L-Mageddon Preppers

This new transit map will help you prepare for the L train shutdown

East Transportation
This new transit map will help you prepare for the L train shutdown. (Sidewalk Labs)
This new transit map will help you prepare for the L train shutdown. (Sidewalk Labs)

More than a quarter-million people take the L train to get to and from Manhattan everyday, but riders are already bracing for that fateful day when the line’s underwater tunnel closes for crucial repairs in 2019. In response to the shutdown, a group of New Yorkers are taking post–L train survival into their own hands with a new interactive map that may help all of us travel a little smarter.

In collaboration with transit advocacy group Transportation Alternatives, Google’s New York–based Sidewalk Labs has put together an interactive map to illustrate how the L train shutdown will impact riders across the system. Now in beta, NYC Transit Explorer reveals transit access visually, encouraging New Yorkers to think more broadly about how to get around.

Here’s how it works: The map aggregates the MTA’s GTFS feeds for subways, buses, and the Staten Island Ferry to ascertain how long it would take to get to point A to B or point B from A, C, D, and E. NYC Transit Explorer allows users to tweak the variables to their liking—if a bus-loving Queens-to-Brooklyn rider prefers to walk fewer than ten minutes at any given point in the trip, she can adjust variables to access the most surface transit possible, while a Bronx-to-Manhattan rush hour commuter might prefer the faster subway.

The map depicts travel time on a gradient from each location, and it allows you to compare travel times to the same destination via a bus-only, subway-only or combination routes. Best yet, users can see, via a time gradient, how long it would take to get from two different points. If a person is moving, for example, he can plot his commute from his current home and get a sense of where he could relocate to preserve the same (or shorter) travel time.

Looking towards the future, the map also allows users to see commutes without the L train, or with the newly-opened Second Avenue subway. Sidewalk Labs’ handy video offers an explainer and how-to for getting around New York faster:

For those whose map skills start and end with Google Maps, some of the Transit Explorer’s features are less than intuitive. Addresses are added through a pin drop, while minor streets remain unlabeled even in the closest zoom. Nevertheless, the map reveals transit deserts and hubs outside the city center (hello, Jamaica) and could be a useful tool for L-train dependent Brooklynites wondering how they’ll get to the city when their train powers down.

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