Sep
02

What future for the Port Jervis line?

By · Published in 2011

The Port Jervis line will be out of service for months following Hurricane Irene. (Photo courtesy of Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Hilary Ring)

Metro-North’s Port Jervis line is in trouble. As the pictures have shown us this week, the west-of-the-Hudson commuter rail line was hit hard by Hurricane Irene. It’s currently out of service and will be for months, according to MTA CEO and Chairman Jay Walder. By all accounts, this is the worst weather-related transportation outage the region has suffered in decades.

Earlier this week, the MTA had to pull out its emergency powers to begin to ready the Port Jervis line for revenue service again. “The damage suffered by the Port Jervis Line can only be described as catastrophic,” Walder said during a tour of the destruction. “There are sections of track literally suspended in the air, and in many places we will have to build a new railroad from scratch, from the foundation to the tracks to the signals. I have directed Metro-North to take such steps as are necessary to expeditiously and fully address the catastrophic damage suffered along the Port Jervis Line as a result of Irene. Rebuilding this infrastructure is going to be a long and difficult process, but we are taking every action in our power to continue serving our customers, to reduce unnecessary delay and to communicate every step of the way.”

The worst of the damage is extensive. Near Sloatsburg, three sections of track totaling 1000 feet each are gone. A smaller section washed out to a depth of eight feet. Several bridges have sustained damage, and the signal system which is exposed and under water will have to be rebuilt. By using the emergency powers, the MTA can bypass lengthy procurement processes and can push through these badly needed repairs faster. “The Port Jervis Line is critical to the MTA’s West of Hudson customers, so it’s important that we use emergency powers to remove red tape and rebuild this infrastructure as quickly as possible,” MTA Board Member Susan Metzger said.

In The Times today, Christine Haughney writes about the trip to Orange and Rockland Counties, and the report from the devastation really brings it home. Walder, who said the time for repairs would be “measured in months,” seemed floored by the damage. “In nearly 30 years, I’ve never seen anything like that,” he said.

But beyond the emotional impact of the storm’s path, the MTA has to ask a lot of questions about the Port Jervis line’s future. It has been a long slow ride toward modernity for this 100-year-old rail branch, and while ridership is still low — barely 2300 per weekday and under 800 per weekend — it provides a vital lifeline to the city for a rapidly-growing part of New York State. For now, the authority will bus the commuters from Harriman to New Jersey Transit’s Ramsey/Route 17 station. In the coming months, the MTA will try to expand bus offerings.

Meanwhile, the economics of the situation are a cause for concern as well. As we know, the MTA has had to cut back its five-year capital plan, and for now, it will have to dip into cash reserves to fund this emergency repair work. The authority hopes that FEMA dollars will flow its way and that insurance proceeds can pick up some slack, but it also can’t afford to wait for the money to flow through the red tape. For now, the emergency powers will allow the MTA to get started on this project.

So now the MTA has an opportunity to recreate an old rail line or jettison something that many consider to be a drag on the MTA’s bottom line and a sprawl-promoting spur. They can improve the signals on the Port Jervis line. They can double-track some of the line. Or they could work quickly and do nothing much new but just work to get service running again. Taking the long view would pay off in the end, but transit authorities haven’t taken the long view too frequently these days. Now we’ll see what happens with the closest thing to a blank slate the region has.



Categories : Metro-North

119 Responses to “What future for the Port Jervis line?”

  1. Bolwerk says:

    Well, the good news is I don’t see any talk of abandonment. We’d probably have heard that 30 or even 20 years ago.

    • Is it good news? The Port Jervis line encourages exurban sprawl, and I’m gonna venture a guess and say no real transit-oriented development has been allowed to be built around its stations for decades. What exactly are the advantages of pouring more money into what’s essentially an FRA-compliant exurban park-and-ride?

      • CComMack says:

        The primary encouragement to sprawl in that area is the Tappan Zee Bridge, compared to which the Port Jervis Line is a drop in the bucket. And fighting sprawl by dismantling the bridge, without any replacement, seems rather nihilistic.

        The upgrades that have been proposed (double tracking, tying into the Hudson Line via the replacement TZ Bridge, connection to Stewart Airport via a branch or shuttle from Salisbury Mills) tend to be justified as attempts to rectify the damage of 50+ years of auto-centric sprawl in Rockland and Orange. A bit of an uphill climb, that.

      • Bolwerk says:

        I guess you’re right about transit-oriented development, but I don’t see how the line is causing sprawl – it’s just not stopping it. Seems NYS went out of its way to make the line bypass villages in the 1980s, adding to commute time and travel distance.

        I gotta agree with CComMack overall. I think the Port Jervis ROW has a lot of potential, and I suspect the end of the PJL would just mean more sprawl in the long run.

      • Evan says:

        Some people use the line to visit family…like myself.

  2. CComMack says:

    Serious chicken-and-egg problem for the Port Jervis Line: if nothing is done to improve the speeds, double-tracking is a waste of money, but if investment happens to improve speeds (and ridership), the single tracking will be a serious bottleneck. And there are some bottlenecks that are more expensive to clear than others (speaking of which, has anyone heard an update on the Moodna Viaduct? It would be a shame it has sustained any Irene-related damage.)

    The MTA, New York State, and the Port Authority have, or at least had, serious long-term plans for the Port Jervis Line, related to the New Tappan Zee Bridge to the south, and Stewart Airport to the north. I suspect that the powers that be will be penny-wise and pound-foolish and only repair the damage in-kind, rather than taking the opportunity to do upgrades while the line is closed.

    • Alon Levy says:

      Even at medium-low levels of ridership, you don’t need double-tracking. Timed meets ought to be fine; if the punctuality rate is too low to support timed meets, it’s probably too low to support high ridership anyway. There already are some timed meets: on the pre-Irene schedule, trains #43 and #58 met between Salisbury Mills and Campbell Hall, trains #45 and #62 met between Middletown and Otisville, and trains $49 and #64 met between Harriman and Salisbury Mills.

      At present peak frequency, one train every half hour, meets would be required every 15 minutes to enable reverse-peak service. The meets should be timed better than on the present schedule – i.e. they should be at predictable locations in other to minimize the amount of extra infrastructure. It doesn’t require too much concrete given modern operating practices.

      • Dan says:

        The line did have sidings at a couple of stations and I suspect the MTA would rebuild those. Plus of course the line from Suffern-south is double-track except for one bridge north of Secaucus Junction.

  3. Ray says:

    Emergency powers drawing on precious state transportation resources to restore service for 2,300 riders … seems to justify the regional transit tax.

