion or so. It wouldn’t require property acquisition.

Larry Littlefield April 6, 2016 - 11:09 am

“It would undoubtedly require property acquisitions and condemnations in a very highly trafficked part of town. On top of that, the cost would probably run into the billions.”

All that is required is to build a hole under the streets with some tracks in it, because trains would never be expected to go there. The crossover could stay where it is. At a cost of $billions? Please. You may be right, but that’s just a further indictment.

The other thing that might be considered is restoring additional tracks as a terminal at Atlantic Avenue, so all the trains would not have to go all the way to Canarsie. A new terminal there might have more capacity than the middle track at Myrtle.

Finally, if we really want to have a fantasy, extend those J train tracks to a new yard in South Jamaica. With a new yard to store trains on the J and perhaps the E, the yard at Broadway/East New York could be used for the additional L trains required to jack up rush hour service there.

Peter April 6, 2016 - 11:27 am

The wide-open confluence of 14th St, Ninth Ave and Hudson St with its public plaza seems like an ideal staging area for tunnel work — and perhaps enough space there for some of the above-ground ventilation facilities.

Eric April 6, 2016 - 5:48 pm

Why would an empty subway train on the tail tracks need ventilation facilities?

Brooklynite April 6, 2016 - 6:48 pm

It would be a dead end with rare train movements, so the air (and water, because when was the last time MTA built anything waterproof?) would be rather stagnant. The tail tracks at Hudson Yards are having related to that as is, so eliminating ventilation would not be a good idea.

Tower18 April 7, 2016 - 12:33 pm

Isn’t the difference that the 7 extension (and SAS) are deep tunneled stations, thus requiring ventilation buildings? An extension of the existing 14th St tunnel would probably be no more than 30-40 feet below street level (according to nycsubway.org, the IND portion of 14th/8th is approximately 20 feet below street level, down 2 levels due to mezzanine). This is not that deep and wouldn’t require some of the deep tunneling methods used in other new construction.

AlexB April 6, 2016 - 10:45 am

I think a second bus bridge using the Queens Midtown Tunnel and 34th St is needed. It’s a pretty straight shot up Meeker and McGuinness and they already have a reversible dedicated HOV/bus lane for Queens express buses.

If the goal is to find an alternate route for the L’s 200,000+ daily riders, we need a breakdown by capacity and destination. For example, even with dedicated lanes, a bus bridge over the Williamsburg Bridge couldn’t absorb more than about 60,000; ferries could get you maybe 10,000-20,000 if you buy a lot of ferries; the M is just about full already; and adding a couple cars to an already packed G which connects with packed E and M trains will not make up the difference. You’re getting close to the current L ridership, but not there yet. You can’t really run more M or J/Z trains because of the at grade junction at Myrtle. The Q-M Tunnel is the best bet.

The ideas for additional entrances and extending the tail tracks at 8th Ave are a no-brainer.

bigbellymon4 April 6, 2016 - 4:58 pm

The challenge with using the QMT as a bus bridge for the L is that it will only be one Lane in both directions for buses During rush hour (Morning- HOV in, one lane out. Evening-hov out, one lane in.). The Williamsburg Bridge has space for the busses handling L riders in both directions (peak and reverse peak riders), the QMT doesn’t as it is already handling the Express busses from all over Queens (all the Express routes in Queens go into Manhattan through the QMT). Plus, the WB is closer to the L than QMT, meaning a faster arrival in Manhattan.

AlexB April 7, 2016 - 10:49 am

I’m saying to use the QMT in addition to the Williamsburg Bridge because the Williamsburg Bridge + G + JMZ + ferries is not enough. You’d still have to use dedicated lanes on the bridge (and dedicated lanes leading to/from it).

Yes there are problems with the QMT option – the tunnel only has 4 lanes total and the route from the L is longer. The Williamsburg gets people to Manhattan faster, but how many of them are trying to get to Midtown? The QMT route is very direct. AM peak would be 2 lanes inbound general traffic, 1 lane inbound for buses only, and 1 lane outbound general traffic and buses. Reverse this for PM peak. It would have to be tied to rush hour dedicated lanes on Pulaski Bridge/McGuinness Blvd + streets leading to/from the on/off ramps. Compared with NJ, Queens has relatively few express buses and NJ gets by fine with one inbound bus lane at the Lincoln Tunnel.

lop April 8, 2016 - 11:33 am

Lincoln tunnel has ~1000 buses inbound during morning peak hour. QMT has ~125 buses. Afternoon peak hour there are ~13 buses in the QMT, most use the QBB to get back to Queens.

Larry Greenfield April 6, 2016 - 1:01 pm

Option 1 sounds great but there’s no identified source of funding for the MTA’s new capital plan, let alone this addition to it.

