Aug
31

With the 7 extension, gaining a stop but losing an opportunity

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A photo posted by Second Ave. Sagas (@secondavesagas) on

Considering how rare it is these days for the New York City subway system to gain track mileage and new stations, next month’s long-awaited opening of the 7 line extension at Hudson Yards is a moment to celebrate. The MTA expects the new station at 34th St. and 11th Ave. to one day be among the most popular in the city, and the stop opens up the new development at the Hudson Yards, the Javits Center, part of the High Line, the Bolt Bus staging ground and an otherwise marginalized area of Manhattan to the subway system. The costs were exceedingly high though; the only reason the 7 line isn’t the most expensive subway project in the world is because the Second Ave. Subway is even more costly. But besides the dollars, the city and the MTA sacrificed an opportunity for even more, and the decision to cut the stop at 41st and 10th Ave. isn’t one easy to overcome.

The history of New York City’s subway system is filled with broken promises and grandiose plans that never came to be. Now and then, remnants of what never was crop up in unexpected ways. The 2010 Underbelly Project in the South 4th St. station shell reminded the city of grand plans for a Second System that were pushed aside over the years due to the Great Depression, a World War and the rise of the automobile and Robert Moses. The history of a cross-Bronx subway echoes through the tail tracks north of the D train’s Norwood – 205th Street terminus. The IRT’s dead end at Flatbush Ave. speaks of a Nostrand Ave. subway Sheepshead Bay still yearns for today. Now, we can add the 7 line to this list.

When the one-stop extension opens on Sunday, September 13, riders won’t notice the provisioning for a station at 41st and 10th Ave., but it’s there. The slope of the tunnels have been flattened out through the area where a train station would be to allow for future construction. Once planned as a station with an island platform, provisioning would allow for an in-fill, side platform station with no cross-overs or transfers to be built one day if money materializes. The costs of any future construction are expected to be significantly higher than the price tag attached to the station had it been built over the last few years, and after a burst of activity a few years ago, no one is talking about funding it anymore. It may just be lost to time.

So what happened? The history is a lesson on understanding what “on time and on budget” in MTA-speak really means. When the Bloomberg Administration first proposed funding the 7 line extension, the plans called for two stations — one at 41st St. and 10th Ave. and another at 34th St. and 11th Ave, and the MTA and city agreed on a $2.4 billion budget. Nearly immediately, it became clear that the MTA couldn’t deliver on this budget, and plans for a station at 41st St. turned into plans for a shell of a station at 41st St. The finishes would come later when the money materialized, but even that idea was in jeopardy.

As I noted back in 2006 in the fourth post in this site’s history, the MTA would likely to have to cut the plans to construct even a shell at 41st St. when costs became untenable. In late 2007, the move became official when the one project bid came in at around $500 million over budget. The MTA refused to spend a dime on Bloomberg’s pet project, and even an offer to split the bill for the shell 50-50 went nowhere. Chuck Schumer made some noises about resolving the dispute, but federal money was tied up in the 9/11 recovery funds and the Second Ave. Subway grant. In the end, in a game of political and economic chicken, no one blinked, and the opportunity to build the station at the time disappeared. A few years ago, costs were estimated to be at least $800 million for the station, up significantly from the $500 million price tag eight years ago.

So why wasn’t it built? Words from the city in 2008 that have been repeated as talking points by Dan Doctoroff speak volumes for what was the guiding philosophy behind the subway extension. “Unlike the extension to 34th Street and 11th Avenue, which the city is funding, a 10th Avenue station is not necessary to drive growth there,” a spokesperson for the deputy mayor for economic development said. “A Tenth Avenue station would be nice, but it’s really a straight transportation project versus an economic development catalyst.”

To those who live in those new high rises in the West 40s on the Far West Side (or those who will move into the 1400-unit building now going up right where the station should have been, sorry. It’s “just” a transportation project isn’t a good enough reason for a new subway station that would have been around for the subway’s next 110 years. To the team funding the subway, “economic development” was the driving argument and not the need to improve mobility.

