Thinking big for the future and small for 2011

By · Published in 2010

Subway expansions down Utica and Nostrand Ave. should be a part of everyone's transit wishlist.

When it comes to the subway, I love to think big. I started this site to chart the progress of the Second Ave. Subway as it moved from a 75-year-old idea to some sort of reality, and over the years, I’ve explored some of the city’s grander plans from various aspects of the Second System expansion to the proposed Triboro RX line. Even if the MTA doesn’t have the funding or political support to build the system, it’s important to keep an eye toward the future.

Over at City Limits, Samuel I. Schwartz, whom we all know as Girdlock Sam, pens his Christmas transit wish list for New York City. It is dreaming big at its finest. Schwartz has seen Battery Park City move from an idea to a thriving neighborhood. He’s seen cars removed from the streets of Times Square and Herald Square, and he has long been a champion of East River Bridge tolling. He dreams big.

So what does Schwartz want for Christmas? Well, Schwartz has a 40-year plan in mind. Using congestion pricing revenues — he estimates the fee will draw in $1 billion a year as the city’s population reaches 10 million — Schwartz wants everything, and I like it.

First he wants something we all want: a Second Ave. Subway that goes from 125th St. to Hanover Square. Today, the MTA is planning and building only Phase 1 from 57th St. and Broadway to 96th St. and 2nd Ave. The capital plan isn’t funding past 2011, and the authority continues to say it will assess future phases as the money materializes. Despite Jay Walder’s pledge to build if the money is there, few people are optimistic that remaining segments will see the light of day anytime soon.

Next, Schwartz advocates for a subway to Staten Island. He writes: “One could go from St. George to the Battery into the T-line. Another could go from Clifton to Bay Ridge to link with the R train (groundbreaking for this subway was held in 1923; let’s open it for the centennial). Both would originate from the existing Staten Island Railway. While we’re at it, let’s also re-establish the Staten Island North Shore Railroad and attach a West Shore link.”

In the realm of rail, Schwartz advocates for a more trains to planes. He wants a subway the LaGuardia, the PATH to Newark, a rail link to Stewart Airport (I do not) and better integration between the subway and the JFK AirTrain. It’s hard to dispute the need for better access to the region’s airports.

Will we see a full Second Ave. Subway before another seven decades elapse?

Finally, he wants three more “minor” subway extensions. He envisions a Second Ave. extension westward across 125th St. to Broadway; an extension to the South Bronx; and another to Co-Op City. He wants to restore service from Liberty Ave. to the Queens Bypass via Rockaway Beach branch, and he wants to send the L train west and north to reach the 7 at Javits Center. Nothing seems too crazy, and everything seems appropriate for a growing city that has witnessed little in the way of transit expansion since the 1930s.

It’s hard to disagree with Schwartz’s wishlist. If anything, I’d like to see it be more adventurous. I’d like to see plans for Utica and Nostrand Avenues, and the Triboro RX is a relatively low-cost plan that should see the light of day sooner rather than later.

And yet, despite the fun of living in Transity Fantasyland, the MTA has more immediate concerns. Schwartz and I can dream big, but the authority is teetering on the edge of collapse. It’s balance sheet has a razor thin margin for error right now, and if anything goes wrong, the MTA will again be faced with a deficit of hundreds of millions of dollars.

So for my Christmas wishlist, I want a more permanent funding solution for the MTA. I want to see congestion pricing or East River Bridge tolls. I want to see the MTA get a handle on its ever-increasing labor costs, and its skyrocketing pension obligations. I want to see the authority have the money and manpower and political support to maintain an aging system and expand it to meet demands of the 2010s. We have an early 20th — and in some places, late 19th — century system that’s straining under the weight of early 21st Century. As Schwartz writes, “Clearly, city leaders 130 years ago had long-term big dreams for New York and followed through.” They also had short-term dreams to keep the system afloat, and that’s what we need right now.

86 Responses to “Thinking big for the future and small for 2011”

  1. pea-jay says:

    Is that 10 Million residents or 10 Billion? Ones dreaming big the other a farce.

    As a resident on the WaHI part of this island, my bias is towards swinging the future Q across the island on 125th

    You should also reference Vansnookenraggen future NYC transit ideas…that’s another big time wish list there

    • Jason says:

      Same here, would love to have a train that ran under 125th so we didnt have to trek all the way down to 42nd to get across town.

