MTA to float bigger boats for special ferry service during L closure

Source: Brooklyn Paper

By Julianne Cuba

It’s L or high water!

State transportation leaders want to pack even more passengers on the dedicated Brooklyn–Manhattan ferries they plan to sail across the East River when the L train’s underwater tunnel shuts down for 15 months next April, according to a Williamsburg pol.

“They are working with the contractor to add capacity to the boats,” said Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D–Williamsbu­rg). “We just learned today, it may have been in response to all the community effort.”

In February, Metropolitan Transportation Authority bigwigs announced they would sail boats separate from those in the NYC Ferry system between Williamsburg and Stuyvesant Cove near 20th Street in the outer borough to aid the roughly 250,000 commuters unable to go back and forth on the L train when repair work begins on its Canarsie Tube.

The special service, whose $2.75 trips will cost the same as a ride on a subway or NYC Ferry, will also award commuters free transfers to certain buses waiting for them on the other side.

But the dedicated shuttle’s original ferries could only carry 149 passengers, leading some residents to worry they might miss the boat, and now transit gurus are working to upgrade to ships that can pack as many as 240 riders aboard, Maloney announced on Monday, when she also called on Authority leaders to run a shuttle bus from Bedford Avenue station — where L-train service will terminate during the closure — to the pier the vessels will depart from, the same port as the North Williamsburg stop on the city’s ferry service.

The congresswoman also said the state-run transit agency now plans to offer more than its originally promised eight cross-river trips per hour during peak commuting times by deploying three ferries — one more than it initially intended to be in active service, according to an authority rep — which will allow more than 1,200 straphangers to set sail during the morning and evening rush.

Some Transportation Authority bigwigs already approved the third boat, the spokesman said, and are waiting on other colleagues and city officials to give their final, and likely, okay.

Maloney also cheered the state agency for adding a fourth dedicated bus route, which will run from the Bedford Avenue station to 14th Street in Manhattan, this summer, months after it announced it would run three similar shuttles from Williamsburg to the outer borough — all of which will connect to some other subway stations and bus stops along their routes — when it dropped its master plan for the L-train closure last December.

“We got another shuttle-bus line from Bedford into Manhattan, which is very important,” she said. “That is a big improvement. We are thrilled we have this extra line for Brooklyn.”

The four Williamsburg–Manhattan people-movers are part of a special five-bus fleet, which also includes a newly created Crown Heights–to-Canarsie shuttle to help mitigate congestion on L trains when they only run in Brooklyn during the repairs.

Reach reporter Julianne Cuba at (718) 260–4577 or by e-mail at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @julcuba.