What New York gained and lost from the 7 line extension

By · Published in 2013

MTA contractors survey an unfinished station at 34th St. and 11th Ave. (Photo: Benjamin Kabak)

It will be six months yet — and, judging from the photos I snapped, maybe more — before passengers can ride the 7 train to 34th St. and 11th Ave., but as Friday’s ceremonial first ride demonstrated, uncharted territories of Manhattan will soon be on the (subway) map. When the official ribbon-cutting arrives, it will be a big day with New York’s first new subway stop nearly three decades, and as with any project of this magnitude, the gains are real but so are the mistakes. As Mayor Bloomberg stood at his podium Friday afternoon, I pondered some of those mistakes.

As has been the party line for some time now, Bloomberg repeated that the 7 line extension was “on time and on budget.” It’s a $2.4 billion, one-stop extension from 41st St. between 7th and 8th Avenues to 26th and 11th with a station that spans 34th-36th St. in front of the Javits Center. By the time the Hudson Yards development is in full swing, it will see tens of thousands of riders per day and has already opened up some of the last underutilized space in Manhattan to development. Even in 2013, where the subways go, people and business will follow.

But what did we give up to make sure the 7 line extension was on time and on budget? The economics of it all are a bit shady. The city forked over $2.1 billion initially, and the MTA had to pick up some cost overruns. Ultimately, as the MTA didn’t want to build this subway extension if it had to fund any of it, the parties agreed on a funding scheme that worked for all involved but at a big cost. The initial plans called for a two-stop extension with a interim station at 41st St. and 10th Ave. Shortly after I started this site in 2006, that station fell by the wayside, and the MTA and Mayor’s Office engaged in a battle of attrition over the project’s plans.

A panoramic view of the mezzanine at the 7 line’s 34th St. station. (Photo: Benjamin Kabak)

When it became clear that the second station wouldn’t see the light of day during the initial stages of construction, the city and MTA tried to come to an agreement on a station shell. The construction would have cost around $500 million. Again, the city wouldn’t pay, and the MTA had no spare capital funding. So the shell was axed, and the MTA built in bare provisioning for a future station. The incline of the tunnel flattens out for a few hundred feet near 10th Ave. should money materialize in the future for two platforms on either side of the street. In a fight over the paltry sum of half a billion dollars, New York residents of today and tomorrow lost out. That station will cost significantly more to build in the future than it would have today.

During the battle over that station, we had a glimpse into the machinations of the Mayor’s Office. Dan Doctoroff, when he was the deputy mayor for economic development, was the public face of the fight over the second station, and one line from a Bloomberg P.R. rep, in particular, highlights Doctoroff’s and Bloomberg’s thinking. “Unlike the extension to 34th Street and 11th Avenue, which the city is funding, a 10th Avenue station is not necessary to drive growth there,” the statement said. “A Tenth Avenue station would be nice, but it’s really a straight transportation project versus an economic development catalyst. We do recognize the difficult financial situation in which the M.T.A. finds itself as pressure on all of our budgets intensifies.”

Doctoroff has pursued this line of thinking in recent comments on the Second Ave. Subway, and I worry about what it means for future city investment in transit expansion. During Friday’s ceremony, Ann Weisbrod of the Hudson Yards Development Corporation spoke, and Stephen M. Ross, the chairman of the Related Companies took the mic as well. For all the pomp and circumstance over infrastructure expansion, this was about development first and transportation a distant second.

So what happens in the future? Are we doomed to subway expansion efforts funded by the city only if they feed development in the relative wildness of New York? If so, we’re out of luck because there are no more Hudson Yards-type spaces in New York City. The need to invest in transportation for the sake of transportation looms large, and Bloomberg, as a fighter for congestion pricing, traffic calming and pedestrian safety, should have recognized it five years ago as he did through his words on Friday. Where can we expand next is a very good question indeed.

Categories : 7 Line Extension

77 Responses to “What New York gained and lost from the 7 line extension”

  1. It’s really sad, but unsurprising, that Bloomberg and Doctoroff considered public transportation “an economic development catalyst” – building infrastructure for a handful of rich people who might one day live somewhere, rather than for the millions of (mostly poor and non-white) residents who already inhabit the many transit-starved neighborhoods of this city.

  2. Stephen Smith says:

    Two things:

    1. There’s actually quite a lot of land zoned only for office space near the axed 41st/10th station, which will be very difficult to sell to tenants without the station. (Housing, on the other hand, would be and is being built anywhere and everywhere on the far west side; a subway station is not needed to induce that kind of growth.)