      Judging by the map, i still don’t understand why phase 1 of SAS didnt incorporate all the previous work done back in the 70’s on the UES. The map above shows various parts already completed and how hard would it be to rent out the TBM a little bit longer and punch through into the existing tunnel? Also, were station shells built back then as well or just tunnel segments? Will todays work line up with work back in terms of tunnel depth?

      Phase two should be connecting 125th & 2nd to 125th and St. Nicks w/ a provision for extension and connection to the 8th ave line somewhere around 135th street.

      • Scott E says:

        The 125th St extension to the west makes a lot of sense. The only potential obstacle I can see is where to put a storage yard, unless the track somehow merges with the “A” and trains are run up to Inwood. It’s a good thing they didn’t start building Phase 2 already or we might be shut out of it.

        As far as making use of existing work, it is being used in Phase 1 for train storage north of 96th, but this work can’t be done by TBM. That section of track is too shallow for a TBM, and the two tracks are in the same rectangular tunnel (similar to older lines) so even a TBM wouldn’t fit through here. If you look here, you can get a better idea of the fragmented pieces already constructed.

        Even these existing sections are tough to use because of their size. These days, a “bench” walkway at door-level needs to be included for evacuation in case the train stops in mid-tunnel, and extra plumbing needs to be installed in the tunnels for firefighting. There’s also now a requirement to build a wall between tracks so a smoke condition in one doesn’t affect the other (which then means tracks can’t share lighting, plumbing, walkways, telephones, etc). I think newer signal heads need to be larger too, though I’m not sure of that. The round TBM shape allows sufficient room for these accessory uses, the older rectangular one cut precisely for the train size does not. Unfortunately, what worked 30 years ago doesn’t work today.

        • Al D says:

          At minimum for 125, redo the streetscape a la planned 34 St with full BRT. OK, OK, we have to settle for SBS, but it would make the corridor eminantly more transit friendly. Every time I’m there, I just can’t believe that this hasn’t been done yet.

        • Jason says:

          So are you saying the stuff from the 70’s will be scrapped because of the depth and size difference or can it be retrofitted? I hope something can be reused otherwise what a waste.

          As for the 125th corridor with a connection to the A train, i say since it will be TBM it will be deeper than the other lines so dig upto the A train 125th station area, hook right (north) and connect to the two layup tracks on the 135 station (in between the express and local tracks). Then these new 2nd ave trains can terminate either at 145th since it has two levels or even 168th and use its yards.

          • Scott E says:

            Scrapped, I don’t know (the details of Phase 2 haven’t been designed yet) for sure, but I’m sure it’ll be worked in somehow. They may need to dig into the sides of the existing tunnel though. I have no idea how easy or hard that would be. Or they look for waivers from some of these rules. We’ll see.

      • Marc Shepherd says:

        They ARE using the tunnel sections built in the 1970s, but the station shells were not constructed then.

        There are serious feasibility issues with trying to connect to the Eighth Avenue Line. There are already four services running there (A/B/C/D). Adding another would create merge/diverge conflicts, slowing everyone down.

        A transfer would suffice.

        • John says:

          You’ve got the extra two tracks between 125th Street and the Concourse split at 145th, so it could be worked out … but to avoid multiple crossovers, the MTA would have to use the Second Ave. line as the Concourse local and/or terminate it at the 145th St. lower middle platform, and run the B and C trains to 168th (which would be kind of crowded, but no more so than the R and M trains terminating at Continental).

          • Chris says:

            What about building the 125th street connection (for equipment movement purposes), but treating it as a dead-end connection for the T line? You could have separate platforms, etc. but provide for possible future routes.

            • John says:

              You could do that — the T could end at 125th and Eighth Ave., with a walking underground transfer to the A/B/C/D at 125th and St. Nicholas, while the tracks could continue and curve under St. Nicholas and then rise up to meet the existing tracks between 125th and 135th. That would allow yard access and potentially provide a detour for the Concourse and Washington Heights lines to midtown via Second Ave. and the 63rd Street connector, if there were a problem south of 125th on CPW or Eighth Avenue.

      • Alon Levy says:

        West of 125th and St. Nick, the most important places to hit are Morningside Heights/Columbia, City College, and maybe the future Metro-North station. Best way to do it is extend SAS to Broadway and 125th, and have people transfer one station, or walk to by-then fully-gentrified Manhattanville.

