We don’t yet know what shape the MTA’s next five-year capital plan will take nor do we know who will see it through the prickly halls of Albany. It’s looking more and more likely though that Penn Station Access will be a significant part of that plan. I delved into the idea last week, but the short of it is that once East Side Access opens, the MTA can use some slots freed up by the LIRR’s move to Grand Central to bring Metro-North trains into Penn Station.
Some Long Island politicians are not thrilled with the idea that their constituents won’t have as frequent service to the West Side, but those concerns should be obviated as Long Islanders head to the East Side instead. With that in mind, it’s hard to view this idea as anything other than a win-win for everyone involved. Recently, the MTA officials have spoken at length about their potential plans, and one report claims that the MTA hopes to send 10 Metro-North trains an hour into Penn Station.
Newsday’s Alfonso Castillo and Thomas Zambito have more:
As many as 10 Metro-North trains every hour could stream into Penn Station during the morning rush once the link to Manhattan’s West Side is opened up to Hudson Valley commuters in 2019, according to new MTA documents. Among them would be several New Haven Line trains that would arrive at Penn Station every 20-30 minutes, according to a presentation Metro-North’s parent agency, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, gave Connecticut officials earlier this month.
“It adds additional service to get more vehicles and cars off the road, to give people more transportation options not only to get to Manhattan but to get to more places in the region,” interim MTA chairman Fernando Ferrer said of the Penn Station project, which a 2008 state comptroller’s report estimated would cost $1.8 billion…
As part of the Penn Station Access project, Metro-North would run six to 10 trains an hour to Penn Station during the morning peak period, which lasts from 6 to 10 a.m. And four Metro-North trains an hour would run from Penn Station to Connecticut during the morning rush to accommodate reverse commuters. Two New Haven Line trains would run to and from Penn Station during off-peak periods and on weekends. No information was provided on how many trains Metro-North would operate at Penn Station during the 4-8 p.m. evening rush.
It’s important to realize that all of these numbers are very preliminary. The MTA is still studying the environmental impact of the Penn Station Access plan, and no funding requests have been submitted, let alone approved. Still, the MTA is trying to improve access to both halves of Manhattan as well as trying to improve transportation from the Bronx into Midtown.
As Newsday reports, however, this plan is not without its detractors. Charles Fuschillo, a Republican State Senator from Merrick, oversees the Senate Transportation Committee, and his group would have to approve the MTA’s next capital plan if he retains his position. He’s already voicing concerns. “I don’t support Connecticut trains coming at the expense of the Long Island Rail Road,” he said, further noting that Penn Station Access won’t have his vote unless “he is assured that the LIRR will not be harmed by the Penn Station plan.”
Now, in my view, that’s an absurdly siloed and selfish view. Long Island will reap the benefits of East Side Access, but its politicians don’t seem to recognize that it’s part of a larger region and bigger state that will benefit tremendously from Penn Station Access. As Long Island riders head to the East Side, capacity at Penn Station should easily enable Metro-North trains to come west.
Much of this talk is premature, but the battle lines have been drawn. The MTA wants Penn Station Access, and Westchester and the Bronx will as well. Long Island politicians are set to fight. Transit upgrades just never come easy, it seems.