  4. Al D says:

    Somehow, I don’t see this line promoting suburban or ex-urban sprawl. I’d say it does the opposite. The sprawl is promoted by a perceived lower cost of living and increased quality of life from urban and suburban residents who can only afford the move to a community farther away from NYC. This enabled by liberal development allowances to encourage an increased tax base and the existing highway infrastructure.

    The Port Jervis Line has the effect of mitigating (however minimally) commuter traffic that would otherwise take to the roads.

    • Christopher says:

      This! It helps pull the development closer to existing train lines. In fact, just discussing online the need to expand the regional train network on existing train lines up to Massachusetts and how that could benefit a turnaround in Albany.

      Having grown up in a 19th century suburb — some 40 miles from Chicago — I know how important those train lines were to the growth of the community. And also our connectedness to the region. Dropped my father off at the train everyday in high school. Took weekend trips “downtown” with friends during the same period. It gave me a non-car dependent freedom. (I didn’t have a car so a 24 hour train system — Chicago’s Metra has middle of the night trains — was my best bet.)

    • Chris says:

      I think it’s a pretty obvious sprawl promoter, but not particularly more so than the most of the rest of the Metro-North system and certainly less so than the regional freeway/interstate system. The characteristic feature of sprawl promoting infrastructure is unprofitable network expansion into areas where dense development is substantially prohibited. Basically, subsidizing residents of low-density, low-efficiency areas so that they can still get to work conveniently and cheaply.

      • Bolwerk says:

        I can go here or there on that one. Smart land use regulations can make rail okay even in rural areas if transit-oriented development follows. Dumb zoning can make it detrimental in suburbs or even dense cities if every has to park to board.

        As for MNRR, sometimes the passenger gets off at an isolated parking lot and sometimes s/he can get off in town and walk. Often it’s somewhere in-between. It’s a mixed bag.

        • SEAN says:

          Mixed bag? Most MNR stations east of the Hudson have there town centers around or next to them making walking or biking to the station possible. Oh sure some communities & station configurations are better than others, but to call it a mixed bag is missing the mark.

          • Bolwerk says:

            Yes, a mixed bag. Chris isn’t wrong when he says that kind of commuter rail likely helps encourage sprawl. It probably alleviates congestion though.

            As for walkability, it seems more likely to be the possible the closer you get to the city. Even places like Peekskill are a long walk from town – any local transit doesn’t seem to be there to pick up the slack. And it sucks how you often step down into a big parking lot (Mt. Kisco?).

            • SEAN says:

              Mount Kisco? It’s a 1 half block walk to town.

              Here’s a list of stations & walking distences to town.

              1. Yonkers .2 miles
              2. Hastings .1 miles
              3. Dobbs Ferry .2
              4. Irvington 0
              5. Tarrytown 0
              6. Ossining .2
              7. Croton-Harmon .3
              8. Mount Vernon West 0
              9. Fleetwood .1
              10. Bronxville 0
              11. Tuckahoe 0
              12. Crestwood 0
              13. Scarsdale 0 to .1
              14. Hartsdale .1
              15. White Plains .15
              16. Valhalla .1
              17. Hawthorne 0
              18. Pleasantville 0
              19 Chappaqua .1
              20. Mount Kisco .1
              21. Bedford Hills .1
              22. Katonah 0
              23. Croton Falls 0
              24. Brewster 0
              25. Mount Vernon East .15
              26. Pelham 0
              27. New Rochelle .1
              28. Larchmont .05
              29. Mamaroneck 0
              30. Harrison .1
              31. Rye 0
              32 Port Chester 0

              Numbers include walking through parking lots if nessessary.

              • Bolwerk says:

                I didn’t say Mt. Kisco was a long way from town. IIRC, the parking lot is also the parking lot of a mall, or at least adjacent to it. Either way, it’s still California/Pinsky-style planning, which makes it unpleasant for those without cars.

              • Alon Levy says:

                Don’t do Google Maps tourism. My ex is from Dobbs Ferry and I used the station once in a while; there’s nothing next to the station except parking and a small number of houses, and getting to the main part of town involves walking uphill. Likewise, White Plains, where her family lives now, has a pedestrian-hostile station, surrounded by enormous parking garages.

                • Bolwerk says:

                  Nearly every MNRR station I’ve seen is pedestrian-hostile to some degree. Even GCT is a bit of a bitch – at best, it can be described as a long walk from other transit – considering the type of service it exclusively provides. 125th Street is reasonable, though again distant from other transit. The Botanical Garden stop isn’t impressive either.

                  • Alon Levy says:

                    Fair enough, but I long for the day suburban commuter rail stations around the country will be as pedestrian-hostile as Grand Central…

                    Anyway, there are degrees of hostility. There’s the hostility of Providence, which is just urban renewal hell. I’d put Dobbs Ferry in the same category; there’s much more development near the station in Providence than in Dobbs Ferry, but unless you live right on top of the train station, the walk is dreary and usually requires crossing pedestrian-hostile arterial roads. The hostility of Harriman and the other beet field stations on the PJ Line is an entirely different category of bad.

                    • Rob says:

                      Alon, Glad to see that you “know” Dobbs Ferry. I’m not sure the station is “hostile” to the adjacent town, but you are correct that it is downhill from town. But hundreds of people walk up that hill, and the free shuttle and #66 bus make quick work of the 1/5th of a mile distance (from station platform to The Cookery restaurant).

                      Any thoughts on making the station more apart of the town?

          • Chris says:

            Even if the towns themselves are walkable, it’s still sprawl if the town is primarily dependent in jobs in a city 40-50 miles away. You might remove the car from your commute, but you haven’t removed the need for enormous and excessive infrastructure to carry you from place to place, nor have you created compactness. Especially since even where towns are centralized around the commuter rail hub, they are not dense enough or large enough to support substantial transit networks, and are still fundamentally auto-dependent.

            Basically the best way to tell what is sprawl is to remove subsidies from transportation that moves people over large distances (more specifically, beyond the core of compactness within which it’s primarily the market, rather than zoning restrictions, that limits density). The towns that waste away afterward are the ones that represented sprawl – people living at lower densities than they would otherwise because of subsidies for low-density living.

            • ajedrez says:

              I think that’s a bit unrealistic. For example, IIRC, a trip from White Plains to Grand Central costs about $10, which is affordable. Without the subsidies, it might be $20, which is unaffordable. Even though White Plains is dense and transit-oriented, it still needs some transit subsidies.