    2. The NYT write-up includes this line: “The authority said that 27,000 riders were expected, initially, to use the station daily.” …does that seem credible to anyone else? I was just at 34th & 11th today to catch the Megabus to Philly, and the area is a complete and utter wasteland…there’s pretty much nothing within easy walking distance except for the Megabus stop and the convention center. And yet the MTA is predicting that it’ll nearly match the 6 train at 33rd St.’s 32,000 weekday riders? Perhaps that was credible back when they thought Hudson Yards would be halfway developed by now, but back in the real world, the first office building is still years away from opening, and any office towers beyond that are pure speculation. The residential components will likely get built faster since there’s more demand for housing there than office space, but if you see the map I linked to above, the housing isn’t planned for anywhere near the station that’s opening, so it’s unlikely to see much ridership from those new apartments. I just don’t understand where this ridership is going to come from.

    • Roxie says:

      I imagine there’ll be tons of ridership around the big conventions; the International Auto Show and Comic Con. Other than that, I really can’t see much of anyone using it for those first few years.

    • Alon Levy says:

      And suppose that 27,000 is credible (if construction accelerates, maybe?). That’s still pushing $100,000 per weekday rider. SAS Phase 1 is about $25,000. Phase 2, at least according to the original budget, is $33,000. Without detailed cost and ridership studies we can’t know, but I doubt that Triboro, Utica, and Nostrand are as expensive as $100,000 per weekday rider, even at New York costs. Southeastern Brooklyn isn’t the Upper East Side, and existing ROW isn’t new tunnels.

    • BoerumHillScott says:

      I’ll buy the 27K number within a year of opening, considering Javits has a max capacity of 85,000 people at a time.
      With the renovations finishing up, I expect bookings to ramp up this year.
      When adding the High Line opening to 34th, tourists wanting to see the waterfront, and existing businesses, I think they can do 27K a day.

      Once all the new projects get going, I think this will end up being one of the busiest 2 track stations in the system, and will prove to be a good investment.

      Unfortunately, this type of funding model would probably not work anywhere else given MTA/NYC construction costs.

      • Alon Levy says:

        It didn’t work in Hudson Yards, either, in the sense that the promised real estate tax money isn’t materializing. The city will turn out to have built it from general tax money. It can do the same for lines that serve New Yorkers’ needs.

        • Stephen Smith says:


        • BoerumHillScott says:

          I think it’s way too early to say how much revenue will be generated, but I would guess the area is about to boom between the station and other improvements.

          The funding was not based on the Hudson Yards land, but on the area north of it (like 33 – 40).

          If the property taxes increases do not show up, then and the city is left having to pay for the expansion out of general funds, then it will be in no position to pay for any other extension for quite a long time.

          Some people here seem to think that the city has unlimited funds to build any useful project, but in reality it is required to balance the budget every year and has finite borrowing ability.

          Given the pension time bomb, I see methods like Tax Increment Financing being the only way that large capital projects without dedicated funding sources will be paid for by the city in the next 30+ years.

      • D. Graham says:

        Everyone is forgetting the biggest business operating on the West side and it’s city run.

        Pier 76 NYPD Tow Impound. Employees hundreds of employees and sees plenty of suckers each day hustling to go pick of their car. At least the subway line will take away some of the sting of going to retrieve your car like being able to avoid taking the cab there which is an extra added expense to retrieving your vehicle for $185 not including the cost of the ticket for whatever the violation states.

    • Bolwerk says:

      Given its distance from other convenient public transportation, this station might have an unusually large captive audience. The fastest way to one of the most job-dense parts of Manhattan even from well into the 20s will be to walk to 34th.

      OTOH, the E Train will still work better for a lot of people too.

      • Stephen Smith says:

        The housing density in the part of Chelsea north of 23rd St. and west of 10th Ave. is very, very low by Manhattan standards (especially considering it’s all very high luxury, which means pieds-à-terre, huge unit sizes and lots of empty guest bedrooms). It’s not till you get to Penn South, which is more convenient to the 8th Ave. line, that you really start to see density enough for reasonable subway ridership numbers.

        • Bolwerk says:

          The 2010 population by nearby census tracts (all west of 8th Ave):

          99   &nbsp         1945
          103   &nbsp       2058
          111   &nbsp       3512
          115   &nbsp       2303
          117   &nbsp       3364
                &nbsp       13,182

          Lower than I expected, but still hardly a terrible base to start from. Presumably the population has grown or will grow in the near future.

