The L Train Shutdown Might Just Lower The Rent

Will Williamsburg Be Marooned? Well, Yeah, But The L Train Shutdown seems to have an upside too.

By James L. Knobloch September 8, 2016
Photo courtesy of

First, the bad news—though it’s probably not “news” at all. As has been well documented and loudly bemoaned earlier this year, the MTA plans to completely shut down the L line sometime around 2019. It’s enough to make the ends of your moustache droop. But don’t despair, maybe there’s some good in all this.

The impending “train-pocalypse” could come with some side effects (other than a whole lot of really frustrated commuters).

Related: Hipsters Stranded In Transportation Purgatory: Will The L Train Shutdown De-Gentrify Williamsburg? 

According to a recent analysis performed by FiveThirtyEight, the L shutdown could result in rents dropping anywhere from $200 to $450 per month. For those bike-riding residents of Williamsburg already feeling the pinch of rent increase, this could actually be seen as a much needed, if temporary, respite.

Needless to say, the other implications of shutting down the L are massive and far-reaching. And if the construction of the Second Avenue Subway is to be taken as any indication, who knows how long the 18-month repair period will actually take.

In 2012, Superstorm Sandy wreaked havoc on vast areas of the Eastern Seaboard. Fun fact: millions of gallons of salt water and aging tunnels full of transit infrastructure don’t mix so well. Thus the needed shutdown.

One of those tunnels was the dual-tubed, 100-year-old Canarsie Tunnel, which on its own, was inundated with some seven million gallons of floodwater, resulting in damage to “tracks, signals, switches, power cables, signal cables, communication cables, lighting, cable ducts and bench walls,” according to the MTA. The Canarsie Tunnel, of course, serves the L line—the primary artery in and out of Manhattan for a large swath of Brooklyn—and has a daily weekday ridership of some 400,000 commuters (doubling since 1990).

Photo courtesy of Vcohen / Creative Commons Attribution

New Yorkers love conveniences and creature comforts—from Seamless to Postmates from wash-and-fold to AmazonFresh. And they’re willing to pay extra for it. So it should come as no surprise that the same FiveThirtyEight analysis revealed that New Yorkers pay an average of $56 more per month in rent for every minute a location shaves from their subway commute. That’s pushing $1500 per year in average savings for those willing to brave a couple extra blocks.

For those who haven’t already done the L train math, that means big savings when transit options go south in 2019. Depending on the neighborhood, the shutdown would potentially add anywhere from four to eight minutes to patrons’ commute time—aka, as much as $450 per month (nearly $5,500 per year) in potential rent decreases.

For those that choose (or have no choice but) to stay, it then becomes a question of how to make do in a post-L train world. Masha Burina and the Riders Alliance, a commuter advocacy group, are trying to answer that very question, reaching out to those that stand to be affected the most.

“While some people may choose to relocate, others won’t have that option available to them,” says Burina. “This is exactly why we’re surveying and engaging riders throughout the route, especially in Bushwick, Canarsie, Brownsville, and East New York. The DOT/MTA will have to offer solutions that work for everyone.”

Be it increased bus service or more frequent trains on alternative lines, New Yorkers are weighing in on how best to minimize the coming headaches (and so can you).

Then again, saving a few hundred bucks a month would certainly help soften the blow.

James L. Knobloch

ABOUT THE AUTHOR James L. Knobloch

ABOUT THE AUTHOR James L. Knobloch

A creative professional with a sharp tongue and a big smile, taking on city living one slightly-veiled sarcastic comment at a time. Born and raised just outside of New Orleans, James is a living testament to his own mantra, “Southern hospitality is a privilege, not a right,” giving his work a unique, dry humor meets charm perspective.

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