Additional consequences of a long-term suspension of L train service between Brooklyn and Manhattan have been trickling in since January—last month we learned that the MTA will shut down sections of the M train as soon as summer 2017 to prepare that line for an influx of L train refugees, and now the Wall Street Journal has learned that the authority may suspend all L train service in Manhattan for the duration of the Canarsie Tube repair work, starting as soon as late 2018.
Because the L train tracks in Manhattan don't merge with any other train lines, L subway cars in need of maintenance or routine inspections will be unable to reach their train yard in East New York if the Canarsie Tube is shut down entirely. According to sources familiar with the plan, the Authority is considering "limited" L train service along the line's five Manhattan stops between Eighth and First avenues in addition to a full shutdown.
The MTA did not immediately respond to our request for comment, but a spokesperson told WSJ that "all options are still being examined" and that the planning process is "fluid."
The already-aging Canarsie Tube was flooded with saltwater and severely damaged during Hurricane Sandy, making repair work necessary. And while the MTA has been vague about the specifics of the shutdown plan in recent months, city councilmember Stephen Levin, who represents Greenpoint and Williamsburg, said in February after meeting with MTA officials that a full shutdown of both tunnels could last for two years. A partial nights-and-weekends shutdown could last for up to seven years.
A third option would shut down one of the two Canarsie Tube tunnels for repair work for three years, allowing for limited service between Brooklyn and Manhattan. Rich Barone, vice president for transportation at the Regional Plan Association (RPA), told WSJ that the partial shutdown would reduce the train's capacity by a full 77%—no small consequence for a train that carries more than 300,000 New Yorkers on an average weekday.
Under the partial-shutdown scenario, one longtime train operator estimated that L trains would run every 20 minutes in Manhattan.
Sources told WSJ that the RPA will likely propose an express 14th Street bus with a dedicated lane for the duration of the possible L shutdown. The MTA would also take the opportunity to make repairs at Manhattan L stations, adding more track space to increase service.
The MTA has promised to hold public hearings on the shutdown, but no dates have been set yet. In the meantime, here's how some luckless L train riders reacted to the Canarsie Tube news. Ah, those were simpler times.