Home Staten Island North Shore Alternatives Analysis calls for SI BRT

North Shore Alternatives Analysis calls for SI BRT

by Benjamin Kabak

The North Shore Alternatives Analysis has endorsed a busway for Staten Island. (Click to enlarge)

For the past few years, I’ve been following along as the MTA, at the behest of local Staten Island politicians, has reexamined the fallow right-of-way on Staten Island’s North Shore. When last we checked in on this story, the MTA had narrowed the choices considerable and seemed to be deciding between a light rail option and a truly dedicated bus route. Predictably and to my chagrin, the MTA has decided to endorse a bus route over the old rail right-of-way.

In a study unveiled to the public last week and obtained by Streetsblog on Friday [PDF], the authority delved into its thinking behind endorsing a bus rapid transit line. Overall, the Alternatives Analysis tried to meet three goals. It had to identify an option that improved mobility while preserving and enhancing the environment, natural resources and open spaces and also maximizing the MTA’s limited financial resources. With the right-of-way already secured, the authority had to identify something then that wouldn’t cost a crippling amount to implement while still providing the other benefits identified. Light rail would have allowed for a potential spur over the Bayonne Bridge and into New Jersey while a true bus rapid transit route would better distribute current and future riders throughout Staten Island.

So how did the BRT option win? The numbers, as identified in the study, seem to make it a winner. According to the MTA’s report, a bus rapid transit line would allow for a 23-minute trip from West Shore Plaza to the Ferry Terminal. That’s two minutes slower than the light rail option, but the authority estimated that, with additional bus lines using the ROW, estimated AM peak ridership would reach 12,100 with the bus line and just 10,590 with a light rail. Operating costs for a bus line would be around $500,000 per year less than light rail, and the capital costs pale in comparison. Light rail would cost $645 million while installing the infrastructure for true BRT would cost $371 million.

The SI Busway would bring the first truly dedicated BRT lanes to New York City.

Should we be satisfied by this answer though? I am a bit skeptical of the ridership estimates. By including bus lines with stops outside of the busway — including preexisting lines that would be rerouted — the MTA has seemingly inflated the number of bus riders who would take advantage of the busway. This is the so-called “open” busway model that would include exit points from the dedicated ROW for routes heading to other points on Staten Island. Still, considering how light rail can run higher capacity vehicles more frequently, it’s tough to see how exactly a bus lane would carry more passengers than a properly designed and integrated light rail system.

Meanwhile, the study seems to give short shrift to environmental concerns as well. Only a box of checkmarks notes that BRT could have a high impact on air quality. Light rail would be a far cleaner transportation option, and if environmental concerns were truly on the table, it wasn’t weighted too heavily here.

Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised though. New York City has been singularly hesitant to embrace any sort of light rail. A 42nd St. proposal that would reshape midtown has gained no traction, and alternatives for Brooklyn and Queens have never been regarded as realistic options for underserved areas. Staten Island has a dedicated right-of-way and an easy connection to a preexisting light rail line, albeit one in another state, but this option too was left on the table.

Ultimately, though, as Noah Kazis noted, this entire discussion may be a moot one for the foreseeable future. Even at a modest cost of a few hundred million dollars, the MTA can’t yet afford to do anything here, and it still would have to send this project through an engineering and environmental review process. Right now, the North Shore Alternatives Analysis is nothing more than a thought experiment that deserves a better future. When the money is there, perhaps the rail option will be as well.

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Alex C May 14, 2012 - 1:02 am

Here’s what I fear: Annoying local politician demands that the busway be open to his/her constituents private vehicles; pressure increases; MTA folds; busway ends up just another road with buses stuck in traffic.

ant6n May 14, 2012 - 1:33 am

It’s more likely that they’ll build the busway, and then twenty years later realize that they need rail capacity, and convert – and pay five times than if they’d just built rail to begin with. (Basically what happened in Ottawa)

Jonathan May 14, 2012 - 3:14 am

Maybe, but Ottawa has a much bigger population than Staten Island and the main choke point was the on-street running through the downtown core. Since they were going to grade-separate the downtown segment, it made sense to upgrade to LRT. The BRT worked pretty well in Ottawa for many years, however, and it could make sense for Staten Island if the core route is entirely in its own right-of-way.

Eric May 14, 2012 - 7:50 am

Ottawa has a much smaller central business district that NYC. That has a bigger effect on light rail ridership than simply counting the overall population.

Jeff May 14, 2012 - 11:44 am

Richmond (Staten Island) is the fastest growing county in New York State percentage-wise… Decisions need to be made based on long-term, and not short-term decisions.

Anon256 May 15, 2012 - 5:39 am

Because what goes up must… keep going up!

People won’t move to Staten Island if there isn’t enough infrastructure there to support them. Deciding where to build infrastructure based on future population projections is backwards… we should base our future population projections in part on where infrastructure is going to be built.

Alon Levy May 15, 2012 - 5:59 pm

I think that in Staten Island, both paradigms give the same answer. There’s a lot of development potential in the borough as long as there’s an adequate transit connection. Basically, this means committing to blowing $7 billion or something like that on a tunnel from St. George to Fulton Street and simultaneously upzoning to double the borough’s population. Under present commute patterns the tunnel could get 100,000 weekday trips, but add more Manhattan- and Downtown Brooklyn-bound commuters and also a secondary downtown in St. George for reverse commutes and the number would go up a lot.

Anon256 May 15, 2012 - 9:08 pm

That would be nice, but in fact no such proposal has been committed to. In the meantime, there’s nothing really wrong with leaving the North Shore line dormant for another generation. If we can avoid freeway expansions as well, Staten Island’s growth will stall, and it will be just as ripe for development later if and when the political will to upzone and build the tunnel become available.

But the last thing we want is to mess up the right of way with a bunch of concrete to serve some bus lines that still won’t be time-competitive with driving (and that should be routed over the Verrazano instead).

Alon Levy May 15, 2012 - 11:26 pm

Can I sign my name to your comment?

Steve May 14, 2012 - 9:35 am

The question is: is Staten Island more like Miami (which opened its busway up) or Ottawa?

Either way, this is why a lot of transit advocates are cynical about first-world BRT — it rarely stays BRT for long.

Alon Levy May 15, 2012 - 7:49 pm

Most likely, it’s like the San Fernando Valley, where the Orange Line is brushing up against the low capacity of BRT, and light rail conversion is too hard without disrupting the existing service.

Anon256 May 16, 2012 - 2:44 am

Does conversion there really need to be so difficult? Rails in pavement happen pretty quickly elsewhere, and if construction is done in short segments (say, a weekend worth at a time) the busses can detour around them on normal streets without too much pain.

The real trouble on the north shore is that the desirable rail conversion is SIR-compatible heavy rail, which can’t be installed in pavement so easily. (The real trouble in Ottawa is needing to build a tunnel.)

