Jan
09

From Albany, a Penn Station Access champion emerges

By

Gov. Cuomo proposed federal funding for Penn Station Access in his State of the State speech Wednesday. (Image via @NYGovCuomo)

So far, Gov. Andrew Cuomo — lover of muscle cars — has not been much of a transit booster. He’s allowed the MTA to do its own thing while maintaining a close relationship with the people he tasks with running the show, but while he’s been aggressive in sending out press releases touting big news, his three years in office have not involved any major transit pushes.

This approach changed considerably with Cuomo’s State of the State speech on Wednesday afternoon. During his presentation of the laundry list of accomplishments and initiatives he hopes to launch as he ramps up his reelection effort this year, he spoke about a transit project familiar to Second Ave. Sagas readers. That idea — already in the planning stages — is Penn Station Access, a plan that would add four Metro-North stops to Bronx and bring trains into Penn Station. It’s not without its controversies, but it’s something that could be implemented relatively quickly if someone in Albany is willing to fight for funding.

When Cuomo announced this news during his speech, I was a bit skeptical. Again, it seemed as though the Governor had simply decided to take something that had seen a scoping study issued in 2000 when Cuomo was with HUD and a project the MTA had already determined to see through and make it his. Curbed, in fact, called me out for that position, but as I’ve thought about it, we should embrace Cuomo’s acceptance of this plan. Even if he can convince the feds to fork over the dollars as part of general recovery and resilience efforts, he will have championed it through.

So what’s the plan? In a corresponding policy book, Cuomo delved into the Penn Station Access proposal:

The need for additional railroad network resiliency was made clear by Superstorm Sandy, when for the first time in their 100-year history, the Hudson River tunnels and two of the East River tunnels into Penn Station were flooded. These closures, along with those of subway and auto tunnels, cut Manhattan off from the region, impacting the regional and national economy. Without the Penn Access connection, Metro-North’s only Manhattan terminal, Grand Central Terminal, would effectively be cut off in the event of a Harlem River Lift Bridge failure, affecting more than 275,000 daily commuters.

Using existing tracks, the project would establish new links for the New Haven Line that by-pass both the Mott Haven Junction and the Harlem River Lift Bridge. In the event of a disaster that disabled these points of access, commuters and others would still be able to use Metro-North to enter or leave Manhattan. In addition, the project provides Metro-North with access to a second Manhattan terminal in the event of an emergency affecting Grand Central or its tunnel and viaduct approaches.

The Penn Station Access Project envisions the construction of four new stations in the Eastern Bronx and the purchase of new rail cars to support the new service. The project will for the first time connect these communities via commuter rail both to Manhattan’s West Side and to the I-95 corridor, providing historic benefits…These new stations are proposed for Co-op City, Morris Park, Parkchester and Hunts Point, which are not currently served by commuter rail.

The benefits are obvious. The East Bronx will have 30-minute access to the West Side, and many Westchester and Connecticut travelers will have a one-seat ride to the area as well. If the MTA could figure out a way to rationalize the fare for intra-city travelers as well, so much the better.

But the problems are numerous. First off, as we saw last spring, Long Island politicians can’t see through the benefits of Penn Station Access and have been threatening to oppose any plan that takes space away from LIRR slots at Penn. Never mind that many LIRR commuters will embrace East Side Access when it opens; never mind that Metro-North riders are New Yorkers who should have West Side access as well. Long Island politicians are not known for practicality, and they are going to dig in hard.

Additionally, there is the matter of cost. While Cuomo didn’t discuss any figures, The Times quotes an “administration official” claiming that the project will cost in excess of $1 billion. Similarly, a 2008 state report estimated a $1.8 billion price tag for Penn Station Access. As Alon Levy skeptically tweeted, that’s what the cost for four new above-ground stations, some widening work done along a preexisting right of way, electrical work and rolling stock purchases would add up to be. There must be a way to build out Penn Station Access for cheaper.

But that’s part of the process, and the process starts with someone in power taking ownership of the proposal. Right now, Penn Station Access is in Cuomo’s lap. We’ll get to see if he can turn this into his own transit project. We sure could use it.



Categories : Penn Station Access

112 Responses to “From Albany, a Penn Station Access champion emerges”

  1. Nyland8 says:

    Yet another reminder of Christie’s unilateral assassination of the ARC project. Had NJTransit been allowed to build 6 more tracks under NYPenn, they would have been able to surrender an existing slot for MetroNorth, reducing LIRR’s sacrifice.

    It’s ironic that the biggest beneficiaries of ARC would have been the two NJTransit/MetroNorth joint venture lines that serve New Yorkers from Spring Valley to Port Jervis – which would have, for the first time, been able to go directly into midtown.

    Come to think of it, if MetroNorth’s new proposal offered through-running to Lautenberg on all trains into NYPenn, then NJTransit could give up two existing slots permanently, precluding a turf war with LIRR … for reasons that might be obvious to SAS readers.

    More ironic still would be the fact that MetroNorth would have a better relationship with NJTransit than it does with it’s own sister, LIRR.

    • lawhawk says:

      Still assuming that NJ Transit (the lead agency for ARC) would have been able to control costs. NJ Transit is notorious for not being able to do so. It’s largest project in recent years was the Secaucus Transfer, and that was originally budgeted at $80 million.

      It ended up costing $450 million, and millions more had to be spent to fix deficiencies, including not having long enough lower level platforms to handle crowds to the Meadowlands.

      Add to that the Sandy flooding of the rail fleet, and you’ve got an agency that can’t protect its investments, can’t contain costs on capital projects, and it would fall to taxpayers and NJ Transit commuters to pick up the tab for all their problems.

      • Nyland8 says:

        “Still assuming that NJ Transit (the lead agency for ARC) would have been able to control costs.”

        No. I’m not. And I’m well aware of the history of incompetence of NJTransit.

