Jun
11

Revisiting a subway connection for Staten Island

By
Plans from 1939 show a Staten Island subway connection via a Fort Hamilton Parkway subway.

Plans from 1939 show a Staten Island subway connection via a Fort Hamilton Parkway subway.

The endless parade of mayoral forums various boroughs and city organizations host over the course of an election season may not bring much clarity on the differences amongst the candidates. After a while, everyone starts to sound the same, and the various discussions blend together into one giant mess of pandering city politicians. Yet, they can provide fodder for potential projects that may never have a chance to see the light of day, and last night’s on Staten Island did not disappoint.

When Staten Island hosts a mayoral forum, the discussion inevitably turns to the transportation options. SI residents hate the tolls on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge; they hate the lack of transit options on the island; and they hate how the mayor has focused on a potential subway to Secaucus before exploring a subway to Staten Island. (In fact, Diane Savino has threatened to throw an obstructionist fit in the off chance the mayor’s plan moves forward before the end of the year.)

Last night, in between candidates decrying state control of the MTA and the need to improve ferry service, former MTA Chairman and GOP mayoral hopeful Joe Lhota spoke about the need to connect Staten Island to, well, somewhere. During the forum, Lhota discussed the need to connect the R train to Staten Island. Lhota’s plan, hardly unique in the recent history of proposals to send the subway to Staten Island, harkens back to the original 1913 BMT plans and the 1939 IND Second System proposal to dig under the Narrows via 67th St. in Brooklyn. As part of an aborted effort to realize this subway extension, workers dug out around 150 feet but gave up after a dispute with Mayor Hylan in the mid-1920s.

1912 plans connect a subway tunnel under the Narrows to the BMT's 4th Avenue line.

1912 plans connect a subway tunnel under the Narrows to the BMT’s 4th Avenue line.

So does it make sense for 2013? Ignoring the idea that Staten Island is likely better served with rail on the North Shore and a connection to the Hudson Bergen Rail Light, let’s look at a potential cross-Narrows connection. First, we have the issue of cost. In 2007, Lew Fidler proposed transit and rail freight tunnels that he estimated would cost a total of $10 billion, and in 2010, Diane Savino claimed a subway connection would set back the city by $3 billion. As there are no serious recent studies on the tunnel, it’s unclear how much it would cost, but billions — with a b — is a good starting point.

Next up are travel times. My kneejerk reaction to suggest that a cross-harbor tunnel with a direct connection to Lower Manhattan would be a better use of funds, but it would use up more of those funds. Furthermore, travel times to key job centers may not be worse along 4th Ave. If a Staten Island subway ran express or if riders transferred at 59th St. to an N, that segment of ride lasts about 10 mintes to the Atlantic Ave./Barclays Center stop and around 30-35 minutes to Times Square. A cross-harbor subway, spanning the 5+ miles to the 1 at South Ferry or R at Whitehall St., would likely arrive in Lower Manhattan in about 8-12 minutes but would bypass any job centers in Brooklyn completely.

Meanwhile, there’s a third cost element to consider: Would either a cross-Harbor or a trans-Narrows subway allow the city to cut back or eliminate Staten Island ferry service? According to the latest figures, the subsidizes ferry trips to the tune of $108 million annually. Cutting ferry subsidies to zero would still require three decades or more to recoup costs, but fare collection could help offset the investment. That’s a dirty calculation that assumes the city could cut ferry service entirely, but it’s a factor to consider at least.

For now, we’re just dreaming and thinking off the cuff. No one is yet willing to champion a subway to Staten Island, and even those politicians such as Savino who are willing to talk about it use it as a threat more than a promise. At the mayoral forum, Lhota recognized a need and a talking point that plays well to the audience, but the truth is that there are far more worthwhile subway expansion projects than this one. Staten Island will likely just have to keep on waiting.



Categories : Staten Island

82 Responses to “Revisiting a subway connection for Staten Island”

  1. marv says:

    Factor in the increase in real estate values (taxes) and economic development that would result from having the subway connection. I doubt that you would be looking at a 30 year recoup.

    NYS is completing a major overhaul of Route 17 (the Quickway and Southern Tier Expressway). The major purpose is to allow it to be signed as I-86. The difference in travel before and after the overhaul will be minor, but by it being labelled as an interstate, economic development will come. The same can be true of a subway line to a location. Even if the current bus/ferry connections take just as long, they are perceived as slower and hold back investment.

    • Nathanael says:

      Check heights above sea level before investing the Staten Island Rapid Transit. Don’t invest in things which are going to sink or need floodwalls.

