Home 7 Line Extension 7 to Secaucus: NJ on board; Staten Island not

7 to Secaucus: NJ on board; Staten Island not

by Benjamin Kabak

As the crow flies, Secaucus is closing to Midtown than Staten Island is.

In news that will shock no one, New Jersey is willing to throw its political support behind Mayor Bloomberg’s plan to send the 7 train to Secaucus while Staten Island politicians are objecting. As the plan exists right now as nothing more than a long-standing dream suddenly drawing Bloomberg’s attention, the cross-border state politics and interborough maneuverings will likely dominate the coverage as long as the idea is still alive.

The first word from west of Hudson came from Gov. Chris Christie earlier this week. He likes the project because it requires less of an investment from New Jersey and because New York would pick up some of the tab — an aspect of ARC that led to resentment over the project’s funding. Christie, who didn’t say too much this week, proclaimed that New Jersey will “do our share.” in a radio interview, he said, “All of this will be able to come together.”

Staten Islanders, meanwhile, had far more to say about the project, and none of it involved much praise. Already smarting over Port Authority fare hikes that they said unfairly impact their constituents, Staten Island politicians banded together to oppose the project. Calling upon Gov. Andrew Cuomo to help improve Staten Island’s transit options, the bipartisan group bemoaned the focus on New Jersey in a letter to Albany.

“”This is a project that is worthy of consideration in the future. Now is not the time to explore more ways to get from New Jersey to Manhattan when it’s our toll money paying for it,” the letter said. “We would also encourage you to have your appointees on the Port Authority Board reject any funding for exorbitant projects until we have reached an agreement on how we can lessen the overall financial impact for residents of Richmond County. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey simply must find alternative means of revenue, then off the backs of Staten Islanders.”

Allen Cappelli, an MTA Board member from Staten Island, expressed his concern that the 7 line extension was targeting the wrong folk. “I applaud the mayor for his vision of connecting part of the region to the transit system. I’d hoped that his vision would include Staten Island and its 500,000 residents,” he said. “We ought to be talking about connecting Staten Island too. hat’s regional interconnectivity. It’s fine to give lip service to the world’s greatest parking lot – the Staten Island Expressway – but words are not good enough.”

The keys though are demographics, geography and politics. If the Mayor’s goal is to increase the region’s interconnectivity while alleviating congestion across the Hudson and shepherding people to the Hudson Yards development and Midtown, the 7 line extension to Secaucus makes far more sense than a subway to Staten Island. The population density in Hudson County is nearly double that of Staten Island, and the New Jersey county, separated from the city by only a river and a state border, is closer to Midtown than the borough of Staten Island is. It is also is home to more people who work in Manhattan than Staten Island is. Finally, a subway to New Jersey could draw on funding from two states and the Port Authority while New York would likely have to foot the entire bill for any Staten Island-centric improvements.

Of course, that bill remains problematic. No one knows how much this will cost and who’s going to pay. One commentator though has found the perfect donor. If Mayor Bloomberg is so concerned with building his legacy, Stephen Smith writing at Forbes says, why doesn’t he just cut the check for construction himself? It would indeed be a groundbreaking public/private partnership.

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pea-jay October 28, 2011 - 1:42 pm

Hey Stephen, thanks for the quote! I was half serious/half joking. Bloomberg is fortunate to be able to fund this out of his own pocket and in the past has given substantially to charity. But those donations (like him paying for the regents tests in January) are ephemeral. Fully or even partially funding this would leave an infrastructural investment that would not only last beyond his lifetime and all of ours as well.

This really raises an interesting set of questions: if the Mayor fully funded the project as a private citizen, could he really avoid all those work rules? Would the same be true if it was partially funded? Could the timeline be accelerated (enviro reviews I mean).

The 7 extension really is a big deal and does make some ground breaking changes to the way we see the subway. More than add trans-hudson capacity, it actually adds a whole new state to the mental map of the average subway rider. I avoid NJ mainly cos virtually everything I want is a swipe away in the 5 boroughs (acknowledging the free ferry to SI). It’s an effort to look at another system and pay another fare to get over the river. Bloomberg has the ability to break past these jurisdictional boundaries, expand our mental map and maybe even get us to think maybe we could integrate the other subway, PATH into the system as well.