So we’re finally getting the new train stop. As the project was supposed to wrap in late 2013, it wasn’t on time, and as the project was supposed to have two stations, or at least a shell of a second, it wasn’t on budget. Instead, we have a badly needed and much appreciated subway stop and a reminder yet again that New York City failed to take full advantage of an opportunity to address holes in its vital subway system. The MTA isn’t fighting for the 10th Ave. station, and it’s just a blip in their 20-year plan. I don’t think I’m going out a limb when I say we won’t see it in any of our lifetimes, and that’s a huge missed opportunity.



Categories : 7 Line Extension

46 Responses to “With the 7 extension, gaining a stop but losing an opportunity”

  1. John-2 says:

    The only hopeful thing you can say is 10th and 41st is located close enough to the city’s main central business district, albeit it not in it right now, so that sometime down the line, the area could be a big enough enticement to real estate developers that they can see making some major profits on new construction … if only the MTA could add a subway stop in the area.

    If the big money political donors come to want the stop, then it could become a reality (and it could be pointed out Citicorp never puts their Queens office building were it is if the city hadn’t added the 23rd Street-Court Square stop on the E/M line in the late 1930s, three years after the line to Queens Plaza had already opened.

    • Marc Shepherd says:

      It is rare that I would endorse the word “tragic” when it comes to a transit decision. The elimination of the Tenth Avenue stop comes pretty close to justifying that label.

    • Hank says:

      Real Estate in the area of the station has already been developed. It was built, even without the subway station there.

      • 22rr says:

        Yep, real estate has already been developed, and now the residents of those shiny new towers have no decent way to get around the city because the subway is so far away.

      • Alon Levy says:

        Is the subway a transportation service, or a development service?

        • 22rr says:

          Should be both. Obviously we need subway as a thorough network of transportation. But we should also look to Hong Kong MTR as an example of how the transportation agency can capture the value of developing the property above the station (rather than just letting it go to Extell or whoever) and use those profits to fund transit operations and capital expansions.

          • Alon Levy says:

            The MTR’s development division is a corrupt, self-enriching cesspool of no-bid contracts. Hong Kong’s government gives developable land to the MTR instead of putting it up for competitive bidding process; there’s a lot of disaffection among Hongkongers about this.

            None of this is really relevant to the question of where to build subway stations. They build new lines in already-developed lines, even in Hong Kong – for example, the West Island Line.

            • 22rr says:

              Whatever they do, it works super well to create a clean, wonderful, functioning mass-transit system and enables an exciting livable city.

              • Alon Levy says:

                There are clean, efficient subways all over the world. Hong Kong isn’t special there; the US is. Very few of those subway systems engage in development-oriented transit; many of the ones that do are failures; and many of the ones that are successes still end up building lines in the wrong order.

              • Nathanael says:

                There is something ass-backwards about skipping valuable stops. I mean, the original Metropolitan Railway in London was largely a development scheme, but they didn’t express past the existing development, because that would have been crazy.

  2. Dear Friends,

    Are you tired of the gridlock and overcrowded buses, trains and roadways?

    The Queens Public Transit Committee is having a rally against Select BS, Zero Vision and QueensWay to Nowhere!

    We support faster and safer transportation including the QueensRail, citywide expansion of ferry, bus, train and roadway services and the total elimination of the unfair tolls to Queens, Rockaway.

    Stop City Hall from stealing our time, freedom, safety and prosperity.

    Our “Transportation for Everyone Rally” is on Sunday, September 13 at the corner of Woodhaven Boulevard, Queens Boulevard and Hoffman Drive from 3:00 pm to 4:00 pm near the southbound Q 52 & Q 53 Bus Stop. We will have a 3:30 pm photo opportunity for the media.

    Will you join us and tell your family and friends to fight for faster and safer transportation?

