Home East Side Access Project From LI pols, unreasonable opposition to Penn Station Access

From LI pols, unreasonable opposition to Penn Station Access

by Benjamin Kabak

A proposed build of the Penn Station Access plan.

Despite the fact that Long Island has thrived due to transit, LI residents and politicians have long fought against any sort of transit upgrades for the area. Nassau County’s NICE has not been a success while NIMBYism has killed a much-needed third track for the LIRR’s Main Line. Now, with East Side Access inching forward an the MTA’s Penn Station Access plan for Metro-North coming into view, Long Islanders are throwing a selfish fit over transit improvements that will benefit the region.

The latest salvo in the inexplicable war pitting Long Islanders against New Yorkers from points north of the city comes to us courtesy of Jack Martins, a State Senator from Nassau County. He’s not the first to object to Penn Station Access. In fact, we first heard word of Long Island insurgency in March when Charles Fuschillo raised some concerns. But Martins, in an Op-Ed he wrote for a local Hicksville newspaper, takes this opposition to an entirely new level.

Claiming his missive comes from the “Department of Bad Ideas,” Martins writes against Penn Station Access. With a misguided reference to the Payroll Tax as a selective tax targeting “only downstate businesses whether their employees used mass transit or not,” Martins rails against the future plans:

Lest these ideas feel lonely, they’re now trumpeting yet another that is so illogical that, if adopted, certainly belongs in their top goofs of all time: displacing LIRR trains at Penn Station for Metro-North trains. That would mean by 2016, four railroads – LIRR, NJ Transit, Amtrak and now Metro-North – would share the tracks and platforms with Metro-North adding an “estimated” ten trains per hour. I can just hear the collective sighs of those who regularly brave Penn as it is now and trust me, I sympathize with you. Why would the powers that be at the MTA want to make it worse?

But Thomas Prendergast, the newly-nominated Executive Director of the MTA has already gone on record as supporting the idea and essentially sticking it to us Islanders. He reminds the more than 300,000 daily LIRR commuters, that “…we are a regional agency and we need to make sure we’re doing everything across the region to provide benefits to the people.” (In case you don’t recognize canned statements prepared by out-of-touch PR bureaucrats – that was one.)

I see where this came from. Soon, the Long Island Railroad will have East Side Access into Grand Central station, so there should be room, right? Wrong. I’d love for someone involved – anyone really – to just try to remember why we’re spending billions of dollars to carve through millions of tons of bedrock under the East River. It was because Penn was overwhelmingly recognized as being much too crowded – and I might add – nobody could find any room on tracks leading into Grand Central for the LIRR. Are they now suggesting that taxpayers and commuters foot a bill that will eventually top out at $18 billion only to see the problem we attempted to alleviate made worse?

It’s nonsense. The whole point of the East Side Access Project was to create a terminal under Grand Central Station that would increase ridership on the LIRR, accessing central Manhattan without affecting Penn. In fact, Metro North went undisturbed by the LIRR move to Grand Central because the LIRR was forced to create its own space, literally carving out a cavern for its own terminal.

Where to even begin with Martins’ insanity? Perhaps the price tag would be a good start. East Side Access will clock far over budget and behind schedule, but Penn Station Access won’t cost an additional $9-$10 billion. It uses preexisting tracks and connections to deliver Metro-North trains to the West Side, a booming business center these trains currently do not access. These numbers are simply pulled out of thin air to further a poorly made point.

Second, relying upon the mistaken belief that Penn Station Access would be ready by 2016 when it wouldn’t be considered until after East Side Access is ready, Martins claims that Penn Station Access would make matters at Penn Station worse. It won’t at all because when East Side Access is ready, a lot of the train traffic and passenger traffic into Penn Station will shift to Grand Central. Despite Martins’ protestations concerning more studies, the MTA and regional transit advocates have recognized the impact ESA will have on alleviating some train traffic into Penn and know that Metro-North can slot in without major issues. Politicians, on the other hand, cannot see the forest for the trees.