              • Alon Levy says:

                Think of it as a medium-term process of subsidy removal – unrealistic, I know, but still. The elimination of sprawl subsidies would lead to the closure of low-traffic highways, which would constrain the ability of edgeless cities and exurbs to grow. The increased cost of driving would induce people in the suburbs to live closer to major suburban centers such as White Plains, and demand more walkability. This would cause the job distribution to be more like that of a transit city, with a huge CBD in the center (i.e. Midtown Manhattan) and satellite walkable CBDs.

                In such a world, rail ridership between Grand Central and White Plains would be much higher as well as less strongly peaked. As a result, lower fares could be profitable without subsidy, fulfilling the need for competitive pricing. The Chuo Line costs $6.20 between Tokyo and Tachikawa, a similar distance to GCT-White Plains, and is highly profitable.

                • ajedrez says:

                  Makes sense. So we’d have a major CBD (Midtown), and then a few CBDs further out (say, New Brunswick, Mineola, and White Plains), and you’d have some suburbs in between Midtown and those satellites, correct?

                  So then somebody living in Mount Kisco might have to pay a higher fare to reach Grand Central, but there’s a better chance that they could just get a job in White Plains for a reasonable amount of money.

                  So then initially, the fares would be higher, but as ridership increases, it would eventually bring the fares back down, correct?

                  I dunno. I think I’d prefer that subsidies be reduced to highways and leave the train affordable for the whole time.

    • Dan says:

      Yes, and Orange County is one of the few areas of the NYC-metro within NY State which still has relatively affordable homes even after property taxes (as compared to Westchester/Rockland/Nassau/Suffolk).

      Plus a decent amount of tech/science jobs in the Hudson Valley generally (although the ‘Silicon Alley’ corridor practically stretches all the way from Lower Manhattan to Albany nowadays!).

  5. AlexB says:

    I don’t think too many people who move to Rockland county do so with the Port Jervis line in mind. This line serves to keep those people from driving if they commute to Manhattan. As such, it’s only possible benefit is that it might help with pollution a miniscule amount. Most likely it doesn’t help because it uses diesel and has such low ridership, which is typical of the crappy commuter lines in cities like Nashville, Minneapolis, or Austin.

    Commuter lines like this are really misguided luxuries that would be more efficiently served with bus services that take you directly to the Port Authority and have some level of HOV lane type setup that speeds the bus a bit faster than the other vehicles on the highway at rush hour. At least on the bus you wouldn’t have to transfer at Secaucus, and you’d probably get to Midtown faster. With the same level of subsidy per passenger, the bus would probably be cheaper. The line should still be slowly repaired for future use in about 20 years when this fictional bus service starts to get too crowded and another Hudson River tunnel opens that allows direct access to Penn Station.

  6. Scott E says:

    Politics and MTACC red-tape should not be getting in the way here. Get some bulldozers and solid rock-fill to level the ground, then attach pre-fabricated rails (I see segments of rail with concrete ties in place all the time, waiting to be installed). Dust off the old plans for the signal system, and rebuild exactly as it was. That is the fastest and cheapest way to do it.

    When I-287 in Boonton collapsed under the erosion from the Rockaway River, we were told it would take months to rebuild. But it reopened yesterday. There were no engineering/environmental impact studies; no discussions over whether it should be a bridge, a bulkhead, an embankment, or an at-grade highway; no decision on how to improve it (that may come later). A piece of the Interstate Highway system was wiped out, and it came back in less than a week. I am more than impressed.

    If Port Jervis is truly a “train town”, as per the NYT article, then hand it over to the shops there to rebuild it. They’ve got the incentive, and they’ve got the know-how. It’s not a complicated downtown skyscraper, it’s two pieces of rail and some cross-ties. People have been building railroads for centuries. Get it working – keep the MTA completely blind to the process, and be done with it. Otherwise it simply won’t get done, and NJTransit and Norfolk Southern (who also use the tracks) will be making lots of noise.

    • Jason says:

      Port Jervis was “the” railroad town up until the advent of cars. Much of the infrastructure in the town itself has been left to rot (with the excpetion of the ancient roundtable that they are trying to get working again). Growing up there, I never understood how this town could survive without any economic base, but its geography is much like NYC; a town nested bwtn two rivers with many railroads passing through (and at one time, the D&H canal as well).

      Wishful thinking here, but if this state and nation were to get serious about overhauling the area’s transit/rail options and getting people/freight off the interstates, Port Jervis would be an ideal location to establish the hub of it all. In fact, the area adjacent to the old train yards/maitenance shops that paved over much of the infrastructure has become so dilapadated that it was abandoned. Much of once was could be replaced, but to 21st century standards and would a huge economic boost to an area that needs it.

      Again, wishful thinking.

      • Bolwerk says:

        Port Jervis had a streetcar system of its own until I think the 1920s. I need to look for pictures.

        • Jason says:

          Indeed. I believe it was called the “Port Jervis Traction Company”.

          • Bruce Simpson says:

            The Port Jervis Electric Street Railway served the City of Port Jervis and was never a very profitable/successful system. It began operations in 1899 and the original company lasted only until 1901 when it became known as the Port Jervis Electric, Light, Power, Gas & Railroad. The railroad lasted until 1910 when it again changed names as the Port Jervis Traction Company which was abandoned that same year.

            • Bruce Simpson says:

              Oops! More input… The Port Jervis Electric Street Railway opened January 15, 1898. It went 3.3 miles from East Main, Ball, Fowler, Jersey, Front, Pike and West Main Streets to Riverside. The powerhouse and a facility for housing and repairing the cars was located in Germantown or West End.
              In 1901 the street railway was combined with other utilities to form the Port Jervis Electric Light Power Gas and RR Co. The cars and track were in poor condition and on June 9, 1910 the line closed down. The street railway was separated from the other utilities and reopened on July 24, 1910 as the Port Jervis Traction Company. The line was never very profitable and revenues declined, on November 18, 1924 the line was abandoned.

  7. Jason says:

    As someone who up until Irene hit was taking this line daily (all the way to Port no less) I have to say that it IS a necessary option to many up there. The problem of low ridership is due to how this line is treated like the red-headed step child of the MTA. It was too long ago it was using second and even third hand equipment from the other lines. 20, maybe 30 yrs ago (maybe even more) the small towns up there that this very old line went through pitched a collective bitch to have the line removed from the center of townships (the line was then forced to take a far more lengthy route that was used for freight). The low ridership is entirely due to how this line takes so long to get anywhere (essentially due to poor/lack of infrastructure) and i’ve spoken with many that would gladly give up the “joy” of driving and take the train if it didn’t take almost 3hrs end to end.