        • Chris says:

          Alon –

          If there’s going to be a new Metro North station, the only good place to connect to the local transit network will be at 125 st. But this will mean that the infrastructures (Commuter Rail / Amtrak line, the new SAS link, and the current #1 line) will all need to have a common interchange point. This will be tricky at best, as the Metro North station will need to be manned (as it is at Park and 125 st.) AND will need SAFE, not exposed to the elements, short walk (with maybe a moving sidewalk,as found in airports) between connection points.


          • Alon Levy says:

            Commuter stations don’t need to be staffed. The subway/commuter walk could be longer than you think, in the high tens of meters or very low hundreds, as long as it’s protected (i.e. underground).

            But there has to be a decision about whether there will be such a connection or not. If there is, then the subway station should extend from Broadway west, with about 150 meters from the western end of the station to Metro-North. If there isn’t, then in light of the greater amount of development at Amsterdam than at Broadway, the station should be placed between Amsterdam and Broadway, with exits at both.

            • Andrew says:

              in light of the greater amount of development at Amsterdam than at Broadway

              Will that still be the case once Columbia finishes developing the area west of Broadway?

  2. Alargule says:

    “…he estimates the fee will draw in $1 billion a year as the city’s population reaches 10 billion…”

    $1 per year per inhabitant of NYC seems like a very reasonable price tag to me, indeed.
    However, I have serious doubts whether the proposed system expansions will be enough to move the city’s population once it reaches the size of the population of the Indian peninsula.

  3. Ed says:

    How feasible would it to bring the PATH or the light rail line that runs through Bayonne to Staten Island? And/or institute a fast, passenger only ferry?

    Either of these would seem to be more feasible than connecting the island to a subway system, and either would speed up the horrendous commute times for the residents of the borough.

    • Chris says:

      Why not build the connection from SI to Brooklyn as a dual use tunnel – 4 tracks, 2 passenger, 2 freight. Connect the freight with the LIRR’s (NY&A’s) Bay Ridge branch for equipment transfer, and the passenger traffic can go up the Bay Ridge line….

      Of course, I’d also be thinking of connecting the PATH system with the IRT somehow, and use that for regional expansion into Jersey.

      • Bolwerk says:

        AFAIK, PATH has a slightly different loading gauge than the IRT. A connection would work, but perhaps it wouldn’t be ADA compliant.

        I don’t think these kinds of extensions are very time- or cost-effective. They all promise to do one of two things: either they take capacity away from some of an existing line,* or they offer long commutes to people beyond the current terminus of the line. In the case of PATH or HBLR to Staten Island – and both would provide for radically different commuting needs so that they aren’t substitutes for each other – the trips would be circuitous indeed.

        In these cases, I think it just makes more sense to provide full new ROWs and offer some kind of transfer to older services, rather than track-sharing or perhaps (expensive) IND-style flying junctions.

        * Think of the problem you already have on three-service Manhattan trunk lines. If you run more 5 Trains, you take away slots for 4 Trains. If you run more C Trains, you take away slots for E Trains. If the SAS is ever extended to Staten Island by way of the bay, you can bet the hypothetical BMT service in northern Manhattan will have this effect too.

        • John says:

          Any potential extension to Staten Island via Brooklyn would require either the restoration of the W train or the extension of the J into Brooklyn in order to cover the need for a fourth branch coming off the Fourth Avenue trunk line (With the Sea Beach, West End and 95th St.-Bay Ridge branches, there’s still room for one more line on Fourth Avenue, and the W/J wouldn’t necessarily be the one going to Staten Island. But if the D, N or R did go to S.I., the W or the J would have to take its place on one of the existing lines).

          • Bolwerk says:

            Why can’t the R just be extended? May not be an ideal solution, but I don’t see why it’s infeasible.

            • John says:

              Depends on where the tunnel would go. If the idea was to follow the Robert Moses plan for the Verrazano, and build the tunnel at the narrowest gap between Brooklyn and Staten Island, than the R could just be extended. But if the idea is to bring the tunnel in someplace between Clifton and St. George for an immediate connection with the SIRT, then the tunnel would have to double-back under the bay from past 95th Street.

