Home 7 Line Extension ‘Yes, Virginia, there is a 7 line extension’

‘Yes, Virginia, there is a 7 line extension’

by Benjamin Kabak
Pesky escalators at 34th St. and 11th Ave. await passengers (via MTA)

Pesky escalators at 34th St. and 11th Ave. await passengers (via MTA)

For the most part, the abandoned subway stations dotted through the city are remnants of subway service past. The 91st St. station located beneath by childhood apartment building flashes by in the blank of an eye, and the Bergen St. express stop — destroyed in a fire — is visible only during the right GOs. Then, there are the stations never used such as the mythical South 4th St. stop or the lower level at Nevins Street. Urban explorers and city historians know about these secrets.

But what of the station that’s pre-abandoned? It one day will be used, but for now, it sits mostly finished but with no passengers. It’s the newest subway station in New York City, and it’s not yet set to open until, well, soon — perhaps by mid-summer if all eventually goes according to plan. I am of course referring to the 7 line extension at 11th Ave. and 34th St. As recent photos released by the MTA show, it’s a gleaming, bright, brand-new subway stop entirely devoid of people, and as a recent report released by the MTA shows, the station is likely delayed again until the start of the third quarter of 2015.

The latest new came out of Monday’s MTA Board committee hearings. As the Capital Construction committee books reveal, the MTA is “aggressively pursuing completion” before the end of June, but foundation work at a site underneath planned development and testing is likely to push that date into July. During Monday’s meeting, MTA officials confirmed that the June opening is unlikely, and a summer opening is in the 7 line extension’s future. Considering how unfinished the station looked in December of 2013 when Mayor Bloomberg had his ceremonial non-opening, we never should have believed the station would be ready in 2014 in the first place.

The source of the latest delays is two-fold. First, the MTA’s own testing issues are an impediment. The fire alarm and transmission-backbone systems are behind schedule while Transit is finally beginning Level 4 acceptance testing for those pesky incline elevators. The MTA and its consultants anticipates 15 weeks for remaining testing with two weeks’ lead time; hence, the July revenue service date.

Meanwhile, additional work at Hudson Yards — something that wouldn’t have been a problem a year ago — has reared its head. Site J was due to host a ventilation plant that wasn’t required for revenue service. Work was due to start around now, and, well, here comes the work. As crews seek to sink parts of the foundation near passenger areas, the MTA may need to coordinate schedules around this work. You may think this should have been a consideration earlier in the project, but here we are.

The mezzanine level at Hudson Yards awaits 7 train passengers. (Via MTA)

The mezzanine level at Hudson Yards awaits 7 train passengers. (Via MTA)

What is completely surreal about this project right now is that it’s a nearly finished subway station underneath the streets of Manhattan. You can skim through the photos in this PDF or take a stroll near the Javits Center. It’s not a particularly important stop for a few more months, and I’d wager that most New Yorkers have no idea it’s on the eternal verge of opening. But it’s there, awaiting completion for the past 15 months.

And yet, while it doesn’t really matter in the short-term if this station opens in June or July or last April or next September, it matters for the credibility’s sake. The MTA is asking for $15 billion for another capital fund, but it can’t open a one-station extension that was supposed to ready for service before 2013 ended. The cognitive dissonance is overwhelming. Meanwhile, according to MTA documents, Phase 1 of the Second Ave. Subway is still set to open by the end of December 2016. I think I’ll take the over.

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42 comments

Captain Courier March 24, 2015 - 12:35 am

At this point, the MTA’s better off cancelling the opening altogether and using this stretch of track as a permanent second yard for the 7 line.
It was a great photo op for Bloomberg, but whatever money’s being sunk into this quicksand pit would be better invested in beefed up M34 SBS service.

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vanshnookenraggen March 24, 2015 - 1:42 am

Yeah because subways are just something you can buy off the shelf and return them for your money back if you don’t use them.

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LLQBTT March 24, 2015 - 12:58 pm

OK……

Please see NIMBY for why the M34 isn’t ‘beefy’.

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AG March 24, 2015 - 4:06 pm

Pretty ridiculous since leases totaling over 10,000 employees in Hudson Yards have already been signed before the station opens or any of the buildings are even finished. You seriously think the bus is enough? Even before the buildings open – I am hoping less people will drive to the Javits once the station opens…

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John-2 March 24, 2015 - 4:10 am

Platform level looks to be a lower South Ferry clone, minus both the damage from 40 feet of water from hurricane Sandy and the water leaks that station had prior to that (Apparently the MTA’s decided to make the 57th Street-Sixth Avenue subway station from 1968 the template for the look of every future station at platform level — clean-looking, but bland and colorless).