Dheals3154 April 6, 2016 - 1:08 pm

And!!! The Hewes(JMZ)Broadway(G) transfer… A real deal brick and mortar transfer like the one at Myrtle/Wycoff

Charlie April 6, 2016 - 1:54 pm

What is the 14th Street pedestrian transitway on the map? A free transfer between 6th Av and Union Sq?

Marc April 6, 2016 - 2:12 pm

It is similar to the proposal that would have eliminated all but buses from 34th Street between Fifth and Seventh. It would close 14th Street to all traffic except buses between Irving Place and Sixth Avenue and make 14th one way away from the center of the island east of Irving and west of Sixth. The idea would be to increase bus and pedestrian capacity on 14th Street. Local businesses, no doubt, will strenuously object, as occurred when this suggested for 34th Street.

Tower18 April 7, 2016 - 12:38 pm

I’m not sure I like this idea due to the residential nature of the side streets. Closing 14th St would force traffic, and in particular trucks, onto neighboring streets (it’s a pipe dream to imagine they’d go uptown to 23rd), which unlike surrounding 34th St, are primarily residential. Also they don’t continue across Manhattan (15th and 16th end at Union Square, and everything below 14th ends at Greenwich (or becomes an even less usable cobblestone street through the West Village).

Like it or not, until the macro traffic problems are addressed, closing 14th will just push the traffic onto neighboring side streets even less equipped to handle it.

LLQBTT April 6, 2016 - 2:19 pm

Local bus routes need also to be beefed up to supplement a bus bridge.

For example, send the B32 over a bridge (both?) to connect with subways.
Extend B39 service on Grand to at least Morgan Ave
Increase B60 frequency and send over the bridge
Increase B24 frequency and send over the bridge

ajedrez April 7, 2016 - 12:21 am

The B60 extension would screw up service for riders in Bushwick and Brownsville who use it for intraborough travel. No good.

John April 7, 2016 - 9:28 am

It is, however, almost identical to L train service, give or take a few blocks from any L stop. At the very least, B60 service should be greatly increased, and maybe some but not all buses extended to Essex for connections to the F/J/M/Z.

AlexB April 7, 2016 - 10:51 am

How would the B60 extension screw up service for intraborough travel? It would be the exact same in Brooklyn, just extended to Manhattan.

TimK April 7, 2016 - 2:49 pm

Lengthening it and sending it to Manhattan would probably make it a lot less reliable. That effect would apply to the entire line.

bigbellymon4 April 6, 2016 - 4:49 pm

In addition to the plans noted by RPA for increasing L service, there are some other ideas that should be considered. If tail tracks are placed at 8th Av, can the line actually handle 30 tph (disregard the power supply problem here)? At the other end, you have Myrtle-Wyckoff and Canarsie. Canarsie handles about the same as 8th Av (20 tph) and M-W can handle 20 tph also (1 to pull in to lay-up, 1 to reverse, 1 to pull out). Also, trains are held in the station to make sure they are empty before relaying, so it is most likely less than 20tph. But if you look a little farther east, you could convert Atlantic Av into a terminal (2 center tracks terminate, 2 outside to/from Canarsie). There are already tail tracks there, the only necessary work is to lower the abandoned track ways to the east of the line to be on the same level. Canarsie-20tph, Atlantic-10tph (15tph if need be), and 8th Av(with tail tracks)-30tph (35tph if need be). At Atlantic, the terminating trains will have their own track to relay on, without delaying trains behind it. Less delays, increased frequency, better service.

bigbellymon4 April 6, 2016 - 5:01 pm

They could also use the old Essex trolley terminal and send the Bridge Plz busses there via the bus way over the bridge. More capacity for the trains to absorb L riders.

Eric April 6, 2016 - 5:52 pm

It should be 15tph to Canarsie, and 15tph on a new Triborough extension to Brooklyn College (or further).

Manueldyckman April 6, 2016 - 7:47 pm

To say that the L line doesn’t need the extra tunnel is crazy this line as exploded

imogen April 6, 2016 - 8:31 pm

It’s not the bottleneck and won’t be until there’s another service running through them in addition to the local L, something that would probably only make sense *after* a Houston/4th tunnel for something like Utica. Express L would be useful but ripping up the entire line to add one or two tracks is a no-go.

Ryan April 7, 2016 - 9:23 am

Two points:

Firstly, as the L shares tracks with nothing at any point, “service” is an entirely arbitrary metric. You get 30 tph across the entire line, every one of which could be the L (if you wanted to be silly about it, you could call half the trains the L and half the K or some other letter even though every train runs the same route – or just claim the line has two branches and both are the L to Canarsie).

