L Train Alternative

Solving the L Train Crisis

In 2019, due to flood­ing caused by Hurricane Sandy, the MTA will start an 18-month reha­bil­i­ta­tion project on the L Train’s Canarsie Tunnel. To reach Manhattan, Brooklyn L Train pas­sen­gers will soon have to rely on a mul­ti-seat sub­way ride and slow­er modes of tran­sit (cars, bus­es, fer­ries, etc.). 

Congested roads, lim­it­ed water­front access, and already over-crowd­ed sub­way lines will cre­ate a night­mare com­mut­ing sce­nario for the thou­sands of peo­ple who cur­rent­ly rely on the L Train’s direct access to Manhattan. An alter­na­tive approach is need­ed.

ReThink Studio pro­pos­es a recon­fig­u­ra­tion of E Train ser­vice that takes advan­tage of under­uti­lized infra­struc­ture and requires min­i­mal new con­struc­tion.

Presently, G Train ser­vice (between Church Ave Station and Hoyt-Schermerhorn Station) over­laps with the F Train, pro­vid­ing South Brooklyn sub­way rid­ers with direct access to Manhattan. However, in North Brooklyn there is no over­lap­ping ser­vice with the G Train (between Hoyt-Schermorn Station and Court Square Station), so com­muters from these neigh­bor­hoods rely on the L, J, M, and Z Trains for a direct con­nec­tion to Manhattan. With the loom­ing par­tial-shut­down of the L Train, and fur­ther over-crowd­ing of the J, M, and Z Lines, there is an urgent need to pro­vide North Brooklyn com­muters with an alter­na­tive solu­tion that does not strain the rest of the trans­porta­tion net­work. 



The Metropolitan Transit Authority’s “L” Train is one of the most impor­tant sub­way lines in New York City. Each day, 225,000 peo­ple use the route to trav­el between Manhattan and Brooklyn and rid­er­ship for the entire line is over 400,000. As one of only three crosstown-Manhattan sub­way lines, the L Train runs from Eighth Avenue in Chelsea to Rockaway Parkway in Canarsie. The Canarsie Tunnel, built over 100 years ago, serves the L Train with two tubes under the East River, cre­at­ing a vital link between Manhattan and Brooklyn. In 2012, the storm-surge caused by ‘super­storm’ Sandy flood­ed the tun­nel with sev­en mil­lion gal­lons of water, result­ing in major ser­vice dis­rup­tions and sig­nif­i­cant struc­tur­al dam­age.

Facing the inevitable, the MTA must now make crit­i­cal repairs to the Canarsie Tunnel. For an esti­mat­ed year and a half, L Train rid­ers will soon have to adapt to a com­plete shut­down of L Train ser­vice between Manhattan and Brooklyn. Though the MTA is final­iz­ing their con­struc­tion plan and adjust­ing near­by sub­way ser­vice to help alle­vi­ate the bur­den of the tun­nel shut­down, none of the MTA’s pro­posed adjust­ments will be effi­cient and effec­tive enough to accom­mo­date all of the com­muters who cur­rent­ly rely on the L Train to trav­el between Manhattan and Brooklyn.

Damage to elec­tri­cal equip­ment caused by Hurricane Sandy’s storm-surge. (Courtesy of the MTA).

Hurricane Sandy’s storm-surge flood­ed the Canarsie Tunnel with mil­lions of gal­lons of salt water, now eat­ing away at the tun­nel. (Courtesy of the MTA).

MTA Proposal


The MTA plans to shut­down the sub­way line under the East River, between Manhattan and Brooklyn. Additional cars will be added to trains on the G Line, and J and Z Trains will make all stops between Myrtle Ave and Marcy Ave. No L Trains will oper­ate between 8th Ave (Chelsea) and Bedford Ave (Williamsburg). The L Train will con­tin­ue to pro­vide ser­vice between Bedford Ave (Williamsburg) and Rockaway Parkway (Canarsie). A shut­tle bus ser­vice will oper­ate from Bedford Ave to Delancey/Essex Street via the Williamsburg Bridge, and a new fer­ry ser­vice may be pro­vid­ed from North Williamsburg to 20th Street in Manhattan.

MTA’s pre­ferred solu­tion for the L Train shut­down. (Courtesy of the MTA).

ReThink Studio Proposal

In 1925, Mayor Hylan pro­posed a sub­way line that would run in a loop between Manhattan, Queens, and Brooklyn. The orig­i­nal pro­pos­al called for a track con­nec­tion in Long Island City between the IND Crosstown Line (G Train) and the IND Queens Boulevard Line (E & F Train). The pro­posed loop would have branched off from the Queens Boulevard Line in Long Island City at 44th Drive and 21st Street, con­tin­ued south to Schermerhorn Street in down­town Brooklyn, west to Lower Manhattan, north to Midtown via 6th Avenue and 8th Avenue, and then east to Long Island City via 53rd Street. Despite Hylan’s pro­pos­al, no track con­nec­tion was ever built in Queens to allow for a sub­way route to oper­ate cir­cuitous­ly between the three bor­oughs. As a result, the IND Crosstown Line (G Train) is present­ly the only sub­way line to not pro­vide direct ser­vice to Manhattan.

