Feb
04

City tabs Parsons Brinckerhoff to study 7 extension to NJ

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The Bloomberg Administration has asked Parsons Brinckerhoff to conduct an engineering and cost study as it pushes forward with a plan to explore extending the 7 line to Secaucus, the Daily News reported this morning. The engineering firm will conduct a study that explores how many people would use a subway to New Jersey and how much a potential extension might cost. Parsons Brinckerhoff earned the no-bid $250,000 contract due to its previous work on the ARC Tunnel, the current 7 extension and the Secaucus Junction train station, and its report is due in three months.

Still, 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 News, “City Hall really does want to explore it. “They have an incredibly reluctant MTA partner, and an incredibly wary New Jersey state government. Jay Walder doesn’t have enough money to finish what they’re already doing.”

The city hopes that PB will come back with a price tag in the $5 billion range. At that point, it will begin to pressure the MTA and New Jersey to sign on for this ambitious expansion of the subway system across the Hudson River and state borders. I’d rather see the money go toward furthering the Second Ave. Subway, but we can’t ignore the cross-Hudson congestion forever.



Categories : 7 Line Extension, Asides

38 Responses to “City tabs Parsons Brinckerhoff to study 7 extension to NJ”

  1. Lawrence Velazquez says:

    I still don’t see any reasonable solution to the inevitable overcrowding problems at Times Square, Fifth Avenue, and Grand Central.

    • SEAN says:

      still don’t see any reasonable solution to the inevitable overcrowding problems at Penn Station, Secaucus Junction & Newark.

      • I don’t think you’d see much overcrowding on the New Jersey side, but if Hudson Yards grows as expected, the stops in Manhattan are going to suffer from some serious, serious overcrowding. I’ll be curious to see what PB has to say in this report come May or June.

        • John-2 says:

          Grand Central’s platform on the 7 does have space for a new entrance/exit on the east side of 42nd and Lex that could move passengers coming from Queens and New Jersey away from the current shared exits with the 4-5-6, if they’re going to locations in the area. That would improve flow there, but Times Square’s more problematic without a major rebuild/improvement of the ramp system and escalator banks (since there’s really not much you can do with the narrow direct stairway connections to the 1-2-3 platforms or the corridor back to the A-C-E and the Port Authority). The Hudson Yards stop, with its three-track set-up, should be better because if the route was extended to N.J., each direction would still have its own platform, as long as the access from the street to the mezzanine level is well thought-out.

          • al says:

            h, its pretty deep, but there is some space above the platform for additional stairs and escalators. Ultimately, a 7 extension to Secaucus would require upgrades to existing Manhattan stations on the Flushing line. NJ Transit and or PANYNJ should pick up the bill for the Jersey side. The NY side gets to be tricky. The MTA capital budget is shot near term, and Albany/City don’t have the funds to spare (they’re taking dedicated funds). It might get started in 5-7 yrs when the economy (and tax revenues) comes back, but I don’t see this getting finished this decade.

        • BBnet3000 says:

          Whenever I hear stuff like this though, I think of most transit in the US. Having too many paying customers riding your profitable line is a hell of a problem to have!

          The 7 Extension is only going to be 2 track, right? Would this preclude the possibility of the current Times Square shuttle being extended to be the “Manhattan version of the 7” shuttle, and run from Hudson yards to Grand Central?

          • Seems like an awful impossibility to me, what with the 42nd Street Shuttle being on the same grade as the 7th Avenue IRT as well as sharing an interlocking on the uptown track of the West Side IRT and the north track of the shuttle.

            That shuttle ain’t goin’ nowhere.

            • John-2 says:

              It’s only feasible if the shuttle tracks can be dropped two levels between Sixth Avenue and Broadway, so the line could run above the IND Sixth Ave. line and below the BMT and IRT lines at Times Square. But even if that is workable, you’d still have to dig out another half-mile of tunnel under 42nd Street to get to the Hudson, while the current end of the tunnel for the 7 extension is only two short blocks from the river, and add about 275 feet onto at least one of the shuttle platforms at Grand Central to handle longer trains.

              It’s cheaper than the ARC deep cavern option, but not the “lowest cost” option backers of the 7 to Secaucus plan are touting.

              • alex says:

                how about extending the shuttle east: expand the platform at Times Square and Grand Central (there’s room if all you did was replace one of the 4 tracks with a platform) to fit the longer 7 trains, then connect the track from Grand Central east into the 7 tunnel to Queens. Run “7” service as it is and to Secaucus, then introduce “8” service that would run from Flushing to Times via the existing Shuttle tracks. Any thoughts?

