Home L Train Shutdown As lawsuit awaits, DOT, MTA unveil April start date for L train shutdown

As lawsuit awaits, DOT, MTA unveil April start date for L train shutdown

by Benjamin Kabak

An MTA map shows service patterns during the L train shutdown. (Click to enlarge)

It’s now just six months until one of the largest transit diversion in New York City history, as the MTA and New York City Department of Transportation announced on Tuesday that the 15-month L train shutdown will begin on Saturday, April 27, 2019. Until the end of July 2020, no L trains will run between Brooklyn and Manhattan, as the MTA finally performs the rebuild of the Canarsie Tunnel, damaged in the flooding from Superstorm Sandy back in 2012. The shutdown, under attack by West Village NIMBYs who cannot stomach some street space in Manhattan given over to buses and bicyclists, promises to be disruptive throughout parts of Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan even with careful mitigation plans, and now the countdown is on.

“We’re continuing unprecedented efforts at public outreach, responding to local communities and giving as much notice as possible on key dates in this project,” NYC Transit President Andy Byford said in a statement. “With the L running as a Brooklyn-only service for 15 months starting after the weekend of April 27, we’ve been hard at work with our partners at NYCDOT and other City agencies to make sure that the alternate train, bus, ferry and bicycle networks work together to get people around successfully.”

Just how successful initial mitigation plans will be remains to be seen. Transit advocates are generally skeptical that a part-time busway on 14th Street and HOV3+ restrictions on the Williamsburg Bridge without corresponding requirements on nearby East River crossings along with no plan to address lower-capacity ride-sharing services along these routes will lead to crushing congestion, and the plans to increase subway service, while substantive, do not leave much room for error. If anything goes wrong, the cascading delays will lead to unmanageable crowding along lines that are expected to pick up the slack for the L train, but the real test will be how the city and MTA adapt the plan to demand during the first few days of the shutdown next spring. If they’re agile and quick, those HOV3+ restrictions can morph into bus-only hours, thus alleviating some expected congestion.

Lately, after years of community meetings, presentations and patiently fielding public inquiries, the MTA has settled on the details of the increased service. The MTA will run its own ferry service from Williamsburg beginning on April 21, 2019, and five new bus routes, including Select Bus Service for the M14, will commence that day as well. Just last week the MTA approved 198 new weekday roundtrips on other lines to carry the slack with G train riders enjoying 66 more roundtrips per day and the M 62. (The detailed breakdown begins on page 193 of this pdf.)

In approving these service increase, Andy Byford stressed their volumes. “We will be adding more than a thousand roundtrips each week and pushing our resources to capacity, which is also why you’re seeing so much preventative maintenance and repair work on all these lines already,” he said. “We are making these lines as reliable as possible for these new service levels starting in 2019.”

Meanwhile, in addition to the plans I have detailed before, the MTA and DOT announced air monitoring throughout the shutdown. This in response to neighborhood complaints that the plan to use diesel buses for mitigation will lead to unacceptably high levels or particulates. Experts, including Charles Komanoff, contend rightly that diesel buses are far cleaner than they were when they developed the reputation for pollution, but it’s clear that DOT and the MTA are particularly concerned with giving community groups ammunition that could torpedo any portions of the delicately balanced mitigation plan.

Meanwhile, the lawsuit filed by a self-proclaimed progressive who can’t stomach transit riders continues apace. Although the federal claims I detailed in April were dismissed following the August released of the Environmental Assessment, Arthur Schwartz refiled numerous claims objecting to the L train shutdown in state court a few weeks ago. The filing is available here as a PDF. I expect this complaint to be handled or dismissed for reasons similar to those I detailed in April, and the MTA and DOT have until the end of November to produce a state environmental review or move to dismiss the claim. It’s a last-gasp effort by West Village residents upset that they cannot have unfettered access to city streets for their private automobiles during an event disruptive to 200,000 subway riders per day. Make of that what you will, but with six months remaining until L train service shutdown, the clock is ticking.

