Nov
11

MTA eying Metro-North access to Penn Station

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The MTA is once again examining the possibility of bringin Metro North trains to Penn Station. Above, a map from a 2000 study.

When the Long Island Rail Road’s long-awaiting East Side Access project wraps up sometime later this decade, the MTA will shift numerous trains from Penn Station to Grand Central, and Metro-North riders bound for the West Side could stand to benefit from the move. With space available at Penn Station in a few years, the MTA is exploring a way to bring Metro-North westward, and the Bronx could gain a few more commuter rail stations if all goes according to plan.

“Metro-North is currently performing a Federal Environmental Assessment for the introduction of its rail service from the Hudson and New Haven Lines to Penn Station,” Aaron Donovan, authority spokesman, said to me in an email. “The review includes potential stations along Amtrak’s Hell Gate Line in the vicinity of Co-op City, Morris Park, Parkchester and Hunts Point. We anticipate completing this assessment in 2013.”

Earlier this week, MTA officials met with various stakeholders in the Bronx to discuss progress on the Federal Environmental Assessment. The Bronx Times was on hand to report on the meeting, and all involved spoke highly of the plan. “This is an idea that has been around for decades, and the meeting was just a preliminary step where the MTA wanted to gauge the reaction of elected officials and stakeholders, with the reaction being very positive,” John DeSio, a spokesman out of the Bronx Borough President office, said.

Patrick Rocchio had more:

The final plan could include the creation of new stations along Metro North’s New Haven line that would service Co-op City near Erskine Place, Morris Park near Einstein Medical Center and the Hutchinson Metro Center, Parkchester in the vicinity of Unionport Road and E. Tremont Avenue, and Hunts Point near Southern Boulevard, said Assemblyman Michael Benedetto.

Space for the extra trains coming into Penn Station from the new stations should be available in 2016, after Long Island Rail Road’s East Side Access Plan re-routes many of the trains currently terminating at Penn Station to Grand Central Terminal, Benedetto said. “They do expect this to happen, and therefore they want to start planning now so things are ready when space is freed up in Penn Station,” Benedetto said.

The public should not expect new Metro North stations in the Bronx in the next couple of years, even though construction theoretically could begin on the four new Bronx stations before space becomes available at Penn Station, Benedetto said.

In the Bronx, residents and property owners were thrilled with the idea of a direct line to Penn Station. “A new train station in Co-op City would enable commuters to get to Penn Station within 25 minutes, which is very welcome news to many residents of this great community,” Vernon Cooper, the general manager of Riverbay Corporation, said.

Meanwhile, early reports indicate that costs could be fairly reasonable. The Bronx Times reports that the project would come in at $350 million — $250 million from New York State and $100 million from Connecticut — a figure in line with the $91 million it cost to build one new Metro-North stop near Yankee Stadium.

Long-time MTA watchers may know this project, in vague terms, as the Penn Station Access Study. I’ve been told that the scoping documents and project plans for the early 2000s are now out of date, and the MTA plans to release more information later this year or early next. Still, this could be a relatively low-cost way to improve access from the Bronx and points north to the West Side, and I’ll keep an eye on it.



Categories : Metro-North

43 Responses to “MTA eying Metro-North access to Penn Station”

  1. Anon256 says:

    There should be stations in Queens as well, definitely at Sunnyside (for transfer to LIRR) and maybe also Astoria.

  2. Adam E says:

    Why not downtown? Running trains to WTC would certainly be interesting.

  3. Chris G says:

    I know this article is Bronx heavy, but I seriously hope they include a station at Sunnyside as well.

    And I wish the MTA would get together and finally go to a single method of electrification so we could have run through trains. Yes this would be best with the Port Authority and involving NJT as well, but this is a good step towards more regional service.

    • Nathanael says:

      LIRR doesn’t seem to want to share track with anyone; they just want their own independent playground, it seems.

      Perhaps Metro-North could be convinced to go with overhead electrification on the Hudson line (and presumably Amtrak’s West Side Line); it would be of great benefit for high-speed rail to Upstate.

    • Walter says:

      The new M8s are already capable of running on different electrical systems: they already run on Metro-North’s catenary and under-running third rail, and are able to run on the Amtrak’s catenary east of New Haven and west of New York. The M8s can also be fitted with retractable third rail shoes for over or under running third rail, though as of now they are not.