      As for the conversion of Route 17 to an expressway, it’s actually been an economic disaster for the regions it goes through.

      It wrecked the local businesses in Corning when Corning was bypassed, and it wrecked the local businesses in Horseheads when the highway was elevated through Horseheads, and it’s going to do the same along its entire length.

      The purpose of an expressway is to allow people to bypass your town and not stop there. With an old-fashioned state highway with stop signs, people slow down, and maybe turn off and stop at your business. With the expressway, they speed right by.

      Expressways are bad for business for intermediate towns. Very bad. People are slowly beginning to realize this, upstate.

  2. If Staten Island gets a connection to any of the other four boroughs, it should be to Manhattan through a tunnel to Grand Central via 14th St. and Fulton, as described in Alon’s regional rail proposal.

    As for bypassing Brooklyn, that’s a very small thing to give up compared to direct access to Manhattan. And you’re only bypassing a certain part of Brooklyn (albeit, one with some strong ties to Staten Island – i.e., Bay Ridge). It’d be quicker to reach pretty much any part of Brooklyn other than Bay Ridge, Sunset Park and Park Slope through Manhattan anyway. And for Bay Ridge, there’s always buses.

    • AG says:

      Nah – I think connecting to Brooklyn or PATH to NJ would be better than connecting a more expensive tunnel to Manhattan. Leaving the ferries to Manhattan would be the best option.

      • al says:

        If you’re in favor of affordable housing then a tunnel to SI is a key project. Massive up-zoning along the North Shore, with a subway under Forest Ave, and light rail along the North Shore, can accommodate a million new middle class residents on SI. That would provide enormous relief on housing cost.

      • Bolwerk says:

        I don’t really see why both don’t make a lot of sense. The city needs interborough connections, but it’s also silly to not have a direct connection to Midtown Manhattan. Really, extend the R and do the Manhattan connection.

        • AG says:

          I’m assuming you meant Lower Manhattan… and of course it would have the most ridership… but it would be more expensive by far…. means it would be the hardest to make happen.

          • Bolwerk says:

            No, I meant Midtown. The connection would be through Lower Manhattan, and of course should stop there, but the main point is getting people to Midtown. (The ferry gets them to Lower Manhattan well enough.)

  3. Glad that you mention this as I am working on a post about Staten Island (where I’m spending a week with family). The borough’s four transit links — ferry to Manhattan, buses to Brooklyn, express buses to Manhattan, rush hour bus to NJT light rail to Jersey City/Hoboken — are generally good at meeting travel needs. At least enough so that it’s not a pressing issue.

    However, we shouldn’t dismiss Staten Island so readily. There are over 500,000 residents, with a density of 8,000 people per square mile, more than many large US cities. Much of the development is sprawl but there is many people moving about and to Brooklyn & Manhattan every day.

    The most dense parts of Staten Island are all north of the highway/bridge and already fairly close to the ferry. There is a strong need for more frequent evening and weekend service but otherwise it’s fine, certainly not in need of replacement. The real question is whether you could get rid of express buses by building a subway link, in which case we would surely save a lot of money that could be used for better local/limited bus service.

    Either way, if we build a five-mile-long tunnel, and the next hurricane comes … uh..??

    While the majority of people go to Manhattan, many thousands go to Brooklyn each day, so the best solution would probably be to go that way. I wonder if it’s feasible to run trains over the Verrazano Bridge? It has twelve lanes on two levels, one of which could be for buses, trains and a new bike path. Link up with the N at 59 St.

    • Joseph Steindam says:

      The tale I’ve always heard about all of the Moses bridges (including the Verrazano) is that they were deliberately designed to have too steep a grade for trains to ever use the bridges. Now I have nothing to seriously back up that claim, and apart from knowing that subway systems can climb steeper grades than commuter trains, I don’t know what kinds of grades subways are capable of climbing, and whether the Verrazano is steeper than that.

      However, it’s not a bad route for a subway connection on the Brooklyn side. The BQE route there is a good route to connect into the N before the 59th Street station, meaning a direct connection to the 4th Avenue express tracks to Manhattan.

      • al says:

        Grade climbing depends on the rail wheel adhesion. Having all wheels powered improve grade climbing. The R62 can climb 4.5% grades slowly. R160 might be able to do better. Light railcars can do 6% grades. Today’s EMU can make it over the Verrazano, but it would be slow goings.

      • Alon Levy says:

        So, I forget where I brought this up last – could be here, could be one of the forums, could be The Transport Politic. I think the conclusion was that the Verrazano has a 4% grade, which any late-model EMU can climb without excessive trouble, but it was built very light and might not be able to take the weight of a train.

