Aug
24

Pondering a manageable slice of Triboro RX

By

Building out just a small sliver of the proposed Triboro RX route could do wonders for mobility and transit access in Brooklyn. (Via Cap’n Transit)

When the MTA unveils its next five-year capital plan later this fall, the biggest ticket item will likely be a significant investment in Phase 2 of the Second Ave. Subway. It likely won’t, as I’ll discuss later this week, include funding for Staten Island projects that have been on various planners’ and advocates’ wishlists for years, and it won’t include any money for Triboro RX, that circumferential line proposed nearly 20 years ago by the RPA and talked up extensively by Elliot Sander six years back. These are projects without the right champions, but what if we took the Second Ave. approach?

For better or worse, the Second Ave. Subway is a multi-phase project, broken into bite sized pieces due to the whims of politicians who couldn’t stomach a $20 billion price tag for the full line. Instead, we have four phases — only two of which are useful together. Phases 3 and 4, the southern extensions south of the connection to the 63rd St. Tunnel, wouldn’t work independently whereas Phase 1 on its own would be successful and Phase 2 an added and much needed northern bonus. The multi-phased approach leads to higher costs and redundant work, but it also means parts of the subway line will come into service much sooner than otherwise expected.

As New York City struggles to expand its high speed, high capacity transit network, I wonder if the phased approach could work elsewhere, and I’m not alone. Cap’n Transit has picked up in this thread, in a way, in some posts on the Triboro RX line. What, he asked in a recent post, could be done now with a minimum amount of newbuild? The answer is plenty.

Reviving a 1969 plan the MTA put out during its infancy, the good Cap’n advocates for an O train that would use some of the Triboro RX right of way but would be a more feasible route. He writes:

Under this proposal, the L train would be split into two routes. At Broadway Junction (or maybe Halsey Street) they would diverge, with one continuing to the L current terminus in Canarsie. The other branch, which I’ll call the O train, would travel parallel to the L within the right-of-way of the Bay Ridge Branch, skipping a few stops but connecting to the 3 train at Junius Street. It would then follow the Bay Ridge Branch west through past Brooklyn College (with a transfer to the 2 train), terminating at the Brighton Line with a transfer to the Avenue H station.

This is only one possibility. Another way to handle it would be to run the B trains 24/7, turning them east on the Bay Ridge Branch to Broadway Junction – although riders in Brighton Beach and Sheepshead Bay would probably complain about losing express service. A third would be to have the O and B trains overlap, providing more frequent service.

That seems to be all that can reasonably be done with the existing trackage without sharing tracks with freight trains or pouring lots of concrete. There is a four-track section between Broadway Junction and Fresh Pond Yard, but there’s not much reason to send L (or J or C) trains up there. If you’ve ever taken the M to the end of the line you’ll understand why – it’s not much of a destination.

Running trains on this section would bring train service to a large section of Brooklyn that currently has none, and provide access to potential sites for new housing in these areas. There is no need to wait for a full build of the “TriboroRx” line – that was just somebody’s idea. It should be explored now.

Building out new stations and retrofitting existing ones for a parallel train service wouldn’t come cheap; you can take a look at the state of the ROW in an old Forgotten NY post. But then again, neither will building out the entire Triboro RX, and the political and economic barriers currently preventing any real planning work will exist into the foreseeable future.

But by chopping this project up into pieces, it’s easier for local champions to carry the torch, and it’s easier to find the money to make it one step closer to a reality. As Cap’n Transit noted, there’s no need to wait until some faraway time when Triboro RX becomes a priority (because that time is, more likely than not, never). Let’s start working on smaller pieces today.



Categories : Triboro RX

126 Responses to “Pondering a manageable slice of Triboro RX”

  1. Duke says:

    Hmm. Well, even if this is the only segment that ever gets built, it’s still worth doing. Adds service to places that don’t have it and somewhat helps the pesky problem that the A train lacks convenient connections to anything which goes to South Brooklyn aside from the F and R.

    Without continuing west of the Brighton line, though, it is rather hampered in its usefulness.

    • Nathanael says:

      This would cover a rather important (and densely populated) gap in Brooklyn service. Much more valuable than the rest of the line…

  2. John-2 says:

    You can probably make more of a logistical case for that segment now, because the load capacities have become so unbalanced on the L train — you need way more trains per hour west of Myrtle and are locked into eight-car trains, but you don’t need that kind of capacity at Canarsie.

    So adding a separate branch of the L (or just calling the new branch the K train) would allow for adequate service at the east/south ends of the line while merging both routes to handle the crush loads closer to Manhattan. The only question would be is there at least enough space for three tracks from Avenue H to New Lots, since the FRA’s still picky about mixing subways and freight rail, and the NY&A still needs at least one track to access the Brooklyn waterfront.

    • Cap’n Transit discussed the width of various parts of the ROW a while ago. The relevant section is wide enough for four tracks. The reason for stopping at the Brighton Line is that the section between there and the Culver Line is a two-track bottleneck.

      Phase 2 should probably be an extension of the M train from Metropolitan Ave to Broadway/Roosevelt Ave. That section is only two tracks wide, but there’s an alternative route for freight available via the Lower Montauk Branch and Sunnyside Yard, so giving both existing tracks to a subway extension would be reasonable.

      • lop says:

        Reasonable if you won’t need to run freight during the day anytime soon.

      • Reality says:

        No. Just no.

        There is NO alternate route for freight.

        Let me get this straight – you want to push freight trains that often run up between 80 & 90 cars through harold interlocking, flowing NEC and all of LIRR, up to 4 times a day?

        Keep dreaming. Absolutely never going to happen.

        Conrail used to do this in the Bronx at Mott Haven. You know what happened? They derailed. Metro North was complete fucked. Commuters complained very loudly. The state build the oak point link. There’ll never been another freight through there again.

