Dec. 15, 2017 By Nathaly Pesantez
The recently-released L Train mitigation plan, which outlines preliminary strategies for rerouting thousands of the line’s riders once the tunnel closes for repairs, has Queens “missing from its pages”, according to a local activist group.
Access Queens, the transit advocate group most known for their 7 Train Blues campaign, said the joint plan by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the Department of Transportation overlooks Queens, which is slated to see immense changes in 2019, when the Canarsie Tunnel shuts down for 15 months worth of Superstorm Sandy repairs.
The long-awaited mitigation plan, released on Dec. 13, includes detailed and ambitious plans for lower Manhattan, like making 14th Street bus only. A proposal to make the Williamsburg Bridge HOV-3 only during rush hours is also included, along with major changes to a throughway in Williamsburg and Bushwick.
Details on plans for western Queens, however, have been sparse, with plans to bring unspecified improvements to the Court Square station and free transfers at 21 St/Hunters Point Avenue.
The lack of attention given to Queens in the proposal, when 80 percent of the L train’s 400,000 daily riders are expected to use lines like the G train to connect to the Manhattan-linking Court Square, are concerning for the transit group.
“Only part of the story is told, focusing solely on the impact in Brooklyn and Manhattan,” writes Melissa Orlando, founder of Access Queens, in a Dec. 15 letter. “The addition of thousands of riders to overcrowded lines such as the 7 and the E trains is a disaster waiting to happen.”
Access Queens says the preliminary plans fail to offer additional service at the Court Square station, especially as G train ridership is expected to grow “dramatically” with the train increasing its length by four cars. The group also criticized the MTA and DOT for only considering some of the solutions outlined in their report, titled “L Train Shutdown ‘Crowd Calming’ Options”, sent to the MTA months ago.
Only two of the solutions outlined by Access Queens, which included extending the G line further into Queens, new bus options, and free walking transfers, all to decrease the risks that come with overcrowding, were included in the joint mitigation plan.
“Will the city work with the MTA to place additional police personnel at Court Square in order to prevent serious incidents, like harassment and fights that break out frequently on overcrowded lines?” part of Access Queens’ letter reads. “Who will ensure riders are safe while they wait for trains on packed platforms?”
The crowd calming options report was also pushed forth by Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan, who wrote to Joseph Lhota, the MTA chairman, urging him to look into the “helpful” solutions to mitigate the effects of the shutdown on western Queens in a November letter.
The mitigation plan comes days after the Court Square Civic Association (CSCA) sent a letter to Lhota also pushing for the agency to consider Access Queens’ solutions, especially in light of the rapid growth and development in Long Island City.
“We are already experiencing long lines on the platform approaches and hazardous platform crowding during rush hour,” wrote Pedro Gomez, president of the CSCA, in his Dec. 6 letter. Gomez added that the Court Square station saw a 25 percent increase in ridership from 2011 to 2016.
Both Nolan and Access Queens are calling for more public meetings in the borough to learn about the impact of the tunnel shutdown.
“We hope the MTA will hear riders’ concerns and develop additional strategies to accommodate riders whose commutes will be rerouted through Queens,” Orlando wrote in the letter.
The MTA and DOT said community meetings to present plans and receive community input will begin starting January 2018.