Home Public Transit Policy Tapping across a new Tappan Zee, but not taking the train

Tapping across a new Tappan Zee, but not taking the train

by Benjamin Kabak

Plans drawn up in 2010 that included rail tracks across the Tappan Zee replacement will not see the light of day quite yet.

In an effort to get money flowing to important infrastructure construction sites, the Obama Administration announced this week that they would “fast track” a series of near-ready projects, and included among those is our own Tappan Zee. The 56-year-old bridge, well older than we would all like, has long been the subject of replacement studies, and most of those called for some combination of railroad tracks and dedicated bus lanes in order to improve transportation across the Hudson River. Now, transit is off the table.

As LoHud.com’s Khurram Saeed reports today, the Tappan Zee replacement project will not include mass transit in its current iteration. To lop $10 billion dollars off the price tag, the fast-tracked span will not include rail lines or bus lanes. While engineers will leave space for such upgrades in the future, that’s rarely a guarantee for future funding or construction work.

Advocates recognize the importance of moving the replacement bridge project from the study phase to reality, but they bemoaned this move as an opportunity lost. “We’re missing a grand opportunity here,” Kate Slevin of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign said. “The whole idea was to reduce congestion and provide a focal point for development for the Hudson Valley region. Commuters are still going to be stuck in traffic unless there’s an alternative. You’re basically doing nothing for congestion.”

Rockland County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef echoed this charge. “You can’t just throw a bridge down there and say we’ll build the rest of it later,” he said.

The ultimate issue is one of price. Under New York State’s expensive proposal, a true multi-modal replacement would cost $16 billion. Of that total, the bridge would clock in at $6.4 billion with $1.9 billion set aside of highway improvements while transit costs would run to $7.7 billion — $1 billion for the bus rapid transit lane and $6.7 billion to run a rail line from Suffern to Tarrytown. The feds will instead throw in a little over $5 billion, and we will once again make the wrong decision with respect to the Tappan Zee Bridge. Funny how history just keeps repeating itself.

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Alon Levy October 12, 2011 - 4:58 pm

The wrong decision is to rebuild at this cost range. If they can’t get it down to about $2-3 billion including road, rail, and connections, they should just not build it.

Benjamin Kabak October 12, 2011 - 5:10 pm

Well, isn’t that generally applicable to every NY-based construction project? Costs are absurdly out of control, but the answer can’t always be “don’t build until it’s cheaper” because it’s not going to be cheaper. Someone needs to do some investigating into why everything costs so much to build though.

Anon256 October 12, 2011 - 6:43 pm

Do we really need a bridge there? By encouraging driving and sprawl, it makes things worse, and increases the amount we have to spend on transit elsewhere to compete. Tear it down and run a ferry.

Name October 12, 2011 - 8:13 pm

Hey, remember back in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, when the Tappan Zee bridge was the only way to cross the Hudson? Imagine that, but replace it with the GWB.

The sprawl damage has been done already. The transit was a way to correct our past mistakes.

Anon256 October 13, 2011 - 3:53 am

The GWB would not be the only way to cross the Hudson without the Tappan Zee; there are three rail tunnels, two road tunnels and the Verrazano south of the GWB, and much of the traffic from Tappan Zee could be diverted to the Bear Mountain and Beacon bridges further north as well. A car ferry should also be provided at the current site of the Tappan Zee.

The sprawl damage can be repaired by decreasing capacity and encouraging people to move. Instead, the DOT’s plans all call for increased capacity on the Tappan Zee, making the damage worse.

Eric F. October 13, 2011 - 8:35 am

Should the people of Westchester move to Rockland or the people of Rockland move to Westchester? 287/87 is also a key NAFTA highway bringing freight from NY to Quebec. That better be one very big ferry.

DF October 13, 2011 - 9:40 am

Yes they should move

Eric F. October 13, 2011 - 9:41 am

They’ll have furniture to transport. They’ll need a bridge…

Jerry October 13, 2011 - 1:28 pm

You sound like a crazy Occupy Wall Streeter. NOTHING is wrong with so-called sprawl – it provides millions of people with an enjoyable existence. Talk about forcing your morality on others. Geesh!

Andy Battaglia October 13, 2011 - 3:12 pm

So you’re libertarian then? We should all just do whatever we want regardless of how it affects the environment or others? Also the “Occupy Wall Streeters” are not crazy. You must have confused them with the tea party.

Bolwerk October 13, 2011 - 3:24 pm

Capitalize the L or the ghost of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon will have to kill a kitten.

But, why, obviously not. He thinks nothing is wrong with sprawl. No intellectually honest Libertarian can think that, since sprawl depends on inflicting the costs of sprawl on people who don’t benefit from it.

Anon256 October 13, 2011 - 5:57 pm

They’re welcome to their enjoyable existence as long as they don’t expect me to pay for their $7 billion dollar bridge. I don’t suggest we do anything to stop sprawl except stop subsidising it.

Alon Levy October 13, 2011 - 11:33 am

“Key NAFTA highway” = “there isn’t all that much trade on it, but we need to overbuild it to pretend we’re one big multinational economy.” Sort of like how in Europe they have key EU axes that result in some lavish train boondoggles on lines that aren’t Paris-Lyon and never will be.

Eric F. October 13, 2011 - 11:45 am

There is a ton of freight traffic on that route. Freight and long distance buses as well. Not sure about the European analogy, but this is a well traveled freight route for sure.

Alon Levy October 13, 2011 - 1:24 pm

Not from Quebec, it’s not. Do they even have continuous cell service on I-87 in the Adirondacks already?