  4. Adirondacker12800 says:

    All of you are assuming there is excess capacity in Northern Brooklyn to wedge in another 10 or 12 trains an hour that go to Staten Island. There isn’t. The D, F and N routes in Brooklyn have express tracks. They don’t get used because there isn’t capacity to run expresses and locals. You want to add service to Staten Island think wider than just that. Adding Metro North, LIRR and NJ Transit service to Wall Street. As long as there’s going to be new tunnel to Brooklyn Metro North and NJTransit service to Brooklyn. Second Ave Subway to Brooklyn to give extra capacity to southwest Brooklyn. Connect it and the commuter trains from Staten Island to Triboro subway in Sunset Park…. The SIRT ROW is wide enough for four tracks, let the express trains from Bay Head get to Manhattan via Staten Island…

    • Brian says:

      Thats just flat out wrong, back when the M went to Bay parkway it ran along 4th avenue where the D,N,R currently run. So there were 4 trains running along 4th avenue as recently as 2010. Also with all the trouble and complications that come with building ONE subway tunnel how on earth do you expect all of that to be done?

      • John-2 says:

        There is excess Fourth Avenue capacity. There’s just not excess Fourth Avenue express capacity, so some decision would have to be made.

        A revived W or the J/Z could be routed to Brooklyn via the (also revived) Montague tunnel, but would the MTA want a local route that long, and would you draw enough Staten Island riders to a route that scraped the wall all the way from 59th Street in Brooklyn to Manhattan? The alternative would be to reroute the N or the D to SI and make the Sea Beach or West End line the second Fourth Avenue local route, while Staten Island riders get Broadway or Sixth Avenue via the Manhattan Bridge (N to SI would be the most likely scenario, even if the interlocking past 59th would have to be modified. But Sea Beach riders who already feel neglected by the MTA wouldn’t been thrilled to be downgraded to Fourth Avenue local service).

        • Alex says:

          Us 4th Ave local riders feel pretty neglected since they cut the M from South Brooklyn in 2010. The 8-10 minute headways on the R at rush hour are pretty pathetic. We’re not the F train, but riding on a packed R is not uncommon. I’d support this if only to see better service on the local! (Of course, there are much cheaper/easier options for that.)

          • John-2 says:

            I don’t think you could do Staten Island without at least a fourth 19/5 service along Fourth Avenue, and the only opening is the local tracks to Manhattan via Montague. So a Staten Island route would benefit passengers in Brooklyn using the Fourth Avenue local stops. The only question would be whether Staten Island riders would get one of the two existing express services, and the second local service to pair with the R would come from the Sea Beach or West End route.

        • Adirondacker12800 says:

          If there’s excess capacity why aren’t they running express trains out on the ends of the lines? The Ferry carries 75,000 people a day. A fast direct connection would induce demand. 100,000 a day and they need their own tracks to Manhattan.

          • Alon Levy says:

            Because there’s demand for local service and they can’t provide express service without cutting local frequency well below a train every 10 minutes.

    • Alon Levy says:

      Actually, the southern Brooklyn lines have the most spare capacity in the system. Montague Street Tunnel is by a fair margin the least busy track pair heading into the Manhattan core (link). Moreover, the DeKalb Avenue throat has six tracks heading into Manhattan and eight heading out, so there’s ample spare capacity to the south. Finally, there are six tracks within Manhattan, namely the four tracks of the Broadway Line and the two of the IND express. Before the service cuts, they had the W terminating at Whitehall and the M providing additional underused service through the tunnel, and even then it was the least busy entry point into the Manhattan core.

  5. PeakVT says:

    It’s a great idea… to consider sometime after 2050, about the time the SAS will be done… in Manhattan, at least.

  6. asar says:

    Itd be nice if they had a connection from staten island 2 bk. Staten island is always neglected from nyc

    • Emilio says:

      Yeah, well, 855K residents of eastern Queens live in ZIP codes without a subway station, 550K of those live in ZIP codes without pricey LIRR access.

      Last time I checked, that’s more than the 470K residents of Staten Island, which “is always neglected from NYC”. Maybe the residents of Eastern Queens should be neglected too, if that means getting a free ferry ride and a mostly free SIR ride within the island.

