Home Asides More stimulus funds for SAS (and ESA)

More stimulus funds for SAS (and ESA)

by Benjamin Kabak

A coterie of New York’s elected representatives announced a new round of stimulus funding for a pair of the MTA’s big ticket capital items. According to a release from Sen. Chuck Schumer’s office, the city is receiving another $275 million in Economic Recovery Act funding for transit projects. The Second Ave. Subway will receive $78.9 million — or enough for approximately a third of a mile of subway line — while the East Side Access project gets a $195.4 million grant. “This funding is a win-win for all New York straphangers,” Schumer said. “Both East Side Access and the Second Avenue Subway will meet commuter needs that have existed for far too long here in New York. These funds will help Long Island and New York City improve transportation options and spur economic growth in the process.” Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Representatives Jerry Nadler and Carolyn Maloney all echoed Schumer’s statement.

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AK March 9, 2010 - 1:16 pm

“The Second Avenue line is expected to generate 7.5 million new riders every year and take 340,000 current riders from the Lexington Avenue Line.”

I would love for someone with more smarts to explain the above sentence to me.

340,000 riders PER DAY from the Lex Ave line seems like a realistic estimate (I guess– though the Senator doesn’t cite any studies), given that the IRT line has daily volume of ~ 1.3 million…but I will be deeply dismayed if only 22,000 (~8 million/365) new riders are added to that figure.

Aaron March 9, 2010 - 1:46 pm

What are those 22,000 people doing today? Driving? I don’t have the numbers or the wherewithal to interpret them but it seems as though subway construction in Manhattan will be purposed for accommodating any new development and making current transit more functional (e.g. letting some off the pressure off of the IRT). Are some of those 22,000 people those who use alternate modes of transit, namely, local busses, or are they 22,000 people who aren’t currently using MTA for commuting?

It’s not like Eastern Queens – I don’t think there are that many discretionary riders out there to rope in along this route.

I wonder if those numbers account for the fact that this may spur new development, particularly the latter phases through the Lower East Side. But at least for the UES, I don’t know that there’s much new development to be done there, not below 96th.

Marc Shepherd March 9, 2010 - 2:00 pm

Exactly. There could be new development north of 96th Street, but that’s Phase II, which is currently unfunded. All Phase I will do is offload capacity from the currently over-crowded Lex Line, and the 1st/2nd Avenue buses. That’s a worthwhile purpose, but I can’t imagine where 22,000 riders new to transit would come from.

Benjamin Kabak March 9, 2010 - 2:07 pm

Maybe York/East End commuters who prefer to take a cab south? I’d have to check the EIS for that, but I’m not sure it even gets into that much detail.

Alon Levy March 9, 2010 - 7:52 pm

It could be induced demand. For example: I live at 72nd and York; because the area is isolated and travel to the West Side takes so long, I do not take mechanized transportation unless I have to. Phase 1 of SAS would let me connect at Times Square, which would probably cause me to take more trips.

Al D March 9, 2010 - 2:19 pm

At least some of our elected officials are looking out mass transit. This is good news indeed in otherwise dour times for transit.

drosejr March 9, 2010 - 2:54 pm

I was really hoping for Ben to use the word “parroted” when referring to the Gillibrand, Nadler and Mahoney echo chamber on this announcement (those who followed the Harold Ford follies will know what I mean by that).

I think the 22,000 new daily riders will mostly come from local and express buses, although there will be some cab-takers in that mix.

G Meyer March 9, 2010 - 4:45 pm

I wonder if there is any more info on how the money will be spent or whether they’re just trying to meet general funding needs.

Ed March 9, 2010 - 11:25 pm

I live off of Second Avenue, and just everyone I know in the UES who lives east of Second Avenue either has a car or takes cabs everywhere. It makes sense when you think about it. For me to get to the 4 and 5 (which suck anyway due to overcrowding) to go downtown means walking across two crosstown blocks, and crossing Third Avenue and Lexington Avenue. That is actually not too bad. But I can imagine the walk being too much for someone living off of the east side of First Avenue, who has to deal with four crosstown blocks and cross four avenues, one of which, Second Avenue itself, is a nightmare for pedestrians to cross due to the high volume of traffic.

Now if you live near the N/R/W Lexington Avenue station or a crosstown bus line you have options, but not everyone on the UES has that. And traffic probably moves more rapidly on the FDR drive than on any other highway in the city. The closest bus running downtown is the one running down Second Avenue and it is SLOW. Except for dealing with parking on the other end, there are obvious advantages to driving downtown on the FDR drive for people who live east of Second Avenue.

Even in Manhattan, there are some pockets not that accessible to public transportation, and much of Yorkville is one of them. As of the last census, there were just over 200,000 people living in the UES, probably half of them east of Second Avenue. So I think 20,000 extra riders per day is a realistic figure. Keep in mind that there are also hospitals in that area which are major employers, though in this case at least you have the First Avenue bus for people living downtown and working in those hospitals. But many of those people probably take a cab home.

Alon Levy March 10, 2010 - 3:57 pm

I don’t really see high car ownership here. There are garages, but finding on-street parking isn’t that difficult, and there are about fifteen to twenty times as many residents as on-street parking spots. Overall, the Upper East Side ranks in the city’s second quintile in car ownership, higher than the South Bronx, but lower than anywhere else outside Manhattan. It’s almost certain that the higher car ownership rates are for people living on Park and Fifth, not east of Second.

Personally, I don’t find Second hard to cross. The traffic signal timing is such that for half the cycle I can cross wherever I want without trouble. Part of it is that I live on 72nd, where SAS construction provides traffic reduction, but even elsewhere it’s not a big problem. And I’ve never traveled anywhere on the East Side by anything other than the subway – my problem personally is getting to the West Side. The M72 is horrific.

Anyway: we can resolve all of this with the Census Bureau – the Factfinder may have commute mode share data at the census tract level. (It certainly does at the county level).

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Older and Wiser March 10, 2010 - 5:55 pm

The allocation of this stimulus money precisely illustrates the overriding reason the SAS may never be realized. TWICE as much money for ESA as for the SAS. That’s been the history – ESA is the favored child, with SAS gets the leftovers at best.

That, even though the SAS would actually solve existing real transit needs and contibute future value-added to a boro that constitutes the economc engine of the metro area. ESA, on the other hand, might be the least cost-effective, most gratuitous construction boondogle since the great pyramid at Giza.


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