Nov
17

‘The next stop on this Secaucus-bound 7 is…’

By

Could the 7 trains, seen here in Flushing, be bound for Secaucus, New Jersey? (7 trains galore by flickr user SpecialKRB)

Fantasy subway maps have long been a passion of Internet railfans. Beyond imagining a city with a Second Ave. Subway that reaches from the Bronx to Brooklyn or a fully-realized IND Second System, I’ve seen maps with the Triboro RX line, various cross- and inter-borough routes and service shot past terminals in Queens to airports and neighborhoods underserved by the subway. Every now and then, someone proposed building out the 7 line to a cross-Hudson terminus in New Jersey, but that idea is generally concerned too fanciful and far-fetched to be a reality. Until now, that is.

With the ARC Tunnel dead, federal dollars out there for the taking and the need to expand cross-Hudson River rail offerings still a pressing one, the city is working on a plan that would send the 7 line under the river to Secaucus, New Jersey, The Times reported this evening. This project would include money for a stop at West 41st St. and 10th Ave. and would extend the subway westward from 34th St. and 11th Ave. to Secaucus Junction in the Garden State where passengers could connect to and from New Jersey Transit. It would, as Charles Bagli and Nicholas Confessore wrote, “extend the New York City subway outside the city for the first time, giving New Jersey commuters direct access to Times Square, Grand Central Terminal and Queens, and to almost every line in the system.”

Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s office acknowledged the idea but noted that it’s only a thought on paper. “Extending the 7 line to New Jersey could address many of the region’s transportation capacity issues at a fraction of the original tunnel’s cost, but the idea is still in its earliest stages,” spokesman Andrew Brent said “Like others, we’re looking at — and open to discussing — any creative, fiscally responsible alternatives.”

Bagli and Confessore offered up more on the details, which stem from an internal memo produced by the Hudson Yards Development Corporation:

Like the project scuttled by Mr. Christie, this proposed tunnel would expand a regional transportation system already operating at capacity and would double the number of trains traveling between the two states during peak hours. But it would do so at about half the cost, an estimated $5.3 billion, according to a closely guarded, four-page memorandum circulated by the city’s Hudson Yards Development Corporation.

Unlike the old project, the new plan does not require costly condemnation proceedings or extensive tunneling in Manhattan, because the city is already building a No. 7 station at 34th Street and 11th Avenue, roughly one block from the waterfront. In July, a massive 110-ton tunnel boring machine completed drilling for the city’s $2.1 billion extension of the No. 7 line from Times Square to the new station.

Still, the proposal faces a number of daunting political, financial and logistical hurdles in an era of diminishing public resources. Mr. Christie, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Governor-elect Andrew M. Cuomo of New York would have to agree to make the tunnel a high priority and work in lock step to obtain the city, state and federal funds needed to make it happen.

On a practical level, this project, which I’d almost label a pie in the sky, faces numerous hurdles. First is the matter of $5.3 billion. Bagli and Confessore note that it “no longer seems possible” for the city to secure the $3 billion in federal transportation money New Jersey sacrificed when Gov. Chris Christie canceled the ARC Tunnel. At the least, the city will have to compete with everyone else in American for the dollars.

For this project to work for the city, New Jersey would have to kick in some money as well, but Christie seems intent on using the $3 billion he pledged to the ARC Tunnel for other state transportation projects already on the table. “The issue again will come down to what will Governor Christie say,” Jeffrey Zupan of the RPA said to The Times.

Both New York and New Jersey would have to engage in an environmental impact study as well, but Bloomberg hopes to use those developed for the ARC project. Bloomberg has yet to present the plan to current Gov. David Paterson or Governor-elect Andrew Cuomo. Paterson is said to be “intrigued” by this idea, according to one aide. “Getting cars off the road, reducing congestion and providing another access point for commuters between New York and New Jersey is going to benefit the region from a job-creation and development standpoint,” Lawrence Schwartz said to The Times.

On a certain level, I’m wary about this plan. It’s definitely thinking big, and the city needs to be thinking big. As far as transit is concerned, we stopped thinking big seventy years ago, and a direct subway connection to New Jersey would be a boon for the city. But other than the increased capacity an additional tunnel would bring, the subway isn’t the modality best suited to achieve that goal. The four-mile distance isn’t prohibitive for a subway, and as PATH has shown, it’s certainly possible to maintain a cross-Hudson rail line. A subway connection via Secaucus Junction doesn’t add the same value commuter rail tunnels with a multi-track terminal would.