    Busses? You have to be kidding me. There is an idea doomed to fail, especially in the harsh winter months. This line would be vital to encouraging area residents (who are using it more and more despite its lack of attention fromt the MTA)to give up driving and hopping on the train to Secaucus or Hoboken. If the PA and MTA were serious about connecting it the Hudson line via the Tap, I guarantee you would see an explosion of ridership as many just hate the fact that it goes to Jersy instead of Manhattan.

    Instead of writing this line off, we should be actively encouraging and hoping that now is the perfect opportunity to invest in it, bring it up to a standard equal to the other lines, and help the people who have quite possibly one of the crappiest commutes in the region.

    Btw, this line doesn’t nor has ever incouraged sprawl. The towns and villages it goes through are quite old, dating back to the times when NYC was founded (if not slightly later). These are not McMansion developments, just small to mid sized towns that have their entire economic base eroded away over time and as such the residents have to commute to NYC as that is the only place where real jobs are still in supply.

    /.02

    • Tim says:

      To build upon your thoughts, what REALLY needs to be done is to look at this rebuild as the chance to rethink Rockland’s transit strategy hand in hand with the Tappan Zee rebuild. If the feds could be convinced to rebuild the Tap with heavy rail access (at least two electrified tracks) that could feed into the Hudson line, the PJ line would be revitalized and the whole area would be far more attractive to non-auto commuters. Now’s the time to really hammer that point home.

    • Alon Levy says:

      The PJ line is not actually that useful in Rockland County. The only stop in the county, Sloatsburg, has 67 inbound weekday riders. In Orange County, it might be a lifeline in some parts, but the main rail-serviceable development in the county is either on the West Shore Line (i.e. Newburgh) or not along any rail line (i.e. Kiryas Joel). Harriman, the busiest station, is a parking lot in the middle of nowhere; if you want TOD, you have to have stations located in walkable areas and commuters who access them by means other than a car.

      • Chet says:

        Your mention that the Harriman station is in the middle of nowhere sent me off to Google maps to take a look.

        Not only are you right, but to increase use of this line one relatively simple thing to do would be to move that station north a couple of mile so it sits right on the very western edge of the Woodbury Commons parking lot.

        That train would be packed (well, sort of) on weekends with shoppers from NJ and the city. I’d use it in a second. I love Woodbury but really don’t like the almost 90 minute car ride from Staten Island.

      • lawhawk says:

        You’re missing the Suffern station, which is a stop for both NJ Transit and Metro North heading to PJ. It’s a station I had used for several years before moving south on the Main/Bergen line. I can’t track down the exact figures, but Suffern had several long term lots for rail usage and at least several hundred people used that particular stop, which is about .3 from the town center.

  8. Phil says:

    The reality here is that the MTA will just build it back to how it was before with not thought into tying it into the new tappan bridge. If it were up to me I would just close the line and bus people and use the money elsewhere.

    • SEAN says:

      Hmmm, bussing from PJ to Ramsey 17 or the PABT is OK in the shortturm, but longterm not so great. I wonder how many polititions in Rockland or Orange counties would avocate for a perminate shutdown of the PJ line since they resent giving any money to the MTA. Here’s there chance to put there money where there mouths are. Of cource the reallity is that the PJ is a vital link in the west of Hudson transportation network despite the low useage.

    • Bolwerk says:

      Why do people always think buses are going to save money? Many of the riders won’t take a bus anyway, and when they do a bus requires more labor and energy per passenger to operate than a train does.

      There is a place for buses, but the attitude that buses somehow can replace trains goes a long way towards explaining why transit is at best an afterthought to most Americans.

      • AlexB says:

        “Many of the riders won’t take a bus anyway, and when they do a bus requires more labor and energy per passenger to operate than a train does.”

        Those are misconceptions about bus travel. The truth is that people will take a bus if it’s comfortable, faster, and cheaper. Hundreds of thousands take buses to the PABT everyday. Trains may be more cost effective if they are well used, but for a couple thousand people, buses are probably a better deal. Of course, the buses have to go all the way to Manhattan, not as a shuttle bus to some other train station.

        You attitude that trains are somehow superior goes a long way towards explaining why buses are at best an afterthought to most Americans.

        • Bolwerk says:

          I’m sorry if some people often simply won’t take buses, but it’s not my fault or a problem with my attitude – I’m not one of those people. Buses simply cannot haul the volume of passengers per vehicle, or the volume of seats per driver. Since we’re talking about the NY metropolitan area, “faster” and more “comfortable” are practically out of the question. I guess cheaper prices on buses are possible with subsidies, but that’s not a favorable argument for buses. Solutions to other obvious problems, like avoiding being stuck in traffic with dedicated ROWs, eat up much of the operational advantages buses enjoy. Any advantage with energy efficiency is unlikely at the commuter level.

          None of that means there’s no place for buses, and quite clearly, in the context of the PJL, the advantage to buses right now would be a one-seat ride.

        • Donald says:

          Trains are more superior. They are faster and hold more people. Look at Ben’s bus journey from LaGuardia to Manhattan. If he had direct train service, the trip would have been much faster, not to mention it would revitalize LaGuardia as more airlines would fly out of there. The same is true for suburban communities. In Northern NJ, research has shown that towns with train service like Ridgewood have held their property valeus better than towns without it.

          • Rob Durchola says:

            Except that from Port Jervis to midtown Manhattan, the bus is as fast or faster than the train. The bus does not serve all the same markets the train does and there may be a need for both services; but the Port Jervis train is a slow ride.

        • Ken says:

          Alex, I ride the PJ line and believe me the bus is not cheaper. It is a far more expensive option. To the tune of $100 a month depending on some locations. Nor is it as convenient. The bus service that goes to the Port authority is not the sole destination of many riders. That said, it’s why NJ transit and Metro North do this. And if the PJ line were not profitable (and it is very lucrative for MNR and NJ transit clearing some $15M a yr or more, let alone the subsidy and tax $ they get) it would not be done this way. There is no attitude here, just facts for the requirements of the thousands of riders who depend on it. It’s also why businesses still ship freight on rails and not trucking – its cheaper, more selective and timelier. Finally, in the wake of any disaster, it costs $ to fix infrastructure.

          • ajedrez says:

            But it’s probably more expensive because it receives fewer subsidies than the train.

            • Bolwerk says:

              I doubt that. Despite typically being cheaper to run per passenger, trains are often treated as the “premium” service.

              That said, I can’t imagine PJL is profitable, as Ken claims, either. The totality of MNRR sure isn’t, even though it’s one of the better-run suburban railroads.

              • ajedrez says:

                So then either way, the bus is cheaper: Either because it’s subsidized less or because it’s the “lesser” service.

