Home View from Underground Gearing up for the RPA’s new long-term look ahead

Gearing up for the RPA’s new long-term look ahead

by Benjamin Kabak

The RPA’s Third Regional Plan featured a call for the Triboro RX line that the MTA presented in 2008.

In 1996, the RPA published its Third Regional Plan, and it became the report that launched a thousand fantasy maps. In that massive tome arguing for more transportation investment for the city and region, the RPA set forth the Triboro RX plan. Embraced by then-MTA Executive Director Lee Sander in his 2008 State of the MTA address, this circumferential subway line would utilize preexisting track and right-of-way to connect through outer portions of Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx. It hasn’t, obviously, come to pass.

The Triboro RX’s existence as a fantasy subway line rather than reality isn’t for lack of trying. The MTA knows the plans are out there, as do transit advocates, amateur cartographers and research institutions. But there’s no political champion, and without a political champion, nothing will happen. The 7 line extension will see the light of day because Mayor Bloomberg lined up financing, and the Second Ave. Subway is well on its way to some sort of completion due to a bond vote and guaranteed money from Chuck Schumer and the feds. No such effort materialized in the aftermath of the Third Regional Plan.

Stil, thinking big and thinking long term are two key elements of sustaining and encouraging growth in New York City. Although the next MTA five-year capital plan is likely to be short on expansion efforts and long on systems maintenance and modernization, New York must keep looking long. Sander hoped to see the Triboro RX realized within 40 years, and it could still happen.

Meanwhile, the RPA announced on Friday a fourth regional plan. With a focus on both the overall economy and climate change and the impact shifting weather patterns and ocean levels will have on the region, the RPA will study “growth and sustainability” in New York. Here’s how the Regional Plan Associate describes this effort:

The Fourth Regional Plan for the greater New York region will examine our most pressing challenges, including climate change, fiscal uncertainty and declining economic opportunity for too many residents of the region. The plan will propose policies and investments to ensure our prosperity and quality of life for the coming decades…

RPA believes that the metropolitan region has reached another critical juncture. On the one hand, we have made tremendous advances in the last 20 years. Instead of fleeing our urban areas, residents and businesses are flocking to city centers. Crime has dropped dramatically throughout the region, and we are making key investments in infrastructure after decades of neglect. Abandoned industrial waterfronts have been turned into thriving parks, and threatened open spaces have been preserved.

Yet there is much that threatens our progress. Despite our efforts to curb pollution, we haven’t done nearly enough to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions and address the risk posed by climate change. A growing number of the region’s residents can’t find housing they can afford, and many are struggling under growing financial pressure. Much of our infrastructure is deteriorating, and increasingly we lag behind our global peers in implementing new ideas and technology. Our public institutions, plagued by high levels of debt and outdated structures, often fail to address our most pressing long-term needs.

In praising the effort, Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy hit the nail on the head. “A strong economic future requires us to make smart decisions now – to connect transportation, commerce, and housing with an eye on affordability, sustainability and livability,” he said. Those three factors needs to be more closely integrated in major planning efforts in New York City and in the surrounding region.

We don’t yet know plans and proposals will emerge from the Fourth Regional Plan, but it should be grand. The MTA, by virtue of its budgetary constraints, won’t be thinking grand, and politicians can’t see past their own reelection campaigns these days. Maybe something inspiring will come out of the RPA’s efforts. The challenge after that, though, is realizing this dream. After all, Triboro RX is no closer to reality today than it was 17 years ago.

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Bolwerk April 22, 2013 - 6:01 am

Are their ideas even meaningfully implemented? Regional plans are well and good, but there is a lameduck mayor and at least two of three governors who pretty well don’t give a sweet damn about planning, much less of the regional variety. (Malloy plays lip service, but then Connecticut probably has little further need to cooperate with New York, and never had much need to cooperate with New Jersey.)

Marc Shepherd April 22, 2013 - 1:13 pm

Unfortunately, the RPA specializes in unbuilt and never-built ideas. Their research reports make great reading, but I don’t think they’re at all influential.

As Bolwerk noted, there’s a distinct lack of pro-transit mayoral candidates, and the governors aren’t doing anything. These big projects tend to outlive the tenures of their proponents. Rudy Giuliani, for instance, was a big proponent of the subway extension to LaGuardia Airport. George Pataki wanted to build a rail link from Lower Manhattan to JFK airport. Both projects quickly died when their sponsors left office.

Both the #7 extension and Phase I of the SAS were scaled back from the original designs, and there’s not a speck of funding for later phases of the SAS. It took decades to get just a modest 3-station SAS approved, and the #7 extension only happened because Bloomberg thought he could get an Olympic Games.

It’s beyond me how we’d ever see something like Triboro RX built, when the engineering, planning, and environmental analysis would take far longer than the plausible tenure of any mayor or governor. The full-length SAS has already been through that process. All they’ve gotta do is build it; and yet, it seems like a pipe dream, at this point.

Bolwerk April 22, 2013 - 4:01 pm

I think you all but nailed the problem: there isn’t a bureaucracy whose job is to build subways. The MTA would be a logical choice, but it seems to resist them.

We need something that does for subways that the EDC does for parking lots and real estate.

Henry April 22, 2013 - 6:44 pm

At MTACC prices, most sane people wouldn’t elect to build subways.

AG April 22, 2013 - 4:55 pm

well no – Connecticut very much needs to cooperate with NY. In fact – Connecticut business groups are one of the biggest proponents for Penn Station Access on Metro-North. They also were hoping that rail and BRT would be a part of the new Tappan Zee.

Bolwerk April 22, 2013 - 5:38 pm

Maybe it should, but it hardly perceives itself to need to. MNRR to Penn is probably happening no matter what.

John T April 22, 2013 - 7:54 am

This RX plan is one of many ideas to continue subway expansion. Not sure why you picked this line, but any plan needs a champion – whether a politican or community leader – to get the priority it needs. So many choices for expansion after 60yrs of neglect!

Here’s hoping the next mayor selects a line to build once the #7 & 2nd Ave. extension to 125th St are done. So many choices – #7 east, the R east over the LIE, Utica Ave south, the RX, #6 to Coop City, A to Riverdale, J to SE Queens . . . . maybe even a tunnel to SI!