Funding the Second Avenue line or any of the other needed extensions to the system is vital, no doubt. But there’s a mechanism for doing so, only the money is lacking. But crossing the Hudson, well that may as be like trying to return to the moon. The sheer number of political/jurisdictional boundaries would deter any one organization from doing this, so if Bloomberg could step in and fill this leadership void and fund it, that truly would be a legacy to remember him by.

Nathanael November 11, 2011 - 4:20 pm

Somebody needs to figure out the exact source of each work rule and how they are causing trouble.

Some seem to be federal law (or regulation), some state law (or regulation), some city law (or regulation), some MTA policy, some union-management contract. The troublesome situations seem to arise out of interactions between them which can be abused. This needs a *careful* and *detailed* analysis.

Stephen Smith October 28, 2011 - 1:52 pm

Bah – who said anything about public-private partnership…I’m talkin’ private-private partnership!

(But seriously, thanks for the link!)

Jason October 28, 2011 - 1:57 pm

How much would a subway across the harbor to Staten Island realistically cost? Let’s say they were to start the line off of one of those unused bellmouths on the R-train that heads to Brooklyn and connect to a new portal somewhere around St. George.

Benjamin Kabak October 28, 2011 - 2:01 pm

Unless you run a tunnel under the harbor from South Ferry, I’m not sure the costs even matter. A subway from St. George via the R line would take nearly an hour to reach Times Square. The increased transit mobility into Brooklyn and access to the MetroTech area would be great, but it’s not really a practical way to link up SI with the rest of the city in my opinion.

Frank B. October 28, 2011 - 2:01 pm

How much money does one man need? I say he should give away $3 Billion to Staten Island for their tunnel, and another $3 Billion for New Jersey, with the Port Authority and New Jersey covering the rest.

Once again, while I realize there are reverse commuters, I think Jersey residents reap the most benefits of a tunnel to the jobs epicenter that is New York City, and thusly should pay more, but not all, of the infrastructure costs.

The Cobal Devil October 28, 2011 - 2:31 pm

A better alternative for Staten Island: extend NJ Transit from Elizabeth across the already EXISTING Arthur Kill lift bridge and down the EXISTING freight tracks parallel to the West Shore Expressway. A nice, big park-n-ride facility in Travis would be awesome. Hope a train to Elizabeth or a straight shot to Penn Station or Trenton (and everywhere in between). The old Jersey Central tracks underneath the Elizabeth RR station lead right to the current (and recently renovated) lift bridge. A big chunk of the infrastructure is already in place. No tunnels, no new bridges, just some elbow grease and track/signal updating.

Now, getting NJ Transit and the MTA or Port Authority to work together to make this happen is another story…

The Cobal Devil October 28, 2011 - 2:38 pm

Slight correction: the freight tracks about a mile south of the Elizabeth RR station lead directly to the lift bridge. The NE Corridor line tracks intersect just north of Rosedale Cemetery and travel thru Bayway (Elizabeth) directly to the bridge. Check a Google satellite map of Elizabeth/Staten Island and you can clearly see the ROW in Bayway and new tracks running along the West Shore Expressway.

Christopher October 28, 2011 - 2:45 pm

Here’s an idea. Charge for the Staten Island Ferry and use the money from that to support better transit on the island or put it into a trust to pay for a subway line.

Barring all that, Staten Island could become part of the NJ and then they could feel some NJ pride over the 7 to Secaucus plan.

The Cobal Devil October 28, 2011 - 2:58 pm

How much to charge for the ferry? Two dollars? Three dollars? Is that what it will take for the MTA to improve service to and around the Island? Do Staten Islanders not pay city/state taxes like the other 4 boros? Do the tolls from the MTA cash-cow also known as the Verrazano Bridge not got to support subway/bus/commuter rail in the other 4 boros, not to mention counties on Long Island and upstate? Is it each boro for themselves now? Because if it is, and Staten Island actually kept all the money generated by the VZ Bridge, we’d be set for life out here!

And FYI, for all you subway/bus riders: your $2.25 pays for about 2 mins of your ride. The MTA loses a lot more money on you than the DOT does by operating the SI Ferry. And finally, SI has no interest in joining NJ. Richmond County has been a part of New York for 400 years, just as long as the other boros.