                • Bolwerk says:

                  I don’t know what you mean. It’s not cheaper in that it costs less, and it doesn’t make a lot of sense that it would cost less.

  9. JD12 says:

    Are the washouts on the Port Jervis line really that much worse than the types of washouts we’ve seen hit freight railroads in other floods? CSX had several washouts on the Chicago Line in the Mohawk Valley from this storm and got their line back up and running in two days. As a previous poster noted, this is pretty basic construction work. I can’t help but wonder if the MTA is playing this up to try and build a better case to get federal relief money.

    • Marc Shepherd says:

      Have you seen the photos? Seriously?

    • I’m echoing what Marc said. I’ve seen other photos of people literally standing underneath the track bed. We’re taking eight-foot-deep washouts.

      • Scott E says:

        The washout under I-287 looks like it was more than eight feet (see here). After the floodwaters receded, they filled it in. Other than the signals system (which might be more advanced), I have to agree with JD12. It’s basic railroad construction work that doesn’t need tremendous design work to precede it.

      • Walter says:

        The Danbury Line had a washout earlier this year, probably a few hundred feet at least, and they said months to fix it. It ended up taking only two weeks to restore regular service (without even speed restrictions) and the work was done in house by Metro-North’s track department.

        Oh, and the washout was in a completely inaccessible area that required a road to be built.

        The Danbury doesn’t yet have a signal system, so it didn’t have issues with that, but I can’t see why they can’t quickly repair the tracks over a few weeks and use a manual block system until the signal system is back on line.

      • bob says:

        Washouts like this are unheard around here, but yes, freight railroads have dealt with them (and much bigger ones). For railroad professionals this isn’t as shocking as it is to urban bloggers. Jay Walder hasn’t seen anything like it, but why would he? His career was on the budget side, not engineering. There are enough division engineers on UP, BNSF, etc. who have dealt with these events. Hopefully they will ask NS for advice since they have an interest in the line. (There’s lots of things any of us have never seen – that doesn’t make them unusual.)

        Generally you bring in gondolas of fill and start dumping. Get a track back and they can at least run peak directional service under absolute block or radio permissions. The railway industry has plenty of experience with unsignaled track. Then work on permanent fixes and improvements. The bigger problem is if the bridges have severe damage.

        Calling this line “an old branch line” is giving it short shrift. This was the Erie RR mainline, one of the first big ones in the US, a major factor in economic development of NY. The villages that grew up along it were the original Transit Oriented Development. But everything changed with the TZ bridge – before that Orange and Rockland were agricultural. (An aside that I didn’t get to add about the article on placement of the TZ bridge due to the PA territory limits: they could have gone further north to cross; but the Rockefellers opposed having the Thruway run through their property in Westchester.) And yes, MTA treated that line badly – used to be the NY service was with Budd Diesel cars and you changed in Suffern – which is also a stop in Rockland County.

        And Port Jervis is named after John Jervis, a legendary engineer who worked on several canals, this and other railroads, and most importantly built the original Croton Aqueduct which allowed NYC to grow throughout the 19th century.

    • Alex C says:

      I’d check that MTA Flickr page if I were you…

    • Bolwerk says:

      And why shouldn’t the MTA make a case to get federal relief money? Any New York taxpayer should be pissed if they don’t.

  10. SEAN says:

    Here’s the perfect oppertunity to correct mistakes that were made over the past 50-years. Longterm planning is what is needed to bring the PJ line to it’s full potential.

  11. Alon Levy says:

    What we should watch for is how much it costs to reconstruct the trackbed and lay the tracks. Like the I-35 reconstruction in Minneapolis, it should not be as expensive as it would be in the absence of a disaster. I expect the cost per kilometer of track to rebuild to be closer to normal European costs than to the normal American cost.

    • Scott E says:

      Agreed. I’d love for that to become the new “standard” of infrastructure building. Of course, it’s always easier to rebuild something as it was, unlike the Second Ave Subway which requires utility relocations, permanent changes in pedestrian traffic patterns (i.e. sidewalk width reductions) and community concurrence every step of the way.

      • Alon Levy says:

        Scott, to clarify, I’m not even talking about greenfield subways here. Obviously, it should cost orders of magnitude less than a subway.

        Restoring service on a former regional rail line in Germany – i.e. roughly what NJT wants to do on the Lackawanna Cutoff, but with more frequent stations, featuring level boarding – costs about $1 million per km, or not much more. In the US, similar projects have come in at ten times that amount.

  12. My goodness – it appears that there is already a right of way after Suffern that goes east along 287 for a bit, but then abruptly ends in Monsey just prior to the Spring Valley station on the Pasack Valley Line.

    With a track bed already existing, how could they not simply build out a branch and then continue this alongside 287 (or elevated above the thruway like the JFK AirTrain)?

    Obviously, I know how they could not do it, but it would be a crying shame if they couldn’t at least look at something along these lines.

    • Anon says:

      They’re well aware of the Piermont Line. Possible usage of it is wrapped up with the larger Tappan Zee/I-287 Corridor project.

  13. Anon says:

    Isn’t Norfolk Southern the owner of that line? How much money are they putting into the reconstruction?

    • Bolwerk says:

      PJ? I’m not sure, but the MTA did have an option on it…not sure it was ever exercised. Insurance should cover some of the costs.

      • Bruce M says:

        The Times article says that the MTA leased the line from Norfolk Southern, which implies NS still owns it. So I agree–how much are they providing for the repairs?
        I also wonder about these magical “emergency powers” that can cut through all the red tape, allowing projects to be completed in a reasonable amount of time. If we can eliminate red tape for an “emergency”, then why can’t we cut some of this red tape permanently?

        • Bolwerk says:

          Right, I know they leased it from NS. They may have a buy option, but I guess they never exercised it if they do.

          I take the Fifth on the red tape. :-p

        • bob says:

          I’d bet the lease makes MTA/NYS responsible for all maintenance. But file of Freedom of Information Act request and get a copy to know for sure.

          Emergency powers mean no budget reviews, nor competitive bidding. It’s necessary for speed, but subject to tremendous abuse. You give the work to a contractor and he knows he has you by the short hairs, excuse the term. So his bills rise accordingly. And if you really want it fast they will be working nights & weekends – premium rates.

        • Nathanael says:

          Technically the entire Metro-North system in the state of NY is leased (most of it from American Premier Underwriters). I have never quite understood why. The leases are for very VERY long terms and give NY nearly (but not quite) total powers.

          The lease on the Port Jervis Line appears to be similar; the MTA is the owner in all but name.