The European analogy is that projects of marginal benefits and enormous costs are sold on nebulous grounds of EU integration. One train station costs 6 billion Euros? Not a problem, let’s put it on a trans-European axis twice as long as any HSR run and say that we absolutely must convert it to a through-station.

Eric F. October 13, 2011 - 2:28 pm

Cavil. It’s the Thruway and there’s continuous freight traffice end to end.

Nathanael October 15, 2011 - 9:04 pm

The Tappan Zee carries insignificant freight.

Freight from the west to the NYC area goes through New Jersey and then the GWB. Freight between New England and points west goes mostly through NYC or via Albany. Freight from points north to points south crosses the Hudson well north of the Tappan Zee…

The Tappan Zee Bridge is strictly a local bridge when it comes to freight. Especially given the tolls. Truckers are excellent at avoiding tolls.

Long-distance buses? Well, ones heading from points west to Connecticut, yes, but that’s a fairly limited market. Everyone else, again, has better routes.

Adirondacker12800 October 15, 2011 - 11:17 pm

They don’t have continuous cell phone service on the Northway because the Adirondack Park Agency won’t let the cell phone companies build towers higher than the tree tops. The towers that are lower than the tree tops have to decorated, badly, as trees. Not that the cell companies decided to spring for multiple towers decorated like trees when a few well placed towers would do.

CP is spending lots and lots of money upgrading the rail connection between Quebec and Schenectady. You really should tell them that there isn’t much freight to be carried. And send a carbon copy to the NYSDOT, they’ve been funding some of the work in the hope of getting trucks off of the Northway and the Thruway.

SEAN October 12, 2011 - 9:54 pm

I hope that was tongue & cheek. We are pathetic compared to Portland Oregon & there transit system based on getting things built in a timely manner.

Anon256 October 13, 2011 - 4:08 am

Portland Oregon is very car-oriented, with freeways slicing through and ringing its downtown, and over 70% of trips made by car (vs under 29% in NYC). Their “timely” transit investments have failed to significantly increase their transit modeshare, which remains below 12% (vs 55% in NYC). But one positive thing Portland did do was tearing down their Harbor Drive freeway. The Tappan Zee deserves the same fate.

Eric F. October 13, 2011 - 8:39 am

The problem is a lack of Hudson crossings. There should be several north of the GWB, at least one more between the GWB and the Tap.

Bolwerk October 13, 2011 - 9:04 am

Huh? Why? We should make better use of the crossings we have.

Eric F. October 13, 2011 - 9:23 am

Because there’s not enough for the travel demand. For the same reason that east siders should not merely make better use of the Lex Line. The bridges are not the pyramids of Cheops any more than the subways are. We can add to them. They’re just cars, they won’t hurt you, they won’t take away your NPR tote bag.

Bolwerk October 13, 2011 - 9:58 am

At a low price, there is presumably so much demand that nothing could possibly accommodate it. That’s why the sensible thing to do is to keep the price high enough where there won’t be so much demand – which is especially perfectly fair if there is a railroad available as a substitute.

Anon256 October 13, 2011 - 8:24 pm

The most cost-efficient way to add trans-Hudson capacity is with new rail tunnels. Additional cars would hurt me, they already kill 150+ pedestrians in NYC every year, and injure many more. That’s without even considering the pollution and noise they force on others, or their tendency to get in the way of buses and other more efficient road users.

Bolwerk October 14, 2011 - 11:32 am

A Germany-Denmark tunnel connection is estimated to cost €5B. Let’s just call that $8B for simplicity’s sake. What does $8B get you there?

• three 18km tunnels, or about 11 miles
• four lanes of highway
• a rail line
• a planned 6 years of construction
Kind of puts the Tappan Zee’s proposals to shame. More here.

Nathanael October 15, 2011 - 9:06 pm

Well, gratuitously build at the widest point in the river in the weakest soil and you get ridiculous prices.

Build a bridge 4 miles south and one 12 miles north and you have something reasonable….

Al D October 13, 2011 - 10:20 am

I guess you’ve never sat in traffic at the GWB, Holland or Lincoln tunnels trying to get back into the city.

Eric F. October 13, 2011 - 10:26 am

And that’s already at $12 plus the tolls incurred just to get to the crossing. These arguments are not really what they appear to be. It’s just anti-car lobbying wrapped up in whatever bow looks best at a given time.

Bolwerk October 13, 2011 - 10:37 am


Gotta love the irony: people who insist on making automobile transportation at best unreliable and at worst unusable always are the first to pull the anti-car card. Shit, even if I only made $12/hour, I’d rather pay that much to get through quickly than spend hours crawling through, probably wasting $12 in gas in the process.

(BTW, if you are paying $12/hr as a regular user, you’re doing something very stupid. The EZ-Pass cost is $9.50 for peak and less than that for off-peak.)

Bolwerk October 13, 2011 - 10:39 am

Oops, that’s $12/crossing. Not hr.

Alon Levy October 12, 2011 - 7:34 pm

The answer shouldn’t always be “Don’t build until it’s cheaper,” you’re right. That’s not my attitude toward SAS, which is supremely expensive, but also has supremely high benefits to go with it. But there’s a difference between a subway that depreciates over 100 years and costs $25,000 per weekday rider, and a bridge that depreciates over 50 and costs $50,000 per car.

Nathanael October 15, 2011 - 9:07 pm

…and is in *the wrong location*. The history of this bridge is stupid, as linked above.

Kevin October 12, 2011 - 5:55 pm

Well having the provisions in place for future connections would be better than nothing at all, like 10th Ave.

