Cuomo Cancels Full L Train Shutdown; Last Minute Decision Met With Relief and Skepticism

The governor toured the L Train tunnel in December with engineering experts. Photo courtesy of the Governor's Office.

The governor toured the L Train tunnel in December with engineering experts. Photo courtesy of the Governor’s Office.

Maybe you were dreading the prospect of 80 buses an hour barreling over the Williamsburg Bridge. Perhaps you were looking forward to the ban on single occupancy cars, which would surely have alleviated the traffic nightmare on the blocks surrounding the bridge. Either way, you were probably stunned yesterday morning when Governor Cuomo announced he was canceling the full L Train shutdown, which was set to take effect April 27.

After months of planning by the MTA and New York City officials, countless community meetings and a lot of teeth gnashing, Cuomo reversed course. Rather than a full shutdown of the Canarsie Tunnel for 15 months, he envisions a slightly longer repair schedule, but one that would confine work to one tube at a time on nights and weekends.

After a team of engineers toured the tunnel with the governor last month and studied the situation, they concluded that new technology successfully used in Europe, Saudi Arabia and Hong Kong would work in New York. Hurricane Sandy caused serious damage to the tunnel’s bench walls. But rather than replacing them altogether, the experts concluded that new power cables could be mounted on the tunnel walls without removing the old infrastructure, saving time and money.

Here’s how the MTA announced the sudden change in plans:

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) today accepted the recommendations of a panel of engineering experts that determined a complete closure of the L Train Tunnel is unnecessary. The report – which followed weeks of extensive review and analysis by the deans and faculty of the Columbia University and Cornell University engineering schools – presents a series of innovative engineering methods to streamline the required repair work and limit the impact on L Train service, which provides 400,000 daily rides. Work could be completed on nights and weekends only, with a single tube providing continued service in both directions during work periods. The plan has been presented to and reviewed by the MTA, and it has been confirmed that the report’s goals are achievable within a 15 to 20-month timeframe. The MTA still plans to implement additional subway service where needed, including on the G, M and 7 Trains.

Previously, the city planned to restrict the Williamsburg Bridge to HOV-3 vehicles. That scheme has now been abandoned. The Department of Transportation installed new two-way bike lanes on Delancey Street to accommodate increased bicycle traffic to and from Brooklyn.

There’s definitely local skepticism. City Council member Carlina Rivera released the following statement:

While I believe that the State and MTA are committed to providing the best L train plan for New Yorkers, I am disappointed that today’s news was announced without warning and with nowhere near enough detail, after years of careful planning by our communities. Residents in my District are now in the dark about how they will be impacted by this new plan, and I am worried that many New Yorkers unnecessarily moved from affected areas and local small businesses suffered preparing for the expected shutdown. In my discussions with MTA officials this afternoon, I did hear some encouraging information, including potentially less noise and construction along 14th Street between 1st Avenue and Avenue B. But I am still left with more questions than answers. As we learn more and weigh the dramatic impact this plan will have on our city, I am calling on the City Council to hold hearings this month on this plan so we and the public can have our questions fully answered from State and agency officials well ahead of the plan’s commencement. In addition, the city Department of Transportation must stay the course with that the current L Train Alternative Service Plan, including new bike lanes, bus routes, and protected bus corridors, until the public and advocates are able to process and comment on this new plan. But regardless of how the L Train Tunnel repair goes, our State and City agencies must deeply evaluate how the mishandling of these announcements continues to erode public trust in our most important institutions, and work to redouble their efforts with our communities.

The DOT said yesterday it’s reviewing the L Train mitigation plan.

New Delancey Street Bike Lanes Make Their Debut

Photo: NYC DOT.

Photo: NYC DOT.

Before the snow hit the city yesterday, city officials and transportation advocates rode across the Williamsburg Bridge, ending up on the Lower East Side to unveil new protected bike lanes on Delancey Street. It’s part of the city’s plan to deal with the shutdown of the L Train tunnel, happening in the spring.

The Department of Transportation believes half of all commuters who would have used the L Train will travel over the bridge by train, bus or bicycle. The Williamsburg Bridge is already the busiest for bicycles of all of the East River crossings (averaging 7,300 cyclists each day). That number could double or triple during the 15-month L Train shutdown.

