MTA abruptly releases L-train shutdown plan, still many unanswered questions
Environmental Issues Not Addressed
For months, elected officials and residents pleaded for MTA to release its mitigation plan for the L-train shutdown, arguing that they were left in the dark with little communication.
On Wednesday, however, MTA and the city’s Department of Transportation (DOT) unexpectedly published its plan for the 15-month closure, which starts in April 2019.
And while many questions were answered, numerous concerns still exist.
The sudden release of the report took many off guard, but perhaps MTA and DOT wanted to release their strategy ahead of a Public Transportation Committee hearing on Thursday.
The mitigation plan, though largely incomplete, is broken into three categories: subway service, the Williamsburg Bridge and street design.
MTA plans to expand service on the G, M and Z lines, while also extending the length of G and C trains. The transit organization announced in May 2016 that the G train would double in length from four cars to eight cars during the closure.
In addition, there will be free transfers between Broadway (G) and Lorimer-Hewes (JMZ), and between Junius Street (3) and Livonia Avenue (L).
To alleviate congestion on the Williamsburg Bridge, MTA will create dedicated bus lanes that connect Grand Street in Bushwick, the Williamsburg Bridge, and Delancey Street and other Manhattan connection points.
MTA will also create high occupancy vehicle restrictions on the overpass during rush hours.
At Thursday’s hearing, DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said she hopes to receive permission from the city to install cameras on the bridge to properly enforce the new traffic restrictions.
To shuttle straphangers from Brooklyn to Manhattan during the shutdown, MTA plans to introduce 200 diesel buses.
Adding 200 diesel buses, the equivalent of roughly 2,200 passenger cars, to New York’s streets for 15 months will create an estimated 14,351 tons of greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Greenhouse Gas Equivalencies Calculator.
Councilmember Rafael Espinal and Transportation Committee Chair Ydanis Rodriguez are co-sponsoring a bill that will require Gov. Andrew Cuomo and MTA to transition its entire fleet of buses from diesel to electric. Resolution No. 1443 was highlighted at Thursday’s meeting.
“Just yesterday, the MTA gave us some insight into how those buses will be used, but one important fact that’s missing is that we’re using new capital dollars to purchase 200 diesel buses at a time when cities across the country and world are making a commitment to purchase 100 percent electric buses,” Espinal told the Brooklyn Eagle.
“The MTA said today that they plan to get their electric bus pilot program started in the next few weeks. With over a year and a half until the shutdown, that is plenty of time to gather data from their pilot program and use electric buses during the shutdown. I still have many unanswered questions and concerns, but am pleased that now electric buses are playing a prominent role in the conversation.”
EPA weighed in on Wednesday about the potential environmental and health risks associated with diesel buses.
“While the EPA does not have a permitting interest in this matter, we would advocate for the most environmentally friendly option in the interim,” EPA told the Eagle. “We understand the issues and concerns around this decision and support use of clean alternatives to the extent feasible.
“To minimize any air quality impacts, we would encourage the MTA to use only the newest, cleanest buses (e.g., buses manufactured today are up to 90 percent lower emitting than those manufactured 11 years ago).”
The final piece of the L-train shutdown plan is redesigning streets in Brooklyn and Manhattan.
The majority of 14th Street will turn into an exclusive “busway,” which would ban cars.
In addition, DOT will create Manhattan’s first two-way protected crosstown bike lane along 13th Street.
MTA also promised to make “major changes” to Grand Street in Brooklyn, although the specifics behind those alterations have not been announced.
Transportation Alternatives, a transit advocacy nonprofit, has promoted its Grand Street PeopleWay, which would ban vehicular traffic and prioritize bike, pedestrian and bus travel along the 1.8-mile North Brooklyn corridor.
MTA will also create a new ferry route between North Williamsburg and Stuyvesant Cove, and the transit organization will work with Motivate to increase Citi Bike stations along the L line.
The East River Skyway, a proposed aerial gondola system that would connect Williamsburg to Lower Manhattan, was not included in MTA’s report.
MTA said it would seek more public input through community meetings starting in January.