  14. Donald says:

    I wonder what impact the destruction of the Port Jervis line will have on real estate values in Rockland. Most likely, Rockland will now look less attractive while Westchester and Bergen Counties will look more attractive to home buyers who commute to NYC.

  15. D Train says:

    I wrote to the MTA to see if there were at least considering shuttering the line. The cost to restore service to a measly 2,300 people per day is staggering and at a time when the MTA can barely afford to do the repairs. The MTA wrote back saying they were not going to permanently close the line, which is ironic considering that they shut down bus routes that served nearly as many people per day in Brooklyn and Queens.

    Restoring Port Jervis line may make sense in a long term investment in a risky potential growth area, but really abandoning the line may be the better fiscal choice. I’d vote for shutting the line permanently or at least truncate it to Suffern or Sloatsburg.

    • Bolwerk says:

      Fair enough point, but frequently running buses carrying only 2300 people/day is a bit different than infrequent trains carrying that many people. I wouldn’t be quick to draw parallels.

      I agree the line mostly makes sense because it has long-term potential.

    • Cooris says:

      From a fiscal perspective, shutting down the PJ line would essentially mean cutting Orange County out of its tax base. Yes, only 2,300 a day ride it, but everyone who owns property or registers a car in Orange is paying into the MTA’s coffers. I don’t have the figures, so I could be wrong, but it might be that the PJ line isn’t as a big a net money loser as it seems.

  16. ajedrez says:

    My responses are under the quotes.

    “Even at medium-low levels of ridership, you don’t need double-tracking. Timed meets ought to be fine; if the punctuality rate is too low to support timed meets, it’s probably too low to support high ridership anyway. There already are some timed meets: on the pre-Irene schedule, trains #43 and #58 met between Salisbury Mills and Campbell Hall, trains #45 and #62 met between Middletown and Otisville, and trains $49 and #64 met between Harriman and Salisbury Mills.
    At present peak frequency, one train every half hour, meets would be required every 15 minutes to enable reverse-peak service. The meets should be timed better than on the present schedule – i.e. they should be at predictable locations in other to minimize the amount of extra infrastructure. It doesn’t require too much concrete given modern operating practices.”

    Maybe they could add some more sidings so that trains can run a bit more frequently. If I recall correctly, there were no Manhattan-bound trains between 1PM and 8PM, and I’m sure the lack of sidings had something to do with it.

    “I don’t think too many people who move to Rockland county do so with the Port Jervis line in mind. This line serves to keep those people from driving if they commute to Manhattan. As such, it’s only possible benefit is that it might help with pollution a miniscule amount. Most likely it doesn’t help because it uses diesel and has such low ridership, which is typical of the crappy commuter lines in cities like Nashville, Minneapolis, or Austin.

    Commuter lines like this are really misguided luxuries that would be more efficiently served with bus services that take you directly to the Port Authority and have some level of HOV lane type setup that speeds the bus a bit faster than the other vehicles on the highway at rush hour. At least on the bus you wouldn’t have to transfer at Secaucus, and you’d probably get to Midtown faster. With the same level of subsidy per passenger, the bus would probably be cheaper. The line should still be slowly repaired for future use in about 20 years when this fictional bus service starts to get too crowded and another Hudson River tunnel opens that allows direct access to Penn Station.”

    Yes, that would probably work. Hell, for the same operating costs, you could probably run buses more frequently than the trains run today.

    “Your mention that the Harriman station is in the middle of nowhere sent me off to Google maps to take a look.
    Not only are you right, but to increase use of this line one relatively simple thing to do would be to move that station north a couple of mile so it sits right on the very western edge of the Woodbury Commons parking lot.
    That train would be packed (well, sort of) on weekends with shoppers from NJ and the city. I’d use it in a second. I love Woodbury but really don’t like the almost 90 minute car ride from Staten Island.”

    Good point. Or at the very least, the mall could run some shuttle buses to reach the station (if the station itself is fine, the MTA might decide not to rebuild it)

    “Why do people always think buses are going to save money? Many of the riders won’t take a bus anyway, and when they do a bus requires more labor and energy per passenger to operate than a train does.
    There is a place for buses, but the attitude that buses somehow can replace trains goes a long way towards explaining why transit is at best an afterthought to most Americans.”

    When you’re dealing with a small number of people, buses are more cost-efficient. Think about it this way: If you have 40 people going from Port Jervis to Manhattan, is it cheaper to run a 60-seater bus, or a train with 600 seats?

    Think of it this way: The same logic applies to cars vs. transit. When you’re dealing with a lot of people in a dense area, public transportation is more cost-efficient. However, if you’re in the middle of nowhere, it is more efficient to drive than to run empty buses or trains.

    And people are willing to use buses over trains. There are plenty of areas in NJ with both rail and bus service, and if the bus service is good enough, its usage can surpass that of the train.

    What I think would be better is if the line were split into 2 sections that were more efficient. One section would travel from Port Jervis to Suffern, but it would take a more direct route between Middletown and Harriman (it would use a rail line that passes through Monroe.) If the people in Middletown want, it can pass directly through the town, which would pretty much be automatic TOD, as it would connect them directly to Manhattan, as well as parts of NJ via transfer. Right now, an autoless household would have to take an infrequent bus to the Middletown station before getting on the train.

    This line would then go over the Tappan Zee Bridge from Suffern and continue down the Hudson Line to Penn Station (most of the trains coming from further north would terminate in Grand Central like they do now)

    The second route would go to Salisbury Mills and then continue to Stewart Airport.

    The only people who miss out are people going between Salisbury Mills and Middletown (and people going from Campbell Hall to either town). Since this number is minimal, a couple of bus trips would be more than enough to cover them.

    And of course, TOD should be placed around the stations if the trains aren’t rerouted to go through the towns.

    • Bolwerk says:

      When you’re dealing with a small number of people, buses are more cost-efficient. Think about it this way: If you have 40 people going from Port Jervis to Manhattan, is it cheaper to run a 60-seater bus, or a train with 600 seats?

      If that’s the known ridership, and you already have the infrastructure, why not just run one rail car of about 75 seats with seats to spare? (Okay, the answer is: the FRA makes it impractical, but there is no technical reason why rail wouldn’t be at an advantage here.) In a sane world, even if the marginal cost of additional seats on a train is much lower than on buses, there isn’t a serious penalty for a rail vehicle with similar capacity to a bus.

      From a financial decision making perspective, there’s a point where it makes no sense to invest in a new ROW when buses can use an existing one. PJL, of course, already has a perfectly good ROW.