Nathanael May 19, 2012 - 10:52 am

In the San Fernando Valley, the problems with conversion are not about disrupting the existing service; they are threefold:

1 – the local law banning light rail on the surface is still in place (though the main backers of it are more open to repealing it now)

2 – it’s not connected to the other light rail, and nobody knows where to put a maintenance facility (and nobody wants one in their back yard);

3 – it would (like in Ottawa) cost a bunch of money, but unlike Ottawa, LA has other priorities for its money. A lot of other priorities. The Valley has to wait its turn now, after the Expo Line, Downtown Connector, Westside Subway, Crenshaw line, Airport line, and probably the line over the Sepulveda Pass. After all, “The Valley Already Has BRT”.

Never ever settle for BRT when you need rail — you’ll be stuck with it for decades.

Serge May 14, 2012 - 1:42 am

Very short-sighted and foolish. Should go with the light rail option. Quieter, cleaner, faster, smoother ride, etc etc etc.

Eric F May 14, 2012 - 9:45 am

Why is there an assumption that the BRT is “dirty”? The LRT vehicles are electric, I get that, but you can power buses these days with natural gas or hybrid engines. These don’t have to be diesels out of the 1970s. Modern buses seem pretty low emission compare to their historical counterparts.

Bolwerk May 14, 2012 - 3:02 pm

If you are creating an incremental increase in emissions, you’re not really helping things. It’s a common trap for suburban greenwashers to fall into. They think by downsizing from an Excursion to a Pruis they’re doing the same thing a bus rider does for the environment because the Prius supposedly uses about the same amount of energy a bus does per-passenger. What actually happens, is an incremental bus (or train) ride is reducing average emissions per passenger while an incremental Prius ride is holding them flat – or even increasing them, if the Prius encourages congestion.

Of course, if you take Alex Jones’ position on climate change, I guess you shouldn’t care.

Alon Levy May 15, 2012 - 5:21 pm

Because even the most modern diesel/CNG engine is noisy and vibrates too much for a smooth ride.

Anon256 May 14, 2012 - 3:53 am

Rather than building BRT in the old rail right-of-way on the north shore, how about building BRT in old car right-of-way along the Staten Island Expressway (and Gowanus and BBT)? That would actually get Staten Islanders to Manhattan faster than they currently can by driving. By contrast, the above proposal seems unlikely to attract many riders with alternatives, given the ease of driving and parking for trips within Staten Island.

AlexB May 14, 2012 - 12:59 pm

Completely agree. If any corridor is best suited for BRT, it’s the one with the direct route to Midtown, i.e. the Staten Island Expressway, not the slow north shore to the ferry. Instead of converting a corridor perfectly suited for rail to bus, they should take a look at where all the buses are going.

Although it may seem like an isolated right-of-way, the North Shore line provides for a number of regional connections that should not be ignored. It’s a great candidate for the extension of the Bayonne light rail line, or even an extension of the SIRR to the North Shore and eventually to the NJ Transit/Amtrak stop in Elizabeth. Where are the ridership estimates for those proposals?

nyland8 May 14, 2012 - 5:47 am

When one looks at current Port Authority intentions regarding the Goethals Bridge, and extending the PATH down to Newark Airport, AND one takes a moment to look on a map at where the SI North Shore ROW actually runs to and from, one cannot help but wonder why there isn’t a concerted political effort to connect the PATH with the SIR. The shortest distance – in time, money, engineering – to Staten Island mass transit connectivity with the rest of the boroughs, is across the Arthur Kill.

The political will should be generated, on both sides of the Hudson, for the relatively tiny PATH subway system to be subsumed into the MTA. We live in a single metropolitan area with high population density, and we cannot afford to let provincial sentiments obstruct the most cost effective solutions to our growing mass transit problems. In the world of political human achievement, implementing these kinds of projects for the greater good of the region should be easy to do.

Chris May 14, 2012 - 7:36 am

Don’t subsume PATH into the subway system. Instead, subsume SIRT into PATH, and allow the MTA to operate with as few interstate regulations as possible. PATH is already chartered as a railroad under federal law, and it would be much simpler to combine SIRT and PATH than to merge in the whole NYC subway system. (I’m looking at legal issues, and not transit issues….)

nyland8 May 14, 2012 - 8:35 am

Subsuming SIR into PATH might have the same effect, and it might further motivate the PA to include a rail option on the new Goethals design. Point taken. It is a cruel twist of history that Staten Island didn’t become part of New Jersey, which is where it geographically belongs.

But since both PATH and SIR already run under similar modified FRA regulations, the MTA can simply run that PATH/SIR system as a C division. The already run SIR – so it’s not really a stretch. And if the MTA can do what it will with the subsumed PATH system, other possibilities abound – like WTC over to the East Side, and reopening the 9th Street bellmouth and extending the train to Union Square.

In any event, the connection across the Arthur Kill should be made – and at many billions less than tunneling the Narrows.

Bolwerk May 15, 2012 - 2:15 pm

Thinking that “subsuming” anything into anything else automatically even comes close to fixing anything is about the worst trap to fall into. The region is going to have separate transit agencies, and they need to work together – and they should be sharing fare media and the like.

Nyland8 May 15, 2012 - 3:01 pm

Fair point. I don’t know if I’d go so far as to say that merger unto itself would “fix” anything. Nor have I.

But if we were still operating with BRT/BMT, IND and IRT as separate entities, it’s hard to imagine how things would have been better. In fact, many of the limitations we live under now are a direct result of not having had a single authority with a single regional plan 100 years ago.

More provincial thinking, less purchasing power, more levels of bureaucracy, less political clout, etc, etc. Having them all swallowed into what is now the MTA was a step in the right direction – as I suspect combining the MTA and PATH would be today.

In any event, the shortest distance and the cheapest price for rail connectivity to the final borough still runs through New Jersey – no matter how you slice it. Even if it takes the form of some MetroNorth/NJTransit hybrid – like the Port Jervis line – which I guess is not out of the question.

Bolwerk May 16, 2012 - 1:19 am

In some cases you start losing advantages by conglomeration. The IND, BMT, and IRT make sense to put together because they shared a basic service area and all did about the same things. Throwing in something like PATH, which has a separate service area and must comply with interstate/railroad regulations* is a can of worms that the MTA doesn’t need. In corporate strategy, there comes a point where you’re better off having a strategic alliance than an outright merger, and that’s probably the case here.

In fact, what all the transit agencies should be doing is working on a shared fare structure – and letting the accounting departments figure out what gets attributed where. There might still be cases where operational mergers make sense, but the more important thing is getting rid of the barriers that make things not work, not create the illusion that conglomeration knocks down barriers.

* Granted, these regulations can probably be avoided. PATH could probably cease to legally be a railroad.

In any event, the shortest distance and the cheapest price for rail connectivity to the final borough still runs through New Jersey – no matter how you slice it. Even if it takes the form of some MetroNorth/NJTransit hybrid – like the Port Jervis line – which I guess is not out of the question.

I don’t know about that. The cheapest option may be the R Train, though it’s remote. The shortest distance to Manhattan is under the bay between SI and downtown.

