How Screwed Will Your Subway Line Be by the L Train Shutdown? Everybody Else Edition

If you were hoping next year’s disruption in service won’t affect you because your commute doesn’t go near the L train, we have some bad news


During the upcoming L train shutdown set to begin in early 2019, the MTA expects 70 to 80 percent of displaced L riders to take other subway lines. This will affect not only those displaced riders, but all the commuters who currently take the lines that will become filled with L refugees. This week, the Village Voice examines the impact on all the remaining lines not yet covered. Click here for previous editions and other L train shutdown coverage.

If you do not take the J, M, Z, A, C, 7, F, G, E, M, or R lines, then I have some good news: You’re probably, probably not screwed during the L train shutdown. You will likely be able to get to work without severe disruptions, even more packed trains, or overcrowded platforms. In most ways, your New York City experience will be much like it is today.

Except — you had to know there would be exceptions — for those of you who take the 3 and the N/W.

First, let’s talk about the 3. There will be a free transfer between the remaining Brooklyn-only L train service at Livonia Avenue and the 3 at Junius Street. This will be the first available transfer for the 27,000-plus people who swipe into the Canarsie–Rockaway Parkway, East 105th Street, New Lots Avenue, and Livonia Avenue L stations every weekday, according to 2016 ridership figures, the latest year for which data is available.

While that’s a lot of people, those riders have a few options for how to approach the shutdown. They can take the L to Broadway Junction and transfer to the A/C or J/Z, or Myrtle-Wyckoff Avenues to the M, or the Junius Street transfer to the 3. (Most, I would imagine, would opt for either the A or the 3, since those lines will get you to Manhattan the quickest.) Those who go with the 3 can then make the easy transfer to the 4 or 5 express trains at Crown Heights–Utica Avenue or Franklin Avenue. Overall, it will be an inconvenience, but I don’t believe it will cause severe crowding (beyond what I’ve already written regarding Broadway Junction).

The other potential trouble spot I’ll flag is in Queens. This is much more speculative, but it’s possible the Queensboro Plaza station could see a lot of 7 riders in the morning rush making a cross-platform transfer to the N/W so as to avoid the hordes of G train riders who will be getting on at the subsequent Court Square and Hunters Point Avenue stations for Manhattan-bound transfers. Whether or not this becomes a thing largely depends on just how bad the 7 crowding is. After all, the people already on the 7 may not really care if G transferees are stuck on the platform. But if the crowding is as bad as I think it will be, some clever folks may realize early on that it’s just not worth putting up with and instead make the 7-to-N/W a regular part of their commute.

“Great,” you may be saying to yourself, out loud, like a weirdo. “So if I don’t take the **deep breath** J, M, Z, A, C, 7, F, G, E, M, R, N, W, 3, 4, or 5 trains then I’m totally fine?”

Actually, that’s not what I’m saying at all.

For you see — and this is the grand finale I have been building to over the past several weeks, so please, bask in the dramatic climax — each and every New Yorker is screwed, in their own little way, during the L shutdown. Consider:

  • Do you know anyone who takes any of the above lines with any degree of regularity? They’re going to be miserable.
  • Do you know anyone who currently takes an NYC Ferry along the East River? Their ferries are going to be overrun with L refugees and their pleasant, taxpayer-subsidized yacht rides will suddenly become a lot less pleasant.
  • Do you ever go within a five-block radius of 14th Street? Do you know anyone who lives or works in that area? It will be clogged with buses, pedestrians, and bicyclists attempting to traverse the city without the L. They, too, will be much less pleasant.
  • Do you or does anyone you know bike over the Williamsburg Bridge every day as part of their commute? The Department of Transportation is expecting cycling traffic over the bridge to increase “at least 300 percent” during the shutdown, which is fantastic for a lot of reasons, but will make for a very congested bridge.
  • Do you take the bus in north Brooklyn or on any route that runs along or near 14th Street? Your buses will be slower and your journeys longer. There will be more traffic thanks to increased Uber, Lyft, and taxi usage — plus, thanks to the lack of all-door boarding, even a nominal increase in bus ridership will lead to much longer boarding times.
  • Do you occasionally go to Williamsburg or Bushwick? That will become much more difficult, inconvenient, and expensive.
  • Do you know anyone who owns or works at a business in Williamsburg or Bushwick? If you do, they’re probably going to go through some very tough times during the shutdown.

Even if somehow none of the above applies to you, it’s likely you know someone for whom it does. The shutdown’s ripple effect will be profound. We — each and every one of us — are very, very screwed.