David in Astoria October 12, 2011 - 7:12 pm

A Hudson crossing for some sort of high speed rail will be guaranteed considering our airports are at capacity and the US is supposed to grow another 100 Billion in 50 years. Most of them won’t go to North Dakota.
The replacement bridge must obviously include a larger support structure to accommodate future rail lines and so government must cough up that portion of the cost right now. This could make it all ink.
It will be nearly impossible to run new high speed rail lines thorough extremely dense NYC so the best option will be a new Hudson 4-track Tunnel to Penn Station. All trains go to NYC, so it doesn’t matter if they reverse 2 miles to continue north to New England.

Name October 12, 2011 - 8:18 pm

Speaking of airports, if the Port Authority is serious about making Stewart the 4th regional airport, a high speed rail link connecting Stewart with NYC, via a new Tappan Zee, would be essential.

Justin October 12, 2011 - 9:12 pm

Only phase one of the Second Avenue subway, a project guaranteed to have lots of riders, is funded. If its this difficult to get the Second Avenue Subway going, you can forget about trains going across the Tappen Zee Bridge.

The problem with the state transportation officials is that they come up with grandiose plans they haven’t a chance in hell of getting federal, state, of city funded. They should all be focused on getting the full length Second Avenue Subway, funded and finished since we know it would have lots of riders.

Walter October 13, 2011 - 3:11 am

Actually, transit on the Tappan Zee should theoretically be easier to fund then the Second Ave Subway. Remember, the suburban counties have an outsized influence on the region’s transportation funding, which is why we have the East Side Access boondoggle instead of a fully funded subway under Second Ave.

Westchester County has been as jealous and protective of its three Metro-North lines as Nassau has been of the LIRR, often to the detriment of the City and other counties, so maybe the line needs to be extended to White Plains (or in my dreams, Rye or better yet, Stamford) to gain political support from Westchester.

I don’t know why Orange and Rockland aren’t demanding a transit option; Metro-North is spending millions to repair the useless Port Jervis Line because they complained they pay into the MTA and deserve train service. Well here’s their chance for real, useful transit directly across the river, let’s see if they really want it.

Bolwerk October 13, 2011 - 8:48 am

There is simply something outright fishy about an $8B rail line period, ON TOP OF A a $5B bridge. What are they doing? Laying down gold track with silver ties? The hard part, the bridge, can be piggybacked; the transit should be relatively easy.

Eric F. October 13, 2011 - 8:52 am

Because the transit option is political fairy dust. It won’t be used anywhere near enough to justify building it. The idiotic newsletters from this process also tout a bike lane. I love biking, and I’m sure a bike lane will be nice. But no one — I’ll go out on a limb here, literally no one — will commute from Nyack to Tarrytown in January using a 2 mile long bike lane suspended over the Hudson River. The only thing needed here is more lanes and it’s the only thing the body politic refuses to build. It’s absolutely tragic.

Bolwerk October 13, 2011 - 9:07 am

More lanes? They should build fewer lanes and charge more for them (at least for POVs). That’ll make the transit option viable, if it’s not already. And rail freight would be a nice bonus.

Eric F. October 13, 2011 - 9:25 am

People use the Thruway, of which the Tap is a part, to get upstate for vacations and weekend trips with children. Won’t you at least pretend to think of our children?

DF October 13, 2011 - 9:42 am

I say no

Nathanael October 15, 2011 - 9:08 pm

The fast route to upstate-west-of-the-Hudson is via New Jersey anyway.

Adirondacker12800 October 15, 2011 - 11:24 pm

Not if you are starting out in New Rochelle.

mark July 14, 2014 - 9:25 pm

i say go green build a simple pedestrian bridge and you’ll be amazed @ how much it eases
traffic, most people would take to bikes walking & jogging, a win all around… just saying

Bolwerk October 13, 2011 - 9:44 am

Eh, bad ideas don’t become good ideas just because children are injected into the picture. Anyway, those people might get up there faster if the lanes weren’t so congested, and adding more lanes is pretty much a way to guarantee that will only get worse.

Eric F. October 13, 2011 - 9:54 am

Right and adding more subway lines will guarantee more subway crowding. Adding more schools just means more crowded classrooms. Adding more supermarkets means more crowded aisles. I can do this all day and it still won’t make any sense. If your little theory applies to road lanes and to nothing else, it’s not a good theory. Get a better one.

Bolwerk October 13, 2011 - 10:19 am

Induced demand is a fairly well-established phenomenon, not a crackpot theory. Yes, under the right circumstances, adding subway lines will and does add crowding. However, subway lines handle crowding fairly well, whereas highways do not.

And, yes, if you add schools and supermarkets, you expect them to be used. Very good. However, the difference is there is little difficulty in expanding or substituting a supermarket when it gets too busy. A new road is not a very good substitute for an old one, and an expanded road has fairly obvious traffic flow issues while there are hard, fast limits to expansion (land, cost, politics). And that’s before considering things like pollution and other externalities.

Alon Levy October 13, 2011 - 11:37 am
Eric F. October 13, 2011 - 2:30 pm

You have a growing population, you need more of everything. It’s an inconvenient truth.

Alex October 13, 2011 - 5:43 pm

“You have a growing population, you need more of everything. It’s an inconvenient truth.”

Yup, this is true. Which is precisely why building more auto lanes is a terrible and unsustainable plan. As population increases, you can’t just keep building more and more car lanes forever and ever amen, especially in an already densely populated area. It’s inefficient and the cost benefit is horrible. You need to build more efficient modes of transportation. Like, I dunno, bus and rail. Although I’ll agree that the rail and bus costs for this project are ridiculously exorbitant.