I would actually think the interesting, if not cost-effective, options would be downtown to Red Hook to SI, actually. At least then you hit another under-served area.

nyland8 May 16, 2012 - 9:31 am

“Throwing in something like PATH, which has a separate service area and must comply with interstate/railroad regulations* is a can of worms that the MTA doesn’t need.”

No. This is exactly what the MTA already has. It’s called the SIR, which also runs under modified FRA regulations. That’s my point. The PATH and the SIR are already sister systems. There’s less difference between them than there is between the A and B divisions – and the MTA is already committed to running the Staten Island Railway anyway. It’s not going away anytime soon. So spanning the Kill and connecting to PATH is a natural. Of course, who actually runs it becomes another matter. For all I care, it could all be PATH. I’m sure they’d still very much consider it part of their imagined mandate of “interstate commerce”.

As far as tunneling from Fulton Street to Richmond, nobody is holding their breath for that to happen – ever. It would be five times the length of going under the Hudson.

As for running a subway across the Narrows, I’d be all for it. Of course, when it gets to Richmond it won’t connect to anything, because it won’t be compatible with the existing SIR. But you could run it cut-and-cover down the coast, throw in a couple of stops along Father Capodonno, turn West at Miller Field (still cut-and-cover) and connect at New Dorp Station – basically bisecting the existing SIR. That way rail traffic along the SIR would be moving in both directions all day, reducing crowding and spurring further development on the southern part of the county.

Anon256 May 16, 2012 - 12:22 pm

For all technical purposes the SIR is compatible with division B of the subway, and uses slightly-modified rolling stock from the latter. For legacy reasons it is still FRA-regulated (with most of those regulations waived) but since it doesn’t actually share track with freight there would be no problem severing it from the mainline network and declaring it part of the subway. If a tunnel connecting them existed, trains could run through from the Brooklyn subways onto the SIR with no modification.

nyland8 May 17, 2012 - 8:59 am

Thanks for that.

Bolwerk May 16, 2012 - 2:04 pm

No. This is exactly what the MTA already has. It’s called the SIR, which also runs under modified FRA regulations. That’s my point. The PATH and the SIR are already sister systems.

I don’t think SIRT is FRA anymore. The FRA doesn’t list SIRT as an FRA railroad on this FRA source:

There are now 19 commuter railroads subject to FRA oversight, ranging from large ones, such as the Long Island Railroad (LIRR), MetroNorth Railroad, New Jersey Transit (NJT), Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA), Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA), Northeast Illinois Regional Commuter Railroad Corporation (METRA), and Southern California Regional Rail Authority (SCRRA- Metrolink), to smaller operators such as Vermont Railway Company (Champlain Flyer), Connecticut Department of Transportation, Port Authority Trans-Hudson Corporation (PATH), Northern Indiana Commuter Transportation District, Maryland Mass Transit Administration (MARC), Virginia Railway Express, Florida’s Tri-County Commuter Rail Authority (Tri-Rail), Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART – Trinity Rail), San Diego Northern Railway (Coaster), Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board (Caltrain), Altamont Commuter Express in California, and Central Puget Sound Regional Transit Authority (Sounder).

Near as I can tell, for all intents and purposes, SIRT may as well be an IND line now – it just needs compliant stations.

Anon256 May 16, 2012 - 4:19 pm

Odd to list Champlain Flyer but not Syracuse OnTrack, which was operational for a proper superset of the period Champlain Flyer was.

Bolwerk May 16, 2012 - 6:08 pm

Maybe it received some kind of temporal separation waiver, like River Line. I don’t see that listed either.

Anon256 May 16, 2012 - 7:09 pm

Since the list includes Champlain Flyer it must be from 2003 or earlier, at which time the River Line did not yet exist.

Bolwerk May 16, 2012 - 7:15 pm

Hmm. I guess it would have fallen under NJ Transit anyway. Another possibility for OnTrack might have been a museum waiver. 😀

nyland8 May 17, 2012 - 9:08 am

Indeed. As recently as a few years ago, the Wikipedia page on the SIR classified it as “modified FRA regulations” – but now the only references to that past appear on websites with the history of Staten Island Railway.

It’s hard to keep up when you’re not in the industry.

Bolwerk May 17, 2012 - 1:38 pm

Yeah, Wikipedia seems mostly responsible for continuing to propagate that (probable) myth. That page I posted is apparently no newer than the early 2000s, so it’s apparently been non-FRA for a while.

The railrans on misc.transit.rail.americas pointed to similar issues with PATH. It’s still FRA, but Wikipedia was apparently mis-reporting the existence of connections to the national railway system that just don’t exist anymore.

Adirondacker12800 May 15, 2012 - 10:46 pm

Sounds great. PATH runs at capacity during peak now. The Port Authority is dropping a few billion dollars on new signals so they can squeeze in a few extra trains and longer platforms so they can run extra trains. How is the wundertrain going to get from Fifth Ave and 9Th Street to the Christopher Street station?

The platforms under the World Trade Center are oriented north-south on loop tracks. There is no place to extend them to unless you want to take PATH out of service at the World Trade Center for a decade or two while you rebuild tunnels under skyscrapers.

John T May 14, 2012 - 7:09 am

I’ll be happy if something gets done!

As happened in Seattle, if the ridership is high enough then the rails can be laid later, and the RoW could even be shared between busses and LRVs. It’s important that there are feeder lines because the route on it’s own wouldn’t have enough riders (one side is on water after all). $371 million is still serious money.

Larry Littlefield May 14, 2012 - 7:14 am

“Considering how light rail can run higher capacity vehicles more frequently, it’s tough to see how exactly a bus lane would carry more passengers than a properly designed and integrated light rail system.”

If those passengers are there and waiting to take the trolley. If ever capacity becomes an issue along this ROW, light rail could be installed. You’d have the ROW in place.

But at the density of SI, the number of passengers carried depends on how large the catchment area is the ROW would serve. By having buses spread out to a larger catchment area and then get on the ROW, ridership is thus increased.

Eric F May 14, 2012 - 8:53 am

The projection is 12,000 total trips, which is 6,000 people making round trips. That type of ridership hardly justifies fixed rail, and probably doesn’t justify BRT either.

Benjamin Kabak May 14, 2012 - 9:16 am

12,000 peak AM ridership only. That doesn’t count PM return trips or other off-peak usage.

Eric F May 14, 2012 - 9:39 am

Ah, I see, so it’s 12,000, more or less, riders. That’s a lot better than 6k.

nyland8 May 14, 2012 - 9:19 am

The reason that number is so tiny – 12,000 – is because it only presupposes a % of that sparse population going East toward the ferry. If the PATH and SIR systems were connected across the Arthur Kill, you’d have ridership numbers along that corridor that reflect commuters who would travel all the way from Tottenville to Herald Square. In other word, add another 15 to 20 thousand a day – taking a quarter to a third off the SI Ferry traffic, which has 60,000 daily riders.