More from the city’s press release:

By connecting the Williamsburg Bridge bike path with the Allen Street/1st Avenue/Pike Street lanes and the Chrystie Street/2nd Avenue protected lanes, new riders expected during the L train tunnel closure are expected to make safer and more seamless connections to and from most of Manhattan.  As part of the project, DOT added a Jersey barrier to protect the lane along the south side of the median between Allen and Clinton Streets, as well as a first-of-its-kind “bike island” at the intersection of Allen and Delancey Streets. Delancey Street remains a focus of Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero initiative to prevent traffic deaths and injuries around the five boroughs.  Between 2012 and 2016, Delancey Street saw 24 serious traffic injuries and two fatalities, both pedestrians.   A major element in the Vision Zero toolbox, protected bike lanes have proven to reduce crashes and increase street safety for all street users — pedestrians, cyclists and motorists.


Concerns are already being raised about the design of the new bike lanes. Gothamist explained:

Under the current configuration, cyclists traveling east are supposed to enter the bridge by riding for a few bone-jarring feet next to the automobiles screaming up the bridge’s approach, then taking what is essentially a 90-degree left turn up the steep, narrow ramp meant for bicycles, while avoiding the pedestrians congregated on the island. The spot is just a few feet from where 12-year-old Dashane Santana was fatally struck by a minivan driver in 2012, one of two pedestrians killed and 24 others seriously injured on Delancey Street between 2012 and 2016.

A DOT rep noted that not much could be done to address the concerns right now. The passageway can’t be widened because the concrete barrier around the bike path entrance is a post 9/11 security feature. A longer-term solution is possible through the Delancey Street capital plan, but that’s years away from implementation.

The L Train tunnel will be closed for repairs starting April 27.

L Train Closure Set For April 27

Canarsie Tunnel. MTA Photo.

Canarsie Tunnel. MTA Photo.

The MTA and the city’s Department of Transportation have announced that the L Train shutdown will begin on April 27. Details of note from yesterday’s press release:

The l tunnel will close for its 15-month reconstruction on Saturday, April 27, 2019. This means that the last day for l service between 8th Av and Bedford Av in Brooklyn will be Friday, April 26, 2019. l train service will continue throughout Brooklyn, between the Bedford Av station, which will remain open during the tunnel closure, and the Canarsie-Rockaway Parkway station.

The alternative service options for customers, which includes five additional bus routes, a new M14 Select Bus Service on 14th Street and a ferry service, will begin on Sunday, April 21, 2019, to allow for customers to sample and become acclimated to new travel options. The additional subway service on other lines – more than 1,000 additional roundtrips – will begin on April 28, 2019, following the l tunnel closure.

Customers will be able to meet in person with MTA NYC Transit and NYCDOT team members to plan their routes, through a series of open houses, pop-up events or one of the three mobile information centers – two vans and a bus – which will make stops to meet with customers. Official dates and times for open houses and schedules for events and the mobile information center locations will be posted on the L tunnel reconstruction website once announced.

Officials are committing to monitor the air for particulates typically caused by diesel emissions, known as PM2.5, and making results publicly available. This is in addition to the air quality monitoring already in place for the project’s construction sites.

Streetsblog noted in its coverage yesterday:

…DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg called the Williamsburg Bridge a “bus bridge” in her statement. (Alas, we checked with DOT to see if the agency had scrapped its inevitably ill-fated decision to allow cars with three or more people to cross the bridge instead of setting it aside entirely for public transit — but a spokesman said the HOV-3 plan remains in effect. Well, we’ll see if the city can really run 80 buses per peak hour with cars mixed in…)

You can see the full plan here.


Citi Bike Unveils First 200 Pedal-Assist Bikes to Help Commuters Deal With L Train Shutdown

Photo: NYC DOT.

Photo: NYC DOT.

Citi Bike yesterday began rolling out the first batch of new pedal-assist electric bicycles meant to soften the blow of the looming L Train shutdown.