Alon Levy October 14, 2011 - 12:46 am

New York, like most American urban areas, has added more freeway lane-miles than people in the last few decades. Follow the above link, then follow the link to the previous post and thence to the data.

Alon Levy October 13, 2011 - 1:50 am

Stewart Airport is a terrible idea, as is sending high-speed trains there. The reason is that there’s no present-day demand for a greenfield line to that area; thus the costs would have to be justified purely in terms of the benefits to airport travelers, of whom there aren’t many. Much better would be to leverage airports near lines that can be upgraded easily and have other markets to serve. PHL is close to the Northeast Corridor, and right next to a route that is more useful for high-speed trains than the legacy route; Islip is right next to Ronkonkoma, one of the busiest suburban stations in the metro area if not the single busiest, and one that’s served by a line that needs capacity upgrades anyway.

Besides, building a line to Stewart Airport, right next to the city’s water supply, is just expensive transit-oriented sprawl. It’s much easier to move an airport than to move a railroad; there are enough places to put airports near lines that have ordinary commuter and intercity use.

Eric F. October 13, 2011 - 8:49 am

The idea that Westchester/Rockland with 1.3 million people is a region in dire need of transit infrastructure but could do without an airport (ie., you kids just hoof it to Suffolk County for 3 1/2 hours for your 2 1/2 hour flight to Fort Meyers) is pretty weird. If there were a city in Kansas with 1.3 million people, you can bet it would have its own international airport. It’s also likely that such an urban area would ahve more than one cruddy highway running through it.

Alon Levy October 13, 2011 - 11:43 am

First, I don’t think that region is in dire need of transit infrastructure. An east-west line would be a nice-to-have; the rest should just be run properly first before starting to pour concrete.

Second, for most international travel, people go to JFK or Newark anyway, from places much farther than Westchester. Want to get from Pittsburgh to Europe? Connect at JFK. Want to get from anywhere in Jersey to Europe? Drive to Newark or Philadelphia. Want to get from Upstate to Europe? Connect at JFK. And so on.

Third, Westchester already has a domestic airport, near White Plains. Some major low-cost carriers even use it. It’s still underused.

Eric F. October 13, 2011 - 2:31 pm

WEstechester County Airport is tiny and in the very corner of the region, next to Connecticut. It is used to capacity , which is kept low by the NIMBY element, Getting to the Ny airports from up there is very difficult.

Nathanael October 15, 2011 - 9:12 pm

Those cities in Kansas? Their “international” airports have no international flights and are being reduced to expensive shuttle operations to places like Chicago.

Westchester and Rockland don’t need an airport to shuttle people to JFK or Newark; they’re too close. Now, direct train service from Westchester and Rockland to JFK or Newark, that would actually make sense. In fact, if the region’s transit agencies would stop their turf-war attitude, it might be possible.

Bolwerk October 13, 2011 - 9:12 am

I got to at least partly agree with Eric on this one. There should be an airport in that region, which is way too far from Philly and Long Island to make those airports viable – maybe even if real HSR was offered.

The sprawl problem can be fixed with proper transit and land use/TOD policies.

Eric F. October 13, 2011 - 9:29 am

I understand the preternatural hatred of people who own houses with yards. Some may even have –gasp! — above ground pools in teh shape of turtles. But even if you hate sprawl, you are not going to reverse the housing stock populated by 1.3 million people! All you can do is cram in another 500,000 people into tiny apartments layered into the current landscape, and call it paradise. You’ll still need more lanes.

DF October 13, 2011 - 9:35 am

You are wrong prove it by no need airport at all

Eric F. October 13, 2011 - 9:39 am

It’s amazing how incoherent one can be in a posting without actually misspelling anything.

DF October 13, 2011 - 9:44 am

you prove it

Bolwerk October 13, 2011 - 9:55 am

No, you do not need more lanes.

And it’s besides the point. If you’re going to build a new rail line, which I have no serious objection to, it should at least allow the kind of development that makes it practical.

And there is no necessary connection between housing size and TOD. Take a look around the Eupener Straße stop in Cologne. You see an LRT line with a healthy ridership, cars parked, large upper middle class houses with back yards, plenty of space, greenery, a gas station, and bike lanes.

Eric F. October 13, 2011 - 10:29 am

We most certainly need more lanes. We have a metropolitan area of 20 million plus and 4 lanes over the only Hudson crossing for 20 miles won’t cut it. I agree that the misanthropic left runs things up here, so we won’t actually be getting more lanes. But we most certainly need them. Your argument is premised on there currently being some metaphysically ideal number of lanes and to state that proposition is to demonstrate it’s absurdity.

Bolwerk October 13, 2011 - 10:44 am

I don’t know what bogeyman you’re groping for when talking about a “misanthropic left,” but there is a physical, not metaphysical, limit to how many lanes are practical, particularly given the general traffic nightmare in this region of 20 million.

Eric F. October 13, 2011 - 10:55 am

You create the congestion and then you assert that we need to rid ourselves of roads to solve the congestion problem. You can only fool so many people with that. We have narrow roads and not enough roads. It’s obvious.

Bolwerk October 13, 2011 - 11:16 am

I create congestion? I rent a car perhaps three times a year. I don’t see how it’s my fault. Do you mean it’s NYC’s fault? Well, most people living here don’t have cars, or commute that way if they do, so it can’t be that.

And read for comprehension. I didn’t say a thing about getting rid of the roads. I think they should be priced and managed properly to improve throughput. Getting rid of them is every bit as stupid as the conventionally wise position that they should be expanded willy-nilly to prevent traffic jams.