We need to expand the subway to keep the city healthy & growing

SEAN April 22, 2013 - 8:46 am

Here’s hoping the next mayor selects a line to build once the #7 & 2nd Ave. extension to 125th St are done.

Personal thaughts…

#7 east – A worthwhile extention as Bayside has only bus service & the extention could go to Bell Boulevard.
the R eastover the LIE – to where exactly? I can see the R being extended to 179th Jamaica. This will allow the F to have a slightly faster express run in Queens. Also this way the R can be a full time service & not just an overnight shuttle in Brooklyn.
Utica Ave south – to Kings Plaza?
the RX – Any way to avoid the nessessity of traveling through manhattan must be a consideration.
#6 to Co-op City – This is a no brainer as the level of population density is off the charts.
A to Riverdale – I see where you are going with this, but are you running the line under Broadway?
J to SE Queens – Hmmm, unsure on this one.
. . . maybe even a tunnel to SI! – We can only hope.

We need to expand the subway to keep the city healthy & growing – I’m with you.

al April 22, 2013 - 12:26 pm

Phase 2 2nd Ave Subway -> 3rd Ave Bronx- Can we go with something cheaper, easier, and faster to build, like a beefed up version of Aerobus.

#7 east- A) Use the Corona Yard access tracks to get to LIRR. Deck over the LIRR tracks with elevated tracks out to Douglaston. LIRR can be express while 7 can be local. Opens up a possible Whitestone Expy/Cross Island Pkwy 7 extension.
B) Some sort of automated medium capacity transit technology. Cheaper, faster, lighter, and quieter to build, maintain, and operate than subway.

R over LIE- This requires a underground flying junction at Woodhaven Blvd, where there is already a wedding cake of overpasses, underpasses and tunnels.

Utica Ave South- that would overwhelm the A and C. You’d need CBTC between Hoyt and Canal to run 40+tph.

RX- The ROW wide enough in Brooklyn might not be wide enough for platforms when it passes near/under the West End, Culver, and Brighton Lines without extensive property acquisitions Elevated/embankment structure modification and street bridge replacements.

6 to Co-op City- Again, a high speed, low cost, automated medium capacity system might be warranted instead of a subway extension. It can be tied to Pelham Pkwy as a crosstown line as an upgrade to the SBS BX-12. Further down the line, it can be tied into a system of medium capacity systems that use Highway/Rail ROW.

A to Riverdale- A spur north of 190th St and then parallel to Henry Hudson Bridge/Pkwy. Broadway is not feasible due to pilings for the Broadway Bridge and the soft soil from the filled in old Harlem River channel.

J SE Queens- See 6 to Co-op City Above.

Tunnel to SI- Double-O tube TBM. Excavate and line in one shot. No need to trench (and get rid of contaminated sediment) for Prefab tunnel. You can build as fast as you can excavate and line the tunnel.


pink l April 22, 2013 - 2:01 pm

I definitely agree with the A train to the Bronx. If it ran under the Henry Hudson to at least 239 St, if not further to 254/ Riverdale Av. I know it would be hard to get the A up to the level of the Hudson Bridge, but it could also be a great extension, as the area is needing another subway service.
Also if there were to be an extension of the SAS across 125 and then following the A from 125/ St Nicholas to 190 or Dyckman you could have one service go to 207 St and one to 239 or 254 St

Henry April 22, 2013 - 8:36 pm

It’s not that simple.

T extension – Aerobus is proprietary technology, and we’ll be vender-locked once we adopt it. Not to mention, we don’t have depots or mechanics for these special vehicles.

7 extension – The Port Washington line goes under certain roads, so you’d probably have to tunnel under the ROW instead of elevating over it.

R over LIE – the LIE is less than ideal for a train extension, because of the lack of pedestrian crossings that people are likely to use on a regular basis. (Those pedestrian crossovers are barely used, and quite hostile to pedestrians.)

Utica Av South – I agree, and the Cranberry St tunnel is already at capacity due to the switch speed in the area.

RX is not a bad idea, although it doesn’t connect to things particularly well, especially in Queens.

6 extension – most of the ridership is headed to Co-op anyways, so you’d need more than a medium capacity system.

A extension – good luck getting the people of Riverdale to consent to something like that

J extension – SE Queens is more than dense and transit-dependent enough to warrant a full fledged subway system.

The MTA already has a sizable fleet of two different, incompatible types of cars. Having a third “medium capacity” set would be a logistical nightmare, especially since such lines would be concentrated in the outer boroughs and would not form a coherent network.

al April 23, 2013 - 5:07 pm

SAS- 17 year patent expiration makes vendor lock moot. When you expand subways appreciably, you need more layup and maintenance facilities anyway.

7 East- They’re roadway overpasses not tunnels. Building a modern elevated viaduct isn’t very difficult. It becomes cookie cutter prefab once its long enough. An Aerobus option would use towers and cables, and would provide plenty of clearance.

RX- The section between Metropolitan Ave and Broadway connects North Brooklyn, Central Queens, and North Queens.

6 ext- Half of trains terminate at Parkchester. That leaves 16,000pax/hr max at Pelham Bay Park. That is a medium capacity system.

A ext Bx- It is deep bore tunnel not bridge and elevated viaduct.

J ext- Considering E at Archer Ave is 16800 pax/hr max 15k pax/hr is good enough.

Negative, the MTA doesn’t just operate 2 fleets of vehicles. It operates A division and B division subway cars, MNCR and LIRR diesel locos and EMU cars, City and Commuter Buses, and Para-transit vans, along with an assortment of rail and road maintenance and inspection vehicles. It can handle another type of mass transit vehicle.

al April 23, 2013 - 5:16 pm

I like the M extension on Eliot Ave/LIE instead of R for LIE. It avoids the spaghetti of LIE, Queens Blvd, and IND Queens Blvd. There needs to be a extension to the east for LIE to cover south Elmhurst, Maspeth and South Sunnyside.

Henry April 23, 2013 - 7:25 pm

I disagree with the central notion of this – that you need a completely different set of technology for any sort of medium-capacity transit expansion, particularly one that is not easily upgradeable. 15K an hour can be done by 4-car or 5-car R160 sets, or by an LRT line. There’s no need to invest in a unproven technology (Aerobus has never had a large-scale implementation before, and the last time the MTA tried technology this untested, all the Grunman Flxibles were pulled out of service because they caught fire.)

