Home 7 Line Extension The 7 to Secaucus and what New Jersey wants

The 7 to Secaucus and what New Jersey wants

by Benjamin Kabak
The 7 to Secaucus will require the two states on opposite sides of the Hudson to cooperate.

The 7 to Secaucus will require the two states on opposite sides of the Hudson to cooperate.

For the past few years or perhaps centuries, New York has displayed a wee bit of a paternalistic attitude toward New Jersey. We scoff at the swamps and industrial areas that mar the landscape on the other side of the Hudson and view the state as some traffic-infested suburban wasteland rather than as a strong economic partner in the region. Gov. Chris Christie’s decision to cancel the ARC Tunnel felt like the final straw. If New Jersey doesn’t care about its ease of access into New York City, then why should New Yorkers care if Garden State residents can get here?

For the past few years, though, Mayor Michael Bloomberg has tried to cut through this interstate rivalry, but he’s taking a very one-sided approach. Since Christie’s ARC move, Bloomberg has pushed the idea of sending the subway to Secaucus. It’s a New York-centric way of controlling cross-border travel, but it’s one that could see the light of day if the mayor can find money. Yet, much like ARC, it suffers from a lack of interstate cooperation. New York wasn’t putting much into ARC construction, and New Jersey is hardly chomping at the bit to fund a trans-Hudson rail tunnel, let alone an extension of New York City’s subway system.

Still, the 7 extension to Secaucus is the idea that just won’t die. Last week, New York City’s Economic Development Corporation termed it feasible, and Staten Island threw a fit. As the MTA remains skeptical and broke, Trenton has done little more than acknowledge this idea’s existence. The Garden State won’t complain if someone else wants to build a rail tunnel for them.

But what if New York can eke out more than just some cheerleading and a promise not to intervene from New Jersey? What if New Jersey could be a funding partner? Bringing in New York’s neighbors to the east would greatly improve the project’s odd, and yesterday, The Record of Bergen County endorsed the idea.

The ARC tunnel was an expensive proposition with limited benefits. The trains would run to a new subterranean station below 34th Street; it would not have given commuters access to Grand Central Terminal, as a similar project under the East River eventually will do for Long Island Rail Road commuters. Additionally, New Jersey was on the hook for all cost overruns. Christie killed the project citing those costs as the main reason.

As years pass, it seems more likely the governor wanted the state funds committed to ARC for other transportation projects. Christie has provided no leadership on a new tunnel project. He has publicly been open to all suggestions, but has not put his political muscle behind any – not the possibility of extending the subway to Secaucus or the Gateway project that would allow for more Amtrak trains to cross under the Hudson.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which controls the New York subway, does not support Bloomberg’s plan. It does not see it as an economically viable project. There were no financial specifics in the report issued last week, so we are skeptical the MTA can make a valid judgment at this juncture. No doubt, Bloomberg sees the benefits for Westside development with an enhanced No. 7 subway. But the subway runs both ways and access to the Westside in Manhattan is access to North Jersey. The subway expansion would spur development around the Meadowlands and further support the proposed American Dream project…

The greater metropolitan region needs more than one trans-Hudson solution. None of these solutions will be inexpensive and all will take many years to complete. As superstorm Sandy showed us, our infrastructure is vulnerable. We need more transportation alternatives – traditional rail, light rail and subway. And we need them soon.

The most convincing argument in favor of the 7 line extension is in this editorial. It’s not just about development in New York City, and it’s not just about development in New Jersey. It’s about the potential to improve cross-Hudson travel while connecting New Jersey commuters and residents with Grand Central and spurring on development in the nearby Secaucus and Hoboken communities. It’s about realizing the economic power of the region rather than the isolationism of each state and the silo approach to transit planning.

I’d like to see The Record take its suggestions one step further. New Jersey should become a partner in the trans-Hudson efforts. Right now, Bloomberg is pushing his 7 line plan with no sure signs of success, and it’s not clear his successor would pick up the effort come January. Meanwhile, Amtrak is the only entity behind the Gateway Tunnel right now as New York and New Jersey have taken a step back there. Only through an interstate embrace will the region move forward with a new trans-Hudson rail tunnel. Otherwise, this is all just talk from lame-duck politicians and planners dreaming big but with no money to back it up.

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Tom April 16, 2013 - 12:08 am

Be careful with two states funding one city’s transport. One only has to look at the debacle that is funding the WMATA in DC every year to see how that can fail miserably. It almost killed the silver line extension to Dulles. I’m not saying it can’t work, but interstate funding of a single city based transit solution presents a whole host of problems. Especially when the majority of track is in one state.

al April 16, 2013 - 1:03 am

Forget 7 to Lautenberg/Secaucus. Send it to Hoboken. It would link up with HBLR and PATH. Hell, build links to the PATH tunnels so a new Hoboken Station can accommodate 10 car trains instead of the 8 car trains Hoboken Terminal currently handles.

Tower18 April 16, 2013 - 11:25 am

This keeps coming up, but why? Hoboken already has PATH to Midtown. A 7 train station in Northern Hoboken, fine, but running to Hoboken Penn Station? Why? For PATH riders, there’s already PATH. For NJT riders, they’d be accommodated equally well by the connection at Secaucus.

al April 16, 2013 - 12:19 pm

PATH Hoboken is limited to 7 or 8 cars. This limits capacity to WTC. Its hemmed in by the Hudson River, shallow depth, switches, and sharp grades and curves. Any platform extension would require a new spur off the flying junction south of PATH Hoboken. In that case, link it up to a 7 train coming across Hudson from 11th Ave/W23rd St. Add a station in North Hoboken/ Stevens Institute of Technology.

Having a northbound run from NJT Hoboken to Manhattan also improves the utility of Hoboken terminal and PATH efficiency.

This would also bring in funding from PANYNJ, MTA, NY, NJ, NYC, and US federal govt.

Bolwerk April 16, 2013 - 1:25 pm

This post parades the biggest problem with the assumptions people make about transportation planning: that just having something is enough. Nothing about PATH or HBLR substitutes for the 7. Neither goes to the east side of Manhattan, neither can (further) take the load of the the North River Tubes.

It comes up because it makes sense. That said, PATH may not be so important here, and maybe you can make the case that it’s good enough access to Midtown. But if the 7 is crossing HBLR anyway, it seems pretty tragic to not include a transfer to that, and, well, there is also a substantial train station in Hoboken.

