We've come a long way, haven't we? Since learning, over three years ago, that Superstorm Sandy damage to the Canarsie Tunnel would necessitate some sort of L train closure, New Yorkers have endured a whiplash-inducing amount of twists. We've suffered mini-shutdowns and noxious fumes; sat through countless hours of MTA board squabbles; and stood watch as Governor Andrew Cuomo descended into the tunnel in the dead of night and emerged with an entirely new plan of his own. Promises about oversight have been made and swiftly broken. Perhaps worse, we've been forced to spend our days thinking about bench walls and pondering the comparative advantage of various polymers—precious hours we will never get back.

Now, come Friday at 8 p.m., the revised L train plan will actually begin. Maybe there is a part of you that is just a little bit excited? No?

More likely, if you are one of the hundreds of thousands of daily L train riders, or just a person whose commute touches North Brooklyn or Lower Manhattan, you are wondering how to navigate this pit of snakes for the next 15 to 20 months without losing your mind. Below, some practical guidance for getting around during the slowdown:

The L Train: The good news, if the MTA is to be believed, is that L train service will remain unaffected on weekdays. Instead of a full shutdown, the tunnel repairs will now take place one tube at a time on nights and weekends. That's when things are going to get messy.

Beginning at 8 p.m., service will begin "ramping down" to make room for work trains. By 9 p.m., the L will be running into Brooklyn every 12 minutes, and between Rockaway Parkway and Lorimer every 10 minutes. After 10 p.m. only three L trains will run per hour between Manhattan and Brooklyn.

Those 20 minute headways will remain throughout the entire weekend—a more than 70 percent drop in service at certain intervals. Publicly, the MTA says L travelers can expect their train to be "crowded and with potential long wait times to board." Privately, the authority is urging transit employees to prepare for such challenges as "rapidly changing station conditions" and "incidents or delays on other lines that impact travel alternatives."

So, if you are braving the L train after 8 p.m. on a weeknight or at any point on Saturday or Sunday, it's advisable to plan ahead. There is a high likelihood that things will change on the fly, and a distinct possibility of crush-loading. And if you do manage to get on a train, please remember to take off your damn backpack!

The Other Trains: To address potential crowding on the L, the MTA says they are increasing service on the M, 7, and G trains on weeknights and weekends. Additionally, free transfers will be available from Hewes and Lorimer Street J/M trains to Broadway G trains, and between Livonia Avenue on the L and Junius Street on the 3. A new service map and accompanying GIF lay out the options:

The MTA has also developed a set of travel guides that break down alternate service options and crowding concerns at specific stations—a handy resource that is inexplicably nowhere to be found on the front page of either of the MTA's two websites or official app.

The Buses: After weathering a good deal of criticism for reneging on a commitment to make 14th Street car-free during the shutdown, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Wednesday that the crosstown corridor would be getting bus priority, after all. That so-called "busway" will launch in June, coinciding with the belated arrival of easier-to-board Select Bus Service on the M14 line. Throughout the day, private through traffic will be banned from the corridor except in cases of pickups or drop-offs—enforcement details, tba—which in theory will speed up the famously sluggish crosstown buses.

In Brooklyn, the MTA will introduce a "Williamsburg Link" bus service on clockwise and counterclockwise routes between the Bedford and Lorimer L stops and the Marcy and Hewes Avenue J/M stops. Those buses are scheduled to run every 3 minutes during the day on weekends, and every 5 minutes between 9 p.m. and midnight on weekdays. They'll also run every 10 minutes after midnight until they stop for the night at 1:30 a.m.

According to the MTA, making use of these buses may be the "best bet" for cross-borough commuters. During the dreaded "busy ridership time," the authority anticipates that it could take 39 minutes to get between Bedford Avenue and Union Square on the L. But using an alternate route—the B91 to the J/M to the M14A—will take merely 35 minutes, and is thus recommended. (Pre-slowdown, traveling from Bedford Avenue to Union Square on a Saturday afternoon took about 8 minutes).

The Bikes: One year and four or five L train guides ago, transportation economist Charles Komonoff told Gothamist that cyclists would emerge as the true winner of the shutdown plan. As part of the mitigation efforts, the Department of Transportation had committed to adding several protected bike lanes in Brooklyn and Manhattan, while deploying thousands of pedal-assist Citi Bikes as part of a "shuttle service" over the Williamsburg Bridge.

Unfortunately, the e-bike plan stalled out earlier this month due to an unforeseen brake issue, and the supposedly protected Grand Street bike lane in Brooklyn continues to be plagued by design flaws and delivery trucks.

Still, Komonoff's forecast may prove to be broadly correct. As of Wednesday, the city has committed to make permanent the protected bike lanes on 12th and 13th Street. The controversial Grand Street lane will also be kept in place, with the DOT planning to "make adjustments" based on community feedback. And in the last week, Citi Bike has expanded along the L train corridor, including in Bushwick, with valet stations likely to arrive outside subway stations in the coming months.

For those able and willing, hopping on a bike may still be the best solution to surviving the coming slowdown.

The Ferries Late night ferry rides between Williamsburg and Stuyvesant Cove was once part of the alternative service plan, but no longer. Still, NYC Ferry does make three stops in Williamsburg and Greenpoint, which connect easily to Wall Street, East 34th Street, and beyond. You can't use a MetroCard yet, but for now at least, the price of a ferry is the same as a swipe. We're not sure what happened to that luxury e-ferry service, but we'll let you know if we find out.

The Cars: The rideshare giants have walked a careful line in the lead-up to the slowdown, positioning themselves as allies to public transit while clearly standing to gain from the disruption. During the weekend shutdowns this past winter, Via rolled out its $19 "L Train ViaPass," and reportedly saw a 50 percent increase in rides to and from Williamsburg. An early effort floated by Uber to create a new "Commuting Together" feature was ultimately dropped after the company failed to convince the city to relax restrictions on carpooling. And Lyft recently dropped the L from its name ("yft") for a promotional campaign across North Brooklyn.

Actual transit advocates, meanwhile, have long cautioned that a spike in for-hire vehicle usage will clog up city streets and bridges needed by buses during the slowdown. “The fear is that when people get frustrated they're going to hop in their cars, and it's going to cause many of the same traffic impacts we were afraid of with a full shutdown," the Riders Alliance's Danny Pearlstein previously told Gothamist.

Meanwhile, the much-hyped boutique shuttle service the New L has gone the way of the floating pontoon bridge and East River Gondola before it. But the company's owners say they are monitoring the situation, and if the "the proposal does not go as planned, then you can bet that The New L team will be back."

We the Commuters is a weekly newsletter about transportation from WNYC and Gothamist. Sign up below for essential commuting coverage delivered to your inbox every Thursday.

Loading...