ATTENTION PASSENGERS. We are not delayed because of train traffic ahead of us. There is no sick passenger. Forget the closing doors. We are being held momentarily for 15 months. Please mind the gap between your needs and the state’s ability to provide reliable transportation. Courtesy is contagious.
The L train has been a lot of things for a lot of years. Identity merch. Meta reading material. And, especially around the time when the Strokes came into prominence, a kind of cool kid code. But most importantly for the line’s 400,000 daily commuters — especially those who live off station stops with less brand recognition than Bedford or Lorimer — the L train is just a way to get from point A to point B.
Grumbling about crowds, delays, and other nuisances is easy. Truly, though, you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone. In April 2019, the MTA train will suspend service between Bedford Avenue and 14th Street/Eighth Avenue for a projected 15 months. Next year? May as well be never!, you say? Tell that to future you.
This will come for you, whether you rely on the L or not. Your regular train will become more crowded to accommodate L line orphans. Traffic will worsen due to shuttle busses haunting the route that once was. Your L-dependent coworkers will be cranky; your dating pool will narrow. Still: You’re going to survive. Check back here throughout the year to come for the latest updates on construction plans, transportation alternatives, L-adjacent real estate info, and community updates.
We thank you for your patience.
What’s actually wrong with the L?
Blame Hurricane Sandy. When the lethal storm ravaged the city in 2012, the Canarsie Tunnel, which carries the L across the East River, took a serious beating. Some 7,100 feet of the tunnel was left with damaged signals, broken cable ducts, deteriorating switches, and shattered lights — and that’s in addition to the tubes’ ever-weakening structural support. Without repairs, the line would continue to crumble — and civilian casualties are a far worse fate than 15 months sans L train.
“THERE IS DEFINITELY PRECEDENT FOR THE MTA NOT FULFILLING ITS PROMISES.”
What are the basic reconstruction plans?
The MTA has made it clear that the necessary repairs are a massive undertaking: The city will reportedly demolish and reconstruct “approximately 60,000 linear feet of duct banks, 14,400 linear feet of track and track bed, 270,000 linear feet of cable ducts and associated cables, and 7,000 linear feet of concrete lining.” It will also make upgrades to protect the line from future storm damage.
But we’re not just looking at track maintenance here. The MTA also plans to revamp the Bedford Avenue and First Avenue stations to better wrangle commuters and to make the platforms more accessible. The station at Avenue B and 14th Street will get a power substation to better regulate and recharge trains, ultimately allowing more L trains to run.
The construction plan, which initially involved a partial shutdown, and later an 18-month total shutdown, is now projected to take a mere 15 months, with a $477 million price tag. And at the end of all the drama, your L commute will be a more reliable, comfortable affair. Hopefully.
“There is definitely precedent for the MTA not fulfilling its promises and delaying major construction projects,” New York City Councilman Rafael J. Espinal Jr. — who represents neighborhoods hit by the suspension — told Thrillist in an email. “Just look at how long the Second Avenue tunnel took to complete. So we will have to see. But this is such a huge issue, and so many people will be affected — the pressure will definitely be on to finish as quickly and efficiently as possible.”