Ahead of tonight's first official public hearing for distressed L train riders, the MTA revealed that it is considering two proposals to repair the saltwater damage that Hurricane Sandy wrought on the Canarsie Tube that runs under the East River between North Brooklyn and lower Manhattan. Under scenario one, the MTA would shut down the tube entirely for a projected 18 months. Scenario two calls for a longer, partial shutdown—one tube closed at a time, with repair work lasting for three years.
The reduction in service under the three-year plan would be significant—NBC reports that service would be reduced 80% between Bedford Avenue in Williamsburg and Eighth Avenue in Manhattan, meaning straphangers who use the L primarily in Manhattan would be impacted as well. Trains would run every 12 to 15 minutes during rush hour, compared to every three to four minutes under normal circumstances.
The NY Times points out that under this scenario, the L would be able to handle about 20% of the 225,000 riders who currently take it under the tunnel on a typical weekday. And a typical weekday isn't exactly a pleasant experience.
A full shutdown would extend, as was hinted last month, from Bedford Avenue all the way to 8th Avenue. (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 would have limited access to their train yard in East New York.)
New York City Transit President Veronique Hakim told reporters on Wednesday that the MTA has ruled out the possibility of conducting repair work only on nights and weekends, as the required work is too complex to conduct in short bursts. Hopes for a new tunnel under the East River have also been dashed—the MTA said this week that construction would be too expensive and time consuming.
Asked if he was leaning towards a full or partial shutdown, MTA Chairman Tom Prendergast told the Times this week that while he's waiting to hear from the community at large, he has a feeling people will be swayed by the efficiency of the total shutdown. "I think there is an 'Aha' moment they have in their minds, like, 'Geez if it's only one in five people you can carry, maybe it would be better to have two tracks,'" he said.
Either way, repairs will not begin until early 2019. Normal service between Lorimer Street and Canarsie-Rockaway Parkway will be maintained throughout. The MTA says it plans to make a final decision within the next three months, based on input from residents and impacted businesses.
The MTA has already confirmed plans to repair the M train before L train work gets underway, in an effort to better serve L train refugees in Brooklyn. Repairs to a metal bridge and aging viaduct along the M line will prompt lengthy closures, and displace dozens of Bushwick residents. The Authority added on Wednesday that it may run extra buses over the Williamsburg Bridge and expand ferry service.
The repair work is expected to cost between $800 million and $1 billion all told, with most of the funding coming from the federal government.
Girded with this news, you're now cordially invited to vent directly to Hakim and Prendergast, at the Marcy Avenue Armory at 6:00 p.m tonight. A second public meeting has been scheduled for May 12th, at the Salvation Army Theater in Manhattan.
"In order for there to be trust, there must first be communication," Councilmember Stephen Levin said in a statement after tonight's meeting was announced. "Thousands of straphangers are trusting those in charge to listen to their needs."