        But if the ARC project did lead to cost overruns – and there’s no guarantee that it would have – then I have no problem with the tax payers and rate payers – of both states – picking up the tab. It is those very tax payers and rate payers that stood to benefit. However ludicrous and ill conceived the Trump Tower under Macy’s basement idea was, it would have still been a much needed mass-transit infrastructure job that would still be serving the needs of the region 100 years from now. It should not have been stopped, and Christie was wrong to do it.

    • Bolwerk says:

      The through-running thing gets me. We probably could use the extra tunnels anyway, but transit immediately gets better for almost everyone if both states offer a few smaller terminals to the other state. And it probably costs virtually nothing.

    • Alon Levy says:

      This isn’t really true. ARC Alt-Cavern would’ve been disconnected from the rest of the system, so Metro-North couldn’t use it. Of NJ Transit’s preexisting tracks, tracks 1-5 are disconnected from the East River Tunnels, so Metro-North couldn’t use them either.

      Not that it matters much. Given through-running, there is no capacity problem at Penn. Harold, which wasn’t the best use of money but is sunk cost now, allows either NEC or LIRR trains to use either of the two East River tunnel pairs; the southern tunnel pair easily connects with the Hudson tunnels, and the northern one easily connects with West Side Yard. Each pair connects to several station tracks per access track.

      • Nyland8 says:

        “This isn’t really true. ARC Alt-Cavern would’ve been disconnected from the rest of the system, so Metro-North couldn’t use it.”

        What I wrote was, ” … they would have been able to surrender AN EXISTING SLOT for MetroNorth,”. Not a new ARC project platform, but an already existing slot. Are you saying that NO eastern access points for the proposed MNRR route lead to Jersey bound tunnels? Because that’s not what it looks like on the track maps.

        If it’s true, it is a disappointment, because this would seem to be a perfect opportunity to push for through-running. Lautenberg has plenty of capacity, and commuters from Bergen/Orange/Rockland/Passaic Counties could certainly use more NYPenn bound trains coming from Secaucus. If you miss one off-peak, you’re screwed, and NJTransit does have their occasional problems with on-time performance.

  2. Larry Littlefield says:

    “It’s not without its controversies.”

    Only in New York would there be any.

    The LIRR is not sacrificing anything. How many trains could it afford to run with its existing ridership? Do the Long Island politicians demand that double the number of half empty trains run to GCT and Penn? I’ll bet that GCT will account for more than half of LIRR ridership when it opens.

    As for the cost, you are just running existing trains down existing tracks to another destination using existing switches. Might this require different locomotives? Then phase it in as old locomotives are replaced. The cost is a few outdoor stations with side platforms. $billions?

    You left out another group that really wants this — Fairfield County Connecticut. They have zoned out the working poor, and even the middle class, and it is crushing their local economy. They see the Bronx as a source or workers they can use when they need them, and then have another state meet their needs when they have them.

    • Eric F says:

      “You left out another group that really wants this — Fairfield County Connecticut. They have zoned out the working poor, and even the middle class, and it is crushing their local economy. They see the Bronx as a source or workers they can use when they need them, and then have another state meet their needs when they have them.”

      Fairfield has some poor spots, such as the municipality of Fairfield itself. Anyway, not clear that the route envisioned goes to CT at all, so not obvious why this helps or hurts CT in anyway.

      • Tower18 says:

        I think you’re thinking of Bridgeport. The Town of Fairfield, while not on the scale of Greenwich or Westport, is still quite affluent. Stamford and Bridgeport contain what pockets of lower/working class remain, with some Norwalk as well.

      • Larry Littlefield says:

        I’m telling you Fairfield’s business community wants it. I write a report on the economy and commercial real estate market of the county every quarter, and read through the local business journal and other publications to do so.

        Fairfield’s problem, which is a lot of people’s problem, is that the young are going elsewhere because of a lack of affordable housing. The existing housing is increasingly occupied by retirees, and yesterdays’ workers age. The problem is most acute at the lower end of the labor market. And having them drive in doesn’t work, because I-95 is jammed.

        Corporations fled NYC for suburban campuses in the 1970s, but many are coming back due to access to labor. Thinking people are worried about population and labor force decline. One solution is to tap those who work in the Bronx.

        • Eric F says:

          I get the concept, I just don’t see how a train ride from the Bronx to Penn addresses it. By the way, if I( had to guess I’d bet the housing prices in some of the down-at-heel CT cities are probably less than in the Bronx.

          • anon_coward says:

            people from NYC can then take the train to connecticut to go work. not just go to NYC to work

          • AG says:

            those trains go the other way… they will connect to the New Haven line at New Rochelle.

            • SEAN says:

              Exactly. Some riders need to get to & from the west side & this opens that oppertunity. I’ll put myself in as an example – if I want to take the train to New Jersey, I need to take the subway from GCT to Penn. wich isn’t to bad, however with direct service to Penn I save both time & money since it’s only a matter of going up & down stairs. Now once the ESA opens, things really get interesting since there will bee rail options all over the place.

              • AG says:

                exactly – I think ppl just like to complain to complain.. Someone in Westchester good go to the beach on Long Island without having to drive.The only thing that could sweeten it is getting one means of fare payment for all the systems… travel becomes much easier.

      • AG says:

        When the project was first being pitched one of the benefits that CT politicians touted was that the Bronx has the highest “reverse-commute” of any urban area in the country – and would give CT access to workers in the east Bronx. That said – the areas in question (aside from Hunts Point are not poor).

    • AG says:

      Only Hunts Point is poor… Parkchester is “borderline” but Morris Park and the area around Co-OP city are firmly middle class. In fact – many ppl from the east Bronx move to Westchester and Connecticut because they can afford to (and many work there).

      • Larry Littlefield says:

        Fairfield County has priced out even the middle class. And I think they are counting on people taking the bus to the train.

