Are Shuttle Buses a Viable Alternative to the L Train During a Shutdown?

January 20, 2016

The MTA’s announcement of possible plans to close the L train for months or even years at a time to repair the Hurricane Sandy-damaged Canarsie Tunnel has businesses scrambling and commuters (the train has 300,000 riders on the average weekday) fearful. Data mapping company CartoDB offers a bit of “location intelligence” to better understand the consequences of a shutdown for people living in Brooklyn and, more importantly, what some realistic alternatives to the L train might be.

For example, shuttle buses: “If the shuttle bus takes 20 minutes, we are able to calculate the best choices for riders along the L needing to get to Manhattan. Should they go all the way to Lorimer and take the shuttle bus or should they transfer earlier at Myrtle-Wyckoff to the M train or at Broadway Junction to the A?”

See the map below for the answer:

This map shows the breakdown of where L train commuters to Manhattan would be distributed to if there was a 20 minute shuttle bus from the Lorimer station in Williamsburg. The options are, take the bus, transfer to the M at Myrtle, or transfer to the A at Broadway Junction.

Keeping in mind the location of the Williamsburg Bridge, CartoDB worked under the assumption that the buses would originate at or near to the Lorimer station in Williamsburg and terminate either on the Lower East Side or Union Square. Here’s the result:

We found that for a 20 minute bus shuttle service, all but 5 stops on the L, riders would be better off transferring to another existing line. The challenge that we realized was that the shuttle is the best option for almost 75,000 riders per day. Given large buses with 65 passengers this would still take 1,154 bus trips per day, or a bus every minute and a half or so. That’s pretending there are only completely full buses or rush hours. To handle this capacity they’d have to build a new bridge.

See more on the possibilities here>>.


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  1. J

    With traffic getting worse by the day, I don’t think the bus shuttle could be a disaster.

  2. R

    From what I am reading, no one has a plausible plan. I don’t either. We ust gotta go with it and start kvetching at Cuomo and Fatso.