        • Eric says:

          If you added a new freight track from Harold Interlocking to the Triboro ROW (~4km at grade plus a 200m long viaduct at the west end of Harold Interlocking), you could divert the freight trains and build Triboro as far north as the Grand Central Parkway, with no interference to Amtrak/LIRR and no need to expand the ROW.

          Getting from Grand Central Parkway to the Bronx would be harder, but there’s no reason not to pick the low-hanging fruit first.

          • Reality says:

            No.

            The answer again is simple: No.

            “If you added a new freight track from Harold Interlocking”

            NO.

            LIRR/MTA is NEVER – N E V E R going to allow freight trains through Harold.

            Never.

            Conrail used to run through Mott Haven Junction. They derailed overnight. Rush hour was screwed for thousands of commuters the next day.

            After that, the state spent millions to build the oak point link, diverting all freight away from Mott Haven.

            Does that make any sense to you?

            Harold is LIRR’s Mott haven. If something goes wrong in harold, everyone on LI’s commute is fucked.

            In an age of social media and people’s access to complain immediately about the slightest delay, do you really think Amtrak or LIRR will ever allow 100 car freight trains to go through harold 2-4 times a day, even overnight?

            The answer is NO.

            Don’t take it from me. Call up the MTA yourself and ask their spokesperson.

            You want to know what they’d tell you?

            No.

            • Eric says:

              So put a 2 foot thick concrete wall on each side of the track. And require freight trains to go through the yard at <10mph. There are solutions for this kind of problem, if people just open their eyes.

            • Nyland8 says:

              So … what I hear you saying is: No. Does that sum up your position?

            • This sort of turf-war nonsense where billions are spent to segregate operators so they don’t have to cooperate (the way adults do everywhere else in the world) is a huge part of what’s holding back passenger rail in America. The two-track North London Line sees something like 50 freight trains per direction per day slotted in between a six-trains-per-hour intensive passenger service and they get by. If Amtrak and CSX can’t deal with a handful of daily freight trains in between a less-than-hourly passenger service on the Hell Gate route, they’re doing it wrong.

              • Nathanael says:

                The “freight” railroads have discouraged competent signalling in the US — and so has the Federal Railroad Administration.

                So, yeah, there’s been a lot of “doing it wrong”.

  3. Eric says:

    Great idea. About 95% of the Triboro ROW can be used as extensions for the L and M trains. This would be more useful for most people than a separate Triboro route, and anyone who wants that route can transfer from the L to M at Myrtle/Wyckoff.

    This L extension as far as the B/Q has all the advantages of the Triboro idea and doesn’t interfere with the possibility for freight service.

    I don’t see the need for a separate O train – you could just send half the L trains along Triboro and half to Canarsie. The L is so frequent that each branch would have higher frequency than it needs. You could give these two service routes different letters if you wanted, but you wouldn’t have to.

    As for extending the M, I wonder if it would be better to switch the J/Z and M branches (i.e. the J/Z goes to Metropolitan Ave and the M to Jamaica Center), so that the northern Triboro section has a direct connection to Lower Manhattan, bypassing the congestion of Midtown.

    • marv says:

      Switching the J/Z for the M at Jamaica results in Jamaica having all of its service through midtown.

      Your idea would work real well if the Atlantic Avenue LIRR was converted to subway use. Of course a direct link downtown would be best but even a frequent 4 stop shuttle from Jamaica to Flatbush Terminal would be fine. (We could even dream of extending it through southeast Queens.)

      • Eric says:

        True, although the J makes so many stops that it’s not actually faster than the E to Lower Manhattan (ignoring the J express trains which are probably a few minutes faster).

        If I remember correctly, once East Side Access is finished, no LIRR trains will continue to Brooklyn. Wouldn’t that be the right moment to add a fast and very frequent shuttle from Jamaica, ideally fare-integrated with the subway system?

        • Jon says:

          The LIRR will still run trains from Jamaica to Atlantic/Flatbush, but they will be shuttles. LIRR is currently building a new platform at Jamaica to act as the shuttle platform, allowing the shuttles to bypass the massive interlockings almost completely.

          • Eric says:

            Good, that’s exactly what we had in mind.

            • marv says:

              A LIRR operated shuttle would be inferior to a subway shuttle (even without connecting fare control areas) as:

              *it is hard to imagine that they will not charge more than subway fare
              *there will not be free transfers to buses and subways
              *lirr operating costs (due to FRA) is higher
              *it is doubtful that the will run as frequently as subway trains would

              Why not just turn it over to the subway system, reserving the right to take it back should a connection from atlantic avenue to NJ ever be built?

              • Eric says:

                Even better.

              • Henry says:

                The LIRR has projected a train on the Atlantic Branch every 7-8 minutes whenever ESA opens. They’re also building a separate platform for it, but there will be the occasional through train (and the LIRR will want to keep it in case of an emergency that screws up the Main Line).

                The LIRR has made very vague hints about reforming fare structure and services after ESA opens, but since that’ll happen in the 2020s nothing has been solidified; it’ll debut shortly after the new fare system and completion of SAS Phase II (most likely), so anything is possible.

        • Alon Levy says:

          I don’t see any reason for a Jamaica-Flatbush shuttle, except as a placeholder for something more expansive. I get it if they want to extend rapid transit into inner suburbs like Hempstead and Long Beach. I also get it if they want to eventually extend it to Manhattan (and, better yet, Jersey). But just Jamaica-Flatbush is unlikely to generate a lot of ridership, even if it’s fare-integrated with the subway.

          • marv says:

            From Jamaica to downtown via a 3 stop Atlantic avenue shuttle and with a Flatbush transfer would be much faster than the current Queens Blvd or Jamaica Avenue route and would pull a large number of riders off both the packed E and F lines.