          That’s not even considering workers and Javits visitors. Plus it means a convenient swipe onto the subway for people who arrive there by ferry.

          • BenS says:

            Yeah; I think the ferry is a big missed point for a lot of people. Ridership on the 7 from people getting off the ferry at 39th St will be a big part of the draw in the early years, before the Hudson Yards towers open. It also makes living in Weehawken/West New York much more appealing if your job is on the east side as the ferry buses are even slower than the M42.

            Anyway, objecting based on initial numbers is a bit spurious, since it will clearly have much higher than 27,000/day ridership 5-10 years from now as development in the area comes online.

            Agree that the value proposition of building the 10th/41st station now rather than later was a horrific blunder by the city, though. Even from a development perspective–there’s a lot more developable land in the immediate vicinity than the Bloomberg administration seemed aware of.

        • anon_coward says:

          there are some big high rises going up there and a lot of people work on the west side in that area. not just the art galleries. a lot of people take the M23 now but it will change once the 7 comes here.

          there are clubs that people drive to and some small event locations that are used for press conferences

  3. John-2 says:

    The growth of the city’s subways and tied-in elevated lines — or at least the IRT and BMT division — always had a good deal of bottom line thinking involved, as far as sending lines to areas in hopes of making profits off future development. But under municipal ownership and now control by the state, the subways must get much of their funds for operation, and all of it for expansion, from government sources, at the same time others are seeking to draw from the same pot of money and who think their ideas or programs are equal or of greater importance than adding new mass transit lines.

    You really need someone as bull-headed as Bloomberg to force any money at all to be directed towards subway expansion, and Friday’s photo-op — done just so the mayor could ride ‘his’ subway line to ‘his’ new station — also demonstrates another problem. Bloomberg had to be in office for 12 years just to get a makeshift ride to Hudson Yards, but most pols want projects where something tangible shows up within the four-year election cycle. If they can’t point to something voters can see by the time the next election rolls around, they’re not all that hot about doing it.

    It’s going to take a mayor and/or governor in the future willing to think long-term to get any further projects done, especially in populated areas Hudson Yards was relatively easy on the NIMBY from because nothing was there other than Javits — contrast that to the SAS, where the current pols are dealing with the construction grief, but future ones will take the cheers and bouquets when the construction hassles finally end and the ribbon cutting ceremony is held (and then odds are those same pols will talk the talk about Phases II, III and IV of the SAS, but won’t commit much if any money to built it unless they see a quick benefit for them in the plan).

    • Alon Levy says:

      Bloomberg only started caring about this in 2007, so it’s really a 6-year project. The problem is that it’s a vanity project and that Bloomberg treated the city as his personal fiefdom. The best photo illustrating the 7 extension is an empty 7 train entering Hudson Yards juxtaposed with a packed B46. From the 1950s to the 70s, the most important subway project was SAS but afterward there would be Utica, Nostrand, and 63rd. 63rd was built. Nostrand is getting bus lanes, which don’t even serve the same streets as the local bus because of one-way pairs. Utica may or may not be getting bus lanes, I’m not sure.

      • Joseph Steindam says:

        I think its fair to say that the 7 Extension was a priority throughout the Bloomberg Administration. The 7 Extension was part of the NYC Olympic bid, which he had been supportive of since the 90’s, and really ramped up in 2004-05. The 7 Extension was a key part of the bid, since the 7 would’ve connected the planned Olympic Stadium with the Olympic Village in Hunters Point. Once the Olympics bid was over, we then started hearing a lot about the need for a new Midtown west of the current one.

        But I agree that the biggest transit needs are in the outer boroughs, and it seems like they will be getting SBS instead of subway expansion, for the near future at least. Until someone decides that Flatlands and Brownsville and Sheepshead Bay are the last frontiers for New York gentrification, we probably won’t see subways running beneath Utica or extensions further down Nostrand. Especially if the current mindset about transit stays in place.

      • Douglas John Bowen says:

        Just because it’s a “vanity” project doesn’t mean it doesn’t have value.

        Or would one insist on nothing for anyone?

        A similar argument is advanced by some angry about Water Tunnel No. 3. How dare lower Manhattan get its redundant security *first*before Brooklyn or Queens, especially when more people live in the outer boroughs? Never mind that the Bronx already benefits as well. Never mind that a Manhattan without secure water supplies means no business means no jobs means good luck outer boroughs. “Rich” people shouldn’t be assisted in any way, all in the way of some ephemeral equality, which doesn’t turn out equal anyway.

