By Maria Rocha-Buschel
The lesser L train apocalypse is scheduled to begin this Friday and although service will be maintained in Manhattan under the slowdown unlike in the previous full shutdown plan, riders can still expect longer wait times and service changes during nights and weekends until at least next summer when the project is expected to be completed.
The biggest change with the revised L train project is that the L will run normal service during weekday rush hours and service is expected to be available in Manhattan at all times.
According to the MTA’s dedicated page for the plan, available at new.mta.info/L-project, there will be normal L train service between 1:30 a.m. and 8 p.m. throughout the entire line on weekdays, but starting after 8 p.m. this Friday, trains will become less frequent compared to normal service until 10 p.m. during the week.
Service will then be reduced from 10 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. compared to regular service and while trains are expected to run every 20 minutes from 1:30 to 5 a.m. on weeknights and until 6 a.m. on weekend nights, this is the regular overnight frequency for the line.
Trains will run every 20 minutes between Manhattan and Brooklyn from Eighth Avenue to Bedford Avenue over the weekend, starting at 10 p.m. on Friday until 5 a.m. on Monday, and will run every 20 minutes overnight during the week.
Service will be gradually reduced starting at 8 p.m. every night to accommodate the staging of work trains. Trains will be running on a single track in both directions while the work is being done, requiring that trains run at 20-minute service frequencies. Since trains will be running in both directions on one track during the work, the MTA advised riders to check station signage and countdown clocks to make sure they’re boarding the right train.
Service during these times will be more frequent within Brooklyn because the route will be split, with trains being able to run every 10 minutes on Saturday and Sunday between Lorimer Street and Canarsie-Rockaway Parkway.
Despite previously claiming that the plan would not substantially impact overnight service, a series of tweets from NYC Transit on Wednesday said otherwise, noting that while regular service on the weekends for the L is every five minutes, the 20-minute wait times will make stations “way more crowded than usual.”
The MTA had also discussed studying the possibility of making First and Third Avenues exit-only and while this is not included in the plan, the agency said in the same series of tweets this Wednesday that it might implement temporary service changes for safety, such as bypassing or restricting entry into stations if the crowds in the stations are too large. The decision to bypass stations will be made in real-time, so riders will need to depend on station announcements and the agency’s social media feeds for information.
In another series of tweets on Monday by NYC Transit ahead of the slowdown, the agency warned riders that when train service is reduced to every 20 minutes in Manhattan, it may be too crowded for passengers to board the first train, effectively making some customers wait at least 40 minutes to get on the L. MTA staff and NYPD officers will be in the stations to manage potential lines, but in the case of long waits for the L, the MTA is recommending that customers who are only traveling within Manhattan use the M14A/D bus service because the combined routes will be running buses along the corridor every three to five minutes during the busiest times, a much higher frequency than the L train.
The MTA also advised that riders who are trying to get to Brooklyn consider alternative options like the M train, which will run more frequently and will be extended to 96th Street and Second Avenue on the weekends. The J train, G train and 7 train will also be running more frequently and Williamsburg Link buses in Brooklyn will be running every three minutes.
Under the previous plan, Manhattan would have been cut off from L train service completely and NYC Transit, the MTA and the Department of Transportation were working on above-ground mitigation to help riders move east and west along 14th Street and between Manhattan and Brooklyn, which involved a busway restricting private cars.
When the full shutdown was canceled, the busway was no longer a certainty, although the DOT solicited feedback during the recent town halls on the possibility of implementing the treatment in some form under the new plan.
Although not the same configuration as the originally-proposed busway, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on Wednesday morning that the city will be piloting Transit/Truck Priority (TTP) lanes on 14th Street, not allowing through traffic from Third to Ninth Avenues. The implementation of the pilot will not be implemented by the time the slowdown is scheduled to begin this Friday but will coincide with the launch of the M14 SBS in June.
The plan will allow only buses, trucks and emergency vehicles between Third and Ninth Avenues. Local traffic will be allowed to make pick-ups and drop-offs and access garages on the street but cars will always have to turn right at the next intersection and left turns will not be allowed. Intersections will also be designed with new turn lanes to ensure that bus lanes remain clear and intersections will include painted curb extensions to enhance pedestrian safety.
The DOT will also consider retaining the 12th and 13th Street bike lanes permanently as part of the plan because usage of the new protected lanes was so high, with bike counts from last winter outpacing those from the previous summer.
“Today’s announcement is a victory for those who spent hours advocating for better public transportation in my district and along 14th Street,” Councilmember Keith Powers said of the plan. “The 14th Street corridor has long-needed better service and will certainly need more with the disruption to the L Train. From the beginning of my time in the Council, I have advocated for this solution. I look forward to riding a faster M14 in the near future.”
Responding to the news of the proposed treatment for 14th Street, Riders Alliance also cheered the plan.
“Putting riders first when the L train slows down shows real commitment to transit by city leaders,” policy and communications director Danny Pearlstein said. “Starting in June, riders will have a quick, reliable, subway-like way to get across Manhattan even while the L is under construction.”