Eric F May 14, 2012 - 9:41 am

There is no way that any agency will be able to come up with the billions required to run LRT over the Bayonee Bridge, which is about to be substantially raised, increasing the grade and requisite LRT approach spans. If the PA actually had $1 billion or so dropped on its lap, it would be professional malpractice to apply it to running LRT over that bridge as opposed to any of a dozen capital projects lying on the shelf that desperately need to be constructed. You will never see LRT over the Bayonne Bridge, ever.

nyland8 May 14, 2012 - 11:07 am

OK … but I don’t recall writing anything at all about the Bayonne Bridge. There is already a viable rail bridge, albeit only 1 set of tracks, across the Arthur Kill that can be used to connect the PATH and SIR systems. In fact, that bridge had a major overhaul as recently as 2006. It would be a perfect start to Staten Island connectivity, if the Northern Corridor were linked to the rest of the SIR.

And if and when the Goethals gets its remake – or twin – or whatever comes down the pike – the PA can build it rail-ready. Again, this offers regional solutions to problems that are generations old, namely connecting the fifth borough. AND it does it at a fraction of the cost of tunneling the Narrows. 98% of the unused ROWs already exist in New Jersey to make this happen. Whether PATH runs it, or the MTA runs it, makes little difference to the region.

Everything is in place to make this happen if the political will were there. The people of Staten Island should be clamoring for a rail connection to Manhattan. 60,000 ferry riders a day already attest to that.

Eric F May 14, 2012 - 12:06 pm

What route would go over the Goethals?

The Cobalt Devil May 14, 2012 - 4:20 pm

A good 10,000 of those ferry riders are tourists. Any many folks (myself included, at least until I move next month) work downtown and live near the ferry, so it wouldn’t make much sense to take a train thru NJ to get to Manhattan.

Take a ride on the S40 Richmond Terrace bus and you’ll see a majority of the riders are school students and the working poor who have jobs on Staten Island. Anybody who has a decent paying job in Manhattan doesn’t live along Richmond Terrace, so there’s no big call for this to be built. And it never will, PowerPoint slides notwithstanding.

Benjamin Kabak May 16, 2012 - 9:35 am

it wouldn’t make much sense to take a train thru NJ to get to Manhattan.

I don’t think too many people are advocating taking the train through NJ to Manhattan. Rather, a spur over the bridge would provide the chance to avoid traveling through Manhattan to get to job centers in Jersey City and points beyond.

dungone May 15, 2012 - 12:48 pm

LRT can negotiate steep grades. That is one of it’s great advantages over heavy rail. I lived in Pittsburgh where their LRT lines routinely goes over 10% grades. This is a good argument for going with LRT over heavy rail, not an argument in favor of BRT. BRT is actually more dangerous on hills in inclement weather so if the same bridge had to be negotiated by bus, it would be worse.

And as an automobile driver, I hate buses. They tear up the roads and this causes significant damage to the cars that have to share those roads. Even when LRT runs on the same grade with cars, it does not tear up the road the way buses do. Which, again, I see as an argument in favor of LRT instead of heavy rail rather than one for BRT.

Nyland8 May 15, 2012 - 5:17 pm

In this case, the existing ROW is already an old trench with probably no more than a 2% grade. Other than that – I, too, would much prefer any option other than a bus. To not come up with a viable rail extension along the Northern Corridor to the existing SIR, and extend that across to New Jersey in some fashion, would seem short sited at best.

Alon Levy May 15, 2012 - 5:55 pm

But the ROW in question was built for steam-powered heavy rail. It doesn’t have 10% grades. The real question is whether you want this to be compatible with the SIR and the rail modes that exist in New York, or with the HBLR.

dungone May 17, 2012 - 12:34 am

@Alon & Nyland8, I was responding to the comment which said that a bridge connecting the ROW to the mainland would require steep grades.

nyland8 May 17, 2012 - 7:37 am

Point taken. Anything crossing the Kill needs to get up high, because the shipping traffic is tall, and the span is short. And I think they’re expecting even taller ships in the near future. I’m not sure what the expansion of the Panama Canal will have on Port Newark and Port Elizabeth traffic, but I know that dredging is expected.

Still, there’s tons of room for that approach on both sides. There’s virtually no development at that end of Richmond, little in Union County, and the environmental impact statement for any Goethals Bridge replacement was already completed more than a year ago.

While, as Benjamin correctly points out, nobody is talking about a rail connection between Richmond and New York Counties going through New Jersey – other than me, that is – I still contend it is the shortest distance between two points. Not as a crow flies, of course, but in terms of time, costs and engineering approvals. That connection can be made within the decade, whereas Brooklyn/Richmond won’t happen in at least a generation, and more likely two or more … if ever.

What the best way for that to manifest itself may be subject to debate. Whether that’s Tottenville to NY Penn via NJTransit/MetroNorth hybrid, (like Spring Valley/Port Jervis lines run) or Tottenville to Herald Square via SIR/PATH hybrid, which I am fonder of envisioning, it is nevertheless many, many billions of dollars less than any tunnel from Brooklyn to Staten Island. And geographically, that subway won’t be any quicker a connection than through New Jersey anyway – in fact, with more stops along the way, it would probably be slower … so … there’s that.

Whatever the final “solution” is, you can be damned sure of one thing. If Richmond County had been part of New Jersey instead of New York, it would have always had a rail connection to Manhattan. There’s no doubt about that.

All a person needs to see that is to be able to read a map.

Alon Levy May 17, 2012 - 9:58 pm

Well, the direct route is long, but not unprecedented. The Transbay Tube goes under 5.5 km of water, about the same as between St. George and Governor’s Island or Red Hook and not much less than the 8 km between St. George and South Ferry. And the SF Bay is deeper than the NY Harbor – 25 meters maximum on the path of the Transbay Tube vs. 17 on the St. George-Manhattan path. In addition, the tunneled part of the Oresund Bridge-Tunnel complex, consisting of a double-track railroad and four road lanes, goes under 3.5 km of water; however, the depth is only 4 meters.

nyland8 May 18, 2012 - 7:26 am

Indeed, Alon. But look at what you’re comparing.

In order to circumnavigate the San Francisco Bay, the alternative to the Transbay Tube is either to go down to Milpitas – in other words a 120 km journey along newly acquired, and newly built, ROW to get back up to the same place –

– OR circumnavigate the San Pablo Bay, a 105 km journey, including more bridges and/or tunnels – again in order to get to the same place in Oakland. In other words, there were compelling reasons for building the Transbay Tube that simply don’t exist here. Other than having no connection at all, they had no choice – literally. It was a Transbay Tube – or nothing.

What I’m suggesting uses, at least initially, existing infrastructure – bridges, tunnels and in situ ROWs – to take a 24 km journey for a PATH/SIR hybrid. OR a 30 km journey for a MetroNorth/NJTransit hybrid – both in lieu of an as yet unbuilt 8 km tunnel. Unlike Oakland/San Francisco, that IS a choice.

And one I think we should make.

Nathanael May 19, 2012 - 11:01 am

The HBLR is already elevated at 8th St. There is no problem with putting rail onto the Bayonne Bridge, if the Port Authority can be convinced to not be insane road warriors. That last bit might be hard, though.

