The Sea Train: Will Ferries Mean Smooth Sailing Through L-Pocalypse?

Williamsburg Bridge (photo: Julia Moak)

The MTA has seen protests in Brooklyn due to its laissez-faire relationship with the impending L-pocalypse. In response, they’ve promised to make community engagement a “central priority” as the March 2019 L train closure nears. Part of that community engagement was on display last week, when the MTA and the DOT appeared before Brooklyn Community Board 1 to offer a joint presentation to this neighborhood offering new information regarding their plans for alternate service during the transit shutdown. In a word: Ferries.

While the proposed direct ferry route between North Williamsburg and Stuyvesant Cove isn’t technically new (it was part of the MTA’s original L-pocalypse mitigation strategy ominously entitled Planning Ahead for the Crisis), the agency offered new details on the route at last week’s meeting. During the presentation, transit honchos noted that ferry service along the route would run 6:00am-12:00am Sunday through Thursday, and that service may be extended until 2:00 am on Friday and Saturday nights. 

Officials gave further details, relating that during rush-hour the L-train ferry will run every 7.5 minutes in each direction. Given that each boat carries a maximum of 149 passengers, that means the route can handle just 1,200 riders an hour in each direction. Bklyner reports that those numbers equate to just one L-Train.

The MTA estimates that 5% of current passengers will turn to ferry service as an alternative during the shutdown, but since the L train serves 200,000 daily riders, 5% means 10,000 riders. It remains unclear how the L train Ferry will cope with the actual volume of passengers expected to use the service.

Interestingly, the L train Ferry, which will be run under the auspices of the MTA, is not in any way affiliated with NYC Ferry services. A spokesman for NYC Ferry explained that the L train Ferry is a completely separate project. That said, all current NYC Ferry routes will remain in service during the L-pocalypse.

About Lucie Levine

Lucie Levine is the founder of Archive on Parade, a local tour and event company that aims to take New York’s fascinating history out of the archives and into the streets. She’s a Native New Yorker, licensed New York City tour guide, and freelance writer with a passion for the city’s social, political and cultural history.

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