SEAN April 16, 2013 - 11:34 am

7 service would have better utility in NJ if there was a stop in weehawken near River Road. In that area there are several housing complexes & large office buildings ajacent to the HBLR in that area.

As it is, the NJTPK 15X interchange has been a failure since there is zero development around the Secaucus station. If there is a way to densify the station area & extend the 7 there, you could change Secaucus on a grand scale.

Eric F April 16, 2013 - 1:40 pm

15X has a lot of future potential. The parking facility is already over capacity. The residential complex is being expanded and there have been discussions about reviving the office complex plan for the area.

Nyland8 April 16, 2013 - 6:29 pm

Why is the 7’s utility to Hudson county even under discussion? The purpose of running a cross-town subway to Secaucus was as a substitute for Christie’s crushed ARC project. Lautenberg was built for the express purpose of allowing connectivity of ALL NJ Transit trains – and that is why it is the perfect and only terminus the subway should be heading to.

If there’s a logical place to put a station in northern Hoboken – fine. (11th and Washington looks good) If there’s a logical place to connect to the HBLR – fine. (9th and Congress looks reasonable) But if it does go, the only place it must go is Lautenberg. If it can’t do what the ARC was designed to do, then there’s no reason to even contemplate it. Then it would be an entirely different project then what was proposed.

al April 17, 2013 - 12:31 pm

NY Penn is a bottleneck. A station at Hoboken Terminal instead of Lautenberg would allow NJ Transit to max out capacity on the Hoboken Division. Many riders who currently transfer at Lautenberg will stay put and transfer at Hoboken for a new ride north.

al April 17, 2013 - 12:37 pm

Riders on the Morris and Essex lines can get on a non Midtown Direct train and transfer at Hoboken. The current PATH Hoboken terminal is limited to 8 cars. A new 7 run to the north with 10 car platforms would more than double capacity to Midtown. If it is connected to PATH, Hoboken-WTC capacity increases by 25%.

Nyland8 April 17, 2013 - 1:59 pm

1) Every NJTransit train goes to Lautenberg. Only some go to Hoboken. The 7 should go to Lautenberg.
2) Going to Hoboken does not do the things ARC was intended to do – relieve NYPenn crowding among them. The 7 should go to Lautenberg.
3) Bloomberg’s idea of sending a cross-town subway to Secaucus was a response to Christie killing the ARC. The 7 should go to Lautenberg.
4) The 7 should go to Lautenberg.

Did I leave anything out?

Oh, yeah. The 7 Should go to Lautenberg.

AlexB April 17, 2013 - 6:58 pm

1) Not every train goes or can go to Lautenburg. The lines passing through Newark headed to Hoboken do not stop at Secaucus. Every train line can terminate at Hoboken.
2) Going to Hoboken does relieve Penn by attracting riders who want to go to the East Side. This frees up the tracks from Newark to Secaucus and Penn by sending more trains to Hoboken where there is actually more capacity than through Secaucus.
3) Sending the 7 to NJ is meant to create more trans Hudson capacity in lieu of ARC, which could be done in a number of ways.
4) No it shouldn’t.
5) If your NJT train already goes to Penn, your fastest route to the east side is still going to Penn and getting on the subway (E or 1/2/4 to shuttle or 7). The 7 would only save time for a minority of riders who use the northern lines and would do nothing for the lines operating through Newark. Why not choose the route that best matches up with existing capacity and reward a neighborhood that is dense and walkable with much better access than the PATH currently allows?

Bolwerk April 16, 2013 - 1:19 pm

There are plenty of models for doing it right between countries in Europe. Look to those, not Southern U.S. states!

And that’s the wrong attitude to begin with. If the 7 goes to Secaucus, it logically becomes part of NJ’s transportation system too – just like the Orange Line is a critical component to northern Virginia transportation mix.

Ryan April 16, 2013 - 4:24 pm

The Orange Line is critical to Maryland too, though not as much as the Red and Green Lines are. Just as the 7 train can be essential to both Northwestern Queens and Secaucus.

Adirondacker12800 April 16, 2013 - 12:22 am

Hoboken is more densely populated than any of the outer boroughs. Jersey City isn’t but lots of Jersey City is swamp. So is Secaucus. Or today a vital wetland. It’s not a good idea to pave over swamp.

llqbtt April 16, 2013 - 1:45 pm

HOB may be more dense (though I’m not convinced), but it is also teeny tiny by comparison, and maybe a stop on the 7 could work. Then again, Mayor Mike is not big on intermediate stops (see also 10 Ave & 41 St. Maybe this stop should be built first?)

Ryan April 16, 2013 - 9:04 pm

Yeah. 10th Avenue is on an existing line, in an existing station shell, so it should be opened first. Conversely, Secaucus is a station under discussion (not even under construction).

AlexB April 17, 2013 - 7:00 pm

You are lying. There is no shell.

Nathanael April 18, 2013 - 10:34 am

They did at least make a “flat spot”.

Bolwerk April 16, 2013 - 1:52 pm

True, but Hoboken is more densely populated than any of the outer boroughs the same way a Manhattan apartment is more densely populated.

AG April 16, 2013 - 5:04 pm

That’s not a good comparison because Hoboken is tiny. It’s only slightly more dense than Mt. Vernon in Westchester County. There are neighborhoods in the Bronx and in Brooklyn that are certainly more dense than Hoboken – by a wide margin. Hudson County as a whole is about the density of Queens. I’m not saying a stop shouldn’t be in Hoboken… but that’s not really and apple to apple comparison.

SEAN April 16, 2013 - 7:41 pm

It doesn’t matter if the comparison in this case isn’t apples to apples, rather the focus should be on how Hoboken can be intigrated into such a project.

AG April 16, 2013 - 8:03 pm

arbitrary statements that skew facts should be challenged… especially when many millions (and even billions) are at stake. i have nothing against Hoboken getting a station (if this were to happen)… but I’m sure the whole point is connecting the 7 to Lautenberg… and it’s probably for that reason.

Bolwerk April 17, 2013 - 1:08 am

Well, they should…unless you happen to think them yourself!

Hoboken is probably a perfectly sensible place for a stop or two on the 7 Train because of the demographic and transit mix. Treat Hoboken and some of the cities around it as one unit and you have a dense “city” of around 125,000 people, large by the standards of a New York neighborhood.

I’m all for 7toSec, but it seems dumb to not stop there, even if density by itself isn’t why.

