Home Metro-North Metro-North considering W. 60th St. station

Metro-North considering W. 60th St. station

by Benjamin Kabak

In an effort to find a way to connect Metro-North lines with Manhattan’s West Side, the MTA is working with the Extell to plan a new station at the real estate company’s Riverside South development. The new property is a 75-acre development on the site of the former New York Central Railroad’s 60th St. yards, and a Metro-North stop with quick access to Grand Central could greatly enhance the area’s appeal.

The West Side Spirit, a community newspaper covering the Upper West Side, first reported on talks between Extell and the MTA last week. This development came about at the behest of City Council Member Gale Brewer who reached out to Howard Permut, the president of Metro-North.

At some point soon, Robert MacLagger, the acting V.P. for planning with the railroad agency, will meet with Brewer and the developments to discuss the potential for this project. “The next step is to conduct further analysis of this potential station location and others,” Permut said in a letter to the council member.

For her part, Brewer expressed her belief that adding this access point to an area devoid of subway routes would encourage people in this new development to take the train. “It’s positive. It was nice to get this letter,” Brewer said of her response from Metro-North. “I can’t think of a better way to add transportation and get people out of their car.”

Expanding Metro-North access is a very positive goal. The tracks run right through this development, and a station there would make the area more transit-accessible while encouraging potential drivers to eschew cars. To make this station stop work, though, the MTA would have to set low fares from 60th St. to Grand Central, and if this stop ever comes to pass, the agency should make inter-system transfers available for those continuing on via subway.

(Ed. Note: As Marc notes in the comments to this post, one of the benefits actually doesn’t require an adjusted fare. This station would allow Metro-North to run trains into Penn Station via the Amtrak lines. Once the LIRR shifts some operations to Grand Central following the completion of the LIRR East Side Access project, the track space at Penn Station would open up as well.)

I would also encourage a substantial fiscal contribution to any potential project from Extell. A stop on the Far West Side at 60th St. would greatly enhance the appeal and value of the new developments, and real estate companies that stand to benefit from city expenditures should contribute to those projects.

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Marc Shepherd March 30, 2009 - 12:19 pm

To make this station stop work, though, the MTA would have to set low fares from 60th St. to Grand Central….

I don’t think so. There is no connection between the proposed station at W. 60th Street and Grand Central, unless the rider heads north to Spuyten Duyvil, then switches to a southbound train into Grand Central. That’s too much of a detour to be a plausible commuting route.

After East Side Access is completed, the LIRR will move some of its services to Grand Central, which in turn will free up space in Penn Station. Then, Metro-North will be able to run Hudson Line trains into Penn Station via the Empire Connection. If the 60th St. station is built, those who live on the far west side will gain a new route to midtown. That’s what this proposed station is for.

Benjamin Kabak March 30, 2009 - 12:27 pm

Yes. You’re right, Marc. It’s the Penn Station connection that’s a big appeal, and for that to work, they don’t need to charge low fares. That makes far more sense.

Christop October 27, 2009 - 2:24 pm

What am I missing here? What connection exists between Grand Central/Park Avenue Tunnel and the West Side?

Kai March 30, 2009 - 12:25 pm

The Westside Spirit talks mostly about making W60 St a Terminal for some Metro North Trains. It mentions Metro North wants to send some trains to Penn Station but there is currently no room there.

tacony palmyra March 30, 2009 - 12:35 pm

You can take the Metro-North from 125th Street to Grand Central but almost no one does it, because it only saves you about 1-2 minutes vs. the subway, is significantly more expensive, and by the time the trains get to Harlem you can’t get a seat anyway. I don’t think that a W 60th Street stop would be too popular for anyone but commuters who live in this development themselves who work near Penn Station, don’t want to walk east to Columbus Circle, and will pay extra for that priviledge (a small market). And the value of having your own private train to Westchester, which is what the article seems to be suggesting over the Penn Station connection, would seem to be somewhat dubious for all but an even smaller market.

Also, I’m somewhat baffled whenever I see transit hailed as a way to “get people out of their car” in Manhattan. I know no one living in Manhattan who owns a car. Other than the ultra-rich, car ownership is rare even for people living on 10th Avenue or Avenue C. Improving transit access to Riverside South would increase property values (the distance from trains is the reason the afformentioned streets are among the cheapest addresses below 60th Street), but I don’t think it would have that much of an effect on car use for non-millionaires. Maybe it would reduce cab congestion but I don’t know.

Boris March 31, 2009 - 11:28 am


There are three other kinds of people who keep cars in Manhattan: those who keep it in the garage for $300-400 a month (you don’t need to be a millionaire for that), those with a lot of free time on their hands, so that they can always sit in the car during street cleaning, and reverse commuters, who park at night and leave before the start of the onerous day restrictions. If a reverse commuter takes Metro-North, having his or her own station is a great incentive to get rid of the car.

Josh Karpoff March 30, 2009 - 12:52 pm

The MTA has for several years now been looking into ways to increase transit access to the West Side of Manhattan from the northern suburbs. Amtrak’s “Empire Connection” from the MTA’s Hudson Line and Sputeyn Duyvil down into Penn is an under utilized bit of track with great potential for increasing MNRR’s market. It’s also a win for Amtrak, because it would make it worth the MTA’s while to kick in some money to that stretch of track’s upkeep.

The biggest problem for this project has always been that Penn is at capacity. With the East Side Access taking some pressure off of the station and NJT’s ARC tunnels and new station adjacent to Penn, there should finally be some space in Penn for MNRR.

There are some technical hurdles to overcome though. Law requires that the MTA’s trains in Manhattan tunnels run on electric power. MNRR uses the old New York Central RR’s under-shoe third rail setup, while LIRR and Amtrak use the old Pennsylvania RR’s over shoe setup. The systems are incompatible with each other. Penn Station is however also setup with catenary (over head wires). While MNRR has some trains with catenary equipment, they’re largely all dedicated to the New Haven Line, which is short on electric equipment as it is.

anonymouse April 1, 2009 - 1:06 am

“Law requires that the MTA’s trains in Manhattan tunnels run on electric power.”
False. Common sense and biology require that. Running diesel trains into tunnels in any significant numbers would mean lots of diesel fumes and carbon monoxide, and an environment not compatible with human life. During the blackout, MNR did run diesels into Grand Central, but only once every two hours, to give the tunnels time to air out.

Avi March 30, 2009 - 1:25 pm

So MNR will have to buy a couple engines for this new line. Either combo electric/diesel units to continue further north, or just electric units to run in Manhattan. They basically can run the Manhattan trains as a shuttle, with passengers transferring in the Bronx if they want to go to the West Side. It’s not that different from what LIRR does with Jamaica and Penn Station.

I believe the bridge over the harlem river needs to be upgraded for MNR service anyway. So some extra engines/cars is not a deal breaker.

David Rose March 30, 2009 - 3:36 pm

This station has been in the works for a long time. The MTA did a Penn Station Access Study some time ago that identified stops at 125th St. and 62nd St. for Metro North trains once track capacity is freed up by East Side Access. All Gale Brewer is doing is putting down a market for Extell (the developer of Riverside South), alerting them that this station needs to be accomodated in their plans for the last developable parcel from 59th St. to 61st St.

West Side Spirit is actually quite late on this story. Extell put forth their plans last December, and the local community board flagged this issue at that time. Brewer has now grabbed a hold of it (thankfully) and will have great sway on this matter since she is the local City Council rep for this project. Hopefully she succeeds in getting Extell to provide for this station in their project plan, and as you say above, paying for part of it.

In all likelihood, I would see this station as more useful for commuters who wish to get off before Penn Station, and commute into midtown, rather than residents taking a fast subway ride to Penn Station. So it may be tough in the end to get Extell to pay much, but it would be good to have the station nevertheless.