              The BMT’s original tunnel site from the 1920s placed the Staten Island link about a mile north of 95th Street. Go with that plan (which would also be helpful for a dual level freight line, since it’s close to the SBK’s shoreline tracks) and you’d need some sort of fourth subway line on Fourth Avenue for either Staten Island or Bay Ridge service (though the D or N could also become the S.I. line, if the revived W or (far less likely) J train took up Sea Beach or West End service).

  4. Ed says:

    “And yet, despite the fun of living in Transity Fantasyland, the MTA has more immediate concerns. Schwartz and I can dream big, but the authority is teetering on the edge of collapse. It’s balance sheet has a razor thin margin for error right now, and if anything goes wrong, the MTA will again be faced with a deficit of hundreds of millions of dollars.”

    This really says it all. We are really looking at contracting the system once this phase of the SAS is completed, not expanding it.

    • SEAN says:

      Contraction of the system? How do you do that in a city that keeps growing every year?

      Extentions of the 7, L to New Jersey as well as subwaay service to SI with connections to the HBLR are nessessary to allow for increased mobility.

      aAs the airport extentions go, uUnited, Delta, American & Jetblue are the hub carriers so they should conttribute funds along with the PA to pay for such services.

    • Only if we don’t get drivers to pay for their “free” bridges somehow.

  5. Peter says:

    1. – Reconnect the ex-LIRR Rego Park Cutoff to the LIRR to & from JFK, for a one-seat ride

    B. – Fully integrate the LIRR Montauk & Bayridge Branches into the NYCT system.

    III – Build airline ticketing & check-in facilites at Penn Station, with dedicated <1-hour service to Ronkonkoma; construct a terminal there for direct-from-platform passenger transfer to airliine gates.

    • BoerumHillScott says:

      A one seat ride to JFK does not really get you any better off than the current system, since there is no practical way to make a station that services all terminals. You would still most likely have to transfer to AirTrain to get to your terminal.

      Almost every airport in the world that has train access makes you transfer to some sort of People Mover to get to the vast majority of gates. They key difference with AirTrain is that the people mover goes off the airport property.

      • kvnbklyn says:

        Thank you for pointing this out. Too many people think that the airport is a dot that can be served well by one station. It is not. The JFK Airtrain is great and will become even more useful when LIRR service to Grand Central opens later this decade. If you really want to improve rail access to JFK, it would be better to focus on increasing the number of one seat rides to Jamaica instead (and decreasing the travel time). Extending the LIRR to lower Manhattan in a new tunnel (and possibly on to Hoboken and Staten Island) would go a long way to improving rail access to JFK.

        On a similar note, I think a third airtrain (patterned after the speedy JFK Airtrain) from Jackson Heights/Roosevelt E/F/R/M/7 station roughly following the BQE and Grand Central Parkway could provide better rail service to LGA than an extension of the N train, largely because it could be much more frequent than the N, have cars designed to accommodate luggage and would allow passengers to transfer to a variety of lines taking them to large parts of Queens and Manhattan. And it would be easier to have multiple stations at LGA getting passengers closer to their gates.

        • Andrew says:

          How is advantageous to have cars designed to accommodate luggage if everybody is going to be transferring to other lines that use cars not designed to accommodate luggage?

      • Andrew says:

        The other difference is that it costs $5 to ride AirTrain from the subway, even at Howard Beach, where it doesn’t go off the airport property.

        Why do you assume that a transit line would have only one airport stop? The RER has two at CDG. The Piccadilly line has three at Heathrow.

    • Chris says:

      Peter –

      Regarding your ideas….

      B – I’d love to see that happen, as long as you get the freight off of the Bay Ridge branch….

      III – Penn Station can barely handle Amtrak’s current baggage check in. We need to restore the ability the railroads had 60 years ago to handle checked luggage at NYP – and then hope remote check in works as planned…. But before this, we’d need one seat rides to the airports from NYP – and consolidated arrival points at the airports, with easy connections to the correct terminals. (e.g.: JFK would have a central arrivals/departures terminal, with spokes to each of the airlines’ terminal buildings. All major terminal functions regarding check in, baggage, etc. would take place in the central building, with only the planeing/deplaneing taking place in the buildings at the ends of the spokes.)