  7. Chet says:

    Oh, where to start on this topic…

    1) A subway across the bay would be great, but truth is, it really doesn’t solve the problem here on Staten Island. We need more than just a commuter line to Manhattan, we need a local rail system that can get cars off the roads to lower intra-island traffic. If a trans-harbor train is $10 billion, what I think we need would be a few times that. Of course, we’d have hook up to the NYC Subway, NJ Transit, HBLR..and more or less direct train rides from Staten Island to Newark Airport and MetroPark station.

    2) Let’s be a little more realistic. We aren’t getting any of that. So is there a cheaper way? Yes, better ferry service. There is. as mentioned in the post, for more frequent service, but what is really needed as well is FASTER service. Currently one arrives at the St. George terminal and waits for the next boat. Let’s say you wait 10 minutes. Then there is the ride- another 25 minutes. So, to go the five miles across the harbor, it takes about 35 minutes. It is slow. We need a new kind of ferry. Well, at least new for NYC. Many parts of the world use catamaran style boats that could make that trip in a third of the time. Okay, we can’t expect a boat to reach 40 knots for a five mile ride. The current boats go at about 16 knots (18.4mph) If we can get that to 25 knots (28.7mph), we can cut the ride from 25 minutes to about 15 minutes. Combine that with more frequent service- every 15 or 20 minutes for most of the day, and the trip becomes A LOT better. The ships would probably be smaller, but with more frequent service, needed capacity would be served well.

    All of this needs to be investigated pretty fast. With the building of the big wheel and the outlet center, the crowds coming to St George are going to grow tremendously.

    • AG says:

      1)well any train connection to Staten Island would undoubtedly have to be coupled with the “ultra-local” improvements you talk about.

      2) faster ferries cost more money… see the ferries from the east end of Long Island to New London, CT. Or even see the price of those “quick” ferries from Lower Manhattan to Sandy Hook, NJ.

    • Alon Levy says:

      Over here, the ferry takes 10-12 minutes to do a little less than half the distance of St. George-South Ferry. Doing it consistently in 10 minutes creates a wake that unacceptably disturbs the shipping channel. Trains are faster than boats and always have been going back to the first trains in the 1830s. A train could do the trip in 7 minutes and also connect directly to the Staten Island Railway and North Shore heavy rail, cutting a transfer for passengers.

  8. paulb says:

    It’s imaginary money, but I think this imaginary money would be better spent, I mean in terms of positive effects on the city’s economic future, on a new, fast subway connecting Houston St. to eastern-most Queens.

    The Chinese are discussing throwing $40 billion down the can for a new canal across Nicaragua. Maybe they’d like to invest in NYC transit.

    • AG says:

      China is actually investing a lot in infrastructure all over the world (including the country of my families origin). In exchange though they rightfully expect “free” usage of certain lands for raw materials etc. Countries often go along with it because it’s more favorable than former colonizers who came with guns rather than cash… but it’s diff here.
      NYC wouldn’t go for that because it’s too built up… and there aren’t the raw materials China wants anyway.

      • SEAN says:

        It maybe built up, but a few choice pieces of Manhattan real estate could entice the chinese to help expand the subway system. Heck lets ask the Arabs to also pay for some as it’s our money anyway that’s sloshing around the globe.

        • AG says:

          neither scenario is likely in this political climate… look at the uproar when it was said that shake wanted to build a private stadium in Flushing Meadows.

  9. John T says:

    Could someone explain why nearly every plan has a proposed tunnel starting at about 67th Street? It makes far more sense to me to 4 track the 4th Ave line 86th Street, complete that as an express station, and start a Staten Island tunnel from the new express tracks.

    The advantages would be:
    - SI would have express service through Brooklyn (it has capacity with no M line)
    - 86th & 59th stations would have more service
    - the proposed Bklyn-SI tunnel would be quite a bit shorter

    In the end, something is needed for sure!

    • I don’t know why in 1912 that decision was made, but it likely has to do with where 67th St. lines up with Staten Island and the width of the Narrows. Now, everyone calls for it now because that’s where the preexisting stub tunnel is. Might as well take advantage of infrastructure already in place.

      • John-2 says:

        I think the goal back them simply was to find the shortest connection point between Brooklyn and St. George, which lined up roughly akin to the old Brooklyn-Staten Island ferry, which docked just to the east of the current St. George main terminal and then at 69th Street in Bay Ridge.

        If you built a tunnel today that wanted the shortest underwater distance and didn’t care if the line in Staten Island reached St. George directly, an extension of the R (or a new express line from 59th St. south paralleling the R on Fourth Avenue) via the Narrows crossing would be the obvious option. Total tunneling distance would be about the same, though planners would have to decide where the line would go once it reached SI in the Ft. Wadsworth area.

