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L train shutdown could lead to more headaches for MTA bus riders

The MTA’s prediction for bus ridership increase during shutdown may be too low


As the forthcoming L train shutdown approaches, the MTA and Department of Transportation are still searching for options to mitigate the myriad problems—overcrowded trains on adjacent lines, stranded passengers, you know the drill—that will arise.

Recently, the agency considered the addition of a Select Bus Service route that would run along what would be newly created bus lanes on the Williamsburg Bridge. But while that method seems logical, BRT Planning International president Walter Hook argues that the MTA’s projections for the influx in bus ridership aren’t realistic, which could have a serious impact on their plan, reports StreetsBlog.

The MTA anticipates that the J, M, and G subway lines will pick up most of the slack during the shutdown, with buses getting an additional five to 15 percent more riders on a daily basis. However, Hook claims that ridership numbers on buses will be way more than that. His argument: MTA is viewing bus service more as a last resort for passengers than a necessary alternative, and the lack preparedness will lead to even more delays and unbearably slow service.

In order for buses to operate efficiently during the shutdown, Hook believes there needs to be easier boarding. He proposed boarding through all doors and level boarding (i.e. no steps), along with more bus-only lanes in North Brooklyn and Manhattan.

Without making some changes, bus stops near the busiest stations along the L line could be swamped by the massive influx of new riders. “There will be some serious consequences unless they do something pretty bold,” said Hook.

This is all conjecture, of course, and it remains to be seen what, exactly, the MTA will do during the shutdown. City officials, transit advocates, and everyone in between have put forth ideas on how the MTA should plan to work around the shutdown as to cause the least amount of disruption to commuters. Car-free zones in Williamsburg and at Union Square have been pitched; there was even a surge in support from local officials for a gondola, or the “East River Skyway,” as an alternative.

But for now, the MTA still has a couple of years to figure it out—the shutdown won’t begin until 2019.