Home Superstorm Sandy Survey: L train riders endorse 18-month, full-time shutdown

Survey: L train riders endorse 18-month, full-time shutdown

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)

An 18-month L train shutdown should bring other improvements for riders of the crowded subway line. (Via RPA)

I sort of disappeared on everyone last week. After Monday’s report on the W train, I didn’t have anything else ready for last week, and I was in Los Angeles for a mix of business and pleasure without much time to write. I know a few readers were asking after some additional content, and I’ll try to give a heads’ up next time before I disappear for a week. On the plus side, it’s been a relatively slow news week, but with a transit system that runs 24 hours a day, there’s always something going on.

Being in Southern California for eight days gave me a chance to see life in the automobile dystopia that is Los Angeles. My hotel was a few miles from my office, and I had to drive to work. Leaving at 6:30 a.m. is fine; the three miles went by in a flash. Leaving at 8:30 a.m. was a different story as the local roads were packed. Luckily, I could avoid the freeways at most peak hours, though it took an exceptionally long time to get to Dodger Stadium on Wednesday.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have to chance to explore Los Angeles’ latest transit toy: the Expo Line extension to Santa Monica. It opened a few days before I arrived but wasn’t close to where I was or where I needed to be. On the first business day of operations, a drunk driver snarled morning service by driving onto the tracks. It was a very LA moment. I meanwhile was stuck in areas along Santa Monica and Sunset Boulevards. These areas don’t have much in the way of dedicated transit infrastructure because wealthy residents in the Hollywood Hills and Beverly Hills didn’t want bus lanes skirting their neighborhoods. Sound familiar?

Ultimately, though, Los Angeles is engaged in a much more ambitious transit expansion plan than New York City, and it may come to fruition within the next decade. I’m doubtful it will be ever enough — without a congestion pricing plan — to alleviate LA’s infamous traffic, but it’s forward progress for a region that isn’t known for transit investment.

Meanwhile, in New York, as politicians continue to claim that everything under the sun except for congestion pricing, including more ferries and more bus lanes, will solve Manhattan’s congestion problems, we pick up where we left off: with the L train. The MTA hosted its third meeting on the upcoming shutdown last week, this one in Canarsie, and although the agency had no new information to add to the public presentation, a Riders Alliance survey of L train riders found that the vast majority of them would favor the shorter, full shutdown of the tunnel between Manhattan and Brooklyn.

According to the survey, a whopping 77 percent of riders said they preferred the 18-month shutdown rather than a three-year plan that would lead to an 80 percent reduction in L train service. In either case, trains will still run between Lorimer St. and Canarsie, and L train riders urged the MTA to increase service on lines that feed into or run parallel to the L, including the G, J/Z, M and A/C lines. Straphangers also requested dedicated bus lanes along 14th St. in Manhattan, more biking options and infrastructure, and increased ferry service. The city will and should implement all of these ideas once the shutdown arrives in 2019.

“During the shutdown of the L train, the MTA must adopt an ‘all-of-the-above’ approach to keep residents of Williamsburg, Bushwick, Brownsville, East New York, and Canarsie connected to the rest of our city,” Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams said. “The MTA has the ability and the responsibility to reduce the disruption that Brooklyn residents and business owners will experience, providing a variety of alternate routes including expanded service on other subway lines, a dedicated lane for buses on the Williamsburg Bridge, and more choices for commuters who want to travel by ferry or bicycle. I urge the MTA to continue its dialogue with stakeholders from every community of Brooklyn that depends on the L train to develop a comprehensive mitigation plan, one that fulfills all of the needs unique to those communities.”

The RPA again stressed its call to improve all facets of the L during the shutdown, and I firmly believe missing the opportunity to dig out tail tracks at 8th Ave. could go down as one of the city’s 21st Century transit mistakes. Luckily, there are three years for everyone to sort out the solutions, but it seems that the 18-month survey, as I wrote in Crains New York in April, is the way to go.

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bigbellymon4 June 1, 2016 - 12:31 am

There should be no doubt that the 18-month approach should be taken. But why wasn’t the L shut and repaired already? They say there is extensive damage, and compare it to the R tubes. Is it because signalling issues didn’t occur as much in the L tubes (because of CBTC) as they happened every day in the R tubes (because of fixed-block)? Out of the 9 flooded tubes, the MTA should have finished repairing 6 out of 9 (not just 3, and working on 3) or all of the tubes nearly 4 years later.

Yan June 1, 2016 - 3:01 pm

the M train viaduct has to be fixed first, thats why the L wont shut down till 2019

bigbellymon4 June 1, 2016 - 4:34 pm

True, but if the damage in the tubes is as a bad as the MTA states, why are we waiting until 2019?

Walt Gekko June 3, 2016 - 4:36 pm

It’s what’s left of the former Myrtle Avenue El south of Myrtle-Wyckoff that has to be completely fixed (shuttles will operate from Myrtle-Wyckoff to Metropolitan during that time). That work has to be done prior to any work on the (L) because many will be having to use the (L) when that stretch of the (M) is cut off.