Hopefully, once all the bugs get worked out, the quality control on Hudson Yards was better than what the MTA got downtown, though if they were to open it in July and then close it again three days later because of some new, unforeseen problem, that wouldn’t be a shock, either.

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tacony March 24, 2015 - 11:47 am

Don’t worry, we can bet on this station having the same water intrusion issues, and barring that it’s so far underground in the 100 year flood plain that it’ll probably be destroyed in the next bad “superstorm” just like the New South Ferry.

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orulz March 24, 2015 - 11:54 am

What happened to the plan for platform screen doors?

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John March 24, 2015 - 4:42 pm

I’m not aware there ever was a “plan” for platform doors. Just idle talk, basically.

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Ray March 24, 2015 - 7:10 am

Looks nice.. Hard to believe it’s NYC. And expensive. Judging from that escalator bank are expecting something big.

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tacony March 24, 2015 - 12:45 pm

Reminds me of the DC metro, or the WTC PATH station… and in both cases, about half the escalators won’t be working at any time (or in the WTC’s case, they’re intentionally turned off to save energy according to sandwich boards blocking you from entering them and using them as stairs).

Since this is the MTA, add a layer of grime to everything ’cause they probably won’t clean it. Should be fun to see it in operation.

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eo March 24, 2015 - 8:43 am

It seems to me that a big portion of the delays is due to overall desire to have everything ready to the last screw before giving a green light for use. Back in the days they would have found a way to open the station while sinking whatever foundations they need to do, but now we have government bureaucrats instead of private companies running the subways, so they prefer to avoid aggressive schedules because of even the minute risk that something could go wrong (the reason is they do not bear the costs of not opening the station, but they bear the costs of being fired over even the smallest thing that goes wrong and gets written about in the newspapers). A private company would have better (note that I am not saying “the correct”) incentives to balance the trade-offs between delays (and the resulting lost revenue and interest expense) and opening earlier with proper allowances for the foundation or whatever work to go on.

The reality is: why should anyone at the top of the agency care? He or she does not get evaluated on anything related to opening the station early, but even if one tile falls while that other construction goes on they will be the first ones to be fired, so we wait until the bureaucrats run out of reasons to delay …

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VLM March 24, 2015 - 9:44 am

Not that this current iteration of government bureaucrats are particular adept at this job, but the subways have been run by govern bureaucrats since the very early 1940s, and those private companies went bankrupt attempting to run the system. That’s not a particularly promising history. Look elsewhere — Europe, Hong Kong — for better comps though.

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BoerumHillScott March 24, 2015 - 12:02 pm

NYC’s subways were designed, funded, and mostly built by government bureaucrats. Private companies then leased and operated them.

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AG March 24, 2015 - 4:07 pm

I’m still trying to understand why they needed proprietary elevators.

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APH March 24, 2015 - 6:26 pm

Not clear if they really needed them, but here is the explanation:

“The idea for a diagonal elevator — two, actually, to go with the station’s escalators and vertical elevators — dates to the project’s genesis more than 10 years ago, the authority said. Angling the structures at an incline was thought to be less expensive than tunneling in relatively straight lines, down and across.

It would also prove a boon to wheelchair users, officials said. A traditional vertical elevator from the upper to the lower mezzanine would have left such passengers about 150 feet from a second elevator that could take them to the platform. But because the incline elevators run parallel to the escalators, Mr. Horodniceanu said, “you are providing a similar experience, irrespective of your handicap.”

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Boris March 24, 2015 - 11:37 pm

Please tell me, when was the last time a bureaucrat got fired for one tile falling off? I’m not trying to be snarky; I just want to point out that it’s really hard to fire a government employee, even for really serious offenses. Legal protections plus unions are real things. There are plenty of recent examples to choose from, from teachers to cops. I always wonder why bureaucrats are as cautious and passive as they are, considering how hard it is in practice to stop them from breaking the rules.

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BrooklynBus March 24, 2015 - 10:21 am

One thing you can bet on. Even if the SAS is delayed past the end of 2017, Mayor deBlasio will still be there for an “opening ceremony” before his term ends if he doesn’t get reelected.

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Tim March 24, 2015 - 10:28 am

“Re-elected” LOL.

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SEAN March 24, 2015 - 1:32 pm

Knowing him, he will be delayed just like every transit project is in NYC.

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rj March 24, 2015 - 10:25 am

But no, Virginia, you’re not getting Columbia Pike light rail.

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ns March 24, 2015 - 10:36 am

Is there any sort of clawback from contractors when someone is this late? It’s absurd. If you don’t finish the job on time… you didn’t do the job.

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Maggie March 24, 2015 - 5:22 pm

I came here to ask the same thing. I wonder how the MTA payments work. It seems like if if there was a bottom-line profitability impact for someone on wrapping this station up and getting it open, we wouldn’t keep seeing 3-month delay after delay.