To start, there will be 200 electric bikes. When the L Train tunnel closes next spring, the electric bike fleet will increase to 1,000.

Right now, about 7,500 bicyclists use the Williamsburg Bridge daily. That number is expected to rise dramatically during the 15-month shutdown, even without the addition of the pedal-assist Citi Bikes.

According to a press release from the mayor’s office, Citi Bike will, “designate four conveniently-located pedal-assist docking stations — two in Williamsburg and two in lower Manhattan for their exclusive use.”

The new bikes will allow riders to travel at speeds up to 18 mph. On the Citi Bike app, you’ll be able to identify available electric bikes by looking for a lightning bolt logo. More details here.

City officials took the bikes for a spin over the Brooklyn Bridge yesterday.


Delancey Street Will Become a Makeshift Bus Terminal During L Train Shutdown

Photo: Manhattan Borough President's Twitter.

Photo: Manhattan Borough President’s Twitter.

Transit officials took local elected officials for a ride yesterday. In an effort to calm fears ahead of next April’s L Train shutdown, the MTA and the city’s Transportation Department (DOT) arranged the trip across the Williamsburg Bridge and along Delancey Street, up 1st Avenue  and over to Union Square.

Then last night, the MTA held a public meeting to discuss an environmental review examining the impact of the 15-month shutdown on neighborhoods throughout the city. Most of what’s in the Supplemental Environmental Assessment we already know, but there are a few new details that caught our eye.

The MTA believes most commuters will shift to other train lines (including the J, M, Z ). As previously reported, officials are planning to send 80 buses an hour during peak hours over the Williamsburg Bridge.  The bridge will be restricted to buses, trucks and HOV 3+ vehicles from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.

About 17% of L Train passengers are expected to use buses to travel back-a-forth between Brooklyn and Manhattan. There will be four separate bus lines. The “L1 SBS” route, for example, will take Delancey Street to Allen Street and move up 1st Avenue. During the morning rush, there will be a bus every 2 and 1/2 minutes. And that’s just on one of four shuttle bus lines.

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According to the MTA, all shuttle buses will stop at Essex Street to allow customers to transfer at the Delancey Street Subway Station. There will be stops on both sides of Essex. The city will be installing protected bike lanes on Delancey Street in the next few weeks. The environmental study determined that up to 3500 bicyclists will cross the bridge during the morning rush.

For the Lower East Side, there’s good news and bad news. On one hand, officials expect regular automobile traffic on and around Delancey Street to be reduced dramatically. On the other hand, Delancey will be turned into a makeshift bus terminal for the duration of the L Train shutdown. According to the environmental assessment:

The Williamsburg Bridge HOV3+ bus priority configuration would dramatically reduce the number of auto trips across the bridge during peak periods… Modeling results indicate that almost 3,000 vehicles could be diverted from the Williamsburg Bridge in the AM peak hour and almost 3,500 vehicles in the PM peak period. On balance, the HOV3+ option would provide for a more convenient transit connection serving an estimated 4,600 riders (about 4,100 Manhattan-bound trips and 500 Brooklyn bound trips) and travel speeds would be greatly enhanced for all remaining users of the bridge. The large reduction in vehicles crossing the bridge would be expected to ease traffic congestion and increase overall speeds on the streets leading to and from the bridge in both Manhattan and Brooklyn.

And then there’s this:

Along portions of… Delancey Street, Allen Street, and Kenmare Street in Manhattan, temporary bus priority treatments would be installed to support the interborough services. These temporary treatments may include roadway resurfacing, painted pedestrian spaces, red painted bus lanes, roadway markings, bus stop curb extensions and changes to street direction.

While it’s only a fall back location, there’s a chance officials will decide to use a space beneath the Williamsburg Bridge for bus storage. Here’s how that possibility is explained in the environmental review:

This site is MTA NYCT’s second preferred location for overnight parking of articulated buses for the temporary bus fleet expansion. The site would only be pursued should the Port Authority site become unavailable. The site is in Manhattan under the Williamsburg Bridge on-ramp (Between Columbia and Lewis streets)… Work would include minor upgrades to existing on-site security fencing and lighting… All improvements would be localized to the existing parking lot

Over the weekend, the MTA announced that we’ll be getting a taste of the L Train shutdown well before next spring. For 15 weekends, including this upcoming weekend, there will be no L Train service to and from Brooklyn as the MTA prepares for the full-scale closure of the Canarsie Tunnel.


