Tagged: subway

The L-Train Shutdown, or How I Will Stop Worrying and Love the Bus, the Bike, the Boat, and the G Train

Almost invariably, every time I meet someone new and tell them that I live in Williamsburg, I get asked this question: what ever will I do during the L Train Shutdown.

The “L Train Shutdown,” officially known as the Canarsie Tunnel Reconstruction project, will result in the closing of the Canarsie Tunnel between Manhattan and Brooklyn to repair the damage the tunnel sustained during Sandy in 2012. The closure will cease L train service in all of Manhattan and in Brooklyn west of Bedford Ave. The closure and repairs, announced at least a year ago, will start in April 2019 and are expected to last into summer 2020.

The shutdown will have a profound effect on the lives of thousands of people, and like an old boss of mine used to say, “shit rolls downhill.“ I expect the L Train Shutdown will disproportionally affecting New Yorkers depending on their class, similar to what happens after a blizzard or major snow storm. The poor will have to endure the trains and busses to schlep to work because they have inflexible work arrangements, while affluent professionals will be able to stay home and “remote” into work.

But for all its disruption, the L Train Shutdown could also be an opportunity to remake transportation in North Brooklyn and in downtown Manhattan. Earlier this week, we learned how the MTA and New York City Department of Transportation plan to implement numerous mitigations for those traveling between Brooklyn and Manhattan during the fifteen months that the Canarsie Tunnel repairs will be underway. Many of the changes are additions that could very well make commuting between Brooklyn and Manhattan easier, even after the Canarsie Tunnel repairs are done.

In short, the two agencies plan to…

  • restrict automobile traffic on the Williamsburg Bridge to vehicles carrying three or more people, known as HOV-3, during weekday rush hours,
  • launch a ferry route between the North Williamsburg ferry terminal and Stuyvesant Cove in Manhattan,
  • add extra capacity on the J,M,Z C and G trains, including adding cars to trains and extending station platforms,
  • add a dedicated bus lane and Select Bus Service on 14th Street in Manhattan,
  • add protected bicycle lanes on Grand Street in Brooklyn and Delancey Street in Manhattan to accommodate twice as many bicycle riders as there are now,
  • build a two-way protected bicycle lane on 13th Street in Manhattan,
  • add bus shuttle routes from Bedford Avenue and Grand Street stations in Brooklyn to “key connection points” in Manhattan.

These are some pretty aggressive measures to transport people between Manhattan and Brooklyn, and I hope that many of them stick around beyond 2020. For example, it would be great to have a dedicated right-of-way for busses on 14th Street even after the L train starts running again in Manhattan. There has been a need for a Select Bus Service route on 14th Street for as long as the MTA started SBS in 2004, and I’m glad to see it is coming to 14th Street. Also, the new protected bicycle lanes will likely remain in place after 2020 because everyone will just get used to them.

Imagine how many more people can travel between Manhattan and Brooklyn with these additional transportation options after the L train service resumes in 2020. Between this and being able to vote President Pence out of office, I finally have reason to look forward to the future. I’m giddy just thinking about it.

One can already see some of the changes taking shape. Many station platforms on the G line are being extended to accommodate more passengers and longer trains. The M line viaduct reconstruction is also happening in preparation to receive future displaced L-train passengers. And as I wrote earlier this year, there are new east-west bike lanes running on Meserole and Scholes Streets to handle the additional bicycle traffic the DOT anticipates during the L Train Shutdown.

Finally, if you are wondering what ever will I do during the L Train Shutdown, you won’t be surprised to hear that I plan to primarily use my bike. I only regularly travel to Manhattan on a couple of days per week and on most of those days, I ride my bike. Because the L Train Shutdown is starting in April, it only leaves about three winter months when there are days that are too cold to ride. Case in point: I rode yesterday and today because temperatures were in the 20s and 30s, but if this were December 2019 with no warm L train to zip me to and from Manhattan, I likely would have bundled up and gotten on my bike.

But 2019 is still 15 months away—as far away as the L Train Shutdown is expected to last. A lot of life changes can happen between now and then, and who knows if there even a need for me to worry about all this.

Bikes and Trains, Independence Day 2015 Edition

My favorite convergence of two nineteenth century technologies is that of bicycles and trains because they work well together. In fact, they complement each other much more than the two quintessential twentieth-century transportation technologies: airplanes and automobiles. Don’t believe me? Think about how onerous it is to pick up or drop off someone at the airport, let alone park a car there.