Alon Levy April 23, 2013 - 8:17 pm

Ideally, there should be one type of train, a single-level EMU that can run everywhere; diesel service doesn’t belong in or near New York. The more types of vehicle there are, the higher the costs of maintaining each type are, because each type of vehicle needs its own yards, spares, and crew training.

The only intermediate-capacity rail system present in New York itself is the JFK AirTrain. The Newark AirTrain and the HBLR are also present, but their service yards are on the wrong side of the Hudson for purposes of sharing yards and spares. The JFK AirTrain is technologically identical to Vancouver’s SkyTrain, which has extraordinarily low marginal operating costs (a proposed service cut would save $11 per operating hour cut) and a good track record. Extensions may be worth it if they can hook to the JFK system. Unfortunately, the only reasonable future line I can think of that can be so hooked is Flushing-Jamaica; east-of-Jamaica service is a second possibility, but there the subway option provides a one-seat ride whereas the AirTrain doesn’t.

al April 24, 2013 - 1:56 pm

Well there we go, an Airtrain extension. Send it to LGA and across to 125th St Manhattan. Have non airport fares and MTA subsidies to cover non airport operation and maintenance costs.

There are 2 drivers for medium capacity systems.
1) Manual subway operation costs. Peak demand spikes, terminal, and yard locations drive up manpower requirements on present MTA subways. As R62 and R68 will continue to run into the 2030’s it will preclude automation anytime soon.
2) Service frequency in low and medium demand areas. Further expanding on Alon’s point, the ability to closely tailor equipment deployment and train consist length allow for better energy efficiency, service, and cut vehicle miles. Take a look at service frequency on the Rockaways and late at night. If you ran 1 or 2 car automated trains, the midday, evening, night and weekend frequencies would be much better and more attractive. You may argue the NTT with CBTC can do the same, but the existing fleet of cars built in the 80’s preclude this for a while. There is also question of the NTT’s ability to automatically, rapidly, and safely couple and decouple, to form and break up consists. Additionally, the existing A(cab), B(motor trailer), and C(CBTC) car types work together to operate trains on CBTC equipped lines. You need the C car to operate under ATO conditions. The present semi-permanently couple sets also preclude anything shorter than a 4 car ATO train.

al April 24, 2013 - 1:57 pm

Oops. This should be to Henry not Alon.

Alon Levy April 25, 2013 - 5:42 am

The Rockaways aren’t worth the automation costs. It’s very uncommon to automate preexisting subway lines, but when it happens, it’s done on the busiest lines, not the least busy branches.

Re “Send it to LGA and across to 125th St Manhattan,” who needs that? 125th has tons of travel demand that’s not airport-bound and just because the M60 is the line that appears on subway maps doesn’t mean it’s the majority of 125th Street travel. Send SAS there. It already curves under 125th to get to Lex.

pink l April 28, 2013 - 5:10 pm

I would send the SAS over to St. Nicolas but then have it turn North with the A and C. I would assume a station at Broadway and 125 would be very difficult as the 1 is very high up in the air and the SAS would be way below ground. If you sent it with the A & C you still get a connection from the 1, but just at 168 St instead

Nyland8 April 28, 2013 - 9:34 pm

Well … the T/1 connection would be no different – no more difficult – than the Yankee Stadium stop where the 4 meets the B,D.

But the in-progress Columbia University expansion, the proposed 125 St. MetroNorth stop on the Empire Corridor, and the new ferry excursion pier at West Harlem Piers, are all good reasons to extend SAS all the way to the river, making 125th Street the only legitimate crosstown nexus north of Central Park. There’s even a big bus terminal there.

And geologically, it’s all in the Manhattanville trench – so no hard rock to tunnel whatsoever.

Once it’s started, there’s no good reason not to go all the way.

AG April 28, 2013 - 11:49 pm

you make a good argument…. I still think they need to re-ignite the original plan to put a spur up to the Bronx.

Henry April 28, 2013 - 11:55 pm

I mean, there’s the 125th St earthquake fault, and digging along a fault may be tricky (and, given MTACC incompetency, much more expensive than it should be). The earthquake fault is apparently enough of a danger to propose the closing of Indian Point in Westchester, but I don’t know if that’s actually the case, or just the political result of a Cuomo-instigated study.

AG April 22, 2013 - 4:56 pm

in terms of Co-op City – they are more hoping for a station with Penn Station Access.

BBnet3000 April 22, 2013 - 9:46 am

Triboro RX is a game changer for the outer boroughs. I think its quite important.

Making the G actually connect to other subway lines is also important, but it wouldnt lead to the time savings between Brooklyn and much of Northern Queens, nor serve as a crosstown in Southern Brooklyn, the way the Triboro can.

D in the Bush April 22, 2013 - 12:56 pm

Extend the G line north to parallel Queens Plaza and then connect to the F line and end in Midtown at 57th Street where it would reverse back to Queens and Brooklyn.
That would make the G Train much more useful to more people.

Henry April 22, 2013 - 8:39 pm

The point of the G is to be able to go between Queens and Brooklyn, and it was expressly designed to NOT go into Manhattan.

al April 23, 2013 - 5:41 pm

Don’t completely discount G to Manhattan. If the G went north on 21st st, hooked west on Broadway, went across Roosevelt Island and down 86th St, then it has plenty of utility serving as a Manhattan crosstown relief line, serve Queensbridge, Ravenswood, LIC and form a more coherent circle connector line. If PA could play along, then it can then go to Hudson County (North Bergen), turn south (through Jersey City) and then cross back under Governor’s Island to Red Hook to form a complete circle (or Q). It would be the close in cousin to the Triboro RX.

Nyland8 April 24, 2013 - 9:34 am

The idea of both an inner and outer beltway has merit, but ideally they should circumnavigate Manhattan – not go through it. In this I agree with Henry. Long before contemplating the G through Manhattan, I’d find a way to run it up into the Bronx.

Also the PA doesn’t have to play along with anyone. They have no say whatsoever in what other railroads come and go between New Jersey and New York. They don’t regulate Amtrak and they don’t regulate the NJTransit/MetroNorth hybrids that run out to Orange and Rockland counties. The only reason they operate the PATH is a cruel twist of fate. The only power they have is bestowed by Albany and Trenton, and that can evaporate with the wave of a pen.