L Train Shutdown by The Lo-Down on Scribd

L Train Shutdown: More Citi Bikes, 80 Buses/Hour On Williamsburg Bridge

Press conference on the Brooklyn side of the Williamsburg Bridge, May 27. Photo: NYC DOT Twitter.

Press conference on the Brooklyn side of the Williamsburg Bridge, May 27. Photo: NYC DOT Twitter.

There was news on a couple of different fronts yesterday regarding next year’s dreaded closure of the L Train.

City transportation officials and reps from Citi Bike gathered on the Brooklyn side of the Williamsburg Bridge to announce an expansion of Citi Bike to accommodate stranded train commuters. Beginning next spring (when the L Train tunnel closes), 1,250 bikes and 2500 docking points will be added in key locations in Manhattan and Brooklyn.

Right now, about 7,500 bicyclists use the Williamsburg Bridge daily. That number is expected to rise dramatically during the 15-month shutdown. The city is already planning to add a protected bike lane on Delancey Street. According to a press release from the mayor’s office:

The process of providing denser coverage is known as “infill,” and will involve both new docking stations and enlarging current stations.  DOT and Citi Bike will coordinate a robust community engagement process. working closely with local elected officials, community groups as well as the affected community boards – Brooklyn Community Board 1 and Manhattan Community Boards 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6.

williamsburg bridge

Motivate, the firm that operates Citi Bike also plans to add more valet stations, which are used to move bikes around to locations where they’re most needed during peak commute times:

In anticipation of the L train disruption, Citi Bike expects to add as many as ten new valet stations, located in areas heavily affected by the L train disruption, including Williamsburg, the Lower East Side, along the 14th Street corridor and adjacent to East River ferry stops in both Brooklyn and Manhattan.

Finally, Citi Bike will implement what it calls “shuttle service” on the Williamsburg Bridge, adding hundreds of pedal-assisted bikes to help riders get over the bridge more easily. More from the press release:

Citi Bike announced that it would add a temporary, additional 1,000 pedal-assist bicycle “Shuttle Service” to its fleet during the L train closure, which would designate four conveniently-located pedal-assist docking stations — two in Williamsburg and two in lower Manhattan for their exclusive use.  “Shuttle Service” bicycles could only be rented and returned to these stations.

Local Council member Carlina Rivera at yesterday's hearing. Photo: John McCarten/NYC Council.

Local Council member Carlina Rivera at yesterday’s hearing. Photo: John McCarten/NYC Council.

Officials with the city’s Department of Transportation and the MTA talked about their plans for the L Train shutdown at a City Council hearing yesterday. MTA Transit President Andy Byford said 80 buses an hour would be needed to shuttle L Train commuters during peak times (officials previously estimated 70 buses an hour would be sent over the Williamsburg Bridge). AM New York reported:

While 70 percent of commuters are expected to shift to nearby subway lines during the shutdown, the MTA and DOT have focused heavily on creating new “L-Alternative” bus routes to supplement service. “Buses will be an important piece of the puzzle,” (DOT Commissioner Polly) Trottenberg said. The bus network will be made up of four “short, intense routes” that can quickly recycle, optimizing the number of trips per bus, according to Byford. The four L-Alternative routes, which are expected to carry 17 percent of L train riders…”

Officials are planning on moving 30,000+ people over the bridge via bus each day. During non-peak hours, the MTA anticipates deploying 26 buses per hour in the afternoon and 38 buses per hour at night. The bridge will be restricted to buses, trucks and HOV-3 vehicles. DOT plans to install bus-only lanes on Delancey Street and Allen Street.

Traffic on streets near the bus routes will be patrolled by a dedicated force of 102 NYPD traffic enforcement agents and 46 police officers.

For more info on the L Train shutdown here.


Two More Town Halls Announced to Discuss L Train Shutdown

Canarsie Tunnel. MTA Photo.

