Photo: Jeremiah Cox

The L Train is facing an imminent, extensive shutdown in the wake of lingering Hurricane Sandy damage, and North Brooklyn hasn’t taken the news very well.

And why would it, given the amount of daily riders who travel through the Canarsie Tube every day — around 350,000 — not to mention the huge impact ridership has on local businesses?

Currently, the MTA is considering two options to implement as early as 2017: to close the entire tunnel nonstop for one year, or to leave one side open and reduce traffic to half-volume, which would take anywhere from three to four years.

Not ones to bide their time quietly, a number of local residents and business owners have already formed The L Train Coalition to demand a better solution from the MTA, though many know full well that the answer will definitely be “pain.”

Pain, of course, can be abstract or painted in sharp relief. And while a fair amount of ink has been spilled over the implications for L Train commuters, there are fewer educated guesses regarding the fate of surrounding areas like Greenpoint, which will absorb a great deal of shock from the closure as riders scramble to find alternative routes.


For one: the MTA doesn’t currently have the goods to expand G service like it says it will.

Though Assemblyman Joe Lentol mentioned a number of potential solutions that could help ease the burden at last week’s Brooklyn Bowl meeting (among them dedicated bus lanes, subsidized ferry service, subsidized Uber and Lyft fares, shuttle buses, and the addition of two extra cars to the G Train), the MTA doesn’t currently have enough extra subway cars to lengthen G trains.

According to subway expert Max Diamond, G trains are made up either four R68 or R68A cars per train, which are permanently-linked four-car sets that, when doubled, would create a full-length train.

“All of the types of subway cars that can run on the G line are already fully assigned to other subway lines,” said Diamond. “The underlying problem is that there are not enough extra subway cars available to lengthen G trains right now.”

What’s more, it’s also currently impossible to increase the frequency of G train service during rush hour because it shares track space with the F Train at the Bergen Street and Church Avenue stops, and there’s simply no more capacity in this area.

Diamond added that the best solution for Greenpointers, in his opinion, would be to:

-Campaign for the MTA to retain the R32 cars that currently run on the C and J lines after the new R179 cars come in.
-Call for a diversion of the F Train to a little-used set of express tracks between Jay Street and Church Avenue to free up capacity for more frequent G service.

Otherwise, we could very well end up with more sausage than our casing can handle (you’re welcome).

Uber and Lyft will probably seize on this opportunity.

According to CartoDB, the relative affluence of Greenpoint’s population suggests that they’ll be targeted by enterprising companies like Uber and Lyft.

The impact. Image via CartoDB.

“Greenpoint, while situated very close to the L, has low rates of poverty as compared to neighboring census block groups,” read the analysis on its site. “It is also on the G, so has transfers to Manhattan-bound trains to the north and south, as well as close access to the Williamsburg and Queensboro Bridges and Queens Midtown Tunnel if the MTA were to start shuttle service. While these people could be served by busses shuttling them to Manhattan, one could also guess that a good number of this affuent population would be targets of commercial modes of transportation during a disruption of L service. Keep your eye out for new Uber and Lyft advertisements along those dense walking corridors.”

The site noted that the low-income neighborhoods further out along the L Train will be hit the hardest, since shuttle service to Manhattan will take the longest, and often for lower-income workers who have much less flexibility related to their work hours.

Let’s not forget about those other 30 subway station revamps.

Just before Mass L Train Panic got out of the bag, MTA Chairman Thomas Prendergast announced that 30 stations were getting sparkly makeovers in time for 2020.

Not great. Photo via MTA.

The MTA is adding touch screens, signage, and lighting in an effort to make these stations “cleaner, brighter… easier to navigate, with better and more intuitive wayfinding, as well as a modernized look and feel.”

This, like the L Train shutdown, is unlikely to be a piecemeal operation. Instead, it’s going to require the MTA to shut down entire stations for months at a time.

And that months-at-a-time shutdown is coming to two stations that are already likely to be hit hard by the L closure: the Flushing and Classon G stops.

Rent could actually go up in Greenpoint.

Though the expensive properties along the L Train may certainly get some relief as rents there are likely to drop, brokers think nearby neighborhoods with access to alternative transit modes will get more expensive.

Jeffrey Schleider, founder of Miron Properties, told DNAinfo that areas like Greenpoint, South Williamsburg and Bed-Stuy will see rents rise as people flee Williamsburg and Bushwick.

“I expect renters [along the L train] to pull back from the market pretty quickly,” Schleider told the site.

In any case, nothing’s set in stone yet.

“There is no question that this vital work has to been done to make repairs to a set of tubes that saw in excess of 7 million gallons of salt water enter as a result of Superstorm Sandy,” said MTA spokesperson Kevin Ortiz. “However, no decisions on this project are finalized and work will not be started for a couple years. We look forward to meeting with elected officials, community representatives and riders and listening to their ideas for the best way to mitigate the impact to customers who travel through the Canarsie Tube every day.”

For anyone interested in getting a word in edgewise, The L Train Coalition’s next meeting will be on the evening of Wednesday, February 24th at Swinging Sixties Senior Center (211 Ainslie Street) at 6:30 p.m.

Join the Conversation


  1. “What’s more, it’s also currently impossible to increase the frequency of G train service during rush hour because it shares track space with the F Train at the Bergen Street and Church Avenue stops, and there’s simply no more capacity in this area.”

    We wouldn’t want them to keep going that far anyway. Turn half of them around at Hoyt, where there is all of that extra track for it.

  2. Doing some math – The G train currently needs 52 cars for the AM rush, good for 13 trains. The L train currently runs with 24 trains in the AM rush. I would imagine that the L train wouldn’t need that many cars if it won’t be running for a third of it’s distance. (The L train is about 10 miles in total length. From Lorimer street to 8th Ave is about 3.3 miles) So let’s say that the L train can give 1/3 of it’s cars, or 8 trains, to the G during the construction period, and then you double up the existing G trains – that would give 14.5 full-length trains for the G. (Maybe the B or D could lend 4 cars to the G?) I’m relying on a few assumptions here, but it seems like it would work. You’d also have the issue of the G running with both 480 and 600 foot trains, but that’s been done before – the C train did it a few summers back.

    1. I’m guessing there may be a few train yard accommodation issues (it’s complicated effort to get trains from the L to the G due to limited junctions), but in general, yes, you’re absolutely right that some L-Train sets should become available.

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