Advocates Release First Comprehensive Proposal to Serve All L Train Riders During Shutdown

Regional Plan Association and the Riders Alliance released a comprehensive plan for managing the coming L train outage and improving transportation along the L train corridor over the long term. The report, “Fixing the L Train and Managing the Shutdown: A Community Consensus Proposal,” was presented Tuesday a news conference with elected officials and representatives from community groups along the L train line.

The shutdown, scheduled to begin in 2019, will close L train stations between Bedford Avenue and 8th Avenue. Advocacy groups contend that the shutdown provides the MTA and DOT with a unique opportunity to develop ambitious public transit alternatives for riders along the L. From improving service on connecting subways to more robust, Select Bus Service-like bus routes to improved access to ferries and CitiBike, the report highlights solutions that will help riders from Chelsea to Canarsie during the shutdown—and, in some cases, beyond.  

The full report is available online:  It was written in consultation with more than 2,000 L train riders, community groups, business leaders, elected officials and transit advocates. In the report, RPA and the Riders Alliance outline a community-driven plan that offers comprehensive recommendations to the MTA and DOT, including:

  1. Governance – how New York City and New York State should engage community and business stakeholders;
  2. Street and transit improvements – including station access improvements, a 14th Street Transitway closed to private vehicles, a dedicated busway on the Williamsburg Bridge including HOV restrictions on other crossings, new technology to speed up buses, additional services to key routes, transforming Brooklyn streets to better connect people and cyclists, and more; and 
  3. Transformation of the L train – to a modern, higher capacity, and more reliable subway through capital improvements that would increase ADA accessibility, establish wider platforms, improve circulation at stations for rider entrance and exit, and rebuild the 8th Avenue terminal to increase capacity for additional trains. 

The transit policy and advocacy groups sourced quantitative and qualitative data from the U.S. Census and more than 2,000 surveys of L train riders at stations throughout the corridor, as well as input from over a dozen elected officials and local community groups, to offer inclusive solutions during the route’s shutdown.  

"We already know riders in Manhattan and North Brooklyn are going to face the brunt of the L train shutdown, but what we learned by speaking to thousands of riders across the route is that the shutdown will affect riders from places like East New York and Canarsie almost as much--and they already have some of the longest commutes in the city, said Masha Burina, Senior Organizer, Riders Alliance. “Now more than ever, the MTA and DOT must implement new transit options that ensure that the needs of all L train riders are addressed during the shutdown."

Tom Wright, President, RPA, said: “The L train closure won’t be easy, but what we have sought to do with this report is offer solutions that mitigate the impact while also setting the stage for better transit service and more balanced streets over the long term. We look forward to working with the MTA, the Department of Transportation, elected officials and all other stakeholders on this effort.”

"We're looking forward to more planning conversations with key government agencies as the community of thousands, soon to lose essential train service, has demonstrated with this first statement/proposal,” said Felice Kirby of the L Train Coalition. “Commuters and businesses will no doubt suffer, but some of our ideas, such as big boat East River ferry shuttle service that runs Brooklyn-Manhattan and late night hours Thursday - Saturday, are some of the community-driven ideas that we think useful. We're two years away from tunnel closing; our sleeves are rolled up to work together. When's the meeting?"

"A functioning transit system ensures city residents access to educational institutions, jobs, groceries and medical care," said Layman Lee, Placemaking Manager at Community Solutions' Brownsville Partnership. "Hearing directly from residents in Brownsville and other affected neighborhoods is a crucial step towards ensuring quality of life is not lowered during the L shutdown and community-driven ideas for longer term improvements are seriously considered."

“We’d like to thank Regional Plan Association and the Riders Alliance for producing this comprehensive, community-driven plan that looks at alternatives to the L train through a range of perspectives,” said Brooklyn Chamber President and CEO Carlo A. Scissura. “This kind of thorough thinking and planning will help Brooklynites and all New Yorkers who currently rely on the L train to cope with the shutdown in 2019 and beyond.”

