Upgrading the L Train

The MTA has announced a series of planned upgrades for service on the L line – moves that, in the long term, at least, could ease some of the overcrowding on the line. The services changes are partially a response to a request from State Senator Dan Squadron that the the MTA review the state of service on the F and L lines, and partially a response to the fact that everyone knew service on the L line was beyond capacity. (Its not just the morning rush, either – as the Times points out, service on the L train is often 35% over capacity on Saturday afternoons.)

Second Avenue Sagas has a nice rundown of all the changes that are planned. The only immediate change is that the MTA will add one additional train in the 9:00 to 9:30 morning rush period. Theoretically, this will lower crowding during this period from the current 101% to something in the mid-90% range (pro-tip – the cars at the back of the train are only running at 99% capacity in the morning rush (vs. 130% at the front) – pile in!) . Long term, the MTA will finally roll out its fully- automated train service (CBTC) on the L line. With the full implementation of the automated service, the MTA says it can run up to 24 trains an hour on the L line (currently, headway is limited to 17 trains an hour).

All of this will – in the long term – help the average commute on the Canarsie line. In the short term however, expect more weekend service cuts, as the MTA continues to implement the switching necessary to get automated service fully online by late 2012. And remember that even with the potential for 24 trains an hour, the line is still only two tracks – if one train gets stuck, everyone behind still has wait for that sick passenger to get off the train. And as new residential developments all up and down the line continue to come on line (there are still about 5,000 unbuilt housing units from the 2005 rezoning alone), those additional 7 trains an hour will pretty soon be running at capacity too.