After many months of fanfare and confusion, construction on the Sandy-damaged L train tunnel between Brooklyn and Manhattan is scheduled to start Friday evening. The MTA says riders should expect L trains to run every 20 minutes on weeknights and weekends, which means it might be faster for riders to seek alternatives than rely on the L train during peak construction times. (On weeknights, the MTA says the L will run every 10 minutes within Brooklyn, with trains in and out of Manhattan running every 20 minutes.)
That’s easier said than done for commuters on the far eastern end of the L line, in Canarsie, Brooklyn. This week we rode the L and asked Canarsie residents how they’re preparing for the slowdown.
Two types of Canarsie commuters emerged from those we spoke with: the “at least we’ve got transfer options” kind, and the “we still need this train to bring us to the end of the line!” kind.
Carol Nelson is one of the optimists, relatively speaking. A Canarsie resident who regularly commutes to Queens on weekends for her job in home health care, Nelson said she only recently noticed the MTA’s hot pink signs warning that construction work would be starting soon, but didn’t know the details.
“I saw the sign that says, ‘Work starts on the 26th,’ but it doesn’t tell you overnight,” said Nelson. After we shared a packet of MTA information about the L train service changes, she said she’ll definitely get caught in the slowdown schedule, and would need to build in extra time for her commute.
“When you’re in Canarsie, as long as you get anything it’s good, even if you have to wait a bit,” said Nelson. “We’re just keeping our fingers crossed and praying.”
Abina Clarke is a 36-year-old mental health worker who commutes from Canarsie to Queens six days a week. She was surprised to learn the L train would start slowing down as early as 8 p.m. on weekdays, which means her commute home might get delayed. Her only public transportation alternative late at night, if the L train is running with unbearably long headways, is to take the Long Island Rail Road to Atlantic Terminal.
“But by Atlantic I don’t feel safe, because it’s dark, you know?” said Clarke. “Especially in the evening time, I don’t feel safe over there.”
Clarke said she’ll either pay for an Uber in those scenarios, or more seriously consider buying a car.
Greg Joseph, a 25-year-old Canarsie resident who also said he may get his own car to avoid public transportation, had this passing advice as he got off the train at Rockaway Parkway: “Whatever time you gotta be somewhere, wake up an hour earlier. And then another hour earlier.”
See the full-size version of the map right here. (MTA)
Adisa Lolu, a 44-year-old security guard who works late at night, was fired up from a painful L train commute home the night before.
“I had to wait 30 minutes!” said Lolu. His usual shift lasts from 4 p.m. to 12 p.m., so he’s grown accustomed to long wait times during the overnight hours.
“Going to work, coming back home is not easy right now,” Lolu continued, saying he noticed the MTA signs yesterday for the first time but it wasn’t clear to him what kind of work would be starting. “The time lag in between the leaving train and the upcoming one is not encouraging at all.”
David Germain, a 34-year-old security contractor for clubs and bars, said he often finds himself on the L at odd hours.
“I was thinking of alternatives the first time around,” said Germain, referring to the original “total shutdown” plan. “This time it’s gonna be a little bit bad, but it’s better than not completely working at all.”
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