If the city ranked subway lines with letter grades, the L-train might get an F. Commuters are already bracing themselves for January 2019, when a vital section of the L-train will shut down for an estimated 18 months. The MTA and City Department of Transportation say the line needs major repairs due to damage from SuperStorm Sandy. Now, they’re holding public meetings to ask commuters what transit options they prefer. And while many still dread the shutdown, it’s possible some lasting transportation improvements might come of it. Camila Kerwin reports. [0:28]
KERWIN 1: When it comes to how the city will manage the L-train shutdown, some ideas floating around include expanding Citi Bike, improving service to other train lines, and making 14th street car-free. But those options aren’t a big comfort for Zachary El-Ocla, who relies on the L daily.
ZACHARY EL-OCLA 1:
I know they’re trying to like, mediate it with buses, and new routes… but uh…how it seems to go with construction in New York City, if they say it takes 3 years it’s gonna take, you know, 5 or however many…Honestly it makes me wanna move away from the area. [0:15]
KERWIN 2: Michael Arnone is also considering leaving the neighborhood.
MICHAEL ARNONE 1:
I’m gonna tell my landlord that my rent has to be lower or I’ll go somewhere else. [0:03]
KERWIN 3: This frustration is common. Three hundred thousand people use the L to go between Brooklyn and Manhattan each day. Naima Blasco says her commute is unpredictable enough, even without a closure..
NAIMA BLASCO 1:
I mean we already are seeing delays just in weekend and late night, and that’s affecting me getting to work. There’s not really many options around.
So I don’t deny that if the L-train shuts down tomorrow, it will be chaos. [0:05]
KERWIN 4: That’s Henry Grabar. He’s written a lot about New York’s subway and transportation system, and he thinks the shutdown could be just the crisis the city needs — that it might corner government officials into making big changes to accommodate disrupted commuters. For some ideas, he’s looking backwards.
Our East River bridges historically, all of them used to have more rail transit than they do now. And as they switched over to car lanes, the number of crossings that was made on them everyday has pretty much consistently gone down since the 1920s 30s and 40s. [0:18]
KERWIN 6: Grabar thinks more city buses and fewer cars on the Williamsburg bridge could help make up for for the loss of L-train service. In fact, buses are a core part of any plan to replace the L. Which means people like Wendy Pollack, a spokesperson of the Regional Plan Association, are having to think a lot about what makes buses so slow in the city. The biggest culprit? MetroCards.
I’m sure you know, you’ve had the experience of sitting at a bus while it’s stopped and there are thirty people waiting to board and, that takes a long time. Right? [0:07]
KERWIN 7: One solution might be to have everyone pay for bus fare in advance, like they do on Select Bus Service. It could even go so far as to make 14th street open only to pedestrians, cyclists, and buses for certain parts of the day . That’s right: no private cars on 14th street. This is one of Grabar’s favorite ideas.
I think that when the L-train finally comes back into service, people are gonna look at these emergency crisis solutions that were derived and say, hey this is actually kind of better. [0:10]
KERWIN 8: It’s a long way between now and then, though. And that leaves people like Zachary El-Ocla, from the Bedford Avenue stop, feeling apprehensive.
ZACHARY EL-OCLA 2:
I would like to think that those would be enough to make everything still run smoothly. But I just don’t know. And I don’t want to bank on that. [0:09]
KERWIN 9: The next public workshop to give the MTA and the City Department of Transportation feedback about how to manage the shutdown will take place on February 16th, in Williamsburg.
Camila Kerwin, Columbia Radio News.