      The same logic applies to cars vs. transit. When you’re dealing with a lot of people in a dense area, public transportation is more cost-efficient. However, if you’re in the middle of nowhere, it is more efficient to drive than to run empty buses or trains.

      I wouldn’t completely write off passenger rail’s ability to work effectively in rural areas. It’s severely stunted in the U.S., but it has working examples in other parts of the world.

      The trade-off with the U.S. style of “middle of nowhere” transportation infrastructure is that there is no efficient transportation option. Rural roads ain’t exactly cash cows, yet we spend a lot of resources encouraging people to live in what they perceive to be the boondocks. I get the impression that Americans try to live in rural areas more for social reasons than for any particular economic reason.

      And people are willing to use buses over trains. There are plenty of areas in NJ with both rail and bus service, and if the bus service is good enough, its usage can surpass that of the train.

      True, but that is arguably just a case of rail service being poor enough to make buses preferable. All things being equal, buses having a speed or comfort advantage makes little sense over a realistic commuter rail distance.

      As for the rest of what you said, the main reason I think PJL should be kept around is its potential, not its current state

      BTW, you can quote lots of blocks of text more elegantly with <blockquote> tags. For instance, the line <blockquote>Hello</blockquote> produces:

      Hello

      • Alon Levy says:

        The examples of good rural regional rail worldwide generally compete against less developed freeway infrastructure.

        • Bolwerk says:

          Agreed, and it’s not a place to spend money anyway in the U.S.. Still, something like this on the PJL would be nice.

          But even the EU has rural rail services. Check this out, for instance. Two minor cities (population > 100k) connected by a rural passenger line. The operating company is private too, though I suppose it contracted with the state.

      • ajedrez says:

        Thanks for the blockquote advice. I’ll test it out now.

        If that’s the known ridership, and you already have the infrastructure, why not just run one rail car of about 75 seats with seats to spare? (Okay, the answer is: the FRA makes it impractical, but there is no technical reason why rail wouldn’t be at an advantage here.) In a sane world, even if the marginal cost of additional seats on a train is much lower than on buses, there isn’t a serious penalty for a rail vehicle with similar capacity to a bus.

        From a financial decision making perspective, there’s a point where it makes no sense to invest in a new ROW when buses can use an existing one. PJL, of course, already has a perfectly good ROW.

        I would assume that trains have more standards than buses to comply with, even excluding your example as to why FRA-regulations would make it infeasable to run a 1-car train (also, another problem is that you would either have to decouple the trains at Suffern, or you would need to run a shuttle from Suffern to Port Jervis, eliminating the 1-seat ride to Hoboken)

        And also, in the long term, although the ROW is there, it still costs money to maintain it. For the buses, you can just run them on roads that are already being maintained for cars.

        • Alon Levy says:

          To a good approximation, the cost of running a UIC-compliant one-car DMU is about the same as that of running a bus. Fuel consumption is similar (about 4-5 mpg), both are run with a single operator, maintenance is done at the same bus shops because those DMUs are built to have bus parts.

          Making people transfer is not necessarily a bad thing. It’s common in Europe, where I’m told the American practice of not opening all doors at short platforms is banned. And it’s done every day at Jamaica, where the timed cross-platform transfers do not repel commuters as much as the inconvenient up-and-down transfers at Secaucus do. If there’s such a huge mismatch in demand, then transfers are the way to go.

          • Bolwerk says:

            Yeah, transfers can certainly make for a more efficient network. NYCTA sure doesn’t seem to have the easiest time with interlining.

            Besides that, buses to PABT aren’t extra likely to get people exactly where they need to go either. They still deal with a shittier transfer to the Subway, after what can be a long time stuck in traffic at the tunnel approach. For those who work on the east side, that can mean a very crappy transfer to the 7.

          • Andrew says:

            Transfers aren’t the end of the world that some make them out to be, but multiple transfers – Port Jervis train to NJT train to PATH to maybe the subway – can get annoying, and if connections aren’t guaranteed, each transfer adds just a bit more uncertainty to the trip.

            And transfers in the middle of a long trip are especially annoying, since they break up what would otherwise be a good time to nap.

            But are Port Jervis trains quite so empty? The regular schedule calls for most trains to terminate at Suffern with relatively few continuing further into New York.

            • Alon Levy says:

              The line has fixed costs beyond the marginal cost of running an additional train – rolling stock, stations, some track maintenance – which make daily ridership just as important as per-train ridership.

        • Bolwerk says:

          Somewhat undermining my own argument here, but if I’m not mistaken, current regulations demand at least a certified engineer and a conductor aboard each train. That may speed up travel time relative to buses, but I doubt it helps costs. However, there doesn’t seem to be a capacity problem on the Main Line for bringing Dinky-style train service from PJ to Hoboken. Longer trains could run between Suffern (or Mahwah) and Hoboken, while shorter trains could run between Port Jervis and Hoboken, perhaps even express in NJ. It doesn’t buy the capacity to go straight into Penn, but that doesn’t seem available anyway.

          AFAIK, the ROW for PJL is still used by freight services, possibly by at least three freight railroads, and ultimately will need to be repaired anyway. It seems to me buses would be a lateral move cost-wise, at best, especially given that there is already equipment, personnel, and infrastructure to run trains.

  17. sk says:

    The MTA could extend trains service from Spring Valley to Monsey and Suffern, a much better use of funds. An abandoned train line runs through these Rockland towns and could easily be restored.

  18. ajedrez says:

    I wouldn’t completely write off passenger rail’s ability to work effectively in rural areas. It’s severely stunted in the U.S., but it has working examples in other parts of the world.

    The trade-off with the U.S. style of “middle of nowhere” transportation infrastructure is that there is no efficient transportation option. Rural roads ain’t exactly cash cows, yet we spend a lot of resources encouraging people to live in what they perceive to be the boondocks. I get the impression that Americans try to live in rural areas more for social reasons than for any particular economic reason.

    I would imagine that, in the other countries, even though the people live in a rural area, they are still within walking distance of the train line itself, and then I guess in the rural areas, they have locations where the train can stop (they probably don’t build platforms to save on the cost of maintaining them).

    Feel free to correct me.

    True, but that is arguably just a case of rail service being poor enough to make buses preferable. All things being equal, buses having a speed or comfort advantage makes little sense over a realistic commuter rail distance.

    From what I heard, that situation occurs in Southern NJ (near the North Jersey Coast Line), and along the Montclair-Bontoon Line, though those people probably work in an area where it’s easier to get to by bus (Lower Manhattan or the PA Bus Terminal).

    As for the rest of what you said, the main reason I think PJL should be kept around is its potential, not its current state.

