Nov
30

Staten Island: We want a subway to, well, somewhere

By

Here’s a fun if highly unscientific bit from Staten Island: According to Michael Sedon of SILive.com, over 70 percent of polled Staten Island residents want a subway connection from Staten Island to either Brooklyn or Manhattan. In an unscientific poll of 52 Staten Island Ferry riders and another 52 residents from North Shore, Mid-Island and South Shore, 73 of them said the city should connect the subway to Staten Island. “Bloomberg was talking about extending the 7 train into New Jersey,” Audie Parker said. “Now he’s worried about Jersey commuters. What about the Staten Island commuters?”

As Sedon noted, this survey was hardly a scientifically rigorous random sampling of opinions, but it seems clear that Staten Islanders want better rapid transit connections to the rest of New York City. Of course, despite this superficial agreement, not everyone was keen on sending the subway only to Brooklyn as plans developed decades ago once promised. “I don’t see the benefit,” Frieda Riven of New Springville said of a Brooklyn subway connection. “I live in Heartland Village. How long will it take me to get to it, and then what do I do? I get to Brooklyn; then what, another 45 minutes to get to Manhattan. I think there has to be a better solution.”

Of course, there is but one simple problem: Costs. In the reality of today, a cross-New York bay subway to Manhattan or even a connection to the BMT 4th Ave. line in Brooklyn would cost billions of dollars the MTA simply does not have. I too wonder if the residents would be so keen for a subway if they knew how it would be funded. Maybe one day, forces will align to bring the subway from Staten Island to the rest of New York City, but for now, it will remain a pipe dream as it has been since it was first promised to the Island back in the late 1890s.



Categories : Asides, Staten Island

68 Responses to “Staten Island: We want a subway to, well, somewhere”

  1. Russell says:

    Send the 1 train there via Red hook, right after someone finds an extra $10-15 billion floating around.

    • Marc Shepherd says:

      The right question is: “Would you pay an extra $___ mobility tax in order to get a subway connection to Manhattan?”

      • pea-jay says:

        correct. Money *can* be raised to pay for infrastructure. Taxes are low in this country compared to other countries that invest in their infrastructure while national spending priorities lie elsewhere with only token levels of infrastructure financing. We managed to blow a trillion on a pair of overpriced military adventures and another trillion bailing out banks. The money CAN be found…it’s just the political will to do so that is lacking

      • Russell says:

        I would, and I don’t live in Staten Island.

        • The Cobalt Devil says:

          I wouldn’t, and I live on Staten Island. The minute they build a train out here, the population will quadruple and every single family home with a bit of grass around it will be knocked down and have a 10-family apt house in its place. I know it’s all a moot point, because we’ll never see this in anyone’s lifetime, but still, I don’t want it.

          • AlexB says:

            There’s nothing wrong with 10 family apartment buildings

            • The Cobalt Devil says:

              Not at all. But there is something wrong with putting 2,000,000 people on an Island that is already getting tight with a population of half a million. No grid system out here, no cross-Island subway, lots of hills, streams and protected parkland, and long, winding roads, many of which were laid out by the Dutch and British 300 years ago.

              Take a ride along Amboy and Richmond roads, which were laid out as a stagecoach routes in the early 1700s. There’s barely a stretch of either road that goes straight for more than a few hundred feet. Or better yet, ride the S40 bus on Richmond Terrace. You better take some dramamine, since the Terrace hugs the shore for over 7 miles, twisting, winding, rising and falling like a roller coaster. I’d hate to see what it’d be like with another 1.5 million people attempting to travel along that path!

              • Bolwerk says:

                If a million people were to move to Staten Island, most of the infill would probably occur in the only places where it would make sense to put a subway or LRT line: mainly the North Shore, but maybe near the existing SIRT ROW. Even then, I don’t see any reason why it would disrupt for-flung places like Tottenville, much less anything near Richmond Avenue.

                Either way, for better or for worse, it could be controlled by zoning, just as zoning keeps (sensible) infill from occurring in the other boroughs.

