Home MTA Construction Inside the MTA’s $29.5 billion program

Inside the MTA’s $29.5 billion program

by Benjamin Kabak

The MTA, on Wednesday, unveiled a $29.554 billion capital plan designed to cover maintenance, upkeep and system-wide expansions from 2009-2014. The plan, as I noted yesterday, is substantially similar to the broad one the MTA presented to the public in November and would allow for a wide transit expansion in and around the New York Metropolitan.

While presenting the package yesterday, MTA CEO and Executive Director Lee Sander called attention to the need for the congestion fee. “This proposed Capital Program will ensure that our transportation network is both maintained and expanded to support the region’s economic growth,” Sander said. “A fully-funded Program is critical to encourage transit use, to improve our customers’ experience and to keep pace with global competitors like London and Shanghai, where billions are being invested in transit each year. We won’t be able to get there without a robust funding package that includes congestion pricing.”

In broad strokes, the MTA is planning a three-tiered approach to system improvements. The first tier involves “state of good repair, normal replacement and system improvement” including station renovations and the purchase of new rolling stock. The second tier focuses around the completion of current projections such as Phase 1 of the Second Ave. Subway, the pesky Fulton St. transportation hub and the East Side Access project. The final tier revolves around system expansion and includes communications-based train control system, Phase 2 of the Second Ave. Subway and the Metro-North Penn Station access plan.

The capital plan also allows for system upgrades that would be enacted if the congestion fee is approved. These include more bus routes and buses; more service on the 1, E and F trains; and longer C trains. This is, of course, the most expendable part of the capital plan.

For those of you with a taste for government documents, the entire 237-page plan is available as a PDF on the MTA’s Website. I’m going to take a look at what I consider to be some of the more interesting and tangible benefits.

New Cars

As part of its ongoing effort to maintain and upgrade its rolling stock, the MTA plans to invest nearly $1.5 billion in new cars over the next five years. The agency hopes to replace 500 cars and add 90 new ones to the system, all in the B division. Most interesting to rail fans is the announcement of the R179s. The MTA plans to purchase 208 R179s to replace the R44s currently in service as A trains. Discussion of the R179s has generated a six-page rumor thread on the NYC Transit Forums.

Station Rehabilitation Plans

Outside of the rolling stock, station rehabilitation plans are the most visible aspect of any capital program. The flagship plan is probably the Bleecker St./Broadway & Lafayette renovation. The MTA will finally connect the uptown IRT stop to the rest of the complex. The agency also plans to make the Grand Central stop on the IRT a little more rider-friendly with more staircases and better access points. The moving platforms at Union Square are in line for replacement as well.

Additionally, the MTA is planning on overhauling 44 stations. Most of them — 41 — are above-ground stops in the outer boroughs. Nine stations along the Sea Beach line, 10 along the West End line, six in Far Rockaway, six in Rockaway, three along the Myrtle line and seven along the New Lots line are set for renovations. The MTA also plans to work on the 205th St. and 182-183rd Sts. stations in the Bronx and the IRT’s 14th St. stop in Manhattan.

Technology Upgrades

The MTA plans to bring communications-based train control to the Flushing and Queens Boulevard line. This represents the first expansion of the technological upgrades currently in testing along the L line. These upgrades should allow the MTA to increase service along high-demand train lines in Queens.

Second Ave. Subway

In the plan, the MTA admits that the budget for Phase 1 of the Second Ave. subway will exceed the initial, four-year-old estimates by a substantial amount. The new budget is set at $4.437 billion. The target completion date is also being pushed back to 2015 due to market forces and a weak economy. At the same time, the MTA is already planning for Phase 2, a good sign for those of us who don’t really expect to see a subway line heading up Second Ave. ever.

What’s Missing

In this ambitious, expensive and necessary plan, the aspect that jumps out at me is the utter lack of discussion about the future of the MetroCard. The document notes that “the current MetroCard system is still performing well.” However, with newer and better technologies available, I’d like to see the MTA consider a change to something more flexible than the MetroCard. Smart-card technologies really do speed up passengers at the point of entry.

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Kevin February 28, 2008 - 1:05 am

Couple things of note while skimming through that massive 237 page document.

-The R179 has been budgeted for 2010 so they might be on the road by 2012.
-The wording for the SAS seems a bit odd. They say they can continue with Phase 2 or Phase 3 in the budget. The “or” makes it seem like the TA can defer Phase 2 and head on down to Houston Street.
-The 7 line will get new cars as well, possibly R142’s from the Lexington Ave line

I’m not sure how the TA will fund their tier-three and even tire-two initiatives though since the section on funding seems to show they are about $9 billion short. Looks like the TA will have to pull a lot more strings in order to get this ambitious capital plan done (and maybe even raise the fares too).