One of the great things about bicycling in the New York City area is that there are trains that can assist with planning your long bike rides. Having a train enables you to do a long ride that isn’t a loop. Thanks to the tireless work of bicycling advocates throughout the region, it is possible to ride for a whole day and catch a train—and an attendant nap—to whisk you back home.

Although we still have a long way to go compared to the west coast, where you can reserve a space and roll your bike onto many Amtrak trains, the New York City–area does have some excellent infrastructure to carry a bike on a train.

Except, perhaps, for holiday weekends…such as this coming Independence Day weekend.

The patchwork of separate railroads have implemented an array of restrictions:

These restrictions put a damper what seemed like a nice idea: an Independence Day bike ride to Philadelphia, our nation’s former capital city. Instead, it looks like I’ll be riding with some friends north through Westchester, Putnam, and Dutchess counties this Friday. The ride will end in Beacon, but we plan to take a very scenic and hilly route by way of Amenia for a day-long double metric century.

And, yes, we’ll be taking a late Metro North train back to NYC.

Six Swipes in August

August 2014 was a really weird month.

While it was one of the most emotionally difficult months of my life, it was also one of most pleasant in terms of weather. The first weekend of August started with some rain, but after that there was only rain storm that interrupted my month on wheels. The weather was so perfect that I only rode the subway six times in the month of August. Back in the days of the fun pass, I would do swipe that card six times in a single day.

Because I was keeping track of my swipes for the month, I thought I’d share my trip record.

Date Ride Trains Why I didn’t bike?
Aug 2 Woodside to Vernon-Jackson 7 I had returned from visiting my uncle in Riverhead with my mom, and I took the LIRR train back.
Aug 12 8th Street-NYU to Broadway, Astoria N It was raining so I left my bike at NYU and went to my friend’s apartment in Astoria, where I was couch surfing.
Aug 13 Broadway, Astoria to 8th Street-NYU N I had left my bike at NYU and it was still raining. I rode back in the evening.
Aug 23 Vernon-Jackson to Woodland 7 to 4 I rode with Andre to Woodland to start the ride to the Peekskill Brewery. I rode the subway for the purposes of a bike ride.
Aug 23 Grand Central to Vernon-Jackson 7 Andre and I took Metro North and from Peekskill so we took the 7 train back to Long Island City.
Aug 29 West 4th Street to Sutphin Blvd-Hillside Ave, Jamaica F Again, I rode the subway for the purposes of a bike ride. This was for the ride to Blue Point on Labor Day weekend.

Keep in mind that I have been without a home for almost of all August, so it’s not like I spent days at a time at home or just putzing around Long Island City (which I miss doing a lot). I also didn’t go away except for two days over Labor Day weekend, which did account for one of the swipes. Finally, I have been traveling a lot more than usual around the city. I didn’t track my rides, but except for August 1, 2, and 30, I rode a bike every single day in August.

September is only a week old, and again, I have been able to avoid the subway entirely. So far, I have zero swipes for the month. It really shows how mild and dry this summer has been.

Make That 21 Weeks

One of the drawbacks of being on the western edge of Long Island City is that for nearly half the year, we don’t have weekend access to our main subway line. This year, we were scheduled to go twenty-two weeks without weekend service on the 7 line between Queensborough Plaza and Times Square.

But we’re expecting a snow storm Sunday night, and the scheduled repair work is cancelled.

The following Weekend Planned Service Change is CANCELLED.
No 7 service between Times Sq–42 St and Queensboro Plaza. Originally scheduled for: 2 AM Sat to 5 AM Mon, Mar 1 – 3

The cancellation now leaves us with twenty-one weekends of no 7 train service, provided they don’t tack on another weekend to make it up.

Graffiti on Number Seven Subway. Andy Nguyen, 1980. Washington Square Park and Washington Square Area Image Collection, 1850-1990. New York University Archives.

Graffiti on Number Seven Subway. Andy Nguyen, 1980. Washington Square Park and Washington Square Area Image Collection, 1850-1990. New York University Archives.

Twenty-one weekends sounds like a long time, and many local merchants bemoan that these repairs keep Manhattanites out of Long Island City. I don’t know if they ever thought about the locals who are trapped and might be compelled to eat a meal, have a drink or watch a comedy show or dance performance in our own neighborhood. Why not create some 7-themed special like $7 cocktail, appetizer, or cover specials? We’re all in this together, right?

As for me, the weekend work doesn’t bother me all that much. I rarely pine to ride the rails out of LIC. But if I did, thankfully, my club’s Spring Training Series starts next week, which means I’ll be spending most of my Saturdays on a bike again.

Heaven forbid I have to spend a weekend in Long Island City.