I like the idea of running a subway through Governors Island, but I don’t see it coming from New Jersey. I’d propose land expansion on the southwest portion – away from the historic northern district – by tunneling north toward Hanover to meet the T Line (SAS)and east toward Red Hook and beyond. The tunneling spoils could become landfill, and the developers who fund the tunneling would get the land. This might be an elegant public/private project that gets SAS phases 3&4 built with little cost to the tax and ratepayers. The added benefit would finally put a subway in the heart of Red Hook – say somewhere around the Dwight/Lorraine/Wolcott intersection – and who-knows-where eastward from there.

al April 24, 2013 - 1:22 pm

Manhattan runs up to 207th st. Avoiding all of Manhattan is not a good idea. Some Triboro Rx routing proposals send it west across the Harlem River to Washington Heights for transfer to A,C,1. A better idea is to avoid the CBD south of 60th St. A crosstown G down 86th St opens up new (some counter peak) travel patterns that avoid the 53rd St and 42nd St crosstowns.

PA cooperation is necessary for transfer stations at Grove st, Journal Sq, or a totally new station altogether.

I rather there be a launch box on Governor’s Island. It has access to waterborne transport for equipment and materials moves. Manpower can come by the existing ferry. A large cross shaped station can be built for a T extension to SI with a transfer to cross harbor G loop. You can drive TBM north to Manhattan, South to SI, East to Brooklyn and west to Hudson County.

Henry April 22, 2013 - 8:40 pm

If by “connect to Northern Queens” you mean “serve Jackson Heights and that’s about it”, then yes, the current RX proposals do connect to Northern Queens.

RX is a lot more useful in Brooklyn than it is on the Queens section.

Eric April 23, 2013 - 5:13 am

The ROW already exists. It’s ridiculously cheap compared to all the other proposals. Even the Queens section is more useful per dollar than anything except perhaps the SAS.

BBnet3000 April 23, 2013 - 6:49 am

I should have said “connect to the Queens Boulevard line”.

llqbtt April 22, 2013 - 9:52 am

Brown M in southern Brooklyn (& Metro) and an orange V on Queens Blvd? They’re either way behind on the times, diminishing their credibility or are wishful thinkers hoping for ‘service restorations and enhancements’.

VLM April 22, 2013 - 9:53 am

It’s a graphic from 2008 produced by the MTA. Relax.

Larry Littlefield April 22, 2013 - 9:58 am

The RPA doesn’t cost constrain its projections of the future. Let me do it for you.

Total U.S debts, public and private, were at 150 percent of GDP for decades. The starting around 1980 they soared to 380 percent of GDP, peaking in early 2008.

The future will consist of younger generations, who are poorer, paying off those debts, while also paying for the senior benefits that prior generations were unwilling to pre-fund, senior benefits far in excess of what younger generations will receive themselves.

When the debt is paid down, and Generation Greed has passed on, we can assess how much is left, and build from there. Or rather you can, as I will probably be in my late 70s.

Alon Levy April 22, 2013 - 5:50 pm

A lot of this debt growth is spurious. Ordinary bank deposits aren’t counted as debt even though they are zero-interest, perfectly liquid debt owed by the bank to the depositors. But shadow bank deposits do count as debt, so the shift to shadow banking has led to debt growth.

The big Generation Greed issues are elsewhere, mainly the way members of said generation fund their pensions by forming housing cartels (“local communities,” “zoning”).

Larry Littlefield April 22, 2013 - 7:00 pm

The debt is broken out by category, and federal, consumer and business debt has soared as well as financial. And most of the post-2008 decline is in financial debt.

Private equity firms load debt on companies to take cash out. And credit card debt and home equity debt soared through 2008. Student loan debt is still soaring. Etc.

The MTA may be one of the biggest examples on the state and local side.

Henry April 22, 2013 - 8:42 pm

Student loan debt is going to have catastrophic consequences when it pops, considering that college tuition takes up a large percentage of median income, and the fact that student debt is not covered by a bankruptcy.

AG April 23, 2013 - 9:15 am

We don’t have to wait for that… unfortunately. Student loan debt is already crushing those in the range of 25-35.

Bolwerk April 22, 2013 - 7:03 pm

I don’t think bank accounts are typically considered debt. They’re accounting liabilities for the bank, which is not quite something that should be conflated with borrowing. The cash banks hold on reserve and the loans/investments they make with deposits are assets for them, which must be balanced against their liabilities – whether technically debt or not, this is not a meaningful “debt” problem in the absence of a banking crisis.

Anyway, debt isn’t anymore than a long-term problem, one that can be confronted at least in part with a healthy dose of higher inflation. Don’t forget – Generation Greed owns most of the notes on that debt too.

Alon Levy April 23, 2013 - 12:40 am

Bank accounts are 100% debt: you’re loaning your money to the bank at low interest with the promise of perfect liquidity, and the bank loans it out to others with less liquidity and more risk at higher interest. However, they are not considered debt in the official figures, while shadow bank deposits are because shadow banking is unofficial.

Bolwerk April 23, 2013 - 11:21 am

Considering the liquidity is instant, that’s stretching the definition of loan/debt at best. You could just as well argue that you’re letting the bank be a proxy to use your money on your behalf in exchange for a shitty, but better than nothing, rate of return.

Regardless, what gets called debt in “official figures” is what matters here. We have no useful basis for comparison if we start calling bank accounts debt, when we never did in the past and nobody else does either.

In the absence of a banking crisis, risk isn’t even very meaningful with traditional deposits – but is with the shadow banking system, mostly anyway, so of course it makes sense to treat it differently.

Alon Levy April 23, 2013 - 8:23 pm

The useful basis for comparison is that 35 years ago, everyone put their liquid assets in regular banks, where they did not count as debt. Today, people from the middle class down still do, but rich people put their liquid assets in unregulated shadow banks; no real change to the structure of the economy except it does count as debt. There was a run on the shadow banks in 2008, but that problem isn’t really a feature of debt, but of federal deposit insurance.

Bolwerk April 24, 2013 - 8:53 am

I don’t think that’s entirely accurate. However similar the outcome, shadow banks are different creatures.

In a traditional banking relationship, there is one debt involved, not two: person P deposits cash in bank B, which in turn loans to household H. B has a liability for the cash P deposits, and is must have reserves to cover its obligation to P. H holds an actual debt to B or a combination of P/B (however you prefer to describe it).

