Sorry, North Brooklyn: Soon, the L Train Will Probably Not Go to Manhattan for a Very Long Time—Like, Years

Your ride terminates here.
Your ride terminates here.

Remember Hurricane Sandy? Sure, you do. It was pretty bad. But just in case you’ve forgotten its horrible legacy, a projected multi-year shut down of L train service between Manhattan and Brooklyn is here to remind you. That’s right: Regular riders of the L train need to prepare for the possibility that very soon, the MTA will be making extensive repairs to the Canarsie Tube—which handles all L trains between Brooklyn and Manhattan—which sustained major saltwater damage from Sandy flooding. If this sounds like a significant and particularly lengthy MTA repair, it’s because it is, and possible repercussions of that are a little terrifying.

Gothamist reports Officials who are close to the project say repairs—which are slated right now to last 40 months—could necessitate a complete shutdown of inter-borough L train service for the duration of the work. (Insert face of person screaming and running for the hills, er, Crown Heights, here.)

There is no getting around it, this is a big, inconvenient awful deal for daily L train commuters. And as Gothamist outlines, there are roughly two timelines and approaches that the MTA could take to get it done with as little pain (you know, relatively speaking) as possible.

Because there are two tunnels (east- and west-bound), the first option is to shut down only one while repairs are completed on the other, leaving limited service for the 300,000 New Yorkers who use the train on weekdays. This is the option that could potentially last years. While option number two—a complete shutdown of the Canarsie Tube in both directions—sounds horrifying, it would only (only! ha) last closer to a year. It’s the whole tearing off the Band-Aid philosophy, followed by one (year-long) scream.

Gothamist reports the MTA has yet to select which choose-your-own-repair adventure they’ll go with, but agency spokesman Adam Lisberg confirmed a total Canarsie Tube shutdown is something they’re considering. He compared it to the Montague Tube (R train service) shutdown—which was completed in 13 months and under-budget at $250 million after it, too, sustained saltwater damage from Sandy. (Though unlike the L train, the R services only 65,000 riders daily.)

“On the one hand [with] Montague, which has lower ridership and abundant redundant options around there, we were able to close it down with relatively little customer impact. The ability to get in get it done and get out was a huge factor in being able to do it with as little pain as possible for our customers,” Lisberg told Gothamist.

Whereas L train commuters are left with no such alternate options, if the train terminates at Bedford Avenue. So the MTA will create them, regardless of whether they go for a total or partial closure, and they’ll look something like this. First, M train service will increase, G trains will get two extra cars, and everyone’s favorite recourse—the shuttle bus—will be alive and well.

The repairs are scheduled to begin in 2017, and—per the bid—last 40 months. Sandy relief funds cover costs, which are expected to be more than $50 million.

Wait a minute, didn’t we just tell you that the L train would already be undergoing upgrades—unrelated—to increase capacity at the Bedford Avenue and 1st Avenue stations? Yes, we did. That is a crap load of repairs all at once. So, the MTA is gonna be smart about it, according to Gothamist and spokesman Lisberg, and combine as much of that work in the same time period, to mitigate the likelihood that L train commuters everywhere will lose all faith in the MTA to do anything efficiently.

“The logical thing to do is to piggyback the station work and the elevator work and the substation work on the Sandy work,” said Lisberg, “so we absolutely will be combing that work as much as possible so we can minimize the impact on our customers.”


  1. My heart bleeds for all those yuppies who have infested and ruined, ahem, I mean gentrified, our fine Brooklyn / L-line neighborhoods. In fact if you drop me a line, I will be happy to take some of your now worthless condos off your hands, for a slight fee. I hear that the Bronx is ripe for gentrification.

  2. Plan ahead now. Buy your own bike(Citibike will be oversubscribed),get in shape and pick a best route(WB or QBB by local not major streets) . Any ferry service would be crammed. How about a car?


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