L train-dependent Brooklyn residents, business owners and officials met in Williamsburg Wednesday night to grapple with the paucity of L train service alternatives. Some voiced creative possible solutions to L outages during upcoming long term suspension of L service between Brooklyn and Manhattan. The most ambitious proposal of them all? Create a third tube for L train service under the East River.
The meeting, held at Swinging Sixties Senior Center at 211 Ainslie street in East Williamsburg, featured a panel of speakers that included some of the business owners, community organizers, and political representatives that make up the L Train Coalition. Felice Kirby, the owner of Teddy’s Bar & Grill on Berry St, opened the meeting with the statement that the Coalition has met, and will be meeting again, with MTA officials to discuss potential economic repercussions to local businesses and L train commuters.
After official statements, the floor was opened for discussion of possible solutions to the inevitable disruption to the L line.
Some of the public’s ideas include shutting down one tube at a time, though in such a scenario, the repairs could take as long as 7 years to complete (with regular service disruptions); dedicated shuttle lanes on the Williamsburg bridge, and increases in east river ferry and M and G train service, such as more trains for the G line.
Most notably, the construction of a third tunnel was proposed. Construction for a third tube would inevitably be costly and require extensive labor preceding any repair work; additionally, a third tunnel would feature the same vulnerabilities as the existing two tunnels during future weather events of the same proportions as Hurricane Sandy.
None of these possibilities, even a third tunnel, could fully resolve the issues at hand. To illustrate the magnitude of the transit dilemma, a local engineer explained to fellow meeting attendees that between the hours of 8am and 9am, 20,000 commuters cross the east river on the L. 400 buses an hour would be necessary to accommodate so many riders (which, for scale, is the equivalent to the capacity of the entire Staten Island ferry fleet). Even in the scenario that a rush hour such as this went flawlessly, lots more buses would be needed to accommodate the 50,000 commuters who typically head to Manhattan between 9am & 10pm.
Minna Elias, New York Chief of Staff for Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney, stated that after two meetings with MTA representatives, the Congresswoman’s office “still [doesn’t] know specifics of what is wrong.” Officials who have seen photos of the insides of the tunnel describe them as “dilapidated,” but additional details have not been made public. Elias also emphasized that millions of dollars in federal emergency funds allocated to fixing the Canarsie tunnel are not subject to public oversight nor formally secured for the project, since official plans have not been proposed.
The Coalition has created a draft of the letter that will be sent to MTA to establish a deadline by March 2016 to meet with the public to discuss the future of the L train. Here it is: