Jan
06

From Cuomo, state transit policy coalesces around leaving New York City

By

Gov. Cuomo’s transportation plan for the downstate region focuses around getting into and out of New York City rather than around it. (Kevin P. Coughlin/Office of the Governor)

When it comes to a comprehensive transportation policy for New York State, few governors in recent years have been able or willing to put forward a plan. By many accounts, Eliot Spitzer was on the verge of one before his sex scandal torpedoed his tenure, and before him, George Pataki played a part in launching East Side Access and was, through circumstances out of his control, instrumental in the post-9/11 transit investments in Lower Manhattan, for better or worse. Cuomo, a self-professed car guy through and through, hasn’t paid much attention to transit but seems to be formulating a cohesive policy with a peculiar theme.

Until this week, Cuomo’s major transportation projects in the New York City region concerned a bridge and an airport. The bridge is the Tappan Zee replacement — a project without a consensus or clear funding plan. Even still, upstate New Yorkers are miffed that the new bridge doesn’t include rail, and Cuomo pushed this project through because, as he’s said, he’s personally afraid the bridge will collapse. The other project is the half-baked Willets Point-Laguardia Airtrain proposal (and the more fully baked multi-billion-dollar overhaul and modernization of the decrepit airport).

And then everything exploded this week. As part of his whirlwind tour in advance of his State of the State speech, Cuomo has unveiled some major transit and transportation investments. Today’s official announcement concerned Long Island. Despite constant NIMBY opposition, Gov. Cuomo has announced support for the LIRR Third Track proposal as well as money to study an automotive cross-Long Island Sound tunnel that is unlikely to ever see the light of day.

“Long Island’s future prosperity depends on a modern transportation network that eases congestion on our roads, improves service on the LIRR, helps this region’s economy and preserves the character of these great communities,” the governor said in remarks. “This is a robust and comprehensive agenda to do just that and help build a brighter tomorrow for Nassau and Suffolk residents.”

The governor’s third track proposal is, he said, designed to assuage concerns over previous plans. This is a 9.8 mile extension between Floral Park and Hicksville that is built, by and large, on pre-existing right of way. The mileage reduction from over 11 reduces property acquisition totals so that only 20 would involve residences. How much this will cost or how it will be funded remains to be seen, and why it wasn’t included in the revised version of the MTA capital plan that was published in October is an open question. The LIRR hasn’t been a particularly zealous advocate for this third track plan, but the MTA spoke in its favor yesterday

“Our efforts to expand the Main Line will support transit-oriented development around Long Island and make it easier for Long Island to attract businesses and employees. This isn’t experimental,” MTA Chairman and CEO Thomas F. Prendergast said. “It’s a well understood direct correlation that we’ve seen happen already in the region served by Metro-North. When there is train capacity to allow New York City residents to ‘reverse commute’ to suburban jobs, people take that opportunity and the job growth follows.”

Later in the day, Andrew Tangel of The Wall Street Journal broke the news that Cuomo also plans to support a Penn Station overhaul. He will become the fourth or fifth governor to throw his weight behind the Moynihan Station plan, but it’s not yet clear what Cuomo’s motivation is here. As Tangel tells it, “Among the goals of Mr. Cuomo’s plan, [sources] said, is to introduce more air and natural light and improved passenger flow into what critics liken to a dank basement maze marked by confusing signs and underwhelming dining options.”

For now, Tangel’s report is all we have on Penn Station. We don’t know the extent of the plan; we don’t know the cost; we don’t know how New York State and its taxpayers are going to pay for this project. We also don’t know if it includes a trans-Hudson Tunnel. It should. In fact, no overhaul of Penn Station should happen without the guarantee of a new tunnel, and as dingy and cramped as Penn Station is, underwhelming dining options isn’t a particularly compelling impetus to spend billions without addressing the city’s transit capacity crisis.

And therein lies the rub. As you may have noticed by now, all of Cuomo’s projects involve improving certain elements of getting into and out of New York City. They do not address what happens to everyone once these people are within New York City, and outside of some lukewarm promise to fund the MTA’s capital plan (likely by increasing the MTA’s ability to take on debt), Cuomo has done nothing to address subway capacity or interborough travel. Once you’re here (or, as Cuomo is more likely to conceptualize it, once you’re leaving), his job is done, and travel within the five boroughs is someone else’s problem.

As Cuomo put in comments to reporters on Tuesday, he is drawing his inspiration from those who got things done, but it’s a dangerous parallel. When asked if his plans were pipe dreams, he retorted in part “Was Robert Moses a pipe dream?” We may need someone who can deliver projects and funding on the scale Moses could, but we also need someone with a vision more encompassing, tolerant and holistic than Moses’ ever was. Cuomo is getting people into New York City. He has to get them through and around New York City too, and so far, he hasn’t. That’s not a particularly appealing theme when it comes to a comprehensive transportation policy for New York State.



136 Responses to “From Cuomo, state transit policy coalesces around leaving New York City”

  1. I am no fan of Cuomo but I think there is some smart political maneuvering here. Upstate pols haven’t signed off on new MTA Capital Plan because they want something in their backyard to balance the money going to NYC. I’m sure Long Island pols feel the same way and this is probably the first of a few major transportation announcements that should get enough people on board to sign off on the MTA plan. What is upstate gonna get? I’d love to see some HSR but most likely it will just be some more highway funds.

  2. webster says:

    I was reminded of an interesting read (don’t know if this is common knowledge or not) about simply reconnecting the Ronkonkoma and the Central Branches, rather than employing the third track on the Main Line might be preferable .

    In any case, it’s become increasingly apparent to me in the short period I’ve been in the region that the LIRR, and LI, holds a lot of potential in solving quite a few issues for NYC – namely, housing. The real thing that I will be curious to see develop is the reaction from individuals along the ROW. Last I heard about this, it was local opposition that saw the MTA strike it from their capital plan (although, that may have simply been convenient cover). Who knows, we may be surprised and everyone has suddenly found some sense.

    Stranger things have happened.

    Also, my immediate thought about the tunnel crossing is whether they will bother to include an alternative with rail, since…you know, there’s that pesky little problem of Amtrak wanting one.

