In just six months, the L train will stop running between Brooklyn and Manhattan for more than a year. Hundreds of thousands of commuters will be impacted by the shutdown, and the years leading up to the L’s closure—which was first announced in the spring of 2016—have seen many alternatives for riders emerging: some real, some utterly preposterous, and some that fall somewhere in between.
Below, find a breakdown of all the real and proposed alternatives—and maybe start getting more comfortable on a bike in the meantime?
14th Street between Third and Eighth avenues will become a busway for the duration of the shutdown, with only emergency vehicles and cars making pickups and drops-offs allowed. In addition to the two current M14 lines, the MTA will also run a new Select Bus Service along 14th Street. Additionally, four different bus routes will shuttle commuters between Brooklyn and Manhattan over the Williamsburg Bridge.
Finally, a new bus line called L5 will offer service between Rockaway Parkway and the Crown Heights-Utica Avenue 3/4 train stop. Whether or not all of these new bus routes will be functional enough to handle the influx of new commuters is, of course, another question altogether.
The MTA has admitted that it expects only a small percentage of L riders to take the ferry over other alternatives, but nevertheless, it’ll run an express ferry route for the duration of the shutdown. The express boat, which will run separately from the NYC Ferry system, will seat up to 240 and transport passengers between Williamsburg and East 20th Street. Tickets will cost the same as a MetroCard swipe, and there will be free transfers to buses (but not subways). Peek at the ferry schedule here.
Other subway lines
The MTA anticipates that nearly 80 percent of displaced L train riders will use other subway lines to get around. A majority of them are expected to ride the J/M/Z lines, and the MTA plans to run three additional trains per hour on that line, which is the maximum allowable. The agency will double the number of cars on the G train, and increase service on the 6, and 7 lines, all in an effort to combat the displacement.
Luxury bus service
A private bus startup called the New L will transport customers between Brooklyn and Manhattan at a cost of $155/month. These Mercedes vans won’t offer a ride back home in the evening, though they will have free Wi-Fi, chargers, and breakfast. But the service is $34 more than the monthly MetroCard, so it likely won’t be the go-to alternative for most.
Since the announcement of the L train shutdown, the city has seen an explosion of ride-hailing companies vying for New Yorkers’ dollars. But as of now, Via is the only one offering a specific deal tied to the L train shutdown. Via offered riders discount passes for weekends in October while the MTA stopped L service to prepare for the 15-month closure. During the shutdown itself, Via is planning to increase its number of six-seater vehicles to accommodate more passengers in each ride.
Launched this past summer, Revel offers electric mopeds to riders in Williamsburg, Greenpoint, and Bushwick. While commuters can’t use the scooters to cross any of the East River bridges, they could come in handy to get from far-off destinations in those neighborhoods to closer subway stops or shuttle buses. Revel charges users $4 for the first 20 minutes, and then 25 cents per minute after that (5 cents per minute when the scooter is parked).
Somewhere in between
While e-scooters are yet legal in New York City, some elected officials have been pushing hard to offer them as an alternative to the deteriorating subway system in the city. City Council members Ydanis Rodriguez and Rafael Espinal are set to introduce legislation this year that would pave the way for legalization. Undaunted by the legal ramifications, the e-scooter service Bird—which is immensely popular on the West Coast—offered free trials in Brooklyn earlier this month to show how they could be an effective alternative, similar to what Revel promises, during the L train shutdown.
Extending the E train
Urban planner Jim Venturi and his firm ReThink Studio proposed extending the E train, which currently ends at World Trade Center, to meet the G at the Hoyt-Schermerhorn stop in Brooklyn. Since the E tracks are adjacent to the A/C tracks at Chambers Street, the E could travel on that line on its way to Brooklyn. Venturi proposed that the installation of a new rail switch along the G line would enable the E to travel north and connect to Court Square in Queens—the E would then essentially run in a loop. The probability of this happening, however, is very low; the proposal never gained any traction within the MTA.
Newtown Creek Ferry
Chosen as the winner of a Van Alen Institute Design competition in 2016, this ferry service would have connected commuters to the city’s existing ferry infrastructure by launching a new ferry service that would run along Newtown Creek.
East River Skyway
The brainchild of CityRealty president Daniel Levy, the East River Skyway would offer connections between Williamsburg and the Lower East Side. These gondolas would transport 5,000 passenger per hour and 100,000 per day with an average trip time of six minutes. The idea was first proposed before the L train shutdown was made official, but it started to gain momentum with some elected officials who felt it was a proposal worth serious consideration. But like the E train extension, the idea never took off.
Real estate investor Parker Shinn proposed installing a pontoon bridge on the East River to provide an additional means of transport for pedestrians, cyclists, and buses. This floating bridge would remain in place thanks to 3,500-pound anchors resting at the bottom of the river. The L-ternative would also have a 240-foot drawbridge to allow ships to pass through. Shinn proposed that the cost of the bridge would be recouped by charging $1 tolls to those using the crossing. He even launched a Kickstarter campaign that promised backers that their contributions would go toward a crossing toll (for example: a $10 contribution would enable 10 crossings). It didn’t get funded.
Light at the End of the Tunnel
Another floating bridge of sorts, this proposal uses NASA technology to build a translucent tunnel that would be submerged within the East River and provide connections between Manhattan and Brooklyn. Open to pedestrians and cyclists, this tunnel would have a digitally enhanced environment to make the whole experience more palatable for commuters. The developers said the whole tunnel would take about six months to develop—there’s no time like the present.