    Please let us know if you have more volunteers joining us. RSVP

    RSVP
    Philip McManus
    PhilAMcManus@gmail.com
    718-679-5309

    Queens Public Transit Committee
    Faster transportation will create more social, economic, recreational, and environmental opportunities.

    Facebook:
    Rockaway Beach Rail Line
    Queens Public Transit
    Rockaway Beach Branch

    Twitter:
    Rockaway Beach Line

    Websites:
    Rockaway Branch Line blog
    Rockaway Branch Line Mission Statement
    Queens Public Transit

    Please support the following petitions:
    Ferry
    Queens Rockaway Beach Line
    Toll
    Train
    Q 52 Bus
    Station Agents
    Metro North Station in Queens

    • Bolwerk says:

      Station agents for what? That’s probably one of the first things we should be cutting if we want more transit.

    • j.b. diGriz says:

      You’ve come to the wrong place if you think you’re going to get traction on RBL while simultaneously being anti-SBS AND anti-Zero Vision. I’ve read your facebook page, and you don’t seem to understand that the Woodhaven SBS and the RBL would serve two different purposes, and that the money for SBS is already in motion. Trying to get people to back stopping SBS wouldn’t move the needle at all on RBL. And its ridiculous to suggest SBS would cause congestion to increase.

      • Dear J.B.,

        I didn’t realize people had to agree on this blog. Oops. I thought it was ok to speak in America. Tell me why you think Select Bus Service is better than the QueensRail? Why do you think it’s ok for the inner borough to have railways built but not the outer boroughs. Tell me why you think a subway from South, Central, West Queens and Midtown Manhattan to Brooklyn is such a silly idea. Tell the people in our city that Manhattan should get new subways and the heck with everyone else. Why do you think the city will spend 400 million dollars for Woodhaven- Cross Bay Boulevard SBS and also pay for the QueensRail? Do you believe the outer boroughs should be treated differently and pay more for transportation? Do you believe it’s ok to steal people’s time, freedom, safety and prosperity because they live outside Manhattan? Do you consider yourself superior to others? Is it ok to discriminate against outer borough commuters? Is it ok to disagree without being disagreeable. Do you believe debate is a good thing for our society or would you like to have a totalitarian society run by you? I believe bus and bike lanes and lowering speed limits are causing more gridlock, accidents, pollution and more tickets for outer borough commuters who need more subways and buses. Will bus riders like me get around faster if their bus is not in a bus lane? I take the Q 53 bus everyday and we need more buses to reduce overcrowding and longer commutes. We also need the QueensRail that will get more people to more places faster, safer and cleaner just like the inner borough. I hope you can handle a little dissent.

        • TimK says:

          Dear Philip,

          I didn’t realize criticism and debate were banned on this blog. Oops. I thought it was okay to speak in America.

          Somebody contradicting you isn’t infringing one bit on your right of free speech (and let’s not even get into the fact that the First Amendment doesn’t require Ben to give you a platform in the comments on his blog if he doesn’t wish to).

          I hope you can handle a little dissent.

          You obviously can’t.

    • Chris C says:

      Did you ask permission from Ben before posting this here?

      This is his blog and I’m not sure he would necessarily want to be seen to be advertising protests – either for or against – from various groups.

      I have no skin in the game as I’m not even in the US but isntt it contradictory to want faster public transit but to oppose SBS which does offer it (even if it’s not perfect)

  3. Most likely once the 34th St station opens and people begin to see the changes at Hudson Yards there will be calls for an infill station, maybe a tax on new buildings or something to raise the funds. Hell, once Hudson Yards starts to open there might be so much demand at 34th St that a new station at 10th Ave would actually be needed to handle the growth.