            • Eric says:

              By the way, if I understand the track maps correctly, there is no reason for the E/F to be so packed. If you were to:

              1) Have the R end in Astoria rather than Forest Hills (this will be easier to schedule once the Q is diverted to the SAS)
              2) Make the F use the local tracks throughout Queens
              3) Send the M through the 63rd St tunnel
              4) Build a track connection between the A/C just north of 50th St in Manhattan
              5) Make the A/C local in Lower/Midtown Manhattan and the E express

              then the E would be totally segregated from other lines, so its frequency could be doubled and its reliability improved.

              The only construction required would be to remove the roof from ~200m of the shallow 8th Ave tunnel, install two switches, and replace the roof. (If there are no pillars separating the tracks there, then the roof removal/replacement would not be needed. Anyone know if this is the case?)

              You would then want to provide a free out-of-system transfer at Queens Plaza/Queensboro Plaza/Queensbridge.

              • Henry says:

                Making the A local through Manhattan’s core is problematic due to the extremely long end-to-end travel time of the A; it already causes issues with shift scheduling and breaks. Likewise, the F is express because no one would get on at 179th St if it was all-local, which adds a good deal of time as evidenced by the GOs that do this; nearly all 179th buses also have connections to the E, so you end up overloading the already overloaded stations on that line.

                You also end Broadway service on the QBL, which isn’t great considering the lack of connections between the BMT and IND. You also reverse the R’s move to Forest Hills, which was done because the R’s lack of yard access was problematic.

                “Removing the roof of the 8th Av tunnel” sounds easy until you realize that the mid-50’s on 8th Avenue is a fairly busy area, and such a project would almost require coordination with DOT and local officials who would probably oppose such a project (in addition to officials representing QBL riders losing fast 179th service and all Broadway service).

                Finally, doubling the E’s frequency is really not possible due to World Trade Center’s lack of tail tracks and the poorly constructed crossovers at Parsons/Archer; as it is, 3 of the 15 peak TPH E trains are diverted because of the inability of the Parsons/Archer crossover to handle more than 12TPH. Fixing both issues would be extremely problematic, so even if all of your proposed changes were to occur it still wouldn’t be possible.

                • Eric says:

                  Re A: That could be solved by building the Rockaway Branch and connecting it to the M on Queens Blvd.

                  Re F: Obviously it would be less desirable that the E, but the idea is that the E would run as often as the E+F did before, so any F riders would be a bonus.

                  Re Broadway: There are good BMT-IND connections in Brooklyn, in Manhattan most of the other avenues have connections to the Astoria line, so this is survivable. This comes down to a tradeoff of frequency/capacity vs # of transfers.

                  Re R: If the Astoria line is ever extended to LaGuardia, or if a new Queens or Northern Blvd line is built using the R, then the R would get yard access again.

                  Re removing the roof: the number of surface vehicles that would temporarily be blocked by construction is a small fraction of the number of subway passengers who would permanently get access to Manhattan.

                  Re Parsons/Archer: Adding a crossover here does not seem like such a difficult project either. Alternatively, half the E trains could turn back after Sutphin Blvd.

                  Re WTC: this could indeed be a project killer, I don’t know enough about the geography to say if there is any way around it.

                  • Eric says:

                    Perhaps half the E trains could turn back at Canal St rather than WTC, as ugly as that is.

                    • Henry says:

                      Canal St already ties up the A and C. Having it both as a terminal and through station for the E with such high throughput would not be possible in a reliable manner.

                    • Eric says:

                      What do you mean, “ties up”? The tracks are segregated, why should there be any extra difficulties?

                  • Henry says:

                    I don’t understand why we would do service changes before potential projects that would solve issues caused by them would exist. There is not nearly enough federal, state, or city money lying around to complete those projects simultaneously with the full-length SAS and ESA, along with the signaling modernizations and normal replacement of track and rolling stock.

                    What is relevant to Brooklyn is not really relevant to Queens. The Queens Blvd train’s lines have poor connections to the BMT/IND, and transfer facilities in the core are already congested; distributing the QBL’s large ridership through multiple trunk lines is significantly more ideal (which also applies to Hillside and Parsons/Archer). Plus, the E stations on Archer already have issues clearing the platforms in time due to the lack of egress from station to mezzanine, and expansion is not feasible due to the active LIRR tracks and numerous bus lines in the area. This also applies to the Parsons/Archer crossover, which has the added caveat of being constructed with TBMs instead of cut-and-cover, so plopping in a new crossover would be extremely difficult and require a permanent shutdown of a busy feeder line for several years.

                    World Trade Center has bumper blocks at the end of the platform. Extension is not really possible due to the connection to the PATH (and future connection to Cortlandt St on the R).

                    Your train reorganization also doesn’t really change the facts on the ground; we would still have 25 TPH on the local (due to fumigation at the terminals, which wouldn’t be possible with the M terminating on the local tracks and the F going through at Forest Hills) and a theoretical 30 TPH on the E (not feasible due to WTC and Parsons/Archer), so I’m not sure how this is a net benefit for QBL riders. Ridership on Archer Av is certainly higher than 179th, but not so much that 179th deserves no express service in favor of Archer. The only true alleviation program would be a two-track Queens Blvd Bypass, which would probably come before any pie-in-the-sky Astoria Blvd Line, and would be significantly more useful as a core system upgrade that would allow future extensions east.

              • Bolwerk says:

                That’s actually a cool idea, except the Sixth Avenue access in LIC is kind of handy sometimes. The A can still go express north of 59th, and it probably adds at most a minute to the run time south of 59th.

              • lop says:

                Why would having an express to 8th avenue only be better than having an express to 6th and 8th avenues? And why would locals to 6th avenue only be better than a local to 6th and and a local to Broadway?

                • Eric says:

                  Because more people can get into Manhattan. Would you add 5 minutes to your commute in order to have a seat? I would.

                  • lop says:

                    How would it help more people get to Manhattan? You have 4 services on QB, all going to Manhattan. With current signals can you add more to the express tracks? And the local tracks the bottleneck is the terminal at 71st?

                    Is there a connection between 63rd and the QB local tracks?

                    • sonicboy678 says:

                      For that last question, yes; however, it’s rarely used.