Christopher October 28, 2011 - 3:51 pm

Two or three dollars should be fine.

Geographically it doesn’t make sense to have SI be part of NY state. But I’m all for redrawing all the state boundaries to make them more sensible. As well as to elevate cities to the same status as states. So cities over 800,000 people would be city-states. This would balance the power between states and rural parts of the U.S. out and encourage smaller municipal governments to consolidate into bigger units.

The Cobal Devil October 28, 2011 - 3:56 pm

So how exactly does it not make sense that SI is part of NYS? By your reasoning, all of NYC should be part of NJ, since the other boros, especially Manhattan and The Bronx, are as close to NJ as Staten Island is. Manhattan and SI are both 100 miles from Albany.

And how did you come up with the $2-$3 figure to make the ferry not only pay for itself but have money left over for SI transit improvements? You’re just grasping at straws here and jumping on the very old, very tired “SI belongs to NJ” bandwagon, even though historically, politically and socially, Staten Island has been part of New York since the state was a British colony.

Christopher October 28, 2011 - 5:23 pm

I just grabbed a number that made sense for similar ferry service. Maybe $7 would make more sense. I didn’t think the number would cover the cost of operation but would be used entirely for transit improvements.

And sure, I’m following and old meme. That doesn’t make it wrong. Also why use the British colony model as the reason to keep things as they are. It’s not 1776.

And actually in my plan Staten Island would be free to create a super city with Elizabeth and points south in order to be an independent city-state. While Manhattan and Brooklyn and Queens and the Bronx would be another.

Anyway, you are far too defensive about this. It was sort of made in jest. Although honestly I’m not sure why Staten Island deserves more transit attention than New Jersey. Or why I should care about state borders in the first place. It doesn’t make sense from a planning perspective to think about divisions like that.

The New York Harbor makes a huge gap that it is perhaps sillier to contemplate figuring out ways to lesson the physical separation of. It’s one thing to build a tunnel under the short space like the Hudson versus the entirety of the New York Harbor.

Alon Levy October 29, 2011 - 6:49 am

Wait, what? Staten Island’s strongest commute tie is to Manhattan and Brooklyn: 53 and 29 thousand vs. 13 thousand to all of Jersey (and of those 3 are to Hudson County).

Elizabeth is a Newark suburb. I’m not sure why it should be lumped with Staten Island or with Middlesex County.

ajedrez October 31, 2011 - 10:53 am

You’re kidding if you think $7 is reasonable for a ferry trip. Do that and watch all of the ridership shift to the express buses which charge $5.50 for a one-seat ride. Even at $2-$3, you’d see a large shift towards the express buses.

Bolwerk October 31, 2011 - 1:03 pm

I don’t get why the city doesn’t work out a revenue-sharing agreement with the MTA in regards to the ferry. They can go halfies on people who use both the ferry and a bus/train service, and the MTA can make a little extra administering the fare collection at the ferry stops – on at least the Manhattan side, the ferry and rail system could maybe both be within one fare control area.*

Unless only a trivial number of people take the ferry without using a rail or bus service, it lifts both boats.

* And buses and the ferry could be within the same fare control area on the St. George side, technically. For now anyway, SIRT’s fare collection is contingent on collection at St. George.

pea-jay October 28, 2011 - 4:51 pm

How about we trade Staten Island for Hudson County? Hudson is more like the other boroughs in terms of density and transit service anyway. Then the 7 would never leave the city so to speak.

Tsuyoshi October 28, 2011 - 10:20 pm

Sounds good to me. Hudson County resident Senator Menendez might be unhappy about this, though…

The Cobalt Devil October 28, 2011 - 10:37 pm

Sounds like a good trade. If you’re also willing to inherit Hudson County’s crime, social services, and epic corruption scandals. And then Staten Island can keep all the money that goes to the MTA for those high VZ Bridge tolls. Sounds good to me!

But, last time I looked, Staten Island and Hudson County were in two different states, so I guess that’s a no-go.

Alon Levy October 29, 2011 - 6:37 am

Port Authority can take over the Verrazano, if it cedes the Holland and Lincoln Tunnels to city control.

