Freaking out about the L train shutdown? You're not alone. The L train plays an integral role in getting hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers between Manhattan and Brooklyn every day.
In 2012, superstorm Sandy’s surge flooded the Canarsie Tunnel under the East River with millions of gallons of salt water, causing severe damage.
In response, the MTA said it would need to shut down the L train between Manhattan and Brooklyn for 15 months beginning in April 2019 so that it could make critical repairs.
The state-run agency and the city Department of Transportation have since unveiled a comprehensive plan to mitigate the effects of the shutdown. The agencies also released an analysis of the potential environmental impacts the mitigation plan, dubbed the Alternative Service Plan, could have on the city.
The City Council, meanwhile, has passed several bills aimed at keeping commuters informed and the agencies accountable during the rehabilitation project.
Below, find out more about Sandy's impact, the shutdown plan, the official transportation alternatives, community input and the unofficial proposals that have been floated by others.
What is the L train shutdown plan?
In 2016, the MTA set forth two proposals on how to go about shutting down the L line for repairs.
After considering an operational review and input from the community, the MTA decided to suspend service between Eighth Avenue in Manhattan and Bedford Avenue in Brooklyn for 18 months beginning January 2019 at the earliest. But in April 2017, the agency's board voted for the project to begin in April 2019 and last 15 months instead.
During the shutdown, L train service will continue to operate in Brooklyn between Bedford Avenue and Rockaway Parkway.
The MTA also plans to repair and improve stations closest to the section that runs under the East River. New stairs and elevators will be placed in the Bedford Avenue station in Brooklyn and the First Avenue station in Manhattan, the agency said.
The other option that was on the table would have shut down one of the tubes at a time, which would have allowed for limited subway service between Manhattan and Brooklyn, but would have taken three years to complete repairs.
What are the alternatives during the L train shutdown?
Here's a look at what the MTA and DOT plan to do to help L train riders:
Additional subway service on the J, M, Z, C and G lines:
- An additional five trains will run on the M line, which will operate into midtown 24-7.
- More cars will be added to G trains.
- Service on the E line will be increased.
- C trains will be lengthened to 600 feet.
- Additional turnstile and stair area capacity will be provided at stations along those routes.
- The MTA expects to reopen or expand as many as 24 staircases at subway stations on or near the L line in an effort to stem overcrowding issues it anticipates. The improvements will happen at the Metropolitan Avenue and Hewes Avenue stations, but further details about other selected stations have not yet been released.
- Free MetroCard transfers will be provided between the G at Broadway and the Lorimer-Hewes J, M and Z station, as well as at the Junius Street 3 train station and the L train at Livonia Avenue.
- The DOT will add new crosswalks, bike parking and pedestrian spaces to the Myrtle and Broadway corridors near the J, M and Z lines and improve crossings around the Nassau Avenue G train stop.
"L-Alternative" buses will have a dedicated lane across the Williamsburg Bridge. There are four new bus routes:
- L1 SBS route, which will operate between Grand Street in Brooklyn and First Avenue-15th street in Manhattan.
- L2 SBS route, which will operate between Grand Street in Brooklyn and SoHo.
- L3 SBS route, which will operate between Bedford Avenue in Brooklyn and SoHo.
- L4 SBS route, which will operate between Bedford Avenue in Brooklyn and First Avenue-15th street in Manhattan.
- The L2 SBS route will link up with the previously announced M14 SBS to provide overnight service to and through Manhattan via 14th Street.
A dedicated busway will be added in Manhattan:
- 14th Street, between Third and Eighth avenues, will be available only to buses between 5 a.m. and 10 p.m. All other vehicle traffic will not be permitted during those times.
The busway will launch on Jan. 9, three months ahead of the L train shutdown.
- Upgraded Select Bus Service treatments, including a sidewalk expansions and more pedestrian space, will be added to 14th Street.
- A new pedestrian space will be created on Union Square West between 14th and 15th streets and 16th and 17th streets.
- A new pedestrian area with a bike parking hub will be installed on University Place between 13th and 14th streets.
A new MTA ferry route will connect North Williamsburg with Stuyvesant Cove:
- Service will operate between 6 a.m. and midnight on weekdays and between 6 a.m. and 2 a.m. on weekends.
