Home Metro-North Port Jervis’ future, revisited again

Port Jervis’ future, revisited again

by Benjamin Kabak

Twisted rails and eroded track beds mark the Port Jervis line. Photo by Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Hilary Ring.

It’s been over two weeks since Hurricane Irene stormed through the New York area, and the MTA is still in the process of assessing the future of the Port Jervis line. Even with the MTA’s so-called emergency powers activated in order to avoid a lengthy procurement process, the line will be out of service for a few months as engineers levy a cost estimate and then begin repairs. The storm has brought renewed attention to a little-used lifeline into the city, and many are wondering what should be done with it.

Earlier this week, Jim O’Grady at both WNYC and Transportation Nation examined the Port Jervis line. The two articles are basically identical copies of each other but with different headlines. One asks if the MTA should bother fixing it, and the other notes that the authority is going to “spend millions” repairing the line. Whatever the price tag, it’s going to be a lot of dough for 2300 riders per day.

O’Grady raises a point I briefly mentioned in my most recent examination of the Port Jervis line’s future: Based on the MTA’s initial estimates, the cost to repair the Port Jervis line will be far steeper than the money the agency saved when it cut 37 bus lines, and the Port Jervis ridership is “just a small portion of the thousands of riders who used to take” those buses. If only it were that simple.

By providing service into Orange County, the MTA can earn subsidies from those counties. While few riders travel along the Port Jervis line into New York, it is included in the payroll tax calculations. Relatively little money comes from the largely rural county, but the subsidies allow the MTA to operate this far-flung service at relatively little additional cost. Sinking millions to repair the line alters the equation.

Yet, for those 2300 who live in Orange County and commute to New York, many cannot afford to take the drive every day. “It’s the only means of transport for these people,” Gene Russianoff said to O’Grady as he debated the pros and cons of repairing the line.

Still, the MTA’s interim offerings haven’t been too popular. The authority is currently conducting a $500,000 study on the 14 miles of washed-out track, and by the end of September, they will know how much repairs will cost. In the meantime, they have unveiled extensive bus routing. MTA Bus has sent 40 vehicles to Orange County to provide service to nearby stations. “In the two weeks since flooding crippled 14 miles of the Port Jervis Line, Metro-North has worked to provide buses to transport the 2,300 people who depend on the railroad each weekday. They will be taken to nearby stations in New Jersey and across the Hudson River in a complex and evolving plan to provide alternative public transportation,” Metro-North Railroad President Howard Permut said. “It is the most extensive and complex busing program ever implemented by the railroad.”

Unfortunately, though, only around 1250 people a day are using these buses, according to WNYC, and politicians are complaining anyway. “We have balked about paying the MTA tax, that percentage, for the last few years, and now, when we need them the most, they can’t provide any of my constituency with an appropriate service,” Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther, who clearly doesn’t the impact understand weather-related disasters, said. “I think it’s outrageous. People are in tears. How can you do that? Even from Harriman down. There are people that are paying this tax, and now, all of a sudden, it’s not us getting the service again. It’s like we’re the orphan children.”

Ultimately, the MTA isn’t going to cut bait on the Port Jervis line, and it wasn’t discussed behind closed doors. FEMA dollars will likely cover some of the costs of repairs as well. But better planning, some higher speed options and a drive to encourage transit-oriented development along the lonely line could improve commutes for everyone while making the Port Jervis line more popular. Finding an opportunity in a hurricane could be a good move; giving up likely isn’t.

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Avi September 14, 2011 - 12:30 am

Is there any chance the MTA can take advantage of damage and rebuild the line so it can offer better service? Faster trains and more frequent service would do a lot to increase the ridership on the line.

Bolwerk September 14, 2011 - 4:59 pm

Maybe a little, but keep in mind the ROW is what it is, and there may be rules about exactly what FEMA can do.

And would ridership increase? Faster trains may attract some people, but no matter what its primary constituency will be commuters.

Walter September 14, 2011 - 12:56 am

The railroad is in a tough spot here: there’s not enough ridership (or money) to warrant a huge investment in the line, but a huge investment to increase speeds and capacity could lead to much higher ridership. I think it’s pretty clear the easiest solution is to just rebuild it as it was, and the railroad is probably leaning in that direction.

Still, for the money that will be spent there are multiple projects east of the Hudson that could use investments that would impact many more riders. After all, ridership on just a couple rush hour trains on the New Haven Line surpasses that of the entire Port Jervis line.