                    • Eric says:

                      Right now you have 4 services. With my plan you would effectively have 5 services (the E would have double the frequency of any current service).

                      The terminal at 71st actually gets easier with my plan – only half as many trains need to turn around there and return to Manhattan.

                      Where exactly is there a signalling problem on the express tracks? East of 71st St? Because west of 71st St the frequency would not change, it would just be all Es rather than an E/F mix.

                    • lop says:

                      So it’s the same number of express trains. It’s still just 4 services if you count the E as two, you sent the R to astoria and now only have have 6th avenue M/F on the local tracks. At most you can reliably add another one or two express trains if you eliminate branching and make the line simpler, but you aren’t making it much simpler with all the branching the E would now do, so you won’t get that. If you just want to add local trains you don’t have to change the E/F. Having a 6th and 8th avenue train on QB is better than just one or the other.

                    • Eric says:

                      You still have 6th Ave trains on Queens Blvd, they are just local trains.

                      The E *is* much simpler under this plan – it shares tracks with no other lines. Not only does this let you add those couple extra trains, but fully segregated lines make it much easier to install CBTC on individual lines, increasing capacity much more. (I wonder why this wasn’t already done on the 1 and 6)

                      You are right that entering Manhattan this exchanges an undercapacity 63rd St tunnel for an undercapacity 60th St tunnel. But if the Astoria line is ever extended to LaGuardia or further, its ridership will rise and all tunnels will be well used.

              • The main bottleneck, which your proposal doesn’t address, is that it’s hard to run more trains on the express tracks on Queens Blvd without significant signalling upgrades. You could run more local service without any construction by rerouting the R via 63rd St and Broadway Express, which would allow the N, Q and R to all run more frequently, but the people crowding the E and F mostly don’t want to take a local so the benefits aren’t that great.

                • Eric says:

                  What part of Queens Blvd? Because west of 71st St the frequency would not change.

                  • Yes exactly, west of 71st there is not room for much more express frequency, but that’s what the demand is for. Increasing local frequency will do little good, people will get off the local when the can and continue to cram onto packed express trains. (And if there were demand for increased local frequency, it could be implemented with no construction as I noted.)

              • Alon Levy says:

                Problems:

                1. This deprives 53rd Street of the transfer to 6th Avenue. It creates two separate trains – an M/F going up 6th and 63rd, and an E going through 53rd – without any transfers between them north of West 4th and west of Roosevelt/74th.

                2. Jamaica Center has shit capacity, and already a few rush hour Es need to go to 179th. This can be solved by giving the E two terminals, Jamaica Center and 179th, and either cut the F to Forest Hills or make it local to 179th, but either way, you’re not improving QB express capacity, and QB local trains aren’t at capacity.

                3. I’m perfectly okay with making the A local south of 59th or 50th – it adds 2 or 3 stops, and the A/C can terminate at WTC – but then you’re making the E a long Queens-to-Manhattan-to-Queens line with multiple branches at both ends. Despite the lack of track sharing with other services, reliability may be a problem.

                4. As Henry notes, the R and N were switched in Queens specifically because of the yard access issue.

      • Bolwerk says:

        And that takes away the impetus for the ‘M’ moniker, the fact the train uses the Myrtle El. Plus’J’ probably has some historical connection to Jamaica.

        • Eric says:

          Interesting. What matters in this plan is that the “orange” (6th Ave) train continues to Jamaica, while the “brown” (to Lower Manhattan) train continues to Metropolitan Ave/Triboro. The letters could be switched to preserve the mnemonic.

    • Alon Levy says:

      The L vs. O issue is purely semantic. Sometimes train branch while maintaining the same name: A branches and 6 and 7 express in New York, the London Tube lines. Other times they branch while having different names: J/Z skip-stop and 2/3 and 4/5 branching in New York, DC Metro, Stockholm Metro, Chicago Loop.

      • Eric says:

        Right, except that as drawn on the hypothetical map, the O ends at Broadway Junction rather than continuing to Manhattan. That’s a big practical difference. (And a big negative because it cuts the number of L trains to Manhattan, unless you build extra tracks from Junius St to Broadway Junction, which seems like an unnecessary expense to me, although it might help L scheduling somewhat.)

      • Bolwerk says:

        DC Metro?

        IMHO the A Train is a little over-the-top because the A has three different southern terminals, not to mention rather low frequency by itself. At least those other NYC examples all seem to involve express service on the same route, and don’t typically have a negative impact on tourist. For example, all 7 Trains go to Mets games, LIC, and Flushing, which is what tourists care about. Tourists may like the A for the airport and beach, but don’t care to go to Lefferts.

        Re what Eric said: is it even possible to track connect to the L at Broadway Junction? The L Train is on an el there, and a rather high one at that. I figured Broadway Junction was selected only because it’s a convenient transfer.

  4. Alon Levy says:

    Eh. To expand a bit on what I said on the Cap’n’s blog:

    1. Freight service on the line consists of a handful of daily trains. Plans for a cross-harbor freight tunnel would make it only a slightly larger handful, and are stalled anyway.

    2. The only really important freight link is Hell’s Gate, where there’s so much spare capacity on Amtrak’s track pair that freight can be moved there.

    3. The Brighton Line is an awkward place to terminate passenger service, because the O would miss all the radial lines to its west.

    4. More generally, any phasing is problematic because the first phase would only give a small proportion of the circumferential connections of the full line. It’s not like with SAS, where the first phase goes into the middle of one of the top five densest neighborhoods in the developed world, and already provides an underrated connection to the West Side.

    • Eric says:

      1/2. Regardless of the importance of this in practice, it’s important politically.

      3. In that case, it is sufficient to extend the O an extra 2km to the west, to New Utrecht Av. That means 2km of potential expensive interference with freight. Extending another 2-3km to Bay Ridge has little benefit.

