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L train shutdown: MTA to use larger ferryboats as service alternative

The agency will run a fleet of two 240-person vessels every 7.5 minutes during peak weekday hours between Williamsburg and Stuyvesant Cove.

During the L train shutdown, the MTA will

During the L train shutdown, the MTA will opt to run a fleet of two 240-person vessels, instead of the initially planned 149-capacity ferries, between Williamsburg and Manhattan's Lower East Side. Photo Credit: NEWSDAY/NEWSDAY FILE PHOTO-RAIA

Bigger boats are on the way for anxious L train riders.

The MTA on Wednesday announced timetables and an increase in capacity for its ferry service to shuttle a small fraction of displaced subway riders during the L train shutdown. After listening to community feedback, the authority said it will opt to run a fleet of two 240-person vessels, instead of the initially planned 149-capacity ferries, between Williamsburg and Manhattan's Lower East Side.

“We only expect a small portion of our customers to choose a ferry over the subway or bus, but we’re keeping our promise to listen to your feedback and if any aspect of our alternate service plan needs tweaking, then we will do that,” said NYC Transit president Andy Byford in a statement.

NY Waterway has been selected to run the service, which will charge passengers $2.75 per ride and will offer free transfers to local subways and buses. It will cost about $22 million to operate, funded through the federal government, according to the MTA.

On most weekdays, the ferries will run between 6 a.m. and midnight from the existing NYC Ferry landing Stuyvesant Cove by East 20th Street and a temporary landing located at North Sixth Street in Williamsburg. During peak weekday hours — between 7 a.m. and 10 a.m., and 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. — ferries will run every 7.5 minutes. Wait times will grow to 10 or 15 minutes during certain off-peak weekday hours.

On Friday and Saturday nights, the service will be extended to 2 a.m. with 15-minute wait times.

About 225,000 daily L train riders who rely on the subway line to get between Manhattan and Brooklyn will have to find a new way to get around next April when the MTA plans to shut down service from Bedford Avenue and 8th Avenue stations for a 15-month project to rehabilitate the line’s tunnel under the East River.

The MTA and the Department of Transportation expect a vast majority of displaced L riders to switch to other subway lines, and will boost service or extend trains on the J, M, Z, G, C and 7 lines. The MTA and DOT will also run several temporary bus routes over the Williamsburg Bridge; instituting a temporary busway along 14th Street for the majority of each day and building new bike lanes for those looking to avoid the subways entirely. 

Though the larger vessels will increase ferry capacity — accommodating just under 2,000 people per hour in each direction — the MTA is still planning for the mode to move about 4 percent of displaced subway riders.

“The closure of the L train tunnel will dramatically alter commuting routines for hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers,” said NYC DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg in a statement. “Along with increased subway service, alternative buses and better cycling connections, including expanded Citi Bike, MTA and DOT are working cooperatively to provide reliable travel alternatives to the L train across the East River.”

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