Gladys Puglla, member of Make the Road New York and a transit rider, and 19 year resident of Bushwick said, “​The chaos​ that is coming to our area will be disastrous since 2 trains will be closed for renovation.  My commute right now is 30 to 45 minutes to get to my job and the trains are already overcrowded and slow.  Right now, there is only one other way to get to my job: walk to the Flushing station 30 to 45 minutes or try to get in the bus, or go to Broadway Junction which is already too crowded.  When the M train was closed for renovation at the Central station, the shuttle buses were too few and so overcrowded that many riders went home and didn’t work that day.  We are asking the MTA do as much as they can for us. Every day we pay high fares, yet the quality is insufficient. If the MTA wants the shutdown to work, we must have free shuttle buses and services on weekends that start early in the day so that we can take our children to school and get to work on time. I support the Community Consensus Proposal. Give us the services, and we’ll manage the rest.” 

"With the L Train shutdown coming in less than 800 days, New Yorkers need a bold solution that keeps commuters moving and improves bus and bike connections between Brooklyn and Manhattan," said Paul Steely White, Executive Director of Transportation Alternatives. "By creating a PeopleWay prioritizing buses, biking and walking, the city can double the capacity of the 14th Street corridor during the shutdown, and beyond. We're excited to be part of the L Train coalition and look forward to hearing community feedback during this meeting."

“I am delighted that Regional Plan Association and Riders Alliance have collaborated on a comprehensive plan for commuters during the L Train repairs,” said Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney (NY12). “The proposal is innovative, far-sighted and thorough, ensuring that riders will be able to reach their destinations despite the L Train outage. And, as with the best plans, they use the closure as an opportunity to make repairs and suggest transportation alternatives that would be beneficial even after the L Train is back in service.”

“Since Hurricane Sandy, New York City’s Metropolitan Transport Authority and Department of Transportation has been working diligently to provide New Yorkers with multiple transportation options during the construction and improvement of L Train line,” said State Senator Roxanne Persaud. “The priority for the MTA and DOT has been to alleviate commuting burdens that New Yorkers may face. On behalf of all New Yorker's their dedication and determination to make our lives easier is appreciated and commendable.” 

"These are the kinds of ideas the State, City, and MTA need to be considering to help ease the impacts of the L closure on residents and businesses, which is why I have called for a transparent, collaborative working group to make sure the best proposals are implemented ahead of the closure -- not caught in inter-agency bureaucracy," said State Senator Daniel Squadron. “Thank you to the Regional Plan Association and Riders Alliance, as well as the L Train Coalition and my colleagues.”

"The L Train shutdown presents truly daunting challenges for New Yorkers on both sides of the East River, but as is often the case with disruptive events we wouldn't wish for, the shutdown also provides us with a great incentive to rethink subway and bus service as well as cycling, pedestrian routes, and other transportation options," saidAssemblymember Brian Kavanagh. "I thank RPA and Riders Alliance, and other contributing organizations like Transportation Alternatives, for gathering and synthesizing ideas from many New Yorkers and crafting a broad, compelling proposal. Together we'll do everything we can in advance of and during the shutdown to maintain the mobility that is essential in our vibrant city, and we'll come out of this difficult period with a healthier, more resilient transportation network that will better serve all of our communities for many years to come."

“The L Train Forum will provide an incredible opportunity for the community to provide feedback on how they think the upcoming closure should be mitigated. Luckily, many of the most creative ideas for legislation and community initiatives come directly from constituents,” said Assemblyman Joseph R. Lentol. “What is even more inspiring is that not only is North Brooklyn imaginative in their professional industries, I have great faith that they will think outside of the box to formulate transportation alternatives that will benefit the whole community. I look forward to hearing the community’s feedback on the L Train Community Consensus Proposal as well as their own innovative solutions. Thanks to the L Train Coalition and all the other advocates that have worked tirelessly to lessen the impact of the L train closure.”

“As we deal with the imminent L Train shutdown and how this will impact community’s transportation options, we call on the MTA to have an open and transparent process of how they will engage the community to other public transportation options,” said Assemblymember Latrice Walker.  We are grateful for the leadership of the Riders Alliance and L Train Coalition on this issue and bringing the community needs to the table.