Cynically, I want to say that this project seems designed to further support the real estate interests working to develop the Hudson Yards. Already, New Jersey commuters have to take New Jersey Transit to reach the subway, and they can get the 7th or 8th Ave. lines at Penn Station. This plan would simply mean that they would still have to take NJ Transit to reach the subway and would have to suffer through additional stops and a potential transfer before reaching midtown. Without a true one-seat ride, the time-saving benefits of the ARC plan are lessened.

Ultimately, I’d rather see the city pledge $5.3 billion to subway improvements in underserved areas within the five boroughs before it starts to look outside for expansions. Staten Island as well as areas of Queens and Brooklyn need subway routes, and the non-Manhattan connections between the outer boroughs need to be beefed up. As far as fantasy subway maps go, looking toward New Jersey would be last on my wishlist even if it’s first on the city’s.

That said, I can’t discount the importance of thinking big. Plans like these just aren’t proposed any longer, and if the city can figure out a way to make it work economically while ensuring the feasibility of this plan from a transportation standpoint, by all means do it. Even if it the impact isn’t as deep as that of the ARC Tunnel would have been, a 7 line subway extension to Secaucus would do wonders for cross-Hudson travel.

New York’s politicians have recognized that reality, and if they can build support, this idea could being to move forward. “This is a bold idea that must be given serious and immediate consideration,” Sen. Chuck Schumer said. “Building the ARC tunnel and extending the 7 line for a second stop are both critical to growing the New York economy for the coming decades, and I will fight to deliver any available federal funds to make that happen.”



Categories : 7 Line Extension

84 Responses to “‘The next stop on this Secaucus-bound 7 is…’”

  1. Alon Levy says:

    Meh. Unless there’s very aggressive TOD in Secaucus, and there won’t be, this is just a cheaper version of the ARC cavern: no regionwide connectivity, no system integration, no convenient transfers. The only benefit that could come from it, canceling the 7 extension to Hudson Yards, is already impossible because they’re building the line southwest to northeast, facts on the ground-style.

  2. Marc Shepherd says:

    I would sign up for this. It’s more useful than ARC, because it goes to Grand Central. For NJ commuters who work in East Midtown, it would get them to work faster than they do today.

    Of course, it’s pie in the sky, and about as likely to happen as the N Train extension to LaGuardia Airport (proposed during the Giuliani Administration), or the Lower Manhattan/JFK project (proposed during the Pataki Administration), now both dead.

  3. Ray says:

    Lets pop this balloon! NJ has spoken loud and clear. They choose automobiles, with fairly low intrastate tolls and the lowest fuel taxes in the nation. The have elected a governor whose first act was to raise train and bus fares and cut service. They are not interested in transit, even though they are the most densely populated state in the nation residing next to the largest mass transit system in the hemisphere. Their choice.

    Before we start digging this train to Secaucus, lets take a long hard look at the history. NJ has been working for 30 years to turn Secaucus and the Meadowlands into the new front to extend the New York “Megapolis”. Sonny Werblin, state economic development boosters and developers offered visions of a new city. Promises for a utopia, a huge entertainment complex, thousands of new housing units, and a state park built on the former landfill. The electorate bought it.

    Millions and millions of taxpayer dollars were spent on infrastructure and on investments in ventures via public private partnerships. And what have they done… Built a parking lot for 20,000 cars (twice), construct two football stadiums (and torn one down), erected one sort of defunct arena, host a racetrack that is struggling to survive, created a shell for a bankrupt shopping mall (oops urban entertainment complex) and have successfully opened a railroad transfer station that seems far too oversized and has too few amenities for it’s envisioned purpose. In between it all, the Hackensack River winds its way through a muddy swamp, sea gulls, egrets, fast food joints, a set of industrial parks, some curious condo communities. Nothing much here .. On weekdays it’s a ghost town. Sorry folks, it’s time to put aside the Meadowlands myth.

    The tunnel was a regional project. Crossing the river isn’t qualification enough. The money would be better spent figuring out how to evolve a true regional rail system. Get NJ Transit trains to Jamaica/JFK and LIRR and Metro North Trains to Newark/EWR for pennies comparably and far more benefit. I’d spend the money fixing expanding and managing Penn Station for thru service. I’d look at expanding PATH’s footprint. I’d consider increasing the God awful frequency along the Main, Bergen and Pascack Valley lines, prioritize electrification. And why not build those loop tracks between main and NE Corridor.. The list goes on and on…

    But a subway to Secaucus… Uh no thanks.

    • Marc Shepherd says:

      Running trains through Penn Station has comparatively little benefit, and the loop track isn’t feasible without ARC (or a similar project), which is dead. PATH expansion to Newark Airport is already being studied. Next?