        • AG says:

          Ummm – I know middle class ppl who recently moved from the Bronx (about a mile from Co-Op City) to Fairfield County and they are in their 30′s. Square footage wise – it was cheaper than living in the Bronx (one of them worked in CT). I’m not sure where ppl get these notions. Ppl saying “no one in the middle class can afford Fairfield County” is just like saying “the whole Bronx is poor”… It’s simply not true.

    • Ryan says:

      Outside of peak hour, exactly zero trains make local stops (e.g. all of the new Penn Station Access stops, all of Fairfield County’s stops not named Bridgeport) on both sides of Stamford and even during peak hour the number of one-seat rides between Fairfield County and New Rochelle. I wouldn’t expect the number of one-seat rides between Fairfield County and the Bronx to be any larger, and for that reason, I don’t think Fairfield County actually benefits on a tangible level from this.

      Now, if you want to disagree with me to the extent that peak/reverse peak trips are the only ones that actually matter and virtually nobody is really going to try to ride the New Haven Line between Fairfield and New Rochelle during the off-peak (and that the handful of people who are going to want to do that will put up with a cross-platform transfer), that’s fine – but I wouldn’t expect a one-seat ride between Fairfield and the Bronx on anything approaching a normal schedule, and I wouldn’t expect the trains running between New Haven and Penn Station to be making any of the stops west of Stamford except for Sunnyside (if it gets built) and maybe New Rochelle.

      Trips that include transfers, even cross-platform or timed transfers, are significantly less attractive compared to single-seat rides.

  3. Hoosac says:

    My arithmetic is probably simple-minded, but here goes: They want to build 4 new stations alongside an existing right of way. That’s 8 platforms, two at each station. Estimated cost, $1 billion or more. Therefore, each platform will cost $125 million? What am I missing?

    • anon_coward says:

      platforms, fix the rail, new train cars, new electrical systems

      it all adds up

    • RailPhilly says:

      ADA compliance, for one. Not just two 1000 foot platforms, but also a pair of elevators and a pedestrian bridge/tunnel at each station, unless they can ramp to a nearby road overpass.

      Also, new signals, upgraded electric to handle more trains at once, RoW widening, possibly restoring the 4th track to the Hell’s Gate bridge, enough new train cars to handle the new service, inevitable NIMBY/BANANA lawsuits and remediation.

      Infrastructure adds up fast.

      • AlanF says:

        The $1.8 billion may also include replacing the Pelham Bay moveable bridge with a higher elevation fixed span bridge which is high up on Amtrak’s long NEC to-do list. Or perhaps MTA/MNRR’s share of the the bridge replacement cost if the Penn Station Access project moves ahead. There is a major question of how much the Metro-North trains would interfere with Amtrak NYP to BOS through trains and whether it would result in slower NYP-BOS trip times. Presumably the EIS will address this.

        • Larry Littlefield says:

          So they are kitchen sinking things needed for other reasons into the project. I believe that.

          But they shouldn’t be mixing ongoing normal repair with new capacity.

          And as for ADA, how about ramp for crying out loud! As I age I can say that if ADA every comes to my home station, that’s what I want.

          • AlanF says:

            The Pelham Bay bascule bridge was built in 1907, so it is 107 years old. Before MNRR starts running commuter service over the Hell Gate line, there are likely very good arguments for replacing the bridge with a higher elevation fixed span bridge for faster speeds and eliminating a potential bottleneck. Replacing the bridge could be part of Amtrak’s demands before they allow Metro-North to start to clog up their Hell Gate line. Which has several proposed higher speed upgrades in the NEC infrastructure plans as I recall. Have to wait to see what is in the EIS.

            The Penn Station Access plan is tied into the NEC Future PEIS that is currently being developed and written, so there are multiple players in this project.

      • Alon Levy says:

        The MBTA is building ADA-compliant high platforms at a few million per station. I believe it’s $6 million per station? And that’s not a low-cost agency or city.

        The 4th track to Hell’s Gate is unnecessary: there are no stations on the bridge, so no speed difference. It also actively harms transit service by precluding Triboro. ROW widening may be needed, but honestly given Amtrak’s dismal average speed there’s almost no speed difference, so no need for additional tracks. At the current top speeds, those 4 stations slow trains by maybe 5 minutes total, and at current and projected traffic levels, no new tracks are required. Now, if Amtrak decides to increase speeds and frequencies then it gets harder, but still four-tracking is only needed in areas with a lot of room for it. None of the proposed stations is in a constrained location.

        Signals and electric systems are already there. It’s an active electrified passenger line.

        Finally, unless it’s part of a plan to add more service from the New Haven Line to Manhattan, there’s no need for new cars. Cars can be redistributed from Grand Central-bound trains. The current GCT-bound peak frequency is 20 tph, and Metro-North can afford to cut trains from the schedule and move them to Penn Station, with some timed transfers at New Rochelle.

        • Spendmore Wastemor says:

          Bureaucrats love slow. It makes the “customers” grateful for whatever small improvements are doled out, and covers for many layers of incompetence. Go slow enough, and rippled track, not enough turn banking, single points of failure (MNR’s not using old signal tech to enforce, say, a 45mph max or BIE on Spuyten Dyvil.
          Interestingly, the train made it partway around at 82, suggesting that it would probably have made the whole curve, barely, at 70-75.

          • Spendmore Wastemor says:

            Ahh, I mis-edited my rant.

            That should have been something like
            “… single points of failure don’t (usually) break dramatically enough to hit the news and threaten the bureaucrat’s next raise and promotion”.

            Ben, can you enable an edit function for the comments?

          • Alon Levy says:

            You said this last time, and it was wrong then, too. There is such a thing as safety margins. With first-world margins of safety and a lot of superelevation, the curve where the derailment happened is a 48 mph curve.

            And I don’t think it’s that bureaucrats are actively sabotaging anything. It’s not Jersey. It’s just that they think in certain terms – commuter rail as a special suburban shuttle to the CBD, individual train runs as opposed to coherent systems with easy transfers, big projects requiring big dollar figures.

