The Manhattan installment of the meeting about the L train shut down took place in 14th st’s opulent Salvation Army Theater. Officials including MTA Chief of Staff Donna Evans, CEO Thomas Prendergast, and the organization’s President Veronique Hakim spoke generally about the need for repairs and presented two options for conducting work on the Canarsie tubes, the cast iron tunnels which transport us safely under the East River every day.
The tunnels themselves were damaged by Superstorm Sandy’s floodwaters. They inundated the concrete structures which carry important cables under the river. After the massive project is complete, Hakim estimated that construction workers will have replaced 7 miles of concrete and 51 miles of communication cables.
Additionally, First Avenue and Bedford Avenue will receive upgrades in the form of new entrances, and elevators. Perhaps most importantly, a new substation will make it possible to increase capacity by two trains an hour.
The first construction option offers no service into Manhattan (or in Manhattan). The full closure would last about one and a half years, but service from Bedford all the way to Canarsie would run “normally.”
The second construction option maintains the connection between Brooklyn and Manhattan at about 20% of current capacity. The partial closure would obviously take nearly twice as long, and some could say it would be more disruptive to those L train riders who ride primarily in Brooklyn.
Under this option, service would run from Canarsie to Lorimer, partially to control crowding at the Bedford Ave station where people hoping to get on a train to Manhattan could be waiting well over 15 minutes for their turn. Currently, this second option would include a shuttle from Lorimer to Bedford.
The answers to questions asked by the public emphasized how little officials know about the details surrounding transit alternatives: responses about the specifics of alternative options were characterized by an emphasis on the fact that plans were still in the early stages, and that non-trail transit is the typically the purview of the Department of Transportation.
Questions about the potential ferry, expanded shuttle bus service, the cost of alternative transit, increasing J train service at night and b24 bus service generally were posed by residents of both affected boroughs, and officials responded for the most part by suggesting this meeting was about fact-finding and learning from the public what kinds of alternatives they would like to see.
State Senator Brad Hoylman floated two ideas which were met with the most enthusiastic applause of the night: closing 14th street to vehicular traffic and offering free ferry service. It’s clear there is no shortage of ideas. However, as Ms Hakim pointed out early in the Q&A portion of the evening, officials have yet to get input from many of the affected straphangers: for instance, Canarsie residents have yet to weigh in on what their needs will be during the shutdown.
A lot can change in the two and a half years before we have to say goodbye to consistent L train service into Manhattan, but we will follow developments closely.