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L train shutdown: L-pocalypse or can’t bloody L wait?

By the time the 15-month L train shutdown comes in April 2019, straphangers will have been through seven years of L on the subway line.

Just when you think you’re out, the L train pulls you back in — and leaves you on a platform or on the subway for an undetermined amount of time.

Just yesterday, there were delays in both directions on the beleaguered line due to an unspecified investigation between Jefferson Street and Morgan Avenue. And that came less than a month after two separate issues — a door malfunction followed by a signal issue —  crippled the line and stranded straphangers for hours.

The long-lambasted L train shutdown won’t happen for another 18 months, but many New Yorkers likely wish it were sooner to end their misery. But that’s next to impossible, said Metro columnist and transportation historian and advocate Larry Penner.

“There’s so much prior planning necessary before the shutdown, you’ve got to get it right,” he said. 

The 15-month shutdown, scheduled to begin in April 2019, will rehabilitate the Canarsie Tunnel, which goes under the East River and was severely damaged by Hurricane Sandy in October 2012.

Since the work includes demolition and reconstruction of the tunnel, tracks and track bed, the L train will only run between Bedford Avenue and Canarsie-Rockaway Parkway, meaning there will not be service to or from Manhattan during that time.

“In fairness, we’re a 24/7 city, and with the subway structure fragile as it is, it does make sense to only take care of one corridor at a time,” Penner said.

The MTA did not respond to requests for comment and updates on the L train shutdown, but a similar shutdown in 2013 of the Montague Street Tunnel, which the N and R trains use between Manhattan and Brooklyn, opened a month ahead of schedule after 13 months, so there is hope for the L train.

“That was a good model and success story,” Penner said. “It’s better to go in and get it all done at once than piecemeal. When you have to stop and start work every 15 minutes, you’re not being efficient. Plus, the concept of going in and shutting it down makes sense because you save a lot of money.”

L train options are out there

Though Department of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg recently shot down hopes that 14th Street would go car-free or bus-only during the L train shutdown, she did say parts of the thoroughfare may have bus-only access at certain times, Streetsblog reported.

Straphangers can still use the J, M and Z trains to get into Manhattan as well as the NYC Ferry, which Magdalena Mazurek-Nuovo of Williamsburg divorced the L for.

“It was just unbearable,” she said of the train. “It’s very unpredictable and horrible. I don’t even mind being in a crowded train — it was just sometimes there were no trains for a long time.”

Astrid Harders, another longtime L rider, said she’s curious to see what will really happen with the shutdown. “It might not be that bad — weekends in Williamsburg might be less crowded, less tourists and hungover college kids.”

A Chariot awaits

Another option for stranded straphangers may be Chariot, a car service that launched its third route in New York City today. Going from Williamsburg to Midtown, it is the company’s third route in the city since its August rollout  — and its first that was crowdsourced by customers.

Chariot works like a rideshare, in which its app will let you know how close one of the commuter vans is and allows you to reserve a seat. Then you just go to one of the designated stops and hop on for $4 a ride or $119 for a monthly pass.

“We don’t disclose exact numbers, but we’ve been growing week-over-week,” Marketing Manager Brittany Lewis said, adding that “multiple” new routes are expected by yearend.

While Chariot is not actively planning to pick up the slack during the L train shutdown, “we are open to whatever residents want,” Lewis said. “So if that time comes and that’s something people are looking for, we’ll definitely want to help them.”

New Yorkers can “found” a Chariot route by going to Chariot.com/routes.

 
 
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