MTA: We sent too few shuttle buses for stranded L-train riders

An L of a good time!
The Brooklyn Paper / Richard Moon

MTA officials admitted they left North Brooklyn straphangers in the cold — or jammed against fellow passengers like sardines — by failing to provide enough shuttle buses while the L train was out-of-service earlier this month.

A city transit spokesman confirmed that a dispatcher made an error on Feb. 11, leading to “heavy bus loads” and long wait times for passengers in Williamsburg and Bushwick who tried to catch shuttles at L train stations.

The MTA deployed enough shuttle buses to transport an average of 4,680 riders per hour at any given time during weekend when the subway line was shut down.

That’s enough to serve passengers in the morning hours, but short of the line’s average Saturday ridership between 3 pm and 7 pm, when 5,000 to 7,000 straphangers hop on the L train, according to 2010–2011 transit figures.

The admission comes as the agency announced six new service disruptions in the coming year for the beleaguered crosstown line — which retains 90 percent of its weekday traffic on the weekends.

The L train will not run between Broadway Junction and Manhattan on Feb. 25–26 and March 3–4 so transit workers can replace aging signals, forcing North Brooklyn straphangers to cram into shuttle buses, walk to the nearest J-train, or consider splurging on cab rides.

In addition, the MTA will split service at Broadway Junction in late April and close the line three more times between Lorimer Street and Broadway Junction in late September and early October, when the shuttle bus will come back.

The latest round of service changes has enraged both subway riders and businesses in Williamsburg who depend on their foot traffic.

“We’ve taken a punch,” said Brooklyn Bowl’s Charley Ryan. “It’s had a huge impact on our business and it’s a huge hardship for people with tickets to come to our shows.”

Teddy’s Bar owner Felice Kirby said her restaurant loses 50 percent of its business when the L train is out and her employees have trouble coming to work without taking cabs.

And Peachfrog’s Howard Blumberg, said sales were down 80 percent at his discount clothing store on the Friday after Thanksgiving last year when the L-train wasn’t running.

“The weekend is a very strong part of our business, and the [closures] coming up will really hurt us again,” said Blumberg.

State Sen. Daniel Squadron, who sponsored a transit forum at Cubana Social last week, urged the MTA to conduct maintenance work overnight instead of on weekends.

“The idea of night work might make more sense because of the L-train ridership numbers on the weekend,” said Squadron, who already won a promise from the MTA to add 18 additional trains on weekends by the middle of the year. “The best ideas will be the ones we are successful at making a reality.”