Though it's still more than two years away, the disruption of L train service between Brooklyn and Manhattan is a'coming, but all we really know so far is that a great number of people will be inconvenienced for between 18 and 36 months while the MTA works to repair damage caused by Hurricane Sandy to the tunnel running between the two boroughs. The rest of the plans to accommodate offloaded L train riders—shuttle buses, new ferries, increased service on other subway lines, and so on—are still very much in hypothetical stages, with neither the MTA nor the Department of Transportation able to offer many details on how, exactly, that'll all work. But why leave the planning to the experts, who haven't always made good on such promises in the past? This weekend, the Van Alen Institute will host a "charette" where participants will present their own ideas for commuting alternatives during the L train shutdown, with $1000 going to the winning group.
The nonprofit is specifically seeking out ideas that look beyond shuttle buses and private car services such as Uber, which has offered discounted carpools during previous, shorter-term suspensions of L service. Other, out-of-the-box suggestions that this competition will ostensibly seek to beat include shutting down 14th Street to car traffic and installing a gondola connecting Williamsburg and the Lower East Side.
Teams had to submit their proposals by last night, and all have to contain at least one person who works in architecture, urban planning, or infrastructure engineering. They've also been encouraged to include community organizers, landscape designers, digital programmers, economic development experts, and wayfinding designers. They'll be judged by a jury that includes a project manager from the DOT.
The Van Alen Institute is reviewing proposals today and will notify finalists this afternoon. Programs & Communications Manager Steven Thomson said that while he couldn't reveal details of any of the proposals yet, the jury has been "incredibly impressed by the breadth of ideas from the over 30 entries submitted by teams, ranging from high-level urban planners to self-identified 'transportation ninjas.' Ideas included practical solutions such as expanded bike lanes, rerouting train routes, and enhanced mobile apps, as well as more whimsical proposals like underwater buses and airborne transit."
Proposals will have to address how to move large numbers of passengers in the absence of L train service; how technology can facilitate transportation that's more efficient or less stressful than the subway; and how to fit an 18-month shutdown as well as a three-year partial shutdown; and how they'll be funded. In addition to winning $1,000, the team with the top proposal will work with the Van Alen Institute to refine their plan and hopefully present it to the MTA, which has said it's open to seeing what the competition yields.
You can register here to see presentations of the finalists on Sunday at 4 p.m. at The Van Alen Institute at 30 West 22nd Street. Tickets are free, and drinks will be provided while the jury deliberates.