    • AG says:

      Most communities on LI have been fighting adding multi family housing. That’s why they have been losing young people more than Westchester and Northern NJ. They can’t be forced to though. It requires a changing of their mentality.

      • webster says:

        Yes, that’s what I’m getting at.
        The degree to which they fight these kinds of projects serves as a kind of litmus test of whether they’re ready to see significant development occur.

        I’m not holding my breath, but I’m curious to see if ANY amount of change has occurred, over the years.

        • SEAN says:

          I’m not sure either since LI seams to have a mindset of it’s own that’s out of step from everyone else in the region.

          • Nathanael says:

            Long Island is WAY out of step from everyone else in the region.

            If you actually look at the demographics, it’s more like South Jersey than anything closer. It’s a lot more right wing than upstate NY!

            • Bolwerk says:

              Peter King might be one of the most cretinous politicians in the USA. Never mind his pro-police state antics, he is someone who had actual, literal ties to a terrorist group.

    • mister says:

      Rebuilding the Central branch is a great idea. Would allow for a much better transit connection to Nassau Coliseum, provides service where it doesn’t presently exist, and expands capacity. On the other hand, I don’t know how much more expensive might be to reactivate the dormant ROW east of the Meadowbrook.

      Considering past performance of the current governor, rail is not going to be considered for this tunnel.

      • wise infrastructure says:

        what is the criterion for building a sound bridge or tunnel?
        (these questions are true for any proposed project discussed)

        *does one just look to see if tolls will cover debt service + maintenance
        *is the mta “entitled” to anything for lost throgs neck/ whitestone bridges tolls (which subsidize mass transit including the LIRR and metro north)
        *does one factor in increased taxes (real esate/sales/corp tax and personal income taxes) from the growth
        *what is the fair prediction of growth attributable to such a crossing and is that growth desirable
        *as this is a government for the people – does one put a value on the travel time saved (does one subtract it from the cost of the tolls charged)
        *what about the increased economic value to the population – profits/wages and the increased real estate values
        *what is the value to the economy of just the crossing construction
        *how far from the site of the crossing does one weigh these factors and how does distance away influence the weight given too the factors. (A crossing would either decrease traffic on the East River Bridges and in the Bronx or induced demand would allow it to be used be more local users who are presently “shut out”)

        Where is this coming from? – I am a cpa and a college professor

        • adirondacker12800 says:

          There probably wouldn’t be any decline at the other bridges. The local users would suck up the freed up capacity.

        • Tower18 says:

          A cross-sound bridge probably wouldn’t do much to dramatically affect existing traffic, except make it easier for Long Islanders to get to points north and east, which would have some effects, especially on holiday or getaway traffic days. The reason is that most truck traffic is already coming from the west and southwest (ie. Jersey) and so this would be a huge detour, up already-clogged I-95. They’ll mostly continue taking the Cross-Bronx and Throggs Neck, or coming through Manhattan as today.

          A crossing to Rye/Port Chester is more useful from a traffic perspective, but there’s nothing to connect to on the LI side.

  3. Brandon says:

    No more driving to the airport from Long Island*

    *Port Washington Line customers only.

    • Tim says:

      It’s not lying if you tell partial truths.

    • Eric says:

      You don’t have to drive to the airport anymore! You just have to drive to Willets Point and then lug your suitcase onto the Airtrain. Yay.

      • Kai B says:

        Is there even a P&R complex planned for this to be possible? If not you might as well park for free on one of the rather nice streets south of the airport and take a bus or cab across the GCP. This is what my friend does for short trips that don’t involve alternate side violations.

    • LLQBTT says:

      Ah, so cynical. I’ll travel from Oyster Bay, connect at either Mineola or Jamaica to Penn, the. grab a Port Wash train to the AirTrain and voila, a 50 minute car ride turns into a 2.5 hour odyssey. Now add a family of 4 with luggage and stir briskly.

  4. Larry Littlefield says:

    Perhaps he hasn’t thought this through.

    In the end not only will people leave NYC, but so will jobs. Basically, if you want to make NYC more like what it was when the suburbs were booming, why bother to connect to NYC to start with? And why not be up front before people make losing investments here?

    • AG says:

      The world is different now. The talent that companies want – increasingly want to be in cities.

      • Larry Littlefield says:

        Those may end being cities elsewhere.

        Generation Greed is wrecking many cities financially, based in many cases on done deals. And the damage keeps accumulating.

    • Bolwerk says:

      Jobs will always leave NYC, or at least Manhattan. NYC is a good place to start something creative, but a bad place to be headquartered if your niche isn’t something that especially needs direct access to financial services or some particular niche industry. Businesses that need an client pool and access to financing often find NYC is great, but then they grow and find themselves constrained by real estate and transportation needs. C’est la vie. That has been true from Wiley to Disney to Facebook.

      We can work with that. I don’t even think jobs going to the suburbs is an especially bad thing in and of itself. This is where treating the region as a single cohesive unit with regards to transportation actually matters. If people in NYC have fair access to jobs in Long Island, letting companies go to Long Island isn’t that problematic. It’s better than losing them to New Jersey (which still isn’t that bad), red states, or California, which are the alternatives when someone decides they want to leave.

      • Eric says:

        To be clear: Manhattan is accessible to more commuters than any other spot in the United States. As such, in theory it is the best place to locate a business, and always will be. The tradeoff is that office space is more expensive near Grand Central than in some suburb.

        • Bolwerk says:

          I don’t disagree, but the nature of New York economics and culture is for some people to always be leaving. Not really a good or bad thing, just how it goes.

          Again, I’d rather they go to Long Island than further afield.

          • SEAN says:

            Bolwerk,

            What no love for White Plains or Stamford?

            Sheesh!

            • Bolwerk says:

              They seem a lot more successful than Long Island in that regard.

              • Justin Samuels says:

                Major media companies, major banks, and major tech companies all maintain offices in NYC proper. They are willing to pay more for the convenience of NYC locations.

                Put it like this, the costs for NYC office space is not declining.

