Brian Cashman and Jorge Posada pose last May at the opening of the Yankee Stadium Metro-North stop. (Photo by Benjamin Kabak)
For twenty years, MTA officials and city politicians spoke about securing Metro-North access to the South Bronx. The tracks were there, and the draw — a popular baseball stadium — ensured high demand for a good portion of the year. But as long as the Yankees threatened to leave the Bronx, no party wanted to commit to spend $90 million on a station that wouldn’t see much traffic otherwise.
When the Yankees announced plans for their new stadium, though, everyone sprang into action. The city paid $39 million to help build the station, and the MTA covered the remaining $52 million. Since then, as Judy Rife explores in the Times Herald-Record this week, the station has seen increased ridership and has been deemed a success so far. She writes:
Metro-North Railroad’s statistics are something of a wowser, too. In June, the first month when a year-over-year comparison was possible, about 44,500 fans took the train to the game — a whopping 45 percent increase. The new Yankees/153rd Street station opened last year.
And, yes, there were two more games this June than last, but Metro-North is still registering significantly higher average ridership for the season to date — 3,219 for weekday games and 3,819 for weekend ones. Not bad for a year-old service to a 51,800-seat stadium, where attendance is usually in the mid-40,000s.
Bob MacLagger, Metro-North’s vice president for planning, shamelessly calls the new station a “grand slam” and waxes promotional in recounting the reviews it’s received: “It’s better, faster, quicker, cheaper, easier — no driving, no traffic, no parking, no brainer.”
Transit advocates too have praised the station for its high ridership in its infancy. “There are all sorts of spin-off benefits to the station,” Jeff Zupan of the Regional Plan Association said.” But I think what it has done, perhaps more than anything else, is introduce people who may not have used public transportation before to the train.”
The new station certainly has made getting to and from Yankee Stadium easier for many people, and it’s opened up the new Gateway Center at the Bronx Terminal Market to transit as well. Yet, although we should be praising this new station, its success and its long and tortured history showcases how integration between the city’s commuter rail lines and the five boroughs is generally lacking. It shouldn’t take a baseball stadium to provide Metro-North service to the South Bronx just as it shouldn’t take a massive real estate complex to ensure a Metro-North access point at West 60th St. and the Hudson River.
As a Yankee fan and a transit supporter, I’m certainly pleased to see this Metro-North stop siphoning cars away from the South Bronx and providing the neighborhood with another alternate means of transportation. Next time, hopefully, it won’t take twenty years for a station so obvious to see the light of day.
Agreed, long time in coming. Very few people drive alone to games though, and in fact I usually see 3 people or more in a car going to a game or concert. So you’d think maybe 1,000 fewer car trips, but you also probably have a fair number of people who were coming from Manhattan points and used this to avoid a stop-ridden subway trip, and perhaps even a few people who were coming before via Metro North -GCT and the subway, so the overall affect on traffic is probably not very great. Seems like a great way to commute from the S. Bronx if it’s open on non-game days. The Park and Ride by Shea, by contrast, is an extremely long walk to the LIRR terminal, tending to funnel into a super slow ride on the 7 Train.
On a related subject, I can still remember the “Super-Express” trains that ran on weekends along the #7 Line to the 1964-65 World’s Fair. Those trains used the middle track, so they ran only in the eastward direction.
After Times Square, it stopped only at Fifth Ave. and Grand Central, and then it went nonstop to Willets Point.
Is there anybody else here (who would have to be at least as old I am) who remembers those trains?
I wonder if they could revive that idea for weekend Met games.
Coming to think of it, they could have a few Super-Expresses running eastbound before the game, and then a few Super-Expresses running westbound after the game.
One of the problems with the super-express service today on the 7 is the demand. You could run super-expresses, but you also have to meet the demand of commuters trying to get home as Mets fans are trying to get to weekday night games. The super-express service wouldn’t be that much faster than the current express service — offered to games and then back to Manhattan after games are over — and it’s not worth the overcrowding on the local trains to get back on express stops.
Note that I had said “weekend Met games”.
Wait, I just realized something!
Does that mean that they ARE running super-expresses at the present time to Citifield?
If so, that’s good news, because I did not even know about it.
I don’t think so. The expresses are only the extra trains that run specifically to serve game crowds. That way regular service at local stops can be maintained. Going to the game, crowds are dispersed enough that extra service isn’t normally needed.
“Yet, although we should be praising this new station, its success and its long and tortured history showcases how integration between the city’s commuter rail lines and the five boroughs is generally lacking.”
A couple of days ago, Alon Levy posted, in the comments, a link to an LIRR track map. Look at this map, and it’s amazing how many stops within Brooklyn and Queens have been abandoned. And it doesn’t even show the since torn-up Whitestone Branch which served a now transit-neglected part of the borough. It’s sad to see transit stations that have been removed, in a time when we should be improving the system.
There must be a reason for this. I would suppose that, at the time, city-dwellers with both commuter-rail and rapid-transit options opted towards the less-expensive choice. Only those who occasionally pay for big-ticket items (like Yankees tickets) will pay the premium for a more comfortable ride.
Even if the less expensive choice pushed people away from commuter rail and toward the subway, isn’t that a problem that can be fixed with a better intra-city fare policy?
You’re exactly right: the subway killed commuter rail due to its lower fares. At the time the subway was laid out through Queens, the subway fare was 5 cents and the commuter rail fare was about 25 cents. All those ticket-punching conductors and deadheading moves cost a lot of money.