Secondly, ripping up the entire line is a no-go as you say, and frankly an unpalatable option even if you COULD do it – a 9 St PATH extension to Williamsburg, Secaucus-23-Greenpoint new build PATH or NYC subway line, or the aforementioned Houston St tunnel are all better options for service expansion to Williamsburg; 34 St PATH, 42 St PATH (assuming you can bulldoze the 42 St Shuttle and its platforms for it), or an 86 St crosstown are all better options for Manhattan crosstown service. That having been said, for the sake of devil’s advocacy, shutting the entirety of service under 14 St down presents a perhaps one-time opportunity to make extensive modifications to that tunnel; you wouldn’t have to figure out the plan for ripping up the L in Williamsburg or how to remediate expanding its elevated section to 4 tracks right away, simply adding them as opportunity arises. (side note – this is also probably a one time opportunity to tear apart and rebuild the tunnel approach tracks to permit a station at Avenue C. Four tracks aren’t worth seriously proposing, but that station is.)

Walt Gekko April 6, 2016 - 9:45 pm

The best solution to me is the same as before and has been suggested elsewhere:

Send a handful of four-car trains across for use on an (L) Shuttle between 1st and 8th Avenues (single tracked between 1st and 3rd Avenue). You can use probably three trains at any one time with spares stored on one track between 1st and 3rd Avenues and also on the layup track between 6th and 8th Avenue, with that layup track also used when needed for inspections during this time.

The problem with the bus proposal is the potential for unintended consequences, including potentially gridlock in the area (even if 14th is a bus zone, other crosstown streets likely get jammed causing the gridlock). By having a Manhattan shuttle between 1st and 8th avenue, you eliminate that potential unintended consequence.

Ryan April 7, 2016 - 9:31 am

Those trains become inextricably stranded the instant that you close the tunnel; if anything goes wrong you’re pretty much hosed, and cycling the trains out for routine maintenance requires stopping work on the tunnels and may be impossible depending on the point at which work is when you go to cycle the trains. The potential for failure here is much too high, and the gains much too low to be worth pursuit.

pete April 7, 2016 - 3:55 pm

Build a shaft on 14th street to lift the cars in and out. Overnight lift the cover over the pit, and use a portable crane to remove the cars. London does this.

Brooklynite April 8, 2016 - 4:37 pm

You’re thinking of the Waterloo & City line, which has a full-fledged maintenance facility at Waterloo. The cars are only lifted out for replacement or capital overhauls. The L has no maintenance facilities in Manhattan whatsoever.

Walt Gekko April 7, 2016 - 4:54 pm

Which is why I would probably have eight sets with only 3 at the most in use at any one time. There likely during this shutdown will be times where one of the tunnels would need to be opened for certain activities anyway, so those times could be used to regularly schedule trains to be moved out and new ones swapped in during this shutdown, better allowing service to run between 1st and 8th Avenue.

The threat of gridlock is too great to do otherwise in my opinion due to many drivers being super stubborn about giving up their cars driving into Manhattan and simply using other streets in some cases.

orulz April 6, 2016 - 9:56 pm

You can get a decent capacity increase with just 100ft or so of tail tracks which would be easier, cheaper, and less disruptive to build. This allows trains to enter the platform at much higher speed. Sure you can’t store trains past the platform, but JR East can turn 28 trains per hour with short tail tracks like this.

Stephen Bauman April 6, 2016 - 11:27 pm

Building tail tracks at 8th Ave is a solution looking for a problem. The problem is how to modify the 14th St Manhattan terminal to increase service level capacity on the line.

There are at least two solutions. Building tail tracks at 8th Ave is the more expensive and longer to implement. Two alternate Manhattan terminals is another solution.

6th Ave served as the 14th St line’s Manhattan terminal for almost 7 years (30 June 1924 to 30 May 1931). Trains relayed on the middle track between 6th and 8th Aves. There was a wye switch just west of the 6th Ave station that permitted such direction changes. It’s operation was similar to the wye east of Myrtle Ave that allows them to short turn trains at Myrtle-Wyckoff. There’s no load bearing structure to modify. Just add the switch and modify the signal system. That should not cost more than $25 million.

The greater impediment to operating greater service levels on the 14th St line is the lack of compatible rolling stock. The removal of the legacy block system means only CBTC equipped trains can run on the 14th St line. Otherwise, they could have stolen equipment from other lines to reduce peak hour crowding.

Eric April 7, 2016 - 4:07 am

Buying a few more trains shouldn’t be the obstacle to increasing service levels on a crowded line.

Stephen Bauman April 7, 2016 - 6:59 pm

Buying a few more trains is a problem because the MTA cannot find a builder who can deliver them in a timely manner. None of the 600 R179’s has been delivered from Bombardier. If cars were available, they would have to be equipped with Canarsie compatible CBTC.

As Tom Sullivan explained a decade ago, a key element of the Canarsie Line’s CBTC is no longer manufactured. The MTA violated their procurement protocol by allowing Siemens to substitute a proprietary radio link for the CBTC’s Digital Communications System (DCS).