As a mod­ern adap­ta­tion of Mayor Hylan’s plan, ReThink Studio’s pro­pos­al mit­i­gates the L Train shut­down by cre­at­ing a semi-loop­ing E Train ser­vice between Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens. Instead of ter­mi­nat­ing at the World Trade Center, E Trains will con­tin­ue along the A & C Line to Hoyt-Schermerhorn Station (Brooklyn), where it will branch off and con­tin­ue north along the G Line to Court Square Station (Queens). With this new con­fig­u­ra­tion, Brooklyn L Train pas­sen­gers will have a two-seat ride to Manhattan by trans­fer­ring onto an E Train at the Lorimer Street-Metropolitan Ave Station. Overlapping E & G Train ser­vice will also pro­vide present G Train rid­ers in Williamsburg and Bedford-Stuyvesant with a sin­gle-seat ride to Manhattan.

The prob­lem with MTA’s pro­pos­al is that it will not be able han­dle the L Train’s cur­rent dai­ly pas­sen­ger load on its own. Shuttle bus­es and fer­ries are not near­ly as con­ve­nient as sub­way ser­vice, and redi­rect­ing pas­sen­gers onto exist­ing near­by sub­way lines will lead to fur­ther over-crowd­ing.


Maylor Hylan’s 1925 loop pro­pos­al called for a cir­cuitous route between Manhattan, Queens, and Brooklyn. Although the IND 8th Avenue Line, IND Queens Boulevard Line, and IND Crosstown Line were all con­struct­ed, no track con­nec­tion in Long Island City was ever cre­at­ed to allow a loop ser­vice to be imple­ment­ed. (Courtesy of the New York Times).

Existing track dia­gram of the Hoyt-Schermerhorn Station area, show­ing no track con­nec­tion between the IND Crosstown Line (G Train) and the IND 8th Avenue Line (A & C Train). (Courtesy of NYCsubway.org).

New Rail Switch


ReThink Studio’s pro­pos­al for extend­ing the E Train will require two track switch­es to be con­struct­ed at the Hoyt-Schermerhorn Station in Brooklyn. The ele­va­tion of each track quick­ly changes before and after the Hoyt-Schermerhorn plat­forms, so unused por­tions of two of the plat­forms will have to be mod­i­fied to make switch­ing between tracks pos­si­ble. Since A, C and G Trains already con­verge at the same plat­form, the con­struc­tion will be min­i­mal. The E Line can be merged into the G Line with the con­struc­tion of two “Number 6 track switch­es” at Hoyt-Schermerhorn Station (the same switch­es are used at Canal Street Station on the IND 8th Avenue Line). A switch num­ber cor­re­sponds to the length of run need­ed for the rails to diverge a dis­tance of one unit. Therefore, a “Number 6 track switch” means that the rails would devi­ate one foot (to the left or right) for every six feet feet in track length.


Before-and-after Hoyt-Schermerhorn Station dia­gram with the instal­la­tion of two new “Number 6 track switch­es,” allow­ing for E Train ser­vice to con­tin­ue to Bedford-Stuyvesant, Williamsburg, and Long Island City via the IND Crosstown Line (G Train) .



On the exist­ing A and C Line, between Canal Street and Hoyt-Schermerhorn, a bot­tle­neck exists where four tracks merge into two tracks, lim­it­ing the num­ber of trains-per-hour that can oper­ate through this span of track. According to the MTA’s 2015 Review of the A and C Lines, the bot­tle­neck reach­es max­i­mum capac­i­ty (approx­i­mate­ly 23 trains-per-hour) only dur­ing the AM and PM rush hour. For the rest of the day, when A and C Train ser­vice is less fre­quent, ReThink Studio pro­pos­es that the E Train fills avail­able time slots to max­i­mize capac­i­ty. At times when the A and C Line is at capac­i­ty, the E Train will con­tin­ue to begin/terminate ser­vice at the World Trade Center. During rush hour, with E Trains not oper­at­ing between Brooklyn and Manhattan, G Train rid­ers will still be able to trans­fer to Manhattan-bound E Trains at Court-Square Station, as well as A and C Trains at Hoyt-Schermerhorn Station.


The above graph­ic dis­plays a before-and-after com­par­i­son of track capac­i­ty between Hoyt-Schermerhorn Station (Brooklyn) and Canal Street Station (Manhattan). ReThink Studio’s pro­pos­al uti­lizes unused capac­i­ty on the A & C Line to accom­mo­date an exten­sion of E Train ser­vice.



The MTA’s present plan involves adding capac­i­ty to the G Line by extend­ing the length of the trains. However, the MTA will not increase the fre­quen­cy of G Train ser­vice, mean­ing that rid­ers will still have to wait up to 12 min­utes for the next train to arrive. According to the MTA’s 2015 Review of the G Line, rid­er­ship on the G Train is high­est between Court Square and Hoyt Street, and low­est between Hoyt Street and Church Avenue. Lengthening G Trains will help to accom­mo­date dis­placed L Train rid­ers using the G Line to trans­fer onto a Manhattan-bound sub­way, but south of Hoyt Street, the G Train will have exces­sive capac­i­ty for a low amount of rid­ers.

The ReThink Studio pro­pos­al more effi­cient­ly uses the rolling stock by increas­ing ser­vice on the E Line in order to main­tain fre­quent ser­vice when the line is extend­ed to North Brooklyn and Long Island City. In addi­tion, with E and G Trains oper­at­ing togeth­er between Court Square and Hoyt-Schermerhorn, this sec­tion of the route will have more fre­quent sub­way ser­vice. The 10-car E Trains will pro­vide Manhattan-bound ser­vice, and the 4-car G Trains will con­tin­ue to oper­ate on its present route (Court Square — Church Ave).

A 2015 study of the G Train dis­plays the aver­age vol­ume of pas­sen­ger board­ings at each sta­tion dur­ing a typ­i­cal morn­ing rush hour. (Courtesy of the MTA).

ReThink Studio

ReThink Studio