Canarsie Tunnel. MTA Photo.

The city’s Department of Transportation and the MTA today announced another round of town hall meetings to discuss the shutdown of the L Train.

In the spring of next year, the Canarsie Tunnel will be closed for 15 months while Hurricane Sandy-related repairs take place. Transportation officials released a mitigation plan late last year to, hopefully, soften the blow for 225,000 commuters who use the L Train to travel back-and-forth Between Brooklyn and Manhattan daily. Just this week, advocacy organizations urged the agencies to strengthen their plan.

Here’s part of the press release put out by the MTA and DOT today:

As part of ongoing efforts to engage communities affected by project, NYC Transit President Andy Byford and NYCDOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg, as well as other agency representatives, will outline alternate service plans and take questions from members of the public. Transit and NYCDOT personnel will preview measures the agency will take to help move the roughly 225,000 customers who travel through the tunnel each weekday, as well as the 50,000 riders who use the L train just within Manhattan. NYCDOT will discuss its proposed street improvements to support travel alternatives during the closure. Changes will include HOV restrictions on the Williamsburg Bridge, the addition of Select Bus Service to 14th Street, new protected bike lanes and new bus lanes in Brooklyn and Manhattan.

There will be two town hall meetings, one in Manhattan and one in Brooklyn. The Manhattan session will take place Wednesday, May 9 at 6:30 p.m. at The Auditorium, 66 West 12th St.

The plan calls for restricting the Williamsburg Bridge to high occupancy vehicles during rush hour, sending 70 shuttle buses an hour over the bridge, creating bus-only lanes on 14th Street and adding ferry service to and from Brooklyn. You can read more details here and here.

Transit Groups Urge 24-Hour Restrictions on Williamsburg Bridge During L-Train Shutdown

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Transportation advocacy groups yesterday urged the city to take more steps to deal with the looming shutdown of the L Train.

Rider’s Alliance and Transportation Alternatives are demanding a 24-hour busway on 14th Street, as well as passenger vehicle restrictions on the Williamsburg Bridge at all hours of the day and night. They pointed to a new analysis which predicts a “nightmare scenario” in Lower Manhattan if the MTA and Department of Transportation stick with their current plan.

Back in December, officials unveiled their preliminary scheme to cope wit the 15-month shutdown, which is set to begin at about this time next year. The plan calls for restricting the Williamsburg Bridge to high occupancy vehicles during rush hour, sending 70 shuttle buses an hour over the bridge, creating bus-only lanes on 14th Street and adding ferry service to and from Brooklyn.

Transportation Alternatives commissioned a study to evaluate the mitigation proposal. In one section, the study authors state:

Given that the Williamsburg Bridge is already heavily congested, not only in the morning but pretty much all day, even a very small increase in car traffic on the bridge can have dire consequences. If all the displaced L Train passengers tried to take an Uber or Lyft into Manhattan, there would need to be between 12 and 19 additional bridge and tunnel lanes, and since there is zero additional bridge and road capacity, the result would be miles of gridlock lasting much of the day.

delancey street bicyclist 1

City and MTA officials believe that most commuters will take other subway lines (J, M, Z, G). But the bridge will obviously be overburdened with only a small percentage of L-Train riders taking buses on private cars. According to the current plan, the outer deck will be for bus, truck and high occupancy vehicles turning right onto Clinton Street. Other HOV traffic will likely be restricted to the inner lanes.

The groups are raising the possibility of banning right-hand turns from Delancey Street as a way of alleviating congestion leading to the bridge:

The Manhattan side exit of the Williamsburg Bridge backs up for much of the day, not primarily because of the capacity of the bridge, but because of the capacity of Delancey and Kenmare Streets. At every intersection, a lane is lost for every turning movement allowed. Vehicles turning right are generally stuck behind crossing pedestrians, and right turns are allowed with a busway in the right lane, the busway will be blocked by the turning movements in the same manner the current M15 SBS is blocked at many intersections. One way to minimize the risk that the Williamsburg Bridge will congest is to disallow right turning movements along Delancey Street, at least as far as Allen Street. Similarly, turning movements should be disallowed on Allen and Kenmare Streets.

