Home Asides Prendergast: SAS Phase 2 funding to be included in capital plan

Prendergast: SAS Phase 2 funding to be included in capital plan

by Benjamin Kabak

For the last few years, there’s been an ongoing “will they or won’t they” watch concerning future phases of the Second Ave. Subway. With Phase 1 funded and set to open at the end of 2016, the MTA could have been preparing to get started on Phase 2 — the northern extension to 125th St. — but with finances shaky and labor contracts outstanding, the agency had kept its plans close to the vest. Well, the future for the Second Ave. Subway is no longer a secret as MTA CEO and Chairman Tom Prendergast stated today that substantial funding for Phase 2 will be included in the 2015-2019 five-year capital plan.

While fielding questions during an Assembly hearing, Prendergast announced that the MTA will ask for $1.5 billion for Phase 2 construction. This total is approximately one-third the estimated cost, and the expectation is that the feds will kick in additional money with the rest to be determined. Phase 2 is a key part of this project as it connects the northern extension of the Q train to the Lexington Ave. line and Metro-North station at 125th St. and can help alleviate a lot of the pressure on the 4, 5 and 6 trains. I’ll have more on this later, but this is a welcome development and very, very good news.

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Graham August 7, 2014 - 2:03 pm

Great news. Lets hope it does not take too long to finsh Phase 2!

Brandon August 7, 2014 - 2:10 pm

You will be able to run this blog until you’re an old man without the name ever becoming anachronistic.

Justin Samuels August 7, 2014 - 9:02 pm

The MTA has recently said they want to have all 4 phases done by 2029. Ben won’t be too old then, older but not in a nursing home!

Henry August 7, 2014 - 9:55 pm

Second Avenue was (and still is) designed to be the backbone of a much more robust transit expansion, so there will certainly be even more to come after 2029.

Justin Samuels August 8, 2014 - 12:16 am

After the built the full line, the next step would be Bronx and Brooklyn extensions.

The MTA in the next 20 years wants to connect the Rockaway Beach Boulevard line to the IND (E, F, M, R) so you’d have direct train service from North Queen to the Rockaways). Then there is the proposed Brooklyn, Queens, Bronx train.

lkj August 8, 2014 - 12:35 am

The northern half of the Rockaway beach branch received a small mention as a possibility, it’s hardly a done deal by 2034. I’m not sure I’d expect to see that before a new Queens service further west, maybe under Northern Blvd. Remember north of 63rd street SAS has the Q and the T, south of it just the T. You already have a half empty tunnel (3/4 empty counting the LIRR portion) at 63rd street from Manhattan to Queens that was built to carry a new Queens-SAS service, once phase 3 and 4 are completed you’d have somewhere to send it in Manhattan.

AG August 8, 2014 - 7:33 pm

Very true – though I can’t understand why they don’t accelerate the installation of CBTC… It would give the system a big boost in itself.

sonicboy678 August 8, 2014 - 8:23 pm

That’s probably to avoid practical failures like the L.

Henry August 8, 2014 - 9:14 pm

CBTC is currently being installed on the two lines that are essentially operated as separate entities from the rest of the system due to the lack of connections. However, CBTC does not currently exist on a system as complex as New York’s, where multiple local and express services interweave complex patterns depending on the time of day, simply because no other subway system really operates like this.

The Queens Blvd CBTC would be very revolutionary, requiring several advances that have never been tried out before:

Leaving and entering CBTC territory (CBTC-installed lines tend to be all CBTC)
Accommodating multiple service patterns depending on the time of day.

Any such system would have to be able to handle the QBL, which sees somewhere around 55-60 TPH a day during the rush hour, and which will almost certainly increase once CBTC is installed. Implementation will probably speed up once CBTC is done on QBL and they get it working reliably, but given what happened on the MTA’s first automation attempt they’re taking a slow approach for now.

AG August 9, 2014 - 1:26 pm

True indeed… but this was a city of many firsts – going back to the street light. I just think they are not ambitious enough – but maybe you are right and should take as much time as possible. Still frustrating though.

Bolwerk August 9, 2014 - 11:04 am

Because there is nothing in it for them as long as they need to keep a 2-man crew anyway. Even if they add potential track capacity, they probably can’t afford more equipment plus two more crew members for each discrete shift you add, which could be several crews/add’l_train. Until labor relations are modernized, CBTC is only a really expensive way to squeeze in more rush hour capacity. For CBTC to work, it needs to solve the problems it can solve across the board.

AG August 9, 2014 - 1:41 pm

yeah I guess you are right…. the more things change the more they stay the same. the many (riding public) suffer for the few.