                • pea-jay says:

                  will there be that much differential load between the Queens bound folks and the New Jersey/Westside contingent?

                • Marc Shepherd says:

                  That’s physically impossible, even with magic. Harry Potter couldn’t pull it off.

                  The shuttle is at the same grade as the Lexington Avenue Line. Because they are so close, and perpendicular to one another, the shuttle couldn’t dip fast enough to avoid demolishing the Lex.

                  Even if you solved that problem, there is other crucial infrastructure that the track map doesn’t show. Remember, Grand Central and a number of tall buildings with deep foundations are right there. The excavation would be crazily expensive and would consume many years (if it could be done at all). It would require taking both the 7 train and the shuttle itself out of service for long periods.

  2. John-2 says:

    The main question will be how much is the state of New Jersey going to be willing to chip in to the project, especially if the line isn’t a non-stop shot from Hudson Yards to the Secaucus Transfer station and might also include 1-2 stops on the north side of Hoboken or a connection to the HBLR.

    While having bi-directional access to Hudson Yards will be a huge boost in the area’s attractiveness as both a business and retail location, which would in turn boost the city’s tax base, the biggest beneficiary will still be New Jersey, and that would be even moreso if the plan is drawn to allow HBLR a single-transfer option to Times Square or Grand Central and do for the north part of Hoboken what PATH access has done for parts of Jersey City (and while the Port Authority can be sourced for funding, that’s funded by both states as it is, while the MTA’s state funding all comes from New York. If they can get the cost down to $5 billion — less than a third of what Christie said the ARC would cost when he canceled it — it would be put up or shut up time for the governor on whether or not he’s willing to fund any new cross-Hudson rail connection).

    • Donald says:

      The ARC tunnel did not cost $5 billion. Christie pulled that number out of thin air to justify cancelling the project.

      • Marc Shepherd says:

        Given the long, and practically uninterrupted history of cost overruns on big mass transit projects in the region, can you really doubt that this one would likely have gone way over-budget?

        Whether you think he should have canceled it is a whole other question, but his basic premise — that the project was highly unlikely to come in on budget, and that New Jersey would have been responsible for the overrun — was true.

      • John-2 says:

        The last guesstimation before cancelation was in the $14-$16 billion range with overruns. Fair or not, that’s why Christie killed it. But since the vast bulk of the ARC’s cost was going to be for the Batcave terminal under 34th Street, proponents of the 7 train plan say you avoid that cost, since the tunnel and stations on the Manhattan side are already in place.

        • Alon Levy says:

          USDOT estimated the cost at $9.7-12.7 billion at the time of cancellation, i.e. $1-4 billion over the funded $8.7 billion. Christie charged that the cost would be $13.7 billion.

        • al says:

          The cavern terminal was part of the cost overruns. The other was the acquiring properties and easements, and boring tunnels under Manhattan.

  3. Not sure if I read the comment above correctly. ARC started with a $5 billion estimated price tag, well before Gov. Christie assumed his current office, and the initial estimate included access to Grand Central as at least a possibility. Over 17 years, the cost estimate continued to rise — nothing novel there for most transport projects of any mode — while the benefits continued to shrink. Cost more, offers less: Right or wrong, its cancellation is understandable given the current political climate.

    • And a respectful observation: Folks here are bringing up overcrowding concerns, which are certainly legitimate, no question. But such concern focuses on peak-period loads, and (perhaps) creates an unfair image of extensions or existing stations/facilities being always overcrowded. One hopes PB will study the potential pros and cons of any No. 7 extension with an eye not just on “commuter” traffic and the rush hours, but also for off-peak and weekend situations. The components may not be equal, but “commuter-only”-think is something New York-area transit advocates must move beyond.

      • Douglas: I’m not sure I get your distinction. The “commuter-only”-think for peak-use analysis matters because that’s what tests the breaking point of the current infrastructure. If the stations can’t handle passenger loads at their peak, it doesn’t matter how many people are using the stations for off-peak and weekend situations because it will always be a less crowded during the latter times than during the former. PB will study station use at all times, but for engineering and planning purposes, peak use matters the most.

        • Though I can’t speak for Douglas, I’d imagine he is thinking of when commuters would want to take the (7) to Secaucus for the Meadowlands shuttle. As in thousands and thousands of people descending on the line within a small time frame. Does this compare to peak rush hour volume?