No matter what the city and MTA do, there’s sure to be a huge impact on the streets surrounding the Williamsburg Bridge. This is one reasons local activists and elected officials have been urging the city to finally unveil a plan to deal with a related transportation problem: gridlock on Grand and Clinton streets. As we have been reporting, the DOT has repeatedly delayed making recommendations to deal with that congestion issue.

Officials are expected to finalize the L Train mitigation plan during the summer.

The L Train Shutdown: “A Lower Manhattan Deluge”

Canarsie Tunnel. MTA Photo.

Canarsie Tunnel. MTA Photo.

If you’re not feeling sufficiently panicky about the L train shutdown coming our way next year, the New York Times chimes in today with a scary story.

The piece notes that, “a large swath of Lower Manhattan will face a deluge” and “seventy buses an hour will stream across the Williamsburg Bridge and pour into the neighborhoods of Chinatown and SoHo, where narrow streets will have to accommodate three new bus routes.”

In December, we first reported the unwelcome news about all of those buses flooding Delancey Street and surrounding blocks. During a City Council hearing, local rep Margaret Chin seemed a little shocked upon hearing about the city’s plan. The Times reports today:

The buses will pour onto Delancey Street, splitting into three routes, including two that will loop through SoHo. Many of the buses will funnel from the bridge onto Kenmare Street, a single-lane road, before turning at the elbow where it meets Cleveland Place.

Councilmember Chin told the Times,“It might look all right on a computer simulation. But in real life, I just can’t imagine it… We just can’t even imagine what havoc it is going to be.”

Chin and many others are also worried about the impact of ride sharing services, which will surely become even more popular when the 15-month shutdown begins in the spring of 2019.

You can read the full article here.


Voice Your Concerns About the Dreaded L Train Shutdown Tuesday Evening

L Train arrives at First Avenue Station. Photo by Joel Raskin, 2015.

L Train arrives at First Avenue Station. Photo by Joel Raskin, 2015.

Concerned about the L Train shutdown coming in 2019?

It’s going to have a big impact on the Lower East Side. Plans from the MTA and the city’s Department of Transportation will place a lot of pressure of the JMZ trains, lead to more congestion and restrictions on the Williamsburg Bridge and have a big impact on 14th Street.

Coming up tomorrow (Tuesday) evening, Community Board 3’s transportation committee will be tackling the issue. City and state officials will present their latest proposals for dealing with the 15-month interruption in service. The committee will also draft a resolution outlining top concerns about the shutdown plan. There will be a public comment period.

The meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. at Grace Church School, 46 Cooper Square.


L Train Shutdown: East Side Open House Jan. 31

Canarsie Tunnel. MTA Photo.

Canarsie Tunnel. MTA Photo.

The MTA and the city’s Department of Transportation are kicking off a series of public meetings ahead of the L Train shutdown that’s scheduled to take place in the spring of 2019.

There are open houses on both sides of the Manhattan Bridge. The East Side session takes place Wed., Jan. 31 from 5-8 p.m. at the 14th Street Y, 344 East 14th St. Here’s more from a recent press release put out by the agencies:

The open houses, which will take place over four consecutive weeks beginning on January 24th, will feature representatives from MTA and NYC DOT and will provide riders with critical information about alternative travel options they can utilize during the 15 months in which the Canarsie Tunnel will be closed for major repairs beginning April 2019. MTA New York City Transit personnel will preview measures the agency will take to help move the roughly 225,000 customers who travel through the tunnel each weekday, as well as the 50,000 riders who use the  train just within Manhattan.  NYC DOT will discuss its proposed street improvements to support travel alternatives during the closure.  Changes will include HOV restrictions on the Williamsburg Bridge, the addition of Select Bus Service to a new 14th Street busway, along with new protected bike lanes and bus lanes throughout the affected Manhattan and Brooklyn neighborhoods.

On the Lower East Side, the L Train closure will obviously have a huge impact. The inner roadway of the Williamsburg Bridge will be reserved for cars, while the outer roadway will be restricted to buses and trucks. There’s a plan to send as many as 70 buses an hour over the bridge, jamming up an already overburdened Delancey Street. A large number of L Train passengers are expected to pile onto J M Z trains.