        • Spiderpig says:

          It looks to me like the narrowest point would be by the bridge, extending the tracks from 95th Street across to Staten Island, but it would probably be best to line up the connection near the ferry terminal to take advantage of the bus lines that currently terminate/originate there.

        • Alon Levy says:

          The problem is that the narrowest part of the Narrows is also the deepest.

            • Alon Levy says:

              It’s normal. The narrowest part of a straight will have the fastest flow, causing the most erosion. The Strait of Gibraltar is three times deeper than the piece of ocean about 50 kilometers to the west.

              • John T says:

                Thanks for your thoughts.
                Again, hoping something gets built someday, and hiope the SI politicians keep pushing for a connection.

                • marv says:

                  The best way to service both Staten Island and NJ commuters is to extend the #7 to the Hoboken NJT terminal and then down and over the bayonne bridge into Staten Island. Once over the bride, the line should (eventually) break into 3 routes:

                  *a branch (#1) following northshore line east past the ferry terminal and then on the current SIRR
                  *a branch from 440 east along the Staten Island Expressway terminating just short of the verazano bridge
                  *a branch following 440 and then elevated over the wide Richmond Ave past the SI Mall to Richmond Parkway then merging with the SIRR near Huguenot.
                  *until a full build out is done, service could split between my route #1, and a line extending down 440 only to the Staten Island Mall which is already served by numerous Staten Island bus lines.

                  The Hoboken terminal would becomes a desirable alternate (a non-second choice)for present NJT Penn Station commuters given the transfer to east side access via the #7. Demand for trains into Penn would be reduced.

                  Staten Island travelers would have transfers to Path to Newark, World Trade Center and other locations and transfers to NJT, and the light rail.

                  Issue have been raised about the the ability of #7 platform at Grand Central (and Times Square?) to hand rush hour traffic from two directions. If this is the case, side platforms (which do not involve moving a track bed) could be built on one side of each station allowing the present center platform to be used for just the other direction.

                  The #7 to Staten Island via Hoboken would:
                  *serve Staten Island with direct connection to both Times Square, Grand Central as well as easy transfers (via path) to downtown etc
                  *NJ as easy access to the east side (and from there museum on 5th Avenue, Yankee Stadium etc) would be gained
                  *transform Hoboken into a real alternate for NY Penn Station and would save billions on a new station and higher profile tunnel.
                  *relieve traffic on the BQE and battery tunnel
                  *would give the NJ light rail a real connection into much of NYC

                  The #7 is well equipped become the premier line of the city given its ability to run longer trains which do not merge (get delayed by) other lines.

                  • Patrick says:

                    I hope you realise that if the (7) was to ever cross into NJ, it’s not the New York City Subway anymore
                    -Patrick W/O A Blog

                    • marv says:

                      The cross island parkway has a short stretch in nassau county and remains a nyc parkway.

                      NY I-684 has a short stretch in Ct and remains a NYS interstate.

                    • Patrick says:

                      I think you may have read that wrong, i’m not saying it won’t belong to NYC, it just won’t be a subway anymore. Your plan would turn the system into a Railroad because it’s leaving NY into another State. That alone could make at least the (7) separate from the rest of the system (well more than it already is)
                      -Patrick W/O A Blog

                  • BenW says:

                    I’m not sure how the #7 is equipped to become more of a “premier” line than it already is, with nearly a million passengers a year… more importantly on the substance, though: assuming that the lack of branching is important to the capacity of the line, why would it be helpful to add a three-way branch on the Staten Island end? (Also, I think the R actually runs 600-foot trains, which makes it substantially higher-capacity than the 7 on a per-train basis, though at the moment it runs roughly a third as many trains.)

                    • marv says:

                      in reading your reply, i think that you made a good point regarding the branching, and would keep it just one line going over the bayonne bridge, following 440 south past the staten island expressway and then elevated over the wide Richmond Ave past the SI Mall (a point where many staten island bus lines terminate)to and along Richmond Parkway then taking over the SIRR at the Huguenot Station. SIRR trains (~IND) would terminate on a separate adjacent set of track a Hugenot (transfers allowed) thus keeping an exclusive set of tracks for the #7.

                      I would have SIRR trains continue past St
                      Georges and have a major transfer point to between the elongated #7 and the SIRR at the approach to the Bayonne Bridge.