Bolwerk August 9, 2014 - 2:16 pm

Well, I did overlook one thing. CBTC does (eventually) cut down on mechanical signal maintenance expenses. But that’s probably the only other benefit without major organizational shakeup.

I guess they’re only replacing signals when they absolutely have to. Incidentally, think cutting back on mechanical signal maintenance expenses might put some labor out of work? :-\

Henry August 11, 2014 - 5:10 pm

Given that we’re so behind on signal maintenance due to the three decades of deferred maintenance, replacement should be sped up once it’s proven that CBTC will actually work on a trunk line like Queens Blvd.

By 2030, the MTA projects that most of the IND will have CBTC, as well as the Broadway and Lexington lines, with the 7th Av Line getting CBTC in 2034.

Bolwerk August 9, 2014 - 10:58 am

The play-ground-for-trust-fund-transplants people seem to be winning the Rockaway PR campaign.

It seems ungodly hard to convince people that it need not cost billions of dollars. Even much of Streetsblog has a kneejerk distaste for the reactivation idea, and they’re about the last people who should be complaining about an effective transit project.

Justin Samuels August 9, 2014 - 12:53 pm

The Queens College study should come out later this year. If the feds provide funding for the Rockaway Beach LIRR connection to the Queens Blvd line, it will be done. As it will be years before all of the hurricane sandy money is released, Brooklyn and Queens politicians are trying to get Hurricane Sandy money and use that for the Rockaway Beach LIRR.

BruceNY August 7, 2014 - 2:21 pm

Wow–so surprising to hear an acknowledgment that Phase 2 is still on the table. I wonder if they would consider opening any of the intermediate stations (ie: 116th St.) as they are completed since a fair amount of tunneling is already finished, rather than waiting until 125th if finished–as that will surely be the most difficult part of Phase 2.

skippapotamus August 7, 2014 - 3:23 pm

seems like the stations are the holdup and the expense lately, so I’d guess not.

Jon August 7, 2014 - 4:11 pm

Deep stations are a major holdup, but I think they planned on doing 106/116 as cut-cover, no? If that’s the case, it may not be subjec to multi-year delays.

Henry August 7, 2014 - 7:52 pm

Technically, all the stations are cut and cover or mined with cut and cover. Hopefully, now that local firms have experience with building stations again, the going will be a lot better this time.

Larry Littlefield August 7, 2014 - 3:08 pm

“While fielding questions during an Assembly hearing, Prendergast announced that the MTA will ask for $1.5 billion for Phase 2 construction. This total is approximately one-third the estimated cost.”

The $4.5 billion is too much. WAAYYYY too much. It’s really three stations, the hook onto 125th Street, and some tail tracks. And they’ll want to over-run from there. Let’s stop this ripoff right now.

How about bidding the damn thing out for $2 billion right now, design-build (or in MTA-speak with “preliminary design” part of the bid but “final design” left to the contractors)?

No responsible bidder shows up? Keep bidding it out at $2 billion every six months. Wait until someone figures it out. And no state legislature cost inflators.

I’d add the Rutgers/DeKalb connection, since my concept for Phase 3 involves making it an express ride from Brooklyn, Queens and upper Manhattan to east Midtown and limiting it to three stations (55th, 42nd, 14th).

A connection to 6th Avenue line north of Delancey would then allow service from anywhere on the old BMT southern division, with connections to the F, the J/Z/M (at Delancey) and the L (at 14th). One service would come off the 63rd Street tunnel as designed — decades ago.

If the contractors have some slack now, Phase II could end up opening before Phase I, and certainly before the LIRR. There is no excuse for the generations in charge not to provide this improvement.

Low Headways August 7, 2014 - 5:08 pm

I like your style, at least re: the bidding out. How does the MTA usually determine starting bid amounts?

John T August 7, 2014 - 9:15 pm

I wish they would do this!
$4.5 billion for about 2 miles is insane!

Henry August 7, 2014 - 9:19 pm

A good portion of the money might be future provisioning; the 2004 plan for phase II included a flying junction at 125th and 2nd, with tracks extending north of 125th to allow a Bronx extension. Flying junctions are great operationally, but also cost a lot of money; it’s probably the main reason the IND system went overbudget.

That being said, in most other countries (not going to say cities, since all of the US has inflated construction costs) you could probably build all of Phase II with the $1.4B and have money left over.

Alon Levy August 9, 2014 - 2:06 pm

Well, to be fair, LA has reasonable construction costs.

