March 21, 2019 By Laura Hanrahan
New York City-based transit advocate group Transportation Alternatives is petitioning the city to reimplement the transit mitigation plan that was called off with the cancellation of the full L train shutdown by Governor Andrew Cuomo in January.
The group launched an online petition on its website, which has gained 75 signatures, that is asking the city to bring back its plans for protected bike lanes and bus-only lanes along Grand Street in Brooklyn, as well as bus improvements along the corridor, HOV+3 restrictions on the Williamsburg Bridge and an expansion of Citi Bike in North Brooklyn.
All of Transportation Alternative’s asks were a part of the MTA’s previous mitigation plan for the then-planned 18-month shutdown of the L train while the Canarsie tunnel underwent substantial reconstruction. The city had also planned for increased ferry service, increased subway service on several alternative lines, and more cars added to the G train, all of which have since been cancelled.
The MTA released its updated mitigation plan last month to go along with Cuomo’s new construction plan, which will now see nighttime and weekend reductions in service, with trains running every 20 minutes between Brooklyn and Manhattan. The transit authority is now only promising more frequent service on the 7, M and G lines.
With the already busy and dangerous conditions along Grand Street, particularly for cyclists and pedestrians, Erwin Figueroa, Senior Organizer at Transportation Alternatives, says they were happy with the MTA’s initial plans.
“Even before the mitigation plans were presented and before the L train shutdown was planned, there was a dire need for improvements on Grand Street,” Figueroa said. “Grand Street has had a number of fatalities in the last four or five years.”
Before the shutdown cancellation was announced in January, the MTA had begun constructing new bike lanes and painted bus-only lanes along Grand Street. At this month’s Brooklyn Community Board 1 meeting, MTA representatives said they are now working toward removing the red paint from the road, as they are not putting in the bus lanes.
Transportation Alternatives says they are also concerned with the exorbitant wait times riders will have when trying to travel between boroughs outside of typical work hours—the only time the train will operate on a normal schedule.
“The Williamsburg area has a lot of bars, a lot of entertainment venues, you have people that travel late night, work in hospitals, work at late-night establishments, so having 20 minute headways for the L train during these times is not acceptable,” Figueroa said. “If you’ve been waiting 20 minutes for a train and it comes in full and you have to wait 20 more minutes for the next train, people are just going to get out and call an Uber if they have the means to do it. For people who don’t have means to do it, they’ll be stuck waiting 40 minutes to get on the train.”
The group would like to see a new bus route operating across the Williamsburg bridge to provide a direct alternative to the L train.
Transportation Alternatives is asking residents to not only sign the petition, but to contact their local elected officials and voice their concerns about the L train mitigation plans.
The MTA is set to start construction on the Canarsie tunnel at the end of April. The construction is expected to last no more than 20 months.