                The companies that moved their headquarters out of NYC with the exception of GE or has beens or DEAD. AT&T moved it’s headquarters to NJ, and they got bought out by SBC to become the new AT&T. IBM is a shell of it’s former self in Armonk, and ditto Xerox in CT. Kodak is dead.

                • Bolwerk says:

                  You’re missing the point. It’s not about moving the company out of NYC. It’s about where you locate positions. Many still-NYC companies put service and support staff in White Plains or Stamford, but not so much Hicksville.

                  (Hasn’t Kodak always been in Rochester? At least since the 1930s.)

                • AG says:

                  Actually – IBM just decided to headquarter the hoped for future of the company “The Watson Group” in NYC…
                  But I agree overall. Tech behemoth Google is eating up office space in NYC like Pac Man. It’s by far the second largest concentration of the company outside it’s Silicon Valley headquarters. Approaching 5,000 NYC employees.

  5. eo says:

    The third LIRR track is smart politics. It gives something to LI politicians so that they can get onboard. The MTA tried and gave up on pushing the third track by itself — it needs the heavyweight of the governor to sideline the NIMBYs. Internally the MTA never gave up on that track, but smart politics requires it to be silent on it until enough pols are on board so that the few people whose properties need to be acquired can be silenced (I am sure they will get fair value for their land anyway, our court system guarantees that).

    I wonder what exactly the proposal is. It probably leaves a short section of double track. I am ready to bet that 10 years after the current proposal is implemented, that section will also be triple tracked because then it will be “the inconvenient bottleneck”. This is once again the realpolitik — in pieces this triple tracking has much better chance of happening than as a one monolithic project.

    I know Ben and others feel that Cuomo is shortchanging the city in favour of the suburbs, but neither he nor anyone else in his place will be able to escape the politics of transportation funding — there are enough people who live in the suburbs or upstate and like it or not they want something too. I agree that upstate probably has way too many highways for its needs anyway, but that is beside the point. As long as there are enough people there and their votes count equally as the ones in the city, they will demand and get some money for upstate. I just hope the practice of spending the same amount upstate as in the NYC metro area gets abolished — most of the taxes come from the metro area and the upstate area is not really growing.

    • Eric F says:

      I’m not sure that the third track plan is smart L.I. politics. The communities along the main line are implacably opposed to it. The benefits for the full system and region are diffuse. This is a perfect example of a project susceptible to NIMBYs. It’s just a key project that should be done: i.e., good policy. The idea of truncating the line from 12 to 9 miles is pretty smart, if it gets the ball rolling. The partial expansion would not foreclose the full build further into the future, and you’d reduce NIMBY opposition to the rump of the communities along that last bit of track.

      Not sure about the MTA not being for the third track plan. I thought the MTA was very much in favor but gave up pressing the case against NIMBYs without a strong governor to push it through. I think if Spitzer wasn’t defrocked, the expansion would have been begun, as I recall he was identified as a strong advocate for it.

      • Larry Littlefield says:

        Look at these idiots, opposed.

        http://www.newsday.com/news/re.....1.11294249

        Long Island is for grifters, as far as the dominant political culture is concerned. They seen not have noticed their own decline. They think they can just milk NYC more to make up for it.

        • Eric F says:

          There is nothing new or unprecedentedly awful about owing the success of one’s community to a piece of infrastructure and simultaneously using one’s power to undermine any chance of that infrastructure’s expansion. There’s a reason that Amtrak can’t eliminate it’s notorious 4-tracked S curve in Elizabeth, NJ. And why has the County built two parking garages and a county college building right next to the tracks, seemingly sabotaging track re-alignment there…

          The problem is that we have developed so exquisite a legal and regulatory infrastructure that parochial interests like this can seemingly never, ever be overcome.

          • Larry Littlefield says:

            Generation Greed. Maybe if people start using the term, and making folks like this pay a price for what they have done IN GENERAL, they’ll feel the need to give the serfs something.

    • Larry Littlefield says:

      The politics are not parity. The politics are city residents, and young people, get less.

      The only people that matter in NYC are seniors (for now, until most are minorities), the one percent, and older and retired public employee union members, many of whom live in the suburbs.

  6. Eric F says:

    I’m also skeptical regarding which of these, if any, gets over the finish line. But these projects are all long-overdue and good infrastructure hygiene.

    The Tap needs to be replaced. Setting aside the absurdity of there being no Hudson crossing between the GWB and the Tap, the Tap is completely inadequate and in dire need of rebuild.

    Penn needs an overhaul. Moving Amtrak across 8th avenue seems consistent with ultimate expansion of trackage and tunnels because it allows for greater space in the existing footprint for the commuter lines.

    LGA needs an overhaul. I’m not much of a fan of the rail plan, except as a disguised space-opening satellite park and ride idea, but the central terminal rebuild is long overdue.

    Cross Sound tunnel. I could go on for 100 pages about this. Setting aside the interests of LI, if you are NYC-centric, this project should be on your wish list. It vacuums up millions of LI originating and LI bound vehicle trips off Queens and Bronx roads. I cannot imagine a greater environmental and quality of life home run for vast swaths of NYC than such a tunnel. It simply makes trips shorter and more direct and gets them out of the five boroughs. If the fact that it potentially transforms the Long Island economy isn’t enough for you, think of the benefits to NYC.

    • BoerumBum says:

      Eric – My personal outlook on LI is “Avoid if at all possible” but I agree that giving LI a direct connection with Connecticut is in the best interests of NYCers, as it helps keep away unnecessary traffic away from us.

      Is a cross-sound tunnel the flavor of the year for that connection? I had thought a cross-sound bridge was preferable… What are preferred crossing locations? Are your thoughts for a mixed road/rail crossing, or auto-only?

      • Eric F says:

        Over the years there have been many iterations of the cross sound proposal. Moses wanted to build three bridges, if I recall correctly, including one way out on the north fork, diverting NE-LI traffic off of most of Connecticut!

        The upshot: bridges are cheaper than tunnels. They are also prettier. They also create artificial reefs for sea life. However, bridges require way more land condemnation than tunnels. The tunnel method is strictly NIMBY avoidance.