Michael K August 7, 2014 - 3:52 pm

Great News! Perhaps one day we will see an extension across the Hudson as well.

AG August 8, 2014 - 12:07 am

Do you mean the #7?

Michael K August 8, 2014 - 9:29 am

Nope. Across the river at 125th, to link to Hudson and Bergen Counties. Likely following the route of the Northern Branch and River Line with massive line improvements paid for by NJ.

Map render here: https://www.dropbox.com/s/5mpnu4k8xlqyvjc/West%20Shore%20and%20Northern%20Line%20%5BConverted%5D.jpg

Alon Levy August 9, 2014 - 2:11 pm

Eh. There’s space on the GWB, if you can wrestle the lanes away from Port Authority; there’s also a bellmouth that connects to the C. No real need for 125th to Jersey.

Bolwerk August 9, 2014 - 2:37 pm

I don’t get this stiffy for connecting to Jersey over connecting it to The Bronx,* but the obvious reason to connect 125th is it brings NJ access to the east side. It’s just not the best use of the SAS. There is a real logic to the 7 to Secaucus. There isn’t a much better place for the 7 to go. SAS has lots of better places to go.

* Oh, wait, I get it: connecting it to New Jersey helps low-density suburban whites. Connecting it to The Bronx helps brown people in a high-density environs. Decisions, decisions.

Eric August 9, 2014 - 3:05 pm

“There isn’t a much better place for the 7 to go.”


Michael K August 9, 2014 - 9:16 pm

Look at the demographic data for Southern Bergen County and Northern Hudson…it is anything *but* just suburban whites. Palisades Park, Cliffside Park, North Bergen, Englewood, Teaneck, Verge field, Bogota…all huge immigrant/ethnic/minority communities.

Bolwerk August 9, 2014 - 9:40 pm

And mostly not where that line you posted goes. SAS belongs in The Bronx. If they want commuter rail, NJ should finance Gateway. Or some way to get to GCT, if getting to the east side is that important.

Michael K August 11, 2014 - 9:12 am

Why do only “brown people in the bronx” deserve good public transportation? This sounds like heavy racism to me to be honest.

People in the inner suburbs want to travel around to places other than GCT, PABT and Penn Station – the three Midtown locations you are quarantining those who cannot afford to live in the five boroughs to. A quick look at our migration data for decades has shown people moving from Brooklyn, Queens and Bronx to the inner suburbs in search of cheaper housing.

Your rhetoric of “us versus them” means no one can agree to fund anything and we all hate our commutes.

There is a huge number of people from the inner suburbs that travel all over the city for work, pleasure, family ect. Why do you suggest that they not have a connection with the citywide subway system?

Henry August 11, 2014 - 10:57 am

People in the city have wanted easier means to do that too, but people in the city have also been paying the dedicated taxes which were promised to pay for new lines since 1968.

Quite frankly, any extension via 125th St is unlikely to get the same amount of ridership for the dollar as a Third Av Line or Co-op City extension in the Bronx, a Flushing, Hillside, or Merrick Line in Queens, or a Nostrand or Utica Av Line in Brooklyn, to say nothing of the Triboro RX or Rockaway Beach reactivations, simply because tunneling underwater is expensive (and if you think the Port is going to give up two toll-paying lanes for a train line, let alone New Jersey drivers, I have a bridge to sell you). Coupled with the challenging geography, I don’t see why NJ should even be on the priority list; if NJ wanted another urban rail connection, PATH or Gateway, or maybe even HBLR would be the way to go.

Bolwerk August 11, 2014 - 12:07 pm

Uh, I’ve repeatedly defended the idea of extensions to the suburbs and the idea that political borders in general should be ignored. But, in this particular case, there are better uses for a high-capacity, high-traffic route.

Few suburbanites even care about getting to 86th and Second. Many care about getting to the East 40s and 50s. An IND line to a low-medium density part of NJ is just transit welfare for the affluent. The line you mention is very suitable for HBLR or commuter rail. Even a PATH extension is a passably reasonable idea given the low opportunity cost of using PATH for much else in NJ. But the SAS? That’s just dumb.

Michael K August 12, 2014 - 10:17 am

Don’t think that a subway extension to Bergen County will move without many rezonings around the potential stations…most likely we would look at the addition of 100 sf of building space along with any line there.

Henry August 8, 2014 - 2:01 pm

There are several issues with that. For starters, the MTA would need to be substantially overhauled, since no county in NJ is likely to subject itself to the authority of an agency run by New York State. There’s also the issue of ongoing funding; funding the system is a fairly big burden, and New York’s regional counties pay their fair share of dedicated taxes on sales, real estate, payroll, etc. To get included in the MTA’s jurisdictional area would mean also accepting these taxes, which the county will probably not do on its own, and as the histories of BART and MARTA show, extensions to places without the prerequisite required funding mechanisms is simply not going to happen.