Don’t remove, don’t overbuild. If you weren’t so anti-car, you’d agree!

Andrew October 16, 2011 - 1:54 pm

I’m curious. If roads are widened, where will all the new cars that use those roads park? (Manhattan is full.)

Transportation is a derived need – that is, people drive cars and ride buses and trains because they have places to go, not because they want to drive cars or ride buses and trains. There are occasions when driving is the best way to get somewhere and there are occasions when taking a bus or train is the best way to get somewhere. That someone drives today, in the absence of good transit options, does not imply that he or she would continue to drive if better transit options were available.

A lot of people in the region are going to Manhattan. But there’s no room for more cars in Manhattan. If they are increasing in number, they cannot be accommodated by more lanes. The only way to accommodate them is by improving transit. And if transit is attractive enough, and the roads aren’t underpriced, then more than enough Manhattan-bound drivers will switch to transit to free up space on the roads for people going elsewhere.

Nathanael October 15, 2011 - 9:15 pm

Ah, Eric F., you believe in the magical lane fairy! Add more lanes and, by magic, things will get better!

Try actually building something useful. “More lanes” beyond two-each-way *never, ever works*, there have been about a century of studies on this. Once two-each-way is filled up, to get meaningfully more capacity, you need rail.

Jerry October 13, 2011 - 1:33 pm

Right, because no one objects to living in the vicinity of an airport.

Adirondacker12800 October 15, 2011 - 11:27 pm

Fastest way to get to Stewart Airport would be on a NJTransit express to Suffern from Grand Central or Penn Station but that option was killed off.

Al D October 13, 2011 - 10:28 am

I hope you meant 100,000,000 and not 100,000,000,000!

Ramiro October 12, 2011 - 7:26 pm

I think the price tag of 9-20 billion is a bit ridiculous. But I do realize that public transportation is necessary on this project or else we will be making the same mistake.

I also feel that numbers now a days are skewed. You see China building things 10 times less cheap, but reality is, no one would want to work under those conditions and with those wages here. So to put it into perspective, to build this bridge under 4 billion, you either need the simplist bridge ever, or build it with slave labor.

Alon Levy October 12, 2011 - 7:37 pm

Forget China – its construction costs aren’t that low by non-US standards. Can we maybe get down to the construction costs of Denmark and Sweden first and only then talk about slave labor?

Alon Levy October 13, 2011 - 1:50 am Reply
al October 13, 2011 - 10:45 pm

I think they should refurbish/reinforce the span. Add Peak HOV+Toll+Bus lane for BRT Lite, or more likely, expanded Express Bus service.

The reasoning behind this is that, there is a chance, in a 15 yrs, self driving cars/trucks and virtual road trains will alleviate much of the congestion on highways. Its not unlike the way CBTC helps squeeze more trains on a pair of tracks, except its with cars and trucks in road lanes instead of trains on rails. The space between cars moving at 60 mph (1 sec of travel covers 88 ft) can hold anywhere from 1 car (to facilitate lane switching) to 5 subcompacts.

Alon Levy October 14, 2011 - 12:55 am

No. All vehicles are limited by the brick wall rule: the headway between two vehicles is limited by safe stopping distance. Urban rail doesn’t come anywhere near this limit, because of capacity bottlenecks created by the presence of stations (high-speed rail and freight rail, which have longer stopping distances, do). Even then it has additional constraints coming from signal block length. The role of CBTC and automation is to eliminate the problem of block length.

With cars, the big jump in capacity comes from turning a road into a freeway, and secondarily from fixing merge conflicts by building fancier interchanges. The capacity is already up against the brick wall limit: there’s no way to safely have cars traveling closer than 2 seconds apart without severely compromising speed or finding a way to couple cars together into a train.

The space between vehicles is required for emergency stopping. At an average speed of 30 km/h and a headway of 2 minutes, you have a kilometer between successive subway trains, i.e. about 6 train lengths. Nobody is talking about multiplying capacity by a factor of 6; they’re talking about increasing it by 33%.

Bolwerk October 14, 2011 - 11:23 am

Heh. This reminds me, for years some mouthbreather on misc.transport.rail.americas would troll and troll and troll about the glorious future of communications-based automobile control. Computerized, driverless cars would travel at 100+mph, mere inches from each other. One of his non-sequiturs even had these cars taking flight using some NASA design. This would all be possible sooner, if us Luddites would stop insisting we fund rail systems.

Afterall, roads are cheap and rail is expensive:

Roads are typically at least an order of magnitude cheaper to build than transit. In the SF Bay area we spend three times as much on transit as we do roads, but the roads carry at least 8 times more people than transit. So the factor is 24 to 1 ratio in cost per passenger of transit to roads.

That is using a off the top of the head of a MTC official last night that claims 11% of the passengers in the SF Bay area use transit. The transit fanatic sites say the number is actually 5%.

Awww, usenet. So democratic! <3 <3 <3

And, no, I really don’t think he was kidding.

al October 14, 2011 - 12:07 pm

No, if you look in Europe and in the US, state/provincial and national DOT’s (along with companies/colleges) have been funding just such technology. Some of the R&D spent on automated car technology concepts 10-20 yrs ago are on the road in current automobile collision avoidance and lane keeping technology.

The analogy of vehicle platoons and automated cars with CBTC is not exact, hence the use of the phrase “not unlike”. The point I was trying to make was that automated networked cars will allow for controlled close headways (1-10 meters) and thus vehicle platoons (of variable length).

