Commuters pack the L train around 9 a.m. this morning. Transit New York went underground today to see what an L train commute is like during morning rush hour. (Photo by Maya Kaufman/Columbia Journalism School)

Push Comes to Shove: A Morning Aboard the L Train

It took Aidan Meyer, 22, an hour to get to work this morning — twice as long as his usual L-train commute from Bushwick to midtown Manhattan. The delay was the result of a train with mechanical issues at DeKalb Avenue, according to the NYCT Subway Twitter account.

The average number of subway delays increased 237 percent from 2012 to 2017, according to an Independent Budget Office report released last week. The L train “performs well,” the report said, with nearly 80 percent of trains meeting the MTA’s standard for wait time. To meet the standard, trains must arrive no more than 25 percent later than the scheduled wait time.

But the L train is a frequent subject of Twitter vents by riders — so Transit New York rode with Meyer to see what an L train commute is like during the morning rush.

“It was not a regular day on the L train to say the least,” Meyer said of today’s commute. “It was overcrowded, which is typical, but more than expected. It was running slow and less frequently.”

Meyer left his apartment just after 8 a.m. The first Manhattan-bound L train arrived at the Morgan Avenue subway station within minutes, but it was too crowded for Meyer to get on. It took more than 20 minutes for the next L train to arrive. This time, Meyer was able to board. Commuters farther up the line would not be so lucky — the train skipped the Grand Street and Graham Avenue stations.

Meyer took the L train to 8th Avenue, where he transferred to the A train. He got off at 42nd Street and exited the subway right in front of the New York Times building, where he works as a sales enablement associate at Bounce Exchange, a marketing company. He got to his office at 9:10 a.m.

As tweets from frustrated commuters show, Meyer was not the only person whose commute suffered from today’s L train delays.

Meyer is one of hundreds of thousands of riders whose commutes will change when a portion of the L train shuts down in April 2019. There are 400,000 daily riders on the L train, according to the MTA. The 15-month shutdown will allow the MTA to repair extensive damage from Hurricane Sandy in October 2012.

The MTA and city Department of Transportation’s draft plan for providing alternative transportation during the L-train shutdown includes increased subway service on the G, J, M and Z lines; 200 additional buses; a new ferry service and more bike and pedestrian accommodations. The MTA has said it will announce its plan in the winter.

Meyer said he will take the M or J train when the L train shuts down, and he might look for a new apartment closer to those lines when his lease ends in August 2018.

“After the L train shuts down, after today, I might be a little happy that I won’t have to deal with that,” Meyer said.