        • Ryan says:

          Slowing trains by 5 minutes is completely unacceptable when it already takes the high-speed medium-speed Acela “Express” 3:35 on average to go between BOS and NYP in either direction and the lower-speed Regional services over four hours.

          Slowing Amtrak down by any amount of time should be every bit as unacceptable east of the Hudson as it is west of the Hudson. Just because we’re already on the wrong side of three hours one way does NOT mean it’s okay to make trip times worse.

          Penn Station Access is not worth substantial slow-down to Amtrak’s services. Sorry, it just isn’t. The fourth track is necessary.

          • Alon Levy says:

            You misunderstood. The extra 4 stations slow Metro-North trains by 5 minutes. They do not slow Amtrak at all since Amtrak wouldn’t be making those stops. The 5-minute time difference is small enough that Amtrak and Metro-North trains can continue to use the same tracks without overtakes, with very little scheduling inconvenience.

            • Ryan says:

              My concern was that flushing whatever portion of existing New Haven Line service down Penn Station Access would force Amtrak to slow up purely due to Metro-North’s legendary dispatching/scheduling incompetence – as in Amtrak trains ending up stuck behind Metro-North trains. If you can assure me that doesn’t happen, my only real objection to 86ing the fourth track is gone.

              That having been said, unless the project lives or dies on whether or not we can finance/complete the track addition, I’d like to see it built even if it isn’t strictly technically necessary today for redundancy and so that it is there when we need it in fifteen/twenty years.

  4. Rich says:

    It would obviously be good for several groups of people, but i can’t help thinking that a station in Queens would be useful as well opening up Bronx-Queens travel (which on transit is universally hopeless, regardless of route taken). Maybe near Northern Boulevard for subway connections, and potentially an extended Q70 (or other service) to allow a one change trip from the Bronx to LGA. Admittedly there might be land space/line capacity issues, but surely something could be done.

    • anon_coward says:

      once east side access opens up you should be able to take the LIRR into GCT and transfer to the MNR

      but i see what you’re saying. LIRR and MNR should be combined into one railroad

    • Michael K says:

      Is there room for a station at Sunnyside?

      • anon_coward says:

        why not share woodside?

        • Bobby says:

          What about a connecting stop with the N/Q at Ditmars Blvd.?

          • Alon Levy says:

            It’s possible, but if I remember correctly it was eliminated from consideration early because of low ridership (people could just take the subway) and difficulties building such a station. Such a station would be high, on a grade, right beside freight tracks so building platforms is hard, and above existing infrastructure.

            However, the assumptions in the studies are that service will look like commuter rail today – infrequent and expensive. Based on the same assumptions, the most promising Bronx station is Co-op City, which is higher-income and so far from the subway that people would pay more for shorter travel times. If off-peak frequencies are raised and in-city commuter rail fares are equalized with subway fares, things could be very different.

            That said, there’s another problem, about interfering with Amtrak trains. If ridership increases to the point that it’s not possible to combine slower commuter trains with high(er)-speed intercity trains on the same tracks, then in the Bronx it’s possible to four-track everything. In Astoria, it’s not. The other two tracks on the bridge are currently used by freight, which could be kicked out, but then they could be used by Triboro, which is estimated at 150,000 weekday boardings.

            • AG says:

              Co-Op city for riders to Manhattan – but also Morris Park is important. That stop (Morris Park) would be more of a destination. There are 4 hospitals right around that station… and then anoter 5k workers in the Hutch Metro Center. A lot of of those workers are from outside the Bronx as well (and the fill up all those parking spaces). The Albert Einstein College of Medicine is there and spoke in favor – because as they are involved in a lot of medical research they have ppl visit from Boston and DC. Those persons would have an easy train ride to/from Penn.

            • Duke says:

              As someone who lives in Astoria and has family in Connecticut, the idea of having a Metro-North station in this area of Queens sounds mighty appealing. Yeah, no one would use it to go into Manhattan, but there is usefulness for people going the other way. For commuters, too: say you live somewhere along the New Haven Line and work in Long Island City. You could get off at Astoria and take the N/Q as an alternative to taking the 7 from Grand Central.

        • Alon Levy says:

          Woodside is east of the NEC/LIRR split. If you want a transfer station, it has to be Sunnyside, which is west of the NEC/LIRR split and east of the ESA/Penn split.

          • Michael K says:

            Is it feasible? there are several flying junctions and lots of sheds and equipment between tracks at that point – not all at the same grade…

            I have been trying to figure out how to place the actual platforms for NJT/MNRR …. I have already figured out the LIRR.

        • Michael K says:

          MNRR wouldn’t merge with the main line until after woodside. In between Woodside & Sunnyside to be exact.

      • SEAN says:

        there room for a station at Sunnyside?

        I’ll defer to those who know, however it makes sence since it allows an easy transfer between railroads without the nessessitty of taking the subway. In adition it opens travel possibilities to JFK.

    • AG says:

      I wrote the MTA about a stop in Queens for the exact reasons your state… They say at this time they don’t think the usage at Astoria would warrant the cost. they said because it’s so high there the station costs would be too high. Maybe that will change if/when the line becomes successful and ppl clamor for it.

  5. anon_coward says:

    waste of money since it won’t carry as many people as the second ave subway

    • Bolwerk says:

      You out-dumbed Eric F.’s hurrr!!1! Demoncrats get the kid gloves!1 with that comment. Impressive.

      Seriously: virtually nothing built in the western hemisphere is likely to move as many people as SAS. Do we just stop building?

    • AG says:

      and for that one billion – could you get ppl from Penn to Stamford on any subway? comparing a subway and commuter line doesn’t really fit. Besides many of those ppl in the East Bronx who go to Manhattan drive or take the bus to the 5 or 6 trains. This may have come benefit even for the Lex line.

  6. Eric F says:

    I was hoping for a lot more on infrastructure out of this speech, it was pretty disappointing.