      • Alon Levy says:

        Running trains through Penn Station has comparatively little benefit

        I suppose that about 50,000 suburb-to-suburb commuters for whom it’d be useful count as comparatively little by the standards of, say, the Tokyo commuter rail system…

        • Adirondacker says:

          47,000 of them would still have to change trains in Penn Station because where they live isn’t on the line that goes to where they work. Assuming that either where they live is someplace with train service and where they work is someplace with train service.

    • JR says:

      Hudson County chose no such thing. Automobiles…

      Union City is much more urban than Staten Island.

  4. Ariel says:

    Even though this extension would be better than nothing, I can’t imagine the political headache it would cause for NYC Transit to run part of a subway system in another state. Similarly, Metro-North partially operates in Connecticut even though the state doesn’t pay the MTA payroll tax.

    The whole idea seems like a short-sighted attempt to bring more value to the Hudson Yards project. The focus for New York should really be on letting the NJ-centric Hudson tunnel idea die and focus on creating outer-borough projects that can compete for those federal dollars.

    But, in the unlikely event that they do extend the 7 to Secaucus, they might as well integrate the PATH lines in to the NYC Subway to make it one big, interconnected system.

    • Gary says:

      In my dream world, the PATH is integrated into the subway system, and the LIRR, Metro-North and NJ Transit are managed by a regional rail authority.

      • Ubertrout says:

        At one of the MTA’s briefings for the public about the state of digging on the Second Avenue Subway (about a year ago), integrating the PATH into the subway came up. Several other attendees snorted and said it would never happen, but the MTA higher-ups surprised them and said that in fact it was plausible.

  5. Justin Samuels says:

    This project is an attempt to get the 3 billion that was allocated to the ARC tunnel, now that it looks like the feds will not give that money to the Second Avenue Subway or other NYC transit projects. 3 billion from the feds and 3 billion from Port Authority would more than pay for this.

    Bloomberg might even get Christie on board, as NJ wouldn’t have to invest much money in this. And I think its a better idea as it gives people from Jersey direct access to Times Square and Grand Central Station……………

    • It still runs up against the limitations of a two-track subway tunnel, and the likelihood of an additional stop in Weehawken. It would give a one-seat ride to Times Square and Grand Central but only from 4 miles away.

      • Marc Shepherd says:

        Right, but New Jersey to Grand Central is a 3-seat ride today: NJT to Penn, plus 2 subway lines. It’s worse if you’re on one of the NJT lines that does not come into Penn.

        I would bet that a transfer from NJT to the #7 Train at Secaucus would get people to Grand Central faster than they do today. And for passengers on the Main, Bergen County, and Passcack Valley Lines, it would turn a 4-seat ride into a 2-seat ride.

        The 2-track limitation, of course, is shared by every proposal out there, including ARC. Overall, this proposal is better than the final ARC design, though ARC Alternative G would have trumped them all.

  6. Gary says:

    I was at an IRUM/RRWG meeting about 2 years ago and someone gave a detailed presentation about this exact topic. Sadly I can’t find anything on their website. I’ll dig through my papers tonight and see if I have any notes.

    When you look at the metropolitan area without considering political boundaries (and I do believe we need to take a more regional view of transit planning) a 7 extension makes great sense. It should significantly reduce automobile dependence in the Hoboken area and would lower commuting costs for many.

    The larger question is who pays for it. I would like to see this get done, but would not like to cannibalize funds from worthy MTA projects.

  7. capt subway says:

    NJ spoke as regards the ARC tunnel. They blew it. Why should NYCT and NYC build any sort of tunnel for them?

    NYC, in the borough Queens, is starved for adequate proper rail rapid transit. The #7 and Queens Blvd lines are grossly over-crowded and carrying far more passengers than they were designed to handle. How about subway extensions in Queens? There are bell mouths all over the place on the existing subway structures ready for extensions. To wit:

    East (subway north) of 21st/Queensbridge the provisions exist for an extension of the 63rd St line, possibly out Northern Blvd to to Jackson Hts and LaGuardia?

    The right-of-way of the defunct Rockaway Branch of the LIRR, between White Pot Jct (Rego Park) and Liberty Jct sits unused and ready for revival as a possible one seat ride between Midtown & JFK.

    The tunnel connections exist east (subway south) of Euclid Ave (“A” & “C”) for an extension to southeast Queens.

    There are any number of other rail projects in Queens, and the other outer boroughs, that cry out for consideration. Bloomie, you’re the mayor of NYC – all five boroughs of it! Keep the money here.