Throughout the rest of the piece, Martins’ complaints about fare increases ring hollow, and his attempts to portray Long Islanders as victims of the MTA’s callousness seem petty at best and ignorant at worst. He’s distorting transit as a whole and making a mockery of a project that will vastly improve regional access to both sides of Manhattan. As long as we continue to elect these representatives, though, transit policy will remain forever locked in some soft of stasis chamber, not moving forward and nearly moving backward.

Ultimately, Penn Station Access is not nonsense, and it is part of a regional economy and a regional transit network that should deposit riders on both sides of Manhattan. Provincialism from Long Island politicians is nonsense, and I fear these voices will only grow louder as the project nears reality.

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Bolwerk May 6, 2013 - 12:53 am

Pretty amazing how they don’t want useful things for themselves (e.g., a third track), and feel the need to take them away from others too.

Everybody has a right to speak, but not everybody has to be heeded. Hopefully cooler heads will prevail.

SEAN May 6, 2013 - 9:46 am

Pretty amazing how they don’t want useful things for themselves (e.g., a third track), and feel the need to take them away from others too.

In psychological terms, you are describing a destructive form of projection. I don’t want good transit therefore, I don’t want you to have it either as an example.

Chet May 6, 2013 - 5:13 am

I would suggest that Sen. Martins move to Staten Island. Then he would have reason for transportation complaints- like his Verazzano Bridge toll helping to subsidize LIRR fares.

Beyond that, I only hope the man is caught in a never ending traffic jam on the LIE.

Alon Levy May 6, 2013 - 7:25 am

Ben, the Long Island pols are assholes over this comment and many others, but you give them too much credit when you say “NIMBYism has killed a much-needed third track for the LIRR’s Main Line.” In reality, the project was canceled because the MTA had a shortage of funding and figured supporting SAS and ESA was more important. I can dig up the post from your own archives saying the same.

The other issue is that although everything in the article you’re quoting is wrong, a Long Island NIMBY can be forgiven for thinking Penn has a track access crunch when the MTA keeps saying that again and again. The MTA could’ve been honest about the East River Tunnels’ current traffic levels and capacity, making it clear that there’s room. It could’ve publicized post-ESA schedules showing diversion of traffic from Penn Station to Grand Central. In Switzerland, major infrastructure projects come with a specific service plan: for example, in Lucerne, a recent $250 million S-Bahn tunnel was built to replace single-tracking and allow a 15-minute clockface frequency. Like all other US government agencies, the MTA is treating voters like morons; don’t be surprised when voters rise up to the task.

BBnet3000 May 6, 2013 - 7:49 am

While not remotely as clear as the Swiss example, the MTA has already said (or so I read in Newsday when I was at my parents house out on LI) the number of trains they are expecting to shift to GCT and the number of Metro North trains they expect to shift to Penn. (with the first number being much higher than the second).

SEAN May 6, 2013 - 8:20 am

Do you remember the numbers from the Newsday article by chance? Just curious.


BBnet3000 May 6, 2013 - 3:31 pm

Ive found the online version of the article, though it lacks the inset that actually had the numbers in it that the printed one had.

I believe it was something like 24 LIRR trains (per hour?) diverted from Penn and 10 Metro North trains (per hour?) diverted to Penn.

The latter number alone is in the online version of the article, no doubt continuing to give people on Long Island the impression that metro north is about to steal their station away.

SEAN May 6, 2013 - 3:57 pm

Hmmm, interesting. As I recall LIRR trains to GCT & MNR trains to Penn were add ons & not deversions.

Nathanael May 7, 2013 - 11:25 pm

LIRR trains to GCT are some new, some diversions.

Because more commuters are heading to the GCT area than to the Penn area, the plan is to max out the capacity of of the new GCT caverns immediately.

However, when you do this, you HAVE to reduce the number of LIRR trains going to Penn, substantially, because there isn’t enough capacity on the lines east of Jamaica to support a maxxed-out GCT and the current service level at Penn. Even if the Atlantic Avenue trains are made into shuttles and the Hunterspoint Avenue trains are discontinued. (I suppose they could pack train service onto the Port Washington line, but it doesn’t need it.)

So there will definitely be fewer LIRR trains to Penn after East Side Access opens. There’s no choice there. If the Main Line was three-tracked, there might have been a choice. It isn’t, so there is no choice.