  6. Justin Samuels says:

    Merge the Airtrain with the LIRR and the abandoned Rockaway Beach LIRR for one train seat rides to JFK. Extend the N to LaGuardia. Full length Second Avenue Subway in Manhattan with an extension to the Bronx. Convert the 5 to Dyre Avenue to IND and build out an extension to the Second Avenue Subway. Connect the Second Avenue Subway to the A and C local tracks at Hoyt Schmerhorn, as was intended years ago.

  7. AlexB says:

    Would it be true to say that the Second Avenue Subway is an impediment to subway expansions elsewhere? Because it is so expensive and so necessary, it will always have to be the first thing on the drawing board. However, because it is SO expensive, it never actually gets built. I would imagine that extending the Nostrand line would be relatively cheap because you could do a lot more as cut and cover construction. The buildings aren’t as old or as big. Similar arguments for almost all of Gridlock Sam’s ideas, except the Staten Island connection which would have to include expensive tunnel boring.

    • Scott E says:

      I think it is true, to an extent. But that’s why it’s being done in Phases. After Phase 1, someone might decide that the Triboro RX or the Seven-to-Secaucus might be worth more than SAS Phase 2.

      • Chris says:

        Scott –

        One problem with extending the #7 to Jersey…. Right now, NYS/NYC has sole jurisdiction. However, once a state line is crossed, you’ll have Federal regulation – and no access to Taylor Law solutions. As much as I don’t like the Taylor Law in regard to limiting state workers right to strike, it does have value – and can not be enforced once the subway goes interstate.


  8. AlexB says:

    You missed the part of the article that recommends elevated busways over the LIE and the Bruckner. Those would create very fast express service to many parts of Bronx/Westchester and eastern Queens/Long Island. Really interesting and relatively cheap idea (cheap compared to subways).

    • Andrew says:

      Cheap to build. Extremely expensive to operate. The MTA should not be expanding the express bus network unless somebody else offers to cover the operating costs.

  9. BrooklynBus says:

    I’m surprised he didn’t mention extending the Second Avenue Subway into Brooklyn, the reactivation of the Bay Ridge Line or the previously talked about rail line from Lower Manhattan to JFK. He mentions extending the L along the far west side to meet the 7. Wouldn’t it be far cheaper to hook up the L with the High Line, instead of that park they chose instead?

    Why would the MTA extend any rail lines to the Airports when they won’t run bus lines there which are far cheaper? It is a disgrace that there is only a single bus line from Brooklyn to JFK. They were once toying with the idea of a bus line from Bay Ridge to JFK, but decided against it.

    • John says:

      There are several bus routes to LGA…I imagine there are less to JFK because of the existence of the AirTrain.

    • Joe says:

      I hope you were joking about the L train using the High Line. Obviously it’s not an option anymore, but I doubt it was ever a real option. I do think an L extension to 23rd Street (near the end of the 7 tail tracks) is a good idea to boost service to the destinations over there, Chelsea Piers, Hudson River park and expanded offerings in Chelsea/Meatpacking District.

      • BrooklynBus says:

        I was not joking.

        Unless it was an engineering impossiblity, I don’t see why it could not have been done. I would rather see a railroad right-of-way put back to its intended use than for use as parkland, especially when there is a real need for mass transit.

        • Bolwerk says:

          You can probably count it as a near-impossibility. Take a line that is two stories underground and route it through streets and buildings until it’s two stories above ground? Even if it’s possible somehow, it would be expensive, circuitous, and highly disruptive. Given the grades involved and the amount of land that would need to be condemned, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was cheaper to just cut and cover route the L at least to 42nd Street, say up 11th Ave., where it could possibly allow transfers to future 7 services.

    • Joe says:

      Sorry to double post, I don’t know the rationale for not running a long route from Bay Ridge to JFK or other long routes that would expand more options to the airports. My suspicion is that such plans would require more buses with luggage racks like those on the M60. Or the MTA is concerned that a long route designed to serve the airport would not be able to handle local traffic, due to luggage on the bus.

      I know it’s a weak excuse, but I’m not the MTA, and it’s the only rationale I can think of.

      • BrooklynBus says:

        I doubt it if their analysis ever made it as far as considering luggage racks. The B15 uses regular buses. Without luggage racks, at least it could have been used by employees.

