E Train Could Save L Train Riders and Finally Be Useful, Says Transit Group

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If you’ve scanned your eyeballs over any electronic screens recently, and you live in New York City, you’ll be aware that the MTA has decided to shut down L Train service between Brooklyn and Manhattan for 18 months, starting in 2019, in order to repair damage done to the Canarsie Tunnel by Hurricane Sandy.

If you didn’t know, now you’re all caught up. That was easy.

But the rest of the story gets trickier. Namely, how in tarnation will the 225,000 daily riders of the L train travel between Brooklyn and Manhattan once inter-borough service has stopped?

So far, proposed alternatives have been very straightforward: Increased train service on the J, M, Z lines, as well as on the G train, which will also get some additional cars; bus and ferry service will get boosts, too. But even with these extra options, adequate and equal service for daily L riders will fall short.

So one urban planning and transportation think tank, ReThink Studio, proposes a change to the E line that, at last, would make it a train that many more people in lower Manhattan actually use, and that would lessen the burden of at-capacity cars on the J, M, Z, and G trains, according to DNAinfo.

Here’s what it would look like: Rather than a terminus at World Trade Center, the E would continue across the East River, and link up with the the G line at Hoy Schermerhorn. From there, it would continue north along the G line and, finally, come to a new terminus in Long Island City.

As a result, says ReThink, anyone who uses the L train to travel into Manhattan would have a two-train commute into the city (by transferring to the E train at Lorimer Street), and G train passengers could ride the E train instead of the G the entire way there. This would greatly improve transportation options for thousands of North Brooklyn riders, who must otherwise squish themselves only onto J, M, or Z trains, all of which already have hefty and native riding populations of their own.

To make the E train re-route possible, ReThink says two new track switches would need to be built at Hoyt-Schermerhorn; this work would also entail making structural changes to station platforms to accommodate elevation changes on either side of the station. With this proposal, ReThink took into account bottle-necking that occurs between Canal Street and Hoy-Schermerhorn on the A/C lines during AM and PM rush hour; to avoid making that situation worse, they propose the E train would only run in Brooklyn during off-peak hours. But, after all, in times like these every little bit helps.

And in response to criticism that the A/C tunnel is already operating at max capacity, Rethink has produced graphics that show otherwise:

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Screen Shot 2016-07-29 at 2.53.43 PMOnly, unsurprisingly, the MTA sees it otherwise. “In order to accommodate E trains going through the Cranberry Tunnel, we would have to eliminate half of A and C service in Brooklyn,” said MTA Spokesperson Kevin Ortiz, to DNAinfo. “The switch at Hoyt-Schermerhorn is also not feasible. It would entail shortening the platform at the station and would take months of work that would dramatically impact A, C and G service.”

Ortiz added that ReThink’s proposal “borders on the ridiculous.”

Right. Kind of like a total shutdown of a line that 225,000 people use every day. Desperate times call for desperate measures, as the MTA well knows, given their recent decision. So, one would hope that, no matter how feasible a rerouted E train option is or not, the MTA would receive some of these “ridiculous” alternatives with a bit more of an open mind. Given what all of us will be dealing with already, reduced service on the A/C, and money spent on structural changes are, in the least case, not much worse. What the L Train repairs call for is refreshed, alternative thinking, in line with that proposed by ReThink. A “ridiculous” alternative could be exactly what this shutdown needs, rather than the “no way, not ever, not possible, we do things our way,” apporoach that the MTA usually takes.  Plus, the re-route and additional service could last beyond the shutdown, and make a little bit of lemonade out of the MTA’s very rusty lemons, er tunnel. We’re already going to be paying $3 per ride in the near future; so, there you go Ortiz, there’s some extra cash to pay for it.


  1. E train finally actually useful? Clearly you’ve never taken the E…it’s insanely packed all the time already and very useful to tons of people…

  2. This idea IS ridiculous. As one of the many, many people who squeeze into increasingly crowded A/C trains twice a day to get to and from work, this half-brained plan to make the lives of a very small number of L train riders *marginally* better by reducing A/C service BY HALF is utterly moronic and myopic. It’s as if the city’s one and only concern should be how people near the Bedford and Lorimer stops will get to work, while ignoring the thousands who live in the outer reaches of the borough whose A/C commutes are already too long. Look at a map — the A/C covers much more ground and people than the L, not to mention a cheap and easy link to JFK.

    It would also help to stop assuming that the oft-cited “225,000 people” who use the L train every day live in the same neighborhood. That extended E proposal would not be of much help to people who live, say, near Canarsie. You’d be robbing the poor to help the rich.

  3. IF your goal is to carry more displaced L train riders to Manhattan via more existing train routes, and give them more options to get to Manhattan, then this round-a-bout extended E train route proposal is NOT the way to go.
    INSTEAD, simply restore what was there a few years ago. Restore G train service PAST Court Square , one stop to Queens Plaza and beyond into Queens. The tracks are there already, and L train riders can not only catch the City bound E train at Queens Plaza , but ALSO the R train – which stops at 14 th Street/Union Square. It’s a simpler, and much more direct solution.
    Queens Plaza is only four stops from the Lorimer L stop going north, whereas an E heading southbound from Lorimer on the G line is a very long ride thru Brooklyn and then thru all of Southern Manhattan (which is already available via the G by transferring to A trains in downtown Brooklyn)..
    A third course of action wold be to run the E along the G as proposed (even though it could only be sone with a limited amount of E trains, not all, because Court Square simply cannot handle the turn-around traffic of the many E trains that run. THEN, instead of terminating these selected E trains at Court Square simply run them (and G trains) as above – past Queens Plaza, to allow for more (and easier) City-bound train choices for displaced L train riders. That would combine the best of both these proposals.


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