Chris C May 6, 2013 - 4:45 pm

according to


24 tph will use the ‘new’ GCT station during peak hours – approx 162k passenger trips a day.

I thought one of the aims of ESA was to deliver commuters from LI to where THEY wanted to go rather than take them to where trains went to.

I’m sure there are figures out there (probably used as part of the ESA planning justification) that said X thousands of people arrive at Penn (because that is where the trains went to) but who’s actual final destination was closer to the mid-town / GCT area – saving them 30-40 minutes of journey time.

SEAN May 6, 2013 - 5:50 pm

Yeah, those were the numbers I saw a while ago but couldn’t remember them.

Henry May 6, 2013 - 9:38 pm

It’s probably a significant amount, given the crush loading on the E eastbound between Penn and Lexington during the AM peak.

Larry Littlefield May 6, 2013 - 9:22 am

“A Long Island NIMBY can be forgiven for thinking Penn has a track access crunch when the MTA keeps saying that again and again.”

Only one too stupid to understand that tracks will be opened up by all the LIRR trains shifted to Grand Central. I’m not prepared to give Generation Greed credit for being stupid.

Eric F May 6, 2013 - 9:28 am

Your point in the second paragraph is a key one. I don’t think there is any real clarity on what post-ESA LIRR scheduling is going to look like. In that context, concern over Penn access is not as irrational as it’s being made out to be.

Alex C May 6, 2013 - 12:46 pm

Those concerns are pretty irrational. The Evil MTA isn’t going to shift all LIRR to Grand Central, just a few trains as needed to cover demand from Long Island to midtown east.

Eric F May 6, 2013 - 2:08 pm

They are spending something like $10 billion. They better be moving more than just “a few” trains. The question is whether it’s 50% or 75% and whether overall service is flat or augmented. Given past experience, I think one would be safest seeing what LIRR actually does with its new digs before allowing it to give up space in Penn.

Alon Levy May 6, 2013 - 4:41 pm

There sort of is space in the tunnels for Metro-North service, today. (“Sort of” means the tph count under the East River would be almost exactly twice as much as under the Hudson, leading to delays.)

The concern is completely irrational given knowledge about what’s likely to happen given Penn vs. Grand Central demand and about what Penn’s actual situation is. It’s just that the MTA isn’t good about spreading this knowledge. I’ve heard some people here say that there will be limited to no diversion from Penn, only from Flatbush.

As for wait-and-see, what’s the point of that? The space doesn’t belong to Long Island. It belongs to the entire region. Just because status quo is that all commuter rail capacity across the East River goes to Long Island rather than the NEC doesn’t mean it’s wrong to redistribute capacity.

Henry May 6, 2013 - 9:42 pm

The MTA certainly has a service plan somewhere, but MTACC documentation is so byzantine that looking for it is pretty much hopeless. The website isn’t any help, either.

For instance, a rarely publicized part of ESA is the elimination of Atlantic Branch through-service with the rest of the LIRR network. I have yet to find any official MTA documentation regarding this change, but various news sources and the consulting firm that MTACC hired for the project mention this change. They also mention the construction of a new platform at Jamaica to accommodate this change, which is troubling since there is no evidence that this has started.

SEAN May 6, 2013 - 8:33 am

I’ve been riding the LIRR & NICE more as of late & let me tell you it doesn’t come close to MNR & Bee-line in terms of service quality.

NICE despite receiving a bunch of new low floor busses, cant seme to keep there Clever Devices AVS up & running consistently. This makes knowing where you are & what bus to board a challenge for non-sighted people.

Michael K May 6, 2013 - 8:43 am

Martins DOES have a point that Metro North did not want to share GCT. Third rail issues could have been resolved and we would be much closer to railroad integration in the NYNJCT area.

SEAN May 6, 2013 - 9:14 am

Perhaps he does, however I take issue in the way these politicos have a me first atitude like Martins & Savino. In the end it solves nothing & everybody knows it.

Michael K May 6, 2013 - 9:43 am

His prmary job, is first & foremost: To get Re-elected. His voters are herded like cattle on peak-hour LIRR trains and will re-elect him for making a stand on this.