Impacts Javits more than anything else right now, but it’s also strange not to see Cuomo speak up.

Also sorry for the background question, but why does testing take 15 weeks?

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Chris C March 24, 2015 - 9:12 pm

Because you basically have to check every system and component.

So with the e.g. fire alarms you have to test each detector individually and then together to make sure they all work as they should rather than just in isolation. If setting alarm B off means C won’t work (even though they work individually) then that needs to be corrected and then re-tested.

And if e.g. the fire alarm is triggered what other system does that trigger – emergency lighting / stops the elevators etc – and do those systems work as they should in isolation and when working with other systems.

And it all has to be documented properly and that gets checked and there might be random checks to make sure the checks were actually done.

And then before the station opens to the public you will want to conduct various emergency scenarios for the police and fire services plus the MTAs own responses so they can be familiar with the station layout.

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Maggie March 25, 2015 - 8:13 am

Thank you so much, that is really helpful. I still don’t see why that takes 15 weeks, and the station’s been essentially complete and unused for 18 months already – wouldn’t MTA employees already be familiar with the station layout? But, I appreciate the explanation and the emergency scenario planning going on.

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JJJJ March 24, 2015 - 10:40 am

At this rate, someone could have started digging the cancelled station by hand and it would be approaching a similar state

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LLQBTT March 24, 2015 - 1:01 pm

Aren’t the ‘incline elevators’ essentially underground funiculars? And those have been running for a long time.

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SEAN March 24, 2015 - 1:28 pm

Only a few places in this country have inclinators. The most noted locations are the San Diego convention center & The Luxor Hotel in Las Vegas.

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Stewart Clamen March 24, 2015 - 5:28 pm

Pittsburgh still has two. One is run by the public transit company

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monongahela_Incline

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duquesne_Incline

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Phantom March 24, 2015 - 10:16 pm

Italy has had funiculars for over 100 years. Nothing revolutionary about the idea.

http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki.....s_in_Italy

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Chris C March 24, 2015 - 6:05 pm

As has been blogged here several times before the inclined elevators are fine and work in all sorts of places across the world.

The issue with them is that someone (whether the MTA or the construction contractor) insisted that US made parts be used in the controllers.

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Eric F March 24, 2015 - 1:05 pm

Are there any photos of the funicular elevators?

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APH March 24, 2015 - 3:52 pm

Go to page 9 in this PDF to see the diagonal elevators installed (“funiculars”): http://web.mta.info/mta/news/b.....update.pdf

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Eric F March 24, 2015 - 3:56 pm

Nice! This could become a tourist attraction in its own right.

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Eric March 25, 2015 - 5:34 am

…If they ever fucking work.

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BruceNY March 24, 2015 - 8:45 pm

Are there any escalators from the platform level to the mezzanine?

My other question is: being that this will be the way most people will travel to/from the Javits Center, is there any direct connection from the new subway station to a new, underground entrance into Javits? Or will everyone have to go outside into the rain and snow and cross 11th Avenue?

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Rich B March 27, 2015 - 1:55 pm

Ditto. I keep reading about the infamous inclined entrance to the east, but surely it will have a west entrance connecting to Javits, no? It would be insane not to….

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Matthew March 24, 2015 - 9:56 pm

The MTA doesn’t want to open the Flushing line extension because they are not in charge of the project. The City is building this station and later giving it to the TA to run. I’m sure the MTA’s thinking is something along the line of “when the city gets this project ready, we will think about opening/running it.”

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Subutay Musluoglu March 25, 2015 - 8:13 am

That is inaccurate. The city is funding it (and not even all of it), but the MTA through their Capital Construction arm has full organizational control over the construction, testing, and commissioning of the project.

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smartone March 24, 2015 - 10:36 pm

And the ironic thing is this station is going to HUGELY popular with ten of thousands of daily riders

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George March 25, 2015 - 3:52 pm

how is that ironic?

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Rich B March 27, 2015 - 1:54 pm

What George said. Were you being sarcastic? Because it will definitely have high ridership. They should have built the second station, too. The number of skyscrapers being built in that area right now – and planned to start in the near future – is mind-blowing. They’re building a whole city’s worth of new residential and commercial over there.

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Tex June 2, 2015 - 7:20 pm

do not believe any one was killed on this site. AMTRAC Philidelphia crash at over 100mph. Why do we still hve turn radius that can not accomodate high speed rail. This is the 21st century an we are still using 19 th to 20 th century tracks. This has caused peoples lives. TGV in France and the Bullet train in Japan overcame this issue way back. Why havent the USA. Delayed projects by the MTA gets more press coverage than those costing lives, Get Real!!

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