      The M8s are also compatible with both Metro-North and Amtrak cab signaling, so if they wanted to the MTA could run them to Penn Station tomorrow.

      I’m hoping for through-running with NJ Transit from New Haven all the way to Trenton myself, but that’s probably just a dream.

      • Ben says:

        The M8 is not actually able to run on Amtrak catenary west of Penn Station–the AC frequency is different (25 Hz instead of 60 Hz), and they decided against including that transformer in the cars fairly late in the design process (owing to weight concerns, I think). This also means that they aren’t capable of running into Penn Station tomorrow (unless you can run about a mile and a half of LIRR 3rd rail up from Sunnyside to Hell Gate between now and breakfast, in which case can you please get a subcontracting job on East Side Access?)–but that plus the reversible shoes will make the M8s able to run in all of the MTA’s electrified territory, plus the Shore Line out to New London, which will be a first.

  4. David in Astoria says:

    Definitely a Queens stop for Long Islanders is a must.
    Adding new access to The Bronx is a very positive step for our neglected mainland borough.
    This needs to happen.

  5. Clarke says:

    There won’t be any Metro North/LIRR track connections will there? I wonder if a Metro North train bypassing GCT via 63rd St and onto Jamaica could be beneficial. It’d allow them to run game-day trains to Citi Field, allow for airport access, etc. I suppose it makes more sense/is cheaper to just transfer at GCT for LIRR for Metro North customers though.

    • Jerrold says:

      I think that the tunnel coming in from the 63rd St. line will CURVE southward to run under Park Ave. to Grand Central. If so, it would NOT be possible for a train that is coming down from the Bronx to then go eastward to Queens instead of going to Grand Central.

  6. Kevin C says:

    Fans of re-using old RR ROW in general and those coveting the two unused alignments on the Hellgate are going to have to decide whether it is more important to allocate the Hellgate and its Queens approaches to commuter rail (e.g. Penn – Co-op City) or to NYCT as in the TriboroRX Proposal.

    I personally believe that the Triboro RX should get first dibs on the Hellgate (and maybe have a branch serving Hunts Point and Co-op City) and that commuter rail should use the central or western alignments.

    • al says:

      No need for that. The ROW connecting the (4 tracks wide) Hells Gate Bridge and Sunnyside Yards is 2 tracks wide. This proposal will use the southern pair of tracks that Amtrak currently uses. The northern track pair (that has 1 track in place) are for rail connection to the Bay Ridge Branch (and the rest of LIRR).

  7. AlexB says:

    Part of the east side access project is a new station in Sunnyside already, but there wouldn’t be a transfer from the subway. A station at Ditmars and 31st St would provide a transfer to the N/Q and a much faster connection to many parts of the Bronx and other points north compared to taking the M60 to 125th and transferring to the subway or metro north. One thought that would never happen: provide through service from the Hudson Line to Queens and vice versa.

    • al says:

      I think they located the Sunnyside station far enough south that it would be close to Queens Plaza (E,M,R). That location might (depending on track configuration) make for a stop on NJ Transit trains looping through the Sunnyside Yards. Platform it over and it could be Queens’ version of Manhattan’s GCT Terminal City. Call me crazy but we can call it Union Station Queens.

      A station (at 31st st) on the viaduct might take up space that might preclude (or complicate and add cost to) the TriboroRX. They might be able to do it by cantilevering the southern most track (the current Penn Station bound Amtrak) and an island platform over the southern side of the structure. The Triboro will likely use a similar structure over the north side for the platform. If the TriboroRX uses railcars that could negotiate steep grades (4-6%), then a station profile with 2 levels might be possible. The lower level uses the existing track for Southbound traffic, while the northbound track is on a structure over the southbound platform with platform to the north.

      The Hudson Line runs through GCT. To run Hudson Line trains through Queens would require them running through Penn Station, and then under the East River, or boring a track new connection between LIRR and Metro North north of GCT @ 50th St.

  8. Alon Levy says:

    I’m glad to see that this is progressing, but dismayed at two things:

    1. $350 million for 3-4 stations is not reasonable. $35 million for 3-4 stations is also pretty high.

