The Call for 24/7 Bus Lanes During the L Train Shutdown Keeps Getting Stronger

Residents of Bushwick, Ridgewood, and points east are counting on the de Blasio administration to set aside street space for effective surface transit when the shutdown starts next April.

Gloria Tobar will need good bus service when the L train goes out of commission, and not just during rush hour. Photo: David Meyer
Gloria Tobar will need good bus service when the L train goes out of commission, and not just during rush hour. Photo: David Meyer

With the western portion of the L train slated to go dark for 15 months starting next April, North Brooklyn residents and community organizations are increasingly alarmed that the city hasn’t committed to 24/7 bus lanes on the surface transit routes that will replace the subway.

For neighborhoods where the vast majority of people don’t own cars, the lack of certainty is unacceptable. A coalition of environmental justice and neighborhood organizations representing North Brooklyn residents gathered near the Myrtle Wyckoff subway station this morning to demand more from the de Blasio administration.

“How are we going to make sure that folks can get to work, get to school, get to doctors’ offices?” said NYC Environmental Justice Alliance Executive Director Eddie Bautista. “We have to make sure that the low-income communities and communities of color that depend on the L train are thrown a lifeline — that they are not left to their own devices, and that people don’t lose jobs, get sick, get kicked out of school.”

Bautista’s organization was joined by Make the Road, New York Communities for Change, El Puente, and transit advocacy groups at the event.

To keep shuttle buses moving during the shutdown, DOT plans to put bus lanes on Grand Street, Delancey Street, and 14th Street. But Mayor de Blasio has expressed a preference for limiting bus priority to “rush hour,” even though L train ridership remains high well into the night.

Tens of thousands of North Brooklyn residents count on the L train outside of traditional commuting hours. The uncertainty is fraying their nerves.

“The L line moves thousands of people between Brooklyn and Manhattan,” said Bushwick resident and Make the Road member Gloria Tobar. “We’re going to need newer and better alternatives without creating increasing congestion on the road, leading to excessive commuting times for both subway riders and daily drivers.”

Up until now, most of the arguing and attention over the L train shutdown plan has centered around 14th Street in Manhattan and the neighborhoods closest to Brooklyn’s waterfront, as has most of the agencies’ public outreach. Further east, many people aren’t even aware that the shut down is happening.

“The MTA and DOT have a big task in terms of communication and outreach,” said NYC EJA transportation planner Renae Reynolds. “Talking to community members out here, there were some audible gasps when we told folks that the L train was going to be shutting down for 15 months.”

“The L train shutdown is a citywide emergency and it calls for our citywide leader, our mayor, to take very significant and substantial action,” said Riders Alliance Communications Director Danny Pearlstein. “If we don’t have a subway, we need our buses to run like we’ve never seen our buses run before.”