  8. Eric F. says:

    I’m not sure I understand the “one seat ride point”. Unless you are literally going to bring Nj commuter trains to the east side of Manhattan, you are going to have to have transfers anyway. This just moves the transfer point to Secaucus, which is an airy space that is actually built for it! The 7 extension is a great idea because it allows extremely easy transfers all over Manhattan and multiple direct access points all over midtown. You should also recognize that this idea has enormous benefits for NYC residents. It allows very easy travel between NYC and NJ retail and employment centers. One trivial example: as easy as it would now be for a NJ resident to get to Shea Stadium (yes, I’m calling it Shea), it would be equally easy to get from Corona to Secaucus. If it could really be done for about $5 billion, it would be foolish not to try it. That’s about 1/3 the cost of ARC. It would not eliminate the need for additional Amtrak/NJT tunnels at some point in the future, but it would certainly help those systems buy a ton of time.

    Observations:

    Too bad the 7 Trains are natrrow gauge as opposed to the wider trains that run along 6th Avenue for example.

    Too bad the 7 is on a single track in Manhattan to Queens Plaza.

    With the intermediate stops at Times Square and 5th Avenue, you won’t necessarily have a crush of people trooping up the stairs at Grand Central, but this along with East Side Access might make for a crunch.

    This idea could save the crazy Xanadu project at the Meadowlands

    How fast can those 7 Train sets go? They’ll have a ton of room to get up to a high speed out there in and under the swamp, I wonder if they can do that distance quickly.

    Ideally the plan should allow for a future intermediate stop somewhere in urbanized Hudson County. Ideally you’d have 2 tracks in each direction from Secaucus to the first Manhattan stop. I bet they could put in two side-by-side tracks in each tunnel, as these trains aren’t very wide.

    • capt subway says:

      Actually the #7, and all IRT lines, are standard gauge, same as the rest of the system and all American railroads. The cars are just smaller and the tunnels tighter.

      The NYCT car fleet has a top speed of about 45 mph. Although most are capable of about 65 mph if the motor shunting is modified.

    • Berk32 says:

      7 train is 2 tracks in manhattan – not 1 (no diea where you got that from) – its never 1 track….

      And while the trains are narrower, the track is still standard gauge (not that it makes much of a difference)

      • Eric F. says:

        I meant that it’s one track in each direction. If it were two, you could run one track as an express from Secaucus to GCT.

        I didn’t realize that the tracks were equally far apart on all the lines!

        • Berk32 says:

          considering the distance i dont think there is a need for express service.

        • Berk32 says:

          And yes – the tracks are all the same gauge – the 7 and N tracks have a crossover at Queensboro plaza (that section of the N after queensboro plaza was originally part of the IRT – they “shaved down” the station platforms to convert them later on)

          • Eric F. says:

            Having express capability is a way to get added capacity, as well as a speed enhancer. If this were built, you’d have a huge number of people using these trains.

            • We do still have capacity: tunnels at 63rd Street, 60th St., 53rd St., 14th St. and so on. Large numbers of passengers transfer from the Astoria-bound N/Q to the Flushing-bound #7 at Queensboro Plaza, and from 42nd Street bound #7 trains to 60th Street N/Q trains.

        • Alon Levy says:

          Basically everything in the US is on standard gauge. BART’s the main exception. What’s different is the loading gauge, which measures how big the trains can be. There, you’re right: the IRT has much narrower loading gauge than the BMT and IND, which themselves have much narrower loading gauge than mainline rail. The subway trains are also much more limited in length than mainline trains because it’s much harder to extend platforms underground.

  9. Josh says:

    It would, as Charles Bagli and Nicholas Confessore wrote, “extend the New York City subway outside the city for the first time, giving New Jersey commuters direct access to Times Square, Grand Central Terminal and Queens, and to almost every line in the system.”

    I think “direct access” means something different to these guys than it does to me. Unless you live in Secaucus, you’re still transferring from an NJT train to the subway, same as if you take an NJT train to Penn Station (or a commuter bus to Port Authority) and switch there. A transfer is a transfer, whether it happens in NJ or in NY.

    (Which isn’t to say that this isn’t a good idea, of course, but I have much better “direct access to Times Square” if I take a bus to Port Authority and walk a block than if I take an NJT train to Secaucus and then a 7 train to Times Square.)

  10. Gary says:

    Ben, here’s a link to the proposal:

    http://www.subwaytosecaucus.com/

    The graphics are a bit rudimentary!

    From comments I read on an old tstc blog post, I probably saw this closer to 3 years ago at that IRUM meeting.

    • Al D says:

      Definitely rudimentary! ;) A stop should be added at Bergenline Ave, the major north south commercial street there.