AG April 17, 2013 - 7:38 pm

Not sure what your link was bc I didn’t click on it.

But that’s not the point of the study. The point is to connect the most NJ rail riders to the NYC subway… that’s why they chose Lautenburg. You could make the same argument that the subway should go to southern westchester (south yonkers and mt. vernon) and the like. This doesn’t appear to try to be “normal” subway service… but as a semi-replacement for ARC (which was what they originally stated when the idea came out) that would ease Penn and take riders to the east side of Manhattan.

Nathanael April 18, 2013 - 10:36 am

Bluntly, most NJ rail riders would continue to take NJ Transit to Penn.

The only reason for extending a subway across the Hudson which would make sense, would be to capture the riders for whom NJ Transit Rail is indirect and out of the way. This basically means riders on the east side of the Palisades.

Nyland8 April 18, 2013 - 11:40 am

“Bluntly, most NJ rail riders would continue to take NJ Transit to Penn.”

Bluntly, what is the reason for this unfounded generalization? Have you evidence that MOST NJ rail riders work walking distance from NYPenn? I’m there every morning, and it’s clear to me that MOST NJ rail riders scramble out of Penn and onto every Manhattan trunk line they can find within reasonable walking distance, and they jam the E train to get access to the Lex – which then becomes at least a three, and sometimes a four seat ride. There’s a tsunami crossing 34th & 7th with every changing traffic light, headed for Herald Square and the B,D,F,M,N,Q and R trains. And it’s probably the same at 33rd and 32nd.

No … the only reason that makes sense is as an alternative for the ARC project – which is why this whole idea was tabled to begin with – and which is an improvement because a) it offers east side access that ARC didn’t, and b) because it doesn’t involve the time, cost and future maintenance assured by gouging a palace under Penn Station.

If it doesn’t originate at Secaucus, then it doesn’t do what ARC was supposed to do. And if it doesn’t do what ARC was intended to do, then it is a completely DIFFERENT project, and one which nobody is proposing … except perhaps you.

Ryan April 16, 2013 - 9:05 pm

Hoboken has a population of, what, 50000 people?

Frank B April 16, 2013 - 9:41 pm

Comparison of two ‘trendy’ areas for young urban professionals:

Population of Hoboken, NJ; 50,545
Population of Park Slope, Brooklyn; 65,047


Hoboken Density: 39,212/sq mi
Park Slope Density: 68,000/sq mi

This information is readily available from Wikipedia.

Bolwerk April 17, 2013 - 1:13 am

That area of that side of the river is probably demographically more like Astoria, but without the Astoria Line.

Still, in a sense, the NJ waterfront is more geographically constrained than even Manhattan.

Nathanael April 18, 2013 - 10:38 am

“Still, in a sense, the NJ waterfront is more geographically constrained than even Manhattan.”

There’s a reason HBLR was successful.

(And it actually ought to have a branch up to Edgewater.)

Anyway, it would make sense to run a subway tunnel across to link up with this narrow strip of development east of the Palisades. Anyone west of there will just keep riding the train *which they are already on* all the way to Penn Station, but the waterfront area is another matter.

Chris April 16, 2013 - 1:06 am

Send the PATH trains through new tubes, and dig a path to Grand Central (with a Penn Station connection). The PATH system already deals with interstate transit, and wouldn’t interfere with the “freedom” that the MTA has. Once you put the subway into Jersey, we’ll never get proper funding for mass transit – too many chefs will be stirring the broth.

Billy G April 16, 2013 - 8:44 am

Yeah, that’s called “Alternative G” and too many agencies have too many assets underground for that to fly.

Nathanael April 18, 2013 - 10:40 am

The actual reason given for not doing Alternative G was the high price of the real estate. It was considered to be technically simpler than most of the other options.

Alon Levy April 16, 2013 - 5:31 pm

The IND made it impossible to extend PATH north. A third tunnel is possible, but such a tunnel should be built to a more generous loading gauge – mainline or at least BMT rather than IRT/PATH.

Nyland8 April 16, 2013 - 6:46 pm

Actually, the bell mouth at 9th Street should and could be sent north – at least to Union Square and 23rd St. and 2nd Ave. That’s two short stops with a lot of bang for the buck, including total east side access for the PATH. It’s already at a good starting elevation for that journey, and Unions Square is already among the most equipped stations in Manhattan to handle it.

You could probably half the number of trains that go to Herald Square once the SAS Phase 3 is completed.

Ryan April 16, 2013 - 7:44 pm

And lower that number to 0 during nights and weekends!

Ryan April 16, 2013 - 7:45 pm

(Before you start biting, I think this because the stations would be made redundant by the 6th Avenue line.)

Alon Levy April 17, 2013 - 2:40 pm

You’re underestimating how awful splitting trunk lines is.

Nyland8 April 17, 2013 - 3:14 pm

Perhaps … but certainly no more than the Hudson & Manhattan people who thought running over to Astor Place was both desirable and doable. They started that tunnel.

Point taken, though. Of course the bell mouth can be used by the northbound train, and once the tunneling ring is reversed – say at 23rd and 2nd – and sent southward again, it can always go under the southbound tracks and merge from the west. It’ll add a 1/4 mile of tunneling, but make life and maintenance easier forever.

Corey Best April 16, 2013 - 1:37 am

You would still have to get support for most of the Rail advocates in NJ , most of which are not going to be onboard at least to Secaucus maybe to Hoboken. However since the ARC killed or put on hold many projects around the state its going to be a tough sell…if we go forward will this can we build out the rest of the Urban LRT or Regional Rail system or will we have to wait a few more decades for that just so people can have easier access to NYC? With Urban Jersey after decades of neglect finally growing again , I think thats going to be a tough sell vs NJ projects aside from the Gateway which has support of all the advocates its what they wanted… I don’t think its wise to go to Secaucus , Hoboken Terminal is a better alt….and I don’t think the PATH would care much. As long as you don’t touch there 2 busiest lines the JSQ-33rd and Newark-WTC they could really care less. Secaucus may seem like a perfect place to build however its surrounded by wetlands which are important and under attack constantly by developers , Sandy’s surge went all the way up to the Oradell Dam….which was a first. The area around Secaucus flooded badly , while you can say Hoboken flooded badly…its not surrounded by wetlands which can act as Natural defense systems.