The thinking at DOT’s (and in public and private R&D) is moving away from the brick wall rule. The logic is as long as the technology significantly reduces both crash frequency and severity, it is acceptable.

Here’s one with EC funding.

As the technology matures, political barriers will be the main obstacle to full implementation. The specter of 10-20 car pileups, even if total crashes, vehicles wrecked, and fatalities drop off, will give entrenched senior bureaucrats and politicians second thoughts.

Alon Levy October 15, 2011 - 12:04 am

They’re chasing the same pipedream with trains, too – it’s called ETCS 3, and the idea is that train headway could be much closer, based on the fact that the train ahead has nonzero speed and thus the train behind can follow more closely. It runs into the same problem: if one train crashes, a pileup ensues.

Nathanael October 15, 2011 - 9:19 pm

Not going to work. The brick wall (or if you prefer, “collapsing bridge”) rule applies always and forever. The only alternative is 180-car pileups, which do happen some days — a lot of drivers are dangerous incompetents and tailgate rather than leaving a safe stopping distance.

Trains can handle more people for some very simple reasons: if you *couple* multiple cars into a single train, the individual cars do not have to follow the brick wall rule. So you can have one train with 12 cars and many hundreds of people, and you only need separation between that train and the next train, not between each car.

orulz October 13, 2011 - 9:24 am

Doesn’t anybody else see that a $7 billion commuter rail line over this bridge that will serve, optimistically, perhaps several tens of thousands of people per day is a complete waste of money? There are so many transit projects that are exponentially higher priority than this. $7 billion could put a big dent in the 2nd Avenue Subway, or the Gateway tunnel between NY and NJ. Both would serve far more people than this dubious and hugely expensive pork transit megaproject.

Let them build the bridge as cheaply as possible, completely leaving off any space for a rail line. Take that money and instead allocate it towards transit elsewhere.

Eric F. October 13, 2011 - 9:35 am

I’d preserve room for transit, the busway may make some sense, though I doubt it. Ideally, the busway could be used by HOV cars or by others for a supplemental toll payment. The real problem here is that you have a heavily popluated region with one crossing. This means that the single crossing becomes everyone’s focal point for freight, cars, transit, bikes, long-distance and short-haul tarffic. etc. For example, being a super long bridge at a steep grade it’s a fairly stupid place for a bike path and not so smart for transit. If you could bridge the Hudson at a lower lattitude where it’s narrower (say at the lattiitude of the Cross County Parkway), you can slough off some intra-regional traffic on a 2 lane in each direction crossing and have a more sensible bike path and a shorter hop for trains. Instead, the idea of actually adding anew crossing is akin to solving cold fusion, so this one bridge becomes a Christmas Tree for every crackpot’s social engineering designs.

Nathanael October 15, 2011 - 9:21 pm

One crossing, and in the worst possible location.

For God’s sake put one bridge at the south end of the Tappan Zee and one at the north end, instead of rebuilding in The Stupidest Possible Location. Boy would that save money and provide more service.

Frank B. October 13, 2011 - 10:01 am

I noticed that in Plan 5 (Which I believe was the quicker built, and cheaper alternative, if memory serves) has 2 tracks under the westbound (eastbound?) portion of the bridge, but the same space exists on the opposing eastbound (westbound?) portion of the bridge, for a total of 4 tracks, potentially.

Currently, all freight traveling by train in New York City has to be floated across the bay from New Jersey, or it has to take a 280-mile detour up north at the Alfred H. Smith Memorial Bridge, in Rensselaer County, then come back south again.

Since there’s room for 4 tracks, is there any potential to build 3 out of the 4, and lease out the third track exclusively for freight?

I would imagine such an endeavor would be quite lucrative, as all the freight coming in or out of New York would suddenly be able to be shipped with greater flexibility, and would result in a major increase in freight traffic for New York and Long Island Railroads, as it is much more efficient (and cheaper) than shipping by tractor-trailer.

Such a deal would easily be worth a $25-$50 million a year lease to CSX, I would imagine. Perhaps this could really help pay for the tracks, and the bridge in general.

Eric F. October 13, 2011 - 10:33 am

What would the freight line connect to?

I would think if it were viable, the freight lines would have been pushing for it.

Apart from that, if you think NIMBYs won’t let you add a lane, there is no chance they’ll be allowing you to allow freight trains go through their areas. Freight trains are very loud and they carry hazmats. There are many NIMBY points of weakness in a freight train plan. Westchester doesn’t even have a truck stop, I doubt they’d ever sign on to freight rail.

Frank B. October 13, 2011 - 1:21 pm

Use the Hudson Metro North Right Of Way, dedicated track if possible, shared track with sidings, if not.

There’s already a rail line on the west part of the Hudson. It used to go to Albany Union Station. The freight on the west side of the hudson could use the Old Erie Trail for “Rails With Trails” service down into New Jersey.

Relatively simple, at least on paper. The potential New Jersey routes likely still see some freight service anyway, and the Metro North Hudson Line (Right of Way Shared With Lake Shore Limited) definitely has room to have intercity, commuter, and dedicated freight rail service.

The only thing to take note of here is that the Northern Branch will likely be soon converted to Hudson Bergen Light Rail, but the ROW through Englewood and Tenafly isn’t required for this idea to work.

Alon Levy October 13, 2011 - 1:28 pm

The rail line on the west side of the Hudson is CSX’s main line from Jersey to Albany.

Eric F. October 13, 2011 - 2:34 pm

Right, what I meant is what would it connect to on the east side. If there is a connection, having the crossing south of Selkirk seems like a good idea to me, but if you have to build a whole new line, I doubt that could ever happen.