                • Al D says:

                  Many times though sensible zoning is too little, too late. As 2 examples, in Williamsburg, the cnew condos with sleeping lofts were an ‘interpretation’ of zoning and now we have huge floored buildings next to more traditional 1’s. Walking to the 4th floor or penthouse of the condos is actually like walking to the 6th. And in Sheepshead Bay, little bungalows are being replaced by multi-floor, mutli-dwelings units stuffed onto a tiny lot, totally changing the character of the neighborhood.

                  • Bolwerk says:

                    *shrug*

                    This sounds more like a problem for the people in those buildings, who must know what tehy’re getting when they rent/buy. Still, I have trouble buying the argument that the character of a neighborhood should never change. Except for more traffic in recent years, Williamsburg doesn’t seem to have changed its character much. I think change should be managed and manageable – you know, like conservatives are obligated to think!

                    What always gets me about Williamsburg is how they apparently are allowed to build these highrises so far from the subways that are needed to support them. Living in one of those things must be a nightmare.

          • ajedrez says:

            I live here and I disagree. Much of SI is pretty far from the SIR, and even if the North Shore Rail Line were built, there’d still be a good chunk of the Mid-Island that’s nowhere near the subway and would lilely remain low-density.

      • Eric says:

        Or: “Would you be willing to eliminate two lanes from the Narrows Bridge for use as subway tracks?”

        • Farro says:

          Could you even do that? I was under the impression that Moses deliberately made the bridge too steep for subways?

          • The Cobalt Devil says:

            Probably an old wives tale. I’m sure it COULD be done, but the MTA doesn’t WANT to do it. Those car lanes are a cash cow for the MTA, and they don’t want to give it over to subway riders paying $2.25 a pop when they can get something in the neighborhood of $6-$12 from cars, and a hell of a lot more from trucks.

            • Farro says:

              Even so I’m not sure you could do it. The logical route to go there (at least at first) would of course be the R, which ends at 95th st. Is there even enough room for the train to ramp up to the proper elevation to go on the Verazzano.

              (On that note, were the subway extended to SI, under a situation of loads of available cash, I would put a second subway tunnel down Third Avenue, paralleling the 4th Ave line, allowing some trains from SI to bypasss everything in BK until Atlantic so as to make the commute through Brooklyn reasonable).

              • Bolwerk says:

                I was told by a somewhat reliable source that it’s possible technically, but in a way that probably makes it infeasible politically. The problem is not the bridge, but the approaches necessary for the bridge.

              • John-2 says:

                To run a line over the bridge, you’d have to abandon the idea of splitting it off fron the the R anywhere south of 86th Street, and it might actually be more feasible to split it off from the N’s Sea Bach tracks between Eighth Ave. and Fort Hamilton Parkway.

                • Al D says:

                  Actually, the N emerges from the 4th Ave tunnel next to the freight line and where the BQE and Belt split, so that there is space to build out the extension from there and have the ROW over the highway ala AirTrain.

                  • William M says:

                    The approaches are way too steep for subway service, and Robert Moses deliberately made the bridge light so it can’t support a subway train, but light rail would work.

                    • Alex C says:

                      Bridge needs some serious renovation, and maybe they can sneak in some LRT lanes while they’re at it. But realistically, BRT is what’s going to happen.

              • Ed SI says:

                Geographically, the shortest route from SI to Manhattan is across the harbor. We all know that massive tunnel will never happen. How about a high speed ferry service with annoying tourists diverted to the old slow boats. Some modern ferries can go 50 mph making the 5mi trip to SI in 6 mins! A much cheaper option than subway extension.

          • Alon Levy says:

            The bridge’s grade is 4%, which is negotiable by subways though suboptimal.