Alon Levy March 30, 2009 - 9:23 pm

The idea that Penn Station is at capacity is a myth. It’s at capacity only if it is used very inefficiently. To see what I’m talking about, let’s say the station is still only used as a terminal, and that traffic remains at 24 tph from the west for the New Jersey Transit, and 41 tph from the east for the LIRR. In rush hour conditions, it’s possible to turn around trains in one minute, as is done on the 42nd Street Shuttle and the other subway lines. Two-track subway terminals, such as Times Square on the 7, can support about 24 tph in rush hour conditions. For 65 tph, as at Penn Station, you need, in principle, 6. In practice 8 might be more prudent since commuter trains have 2 trains per car instead of 3 as on the 7, but detraining and crew change can be done at the same speed. You also need 2 more tracks for Amtrak; Amtrak dwells at Penn for 15 minutes by design, but runs infrequently enough that it does not need extra tracks. This is a total of 10 tracks; Penn Station has 21.

Mind you, if Penn were used as a through-station, you wouldn’t even need those 10. You can actually increase capacity simply by sending some LIRR trains through the Empire Connection to the Hudson Line, which will require no new trains or track capacity. Similarly, you can send New Jersey Transit trains to the east along the Northeast Corridor toward New Haven, again without needing new capacity. The train uses the same amount of track regardless of which direction it’s sent in. Turnaround time is actually smaller if you through-route, because then the train keeps going in the same direction, so that the engineer and conductor can stay in their cabs, with no crew change necessary.

Marc Shepherd March 31, 2009 - 8:21 am

The math here is all wrong. It is not possible to turn commuter trains at Penn Station in 60 seconds. They can’t even empty a train in 60 seconds. The traffic flow at Penn Station simply wasn’t designed for that. Besides that, you would run into bottlenecks all along the Northeast corridor and the LIRR mainline

Lastly, they have enough rolling stock or yard space to be pumping out trains every 60 seconds. The whole system is not designed for what you are suggesting.

Alon Levy March 31, 2009 - 6:41 pm

The point of my comparison to the subway is that the MTA is already turning trains around very quickly, without any yard space, in stations with very constrained pedestrian flow. There isn’t much space for pedestrian traffic flow at Times Square, either, and yet the 7 manages 24 tph there with 2 tracks, and the shuttle manages 1-minute turnarounds.

The bottlenecks on the tracks themselves are the major problem. My point here is that it’s these bottlenecks that are the limiting factor, rather than track capacity at Penn itself. Of course there’s no space on the access tracks for running trains at high frequency on all 21 tracks; there is, however, a little more space than is currently used, with the Empire Connection and the East River Tunnels at a few tph below capacity.

And as for rolling stock, I’m not proposing any new trains – just that the existing trains be turned around more quickly than they are right now. This may actually reduce the amount of rolling stock needed, since the trains will be idle less.

Dan Gentile March 30, 2009 - 11:33 pm

A more radical but practical idea would be to run the 7 line north on the row. It is wide enough for separate tracks from what I can see from Google Earth and has been proposed for a truck tunnel to Javits. I don’t know how Excel built over the former yard or if there is room for storage tracks there which would free up the tracks to 23rd St. for service by either the 7 or an L extension. The line could also be extended north to 72nd and back crosstown. Service west of 8th Ave is sorely needed as previously pointed out. MNRR discontinued service on the line due to lack of use (see http://www.richgreen.com/NYCTrackMapV3.pdf for former stations). Other than the 60th and 125th stations, accessibility is a problem, worsened by ADA. The IRT and IND are easier. So nobody gets picked up and very few people prefer Penn. In response to Alon Levy, NJT already runs trains trough to Sunnyside, and while continuing them up the New Haven line would be smart, it won’t free up space which would also be needed for inbound trains on the same line.

