The MTA expects nearly 80 percent of current L train commuters to switch to other lines, such as the G, J, M and Z. That is a huge increase in ridership for lines that are already at capacity, and means the shutdown isn't just going to affect people who live in North Brooklyn, but nearly the entire borough.
First, the Department of Transportation needs to make taking one of the many new buses the city plans to put into operation more attractive.
Three new routes between Manhattan and Brooklyn via the Williamsburg Bridge will be able to accommodate 70 buses per hour, making the trip in an estimated 25 minutes or less.
Buses don't even come close to carrying the same number of passengers as a subway car, but enticing as many of the 225,000 daily commuters who rely on the L to chose this option will alleviate congestion on the other subway lines.
On the subject of buses, the city also needs to seriously consider Councilman Rafael Espinal's proposal to use electric buses instead of diesel vehicles, of which the city plans to order 200.
The de Blasio administration has made clean energy a priority, and using electric vehicles would be a strong showing of that commitment. Not only is the right thing for the environment, but also for the people who are going to be living alongside these new buses.
Many of the routes will pass through neighborhoods where childhood asthma is already a serious problem. This would be a great opportunity to begin converting the entire fleet by showing electric vehicles are a reliable alternative.
Finally, one silver lining that could come about as a result of this looming shutdown is a rethinking of the usefulness of the G train, which never gets the attention it deserves because it doesn't go through Manhattan.
Perhaps its new status as a necessary alternative to commuters will prove once and for all to the MTA that expanding service and restoring the entire route in Queens would make it a viable option longterm, forever alleviating some of the strain on the other subway lines.
The L train shutdown is going to be pure misery for so many. But with enough planning and foresight, perhaps many of the issues can be mitigated and maybe, just maybe, the ideas that result from it will improve the mass transit system in New York City beyond just repairing a damaged underwater tunnel.