Meanwhile, generally speaking anyway, shadow banks don’t generally take deposits in that sense. Yes, they can be fairly liquid, but they aren’t usually as liquid as traditional deposits. Shadow banks (however you define them) sell financial instruments, which they use to make other (riskier/higher interest) investments and loans. A comparable scenario to the above would be: P buys a short-term bond from shadow bank S; S gets cash, and in turn extends credit to household H to buy a new gold-plated yacht. There really are unambiguously two debts involved.

John Doe April 22, 2013 - 12:17 pm

“Sander hoped to see the Triboro RX realized within 40 years.”!!!!! this town is a joke!! unbelievable, Europe and now Asia are light years ahead of us in terms of rail transit, this is just sad and depressing. You know what? we get what we ask for. Americans hate anything public, especially transit and are addicted to their cars..oh well.

Jeff April 22, 2013 - 12:46 pm

We started building subways a lot earlier than most cities did. So a lot of them are actually playing catch up. NYC is still the biggest subway system in the world in terms of # of stations, so we are still ahead of everyone on that regard.

Alon Levy April 22, 2013 - 5:58 pm

Bullshit. First, by route-km New York isn’t first, and probably never was (London is longer). By ridership it’s seventh. All figures, including station counts, rely on the fiction that commuter rail is never a form of rapid transit; in Tokyo and Osaka most ridership, most lines, and most stations are commuter rail (at subway-like frequency and with subway-like pricing) rather than subway, and in Paris, Berlin, London, etc., commuter rail is around half of metro area rail ridership.

Beginning in the 1960s, Paris, whose subway system is as old as New York’s built the RER. New York built expressways. Paris is still building new lines, with about 150 kilometers expected between now and 2025. New York is spending almost as much money (or was, pre-ARC cancellation) on a handful of stub lines.

AG April 22, 2013 - 6:07 pm

Well in fairness… you should add commuter rail stations, tracks, and riders to NYC subway numbers to make it more comparable.

Tsuyoshi April 22, 2013 - 7:45 pm

Adding up MNR, LIRR, NJT, and PATH gets you just over a million rides per weekday, versus more than 8 million for the subway.

Compared to Tokyo… I couldn’t find figures easily for JR, which is the largest suburban rail network in Tokyo, but all the others combined are over 14 million, versus 8 million for the two subway systems. I would guess JR is another 3 or 4 million.

I haven’t looked the figures for other cities, but having lived in Tokyo, Osaka, and New York, and visited several others like Paris and Seoul, it’s very obvious that New York is very car-oriented compared to them.

Basically Alon is absolutely correct. American cities, including New York, virtually abandoned rail transit construction after World War II. There have been some movements toward building more rail, but it’s mostly crappy light rail systems that go from downtowns with acres of surface parking to suburban park-and-rides, that have the pitiful ridership you would expect.

AG April 22, 2013 - 8:15 pm

You are replying to the wrong person… I didn’t disagree with him… I’m just saying he should make the comparison more level when talking about track miles, stations, and passengers.

Alon Levy April 23, 2013 - 12:53 am

Commuter rail in New York is unusable as rapid transit. Some lines, like the New Haven Line, are usable as intercity trains, but for regional travel, it’s worthless. The frequency is too low, the fares are completely separate and different from the rapid transit fares, the focus is on connecting people in the suburbs to Manhattan plus a sop for reverse commuters. Tokyo commuter rail isn’t fare-integrated with the subway either, but fares within the city are competitive with the subway, which isn’t true of the LIRR or Metro-North, and off-peak frequency at city stations is measured in minutes rather than in hours.

AG April 23, 2013 - 9:30 am

Who said anything about effectiveness?? They were strictly discussing numbers… that’s it! My comment was strictly in regards to the numbers.

Alon Levy April 23, 2013 - 8:27 pm

The point of effectiveness is that in Paris, London, Berlin, Tokyo, Seoul, and others, commuter rail is rapid transit running on mainline tracks, while in American cities it is not. To the average city resident, the LIRR and Metro-North aren’t much more useful than the closed portions of the Atlantic Avenue tunnel: the infrastructure is there, but it’s not used for urban rapid transit.

AG April 23, 2013 - 11:43 pm

Again – that wasn’t the point – they were strictly discussing numbers. Those systems don’t serve just city residents… so when discussing numbers it doesn’t make sense to speak of just the subway… less effective or not.

Alon Levy April 25, 2013 - 5:47 am

Even if you truncate those systems to city line, the comparison isn’t favorable to New York. In fact one of the things New York commuter rail advocates rarely get is that most ridership comes from outer-urban and inner-suburban areas, where people can rely on transit if it’s available. In any normal situation, Elizabeth and Hempstead would be getting far more commuter rail ridership than Princeton Junction and Ronkonkoma, which are too far out to have the short-hop urban rapid transit service required for high all-day ridership.

AG April 25, 2013 - 10:51 am

Again – I NEVER said it would be more favorable to NY… I only used the word “fair”… as in giving a more realistic picture.

Jeff April 23, 2013 - 10:12 am

Paris is just as old as New York’s but its half the size of NY, so they are playing catch up. So basically you just supported my “bull shit”.

New York’s probably the only city to reduce drastically in size in terms of rapid transit in the 20th century. Everyone else is playing catch up. And we’re STILL a very transit oriented city – its just that America has a car culture and its tough to defeat that. But to say that other cities are light years ahead is just plain fallacy, which is what I was trying to disprove.

Henry April 23, 2013 - 7:35 pm

In terms of effectively covering and expanding coverage the metropolitan area, Paris is running laps around us, and Madrid, Beijing, and Shanghai are all far ahead.

We still have sections of the city with 120+ min commutes by mass transit. Few other cities can boast of this.

Alon Levy April 23, 2013 - 8:37 pm

Half the size of NY? Um, no. If you only count the Metro, it’s two thirds – 214 km vs. 337. But the Paris rapid transit system also includes the RER, which takes over functions that in New York are done by commuter rail or by the outer branches of the express subway lines. And then Paris turns out to be bigger than New York.