        The MTA just didn’t want to increase their operating costs and were afraid of buses getting stuck on the Belt Parkway in traffic and that they would not be able to maintain any type of reliable service. That’s my feeling. Local traffic should not have been a consideration because that would have made the trip take too long for it to be an attractive service.

        • Andrew says:

          Buses that don’t serve local traffic tend to be expensive to operate.

          I agree that Belt Parkway traffic would lead to unreliable service. I certainly wouldn’t want to rely on such a bus to catch a flight – not only would I be subject to delays going to the airport, but I’d also be subject to long waits due to delayed buses going the other way.

    • John of the Bronx says:

      Let me reply to two of your points:

      1) Back in early 2001, I approached Friends of the High Line with the idea of extending the L train to 10th Avenue and then up the High Line to 34th St. and perhaps, beyond where subway service is really needed, initially with stations at 10th Avenue and an elevated station at 23rd St.. Friends of the High then billed themselves as simply trying to save the structure from demolition.

      I wrote to their consulting firm and won them over to the idea. When we attended a Friends of the High Line meeting, however, we were stunned: they already decided that they wanted a park and didn’t even want to hear about any subway plans. They cannot say that this option wasn’t offered to them.

      I wrote to the RPA for support but they already decided to extend the #7. Bloomberg apparently got the idea from them. I pointed out that running to the Far West side via the L train would avoid the inevitable dangerous crush that will result at Grand Central once the Far West side is developed, which it will be.

      I guess that it’s better to try and fail, knowing you did your best than not to try at all.

      2) I’m sure that you are fully aware that the A line in Brooklyn runs at only 50% capacity because of the merger with the C train between Canal St. and Hoyt-Schermerhorn. Whie on the Lower Manhattan Access Study, I proposed to extend the Worth St. stub (on the E line)via Worth St. to Chatham Square and into the 2nd Avenue subway. This would bring the IND directly into the Wall St. area and, if extended to Brooklyn, could connect to the A line via the Musuem Court St. Station, which you favor.

      The folks at the Lower Manhattan Access Study loved the idea but, as we know, the MTA will never accept any idea which doesn’t originate from the highest levels of their Operations Planning Dept.

      • BrooklynBus says:

        I am very happy to hear that you tried out this idea which to both of us would have made a lot of sense. Just proves how difficult it is to get politicians and others to change their mind once they have it made up even if you come up with a better one. Just chalk it up to another lost opportunity. Maybe future generations will see the sense in this idea. As long as the right-of-way remains, all hope is not lost. (Your last sentence sounds like something I would have wrote.)

        Now help me to convince someone that it would be a good idea to build a bus terminal near Atlantic Terminal so that all the buses on Fulton and Livingston Streets could be replaced with a single light rail line along the Fulton Mall running from Atlantic Terminal to Brooklyn Bridge Park and south to Red Hook.

        • John of the Bronx says:

          To Brooklyn Bus:

          I am strictly a subway man. You definitely should present your ideas to George Haikalis. You may have heard of him. George is the “force” behind Vision 42 and has several proposals for light rail in Red Hook. His site is and you can contact him at He also has regular meetings of his group twice a month.
          I hope that this will be helpful.

        • Andrew says:

          Then everybody who rides buses past Atlantic Terminal will have to transfer. (Or transfer once more than they already do.)

          Where will these light rail cars be stored and maintained?

    • Al D says:

      The High Line Park has increased property values and arguably spurred development whereas an L el (lol) would have the opposite affect.

      • BrooklynBus says:

        What are you talking about?

        It would have been the same line which is not even a traditional el. The els that reduced property values are the ones operating above streets. The High Line operates between buildings not over a street. I think revitalization as a park or as a usable transit service would have enhanced real estate values. One could even argue that rapid transit service would have spurred even more real estate development, enhancing values even more than a park. Anything was better than a dilapidating derelict abandoned structure.

        • Bolwerk says:

          Even that whole idea about els lowering property values is probably a crock.

          The only real problem with the NY els is how loud they are, and better engineering could fix that.

          • BrooklynBus says:

            loud and they block out the sun, at least some of the time if over a street.

            • Bolwerk says:

              Well, that’s true, but is there any evidence that they cause a net drop in property values in a given area? I find that hard to believe.

              (I can see them affecting individual buildings, of course.)