  4. Chet says:

    On the assumption that growth in the area will call for a station at 41st and 10th, that it might cost a BILLION dollars just to build a station is obscene. Something has to be done to bring down the costs of subway construction in the city.
    London’s CrossRail is building 26 miles of new tunnels, adding ten new stations (some above ground) and the entire project is budgeted at about $24 billion. In Switzerland, the Gotthard Base Rail tunnel is 35.4 miles long (a total though of 94.3 miles of tunnels, shafts, and passages), and it’s total cost is about $11 billion.
    Something here, in NYC, is very wrong.

    • Daniel Pecoraro says:

      I think part of the issue (which everyone forgets) is that many of the union builders’ benefits (particularly, I’d imagine, health insurance and pensions) is pretty much rolled into most European countries social services at large. The cost is still there, just (a) less on aggregate and (b) without the sticker shock on transit projects.

      Even when you take that out, though, the costs are still insane.

  5. Larry Littlefield says:

    “The IRT’s dead end at Flatbush Ave. speaks of a Nostrand Ave. subway Sheepshead Bay still yearns for today.”

    They may still yearn for it today, but I wouldn’t use the word “still.” After fighting for transit extensions through the 1930s, “neighborhood groups” started fighting against them, fearing they would allow the “wrong kind of people” to get to their neighborhood.

    With the perpetual incumbency of New York’s Democratic hacks in local offices, that era only started to come to an end on the City Council years after the introduction of term limits. But the state legislature is still a self serving hackocracy, controlled by those looking to shake a few last dollars out of New York to benefit their crowd before once again leaving it in ruins.

  6. R2 says:

    Clearly the reason the 10th Ave stop never got built is because there is no way it could fit on the map 😉

    • Ryan says:

      The 10 Av stop could easily fit on the map. All that would need to be done is for the map to be distorted differently – so that instead of so much space being given to the Hudson river on the far left of the map, more room existed between the west end avenues.

      Even if you don’t want to change the map spacing, shrinking the ACE stop description to just be “42 St – PABT” and moving it to the other side of 8 Av would likely create enough room for a 10 Av balloon.

  7. Ryan says:

    Where is the station shell, anyway? Is the provision centered beneath 10 Av so that you could draw a line straight down from the dead center of the intersection and hit the halfway point on the leveling off of the tunnel? Or is it skewed in one particular direction (either towards 11 or towards 9 Av)?

    • Bolwerk says:

      I think calling it a “shell” might be an overstatement. It’s basically just a graded track section.

      This isn’t a very precise answer, but if there is a downward grade after the 10th station you can expect it is skewed significantly more toward 9th Ave. given the tunnel route makes a left turn after 10th to reach 34th. Look at the length of the station at 34th; if the 10th Ave. station peeks a little past 10th Avenue, the other end of the station would peek past 9th Avenue.

      • BruceNY says:

        Thanks for posting the tunnel route. I am still amazed that they could not “afford” a station at 41st/10th but could build eight additional blocks of tunnel down to 25th St. I’ve heard all the arguments for tail tracks, but isn’t this about twice the length of an IRT train? They could have added platforms here and put an entrance on 23rd St./Chelsea Piers.

        • Ryan says:

          The length of the station bubble in that map is about four blocks, 33 to 37 Sts. That would include the mezzanines and everything else, and doesn’t necessarily mean that the platform itself is going to be four blocks long. (This is good, since the trains aren’t four blocks long either.)

          A nice round number for the distance between the southern end of the station bubble and the end of the tail tracks is 8 blocks – 2100 ft (or 640 m, if you insist on metric.) The typical 11-car IRT train is a little over 550 feet long, so it’s just under four train lengths from the end of the station to the end of the tail tracks.