Alon Levy February 28, 2008 - 1:17 am

But Phase 2 seems so easy… the tunnels are already there, except for the sections that will have to be cut up for the stations anyway.

The Secret Conductor February 28, 2008 - 1:20 am

Good lawd thats a whole lot of meatballs! Lets hope that it can be done… have no idea how though. I haven’t heard anything about R179s.

peter knox February 28, 2008 - 7:45 am

The MTA must drop to its knees every day and thank the gods for implanting in human DNA an inexhaustible need to be gulled. After seeing that the MTA unconscionably distorted all its timelines and budget projections for phase 1 of the SAS, there are still some poor cretins out there actually discussing in hushed, serious tones the claptrap the MTA is spouting about phases 2 and 3. Wake up, people!

Marc Shepherd February 28, 2008 - 9:09 am

But Phase 2 seems so easy… the tunnels are already there, except for the sections that will have to be cut up for the stations anyway.

Not quite. Phase 2 still requires a good deal of tunneling. The existing tunnels run from 99th to 105th and from 110th to 119th. In phase 2, those two sections need to be joined. Then, they need to build a tunnel from 119th & Second to 125th and Fifth, plus an underground storage yard and connection to the 125th St. Lexington Avenue Line stop.

If Phase 2 is less complex than Phase 1, it is only slightly less complex.

Nathanael August 24, 2009 - 7:50 am

“But Phase 2 seems so easy… the tunnels are already there, except for the sections that will have to be cut up for the stations anyway.”

“Not quite. Phase 2 still requires a good deal of tunneling. The existing tunnels run from 99th to 105th and from 110th to 119th. In phase 2, those two sections need to be joined. Then, they need to build a tunnel from 119th & Second to 125th and Fifth, plus an underground storage yard and connection to the 125th St. Lexington Avenue Line stop.”

So, first of all, the phase 1 work is actually tying into the tunnel at 99th. Second, the section from 105th to 110th is a planned station location.

Accordingly, the actual work consists of:
— 106th Street Station — as straightforward as any cut-and-cover
— 116th Street Station — as straightforward as any cut-and-cover
— 125th Street Station (including connections to Metro-North and Lexington Line). This is a truly complicated station due to the underpinning and the interchange elevators and escalators.
— tunnelling work between 119th and 125th, plus branches/bellmouths for future Bronx tunnel. This all has to be done by conventional mining and is a big pain in the neck. The “underground storage yard” is not a meaningful part of the work, it’ll just be longer tail track tunnels really.

Interestingly, phase 2 will quite likely not use any tunnel boring machines.

I’m also very suspicious that it will get broken into a “2a” through 116th St. and a “2b” with all the complicated tunnelling.

peter knox February 28, 2008 - 10:26 am

By the way, the dupe who runs this site said that “commenters” predicted the MTA’s revised timeline and budget projections. Wrong. There was only one clear-eyed, clear-thinking “commenter”, and that was myself. “Commenters” need to get on the perfectly adequate Lex line, travel up to 94th St., and then look at the project with open, intelligent, alert eyes. The truth is right in front of you, people! But because nobody has looked, we have higher fares, higher taxes, congestion pricing, more city and state debt, and on and on. All to fund a stubway that was ill-conceived from the start. And many contractors, and construction workers, and MTA officials, maybe even government officials, are getting very wealthy. New York may soon become, once again, the unmanageable city.

Marc Shepherd February 28, 2008 - 10:33 am

So, Peter Knox, what exactly do you think we need? You can read a map, no? We have one predominantly east-side line and four predominantly west-side lines. Does it not occur to you that the east-side line would be a mite over-crowded? Have you ever, in fact, ridden it? Apparently not. If we gave you Lee Sander’s job, what would you do? I suppose the Robert Moses approach would be your cup of tea. We know how well that worked.

peter knox February 28, 2008 - 10:38 am

Rode it last night, Marc. Went to 96th Station and waited ten minutes, ten minutes, at 6 PM to catch a downtown 6 train. Ten minutes, did you hear? If the MTA would run trains every five minutes at rush hour, there would be no excuse for this corrupt project. Anyway, ten minutes after arriving, 6 train arrived, and mirabile dictu, I found a seat. Perfectly comfortable to 59th St. despite the MTA’s ineptness. More trains for a few million. Not a futile, 50B project that will never end. Aren’t there still poor, unfairly-educated, uninsured New Yorkers out there who deserve the compassion of 50 billion dollars? To hell with corrupt contractors and public officials!