    Agreed. So you think there could be some TOD around the stations even with the existing alignment, or do you think my alignment would work out better?

    • Alon Levy says:

      The biggest difference between US and European regional rail is the quality of the regulations and operating practices. From the same site that Bolwerk linked to above, see examples of construction costs and look at the next few pages to see differences in practices.

      The second biggest is the urban form. Small towns in the US sprawl more away from potential station sites, and are farther from one another (requiring average speeds); suburbs are less likely to have developed around a railroad.

      TOD around stations in the US is very unlikely, especially this far out of the city. The US doesn’t do TOD out of a concerted pro-transit policy. It does so because it’s the latest buzzword among developers for marketing cities to people who want to live in areas with the same sterility of Levittown but without the guilt. Small towns with commuter rail services tend to preserve the rural character of the area around the station, and think park-and-rides are normal; to them, commuter rail is just a nifty way to work in the city without traffic, i.e. a complement to the car, rather than a mode of transportation that extends the city out into the suburbs and competes with the car.

  19. ajedrez says:

    Making people transfer is not necessarily a bad thing. It’s common in Europe, where I’m told the American practice of not opening all doors at short platforms is banned. And it’s done every day at Jamaica, where the timed cross-platform transfers do not repel commuters as much as the inconvenient up-and-down transfers at Secaucus do. If there’s such a huge mismatch in demand, then transfers are the way to go.

    Yes, but that turns a two-seat ride from Port Jervis into a three-seat ride, whereas the Jamaica transfer turns a one-seat ride into a two-seat ride.

    Plus, I don’t think the track layout at Suffern would make it feasable.

    Somewhat undermining my own argument here, but if I’m not mistaken, current regulations demand at least a certified engineer and a conductor aboard each train. That may speed up travel time relative to buses, but I doubt it helps costs. However, there doesn’t seem to be a capacity problem on the Main Line for bringing Dinky-style train service from PJ to Hoboken. Longer trains could run between Suffern (or Mahwah) and Hoboken, while shorter trains could run between Port Jervis and Hoboken, perhaps even express in NJ. It doesn’t buy the capacity to go straight into Penn, but that doesn’t seem available anyway.

    AFAIK, the ROW for PJL is still used by freight services, possibly by at least three freight railroads, and ultimately will need to be repaired anyway. It seems to me buses would be a lateral move cost-wise, at best, especially given that there is already equipment, personnel, and infrastructure to run trains.

    Makes sense. If they do make NJ stops, passengers could be told to wait at a certain part of the platform.

    • lawhawk says:

      The transfer at Suffern would increase the burden on NJ Transit to provide rides, and NJ Transit has said that they lack their own equipment to provide additional rail to handle the overflow that is now being bused in from above Suffern to meet up with new combined trains heading to Hoboken/Secaucus.

      BTW, if they’re going to contemplate rebuilding the Harriman station stop, they really should be considering relocating it in conjunction with the Woodbury Commons location, although a significant amount of space needs to be devoted for parking exclusive for the park/ride facility.

  20. Bolwerk says:

    Transfers don’t happen in a vacuum. Three transfers could be preferred to a slogging direct route. If I were going from Fresh Pond Road (Ridgewood, Queens, M Train) to Long Island City, I think I’d rather take the M to the L to the G rather than the one-seat route of sitting on the M through Manhattan. Of course, if you are willing to leave the system and walk two blocks, that could even be one transfer. M to Lorimer, walk to G, take G to LIC.

    Either way, the point is a single walk across a platform or even down the stairs could add two minutes to a trip and not be so bad.

    • ajedrez says:

      Yeah, but I’m sure the MTA could get more ridership if there were a one-seat ride from Fresh Pond Road to LIC. I mean, the Q39 bus pretty much makes that trip (it goes along Forest Avenue) and it sees decent ridership. Now imagine the ridership that would occur if it were a train line (actually, if the LIRR Montauk Branch rebuilt those stops, it would provide a rail route for that precise trip, but that’s getting off-topic)

      • Bolwerk says:

        There is a one-seat ride from Fresh Pond to LIC: the M. It’s just a very circuitous one-seat ride. Heh, I take the Q39 sometimes; actually just got off it 30m ago. Stops are infrequent enough where it’s about twice as fast as walking from Ridgewood to Sunnyside (tried that too). I beat it on bike though.

        I’m sure such a direct rail route would induce some rides, but I doubt it would make much financial sense – though something vaguely like it would have been possible had the one of the floated Second System plans been realized.

        • Alon Levy says:

          Let me propose the following compromise: direct rail is feasible, iff it’s feasible to connect the Lower Montauk Line to the East River Tunnels for a reasonable cost.

          • Bolwerk says:

            I dunno, I’m skeptical. Seems to me the most that does is cannibalize a two-buses-an-hour route that actually seems to be fairly punctual, at least at night. Is there any worthwhile demand between Brooklyn and midtown by that route? There was some dismal service somewhere near Rust Street until 1997. The area is light on residential development, and the biggest attraction there really is a mediocre diner that happens to have some Hollywood ties.

            • Alon Levy says:

              Why Brooklyn?

              Anyway, my observations of this route, which for the record are based entirely on Google Earth and land use map tourism, is that there’s a fair amount of commercial development near the natural locations for stations on the Lower Montauk Line. It’s not QB or the LIRR Main Line or the LIE, but it’s still something.

              • Bolwerk says:

                Ah, I was assuming the route from Ridgewood would be along the NY Connecting RR to the Montauk Line – since we were talking about serving Ridgewood to LIC parallel to the Q39. Guess that’s not necessarily the case.

                I’m actually fairly familiar with the ground-level real estate of the route in Maspeth and towards LIC. The prevailing development tends to be more industrial than anything. Residential tends to be single-family.

                What kind of service did you have in mind? LIRR? Subway? S-Bahn?

                • Alon Levy says:

                  It depends on what’s easy. If it’s possible to connect it to Penn Station at reasonable cost, then S-Bahn-ified LIRR service would be best. If it’s not, but the LIRR Main Line starts having capacity problems in its lower reaches and requires a relief line, then a subway line with a separate tunnel to Manhattan becomes a possibly better option.

        • ajedrez says:

          I’m just saying it would attract additional ridership over the current Q39/(M) train options. Unless it used a few trains from the Lower Montauk Line, it wouldn’t be worth the cost (of course, the high Zone 1 fares make the Q39 an attractive option, even if it’s slower.)

  21. Larry Littlefield says:

    This is one of the two major freight railroads in New York State. It is currently not heavily used as such, but if you believe the future involves increased rail freight due to energy issues, it should be double tracked.

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