Bolwerk October 28, 2011 - 7:33 pm

It’s true that the ferry probably isn’t that expensive to run, but I’d really love to know where you got that 2 minute figure. At an operating cost of $0.33/passenger-mile, the subway isn’t doing *that* badly – and at least users are contributing something, unlike ferry users.

ferryboi October 28, 2011 - 10:32 pm

The 65,000 Staten Islanders a day who ride the ferry aren’t driving through Brooklyn. If memory serves me, you weren’t too keen on that idea. I’d say ferry riders contribute a great deal in keeping tons of cars off the road.

Bolwerk October 29, 2011 - 6:29 pm

Yeah, I’m not too keen on the idea of free lunches period. Especially for the people who run up the biggest tab and contribute the greatest harm (drivers, not ferry users). That said, I don’t consider the ferry offensive enough or wasteful enough to fight over. And, sure, if it’s keeping some people from causing traffic congestion, of course that’s at the very least the lesser of two evils.

Also, in all fairness, ferry users are generally paying subway fares at least on one side of the ferry.

Peter October 28, 2011 - 3:25 pm

If you’re going to extend a subway line to NJ, better to extend the L: run it west to 10th Ave and then north, adding stations at 14th/10th and 23rd/10th, then connect to the new 7 station at 34th/11th, and let the L continue to NJ. Unlike the 7 extension, which lopsidedly benefits Jerseyites, this project would contain some significant benefits for city residents: two new stations in Chelsea and an L/7 connection. It would also mean more spacious (though shorter) rolling stock for the NJ line.

I guess the additional expense of all that tunneling in Manhattan would probably render this unfeasible.

Christopher October 28, 2011 - 3:56 pm

Sort of. The logic I think is that the L isn’t in the heart of the city. So unless you are simultaneously going to allow increased density along 14th Street. And taking away the historic preservation guidelines in the Villages, Chelsea and the Meatpacking. Otherwise you’ve just increased capacity in area that will not serve the number of people that a 7 extension serves. Midtown and the new areas of the West Side is where the capacity increases should be targeted because those areas have the most buildable land and potential for increases in height and density. 14th Street is restricted.

Peter October 28, 2011 - 6:50 pm

That’s a fair point, but my thinking was that the 7/L terminal at 34th Street would be constructed to provide a quick and easy transfer between between the two trains, for those bound for Midtown. Of course, since the 7 station is nearly complete, that might be a lot easier said than done. Ideally there’d be a chance for a cross-platform transfer.

For commuters headed downtown (admittedly this is less than Midtown), the L would provide a much better route.

There’s also the question of the transfer to the north-south lines, since many commuters are going to require that either from the L or the 7, rather than being delivered straight to their destination by the crosstown route.

By my estimation, the L provides better connections to the north-south routes. This is obviously subjective, but I’d give the L connections two A’s, two C’s and an F, versus for the 7, three B’s, one D and an F.

8th Ave IND – L: C – 7: D
7th Ave IND – L: F – 7: B
6th Ave IND – L: A – 7: F
Broadway BMT – L: A – 7: B
Lexington IRT – L: C – 7: B

Hope I’m recreating all these connections right in my head…

Bolwerk October 28, 2011 - 7:43 pm

If the premise is that commuters destined for the east side within a short walk of GCT are the biggest single class of commuters, the 7 is the only logical option for a subway line extension to Secaucus. The L doesn’t achieve a one-transfer ride between the commuter lines and GCT, and leaves people with the three-seat ride they currently have.

Brian October 28, 2011 - 10:23 pm

the main problem running the L/7 together is the IRT v BMT/IND cars

Bolwerk October 29, 2011 - 6:35 pm

Who said anything about running them together? I don’t have a problem with it, but it doesn’t address east side access for NJT users any better than another service to Penn does. Having them share track seems overly difficult, but four parallel tracks isn’t – although say goodbye to some of the benefits of having four tracks if it’s an IND and BMT service running parallel.

Henry October 30, 2011 - 1:38 pm

I believe that the only problem with running 7 and L service together on the same, brand new track is platform width and track curves(and that can be solved with gap fillers and building track to BMT standards)

The question is why would you want to do that though, when both the 7 and L are overcapacity? Even if the new extension would be equipped with CBTC and had the ability to do 40tph, that would mean that the 7 and L would only get 20 tph each. The L is already crowded at just 24 tph, and don’t get me started about the 7 during rush hour. Unless half the trains on each line terminate at 34th street (and what good would that be), the Queens and Brooklyn sections of these lines would be overcrowded.