        I sympathize with the plight of Utica Avenue, and here’s one person not enamored by Bus Rapid Transit. But punishing evil rich people doesn’t automatically buy Utica Avenue anything.

        Mayor Bloomberg, for whatever reason, saw the opportunity and took it. One can disagree with the personal impetus all one wants. The results still just might benefit folks of all kinds.

        • Alon Levy says:

          On the contrary. It’s Doctoroff who’s against SAS, and us good transit types who are for more investment in SAS (whose Phases 1 and 3 serve wealthy neighborhoods) and against the 7 extension. It’s not about class resentment. It’s about where people live and work. The frustrating part is that Bloomberg could’ve spent the same money on a useful subway extension if he wanted. Plenty of room for property tax receipts to grow in East Harlem, too.

          • Justin Samuels says:

            Maybe de Blasio will push some big development deals in East Harlem and use those property tax receipts to fund Phase 2 of the Second Avenue Subway. Honestly, the 2nd Avenue Subway would call real estate go to up in the Lower East Side and Chinatown, so the same could be done for Phase 3. If the next mayor can get those two phases funded, phase 4 should not be a problem.

            • AG says:

              True – but if he plans to get near those 200k affordable housing units that he says he wants too – he’ll have to give a lot of property tax credits. Those neighborhoods would become “hot” meaning there would be more of a disincentive to build affordable housing without subsidy (which they need already even in the lowest cost neighborhoods of NYC).
              That said I think Phase 2 will be the MTA..

              • Bolwerk says:

                I don’t see the point of the property tax credits. Our high housing prices already imply a huge supply shortfall. I would guess it would be easy enough to achieve the same result with some modest upzoning, conversion, and land use rule standardization (like, why is it forbidden to go over three stories near some subway stops?).

                I could even see some tax credits being counterproductive to creating housing people will live in. Taxes probably have the effect of encouraging use – that is, you want a tenant in your speculative property so you can at least cover the operating costs of the property. Make taxes rock bottom and that becomes less necessary.

                • Henry says:

                  The problem with lowering property tax is that

                  1. They were primarily raised to close the hole in the city’s budget after mayoral control of education was established.

                  2. New York’s property market is so frothy that reducing property tax could lead to the property bubbles that used to paralyze the United States on a regular basis, and threaten the security of similarly frothy markets abroad (China comes to mind).

                  At this point, we need upzoning in a way that somehow doesn’t simultaneously destroy what’s left of the city’s manufacturing base.

    • Nyland8 says:

      ” … but most pols want projects where something tangible shows up within the four-year election cycle. If they can’t point to something voters can see by the time the next election rolls around, they’re not all that hot about doing it.”

      Agreed. This is why a Triboro RX type of project – or ideally, Quadboro to Staten Island – seem so much more doable than many other subway expansion ideas. Because with so much existing ROW in place to expand, the politicians could have major ribbon-cutting ceremonies every few years, as more stations came on line. Even if they confine the expansion to just connecting the existing subway spurs throughout Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx, there would still be more than a dozen new “station openings” to make lasting photo-ops and recurring news cycles.

      You could have mayors, borough presidents and others all claiming each new opening as a milestone success of their tenure in office. It could find political advocates in every borough, and that’s one way to be sure things get done. Who wants to waste their time and political capital shepherding projects that won’t even be completed in their lifetimes?

      • John-2 says:

        The combination of existing right-of-way and the “Who stands to profit from it?” mindset is why I think there’s still an outside chance of getting the old LIRR Rockaway Line revived, if it’s tied in with a major expansion of the Aqueduct casino.

        Bloomberg’s ego and stubbornness got the 7 extension built, but my guess is Doctoroff wasn’t just speaking for himself when he justified the project as being a better ‘value added’ extension than the SAS. De Blasio or some future mayor might have a force of will tied to less nakedly economic reasons, but as of now, the more money that can be made for people who normally never venture outside of Manhattan other than to get to the airport or possibly take in a baseball game or the U.S. Open, the more likely that project is to get the support of people in City Hall or Albany.

        It’s definitely not the best way to justify extension of existing lines or construction of new ones, but as I said most pols don’t think of mega-projects past the four-year election cycle, especially with a project where no one can see the progress until it’s finally done, as with new subway lines.

        • Nyland8 says:

          ” … especially with a project where no one can see the progress until it’s finally done, as with new subway lines.”