                      The #7 is superior to the R for this purpose as:
                      *the R would not be able to make the connection to Hoboken and I feel that a line to Staten Island becomes more viable/buildable if it is serving NJ, relieving pressure at Penn Station and serving Staten Island. (Basically guaranteeing maximum use costly construction.)
                      *the #7 hits the east side at Grand Central Terminal which more of a destination that the R at 60th Street as well providing connections to Metro North.

    • Chris C says:

      I’m probably not explaining this very well but you need to start tunneling a distance away from where the under water part is to allow for a gentle slope down and up that (a) trains can manage and (b) is comfortable for passengers – hence the start and end may be some way away from the waters edge.

      Just like a high level bridge needs ramps etc that start a long ways away from the actual over water element the same applies to tunnels.

      You also need to allow for the local geology – some rocks are better for tunneling through than others for example.

      For example only 2/3rd of the Channel Tunnel is actually under the channel.

  10. AG says:

    Ben – I agree with the freight tunnel… but regardless of subway connections I don’t think the subsidy for the ferry should be stopped. The city is continuing to grow – so every transportation option is necessary. I don’t think the city would do it anyway since they are trying to increase ferry options almost everywhere… again because it’s necessary. Now if they decide to start charging the SI Ferry a regular fare for the convenience of getting a subway connection – I think that would make sense.

  11. Paul says:

    When speaking of the cost of ferry service, you should consider the reason that the ferry’s fare was discontinued, something that non-SI residents might not know: There are only two ways to make a free round trip onto and off of Staten Island, and the ferry is the only one that connects Staten Island to another city borough. (The other free way off the Island is the pedestrian walkway on the Bayonne Bridge. You’ve never heard of it because there’s nothing in particular on the New Jersey side for another mile or so.) Other boroughs have the ability to just walk between each other.

    This means that any savings that you might get from discontinuing the ferry would have to be offset somewhere else to provide parity to SI residents, either through another capital project or through transit subsidies. Apparently, the Verrazano was originally designed with a pedestrian walkway, but I’d suspect that the city would look at free bus service to Brooklyn before they’d look to build a walkway on the bridge.

  12. Violistontherun says:

    Going back to the possibility of a Staten Island Connection to New Jersey, might it be quicker and more economic to go that route, perhaps connecting through Bayonne, and linking with PATH and the Hudson Light Rail lines?

    • Joseph Steindam says:

      For probably the last 5 years, maybe longer, there were proposals and plans to extending the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail (HBLR) from its current terminal at 8th Street in Bayonne across the Bayonne Bridge to Staten Island. This was part of the West Shore Light Rail some have proposed for Staten Island as well.

      I don’t know how far the studies progressed for this project, but the Port Authority seems to have put it on the back burner as it has sought to raise the deck of the Bayonne Bridge to ensure that Post-Panamax ships can reach the Port of Newark, as part of the rush to ready infrastructure for the expanded Panama Canal opening in 2014. So these plans might be dead for the time being.

      • AG says:

        THose plans are very separate. The Bayonne project is an absolute necessity for the regions port. That said – when the project was announced a couple of months ago it stated that “provision” would be made to add rail. Then the question was asked of the mayoral candidates of the light rail plan and they all said they would support it. Making it reality is another story – but no the plans are not dead.

        • Adirondacker12800 says:

          There have been light rail provisions on the Bayonne Bridge since it was built.

        • Nathanael says:

          The Bayonne project is an absolute necessity for the Port of Newark — not for the Port of New York.

          If the Mayor of New York actually cared about having industrial traffic in New York rather than Newark, he’d instead push to build the Cross-Harbor Rail Tunnel and expand port service in Brooklyn. The Port of New York can already handle post-Panamax ships, because the Brooklyn ports include natural deep water ports and have only the one bridge in the way (Verazzano Narrows).

          Apparently he doesn’t. New York has happily ceded all industrial traffic to New Jersey for a long time now.

          • AG says:

            Staten Island is a part of NYC… it benefits the port there also. NYC waterfront overall is too valuable… that’s mainly why the decision was made. It has nothing to do with this mayor.. There was not enough space for all that is necessary for those container ports. New Jersey had much much more space – which is why the decision was made those decades ago.

            The Cross Harbor Freight Tunnel is a great idea… but it wouldn’t really add ship traffic to Brooklyn. The trains would be coming from New Jersey…

  13. D in Bushwick says:

    Okay, how about taking out two lower deck lanes of the VN Bridge to be replaced with double tracks? Structural considerations aside, the point would be to increase transit use and decrease single-occupant vehicles.
    Transits lanes would serve far more commuters than two vehicle lanes.
    Let the screaming retorts begin…

    • capt subway says:

      I’m not sure the bridge was designed to sustain the weight of subway trains. Knowing Bob Moses, the bridge was probably designed specifically to prevent future use by heavy rail transit. There’s also the issue of grades. Subway trains are not reliable beyond grades of 4.5% at the outer limit, and that for only short distances. (The motors overheat & blow.) The steepest grades in the system at present are the approaches to the Manhattan Bridge and the Queens side of the Steinway (#7) tube, both around 4.5%. In that regard I believe the VN might be a real train killer. The grade on the VN looks to be at least 5%.