I would prefer the HBLR extend to 125th and Broadway once the SAS inevitably gets there, since it would still allow for at-grade intersections, allow through connections to the southern part of the HBLR, and would also be cheaper due to smaller light-rail clearances.

Michael K August 8, 2014 - 3:53 pm

I would think that the arrangement would be similiar to the method the MTA pays NJ Transit in Rockland County currently, but in reverse. Or similiar to CONNDOT/Metro-North.

Henry August 9, 2014 - 12:56 pm

You can’t really compare the two, since one is a fairly expensive, relatively infrequent commuter railroad, and the other is a low-fare, extremely frequent mode of transportation. The only reason ConnDOT’s model works is because they’re not actually paying for a lot of service.

John-2 August 7, 2014 - 9:31 pm

If nothing else, the MTA should make sure the public knows a substantial portion of Phase II was already built and has been sitting in place for 40 years waiting to be connected up to actual service. It would likely make it a little easier to get funding if people know there’s already something there, and only long-time upper Second Avenue residents or rail fans are going to know about the cut-and-cover sections from the early 1970s.

BruceNY August 8, 2014 - 1:48 am

That’s a very good point (and most won’t know that the big hurdles to building new subway lines are the stations, not the tunnels).

I also think it’s crazy not to plan for a continuation west along 125th St. to at least the 8th Ave. IND, or even under the Hudson to N.J. as some here have suggested.

Nathanael August 8, 2014 - 3:55 am

Looking at the geography again, there should *definitely* be a 125th St. line which runs straight under the Hudson to Edgewater. Actually, it should continue straight on to Palisades Park and connect to the Northern Branch extension of the HBLR. But I don’t think the interstate politics makes this likely. 🙁

lop August 8, 2014 - 7:37 am

Should there? If your goal is to serve Hudson county wouldn’t it be better to split the 7, run one branch north and one south from Weehawken? Each branch would have as many trains as an extension from 125th st since the probability of only sending SAS to the NJ and nothing to the Bronx is somewhere around zero. Given the high political and financial cost of tunneling under the river you won’t get to build many tunnels.

Michael K August 8, 2014 - 9:32 am

The Bronx has many many lines already. If anything Staten Island and Queens would be first in line. However, a joint funded project with the Port Authority as the Lead Agency would be able to split funding across both states well.

Henry August 8, 2014 - 2:04 pm

Yet all the lines in the Bronx and the rest of the outer boroughs are full. In fact, the Bronx had a line torn down, and coincidentally the northern tail tracks of SAS would line up with the former Third Av Line pretty well.

Staten Island will never get a line in our lifetimes because quite frankly, its geographic location is absolute crap. New Jersey will get it if it agrees to find dedicated funding sources of an equivalent nature to New York’s and once they get their politics together again, but how far in the future is that?

Michael K August 8, 2014 - 3:57 pm

To say they are *full* is a stretch. CBTC can increase capacity considerably on many outer borough lines.

Staten Island is very far away, and Hudson/Bergen are basically the western versions of Brooklyn and Queens.

But as you clearly pointed out – will NJ have an adult conversation and pony up its fair share?

Remember that the proposed Tri-state transit authority (North Jersey, Southwest CT and Downstate NY) failed because NJ bailed on the funding split which was 45% NY, 45% NJ and 10% CT.

AG August 8, 2014 - 7:46 pm

You said:
“To say they are *full* is a stretch. CBTC can increase capacity considerably on many outer borough lines.”

I agree totally… Which is why I don’t understand why they don’t accelerate it’s implementation.

Henry August 8, 2014 - 8:04 pm

CBTC may help a bit, but CBTC can only do so much, especially in areas where crowding is severe; the Lex express has a capacity of 30 TPH, but due to excessive dwell times can only actually run 25 TPH.

The Bronx had an entire train line torn down that still hasn’t been replaced (and ridership on the bus corridors paralleling said line is very high). Brooklyn’s B46 is the highest or second-highest ridership bus route in the city depending on the year, and that only includes paid fares; with farebeaters, the B46 and B44 would probably be in the top 5 together, if not the top 3. Queens needs another subway line to enable further expansion into the outer reaches of Queens, and also because the stations on Queens Blvd are at their practical capacity with chronically overcrowded platforms and transfer facilities.