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Gary Tomei October 31, 2018 - 12:35 am

Mr. Kabak
You are an unabashed liar and troll for the short sighted and misguided proponents of the DOT’s scheme in connection with the L train shutdown. Your slanderous statements concerning the legitimate complaints of the THOUSANDS OF MANHATTAN TAX PAYING LAW ABIDING CONCERNED RESIDENTS is nothing short of yellow journalism.
While you attack only those in the Village as objecting to the DOT plan, you fail to acknowledge the fact that there are also thousands of Manhattan residents, in other parts of the borough, including Chelsea, the Flatiron District, Chinatown and Soho that find serous falult with a DOT plan that threatens serious danger to the health and well being of
the residents of the areas affected by this nefarious plot, hatched by a fanatic DOT commissioner and her minions.
This is not a DOT plan to,” … give some street space in Manhattan over to buses and bicyclists”. It is a plot hatched by the lobbyists known Transportation Alternatives.
We, rightfully concerned citizens, have acknowleged that the shutdown will present difficulties for the commuting public and have offered to work with the DOT to help alleviate some of those problems; however, in typical bureaucratic arrogance, reminiscent of Robert Moses, the City officials have not seriously considered some perfectly valid mitigation plans we have offered. Before continuing to practice your slanderous yellow journalism take a moment and actually consider the facts. Perhaps, even a biased narrow minded troll, such as yourself, will be able to see the truth concerning the situation of which you write.

VLM October 31, 2018 - 12:52 am

Setting aside how utterly unhinged you sound, you don’t really think that moronic “night’s and weekends only for seven years” plan you selfish rich NIMBYs keep pushing is a legitimate or practical plan, do you? It’s truly amazing how you self-styled liberal champions in the West Village sound like a bunch of Trump-loving conspiracy theorists the second someone suggests carbon-spewing death machines don’t deserve every inch of public space we’ve stupidly and fatally ceded to them over the past few decades, even if temporary. You’ll survive the bike lanes, Gary, and it’s not some evil plot by a bunch of the crunchiest advocates you’ll ever meet in NYC at TA. Calm yourself, pal, especially if you’re throwing around terms that have actual legal meanings such as “slander,” which nothing in Ben’s post even vaguely resembles.

Alex October 31, 2018 - 11:34 pm

Well said. An appropriate assessment of this spitting tirade of a deeply entitled person, appalled that his affluence is not getting him his way for once.

Chet November 2, 2018 - 10:51 am

How do we embed a standing ovation video for VLM’s comment?
Seriously, I don’t think anyone could’ve have said it better.

Brian Howald October 31, 2018 - 12:53 am

“this nefarious plot, hatched by a fanatic DOT commissioner and her minions.”

“This is not a DOT plan to,’ … give some street space in Manhattan over to buses and bicyclists’. It is a plot hatched by the lobbyists known Transportation Alternatives.”

Wait, is it a “plot” hatched by DOT or by Transportation Alternatives?

Theorem Ox October 31, 2018 - 10:36 am

It need not be mutually exclusive.

One can be both an employee / political appointee of the NYCDOT and also a member of the Transportation Alternatives.

And from what I can tell, there certainly are a few people (especially in the latter category) that fits the bill.

JarekFA October 31, 2018 - 12:56 am

Just move to Florida already where you can drive your golf cart to the Publix and never have to worry about finding parking.

Alon Levy October 31, 2018 - 3:41 pm

Ew, no, Florida is on the cusp of electing a progressive governor, who the fuck needs more Republicans in the state?

David November 1, 2018 - 4:17 am

Publix! Hahaha, awesome!

Fool October 31, 2018 - 7:17 am

Upzone the village! White, rich, and exclusionary.

sonicboy678 October 31, 2018 - 9:08 am


MetroShadow October 31, 2018 - 9:49 am

All of those are most certainly words there, Mr Tomei…

BGGB October 31, 2018 - 10:24 am

I ran the numbers and your “THOUSANDS” are still lower than the 200,000 people per day who will be disrupted by the current plan.

By a factor of 200:1.

You and the rest of the aging boomers who want to selfishly ruin the transit plan for everyone else need to move to some other city.