Al D October 13, 2011 - 10:13 am

Prince Cuomo could care less about transit, and this proves it. In the illustrations, there appear to be 4 total BRT lanes, and yet, whenever I use that bridge, I wonder where all the buses the would use these lanes are? No, instead create the desperately needed rail link and as a revenue enhancer, lease space/time to freight lines that could use the space/trackage. Wanna get more value from the $50mn to rebuild the Pt Jervis line? Then make it a 1 seat ride to GCT.

Bolwerk October 13, 2011 - 10:27 am

Yeah, ideally I’d figure the right modal mix would be 6-8 lanes of auto traffic, a regional heavy rail line for access to GCT, and an LRT service for cross-county service. In other words, 4 tracks and 3-4 full lanes in each direction. Why LRT? ‘Cause unless something is very, very wrong, it’s cheaper than the f’in’ bus and has a smaller footprint than any other mode besides bicycles. And cross-Westchester service certainly doesn’t call for 10-car commuter trains. Perfectly reasonable BRT-style bus service can mix with properly tolled traffic.

Eric F. October 13, 2011 - 10:36 am

I know many people get their understanding of the economy from the T.V. show “Friends”, but most people in this region do not work in Manhattan. Most people in Fort Lee don’t even work in Manhattan, let alone people in Westchester. Many people –it’s sad but true — don’t understand their place in the Bolwerkian world, and actually simply travel from Westchester to Rockland and within such areas without ever so much as casting a lingering glance at the island utopia to the south.

Bolwerk October 13, 2011 - 11:12 am

Friends? Manhattan-centrality? I’d probably go further than you in saying Manhattan is an afterthought in transport planning for that area. There is a minor little detail of a transit connection being dirt cheap after the connection to the bridge is made, so not going into Manhattan would be stupid. If you’re going to try to mock someone’s position, at least try to understand it first.

Oh, and I am quite familiar with the demographics of the Hudson Valley and northern NJ (even lived there), don’t have a TV, never saw Friends or any other post-1990s sitcom, and, unlike most people on TV, I do have a degree in economics. Now can we put our cocks away?

Al D October 13, 2011 - 10:26 am

For another $500k, there should be a walking/bike path

Al D October 13, 2011 - 10:30 am

A pontoon bridge is much more flexible…and cheaper!

The Tappan Zee Replacement’s Outrageous Cost | Pedestrian Observations October 13, 2011 - 1:57 pm

[…] for US road projects. But now everyone thinks New York needs this project, to the point that even transit and livable streets advocates are more worried about commuter rail tracks on the new bridge than […]

Roy October 13, 2011 - 2:01 pm

Whilst I’d love to see a rail line across the TZB, and continuing across Westchester through White Plains to the NEC (we really wouldn’t need to get a car then), I have to concede I doubt there’s the demand for it. I commute on the Hudson line from Tarrytown and it seems to me the existing TZX bus is sufficient to bring those Rocklanders that want to take the rail into NYC across. It’s not like I even have any trouble getting a seat in the morning, in fact I often have a two-seater to myself.

Bolwerk October 14, 2011 - 11:03 am

If there’s demand for a BRT system, there’s probably demand for a cross-county light rail system. I don’t see the commuter rail option being that great for cross-county service.

AlexB October 13, 2011 - 2:42 pm

There are so many weird things about the bridge proposals and people’s comments, it’s hard to know where to start. First, the huge cost of bringing a rail line to the bridge doesn’t have all that much to do with literally building tracks from one side to another. The cost is for a commuter train and/or busway that extends far beyond the ends of the bridge. In some cases, it involves brand new track from Suffern to White Plains on to Rye. Built into the cost of the bridge is an entirely new rail line that would majorly change the right of way of 287 for many miles. It’s big enough to be considered one of the largest projects in the region.

Second, I don’t get why no one is asking why we can’t put the new bridge in a place that makes more sense. The Hudson is MUCH narrower a bit further south, in the vicinity of Hastings-on-Hudson. Why not connect the Palisades Parkway to 87 and the Saw Mill there with a tunnel? It could be even further south, near Yonkers, and align with the Cross County Parkway. This tunnel would be less long than the bridge is now. If such a tunnel or bridge were built, it would allow the Tappan Zee to be rehabilitated as something else such as a 4 lane highway (2 lanes in each direction) with the rest of the space dedicated to a busway and/or pedestrian walkway. Removing cars would probably also allow the existing bridge to be better maintained and rehabilitated. This would also allow for more redundancy in case another crossing is closed for some reason, and would make it easier to get federal money and money from New Jersey for construction (crosses state lines here).

Third, considering the not huge amount of demand for mass transit from Rockland and further, it seems more appropriate to build a dedicated busway here than a commuter rail. So much of the impetus for putting rail on the bridge is an MTA focused obsession on keeping trains out of New Jersey with the stated goal of giving Rockland County a one seat ride to Manhattan. Building the Gateway tunnel or reviving ARC would be a much more effective way to bring one seat train rides to all areas west of the Hudson and would be useful for many lines, not just one.