If New Jersey wants another tunnel to Manhattan, they can fund it themselves, with the city maybe providing a quarter of it, but by no means should the City or the MTA actively seek out such expansion on their own without taking care of areas that have paid dedicated taxes for 50 years.

AG August 8, 2014 - 7:40 pm

You are right… The Bronx lost trains (and streetcars like everyone else) – but it has a higher population density than Queens – and is about the same as Queens.

Staten Island is another issue. In a sane world – PATH would go south through Bayonne and connect with the SIR… Staten Islanders would have rail connection to Jersey City/Newark (and the airport as in in the plans)/Manhattan.
In a sane world SIR would also have direct connection to subway lines from Brooklyn. As you said though – it’s a pipe dream.

Henry August 8, 2014 - 8:07 pm

However, the flip side of it is that Queens has more room for potential development (and given all the activity in LIC, Flushing, Jackson Heights, and Jamaica, is probably also going to see more development), and Queens commutes are probably the longest in the City outside of Staten Island. The Bronx has subway lines going into its outer reaches or fairly close to them, but the Queens subway lines stop in the middle of a fairly large borough.

AG August 9, 2014 - 1:21 pm

Not really… the outer reaches of both boroughs have been “down-zoned” – with the exception of maybe Jamaica. Most of the population growth in both – will happen where they are already more densely populated.

Alon Levy August 9, 2014 - 2:24 pm

The density in outer Queens is still pretty high by non-New York standards; this continues into the inner parts of the South Shore, but the North Shore basically has nothing worth serving by rapid transit except maybe Great Neck. The difference with the Bronx is that the Bronx runs up its density by having very high density in the western portions of the South Bronx, like University Heights, whereas Queens is more uniformly medium-density.

For example, Cambria Heights has about 6,000 people per km^2, which is more than the average in most European cities. (Stockholm, where I’m moving to, has 4,200, and a higher per capita subway ridership than New York.)

AG August 9, 2014 - 6:32 pm

Well car ownership is much more expensive in Europe as a whole… so it would make sense that Stockholm has a higher rate of transit usage. I’d be glad if NYC had the percentage of bike ridership that most Euro cities.

Bolwerk August 9, 2014 - 2:57 pm

Heh, I recently got a potential job offer in Stockholm.

Even most transit advocates are just so reflexively certain that rail means multibillion dollar investments that it’s impossible to justify without Manhattan-eseque densities.

lop August 8, 2014 - 3:54 pm

Not building to the Bronx now is okay politically. Never building to the Bronx is not. So you’d be sending the Q to NJ and the T to the Bronx which seems like a real waste of a Hudson river tunnel, since it would only be half used. Why would it be better than a 7 train split between Hoboken and Fort Lee? Would be a less circuitous way of serving Hudson county, since they aren’t heading to Harlem or the UES, but to midtown or downtown.

Running a line to SI or Brooklyn in the south has nothing to do with whether or not you ever send SAS to the Bronx. Queens can get a line, but it won’t compete with a line to the Bronx, because it will enter Queens at 63rd street, when the Q leaves 2nd avenue leaving only the T, and it will use an existing, and half empty, tunnel.

Michael K August 8, 2014 - 3:59 pm

There is nothing precluding sending the Q, 7 and L to NJ. NJ is about 18 tunnel tracks short of a decent rail network.

lop August 8, 2014 - 4:04 pm

Except the lack of funds. So you want to get the most out of every dollar spent. So a tunnel that carries 30 7 tph sounds better than a tunnel that carries 15 Q tph

Henry August 8, 2014 - 8:09 pm

There’s also the issue of whether or not funding the 7 makes more sense than dumping that money into Gateway. Gateway allows for both Amtrak and NJT expansion, and also provides a fallback in case the North River Tunnels are shut down.

Quite frankly, I’m surprised there has never been talk of extending another PATH tunnel west; maybe at 59th St or 57th St before heading south on Park to Grand Central?

Bolwerk August 9, 2014 - 12:16 pm

You do know what’s under Park, right?

Henry August 9, 2014 - 12:58 pm

I’m well aware, but with (two?) four-track tunnels under Park, what’s another?

I don’t know how well connecting PATH to GCT via Madison would work, but it was just one of many possibilities for a new PATH tunnel, which is probably more useful than a new 7 Line Tunnel and more likely to happen.

Bolwerk August 9, 2014 - 2:48 pm

It’s it basically an underground railyard under there in the 40s?

Henry August 10, 2014 - 3:42 am

We can still build under the Madison Rail Yard (and in the case of GCT, the PATH doesn’t necessarily have to go all the way to 42nd St, since entrances exist as far north as 47th.)

