Lhota: Why can’t we all just get along?By
In a sense, the New York region’s rail transportation has stalled out. New York City Transit and PATH cooperate only in a minimal sense of the word while the LIRR, Metro-North, New Jersey Transit and Amtrak would seemingly rather be caught dead than sharing or fighting together for precious funds and resources. So we’re left with infrastructure that doesn’t expand. We can add a few tunnels and some stations, but truly transformative projects do not happen.
Recently, after years of talking about the ARC Tunnel and now a Gateway Tunnel, the region’s transit leaders have started to take notice of this problem, and MTA head Joe Lhota has begun to speak out against it. At the RPA’s conference earlier this week, he issued a call for unity. “Right now, we’re as Balkanized as you can possibly imagine,” he said. “We need to find a way to coordinate that.”
Transportation Nation’s Jim O’Grady had more:
New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority Chairman Joe Lhota told a conference of transportation professionals that the only hope for moving more people under the Hudson River between Manhattan and New Jersey is for the area’s commuter railroads to set aside their traditional enmity and work better together…
Lhota tossed out three ideas, each aimed at boosting capacity at Penn Station in Manhattan…He said the station’s 21 platforms should all be made to accommodate 10-car trains, which would mean lengthening some of them. He also said that the railroads using the station—Amtrak, New Jersey Transit and Long Island Rail Road—should do a better job of sharing platform and tunnel space…
Lhota’s third suggestion was the most ambitious. He said the three railroads—plus the MTA’s Metro-North line, which connects Manhattan to Connecticut and several downstate New York counties—should use each other’s tracks. In other words, trains should flow throughout the region in a way that sends them beyond their historic territory. For example, a train from Long Island could arrive in Penn Station and, instead of sitting idly until its scheduled return trip, move on to New Jersey. That way, trains would spend less time tying up platforms, boosting the station’s capacity.
For many transit advocates in the area, these are common-sense proposals that have been on the table for years, if not decades. Barring a new tunnel — and that may still be at least a decade away — these ideas may help alleviate some of the rail problems plaguing the area. The other problem, of course, is one of funding, and to that end, Lhota wants some political action as well.
“There’s been an absence of leadership on transportation in this country since the creation of the Port Authority,” he said. “I would imagine you know that both the president and former Governor Romney come to the New York metropolitan area and raise hundreds of millions of dollars. Not once is anybody talking to them while they’re in New York about the critical need for transportation. We’re losing that effort. So we may be losing this entire political campaign. We need to make it a big issue.”
If we want to see needed upgrades, improvements and expansions any time soon, that we do. That we do.