On ridership, too, you’ll find Paris is much more than half of New York. Metro ridership alone is almost even: 1.5 billion vs. 1.7 in New York. But with all other rail in the metro area included, Paris has about 2.5 billion and New York just 2 billion. Unsurprisingly, Parisians are more likely to use transit than New Yorkers: Ile-de-France’s trip-to-work transit mode share is 42%, while Greater New York’s is 28%. In general, if you measure metro area rail ridership per capita, New York is behind all the major European cities and even behind some secondary ones like Hamburg and Lyon. Paris has nobody to catch up to except Tokyo and Osaka, but it’s still building massive amounts of tunneling, for about an order of magnitude less money per kilometer than New York.

Alex April 22, 2013 - 12:54 pm

“Sander hoped to see the Triboro RX realized within 40 years.”

40 years isn’t exactly an ambitious vision. The vast majority of the entire current system was built in fewer than 40 years. And much of the infrastructure for the RX already exists. How on Earth would it take 40 years to built that out? Here’s hoping we find someone, ANYONE with some better vision and political will on transportation infrastructure.

Marc Shepherd April 22, 2013 - 3:35 pm

How on Earth would it take 40 years to built that out?

Well, the first 30 would be the environmental impact study.

BruceNY April 22, 2013 - 4:51 pm

Nah, maybe only 25. But the lawsuits from the NIMBYs would add on another ten years easily.

AG April 22, 2013 - 4:53 pm

You can’t compare back then to now… back then the city was not as built up… and they didn’t care about things like pollution (look what they did with the materials for the Empire State Building) and accidents during construction

Alex April 22, 2013 - 5:11 pm

Very true, but you’d think a public official trying to back a project like this would at least set an ambitious goal of say 5 years knowing it will take longer. I’d also point to the DLR in London only taking 5 years (I believe) to build out. It is possible! Just need the capital investment and political will.

Bolwerk April 22, 2013 - 5:36 pm

That’s borderline irrelevant. I don’t think the values in Germany or Japan are that different. They are “built up,” yet manage to build using modern materials, in spite of strict environmental codes, at a fraction of the cost.

Besides, there isn’t much of a better way to fight pollution than to encourage further rail transit proliferation. Yet what we’re seeing is subversion of environmentalism to prevent rail transit.

AG April 22, 2013 - 6:05 pm

Germany and Japan are very different cultures. Rebuilding is a part of their society. WW2 is never too far from their psyche

Yes of course it would reduce air pollution… but I was talking about pollution of land and water that used to take place when those things were constructed.

Bolwerk April 22, 2013 - 7:14 pm

Huh? World War II was 70 years ago. If anything, German and Japanese infrastructure matured well beyond American infrastructure decades ago. Meanwhile, “those things” never meaningfully polluted land and water, and they don’t now.

AG April 22, 2013 - 8:11 pm

Yes – they did mature so because they HAD to rebuild after the war. And if you knew anything about their cultures you would know they STILL think about the destruction that was caused. Again – different mindsets and culture than here.

You think there was no pollution from construction? You’ve got to be kidding. They dumped stuff wantonly in the waters and buried stuff in the ground that shouldn’t be there. You’re right they don’t now… but that was my point. They don’t now because there are many more steps involved compared to how things used to be built in NY.

Bolwerk April 22, 2013 - 8:54 pm

I think it’s a safe bet I know more about Germany than you do, and perhaps Japan too. And certainly the USA!

Anyway, whether they think about the war, Bismarck, or Hermann the German, or not, is rather unimportant. The operative cultural difference is a lack of tolerance for political intractability, at least where public works are concerned. Maybe relatively lower rates of corruption are a factor too.

You think there was no pollution from construction? You’ve got to be kidding.

No, I don’t fucking think that, I’m not kidding, and I’ll ask you to kindly not attribute things to me that I didn’t even write. As far as pollution is concerned, nebulous stuff buried in the course of making railroads is fairly low on the priority list today and in 1904. Things like CO2, on the other hand, have drastic world-altering effects. Of course, any mass infrastructure has externalities, but the New York/American response to them is greatly out of proportion to the harm – considering, again, other countries manage better environmental impacts/outcomes, not to mention lower energy consumption, while still getting stuff done at a much lower price.

Your comment about the war is, to put it bluntly, purely pedantic masturbation.

AG April 23, 2013 - 9:21 am

you must be 12 years old if you have to result to those types of words…

in any event – you don’t even realize how ridiculous you sound. You tell me it has nothing to do with the war… and then explain things about their society that happened as a direct result of the war…??? Wow!!
As far as the part of pollution – again – arguing about nothing. Stuff that happened in 1904 is still why there are so many Brownfields and Superfund sites. That has absolutely nothing to do with CO2… You obviously don’t get my point – because if I didn’t think it’s important to take cars off the road I wouldn’t be on this site.

Too smart for your own good…. and too childish to reason like an adult. You must be a child prodigy. Arrogant and petulant. Stick to the topics and leave the childish attempts at insults alone.

Bolwerk April 23, 2013 - 11:36 am

Yes, how immature of me to object to having things attributed to me that I didn’t say. Yes, construction costs in Germany, Japan, Italy, France, Spain have little to nothing to do with the war. If anything, the war raised construction costs in many countries by contracting the availability of financing to create new infrastructure. Yet these are modern countries that more or less are comparable to the U.S. in most economic measures.

Stuff that happened in 1904 is still why there are so many Brownfields and Superfund sites.

Thank you, Captain Obvious. What that “stuff” doesn’t include is subway construction.

Stick to the topics and leave the childish attempts at insults alone.

Pointing out that you’re coming across as stupid would be well-deserved at this point, but I don’t see where I insulted you. I really don’t care who is stupid, smart, young, old, gay, Martian, or whatever. The point is that you’re wrong. Meanwhile, I see plenty of examples of you insulting me, whilst apparently missing the irony of complaining about being insulted….

Alon Levy April 23, 2013 - 12:55 am

And yet, there’s no real difference between European countries that weren’t involved in the war (Sweden, Spain, Switzerland) and ones that were (all the rest).

WW2 is just an excuse. The real thing that happened is that the US stopped caring about transit, and still views it as glorified welfare.

AG April 23, 2013 - 9:26 am

Sweden, Spain, Switzerland were all affected by the war… (The war affected everyone and everything in Europe) but they weren’t destroyed so it’s not the same.

Yes – the US “stopped caring about transit” – but that has NOTHING to do with other countries. The US love of the automobile actually is a indirect result of the war as well. From the manufacturing capacity being turned from military to automobile purpose… to the Interstate system being developed after Eisenhower was told how effective the Autobahn was in Germany. The baby boom that resulted pushed people to spread further and further out which created new suburbs everywhere… which of course was aided by the automobile.
So don’t tell me it’s an excuse – it is REALITY!!! I think it was wrong – but that doesn’t change the FACTS!