Sure the Gateway seems dead but you seem to be acting like it will never happen and the 7 will? If the Gateway doesn’t get built what happens when the tunnels one day collapse or the Portal bridge….there have been numerous derailments over the last 15 years none have been fatally yet….but its just a matter of time.

Nyland8 April 16, 2013 - 6:51 pm

I don’t agree – with almost anything in your post. The 7 to Lautenberg was proffered as a substitute for ARC. Nothing you’re suggesting does that.

In fact, quite the contrary, for most of NJTransit riders to even avail themselves of it, they’d have to change trains in Secaucus and head for Hoboken – starting their trip with a three seat minimum, and then a four seat looking for a Manhattan trunk line.

A stop in Hoboken, or even two, is an afterthought – but it’s not a destination.

Ian April 16, 2013 - 1:59 am

The ARC tunnel would have have largely provided preferential treatments to New Jersey, and most of those critical of the tunnel and planned complex simply didn’t bother understanding the talking points fed to them. The new station would have been deep, but not the deepest in New York City; it wouldn’t have connected to Grand Central, but could have eventually; New York wasn’t contributing directly, but it was through the Port Authority.

The benefits of the ARC plan — and indeed, a huge portion of the cost — was the loop connecting the Bergen County trains to a midtown direct service and the bridge replacement. These two components would not only have increased capacity into Manhattan, but also reliability. Now instead, commuters still contend with major meltdowns of the system several times a year where they are shunted onto the already overcrowded PATH system.

But all of those issues were the least of it: more importantly, a dedicated, NJTransit owned tunnel would have allowed NJTransit priority scheduling instead of competing with Amtrak. Service could be expanded to many places long waiting for service expansion because the hourly train capacity was so great. Middlesex – Monmouth County line would finally be possible; the Scranton to New York route could be opened; and a new line built in Eastern Bergen County. None of that is possible even with future planed Amtrak tunnels simply because the new capacity on the Amtrak tunnel will only satisfy demand on the existing lines. New Jersey also left $18 billion in potential real estate appreciation on the table by canceling the tunnel. And in the current climate, communities with train access have seen their property values restored to near pre-crash levels while non-transit communities are still near the bottom of their value.

However, the 7 train won’t accomplish any of these things and wholly benefits New York.

The 7 provides a direct link to Long Island City, a neighborhood that has been in direct competition for commercial tenants and residential customers with the Jersey City / Hoboken coastline. Jersey City has the space and zoning for plenty more office space, and just a light rail ride away from the Hoboken Terminal or a PATH ride from Manhattan. But if Long Island City had a direct subway connection to New Jersey’s workforce, the ease of commute would suddenly make LIC a much more desirable location for both businesses and in many cases the residents with business connections in suburban New Jersey. Also, the 7 train would make the new developments on the Westside Rail yards more valuable with a closer connection to New Jersey’s labor force than Penn Station.

The 7 extension would help ease crowding on the PATH trains and speed some NJTransit customers into various parts of the city — but won’t help NJTransit grow. The benefits of the ARC tunnel were more trains to more places in the nation’s most densely populated state. But Secaucus isn’t a terminal — trains can only run through it, meaning the 7 doesn’t help commuters on lines terminating in Newark nor does it help expand capacity since NJTransit can’t add more trains.

Ultimately both of these projects should have been built as they serve different masters. Infrastructure investment has one of the highest rates of return of any government expense. Unfortunately, elected officials on both sides of the river lack the insight, the will, or the aptitude to accomplish either.

Eric F April 16, 2013 - 9:41 am

I’d agree fairly broadly with your analysis, but what I think you are not touching on is that the principal advantage of the 7 extension over ARC is that the 7 extension would be cheaper. That you lose some (a lot of) utility in exchange for the cost reduction is the trade off.

Basically the 7 would get you a couple of new tracks to NJ. That’s huge. You still need a complemntary Gateway-type plan, but the 7 would be a huge pressure release valve and would be great as a NJ-midtown plug in.

Benjamin Kabak April 16, 2013 - 9:43 am

As yet, it’s unclear just how much cheaper the 7 line would be though. No one’s released any sort of cost estimates, and while the deep-cavern station ate up a bit of ARC’s costs, it also would have provided service for more passengers. Simply put, it’s too early to determine if the 7 is a better use of dollars.

Eric F April 16, 2013 - 10:01 am

Right. But, intuitively, you’d have to assume that it would be substantially cheaper to build the extension. The extension involves no Portal Bridge construction, no loop tracks for the Bergen County lines and no new Manhattan terminal, and in fact no new stations at all (perhaps tacking on 10th avenue as a sweetner to NYC). It isn’t even obvious that you need additional rolling stock. I’d have to think that this could be built fairly quickly and fairly cheaply relative to ARC. It’s just not at all as useful as ARC.

Benjamin Kabak April 16, 2013 - 10:02 am

You would definitely need additional rolling stock to maintain headways along the 7, but that’s such a small cost of the overall project really.

Eric F April 16, 2013 - 10:10 am

Makes sense. The MTA should get a nice yard in the swamp as well to complement the one out by Shea (I still call it Shea). One big wild card expense would be that of implementing retrofits to existing 7 stations in midtown. Those retrofits should occur whether or not the 7 is ever extended, but some major ones should be rolled into this project were it ever to occur.

Ryan April 16, 2013 - 12:27 pm

Of course. It’s called the MTA should have known better than to buy just 506 R188s.

Nyland8 April 16, 2013 - 7:00 pm

“It’s just not at all as useful as ARC.”

In some ways it is far more useful than the ARC. The ARC offered no east side access at all – which was Governor Krispy Kreme’s first comment when Bloomberg suggested it.

All the Arc did was the same thing that NYPenn does – dump everyone on a west side cavern and let all the commuting cockroaches scatter as they may.

But a cross-town subway to Secaucus actually DOES something for commuters. It distributes them throughout the system in a far more streamlined manner.

Frank B April 16, 2013 - 9:46 pm

I enjoyed that bit about “Commuting Cockroaches Scattering.” 😀

Bolwerk April 16, 2013 - 2:46 pm

“A bit”? That delusional monstrosity was responsible for most of the added costs.

The tunnel itself isn’t a very expensive proposition. That’s another reason why 7 to Secaucus is a pretty good fix for commuter traffic.