That said, this would have been a great opportunity to rehab the entire line if there had been, say, a new tunnel under construction allowing Port Jervis and NJ Transit Main Line trains to travel directly to Manhattan, but I won’t even go there…

Bolwerk September 14, 2011 - 5:03 pm

I agree. Sadly, the best course of action is the one that won’t be taken. Almost no one is talking about TOD near the stations. It’s not just a question of, is rebuilding worth it? It’s a question of, how do we rebuild so it’s worth it? Rebuilding it as it was may make sense from a political standpoint, but that’s a low bar.

JamesL September 14, 2011 - 12:56 am

A stop at the Woodbury Outlets would help drive all-day, bidirectional demand. The line skirts the mall’s parking lot.

There’s some serious curvature from the state line to Harriman and coming into Port Jervis, but geometrically the rest of the line could be good for 90+. It currently tops out at 79 with slow zones for the tunnel and viaducts. Anyone know what the signal system is like?

Alon Levy September 14, 2011 - 2:25 am

The signal system can’t be very advanced, or else the speed limit would be something other than 79. The 79 mph limit is for lines that do not have in-cab signaling or automatic train stop. The PTC mandate may end up forcing all trains to have such signals and raise the speed limit; it’s no longer clear to me what upgrades can or can’t come from PTC, in light of the FRA’s recent behavior.

Chet September 14, 2011 - 5:56 am

Adding a stop at the Woodbury Outlets, or moving the Harriman stop to that spot is probably the single best thing the MTA could do to increase ridership on the line.

Making the line faster is certainly a good idea, and would help, but imagine if they ran express trains (limited stops) between Penn Station (or Seacaucus Junction) to the outlet center on weekends- especially holiday weekends ? With the right publicity, they would be quite crowded.

I live on Staten Island and go to Woodbury once or twice a year. It takes almost 90 minutes to drive. If I was able to drive 20 minutes to Seacaucus, and take a train the rest of the way… I do it in a second.

Andrew September 14, 2011 - 7:27 am

Most Port Jervis trains do run express, bypassing most stops in New Jersey. And the mall has shuttle buses from the station on weekends.

What the line lacks is frequency, but it’s hard to justify improving the frequency when ridership is low. There are also some obscenely long gaps in reverse-peak service – there are no southbound trains from early afternoon to late evening, so, for instance, the line is useless for people going into the city for the evening or for reverse commuters. Correcting that would boost ridership a good deal, I think.

Al D September 14, 2011 - 9:47 am

I think that this is a great idea. It takes people where they want to go instead of a transit agency telling people where they must go. Ridership can only increase. That’s the essence of the whole thing, isn’t it?

Tsuyoshi September 14, 2011 - 9:40 am

The best thing you could do for ridership is allow more dense development around the stations. But it will never happen.

pete September 14, 2011 - 10:29 am

The stations and the line are in the middle of nowhere, especially after the 1980s reroute that took the Port Jervis out of all the 19th century downtowns. The area is not suburbs. Its FARM LAND. MOOOOOO. There will never be development there. There are no jobs. Abandoned/vacant buildings everywhere.

Al D September 14, 2011 - 11:52 am

I believe that the term of art is ‘ex-urbs’. But I agree about station location. Isn’t the Middletown station basically ‘hidden’ behind huge shopping developments and pretty much inaccessable?

Jason September 14, 2011 - 11:53 am

Pretty much this. I think if they never rerouted, this line would definately be seeing larger ridership numbers, but as it stands, these stations are in the most undeveloped areas of the county.

Chris September 14, 2011 - 1:15 pm

And yet there are still significant and onerous development restrictions in these areas. Apparently the residents themselves don’t agree that development will never happen. In towns like Monroe, for instance, it would be a long haul to tear town a one-family home and build a 4- or 5- family home on the same footprint – certainly it would require an arduous variance request process. And that’s just today – 50 years from now, especially if there’s significant population growth, there could be much more demand to develop these areas than exists now. Yet the same property owners will still be entrenched – still wanting to maintain the rural character of their town, still demanding quality subsidized public transit.

If these areas are really “farm land”, and want to stay that way, the conclusion is clear – dump the line and sell the assets. Farmers need freight service, not a daily commuter rail.

Nyland8 September 14, 2011 - 9:45 am

Aside from federal monies available for recovering from flooding, isn’t the MTA insured against things like natural disasters? And if it isn’t – why not?

