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‘Summer of Hell’ hits Brooklyn transit system

Transit Advocates, Elected Officials, Brooklyn Businesses Call on DOT & MTA to Provide Stronger Service Replacements During the Canarsie Tunnel Closure

July 12, 2017 Brooklyn Daily Eagle
On Wednesday, L train riders, elected officials and transit advocates held a rally to push the NYC Department of Transportation and MTA to ensure riders that they’ll have a dedicated bus network to replace the L train during the shutdown, among other improvements. NYC's subway and commuter train systems have recently been plagued by mounting delays and breakdowns, prompting Gov. Andrew Cuomo to warn of a "summer of hell." AP Photo/Mary Altaffer
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On Wednesday, L train riders, elected officials and transit advocates held a rally to push the New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) and MTA to ensure riders that they’ll have a dedicated bus network to replace the L train during the shutdown. Advocates also called for MTA to use the shutdown to make station improvements that will allow more L trains to run during peak hours after the shutdown ends, according to a release from the Riders Alliance.

Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo predicted a “summer of hell” regarding the transit crisis, and the governor’s approval ratings are slipping amid the start of repairs, reports the Associated Press. Respondents to a Quinnipiac University poll gave Cuomo low grades for New York City transit, with nearly a third awarding a “D” or an “F.”

While MTA and DOT have engaged in a series of public meetings and released plans showing some of the replacements that will be available for commuters during the shutdown, advocates are calling on the agencies to commit to three important changes for riders: A robust bus network, additional station improvements and specific commuting options for populations farther along the L-train line in neighborhoods like Brownsville and East New York.

“The L-train closure will have big impacts on riders and riders will need big solutions,” said state Sen. Daniel Squadron (D-Brooklyn Heights-Carroll Gardens). “As we continue to work with community stakeholders to push for effective solutions for riders and small businesses, better buses are a crucial component. Thank you to Riders Alliance, the L Train Coalition and my colleagues in government.”

With more than 225,000 riders traveling between Brooklyn and Manhattan on the L every day, advocates argue riders will need surface-level transportation replacements that can handle the large volumes of commuters who will not be able to commute through the Canarsie tunnel during the shutdown. The only solution, advocates say, is a robust network of buses, including bus priority lanes, in North Brooklyn, over the Williamsburg Bridge and in Manhattan.

“The MTA and DOT have held several community meetings where riders said loud and clear: We want to know how we’re going to be able to get between boroughs during the shutdown,” said Nick Sifuentes, deputy director of the Riders Alliance. “Now it’s time for them to tell riders: We’re going to have buses that will actually get you where you need to go on time. If riders are going to use the bus, they need to know that they’re actually going to be fast and reliable. To do that, we’re going to need a network of dedicated bus lanes in both boroughs.”

Advocates and riders are asking for plans that will not only help during the crisis, but improve transit in the area for years to come, calling for specific improvements to track and stations which will be closed during the shutdown, including adding additional substations, building infrastructure to speed up trains entering Eighth Avenue, opening closed entrances and increasing accessibility for disabled riders.

Farther down the line, riders in neighborhoods like Brownsville, Canarsie and East New York are concerned that MTA’s and DOT’s plan will not do enough to provide subway and bus travel options for them during the shutdown, especially since many work during off-peak hours when service is reduced. An additional concern is that decreased frequency on the L train itself, even during peak hours, will be particularly challenging in communities with few proposed service alternatives. 

Currently, MTA and DOT have said that these riders can transfer to other trains, but riders in those neighborhoods also want to see expanded bus service to Broadway Junction, Fulton Street and Flatbush, where they could link with more trains. They also suggested the MTA/DOT implement free transfer to the LIRR from the Atlantic Avenue L train station.

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