Benjamin Kabak March 30, 2009 - 11:36 pm

What do you propose to do though with the 7 line extension, currently under construction and designed to bring the 7 south and not north?

Dan Gentile March 30, 2009 - 11:43 pm

Some inbound go S. to Javits, then N., others N. than S. the way Rockaway trains used to run.

Alon Levy March 31, 2009 - 6:51 pm

I can get wanting to extend the 7 northwest, but why then extend it back crosstown along 72nd? Nobody would take the line all the way because of the U curve, and the 7’s capacity issues are at the Queens end, so it won’t improve service. It wouldn’t even provide a good Uptown shuttle service, because the 6 stops at 68th and 77th but not 72nd. A far better Uptown crosstown service would be under 125th, which is an express stop on all lines that reach it, and which can easily tie in to SAS.

AlexB March 31, 2009 - 5:21 pm

MNR can’t use Penn Station until both the LIRR East Side Access and the NJT Trans Hudson Express tunnels and stations are completed. These won’t happen until 2015 and 2017 at the earliest.

Thinking out loud: The Hudson Line does get extremely close to the shelved 10th Ave station on the 7 extension. That extension isn’t supposed to be completed until 2013, but that is 4 years sooner than 2017. If in the meantime MNR built stations at 41st St, 60th St and 125th St, a transfer to the 7 train at 41st wouldn’t be a bad choice at all. A future Hudson Yards development would make the 41st St station much more tempting.

The 123 is so crowded right now, people living close to Riverside could be convinced to take a the Hudson route. Maybe an additional stop at 86th to really make it worth it? Could all this be planned and built in 4 years? Even building a simple pedestrian connection and station renovation at Jay St Borough Hall is supposed to take that long…

Alon Levy March 31, 2009 - 6:48 pm

Alex, there’s something to be said for additional stops on the Upper West Side. However:

1. The line is on the wrong side of Riverside Park. Location means everything; that’s why the B/C are underused, while the 1/2/3 are bursting at the seams. It can work only in conjunction with intense development along the riverfront. Personally, I think they should demolish the Henry Hudson Parkway and build at Atlantic Yards densities above it.

2. The line already has a single-track bottleneck. To use it effectively for local service you need two tracks throughout, and preferably two dedicated local tracks in Manhattan, which are separate from those to be used by Amtrak and MNRR.

Also, don’t believe the people who say MNRR to Penn can’t happen until ESA and ARC are completed. MNRR can happen tomorrow if the MTA is willing to either turn around its commuter trains at reasonable speed, or send some of the LIRR’s diesel-electrics onto the Hudson Line after they reach Penn from the east.

orulz March 31, 2009 - 10:16 pm

The west side line is only 2 tracks (with no room for expansion south of 72nd street), and just 1 track for the connection into Penn. If you start adding a bunch of stations, particularly south of 72nd, you start having to worry about interference with Amtrak trains too.

orulz March 31, 2009 - 10:09 pm

On the topic of transit and Riverside South, what will they ever do with the west side light rail easement? Is it being continued as riverside south is built out? Looks to me like there’s only space for a single track but I am not an expert.

Avi April 1, 2009 - 6:22 pm

I don’t see that easement being worth much. By 72nd people are close enough to the 123 that having a stop in the park isn’t worth much, and south we’re talking 1 or two stops max?

Moynihan Station building steam :: Second Ave. Sagas | A New York City Subway Blog September 17, 2009 - 12:29 am

[…] two new stations — one near W. 125th St. and one on the Upper West Side. In March, I noted that the W. 60th area seemed a likely spot for a Metro-North stop. The New Haven line will run to Penn Station via the […]

Back to the drawing board for Metro-North’s West Side stop :: Second Ave. Sagas March 22, 2010 - 3:24 pm

[…] one year ago, I reported on Metro-North’s desire to build a station near Riverside Park on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. The station, eyed for 60th St. as part of Extell’s Riverside South development, would have […]


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