That procurement protocol specified there would be two follower vendors (Alstom and Bombardier), as well as the lead vendor (Siemens) for all CBTC equipment. The MTA did not want to be locked into a single vendor like it was with the Cubic turnstiles. Bombardier dropped out as a follower vendor, when the MTA switched from an off the shelf receiver to Siemens’ proprietary receiver. Alstom said it would reverse engineer the Siemens’ receiver but the MTA told them to buy it from Siemens instead.

The problem is that Siemens did not manufacture its proprietary receiver. It purchased it from an electronics manufacturer. That manufacturer killed the receiver because of poor sales. They really didn’t want to be bothered by producing a dozen obsolete units as a special order. Each train would require 2 units. The result is a ridiculously high cost and long lead time. That’s a fairly common practice in the electronics industry.

So, the MTA is faced with not being able to get delivery on even a few new trains that would run on the Canarsie Line.

The last phase of the Canarsie Line’s CBTC project was to remove the legacy block system. The Canarsie Line was able operate with either CBTC or the legacy block system. That old legacy system operated 24 tph before the MTA cut peak service in the 1970’s.

The Canarsie Line’s CBTC installation reminds me of the three laws of thermodynamics.

1. You can’t win. Signal systems have a very minor effect on service level capacity. So, CBTC would never increase service level capacity.

2. You can’t break even. CBTC cost a ton of money to install. It cost far more to install than a brand new block system that would use a Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) instead of hard wired relays.

3. You can’t get out of the game. The MTA removed the legacy block system.

Jason April 7, 2016 - 8:55 am

A question I’ve always wondered about:

Why couldn’t the tunnels of the BMT Canarsie Line (L) be extended to meet the tunnels of the IRT Flushing Line (7)?

Then over time, the stations and equipment on the Flushing Line can be converted to be compatible with the B Division equipment. The goal would be to increase the capacity of the Flushing Line and also to have a better network without the end of either line being in Manhattan. You’d also be able to add a station somewhere in Chelsea between the two ends of the line.

There are a few ways the transition could be made:

1. The break point between the L and 7 service can be incrementally marched eastward as work on the Flushing Line is complete.
2. Alternatively, all of the work on the Flushing Line could be completed with removable platform extensions, and then the switch could be made all at once when it is completed.
3. A third alternative could be like either 1 or 2 above, but would involve automatic platform extensions, so that for some period of time, the Flushing Line would be served with a combination of A and B division equipment.

It may not be great on the cost/benefit scale, but is there something I’m missing about the technical feasibility of something like this?

Ryan April 7, 2016 - 9:43 am

Technically feasible; but then ANYTHING is technically feasible given unlimited capital funding and political willpower, neither of which are things we have in abundance.

Besides cost/benefit being awful on this plan, this cuts off both the potential for 7 extension anywhere south or west of Hudson Yards and for L extension in any direction outbound from 8 Av. It’s still not too late to connect the 7 with New Jersey and it’s certainly not too late for the L.

Astoria rider April 7, 2016 - 9:53 am

May into into problem expanding those Steinway tunnels.

Alon Levy April 7, 2016 - 9:21 am

Tail tracks do not need to be long enough to store a train. It’s easier if they are, but all that’s needed is enough space to let trains enter the station at speed without risk of slamming the wall if the brakes are a bit slower than expected. The Chuo Line has maybe 30 meters of tail tracks at the Tokyo end, and runs 28 tph at the peak.

Ryan April 7, 2016 - 9:35 am

It’s really too bad that the L was never extended across the Hudson, or else this wouldn’t be an issue and we could just be running shuttles from NJ to 1 Av while work proceeds. Doesn’t solve your Brooklyn issue but it sure would’ve solved the Manhattan one.

Yep. Too, too bad.

LLQBTT April 7, 2016 - 1:43 pm

Another supplemental service. Reinstate K service from Bway Junction to 96 St/2 Ave via 6 Ave rush hours and weekdays. Use the R143s not running on the L. Reconnect the 1 of tracks (I think one direction is severed) and run it to Canarsie

It could fit on 6 Ave with proper headway management. There are currently gaps between trains.

Ryan April 7, 2016 - 2:46 pm

It could fit now, but cannot fit if a full branch worth of M service is implemented as part of the L closure remediation. It could also fit as a full branch service of the V if the M is split back off from the V. (incidentally, splitting the M off maximizes through service on Williamsburg and in the Montague tubes, while allowing the maximization of 6 Av service to be through 10-car trains. It’s a sound decision even if it’s only possible “temporarily” because of midtown M ridership or some such nonsense.)

In no case is a Bway-96 service a good idea, because any gaps in train service headways should be filled by more trains of the same services.


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