    2. For maximum usefulness, this line should offer high frequency all day. The lower New Haven Line is one of the few nationwide that offer half-hourly frequency in the weekday afternoon off-peak, but even that is pretty bad for urban service. And because of the two branches south of New Rochelle, frequency would suffer; it’s not a problem at the peak, because current service peaks at 20 tph and splitting that in half is no big deal, but hourly off-peak service is not very useful.

    More on this on my blog later, for how they might want to use short-turns to achieve good frequency.

    • pea-jay says:

      Thru running and short turns would be a sweet way to attain near rapid transit level of service on both the hudson and new bronx section to new rochelle. Why not runs some shorter train sets more frequently from yonkers thru penn to new rochelle and back?

    • al says:

      Questioning the high cost is warranted. Looking at these locations on Google and Bing, these location require little more than some piles/compacted fill and prefab concrete slabs for platforms. The platform edge screens can’t cost this much. Nor would prefab stairs, customer service boots, foul weather wait areas, and overpasses to link the platforms, and street access to station. Do they want grand station houses above the station?

    • Walter says:

      I haven’t read this in any MTA material, but Amtrak’s study of the Northeast Corridor says Metro-North will run 121 revenue trains a day into Penn Station (must mean round trips, perhaps the late night inbound deadheading back to Stamford?).

      I’d guess it’s hourly off-peak service, similar to what most of the Harlem and Hudson Line Bronx stops (other than the unique service at Fordham Road and certain express service to/from Marble Hill) currently have. Metro-North at least seems to be adding trains in total, probably because they have to maintain service to Pelham and Mount Vernon.

      New Rochelle will probably make out very well with expanded service, as I’m sure most trains to/from Penn will stop there to allow for transfers with GCT trains. The service up the line is a question mark, though (i.e. Stamford locals or expresses).

    • Adirondacker12800 says:

      Union NJ cost 25 million and it’s rather lush, Rebuilding Metropark cost 47 million. Yankee Stadium was under 100. The ROW is six tracks wide in the Bronx, plenty of space for anything they want to put in.

  9. Jason Thomas says:

    Be nice if the route we’re adjusted to be within an AirTran shot of LGA.

  10. Donald says:

    Who says there has to be stations in the Bronx and Queens? What is wrong with just running non-stop to Penn Station? If we start building all these stations, aren’t Metro North trains going to slow down the Amtrak trains directly behind them? Remember, the Amtrak trains will not be stopping at any of these stations. They will be flying through them at 50 and 60 MPH.

    • Alon Levy says:

      Amtrak is excruciatingly slow. A fast regional train making 8 stops between Penn and New Rochelle could achieve similar travel time.

      And even if Amtrak were sped up, it’s nothing that can’t be handled with good scheduling. We’re not talking about subway-level frequencies here.

  11. SEAN says:

    Why you ask? One of the goals of this project is to bring rail service to an area that is 1. dense & 2. underserved by rail. Have you ever visited Co-op City? It is one of the densist locations in the entire country. Traffic in & around the Bay Plaza Shopping Center is unweildy at best & now Macy’s has anounced they will be opening there in 2013 bringing even more traffic.

    Transit service in that area is scattered & decentralized making transfers challenging both at BP as well as on the loop road network. A MNR station there could solve a multitude of transit problems at once by creating a central point for transfers between busses & commuter trains to numerous points besides Manhattan. Keep in mind that it can take a wile to reach Pelham Bay station & then you need to sit on the 6 while it meanders through J LO’s block.

    As for a transfer station in sunnyside, that is esential. You need a means to connect to both railroads without the nessessity of going through Penn Station wich we all know can be a pain in the rear end.

  12. Corey Best says:

    Here are my proposals for the Penn Station access ….Each station has a reason behind it.

    New Haven line – Penn Station Extension
    Penn Station

    Sunnyside JCT < It would provide an Easier transfer for those going East or North and in my opinion would add 10,000s to both systems.. People who live on Long Island or parts of Queens and work in the Bronx / Westchester Mainly drive which clogs the highways and Parkways…

    Hunts Point < It would give Low income residents of this neighborhood better access to higher paying jobs in Westchester and Fairfield Counties , it would also speed up the Urban Renewal Process.