John-2 June 1, 2016 - 1:09 am

Given how fast the MTA moves unless something is an absolute necessity, if there are no plans right now to extend out tail tracks between Eighth and Ninth avenues during the shutdown, it’s not going to happen. Drawing up the plan and then getting the EIS completed and approved as well as dealing with the residents and businesses on the far west side of 14th Street is a process than has to start now if they want to take advantage of the shutdown in three years.

(As for the service additions/changes, it wouldn’t shock me if some of the M trains to Broadway Junction that will run when the line alone Myrtle is closed will be retained when the L shutdown occurs. The M will get five additional TPH along Sixth Avenue during rush hours — based on the current available shared space there with the F — and those may end up starting/terminating at B’way Junction instead of Metropolitan Avenue, in order to give L riders from Canarsie an easier connection to the central area of Midtown than having to detour to Wyckoff and then take the M back south to Broadway.)

wiseinfrastructure June 1, 2016 - 7:20 am

*run the atlantic avenue LIRR from Jamaica to Flatbush on 3 minute headways charging metrocard fares with transfers

this will free up a lot of capacity on the J line

*run some j/z trains only between Jamaica and East NY so as to minimize the pain for those people going to Jamaica and for those on the eastern portion of the line

*run some L trains via the WMB to Carnarsie
*increase the M trains maybe even running 10 car trains with the all doors only opening in manhattan and the eastern terminal
*charge a reduced fare on the L line in Brooklyn off hours to try to reduce the rush hour crunch (and make up for the “reduced service ” being provided

Yan June 1, 2016 - 3:03 pm

M cant have 10 car trains because none of the platforms can support 600 foot long trains

wiseinfrastructure June 1, 2016 - 3:11 pm

The platforms on the 6th Avenue IND are certainly long enough!

Extend the elevated platform at the L transfer and the end of the line at Metropolitan Ave. Allow the doors on the last two cars to open in Brooklyn only at these stations.

These two extensions (temporary?) should be fairly fast and cheap to build. One is elevated and the other is ground level!!!

Wiring the doors to remain closed at the other station should be no challenge in 2016!

bigbellymon4 June 1, 2016 - 4:39 pm

“Wiring the doors to remain closed at the other station should be no challenge in 2016!”

This the Metropolitan Transportation Authority we are talking about, right? The same Authority that took forever to start work on SAS, opened Hudson Yards WAY behind schedule, etc. How and why do you think that they will get this simple thing done easily?

Michael549 June 1, 2016 - 7:36 pm

With the doors on the last two cars do NOT OPEN some of the passengers (especially young male riders) will attempt to leave the train from between the cars. When such riders fall to their deaths either on the elevated sections of the line or within the subway tunnels the MTA will be sued to the maximum.

Generally passengers do not like to be inside of subway cars where the doors do not open – they do not FEEL safe.

Extending platforms on the underground sections is NOT the simple task it appears, and can be rather costly and time consuming. In some cases the placement of signals and other way-side equipment will have to be changed. In addition the construction work can not occur WHILE the trains are running – requiring more round-about back and forth travel to and from the open stations.

It is always easy to say, “Well just do this” – without fully understanding what is really involved with such major capital projects, and the huge costs involved. Even the work on the elevated portions of a subway route and the renovations to elevated stations can become very involved projects.

Brooklynite June 2, 2016 - 6:18 pm

Somehow the riders climbing out isn’t an issue at South Ferry, or at 145th & Lenox, or abroad. Extending platforms isn’t trivial, but it’s been under service several times over the years. Above ground especially, the only major consideration is moving the signals to let 10-car trains berth properly.

If one looks for reasons not to do something, one will always find them. That shouldn’t stop progress, though.

Walt Gekko June 3, 2016 - 4:44 pm

You can’t run 10-car trains on the (L) because the Eastern Division platforms are less than 600 feet. If you can extend Metropolitan Avenue from its current length of 480 feet, you can then POSSIBLY run nine-car trains because most of the stations in the Eastern Division I believe are actually 536 feet (from the days of the BMT Standards whose cars were 67 feet long and eight car trains of those were run at certain times), though it would be a tight fit to do that. Otherwise, you can’t do it.

Mike from Whitestone June 2, 2016 - 11:58 am

I like the idea to run some Canarsie service via the Williamsburg Bridge. It might help steer Canarsie/ENY riders away from the madness that will be Myrtle/Wyckoff and Lorimer/Metropolitan. Run these trains via 6th Ave and the Queens Blvd line and call them V (the R32s still have orange V bullets and since R32s are based in ENY yard, they could be used for this service).

TimK June 1, 2016 - 8:43 am

[Brooklyn Borough President Adams:] “The MTA has the ability and the responsibility to reduce the disruption that Brooklyn residents and business owners will experience, providing a variety of alternate routes including expanded service on other subway lines, a dedicated lane for buses on the Williamsburg Bridge, and more choices for commuters who want to travel by ferry or bicycle.”

