Brooklyn Electeds Press DOT and MTA to Give L Train Riders the Transit They Need

North Brooklyn leaders are worried that the L train shutdown plan won't include the transit-priority treatments that commuters and local businesses are counting on.

Council Member Antonio Reynoso. Photo: David Meyer
Council Member Antonio Reynoso. Photo: David Meyer

North Brooklyn elected officials want more clarity from DOT and the MTA about their plan for replacement transit service during the 2019 L Train shutdown. They’re concerned the final plan — which has no scheduled release date — won’t include the transit-priority treatments that commuters and local businesses are counting on.

The MTA’s L train repair project is expected to start in April, 2019, shutting down service between Williamsburg and the West Side of Manhattan for 15 months. But the agencies haven’t provided an update on their replacement service plan since a bare-bones outline six months ago.

“The deadline draws nearer and nearer, and for a lot of the folks in my community, for many of us elected officials, the information getting back to us from from the MTA and DOT has been extremely limited to non-existent,” Council Member Antonio Reynoso said at a press event this morning.

Along with Council Member Stephen Levin, who also represents north Brooklyn, Reynoso has called on the agencies to provide robust substitute bus service for the affected neighborhoods. He’s also expressed support for turning Grand Street into a “PeopleWay” that prioritizes transit, bicycling, and walking.

No plan has been made public, but an internal MTA memo obtained in October by Ben Kabak of Second Avenue Sagas indicated a reluctance on DOT’s part to set aside busways on the Williamsburg Bridge and its approaches. Transit priority is essential heading to and from the bridge to maintain reliable service for the 60 buses per hour the MTA plans to run at peak.

“It’s been pretty clear that we want [buses] to be a priority, but it doesn’t mean that they will do it,” Reynoso said today. “Considering how they’ve performed over the last six, seven months, and their lack of communication to us, we are more concerned now than we were before.”

With no communication from the city or state, local businesses are worried about what will happen to the foot traffic they depend on. Brooklyn Brewery owner Steve Hindy, for example, said his business gets between 3,000 and 4,000 visitors per week, more than half of whom are foreign tourists.

The L train replacement plan should also include permanent upgrades to the neighborhood’s transportation system, said Alan Minor of Neighbors Allied for Good Growth, including opening shuttered subway entrances, making stations ADA accessible, upgrading bus service on Grand Street and Union Avenue, and expanding Citi Bike and bike lanes. “We need to think of this as an opportunity to improve transit long-term, and not just focus on how we can mitigate things during the shutdown.

Update, 3:57 p.m.: DOT spokesperson Scott Gastel sent over the following statement: “The L train closure will bring substantial commuting and travel disruption on the order of the 2005 transit strike or the weeks following Sandy. MTA and DOT are working diligently on a daily basis to address the impact and this year-long collaboration is reinforced by the tremendous resources going into mitigation plans. We are still in 2017 and with a year and a half before the closure takes effect, commuters want to take comfort that we are putting in the time to have the best plan possible. We continue to hear concerns and are working aggressively toward that goal. Our agencies will be ready and a plan is forthcoming.”