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.

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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

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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.