In January 2019, the MTA will suspend all L train service between Brooklyn and Manhattan, and halt L service within Manhattan, severing a vital transportation artery used by an estimated 225,000 commuters each day and sending shockwaves across the city. During the shutdown, which is expected to last 18 months, the MTA will repair the Canarsie Tunnel, which carries the L under the East River and suffered extensive damage when it flooded during Hurricane Sandy.
Gothamist has been covering the impending L-mageddon (L-pocalypse, if you prefer) since we broke the news that the MTA was considering closing the tunnel for repairs. As we’ve documented, New Yorkers have gone through the five stages of grief about the coming shutdown. First there was denial, then anger, then bargaining. At the moment, the city is somewhere in between depression and weary acceptance.
But there’s hope yet! Today, we’re announcing a contest that will give New Yorkers the chance to become masters of their own destiny.
L-ternative Visions: Reimagining 14th Street and Beyond is a collaboration between Gothamist and Transportation Alternatives that seeks to harness the talents of urban planners, architects, techies, and transportation wizards like you to create practical solutions to the L train shutdown.
The Goal: Reimagine 14th Street as a people-first transit corridor that can meet the demands of an L-less Manhattan; create new public transit options for L riders commuting from Brooklyn; and offer a blueprint for high- capacity, environmentally sustainable, and human-scale city streets.
The Rules: Participants in L-ternative Visions can submit to one of two tracks:
Competitive: Submissions to the competitive track will offer a comprehensive redesign plan for 14th Street that mitigates the impact of the L train shutdown and transforms the street for future generations of New Yorkers. The best submissions will involve measures to restrict automobile traffic along and around 14th Street, prioritize high-capacity modes of transportation, improve pedestrian access, and strive to accommodate the needs of New Yorkers with disabilities. If you’re an architect, a designer, or an urban planning student looking for a worthy semester project, this track’s for you.
Reader’s Choice: The shutdown of the L will be felt all across the city, but the denizens of northern and eastern Brooklyn will be most heavily impacted. Submissions to the Reader’s Choice track will offer focused solutions for areas beyond 14th Street. The best Reader’s Choice submissions will offer a solution to a specific challenge, such as getting commuters to the Williamsburg Bridge from Brooklyn or connecting them from Delancey Street up to 14th. We expect a wide range of ideas—added bike lanes, new bus routes, restrictions on car or truck access to affected areas, and so on. If you’re an amateur urban planner, a BRT junkie, a worried L rider, or a concerned citizen with a clever idea, this is the track for you.
Intersection of 14th and 2nd. Photo courtesy of Transportation Alternatives.
Jury: Competitive track winners will be selected by a panel of transit advocates, elected officials, urban planners, and other key stakeholders.
The winners of the Reader’s Choice track will be chosen by our readers. At the end of the contest, Gothamist and Transportation Alternatives, in consultation with the jury, will select our five favorite submissions, which we will put to a public vote.
Prizes: The top three entries to the Competitive track and the winner of the Reader’s Choice track will all receive prizes. Prizes will include cash, free bicycles, annual MetroCards, and more. Prizewinners will also have the opportunity to pitch their ideas to top city and state brass.
Winning submissions will be featured on Gothamist.com and winners will, of course, receive all the public adoration befitting true urban visionaries.
Dates: The full rules of the competition, as well as a range of helpful resources, will be available when L-ternative Visions officially launches on September 21. All submissions will be due by 11:59 PM on January 8, 2017.
Contest winners will be announced in early February.
Let the games (almost) begin!