    My guess is that this does not happen. Cuomo tossed a few bones out here, this being one. He also discussed an upstate NY highway connector long sought by people who actually care about the luckless population in the far north of the state, basically connecting I-81 at Watertown with I-87 in Plattsburgh. Sometimes this is referred to as the rooftop highway. That’s a NY-centric way of looking at it, because you’d ideally have an entire corridor connecting upstate to Maine/New Brunswick with added extensions east. Anyway, that will never be built either. I think both go into the same abyss as his Queen convention center that no one talks about anymore. Luckily for him, he’s a Democrat so he can announce and abandon initiatives without worrying about future follow up questions on them.

    • Brandon says:

      The luckless population of upstate need an economy, not another highway.

    • lawhawk says:

      Building a billion dollar boondoggle along the Northern Tier of NY where few live isn’t sound infrastructure investment. It’s a play for votes and nothing more.

      • Bolwerk says:

        Eric wants to take tax revenues collected in New York City and spend them building highways upstate. Quelle surprise!

        • Eric F says:

          Ideally, a strong corridor up there would help generate its own revenue. Transport matters. This is a region that is not going to use transit to get around, most travel will always be road based.

          I once had the eye-opening experience of touring around the far upstate and heading across the Thousand Island Bridge to the Kingston, Ontario area on the same trip (which has a good interstate-quality highway). The difference was night and day. Upstate is basically Appalachia, the Canada side seemed much more prosperous.

          Also, I’d have trouble even imagining the anxiety of trying to travel in the atrocious weather up there on an undivided highway with 18 wheelers barreling towards me across the yellow line.

          • Tower18 says:

            The difference on the Canada side has little to do with the simple fact that the 401 goes through there. Canada’s rural population is poor too. But I’ll leave it for others to guess the difference between Canada’s poor and the US’s poor.

            Anyway, regarding an upstate highway, I’m not even sure where it could go except along the US-11 corridor, and in that case, what’s the point? US-11 is already uncongested, well-maintained, and passes through few towns. Any more southerly connection would pass directly through the mountains, and for what? There’s hardly any traffic, and nothing will be stimulated by building a highway through wilderness, with wilderness on both ends for hundreds of miles.

            • Eric F says:

              Sorry, wasn’t saying that the difference was due to the highway. I just meant that the NY side was starkly poorer than the Canadian side. The upgrade of US 11 would be a nice boon to the region, but I have no illusions that it’ll create Valhalla up there.

          • Bolwerk says:

            We all know it wouldn’t. Individual highways almost never cover their own costs. Even if they do, they take land off the tax rolls and reduce property valuations. The highways that were built in that region simply turned into arteries to move jobs out of the rustbelt to the sunbelt (for later shipment to China), and goods – sometimes from Mexico! – into Canada.

            Re trucks: you get used to them (my father’s father was from Watertown). What you described about Canada is probably right, but I’d keep in mind that “prosperous” corridor is a band rarely more than a 150km wide probably running roughly from Toronto to Montreal and including Ottawa. Basically, the BosNyWash of Canada; they even call that area around Toronto “The Golden Horseshoe” (right near Buffalo). Kingston’s economy revolves around a major research university and prisons. West of that band is basically Ohio and east is the French-speaking equivalent to Alabama until you hit the quirky Maritime provinces. Places like Thunder Bay or Windsor are likely comparable to Youngstown or Detroit in terms of postindustrial dilapidation.

            At least socioeconomically, there are probably more differences within each country than there are between them.

        • Matt says:

          While you want to take tax revenues collected upstate and spend them building transit downstate? Perhaps we should do both. Then you can both be mad.

          • Bolwerk says:

            Even if I did want that, it is literally impossible. Upstate already contributes less to the state in revenue than it takes in spending.

          • Eric F says:

            I wouldn’t be mad, I like transit. I just don’t think the entire population must be compelled to use it exclusively in some vain attempt to turn American into Belgium.

          • AG says:

            Downstate subsidizes upstate to a large tune… which is why the Gov. doesn’t want Deblasio raising taxes in NYC… He doesn’t want golden goose killed. At least he learned from history.

  7. tacony says:

    Wait a sec, what happened to the other part of the plan: having Metro-North Hudson Line trains follow what is currently the Amtrak “Empire Connection” down the West Side, with a stop at 125th on the way to Penn Station? I thought this had always been presented as the other component of the same plan.

    Is it now separate? Is Cuomo essentially dropping that idea for now in an effort to get the New Haven Line portion done more quickly?

    • Brandon says:

      A few idiots on Long Island loudly (is there any other way for them) complained, and they backed down on the free component of this ludicrously expensive plan.

      • Alon Levy says:

        Do you have a link for this? What I heard is the opposite: Long Islanders complain mainly about the easier New Haven Line plan, which takes up slots in the East River Tunnels (slots for which there is capacity, but not a lot of capacity), and not about the harder Empire Connection, which doesn’t. The Empire Connection requires adding a few km of new electrification and possibly also redoing the entire interlocking at Spuyten Duyvil, replacing the one-track bridge with a two-track one and the flat junction with a flying junction. Moreover, because Amtrak’s dual-modes use LIRR third rail, the electrification would run into the problem of the two different kinds of third rail, which requires spending a bit of money on modifying some Amtrak locos or M7s. The New Haven connection requires replacing a few km of 25 Hz electrification with 60 Hz but nothing else, and the catenary to my knowledge can be reused.

        • Brandon says:

          Ah, what I was thinking of was referring to the New Haven line.

          Either way, is tunnel capacity into Penn still going to be an issue at all when ESA opens? Im under the impression that a majority of LIRR trains will go into GCT.

        • Nyland8 says:

          ” … replacing the one-track bridge with a two-track one … ”

          If you’re referring to the Spuyten Duyvil swing bridge, it’s already a two-track bridge.

          I wonder why Amtrak removed the other set of rails? Not enough traffic to warrant maintaining them? I suspect the location over brackish water must deteriorate them much quicker on the bridge than the tracks south of there along the corridor. It quickly becomes double-tracked again about 300 yards downstream.