        The last proposal to gain even modest traction was a pre-financial crisis private proposal to connect via 3×3 lane tunnel Rye with Port Jeff. Connection I-287/95 to Rte 135/LIE. The renderings showed two three lane tunnels with outside 12 foot shoulders!

        It sounded great to me. I didn’t love keeping the whole route within NY state, but doing so avoids having to get the cooperation of Connecticut, which is an even worse House of “No” than NY. Putting the north terminus in Rye allows the use of the Tap instead of the GWB for LI-related trips heading northwest.

        As a train enthusiast, I thought that one minor side benefit of the Rye alignment is that it would at least open the possibility of a link the NE corridor without heading to NYC. I.e., Amtrak could have a central bus connector to Stamford using the tunnel to allow continuation by train to Boston. Or, alternatively, L.I. people could park and ride to Boston via a quickish hop to Stamford or New Rochelle. Without a 2 hour out and back to NYC in the middle.

        • John says:

          Sorry to nitpick, but was it really Rye to Port Jeff? Port Jeff is way too far east for that tunnel to connect to 135.

          • Eric F says:

            You’re right! I meant Oyster Bay (really Cold Spring Harbor). I was thinking Port Jeff because of the ferry from there. Oyster Bay is still way far east, but the idea is that a circuitous tunnel still cuts trips times by a huge margin and avoids taking too much land above ground.

    • The benefits to a cross-Sound tunnel include eliminating through traffic from NYC roads, providing better freight connections to Long Island, and, if built and planned right, streamlining rail. I don’t see this happening for cost reasons, and I think we should all be skeptical of plans to expand road mileage without corresponding commitments to transit (as has played out with the New Tappan Zee Bridge process). My brusque dismissal of the tunnel comes from concerns over costs and strident NIMBY LI opposition. Cuomo won’t burn political capital on it even if it sounds like a good idea at a press conference.

      • Eric F says:

        A tunnel to Rye would allow for the first time businesses and residents of Long Island to access the outside market without having to go through NYC. The effects of this access are hard to fully anticipate, but they could be profoundly positive. One minor example: the beaches of L.I. now become much more accessible to shore starved residents of Westchester/Rockland and Connecticut. NYC access to northern communities becomes easier without the added congestion of circuitiously-routed Long Islanders.

        The costs will be huge, but can be at least partially toll financed. You’d have to assume a build of 5 years or more so a billion plus per year over the construction time-frame, seems achievable. I’d throw in a pot of money for “mitigation” to grease local communities. Maybe part of future toll money could be sluiced into Oyster Bay and Rye? The last proposal envisioned parks built atop the tunnel approaches.

        Transit advocates should think about why they have a reflexive opposition to roads and whether that opposition is appropriate here. There is clearly a longer term back to the city movement. I think that movement continues whether or not roads and connectivity are expanded. I don’t see 20 somethings foregoing Williamsburg because they can suddenly navigate a relatively stress free car trip from White Plains to Garden City. There should be adequate confidence in the desirability of the city to believe that it can withstand a project of regional importance that actually gets a ton of traffic to bypass the city entirely.

      • rewenzo says:

        If we had to build a 6-7 mile tunnel, would this be the one to build first? Would this be cheaper than a Staten Island-Manhattan connection? Would it be more impactful?

        • Eric F says:

          Try something closer to 20 miles! And yes, way more impactful. Any imagined tunnel from S.I. to Manhattan would not carry freight.

          • Larry Littlefield says:

            For anyone or any truck going to most of the U.S., the fastest route would still be through New York City. If the complaint is that NYC is congested, it is less congested than I-95 in Connecticut and I-287 in Westchester.

            On the other hand, NYC is way out of the way for a trip from eastern Suffolk County to eastern New England. If Cuomo wants to propose something that NIBMYs are going to block anyway, he could propose extending the LIE or Orient Point, perhaps as a two-lane (one in each direction) limited access highway with few if any additional exits and an occasional passing lane.

            At Orient Point the state could fund two new ferry terminals for competing operators, and some upgrades for the existing operator, to avoid monopoly pricing and promote competition.

            Yes it would have to be Orient Point. Ferries are slow, and only work if the distance covered is short as it would be there.

            • Eric F says:

              “For anyone or any truck going to most of the U.S., the fastest route would still be through New York City.”

              The link would move traffic to/from: New England, Westchester/Rockland Thruway (Albany/Montreal). If I’m trucking in from the midwest I’m also using it. I’m staying north, taking the Tap and shooting down via 287, totally avoiding NYC. A link via Rye is going to be much more useful than what you imply. This link gets you from Mahwah to Syosett in under an hour. You would be totally routing traffic around NYC to use it.

              Ferries are slow-slow-slow. You have to load your vehicle on and off more or less single file and adhere to a schedule, the ferry itself will move at way below highway speeds. We have ferries between LI and the north coast of the Sound now. They are next to useless.

              • Nathanael says:

                Wrong.

                Traffic to the rest of the world west of New York City? Still goes through New York City. A Long Island Sound tunnel does absolutely nothing for the problem of crossing the East River and the Hudson River. NOTHING.

            • adirondacker12800 says:

              I287 is congested because traffic is avoiding New York City. It’s not people driving from Nyack to Port Chester.

              • SEAN says:

                Bullshit! There are thousands who travel from points between Suffern & Port Chester daily. There’s a 9-square mile city in the middle called White Plains – you must have herd of it.

                • adirondacker12800 says:

                  and hundreds of thousands that cross the bridge. They aren’t all residents of Rockland and Westchester. Especially the trucks. That aren’t going through Manhattan.

          • Alon Levy says:

            Not freight, but many tens of thousands of commuters on Day One.

        • Bolwerk says:

          It would be more impactful for commuters.

          But if you think NYC’s money should be spent in NYC, you think NYC is the center of the universe and your opinion is automatically moot.

      • LLQBTT says:

        The tunnel could further drain MTA revenue by diverting traffic away from the Whitestone and Throgs Neck bridges.

