Mapping Life Without the L Train

If you live in Greenpoint (the blue pin), the darkest red areas of this map would take at least 25 minutes longer to reach via transit without the L train. Image: Sidewalk Labs
If you live in Greenpoint (the blue pin), the darkest red areas of this map would take at least 25 minutes longer to reach via transit without the L train. Image: Sidewalk Labs

This fall, DOT and the MTA will unveil their plan to keep New Yorkers moving when the L train west of Bedford Avenue shuts down for repairs. Advocates are calling for on-street transitways, new bus service patterns, and safer bicycling conditions to make up for the loss of subway service across the East River and 14th Street.

But what if the L train went away and nothing took its place? A new mapping tool from Sidewalk Labs conveys how that would affect transit trips — and, by implication, why a robust replacement plan is needed during the outage.

NYC Transit Explorer” shows how far you can get via transit from any point in a given amount of time, as well as plan the fastest transit route between two places. It also includes an option to see how things change when you strip the western segment of the L train out of the system.

Here’s the demo video explaining how to use it:

You can see just how wide-ranging the impact would be in Brooklyn. A City College student who lives near the Morgan Avenue L stop, for example, would see her trip to class increase from 53 minutes to 68 minutes. From Canarsie, getting to the East Side of Manhattan would take as much as 25 minutes longer.

Sidewalk Labs sees the map as a tool to convey the strengths and weaknesses of the transit system from any given location in the city.

Drop a pin anywhere and see just how much of the city you can reach by transit in an hour or less. Here’s the view from Jamaica:


 “So many transit applications are built around this idea of getting you from point A to point B — it’s all about getting to one place,” said Dan Vanderkam, the software engineer who put the map together. “But the tools that people use typically don’t give you the system-wide picture that this visualization does.”


The MTA and DOT did not indicate any plans for busways on surface streets in a presentation to elected officials last week about the L train shutdown. Image: MTA

There’s Got to Be More to the L Train Shutdown Plan Than What the MTA and DOT Have Shown So Far

Starting in January 2019, service on the L train west of Bedford Avenue will be suspended for 15 months to allow for Sandy-related repairs. The only way to keep hundreds of thousands of people moving is to dedicate significant street space to buses on both sides of the East River. But at a presentation to elected officials on Friday, the MTA and DOT did not indicate that bus lanes are part of their plan, except on the Williamsburg Bridge itself.

Brewer to DOT: Start Looking Into a Bus-Only 14th Street

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer is calling on DOT to study making 14th Street a bus-only thoroughfare while L train service is disrupted during Sandy-related repairs. To allow for urgently-needed fixes to the L train tunnel, the MTA is considering either a full shutdown of service between Bedford Avenue and Eighth Avenue for 18 months, or a three-year […]
Map: RPA

This Week: Planning for a 14th Street With No L Train

The looming L train shutdown will disrupt travel for hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers and demands a serious response. This week you can speak up for a robust plan to keep people moving sans L train at a workshop in Manhattan, where advocates are calling on DOT and the MTA to implement transitways on 14th Street and Delancey Street.