      • Eric F. says:

        That would also allow a connection to the Hudson Bergen light rail.

        • Alon Levy says:

          Not that far south – the HBLR follows the old Erie connection to Hoboken there. A stop on Bergenline would still be useful, but for other reasons – namely, to provide easy access to people on the hill.

          • JR says:

            There should be a stop at Bergenline. Union City is the densest population city in the United States and would add thousands of MTA riders who currently take NJ Transit buses and guaguas through the Lincoln Tunnel into PABT.

            • I can’t even begin to imagine the wonders of a union city/North Bergen/Weehawken subway stop around Bergenline or new york avenue or Palisades. So many people here work in the city and take NJ transit buses.

              It would do wonders for property values as well. It’s about time the NY/NJ coasts were properly connected. We’ve become a sort of outside borough of Manhattan but we don’t have access.

      • And one at Kennedy Boulevard/Tonnelle Avenue.

  11. Eric says:

    Anything that gets more cars off the road is okay by me. If this doesn’t happen, let’s not pretend that the city is going to try to get funding for new subway lines in Queens. Queens will never get a new subway line.

    • Eric F. says:

      If you ever get in a car and drive the city at times when there’s next to zero traffic, it’s sort of amazing how small the city really is. The beauty of this idea, from an NYC perspective, is that it really compresses the region for transit users. You’d be able to go from Long Island City to Hudson County, NJ in something like 15 minutes. There are entire patterns of living, socializing and commuting that don’t exist now that this alignment could facilitate.

  12. Al D says:

    I’m sure that this project can have more benefits than anybody can think of at this time. This transit project is better than no transit project. But don’t expect Gov. Christie to offer up a nickel.

  13. Jonathan says:

    I would prefer to see New York’s dollars go toward New York projects. Making it easier to connect Montclair to Grand Central would encourage families to move to Montclair from Brooklyn. Although New York would still collect taxes on income earned in the city, it’s likely that the family’s second job would move to New Jersey. Plus the family would spend child-care and home-improvement money in New Jersey, not New York.

    • Eric F. says:

      Or it could allow people to stay in NYC and hold a job in NJ, date people in NJ, visit family in NJ, without being forced to choose one state or the other due to the obstacle of the Hudson River as if we are medieval peasant tribes cut off from each other by the icy Rhine.

      • Jonathan says:

        I love the Rhine analogy, Eric, but unless NJ Transit beefs up its reverse-peak service, New Yorkers will be stuck at Secaucus with no easy way to travel west to jobs. Spending $662.50 per New York City resident seems a little steep for a service that would, as you say, primarily improve dating opportunities and family visits.

        • Eric F. says:

          I think it would do a lot more than that! Anyway, family visits are a big thing. Check out who’s stuck in 90 minute backs ups at the Hudson crossings on Sunday nights.

  14. Stewart Clamen says:

    An MTA subway extension to Secaucus sounds pretty NJ-driver friendly. They could get off the Turnpike and park there instead of taking the tunnel into Manhattan.

    Further, it would be commuter bus alternative to the (tunnel and) Port Authority.

    A 7 extension would also benefit (non-suburban) Hoboken and Weehawken, provided a station in added there.

    Still, this is all years and years away. Christie is a momentum killer. I wonder if Bloomberg plays SimCity in his spare time.

  15. hal p says:

    Any idea if Grand Central station can handle this many riders from NJ? That station is a tight fit as it is.

    This also should help ease some of the traffic in the XBL. Local buses would stop at Secaucus rather than go all the way to PABT.

    • Al D says:

      There is 1 exit a GCT that is past capacity already, but there is a provision in the MTA Capital Plan to expand it. You raise a good point and this should also be part of any NJ extension of the 7.

  16. Heoh says:

    One thing that hasn’t been brought up in this discussion is that this can potentially bring in commercial and real estates special interests to the table. Hudson Yards is one of them. But building a NYC subway line in NJ could potentially change quite a few neighborhoods around. A commuter line is one thing, but a line that is directly linked to one of the largest subway system in the world?

    If the interested parties manage to sell it that way, then this project could potentially be more realistic in terms of funding than some people may think.

    • Eric F. says:

      I totally agree. Exit 15X off the Turnpike in that case should be expanded for better access and could be a hug bus drop-off point. Not to mention that you’d probably have about 1,000 Zip Cars deployed over there if this were to happen.

  17. SEAN says:

    One of the errors when Secaucus Junction was built was nobody thaught about future development around the station area. Now with this idea we can correct these oversights with carefully planned TOD around the station.