          That was the point I was trying to make. With an existing ROW, any phase can be “finally done” with the opening of the next station. One needn’t wait until a train can go from Yankee Stadium to Owls Head or St. George in order to celebrate a new stations’s “Grand Opening”. You could probably have another one every 2 years, take the entire project in smaller bites, let out smaller contracts, etc.

          If you have a link to yards and train sets, you could build it from both ends until you meet in the middle … sort of like New York City’s own transcontinental railroad.

  4. Eric says:

    “the paltry sum of half a billion dollars” to add one station to an existing rail line??? Are you insane? In any other city that would cost less than $100 million.

    • Nyland8 says:

      Compared to so much of what we piss our tax dollars away on, $500,000.000. IS a paltry sum. In fact, it could be less than a single winning lottery ticket. And for more reasons than are worth going into, New York isn’t just “any other city”.

    • D. Graham says:

      It will cost an arm and a leg in the future. $500 was a pretty good deal to build out preparations for a future station. Here’s why.

      At that depth a station cavern will have to be created therefore blasting will be involved. That was a good deal for a line just being built. It’s a bad deal for a line that has to shut down for a weekend so that blasting can be done and said blasting has to be cleaned up before 5 AM Monday morning. Why not two side platforms? Well two boring machines were used to drill two separate tunnels that pretty run the entire length at the same distance apart meaning side platforms would be under infrastructure and creating entrances and ADA accommodations would be a headache. This has to be an island platform with a mezzanine above it considering the depth.

      It’s just that doing so this late in the game is going to be a huge inconvenience and likely top well over into a high $1 billion.

      • Minor correction: The provisioning in place at 41st and 10th is for two side platforms, not an island platform. There’s not enough space in between the two tubes at that point for an island platform.

        Had they built the shell, they could have later added an island platform, but they did not.

        • D. Graham says:

          That’s just sad and a crime. The city should have forked over the money. They spent just as much on less important things and were willing to spend more on the stadium on that same site and as much as I wanted that it still is less important than a subway station.

  5. Walt Gekko says:

    The real problem was, building the 41st/10th Avenue station as part of this would have likely needed the help of the Port Authority to chip in with enough costs for a station that would run from 9th-10th Avenues on 41st with a direct connection to the Port Authority Bus Terminal. That to me is what would have gotten that station done.

    One thing I could see in the future is the (7) extended further with a terminal from 28th-30th Streets if Madison Square Garden did get re-located, especially if as some feel would be an ideal spot to a parcel running from 9th-10th Avenues and 28th-30th Streets that is expected to be vacated in the next decade (if NYC gets its way in forcing MSG off Penn Station so a rebuild of the old Penn Station that some want to see started before they pass away can happen). That would warrant such an extension if that happened.

    • David Brown says:

      I would agree with you on that idea (although even better would be extending the (L) and linking that up the (7). But I do not see the Garden moved for the 2030’s if then. One obvious problem is the opposition of Cablevision (not to mention location). As 2013 ends, there are three things to watch for in a De Blasio Administration, that will give an indication of its importance. 1: The Municipal Union Contracts, and yes, it will involve back pay. 100% of what they want? No but > 75% is quite likely. 2: The Bronx Soccer Stadium: Since this is a sports related project and (far more inexpensive than a new MSG (not to mention MSG would be controversial NIMBY’s and stuff)). 3: The East Side Midtown Rezoning: Does it get passed in 2014, and if so in what form? If it does not or it is basically toothless, and there is no Transportation benefit, why spend the $$$$ on the West Side? Prediction: No new MSG.

  6. Spendmor Wastemor says:

    $500 million to make a hole in the ground and couple subway platforms?

    I hope the Feds do not end up subsidizing that one.

    • AG says:

      Well considering how much of an imbalance NYC has in terms of what it sends to and gets back from both Washington and Albany – NYC is very much short-changed. That $500 million would be MORE than justified.

      Costs are ridiculous yes – but that’s besides the point. It’s partly for that reason Albany and Washington DC get so much revenue from NYC.

  7. Spendmor Wastemor says:

    It looks the the rails sit directly on concrete. How does that not crumble from train vibration?

    • Nyland8 says:

      Those are prestressed concrete sleepers … which are pretty much used everywhere now. Were you expecting creosote ties?

    • Alex C says:

      You know, you could Google this beforehand. If you think that’s crazy, wait till you see the concrete slab track used for high-speed rail around the world.

      And as Nyland said, they’re pre-stressed sleepers. They sit in boots in the concrete base and greatly help relieve vibration and noise. Laws of physics are crazy like that sometimes.

