Crowds of people filtered into Brooklyn L-train stations on Saturday afternoon amid the line’s planned slowdown. Despite fears of a snarled transit mess, the anticipated moment arrived with minor issues beyond what was expected: slowed service and crowded train cars.
The MTA finally implemented the highly anticipated plan to fix the L train Canarsie tunnel between Manhattan and Brooklyn last weekend. The tunnel was damaged during Hurricane Sandy in 2012, and now, nearly seven years after the storm, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority is taking the necessary steps to patch it up.
Instead of completely shutting down L train service for approximately 15 months as originally planned, the MTA adapted Governor Cuomo’s alternative plan that allows trains to run on nights and weekends during construction. This weekend, the transit authority slowed things down on the L line for the first time with trains running between Manhattan and Brooklyn every 20 minutes, offering free shuttle buses connecting commuters who decided to take the J, or M trains instead, and offering free bus passes to those making transfers in Manhattan to the M14A or M14D buses.
The L train serves as the main source of transportation for about 400,000 New Yorkers traveling between Manhattan and Brooklyn on any given weekday and the construction has sparked a lot of worry among New York City subway riders.
On Friday night commuters experienced long lines and extended wait times as reported by the Gothamist, while others didn’t even recognize there was a change at all. NYCity Lens traveled along the stops on the L and talked to passengers who braved the confusion for the most part without reporting any major mishaps.
Although estimated wait times vary, most riders seemed unbothered by the possibility of waiting 20 minutes for a train. MTA workers encouraged people who missed trains to avoid the wait by taking advantage of alternative routes. Stations between Lorimer and 8th Avenue utilized one track for trains running in both directions. This added to the already chaotic atmosphere and contributed to overcrowded platforms.
At one point, entry to the 1st Avenue station came to a halt for about five minutes after the platform reached capacity.
Emily Hill who doesn’t take the L train regularly said she wasn’t aware of the service changes when she traveled to Williamsburg Friday evening. “I had no idea at all,” said Hill, as she waited with a friend at the Lorimer Street station. She described her experience as seamless. “I took the F to the L,” she said.
But not every ride went as smoothly as planned. A bit of confusion sparked up on Saturday afternoon as riders were kicked off one L train at Lorimer Street and forced on to the platform to wait for another.
“I got on an L several stops back,” said Micah Parsons, as she waited for an L train to arrive at the Lorimer Station. “I didn’t realize it was going to stop and push us all out. So that was surprising.”
Riders traveling on Saturday also experienced crowded stations but smoother commutes than those who traveled Friday night. There were increased personnel at each station along the route from Lorimer to 8th avenue. Busier stations like Lorimer, Bedford Avenue and 14th Street/Union Square had more MTA workers, as well as police officers, to help direct traffic and monitor crowd control.
Despite the extra help, some New Yorkers who don’t live along the line were a little less prepared than those who do.
“I’m just trying to find my way to work and I wasn’t ready for this,” said Axeo Avin Jr, who was traveling from a family member’s house in Brooklyn. “I’m now trying to book a car to take me into the city because I’m not going to wait another 45 minutes to get where I need to go,” said Avin, who was one of the few frustrated travelers NYCity Lens spoke to over the weekend.
For the most part, people living in the area seem to be satisfied with the service changes.
“I agree with the way that their doing it,” said Ken Kamiski, who lives near the Bedford Avenue station and took the L Train to Manhattan Saturday morning. “It was pretty easy. Actually, it was better than usual. It wasn’t crowded,” said Kamiski.
And others said they were grateful that there wasn’t a complete overhaul of the line.
“Thankful that it works normal during the week days,” said Matthew Brody, who just moved to Williamsburg last month, “It’s more of an adjustment for like weekend activities.”
Overall, MTA officials were satisfied with the first round of service changes.
“Some updates now that the first weekend of the #LProject is behind us: First of all, thank you for your patience this weekend, and to the many customers who planned ahead and used enhanced alternative service options,” the MTA posted in a tweet via the NYCT Subway Twitter account. The MTA also mentioned that they will be making a few minor adjustments to their operations in light of this weekend’s first round of construction.
Here’s what other riders had to say about the L train changes.