    One of Secaucuses flaws is it’s poor planning & dependence on outdated road networks along with a lack of an active central downtown core. Compare this to nearby Hoboken, where Washington Street has local shops, restaurants & all the things needed to make an area vibrent & desireable for current & potential residents & there’s no shortage of transit options.

    It’s not too late for Secaucus, but the longer they wait, the costlier it becomes. They don’t need the 7 train to come to get started, but it would be a fantastic shot in the arm for them. Also if the HBLR were extended northward to the Medowlands, Secaucus could receive great benefits from that as well.

    • Eric F. says:

      I believe they did think of it but pretty much rejected it on “save the swamp” environmental grounds. NJ is sort of slowly adding development over there. There is a large apartment development, and the adjacent Laurel Hill Park has been enhanced. There has been some roadway improvements, but not nearly enough. There have been discussed plans to make the area way more accessible from the Jersey City waterfront via a road alignment.

      • Al D says:

        Wasn’t the original intent of Secaucus Junction to serve the function it does today, i.e. a transfer station between NJT lines that crossed paths anyway?

      • SEAN says:

        Maybe it’s time to revisit the HBLR extention. First of all we know that the stadium has been a Giant success & second reworking the road / parking lot network along with redevelopment of the racetrack could bring needed dencity to justify aditional transit services in the area.

    • John says:

      That’s not entirely true. There was supposed to be 4 office towers, a hotel, parking garage and about 1,800 housing units built at the site. New Jersey built the exit ramp and the station at the scale they did on the assumption a ton of development would be taking place at the site.

      http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/.....8;refer=us

  18. Larry Littlefield says:

    “Mr. Christie, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Governor-elect Andrew M. Cuomo of New York would have to agree to make the tunnel a high priority and work in lock step to obtain the city, state and federal funds needed to make it happen.”

    So what transit operating and expansions should be cut back in New York to pay for the New York City and New York State shares of improved transit to New Jersey?

  19. Chris says:

    The Port Authority has jurisdiction over all interstate travel in the region. This plan ignores that fact. The PA is the gatekeeper here, and they would probably want to do it in a different manner entirely. I would expect maybe something like having a new PATH line run into midtown to GCT.

    It is nice to dream, but getting the MTA, Mayor, Albany, Trenton and the PA all on board with one useful plan is quite unlikely.

    • Berk32 says:

      The point is this is by far the cheapest option available, which is why you would hope the various decision makers would find a way. a new PATH line would have the same $ problem the new NJ Transit line would.
      NJ Transit and Metro North found a way to run 2 lines together. I’d hope the MTA and PATH could do the same.

  20. John says:

    What you could do — if the underground logistics weren’t too tough in the middle of Manhattan — would be instead of redirecting No. 7 trains away from the Hudson Yards project, would be reopening Track 2 on the Grand Central-Times Square shuttle and giving over Tracks 3-4 to a line that would use the existing 1904 tunnel from GC to Sixth Ave, then descend below the Times Square complex to a new TS station, and from there on to New Jersey (possibly with even the hoped for 10th Avenue stop included).

    That would maintain a two-track shuttle operation close to the street level for people in a hurry to get crosstown, while giving New Jersey residents basically their own dedicated subway line to midtown Manhattan’s east and west sides without having to steal capacity from the new Hudson Yards extension of the No. 7 train.

    You’d probably have to extend the shuttle platform for Tracks 3-4 to handle 10-car trains, and of course Times Square would have to be modified a little if Track 2 replaces Track 3 as the other main shuttle track. But It would take a resource beneath 42nd Street that’s been under-used for the past 92 years and make it a viable alternative to the ARC sub-sub-sub-sub-sub basement station plan at 34th and Seventh.

    • Marc Shepherd says:

      Yeah, but the IF in your first sentence is an awfully big IF. Take that into consideration, and your idea becomes practically impossible.

      • John says:

        The biggest problem would be if you could have the downgrade/upgrade shallow enough between the existing shuttle tracks that run above the B/D/F/M at Sixth Avenue and a new track/station that would be under the 1/2/3/N/Q/R tracks at Times Square.

        Once you get there, you’ve actually got less logistical problems getting to the river than the 7 extension did, since it had to born under both the Port Authority (and its diesel fuel stroage tanks for the buses) and the three tubes of the Lincoln Tunnel. In contrast, 42nd west of Times Square only has the A/C/E tunnels and the city’s (really, really deep) new water tunnel to navigate. Four blocks extra construction from what’s already built for the 7 to Hudson Yards, but again, the main logistical problem is can the trains handle a grade that goes from one level below the street at Sixth Avenue to three levels below at Times Square?