        • Alon Levy says:

          Since my view here is largely the same as Douglas’s, let me explain. The point of this is that not everyone is a peak-hour rider. Although transit will always be more successful in the peak than in the off-peak, off-peak and reverse-peak trains have the advantage of requiring zero capital costs and not very high operating costs. So any plan for expansion should try to not just look at peak-hour capacity, but also the convenience of off-peak and reverse-peak ridership.

          The 7 extension as proposed looks deficient there: there’s nothing at Secaucus Junction nor any plan to TODify the area, and the connecting railroads use operating practices that make good off- and reverse-peak service insanely expensive.

          What we’re trying to get at here is that there’s really no substitute for modernizing commuter rail. Yeah, it’s expensive. Yeah, it requires a turf war with the old-timers that the reformists may lose, as they did at SEPTA. It’s still better than the alternative. The potential benefits of raising LIRR/Metro-North/NJT service quality to S-Bahn/RER/JR levels are huge.

          • Andrew says:

            So there seem to be two serious concerns about this project: first, that off-peak ridership will be pathetically low, and second, that rush hour ridership will overwhelm Grand Central.

    • AlexB says:

      The costs went up, but so did the benefits. The number of jobs and the total population is increasing on both sides of the Hudson, along with demand to link people to these jobs.

      The project’s cancellation is understandable if you have a Republican in power, but not if you do an honest long term assessment of the pros and cons of what ARC would do. The rail tunnel would long outlive any memory of the political climate in 2010.

  4. Joe Steindam says:

    I bet my aunt (who works at PB and was so mad at Chris Christie she starting using a series of creative insults when talking about him) is happy about this news.

  5. Al D says:

    Right now, 1, and only 1 escalator is out of service on the 7 at Grand Central, and the platform is ridiculously overcrowded with people trying to exit. Now, ADD back that escalator and include it as the only exit for all the new throngs of people leaving the 7 train, and well, you get the idea.

    What would be needed is a huge capacity increase at the Grand Central stop as part of the extension.

    But the extension still makes no sense. There are so many other transit priorities here in NYC, and a Trans-Hudson solution is the charge of the PANYNJ. Hey, maybe Mayor Mike should wrest control of PATH and build an extension of it to Hudson Yards!

    • Marc Shepherd says:

      The reason Mayor Mike is pushing this is because he realizes what you apparently don’t: adding trans-Hudson transit capacity is in the city’s interest. (I’ll let the experts figure out if the 7 platform at Grand Central, possibly with an added exit, can handle the load.)

      • Al D says:

        Marc,

        I do indeed understand that increased trans-Hudson capacity can only benefit the city which is why I included the PANYNJ in my post. That agency would be the one to develop this. To clarify, it makes no sense for the City of New York’s municipal government to sponsor this given that there are so many other transit priorities within the 5 boroughs. I also believe that expanded transit access WITHIN the 5 boroughs can only benefit the city too, and maybe moreso because intra-city transit improvements benefit all parts of the city that are provided with the improved transit.

        The real answer is the same for the 7 extension in the first place. It supports the Mayor’s Hudson Yard development, no more, no less. Otherwise, they’d build a station at 10th & 41st, too, where one is needed.

        • Marc Shepherd says:

          Honestly, if you think the idea is a good one, it matters very little which agency thought it up. Bear in mind that ARC was sponsored by NJ Transit, not the Port Authority.

          I mean, it’s incoherent to say that the extension makes no sense (as you did in your original post), but by the same token to suggest that the PANYNJ ought to be developing it. If it makes no sense, then nobody should develop it.

          While it’s true that a 7 extension to NJ would be consistent with the Mayor’s Hudson Yards aspirations, it has the potential to achieve many of ARC’s benefits at a dramatically lower cost. On top of that, it would go to Grand Central, which ARC would not.

          • Alon Levy says:

            It has the potential to achieve some of ARC’s benefits. On either this blog or another blog, I forget which, someone brought up the fact that practically nobody uses the Woodside transfer to get from the LIRR to Grand Central. I’m thoroughly unconvinced the transfer at Secaucus would be any better. In one respect it can be worse – namely, the TVMs in Jersey don’t offer the option of a MetroCard-ticket combination, whereas those in MTA territory do.

            The thing about ARC (Alt G, of course) is that it becomes especially useful if commuter rail services are improved in the manner groups like NJ-ARP have been calling for. The benefits of combining separate systems are such that even the limited through-running studied would reduce the total operating subsidy despite increased service, unlike Alts P and S. Alt G effectively forces modernization of commuter rail, and, conversely, in the presence of commuter rail modernization Alt G is a no-brainer. The 7 extension, in contrast, is a poor way to get around the steam-era commuter service pattern.

