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N.Y. / Region|For Less Crowding on L Train, Think 2010, Report Says


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For Less Crowding on L Train, Think 2010, Report Says


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Correction Appended

Riders on the crowded L subway line, who at peak hours frequently have to wait for two or more trains to pass at some stations before squeezing aboard, will have to keep on squeezing for at least a few more years, according to a report released yesterday.

The report, provided yesterday to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s board, said that an additional 64 specially equipped subway cars cannot be fully up and running before January 2010. The additional cars would allow fuller use of a new high-tech signal system intended to increase the line’s capacity.

The crosstown L line, which stretches from Eighth Avenue and 14th Street in Manhattan to Rockaway Parkway in Canarsie, Brooklyn, currently runs with 15 trains an hour during the morning and evening rush, or one every four minutes.

Once more of the computerized trains are added, the authority will be able to run as many as 26 trains an hour on the line during the rush, according to Paul J. Fleuranges, a New York City Transit spokesman. That works out to one every 2 minutes 18 seconds. Mr. Fleuranges said the agency expected to have the new cars up and running by mid-2009. But a consulting engineers’ report to the authority’s board said the system was not likely to be fully operational with the new cars until January 2010. He said that in the interim some conventional trains will be added to the line later this year to increase peak capacity to 17 trains an hour.


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“I hate standing on a crowded platform, and I hate the sardine train,” said Traci Tullius, 30, a Williamsburg resident who commutes to work at Yeshiva University in Manhattan, where she teaches art.

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Ms. Tullius lives closest to the Graham Avenue stop, but she said that during the morning rush the trains stopping there were so crowded that she has to let several pass before she can board. Instead, she regularly rides her bicycle three stops farther into Brooklyn, to the Morgan Avenue station, which is less heavily used.

“I ride my bike three stops in order to avoid the crunch,” she said. “It’s gross. You have to wait for four trains to go there. It’s insanity.”

The L line was the first in the city to be retrofitted with a modern signal system known as communications-based train control, in which computers on the trains and on the tracks exchange information. The data is also routed to the subway system’s main Rail Control Center, where officials can monitor the exact location of every train. Ultimately the trains will be almost entirely operated by computers.

The system has been described as having many advantages, not the least of them the ability to increase the number of trains that run on the tracks by making it possible to run trains closer together.

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Nabil Ghaly, the subway’s chief signal engineer, said that the new signal system was designed in the mid-1990s and that at the time the hefty residential growth in areas like Williamsburg had not been anticipated. Work on the signal system had begun by early 2000 and was largely completed last December.

In 2002 and 2003, the authority acquired 212 new computerized cars for the line. But last year, officials acknowledged the fleet was not large enough to handle the increased ridership and they began planning to add conventional cars until more computerized cars could be acquired. The conventional cars will be added later this year.

The L line has added riders at a faster pace than the subway system as a whole, according to data from New York City Transit. The busiest station on the Brooklyn part of the line is Bedford Avenue, in Williamsburg, which had 4.99 million riders pass through the turnstiles last year, the agency reported.

In the annual report card of subway lines prepared by the Straphangers Campaign, a rider advocacy group, the L line ranked 20th out of 22 when evaluated for the likelihood that a rider would find a seat at rush hour.


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Mr. Ghaly said that increased capacity was only one of the goals the agency hoped to achieve with the new signal system. He said that the signal system increased safety by constantly monitoring the speed of every train and intervening to stop a train if it goes too fast.

As part of the new system, the line has also been equipped with electronic signs on every station platform, telling customers how long they must wait until the next train arrives.

The signal system on the L line is a pilot program that officials hope eventually to expand to other lines.

Correction: June 5, 2007

An article on May 22 about a delay in adding specially equipped computerized train cars to the crowded L subway line misstated the overall growth in subway ridership from 1995 to 2006. It rose 37 percent, not 46 percent. The article also referred incorrectly to the ridership at the Bedford Avenue station in Brooklyn during the same period. Although ridership at Bedford increased significantly, it did not rise 139 percent. (It is not possible to compare total ridership at individual stations from 1995 to 2006 because in 1998 New York City Transit changed the way it counts students who ride the subway at no cost. Excluding students, ridership at Bedford Avenue increased 131 percent from 1995 to 2006.)

Ann Farmer contributed reporting.

A version of this article appears in print on , on Page B2 of the New York edition with the headline: For Less Crowding on L Train, Think 2010, Report Says. Order Reprints| Today's Paper|Subscribe

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