Personally I think the best option would be to have L service terminate at a lower level, where riders can take an escalator (or stairs) to the island platform for the 7. Costs much less money than having a four bore extension to New Jersey.

Bolwerk October 30, 2011 - 2:43 pm

Former NYCTA engineer Joe Korman covers how it would be technically possible to do what you talk about in your first paragraph.

I totally agree it’s not advisable. I generally agree with your second paragraph, but I’ll go out on a limb here and say, unless the SAS can be made four tracks, there probably isn’t much point in future four-track services. The parts of the city that need service need service, but not IND Second System levels of service.

Personally I think the best option would be to have L service terminate at a lower level, where riders can take an escalator (or stairs) to the island platform for the 7. Costs much less money than having a four bore extension to New Jersey.

I just don’t see much point in L/7 inter-servicing, beyond maybe a transfer if they both happen to intersect. Even then, there are just better ways to get between present 7 and L service territories from the outer boroughs’ standpoint – even if they all suck, they don’t suck as much as going all the way to the extreme west side and then back crosstown. Taking the Q39 from Halsey to Greenpoint Ave. and walking the two blocks would suck less. Even an L trip to the Q59 would suck less, if you’re talking about a trip from, say, East New York to Flushing. And from Williamsburg or the east side, take the G or Lex or or BMT Broadway services.

Marc Frasier October 28, 2011 - 3:45 pm

All I want for Christmas is a new line running up Third Ave in the Bronx! Or Select Bus Service!

ajedrez October 31, 2011 - 10:57 am

The MTA actually has a plan to put +SBS+ down either Webster or Third Avenue by 2014 or something.

Eric October 28, 2011 - 4:10 pm

Managing the headways on this would be a nightmare–it would be about a 15-minute uninterrupted run from 34th/11th to Secaucus.

Jon October 28, 2011 - 6:12 pm

So install extra tracks at Hunterspoint Avenue and create a Secaucus-Hunterspoint shuttle? LIRR’s East Side Access is gonna make Hunterspoint defunct, so there should be some space.

SEAN October 28, 2011 - 6:39 pm

You are assuming there wont be any stops in between 34th & 11th & Secaucus. You don’t think Union City or Hoboken aren’t going to get in on an oppertunity like this? If Christie throghs some $$$ in the pot, then those towns will most sertently want a piece of the action.

Remember the 7 extention wouldn’t be competing with PATH for riders since Hoboken Terminal is a good distance from Secaucus & serves an entirely different market. Also keep in mind that transit service between Secaucus & the rest of the local area away from the rail system is rather thin, this extention will rectify that if aditional stops are added.

Bolwerk October 29, 2011 - 6:37 pm

To me, it seems like its only effect on PATH could be feeding it new passengers.

pkyc0 October 28, 2011 - 8:09 pm

i like the idea that some other commenter had…staten island will support the 7 extension in return for building out the lightrail across the bayonne bridge to staten island.

Bolwerk October 29, 2011 - 6:38 pm

Staten Island deserves better transit, but I don’t see why opposition from Staten Island should decide this. Staten Island isn’t even 1/8th of the city’s population.

asdf October 31, 2011 - 8:00 am

And Hudson County is the 6th boro!

Alon Levy November 1, 2011 - 5:42 am


david vartanoff October 29, 2011 - 1:37 am

Alternate plan. build links from the 50th St/8th Ave lower level platforms running to Secaucus w/ a transfer station at 41st/10th on the 7 (the one they deleted to make up for excessive costs which should be built). Why? 1. IND/BMT full length 600’+ trains for greater throughput. 2. accesses the north edge of midtown office land as it turns east under 53rd. 3. direct link to JFK Air Train

Alon Levy October 29, 2011 - 4:35 am

So the idea is to run the E there? I could live with that.

Bolwerk October 29, 2011 - 7:46 pm

Why bother? If the 7 isn’t acceptable, the next best subway solution is a new IND-style line under a nearby street. The E is 8 blocks away. You almost may as well walk from Penn, or at least walk from Times Square.

