The 7 line’s new station at Hudson Yards, replete with massive mezzanine, finally opened on Sunday. (Photo by Benjamin Kabak)

For the first time since the last 1980s, the MTA yesterday opened a new station. The long-awaited 7 line extension from Times Square to Hudson Yards at 34th St. made its inaugural ride shortly after 1 p.m., but for a few hours during a bright blue morning, as politicians commemorated the day, the debate over the MTA’s future took centerstage. In the end, just about everything about Sunday’s opening ceremony for the 7 line extension was weird.

For now with infrastructure projects, New York is stuck in a weird place. Yesterday’s opening celebration was much ado about one new subway stop, something that would barely register a blip in cities around the world with developed transit networks, and yet, Sunday seemed like a release. Twenty-one months after then-Mayor Bloomberg held a pre-opening ribbon-cutting to slap himself on the back, the MTA finally let the public loose on its latest station, and except for a street-level elevator outage, with that new train station smell permeating the air, amidst a sunny day, everything seemed to run smoothly.

The 7 line’s new station will never look so clean. (Photo by Benjamin Kabak)

An R188 7 train, jammed with rail fans and locals, left Hudson Yards at 1:06 p.m. en route to Queens, and that was that. But underneath the clear skies and before the afternoon’s rain came, tensioned simmered. MTA CEO Tom Prendergast challenged Mayor Bill de Blasio, sitting a few feet away, to find $2.3 billion for the MTA’s capital plan over the next five years while de Blasio pushed back forcefully. Meanwhile, Senator Chuck Schumer and Rep. Jerry Nadler, both citing Mayor Bloomberg’s push to see the 7 line extended to the West Side, urged the city to pay up, and Schumer echoed a Sunday Dan Doctoroff Daily News column in calling for a station at 41st St. and 10th Ave. When their turns came, Albany pols seemed to want some resolution to the MTA’s capital debate, and TWU President John Samuelsen also used his turn at the mic to lay into the city’s lack of capital contributions. Governor Andrew Cuomo, meanwhile, was nowhere to be found. It wasn’t, after all, his party.

After the pols spoke, Dr. Michael Horodniceanu, head of the MTA’s capital construction unit, spoke on the design of the station. At one point, he mentioned how inclined elevators were first installed by Americans as part of the Eiffel Tower in the late 19th Century. It was an odd parallel to draw considering how the inclined elevators were one of the reasons why the station opened nearly two years late, and only City Council Member Corey Johnson noted that “it took long enough” to finally open the new stop.

The canopied entrance sits amidst a new park at 34th St. and 11th Ave. (Photo by Benjamin Kabak)

I’ll take a look later this week at the evolving soap opera behind the capital campaign, But now, let’s journey underground into this vast, expensive new station. It’s very nice, and it’s very large. The inclined elevators are there for ADA compliance, and they’re so slow that the escalators are always a better option. The mezzanine reminds me of the giant, empty spaces that mark the IND stops in Brooklyn and Queens. There will never be enough people at the station to fill all the space, and as now, there’s no clear indication that the mezzanine will be anything more than just for show. The lack of columns leads to open views, and the lack of Transit Wireless service leads to more questions regarding cooperation among MTA contractors. (Reliable sources tell me the general contractor at Hudson Yards wasn’t keen to give Transit Wireless early access to the station. So cell and wifi service won’t be available for a few months.) All in all, though, it’s a subway stop. Take that for what you will.

Ultimately, this project will be known for what New York City got for its money. It’s a needed subway extension to an area of Manhattan previously inaccessible, but it cost $2.42 billion to get there. Sunday featured a lot of self-congratulatory speeches without a nod to the excessive costs or any indication that the MTA will have to rein in these price tags if it wants to realistically expand the subway system. In other countries, the opening of a new subway line is expected and a regular happening. In New York, it’s a monumental and costly undertaking that takes seven years to build 1.5 miles of truck and one subway station. Take that too for what you will.

Now, after months of waiting, the bulk of this saga is behind us, and New York City’s subway today has 469 stops, a temporary number on the way to at least 472. It was a beautiful day for a subway ride; the band played on; the art looks great; and there were cookies.

After the jump, a slideshow of photos from the day. These are from my Flickr album, and I’ve also posted a few to my Instagram account. Read More→

Categories : 7 Line Extension
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MTA workers repair the bench that led to the G train derailment. (Photo: MTA New York City Transit / Marc A. Hermann)

G train derailment leads to sniping over MTA funding

Following Thursday’s G train derailment, the MTA restored full service to the line by mid-afternoon on Friday, and then the fighting began. I’ll have much more on this next week, but in announcing restored service, MTA CEO and Chair Tom Prendergast let loose on the city and Mayor de Blasio for their lack of support for MTA financing.

The G, Prendergast noted, derailed when it came into contact with a deteriorated section of bench wall. The incident, by the way, was around 300 feet away from where Thursday’s earlier rail condition had occurred. Prendergast viewed this as a clear sign that support for the MTA’s maintenance is lagging, and he urged action. “I am tired of writing letters to City officials that result only in vague calls for more conversations,” he said. “The sooner we can end these games and get to work on rebuilding our transit network, the better we can serve the 8.5 million customers who rely on the MTA every day.”

Earlier in the day, TWU President John Samuelsen had issued a similar statement asking the city to pay more. Clearly, Gov. Cuomo had sent his allies to put pressure on New York City. Whether NYC should fund more of a state agency’s capital plan has become a hotly contested debate of late. More, as I mentioned, next week.

7 line opens Sunday

Until late last night, the MTA’s website had barely any mention of the opening of the 7 line extension stop at 34th Street, and it seemed weird. They should be plastering everything they own with this news, but they could be wary about drawing too much attention to the 21-month delay. Still, the 7 line is opening at 1 p.m. Sunday, and it’s the MTA’s first new subway stop in a generation. I’ll be on hand earlier in the day with photos. Be sure to check out my Instagram and Twitter accounts for updates. Unfortunately, Transit Wireless was unable to complete service installation for day 1. So the new station won’t be wired. I’ll have updates as soon as I have cell service.

For recent coverage of the 7 train extension, check out my posts. I look at the long lost stop at 41st and 10th, the now-bisected lower level at 42nd St. and 8th, the messy updates to the map, and future extensions to Chelsea or New Jersey.

Weekend work advisories for 14 subway lines

Now, after the jump, this weekend’s subway advisories, straight from the MTA. If anything looks wrong, take it up with them. Read More→

Transti crews inspect the derailed G train near Hoyt-Schermerhorn Streets. (Photo: MTA New York City Transit / Marc A. Hermann)

A southbound G train derailed around 700 feet north of Hoyt-Schermerhorn Sts. at around 10:35 p.m. last night. The FDNY reported three injuries, though none serious, and approximately 80 passengers — a fairly empty late-night train — had to be evacuated. The MTA has said that the front two wheels of the first car jumped the track.

As a result of the derailment, G train service will be limited with single-tracked service on the Queens-bound track only between Bedford-Nostrand and Court Sq. and “extremely limited” service between Fulton St. and Bedford Nostrand. The G is, in effect, now a shuttle. The MTA is urging riders to use the B38 along DeKalb or Lafayette Avenues as an alternate, and Transit is providing free transfer from the G at Fulton St. to the C at Lafayette Ave. and from the Broadway stop to Lorimer St. on the BMT’s J/M/Z lines. F service from Bergen St. south continues to operate normally.

The MTA is currently investigating the derailment, and while I have no basis for this conclusion, the incident follows a mid-afternoon rail condition near the same spot. According to MTA records, that issue had been cleared up a little after 5 p.m. on Thursday evening. More details to come.

Categories : Brooklyn
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Over the past few/10/20/30/50 years, the New York City Transit Authority has engaged in an elusive game of repair. In transit-speak, the agency wants to achieve a state of good repair for its systems and stations, and although trains now run much more reliably than they did in the late 1970s and 1980s thanks to aggressive track replacement and signal work, our subway system’s stations are by and large in bad shape. As many have pointed out, attempting to achieve a state of good repair for a system with nearly 800 miles of track and a soon-to-be 469 stations is a Sisyphean task.

That Greek mythological figure is exactly how the city’s Citizens Budget Commission described the MTA’s effort in its latest report on the elusive State of Good Repair. Released last week, the report [pdf] essentially states what we all knew: The MTA is very unlikely to ever attain a State of Good Repair. Although that’s the headline, though, that’s not quite the main attraction. The MTA is never going to achieve a state of good repair because time keeps moving forward. A state rehabbed 20 years ago will need another overhaul in 15 years, and that’s just the unavoidable truth of a 35-year lifespan. The inefficiencies in the MTA’s progress though are dragging down the system.

More recently, the MTA has admitted that achieving a State of Good Repair is essentially impossible and has shifted to a component-based approach to station maintenance. This way, key elements such as staircases or platform lighting are repaired while other elements that may not affect the customer environment are left to the winds of time. This too has its problems as the CBC report details.

But enough of generalities. Let’s talk about the report. The CBC analyzed the MTA’s component-based approach and found that nearly a quarter of the MTA’s components are serious deficient, and 33 stations — including some high-profile, high-traffic ones — have less than half of their components in an acceptable state of repair. These include 7th Ave. on the Brighton Line and Grand Army Plaza (shown above), two of my local stations, and 16 in Queens, most serving the 7, N/Q or J trains.

With this in mind, the CBC asked if the MTA is allocating enough funding to its State of Good Repair efforts and what else the agency could be doing to speed up State of Good Repair efforts. I found their answers both frustrating and insufficient. For the first question, the CBC questioned the MTA’s prioritizing spending on expansion efforts such as East Side Access or Phase 2 of the Second Ave. Subway over repair works. To me, this misses the forest for the trees. If New York is to grow and remain competitive globally, it absolutely has to expand its high-speed, high-capacity transit network, and the only way to do that is through subway expansion. We can and have talked about the problem with these capital projects’ costs, but New York City can’t afford a future without an expanding subway network.

On the second issue, the CBC took a look at station repair costs, and it wasn’t pretty. Of the 42 station renovation efforts under the last five-year capital plan, 28 were over budget, and 10 saw their costs double. That’s setting aside the fact that the MTA accomplishes only 8 of these per year. Costs have increased at a rate that outpaces inflation, and the CBC, in so many words, notes that ADA-compliance often costs more than the benefits it delivers.

To achieve cost savings, the CBC urges the MTA to “make effective use” of public-private partnerships — which has proven easier said than done time after time. One of the CBC ideas — subway station conservancies modeled on the Department of Parks’ example. The CBC notes that “appropriate governance” would be required to avoid “inequities among neighborhoods,” but that has not exactly worked out well for the city’s parks. An adopt-a-station program would need aggressive oversight and some sort of redistribution scheme to ensure that those stations in Queens get the same investment as the ones in Midtown.

In a way, the CBC report though ignores what I mentioned earlier: The MTA cannot maintain and achieve a State of Good Repair, and the agency recognizes this. With 468 stations, the work is never-ending, and the MTA has to figure out a way to ensure that funding is sustainable and sufficient for a never-ending renovation scheme that considers a 35- or 40-year useful life. That is, if a station is renovated now, it will have to be re-done in 2050, and stations that were overhauled in 1995 are up for renovation again in 2030.

Meanwhile, the report has led to some interesting examinations of MTA funding schemes. Christopher Bonanos at New York Magazine asked if real estate developers should fund MTA repairs. Playing off of the One Vanderbilt investment in the Grand Central station, he urges real estate developers to pony up money for subway improvements and throws in the carrot of zoning variances or subway-level real estate:

Every giant glass tower that goes up in midtown adds a few hundred occupants (at least) to the grid. Each building increases the load on city services: water, sewer, electrical, transit. Setting aside the big transfer points like Times Square, a local midtown subway stop serves about 20,000 or so riders on a weekday. Add ten new apartment buildings in the neighborhood, and that number of users will go up by a significant percentage. If those buildings’ developers are relying on city systems, they should pay for their improvement. Every giant new tower, or group of towers, should be matched with a renovated station down the block…The MTA could even sweeten the deal by throwing in a lease on some of its own wasted real estate. Some of the giant mezzanine spaces of the A-C-E stations, for example, could easily garage a few shops. Chipotle and Starbucks probably wouldn’t want to be in the grimy stations that exist now — but in fresh, bright renovated ones? Why not? In exchange for building out the stores, the developer would get a share of the rental revenue for, say, a decade.

On the other hand, Rebecca Baird-Remba at New York Yimby cast a skeptical eye at P3s as a be-all and end-all solution for transit funding woes. She feels that New York State requires formal legislation overseeing P3s before the MTA could rely on them for serious transit funding, but ultimately, these one-offs are alluring.

All in all, it’s a tough balance. The MTA isn’t going to achieve a state of good repair, but station repairs should move faster than they do. Again, though, without a serious conversation on cost control and an aggressive cost-cutting initiative by the MTA, we will be paying more for less as the years go by. Even Sisyphus didn’t have it that bad.

For a map showing how your local station stacks up against the system’s worst, check out this interactive overview from the CBC.

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As I’ve mentioned before, the MTA’s pilot programs have become something of a catch-all for new initiatives. Most of these programs are of the new-to-New York variety that have been implemented elsewhere, usually for years without incident, and the latest — bike racks on a pair of bus routes operating on Staten Island — is no different. To drive home the point, the MTA released a video over the Labor Day weekend that highlights just how people are supposed to use the bike racks.

The pilot itself is a great idea. The S53 and S93 bus routes will have front-mounted racks that can each fit two bikes. Customers are responsible for loading and unloading the bikes while the video reminds those cyclists of key safety tips to ensure drivers are aware of when riders are using the racks. The two routes both serve a college campus with many cyclists and bike routes on both sides of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge.

“Bringing the Bike & Ride program to the S53 and S93 will increase the mobility of students who are traveling between home and campus. Before this program, our customers had no direct way to travel with their bicycles on public transportation between Brooklyn and Staten Island. Now customers can take advantage of the city’s bike lanes and greenways without worrying about how to transport their bicycles,” Darryl C. Irick, President of MTA Bus and Senior Vice President, NYC Transit Department of Buses, said. “A future expansion will depend on results of this pilot and will most likely focus on routes that cross bridges.”

It’s easy for us to scoff at this pilot as yet another one of those examples of New York exceptionalism. Bike racks are common on buses throughout the world, and the MTA doesn’t really need to pilot them to know that they’ll work and be tremendously popular. But here, the MTA is looking at how these two different racks work and which type should be used throughout the city. The agency is also looking at routes with tight turns and situations where front-mounted racks impair the MTA’s ability to machine-wash buses.

And what of the costs? The racks check it at a hair over $1100 a pop, a downright reasonable figure for something transit-related and one that should decrease if the MTA orders more in bulk. So long as this program moves out of pilot and into full implementation, this is an upgrade long overdue.

Categories : Buses
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The N train’s Sea Beach Line is among the oldest rights-of-way in the city, and the current iteration dates from nearly 100 years ago. The stations themselves are in a sorry state, and the MTA has recently unveiled a 9-stop, $500-million repair effort that is going to take four years. This is all about the MTA’s efforts at reaching the elusive State of Good Repair, and a recent Citizens Budget Commission report highlighted the ins and outs and ups and downs of this effort. I’ll have more on what the CBC called a Sisyphean effort on Monday night after the three-day weekend. For now, ponder the Brooklyn Eagle’s coverage of the work and wonder about timelines and scope. The price tag — over $55 million per open-air station — seems steep, but the finished product sounds much nicer than what N train riders experience today.

Meanwhile, as the unofficial end of summer arrives, weekend subway work keeps on chugging along, albeit at a slower pace. Leave extra time for travel, and enjoy the long weekend.

From 11:30 p.m. Friday, September 4 to 5:00 a.m. Tuesday, September 8, 1 trains are suspended in both directions between 14 St and South Ferry. 2 and 3 trains run local in both directions between 34 St-Penn Station and Chambers St. Free shuttle buses provide alternate service between Chambers St and South Ferry.

From 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Monday, September 7, 2, 3 and 4 trains skip Eastern Pkwy-Brooklyn Museum. Use the nearby Grand Army Plaza or Franklin Av stations instead.

From 11:30 p.m. Friday, September 4 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, September 7, 2 trains are suspended in both directions between E 180 St and 149 St-Grand Concourse.
Free shuttle buses operate along two routes:

  • Express shuttle buses run between E 180 St and 149 St-Grand Concourse, stopping at the Hunts Point Av 6 station and 3 Av-149 St.
  • Local shuttle buses make all stops between E 180 St and 149 St-Grand Concourse. Transfer between trains and free shuttle buses at E 180 St, Hunts Point Av, and/or 149 St-Grand Concourse.

From 11:30 p.m. Friday, September 4 to 5:00 a.m. Tuesday, September 8, 2 trains run local in both directions between Chambers St and 34 St-Penn Station.

From 1:00 a.m. to 4:00 a.m. Monday, September 7, 2 trains skip Church Av in both directions.

From 6:30 a.m. to 12 midnight, Saturday to Monday, September 5 to September 7, 3 trains run local in both directions between Chambers St and 34 St-Penn Station.

From 11:45 p.m. Friday, September 4 to 7:30 a.m. Sunday, September 6, and from 11:45 p.m. Sunday, September 6 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, September 7, Crown Hts-Utica Av bound 4 trains run express from 14 St-Union Sq to Brooklyn Bridge-City Hall.

From 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Monday, September 7, 4 trains run local in Brooklyn, skipping the Eastern Pkwy-Brooklyn Museum station.

From 6:00 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. Saturday, September 5, and from 8:00 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. Sunday, September 6, 5 trains are suspended in both directions between E 180 St and Bowling Green. Take the 4 and free shuttle buses instead. 5 shuttle service operates between Eastchester-Dyre Av and E 180 St.
Free shuttle buses operate along two routes:

  • Express shuttle buses run between E 180 St and 3 Av-149 St, stopping at the Hunts Point Av 6 station.
  • Local shuttle buses make all station stops between E 180 St and 3 Av-149 St.

From 11:45 p.m. Friday, September 4 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, September 7, Brooklyn Bridge-City Hall bound 6 trains run express from 14 St-Union Sq to Brooklyn Bridge-City Hall.

Beginning 12:01 a.m. Tuesday, September 8 until Winter 2016, Far Rockaway/Lefferts Blvd-bound A trains skip 80 St.

  • For Service To this station, take the Far Rockaway or Lefferts Blvd-bound A to 88 St and transfer to a Brooklyn-bound A.
  • For Service From this station, take a Brooklyn-bound A to Grant Av and transfer to a Far Rockaway or Lefferts Blvd-bound A.

  • Beginning 12:01 a.m. Tuesday, September 8 until Winter 2016, Far Rockaway/Lefferts Blvd-bound A trains skip 111 St.

    • For Service To this station, take the Lefferts Blvd-bound A to Lefferts Blvd and transfer to a Brooklyn-bound A.
    • For Service From this station, use the Q112 bus, days and evenings. Or, take a Brooklyn-bound A to 104 St and transfer to a Lefferts Blvd-bound A.

    From 11:45 p.m. Friday, September 4 to 6:30 a.m. Monday, September 7, and from 11:45 p.m. Monday, September 7 to 5:00 a.m. Tuesday, September 8, Downtown A trains run express from 59 St-Columbus Circle to Canal St.

    From 11:45 p.m. Friday, September 4 to 6:30 a.m. Monday, September 7, and from 11:45 p.m. Monday, September 7 to 5:00 a.m. Tuesday, September 8, Inwood-207 St bound A trains run express from 125 St to 168 St.

    From 6:30 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. Saturday, September 5 to Monday, September 7, Downtown C trains run express from 59 St-Columbus Circle to Canal St.

    From 6:30 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. Saturday, September 5 to Monday, September 7, 168 St-bound C trains run express from 125 St to 168 St.

    From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, September 5 to 5:00 a.m. Tuesday, September 8, E trains run local in both directions between Queens Plaza and Forest Hills-71 Av.

    From 11:45 p.m. Friday, September 4 to 5:00 a.m. Tuesday, September 8, Jamaica-179 St bound F trains run express from Neptune Av to Smith-9Sts.

    From 11:45 p.m. Friday September 4 to 5:00 a.m. Tuesday, September 8, Coney Island-Stillwell Av bound F trains are rerouted via the E line from Roosevelt Av.

    From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, September 5 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, September 8, F trains run local in both directions in Queens.

    From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, September 5 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, September 7, J trains run every 20 minutes. The last stop for some J trains headed toward Jamaica Center-Parsons/Archer is 111 St.

    From 11:15 p.m. Friday, September 4 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, September 8, Manhattan-bound Q trains run express from Kings Hwy to Prospect Park.

    Categories : Service Advisories
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    Even though the 34th Street-Hudson Yards stop on the 7 line won’t host passengers until next weekend, it’s never too early to look ahead to the future. After all, if we’re not planning for what’s next, nothing next will ever arrive, and no recent NYC infrastructure project has seen more discussion about potential future extensions than the 7 line. On the western side, we’ve talked about New Jersey and Chelsea, and an Eastern or northern extension into Queens has always been a tantalizing proposition.

    New Jersey: The 7 to Secaucus

    An overview of the 7 to Secaucus. Click to enlarge.

    An overview of the 7 to Secaucus. Click to enlarge.

    Sending the 7 train to Secaucus was one of those ideas that came out of nowhere following Gov. Chris Christie’s decision to cancel the ARC tunnel. As I’ve been told in the past, then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg essentially scribbled the idea on the back of a cocktail napkin, and his nascent idea has become a steady part of the conversation of some unknown future. It’s not a bad one really.

    The driving idea behind the 7 train to Secaucus is that it can alleviate some of the pressure on trans-Hudson rail and road capacity while allowing for a direct connection to the subway. For an idea with no funding and no immediate future, it has some staying power, and in 2013, the New York City EDC issued a feasibility study (which included plans for that in-fill station at 41st Street). The report concluded that the subway extension would be massively popular and provide a 16-minute ride from Secaucus to Grand Central.

    Of course, to say there are challenges is an understatement. It’s not unheard of for a subway to connect New York and New Jersey; that is after all what the PATH train does. But those tunnels were built over 100 years ago, and funding for a 7 train to Secaucus just isn’t there. No one on the New Jersey side has really picked up this argument, and even in New York, Staten Island representatives, for one, have raised objections to building a subway to New Jersey before anyone builds a subway to Staten Island. It’s not clear how much this would cost or would it would take to get an FRA waiver to ensure that 7 train rolling stock doesn’t need to comply with over-the-top federal standards.

    For now, no one is actively fighting for this project, but it’s out there, just like many other ideas. It’s also farther along in the planning stages than most, but without dollars, it remains just a PDF report and a map. I’m sure this isn’t the last we’ll hear of it.

    Chelsea: The 7 heads south (or back east)

    Tail tracks on the 7 line extension stretch south into Chelsea. Could a stop be in the neighborhood’s distant future?

    As part of the new extension, trail tracks for the 7 line head south from 34th Street to around 25th Street. Transit is going to use these tracks to improve terminal operations for the 7, as trains can now enter the station at higher speeds, and for storage since the Corona Yards can’t handle the additional rolling stock needed to maintain 7 train service. The tail tracks also allow the MTA to boost Queens-bound service immediately during rush hour rather than waiting for trains to make the slow crawl from Queens. And yet, there’s something about the tail tracks that seem like a missed opportunity as they reach into a neighborhood underserved by the subway without opening a stop there.

    The ideas for sending the 7 into Chelsea are less well-formed than the ones for New Jersey. Long-ago plans never really developed proposed sending the 7 to meet up with the L train along 14th St. to connect two disconnected lines, and when he was in charge of the MTA, Joe Lhota discussed a station at 23rd St. and 11th Avenue. “It’s something that I think would make sense because if you look at the demographics of the West Side, we shouldn’t just make one stop,” he said in 2012. “It’s important to have plans, to have a wish list. [But] I’m not sure it can be done. I’m not sure about how close you can get to the Hudson River.”

    Queens: Looking eastward

    The 1939 plans for the IND Second System would have expanded the subways to the far reaches of Queens.

    The 1939 plans for the IND Second System would have expanded the subways to the far reaches of Queens.

    While an eastward extension doesn’t seem in the cards, Queens beyond Flushing is an area clamoring for better transit service. The infamous Second System plans called for extensions of the Flushing Line into Queens with branches heading either to College Point or Bayside. As Lhota said, “it’s important to have plans,” but this one seems more like a dream from the past than a future we should expect.

    Categories : 7 Line Extension
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    With the 7 line extension‘s Hudson Yards spur set to open next weekend, not only is the subway system heading west but the subway map is too. Based on a variety of design choices, on the current map, 8th Ave. and 7th Ave. look farther apart than 8th Ave. and 11th Ave. do, and the new station, one would hope, could force the MTA overhaul what has become a very crowded map. With Transit getting ready for the big day, the new subway maps have started popping up in 7 trains, and, well, see for yourself:


    To say that this addition ain’t pretty is an understatement, and it may also violate some central tenets of the current map. First, what is going on here? The purple line showing the 7 line extension cuts through the word “Terminal,” which itself is part of the name of the stop at 42nd St. and 8th Ave. Plus, it’s now not immediately clear what’s happening at Times Square as the white dot only sort of touches all four of the lines that stop there. It’s not too clear that there’s a direct transfer from the 7 to the A/C/E, and it now looks as though the 7 doesn’t provide easy access to the Port Authority Bus Terminal. While you and I may know how Times Square works, a subway map isn’t supposed to be designed for people who know the system; it’s supposed to be designed for those who don’t. This purple line isn’t helping.

    Terminal Meanwhile, if you look at the normal markings for a terminal, the colored block with the line’s route designation usually appears right near the white circle designating the terminal. You can see it above for the L train at 14th St. and at right for the 7’s eastern end in Flushing. Here, the purple square is underneath the word “Yards” and next to the handicap symbol and another 7 that’s just sort of floating there. It should be under the black circle denoting the station (and that black circle should be white since both local and express 7 trains will service Hudson Yards). Yet, placing the purple block would cause conflicts with the designation for the 8th Avenue’s Penn Station stop since the avenue spacing here has been distorted for design purposes. Instead of adjusting a geographical inaccuracy, the map designers just shoved this thing wherever it could fit.

    The debate over designing a better map can fill volumes, but one way to present the information, at least for a mobile-optimized experience, comes to us via KickMap.


    Eddie Jabbour and I had a back-and-forth about the design on the Second Ave. Sagas Facebook page, and he presented the idea of showing the 7 connecting to 42nd St. via a “T.” The avenue distances are still distorted but are closer to reality than the MTA’s design. His map also incorporates the Javits Center, a key destination for the 7 train, rather than a ferry terminal floating somewhere between 34th St. and 42nd St., as the MTA’s map shows. It’s a better presentation with more relevant data than the MTA’s map has.

    The MTA will have a second chance over the next year and a half to redesign the map when three new stops open underneath Second Ave. I hope they take the opportunity to do so; this thing is in bad need of a rethink and a better design.

    Comments (62)

    As seen in this 2012 photo, the lower level platform at 42nd and 8th Ave. has been bisected by the 7 line extension. (Photo by Benjamin Kabak)

    Yesterday, as part of the countdown to the opening of the 7 line extension, I took a look back at the lost opportunities at 41st St. that will plague this project until and unless the MTA builds the omitted station. Today, we look at something else the new 1.5 mile tunnel had to cut through to reach the Hudson Yards: an abandoned subway platform underneath 8th Ave. at 42nd Street.

    The IND’s stop at 42nd St. and 8th Ave. is a funny little quirk of history. It hasn’t seen passenger service March of 1981 and was most famously featured in the movie Ghost in 1990. It’s a one-track, one-platform nearly unique in the system and once served as the staging ground for special Aqueduct service and as a staging ground for certain rush-hour E trains. It’s an odd duck in a system filled with odd ducks.

    So what’s the story with this Lower Level platform? We’re long on theories for this one. When the IND opened in the early 1930s, the city had built a shell of a lower level at 42nd St. and 8th Ave., but the station remained unfinished until the 1950s. Why they even bothered with finishing it is a very good question. My favorite theory on the murky origins of the lower level comes to us via the station’s page:

    An oft-repeated story offers this as a reason the lower level was built: The Independent subway was being built by the city to compete directly with routes owned by the IRT and BMT companies. The #7 crosstown IRT line terminates at Times Square; it is said that the bumper blocks of the #7 are directly against or very close to the eastern wall of the lower level of the 42nd St. IND station. The construction of the lower level therefore blocked any potential extension of the #7 line to the west side of Manhattan. If this is true, it would have been done only in the spirit of crushing the competition, for the IND had no plans to construct a competing crosstown line.

    It is, of course, that same 7 crosstown IRT line that signals the death, in part, of the lower level at 42nd St. To build out the train to 34th St. and 11th Ave., the MTA had to construct the tracks directly through the old platform. You can see the tunnel box in the photo atop this post, and I have a few other shots of the old platform from my 2012 tour of the 7 line. You can see where new constructed bisected the old station and where new systems are attached to old. The station is a weird ghost platform that looks like a dystopian version of the platform above it, and it will never see train service again. At least, after over 30 years of sitting fallow, trains will soon begin to pass through this abandoned and barely understood piece of New York City history, albeit more literally than the IND’s builders ever intended.

    Categories : 7 Line Extension
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    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
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