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What happened in Brooklyn transit in 2019?

2019: Year in Review

December 23, 2019 Noah Goldberg
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A lot happened in Brooklyn this year — from environmental policies to infrastructure changes to housing reform. We’ve wrapped up the key pieces for you in “2019: Year in Review.” 

It was the year of the train daddy and Brooklyn’s fearsome subway quack attack. The L train shut down — er — slowed down.

Here’s what you need to know about Brooklyn’s year in transit.

The L train slowed down

Photo: Mary Altaffer/AP

The year started off with huge news in Brooklyn transit. After years of planning the L train shutdown, which was projected to last 15 months to repair damage to the Canarsie Tunnel caused by Superstorm Sandy, Gov. Andrew Cuomo tacked sharply in January, announcing the shutdown would become a slowdown, due to new technology that made it possible to repair the tunnel without completely cancelling service.

The slowdown began in April, with L trains running every 20 minutes between Manhattan and Brooklyn and every 10 minutes in Brooklyn all nights and on the weekends.

Cyclist deaths spiked in the borough…

A cyclist raises his bike in the air after a moment of silence for Ernest Askew, who was struck and killed in Brownsville last week. Eagle photo by Noah Goldberg
A cyclist raises his bike in the air after a moment of silence for Ernest Askew, who was struck and killed in Brownsville. Eagle photo by Noah Goldberg

Cyclist deaths surged in Brooklyn in 2019, with 16 riders killed in crashes in Brooklyn, six more than were killed citywide in all of 2018.

The deadly crashes were horrific: One in August, caught on video, led to a driver who sped through a red light being charged with criminally negligent homicide and vehicular manslaughter.

Another summer death in Brownsville led to calls for equity in bike lane construction in a neighborhood that has no protected bike lanes.

Department of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg noted that increases in cycling in previously industrial Brooklyn neighborhoods could have something to do with the high numbers of deaths in the borough, with trucks and bikes struggling to share space on the streets.

…and the city responded.

Department of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg (left) and Mayor Bill de Blasio (right) at a press conference for the administration's new "Green Wave" bike safety plan. Eagle photo by Noah Goldberg
Department of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg (left) and Mayor Bill de Blasio (right) at a press conference for the administration’s new “Green Wave” bike safety plan. Eagle photo by Noah Goldberg

Mayor Bill de Blasio responded to the crisis unfolding on Brooklyn’s streets by announcing his “Green Wave” plan, which proposed increasing the rate of construction of protected bike lanes to 30 miles per year — as opposed to the previous rate of 20.

Subsequently, the Streets Master Plan, passed by the City Council, upped the rate of protected bike lane construction over the next five years to 50 miles per year.

“It’s a crisis. It’s an emergency. We can never look at such a moment like this and think we can do things the same way. We have to feel what all those families are going through right now,” de Blasio said at the Bay Ridge press conference in July.

The plan would also get rid of “thousands” of parking spaces citywide, according to Trottenberg.

In East New York in October, Trottenberg announced the 100th mile of protected bike lane constructed since de Blasio took over.

The future of the subway is here (well, at some stations).

The MTA is testing out its new tap-and-go fare system at stations like Borough Hall. Eagle photo by Jonathan Sperling

The future is now. In 2019, the MTA introduced the tap-to-pay system called OMNY, which functions in Brooklyn currently along the 4 and 5 train routes at Nevins Street, Borough Hall and Barclays Center. By 2023, all subway stations will be equipped with OMNY, and the swiping MetroCards will be faded out.

Why do MetroCards need to be phased out? Because the operating system is 25 years old.

In other futuristic train news in Brooklyn, the MTA began considering a plan to resurrect passenger trains between Bay Ridge and Queens.

And the MTA began running F express service (which we just call #Fexpress — no, it hasn’t caught on yet) in Brooklyn during rush hour.

Redesign of the bus network

The B35 got an honorable mention. Eagle photo by Lore Croghan
The B35. Photo: Lore Croghan/Brooklyn Eagle

The MTA announced this year that it would be redesigning Brooklyn’s bus network as part of the plan to increase bus speeds by 25 percent over the next five years.

A series of 10 open houses to engage the public on the redesign left some locals upset when their neighborhoods were not included for the events.

Why redesign Brooklyn’s bus network? One Brooklyn bus line, the B15, boasts the most unreliable service in the city.

The B15 was one of three routes the MTA announced it would be cutting service to in July.

Bonus: The saga of the Clark Street station

Shops line the arcade of the Clark Street subway station. Shopkeepers say they have heard nothing from NYC Transit about the plans to close the station for a prolonged period, and worry they could go out of business without commuter traffic. Eagle photo by Mary Frost
Shops line the arcade of the Clark Street subway station. Eagle file photo by Mary Frost

The Clark Street Station that runs 2 and 3 trains could be closed for months while the MTA fixes decrepit elevators at the city’s deepest station — whose elevators stretch 10 stories underground, the Brooklyn Eagle learned in April.

The MTA was silent on the potential closure for months, with New York City Transit President Andy Byford laying out the possibilities available for the repairs in September.

Brooklyn Heights straphangers in a survey voted for a slower two-year repair process that would not fully close the station, though that plan would be more expensive.

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