Last Thursday, the MTA and Department of Transportation (DOT) hosted another public workshop to solicit input from residents and riders. Dozens of community members offered suggestions for other means of transportation during the closure.
The L train shutdown, which is necessary to repair the Canarsie Tube damaged during Superstorm Sandy, will affect more than 400,000 riders daily.
MTA representatives told riders that they expect 80 to 85 percent of commuters to use other subway lines, with the rest using buses, ferries, bikes and other alternatives.
To accommodate an increase in ridership on other lines, the MTA will add service for the G, J and M trains.
“Part of the reason we’re here tonight is to hear about the ideas that people have so we can take them back and really take a look at them,” said Eric Beaton, senior director for Transit Development at DOT. “We want to make sure we’re providing good bus service and good alternatives working with the MTA.
“Right now, we’ve said everything is on the table,” he added. “ There’s no one solution to all of this.”
At the workshop, commuters were asked what about their current routes and how they would change it when the L train shuts down. Using stickers, pens and chart paper, MTA and DOT representatives marked down important routes and roadways, including the Williamsburg Bridge leading into Lower Manhattan.
Some riders suggested expanding the CitiBike network and adding bike racks in areas like Bushwick. Others asked about all-door boarding and a faster payment system on buses.
MTA reps said they would continue to take input and present a preliminary plan in the spring. By fall 2017, the MTA will present a final plan to elected officials, local community boards and the general public.
East Williamsburg resident Mike Cherepko regularly goes into Manhattan for school. His commute, either by train or by bike, typically takes 25 minutes. When the L train closes, his ride to Manhattan may take much longer.
“I try to ride a bike when I can now because the L train is already annoying, but I don’t always do that,” Cherepko said. “I’m going to have to take the J or Z and it will be crowded. It’ll be a 15-minute walk there.”
Another alternative is to bike more often. Cherepko said he hopes CitiBike will be available to more riders when the shutdown happens.
Cherepko added that he’s more concerned that people will start moving away from the neighborhood, either to other boroughs or further south in Brooklyn.
“Moving is an option people would do, leases come up anyway,” he said. “People will have to make the decision, ‘Do I put up with this more or do I look into new neighborhoods?’ My friends are already kind of talking about that.”
Though he’s not as worried about the types of alternatives the MTA will provide, Cherepko said he hopes the city will accommodate different types of riders by making appropriate street changes.
“The city has control over whether the MTA can run the buses down Grand Street over the bridge,” he said. “There can’t be four lanes dedicated to cars on Grand Street right now and buses wait in traffic.
“Everyone’s going to have to sacrifice, especially drivers because they currently take up the most space per person,” he added. “A bus carries many people, so it should get to have more space. A bike doesn’t take up as much space as a car.”
Cherepko said the participants at his table came up with good ideas. He hopes the MTA and DOT implements those plans.
“The proof will be in the pudding,” he said. “ If they just do what we want, it could maybe work out to our benefit.”
Councilman Antonio Reynoso also participated in the workshop inside the cafeteria at Progress High School for Professional Careers. He said the people at his table, surprisingly, weren’t going to be tremendously impacted by the closure.
“I think folks in my district are going to be very resourceful,” Reynoso said. “We’ve been blessed, especially in the Williamsburg area, to have many transportation options, including the J, M and Z.”
The councilman said he hopes bus service will be expanded along important routes. Biking will also be an alternative, he said.
He added that drivers would also be inconvenienced by the shutdown, not just people who take the train.
“I would suggest you also find an alternative route, just like everyone else,” Reynoso said about drivers. “We’re all going to be sacrificing and suffer for the greater good here.
“There might be congestion, but I think people are going to modify,” he added. “You’re either going to wake up a lot earlier or you’re going to find an alternative route or alternative means of transportation. I just feel like everybody’s going to be able to figure that out.”
Reynoso acknowledged that some areas businesses, especially those on Bedford Avenue, would be impacted by the shutdown. He hopes the MTA and DOT will be creative about solutions.
His idea is to have a free trolley service go up and down Bedford Avenue to increase foot traffic for commerce.
“I hope we can think creatively on how we can boost, promote and be supportive of those businesses during that time,” Reynoso said.