      4. The bus routes along Triboro are not among the busiest in the city. The Nostrand, Flatbush, and Utica routes which run perpendicular to Triboro are all busier. Circumferential connections between non-destinations are not good at drawing riders. Triboro is still a good idea because the construction costs should be so cheap, but that means you have to focus on the parts where it’s in fact cheap (in $ and political capital), which is exactly what this plan does.

      • Alon Levy says:

        1-2. Is it? Brooklyn and Queens NIMBYs seem to be against the freight tunnel.

        3. Sure, but the narrows are only between the Brighton Line and the Culver Line; west of the Culver Line, the ROW is wide enough for anything.

        4. There’s no street that exactly parallels Triboro, so surface transit is unlikely to perform very well. See what I said on the subject last year. To the extent there are circumferential buses in Brooklyn, the B6 and B35 are in the borough’s top five, together with Nostrand, Utica, and Flatbush.

        • lawhawk says:

          The same NIMBYs who oppose the cross-harbor tunnel would be the same ones who oppose building out the RX; they oppose more traffic in their yards, even if it means that they’d get improved transit options, and their communities as a whole become even more desirable due to the improved transit options.

          • At least some of the Queens NIMBYs seem concerned about increased truck traffic from new intermodal facilities, and might be happier about a train they could actually use. (Though many other NIMBYs would still oppose any use of the ROW.)

            • Bolwerk says:

              The NIMBYs are fighting about the Rockaway Line now. Some want it to keep BRT off Woodhaven.

              Most are just BANANAs though.

              BANANA: build absolutely nothing anywhere near anyone

              • Yeah, though the Bay Ridge Line might be slightly easier than the Rockaway Line since it’s still active so people moved there knowing they’d have at least some trains near their back yard. Also it’s in slightly denser/less suburban areas usually. BANANAs will always be an issue but that doesn’t mean differences at the margin don’t matter.

      • Henry says:

        4 isn’t really an issue though; the main reason circumferential services don’t do as well as they do now is because they weave through surface streets at relatively slow speeds. A subway line in the RX ROW would be a relatively straight shot and could actually probably beat cars, given the fact that between Woodhaven and the BQE there are virtually no rapid, direct north-south roads.

        Personally I believe that the RX should go north to Woodhaven Blvd instead of following the ROW to Roosevelt, but that’s just me.

    • Bolwerk says:

      Well, not disagreeing with you, because there is a real opportunity cost here, but two things:

      1) even a few more trains can probably reduce shipping costs and congestion

      2) the cross-harbor tunnel probably benefits freight through service even to New England

      So it would be nice to accommodate both if possible.

      • Larry Littlefield says:

        Cross Harbor will never happen, because even if it did the Bay Ridge Branch can’t accommodate TOFC and double-stack. The only reason to invest in rail freight is if you believe the 90 percent of freight that isn’t bulk freight and now moves by truck will be shifting back to rail.

        If we weren’t so screwed on costs, we could build a double track tunnel from NJ at Ridgefield to the Bronx, with a loop for a direct, non-reverse connection over Hell Gate (modified to allow TOFC if not double stack). You’d have rail to truck transfer points in the Bronx south of the Bruckner, in Long Island City along Newtown Creek near the LIE, and perhaps in Brownsville along the L row.

        Much of downstate New York’s goods would be sorted and stored in places like Buffalo, arrive on an express train ride, the shifted to truck in an hour, and then taken to its final destination.

        But then again if we weren’t so screwed on costs, we’d do a lot of things.

        • Bolwerk says:

          Huh? Most of it already travels to by rail. It has to switch to truck at intermodal facilities in New Jersey and come across the GWB or via SI by truck. All the tunnel does is move that process to Maspeth or elsewhere, thereby relieving pressure on the GWB.

          I hadn’t heard TOFC is impossible with the Bay Bridge Branch. What is the problem? Curves?

          • Larry Littlefield says:

            Headroom. Lots of overpasses would need to be rebuilt. And Hell Gate would need modifications to allow TOFC, and cannot allow double stack.

            “Most of it already travels to by rail”

            Actually most stuff, as opposed to materials, travels by truck for its entire journey. Compare truck only to intermodal truck-rail. The question is whether with some investment in rail freight that could change.

            http://www.census.gov/compendi.....2s1070.pdf

            “It has to switch to truck at intermodal facilities in New Jersey and come across the GWB or via SI by truck. All the tunnel does is move that process to Maspeth or elsewhere, thereby relieving pressure on the GWB.”

            Maspeth is not the spot I had in mind (needs to be right near a highway without going through neighborhoods) but that’s the idea. Allow stuff to move in and out during the day, when you don’t have to pay a night shift to unload it, without crossing congested bridges.

            Some intermodal trains arriving hourly in the Bronx, some in Queens. Like a subway — level boarding, frequent service with no need for a reservation, the freight (like passengers) gets on and off itself. Put your truck on the flatbed in Buffalo, take it off in the Bronx, on Long Island, or in NJ.

            • Bolwerk says:

              First of all, I see I accidentally omitted this in my response, but we aren’t talking about most freight. We’re talking about most freight to New York. Unless the origin is within a few hundred miles of New York, it’s probably making at least part of the trip by train.

              I don’t see why a highway is necessary here. If the truck has destinations in Brooklyn or Queens, direct highway access might even be worse than useless.

              • Larry Littlefield says:

                “Unless the origin is within a few hundred miles of New York, it’s probably making at least part of the trip by train.”

                You’d be surprised. It SHOULD be making at least part of its trip by train, and may be in the future, but at this point in probably isn’t.

                “If the truck has destinations in Brooklyn or Queens, direct highway access might even be worse than useless.”

                Not to the neighbors. When EDC proposed Cross Harbor, with all those trucks squeezing through local streets on the way to destinations in Brooklyn, Queens, Nassau, Suffolk, etc, people went nuts.

                • Bolwerk says:

                  Maspeth is mostly an industrial anyway. And it does have at least some highway connectivity.

                  Where you would have it land?

