New York City’s underground subway system will rapidly change over the next few years.

By Cailey Rizzo
July 25, 2016
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The Metropolitan Transit Authority announced on Monday that New York City's already-crowded L train will shut down for 18 months, effective January 2019.

The L train connects northern Brooklyn, including the Williamsburg and Bushwick neighborhoods, to Manhattan. Approximately 225,000 riders take the line across the East River every day.

Beyond those neighborhoods, the L is an important part of the city's transit network. The consequences of the shutdown will be far reaching. When the MTA proposed the shutdown at a public meeting in May, residents and business operators voiced concerns about the impact.

During the 18-month shutdown, the MTA will provide alternative transit via ferry and bus. The Brooklyn portion of the line will remain open.

When Hurricane Sandy hit in 2012, it flooded the Canarsie Tunnel with 7 million gallons of saltwater, damaging vital infrastructure. Contractors will work on installing all new tracks and a third rail line during the shutdown. They will also install new lighting in the tunnel and repair the tunnel’s damaged cables, circuit breaker houses, pump room and fire protection system.

This massive shutdown reflects the city’s ongoing push to revive its out-of-date public transportation system. Last week, officials announced a plan to revamp stations and subway cars across New York.

Thirty-one new stations, expected to be operative by 2020, will undergo construction to modernize. The stations will feature service announcements on the streets so passengers know exactly how long they’ll wait for a train before even entering. There will also be better cell reception, new MetroCard swiping stations and leaning benches on the platforms.

Those visiting New York over the next few years can expect station shutdowns across the city—particularly on weekends. Authorities say each station renovation should take no more than six months to complete.

There will also be 1,025 new cars rolling down the subway tracks, although it’s uncertain when they will debut. Up to 750 of these cars will feature a “Open-End” design that will allow passengers to move between train cars without having to pass through doors—which is illegal, by the way.


The new design is meant to “reduce wait times and increase capacity,” according to the MTA. The cars, which will be connected accordion-style, will feature wider doors to allow passengers to exit and enter more efficiently. There will also be WiFi and USB charging ports in the cars for better customer connectivity.

The first of the new subway cars will appear on the A line, according to AM New York.

“New York deserves a world-class transportation network, worthy of its role as the heartbeat of the 21st century economy,” Governor Andrew Cuomo said at a press conference last week. “We are going to do more than renovate—we are bringing subway stations to a higher standard than ever before.”