L Train Shutdown: Brooklyn cyclists demand Grand Street ‘PeopleWay’

Grand Street Is One of the Area’s Most Dangerous Streets, According to TA

November 3, 2016 By Scott Enman Brooklyn Daily Eagle
A cyclist who lost a friend to a hit-and-run driver on Grand Street holds up a poster. Eagle photo by Scott Enman
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With the L-train shutdown looming on the horizon, and with no concrete alternative transportation options in place, one group of activists is proposing a plan that would absorb thousands of affected L-train riders during the 2019 closure.

The proposal, dubbed The Grand Street PeopleWay, would create a safer, more efficient Grand Street by outlawing vehicular traffic and by prioritizing bike, pedestrian and bus travel along the 1.8-mile North Brooklyn corridor.

The idea for the PeopleWay comes from Transportation Alternatives (TA), a transit advocacy nonprofit that has been supporting cyclists, pedestrians and transit users in New York City for more than 40 years.

On Tuesday, dozens of concerned cyclists and members of TA gathered at the Brooklyn bike entrance of the Williamsburg Bridge to demand that the city create the PeopleWay.

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“TA has been around for more than 40 years, and now we’re turning our attention to Grand Street,” TA organizer Luke Ohlson told the Brooklyn Eagle. “The L-train shutdown is less than 800 days away, and we don’t have any solutions for the Brooklyn residents who are using the L train.

“There are [hundreds of thousands of] people that use it each day to go back and forth between Brooklyn and Manhattan,” he continued. “We need to find a solution to move all those people, and we’re hoping that we can find a solution on Grand Street.”

The number of commuters who use the L train on a daily basis is approximately 400,000, according to MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz.

TA is proposing that Grand Street become a car-free zone from Williamsburg’s Borinquen Place to East Williamsburg’s Metropolitan Avenue next to the Grand Street Bridge above Newtown Creek.

“Right now, there’s about 10- to 13,000 people traveling on that corridor in an hour,” Ohlson told the Eagle. “If we can prioritize bus, pedestrian and bike travel on that street, then we can move up to 33,000 people. So, we think there is a better way, and we are just hoping that the city and the MTA can come up with a plan soon.”

Grand Street is not only a major connector in North Brooklyn, but also one of the area’s most dangerous streets, according to TA. Just this past summer, TA lost local cyclist Matthew Von Ohlen to a hit-and-run crash on the road.

At the rally, one protester yelled, “We need a protected bike lane on Grand Street! We need to stop the deaths!”

Moving Forward

The MTA said in a July press release that there would be added service and additional capacity on the M, J and G trains during the L-train shutdown.

In addition, Ortiz told the Eagle in May that the MTA plans on improving the G train by doubling its length of cars, increasing service and using more modern cars. G trains will run more frequently during the L-train closure and the trains will double in length from four cars (300 feet) to eight cars (600 feet), according to Ortiz.

Daniel Levy, president of the real estate website CityRealty, has also proposed an alternative travel option in the form of an aerial gondola system, which he has dubbed the “East River Skyway.” The tram would connect Williamsburg to Lower Manhattan.

In response to the East River Skyway plan, Ortiz told the Eagle that the MTA is “committed to working with the city on examining all viable travel options.”

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