            • Michael K says:

              Larry,

              We can d use a technique similar to what NS and CSX have been using for their similarly short tunnels, lowering the floor by digging down and boxing out the curved ceiling.

        • AG says:

          You make some interesting points. The tunnel has been studied and studied heavily. There is no consensus. Interestingly Long Island was a part of the evaluation. Just yesterday the Wall Street Journal ran a story that Long Island is picking up in demand for industrial space as more and more industrial space in the boroughs is shifted to residential development. This is a tough one.
          Also – it will be interesting once the Panama Canal project is done. Our area is already the 3rd largest port by tonnage in the nation (and largest natural port). It will be one of the few on the east coast that will be able to handle all the new ships. Producers will be shifting more deliveries from Asia directly to the east coast rather than sending them by rail from California. That means there will be more trucks on the road in New Jersey. Something has to give. Very complicated issues all around.

          • lop says:

            If it was going by rail from california to west of the Hudson and it comes in to the NJ ports then it can get on rail there. If it’s going to NYC/long island/westchester/parts of CT it would probably have changed to truck in NJ anyway. If it’s going to New England it can get there through Selkirk

            Other ports on the east coast are dredging to make way for the larger ships.

            Why would it have such a large impact on transhudson rail freight demand?

            • Nathanael says:

              Southern New England & Long Island to NJ ports and the South. Going to Selkirk is fine for Massachusetts but ridiculous for Connecticut.

            • AG says:

              Simply because this area is the largest consumer market in the nation… In many cases it will be more efficient to send those extra large ships through the Panama Canal – rather than unload them in California and send them on rails.

              The only other ports that will be able to handle those ships on the East Coast are Miami – Savannah – Charleston – Baltimore – Newport News. Again – none of those markets are anywhere close to the size of the NYC metro area. The ships will continue up the coast.

              There are a lot of variables to the Cross Harbor Freight Tunnel. I haven’t made my own personal judgement yet – but there are quite a few things to consider.

        • Nathanael says:

          The Cross Harbor Rail Tunnel plans explicitly include clearing the Bay Ridge Branch for doublestacks, by undercutting the tunnels.

      • Alon Levy says:

        1. Eh. Congestion in the area is caused mostly by cars and not trucks; Triboro is going to reduce congestion more than the freight trains that compete with it for (short sections of) ROW.

        2. On the contrary. New England can be served in part by the existing connection near Albany, and if that’s not enough, in a couple decades there may be enough demand for a combined passenger and freight rail bridge or tunnel across the Tappan Zee. (No such demand exists now, and Cuomo’s road-only bridge plan is a criminal waste of money.) The main use of the tunnel is to connect Jersey directly to the city and Long Island by freight rail.

        • Bolwerk says:

          I have my doubts Triborough RX or any transit project is going to reduce POV congestion. The congestion relief with regard to CHT is for trucks and has the following impacts besides higher capacity: (1) trucks pollute way more than cars and are way worse for public health, and they queue for miles behind the GWB. Fixing that is good for New York and New Jersey. (2) The time they spend in traffic is a ginormous waste, which I assume is passed on to New Yorkers at retail levels.

          I could be wrong, but I tend toward the view that the only ways to reduce auto congestion is to reduce capacity or price it away.

          It matters less with freight than passengers, but going north to Albany is still a diversion, and if I’m not mistaken a congested one.

          • Alon Levy says:

            Traffic is traffic; it doesn’t matter which traffic you remove from the road, the other road users are going to have faster trip times.

            Trucks indeed pollute more than cars per unit distance they drive. And diesel-hauled freight trains pollute in the vicinity of yards, so the net reduction in pollution coming from a truck-to-rail switch is smaller than you think.

            • Bolwerk says:

              At least if induced demand theories about road capacity are true (almost certainly) and applicable (probably), the new capacity you get will last for weeks while users adjust. That’s why we really need to start having better reasons for supporting transit projects than just “oh, well, it will get people out of cars.” Okay, optimistically, trucks might be removed, but they’ll probably be replaced with cars.

              Well, the per-tonne-km CO2 emission differences are pretty striking (euro numbers, may be different in USA), but actually I was thinking about reduced vehicle idling near where people live. At least Maspeth doesn’t have a tremendous congestion problem, and even if it does, it’s probably less populated than Washington Heights, The Bronx, and Fort Lee.

              And having a lot of extra freight capacity wouldn’t be so bad either.

            • AG says:

              Trucks do cause more damage to the roads because of their weight.

            • Nathanael says:

              *sigh* so electrify the freight locomotives. It’s not that hard.

      • lawhawk says:

        The cross harbor tunnel would greatly improve the longevity of the various bridges to Long Island, as well as the GWB and VZB, which has taken all truck traffic that previously went through the Lincoln and Holland Tunnels. The GWB upper deck replacement was necessary because of the further restriction of all truck traffic to the upper deck.

        Building the cross harbor tunnel would allow for a centralized intermodal facility built in central Long Island and reduce long haul truck traffic on the LIE at the same time.

        These are all benefits to the region not only for traffic management purposes but for air quality and quality of life.

        People see the cost for the tunnel as being prohibitive, but ignore the costs of doing nothing.

        Even though the population in Brooklyn, Queens, and Long Island have increased, we haven’t seen any increase in the number of bridges or tunnels linking Long Island to the surrounding boroughs or mainland. That stagnation will have long term repercussions for affordability, livability, and undermine the regional economy.

        • Alon Levy says:

          If by “greatly” you mean “estimated 10-20% reduction in truck traffic on the GWB,” then sure.

          Anyway, the cost of doing nothing for freight and giving the ROW to passengers is negative. You want to talk about population growth in Brooklyn and Queens? Fine, how about the total lack of any new passenger trunk line since about 1940, and the lack of new subway stations since 1989?

          • Bolwerk says:

            I would think 10% is pretty big. Huge even. And it also means reductions on other crossings.

            Not saying that’s reason enough to support the project, but it seems like a lot.