      • Spendmor Wastemor says:

        I’ve seen them elsewhere, but only over earth. Concrete tie over earth appears to be common, and looks, to an uneducated eye, like it has a means to dampen vibration — the earth under it.

        Obviously, MTA had engineers look into this in advance and have reason to know that it will work. I’m curious how it works, not doubting that it will.
        Something like this
        “They sit in boots in the concrete base and greatly help relieve vibration and noise.”
        explains it.

  8. Larry Littleield says:

    We gained a subway extension with one station, and lost $2.4 billion dollars — or the annual interest on that amount. We didn’t lose the station at 10th Avenue. We just didn’t get that yet.

    The Bloomberg Administration did two things that should be admired — paid for a subway extension, and took a hard line on cost over-runs.

    We failed to gain a second station in the process – but only because the administration really wanted the whole thing built more than the MTA. Had the city been in a position to say “do the whole thing for $2 billion or not at all” to the MTA, which then could have done so to the contractors, we might have that station.

    And that’s what I think the city should so for SAS Phase II. “Do the whole thing — and Rutgers-DeKalb — for $2 billion or not at all. For every dollar you go over, regardless of where it comes from, we’ll take back 90 cents. If you spend $4 billion, “somewhere else” will have to cover virtually the whole thing.

  9. Brandon says:

    Lets not forget the massive tax subsidies to Related for Hudson Yards. So we spent all this money on a subway, and then we are forgoing a bunch of tax revenue that is supposed to pay that back.

  10. Richard says:

    Hi there. As a UK citizen based in London I have been following this site for months with interest. I note commentators incredulity about the proposed cost of the 10th Avenue station. I agree 500 million dollars is a large sum but given the figures bandied over in London about the average cost of a new station on a new line like Crossrail 1 it regrettably seems about right. Basically new subway (or as we call them underground) stations are the real expense items as the use of tunnel boring machines TBMs has made the tunnelling far more affordable. A new station costs about 250 to 300 million pounds. Converted to dollars at the current exchange rate that is about 405 to 486 million dollars so I think 500 million is (perversely) a fair price. I confess when I first came across the UK costs for Crossrail 1 (which is being built at present due to open in 2018) I was also taken aback but that does seem to be the price you have to pay in a first world city for new infrastructure of that magnitude

    • Stephen Smith says:

      Two things:

      1. Crossrail is also overpriced. Check out subway costs in Paris, Tokyo, etc. This is not “the price you have to pay in a first world city” – it’s the price you have to pay in the US and UK. There are other first world cities out there, and they do not have to pay these prices.

      2. Crossrail is an infinitely more complex project than the 7 train extension or the 2nd Ave. subway. The new stations are built in very dense inner-city neighborhoods (the 7 train is not), and many of the stations involved building around (and in some cases, relocating parts of) existing stations. The 7 train extension did not. Ditto with the 2nd Ave. subway – didn’t cross under any other subway lines, any skyscrapers, any rivers, etc. And yet it turned out 70% more expensive on a per-mile basis than Crossrail.

      • Richard says:

        Stephen your link to subway costs in Paris and Tokyo appears to be a broken link. I agree the Crossrail 1 project is extremely complex as regards the stations but the figure of £250 million to £300 million for station excavation and construction appears to be given for other projects involving proposals for additional underground (subway) stations. It would not surprise me if the costs were inflated in the UK as one of the curses we have is the so called Treasury optimism bias which adds a a large percentage to UK infrastructure projects. There is some evidence that this is excessive in respect of more recent projects and the only way to ascertain the truth is to wait until the end of a project and then analyse the expenditure.

      • anon says:

        Link from above:

        Credit to Alon Levy


        7 Extension: $2.1 billion in 2007-12 for 1.6 km of new tunnel. Note that this has only one station, an unusually sparse spacing for a dense urban area. This is $1.3 billion per km.

        Crossrail: £15 billion in 2008-18 for a line of more than 100 km, of which the primary component is 22 km of new tunnel under Central London and Heathrow Airport. Due to the extensiveness of the London Underground network, this is the most complex project on the list. The cost per unit of tunnel is about $1 billion per km, making this the only outside New York to cross the 1 billion line.

        Tokyo Metro Fukutoshin Line: ¥250 billion for 8.9 km of new track. This is $280 million per km. Tokyo Metro has claimed future lines will be $500 million per km as a reason to not build future extensions.