Thinking about it more, maybe it would make more sense to have a 57th or 59th St crosstown ending at the Lex.

Bolwerk August 10, 2014 - 11:07 am

Hmm, sending PATH to the east side seems pretty desirable to me. But the design goals should probably be more about meeting SAS and the Lex and getting to some part of Midtown East. Preferably, continue on to the outer boroughs (Queens) somehow.

sonicboy678 August 8, 2014 - 8:33 pm

That’s a real stretch. Queens and the Bronx have about the same number of routes; the lines used by these routes are generally further apart in the Bronx, making that the only mapped difference. (The other difference is that the Bronx is primarily served by the A Division while Queens is primarily served by the B Division; either way, buses are almost mandatory.) Only WPR south of East 180 Street and Jerome Avenue south of 149 Street-GC have regular combined service patterns (Concourse and WPR north of East 180 Street to Nereid Avenue are left out because those combined patterns only exist during rush hours). Basically, the Bronx is nearly as isolated as Queens.

Henry August 8, 2014 - 9:00 pm

The further apart distinction is the one that matters. The Bronx has several lines that go deep within the borough, including the Broadway Line in Van Cortlandt Park, the Jerome Av Line to Woodlawn, the Concourse Line to Norwood, the WPR to Wakefield, the Dyre to Eastchester, and the Pelham Line to PBP.

Queens, on the other hand, does not have any lines reaching deep into its interior. The Astoria Line hugs the waterfront. The Flushing Line stops in Flushing, the Hillside Line stops at 179th St, and the Jamaica Line stops at Parsons. The Bronx has a total of six corridors to Queens’ four, and one of them barely goes into Queens. As such, the geographic reach of the subway in Queens is extremely limited compared to the Bronx, and subway + half hour bus is the norm in Queens. If any borough except Staten Island were to need it strictly based on coverage, it would be Queens.

sonicboy678 August 8, 2014 - 11:30 pm

What about the Lefferts and two Rockaway branches?

Henry August 9, 2014 - 1:00 pm

All those branches are extremely infrequent, and also skirt the edge of the borough; the bulk of Queens commuters either live on Queens Blvd or Roosevelt Av, or east of the Van Wyck (which is essentially an entire half of the borough not covered by subway). There aren’t a lot of people living along the A in Queens proper, and you can see that in the ridership statistics.

The presence of the A doesn’t refute my point that the subway doesn’t go deep into Queens the same way it does in the Bronx.

sonicboy678 August 9, 2014 - 1:18 pm

I brought those up because you completely omitted them, despite the fact that they exist. Still, the Bronx and Queens should certainly receive more service. I think it would be great to extend the 7 to Bay Terrace via College Point and Whitestone and the F further east (along with at least one local service). The E could take Cambria Heights (probably closely following the Q83) and the J could take Rosedale (via Merrick Boulevard).

lop August 9, 2014 - 4:36 pm

The trains are already full. Send 2nd avenue through 63rd and down northern to flushing then extend the 7.

Henry August 10, 2014 - 3:44 am

The plan for SAS has historically been to relieve the Queens Blvd Line by means of a bypass using the LIRR ROW (the 7 suffers from crowding, but Queens Blvd is the true bottleneck.

If you run 15 additional TPH through to the local tracks at 75th St using a bypass, you can make both the E and the F express, freeing up the F for further expansion along Hillside and the E to SE Queens (probably using Merrick, since a turn down Guy R Brewer is not really in the cards).

Justin Samuels August 10, 2014 - 10:48 am

The last stop on the F train is 179th Street and Hillside Avenue. That’s 3 miles from the Nassau border. The Queens Blvd line goes deep into Queens. Though heavily trafficked, because it’s only one line obviously it can’t cover everywhere but it does go deep into Queens from Manhattan to almost the Nassau border.

The Flushing line goes to Flushing, which is also deep into Queens. It’s a short bus ride from the Nassau border.

Other lines in Queens, such as the Astoria line, the Myrtle line (M) and the Jamaica line (J) are the ones that mainly serve the outskirts of Queens. The same could be said of the A train.

But Queens also has the main LIRR line, and it also has the Port Washington LIRR line. And the N does serve two rapidly developing neighborhoods, LIC and Astoria (which are also served by the Queens Blvd line, and in the case of LIC, by the Flushing and Crosstown lines).

AG August 11, 2014 - 11:51 pm

True – the only thing is that “City Ticket” should be at all times on the LIRR (and Metro North).