Nathanael April 18, 2013 - 10:41 am

“None of that is possible even with future planed Amtrak tunnels simply because the new capacity on the Amtrak tunnel will only satisfy demand on the existing lines. ”

With the new tunnel, Amtrak will probably be happy to run new intercity services from beyond New Jersey, actually. 🙂

John-2 April 16, 2013 - 2:06 am

The 7, like the J/Z and the E (to a lesser extent, but more after ESA opens) is an inefficient rush hour line in that it lacks a pass-though route in the main business area so that traffic during rush hours is heavily in one direction. So you’ve got over two-dozen trains an hour during AM/PM rush jammed in one direction and relatively empty in the other. Extending it to New Jersey would make the passenger flow far more bi-directional, especially if 1-2 interim stops in the northern edges of Hoboken and Jersey City are put in between Hudson Yards and Secaucus.

Hudnson Yards certainly would benefit from this, as would NJT customers who would have far better East Side Access than they do now. But the hang-up is going to be delegating costs (and New Jersey should be responsible for most of the tunnel costs and whatever goes on the west side of the Hudson, while the city and MTA’s contribution should involve upgrading the current Manhattan stations on the 7 to handle bi-directional loading and unloading during morning and afternoon rush hours).

Nyland8 April 16, 2013 - 7:05 pm

Agreed – on all points. The 7 to Lautenberg isn’t viable without platform expansion in Manhattan – which is much needed anyway. It would give the MTA an pretext for doing what it should already be doing.

Chet April 16, 2013 - 6:33 am

Honestly, it is hard for me to disagree with my State Senator, Diane Savino. (Sort of mine- I live on Staten Island, but I’m not in her district.)

Say what you will about her votes for and/or against the MTA, but mass transit out here sucks. Seriously. You can walk faster than many buses, not just because of traffic, but because the buses themselves are underpowered to deal with the hills on this island. The waiting times are horrendous, and service cuts were just stupid in some cases.

I work at a local high school. My school is busy seven days a week. The weekends see theater rehearsals, SAT exams, a myriad of team practices, etc…and the S54 bus that stops in front of the school doesn’t run on weekends anymore?!! That’s just stupid.

In a sane world, Staten Island with just about 500,000 people wouldn’t just have a subway line to link us with the rest of the city, it would have at least four or five lines (underground subway, street level light rail, etc.) providing not just mass transit for commutes into the city, but real local mass transit out of the way of automobile traffic, and connecting us to NJ as well.

Yea, I know- no one has $50 billion lying around to build a true rail mass transit system centered on Staten Island, but only if you live here can you understand the frustration and anger when you hear people talking about building a subway line to New Jersey.

If New Jersey wants the 7 line to Seacaucus or any where else- let them build it and pay for it. NYC and the MTA shouldn’t contribute a single penny as far as I’m concerned.

Larry Littlefield April 16, 2013 - 7:49 am

Sorry, but I get the feeling that “regionalism” is a one way street.

New York City has a higher tax burden than the rest of the region, with a local income tax. New York City has worse schools than most of the rest of the region. New York City has mostly stopped helping the poor, in part because the rest of the country is no longer willing to help the poor in New York City.

New York City is helping to fund a public job program in Upstate New York, and the East Side Access program for Long Island. It is allowing without complaint the disruption of having ESA built within its borders. Long Island arranged for the LIRR to skip city stations during a transit strike, and has objected to a third track to allow city workers to get to Long Island jobs.

New York City turned over the TBTA to the MTA with the promise of 67 percent of its surplus going to city transit. In many years that has been less than 50 percent.

I could go on and on. You say that New York City should pay for transit for people in New Jersey, so the middle class can move out to places with a lower tax burden and better schools. Fine.

Tell me what else in the city budget should change to make that possible. Over and above the ongoing cutbacks required by the city’s huge pension burden and debts. Or what part of the MTA capital plan should be eliminated. I believe it will be just ongoing normal replacement after the first three stations of the Second Avenue Subway and ESA, and not even enough of that.

Larry Littlefield April 16, 2013 - 7:51 am

And by the way, you have candidates for Mayor acting like people from New Jersey and Long Island. Promising to take money away from the MTA and hand it out to people in the city, with the assumptions that someone else would pay for the MTA.

Billy G April 16, 2013 - 8:47 am

Well, let the MTA charge a fair fare.

Zoned fares.


Ryan April 16, 2013 - 9:53 am

Or state-based fares.

People entering in Jersey pay $5.

People entering in NY pay $2.50.

Benjamin Kabak April 16, 2013 - 9:55 am

Justify this.

Eric F April 16, 2013 - 10:03 am

The current fare for Secaucus to NY on NJ Transit is $4, which is probably the place to start.

Larry Littlefield April 16, 2013 - 11:53 am

Everyone is always happy to let other people pay for things.

The best case scenario is they cancel each other out.

The worst case scenario is that they successfully rob the future, and the younger generations who will live in it.

Guess what? It IS the future.

Bolwerk April 16, 2013 - 2:58 pm

Not saying Ryan knows why, but it doesn’t seem like an absurd idea to me. IIRC, the operating cost per ride is about $3.50, though the attributable capital expenses may drive that up higher than $5.

$5.00 to enter makes the base round trip ride to the city for these folk about $3.75. Seems fair, if NJ decides it doesn’t want to contribute to operating expenses.

Alon Levy April 16, 2013 - 5:35 pm

IIRC, the operating cost per ride is about $3.50

It’s $1.41 per unlinked trip. If you divide operating costs by subway ridership, i.e. linked trips but still unlinked with buses, you get to about $2.13.

llqbtt April 16, 2013 - 1:47 pm

Slippery slope…the Rockaways are much farther away. So is Coney.

Nyland8 April 16, 2013 - 7:08 pm

Different issue …

AG April 16, 2013 - 8:56 am

“the rest of the country is no longer willing to help the poor in New York City”????? HUH? NYC is a net donor to Albany and Washington DC. I’m not sure where you get these statements. Kind of like a senator from some state complaining about security funds – when NYC pays for most of it’s own counter-terrorism when its really the job of the federal government.

Btw – when “middle class” move to NJ – it’s because of lower real estate costs… not taxes… because when you factor in property tax – the middle class “loses” in NJ. What they gain is more square feet per dollar.

Larry Littlefield April 16, 2013 - 9:27 am

The rest of the country objects to helping the poor and funding transit in NYC EVEN THOUGH NY is a net donor.

They think we are getting an unfairly large share of our tax dollars.

AG April 16, 2013 - 2:11 pm

Oh ok… I thought you were agreeing with the folly of their arguments.