        Berlin U55: €320 million for 1.8 km of tunnel in 1996-2009. While this line does not cross or connect to any older subway, it is in the center of the city, and thus qualifies as urban infill. This is $250 million per km.

        Paris Metro Line 14: €1.13 billion in 1998-2003 for 9 km. This line crosses under the Seine and had construction problems due to catacombs. This is $230 million per km.

        • Richard says:

          Thanks for this. It is indeed interesting and it is notable that there has been comparatively little criticism in the UK about Crossrail 1’s costs unlike the ongoing row about HS2. It also looks like the proposed Crossrail2 project will cost about the same as Crossrail1 and although battle has not been joined there is little comment about the likely expense of this project. I confess I am surprised. To return to New York’s travails I find it sad that the politicians seem to have so little vision. Perhaps it was ever thus but somehow the political class rallied to support the building of the IND network after the First World War It’s a shame as New York’s transit infrastructure is really impressive but it could be even better and more comprehensive and the city would be the better for it.

      • Very well said. I keep hearing people talking about how exceptionally complex SAS is, but really it’s far less complex than many (most?) major urban underground rapid transit projects. Unlike many major subway projects, it’s built right under a wide street. It wasn’t necessary to excavate stations under buildings. It also, amazingly enough in Manhattan, didn’t include a single crossing of another subway line. There are no complicated interchange stations to build around. Yes, there’s a jumble of pipes and cables to work around, but other older cities have catacombs and archaeological digs to deal with.
        Take a look at Paris’ Line 14 for comparison. It crosses a dozen other subway lines and a river, with every station as a complex interchange that must be built around an existing station while keeping it open. It’s also built under much denser urbanity than Second Avenue. Sure, SAS isn’t as simple as building under an empty field, but it could be far, far worse.
        As for the second phase, it’s really just stations that need to be built. Since the already-built tunnels are shallower than the ones on the first phase, the stations should be even easier. In Europe, $100 million for a station would be considered reasonable. For example, the one-stop extension of Munich U-Bahn to the Olympia shopping centre included 2.2 km of tunnel and a new station for $183 million euros. With inflation since its completion in 2007 and the exchange rate, let’s be generous and call it $300 million.

  11. Douglas John Bowen says:

    Nothing has been “lost.” Say “deferred” or “not yet aquired” or even “missed opportunity.” But to find a negative amidst an actual project approaching completion, that’s negativism for the sense of “balance” for balance’s sake.

    And as for the numerous numbers crunchers, I don’t doubt the skepticism when one is wedded to the numbers. But such slavish devotion is indicative of linear thinking — football gamesmanship, in a way — and life isn’t like that. Life’s more like baseball. The magic number of 27,000 (or whatever) by “x” date will not define the success or failure of this project. Watch (if one can actually wait) and we’ll see.

    Or do all think the Brooklyn Bridge went precisely as planned?

    • VLM says:

      Curious what you feel the point of news coverage is in general in a democracy if not to question statements put forward by politicians? We can backslap for a job generally well done or we can try to learn something from the mistakes made. It’s great this subway extension is opening but to say there is negativity here for the sake of negativity and not because it’s a deeply flawed outcome is wrong.

      • SEAN says:

        Curious what you feel the point of news coverage is in general in a democracy if not to question statements put forward by politicians?

        Have you watched the news in recent years? At best the press asks softball questions & nothing of substance – unless it involves homeland security theatre or some form of grandstanding. Meanwhile, the real issues that effect our day to day lives are hardly discussed in fine detail & everyone knows it.

    • Alon Levy says:

      I have no idea about the politics that influenced the Brooklyn Bridge, beyond a factoid or two. Do you? Just because there were boondoggles in the past that are now admired doesn’t mean that they were not boondoggles, and certainly doesn’t mean that people should just accept it when politicians spend so much money on so little benefit. At the projected ridership, the 7 extension costs almost three times as much per rider as SAS Phase 2. Forget magic numbers; to be even on cost per rider with the projections for SAS Phase 2, the extension needs more than 70,000 weekday riders (35,000 boardings at Hudson Yards), and to be even with Phase 1, it needs almost 100,000 (50,000 boardings).

      • anon_coward says:

        SAS is going to steal some riders from the lex ave lines and not result in a lot of new riders

        7 extension is going to serve an area with no transit at all which is also growing.

        • Alon Levy says:

          SAS is going to steal riders from the Lex and then induce more ridership on the Lex as it becomes less crowded. The ridership projections have both the Lex and full SAS reaching capacity some time after the line opens, I believe in the 2020s according to the original schedule of full SAS opening by 2020.