- Ferries will accept MetroCards and Select Bus Service ticketing.
- The Stuyvesant Cove ferry station will connect with M14 SBS and M23 SBS.
- Eight ferries can carry about 1,190 riders per hour.
- Connections for cyclists at Stuyvesant Cove and the East River Greenway will be improved.
Increased and improved services for cyclists:
- Cyclists will see two separate, one-way bike lanes on 12th and 13th avenues in Manhattan.
- A protected bike lane will be installed on Delancey Street between Allen Street and the Williamsburg Bridge.
- Citi Bike operator Motivate will be adding 1,250 new bikes in northern Brooklyn and Manhattan, as well as 2,500 new docks.
- Citi Bike will offer up to 10 staffed valet stations near transit hubs.
- A pedal-assist shuttle will be operated across the Williamsburg Bridge.
The MTA and DOT have held more than 40 public meetings to discuss the project and transportation alternatives since announcing the L train would need to be shut down.
The meetings began in 2016 after community members expressed outrage at a lack of initial information about the shutdown. Since then, subway riders and transit advocates have been outspokenly critical of the two agencies about what they say is a lack of communication and subpar mitigation plans.
The DOT and MTA vowed to hold more public meetings as plans move forward, and recently held a forum to discuss an environmental impact study conducted on its proposed mitigation plans.
Manhattan residents are also invited to attend a town hall meeting being organized by the MTA and DOT on Monday, Sept. 17, at 6:30 p.m. The meeting will be held at the Middle Collegiate Church, located at 112 Second Ave.
Unofficial alternatives proposed during the shutdown
The MTA and city DOT may have put forth an official plan on how to get New Yorkers between Brooklyn and Manhattan during the L train shutdown, but that hasn't stopped the more creative minds in the city from offering their own ideas.
Dozens of people took part in the launch of the so-called L Bike Train on April 12. The bike train aims to promote cycling as a viable commuting alternative during the shutdown by offering strength in numbers.
All cyclists, from novices to veterans, are invited to bike together on their daily commutes over the Williamsburg Bridge via Grand Street. The bike train will be held weekly leading up to the start of the L train shutdown roughly a year from now.
In February, a Kickstarter fundraising campaign was started to support the construction of what is known as a pontoon bridge, pictured above. The proposed project, called the L-Ternative Bridge, would have used 30 pontoons made out of 90-foot-long deck barges to support a two-lane roadway for buses and two walking/biking paths over the East River, however, it did not meet its fundraising goal.
The L-Ternative Bridge and L Bike Train are the latest in a long list of proposals that have surfaced since the shutdown was announced, including a renewed push for an East River Skyway, Newtown Creek boat shuttles and the "L Transporter," a floating, inflatable pedestrian tube across the East River.
How did Sandy damage the Canarsie Tunnel?
When Sandy slammed into New York, it brought a massive storm surge that flooded the coast. The MTA said the Canarsie Tunnel was one of nine underwater tunnels that flooded during the storm, all of which needed extensive repairs. The Canarsie Tunnel in particular was flooded with 7 million gallons of salt water, according to the MTA.
A 7,110-foot-long section of both Canarsie tubes suffered damage to tracks, signals, switches, power cables, signal cables, communication cables, lighting, cable ducts and bench walls, the MTA said. In order to protect the structural integrity of the entire tunnel, the MTA said bench walls throughout that section need to be rehabilitated.
Work on other MTA tunnels has already been accomplished through night and weekend closures, while the Montague Tunnel under the East River, which serves the R line, was shutdown for over a year and the G train's tunnel was closed for two months, according to the MTA.
L line facts and figures
The L line runs from Eighth Avenue and 14th Street in Manhattan to Rockaway Parkway in Brooklyn, making it one of only three crosstown subway lines in Manhattan.
The L train's daily weekday ridership between Manhattan and Brooklyn is 225,000, while its daily ridership along the entire line is 400,000, according to the MTA. Ridership on the L line has more than doubled since 1990, the MTA said.
How is the L train rehabilitation project funded?
The contract that the MTA approved for the Canarsie Tunnel rehabilitation is projected to cost $477 million.
According to Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-Manhattan), the MTA was awarded $5 billion in federal Sandy aid, and funds for the infrastructure improvements on the Canarsie Tunnel were prioritized.