"I thank the Regional Plan Association, Riders Alliance, and all of my fellow members of the L Train Coalition for all of the community-driven input that has produced this meaningful report on how we can best address the challenges associated with the impending subway line closure,” said Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams. “My administration has worked closely with advocates and residents to generate a number of important mitigation measures -- such as a 'bus bridge' over the Williamsburg Bridge, an out-of-station 3/L line transfer in Brownsville, and an increase in East River ferry service -- as well as ideas such as new cycling infrastructure and reduced commuter rail fares that could result in long-term benefits."

“This report advances commonsense ideas that need to be on the table to keep 14th Street commuters, residents, and businesses moving during the L train outage,” said Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer. “A partial closure of 14th Street to speed bus traffic, a night delivery plan to keep businesses running while reducing congestion, and dedicated busways on the bridges to Brooklyn are all important steps that need to be fully explored.”

“In the wake of the destruction caused by Hurricane Sandy to our subway infrastructure, all efforts must be made to ensure the necessary work on the L train line is done efficiently and that critical accommodations are made to passengers who live along this route,” said Council Member Rafael Espinal (Brooklyn-Bushwick, East New York, Cypress Hills, Oceanhill-Brownsville). “I support the plan put forward by the Riders Alliance and Regional Plan Association, specifically the free transfer at Livonia Ave.- Junius St., express bus service to Manhattan and additional A/C train service in off-peak hours, which will directly affect the constituents I represent in the 37th Council District. I urge the MTA to take these recommendations into sincere consideration when planning our course of action over the next few months and I am hopeful for a successful outcome.”

"The challenge of the L train shutdown is also an opportunity," said Council Member Stephen Levin. "By implementing the proposals put forth by RPA and Riders Alliance we can emerge from the shutdown stronger than ever before. No single solution is superior – we must be willing to take a comprehensive approach to improve our community's transportation network."

Annette Collins, Riders Alliance canvasser from Canarsie, heard from hundreds of people in collecting surveys. “I spoke to New Yorkers on fixed incomes, single mothers and grandparents who depend on the L train.  Other input came from senior citizens and others who take the train to see specialists for medical visit- many of them spoke of the hardships they’ll face when looking for transit alternatives.  This proposal is an essential plan that broadly represents the needs and solutions of all of us.” 

"I'm most worried about the L train shutdown because I'm afraid it's just going to be business-as-usual: overcrowding, sub-par communication from the MTA, last-minute service changes, and on,” said Maxwell Zorick, Riders Alliance member, Greenpoint resident.  “By taking bold actions to update our outdated infrastructure and pilot new technologies – like the ones addressed in the RPA and Riders Alliance proposal – these agencies can demonstrate their ability to be responsive to what New Yorkers need and give us faith that government can still solve big challenges."


Essential Findings:

Impact on commuters and residents (page 8)

Most work trips for all zones end in the major employment centers of Midtown Manhattan, Lower Manhattan and Downtown Brooklyn. 

Within Brooklyn, Downtown Brooklyn is a key work destination for many commuters along the L train corridor. 

  • The 25 blocks surrounding Jay St-MetroTech is the work destination for nearly 11% of the people who live within three-quarters of a mile of Broadway Junction
  • A smaller share of residents living near the Lorimer-Metropolitan and Myrtle-Wyckoff Stations commute to the same area in Downtown Brooklyn: only 6% of residents surrounding each of these stations work near Jay St-MetroTech.

In Manhattan, work destinations are concentrated in Midtown along the main north-south avenues. 

  • In particular, three major avenues (6th, 8th and 9th avenues) were profiled to determine the ones that served the greatest number of rider destinations, assuming a more frequent M service that would be supplemented with SBS services to minimize transfers for L train riders. 
  • For work trips ending along the 6th, 8th and 9th Avenue corridors, more residents end their trip along 6th Avenue (15%); along 8th Avenue, 11% of riders end their trip, and 7% end their trip along 9th Avenue north of 14th Street (Table 1).