Or just kindly STFU.

Your choice.

Chris October 31, 2018 - 10:32 am

You’re the only biased, narrow-minded troll here, Mr. Tomei. Also, you sound like an unhinged conspiracy theorist on top of that. These are 200,000 people’s lives — mine included — you’re trying to disrupt for your own selfishness. We all make sacrifices to live in a city like New York. Since you’re unwilling to make any, please move somewhere else. The Moon seems like it might be a good place for you.

Tim October 31, 2018 - 11:06 am

You’re welcome to offer links to your “perfectly valid mitigation plans”.

Sucks for you though that they’ll just use even more buses as it becomes clear this plan doesn’t go far enough.

SEAN October 31, 2018 - 8:42 pm

@ Mr. Tomei,

May I remind you of a quote from your own namesake – “Yeah… you blend.” From Marissa.

Have a nice day.

ChrisC November 1, 2018 - 2:16 am

Best uninformed rant I’ve read in a while Mr Tomei.

If there were some ‘perfectly valid mitigation plans’ then they would have been considered and implemented.

The fact they haven’t shows they weren’t valid at all. And who is this unnamed ‘we’ you cite? Come on name your group or are you the yellow one?

The only ‘narrow minded troll’ here is you.

Will November 1, 2018 - 11:06 am

Sorry. But there’s electric busses that will using the route. Sorry if you have a entitlements disorder

Asher Samuels October 31, 2018 - 2:01 am

It sounds like you touched a raw nerve, or at least managed to awaken one of Arthur Schwartz’s minions.

Nyland8 October 31, 2018 - 6:50 am

And this too shall pass. Hopefully in my lifetime.

Paul Berk October 31, 2018 - 7:39 am

Tomei is just saying aloud what we’ve all been thinking all these years… (just kidding, Ben!)

Gary October 31, 2018 - 9:40 am

Has the right hand of DOT figured out yet that they plan to run their busses on 14th Street, right through the space (14th and Second) that the left hand is planning to use as construction staging area?

TimK October 31, 2018 - 11:28 am

Who’s doing construction?

Benjamin Kabak October 31, 2018 - 12:34 pm

The MTA and DOT swear up and down that construction staging areas along 14th St. will be reduced prior to start of the shutdown, but I think it’s reasonable for everyone to be skeptical of that claim.

John-2 November 1, 2018 - 11:18 pm

You would think they would stage at Avenue A, since that’s where they’re already going to be doing the construction of the new First Avenue station entrance, and the site already is on the western edge of the tunnel’s problem area.

Russ October 31, 2018 - 12:41 pm

They say 88 fewer L trains on weekdays… how many are there currently? Can only seem to find ridership data online.

Benjamin Kabak October 31, 2018 - 2:05 pm

An unhelpful answer but “a lot.” They run around 20 tph during peak hours. The headways on Canarsie/Williamsburg service will be around 6-8 minutes so that’s where they cut out 88 trains or so.

J Adlai October 31, 2018 - 5:59 pm

This can help. That shows the gtfs data, which counts every trip that happens. You could manually count, but I’m sure there’s an easier way to parse the data (Excel).

East 12th Street October 31, 2018 - 3:27 pm

Jeeeezzz… I live on East 12th in a co-op and very few of my neighbors own cars — it’s literally two couples who have kids. As soon as the bike lane went in, they found new parking spaces. Many more of my neighbors ride bikes to work. I’ve been asking my neighbors what they think of the bike lane and no one’s up in arms about it over here. It’s a non-issue. I like it because without the cars blocking the view up and down the street, I can see more of the planters and trees on our block.

I still worry about how all the busses will work and I know there will be a lot of traffic coming through in the next few years, but the parking issue isn’t an issue for the people in my building.

Alistair November 1, 2018 - 1:54 pm

So… a real question.

Why did they schedule so much construction on the Queens Blvd line during this period that they can’t add any extra service? And if they can’t get the M to Forest Hills, why are they sending it to 96th St nights and weekends instead of Queens Plaza? There’s a pocket track there that the M, unlike the G, actually _can_ use. And don’t they need every westbound train they can get at Court Square?