Big C September 15, 2011 - 11:27 am

They do have property insurance that will cover a large portion of the repair costs up to a certain limit. I don’t know exactly what that limit is, but it’s likely in the hundreds of millions.

John September 14, 2011 - 9:55 am

So what’s actually wrong with the buses the MTA has provided, other than the fact that they’re not trains?

Andrew September 14, 2011 - 10:41 pm

1. They take a lot longer than the train did and are less reliable.

2. They require a transfer midway through the trip, making it harder to pass the time by sleeping.

3. They probably cost more to operate.

Steve September 14, 2011 - 9:58 am

You touch on a third rail issue (sorry for the railroad metaphor) when you bring up the subject of MTA payroll tax assessments in the Hudson Valley. In Orange and Dutchess Counties every employer (including school districts, governments and non profits) must pay a tax of 34 cents on each $100 of payrolls to the MTA.

This imposes a tremendous cost burden on employers who incur an estimated $20 million in cost for Dutchess County employers. Even the County incurs a cost of $400,000 for this tax. This is in an area where only a tiny portion of the County’s residents use Metro North. The non-partisan Hudson Valley Pattern for Progress group has data showing weekday ridership of only 4,758 in Dutchess County. This is a tiny 1.6% of the population in a county of 293,000 residents. The cost of this payroll tax to subsidize these 4,758 riders: a staggering $4,203 each! In addition, County residents further subsidize the MTA through fuel taxes, auto registration fees, franchise taxes, mortgage taxes and a bevy of other fees.

No one doubts the value of mass transit, but at some point you have to look at the economics and the fairness of who pays. On both measures the outlying areas such as Dutchess and Orange County receive a raw deal.

SEAN September 14, 2011 - 10:38 am

Give the counties in the Hudson Valley an option – pay the tax or loose there service. Could I make it any simpler?

Steve September 14, 2011 - 11:10 am

For Westchester, where it seems you are from, Metro North is a vital economic lifeline. For Dutchess County it is a “nice to have” amenity, but hardly a critical part of the infrastructure. I vote to lose the service. Is that simple enough for you?

Walter September 14, 2011 - 11:33 am

Metro-North would probably love to cut the Duchess service, especially the Dover Plains line.

Running the Hudson Line to, say, Peekskill, and extending electrification there, and losing the Wassaic branch would allow the railroad to forget about its diesel fleet and send them to Connecticut or trash them all together. Not to mention all the maintenance, manpower, etc. that’s used up there.

ajedrez September 16, 2011 - 10:45 am

I don’t think the Hudson Line should be cut back, as Poughkeepsie is a fairly dense area.

SEAN September 14, 2011 - 12:18 pm

Sure enough, but remember you don’t know what you have till it’s gone.

John-2 September 14, 2011 - 1:46 pm

True — What we’re seeing here is a commuter rail version of the arguments back in the late 1960s and early 70s when the MYA shut down the Myrtle, Third Avenue and Culver Shuttle els, subsituting bus service in their place.

Of the three, only the last one can be said to have had no major long-term negative effects, and the same likely would be seen here — any future growth west of the Hudson in the lower Catskills region would be locked into bus service no matter what kind of possible ridership there was because the rail option has vanished (if the MTA and NYS want to do a complete rethink about Rockland/Dutchess service in conjunction with rail access via a new Tappan Zee bridge, that’s a different story).

Justin N September 28, 2011 - 4:35 pm

How would loosening the service help? Is loose service cheaper than tight service?

Alon Levy September 14, 2011 - 9:12 pm

The main alternative is to have these 4,758 riders drive over roads that really don’t have any capacity for them.

The other alternative is to have these 4,758 people live in Westchester. But Dutchess County is very suburban – i.e. it subsists off of income brought it from people working in other counties – and if those 4,758 people move, then many local jobs will be lost.

From a city-centric point of view, it doesn’t really matter – people working in Manhattan are going to drive to a train station or take a bus anyway. The use of this is in Westchester, Putnam, and Dutchess Counties. Your lungs, your choice.

Steve September 15, 2011 - 9:29 am

You are wrong about Dutchess County. While there are areas of the County with suburban characteristics and density, overall Dutchess has many more areas with small town and rural attributes. Just look at the population density data from the 2010 Census: On a persons per square mile basis Dutchess has 371 people, compared to a true suburban county like Westchester with 2,193 per square mile, or nearly 6 times greater population density.