            • Alon Levy says:

              I’m talking specifically about the bridge longevity argument.

              • Bolwerk says:

                I got it, and I admit I don’t know enough to say definitively, but the thing is the wear of an additional truck might not be neatly linear. 10% more trucks may do way more than 10% more damage, maybe exponentially more.

                • Eric says:

                  A 10% heavier truck does about 46% more damage, but if you just increase the number of trucks by 10%, I’d think the damage would increase by 10% too.

                  • Bolwerk says:

                    Even taking those numbers at face value, the bridge itself is designed to bear a certain load and more trucks can mean bearing much more weight on it at the same time, and that relationship may not be linear. A traffic jam of trucks is probably much worse than incidental trucks crossing.

        • “we haven’t seen any increase in the number of bridges or tunnels linking Long Island to the surrounding boroughs or mainland” Eh? The 63rd Street tunnel opened in 1989 and gained through-service in 2001, and East Side Access is currently under construction and will add another two tracks of capacity from Long Island to Manhattan Island. It’s every other water crossing in the area that is stagnant by comparison (e.g. Manhattan-NJ hasn’t seen any new capacity since the second GWB level in 1962; the last new Harlem River crossing was the Alexander Hamilton Bridge in 1963).

    • marv says:

      extend it south on the brighton line to coney island and you then connect with many lines and terminate at a real destination.

  5. Kevin Walsh says:

    Thanks for the link.

    Simply put, this will never happen. Why? No Manhattan.

    • You know, Kevin, there’s nothing that pisses me off more than those four words, “this will never happen.” I guess it’s fun for you to pour cold water on other people’s ideas, but if it’s never going to happen, just let it not happen.

      • Kevin Walsh says:

        I’d like for it to happen — I also favor the Rockaway Branch rebuild — but without a Manhattan connection, the poohbas won’t fund it. We can push for it but I doubt much will happen.

        • Mike says:

          Then why not just run it as a branch off of the Canarsie Line? Have it split off after New Lots Ave. There’s your direct connection to Manhattan. And most L train stations would still have the same amount of service as now. Only East 105th St and Rockaway Pkwy would get less service.

          The branch would run on separate tracks from the freight trains, of course.

        • Nyland8 says:

          Actually, as part of a long range beltway plan, Manhattan poohbas would very much be on board. As soon as the benefits of a bypass are thoroughly explained to the public, it is clear to see that every borough can benefit.

          How many commuters take a subway through Manhattan on their way from Queens to Brooklyn? How many take it from Brooklyn to the Bronx, or from the Bronx to Queens??

          An outer borough beltway has enormous benefit to Manhattan subway riders in relieving their congestion. And the fact that it can be done incrementally garners political support very quickly, and across the board, because such a project doesn’t need advocates for decades on end. There’s a ribbon cutting and photo op every time you open a new station – which could be every few years.

          Table a long-range Quad-Boro Rx prescription to go from St. George to Yankee Stadium. Make it a 20 or 30 year plan. You’ll have enough political advocates in every borough to jumpstart the first few Brooklyn phases.

          • AG says:

            Very good point… it’s a win win for everyone. shorter trips for the outer boroughs – more space for riders in Manhattan.

    • The Archer Avenue Subway is one of the newest parts of the system and is even further from Manhattan (and was built at a time when the outer boroughs were poorer than they are now).

  6. Reality says:

    I’m with Kevin. Here’s why:
    http://ltvsquad.com/2013/08/22.....-disaster/

    Anyone can draw lines on a map. The reality is there are huge obstacles to any of this project ever happening – largely cost.

    • Bolwerk says:

      And, like Rockaway Line, this one simply doesn’t cost very much. The costs are probably in the tens of millions per mile, perhaps totaling in the low hundreds.

      Cap’n Transit is right. “Hurrr this will never happen” is just a thought-stopping platitude. Just like reflexively assuming good ideas need to be expensive.

    • Alon Levy says:

      Lol at “heavily used by freight” and “the northern end of this route sees as many as 5 freight trains per day.” As many as 5! Wow!

      Just to put some things in perspective: there are 8 P&W freight trains each way, today, on the fastest Amtrak segment in Rhode Island. Over Cajon Pass, BNSF built a third track because the capacity of the signaling system was about a hundred trains per day on two tracks, and BNSF needed more. That’s heavy freight usage, and I would never advocate kicking freight out of Cajon Pass to expand passenger rail. Five daily trains on Triboro is a triviality and should not be allowed to wag the dog.

      • Nathanael says:

        The potential usage of the (unbuilt, unfunded) Cross Harbor Rail Tunnel is substantially larger than that. If done *right* it would allow the revitalization of the Brooklyn-side ports. Of course *that* usage wouldn’t interfere with TriboroRx.

        Anyway, the most valuable part of TriboroRx is exactly the part Cap’n Transit is describing, which *doesn’t even conflict with any freight service* and would fit fine in the spare part of the right-of-way…

        So start there and think about the other bits later.

        • Alon Levy says:

          It is not worth spending $7 billion – or for that matter $7 – on moving port facilities from Jersey to Brooklyn. If anything, I’d argue it the other way: independently of Jersey’s better connectivity to the rest of the US, waterfront land in Brooklyn is more valuable for residential and commercial uses. But if for some reason it’s worth spending $7 billion on a freight tunnel, it’s worth spending less money on widening the ROW to let the less important use, i.e. freight, keep using it.

          And no, the Capn’s proposal isn’t really the most valuable part – it’s a glorified shuttle.

          • Bolwerk says:

            Is it? Jobs related to freight handling pay well, and are actually accessible to the huge class of urban underemployed men without college degrees. The types of permanent jobs you attract with residential development are unskilled service jobs, and the best paying of the bunch probably involve retail sales and most are probably more low-wage door men, security, and fast food.

