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MTA Says New L Train Plan Has Been Transparent Because You Know It Exists

Ronnie Hakim, Pat Foye, and Andy Byford at Wednesday's press conference.
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Ronnie Hakim, Pat Foye, and Andy Byford at Wednesday's press conference. Stephen Nessen / Gothamist

With just two weeks before disruptive rehabilitation construction on the L train tunnel under the East River begins, the MTA hasn’t released a final schedule, updated cost of the project, or explained why a third party was never hired to review the plan before moving forward with it.

But recently appointed MTA Chairman Pat Foye argued Wednesday that the project has been transparent. And the proof of that, he said, is a two word test. If you know what benchwall and FRP is, then the MTA’s transparency in replacing the 15-month shutdown with a partial nights-and-weekends disruption has been a success.

“I think there are New Yorkers that are going to be at cocktail parties this weekend or barbecues, weather depending, and they’re going to be discussing benchwall,” Foye said. “And there are going to be other people at PTA meetings or watching their kids in the playground discussing FRP.”

Foye offered further proof, like the press conference Governor Cuomo held with the Deans of Columbia and Cornell in the middle of the night last December. And a follow up press conference afterward.

While the MTA held many town halls and presentations and showed up at every community board meeting along the L line multiple times to discuss the original L train shutdown, it held just four open houses in Brooklyn and Manhattan to discuss the new plan, which Foye described as an “extraordinary amount of community meetings both before and after the new plan was launched.”

When asked what the new timeline is for the project on Thursday, Foye declined to answer. “We don’t want to step on our lede, you’ll have to come to the meeting next week,” he said.

Thursday’s meeting was to discuss another month of improved service statistics, touting service levels that haven’t been seen since 2013. On average, trains are getting to the end of the line on schedule 78 percent of the time in March, compared with 65 percent in March of 2018.

But not all lines are equal. The 7 has new signals and is on time 91 percent of the time, while the A train is still lagging at 63 percent.

The MTA also noted with the Subway Action Plan it has brought the number of monthly delays down to 37,600 last month, from 63,210 in March of 2018.

MTA Managing Director Ronnie Hakim argued that the public will have good alternative service options during the unspecified length of time that L train construction continues on nights and weekends.

“The whole point is to give people choices,” she said. “That is the beauty of the New York City subway system which is that its very redundant, there are lots of intersecting lines and we’re encouraging people to do that.”

Of course, problems at one station always cause cascading delays—remember, oh, say Monday?

Stephen Nessen is the transportation reporter for WNYC. You can follow him on Twitter @s_nessen.

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