Henry August 10, 2014 - 7:42 pm

It’s 3 miles as the crow flies, but using roads it’s 5 miles on Hillside. From Flushing to Nassau via Northern, it’s 6 miles. From Parsons/Archer to Nassau via Merrick, it’s 5 miles. All of these are bus trips of 30-45 minutes during the rush, on top of a 45-60 minute commute on the subway, which is simply ridiculous (and causes a whole host of other issues, since an otherwise functioning grid of bus routes must all divert to the congested to the centers of Jamaica and Flushing).

Saying the LIRR is a comparable option to the subway is like saying a Ferrari is a viable option for someone who can only afford a bicycle. LIRR is already full coming in from Nassau during the rush, frequencies are horrible, and fares are priced specifically so that city commuters do not overburden already crowded trains. The fact that over 100,000 people a day use the seven stations east of the Van Wyck shows how inadequate the system is for Queens residents.

Bolwerk August 9, 2014 - 11:09 am

Geography doesn’t make it likely either. Grading a subway through Edgewater might be near impossible.

Michael K August 9, 2014 - 9:13 pm

Engineering-wise, it would require a tunnel all the way to the Hackensack River, where it could meet the existing trackage..

BoerumBum August 8, 2014 - 9:37 am

As long as we’re addressing fantasy SAS ideas, what about a spur heading east, across the river to Randall’s Island, then under 20th Ave in Astoria to Laguardia?

Henry August 8, 2014 - 8:12 pm

From Second or from 125th? It doesn’t make sense to do it from Second because then you’d have three services coming out of two tracks, which would spread service out way too thinly.

20th St is also way too far north to be useful; I would prefer an alignment either on Astoria Blvd or on Ditmars.

sonicboy678 August 8, 2014 - 8:37 pm

Not necessarily. Extending the Astoria Line to 19th Avenue, then shooting east to at least Terminal A can be useful if done right. In any case, trying to use Astoria Boulevard or Ditmars Boulevard would be even more impractical because more infrastructure would have to be disrupted than simply adding more elevated structure to the airport from the current end via 19th Avenue and 31st Street.

Henry August 8, 2014 - 9:07 pm

Any approach to LaGuardia would have to be underground due to the presence of a runway ending just before the GCP; if you look at the area on Google Maps, there’s a clearly visible cleared path with height restrictions extending from the runway for about a mile. Given that extending the el would already require unpopular eminent domain due to the need to make a turn, requiring more eminent domain so that the line could proceed at ground level or below ground to LGA would be the equivalent of shooting the project in the foot. Continuing an Astoria Blvd or LGA subway line into Manhattan or stub-ending it at the Astoria Line would make more sense than building an El.

Astoria Blvd would be the most suitable corridor to build in, simply because it is the widest transportation corridor in the area; 20th and 19th Avenues are both narrow streets, so station construction would require much more eminent domain. Astoria Blvd also has several signed alternate routes and has a better catchment area, so the choice is a no-brainer.

sonicboy678 August 8, 2014 - 11:27 pm

Looking at Google Maps, no approach would be practical. Astoria Boulevard has too much around it and so does Ditmars Boulevard. If height restrictions are that much of an issue, then an elevated extension would be difficult to install. Unfortunately, an underground extension would also have problems, given that space is still required for tunnels, which may be more susceptible to water damage than even Montague. Then you have to figure out where and how to build the infrastructure to ensure as few problems with existing infrastructure as possible. That said, the practically-prohibited 19th Avenue option would probably end up being the most practical anyway.

Henry August 9, 2014 - 1:03 pm

Utility relocation is done with all transportation projects, whether it be building a new highway, elevated rail, or streetcar. Humans have also built subways in flood-prone and water-rich areas (Amsterdam and Bangkok), so that’s also not an issue.

sonicboy678 August 9, 2014 - 9:36 pm

Look at the placement of the elevated structure.

Eric August 9, 2014 - 3:12 pm

“Any approach to LaGuardia would have to be underground due to the presence of a runway ending just before the GCP”

It could be at grade beneath the runway (there’s enough horizontal space there) and elevated elsewhere.

sonicboy678 August 9, 2014 - 11:16 pm

I just looked back at this. Terminal A is west of that runway you’re referring to, so that’s not an issue. That could be used as a hub within the airport. It could also breathe new life into that terminal regarding existing and future use.

Henry August 10, 2014 - 3:50 am

LGA is supposed to be reconfigured within the next twenty years, so the mere existence of Terminal A that far into the future is questionable due to its rather isolated location in the airport. Not to mention, an elevated extension there would also not be extendable to the west, which would be a waste of new trackage north of and parallel to the 7.

