Last week, riders on the L train were treated to delays, mechanical and signal problems, and even a service suspension due to police activity.
Guess we might as well start getting used to it.
The MTA has officially announced plans to shut down the line for 18 months beginning in January of 2019.
The closure is necessary because Superstorm Sandy’s floods badly damaged walls, tracks and cables in the subway line’s East River tunnel in 2012. But the disruption will have a tremendous impact on the commuters who make more than 200,000 trips on the L train between Manhattan and Brooklyn each day and the small businesses located on popular stops on each side of the East River.
The MTA has to carefully craft plans to help commuters during the shutdown. Those efforts should go beyond free transfers and shuttle buses, though they’re important. If the MTA does this right, its actions could have a lasting impact even after the L train returns. There should be new ferry service, added G train cars, and more trains on nearby subway lines, like the J, Z and M. The MTA should contemplate a dedicated bus lane over the Williamsburg Bridge, more Select Bus service in Manhattan, and added Citi Bike docks, too.
Then there are the bigger ideas that also deserve serious consideration. There’s talk of closing 14th Street to all private traffic, allowing only bikes, pedestrians and public buses. And the newest idea: routing the E train to continue from its current endpoint at the World Trade Center into Brooklyn and then on to the G line. There’s time to determine whether such grand plans are feasible and then make them happen.
Under the best of circumstances, the shutdown is going to be tough for commuters and business owners. It’ll take patience, understanding, planning and flexibility.
Then there’s the project itself. This is an opportunity not only to repair walls and tracks, but also to improve stations and signals, and to enhance and modernize the line.
When the L train returns to service, it should provide a better experience for riders. Only then can we say that the disruption and difficulty were worth it.