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Newtown Creek Ferry Wins Design Contest for Proposed L Train Alternatives

The Van Alen Institute hosted a design competition to propose transit solutions during an L train shutdown

Though it’s been nearly four years since Hurricane Sandy, much of New York's infrastructure that was damaged during the storm is still in need of repair. Of those issues, the flooding of the Canarsie Tunnel, which carries the L train, by 7 million gallons of salt water is among the most severe. Due to the train’s urgent repairs, the MTA has ruled out the possibility of doing work over nights and weekends, a process that would add years to the renovation.

In order to investigate alternative solutions for the L train’s weekday ridership of 400,000 commuters, the Van Alen Institute devoted a portion of its Spring Festival to a competition examining the complex process of public transportation improvement. Titled the L Train Shutdown Charrette, the contest attracted nearly 100 people from multiple design teams to present and discuss transportation alternatives from the impending L train closure. Here are the winners and finalists:

Transient Transit-Revitalizing Industrial Infrastructure, the winner of the competition, proposed the development of two new forms of water and rail transport for the commuters of North Brooklyn. Newtown Creek would serve as the artery of a new ferry line in close proximity to many L-train commuters, connecting travelers to preexisting ferry terminals and a direct route to Manhattan. The plan would also make use of LIRR infrastructure, which conveniently runs parallel to the L train, to transfer commuters to the Newtown Creek ferry system.

No One Thing proposes a multifaceted approach to address the challenges of thousands of effected commuters. First, it envisions a 14th Street wholly reserved for Bus Rapid Transit and bike lanes. This shutdown would work in tandem with the expansion of the Citi Bike and ferry systems, and the introduction of zone-based transit fares supported by a mobile website offering commuters the most efficient transit options. To limit road congestion during the day, its designers suggested enacting overnight truck delivery regulations while also improving key transit hubs.

I [heart] the L proposes a solution that affects both the physical infrastructure and social infrastructure. Through engaging the public, I [heart] the L hypothesizes that local knowledge would uncover solutions that would not be considered by a top-down approach to transit planning. The social infrastructure itself would be upheld through strong communication between the MTA, local businesses, and L-train riders. Funding for such a project would derive from developers and businesses who profit directly off of the L, according to its developers.

↓ The Infraflex proposal includes a mobile app that would provide those affected by the L train shutdown with real-time travel information. Using the app would provide residents and their neighborhoods with "game points" in return for taking environmentally friendly routes. These "game points" could be used to gain rewards ranging from museum tickets to neighborhood amenities.

Light at the End of the Tunnel proposes both an innovative and pragmatic approach to transport commuters to and from Brooklyn and Manhattan. With NASA technology, a translucent tunnel "immersed within the East River" decorated with a "digitally-enhanced environment" would allow pedestrians and bikers to navigate the submerged pathway. On the Manhattan side along 14th Street, there would be a rapid-transit people-mover to carry commuters crosstown. And its developers claim that the tunnel could be prefabricated in under six months and assembled easily.

↓ New York’s transportation network is has myriad options, including the subway, ferry, buses, and bike lanes. Project Lemonade proposes "an all-access pass" to the transportation links surrounding the L subway route. Additionally, it would utilize smart software to help commuters find alternative paths to their destination.