Alon Levy April 16, 2013 - 5:38 pm

Poor people in the farm belt are getting farm aid. Poor seniors are getting Social Security. Poor veterans are getting military pensions. Poor urban dwellers are getting welfare. Exactly one of those programs has a negative connotation.

AG April 16, 2013 - 6:02 pm

the “dirty secret” is that millions who don’t live in the inner cities get welfare of some kind…. but it food stamps or some other form. For some reason it gets lost in the narrative.

Bolwerk April 17, 2013 - 1:52 am

It’s lost when the demographic in question might be a Republikan or swing voter. Welfare is at least believed to benefit urban blacks, who vote Democrat. (Whether people outside cities depend on it as much or more, I’m not sure.)

That Republikans are more dependent on assorted handouts shouldn’t surprise anyone. A preponderance of research has demonstrated right-wingers are less intelligent. Much as they consume propaganda extolling their importance, stupid people aren’t going to function as well in an information economy – especially now that their one asset, their unskilled physical labor, has been rendered largely obsolete. The result is rationalization.

Nathanael April 18, 2013 - 10:44 am

“(Whether people outside cities depend on it as much or more, I’m not sure.)”

Far more. Rural poverty is severe these days, and the rural poor in the US are extremely welfare-dependent.

Anthony Paonita April 16, 2013 - 11:24 am

Agreed–transportation on Staten Island is totally inadequate, and worse than it was 60 years ago, when there were three train lines. This is Bloomberg being tone-deaf as usual. Staten Island (yes, I live there), with a half-million people, should have rail connections to NJ (via the Bayonne Bridge and light rail) and the rest of the city, along with light rail corridors internally, to move people around more efficiently. Yes, there needs to be more trans-Hudson rail, too, but until needs are met in SI, I think our officials should throw regular “fits” and tantrums until it happens. The Manhattan-centricism of the city government needs to be broken. Besides, all Manhattan is now is a NewYorkLand fantasy for tourists, Eurotrash, and the wealthy.

Benjamin Kabak April 16, 2013 - 11:29 am

If Manhattan is so terrible, why are you clamoring for a rail connection then? 🙂

Ryan April 16, 2013 - 4:26 pm

Anthony is probably saying that although NYC needs more rail transit, there are many other disadvantages to that.

Bolwerk April 17, 2013 - 1:53 am

What? There really aren’t disadvantages to more rail transit. Really.

llqbtt April 16, 2013 - 1:54 pm

A big factor is that your fellow SI’ers and pols fought tootan and nail to keep all the ‘bad’ people from following them out to SI on a subway.

There is a rail bridge just north of the Goethal’s that can be used, connect it to the Main Line for a SI spur. Except track and tunnel capacity into Penn can’t handle any more.

You can have NJT LRT connect to Elizabeth and on to Newark via SI. There’s an easy bi-state cooperative.

Rest assured that no tourists, Eurotrash, and the wealthy would use these transit options to visit your home borough.

Ryan April 16, 2013 - 4:28 pm

Rest assured that no tourists, Eurotrash, and the wealthy would use these transit options to visit your home borough.

The Staten Island Ferry is ~50m from a subway station that is easily accessible. So long for no tourists, Eurotrash, and the wealthy travelling to SI.

SEAN April 16, 2013 - 7:32 pm

Rest assured that no tourists, Eurotrash, and the wealthy would use these transit options to visit your home borough.

Ryan, actually there’s a 300,000 plus square foot outlet mall being constructed ajacent to the St. George terminal, I read the specks on it in January. So some may show up on SI after all.

Bolwerk April 17, 2013 - 1:54 am

Serious question: are outlet malls at all draws anymore? You don’t need to drive very far to find most of the crap they well, even in the suburbs.

SEAN April 17, 2013 - 11:15 am

I think it depends on location. I had another discussion on this topic over at http://www.labelscar.com, a retail focussed website.

Nyland8 April 16, 2013 - 11:20 pm

“Honestly, it is hard for me to disagree with my State Senator, Diane Savino. (Sort of mine- I live on Staten Island, but I’m not in her district.)”

Does that mean that you read the recent SAS post, (Apr 12th ??) not only on what she said, but on her record? … ? … ?

“Meanwhile, if Savino is serious about a subway to Staten Island, she could start by being a better transit advocate. Over the years, she has voted to reduce MTA subsidies without reading the bill at hand, she has urged for a repeal of the payroll mobility tax, and she has was disproportionately outraged over a request for information the MTA issued two years ago.”

She sounds like a populist political drama queen, ready to express her false outrage on any hot-button issues that might garner votes.

Ryan April 16, 2013 - 8:13 am

The MTA doesn’t have to pay for a single penny of it in the long run. If the people in Jersey pay higher fares to enter the subway, there’s a chance that, with NJ funding, the subway extension could actually make money for the MTA.

Billy G April 16, 2013 - 8:49 am

Yes, that’s exactly what is needed. Entering or exiting at FRL would cost extra, perhaps even with two fare barriers, one for entering/exiting the building and one for entering the MTA fare zone operating identically to a normal subway entrance.

Larry Littlefield April 16, 2013 - 9:31 am

The ridership will be low. How do you expect NJ riders to cover the capital costs AND operating costs with fares, over and above their NJT fares?

ARC didn’t happen because South Jersey saw it as an expense that did not benefit them. They felt a Turnpike expansion further south was desperately needed.

Affluent North Jersey, affluent because of people who commute to Manhattan, could afford a regional tax to pay for the tunnel, like the MTA tax we have to pay. As I said, the MTA could probably break even on operations if the service was only provided to one key transfer point — Secaucus. But NJ needs to be willing to pay for its own improvements.

Eric F April 16, 2013 - 11:38 am

“ARC didn’t happen because South Jersey saw it as an expense that did not benefit them. They felt a Turnpike expansion further south was desperately needed.”

The Turnpike expansion is toll-financed and would happen with or without ARC. The expansion itself is necessitated by Mercer/Somerset NIMBYs success in scuttling the I-95 alignment through that area, thus requiring a 12 lane behemoth Turnpike running through central NJ.

“Affluent North Jersey, affluent because of people who commute to Manhattan, could afford a regional tax to pay for the tunnel”

Here’s where we agree. If the Feds aren’t going to fund this, there needs to be a dedicated revenue sluice. Personally, I think NJ, with a state budget of $30 billion per year could re-dedicate say 3% of spending for 10 years to finance ARC. Of course all spending is a special snowflake and every dollar re-directed would lead to devastation. So you’d need a new dedicated tax .. . and good luck with that.