        • Eric F says:

          It would also put the Port Jeff ferry out of business. None of those are reasons to not build the link. A key factor in its favor would be to remove traffic from the current sound crossings. It’s possible additional traffic could pop up to use those crossings. If trips between the Bronx and Queens became more reliable, it could enhance Bronx-Queens commerce a bit.

        • lawhawk says:

          Except with induced demand, you’d probably see no reduction in usage of the MTA bridge and tunnels, while traffic increases across the LI Sound facility. It might redirect some traffic away from the Whitestone or Throgs Neck, but economic benefits to region might induce more cars/trucks to get to/from the Island anyways.

          • Eric F says:

            Good point, with that “induced demand” problem we shouldn’t add that track to the LIRR. Or really anything, because the “induced demand” will suck up the new capacity. Someone should have pointed that out when they were deciding whether to build the Brooklyn Bridge.

            It sounds like your last argument is that a cross sound link would take away detouring traffic, thereby allowing freed capacity to be used to generate additional intra-city commerce. And this is your argument AGAINST the plan…

            • Alex says:

              Rail can soak up increased demand much better than roads because it takes up vastly less space per traveler while consuming far less energy.

          • Bolwerk says:

            The big problem with the tunnel everyone is missing is its impact on Long Island’s traffic. Long Island traffic is already jammed both ways, and the jams are largely locally generated. They aren’t about people going to NYC, which is trending down. Long Island’s traffic is about people living, working, and sustaining their existences on Long Island. Adding a tunnel to Long Island will almost certainly add traffic to Long Island, but won’t get rid of any.

            It’s quite possible that induced demand will slow down traffic on all crossings, which would counter-intuitively make them look “busier.” More demand can literally reduce your throughput.

            • Eric F says:

              “Adding a tunnel to Long Island will almost certainly add traffic to Long Island, but won’t get rid of any.”

              Will it be a one way tunnel?

              • Bolwerk says:

                Traffic is added to LI roads if there is an origin or destination in Long Island. Trips that already originate and end in Long Island will have to contend with that.

                • Eric F says:

                  Whew, I was going to say that I’d only use it in a Zip Car if that were the case.

                  So in your view the long island people generally won’t use the tunnel (though they do seem to use the heck out of the Throgs Neck and Whitestone), but other people will come into long island and use up the roads, which are already jammed. The jammed state of the long island roads won’t deter these outsiders at all. Also, the roads in Long Island are jammed and that’s the way they have to be, until Long Islanders come to their senses, tear down their houses, move into apartments and only move around via train.

                  • Bolwerk says:

                    What the hell? Do you need to resort to being a pugnacious turd every time you don’t like something? If you have a problem with something I said, explain it.

                    I seriously can’t even tell for sure what you’re objecting to, but if it’s the phrase “induced demand,” then sorry the universe does not work how you would like it to. It’s a reality of highway construction. It can be coped with, and worked around, but you can’t pretend it away.

      • Alex says:

        Ben I’m surprised that you buy into the “reduced traffic” argument. Such a tunnel would bring some truck traffic away from the Whitestone and Throgs Neck bridges, but any space that opens up would quickly be filled in with car traffic courtesy of induced demand. The tunnel would also produce a lot of new trips itself. We’ve seen it time and again. If you build a new highway in a heavily populated areas, it simply fills up with new traffic rather than actually eliminating any of the old.

        You’re dead on about NIMBY opposition. And as much as obstructionist NIMBYism is a problem in the region, can you really blame residents for opposing what would likely need to be a new expressway running up to the North Shore to reach the tunnel?

        • Eric F says:

          “The tunnel would also produce a lot of new trips itself.”

          What would the “trips” be? People meeting, working, engaging in recreation? Aren’t those good things? I might call it “life”. People would orient social trips and commerce in a more efficient and improved matter with a new access route. Why is that bad?

          • Alex says:

            Because they’re auto trips which means more congestion and more pollution. If we’re going to spend billions of dollars on transportation infrastructure, it should be more efficient, less polluting, less sprawl-generating, and less car-dependent.

            • Eric F says:

              The pollution problem is correcting itself so it should be of diminishing importance to you. Cars these days barely pollute in the electric car future the government is mandating, they won’t pollute at all. The air quality in the NYC area is already vastly better than what it was just a couple of decades ago. Coupling the efficient car market with de-industrialization has essentially eliminated pollution as an actual health issue.

              • Alex says:

                That’s nonsense. It will take decades to filter out older vehicles that continue to pollute. And we should aim to continue improving our air quality, not using progress as an excuse to create more pollution.

                And even if every car magically became electric tomorrow, you’d still have terrible traffic. You’d still have sprawl. And you’d still have better, more worthy transit projects to put the money towards. It is insane for NYS to entertain the idea of a brand new car tunnel while the Second Ave Subway languishes and other badly needed transit projects go unfunded.

                • Bolwerk says:

                  Indirect impacts of car culture are still pretty damaging, but direct pollution attributable to car tailpipes is now minor and getting more minor.

                • adirondacker12800 says:

                  Road crossings can and are tolled enough to pay for themselves. It’s how the MTA gets money from the bridges and tunnels and the Port Authority can come up with 3 billion dollars for ARC or a billion for expanding the bus terminal.

          • SEAN says:

            This nonsense regarding the cross sound tunnel needs to stop. I-287 is no longer able to handle the volume of traffic that it sees on a daily basis & you want to add even more cars & trucks from LI? In addition, I need to ask – can trucks travel on the seaford Oyster Bay Expressway? If the answer is no, then local LI roads will see a lot more truck traffic getting to & from access points.

            • Eric F says:

              It may be that the cross county expressway will need another lane. Seems eminently doable. The sound link will intercept traffic from most of Westchester, however, and thus remove congestion from 95. Still a big win for Westchester. The expanded Tap should be coupled with additional capacity on the cross county anyway.

            • adirondacker12800 says:

              I’m not going to check every last one. Generally things called “parkway” are passenger cars only. Expressways carry everything.

              • SEAN says:

                The Cross County Parkway is too far south & doesn’t allow trucks. Besides it is as wide as it ever will be.

                • adirondacker12800 says:

                  Last time I looked Seaford and Oyster Bay are in Nassau County and the Cross Westchester Parkway wasn’t.

