L train slowdown commences

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What riders need to know about changes on 14th Street as MTA undertakes major tunnel repair work


  • The L train will run with reduced frequency on nights and weekends for 15 to 18 months while the Canarsie Tunnel is repaired. Photo: Michael Garofalo

  • Through traffic on 14th Street will soon be restricted to buses, trucks and emergency vehicles. Photo: Michael Garofalo

“I am pleased that there will be bus priority on 14 Street, as well as deliveries, and that the nearly 30,000 riders who use the M14 route will move quickly to and from their destinations.”

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer

By Michael Garofalo

Six-and-a-half years after Hurricane Sandy inundated the Canarsie Tunnel with seven million gallons of salt water, corroding critical electrical components and causing hundreds of millions of dollars in damage, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority last week began extensive repair work on the East River tubes that will disrupt transit patterns along the L train corridor for more than a year.

Commuters and transit officials who spent years planning for the impacts of construction — initially preparing for a total shutdown of the tunnel but then making last-minute adjustments after longstanding plans were abruptly scrapped in favor of a partial shutdown at the direction of Gov. Andrew Cuomo early this year — experienced their first taste of the L train’s new normal April 26 as updated subway schedules with reduced off-peak service went into effect. The project’s effects extend to street level on 14th Street, where the city will soon ban most private vehicle through traffic as part of an overhaul designed to speed bus service on the frequently clogged thoroughfare.

Transit officials estimate tunnel repair work will last 15 to 18 months.

Subway Schedule Changes

The L train slowdown, as it’s been branded — as opposed to the earlier plan for a full L train shutdown — allows trains to run with normal frequency during rush hours and weekdays. But riders feel the brunt of the slowdown on nights and weekends, when the L train runs with reduced frequency on a single-track basis through the Canarsie Tunnel, to allow for rehabilitation work on one of the tunnel’s two tubes at a time.

On weeknights, the L trains begin running with reduced frequency in both directions at 8 p.m., gradually reaching overnight scheduled headways of 20 minutes between trains by 10 p.m. Twenty minute scheduled waits are also the norm on weekends in both directions between Brooklyn and Manhattan.

In anticipation of frequent platform crowding at L train stations on nights and weekends, the MTA has increased service frequency on the M, J, G and 7 trains and suggests riders consider using these alternative routes.

14th Street Corridor

The transit authority is also encouraging L train riders traveling within Manhattan to use the M14A or M14D bus to get across town. These buses will run more frequently than the L train on nights and weekends, including every four to five minutes on weeknights between 8 p.m. and midnight. On weekends the M14A/D will run with scheduled headways of 3 minutes from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

In June, the MTA and Department of Transportation will launch Select Bus Service along the M14 corridor as part of an effort reduce the time buses spend waiting at stops or in traffic. In connection with SBS implementation, the DOT announced April 24 that it will make significant changes to 14th Street aimed at increasing speed and reliability along the route.

Under DOT’s plan, through traffic on 14th Street will be restricted to buses, trucks and emergency vehicles between Third and Ninth Avenues. Cars will be permitted to turn on to 14th Street to access garages and make pick-ups and drop-offs, but will be forced to make right turns off 14th Street at the earliest possible intersection. The 14th Street redesign includes dedicated travel lanes for buses and trucks that will be enforced by automated cameras.

The MTA and DOT are considering removing a number of local bus stops, primarily in the East Village and Lower East Side, as part of the SBS plan.

“I am pleased that there will be bus priority on 14 Street, as well as deliveries, and that the nearly 30,000 riders who use the M14 route will move quickly to and from their destinations,” Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer said in a statement. “I am also in favor of local stops on the Lower East Side where the M14A/D is essentially the only transportation available to many residents who are older and low-income, but I congratulate DOT and MTA on the overall proposal.”

The DOT also announced that it intends to permanently retain bike lanes installed last year on 12th and 13th Street to accommodate an anticipated increase in cyclists during the L train slowdown.

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