Alon Levy October 29, 2011 - 8:59 pm

The peak of Midtown employment is in the 50s, not near Grand Central.

The feature-cum-bug of using the E is that the frequency to Secaucus is reduced. At present demand it’s definitely a feature, but if they TOD the hell out of Secaucus as they should it’s going to be a problem.

Bolwerk October 30, 2011 - 12:19 am

From what I heard, the bulk of midtown employment is within walking distance of GCT. And there is the minor detail about MNRR and the by that time the LIRR being there.

Alon Levy October 30, 2011 - 3:28 am

It’s north of GCT, within walking distance. It’s even more within walking distance of 53rd.

And any scenario in which people are going to change trains from Secaucus to Metro-North and the LIRR on a regular basis is one in which commuter trains run through and Alt G is in active development, obviating the need for a subway workaround.

Bolwerk October 30, 2011 - 1:56 pm

True I suppose. Obviously I’d prefer Alt G too. But what 53rd lacks (I always think 51st, since I only ever transfer to it from the 6) is access to the 4/5 – which isn’t trivial either. MNRR and LIRR are still handy options for people who don’t board at Secaucus, for instance at a hypothetical stop in Hoboken.

And given your point about frequency, then either the <7> or (7) should be sufficient to go to Secaucus initially, no need to send both. I don’t see how any of this makes the 7 an inferior option to a constrained service like the E.

Alon Levy October 30, 2011 - 9:54 pm

There’s no room for 7 trains to turn short of the terminal. A two-track station can’t be both a terminal and a through-station without making compromises about combined capacity.

Bolwerk October 31, 2011 - 12:38 am

Why not? This is a vaportrain right now. They can build it as necessary by the time this is remotely ready to go. Given the (7) and <7> each have something like 5m peak headways as is, I don’t see why turning using the tail tracks to 23rd would necessarily be a problem.

Alon Levy November 1, 2011 - 5:41 am

The tail tracks are two-tracked. Incompetent as that concept is, at least they didn’t build a full underground yard, just a two-track bore.

Larry Littlefield October 29, 2011 - 9:11 am

This is all in good fun. Now think about this. What should the MTA or New York City cut to pay for the Flushing Line extension for New Jersey commuters?

How about the Sea Beach line, on the grounds that south Brooklyn commuters could get more exercise walking to the West End?

Prekindergarten? The senior year of high school?

The thing is, they want to make the decision on what to cut and the NJ extension at two different times, so they appear to have nothing to do with each other. But as I’ve said, the tax increment financing for Hudson Yards has already been used.

smartone October 30, 2011 - 12:55 pm

I also don’t get why this is on NYC? the new 7 train extension brings it close to the river edge – the rest should be up to NJ and Fed. If NJ and Fed build tracks from Secacus to the NYC side of Hudson river – it would be hard for Staten Island to protest the MTA with just opening up 7 to this new Tunnel.

Bolwerk October 30, 2011 - 2:01 pm

They’re protesting where the mayor is focusing his effort. And, whether you think this is a good project or not, they definitely have a point.

Matt October 31, 2011 - 8:47 pm

I used to live in SI and commute to midtown before moving to the city. Just a few thoughts on this:
-Hudson county already has much better transit options into the city. Commuting from SI either by ferry or express bus is life-sapping.
-The train connection to SI would not just be for people commuting to Manhattan. SI has basically no links to any other borough other than driving.
-NJ residents do not pay NYC income taxes or NY real estate taxes.

On the allure of Manhattan-centric transit growth :: Second Ave. Sagas November 1, 2011 - 1:07 am

[…] said, I don’t blame Staten Island politicians who feel slighted over the rumored plans. The city would rather build the subway to New Jersey than ponder Outer […]

Bob Schwartz November 18, 2011 - 9:07 am

But 7 to Secaucus won’t reduce train congestion in the tunnels to Penn Station, which is the key problem! It is no substitute for ARC or what ARC could have been.

Yes, some AM commuters would get off at Secaucus to take the 7, but the only way there would be less congestion in the tunnels would be if some NJT trains turned around at Secaucus; that’s very unlikely.


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