              • stephen says:

                At least here in the NYC area, you are correct about parkways and expressways. There’s a sign at the start of the Cross Bronx Expressway that explains it to folks as they come off the GWB.

      • Nathanael says:

        There are no benefits for NYC to a cross-sound car tunnel. It would not remove any through traffic from NYC.

        • Eric F says:

          People coming up from the midatlantic use the Tap NOW, under current conditions, to route around NYC. You should talk to people who drive. People are desperate to get themselves out of the NYC road network for non-NYC trips.

          • Nathanael says:

            So, you’re suggesting that people coming from the Mid-Atlantic to Long Island are going to use the Tappan Zee bridge and this new tunnel, adding *at least an hour* and probably two or three hours to their trip, while getting caught in Connecticut suburban traffic?

            No way. They’ll go through Staten Island over the Verrazano Narrows just like they do now.

            Meanwhile, people from the Mid-Atlantic heading to New England have no reason to go through Long Island at all… but if they do, they still have to go across the Verrazano Narrows.

            • adirondacker12800 says:

              All of New England is on the east side of the Tappan Zee.
              If I’m far enough west on I-80 and I want to get to New England, I’d take I-84. I-80 closer in or I-78 I’d use I-287. To get to the Tappan Zee. If I’m coming up from Southern New Jersey or points south or Philadelphia I change to the Garden State Parkway in Woodbridge and take that up to I-87/I-287 to get to the Tappan Zee.

      • Duke says:

        As much as people like to foam over it, rail across the Tappan Zee is not and never was a practical idea due to the lack of sufficient alignment on the Rockland side. Specifically, the grade on the Thruway is too steep for rail, in order to get the train anywhere past the bridge you’d have to spend a lot of money on a tunnel to get it under/up the Palisades. And even once you’ve done that, the remaining Thruway corridor STILL doesn’t have sufficient geometry to support heavy rail without a massive overhaul.

        Pick your flavor of additional tunnel upgrade to get Port Jervis and Pascack Valley trains into Penn Station, it will be cheaper than rail over the Tappan Zee.

        As for a crossing between Oyster Bay and Rye, it makes sense as a bridge. A tunnel is pointless extra expense for the sake of NIMBY appeasement. But the idea does have merit not only for freight purposes and for allowing traffic from LI to bypass the city, but also for homeland security implications – if LI ever needs to be evacuated, as things stand it’s pretty much impossible. If something happens that makes travel through NYC impossible, everyone in LI is screwed by proxy since they can’t get out and supplies can’t get in.

        As for transit on the corridor, I could see some sort of circumfrential Rockland-Westchester-Nassau express bus service being viable. Trains? Ehh, not without some serious TOD which is unlikely to happen adjacent to a freeway.

        But this is all academic because nothing will actualy be built. Too much influential old money on both shores of LI Sound for it to be politically viable. Cuomo is just making noise for the sake of looking like he’s doing something. He wants money for a feasibility study, not for putting any shovels in the ground. And said study may well determine the project to be infeasible.
        One particular non-NIMBY obstacle is the existence of Oyster Bay National Wildlife Refuge. A crossing in that area would likely to be unable to avoid disturbing such, and that’s a whole hornet’s nest unto itself. Read: any environmental group suing to stop construction will win.

        • Bolwerk says:

          Rail over the TZB may not be the grandest idea, but it’s preferable to what the real foamers always demand: moar, moar, moar private cars. It may be be expensive to build ~15 miles of rail line to get to Suffern, but at an insane price it ought to be around $200M/mile from the western bridge landing to Suffern. That pretty much means building a full-length el from the bridge to Suffern, which means pointless overbuilding.

          Less the bridge portion, they wanted to spend close to $800M/mile or $900/mile on a TZB rail link to the PJ line. It seems to me the Pataki administration snowed it, and then the Paterson or Cuomo people took the old estimates, dusted them off, and adjusted for inflation and then some.

          • adirondacker12800 says:

            Most people in Rockland County work in Rockland County. They commute to Manhattan or they commute to Manhattan. A few of them commute to Bergen county and around the same amount commute to Westchester. That includes people who don’t work anywhere near a train station. Or have jobs that aren’t 9-5 ish. Who would drive even if the train went to where they worked. Which it wouldn’t.

  7. SEAN says:

    One other issue not mentioned here relates to the fact that unlike Westchester, CT & NJ most of the train towns on LI don’t have walkable downtowns. There are some – Great Neck, Manhasset, Port Washington, Minneola & Garden City that come to mind. However they’re in short supply. This reminds me of something I read in the NYT a few years ago… Long Islanders were asked to name their favorite downtown & most said the mall.

    • Tower18 says:

      Some of the South Shore towns have relatively decent town centers, but they tend to be cut in half by Sunrise Hwy, or acres of surface parking.

  8. LLQBTT says:

    Prince Cuomo is slamming Billy de B at every turn. Not only that, but the Prince is not responsible for the subways, lest anyone forget.

    • Eric F says:

      Billy B has his own $50 billion budget. He can build subways all day if he so chose. Instead he’s decided to fight poverty by giving his employees raises. Ideally, all 8 million NYers can get jobs with the city, completely eliminating city poverty and guaranteeing re-election percentages that would make Enver Hoxha proud.

      • AG says:

        Yup – and then the budget will crash when the inevitable recession comes. We’ve seen this nightmare before. Btw – I believe the NYC budget is over 70 billion now.

      • Bolwerk says:

        “His own”? Really? He doesn’t have to contend with pesky details like what the City Council passes, all the decisions prior administrations signed into law, the matter of who is actually in charge of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and its subsidiaries, or Albany’s top-down mandates?

        • Eric F says:

          There is a concept of “being beaten with a feather”. Yes, the city council will reluctantly go along with giving raises to their supporters.

          • Bolwerk says:

            I think the raises are an almost irrelevant distraction. The real question should be, what are (and should) we be getting from city employees? Wages going up is pretty expected.

  9. Rob says:

    That NY has been unable to add a track to a ~150 year preexisting double track main line thru suburbs perfectly epitomizes the area’s inablity to get anything useful done.