Andrew May 14, 2012 - 8:28 pm

Let’s check out that running time.

Tottenville to St. George (express): 34 min
St. George to Arlington: 12 min (low estimate based on 21 min total for North Shore line)
Arlington to Newark Penn: ?? min
Newark Penn to Journal Square: 11 min
Journal Square to 33rd St: 22 min

I don’t know how long the segment from Arlington to Newark Penn would take, but if we go with 11 min (a very low estimate, I would say), we’re looking at a 90 min trip from Tottenville to Herald Square.

More to the point, the trip from St. George to Manhattan wouldn’t be at all competitive with the ferry – its only advantage to riders would be frequency, but frequency is expensive!

TP May 14, 2012 - 9:47 am

How did they crunch the numbers to conclude that “Operating costs for a bus line would be around $500,000 per year less than light rail”? I know nothing about how to estimate costs for this but LRT proponents/BRT haters often note that light rail costs less to operate. I’m just curious what variables come into play here. It seems like you could fudge the numbers to support your conclusion pretty easily on either side of the argument.

Eric F May 14, 2012 - 10:14 am

I would think that operating a new class of vehicle would be very expensive. You have to buy the stuff, develop a storage yard for it and train up a staff to maintain it and operate it. I’m surprised the spread on using an existing class of equipment vs. acquiring a whole new system is merely a half million.

dungone May 15, 2012 - 12:58 pm

Everything you described is part of the initial capital costs, not part of a recurring operating cost. I am also curious as to why BRT was seen as cheaper to operate. Someone may have cooked the numbers somehow. Maybe they compared the net cost of adding new capacity via LRT versus re-routing the existing bus capacity that’s already on the roads. It sounds to me like a BRT system is meant to help drivers by grade-separating buses for a portion of their trip without actually helping transit riders all that much. As such, it’s an expensive perk for drivers.

Nathanael May 19, 2012 - 11:03 am

They probably cooked the numbers. Here’s how they most likely did it. The reasonable rail proposals include:
(1) extension of HBLR;
(2) extension of PATH from the mainland;
(3) extension of SIRT.

I suspect they failed to consider all of these, and instead priced out a fully isolated LRT system, with the resulting higher operating costs of operating your own entire maintenance base.

Alon Levy May 15, 2012 - 5:34 pm

There’s already a storage yard for subway cars at St. George.

The only reason to consider LRT rather than ordinary subway equipment is if they insist on deviating from the North Shore Branch ROW. Otherwise, the cost of infrastructure is the same either way.

Bolwerk May 15, 2012 - 8:23 pm

I dunno about hat. LRT equipment alone is significantly cheaper than heavy rail rapid transit equipment. The savings could easily be tens of millions$.

Adirondacker12800 May 15, 2012 - 10:50 pm

NYC buys subway cars cheap because they are one of the world’s biggest buyers.

Alon Levy May 15, 2012 - 11:23 pm

Large orders are cheaper per unit than small orders, and there’s a convenient subway system in the region that this project can piggyback on. Expect costs in the $2 million per car range.

The useful part of the line is about 8 kilometers. At modern subway speeds, this is just over 15 minutes. Run trains every 10 minutes, and you need 4 sets, with 1 spare. 5 sets times 2 cars is 10 cars, or $20 million. 6 sets times 4 cars, if you need more, is $40 million.

Mind you, the infrastructure cost I’d consider reasonable for this is on the order of $20 million. This shouldn’t one of these rolling-stock-is-a-rounding-error projects, though thanks to the MTA’s cost control practices, it is.

Bolwerk May 16, 2012 - 1:12 am

If the equipment is standard somewhere else, or standard in a lot of other places, a small-medium order is a trivial proposition. There are LRT services in the region that we should strive to be compatible with already.

Alon Levy May 16, 2012 - 3:15 am

Yes, but:

1. There’s still the maintenance yard issue.

2. Because NYCT is a big buyer of subway equipment, it gets discounts, and also can get low prices even with inane Buy America rules.

Bolwerk May 16, 2012 - 2:11 pm

I get that, but even then it’s doubtful that the few LRV trainsets they’d need – even at inflated prices – approach the costs of any feasible combination of NYCTA trainsets. If they go with NYCTA equipment, they’ll need to overbuild.

At least some of the good that would come out of LRT is the foot in the door effect. They have to start somewhere, whether it’s here or Red Hook. NYC could easily handle the scale necessary to get LRVs at deep discounts, eventually.

Alon Levy May 16, 2012 - 10:00 pm

Why would they even need to overbuild? 2-car trains initially, and 4-car trains later ought to be enough. It’s really not that expensive.

In contrast, looking up Citadis orders on Railway Gazette, the cost per unit seems to be in the $4 million range (each unit is a little less than twice as long as an R160). In Dijon they pooled their order with another city to get a discount; the cost is described as “more than” $2.35 million per unit, a 25% discount over not pooling and the lowest cost I saw. The 25% discount is responsible to the entire cost difference with MTA rolling stock orders reckoned per meter of vehicle length.

Bolwerk May 14, 2012 - 12:03 pm

Eric F. may have a point. To be cost-effective, an LRT line needs to be part of a comprehensive LRT network. Simply building one relatively isolated line probably doesn’t capture all the benefits. The MTA already has a pretty comprehensive bus network, and there is little difference between maintaining BRT vehicles and regular buses.

Of course, there isn’t exactly a huge leap between buses and LRVs and LRVs to subways either. It’s just probably a matter of the scale, for where there are differences, of needing to source some different components. I doubt the TWU would go for it, but NJTransit’s design-build-operate model for HBLR seemed to get around those problems nicely.

Alon Levy May 15, 2012 - 5:53 pm

You mean the model for the HBLR that got North Jersey a line that’s 80% in existing ROW for the cost of a fully greenfield line?

Bolwerk May 15, 2012 - 6:22 pm

I thought of that, but then I figured it’s in line with my expectations for the region, so why not? The point is, it lets them shirk the responsibility of coping with yet another mode and set of equipment and all the sourcing and stuff that comes with the territory, not omfg doing it public-private is a total rip too.

John-2 May 14, 2012 - 10:15 am

Looking at the map and seeing where the BRT is going to get its highest usage as far as number of routes you can already plan for a big kerfuffle in the area along most of Richmond Terrace, where any dedicated ROW is going to pretty much have to be built from scratch, since the old SIRT route has either eroded or been built over.

The section from West Brighton to Arlington where the ROW is still intact will be easier to convert, but going by the map will only serve two bus routes, while West Brighton to St. George will serve six routes, at least three of which make no sense being there unless you have a completely dedicated route, and not some compromise street-running option because the MTA can’t find the space for a grade-separated BRT option.

Bolwerk May 14, 2012 - 12:12 pm

I suspect they aren’t counting on frequent service. They want to squeeze four more bus lines onto a small segment of the ROW, which reduces the frequencies for the rest of the ROW. Unless, of course, they’re planning on taking a cue from the IRT and building a four-lane trunk bus line.

