By Sabina Mollot
On Monday morning, transit officials and local elected officials told reporters they don’t expect the dreaded L train shutdown will be the L-pocalypse of doom everyone else is pretty sure it will be for the 15 months it will take to do repairs.
Reasons for this declaration include plans to run 80 shuttle buses an hour over the Williamsburg Bridge during peak times and “aggressive” enforcement to make sure private vehicles don’t jam traffic along high occupancy vehicle lanes. The soon-to-launch Lower East Side ferry schedule will also be timed to coordinate with bus arrivals.
Department of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg and NYC Transit President Andy Byford, along with the politicians, had hopped out of a shiny, new electric bus — one of 25 that will be implemented during the L shutdown – on 14th Street and Union Square, before announcing a few updates to the mitigation plans.
One is that the NYPD is working on a plan for enforcement of traffic in HOV lanes so they don’t get crowded with private vehicles, including mini-bus services that have popped up.
“The PD will be out in full force,” Trottenberg said. “They will have a full plan and it will be aggressive.”
As for mini-buses, the DOT commissioner said she wasn’t sure the city had the authority to just ban them from the shuttle routes or 14th Street altogether.
“I don’t legally think I can wave my wand and ban something that’s been licensed,” she said. “If we need to, we will act as aggressively as possible but I can’t dictate what goes everywhere.”
Byford added that part of the plan is to do whatever is possible to ensure that construction projects that extend out into the streets along the subway route are completed before work begins on the Sandy-damaged Canarsie tubes.
The ride on the electric bus to the event, he said, felt like sailing, but only on two streets where there was no construction.
Other attempts to keep buses moving along quickly, as has been previously announced, include M14 Select Bus Service and the addition of 1,250 Citi Bikes and twice as many docks to busy neighborhoods in the city. Union Square and 14th Street will be a hub for bike share that includes bike valet service and pedal assist bikes.
A busway will run along 14th Street from Third to Ninth Avenues eastbound and from Third to Eighth Avenues westbound, with Select Bus Service. The busway will be in effect every day from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m., though pickups and drop-offs of people and for businesses will be allowed.
A new, Lower East Side ferry route will launch on August 29, running for five stops that include Wall Street, Corlears Hook, Stuyvesant Cove, 34th Street and Long Island City. The fare for the ferry will be the same as a MetroCard and transfers will be offered from buses and trains to the ferry and vice versa. However, the ferries will not run all night.
“There are practical reasons for that,” Byford explained, saying that demand for rides drop at night, and also, due to Coast Guard rules, ferries must honk when they depart from a landing.
“We feel that would be disruptive to communities, but once the ferry starts up in the morning, the integrated schedule kicks in once again,” said Byford.
State Senator Brad Hoylman said he’d pushed for electric buses to be included in the fleet, though it is now up to the State Senate to get them funded. Fifteen will be in Manhattan, the other 10 in Brooklyn.
Hoylman added that while he thought it was great that there are a “handful” of electric buses, he was still concerned about the rest of them and the still unknown “effect of diesel that’s running back and forth on 14th Street.”
Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer mentioned she has requested that apps be created for L train users to provide them with real-time information about the project as well as things like bus arrival times. She indicated the transit agencies were responsive to the idea, though they hadn’t committed to it.
Trottenberg said a total of 225,000 riders will impacted by the L train shutdown, 50,000 of them in Manhattan.
“If you isolate the L like its own transit system, it’s one of the top 10 transit systems in North America,” Byford said. “It’s that busy. That explains the magnitude of challenges before us.”