You can find out more about the plan and the open houses here.

Transportation Officials Grilled About Plan to Send 70 Buses Per Hour Over Williamsburg Bridge

At a hearing held yesterday, members of the City Council raised serious concerns about the city’s plan to deal with the shutdown of the L Train in 2019. Local City Council member Margaret Chin said a part of the proposal – sending buses over the Williamsburg Bridge to the Lower East Side – seems like a recipe for disaster. Many of Chin’s constituents are already up-in-arms about congestion in the area around the bridge.

On Wednesday, the MTA and the city’s Department of Transportation released a plan for coping with the 15-month shutdown to repair the L Train tunnel under the East River. It includes stepped up service on other trains (including the J, M, Z), restricting usage of the Williamsburg Bridge to HOV-3 vehicles and deploying city buses over the bridge, among other measures.

The inner roadway of the bridge will be reserved for cars, while the outer roadway will be restricted to buses and trucks. There’s a possibility cars turning from the bridge onto Clinton Street would be allowed the use the outer roadway, as well. DOT has decided against a dedicated bus lane because the lanes of the bridge are too narrow.

During a hearing of the City Council’s Transportation Committee, Chin expressed deep skepticism about the practicality of moving so many buses over the East River crossing. “70 buses an hour? That’s more than one bus a minute,” said Chin. “I just can’t envision them coming down the Williamsburg Bridge.” 

Earlier this month,  residents packed a public meeting at the 7th Precinct, where DOT ‘s Manhattan Borough Commissioner Luis Sanchez addressed concerns about gridlock around the intersection of Clinton and Grand streets. The worsening conditions there are attributable to the heavy volume of traffic trying to access the bridge.

“You know that my constituents have been complaining about the congestion (in this area),” Chin added. “For them to see all these buses coming, especially during rush hour, and then making that turn where all those streets are so congested — it might work in a model, but in reality (the plan seems unrealistic).”

DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg conceded that the plan will only work if automobile traffic is reduced on the bridge (4,000 cars now cross during peak periods). This is why, she said, it’s necessary to restrict the bridge to vehicles carrying three or more passengers during rush hour.

In response, Chin said, “I fully support HOV lanes. We should implement them now… There are too many cars coming in (to Manhattan) with just one person in them… (Implementing HOV lanes) could help minimize congestion we have already.” Chin also raised concerns about the MTA’s planning for more passengers on alternate subway routes. Specifically mentioning the J and F lines, Chin said, “MTA, are you prepared to accommodate more riders on those platforms.? It’s already extremely crowded.”

During the hearing, MTA and DOT officials acknowledged the issues raised by Council members, but they said the L Train shutdown poses many difficult transportation challenges. No matter how much planning takes place, they suggested, commuters are going to feel the pain. They pledged to continue a dialogue with Council members and to reach out to local community boards to solicit feedback.

Click here to watch the video from yesterday’s hearing.

L Train Shutdown Plans Unveiled; Prepare For Big Impact Above and Below Delancey Street

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The MTA and the city’s Department of Transportation yesterday released their plan for dealing with the looming L Train shutdown. As you might have expected, there will be a big impact on Delancey Street, since the Williamsburg Bridge will become an even more important link between Manhattan and Brooklyn.

In April of 2019, the L Train tunnel beneath the East River will be shut down for repairs. More than 400,000 daily commuters will be affected for the 15 months that it will take to rehabilitate the tunnel. As the New York Times explained, “The plans represent a major challenge for the city, eclipsed in scope in recent history perhaps only by the transportation challenges following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attack and immediately after Sandy.”

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According to the mitigation plan, the Williamsburg Bridge will be reserved for vehicles with three or more passengers during rush hour, and possibly at other times, as well. The HOV lanes will help accommodate increased bus service from Williamsburg to Delancey Street and to other locations in Manhattan. The agencies estimate that about 15 percent of current L Train riders will use buses on a daily basis. There would be no dedicated bus lanes on the bridge.