Of course, nowadays we know better, and best industry practice is to run the inner parts of commuter rail as if they were a subway. Thus the RER and S-Bahn systems and the Japanese commuter trains can charge the same fares as the subway and stay in business.
I think that the MTA has the right idea with the CityTicket program. For $3.50, the Metro-North provides a fast, direct ride into Manhattan without the hassle of transferring trains. The problem is that, as far as the Yankees-153rd Street station is concerned, the subway competes directly with it for passengers, so there is very little chance that everyday commuters will take the train into Manhattan, even if the weekday fare was $3.50.
What it does do is open up possibilities for residents of the South Bronx to get to Westchester, or even points at the other side of the Bronx that are hard to get to by bus (Marble Hill, Riverdale, etc). The best part is that the fare is affordable-just $2.50 to get from Yankees-153rd Street to Riverdale. It also cuts the travel time in half, from an hour to 25 minutes.
CityTicket is a copout. It expresses understanding that the commuter rail fares are prohibitive, but not that there are ways to reduce operating costs to allow for competitive fares. In cities where commuter trains turn around quickly, are light, and don’t have multiple conductors, inner-urban commuter rail is as frequent as the subway and no more expensive.
It’s no accident that the commuter railroads have high fares within the city — riders from outside the city prefer it that way. As far as they’re concerned, they shouldn’t have to stand or, worse yet, sit in a middle seat to accommodate someone going to Forest Hills.
Yes, it’s stupid. If only we had a regional fare-setting body that assigned uniform fares, regardless of mode or operating agency, based on distance (and time of day, etc.), throughout the region.
I don’t think it’s about standing. After all, if you board at Hicksville and get a seat, you don’t care how many people boarding at Forest Hills have to stand.
My guess is that the cost of providing commuter rail service is so high that high fares are required for adequate farebox recovery.
I agree with you especially that time is money and that the time savings justify the larger fare. I think that the problem here is creative thinking. People in NYC are conditioned to take a bus or subway, and rarely think to use MNR, LIRR, or even a ferry service (except the SI Ferry) as viable alternatives.
I don’t know if acceptance of the MetroCard on the commutter rail would help,, but I would think it would. No standing in line for tickets (and no worry whether you would use the ticket or not), you would give the pay-per-ride MetroCard to the conductor and get a receipt. (e.g. Walder’s style) Or Integrate with pre-boarding POP and you get a payment system similar to the now-familiar Select Bus Service.
“The problem is that, as far as the Yankees-153rd Street station is concerned, the subway competes directly with it for passengers, so there is very little chance that everyday commuters will take the train into Manhattan, even if the weekday fare was $3.50.”
In brooklyn the Subway competes directly with the Duplicate express buses such as the BM3 and BM4 yet some people are still willing to pay the higher fare to avoid the crowds(at huge costs). If the city was smart they would seek developers for and office park or maybe a commuter village residential project adjacent to the station. OR even a park and ride utilizing the massive amount of parking around the stadium
Oh I forget this is NYC where we fight to build more low income housing and chase tax paying residents out
It is unfortunate… but most of those stations deteriorated when the city lost almost 1 million ppl during the 70’s. Now the population has been replenished and even added to… but it’s very expensive to resurrect those stations and lines… which is sad because they are needed now even more than back then because of “reverse commuters” who live in the boroughs and work in the suburbs. It’s amazing when you look at the history how many lines and stations no longer exist in the entire metro area. The system we have today is basically what was left after a lot of railroad lines went bankrupt.
“Next time, hopefully, it won’t take twenty years for a station so obvious to see the light of day.”
How long has LaGuardia Airport been open now? 🙂
I used the station to a game last year & it was fantastic. Even if you need to change at 125th, it is well worth it. Saves a lot of time & headache driving down there & paying parking rates that exseed the rail fare.
The round trip was $26 for two & I doubt parking is less than that at the garages near the stadium.
I think the shopping complex you are referring to is the “Gateway Mall”.
[…] more difficult, seeing ridership creep upwards at this new stop is a welcome development. I have more on the Metro-North station at Second Ave. […]
Has there been an increase in the number of tickets purchased at Yankee Stadium to see the games? If so, the Yankees should fund a part of the cost, as it does improve access to their station. Then again, those customers probably used to take the subway to get to Yankee Stadium.
I guess another factor is that they figured that the Yankees might move out if they made them pay a part of the cost of the station.
Baseball teams are notoriously cheap (in general) when it comes to stuff like this. Look at the Dodgers. Dodger Stadium is not transit accessible at all (closest is taking the bus and walking 3-4 blocks). The city put in a shuttle from Union Station to the games a couple years ago, and it was apparently quite popular. Then the recession hit and they asked if the Dodgers wanted to help cover the costs. They said no thanks, and the shuttle was done.
I used the station… all the people on the train I was on were going to the suburbs.
Unfortunately, Ben, I think the MTA has killed the station stop on West 60th St. As part of the ULURP process for the new Extell development there, the MTA figured out that the Amtrak tracks curve too much to allow for a train platform there. There was talk that a station further north under the Trump complex may work, but that obviously will be a bigger effort with those buildings already up. Not to mention the lack of money for such a station at this time.
We use Metro-North to come home from games back to Grand Central, even though it is more expensive than the subway, because it is much more comfortable and because the Lexington Ave line subway station after Yankees games is absolute mayhem and a pain in the ass to deal with.