As far as the road network goes most areas in Dutchess, mainly with the exception of some areas of the Route 9 corridor during peak times, have plenty of capacity. My point is that money spent subsidizing hub and spoke transit from Dutchess to New York City is a bad investment. It would be far better to focus on local Hudson Valley economic development and create desirable jobs locally building off the regions high tech, educational, agricultural, culinary, health care and arts related institutions and business centers of competency.

Steve September 15, 2011 - 10:06 am

Census data indicates that Dutchess County has non-farm 98,000 jobs (in a county with a bit less than 300,000 residents) and data also indicates that Dutchess hardly “subsists” off income brought in from people working outside the County. About 55% of Dutchess County workers work somewhere within the County with a great majority working in the Hudson Valley Region (e.g., Ulster, Orange, Columbia Counties). Only 1% of workers work in Manhattan and if you add in the other boroughs of NYC it’s only about 4%. You can see that MTA style mass transit addresses only a very small portion of commuting needs.

There is some amazing data on the US Census Longitudinal Employer Household Dynamics site that can give you real data and insight into the demographics behind commuting patterns. Alon, if you are not familiar with the site http://lehd.did.census.gov/led/ you should check it out as it will be invaluable for your work on walkability and good transit.

Alon Levy September 15, 2011 - 2:16 pm

Steve, average density doesn’t mean much, especially in a place that’s a transition zone between suburban and rural. Hunterdon County’s population density is 298/mi^2, but it’s very clearly a suburb of New York, Newark, and Morristown.

Having 55% of your residents work in-county isn’t that impressive. In Nassau County, the corresponding figure is 58%. (I’m familiar with the LEHD, but it’s so unsearchable I usually use the county-to-county and MCD-to-MCD numbers from 2000 instead.) Dutchess County has a sizable chunk of people working in Westchester, too. The same data set has Dutchess County’s employed residents breaking down as 4.5% NYC (mostly Manhattan), and another 11.5% Westchester. The Westchester workers are of course not riding transit, but they’re using the roads that the Manhattan workers would be clogging instead.

If the question is where to spend the money, then the best bang for the buck is to develop White Plains as a transit-oriented hub. Now go convince the NIMBYs there to agree to develop the parking garages that ring the station.

Steve September 15, 2011 - 9:14 pm

Thank you for having a dialog on this important issue. Using your data set it shows 69% of Dutchess workers working in Dutchess County. Given the time differences and possible methodology differences between various Census data sets it’s impossible to know precisely the correct number. In any event, it’s clear that only a small portion of workers commute to New York City.

Dutchess County covers a big geographic area and apart from the data the picture you paint will differ depending on where you are. Traveling in Fishkill or Wappingers you would definitely come to the conclusion Dutchess is a suburban county. I am also guessing that the southern portion of the county accounts for a large portion of the Westchester bound commuters. Travel to Millbrook, Amenia, Clinton Corners or Rhinebeck and you are definitely in exurb to outright rural territory.

The issue of where to spend money isn’t to view this as a pot of funds available for mass transit but rather a $20 million pool of money extracted from companies (and government agencies, non profits, etc) employing people in Dutchess County. Therefore if there is a tax at all it should benefit the same entities and not be used to bail out a poorly managed MTA.

Andrew September 15, 2011 - 10:37 pm

The Dutchess County economy benefits tremendously from being in the New York metropolitan area. Without NYC nearby, Dutchess would be indistinguishable from a random upstate county.

You refer to the payroll tax as “used to bail out a poorly managed MTA.” Might I suggest that you’re listening too closely to politicians? The state has repeatedly cut transit funding, including, recently, a diversion of tax dollars dedicated to transit. Past cuts have resulted in ballooning debt, which is now hitting the MTA’s operating budget. Even without the state’s shenanigans, the MTA’s funding sources – as dictated by state law – are remarkably unstable, since they’re heavily tied to real estate. In short, the state has demonstrated through its actions that it does not consider transit – or, by extension, the entire New York metropolitan area – a priority.

You earlier referred to the payroll tax as “MTA taxation.” The MTA does not have the power impose taxes; that falls on the state. The Ravitch Commission recommended that the state impose both bridge tolls and a payroll tax, and the state opted to impose only the payroll tax. I don’t think that was the right thing for the state to have done, but given how heavily our region relies on transit, I’ll take what I can get. Eliminate transit and the entire region collapses.