            What you advocate might be a win for land owners and developers, but I wouldn’t be so quick to conclude residential development is an automatic win for the city/state economy. Then again, if done responsibly and sustainably, I don’t know that waterfront cargo handling and at least some residential development are entirely mutually exclusive goals either.

            • But you’re not talking about creating NEW freight-handling jobs, you’re talking about shifting them from New Jersey to Brooklyn. Projects like this are unlikely to have much impact on total demand for freight-shipping through Eastern US ports, only on which particular ports the demand goes through.

              By contrast there is a huge pent-up demand for living and working in dense areas, and for proximity to the jobs and economic activity already in NYC, from people who are currently stuck in suburbs with long wasteful commutes, or in parts of the country with far fewer economic opportunities. So permitting more/denser residential and commercial development (and the transit to access it) would actually create value, rather than just shifting it.

              • Bolwerk says:

                I think we’re probably talking about a little bit of both. Some jobs would shift, more would be created, and it even opens up some potential for niche industry in NYC. There is already a port there, so I would think it’s mostly a matter of using it to its greatest potential.

                As for housing, I agree, but that pent-up demand could be met best by infill near mass transit. There is little willingness to build waterfront transit and, even if there were, there is always the threat of another Sandy pummeling the waterfront.

              • AG says:

                Demand is already increasing due to the Panama Canal expansion. That’s why they have been dredging the harbor for a few years.

            • Henry says:

              The thing is, waterfront ports require a lot of land area, due to the sheer amount of freight any such port would be handling and the associated transport infrastructure needed to get it out. It’s why Newark is one of the most blighted parts of the metro area, because of the Port’s intensive land requirements.

              Due to the land-intensive nature of ports I would have to say that they are mutually exclusive, since waterfront development tends to prioritize access to the waterfront and not just geographical proximity. I can’t think of a major city where there is a functioning, globally connected port and an active waterfront residential/commercial district.

              • Henry says:

                Plus, even with Cross-Harbor, the Port of Newark would be significantly better equipped to handle freight; global shipping companies are not likely to create specific shipping lines for a Brooklyn port, since global demand for shipping is going down and bulk shipping to one regional port is significantly cheaper rather than splitting ships between two ports. The best Brooklyn could hope for is a cruise terminal, but aren’t there already facilities for that?

                • AG says:

                  The Cross Harbor isn’t about increasing Brooklyn’s port size. It’s all about reducing truck trips.

                  Also Newark – Elizabeth – Bayonne – Staten Island – Brooklyn all count as “one port”. They are called “The Port of New York and New Jersey”. All shipping industries consider them as one.. They are controlled by the Port Authority.

                  • Henry says:

                    Further up the chain someone suggested that the Cross-Harbor would allow for the reuse of Brooklyn’s ports. This comment is in response to that suggestion.

                    For a Brooklyn port to actually make sense and reduce truck trips, that would require shipping lines to sort containers based on regional destination. That is not their job.

              • AG says:

                Singapore… Hong Kong

                • Henry says:

                  Neither of those ports are located next to privately developed waterfront housing or business districts. Hong Kong’s is located on the outskirts of the city, and both are separated from nearby areas by major highways. Besides, both of those have abnormal limitations on space, which is why their property markets are so hot, but that does not apply to the NY metro area (which is certainly space-restricted and zoning-restricted, but not to the degree that those cities are).

                  • AG says:

                    Well I wouldn’t call Red Hook a “hot” residential area. I wouldn’t call the areas of Staten Island that either. Both are part of NYC… Just as the port facilities in Hong Kong and Singapore are part of their city/states – though on the outskirts. The Manhattan ports went out a long time ago…

          • Cap’n Transit’s map is poorly drawn but the text of his post indicates that he’s not proposing a shuttle, but a branch of the Canarsie Line, with trains running from 14th & 8th, Manhattan to Avenue H, Brooklyn. This is a relatively cheap and easy way to get subway service to East Flatbush/Flatlands, including many of the people who are currently making the B46 Utica bus the fourth-busiest in the United States (possibly busiest if you count the dollar vans).

            • Henry says:

              Keep in mind that not only do statistics not count dollar vans, but also only count fares paid; the amount of fare-beaters would probably push the B46 to the top of the NYC list (which it already has done on several occasions)

          • AG says:

            There would be no major expansion of the port in Brooklyn. Most the expansion on the “New York side” of the port is happening as we speak on Staten Island. That said – the point is to take trucks off the road on the Hudson River crossings. The cost of lost time due to traffic backups on the crossings – wear and tear (increased maintenance) and pollution – could very well be worth the money. I would say that there still needs to be a little more studying done.

  7. Dillon says:

    I’m actually not sure this layout will work. See if the L is going to be modified then let it go directly to Canarsie but then go to east 92nd Ave instead of rockaway just for continous track layout

  8. JAzumah says:

    I disagree with Reality, but his points are not without merit. Frankly, I do believe this service should be an FRA subway line. It is the only way you can operate this service without destroying the future viability on freight on the route. It is also the only way you can create true regional connectivity with this corridor. I also think that a largely 3 track railroad will allow freights to stay out of the way of passenger trains. I see very serious geometry problems with a non-FRA service, including subway single tracking. I do not support kicking freights off the line.

    A modified M7/M8 car could service Jamaica Station and New Rochelle in the future and I think the option should be left on the table.

    • Alon Levy says:

      The narrowest ROW segments are wide enough for two tracks.

      • lop says:

        And if you have freight and non FRA subway then the subway would only have room for one track on those segments.

        • It will be decades before we can even get the segments with room for four tracks (like the one in this post) built out as subways, and who knows how the situation will change in the meantime. Freight demand might go up or down, higher fuel prices might make CSX want to electrify, and if FRA regulations still exist in their current form by then we honestly have bigger problems. We can cross the bridge of dealing with the two-track bottlenecks when we come to it.

          • Bolwerk says:

            Why? I agree it might be decades before the MTA or NYC is arsed to do it, but there is nothing conceptually preventing it from being done in a year or two.

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