    And so true that “confusing signs and underwhelming dining options” do not warrant spending a few billion on a new [and less convenient] station.

  10. lawhawk says:

    It’s all about voters and constituencies. Cuomo figures he’s gotten the urban vote sewn up, so he figures he’ll pander to the LI and Westchester suburban voters, who might be tempted to pick someone other than Cuomo.

    Of course, the half-baked plans Cuomo comes up with have little in connection with actual projects that are sorely needed or wanted by their very constituents.

    There’s nothing about how Cuomo would force the LIRR to adopt standardized policies with the MNRR, even though both are part of the MTA. Each acts as their own fiefdom with separate rules, and the LIRR patronage mill still grinds on. ESA continues to be a money dump with no end in sight. I get the need to expand rail access on Long Island, but it has to be done in a rational manner, and it just seems that Cuomo picks and chooses projects based on whims, not on what is actually needed or on which routings/projects would accomplish the goals for the least cost or least inconvenience (such as the LGA-rail project).

    Improving airports is a worthy goal, but as Ben points out, Cuomo seems more interested in getting people in and out of the state than he is in expediting projects that would improve lives of commuters here in state. That means more focus on mass transit and less on road projects.

    • Eric F says:

      I don’t get the “half baked” point. Every one of the proposals outlined above has been on planners’ radar for generations. If he wanted to cut a canal through Suffolk County to build a cruise port in Farmingdale, I’d call that half baked. These ideas are not half baked, whether or not the actual details seem relatively appealing.

      • mister says:

        The LGA airtrain proposal is half-baked.
        The New Tappan Zee bridge, with no real mass transit component is half-baked.
        Proposing any of these projects, with no source of funding identified, is half-baked.

  11. Will says:

    Why don’t Westchester County and the 5 boroughs just succeed from this corrupt state that we call New York. Lets keep our tax money here downstate. We do have the largest arm force in the US besides our National Armed forces. We could have built the Tran-Hudson tunnels, phase 2 of a cut and cover tunnel to 125 street would have been built,Triboro light rail, third track LIRR, real BRT with high platforms and separated lanes, congestion pricing that Ravitch introduce in 2010, MTA would be under control of downstate interest instead of Cuomo lackeys or future governors “dreams”.

  12. JJJJ says:

    I dont understand the complaint.

    Once your train pulls into Penn, youre going to take a black car to your destination, who cares about the subway?

  13. Will says:

    The Chinese government would have these projects years ago and ESA would have been finishing up and opening this year

  14. Bolwerk says:

    The headline says it all. These fuckers used to argue that the city needs roads to survive in a world of increasing suburbanization. Most amusingly, the 1970s and ’80s, with the crack epiodemic and the biggest white flight wave in history, would have been the absolutely perfect time to invest in rapid transit because things were rock bottom cheap. Now the stagnating suburbs need roads to modernize. Always roads, roads, roads. Even Cuomo’s rail proposals ultimately go back to raods, because they are about letting suburbanites park to avoid congested…roads.

    However, it’s not like de Blasio demands meaningfully better transit for NYC either, which allows Cuomo to run roughshod over us. Since LI Republikans obviously aren’t interested in transit improvements, wouldn’t it be a great time for Bill to come out and point to some transit improvements NYC could use? I bet he doesn’t even know himself.

    • Eric F says:

      A cross sound tunnel has benefits for NYC but it’s not “about” NYC. Not everything is about NYC, even though it is the center of the universe and people either live there or live lives of quiet desperation wishing they did. The Erie Canal was also not “about” NYC even though it had benefits to NYC. It’s actually possible that the governor is looking at making a bunch of key improvements, some of which are geared internally to NYC and some that are not.

      • Bolwerk says:

        Without radical changes to how roads work and are financed, a cross-sound tunnel benefits NYC not at all and Long Island even less. The third track for the LIRR might actually benefit LI.

        But even if you disagree, local pols are generally opposing both projects.

        Not everything is about NYC, even though it is the center of the universe and people either live there or live lives of quiet desperation wishing they did.

        WTF is this non-sequitur tantrum is about? Some narcissistic projection of suburban self-importance onto other people? Nobody said anything remotely related to New York City being the center of the universe except you.

        So sorry we have needs, but we have the same right to advocate for our own interests that you do. So why would you throw a fit about someone talking about NYC’s needs, and the ineptitude of an NYC mayor, on an NYC-oriented blog? Just why do we deserve less than everyone else? No charitable way to say this: to seriously argue that NYC gets infrastructure investment anywhere near in proportion to the rest of the state requires you to be, well, ignorant and/or stupid.

        • Nathanael says:

          A cross-sound car tunnel is idiotic. Superexpensive and serves approximately nobody: Long Island to Connecticut is not a market deserving of multibillions of dollars. It has no long-distance function.

          The freight rail tunnel under NY Harbor, on the other hand, should have been done *approximately* 100 years ago when the Port Authority was first asked to do it.

          • Bolwerk says:

            I don’t even care about the tunnel that much. It will probably just die under the weight of its own costs or because NIMBYs kill it.

            It’s just perplexing how allergic to reality its proponents seem to be. It will cut traffic! Except no crossing in the region has ever done that. It will bring access to jobs in Connecticut! Except, there are more jobs to access by bolstering access to job markets east.

          • adirondacker12800 says:

            Nice round numbers there are three million people in Nassau and Suffolk. And ten million in Connectcut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island.
            Unless you want to go into Manhattan you have to pay a toll. Makes a higher toll across the Sound less painful.
            Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel is a buck a mile. Western Long Island Sound doesn’t have any naval bases so it could be all bridge. Buck and a quarter a mile for 12 miles would be 15. Worth it to save the time and to stay out of the traffic in Queens and the Bronx.

            • Nathanael says:

              It’s still navigable waterway and has some very tall ship traffic. They’d have to put in a tunnel or an *extremely* high bridge.

              And frankly, is Long Island to Connecticut — or even to Boston — really a commuter pattern? I seriously doubt it. It would take a long time to develop a market.