The MTA controls neither the Williamsburg Bridge nor the streets that connect to it, which also need bus lanes. Those are the city’s responsibility. The MTA also doesn’t really provide bicycle facilities beyond accommodating cyclists at transit stations; it may need to do more along that line, but it can’t come anywhere near providing all the support cyclists will need in order to make a difference in the overall traffic situation.

You’d think a borough president would know the difference between the MTA and NYCDOT, but maybe I’m optimistic.

AMH June 1, 2016 - 12:09 pm

It would be nice if they were more tightly integrated, a la TfL.

A.G. June 1, 2016 - 9:40 am

At the Manhattan meeting, the question was asked if the MTA would consider constructing tail tracks at 8th Ave. They responded that the terminal is equipped to handle 28 trains per hour, and with the current schedule of 20 trains per hour, the 8th Ave terminal is not a bottleneck constraint.

It’s the power supply substations that are the current bottleneck, for which NYCT is constructing 3 additional substations. They claim this will provide traction power for 2 additional trains per hour, which still doesn’t max-out the 8th Ave station.

While this answer makes sense, we all know the real reason for tail tracks is shadow construction of a 10th avenue station (/s).

tacony June 1, 2016 - 9:59 am

I don’t regularly commute to 8th Ave, but every time I do pull into that station I’m struck by how slowly the train progresses and how long it takes for the doors to open. I assume this is due to the lack of tail tracks at the terminal. One would think it’d take a minute to travel from 6th to 8th Aves, but it always feels like it takes an eternity. Isn’t the slow speed reason enough to construct tail tracks here? To speed up commutes for thousands of people?

Bolwerk June 1, 2016 - 11:28 am

Yes, and if a 10th Avenue station were to be constructed, the right way to do it would be with tail tracks.

Adirondacker12800 June 1, 2016 - 12:10 pm

Building things in the river gets expensive. A station from 15th to 18th so the trains could someday go up Tenth Avenue to 72nd and Broadway…. 86th and Central Park West, 86th and Third with connections to 86th and Lex and 86th and Second… across the river to Northern Blvd…

Bolwerk June 2, 2016 - 12:15 pm

True enough I guess, but I was assuming such a station would be uptown-downtown aligned anyway.

Ninth Avenue looks more appealing to me anyway, given Tenth Avenue seems to be realtively unpopulated, a park, landfill(?), and a highway.

Kevin June 1, 2016 - 12:58 pm

The real reason they won’t install tail tracks is that 18 months is about 102 months short of the actual time required for construction, and they know this.

Brandon June 1, 2016 - 10:34 pm

The necessary construction would largely be beyond the 8th Ave service tracks so it wouldn’t necessarily need to be finished by the time the line reopens, though the closure would still be a nice time to start.

Brooklynite June 2, 2016 - 6:20 pm

The whole Contract I IRT was built in 50 months. The Empire State was built in 14 months. It’s sad how progress in this area is moving backwards*…

*Yes, I know, safety rules have (rightly) gotten more stringent. But that alone doesn’t explain such a drastic lengthening in timescales.

Kai B June 2, 2016 - 1:33 pm

I feel the speed of entrance into 8th Ave has significantly increased since CBTC was implemented.

Billy G June 1, 2016 - 12:56 pm

If you plan on spending any amount of time in LA, learn to ride a motorcycle. The weather, combined with the traffic, make it the only way to travel.

Tom June 1, 2016 - 1:58 pm

“I sort of disappeared on everyone last week. After Monday’s report on the W train, I didn’t have anything else ready for last week, and I was in Los Angeles for a mix of business and pleasure without much time to write. I know a few readers were asking after some additional content, and I’ll try to give a heads’ up next time before I disappear for a week.”

Relax Ben, we don’t pay for any of this, so you don’t owe us anything.

Brooklynite June 1, 2016 - 11:11 pm

Assuming that they handle the displaced L passengers somehow, the new portion of the L line better be completely overhauled. 10-car platforms with more staircases, tail tracks at 8th Av, perhaps PEDs and air-con in stations, etc. I doubt most of that will truly happen, but at least they should get rid of the water leaks at all the stations along the line…

Walt Gekko June 3, 2016 - 4:48 pm

600-foot platforms I would do if possible as part of an overall plan to do that with ALL Eastern Division stations to eventually have them all that length. The (L) obviously needs them first.

That said, you could do some work to extend the platforms at at Metropolitan to at least make the (M) trains nine cars since many of the stations in the Eastern Division as it is (albeit on a tight fit) can handle nine-car trains as they used to handle eight-car trains of 67-foot BMT Standards years ago that made for a 536-foot train.

That to me can work.

22r June 2, 2016 - 12:14 am

slightly off topic but the L train really needs to turn north and head up 10th avenue. there’s so much residential construction west of 10th avenue in the 40s and 50s and it’s laughable that all those residents have to walk 15+ minutes to get to a subway


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