Mapping Tool Helps New York City Prepare for Upcoming L-Line Closure

A new mapping tool for New Yorkers has been released by Sidewalk Labs to understand how the impending closure of the L line, called "L-mageddon," will affect travel around the city.

by / February 24, 2017
Screenshot taken from NYC Transit Explorer

A closed tunnel is an inconvenience for travelers. And an 18-month tunnel closure between Brooklyn and Manhattan can be a major headache for commuters and transportation officials. A new tech tool, however, may help pre-empt some of the damage.

In July of 2015, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority announced that the Canarsie Tunnel will be closed for a year and a half in order to repair damage caused by Hurricane Sandy. This closure prompted the nickname "L-mageddon," as the L line is drastically affected. The line, which typically operates from the east side of Brooklyn across the borough and ends in west Manhattan, will only operate between the Williamsburg and Canarsie neighborhoods, but will not run west of the Bedford Avenue station into Manhattan. The line services 250,000 travelers daily.

So to help commuters understand what to expect in terms of commute disruption, Sidewalk Labs, a subsidiary of Alphabet that focuses on urban mobility, has released a mapping tool called NYC Transit Explorer. While mapping tools like Google Maps or Waze can describe transit from point A to B, this new tool shows people how long it would take to get anywhere in the city using public transportation from any origin within NYC.

Utilizing Google Maps software and real-time location data from New York City transportation agencies, the tool describes travel accessibility between two parts of the city. The tool allows users to add variables including time of departure, maximum amount of walking desired and whether you are willing to transfer. Once the locations are chosen for travel, the map creates darker shading for areas which are easier to access. Another option is to show how much longer the trip will take when the Canarsie tunnel is closed in 2019.

Through the closure of the tunnel, public transit commutes could possibly double. Software engineers who created the map hope that this tool can help guide transportation officials in how more bus services can be added to mitigate the agitation. The MTA and NYC Department of Transportation are holding a series of public workshops to discuss alternative service plans.

Platforms & Programs