Chris September 14, 2011 - 10:00 am

What about paving the line and using it as a dedicated high speed busway? And add a bike path along side while you’re at it. Give it no connections to the road network (although I don’t know this line, are there at-grade intersections?) so that it can only be used by MTA services and cyclists. That has to be much cheaper than replacing the rail, and nearly as convenient. The rail can always be replaced later if development (and ridership, and money) ever do materialize.

ajedrez September 14, 2011 - 10:39 am

The problem is that it eliminates a one-seat ride to NJ. That’s a good part of the reason why the buses have half the ridership of the current rail line: People aren’t going to want to transfer halfway through the trip.

SEAN September 14, 2011 - 10:50 am

To do that would require a connection to either RT 17, I-87 or I-287 in Suffern. I’m not sure what type of opperating agreement would need to be drawn up for the MTA since that is Coach USA’s opperating area. Of course they could always contract it out to Coach USA, but I don’t think that’s the way the MTA does things.

Alon Levy September 14, 2011 - 9:13 pm

Um, what reason is there to turn it into a busway, other than it’ll increase operating costs and cost a lot of money?

Big C September 15, 2011 - 11:45 am

Actually a dedicated busway, if properly built, will cost significantly less in operating cost than the current single track railway. That’s one of the main reasons why the BRT (bus rapid transit) idea has become popular, since it’s much cheaper to construct and operate than heavy rail, and even light rail.

Bolwerk September 15, 2011 - 1:08 pm

Does the bus fappery ever end? Upfront, building a dedicated busway would likely be several times more expensive than replacing the tracks on the basis of the land that would need to be condemned alone. And BRT vehicles would need to be procured, when we already have perfectly good rail vehicles. When it comes time to operate the thing, more drivers need to be paid, so staffing levels get increased. Then throw in the additional operating costs of maintaining a roadbed vs maintaining railroad tracks. All that is before lost ridership due to slower speeds and less comfort. If you’re going to build a dedicated roadway for buses, you may as well at least let POVs use it at a highly tolled rate so it can be paid for.

But, gee, petroleum-composed roadways with fossil fuel-dependent vehicles? Ya think there might be an industry out there that likes that idea? BRT is “popular”* because it’s relatively non-threatening to connected automobile interests, first of all because people don’t like buses much anyway and secondly because it doesn’t take much space away from cars. Then BRT is popular with the NIH crowd because there is little to no homegrown American railcar industry, and little market for exporting American-compliant railcars anyway because of FRA regulations.

The idea that BRT is somehow 1:1 more efficient than light or heavy rail options is pure propaganda, and unfortunately many transit activists swallowed it hook, line, and sinker. There are, of course, occasional examples where BRT might make more sense because of geography or some other factor (Bogotá?), but those are the exception, not the rule.

* So popular the Bush administration pushed it over rail.

Alon Levy September 15, 2011 - 2:21 pm

since it’s much cheaper to construct

Except when it isn’t.

When you have an intact rail ROW, the cheapest thing to do is restore mainline service on it. It’s been done multiple times on $2 million per mile, in developed countries, with higher levels of service than offered on commuter rail in the US.

Nathanael September 16, 2011 - 2:31 am

Bad numbers, Chris. A dedicated busway costs more than rail on the same alignment. Period. Always been true, always will be true.

Nathanael September 16, 2011 - 2:31 am

Anyway, the line has freight service.

David September 14, 2011 - 10:40 am

So instead the MTA buys those 2300 daily riders cars so each person can drive, 100 miles round trip which would be about $50 million, done.
But add in gas, insurance, and tolls and former riders would pay another $10,000 per year, not including maintenance and parking. Of course, the roadways and bridges will need to be maintained.
Regardless of who is paying, existing rail transit is the best bargain anyone could find.

SEAN September 14, 2011 - 12:30 pm

Good analysis. Public transit is far more vital then what most people think. My comment reguarding pay the tax or lose the service reflects this since most upstate politicos have nothing but contempt for the MTA & wouldn’t care if the trains just went away.

Steve September 14, 2011 - 6:19 pm

The flaw here is assuming that there will always be (or should be) 2,300 daily riders on this line. The ridership could grow (but hasn’t in the past) or shrink. If the convenient rail service were to disappear some of those riders would drive but others might move closer to their work or seek employment closer to home.