            • John-2 says:

              It would make branching off from the Sea Beach line at 62nd St. and gradually ramping up along the ROW along the Southwestern section of the Gowanus more logical than trying to come off the Fourth Avenue line to the south, since it would stretch the approach grade out an additional 1 1/2 miles from where the highway ramps begin rising to connect to the bridge. That would make the grade less of a problem, similar to how the grade issue is less of a factor on the Brooklyn side of the Williamsburg Bridge than it is on the Manhattan side.

              Not sure how the NIMBYs would react there or on the Staten Island side to a new elevated line, even if it was in the middle of an already-noisy expressway (and on the SI side, the line presumably would have about a mile extra compared to the highway to ramp down to ground level before meeting/merging with the SIRT between Clifton and Grasmere).

              • William M says:

                The bridge has also been built to be extremely light so it can’t handle the weight of subway trains. It can only handle light rail cars.

  2. Alex says:

    You can argue that the increase in property value (and taxes generated by staten island and its future new residents) would more then offset the cost of construction over 50 years or so. But.. still, pipe dream unfortunately.

  3. Chris says:

    It’s really only the accident of fate that made Staten Island part of NYC that makes this even plausible, as I see it. If you were a regional transit coordinator ignoring political boundaries, better connections to Jersey would seem to make much more sense… the west bank of the Hudson is denser and closer. Staten Island isn’t much closer to Midtown than Paterson NJ, and frankly extending the 7 all the way to Paterson would make more sense than extending the 1 to Staten Island – at least you could make other stops in NJ on the way.

    • Opposition is stateist provincialism at its finest. From a planning perspective, extending any subway from Manhattan to New Jersey represents a far greater return on any investment than a subway to Staten Island would. I’ve written about that in the past. The only thing holding back support are state boundaries and the problems with interstate transit cooperation.

    • Scott E says:

      I agree that, geographically, Staten Island shouldn’t be a part of New York City, much less New York State. How great would it be for the Outerbridge, Goethals, and Bayonne Bridges to become part of NJDOT, rather than the politically ambiguous bargaining chip between the two states called the Port Authority? But it is, and I honestly don’t see that changing anytime soon.

      However, I do think that an HBLR connection to Staten Island is technically and politically feasible. It’s still a two-seat ride to Manhattan (see Ms. Riven’s comments), only via New Jersey rather than Brooklyn.

      • Quinn Hue says:

        Trade Staten Island for Hudson County perhaps?

        • AlexB says:

          I’d back that in a heartbeat

          • The Cobalt Devil says:

            You’d trade 500,000 middle-class taxpaying residents, those who use the least amount of city services (no city-run hospitals out here, by far the smallest police presence because of a low crime rate, hardly any social services due to the fact that most Islanders work for a living) and instead take Hudson County, a crime-ridden, poor, dirty and corrupt county of a state you probably have never spent more than 10 mins in?

            Come to think of it, that’s not a bad idea! Gas prices on SI would drop 40 cents a gallon overnight. Count me in!

            • Bolwerk says:

              Blah. It’s 500,000 residents who more or less consume the same services as anyone, even if they have to leave the island to consume them. Maybe they even consume more, since they drive more, get a free ferry, depend more on buses rather than less expensive trains, and lower density isn’t likely to make public infrastructure (e.g., roads, sewers, even private utilities) cheaper to maintain per person.

              I don’t want Staten Island to leave the city, but do keep things in perspective.

    • The Cobalt Devil says:

      And exactly what was this accident of fate? The fact that, like the other boroughs, Islanders voted to join Greater NY when asked in the 1890s?

  4. Chet says:

    As as Staten Islander I would love to be able to hop on a train and be in Manhattan 30…40 minutes later. I understand of course the costs are simply astronomical and it is just not going to happen any time soon. I know a lot of islanders that would be happy with better express bus service; and the start of the BusTime system since the schedules here aren’t worth the paper their written on in most cases.

    However, for those who like to dream, the way to do this is to dream big.

    For several years now, there has been a plan to replace the Gowanus Expressway with a tunnel the would be more or less along the Brooklyn waterfront.