19th Av is also ridiculously narrow (and thus unsuitable for an el with modern station widths and accessibility requirements) and misses nearly all of the unserved residential areas along the way, so I’m not sure why building there would be desirable at all.

sonicboy678 August 10, 2014 - 11:04 pm

Ever thought to stack the line north of Ditmars Boulevard and reverse the Q48 (which basically shoots back to Flushing as it currently stands) so it serves there first instead of last? That could be combined with Port Authority’s bus service to provide transportation between the trains and the main Terminals.

I could also say 31st Street is ridiculously narrow. It’s slightly wider simply to accommodate the existing line but not much wider.

Given the orientation of the area, I don’t see how GCP is desirable, either. That runway you were so concerned about would probably be worse for placing a train than anywhere else. Should a plane suddenly come down, it would probably hit anything right over that than something in the more isolated, original Terminal A area. Trying to tunnel in that area would probably be a bad idea for two reasons. The first is that much of LaGuardia Airport is built on landfill to some large degree (it could simply be for the runways, but I primarily say this because it was originally 105 acres and increased to 550 acres, probably involving everything but Terminal A to various degrees). This ties into my other issue with that idea: the airport is located in a flood zone. We already had a terrible experience with torrential flooding (which we’re still reeling from) and we don’t really need that again. To make matters worse, landfills are not quite as strong as natural land, which is why people are concerned that floods will practically destroy landfills (“the water will reclaim the land”).

I do believe when you said, “west,” you really meant, “east.”

Henry August 10, 2014 - 11:45 pm

I did mix up my directions.

The thing is, the Astoria Line was built at a time when people cared less about els and cared more about opening up the city. However, people do care now, and no modern, developed country builds two-track els over very narrow streets; two-track els, where newly built, mostly exist in the medians of large roads with three to four lanes, a shoulder, and a sidewalk in each direction.

19th Av is in a terrible location catchment-wise, and connecting to the Astoria Line is also somewhat problematic given the capacity issues in the 60th St tubes. Astoria Blvd is significantly more central and easier to connect to.

Flooding isn’t really an issue; if you look at the flood maps for New York, only areas north of the GCP and 20th Av are at severe risk for flooding (zones 1-2). The GCP itself is at Zone 3, and Astoria Blvd is in Zone 6, which is the most extreme projected case of flooding.

I would prefer a stubway tunnel similar to the Sheppard East Line in Toronto, starting from Astoria Blvd to a 82nd St-LGA transfer station, where an AirTrain could eventually be built. If extended, in the west it would go under the river and 86th St to the West Side, and to Flushing via Astoria Blvd in the east.

BoerumBum August 11, 2014 - 10:40 am

A fair point regarding thin service. Probably the better option would be a combination of the two, a train coming off of second, combined with a 125th crosstown.

As for 20th being too far north; I think that’s precisely why it would be a good path. People living in Ditmars often have a 15 – 25 minute walk just to get to the train, then a long trip through Queens to get to Manhattan. This would put a train closer to a lot of people’s residences, and give them a quick trip over to Manhattan.

Additionally, there are a lot of services on Randall’s Island that few people without cars make use of (have you ever taken the M35? It’s horrible). This would open the parks up there to everyone.

Larry Littlefield August 8, 2014 - 7:40 am

If people knew part of it was built, that would make the $4.5 billion even harder to justify.

sonicboy678 August 8, 2014 - 4:53 pm

Then again, rehab of the tunnels will be pretty costly. Depending on just how bad conditions are, new tunnels may end up being cheaper. Granted, I highly doubt that, but there’s still that small chance.

Henry August 8, 2014 - 8:16 pm

There shouldn’t be any structural issues with the tunnels; they were built cut-and-cover, so if they weren’t capable of holding up the street we would know. They were also built at the same time as the lower levels of 63rd St, so they shouldn’t be too terrible (and haven’t people trespassed in the Second Avenue tunnels before?)

sonicboy678 August 8, 2014 - 8:38 pm

Maybe there aren’t but because they haven’t been used since their construction, it wouldn’t hurt to check their integrity by any means.

lop August 10, 2014 - 2:39 am


“The tunnels’ gravest enemy is natural, not human. Floods and routine water seepage can rust out the steel girders and undermine the reinforced concrete. On a recent walk through the section that runs from 99th to 105th Street, Mr. Hardiman found piles of flaking rust-colored steel at the bottom of many girders and other signs of water damage.”

I wonder how well they’ve been maintained.

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