Marc Shepherd February 28, 2008 - 10:55 am

From every rational data point available, including independent studies not dependent on the MTA, the Lex is over-crowded and at capacity. It cannot accommodate more rush hour trains. A downtown 6 at 96th Street in the evening is, as anyone would know, an “opposite-direction” commute. The problem at that time of day is uptown.

Marc Shepherd February 28, 2008 - 2:11 pm

One thing you missed: the program includes $10 million for a study to relieve the bottleneck in Brooklyn, where the 2, 3, 4, and 5 trains merge. Unfortunately, it’s only a study, so you’re probably looking at least 10 years away for it to actually be fixed.

The Secret Conductor February 28, 2008 - 11:43 pm

what could they possibly do at franklin ave for the 2,3,4 and 5? build what where? the 2 merges with the 3 and the 5 merges with the 4 after crossing the 3 so I guess they will build a separate track spur north of president street and have it directly connect to the express track.

maybe have the 5 stop at bowling green? maybe have the 5 go to utica? drama to say the least.

As far as the 6 train being empty during rush hour… that must have been one of those dry moments. I remember coming home on the 6 for a good 4 months and it wasn’t crowded but there weren’t empty seat and that only lasted until we got to 53 and it got packed really quick. and yes it was pretty close to rush hour. a little after 5pm

to me 2 ave subway is needed and would be great if it went all the way to city hall, but the most important part is between 59 and 125. the rest might end up being dropped do to funding and other issues I think. same for the LIRR/grand central connection. the 7 being extended has to happen with its 2 stops due to potential profit for the city and development of the area. fulton street will not be the super mall that it could have been of which would have helped o pay for it

that is what i see. don’t see it changing.

Marc Shepherd February 29, 2008 - 8:49 am

The problem at Franklin Avenue is that, on a brief segment, the 2, 3, and 5 trains have to share the same track. That bottleneck determines the capacity of the whole Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Bronx IRT. To fix it would require rebuilding the whole junction, but the payoff would be a significant increase in 2, 3, and 5 train capacity.

By the way, the same problem exists at 96th Street, where the 1, 2, and 3 services merge. By all rights, the 1 ought to be an express, and the 3 ought to be local. At one time, they did run that way. Rather than rebuild the junction, they solved the problem by swapping the 1 and the 3. This was done in the late 1950s, I believe.

The same could be done in Brooklyn, but there would be hell to pay, because it would mean swapping the 3 and 5 services, and Flatbush Avenue riders would lose their east side train. Understandably, the MTA does not want to do this.

Gary February 29, 2008 - 4:30 pm

Ben, are you going to the State of the System address on Monday?

peter knox March 1, 2008 - 6:02 pm

Kabak erased my last post for some reason, but I will keep trying to tell the truth. Would some reporter or public official someday ask “Lee” “Sander” how the price tag for the SAS could only have risen 500 million in 6 years, if the Javits Center project supposedly doubled in less time? And how could the city have spent 1.1B on a tunneling contract for East Side Access and the MTA supposedly only paid 337 million for the tunneling contract for the SAS? Clearly the MTA falsified the numbers right up front, knowing that the city would never even begin the project if the real numbers were known. And can someone explain how “Lee Sander” can claim that spreading the contracts out over a longer, a longer, repeat, a longer, period of time will actually be cheaper? And so, because of these unexamined falsehoods, the subways are still not substantially safer than they were on 9/12, and fares and tolls must go up, and congestion pricing must be enacted, and no one, but no one, will speak up for the common person. Certainly, not Bloomberg, the billionaire Censor, who stakes his all on issues like smoking in restaurants. C’est fou!

Benjamin Kabak March 3, 2008 - 12:19 am

I deleted your last post because the last thirteen comments you’ve left have all said the same thing. Give it a rest or you’ll find that none of your comments will appear here. We know what you think, and we are all willing to agree that the Second Ave. Subway is overcost and over budget. We got it.

Max March 3, 2008 - 1:38 pm

Mr. Knox: The Lexington Avenue line has some of the shortest scheduled headways and carries more passengers daily than the San Francisco, Boston, and Chicago rapid transit systems COMBINED, around one and a half million passengers each weekday. There is absolutely no question in any reasonable person’s mind that the East Side needs additional capacity.

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