    If it were ever to be built, it should be a dual deck tunnel with one level for motor vehicles and the other for a train. The train could be an extension of the Second Ave Line (told you to dream big). Have the line cross the water with a stop on Governor’s Island and one in Red Hook and then continue express with the next stop being on Staten Island. Ideally, the train would continue as a local on the island with stops along Clove Road and then heading down Victory Blvd.

    Now, all we need is oh about $50 billion and maybe those rock-eating creatures from an old Star Trek episode!

    • pea-jay says:

      I think a more impressive “think big” vision would be to do this with our commuter rail system. Dig a deep tunnel from where the LIRR GCT station will be with stops under Union Square and somewhere downtown. The downtown station would be a transfer station of sorts and include tunnels to Staten Island, Atlantic Avenue LIRR in BK and Hoboken NJTransit station. Then these LIRR, MN and NJT would be all through-routed with S-Bahn style frequencies in the city and close-in suburbs with commuter rail frequencies beyond. THAT is thinking big and would put Staten Island one quick stop away from downtown. I cant imagine how much that would all cost but we can still dream big right?

  5. pea-jay says:

    If the goal is to speed up travel time from SI, how about faster ferries? Hydrofoils or hovercraft maybe?

    • al says:

      Another alternative could be a fleet (1000 vehicles = 50k-60k passengers) of commuter buses that run to Manhattan. During the day, they could run frequent service linking LaGuardia Airport to subway/rail hubs throughout the city.

      They (DOT, MTA) could also look into high capacity coupled multiple unit rubber tyred trams to roll over the Verrazano Bridge and Bus HOV lanes in SI, Bk, and Manhattan.

      There are hybrid airships. Prototypes (1-10 tone capacity) are already airborne. If money could be found (looking at you Elon Musk, Paul Allen, Bloomberg, Richard Branson, and Trump) 200 ton capacity vehicles could ferry 2,000 passengers at a time with a top speed of 100 mph.

      Finally, there might be a opening for a case to be made for trying out other proven, but not widely deployed transit technologies, like the Aerobus.
      http://www.aerobus.com/installations.html

  6. Alex C says:

    New PATH branch that turns south at around I78 (West of Grove St.) and joins the path of the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail line to Bayonne. Then tunnel to St. George and connect to SIRT. Boom, done. SI gets a train to Manhattan, and the uppity “concerned” (ignorant) citizens don’t have to worry about going through scary Brooklyn to get to work. PATH is installing CBTC anyways, so they’ll be able to provide the shorter headways if they have enough PA5’s.

  7. John-2 says:

    The only way you could get the financials to even slightly work would be to rework the Cross-Harbor Tunnel project away from the direct Bayonne-Brooklyn plan to use the existing Arthur Kill lift bridge and Arlington Yard, and from there extend a fright line roughly on the path of the former Arlington line and existing SIRT to Clifton and across to Brooklyn. A bi-level tunnel similar to the 63rd Street design with a level for freight rail and one for the subway could then be put in place.

    That way, you could hook the freight line up to NY&A and the SBK rail lines, while the subway connects with the BMT Fourth Avenue line. The freight line makes a deep-water port in Brooklyn for the new expanded Panama Canal freighters viable (which is part of the push for the Cross-Harbor Tunnel to begin with), and offers the direct financial profits to both the city and businesses that a subway tunnel alone can’t match. (And, yes, the NIMBY fights against even a freight rail tunnel under Richmond Terrace and Bay Street would be massive. But a Narrows crossing with the potential to give Long Island, the Bronx and southwestern New England direct freight access from the mid-Atlantic states and the rest of the country for the first time would be the most likely scenario to scrounge up the $$$ for a tunnel that a second level for subway riders could be grafted on to at far less cost than just a stand-alone tunnel).

  8. Namer says:

    Dear Staten Island,

    Activate the North Shore line first before talking about a subway to the rest of NYC.

    • The Cobalt Devil says:

      Dear Namer–

      If it were up to Staten Islanders, the line would never have closed in the first place. And if were up to Staten Islanders, it would be opened in a heartbeat.