John-2 May 14, 2012 - 1:32 pm

It’s hard to see a lot of people in the central or southern parts of SI flocking to the S54/S57 BRT routes unless the trip is significantly faster than their current routes, and how fast that is will probably depend on how many stops the MTA ends up putting in between St. George and West Brighton (less if they have a dedicated route without cross-traffic; a bunch, I suspect, if they end up cheapening out and simply building dedicated bus lanes along the existing Richmond Terrace ROW).

ajedrez May 14, 2012 - 1:35 pm

Those buses don’t run that frequently. At best, they run every 15 minutes during rush hour, so divide that by 6 and you have a bus every 2-3 minutes. Unless they try to time them all to meet the ferry at the same time, there shouldn’t be any issues with capacity.

West of West Brighton, the S53 runs every 10 minutes during rush hour, but the S54/57/59 are off by then, so once again, capacity shouldn’t be an issue.

Bolwerk May 14, 2012 - 2:02 pm

It looks to me like that there might be complete utilization on the ferry side, and low utilization elsewhere. That is definitely a capacity problem, if there is growth in any of those lines. It goes to what I said below, how they seem to expect demand to be static – as if transit doesn’t induce usage.

Christopher May 14, 2012 - 10:43 am

Great so we’ve got a plan in the hopper. Now let’s see about increasing landuse along the ROW and having that pay for the transit improvements. I know I’m a broken record on this but there’s no reason that I can see that MTA needs to be footing the bill entirely for expansion projects that benefit adjacent landowners.

SEAN May 14, 2012 - 10:47 am

Who from the oil lobby paid for the study?

Frank B May 14, 2012 - 11:15 am

My sentiments exactly.

Alon Levy May 15, 2012 - 5:52 pm

The contractors and the MTA really don’t need the oil lobby for this.

Frank B May 14, 2012 - 11:06 am

What a kick in the teeth. I’d rather they just leave it abandoned and maybe in 10 years someone will have the brains to do it correctly.

Bolwerk May 14, 2012 - 12:23 pm

A kick in the teeth could be the intent. It’s long-standing tradition in New York and other USA cities to inflict buses on people. I do mean inflict too. People who don’t need cars deserve to be punished. Especially those too poor to live near a subway.

Phantom May 15, 2012 - 6:57 am

I prefer trains but dont understand the animus towards buses, esp those who would have a dedicated laneto run on

Bolwerk May 15, 2012 - 2:41 pm

Actually, I don’t mind buses, so much as I mind how they’re used. They’re fine for low-use routes. NYC has so many intermediate and even heavy use routes that buses are simply a misappropriation of resources.

TP May 15, 2012 - 10:28 am

Especially those too poor to live near a subway.

Is there a correlation between income and distance from the subway in New York City? I definitely wouldn’t assume so. I might assume the opposite, actually. You have extremely high income neighborhoods with the best subway access in the country in Manhattan, but otherwise the opposite is probably true in most of the Outer Boroughs. Staten Island has the highest median household income of any borough and a strong upper middle class. Manhattan has a small group of the ultra-rich, a bunch of highly educated single transplant transients, and a bunch of poor people. In the Bronx and Queens I’d bet that overall the further you are from the subway the wealthier you are. Brooklyn might be a mixed bag.

Bolwerk May 15, 2012 - 2:39 pm

What I was getting at was more like: the richest and/or most politically connected neighborhoods get more rail (Upper East Side, Long Island), the middle class ones close in at least get reliable service, and the poorer neighborhoods get by on what they already have. And there’s the 7 extension, which was a bungled plot to introduce more condos to the west side. Hard to say what that’s going to do now.

Other than Riverdale, The Bronx is nearly uniformly poor or working class. Queens is pretty working to middle class along both its major subway routes, the 7 and the IND Queens Blvd. line. Maybe Brooklyn is a mixed bag. Staten Island’s high median income isn’t very telling given that there are probably neighborhoods in the other boroughs that exceed Staten Island in size – though what is telling is, the poorest part of Staten Island isn’t good enough to get a rail line.

In the Bronx and Queens I’d bet that overall the further you are from the subway the wealthier you are. Brooklyn might be a mixed bag.

That could be true in some cases, but these are also lower density neighborhoods where service makes little sense anyway. The bulk of NYC lives in medium to high-density neighborhoods, and these should be the focus for transit investment.

Many of the most impoverished places in NYC are housing projects, which are poorly accessibly by design.

Tim May 15, 2012 - 3:46 pm

From what I’ve seen, proximity to transit is indeed abig factor in rents in in NYC. That’s why the West Side is so stagnant still, and why apt rents rise as you get nearer to a subway stop.

Al D May 14, 2012 - 12:03 pm

Why do they insist on giving up preciously needed rail ROW’s? What is this American obsession with eliminating these? Haven’t we learned our lessons from the 60s, 70s, 80s & 90s?

This rail ROW presents a golden opportunity to connect a DIRECT rail link to Manhattan via NJ! And here’s the thing…most all, if not all the ROW alreadys exists and most is in good repair! Whether it’s PATH of NJT, what difference does it make? OK, put an MTA operational badge just like the Port Jervis and Pascack Valley Lines. So the model clearly exists.

Bolwerk May 14, 2012 - 12:34 pm

Still, considering how light rail can run higher capacity vehicles more frequently, it’s tough to see how exactly a bus lane would carry more passengers than a properly designed and integrated light rail system.

Okay, is the MTA’s assumption coming from the four lines they’re feeding into it? That is, four additional bus lines feeding the ROW plus the North Shore Line will bring 1,510 additional riders? If that’s the case, LRT wins hands down, since it’s one ROW carrying that many people – and they should be building four LRT lines. Hell, with a proper transfer, there is no reason to think LRT wouldn’t capture those riders anyway. :-O

I don’t think there is any way around the conclusion that these studies only look at the present, almost never the future. If this were just about one line by itself, it would hardly matter. If this could be the first step in building a better surface, more comprehensive transportation system, LRT wins hands down. They aren’t entertaining looking at connecting to Brooklyn or New Jersey, at least not seriously.

They also don’t look at (or care about) people’s preferences, which generally favor a smoother, faster rail ride over a bus ride. BRT improves on local bus service, but only so much. They pretend a rider will be agnostic between a train and a bus. Some perhaps will take what they can get because they must, but all else being equal most rational riders will prefer the more comfortable trip.

When the money is there, perhaps the rail option will be as well.

I half-wonder if the intent of this is to spend more money. BRT means needing to consume more land and materials for the construction – not to mention the land that I assume needs to be taken for entering and exiting the ROW for these different routes. If the scheme fails, it means blowing a lot of money keeping it afloat, and if it is too successful it keeps wasting money as more and more buses (= more union labor) get thrown at it to fix the problems inherent in over-utilized bus services.