          If you want to figure that every station is going to be four blocks long and further that you’re going to want around half a mile from one platform end to the start of the next platform, the tail tracks stop right before you’d start the next station ‘bubble’ for, presumably, 23 St – Chelsea Piers Station. The bubble would occupy the space between 21 St and 25 St, overshooting the ‘end’ of 11 Av where it merges into 12 Av. Here we see the problem: you’re at the edge of the river already and very much out of room. Chelsea Piers are called such because they’re actual piers, out in the water. Connecting to the Piers structure definitely requires underwater tunneling – I don’t know whether the frontage street or the Hudson River Greenway are on dry land or not but they might require underwater tunneling too. Building tail tracks is easier if you decide you never want the 7 to go to NJ (or if you decide you someday want to downgrade this leg of the 7 to a shuttle service and punch the “real” 7 service into NJ via a new 41 St tunnel), but there’s no room to build tail tracks out of Chelsea Pier if you want to keep that option open. In actuality, you’re either giving up on tail tracks (poor choice) or committing to building the tunnel and going to New Jersey (expensive choice) – the latter option downgrades Chelsea Piers station to an afterthought.

          Personally, I think disconnecting the 11 Av leg of the 7 Line from the 41 St leg of it and running all 7 trains straight into Jersey west from 10 Av is an attractive option. I imagine most people here will disagree with me on that.

          • BruceNY says:

            Well, I think a station platform of 600′ for the #7 should be adequate. Assuming that the track level is still far below the surface at the end of the current tracks, the platform itself could be run from around 24th to 25th Street, but the escalators could stretch to 23rd easily. That’s eight to nine blocks to the next station (34th) which is more than the distance between many other IRT stations (14th–18th, 23rd–28th, etc.). The question I have now is: how long do tail tracks actually need to be to permit faster approaches into the terminal? Is one train length sufficient? If two train lengths are needed in order to provide layup space for trains (which they’ve never had at Times Sq. yet still managed to have the shortest headways in the system), would that still get too close to the waterfront?

            • adirondacker12800 says:

              IRT trains are just a bit over 2 blocks long. Flushing line trains are a car longer than that and IND/BMT trains can be even longer.

    • Alex says:

      Good question. I’m guessing it starts to curve south toward 34th pretty quickly after 10th Ave, so likely it stretches toward 9th Ave.

  8. Jereth says:

    Not really brought up too much, but as much as there seems to be a lack of will for the station, there was probably pressure specifically to NOT build the station from Related, the Javitz center, even possible NJ power players. It’s exponentially more marketable and beneficial being ‘1 stop’ from times square’. Wouldn’t be surprised at all if backroom dealings killed it for the sake of those few big names on the west side.

  9. Panthers says:

    Maybe I am one of the few who don’t agree that the 7 to 34th street will do anything. 9th Avenue between 42nd and 34th streets had fantastic places to eat and shop – Manganaro Brothers, Supreme Macaroni, Cupcake Cafe, etc. All gone. There were fantastic lofts in that area too – plenty of live/work and back office spaces that existed from 39th/9th to below 34th/11th. Gone. So is this really going to spur business? I doubt it. I can’t see the Javits Center being any more of a “destination” than it was before. I don’t think it will have the ridership. I just don’t see it.

    Don’t forget the terminal station connects to nothing. Not PATH, not Penn Station, not any other subway line. I think it would be much more effective if there was a 10th/41st station. Agreed. But I would say do the following:
    1. Extend the L to 14th st 10th/11th aves and then further to terminate next to the PATH train at Christopher Street. Run the 7 down to either the L station at 10th/11th or up to 14th and 8th Avenue. People who come off the PATH and need to get to midtown would have a transfer at 10th/11th or 8th Ave to the 7 or the L. They could get to Grand Central either on the 7 or via the L to Union Square without leaving the station. Meanwhile, the west side gets sorely needed rapid transit as opposed to buses.

    • 22rr says:

      What’s the relationship between the 7 train extension and your lamenting the small businesses that have closed? Did the train extension cause that? Btw, Manganaro is still there, in Hero Boy form at least.

  10. wise infrastructure says:

    Subways are rapid are supposed to be rapid transit
    Having stops every 2 blocks defeats this.