      • al says:

        The Williamsburg Bridge, Manhattan Bridge and Verrazano Bridge all have grades in the 5.5% range. That is why climbs on ht JMZ and BDNQ are so slow. The motor overheat is an issue on a Verrazano crossing.

        • g says:

          My recollection is that the VZ was purposely designed with a grade not to exceed 4% for some reason (not related to adding rail later). Anyone know for sure?

          • D in Bushwick says:

            I just checked the NYCroads site and it states the bridge does have a 4% grade so now the question is can the structure handle the weight of the trains.
            Maybe only one train is allowed to cross at a time in either direction.
            There probably wouldn’t be much cost savings since contractors will expect tunnel prices anyway…

            • Eric says:

              That’s why you invite multiple contractors and choose the one offering the lowest price.

            • Jeff says:

              There’s always the option of reinforcing the bridge structure if it’s not designed to handle the load. With modern engineering anything’s possible.

          • AG says:

            Ships coming in to port had some to do with it I believe…

  14. JMB says:

    South of 59th, there is the 4 track provisions that was built that could be instrumental in this plan. While stemming off of 67th street to make the connection would utilize the stub tunnel, it would miss the growing problem of capacity around 86th st. That station is becoming packed and needs an overhaul to address capacity as well as efficient egress options. If this plan to connect staten island to brooklyn should happen, i think that expanding to 4 tracks south of 59th, turn 86th into the express station it was meant to be, and south of 95th have two of the 4 tracks branch off to SI.

    SI service would first hit 86th, then 59th, then from there it could either continue to run express (though listed above there is capacity constraints, or have it merge into the 4th ave local where both local tracks and the montague tunnel could absorb the new users. Question is whether both the R and this new service remain the Broadway local in the city or possibly one branchs off onto the Nassau street line.

    • SEAN says:

      Keeping on that theme, there are a pair of solutions I can think of to get subway service to SI.

      1. Reroute the N & R. R trains travel to Coney Island & N trains to SI via Bay Ridge.

      2. Break the R into two routes. Existing R trains go between Forest Hills & Whitehall Street. New service runs between 57th Street & SI via Bay Ridge. we’ll call this new line the W for arguement sake. Yeah, I know the 4th av & Broadway tunnels are packed already, but what alternitives are there running through those areas of Brooklyn?

      • John-2 says:

        You wouldn’t need to break the R into two routes, since the SAS is going to redirect the Q to 96th Street and take it away from supplemental Astoria service. Which means riders in Astoria will be demanding the return of the W train to help fill the N service gaps.

        A revived W could run from Ditmars to Coney Island via the Sea Beach, while the R stays as it is 95th Street to Continental, and if a new express track was built between 59th and 86th Streets, the N would use that to Bay Ridge, and from there to Staten Island

    • Max Roberts says:

      On the 4th Avenue Line, express capacity doesn’t become an issue until 36 St northwards.

      Also, it looks to me as though the Rutgers St tunnels also have spare capacity.

      On the basis that tunnels are cheap and stations are expensive, another solution for getting SI trains into Manhattan quickly might be a tunnel from the low-level Bergen St platform to new low level platforms at 36 St. M trains would have to return to Chambers St, but there would be a more frequent service to change into at Delancey/Essex.

  15. Phil Hom says:

    I can see the SAS going beyond LM and on to Staten Island.

    • Chet says:

      Throwing all caution and money to the wind- It could be extended south, through Governors Island and Red Hook and then a straight shot down to Staten Island.

      It would give three places a connection to the system that they do not have.

  16. JJJJ says:

    Brooklyn? Nah. Extend the staten island train to new jersey. No, not Bayonne, out towards the NEC.

  17. NCarlson says:

    Looking at it from outside the city the combination that has always looked very attractive to me is an extension from Brooklyn (either line is workable at a high level, it really should boil down to cost and capacity I think), an HBLRT extension, heavy rail integrated with the subway and SIRT on the north shore, maintained but possibly tolled ferry service and an eventual extension of PATH to St George via EWR, Elizabeth and the North Shore. A direct Manhattan tunnel really doesn’t seem like the kind of project that has any hope of competing with the other options, and what demand exists for it could be met quite well by fast ferries of some sort.