Walt Gekko November 1, 2018 - 3:47 pm

That work I believe was started before the (L) shutdown ever happened and they can’t halt that work, even for this.

J Adlai November 2, 2018 - 8:12 am

The M to 96th/2nd is because trying to relay an M train at Queens Plaza while also operating the E at 8 trains per hour is a recipe for disaster.

The Queens Boulevard work is all related to signal modernization, it would be hard to postpone that effort, especially since that’s what the public has been told is the cause of the current malaise with the subways. At any rate, they are already operating at capacity on the express tracks, and terminal operations policy means they can’t really add more service on the local either.

John-2 November 2, 2018 - 2:36 pm

But they might need to consider the pocket track use during weekday AM and especially PM rush hours for a few of the extra M trains, because the MTA already has problems with the M and R trains backing up during the PM rush coming into Continental Avenue, and the added M service is just going to make that problem worse.

They would have to coordinate M and E service coming into Fifth Avenue-53rd, so that the E always ran in front of the M, to give trains a chance to be emptied out at enter the pocket track at Queens Plaza. But doing that would get the extra Ms to and from Court Square, where they’ll be needed to handle the added crowds from the G train, while keeping them away from Continental, where they’ll mainly slow down riders trying to get into the final few local stops.

sonicboy678 November 2, 2018 - 2:57 pm

Yeah, let’s use the pocket track while the E is already running at 12-15 tph along with the M at a similar frequency. What could possibly go wrong?

John-2 November 4, 2018 - 11:07 pm

Only really need to do it with 2-3 trains per PM rush, in order to get a few more trains between Myrtle-Wyckoff and Court Square, which is where the add-in trains are needed, and not irk the local passengers stuck between stops on Queens Blvd. Run the extra Ms to Continental and you’re going to jam them up from Grand Avenue to Continental even more then it is now.

sonicboy678 November 5, 2018 - 10:39 am

Having those M trains using Queens Boulevard at all will kill it.

sonicboy678 November 5, 2018 - 10:40 am

“Using” should be “use”, but I can’t edit it…

BruceNY November 3, 2018 - 1:41 pm

Could you explain what this “terminal operations policy” is?

Walt Gekko November 1, 2018 - 3:46 pm

This lawsuit to me is about one thing:

Wanting to keep the (L) running in Manhattan between 1st and 8th Avenue during the shutdown even though there could be a lot of unintended consequences with doing so.

I had said previously if you did that, it could be done by taking having eight, four-car sets of trains operating between 1st and 8th Avenues using one track to terminate (operating single-track between 1st Avenue and just east of Union Square) running a maximum of three trains at any one time (with five sets of spares to allow for problems since being able to do any swap-outs would be limited at best).

sonicboy678 November 2, 2018 - 9:27 am

And no place to maintain the damn cars…

Thomas Schmidt November 4, 2018 - 11:39 am

How long can a car go between maintenance? It strikes me that with relatively modern trains you might make it 15 months. Also, there’s the possibility of finishing one tube earlier to provide a way, one night, to drags a train through a raw tunnel.

According to this link, subway cars go 160,000 miles before failure. Call the distance from first to 8th Avenue 1.5 miles, or 3 miles round trip. That means that each car could theoretically make 53,000 trips. With about 460 days in the shutdown, that means each car could theoretically make 115 round trips per day. One round trip every 12 minutes per car or car set. Load in 8 car sets and you could theoretically run a train every 1.5 minutes before hitting the need to maintain them all.

It’s not impossible to try.

sonicboy678 November 4, 2018 - 8:21 pm

It only takes one failure to cripple the entire thing, and any cars moved over are committed resources. Cite an average from a few years ago all you want, but even the best of maintenance won’t be enough to guarantee that the cars will be able to last without incident.

No, the M shuttle is not a good comparison, as the Myrtle Avenue Line has Fresh Pond Yard for storage (and a small portion was temporarily converted to handle maintenance for the R42s, not to mention that the line and yard are open to the elements instead of completely underground/under buildings).


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