Here Are Some Depressing Maps Revealing L Train Commuters’ Sad Fate

L train

A potential complete shutdown of the Canarsie Tunnel to repair saltwater damage from Hurricane Sandy had already put the fear of god the MTA into inter-borough L train commuters when Gothamist reported the possibility that this would happen earlier this month.

And now, DNAinfo has shared some hard numbers—and maps—to substantiate those fears. A research and cartography company, CartoDB, which uses open location data to create revelatory maps, made some particularly stark ones based on the closures of the Canarsie Tunnel, which carries all L traffic between Brooklyn and Manhattan. In sum, if the tunnel shuts down completely for repairs, most L train riders are better off back-tracking east to the M or A trains to travel to Manhattan, than they would be hopping a shuttle somewhere near the Lorimer stop; plus, almost 19,000 L commuter households live under the poverty line, and therefor have less financial and job flexibility to make up for such a massive service disruption.

While CartoDB shares much more information regarding the L train closure than this—and the full report can be viewed here—two maps in particular illustrate the above bleak realities.

The first shows for which commuters it is worth it to even consider taking a shuttle bus to cross the East River into Manhattan: namely, only those who live within walking distance of the first five L train stops in Brooklyn. (The rest are better off heading back to the M or A trains to ride across the river.)

CartoDB calculated that the absolute fastest a shuttle bus trip into Manhattan would take was 20 minutes (10 without traffic, but that would happen during zero commutes). And with that in mind, the shuttle bus is effective only for commuters who live west of the Montrose L stop.

But that said, if shuttle bus commutes slow to 29 minutes, the bus isn’t worth it for anyone (assuming commuters would board somewhere near the Lorimer stop); in that case, all commuters would have faster trips if they transferred to the M at Myrtle-Wyckoff, or to the A at Broadway Junction, to travel to Manhattan.

Worse: for those L train commuters that live within walking distance of the first five Brooklyn L stops (i.e., those for whom taking a shuttle bus makes sense, or about 75,000 riders), 1,154 cross-river bus trips per day would be necessary to make up for the lack of L train service, which, says CartoDB, is pretending every one of those buses would be filled to capacity. Plus, for that above-ground traffic increase, an entirely new bridge would have to be built to handle the uptick. Uh, ok. Once again, seems like it makes most sense, regardless of where you live on the L train, to ignore the shuttle bus situation completely.

Here’s an even more depressing map. “Of our estimated population of L riders, we see approximately 18,889 Brooklyn households in poverty where the nearest subway stop is the L,” writes CartoDB (illustrated below).

CartoDB wisely suggests that it is in these affected neighborhoods—Brownsville, East New York, and Bushwick—that efforts should be made to look at above ground alternatives, like shuttle buses, rather than concentrating the bulk of them on the more well-to-do neighborhoods near the Bedford Avenue and Lorimer stops.

Whatever transportation alternatives the MTA comes up with, looking at these maps could prove helpful. Let’s hope that the option to build a brand new bridge—which would surely take longer than the projected three-year closures—is not the one they go with.


  1. Yeah, I’m sure it blows and all but frankly, the majority if not all of the folks who ride that line into Brooklyn are the very core of the Gentrification problem that has plagued us these past ten years. These are the people who jacked up the rents, gutted once vibrant communities with their luxury condos and “artisanal” garbage, made certain that native New Yorkers could no longer afford to raise a family here or live a normal life like their parents and grandparents before them. So with that in mind, good. It’s time the economy crashes a bit and brings Brooklyn back down to earth. Maybe some of these people will move back to the Mid-West or wherever it is they come from. Adios.

  2. Good. Perhaps this is the sort of bump in the road that will send some transplants packing back home from whence they came. Let’s face it, there’s pretty much nobody from Brooklyn left in that area. It’s a playground for the rich and entitled. Let it crumble so we can take it back.


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