      But praytell, why does the North Shore line have to be opened before a subway tunnel to Brooklyn or Manhattan? More than 2/3 of the Island’s population lives along the eastern/southern shore of the Island, below the SI Expressway and many miles from the North Shore line.

      • ajedrez says:

        You could still access it through buses. For instance, I would have the option of not only the S44, S46, or S62 to get me home from St. George, but also the option of the North Shore Line to Port Richmond for the S59, or to Arlington for the S46.

        It’s similar to the South Shore: You can take a bus directly from the ferry, or you can take the SIR and then another bus for the last mile or so. It’s faster to take the SIR to Eltingville and then take the S59/79/89 to the ETC than it is to take the S74 directly there.

  9. Bill Reese says:

    Staten Island should never have been a part of the greater City of New York in the first place. I fully support the petitions for the borough/county to secede.

    • The Cobalt Devil says:

      There are no petitions out there to sign; haven’t been any for like 20 years now. Funny how the rest of the city doesn’t mind taking our tax money and didn’t mind dumping all its garbage here for the better part of 60 years. But ask for a subway or some better transit options, and all of a sudden those Islanders are uppity complainers who never should have been part of Greater NYC in the first place. Sorry, that boat sailed in 1898, and SI is just as much a part of NYC as any other borough, so get used to it and relax.

    • Alex says:

      Why not? They were asked to join greater New York, just like the other counties that border Manhattan. If Nassau county was asked to join, why not Staten Island? Staten Island after all is only 5 miles away from Manhattan.

      • The Cobalt Devil says:

        Alex-

        Some folks think SI shouldn’t be part of Greater NY because it gives them an air of superiority over a place they’ve probably never even visited. They think because they live in Manhattan or Brooklyn and are too small-minded or lazy to ride the ferry and check out the “forbidden zone” that lies outside their line of vision that somehow it shouldn’t even be part of NYC. Then they can get on SAS and drag out some tired, extremely old lines like “hey, let’s trade SI to NJ” or some such bullshit. Meanwhile, while super-hot Brooklyn’s population has grown a whopping .01% since 2000, Staten Islands has grown by almost 6%, by far the fastest growing borough for the past 50 years running. Frankly, I don’t get all the animosity, but it’s been there for years and won’t die quickly.

        • petey says:

          “Some folks think SI shouldn’t be part of Greater NY because it gives them an air of superiority over a place they’ve probably never even visited. They think because they live in Manhattan or Brooklyn and are too small-minded or lazy to ride the ferry and check out the “forbidden zone” that lies outside their line of vision that somehow it shouldn’t even be part of NYC.”

          KEEEEEEEEEEEEE-RIIIISSSSTT! YOU POOR OPPRESSED GUY!!
          full disclosure: i’m a manhattan native who went to pouch scout camp endless times and loved it (i was there when the gas tanks on the arthur kill exploded – they sky turned orange at night and our troop dweeb explained that it was not the sun blowing up), even hiking from st george a few times, and the first thing – the first thing – i did when i got my first camera was to ride the ferry over with my bud, ride the SIRT to the end, and take pictures of all of it.

          • The Cobalt Devil says:

            Good for you Petey, you’re one of the few who actually came out here. So, who said anything about being oppressed? If you go through the threads posted here, you’ll see a few of the usual chestnuts like “sell SI to NJ” or “why are they even allowed to part of NYC” crap, as if SI got some special dispensation and was allowed through the back door to become part of NYC. My point, if you read my posting, was that the Island is just as much a bone-fide borough as the other four.

        • ajedrez says:

          Actually, Brooklyn’s population has grown 1.6%, and SI’s has grown 5.6%

  10. Ed says:

    This is something of a recurring discussion around here, every two months or so. People are finally starting to point out that extending the New York City subway system to Staten Island may be the worst available option for getting a faster commute for SI residents to Manhattan.