            • John-2 says:

              There would be a little difference, in that inbound riders transferring at Secaucus from NJT to the 7 would be dong it at a terminal stop, as opposed to the transfer at Woodside, where the trains are already jammed. So it would be closer to transferring to the 7 at Main Street for LIRR Port Washington riders (and then only if many of the Port Washington trains ended their runs at Long Island City — a 7 extension to the Secaucus transfer is likely to draw far more riders on trains bound for Hoboken than it is riders already on trains going to Penn Station).

              The other question would be if the line would be non-stop between Secaucus and Hudson Yards or if there would be 1-2 stops in between. A non-stop route would be more likely to pull passengers off the NJT, but given the distance, it would be about twice the length of the current longest non-stop run on the system, between Broad Channel and Howard Beacn on the A. Can you get enough passengers from the transfer stop/terminal to justify running 12-25 TPH rush hour an additional 10-12 miles round trip, or does it only make sense with a couple of stops also on the north side of Hoboken to boost then number of riders using the new Hudson crossing, but which then could make the route slower and possibly less attractive to commuters than continuing on to Penn Station or Hoboken, defeating the whole purpose of the tunnel to begin with?

              • Alon Levy says:

                1. The 7 is not very crowded – not according to the Hub Bound Report, or the Straphangers’ Campaign reports. Anecdotally, I use it pretty frequently in the PM peak, and while it’s SRO, there’s usually ample standing room.

                2. I’ll be skeptical of any report recommending running nonstop from Manhattan to Secaucus. As I noted in my above comment to Ben about off- and reverse-peak ridership, Secaucus won’t generate any. But Union City and Hoboken can, which means that having intermediate stops there is a must if the 7 extension must be built. It’d cost 2-3 minutes at the most, and be very useful to people living in the dense urban parts of Jersey.

                • John-2 says:

                  I agree if they extend the tunnel out from its current terminus around 25th Street and 11th Ave., it would come into New Jersey somewhere near the northern edge of the Stevens Institute campus, which would be a logical place for one stop, while a stop creating a transfer point with HBLR somewhere along the route also would make sense, since it would widen the area north-to-south along the light rail line that would now have a single-transfer ride to the Times Square-Grand Central area.

                  But without a doubt the local cost of the extra stations should be shouldered by the Port Authority and the State of New Jersey, and not the MTA. The new stops would be a far bigger exclusive benefit to N.J. residents than the Secaucus stop, which from NYC’s point of view would make Hudson Yards a more attractive place for commuters on lines that currently terminate at Hoboken (or even for passengers on Penn Station-bound NJT trains during weather conditions similar to the past six weeks, who might not want to trudge back through three avenue blocks of snow and slush to the area), which in turn would bump up the real estate values for the land around the west side yards.

                  • Alon Levy says:

                    The entire line should be paid for by the PA and Jersey. If Bloomberg thinks it’ll boost Hudson Yards, he’s welcome to pay for it out of his own pocket; it’s not like ordinary New Yorkers are getting anything out of it.

                    If I sound harsh, it’s because there’s no mechanism in the region for cost sharing. In the Canton of Zurich, municipalities pay into the cantonwide transport association in proportion to how much service they get (number of trains per station times number of stations), and the transport association funds operations and capital projects. New York has no analogous association – and if it did, a good number of the problems with its rail network would disappear – and therefore the rule should be that the suburb or county that gets new service is the one that should pay for it.

                • Andrew says:

                  The 7 is actually quite crowded at Woodside. The Hub Bound Report (which Straphangers’ bases its reports on) gives loadings at the CBD cordon, not at the peak load point. On some lines they’re the same, but not on the 7, which is clearly more crowded at Woodside than crossing the East River. (A lot of people transfer off the 7 at Queensboro.)

                  It’s not overcrowded, but it’s crowded enough to deter LIRR passengers.

                  PM loading is generally less intense than AM loading.

  6. AlexB says:

    I’m hard pressed to see how this project will solve the problem it is meant to solve. Getting to Grand Central from New Jersey will still be quicker by taking the train to Penn and then the subway (or walking).

    The crowding is a big problem. The 7 at GC is bad enough as it is. For the Second Avenue Subway, they are planning to build a passageway from GC to the 42nd St stop on the SAS. Perhaps they could build that tunnel now to help provide relief.

  7. nycpat says:

    If the 7 goes to NJ on two tracks where do they put the snowbirds?

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