An ‘L’ of an improvement for hipsters’ train line

[media-credit name="Photo by Sam Spokony " align="aligncenter" width="600"][/media-credit]

State Senator Daniel Squadron announced the increased L train service outside the Bedford Ave. stop in Brooklyn.

BY SAM SPOKONY  |  After years of rubbing elbows, bumping shoulders and feeling just a bit too close for comfort, L train riders can finally have some breathing room.

Starting last Sunday, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority added nearly 100 trains to the L line’s weekly schedule, which will allow weekday rush-hour service to run undercapacity for one of the first times since 1998.

“Riders will now face L trips less likely to feel like hell,” said state Senator Daniel Squadron, whose request last summer was what prompted the M.T.A. to do to a comprehensive review of the full line.

Sixteen more trains will run on weekdays, along with 11 additional trains on Saturdays and seven on Sundays. The increased service will cost the M.T.A. $1.7 million annually — and that’s well worth it, say both elected officials and the growing number of business owners, employees and pleasure-seekers flitting between Downtown Manhattan and North Brooklyn.

At a press conference held outside Brooklyn’s Bedford Ave. L train stop on Monday, Squadron hailed the move as an indicator of better communication, especially regarding the impact of shifting demographics.

“The only reason we saw these improvements was because we had transparency and responsiveness between the M.T.A. and the community,” he said.

Ridership on the L train has grown by 141 percent since 1998, while service had only grown by about 50 percent.

The M.T.A.’s capacity limits for its trains are, according to its own standards, 1,160 people on weekdays and 430 on weekends. Based on current agency figures, the additional L trains will allow weekday rush-hour service to go from 110 percent of capacity to 98 percent.

In a similar way, the increased frequency of trains during off-peak hours will cater to residential growth in waterfront Brooklyn areas, like Williamsburg, which saw population increases of up to 126 percent in certain sections, according to 2010 census data. That growth, in turn, has created an inevitably bigger rush of partiers coming to Downtown Manhattan on weekends — one that the M.T.A. seems finally to have taken into account.

“I’m just happy that the M.T.A. recognizes that Williamsburg is no longer a hamlet,” said Assemblymember Joe Lentol at Monday’s press conference. “It’s a suburb of Manhattan.”

After the press conference, Squadron told this newspaper that, for all its benefits, a more rider-friendly L train is only the first step in a series of other much-needed transportation improvements for people living in Manhattan and Brooklyn.

“This is not going to be the silver bullet,” Squadron said. “We also need to deal with the buses and ferries. This helps, and the M.T.A. deserves a great deal of credit for it, but we’re going to need bigger, broader solutions and additions as we move forward.”

For now, though, many residents can at least enjoy a smoother trip — and for those who’d once sworn off the sweat and crowds, that means rediscovering the L train.

Landon Van Soest, a filmmaker from Greenpoint, used to commute to Manhattan for years before moving his office back to Brooklyn — and he remembers life on the L all too well.

“It got to the point where you couldn’t even move on the train in the morning,” Van Soest said. “I used to take the G up to Queens and go all the way around.”

And as he was walking by the Bedford Ave. station on Monday morning, Van Soest added that the additional lack of service during off-peak hours has always put a damper on his evening plans.

“I’ve given it up on the weekends, to be honest,” he said.

But when this reporter told Van Soest about all those new L trains on the way, he quite visibly perked up.

“Hmm. Maybe I’ll have to give it another try.”

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