Finally, the whole debate about sprawl induction is ridiculous on so many levels. Sprawl is always framed as a lifestyle choice, which creates these absurd culture wars type arguments that miss the point entirely. People leave New York City because it’s too expensive, and it’s too expensive because zoning laws and general NIMBYism have restricted the supply of new housing in the core. At the same time federal and state investment in new roads has simply provided an outlet for this demand. Also, the outlying areas probably have minimum lot size requirements, stringent density maximums, and large setbacks that only allow them to absorb a minimum amount of housing demand before it skips to the next county further out. If Westchester allowed itself to build even remotely as dense as the Bronx, it would still be the edge of the city. We should keep building the region with high capacity everything – roads, rails, busways, etc.; but nothing would be more effective at reducing sprawl than lowering the cost of housing in the core of the region. Although it would be painful, large swathes of Hudson County, Brooklyn and Queens should long ago have been bulldozed and been rebuilt with skyscrapers. Even in places like Bensonhurst, all these single family home neighborhoods should have been rebuilt as townhouse neighborhoods, followed by 3-5 story apartment buildings, and so on, until everyone can live in almost any neighborhood they want at an affordable price. The high cost of real estate isn’t just a question of your rent, it affects the price of food, office space, services, and everything else in every neighborhood. Those high costs are way more effective at inducing sprawl than bridge construction.

Eric F. October 13, 2011 - 3:30 pm

I think I may be in love.

Bolwerk October 13, 2011 - 4:28 pm

The cost is for a commuter train and/or busway that extends far beyond the ends of the bridge. In some cases, it involves brand new track from Suffern to White Plains on to Rye. Built into the cost of the bridge is an entirely new rail line that would majorly change the right of way of 287 for many miles. It’s big enough to be considered one of the largest projects in the region.

I can see it costing that much if billions of dollars in land needs to be condemned. But since the Interstate more or less provides an ROW, that doesn’t make sense. The incremental costs of a rail line shouldn’t be that high.

I don’t get why no one is asking why we can’t put the new bridge in a place that makes more sense.

Generally responding to that paragraph, the reasons I can think of off the top of my head are:

1) the PA charter says they have control over every river crossing within a 25-mile radius of the Statue of Liberty. The reason the bridge is where it is in the first place is it’s just outside that radius. This could probably be overcome but…

2) …there’s already a ROW there, with support infrastructure, traffic patterns set in place, NIMBYs who’d be pissed.

considering the not huge amount of demand for mass transit from Rockland and further, it seems more appropriate to build a dedicated busway here than a commuter rail. So much of the impetus for putting rail on the bridge is an MTA focused obsession on keeping trains out of New Jersey with the stated goal of giving Rockland County a one seat ride to Manhattan. Building the Gateway tunnel or reviving ARC would be a much more effective way to bring one seat train rides to all areas west of the Hudson and would be useful for many lines, not just one.

Depends what your goals are. If you don’t want/expect growth west of the Hudson, by all means keep the transit lines away. But, as usual, there is no savings to a bus way, so don’t promote that as a cost-cutter. If anything, it’s more expensive to build and more expensive to operate.

People leave New York City because it’s too expensive, and it’s too expensive because zoning laws and general NIMBYism have restricted the supply of new housing in the core.

Zoning definitely needs reform, but I don’t know if I agree about the NIMBYs….

We should keep building the region with high capacity everything – roads, rails, busways, etc.; but nothing would be more effective at reducing sprawl than lowering the cost of housing in the core of the region.

This I wouldn’t really blame on NIMBYs. It’s probably more a matter of developer conspiracypolitical leverage.

But keep in mind, almost nothing works well if it’s simply over-built. It’s why Eric’s ramblings about lanes would only result in more of the difficulty he thinks more lanes should solve.

Although it would be painful, large swathes of Hudson County, Brooklyn and Queens should long ago have been bulldozed and been rebuilt with skyscrapers. Even in places like Bensonhurst, all these single family home neighborhoods should have been rebuilt as townhouse neighborhoods, followed by 3-5 story apartment buildings, and so on, until everyone can live in almost any neighborhood they want at an affordable price.

Meh, that’s total overkill, and if anything is just as malicious as the NIMBY mentality. All that is needed is a structure in place that allows infill, new transit where necessary, and reasonable scale. You don’t need to go Robert Moses on everything.

The high cost of real estate isn’t just a question of your rent, it affects the price of food, office space, services, and everything else in every neighborhood. Those high costs are way more effective at inducing sprawl than bridge construction.

Uh. I dunno. It might be mainly a question of rent. It’s just as likely for residential units that high rents lead to high real estate prices (not necessarily costs), not the other way around. When an investor buys an income-producing building, s/he buys a steam of income – which is what rents are. I suspect you’re right the problem is supply pressure, but it’s not something intrinsic about NYC properties that makes them more expensive, and nothing about those expenses should necessarily effect other consumption; density should even be a pay-off, at some level, because it guarantees a wider customer base and perhaps even more variety.

I’m not saying you’re wrong with this paragraph, but I think the more critical factor for retail-level prices is freight transportation. Having it take much longer, at much higher cost, to get relatively low-profit goods to market really fcuks New Yorkers, particularly the poor regarding food. It pisses people off to say it, but there’s plenty of reason to think New Yorkers don’t do that badly on some dimensions of cost of living issues (e.g., personal transportation + housing)

Matthias October 13, 2011 - 3:47 pm

How on earth does a bus lane cost $1 billion?

BBnet3000 October 14, 2011 - 3:00 pm

My thoughts exactly. Isnt it just another road lane with a jersey barrier blocking it off?

Nathanael October 15, 2011 - 9:26 pm

Because it has to be an EXTRA lane. See, the cost of 8 car lanes and 2 bus lanes is the same as the cost of 10 car lanes… but the car-worshippers at the DOT MUST MUST MUST have their car lanes, so any bus lanes are considered only as “additional”, which means larger bridge.

The DOT worship of highway widening, or more accurately “extra general purpose lanes” is demented and dangerous.

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