Photo via Wikimedia Commons
The MTA announced that they will close the L train for 18 months to fix the Canarsie Tunnel.

It’s official. The MTA announced Monday that the L train’s Canarsie Tunnel will be closed for 18 months — starting in January 2019 — to repair major damage caused by Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

According to the MTA, the decision to fully close the tunnel for 18 months instead of a one-track, three-year closure was made based on a detailed operational review, and significant community engagement to consider the adverse impacts of the project.

“While the MTA always looks to avoid service disruptions, there is no question that repairs to the Canarsie Tunnel are critical and cannot be avoided or delayed,” said Thomas Prendergast, MTA chairman and CEO in a press release. “Throughout this process we have committed to engaging the community and listening to all concerns so that we can address them as we prepare for this necessary work. We are committed to working with the community just as closely as we develop ways to add service to help minimize the impacts of the closure.”

The extent of damage to the seven-mile-long section of both tubes in the Canarsie Tunnel includes damage to tracks, signals, switches, power and communication cables, signal cables, lighting, cable ducts and bench walls — which must be replaced to protect the structural integrity of the two tubes.

The MTA is now looking into fully developing alternative service plans to accommodate riders during the shutdown by including additional capacity on the M, J and G lines.

However, one local transportation group has come up with an alternative plan to keep more riders moving through Queens, Brooklyn and Manhattan.

The members at ReThink Studio, an urban transportation planning firm, believe that continuing E train service along the G line at the Hoyt-Schermerhorn station could help reduce the stress on the other lines while the L train is out of commission.

“I think we’re all gritting our teeth [about the L train shutdown],” said Jim Venturi, founder and principal designer of ReThink Studio. “It is a shame that as a city we haven’t invested as much as everyone would like in transportation, so when something like this happens all we have is a menu of bad options.”

Map courtesy ReThink Studio

Map courtesy ReThink Studio

Venturi and ReThink Studio propose an extension of the E train into Brooklyn via the existing A/C tunnel, then along the Court Square-bound G tracks by adding in a rail switch at the Hoyt-Schermerhorn station.

“It’s easy for us to say to just put a switch in, but it’s more difficult than that,” Venturi said. “It’s tight to put it in, but it’s possible. It gives north Brooklyn’s G line [the ability] to have single-seat ride into Manhattan. The E train could continue along with its A and C siblings under the East River at Hoyt-Schermerhorn, divert from the A and C and go with the G. In general, the idea makes sense.”

Photo courtesy ReThink Studio

Photo courtesy ReThink Studio

To learn more about ReThink Studio and their plans for changing New York’s transportation system, visit their website.

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Pedro Valdez Rivera Jr. August 05, 2016 / 07:56PM
I realistically said that this could happen in the by the middle of this century, at least.
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Kenien Spann July 28, 2016 / 02:44PM
Imagine if you will, a world in which one of the largest cities with one of the largest subway systems in the world, created trains for the purpose of helping rush hour pressure and rerouting due to construction. Imagine that these trains we called the 9 and the W.
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CRina3 July 27, 2016 / 07:42PM
This is the most stupidest Brooklyn centric idea for convenience of L train users. As a Queens resident who can take the E from either Sutphin Blvd or Kew Gardens our express trains in the past decade have become least reliable. Yes we've been lucky to have the new trains for the past five or so years, but the service delays have only increased. This will make trains that are already packed (rush-hours leaving Queens or entering) even more unbearable. I take the F to work in the morning sometimes and the residents from Queensbridge & Roosevelt Island can't get on a train thus waiting 2 or 3 trains which most likely be 30 minutes. I take trains near the end of the E & F lines and it takes over ten minutes to get a train at rush hour & non rush hour could be up to 20-30 minutes. The delays on the LIRR past few day might have made the trip even worse! I dare this company to take a trip on the E rush hour and witness Queens residents frustrations!
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Alexander David Morales July 27, 2016 / 05:29AM
Btw according to your diagram above, trains looks like part of the end of the trains will come to a stop on the switches. A big no-no.
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mediacriminal_ July 26, 2016 / 06:11PM
Nice try, the effort is good but this plan would never work because of the simple fact that the A, C, and E cannot all use the Cranberry Tunnel.
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Liam Blank July 26, 2016 / 18:45PM
Yes, the A, C, and E can all use the Cranberry Tunnel with appropriate scheduling. The tunnel is only at max capacity (26 trains per hour) during rush hour (8am - 9am), but the rest of the day, E trains will be able to use the tunnel. The rest of the E trains will continue to terminate at the World Trade Center.