  8. Quirk says:

    Are federal disaster aid funds finite? Cuomo does want to use those funds for this expansion(?)

  9. Spendmore Wastemor says:

    I’m skeptical about planting *four* stops in the Bronx which is mostly covered by subway service.

    How about 1-2 Bronx stops: one in whatever spot has customer demand and is far from the existing subway and perhaps one at a transfer point for people wanting to get to Penn/West Side?

    You ain’t going when you stoppin’. We already have the subway to be within a reasonable walk from your front door.

    • ajedrez says:

      Except the issue is also for reverse commuters from The Bronx to Westchester/Connecticut, and in some cases, commuters into The Bronx (for instance, the Hunts Point station).

    • Raffi says:

      I don’t live there but I did go to college in the east Bronx; it would be a less attractive proposal if the 6 had more than peak-time peak-direction express service, but that’s not the case. If you’re working 9-5 in the east side of Manhattan, the 6 is great but it’s not great for anyone else. My experience was that a lot of people were riding to a lot of stops in both directions 6 days a week.

    • Billy G says:

      Look at a map, sometime… That rail line goes well East of any existing subway line. There is no subway overlap. At best, one can probably get express bus service around there. The train would be a welcome addition and shouldn’t require new ROW.

      • anon says:

        Doesn’t it run next to the 6 along the sheridan until the 6 turns east, then it’s between the 6 and the 2 5 ?

        • anon_coward says:

          i’ve worked with someone who lived in co-op city and he said he had to take the bus to the train. its pretty far from the subway

          • anon says:

            Alright. But until you enter Pehlam Bay Park this line isn’t to the east of the subway. A good chunk of co-op city should be able to walk to the 5 without taking a bus.

            • SEAN says:

              The closest subway stop to Co-op City is the 6 at Pelham Bay Park & it requires a bus ride to get there. You can take the 5,but I don’t think you can walk it from most sections.

              • anon says:

                I don’t know the area well, haven’t been there in a couple years. But google maps looks like less than a one mile walk to much of co-op city from the 5 at baychester ave, which is closer than the rail line south of Bay plaza. Are the high rises there part of co-op city? Alright, they’ll be closer to the metro north stop, but most of the complex wouldn’t be.

                • AG says:

                  Maybe 1 out of 1000 ppl walks from Co-Op City to the #5… It’s not realistic for an average commuter. Most ppl in Co-Op have cars… in fact even with all the garages – parking is a problem.

                  • anon says:

                    If they won’t walk to the 5 how are they getting to Metronorth if its further away for most of them?

                    • Ralffff says:

                      huh. Upon examining the map, this is a good point. How IS this going to work for Co-op City anyway?

                    • AG says:

                      It’s a cooperative – so they plan a shuttle to each section. For ppl in section5 the station is at their door…my question access for ppl fr city island. Right now both neighborhoods use express buses – or take a local bus to the 6… Very few use the 5. Both also have high car usage

                    • anon says:

                      So an extra $200 (current metronorth monthly from bronx-grand central) a month on top of metrocard fares for most people who will need a subway from penn to cut time on the train from 40-45 minutes subway to grand central down to ~30 minutes to penn. Then the cost of the shuttle bus. Is this going to be an attractive option for all that many people in a middle class neighborhood? Considering the marginal increase in service, is it the best use of scarce transit dollars?

                    • AG says:

                      Most ppl in that area own cars… that 200 dollars a month is much less than gas and wear and tear on their vehicles. Do the ppl want it??? They’ve only been screaming for it for 25 years.
                      The shuttle bus would more than likely be free to Co-Op City residents… run by the Co-Op and not the MTA. The Co-Op already pays for it’s own police force (yes real police and not just security).
                      However – even if you look at Riverdale on the other side of the borough – usage at the two Metro North stations there shot up once there were neighborhood shuttles to take them there (so much so that the MTA added trains to both). This area in the east is much more dense than Riverdale.

                      As to whether its a good use of funds… There can be an argument against every single project. Name one and someone can come up with an argument as to why not.

                      It’s only a “marginal” increase to you because you don’t live there and have to fight for parking and fight traffic jams. Besides this benefits the entire tri-state. Or is that you aren’t against Metro North going to Penn… just these Bronx stations???

                    • anon says:

                      Now how many of these middle class families in co-op city are currently driving in to Manhattan’s CBD everyday? I’m guessing not many could afford that. And not many would go car free if they open that station, because outside of peak travel hours commuter rail doesn’t do a great job of replacing car travel. Does everyone in co-op city commute to Manhattan’s west side? If not, are they going to be okay with paying for the shuttle bus for their neighbors? You’re looking at $350+ a month to commute if you need a subway too. Sure, that’s cheaper than a car, but how many people will realistically be able to go car free?

                      Then there’s the issue of capacity at Penn. These trains will compete directly with LIRR penn bound trains in the tunnels under the east river and at the terminal. It’s not obvious how many slots will be freed up once ESA opens. There’s been quite a bit of speculation on the matter, but until the MTA announces a preliminary schedule it’s hard to say.

                      Now I was looking for metro north ridership breakdown by station (even an estimate) but couldn’t find any. Could you link me the riverdale growth after shuttle buses were added?

                    • AG says:

                      Oh – so you are of the “Long Island should get everything” group. Bottom line is the whole region should get every single option that can be had.

