OPINION: Commuters brace for one L of a mess
The good news is that the mayor has promised a “war room” dynamic during the 15-month shutdown of the L-Train’s East River tunnel that will begin in April. The bad news is that, for more than a year, commuters who travel from North Brooklyn each day will face a situation that the mayor has compared to state of war.
The city needs to repair damage done in 2012, when superstorm Sandy flooded the Canarsie Tunnel under the East River with millions of gallons of salt water, causing severe damage.
Trying his best to sound reassuring at a press conference on Tuesday, Mayor de Blasio said, “I’m here to say, ‘We got you. We are on this.’” In what the Transport Workers Union said is the understatement of the year, the mayor conceded that “it’s not going to be easy,” but, he said, “people will be able to get around.”
The plan is to add more shuttle buses, ferry service and rental bikes to compensate. But buses and cars will most likely take the Williamsburg Bridge. In that case, said a spokesperson for Transport Workers Union Local 100, “You might as well make the Williamsburg Bridge a parking lot.
“You’ll have 40,000 people taking 100-plus buses with three minutes of headway. Once they get to the Brooklyn side with no dedicated bus lane, it’s going to be impossible to get anywhere, and it will all back up onto the bridge.”
On a bad day, the bridge is already a parking lot during the morning and afternoon rush. And although we’re a fan of CitiBike, the bikes will do very little to reduce the overcrowding of city buses, especially during winter months. How many ferry boats will be needed and is there space on both sides of the river for the extra boats to safely dock and discharge passengers?
The city has more than eight months to prepare and to address growing concerns. But once the work on the tunnel starts, it will have only a brief period of time before frustrated riders give up on the buses.
Paul White, executive director of Transportation Alternatives, told the NY Post, “If commuters have a nightmare experience the first week, they are going to leave the city buses and never come back. 70 buses an hour deserve their own lane, at least during rush hour.”
The “war room” is a good idea, but the time to set it up is now. People like Mr. White, the TWU and Councilmember Stephen Levin, who represents Greenpoint and parts of Williamsburg, should be at the table.
During the press conference, de Blasio did not once mention Queens and residents say they have been ignored as the shutdown approaches.
“Only part of the story is told, focusing solely on the impact in Brooklyn and Manhattan,” Access Queens founder Melissa Orlando wrote on the organization’s website in December 2017. “The addition of thousands of riders to overcrowded lines such as the 7 and the E trains is a disaster waiting to happen.”
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