              • BrooklynBus says:

                I would guess that buildings under an el are worth a little less than comparable ones a short distance away for the simple reason that few people these days are willing to live above a store right adjacent to an el. Many of those apartments seem to have been converted to additional commercial or storage space and I would guess the el is the reason for that.

                • Bolwerk says:

                  Agreed, but that doesn’t mean all of the buildings don’t get a net value gain from the availability. Those slightly further away might just get a bigger boost.

                  • Al D says:

                    At the High Line, development is occurring immediately adjacent to the park, and as this is Manhattan we’re talking about, this is luxury housing. Since an el L would bring noise and vibration whilst trees and grass provide a pleasant backyard, an el L would decrease property values on those properties immediately adjacent to the el L.

  10. Sparko says:

    I’m new here. I love the subway but am not a subway geek, so give me some slack on maybe some things I have wrong or that are impossible, or have been beaten to death. (And by the way, veterans, there’s some abbreviations it would help to spell out — or else have a link to a glossary).

    I see on the plan map the 2nd Ave line has a 55th street stop? Why isn’t this at 59th with a connecting tunnel to 3rd Ave? That would give a big transfer to the R/N, and the Lex lines. (Or will there be one to 53rd & 3rd E, etc train stop at least?

    I grew up near the Kingsbridge Rd stops, by the way. When I got to Forest Hill (the for the 2nd time)63rd St tunnel was operational. I wasn’t paying attention when it was announced, long ago. But anyway it’s failure to link to the Lex seems such a baffling omission that it still irks.

    So, for one thing, while we’re on grandiose schemes, it would seem to be a lot cheaper and big bang for the buck to have a 4 block tunnel from 63rd & Lex to the 59th street station. (They announce it’s a ‘free transfer’ between them – but as far as I know, it’s NOT. It COSTS the free transfer I might need at the end of my ride. There’s pedestrian tunnels that have to be longer that that, no?

    I take the E to Suphin to go to L.I. about 10x a year. I watched the AirTrain terminus go up bit-by-bit. I was flabbergasted when I realized it was built in such a ways as to not allow for a some-day extension. Again, I wasn’t really following the story far enough back – and I sort of assumed there would naturally be a (perhaps long-off) extension to LaGuardia. Just keep following the Van Wyck to the Grand Central with the same mid-road ‘tram el’.

    From what I can see getting off at Suphin (which should be called “Jamaica Station”, by the way). I see the people coming to and from the AirTrain. I don’t seen any volume-wise need to beef it up. Save that idea for 2100. SOME kind of connection to LaGuardia seems like a VERY high priority. Run a similar tram-el from SOMEWHERE to LGA. From Roosevelt Ave FEELS right, but may be impossible to hang over the street. Extending the Astoria line along the Queens north shore would seem easier, or Northern Blvd, would seem more likely.

    There’s nothing wrong with that kind of light rail.

    Speaking of the High Line, I’m very vaguely aware of various rr rights-of-weigh in western queens & I guess into Brooklyn, & even more vaguely thinking I’d read something about the idea of light rail on those on the order of a couple of years ago. SOMETHING shortening the Brooklyn-Queens run is needed. (A Woodhaven line? Those Queens Center malls would LOVE that!) I’m thinking something on the order of a subway version of the interstate ‘rings’. (Build it & they will come). For that matter, a Cross-Bronx line (light rail or whatever) stopping at the different subway & el lines.

    Sparko –
    (I have a short list of small-time pet peeves. I guess they’d be off-topic now)

    • Chris says:

      Sparko –

      The reason that the Airtrain was not designed for future expansion was a quirk of Federal law – the Airtrain could NOT become part of the regular commuter rail network. So, it was designed in a way to only be useful to travel to and from an Airport. (I’ll always wonder why they did not take advantage of the right of way of the old LIRR Rockaway branch (the lower half, now used by the A line to the Rockaways) – but I think they wanted to spend MORE, not less money pouring concrete and disrupting traffic below.)


  11. Sparko says:

    PS – OK, I just followed a link somewhere to the discussion in January of the various La Guardia plans. I was sure this was not a new discussion….. So I’d say pardon any repetition. But then again the discussion today is about ‘wish lists’ and includes other age-old ideas.