Tom Graves May 3, 2013 - 12:51 am

You are bending over backwards to excuse the massive transit incompetence of NY. Building modern transit infrastructure is indeed a “part of the society” in Japan, where I have lived for 20 years. But this has nothing to do with WW II, and everything to do with wanting an efficient way for people in a very crowded urban region to get around without using cars.

The reality in Gotham is that bureaucracy, complex regulations, union obstructionism and massive, massive corruption keep construction costs way above any other G-8 country. And NY has a lower population density than Tokyo, so it’s not that NY is “more crowded”. It’s actually less crowded.

The US continues to be in love with cars, and you see that even in NY, where massive SUV’s crowd the narrow streets and common-sense proposals like adding tolls on the East River bridges get nowhere. And when a country blows $1 trillion on boondoggle wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, well, there’s just not much money to spend on things like mass transit that actually makes city dwellers lives easier.

Americans who’ve never lived out of NY have no idea how 3rd world the NY transit infrastructure actually is. It’s pathetic, but maybe better that people in NY have no idea how bad they have it. I’m just glad to live in Tokyo.

AG May 3, 2013 - 2:17 pm

I’m not excusing anything… simply stating FACT.

FACT – the results of WW2 affected every country involved. Countries that were destroyed MOST CERTAINLY invested in infrastructure including rail transport than the U.S.

FACT – for many reasons victory in WW2 resulted in the suburban sprawl that led to the de-funding of public transport in the U.S.

FACT – I have lived outside of NY.. and not only a U.S. citizen.

Btw – I never said NY was more crowded than Tokyo (not even sure how you read that)… I said it’s more crowded than it was when the subways were originally built.

And what you said is correct about problems in government… but since you live in Tokyo there is no reason for you to waste time commenting here. Or you like to gloat?

Alon Levy April 22, 2013 - 6:01 pm

Is there anything on this plan that wasn’t already included in the third plan?

Henry April 22, 2013 - 8:46 pm

The fourth plan hasn’t been released yet.

Corey Best April 22, 2013 - 8:11 pm

I love how they always ignore the NJ and CT transit advocates our ideas are closer to reality then there ideas in aspects. They skipped over the Key congested corridors in there last plan like the Newark-Paterson LRT , Newark LRT expansion to Irvington , West Orange and Jersey City , Newark-Elizabeth LRT , Northern Branch LRT , Kingsland Branch which they did put in later , Cross Essex LRT which was added in later , Bergen-Passaic LRT , US 46 BRT , Bloomfield Ave BRT which was added in later , Mount Prospect Ave BRT which was added in later , the MOM Railway Network , Northwest Rail line , Lackawanna Corridor , Philpsburg Network all of which was in the orignal or added in later , West Shore line and the New Brunswick Network which was added in aswell. They seem to miss alot in the beginning and then add in more realistic ideas which gain traction later.

Henry April 23, 2013 - 12:13 am

It’s really sad when the most visionary plan the transit system had was developed in 1929.

Now, I’m not saying that we should have a Second System, but the subways should be extended with a similar mindset as that of LA’s 30/10 plan.

SAS should be extended north via the MNRR right-of-way to Gun Hill Rd, replacing the Third Av Line.

SAS should be connected at its southern end to the Atlantic Branch, and a Utica Av Line should branch off of the extended SAS.

The A should be extended eastwards via the 207th St yard tracks to Pelham Bay Park via Fordham Rd and Pelham Parkway, mirroring the Bx12SBS.

The 2/5 should be extended down Nostrand to Avenue U.

The 7 should be extended via either the Port Washington Line or Northern Blvd to Bell Blvd.

The F should be extended to Springfield and Hillside.

The E should be extended to Springfield and Merrick.

The M should be extended via the RX right-of-way and Elliot Av to Woodhaven, closing the Ridgewood-QBL gap. Long term, it should be further extended down the LIE to Springfield.

These are all extremely long-range plans, and Staten Island isn’t included (because Staten Island has its unique challenges), but the point is that the system needs to be extended to reach the residents in the outer parts of the city so that commute times can be reduced, and bus operating costs lowered.

Asher April 23, 2013 - 2:48 am

I don’t think that most of the residents in Riverdale are interested in extending the A train.

As much as I would like to see the 1 train extend to the City Line, the density above 242nd Street doesn’t justify it, and the hill starting at 260th Street makes it a difficult problem.

Nyland8 April 23, 2013 - 7:32 am

It seems to me that the old paradigm of building more Manhattan-centric lines, or extending already Manhattan-centric lines, will be increasingly difficult to generate political will around. You not only run up against the NIMBYs, but the OIMBYs represent an even more powerful political block. Nobody wants to spend money on what is misperceived to be somebody else’s gain.

Sure, there remain some obvious projects that are relatively easy sells – the next three phases of the SAS and a station at 41st & 10th on the 7, for example – but when it comes to generating political will for a major project, pitching the Triboro Rx could be the closest thing to a no-brainer rail advocates have.

It would be a shame if we were to allow the devastation of Sandy to fade from memory so quickly, and not capitalize on promoting the idea of greater interconnectivity of the system. And with programs like Fast-Track already impacting riders, it could be a much easier sell if it could be communicated to the average rider that there would be more ways to circumnavigate their troubles.

Building the beltway is the way to go. It opens the possibility of having strong political advocacy in four-out-of-five boroughs – and if you can tease some future connection to Richmond out of it, you’d have advocates in all five.

Rather than waiting for a single, overpowering voice in a solo performance to push the next big project through, perhaps our time is better spent building a choir. If well thought out, and well presented, Triboro Rx has the potential to do that.

AG April 23, 2013 - 9:37 am

Very sensible comment. I especially agree about not letting Sandy fade into memory without getting effective changes. After 9/11 there was supposed to be a train from JFK to lower Manhattan… and we see that never happened. Instead of the ugly PATH monstrosity they should have done that. Instead of trying to move MSG – they should use that energy to find money to fund the Triboro RX

Benjamin Kabak April 23, 2013 - 9:39 am

Moving MSG to allow for the expansion of trackage and platforms underneath Penn Station is far more vital to the region than Triboro RX. This isn’t about a fancy headhouse; it’s about increasing Trans-Hudson rail capacity and the ability of Penn Station to handle more customers and more trains.