  18. Shabazz says:

    Late to chime in here but this is a great post. Here are a few things to consider, some of which have already been addressed.

    1) The economic/ridership benifits of a subway system on Staten Island (not just a rail connection) clearly justify the cost. Sure the price tag is high (cost control is a seperate issue in itself) but no project(s) would yeild higher dividends. With a subway connection and multiple stations in the borough on the North Shore, South Shore and in the middle of the island, we could see Staten Island develop into a boomtown. The population, over the next 30 years, could tripple as entire neighborhoods that haven’t been to gentrifacation/development become avalible. Given the housing crunch the city is facing, it’s critical.

    2) A direct subway line to Manhattan with a line built on the North Shore and rehab of the south shore line would probablly be best. The Manhattan connection could be tied in with the 2nd avenue subway or could operate as a commuter line in a yet to be built tunnel. It could also merge with an existing trunk line.

    Simply put, a tunnel through the narows would not serve most of Staten Island, what would the residents of the North Shore and St. George do? A light rail connection would be to cumbersome and slow, and there is little express track capacity on the 4th avenue subway, certainly not enough to accomadate the large amount of trains coming in from Staten Island.

    3) Even without accounting for the economic benifits, the city would save at least $100 million per year if it chose to cease its subsidation of the Ferry. This would be a no-brainer if there were direct subway access to Manhattan.

    4) It currently takes residents of Staten Island longer to get to Midtown than residents of White Plains. This is a no-briner. Only in today’s malestrom of small-thinking is this not a viable project. If New York were in China or Europe, this would have been built a while ago…

  19. Graham says:

    I didn’t realise that any attempt had been made actually to dig a tunnel between Staten Island and Manhattan.

    Anyone got any more information on the one aborted at 150ft, was it filled back in, is there a connection to the existing tunnels and what is the nearest station if it is?

  20. Matthew says:

    I think it is important that before we build a subway tunnel to Staten Island, that we have enough of a ridership base in SI to make it worth while. That is why I would prefer to see the North Shore line built first so that when we dig a tunnel we have multiple routes serving as feeder routes to increasing its initial ridership, otherwise I cannot justify why we would spend billions of dollars on a tunnel which just connects to a single lightly used rail line.

    Additionally, if we were to extend the SIRR to connect with other boroughs, we would need to implement fare collection at every station, something which is not currently being done.

    • marv says:

      >>>>>>>Additionally, if we were to extend the SIRR to connect with other boroughs, we would need to implement fare collection at every station, something which is not currently being done.

      Or on board fare collection/verification as the train travels between SI and then next boro.

  21. old timer says:

    The BMT tunnel that branches out from the 4th Avenue line through Owl’s Head Park was partially completed. The tunnel was built all the way under the narrows to the S.I. shaft. Just the tunnel, no tracks or other structure. Work stopped during the Depression and never resumed.

    An inspection crew walked through from Brooklyn in 1959, finding the tunnel intact but in poor condition. The S.I. shaft was then sealed as part of the Verrazano Bridge construction.

    • marv says:

      Wikipedia (in sharp contradiction to what you wrote):

      Construction began in 1923, but New York City Mayor John Hylan, a former BMT employee, canceled the project, and the tunnel only went 150 feet (45m) into The Narrows before it was halted. The tunnel lies dormant under Owl’s Head Park in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn.[1] Later proposals to complete the tunnel, including the 1939 plans for the ambitious IND Second System, were never funded.

  22. Mark Lacari says:

    I would do the Cross Harbor Tunnel to South Ferry. That is the best option, and most Islanders would ditch the “Tourist Ferry” as I call the Staten Island Ferry. Plus, if Britain and France could build the Channel Tunnel (31.4 miles long), why can’t we build 5 mile long tunnel between Staten Island and Manhattan? I have to agree with the politics though, we’re not being given our piece of the pie, but more like thrown under the bus and run over.

  23. Dave Moog says:

    The MTA, if they could obtain funding, should continue the 7 train south from 24th Street. The line should go down 10th Ave and Greenwich Street down to the Battery and then off to Staten Island. Once on the island the line could split into three line. The 7 would follow the SIR and then two lines follow the North Shore and have branches down the West Shore and the MLK expressway. Those lines could terminate in Richmond Valley and Hugonaut. So in effect there would be a 7, 8, and 9 lines.

Leave a Reply

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>