    If the convention center is the intended end of the line then not too many users would be hurt by a 10th Ave station.

    If the intention is for the line to eventually go to NJ or downtown then a 10th avenue station would turn the 7 into the slow Queens J train.

    Even with a Javits terminal, most users getting on at 10th Avenue would be switching to another subway line in a matter of blocks. Would they not be equally or better off hopping on a light rail for the few blocks before making the switch?

    For the cost of the station (then 500 million now 800 million) and for the cost of a new PABT are we not better off with 42nd and 34th streets being converted into paired one way 3 lane streets with light rail on both streets?

    • Ryan says:

      One way roads are awful and should be converted into two-way streets wherever possible. Light rail doesn’t require a one-way street to function, and in fact is harmed by one-way street pairs. 34 and 42 should remain two-way streets. We’re most emphatically NOT better off if they become one-way, no matter what kind miscellaneous improvement you want to falsely attach to that change.

      By the way, if 34 and 42 WERE to become one-way, they would not form a pair. Both 34 and 42 would become eastbound only, matching most other even-numbered cross streets in Manhattan, as 33, 35, 41, and 43 streets are all westbound only.

      • 22rr says:

        I think many New Yorkers prefer one-way streets as pedestrians (at least on the streets since they are fairly skinny) because you can jaywalk without looking both ways, and the chances are greater that there will be a safe opening to cross the street.

        Thatsaid, the highway-wide one-way avenues are a disgrace for pedestrians and cyclists. I don’t care whether we keep them one-way or make them two-way, but we need to reduce the width and number of vehicular lanes so that the pedestrians aren’t squeezed into the skinny crowded sidewalks as they currently are now. Two-way bike lanes on each avenue would also be great, since I frequently see cyclists going the wrong way (and while I’m a habitual rule-follower, I am sympathetic that it’s annoying to go on bike all the way to the avenue going the direction you need to go).

      • adirondacker12800 says:

        The city wants to make 34th or 42nd one way they can. In either direction. The city could close them off except for local deliveries. Or local deliveries and taxi drop off. They could be one way with two way bus traffic. Or one way with two way trolley traffic. Or one way with buses and trolleys going both ways. Everything used to be two way. But in the interest of moving moar kars that changed. It can change back.

    • Ryan says:

      Grand Central, Bryant Park, and Times Square are all roughly the same distance from each other as Times Square, 10 Av, and Hudson Yards would be. Furthermore, it’s quite foolish to insist that a single stop would be responsible for turning this thing into “the slow Queens J train.” One stop does not that make.

      • VLM says:

        Further the spacing between 34th/11th and 41st/10th and Times Square is standard for new-build subways internationally. Not having the space there creates a very large service gap.

        • Eric says:

          34/11 and 41/10 and Times Square are each about 500 meters apart. I believe typical new-build subways nowadays have 700-1000 meter stop spacing.

  11. Avi says:

    20 years from now, which will be considered a bigger missed opportunity? The station at 10th Ave, or not 4 tracking 2nd ave?

    • Ryan says:

      This, but only by virtue of the fact that Phase 2 will never find funding, Phases 3 and 4 will both be canceled, and the brief Phase 1 stretch of double tracking can just have express tracks dug beneath it a la the Lex between somewhere south of 51 and somewhere north of 96.

      Managing to get Phase 2 done as currently designed though would indeed be the far bigger missed opportunity for a number of reasons.

      • adirondacker12800 says:

        Unless it goes up to the Bronx and out to Brooklyn it’s not going to have the passengers to need express tracks.

      • Nathanael says:

        Phase 2 is going to get funding. The main motivation for the Second Avenue Subway is overcrowding on the Lexington Avenue Line north of Grand Central (caused by, naturally, the demolition of the 2nd and 3rd Avenue Els and the elimination of intermediate stops on the Park Avenue route which is now Metro-North).

        In order to alleviate that overcrowding, the Second Avenue Subway has to get to 125th St.

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