                      No I don’t have the ridership numbers specifically – but there is the press release from the MTA saying they added trains in Riverdale because of the increase in ridership.

                      http://new.mta.info/press-rele.....-each-week

                      Also – who said ppl need to go “car free”??? Most Metro North stations have large parking lots because ppl don’t give up their cars just because they use MNR… I brought up the admittedly wealthy section of Riverdale because they have tiny parking lots – which is why the shuttle bus makes sense. Mt. Vernon East has a similar demographic to Co-Op and their parking lot is full every single weekday with hundreds of cars.

                      the population of riverdale has not greatly increased… but what has increased is the usage of the shuttle bus… and not coincidentally the usage of the stations has continued to rise:

                      http://www.railfanwindow.com/b.....s-new-bus/

                      Co-Op city by itself has a larger population than the entire Riverdale area. Besides – as many have not over and over – the Bronx has a high rate of reverse commuting to the Hudson Valley and Connecticut. Not to mention over 60k ppl live in Co-Op area (not just the 45k in the buildings themselves but also the houses in the area – and adjacent City Island) and there are not enough parking spaces.. All of these ppl have ppl who visit them and can’t get parking (again I speak from experience) being able to take another option is important. Then you have the fact that Bay Plaza in Co-Op city is one the busiest shopping areas in the entire city – and is set to increase by another 800k square feet in 2014 as a new Macy’s and mall open in the complex. You seriously want to argue about ridership demand???

                    • anon says:

                      You’ve at least twice mentioned parking problems. I assumed you thought increased transit would help by getting people to sell their cars. Also since you said this rail line would be cheaper than owning a car. Metronorth has never announced plans to build a parking lot at this station. Looking at a map it isn’t clear where one would go. Walking from the mall to the rail line is more than a mile. An unpleasant mile under a highway and across an asphalt desert. That tends not to attract many people. This line won’t take you to the hudson valley. The drive (or bus/shuttle bus) from the rail line to city island is about as far as the one from most of co-op city to the existing metronorth station as Pelham. The 5 and 6 are both closer to co-op city for commutes into Manhattan than city island is to this rail line. There are transit starved neighborhoods of Brooklyn and Queens that don’t have the options you have. If there’s a billion to spend on transit, I see how this is the most equitable way to do it.

                    • AG says:

                      No – I didn’t mean ppl would sell their cars. There are ppl all over the city – including Manhattan that ride the subway to work – but still own cars (I personally know 3 ppl in Manhattan myself). It’s not owning a car that’s a problem – it’s commuting to work that is the issue. I personally would probably not use this line since I’m closer to the 5 train – but I know there is serious demand for it.

                      Yes – the MTA specifically said that due to density and the fact that it would increase costs – they would not build parking garages – which is why it was stated at the community meeting Co-Op city would need to have it’s own shuttle in the complex.

                      I’m not sure why you keep talking about walking… The outlet mall that is being planned for the old Whitestone Cinema site already stated they will be running a shuttle to the #6 train at Zerega Ave. (and I’m sure in the future the Metro North Parkchester site) when it’s built. It’s the same idea with Bay Plaza… they would be fools not to offer shuttle service since it would help their bottom line (in the same way companies run shuttles from the MNR station in White Plains).

                      Also – Westchester counts as the lower Hudson Valley… but again this most certainly takes you to CT where many riders go. All you have to do is get on the train at Fordham Rd. and you would see how many reverse commuters there are on the New Haven Line (actually surprisingly many from Grand Central – and I’m pretty sure it would be the case with Penn).

                      Ummm no – the proposed site for this station is not closer to the Pelham station than it is to the Co-op city site. You have a long winding drive up Shore Rd – then you have to cut back west to get to 5th Ave… that surely takes longer time. I’m speaking by experience not guessing. Besides – my statement was hoping they find an alternate for ppl in City Island not having to drive and find parking (which is the same problem in Pelham anyway).

                      Where in Brooklyn and Queens can you spend $1billion dollars and get anywhere near the potential???? The closest thing is probably the re-activation of the Rockaway Line (which I hope they do) – but even that will be more expensive and wouldn’t have the same overall impact as opening up Penn Station to everyone from Hunts Point to Danbury and New Haven, Connecticut. I’m not sure of the community response to the Rockaway activation – but I hear some ppl wanting a “Queensway” and others complaining about the noise of trains. Well in Morris Park when they had the community meeting last year almost everyone’s mentality was “great – this will increase my house value”. I guess that’s the difference also. Funny enough – if you want to make it borough vs. borough – the money for the Yankee Stadium MNR station was from unused monies for the La Guardia subway extension after the neighborhood shot it down. So I guess it goes by what community real wants transit.

      • AlanF says:

        Looking at the 2012 slide presentations to the public on the MTA Penn St Access, the proposed Hunts Point Station would be close to the 6 Line station with a pedestrian route between the stations although it does not look ideal. This is from 2012, so it is not new information. The presentation lists among the features: “Transfer location between the NYCT 6 Line and the New Haven Line creates a new transit hub.”

        If this were to be built, would it make sense for some Amtrak trains to Boston to stop at the Hunts Pt station? Would allow for faster trips between the upper east side and Boston/New England, as well as stops served by the New Haven Line.

        • AG says:

          Maybe eventually… right now not enough infrastructure around the station as in New Rochelle where they currently stop.

  10. AG says:

    I notice there is no indication of linking the Hudson Line – or the two stops on west 125th and west 60th. I wonder if that is because of low projected ridership – or temporarily for cost purposes….?

  11. mjw says:

    As someone who grew up in Co-op City (parents are still there), maybe I can help with some more background. Living so far out, in what is still a unique development, was what originally got me interested in transportation & the environment.

    60-65K people live in 15K apts, isolated from the city by crisscrossing highways. Many people have cars, but many don’t. Buses run pretty frequently, to the 6 at Pelham Bay, to the 5 at GunHill, to the 2 at Allerton & GunHill, to the D & 4 at 205th, BedfordPkBlv, & Mosholu. Anyone working in Manh takes a bus to the subway. Or, if they have more $$ and less time to waste, take the Express Bus, which runs nearly every 10mins rush hr & usually half-hourly the rest of the time. (This must be the highest frequency / highest used exp bus in the EastBx). It lets people off every 10 blocks down 5thAve in Midtown, giving a good distribution.

    Very few people use the overpass & walk to Baychester station; Maybe a few more use the overpasses to walk to PBPk sta. (the walks are farther & more isolated than they look on googlemaps). The proposed MNR station at Erskine Pl, Section 5, is where many of the bus routes turn around. It is in walking distance for only 1/3 of the community.

