The L train shutdown is no more: Transit advocates weigh in

“Subway riders are sick of being lied to and jerked
around”

Elected officials, transit advocates and experts were left
grasping for answers in the dark, as if in some sort of tunnel, as
they began to process Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s
sudden announcement
that the Canarsie Tunnel repairs set to
begin this April would not actually shutdown the L train between
Brooklyn and Manhattan.

“The questions it raises in terms of process are, if this was
possible, did the MTA think about this years ago when this problem
became apparent?” says Jon Orcutt of the TransitCenter. “If so,
why did they reject it? If not, why weren’t they looking around
the world at new ways of doing things? If the governor wants to
bring in independent engineers to review big things they’re
doing, why can’t you do it much earlier in the process?”

Process aside, Orcutt is happy with the new plan, which will
circumvent a total shutdown. “It’s good news for riders and
everyone else dealing with the transportation system in Brooklyn
and Queens,” says Orcutt. “I don’t think people got how
unbelievable it was going to be to stuff L train riders into other
people’s trains, how bad that would be if you had problems on any
other lines.”

Former City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, who’s
currently running for public advocate (on the Fix the MTA line, no
less), is more skeptical; she released a statement that began
“Um, what?” and criticized the process that led to this
point.

“Of course everyone wants the subway fixed quickly and running
smoothly, but the MTA and the Governor owe New Yorkers the truth
about why this new plan came so late in the game,” Mark-Viverito
wrote. “Families moved neighborhoods, businesses suffered, and
suddenly the Governor says—just kidding? Subway riders are sick
of being lied to and jerked around. After two years of being told
one story, New Yorkers deserve to know what systematic failures led
to a shutdown being deemed necessary before all options were
explored.”

The new plan, relying on a process that hasn’t been used to
fix a tunnel in the United States before, will involve
hanging power cables on racks on the side of the tunnel
and
wrapping them in fiberglass polymer instead of embedding them in
the tunnel walls. The technology, and the plan itself, was
questioned by MTA board member David Jones, who told Errol Louis
last night that the board found out about the new plan at the same
time as the general public, a fact that he called
“disconcerting.”

One @MTA board member
says not even the board knew Gov. Cuomo would halt plans for the
shutdown of the L train between Brooklyn and Manhattan. And he has
concerns if the proposed new repair plan is a long-term fix.

#NY1Politics
pic.twitter.com/M5hMCYSZMM

— Spectrum News NY1 (@NY1)
January 4, 2019

Jaqi Cohen of the Straphangers Campaign also used the “d”
word—disconcerting—to describe the way in which Cuomo’s big
announcement was made.

“It’s disconcerting to pull the plug months before the
[shutdown] plan was supposed to go into place,” says Cohen.
“Our biggest concern is that there’s very little public
accountability in the plan as presented. There was no real sense of
what the specific timeline was for this, the start date, how much
it will cost, how exactly it will impact service.”

During the afternoon press conference, acting MTA chair Freddy
Ferrer said weekend work would
mean 15 to 20 minute headways on the L
, and that the project
would take 15 to 20 months to complete. Cuomo later told reporters
it would be “silly” to promise a specific timeline for a
construction project.

For Cohen, huge questions remain. “What will the real impact
be on riders? Very little information was provided about that
specific detail, and that’s what I think riders really care
about,” she explains. “They want to know the work will be done
on time and without costing an exorbitant amount of money, but also
‘What is the day to day impact this will have on my
life?’”

John Raskin, the executive director of the Riders Alliance, was
more skeptical. In a statemnt, he wrote that “we need a full
public release of the details of Governor Cuomo’s idea, as well
as the mitigation plans that will allow hundreds of thousands of L
train riders to get around during the inevitable shutdowns and
slowdowns in service.”

The statement continues, “actual transit professionals, who
owe nothing to the governor or the MTA, should evaluate whether
this is sound engineering or a political stunt that will ultimately
leave riders in the lurch.”

And while the plan theoretically brings innovation to the tunnel
itself, many were also left wondering what would happen to
above-ground changes promised as part of the shutdown. “I think
what this looks like is an opportunity to squander some really good
ideas, because the 15-month plan shutdown had started to bear some
fruit on some good transportation policy,” says Joe Cutrufo of
Transportation Alternatives, pointing to the busway expansion of
pedestrian space on 14th Street, the city’s embrace of e-bikes,
and the 12th and 13th Street bike lanes.

“The MTA and DOT need to figure out that these things need to
be preserved, and even though the L train isn’t shutting down
24/7, there still need to be alternatives to the subway,” says
Cutrufo. On the idea that those nights and weekend riders would now
be the only ones with an affected commute, Cutrufo said that it
seemed like “a political calculation, to shift the burden from
‘everyone takes a hit’ to ‘night and weekend riders taking a
hit.’”

Calling the plan “promising,” Nick Sifuentes of the
Tri-State Transportation Campaign nevertheless agreed that the
mitigation plans should remain in place. “Whether New Yorkers can
expect to see a full or a partial shutdown on the L train, the MTA
and the city DOT must move forward with their current mitigation
plans,” Sifuentes wrote in a statement. “With 400,000 daily
riders, the L train is already at capacity, and any reduction in
service will mean riders will struggle to find ways to get around.
Every bus, every ferry, every HOV lane will still be needed to meet
the demand.”

Politically, an unofficial City Council caucus of members who
represent L-adjacent districts has emerged to back those mitigation
efforts. Calling for hearings on the new reality facing the city,
council member Carlina Rivera wrote in a statement that “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.”

Rafael Espinal questioned what the new plan would mean for
service workers and others who rely on the trains on late nights
and weekends. A spokesperson for the Council Member elaborated for
Curbed: “Even assuming the 15-20 minute headway figure is true,
that still makes it more difficult to get from A to B efficiently.
Especially for someone with an inflexible work schedule, that could
pose major problems.”

Espinal later tweeted that bus and bike lanes and Citi Bike
expansions planned for the shutdown should stick around.

FYI @NYC_DOT
should STILL move forward with the expansion of bus & bike
lanes and Citibike into Bushwick. It will ease congestion and a
packed L train, making North Brooklyn more livable https://t.co/62EIHoOA1H

— Rafael L Espinal Jr. (@RLEspinal)
January 3, 2019

Council member Antonio Reynoso, who represents the district next
door to Espinal, tweeted that he was currently on vacation, but did
take the time to compare the L train situation to that of the
Brooklyn Nets, whose former GM Billy King insisted on chasing
flashy upgrades that
got him praise from tabloids
instead of taking a more measured
approach, eventually leaving the team in a seemingly
impossible-to-escape hole.

Huge @BrooklynNets
fan. Can’t wait to see what we do when Caris gets back. But L train
situation is the transportation equivalent to GM King days. Get
ready for many more years of losing w/o first round picks and no
Sean Marks to dig us out of this transportation nightmare.

— Antonio Reynoso (@CMReynoso34)
January 3, 2019

A spokesperson for the Department of Transportation tells Curbed
that the agency is reviewing the new plan, but did confirm that the
north Brooklyn Citi Bike infills would still be moving forward as
planned.

Source: FS – All – Real Estate News 1
The L train shutdown is no more: Transit advocates weigh in