    • Berk32 says:

      But what service would use those 2 tracks? While the tracks there are currently standard gauge, the tunnel width is only good for IRT size cars. So you are basically suggesting running a new IRT-type service and spending “just a few” extra billion to tunnel more below Manhattan. By connecting to the new tunnel they’ve already dug for the 7 train – they save a lot of $….. And as far as I can tell, they aren’t redirecting the service from the hudson yards project – hopefully this would just be an offshoot of that service (where you can have one future service continuing downtown, and the other going to NJ)

      • Berk32 says:

        o – and what happens to the trains when they hit the expanded shuttle station at grand central? there isn’t a yard for them. One of the biggest problems of the current 7 train service is getting trains in and out of times square during rush hours, since there’s nowhere for the trains to go.

      • Heoh says:

        Yes, since the stub tracks of the new “11th Ave subway” ends at 23 street, which is basically a few hundred feet from the river, it seems to make more sense to just extend it further from there rather than to build a flying junction at 11 Ave & 42 St so you can send a few 7 trains to NJ.

        • SEAN says:

          This semes to be the simplist way to go about it. Once under the Hudson, a tube could go east northeast as aposed to going streight across from 42nd Street.

          Most importently, as stated by others on this thred you need stops in Tunnelly Avenue & other key transfer points before reaching Secaucus to make such a service viable.

      • John says:

        Well, if the Port Authority is going to be involved with the project, any cross Hudson service should be A Division (whether it’s a dedicated line using the shuttle tracks to GC or the No. 7 train veering off somewhere around 23rd Street) because that would allow for a possible future shared service to Secaucus or the Meadowlands between the MTA and PATH, whose tubes create the same problems for B Division cars as the Steinway Tunnels under the East River.

        They would have to develop a hybrid rail car that could handle both the PATH lines and the Steinway Tubes/Contract 1 tunnels, but if the MTA, PA and both states are willing to commit to a subway line across the Hudson, you should make it as flexible for expansion as possible given the other current underground infrastructure on the other side of the Hudson.

  21. Eric F. says:

    “It is nice to dream, but getting the MTA, Mayor, Albany, Trenton and the PA all on board with one useful plan is quite unlikely.”

    The PA is an instrumentatlity of NY and NJ. If those states agree, the PA will agree. I’m not sure how the PA would actually be involved, but you can imagine that it would own the tunnel and tracks to Secaucus and license the MTA to run trains through/on them. There is a sort-of reverse version of this in place now. The PA runs the major bus depots in Manhattan, and NJ Transit sends its interstate buses to them.

  22. Mark L. says:

    This immediately looks more feasible than the Tappan Zee commuter rail proposal — if another set of tracks across the Hudson is the objective, this could actually work

  23. Robert Hale says:

    I like the idea of a subway to New Jersey, but it needs to serve markets that are suited for a subway. I do not think a huge number of suburban New Jersey riders would be willing to take a commuter train to Secaucus and transfer to a subway train for the jaunt across the river. If we must build a subway, I would much rather see this line serve northern Jersey City and proceed into Bergen County. If it increases the cost, well, then it’s for the sake of increased benefits.
    I appreciate Bloomberg thinking outside the box, but the subway is not a substitute for a new commuter rail tunnel. A Penn Station tunnel would not only serve New Jersey commuters with a one-seat ride, but if designed properly would also offer increased intercity rail capacity. Yes ARC had its flaws, but I think it would have been, by far, a net positive. As for the cost of ARC:
    a. The apparent increase is largely due to Chris Christie counting the tunnel an the Portal Bridge improvements as one project, even though the feds count them separately.
    b. If we want good, multifunctional infrastructure, we have to pay for it. Mobility does not come without cost. With infrastructure, taking shortcuts means we will come up short. It is a shame Bloomberg seems to be the only one around here who gets that.

    • Justin Samuels says:

      In politics you have to take what you can get. Christie was unwilling to put up NJ funds for this. However, the Port Authority was going to spend 3 billion and the Feds 3 billion. That more than pays for an extension of the 7 line.

      In other words, its the best we’re going to get these days. Other projects are the same. It would have been nice to have a 4 track second avenue subway, but today, with cut and cover being too expensive and disruptive, the best we’re going to get is a two track second avenue subway.

    • Alon Levy says:

      1. Bergen County is suburban, except at and south of the GWB area.

      2. The problem with the region is not that it underspends on transit construction; it’s that it overspends. Subway tunnels are built for $400 million a mile all over the world, even when they cross under (admittedly not very wide) rivers and a shitload of old subway infrastructure.

      3. Alt P cost more than Alt G. The alternatives analysis said they’d cost about the same, but the cost increases since have come from the cavern.