              • wise infrastructure says:

                “is Long Island to Connecticut — or even to Boston — really a commuter pattern?”

                in colonial times New England and Long Island were better integrated before land transportation overtook water transportation

                but now they are not integrated and could not be given the required driving distances due to the lack of a LI Sound Crossing.

                If there will be a reliable easy crossing (trains and/or vehicular crossing) Long Island, New Haven, Hartford and maybe be Springfield Mass will become economically connected with much commuting.

                Yes NYC hospitals will loose out to Yale etc, New Englanders will flock to Long Island Beaches and Bradley Airport will get some of the traffic now using JFK.

              • adirondacker12800 says:

                Only in the middle and no higher than the Whitestone or Throggs Neck.

  15. Alex says:

    Local residents in Westchester, Rockland, and Orange counties were more miffed at the lack of rail on the new Tappan Zee Bridge than upstate residents. I think upstaters are just miffed in general at anything downstate gets, regardless of tax base and population.

    • Eric F says:

      There was no practical way to add rail to the new Tap. They studied it and you are looking at tripling the cost. As it is, Cuomo scaled back the Tap project to move it forward. The bare minimum of work is being done outside the footprint of the span itself.

      Gateway with a connecting Secaucus loop is the future access mode for Rockland train users.

      • Bolwerk says:

        s/studied/snowed

        I read that report. The costs for adding rail in those studies were so absurdly high that it’s unlikely they weren’t deliberately cooked up for the very purpose of preventing rail because Cuomo or some beancounter(s) working for the state don’t like rail. They literally claimed it would cost $20B or so to bring rail from the Hudson Line to Suffern, over $1 billion/mile.

        IIRC, they made at least one pretty elementary error with their depreciation assumptions.

        • Eric F says:

          A lot of bean counters across a lot of administrations produced those estimates.

          • SEAN says:

            That doesn’t mean they were right.

            • Eric F says:

              As is the case with ARC, it’s the transit projects not built that — amazingly — would be cheap, on time and on budget. Mysteriously, the ones that actually get built are expensive, late and grossly over budget.

              • Nathanael says:

                The Tappan Zee rail cost numbers were bullshit. Complete, utter, and obvious bullshit. I’ve read studies before, and I can spot a case of sandbagging.

  16. wise infrastructure says:

    One has to wonder if a Chunnel type twin tube rail tunnel to New Haven would serve the needs best. The goal is to get the most out of the least.

    Such a chunnel would allow:

    -a real alternate to the ct twists for 2+ HSR trains per hour to New England/Boston from NY

    -would provide reliable fast constant car/truck capacity without ventilation needs

    -would provide direct freight between Long Island and New England and beyond

    -would allow Long Island to serve both as a suburb as of New Haven and Hartford as well as NY with train routes/connections from Long Island stopping at both cities.

    -could be a good first incremental step before other crossing are built

    In short such a tunnel could be at near full use almost immediately (including late night freight) ensuring that it is economically viable)

    Consider having a high speed rail line built over the LIE thus eliminating the need for LIRR 3rd tracking while providing much better use. Such a line would join the main line west of Queens Blvd.

    ps – yes the ferries are nice but are slow, weather problematic and of limited capacity requiring connections on both ends while with a tunnel one could drive to a train station on long island then disembark from a train in hartford or New Haven. New Englanders beach oers/partyers could take trains to the established stations that now serve the NY Fire Island and Hampton crowds.

    • Nathanael says:

      Suburban Long Island to Suburban New England is simply not a significant enough market to deserve multi-billion-dollar underwater tunnels or bridges.

      Geez, if you want to do something useful, build the Cross Harbor Freight tunnel and allow freight to get from New Jersey to Connecticut by rail, which it currently can’t.

      • mister says:

        Well it can, the same way it presently reaches Brooklyn/Queens.

        Are you proposing that the Cross Harbor Tunnel allow through routing of freight rail over the Hell Gate Bridge? I’ve thought about such a proposal before.

        • adirondacker12800 says:

          It’s one of the main reasons to do. It would get trucks off the George Washington Bridge, the Cross Bronx Expressway, the New England Thruway and the Connecticut Turnpike. It would get trucks off the Tappan Zee. It might even get trucks off I-84. It’s one of the things people in Queens scream about. All those nasty trains going through.

          • mister says:

            I agree with you, but that is never mentioned as one of the benefits. Usually, it is proposed that trains use the Cross Harbor Tunnel only as a way to serve Brooklyn/Queens and LI freight traffic.

            • Nathanael says:

              I’m not sure why they’ve been advertising it otherwise, but yes, the Cross Harbor Tunnel is *specifically* to allow freight rail to run from New Jersey directly to Connecticut and Rhode Island via the Hell Gate, as well as to Long Island.

              All the studies I’ve read about the Cross Harbor Freight Tunnel prominently mentioned the New England market. There’s an unreasonably low market share for freight rail in Connecticut and Rhode Island specifically because of the inability to get trains from New Jersey (or points south of there) in a reasonable fashion. Once you get north into Massachusetts, the rail route via Albany is competitive, but in Connecticut and Rhode Island, it isn’t.

  17. wise infrastructure says:

    ” I need to ask – can trucks travel on the seaford Oyster Bay Expressway? If the answer is no, then local LI roads will see a lot more truck traffic getting to & from access points.”

    answer

    yes the seaford oyster bay is an expressway and as all expressways in this area is open to trucks and was built with being a continuation of I-287 in mind.

    Creative tolling should try to divert traffic along the less congested 684-84 (newburgh becon corridor)from I-287

    and yes i advocate for rail to be part of the solution to really deal with the congestion while still helping mobility of goods and people in a hopefully growing economy and population.

  18. mister says:

    As with all of these proposals, where is the money coming from? Cuomo has already promised billions to MTA, with no source, he is now proposing billions in additional projects that weren’t even on the table. On top of this, with the many project proposals on the table that have no funding or champion (Triboro RX, The cross-harbor rail tunnel, the full SAS) Cuomo puts his weight behind ones that seek to further development in an area on the decline, while ignoring the transportation needs of the 5 boroughs. Disappointing, but not surprising.

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