Larry Littlefield April 16, 2013 - 11:50 am

“The Turnpike expansion is toll-financed and would happen with or without ARC.”

I’m pretty sure that since no one is willing to raise the gas tax in NJ, part of the ARC funding plan was to use turnpike tolls.

“The New Jersey Turnpike Authority voted today to redirect $1.25 billion from the canceled New Jersey-New York commuter rail tunnel to local road and bridge projects over the next five years.”

“The move allows Gov. Chris Christie to boost the state’s Transportation Trust Fund that pays for road and bridge repairs and transit services, while at the same time keeping his pledge not to raise the state’s comparatively low gas tax.”


Eric F April 16, 2013 - 1:43 pm

That’s correct and besides the point. The Turnpike expansion was financed. Tolls were raised by an amount well in excess of what the expansion costs, and the excess siphoned to ARC. In the absence of ARC, the excess has been sent to other projects, but the Turnpike expansion was not a beneficiary of the ARC cancellation, it was getting done either way.

Nyland8 April 16, 2013 - 7:13 pm

“ARC didn’t happen because South Jersey saw it as an expense that did not benefit them. They felt a Turnpike expansion further south was desperately needed.”

That’s a bit of revisionist history. We all know why ARC “didn’t happen”. ARC WAS happening – until Governor Christie unilaterally stopped it.

Bolwerk April 17, 2013 - 1:58 am

‘Tis true, but I took Larry to mean Christie could politically get away with sticking it to the libruls in North Jersey though. In fact, many of those libruls are probably dumb enough to vote for him again. :-\

Michael K April 16, 2013 - 8:22 am

Anyone who thinks 7 to Secaucus isn’t a great idea hasn’t seen the vast under-utilization of rail lines in Bergen and Passaic County and the over-reliance on buses there.

SEAN April 16, 2013 - 11:13 am

True regarding busses in Bergen, but rail service has improved on the M & B lines. The PVL not as much since that line is mostly single track with 7 sitings for bidirectional flow.

Michael K April 16, 2013 - 2:07 pm

The PVL is a double track wide ROW, with a current single track. It would likely be double tracked if this happened, and would involve almost zero land takings.

AlexB April 16, 2013 - 11:24 am

If you can extend the 7 from the West Side to Secaucus, why not extend East Side Access in exactly the same way instead? You’d have to build an extra mile or so of tunnel, but you’d be saving money by not enlarging the Times Sq, 5th Ave, and Grand Central stops on the 7. Seems like the best use of a massively overbuilt cavern. This would allow LIRR and NJT to continue to operate separately, but some fare deal would have to be worked out that got LIRR extra money without bankrupting the riders.

SEAN April 16, 2013 - 11:55 am


1. How many tracks would head through this tunnel west of GCT?
2. Funding?
Where do you place train storage?

I understand the idea, but it may raise more questions than it currently answers, but if it works that would be great.

Clarke April 16, 2013 - 12:28 pm

The tunnel boring machine entombed in concrete directly due south from the LIRR Grand Central cavern will likely impede any future southern expansion.

AlexB April 17, 2013 - 11:54 am

Tunnel boring machines can be removed, but that might not be necessary considering the train needs to go west, not south. It could be funded with whatever money would have funded the 7 extension. Train storage would be the same as for the proposed 7, only they would also have the option of putting the trains under grand central. Unless there is a conflict with something else, it just seems like the much much more logical solution. It would provide access to all the key places the 7 goes (grand central, LIC, citifield, flushing) but much faster.

Nyland8 April 17, 2013 - 1:51 pm

It doesn’t supply access to PABT.

AlexB April 17, 2013 - 6:34 pm

It doesn’t supply access to Penn Station either. So what? Take a train to Penn, a bus to PABT or the LIRR to Grand Central. Every train doesn’t have to go to every hub.

Nyland8 April 18, 2013 - 8:54 am

HUH ??!!?? It doesn’t need to provide access to Penn Station. Plenty of other NJTransit trains already supply access to Penn Station. That’s the point of running out to Lautenberg. Penn Station doesn’t need more access from there – Penn Station needs relief from there.

The 7 to Secaucus relieves NYPenn, it relieves the bridges and tunnels, it relieves the PABT, it offers east side access to New Jersey commuters – AND – all the NEW YORKERS who ride the NJTransit/MetroNorth joint venture that serves Orange and Rockland Counties.

That’s why it was proposed, and that is why it’s a better idea. It did most of what ARC was supposed to do – but it does it better, and without the cost of building Trump Tower under Penn Station.

Going to GCT does NOT provide access to all the Manhattan trunk lines. Running a cross-town subway to Secaucus does. That’s the difference. That is why it is a better choice.

That … and the cost.

RB April 16, 2013 - 12:24 pm

I’m still puzzled about why the MTA and its puppetmasters are pushing the 7 line west to places with no proven demand for service when Flushing Main St. consistently ranks as one of the busiest stations and the residents desperately need an extension toward Bayside. The LIRR alternative is an expensive and cumbersome solution for NYC residents.

Benjamin Kabak April 16, 2013 - 12:26 pm

Puzzle no longer over why the MTA is pushing it as the MTA is definitely not pushing it. They refuse to talk about it really. The only people pushing it are Mayor Bloomberg and New Jersey newspaper editorial writers. Area transit advocates believe it requires further study.

Bolwerk April 17, 2013 - 2:00 am

I love “further study.” Remember all the “further study” we did when we were building highways willy-nilly?

John Doe April 16, 2013 - 12:27 pm

and you know what we will get in the end? Nothing. Absolutely, nothing will happen. The 7 train will not go to NJ. MSG will always be there choking Penn station. The Rockaway Beach line will never be reactivated nor will a park take its place. You know why??? because this country can’t get things done anymore. We used to dream big, now we argue for decades and are petty. Phase II of the second avenue line will not get built either.

Hoosac April 16, 2013 - 1:51 pm

I’d say it is rail-related things that don’t get done. More specifically, rail-related things in the New York area. There just seems to be no support, or interest, in them here.

Frank B April 16, 2013 - 10:21 pm

Amen to that. It’s a sad state of Affairs in this country.

What the hell happened to the American Spirit?