The rest are expected to use other subway lines, including the J, M, Z and G lines. The MTA plans to beef up train service at numerous stations to accommodate the extra passengers and to to add, “station turnstile, stair and control area capacity.” This part of the plan will obviously have a big impact on the Delancey Street station.

The city plans to install bus-only lanes on 14th Street, to launch a new ferry from Williamsburg to Stuyvesant Cove and to add more Citi Bike capacity.

As we have previously reported, DOT is also installing a two-way protected bike lane on the south side of Delancey Street (installation will begin next spring). Right now, 7,000 bicyclists use the Williamsburg Bridge daily. That number is expected to double during the shutdown. There will also be a new bike lane on 13th Street from Avenue C to Horatio Street on the West Side.

You can see the full plan here.

UPDATE 2:03 p.m. Here’s more from DOT on how traffic on the Williamsburg Bridge will be handled:

The outer deck of the Williamsburg Bridge will be for bus, truck and right turns only. (HOV3s will be directed to the outer deck if they wish to turn right at Clinton St, and trucks aren’t permitted on the inner deck.) The bus lanes on the approaches will feed directly into the outer deck, and the HOV3 rules will make the outer deck work reliably for bus passengers.


Report: Protected Bike Lanes, Indoor Bike Parking Coming to Delancey Street (Updated)

Delancey Street. Photo by H. Spencer Young, April 2016.

Delancey Street. Photo by H. Spencer Young, April 2016.

Today the city is expected to announce plans to create a two-way bike lane on Delancey Street, leading to and from the Williamsburg Bridge. The idea is part of a larger initiative to make accommodations for commuters as the MTA plans for a shutdown of the L Train tunnel between Manhattan and Brooklyn in 2019. The story was first reported late last night by the Wall Street Journal.

The proposal is part of the Department of Transportation’s five year plan. It encourages stepped up bike usage, as well as improved mass transit. According to the Journal:

The plan, to be released Wednesday, also calls for a new, indoor, city-owned secure bicycle parking site on the Manhattan side of the bridge, near connections for four other subway lines. The site could serve as a prototype of a new kind of bicycle-storage system near transportation hubs… The two-way Delancey Street protected bike paths would run from Allen Street east to the foot of the Williamsburg Bridge, under current city plans. Under a pilot project, parking for dozens of bicycles would be made available next year, officials said, inside the Delancey and Essex Municipal Parking Garage, a 24-hour-a-day facility on Essex Street. Nearby is a subway stop on the F, J, M and Z lines. Similar secure bicycle parking will be provided in warm weather at transit hubs next year as part of the pilot.

Transportation and safety advocates have been calling for protected bike lanes on Delancey Street for many years. It’s a plea that, until now, the Transportation Department, has rejected. We’ll have more throughout the day as this story develops.

UPDATE 11:01 a.m. The DOT has now made its strategic plan public. Here’s what the document says regarding Delancey Street.

DOT will continue to develop bike access plans to its bridges and will implement four bridge access projects in the next two years. The agency will continue implementation of its Harlem River Bridges Access Plan and develop a plan for a protected bicycle lane on Delancey Street to better connect cyclists to the Williamsburg Bridge, the busiest East River bike crossing.
In a separate section of the report, the agency states:
The Great Streets program redesigns major corridors to prevent crashes, enhance mobility, increase accessibility, and bolster neighborhood vitality. The following projects are underway: Atlantic Ave. and Fourth Ave. in Brooklyn; the Grand Concourse in the Bronx; and Queens Blvd. in Queens. In addition, DOT is implementing Vision Zero capital redesigns on other major streets, including Delancey St. in Manhattan and Tillary St. in Brooklyn.
And here’s what DOT writes about Delancey Street in this morning’s press release:
One of the higher-profile projects the plan specifically anticipates for 2017 is a new protected bike lane along Delancey Street in Manhattan leading to the Williamsburg Bridge.   Already the busiest East River crossing for cyclists, the Williamsburg Bridge’s bike lane is expected to grow even more popular in 2019 during the MTA’s planned 18-month shutdown of the L train.  DOT plans to develop the new Delancey Street bike lane in consultation with the Lower East Side community next year.
You can read the complete strategic plan here.