Alon Levy May 6, 2013 - 4:42 pm

Why do I have a feeling that their definition of “herded like cattle” is a lot laxer than that of city residents?

Henry May 6, 2013 - 9:44 pm

Rarely have I encountered a LIRR train out of Jamaica with more than a handful of standing passengers during the AM peak. It happens, but it’s usually more attributable to some sort of service delay east of Jamaica.

Of course, nothing really quite compares to the overcrowding on the parallel Queens Boulevard Line.

Michael K May 7, 2013 - 11:33 am

Actually, It depends on the line.

– The Babylon line has severe overcrowding with people standing all over the train from 5pm until 6:30.

– The Port Washington Line has severe overcrowding with people standing all over the train from 5pm until 6:30.

However with that said, he is from Northwestern Nassau County, which includes the area that is up in arms against the third track.

SEAN May 6, 2013 - 5:47 pm

Being forced to stand on an overcrowded LIRR train is a rediculous reason to vote for a politition. LOL

Joseph Steindam May 6, 2013 - 9:51 am

I know that your point is correct, but did the early plans for ESA ever involve using the existing Grand Central tracks? It should have, because the cavern is so deep it takes tons of time to get down there. But I imagine connecting the 63rd Street tunnel to the Park Avenue tunnels into Grand Central would have required a lot of shutting down the tunnels, which may have deprived Metro North of sending trains to Grand Central.

Anyway, Metro North (I imagine reluctantly) gave up their maintenance facility at Grand Central to make room for the ESA concourse. So not a totally bad relationship.

Bolwerk May 6, 2013 - 11:14 am

I don’t know how far it got, but I’m pretty sure discussing the alternative in a study would have been unavoidable, if federal funding is desired.

AlexB May 6, 2013 - 2:58 pm

It would have allowed for a lot more redundancy if the MNR Park Ave line had been provided a connection to the new cavern and vice versa. You could even have had cross platform transfers from Metro North to the LIRR, not that many people would have used them.

Henry May 6, 2013 - 9:48 pm

It was mentioned as an alternative, but was dismissed due to the large impact it would’ve had on surrounding buildings and the Park Avenue Line, and the amount of overcrowding that would’ve resulted if all service out of GCT happened to be suspended in an emergency.

Imagine the pandemonium that resulted when Penn was shuttered before this year’s storms, occurring in GCT and in the much smaller subway complex there.

Alon Levy May 7, 2013 - 12:15 am

But… storms would shut down both a subsurface station and a deep-level one.

Henry May 7, 2013 - 12:46 am

I’m aware of it, and I’m not defending the MTA’s position. The MTA report basically said “With the deep-level station, LIRR riders will have separate waiting areas in the event of an emergency suspending train service.”


Michael K May 7, 2013 - 11:35 am

It was planned that way to ensure that no railroad integration would come of this.

Eric F May 6, 2013 - 9:26 am

Doesn’t he have a point? If Metro North wants in, let them build a deep cavern under Penn and a couple of new tunnels. They can spend 10 yeras coordinating work with Amtrak operations, and be forced to buuild a dozen new entrances to teh station across midtown west. That’s what they are making the LIRR do to get to GCT.

JMB May 6, 2013 - 9:46 am

I was under the impression that there was no feasible way to connect LIRR to GCT without doing a new cavern. I thought it would of been easier to connect with the lower level at GCT but apparently there were serious engineering problems in having the the 63rd st tunnels connect with the Park ave tunnels (including capacity issues). Maybe i’m wrong, but it seems disingenious to compare existing connections (Metronorth to Penn) versus creating something new (LIRR to GCT.

Boris May 6, 2013 - 11:59 am

There is at least one advocacy group saying that it is indeed feasible, cheaper, more practical, and faster to build: http://www.irum.org/lirr_esa.htm.

Henry May 6, 2013 - 9:49 pm

The MTA dismissed it because they thought it would require an unreasonable amount of underpinning existing buildings.

Given the various complaints that have resulted from the SAS detonations, they were probably right.