Bolwerk April 23, 2013 - 11:40 am

Bah, there is plenty of trackage under Penn Station. It’s just poorly utilized. Another tunnel is a sound project, but moving MSG probably isn’t.

AG April 23, 2013 - 11:30 pm

Ben – that sounds very “Manhattan-centric”. Job growth in the outer-boroughs has been far outpacing that in Manhattan over the past decade. So why shouldn’t there be a Triboro RX first? Plus as has been debated – there are things that can be done other than going the most expensive route of moving MSG.

Henry April 23, 2013 - 7:31 pm

You can take the A to AirTrain, or any train to Atlantic to catch a train to Jamaica (and catch AirTrain)

The idea of a dedicated Lower Manhattan-JFK rail link is overhyped.

AG April 23, 2013 - 11:34 pm

Lower Manhattan is the 3rd largest biz district in the nation… having no direct link to the airport (or Long Island) is not “overhyped” at all.

Bolwerk April 24, 2013 - 8:57 am

It takes an hour, and requires a transfer. Possibly with baggage.

But, you know, who cares about people and their time? If the plebes aren’t taking at least two trains to work, they aren’t suffering enough!

Henry April 24, 2013 - 7:41 pm

Well, FAA prevents the use of the federal Aviation Trust fund and Passenger Facility Charge for a transit line that makes intermediate stops between the terminus and airport facilities, so any facility that has local stops cannot be built using those funds. The more local stops you have, the less likely airport travelers will use it due to the reduced convenience of the line.

There’s also the issue of stop location in JFK – due to the layout of JFK’s terminals in a circle, there’s no one location you can put the station in where a transfer to the AirTrain wouldn’t be required for most of the terminals. You could use the existing AirTrain setup, but then you’d have to either develop AirTrain compatible trains that can run on regular tracks (impossible due to the AirTrain’s fourth-rail and linear induction technology), or build/convert a line to AirTrain, which reduces the capacity on that line due to the limitations of the AirTrain stations at JFK. If you do have to transfer to get to the majority of terminals, the mobility improvement is limited since all the existing connections to AirTrain are step-free and frequent. (The odd thing is, tourists with baggage seem to ignore the signs for the elevators, choosing instead to hoof it up the stairs or escalators.)

Finally, with few exceptions, very few places have built full CBD-airport greenfield airport lines. Those that did are either doing it because they’re building new development and a separate local line along with it (Hong Kong) or because rail market share is so high, and existing corridors so saturated, that a new airport line makes sense (Tokyo). With very few exceptions, airport lines that attract a reasonable amount of market share don’t have the ridership base to run more frequently than every 12-15 minutes. Building a greenfield line to support this level of service, when it will most likely be underground for a significant portion of its length, tunnel under the East River, and cater to an unstable, more affluent rider base (there’s no steady source of airport travelers, and airport employees definitely don’t live in Lower Manhattan), is probably not cost-effective.

The ideal “JFK” project would be to extend the Atlantic Branch to WTC/Fulton or the future Hanover Square, since the trains out of Jamaica to either Penn, Atlantic, and soon GCT run quite frequently, and there’s very little marginal cost with accepting airport-bound travelers on the underutilized Atlantic Branch trains (which will, in any case, soon be a shuttle). It’s a less than ideal solution to a problem that has no perfect solutions, but this gets the most bang for the buck.

Bolwerk April 27, 2013 - 10:31 am

FAA prevents the use of the federal Aviation Trust fund and Passenger Facility Charge for a transit line that makes intermediate stops between the terminus and airport facilities

Which is a terrible policy, both for transit and airports, and is a good reason for the FAA to get a thrashing. And I never mentioned using FAA funds.

The more local stops you have, the less likely airport travelers will use it due to the reduced convenience of the line.

This comment is closing in on bullshit for multiple reasons, not least of which is that time is what counts, not the number of stops or the distance. Those things are factors that impact time, but they don’t dictate it.

There’s also the issue of stop location in JFK – due to the layout of JFK’s terminals in a circle, there’s no one location you can put the station in where a transfer to the AirTrain wouldn’t be required for most of the terminals.

I don’t see the problem. Centralize baggage checking at a single transit terminal/AirTrain stop/airport terminal, and let AirTrain handle moving people between terminals. As far as NYC transit upgrades go, this wouldn’t even be very expensive.

Nyland8 April 23, 2013 - 2:14 pm

Ben “…; it’s about increasing Trans-Hudson rail capacity and the ability of Penn Station to handle more customers and more trains.”

Really? Have I posted on the wrong thread again? I thought this was the one with T-Rx in the second sentence; the one with T-Rx in the last sentence; the one with the picture of the proposed T-Rx atop the thread, and the one that doesn’t mention NY Penn Station anywhere in the text – not even once.

Relieving Penn’s problems is certainly a worthwhile regional project – one that would have been adequately dealt with if Governor Crusty hadn’t brought his considerable weight down upon it. But it’s hard to imagine that generating political advocacy for moving MSG to reconfigure tracks will be smooth sailing – especially since the governor of the state with the most to gain from a Penn Station overhaul was so willing to abandon NJ Transit’s solution to the problem.

Vitality to the region or not, Triboro RX could be a done deal by the time Penn Station’s limitations are finally addressed.

Bklyn April 23, 2013 - 2:40 pm

Tell you what folks.

I think everyone on this site has some very bright ideas. And truly, the power resides with us.

Some folks above have talked about presentation of ideas. Tell you what. If everyone would like to put their ideas to paper so to speak, I’ll create a presentation. I’m a presentation artist for a major ad agency, and I have an MBA. Infographics are my specialty.

I volunteer my time to help the cause – be it Triboro Rx, Rockaway Revival, subway to SI etc. I will draw the limit on one proposal – that being the 7 to NJ. If this is what the mayor and Jersey want, let them pay for it.

I’ve put it out there. Now the ball is in everyone’s court.

Alon Levy April 23, 2013 - 8:41 pm

Please email me. The address is alon_levy1 and is a Yahoo email; you can also get it on my blog’s about page.

Bolwerk April 24, 2013 - 8:57 am

You should double ROT13 encode next time.


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