I do believe that a well functioning, well funded, mass transit system is vital to a region’s economic health. I believe that rail is one of the more efficient and pleasant forms of mass transit travel. But I also believe that this should be within a “reasonable” commuting range. One of the problems we have seen in the past 20 years is the increasing sprawl and irrational development of the exurbs. Don’t believe me that a lot of this growth is irrational, look at the home price trends and default patterns in many areas of the country.

I know those 2,300 riders are real people with real families trying to make the best possible lives. But it seems that the best economic outcome is to encourage appropriate commercial development in those exurb locations rather than look at them as employee feeders for the New York City. The hub and spoke oriented system geared to funnel workers to New York City starts to make not much sense beyond a certain distance (e.g., a 2 hour commute each way for 4 hours travel, which is not atypical from an exurb location, is a whopping 17% of the total day and assuming the worker sleeps 7 hours a day it’s a life sapping 24% of someone’s waking time)

In the long run putting exurb mass transit subsidies into regional economic development makes a lot more sense for everyone.

Andrew September 14, 2011 - 10:32 pm

I’ve ridden the line, and there’s a lot of sleeping going on. Others are being productive. A 2-hour commute by train is very different from a 2-hour drive.

Roy September 14, 2011 - 10:42 am

Does the MTA even have the option of not repairing the line? Correct me if I’m wrong but they are only the leaseholders of the line, so surely the freeholders, Norfolk-Southern, will expect the line to be repaired. Do NS run freight over it normally?

Bolwerk September 15, 2011 - 1:13 pm

I’m pretty sure there is the occasional freight move and, yeah, NS will probably want it repaired.

A more interesting question might be, would NS want it repaired if the MTA didn’t hold a lease on it?

Dan September 16, 2011 - 12:26 am

Yes, because it does connect to the NEC through some tracks near Secaucus Junction.

And I can’t completely blast people who live in Orange County or Suffolk County or even Pennsylvania and commute to Manhattan anymore.

The NY-metro has a perfect storm of income and property taxes, plus driving clearly is not viable to the inner city central business districts. Not that other cities don’t have traffic issues, but we have less room to expand the transit infrastructure before even factoring cost.


Al D September 14, 2011 - 11:54 am

It is a dilemna. They could use those same $ and figure about how to increase capacity/take the load off the L. I think the L carries that amount of passengers in about 1/2 hour during the morning rush.

SubwayNut September 14, 2011 - 11:58 am

As part of my travels on forming my website http://www.subwaynut.com I’ve ridden on many different rail lines. On Port Jervis Line, especially Harriman where I was once dropped off at after a family reunion farther upstate to catch a train to Newark Airport for a flight is a different type of railroad line, one designed specifically for Park and Riders, not to be walked too, at Harriman I was struck by the fact that there were no sidewalks leading from the station. I (except perhaps other stations on the Port Jervis Line) have yet to find any other rail stations in the tri-state area with such non-walker friendly characteristics (there got to be some others).

The intermediate stations on Frontrunner, a three-year old commuter rail line (with hourly service throughout the day or better, the only line out west with such good service) from Salt Lake City to Ogden comes to mine, or most of the other new Commuter Rail systems out west have quite similar stations with large parking lots at the external stations, that are not walkable.

(sorry if this post seems two much an advertisement for my website, I found it the best way to illustrate those examples)

Big C September 15, 2011 - 12:04 pm

There are plenty on “non walker-friendly” rail stations all over NJ. Secaucus comes to mind (although to be fair, there wasn’t anything around there besides I-95 when it was built). Plenty of small stops along diesel territory on the NJT Montclair-Boonton line have no sidewalks leading to the station, although you could walk along the access roads if you wanted. Same thing with some stops on the Gladstone Branch, and stops west of Raritan on the Raritan Valley.

I imagine you could walk to Harriman station from Harriman proper, although it wouldn’t be convenient. Unlike NYC, most of upstate NY and NJ is not pedestrian-centric.

Justin N September 28, 2011 - 4:48 pm

The Metrolink San Bernardino Line from San Bernardino to Los Angeles has hourly-or-better service 17 hours out of each weekday, and roughly 90-minute service on weekends. Also, Caltrain between San Jose and San Francisco has hourly-or-better service 18 hours out of each weekday.

Either you’re mistaken, or you have a funny definition of “west.”