          The 7 extension serves an area that is growing at a rate that will still never match the existing density on 2nd Avenue.

      • AG says:

        Well Alon – to go by your justification – then there really shouldn’t be any other transit expansion other than the SAS… because I doubt there is any project that will get that density “off the bat” as SAS.

        I agree with Ben and a few others… the only “problem” with this project is that we didn’t get the station at 41st and 10th – which will of course be more expensive to do in the future. Unless something catastrophic happens to the world or the market – the Hudson Yards project will undoubtedly be without peer in terms of NYC development projects. Not to mention the Javits is set to get busier… and the world wide popular High Line is growing up to the site.

        • Bolwerk says:

          I agree 7ext will probably be a success, but everyone must understand these are not competing values: (1) proper transit needs to be built and (2) costs need to be controlled.

          Unfortunately, thanks to Teabagger slopebrows like Ted Cruz, any talk of #2 is not allowed unless it means shutting down all public investment other than constructing highways, prisons, and missile silos. And transit advocates have started making dangerous rationalizations allowing things like BRT to be substituted for rail, instead of taking on the harder task of understanding ways to deal with #2.

        • Alon Levy says:

          I think Triboro can be cheaper than SAS per passenger because of the extant ROW, and Utica and Nostrand could potentially be not much more expensive. The three bus routes serving southeastern Brooklyn – Utica, Nostrand, and Flatbush – have a total of 120,000 weekday passengers. Add in ridership coming from rail bias and from the much higher average speed of trains, and factor in lower construction costs outside the Manhattan core, and the cost per rider can be comparable to that of future phases of SAS.

          And why are you so sure about Hudson Yards? The subway extension isn’t far behind schedule, and yet developers won’t build without city subsidies.

  12. Phantom says:

    Question from left field – would the new 7 tunnel accomodate the wider BMT / IND cars – I think not?

    Would it be possible or desirable to retrofit the entire 7 line. to accomodate the wider cars?

    • Nyland8 says:

      I’m guessing no. Even if the tunnels were wide enough, the crosstown platforms are center platforms, and they are already too narrow. With the added traffic they’ll see after things at the Yards are developed, reducing the island widths by 10″ will make them unbearable.

      And even then, you’d have to move the outer wall out at least 4.5″ minimum.

      Why do you ask?

      As a rule, it will never be practical to widen any of the A division lines to accommodate B division trains.

      • pete says:

        AFAIK all Dual Contracts IRT tunnel can fit Div B trains. Astoria line used to be Div A rolling stock until 60th street tunnel opened.

      • Phantom says:

        I know that the 7 train gets painfully crowded, and thought that the wider cars would greatly help.

        But if would involve building a new tunnel, I guess the trains will just have to stay crowded ( and get even moreso, as the far west side extension adds passengers )

        • Matthew M says:

          I don’t think the 7 line extension will add a lot more crowding to the 7 line even though the 7 line will see a jump in service because it is creating bi-directional transportation options, and it connects to some of the largest transit hubs. Many of the passengers going to the new station will board the 7 line at GCT which is where the 7 line currently has a drop in ridership for westward bound trains, and the rest of the passengers will board at Times Square which is where the remainder of the current passengers get off, so even it the train was completely full upon entering Manhattan, it would have the capacity pick up thousands of new riders transferring onto it at both stations and bring riders to the West Side. Additionally the upgrades to the tracks signals, and turn around capacity with the new track will provide more frequent service upon completion which will reduce crowing.

          • AG says:

            True… and come 2019 in the normal course… Metro North riders who would have normally gotten on the 7 could very well be going to Penn.

            • anon says:

              Between the bump in LIRR ridership, and the demand for NJ transit/amtrak, will metronorth be able to send any trains to penn?

              • AG says:

                Well that’s the MTA’s plan… and they seem pretty serious about it. All the space given by LIRR trains that will go to Grand Central are to be used by Metro North.

    • Alon Levy says:

      It’s not possible, but only because of the Steinway Tunnels, which were built for streetcars and had to be widened just to accommodate IRT trains.

    • Jeff says:

      Nope. The Steinway Tunnel will not allow for it. That’s the biggest constraint as it was built for trolley use.

  13. Phantom says:

    Are the other IRT tunnels similarly narrow?

    I’d certainly imagine that they are.

  14. Quirk says:

    The other lady after ceremonial ride said the station would open in early fall. So the date will be pushed back again?

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