They’re almost trading in volatitility, at the taxpayers’ expense.

ajedrez May 14, 2012 - 1:45 pm

I already mentioned that I think it should be heavy rail and gave my reasons in other posts, but as far as this busway goes, they still have the opportunity to make it better. The ROW gets further from Richmond Terrace west of Port Richmond, so there should be a bus route along Richmond Terrace in Mariners’ Harbor. You could either extend the S66 from Port Richmond (and bring back weekend service) or have the S46 go up Nicholas Avenue and then serve Richmond Terrace, terminating either at Arlington Place or Forest Avenue (or, since it looks like the western part of Forest Avenue would have no service, terminate it the way the S40 does today, by the trailer park)

John Paul N. May 14, 2012 - 4:18 pm

The S40 and parts of the S46 in Mariners Harbor would be discontinued. Wouldn’t there be a revolt against that?

I also feel, since this instead of LRT is being considered, that some of the east-west bus routes should also be rerouted onto the ROW: the S48/98, the S61/91 and the S62/92. Some of these buses (i.e. the limited buses) would be diverted onto Jewett Avenue and enter the BRT at Alaska Street, while the other buses would continue to serve the eastern portions. (With the S61/91 and S62/92 going up Jewett Avenue, the S66 would be modified to go to another terminal.)

Travis also feels like a better terminal for the BRT than West Shore Plaza (use the West Shore Expressway and Victory Boulevard after serving West Shore Plaza), if most of the ridership will be Ferry-bound.

The Cobalt Devil May 14, 2012 - 4:23 pm

“The S40 and parts of the S46 in Mariners Harbor would be discontinued. Wouldn’t there be a revolt against that?”

Since many of the riders on these and other lines don’t even pay to get on, they can complain all they want.


ajedrez May 17, 2012 - 11:00 am

And the ones that do pay? The S40 actually doesn’t get a whole lot of fare evasion.

Chet May 14, 2012 - 6:00 pm

This is very disappointing. While its nice to see a study completed, buses will never be as fast as a train- light or heavy rail.

The opportunity to send this train over the Goethals Bridge, and a spur over the Bayonne Bridge to link up with the HBLR, NJ Transit, Amtrak, PATH is something that should just not be swept aside.

About the only encouraging piece is that since there is no money for any of this right now, down the road when there is money, maybe saner more train savvy people will be in charge.

Andrew May 14, 2012 - 8:18 pm

Still, considering how light rail can run higher capacity vehicles more frequently, it’s tough to see how exactly a bus lane would carry more passengers than a properly designed and integrated light rail system.

The question is how many riders the line would attract, not how many it could carry at maximum capacity. Splitting into six branches across the island attracts more riders than a single trunk with no branches.

Alon Levy May 15, 2012 - 5:45 pm

Idiots. They internalize some mantra that’s based on a very different set of construction assumptions, and then kneecap service to the North Shore permanently. Today’s low-investment, high-cost situation won’t last forever. When they come up with money to tunnel from Staten Island to Manhattan, the MTA’s decision to give the corridor away will bite future residents in the ass. (But not today’s managers, who will be enjoying corporate sinecures, retired, or dead.)

If you already have an existing above-ground ROW, there is no cost difference between heavy and light rail. If you’re just building on an abandoned rail line, rail is if anything cheaper than a bus. The cheap BRT lines are the ones that use street lanes, rather than paving over abandoned railroads.

Restoring rail ROWs in worse shape than the North Shore Branch has been done, in high-cost Germany, for not much more than a million dollars in infrastructure investment per kilometer. It’s not much more expensive than building on-street BRT.

Now, what’s the point of doing anything other than SIR-compatible rail or dedicated bus lanes on the major streets? Well, the MTA saw a solution looking for a problem. Buses are cheaper on-street than on a new ROW, and the ROW in question is too close to the water at places, which wastes valuable station radius. But it’s an ROW it can do something with, so why not? It’s more money for the contractors this way, and more middling ridership that they can solve with another line in the future. Win-win for everyone except transportation users, and they don’t count.

Anon256 May 15, 2012 - 9:21 pm

I think the exclusion of the heavy rail alternative might have something to do with bizarre extension to serve empty swamp land, Teleport, and West Shore Plaza, which would likely entail some median-running. Once they’d committed to that ridiculous piece of development-oriented transit there was little hope of a sensible plan.

Alon Levy May 15, 2012 - 11:09 pm

Yeah, that too.

Though, it’s perfectly possible for heavy rail to run on-street. Very heavy freight trains do, e.g. in Oakland. It’s just impossible to do so with third rail, and unusual with high platforms.

Anon256 May 16, 2012 - 2:10 am

By heavy rail I meant compatible with existing SIR infrastructure and rolling stock. Also, the alternatives analysis actually calls for mixed traffic running on that section, though it’s hard to believe there’s enough traffic on South Ave to tell the difference.

Seriously, what were they thinking making West Shore Plaza the terminus of every alternative? Truly a line to nowhere.

Brian July 19, 2012 - 1:24 am

I agree, with Alon. Heavy rail was there and most of the infratstructure is there. However, why are we looking at Staten Islanders going out of NJ. Christie killed the ARC tunnel and NJT needs another access to NYC. I think if the MTA and NJT could split cost of cross harbor tunnel, it is a win/win. Some trains could be diverted from the North Jersey Coast LIne (NJCL) and Northeast Corridor (NEC) through Staten Island to the tunnel running express the whole way to lower Manhattan. I am not suggesting all NJT trains from NJCL and NEC go through Staten Island but a 1/4 of the rush should go through there. Not every commuter needs to go to Mid-Town. Staten Island wins because they could run trains in to Lower Manhattan as well. If Staten Islanders on the out edges of Staten Island need to go to Mid-town, they could reverse commute out to Perth Amboy or Linden and catch an NJCL or NEC to Penn Station. I feel the cross harbor opens more options for NJ and Staten Island Commuters and frees up space in Penn Station for Morris-Essex Line trains, Montclair-Boonton, and (when they electrify it) Raritan Valley Line. Plus, now downtown commuters are off the immensely crowded Path Trains.

marvin May 16, 2012 - 9:25 pm

Great – a faster bus ride……..to a ferry……….. to Manhattan subways. This will only take 30 years (almost as long as the trip). A comprehensive transportation is needed for the NY area. I would include:

Extend the #7 train across to the Hoboken terminal (which relieves pressure from Penn Station without the cost of a new terminal and provides East Side access) and then extend it down along I-78 (NJ Tpk Extension) and then along 440 over the Bayonne Bridge linking to the northshore line into the SIRR. If 30+ trains/hr are run both NJ and SI commuter gain a real regional link.

Give up on a NY Harbor freight crossing, but have the new Tapanzee crossing accomodate freight rail in non rush hours (rush hours use s/b for commuter rail) thus shaving hundreds of miles off the train connection into Long Island. Given this new reality, convert the Bay Ridge RR line into productive use such a Triboro Rx or a truckway).

nyland8 May 17, 2012 - 10:12 am

I think what I find most astonishing – frustrating, even – is the tortured mathematical models that are used to determine use or projected use. It’s not rocket science. It’s population density. Period. If you build it, they will come – or in this case, they will use it.