Why, The Great ‘Ancient Americans’ built the world’s tallest building in a single year! Right in our own city!

Alon Levy April 17, 2013 - 2:47 pm

What happened to the American spirit? I don’t know; I guess people realized that Grand Plans are much more about public-to-private wealth transfers than about useful public infrastructure.

Nathanael April 18, 2013 - 10:50 am

Grand Plans are usually about useful public infrastructure.

Commissioners’ Plan of 1811! Central Park! Grand Central Terminal! The Brooklyn Bridge! The Croton Aqueduct! Heck, even the plans of Robert Moses — we may not LIKE the public infrastructure he made, but it was public infrastructure, and it was useful to car nuts.

It’s only recently that we’ve had so many thieves and looters promulgating “Grand Plans”. It has nothing to do with grand plans. It has to do with a corrupted set of institutions, starting with the Department of “Defense” (formerly War), which were taken over by looters.

Bolwerk April 17, 2013 - 12:33 pm

Well, we can sure blow billions: Fulton Street Transit Center and the PATH porcupine each come out to, what, over $3B? That’s $6B right there. And it’ll probably be $8B when all is said and done. These do little for transit users, but are big vanity projects.

Meanwhile, a commuter tunnel without the added headhouse or a batcave station probably costs closer to $4B, maybe even to get to GCT. I still have trouble seeing why Rockaway should cost anywhere near a billion.

Penn Station’s problems are even simplier, and probably could be mostly fixed with better throughput and utilization of space.

Nathanael April 18, 2013 - 10:55 am

Fulton St. will do a hell of a lot for transit users: it creates wheelchair-accessible connections between a large number of lines, clarifies wayfinding, and restores two historic stations.

The grand building with the oculus is a waste, but that’s only 1/3 of the cost. When push came to shove that part was actually removed, until they got stimulus funding for it.

Penn Station’s problems cannot be fixed merely with “better throughout and utilization of space”. Penn Station has *two sets of problems*. One are the problems with its operation for *commuters*, the other are the problems with its operation for *intercity travellers*.

For *commuters*, mostly it just needs through-running and better throughput.

For intercity travellers, it frankly needs much larger and higher-ceilinged waiting rooms, and there is simply no way to do this in the current footprint with MSG squatting on top of it. (If they’d moved MSG, say, 10 feet higher, leaving room for a decent ceiling height, it might be possible.) No, you can’t just move Amtrak operations out, and it would still be a crowded rabbit-warren even if you did.

Nathanael April 18, 2013 - 10:57 am

If you have ever visited any other major intercity train station in the US, you will begin to understand why NY Penn is simply no good.

People genuinely care about things like light, airy, spacious waiting rooms when they may be waiting for *long periods*.

Look at what Seattle did to King Street Station: the very expensive reconstruction is absolutely *acclaimed*. And all it does for passengers is make a nicer waiting room, basically.

addicted April 16, 2013 - 2:39 pm

I am all for this under the condition that any area served by MTA must pay City tax.

Right now all those people work and have fun in NYC, but pay taxes to NJ, and no taxes to NYC. Makes little to no sense at all.

Larry Littlefield April 16, 2013 - 2:58 pm

They do pay state income taxes, where are redistributed to Upstate New York.

Ryan April 16, 2013 - 3:46 pm

And what does downstate NY get? Zip. Zero. Jackshit.

Nathanael April 18, 2013 - 11:00 am

Don’t believe it. We in Upstate don’t get a hell of a lot for our taxes.

Our county governments are required to pay for a large portion of the state share of Medicaid out of *local property tax* — something which happens in *no other state in the US* — and the result is that we have been seeing crushing declines in other, basic public services.

The money going to Albany is, to a significant extent, getting siphoned up by sheer looting, disguised as layers of administrators. Also goes into sweetheart contracts.

Some of it may be going to Albany. Not much is going to the Finger Lakes.

Nathanael April 18, 2013 - 11:01 am

In short, this isn’t upstate vs. downstate, this is “connected” vs. “not connected”. If you’re “connected” to the right politicians, you get your special pork, if you’re not, you get nothing.

Happens both upstate and downstate. Look at Ratner.

AG April 16, 2013 - 4:58 pm

if they work in NYC they pay NYC income tax…and if they “have fun” they probably pay some form of sales tax… aside from the fact that they would be contributing to NYC economic activity… and that was the point Ben – and the writer of the article were pointing out… the provincialism in the area only hinders us.

SEAN April 16, 2013 - 7:54 pm

Exactly. All the evidence you need to prove that point can be summed up by Diane Savino the other day.

AG April 16, 2013 - 8:06 pm

she probably didn’t even care…. but she probably felt she had to feign interest to some reporter(s).

Matthew M April 16, 2013 - 6:06 pm

If NY wanted to do this with minimal funding from NJ, they could always have a higher entrance/exit fare for passengers using the NJ stations to cover the costs, and repay bonds. Given the potential for a large number of riders, as well as the fact that many NJ residents are already paying for both PATH fare, as well as the subway fare once they get to NYC, if the subway was extended to NJ, the MTA could charge a $4-$5 fare for passengers boarding in NJ, or if one is looking at full fare round-trip costs(($2.25 + $2.50) * 2), the MTA could factor in that NJ riders are currently paying for transfers in both directions, so they could actually charge up to $8.00 for passengers boarding in NJ, and still be cost competitive with the alternative of taking a PATH train to NYC and then paying another fare for the subway.
Assuming that many of the riders for the extension are already riding the NYC Subway(which some might not be doing), and accepting the projected ridership of 128,000 riders/day with 24,000 diverted from autos(derived from EDC estimates) the potential revenue increase from the increased fare and ridership would be $688,000 per day, or $250,000,000 per year, which should be enough to significantly pay for much of the debt servicing for the project, while at the same time, if the MTA is able to work out a compromise where NJ partially contributes toward the construction costs, or if they are able to get matching federal funding for this project, it could be paid for at no additional costs for NY state since the revenue should cover a sizable portion of bonds.

Ryan April 16, 2013 - 7:47 pm

… And people would be still riding the NJT because the base fare is $4.

Steve May 21, 2013 - 11:32 am

I think it would be simpler for all involved if they made it a PATH transfer from the 7 to Secaucus. You could have a stop at Lincoln Harbor in Weehawken to connect to the light rail.. and perhaps another stop on the Palisade Cliffs with an elevator like the 48th street light rail stop in Union City.


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