    Some of the better options:

    1. Faster, passenger only ferries. And if successful, you can run ferries to more places than Lower Manhattan and St. George.

    2. More express busses running more often.

    3. Extending the Bayonne light rail system to Staten Island. Yes, this means a transfer to the PATH (and the PATH goes to both Midtown and Downtown).

    4. More expensive, but extend the PATH to Staten Island.

    But I thought that SI residents historically wanted the borough to be accessible to the rest of the city by car, but not mass transit, to keep the island white and suburban.

    • Alon Levy says:

      1. Ferries won’t work. The peak employment in Manhattan is too far from South Ferry; even Lower Manhattan employment density peaks one subway stop farther north. And once you start running ferries to more than one destination, frequencies drop to unusable levels.

      2. Bus drivers are expensive.

      3. It’s slow, circuitous, and involves a streetcar-mode slog through the Jersey City waterfront before hitting Exchange Place, to say nothing of Pavonia/Newport. And for most residents, it’s two transfers just to get to Manhattan.

      4. Which at capacity line do you want to cut frequency to?

    • Bolwerk says:

      How are any of those options faster than a subway connection? PATH is circuitous, HBLR is more circuitous (and lower-capacity), and a decent subway could be half way to Manhattan in the time it takes a ferry or enough express buses to load.

  11. VMGillen says:

    A train tunnel is stooopid. Better would be a plan to make real mass transit available on the Island, including a very easy connection to the Bayonne light rail as part of the bridge-raising. Reactivate the North Shore rail line. And, if you want to continue spending $, make a full belt of actual mass transit around the Island.

    • Bolwerk says:

      For what purpose? Mass transit’s primary role would be getting people off the island. For intra-island service, the existing buses supplemented by a smattering of good LRT should be sufficient.

  12. Tony says:

    The way I see it the best solution is to do what they already do for rush hour:

    1. Have an express train run every 15 mins and the local run its usual 30 min route.

    2. Have the ferry run every 15 mins like during rush hour.

    That would essentially get you from the south shore to lower Manhattan in 45 mins, roughly 40 minutes shorter than if you went through a subway tunnel from SI to Brooklyn to Manhattan.

    To help pay for the increased service just start charging a subway fare on the SIR again, they already do at Thompkinsville.

  13. Dave 'Paco' Abraham says:

    For very little money (compared to a subway) they could build a bike/ped path on the Verrazano and at least offer some basic mobility options. Sure, it’s a long bridge and not a viable option for everyone but it’d be in the tens of millions versus billions and could spur enough development on both sides to eventually draw more proponents willing to pay for a subway and BRT connection.

    • mcsladek says:

      Hear hear! A multi-use path across the Verrazano would provide a toll-free crossing to and from Brooklyn, at a fraction of the cost to build that a subway would–as well as a route that would stimulate tourism and the local economy without unduly swelling the population on the island.

      While a subway connection to Brooklyn would be wonderful, it wouldn’t necessarily solve the problem of a faster commute to Manhattan. It WOULD provide a more affordable option to SIers commuting to BK/Manhattan, which is valuable unto itself, but I don’t think speed of travel would be affected. To do that, I would suggest a private ferry operator set up shop next to the SI Ferry terminal with smaller boats, making frequent 15 minute trips to Manhattan (the distance can be traveled in that amount of time; the size of the boats keep the duration at 30 mins).

  14. Matthias says:

    I think the bottom line is that Staten Island is the wrong place to live if you work in Manhattan. It has nothing to do with superiority or inferiority; it’s just a geographical reality.

    Better transit connectivity with NJ and Brooklyn makes sense. With Manhattan, the ferry is probably as good as it gets.

    • Farro says:

      Is it really any worse, geography-wise, than living in say, Western Suffolk County? The distance is less for sure, it’s just unfortunate water placement that makes SI so difficult to access.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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  2. […] Islanders’ desire for a subway connection got me thinking again about my previous proposal for a tunnel from Staten Island to Manhattan, […]

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