      4. Politics is the art of the possible. No Build is always possible.

    • john b says:

      “I do not think a huge number of suburban New Jersey riders would be willing to take a commuter train to Secaucus and transfer to a subway train for the jaunt across the river.”

      isn’t this essentially what happens everyday at newark penn station when people board the PATH to WTC? i’m sure there are plenty of people who currently take a commuter train to new york penn station and then transfer to a subway. by doing it as secaucus you’re probably going to speed up their journey and possibly relieve congestion at ny penn station.

    • JR says:

      This 7 extension would do just that with a stop on Bergenline Avenue in Union City, the densest city in the United States. That would be a great start for an eventual extension down Bergenline and Summit into Jersey City Heights and onto Journal Square. Having only Lincoln Harbor and Secaucus Junction would be terrible.

  24. Frank B says:

    This is such an amazing turn in this project; I really am excited and cautiously optimistic in waiting to see the results of it.

    That being said, as vital as this link is, and as amazing as this development is, (The earliest proposal I can think of a inter-connected subway system was as far back as NJ Trains running on the IRT Lexington Ave Line,) unfortunately, what most people don’t emphasize in their minds is that Governor Christie not only cut ARC for cost overruns, but to fill the state’s transportation coffers with $3 Billion without raising the bloody gas tax.

    We need a link like this, that’s for sure. I especially like the idea of using the Times Square-Grand Central Shuttle platforms and trackage to shuttle Jersey passengers. But honestly, Christie was a democratically-elected governor. New Jersey picked him to cut the budget. They don’t want this bad enough. And Christie simply will not cough up the cash.

    I also honestly have a problem with New Jersey directly benefiting (There’s mutual benefit, but it’s split 80/20 towards NJ) and us footing the bill when the MTA is struggling and tightening its belt wherever it can.

    Instead of a 4 mile tunnel to Secaucus Junction, can’t we use that same money to finish that 2-mile tunnel to Staten Island we started in the 20′s under Owl Head Park? We could financially increase our own tax revenues and increase business in our own city!

    I bet you a lot of people from New Jersey would quickly move to Staten Island for lower property taxes, closer proximity to the nightlife of the city, being closer to their families, a suburban (compared to the other boroughs) lifestyle, yet with a one-seat ride to midtown.

    For God’s sake, It’s 2010. It’s high time that the 5 Boroughs truly become the 5 Boroughs. Use our money here, for our people! Anyone with me?

    • Berk32 says:

      The Verrazano is kinda in the way of that tunnel to SI ever being completed. And that one seat ride to midtown would be longer for most NJ people than their current commutes on NJ Transit.

  25. Patricia The Tranvestite says:

    Here’s a better idea. How about building a 6 lane tunnel between Manhattan & Staten Island, the 2 outer lanes for cars and the 2 inner for extending the 1 or the 5 trains to Staten Island and have Staten Island get a subway connection for the first time. Why should us NYer’s have to pay for NJ residents? How many people go from Secaucus to Corona or vice versa. Staten Island should get first consideration, not NJ. Don’t get me wrong I like the Ferry but sometimes we need a faster route to Staten Island and a subway extension to St George’s to connect with the SIR train would be much better. My “girlfriends” and I would like a faster way to and from the island.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. [...] news broke late yesterday of the city’s very preliminary plans to extend the 7 train to Secaucus, New Jersey, everyone was taken by surprise including, it seems, MTA Chair and CEO Jay Walder. In remarks to [...]

  2. [...] writing yesterday about the city’s nascent plan to extend the 7 train to Secaucus, New Jersey, I touched briefly on those who stand to benefit the most from the plan. As with the current [...]

  3. [...] TO SECAUCUS There was a lot of talk this week about an idea to extend the 7 train to Secaucus, New Jersey. Planners hoped the 3 billion dollars that was freed up after Governor Christie tanked [...]

  4. [...] the city’s plan to extend the 7 line to Secaucus gains support from the real estate lobby and, nominally, from N.J. Gov. Chris Christie, this [...]

  5. [...] even as the city pushes forward with this plan Bloomberg first floated in November, it is facing a certain level of skepticism from its potential partners. As a source said to the [...]

  6. [...] during the Q-and-A when an audience member asked about the immediate future of the plans to extend the 7 line to Secaucus, Horodniceanu nearly dismissed it out of hand. He spoke of the engineering studies the city — [...]

  7. [...] Mayor Michael Bloomberg, then, announced in November 2010 his plans to extend the 7 line to Secaucus, New Jersey, he was met with both skepticism and [...]

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