Nathanael May 7, 2013 - 11:30 pm

And it didn’t give a huge payback. It’s not like “Alternative G”, which has massive benefits due to through-running.

For putting LIRR into Grand Central proper, all the extra underpinning, and associated delay, and all the re-electrification, and so forth… wouldn’t give operational improvements over the deep station. Yes, it would be a shorter walk from the surface.

llqbtt May 6, 2013 - 12:31 pm

Perhaps a hybrid approach..tunneling until LIRR can connect with GCT lower level.

Patrick May 6, 2013 - 1:23 pm

It would have been impossible for the LIRR and MNCR to share GCT. The grades up from the 63rd Street Tunnel would have to be made far too steep to get the trains all the way up into the current station. And if they got up to the new station, they wouldn’t be able to coexist due to their differnt types of third rail (and designing a system that didn’t involve just ripping every inch of third rail out on one railroad and replacing it with the other would’ve been too expensive).

The new 8-track stub terminal is the only way it could have worked, so that’s what the LIRR did.

~Patrick @ The LIRR Today

Alon Levy May 6, 2013 - 4:50 pm

It’s 20 blocks. An EMU can climb 4% grades, especially if it’s slowing down for a station anyway. If anything the problem would be letting trains accelerate on the downgrade (still possible, just uncommon at 4%). That’s about 60 meters of allowed climb from the tunnel to Grand Central. In contrast, the Roosevelt Island subway station is only 30 meters underground, and the LIRR tunnel is right below it.

Also, trains with incompatible specs can share train stations if each type of train gets dedicated tracks. There’s enough space at Grand Central that Metro-North can lose 8 tracks without really noticing they were gone.

SEAN May 6, 2013 - 6:01 pm

They lost two tracks at GCT for north end Access, but losing eight more might crimp opperational flexability as demands for aditional service come in the coming decades beyond what trains go to Penn. That is unless bilevel cars & locos are added to the fleet like NJT & the LIRR have already done.

Henry May 6, 2013 - 9:51 pm

Isn’t GCT under-capacity, given the fact that it no longer has intercity operations anymore? IIRC, it also has the largest amount of platforms in the world of any station, so it’s not like there’s a shortage of space.

Alon Levy May 7, 2013 - 12:14 am

Grand Central has 44 platform tracks. There is no scenario in which a terminal with 36 platform tracks and 4 approach tracks has its limiting factor at the platforms rather than on the approaches.

Nathanael May 7, 2013 - 11:34 pm

Metro-North actually lost an entire yard at Grand Central to “concourse space” for the LIRR.

That said, the underpinning issues with the approach on the north were very substantial.

Also, if a separate station throat could have been built and connected up to the new tunnels, it would probably work out OK… but otherwise, tangling up the terminal operations of Metro-North and LIRR could cause scheduling hell.

(The same problem does not apply at Penn, where Metro-North would come in, and out, through the Amtrak tunnels, on routes where it is *already* coordinating all schedules and dispatching with Amtrak.)

John-2 May 6, 2013 - 9:46 am

It’s entirely possible that by the middle of the next decade the LIRR could have more passengers wanting to travel to Grand Central than to Penn Station, especially if Bloomberg gets his East Side rezoning plan through before he leaves office.

If that’s the case, it would be silly not to use the connection put in place by the original builders of Penn Station to access New England, and allow reverse-flow Metro North trains West Side access. The Long Island pols may have a case to wait at least 1-2 years after ESA opens to see the new traffic patterns, but if half-empty trains are coming and going during rush hour, they have no case to demand the MTA hoard the platform slots — and New Jersey pols have no right to demand they give all of those slots to NJT (at least not unless the Port Authority takes over the MTA).

Nyland8 May 6, 2013 - 10:54 am

” and New Jersey pols have no right to demand they give all of those slots to NJT (at least not unless the Port Authority takes over the MTA).”

The Port Authority has nothing whatsoever to do with New Jersey Transit trains running into NYC, so it isn’t likely it will ever have anything to do with the MTA.

NJT/MetroNorth hybrids also run interstate from Bergen into Orange and Rockland Counties without so much as a nod to the PA. The Port Authority only controls the river crossings because of freight transit – not people transit – and the only reason they control the PATH subway system is due to a cruel twist of fate.