Phil September 14, 2011 - 1:56 pm

I am a huge supporter of rail and infrastructure but if the ridership of this line is this low I think the MTA should just walk away and provide bus service instead. Unless they can get more ridership out of repairing it and making some worthwhile investments its just not worth it. If freight operators use this line let them repair it to suit their needs. Maybe they can fix it and charge the MTA to use it to operate a few trains on it, this has to be cheaper than fixing it themselves.

Kai B September 14, 2011 - 2:47 pm

The routing of much of the line is really unfortunate. I guess much of it has to do with how it was rerouted in the 1980s to allow the removal of one of two physical rail lines in that area. If you look a map of the line today, it heads north and then southwest. If you’re traveling from Port Jervis to Hoboken, you spend your first 30 minutes or so heading to the northeast – not exactly in the right direction.

Avi September 14, 2011 - 4:30 pm

Kai, the routing is unfortunate, but technically it only adds 6 miles to the route. Even at 79 mph we’re only talking about a 4.5 minute difference. At this point the MTA is probably better off trying to improve the existing track rather than fight towns to run back along the old route, and have to remove a rail trail in the process.

Farro September 15, 2011 - 3:13 pm

But it’s quite possible that the train doesn’t travel at max speed for a good portion of the route.

jj September 14, 2011 - 7:54 pm

we are broke
we need to quit spending $$$ on every pork project in the universe

Ed September 14, 2011 - 8:52 pm

I just bookmarked the Subway Nut’s site, so in this case I appreciate the advertising. It looks like a good site, if only for the photo essays on most of the stations in the city.

I’ve used the Port Jervis line to go hiking, leaving from the Tuxedo Park station. I agree the stations seem to be in the middle of nowhere and the existence of the commuter line is anomalous, but it is or was a nice way to get to the country quickly. Should I be taking my wife on the line before its too late and it closes permanently, or are the trains not running at all now?

Andrew September 14, 2011 - 10:29 pm

The line’s been shut down since Irene.

Lou September 14, 2011 - 9:48 pm

This talk of getting rid of the line is stupid. You talk about the two hour one way commute but from Harriman its only an hour. Thats very doable. The line has low ridership now because the fares just went up by 30% or more and the economy collapsed. Back in 08′ during high gas prices the line was booming. MTA was a about to add extra trains before the banking crisis.

there are also lots of nice older towns right on the line like Port Jervis, Tuxedo, and Slotesburg that are very walkable old school. Middletown has a regional mall right next to the station. Up until recently developers were building houses like crazy near all the stations. the line is shorter than the ones to Greenport and the Hamptons, should those be abandoned too? Orange County is part of the metro area whether you like it or not, they deserve service.

And for the person who said the MTA should cancel most service in Dutchess County. That person clearly has not take a trip along the hudson line and seen how crowded those stations and trains are.

Steve September 15, 2011 - 9:09 am

The 2 hour commute is an example of door to door times from exurb locations. Most people using the train are not a few minutes walk from the originating terminal and many do not work in the immediate Grand Central area. When you factor in the additional time getting to and from the station on either end of the commute along with the time to park the car etc. you can easily get to a 2 hour commute. From a location like Poughkeepsie with its 1:40 train ride a 2 hour one way trip, door to door, is on the very low end of estimates.

I am very well aware of the crowded condition of the trains in Dutchess County. The fact is, however, that it is only a very small portion of County residents who use this service. The issue is about MTA taxation of payrolls in Dutchess County. It’s a $20 million burden on Dutchess County employers who create local jobs in the County and subsidize each weekday rider to the tune of over $4,000 each! These taxes contribute to a higher cost of doing business in Dutchess County and become a factor in businesses making location decisions.

CWB September 16, 2011 - 1:57 pm

Orange County is a beautiful area and yes rural. Here are my suggestions:
1)Shorten the commute time on the line by 15 minutes
2)Hold the fares for 3 year
3)Add a train between 12pm and 4pm Northbound
4)Work out a deal/stop with Woodbury Commons

Ridership would go up, guaranteed!

I ride it daily and these are the complaints.

Port Jervis Line repairs to total $50 million :: Second Ave. Sagas September 28, 2011 - 1:36 pm

[…] foot part of the bill out of their dwindling cash reserves. As I said a few weeks ago, will the MTA take advantage of an opportunity or just throw money at a lesser-used commuter line? Share Tweet Categories : Asides, […]

Fred October 19, 2011 - 11:01 am

It may be time to move out of Orange County and back to the city.


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