L Train Slowdown: Service Cutbacks, Construction Begins

L train
Photo credit Gov. Andrew Cuomo/Flickr
By WCBS Newsradio 880

NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — Service cutbacks on the L train are set to begin Friday night.

In 2012, Superstorm Sandy caused severe damage to the Canarsie Tunnel, which transports the L train between Brooklyn and Manhattan. To fix the issues, the MTA had considered shutting down the line completely while crews worked to revamp the crumbling infrastructure.

In January, Gov. Andrew Cuomo prevented a complete shutdown when he hired a group of experts to analyze the tunnel and present a new plan that would allow L train service to continue.

On Friday, Cuomo called in to WCBS 880 and called the original plan “highly problematic” and noted that 275,000 people utilize the subway line every day.

“We brought in Cornell University and Columbia University and they put together teams with international expertise and they came up with a better way to fix that tunnel,” he explained.

Rather than shutting down the train for 15 months, the train will continue to on a “slowdown” schedule while crews work to repair the tunnel.

“The train runs 24/7, that eliminates 99% of the problem,” the governor said of the new plan.

Still, only portion of the Canarsie Tunnel will be open during nights and weekends, when work will be done, and it’s expected to create a whole new series of problems for commuters.

Under the plan, L rains will run every 20 minutes instead of every five minutes starting at 10 p.m. Friday through 5 a.m. Monday. The service disruptions will also affect commuters on weeknights.

The MTA warns there will be extreme overcrowding on platforms and train cars and commuters should consider alternative routes.

“We're encouraging people to take alternate subway service. Subways will continue to be the fastest way to travel,” said the MTA’s managing director Ronnie Hakim.

Cuomo seems to agree with commuters who are frustrated by the slowdown, and says he’s working with the MTA to find better ways to improve service.

“I said to the MTA, it's not acceptable the way they currently do business. You know, we've been very cooperative as New Yorkers, we understand that we have to pay for subway service and that rapid transit service and mass transit is the future but we also want performance,” Cuomo said. “I don't wanna be unnecessarily disruptive, but we have to find better, faster, cheaper ways of doing these repairs, doing construction and that has to be the mentality across the board.”

Earlier this week, the city announced the Department of Transportation will roll out a redesign of vehicle traffic lanes on 14th Street in June. The goal is to speed up bus service during the Canarsie Tunnel repairs. Regular car traffic will no longer be allowed on 14th Street between Third and Ninth Avenues.

“Pickups and drop offs for people who live on 14th Street, or going to shop or going to restaurants, that’ll be allowed. Deliveries, obviously will be allowed,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio of the redesign.

He says that for the period of time in which the Canarsie Tunnel is under repairs, “we’re gonna experiment with this effort to limit access to 14th Street and really focus on making sure the buses move.”

“We have got to speed up buses in New York City,” the mayor said, adding that faster buses will ease the congestion caused by the L train slowdown.

Commuters have been bracing themselves and ahead of the yearlong partial shutdown, a group of comedians released a parody song to the tune of Don McLean's "American Pie."

Meanwhile, the MTA says there will be added service on the G, M and 7 trains.

It remains unclear how long the Canarsie Tunnel repairs will last, but initial estimates suggest it will take just under two years.