    Parkchester < See above

    Morris Park < See Above

    Co-Op City < Its an Under Served part of the city Transit wise….

    City Island < An Under served and disconnected part of the city , a shuttle bus could run between the station and the Island

    Pelham Manor < I don't see the harm in restoring this station , the only issue is there would be no parking…but that area is walkable and doubt people would really care…

    Hudson line – Penn Station Extension
    Penn Station

    West 62nd Street < Don't have an Opinion on this station

    West 125th Street < I don't think i need to explain this

    Dyckman Street < It would give the residents of the Northern horn of Manhattan a faster way to get to Midtown or Westchester County…

    Northern NJT / MNRR Long Term plans and Proposals – 2050 plan

    http://maps.google.com/maps/ms.....8,0.878906

    • ajedrez says:

      I think your logic is flawed for Morris Park and Parkchester. I’m sure there are some low-income residents in those areas, but not as many as Hunt’s Point.

  13. Corey Best says:

    And from what I know the New Haven line extension will be 4 tracked from New Rochelle to Eastchester Bay Bridge and from Eastchester Bay Bridge to Sunnyside… The Eastchester Bay Bridge will be 3 to 4 tracked , and replaced eventually…. The line from New Rochelle south has a max speed of 80mph….but with the Hell Gate that drops to 50-60mph , although with the Catenary and track replacement that is underway i beleave the Goal is to increase the speed to 80mph… As for how many trains should run per hour , for the Hudson line extension it should be 4 per hour and for the New Haven line extension 6-8 per Hour.

    • Alon Levy says:

      Where did you hear that? There doesn’t seem to be any money budgeted for four-tracking; in addition, the Amtrak NEC Master Plan says nothing about adding tracks there, unlike in other spots such as the Providence Line.

      • Corey Best says:

        I asked around the Amtrak employee watering hole….alot of bridges will be replaced and most of the Hell Gate line will be 3 or 4 tracked…it used to be and most of the Infrastructure is still there for 2 tracks to put in. There currently replacing the Ties and Catenary along the line….

  14. Jon says:

    Please stop at Dyckman St. It will pass right by it, and all Washington Heights/Inwood folk could connect to the A express.

    • Jim Kingdon says:

      Making that transfer would be about a 0.3 mile walk, if I’m using google maps correctly. While that doesn’t sound prohibitive, I’m not sure many people would make the trek, especially through a neighborhood that they probably don’t know.

      • Alon Levy says:

        They transfer would suck, but if the line were useful for local travel (i.e. reasonable cost, no-extra-charge transfers to NYCT, off-peak frequency that doesn’t suck), people would use it instead of the overcrowded A.

      • Monica Matos says:

        It’s closer than u think, and all on flat ground, that area of Inwood is really nice with private homes along apartment buildings, doesn’t make sense to get off the Metro North at Dyckman to transfer to the A. The station would better serve residents of the area who don’t have local commuter service into downtown like the Bronx does along the Harlem river. Geographically as well, a station at Dyckman St & 125 st make sense, a station at 62 st makes no sense when it takes 5 min by cab or subway to get there from Penn station!

  15. Al D says:

    Connecting with LIRR to have some New Haven trains run to Jamaica would be optimal. This would open up a whole new travel venue to people using JFK, or going to and fro LI to CT. Right now, it’s a slow drive through Queens, over the Throgs or Whitestone and up the Hutch or CT Tpke. There is real potential in this.

  16. jj says:

    a great idea

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  1. [...] week, the MTA again floated proposals for connecting Metro-North to Penn Station once East Side Access comes online and frees track space currently used by the LIRR. The New Haven [...]

  2. [...] demand. It’s planning on a peak of 6-8 tph according to what I’ve read in comments on Second Avenue Sagas. This naturally breaks into 4 tph that make local stops and 4 that do not (though my suspicion of [...]

  3. [...] his speech, Vacca also mentioned his support for bringing Metro-North service to under-served parts of the Bronx, for expanding ferry service, and allowing drivers to use time purchased at one Muni-Meter in [...]

  4. [...] discussed during today’s hearing were MTA plans to bring Metro-North trains into Penn Station along existing Amtrak tracks, which the agency is seriously pursuing. Hudson and Harlem line trains [...]

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