    The reason the Harlem Line mid-Bronx stations have greater levels of reverse commuters has been discussed on this website many times: — The fare structure into town is not appropriate — The frequency cannot compete with the subway. Hard to believe that the long slog on the 2 or the bus up the hill to the D are preferable, but that’s the way it is. Unless MNR changes these patterns, there’s no reason to think EastBx/NewHaven service would be any better at pulling a large # of Manh commuters.

    Co-op City will never run a bus system of its own. It has competing political factions, each with a weekly newspaper attacking the other. The community has been in on&off lawsuits against NYS & the banks for 40 yrs now, b/c of defects in the original construction. Built on the swamps of FreedomLand, the towers are solid, but all of the pipes, sidewalks, & streets sink into the muck, crack up, & require fixes every couple yrs. In the 70s it was the scene of the largest/ longest rent strike ever, over a yr, to demand state action.

    The construction of BayPlaza was pretty lousy from the standpoint of anyone concerned with Smart Growth. After the first section, each new store was built on its own island of parking. Why not 6-8 story apartments over street level retail, with a couple parking ramps, & maybe extend the street grid so people could walk normally? It is a very out-of character, suburban thing.

    Co-op was built with 3 retail centers, at Dreiser, Bartow, & Einstein, so that everyone was within a 10min walk of a supermarket & an assortment of neighborhood stores; these have all suffered vacancies & lower business since BP went up. Similar to what happens to many neighborhoods when forced to compete against chain stores.

    Grew up with RPA-MetroLink dreams of a full 2ndAveSubway, w/ 3 Co-op stops; Or extending the 6 the mile or two (it would take a dozen big crossings – Amtrak, PelPkwy, the Hutch, GunHill, 95); & a pipeline for methane from the closed PBLandfill to our power plant. If 8 side platforms + improvements will cost a Billion, my bet is on the $$ going to replace the Pelham Bridge.

    • fkg says:

      Thanks for the background. Think express bus frequency will be maintained if/when MNR stop opens? Might a good number of people in co-op end up worse off if they’re such a long walk from the MNR?

  12. marv says:

    Why was the subway (#6) which is elevated in the bronx never extended to coop city. At a minimum, the subway could have been extended over I-95 with station(s) right on the edge of coop city.

    Was part of the reason a desire to make co-op less accessible for the poor minorities from the South Bronx?

    Could such an extension be cheaper (and used more given fare structures) than the proposed Metro North to Penn Station.

    Could the #6 be converted to IND Standards and diverted to the 2nd Avenue subway thus freeing up capacity on the Lexington Avenue line?

    • AG says:

      The area where Co-Op City is was an amusement park called Freedom Land – so that theory doesn’t hold. The #6 was built long before. Before Freedom Land there was some farm and estate land. The Jews and Irish ppl who moved up to Co-Op when it first opened were not rich ppl… Although there was racism – not everything was a racist conspiracy.

      • marv says:

        I asked not why it was not originally built to co-op city, but rather why it was not extended when coop city was built. (Perhaps the real reason ws grander plans to extend the “D” train over.) My idea of extending the #6 gives coop city real rail transit as opposed to having to take a bus to a rail station.

        I note that given Robert Mozes’s connection to co-op city, my question of possible racism is not out of left field – Mozes built low bridges on Long Island parkways to try to keep inner city minorities from having access (via bus) to his parks and Jones Beach.

        • AG says:

          There were plans to extend the 6 to Co-Op decades ago… and like many things it didn’t happen because there was no money to do it. Extending the 6 there doesn’t make as much sense as Penn Station Access….which is the “bigger picture”.

          During the majority of Robert Moses tenure – the majority of poor residents in NYC were still white… so the whole “he didn’t want minorities going to Long Island beaches” is ridiculous. Yeah he built Jones Beach – but he also built Jacob Riis beach on the Rockaways – specifically for poor city immigrants. I once heard the same thing as to why he built the Cross Bronx – but when the Cross Bronx was built most of the borough were Jews – like himself…It was they who were displaced the most. He was just in love with cars – simple as that. “Parkways” were made to have beautiful scenery (minus large vehicles). Again – not everything was a racist conspiracy. Some things just simply were wrong ideas.

    • AG says:

      As an aside – extending the #6 does nothing to connect the East Bronx to Westchester and Connecticut… nor does it connect those places to Penn Station. This is a regional issue… just extending the 6 over to Co-op would probably NOT be cheaper…. but even if it was – it would not impact the entire region the way Penn Station Access could.

      • lop says:

        Extending the 6 with 2 stops might better serve the 70% of co-op city residents who won’t be able to walk to the proposed MNR stop. Do most co-op city residents travel to Westchester and Connecticut along the New Haven line and not to the rest of NYC?

        How great is the region served with 4 or so tph from the New Haven line running to Penn, assuming LIRR demand drops enough for even those slots to free up. Extending the 6 or the D would be a good deal cheaper than properly bringing MNR to Penn, which will necessitate adding more platforms/tunnels so that the station can handle the load.

        • AG says:

          Most ppl who work downtown in Co-Op use express buses even though they could transfer to the 6 at Pelham Bay. Why??? Even though the bus is more expensive – no one wants to sit on that long local ride downtown. Some will even drive rather than take the local 6. Explain how that is at all “better”.
          Do they travel to Westchester and CT???? The Bronx has the highest urban reverse commute in the entire country…

          http://www.wnyc.org/story/2859.....-the-rise/

          Plus please explain to me where the 6 stops you are proposing would go that would be easier to get to??? where is the space??? the Hell Gate tracks already exist and only require a station. You really believe extending the 6 is going to give anywhere near the “bang for the buck” compared to building the 4 proposed Metro North stations??? I have no idea where you would consider extending the D…
          The LIRR will be shifting a whole lot more demand to the east side than what the MTA is planning to send to Penn.

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>