In the entire subway system, only the L and No. 7 lines have their own tracks that are not shared with other lines. The L is also one of the few crosstown Manhattan subway lines -- there are only three.
The L train uses computer-based technology called communication-based train control, which is a signal system that is more modern than other train lines. It's being installed on the No. 7 train. It lets the MTA run more trains by knowing precisely where they are. "Service frequencies were boosted and this gave rise to an economic revival in Williamsburg, Bushwick, and other Brooklyn communities," said MTA board member Andrew Albert, who chairs the Transit Riders Council.
But the signaling has its own issues. "It has technology on it that not a lot of other train lines have," said one L train motorman. "When all things work together, it's supposed to put more trains on the line, closer together." However, sometimes the combination of the old infrastructure and the new signaling makes the computers overcautious and too sensitive. This can throw the train brakes into emergency, and cause delays in train service. "Sometimes the computer system goes haywire," a motorman said. "It takes about twenty minutes to walk around the train to make sure there's nothing under it. Nine times out of 10, it's nothing."
What's another source of delays on the L line? Even though the L comes often during rush hour, it's common for riders to hold the doors for their friends or someone racing for the train. "Pretty soon we'll be one to two minutes late," said a train operator. "It's a domino effect."
Why do some trains stop at Myrtle-Wyckoff, rather than reaching the end of the line? To get more trains from Brooklyn to Manhattan in the morning, the MTA has some trains turn around at the Myrtle-Wyckoff station, where there is enough track space to do so. There is low ridership to Canarsie during the morning rush, but trains are packed coming into Manhattan.
Some of the L line stations are known for some of the most ornate tile work in the subway system, such as the Bushwick Avenue-Aberdeen Street and Morgan Avenue stations. "They all have gorgeous tile work," said Albert.
(Credit: Linda Rosier)