During his State of the MTA speech on Monday, Elliot Sander, MTA CEO and executive director, gave a nod to an idea whose time has come. “We need to take a close look at the Regional Plan Association’s circumferential subway line, which would convert the lightly used Bay Ridge freight line into a subway service that would run in an arc from southern Brooklyn to Queens to the Bronx,” he said.
As the population in the City’s outer boroughs continues to explode, the Manhattan-centric limitations of the New York City Subway system are exposed for all to see. Work at LaGuardia but live in the Bronx? The commute involves packed buses or a subway trip into Manhattan and a bus to the airport. Live in Flatbush with family in the Bronx? Take a 75-minute, three-borough subway ride just to get there.
Of course, most of these travelers eschew the subway for the relative convenience of an automobile ride. With the City’s preparing to crack down on auto use, circumstances are ripe for a circumferential subway route to connect Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx while leaving Manhattan to its wiles. For those in the know, this plan — referred to as the Triboro RX — is not new. In fact, the Regional Plan Association has been discussing it since its Third Regional Plan published in 1996.
Last summer, Michael Frumin fleshed out the idea and his work — available in this detailed Frumination post — shows how the city could usher in this rail line by using pre-existing rail rights of way and freight lines that don’t see much traffic. The route would swing through heavily underserved section of the city and connect with up to 20 other subway lines. As Frumin models it, at least 76,000 riders a day would use this line with nearly 45 percent of that total coming from people who do not currently use the subway. In other words, in this conservative model, this circumferential line could get a lot of cars off the road.
While the nitty gritty — the Bay Ridge freight line, existing rights of way through Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx — are important (and viewable here in picture form), the fun stuff is of course a map detailing the potential station stops and reach of what Frumin and the RPA have termed the X train. The train would start in Bay Ridge tracking west with the N line to 62nd St. Next, the line would head WNW, providing connections with the F, Q, 2 and 5 before making stops in
Marine Park and Mill Basin East Flatbush and Brownsville, two areas sorely in need of a subway.
In Canarsie, the X would meet up with the L to Broadway Junction. The train would then track the M to Metropolitan Ave. and head north through the underserved areas between Metropolitan Ave. and Jackson Heights in Queens. Heading northeast, the train would run through Astoria, across Randall’s Island and into the Bronx where it would cross the 6 and terminate with the 4, D and B at Yankee Stadium.
For more of the technical challenges this route poses, you can check out Frumin’s overview and the alignment details. But engineering demands aside, this line could be a reality with less of a headache than anyone in New York would believe.
Sure, there are challenges, and the MTA’s track record on recent construction projects is fairly terrible right now. But this line, more than the 7 extension, more than the Fulton Hub, more than just about any other capital construction project, would do wonders for the reach of the New York City Subway system.
Right now, it’s a dream, but with a little initiative, this project could easily become a reality and a much-needed one at that.