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L trains mostly on schedule during first commute after tunnel repairs

Trains arrived every four to six minutes for most of the Monday morning commute after overnight Canarsie Tunnel work.

L trains ran relatively smoothly Monday morning, with

L trains ran relatively smoothly Monday morning, with the exception of a gap in the 6 a.m. hour after a train experienced mechanical problems.     Photo Credit: Vincent Barone

It was the first Monday commute during the Canarsie tunnel rehabilitation — and the L train showed up. 

Service on the line was relatively smooth through the rush hour, answering a critical question asked of the MTA: could the authority’s contractors clean up and clear out of the tunnel following the first weekend of construction work in time to avoid a messy Monday morning on the rails?

“This is beautiful,” MTA Transit President Andy Byford said from the Bedford Avenue station platform, as he observed several Manhattan-bound L trains arriving in rapid succession. 

“That’s what I want the service to be — relentless,” Byford added.

Construction crews cleared the tunnel by around 4:30 a.m. Monday, about a half-hour ahead of schedule, Byford said. And L trains for the most part kept to regular schedules through the morning, arriving at the station every four to six minutes, sometimes sooner. 

“I expected to come down the stairs and see bodies,” joked Sarah Dohrmann, a professor from Williamsburg, as she waited on the Bedford platform for an L train four minutes away.

At only one point Monday morning did Bedford Avenue commuters groan and curse under their breaths, a pretty solid result for a transit authority that is slowly bouncing back from a service crisis. At around 5:46 a.m., a train with mechanical problems — possibly a door malfunction, according to Byford — led to a massive gap without a train arriving at the station for more than 30 minutes. 

But that wasn’t related to the rehabilitation: “This is the daily challenge of running the subway,” Byford said. Not that it mattered much to riders delayed on the platform, though, who were not informed as to why the wait was so long.

“I’m going to start taking the J train — the J or the M. Because this is ridiculous,” said Joaquin Delgado, a plumber from Williamsburg. “If this is going to constantly keep happening, it’s not beneficial to me. It’s just wasting my time.”

Commuters have generally been frustrated with the service, but acknowledged it was needed to allow for the repairs to the Sandy-damaged East River tunnel. Jean Fox, also of Williamsburg, took the L eight times over the weekend. She was caught in a line outside of the station, but said she was impressed by the competency with which the MTA handled the crowd. 

“It’s either take the L or take a bus to a train to another train to get to Union Square,” she said. “That’s the way it has to be; you just have to get up earlier. There’s nothing I can do about it.”

Byford, who arrived at Bedford before 6 a.m. by train, alongside MTA managing director Ronnie Hakim, said there are plans for a debriefing with staff to perhaps make small tweaks to operations and communications. 

“Generally…this is a plan that we will progressively refine as we work through it,” Byford said. “I think we’ll get more used to it, and the customers will get more used to it.”

The transit president, though, couldn’t speak to why the MTA hasn’t released the modified contract with the work teams, Judlau and TC Electric. The authority has claimed to have saved $10 million on its original contract, but hasn’t disclosed the details of the new agreement.

“I’m focused on the operating side” of the construction, Byford said. 

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