While Richmond might be the bastard stepchild of the five boroughs, they are the red-headed bastard stepchild – with leprosy – of all the counties that surround Manhattan.

You can take a train directly into Manhattan from Orange County, Rockland, Suffolk, Putnam … even Duchess County … but not from the bastard borough. Staten Island has a population density of well over 8,000/sq.mi. What is Putnam? A few hundred? How about Ocean County in New Jersey? Less than 1,000/sq.mi. Suffolk County? Maybe 1,700/sq.mi.

The population density of New Haven County, CT is <1,500/sq.mi. – and yet MetroNorth runs there.

The population density of Duchess County New York is LESS THAN 400 PEOPLE PER SQUARE MILE! And MetroNorth runs TWO DIFFERENT LINES THERE !!! One on the East side of the county, and one along the Hudson. And how many miles from Manhattan is Duchess County?

How far is Port Jervis? And how much has it cost the rate payers on that MetroNorth line for the recent post-flood rebuild? Yet the population density of Orange County New York is under 500/sq.mi. – again, compared to Richmond, which is WELL OVER 16 TIMES THAT NUMBER!

On what far-flung planet does this make sense?

What's the population density of Warren County New Jersey? 300/sq.mi. ??? And yet I can get a train directly into Penn NY from there.

Why would anybody find this acceptable? You could run a train back and forth from NYPS to Port Richmond three or four times, and log less miles, and take less time, than from Wassaic in Duchess County New York. But you can't take a train from Richmond to New York County. !!??!!??!!??!!

There may currently be no plan to connect Manhattan to State Island by train, but there should be. In anything resembling a sane world, there would be.

And if Richmond were a county in New Jersey, you can bet there already would have been for decades.

ajedrez May 17, 2012 - 11:01 am

The thing is that it’s not unifromly low density. The density along the New Haven Line is pretty high.

Alon Levy May 17, 2012 - 3:41 pm

It’s still lower than the SI average. The only cities on the route that are denser than SI are Bridgeport and Pelham by a tiny margin, and Port Chester by a moderate margin. Community Board 1 is on a par with Port Chester and higher than the rest.

Alon Levy May 17, 2012 - 3:34 pm

Two things:

1. Completely agreed, density-wise. Of course there are parts of Long Island, North Jersey, etc. that are much denser than the average, but the same is true of St. George and other parts of the North Shore.

2. That said, there’s a geographical reason for this situation. The closest point to Manhattan by ferry, St. George, would require several kilometers of underwater tunnel to get to directly. The easy routes – across the Narrows to Brooklyn, through Bayonne, or through Elizabeth – are circuitous from St. George, and the rest of the borough wasn’t developed enough back when they still built rail tunnels. The Narrows route was the closest to being built in the sense that it was proposed around 1920 at the same time as SAS, but then the city decided to build the IND and drop extensions to the IRT and BMT, and we all know what happened to the Second System.

marvin May 20, 2012 - 12:47 am

Is it possible to convert the full SIRR to light rail, have it go over the VZ, up the BQ and to and through the Battery Tunnel, then up the West Side, and to the PA Bus Terminal using 4 car sets?

West of the VZB in Staten Island it would break into 3 branches
*one north through St Gorges and then west along the North Shore Route
*one branch following along the SIRR to Tottenville, and
*one branch continuing along the I-278 west to and across the new Gothels Bridge with a station at the Newark Libert Airport airtrain/Amtrak/Main line station and then terminating in Newark

Current (but reduced frequency) SIRR service from Tottenville to St Gorges would continue but also be extended along the North Shore.

A branch off either the North Shore route and/or the Staten Island Expressway could run south to (or beyond) the Willow Brook Mall and service from the mall to NJ could be provided.

In running through the Battery Tunnel a mid tunnel stop/station linking to Governors Island should be considered for the southbound direction only. (For going back to Manhattan one would need to go one stop in the wrong direction and then go back). A stop in Red Hook will serve a currently under served area and provide the needed switch station for Governors Island passengers.

What would be the maximum capacity city bound as compared to the current ussage of SIRR/the ferry and express buse?

Gained would be:
*one seat rides from Staten Island to many parts of Manhattan
*improved intra island travel
*connections with NJ

Lost would be:
*the lower capacity of light rail (though as I am limiting street running to West Street, Richmond Avenue (a wide blvd) and expressway type travel on I-278 and the Battery Tunnel) 4 car sets should be possible.
*Obviously Battery Tunnel capacity.

To increase capacity in Manhattan where the 3 branches would run together, a 3 track set up either the full length or in stations could be an option.

MJofLakeland1 December 24, 2012 - 2:29 am

If any tunneling will be done between Manhattan and Staten Island, it will not be rail transit.

Pulling third-rails out is more expensive than building it in the first place. I get your point, but tunneling under the narrows is more cost effective since the bridge will have to reach the height of the Verrazano for ship traffic, then descend into the Bay Ridge neighborhood… already too much. For rail transport across the Narrows will have to be an (R) train or (SIR) extension.

Phantom October 14, 2013 - 3:05 pm

You will not be sending any trains through Brooklyn without having stops in Brooklyn.

The plan is a fantasy anyway.

marv October 14, 2013 - 3:31 pm

“without having stops in Brooklyn”

From the Vz to Hamilton Ave the train would run either in the median or over the BQE (I278) which is but one blocks from the BMT 4th Avenue subway – why would stops be needed when the subway is this close?

On the stretch along Hamilton Ave, a stop serving Red Hook should be included. (It a southbound stop was built in the Battery Tunnel serving Governors Island, this stop would then serve as transfer for those who would then be headed back to Manhattan).

Spazztastic May 24, 2012 - 10:33 am

Connecting to the HBLR and the Bayonne Bridge is not as easy a task as people seem to think. For one, where the bridge crosses the ROW, it is already in a ditch, about 20′ below the street. The bridge deck is currently about 50′ above the street level. Additionally, the Bayonne Bridge is currently 151′ above MHW, and is supposed to be rebuilt within the next 10 years to 215′ above MHW.

nyland8 May 24, 2012 - 11:03 am

Point taken – but it’s not a question of it being an easy task. It’s a question of how easy it is compared to tunneling a rail connection to Brooklyn or Manhattan, and connecting Staten Island to Manhattan that way.

Compared to any alternative, the existing infrastructure on Staten Island and in New Jersey make that connection billions less in dollars, and decades less in time.

MJofLakeland1 December 24, 2012 - 2:02 am

A busway proposal is a decision rather or not “NYDOT” and “MTA” want to spend money for bus lines to reroute along the right-of-way. Just years after the transit-way will be constructed, the North Shore will be over-populated with new development and the need for another solution to vehicular traffic congestion begins. There is no other north-south expressway to the Narrows, so the busway is now the new North Shores expressway.

To better understand, Light Rail (rail tracks) will keep the transit-way “transit only”. If built for BRT, then NYDOT will take advantage of the surface and MTA will lose money paying off construction costs, as well have to revert bus lines back to city streets.

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