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Alexander David Morales July 26, 2016 / 04:01PM
Dear Rethink Studio, Stop. Just stop. Look, im all for ideas, but the ideas are suppose to be logical, and most importantly, possible. 1) I dont think any of the people who work there has ever been to Hoyt on the A C and G and if you have, some designers you are not paying attention to details. The G line on the center tracks immediately travels to a lower level on both ends right outside the station practically literally. Leavijg no room for switches without shortening a station which fits 10car trains at all times (on the A) 2) there arent enough cars to extend the E. How about you "rethink" your studio try again. This time with actual knowledge of how our subway is. The L tunnel project is only going to take a yrar and a half. There will be extra G trains(which the trains itself will double in length) which connects with trains to manhattan on both ends, extra buses in BK to take people to nearby lines, and extra sbs buses in manhattan along with a special bus from bedford to Essex in manhattan. People like me who know the subways and how it works arent naysayers, we are realists. How about riders take the next 3 years and try out other routes for your commute. Iys what us long time subway riding nee yorkers have been doing for decades. A "one seat ride" is not a guarantee in NYC.
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Alexander David Morales July 27, 2016 / 05:46AM
The average length of a full subway train is 600-605 feet. You mean to tell me that you can still fit that after adding switches? I call BS because you will also need room for the approach to the switch. Let alone a project like that can take years (3-4) when you factor all the construction needed. Plus theres the cost! All of that just for a shutdown thatll last a year and a half. And dont get me started on the cars. The shutdown is only going to free up a few trainsets. Which will be needed to allow a fleet shift to have G trains run full length. Not enough to add more trains to cover a ridiculous route you suggest for the E, which as someone else already mentioned will strain the capacity of the Cranberry St tunnel. As well as lengthen crew trip times, add more capasity to a small terminal (Court Sq) where riders will already be able to transfer to manhattan trains(by using the G which will also see a service increase). Why add the E when the G will be increased and doubled in length? And you just cant buy rolling stock. Trains take years of design and contract bidding (which can take 3 years alone) then have someone build them, deliver the first set to be tested (for a couple of months) before the reat of the sets can be delivered. You cant also jsut use the incoming R179 cars since they will be in the process of being delivered when the shutdown begins. How do i know all of this? I also use to work for Transit. Its an ambitious plan, but way over done for a shutdown of less than 2years. The best proposal should be how to inform the public fully of their alternatives.

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Liam Blank July 26, 2016 / 18:44PM
Alex, Each member of our team has visited the Hoyt-Schermerhorn Station and some of us are also daily commuters on the A, C, and G lines. Yes, the tracks do change grade right at the end of the platforms, which is why our plan includes shortening two platforms to make room for the switch at an even grade. The shortened platforms will still be long enough to accommodate the A train (and yes, we did measure this). There are enough cars to extend the E train if some are used from the out-of-service L train or through buying new rolling stock. Also, the E train will only be able to provide service to Brooklyn mostly during off-peak times due to capacity constraints at Hoyt-Schermerhorn. We don't believe our proposal is the ultimate solution for the L Train, but it should be part of a multi-faceted solution that includes shuttle buses, ferries, etc.


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Ann Terry July 26, 2016 / 03:55PM
Thanks for the article and thanks to ReThink for coming up with a suggestion. Naysayers--what are your ideas?
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Fred Ehrhart July 26, 2016 / 03:48PM
This all seems very Pie in the Sky to me. The assumption that they can just flip a switch and the trains are all going to magically work on a new line, plus the lines being the same size as the trains themselves, is already a stretch. This also seems to assume you stop E train service over Queens Blvd, another line that already lacks capacity during rush hour. I know the Brooklyn folks are up in arms they are not getting special attention but the city is more that 2 boroughs.
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Stan Kento Lawson July 26, 2016 / 02:30PM
People need to understand how their subway system works. We R line riders had to put up with no service through the tube for our repairs. You L riders will live.
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adamswagem July 26, 2016 / 14:01PM
Yes because the ridership between the R and the L lines are exactly the same. Do you even think before you speak? The R and the L cannot be compared. Not even close. The R tunnel damage was also far less severe, on top of being a much less busy line. You are now not allowed to speak on the topic for 30 minutes because of how stupid your comment was.


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Henry Man July 25, 2016 / 07:45PM
This does not work period. The Cranbury Tubes are at/over capacity, and there are existing bottlenecks at Canal and Hoyt-Schermerhorn where the A and C joint-run. If somehow a few additional E trains that wind up making this hypothetical switch, it would exacerbate the bottleneck issue. The subway system here is not about throwing a random switch here or there. Running trains over a physical connection between different lines will upset the TPH on that particular service and many others. For example, the Culver, 60th Street, 63rd Street, and Chrystie Connections brought long-term overhauls of how trains operate. In this case, it will trigger frequency changes on the A, B, C, D, E, F, G, and possibly the M and R lines. As JerichoWhiskey pointed out, an extension of the E would require additional rolling stock. However the extra R143 sets would more likely operate on an expanded M line, as opposed being sent to the E. The E runs 2 5-car sets per train, while the R143s are configured in 4-car sets. And though the MTA intends to acquire extra sets through the R179 order, that would be used for the Second Avenue Subway (extension of the Q). To extend the E therefore would be ill-conceived on these technical grounds.
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JerichoWhiskey July 25, 2016 / 03:34PM
The amount of extra E trains likely needed means there will not be enough rolling stock with any extra R143s from the L going to the other lines already slated for increased service and there is likely little train slots left on the Queens Boulevard line and Cranberry Tubes during rush hour to accommodate them anyway.
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