    I did mean to say the extension to CO-OP city mentioned is also a very high priority. Unlike my old Bronx days, and aside from the PRIMARY need for residents there to have the subway to Manhattan a community that size deserves, there’s also now a lot of shopping next door – mall/big box stuff, making it a destination & not just a ‘bedroom’.

    Other note- in case my wording was unclear – by tunnels to the various Lex line stops, I of course meant underground pedestrian connections.

    • Chris says:

      Yes – Co-op city should be served by some form of rail transit – but which type? If space frees up at Penn Station, Metro North access could be provided along trackage now used my Amtrak to reach NYP. However, with a little more money, I’d consider extending the #6 line from its current terminus to co-op city, using a loop to reverse direction *and* provide intra-co-op city transit between apartment buildings and the shopping areas. (The loop is not essential – just bringing the trackage into co-op city is….)

  12. Alon Levy says:

    Trains to the plane are actually a pretty bad idea, unless they’re integrated into the rest of the subway system, which the existing AirTrains are not. The problem with them is that the business class is much better at making noises demanding airport connectors than at riding and paying for them. Nothing can be run on the JFK AirTrain except Bombardier’s proprietary trains, which means that a transfer will be necessary no matter what; and what better place is there for an LIRR/subway connection than Jamaica Station?

    Now, if there’s a way to run trains to the airport that provides additional non-airport service, then it would be much better. For example, a LaGuardia shuttle under Junction Boulevard or an N/W extension would provide local service within Queens, allowing it to recover some of the construction cost. In contrast, the Rockaway Cutoff, which misses all the main commercial parts of Queens, has little chance of attracting much traffic.

    • John says:

      The other thing about LaGuardia is it’s more of a “one-day/two-day trip” airport, with shuttle flights to Boston and Washington, as well as other flights to airports in the northeast and nearby
      Midwestern cities. That means potentially more customers with either little or no luggage for whom a direct subway connection to the airport would be more feasible than at JFK, where the primary customers are normally bound to and from either longer distance domestic or international flights that require more cumbersome luggage.

      • Too true, John.
        LaGuardia has always been the forgotten NYC airport, because of the fact that you “can’t get there from here”, as the old saying goes. Living in Herald Square, I should be able to hop on a cross-town train and end up at the airport relatively quickly, but with the transportation debacle as it stands now (and has), I usually book out of JFK (or even Newark) because I know that I can get there.

    • Chris says:

      Alon –

      Remember that the federal government limits how much an airport operator can charge for improvements, as well as limits what improvements can be made.

      Ideally, I’d tack on a $10+/ticket fee purely for mass transit connections to airports – which could be used for any purpose related to the airport and transit to the airport. Any mass transit infrastructure built must be able to carry baggage in overhead racks (or special baggage areas), but may be shared with either regional rail or subway type lines….

      Given today’s world, any air trip that can be replaced with a rail or bus trip of 5 hours or less is a real savings to the traveler, given the hassles of getting to airports, and security issues once arriving at the airports. (I used to go from Croton, NY to Rochester, NY on a monthly basis, and Amtrak was many times more convenient than the headaches of air travel.)


      • Alon Levy says:

        The problem is about much more than the limited charge. Even when the operator has free rein to set the charge, business travelers often prefer to take a taxi. For example, NJT jacks up the fare to Newark Airport, unless you have an unlimited monthly card. Together with the AirTrain fare, you’re looking at about $20 per one-way ride. But the connections from the airport to regional transit are so bad that traffic is only 5% of total airport passengers.

        • I still think a SAS phase 5, making limited stops in “outer Manhattan” (Brooklyn from Borough Hall through Park Slope), followed by a left turn into a high-speed non-stop sprint to JFK, would attract a ton of riders. Not only the lower Manhattan business class, but also the ever-growing army of middle class stretching from 96th street in Manhattan all the way down through and beyond Park Slope.

          • Alon Levy says:

            The demand for more service from Eastern Brooklyn to Manhattan dwarfs any latent demand to JFK that the E doesn’t already serve. At the same time, there’s so much service from Brooklyn to Lower Manhattan that adding another tunnel pair is not going to be useful. The only tunnel pair that’d be any useful is one for a modernized LIRR, going onward to Jersey for modernized NJT service.

    • Al D says:

      Chicago’s Blue and Orange Lines are quite successful for the very reasons that they are integrated, 1-seat rides directly from The Loop, Chicago’s Central Business District.

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