It is the MTA that should take over PATH – not the other way around.

John-2 May 6, 2013 - 2:56 pm

My point was the MTA owns the LIRR slots, and the only way New Jersey could have access to those slots would be if somehow a bi-state agency took them over. (And even if ESA did allow for Metro North-New Haven trains into Penn and even had 1-2 platform slots leftover, the MTA would be crazy to do anything but lease those spots on an annual basis to NJT, as opposed to giving them up forever).

SEAN May 6, 2013 - 10:01 am

Yeah but remember the tunnels you are comparing to started being constructed in 1969 & was bilevel. As for MNR wanting in to PSNY, only requires electrification on the empire line. Everything else already exists outside of the adition of or modification of the current fleet.

Eric F May 6, 2013 - 10:24 am

I’m being a bit facetious, but that’s probably how this looks from the LI perspective.

Bolwerk May 6, 2013 - 11:16 am

If LIRR could fuck MNRR over at Penn, I’m sure they would. However, LIRR isn’t the controlling agency at Penn. Amtrak is.

llqbtt May 7, 2013 - 10:01 am

The MTA, created as regional transit authority (well mostly anyway) was supposed to take a higher view and control the purse strings to ensure this. However that has not panned out in reality and to the detriment of all.

Nathanael May 7, 2013 - 11:46 pm

Similar problems happened in Chicago, where the RTA has never managed to get Metra and CTA to play nice together. This may finally be changing. *Very* recently.

Alex May 6, 2013 - 11:14 am

You’re speaking as if Metro North is some kind of bitter rival from a totally different region to LIRR when they are in fact run by the same agency and part of the same state. You’re also suggesting the MTA spend billions of dollars and years of time to build a deep cavern station that is completely and utterly unnecessary for either engineering or capacity reasons. Basically you’re saying they should do all that because “NO FAIR!” There will be open space at Penn, so there is no reason the agency that runs both railroads shouldn’t make better, more flexible use of that space. To do what you’re suggesting wastes EVERYONE’S time and money and would be idiotic.

Bolwerk May 6, 2013 - 2:09 pm

One of us might be falling into the Poe’s Law trap, but I think Eric F. was just saying that rivalry is how LIRR and MNRR behave, not how things should be. And, he has a point.

Needless to say, we might still have ARC if NJT had been allowed to share GCT with MNRR.

Nyland8 May 6, 2013 - 3:11 pm

“Needless to say, we might still have ARC if NJT had been allowed to share GCT with MNRR.”

HUH !!???!!

Alon Levy May 6, 2013 - 4:51 pm

Costs wouldn’t have gone up as much.

Bolwerk May 6, 2013 - 4:51 pm

Do the abbreviations confuse you or something? I don’t see what could possibly be difficult about that sentence to any regular reader of this blog.

Nylan8 May 6, 2013 - 6:41 pm

Is that supposed to be a substitute for an explanation? If it was, it isn’t. And if it’s needless to say, then why did you? Because it sounds like a revisionist agenda to let Christie off the hook – from which his ample carcass will forever hang. HE killed the ARC project – not MNRR!

Alternate G still included a cavernous station at NYPenn, and there’s absolutely no evidence that it would have been somehow immune to cost overruns – the stated pretext of Governor Christie’s decision. Of course we know the GAO found his reasons for aborting the project to be fallacious at best and mendacious at worst.

So … needless to say, you must be suggesting that were it not for the MNRR being unwilling to share GCT, Corzine would have been reelected … right?

(lol … I slay me!)

Bolwerk May 6, 2013 - 7:41 pm

You must be new here if you think I’d defend Christie, but I would like to see people like him deprived of their strawmen. The budgeted <$4B for GCT access – no, that alternative did not include a cavern at Penn – is significantly less than the $10B+ for the batcave terminal, and, sure, the overruns probably would have been harder to spin for the fascist windbag. He would have faced the stark political reality that his goal was to stick it to Ew York City, the feds, sustainable transportation, and the libruls in North Jersey.

Word of advice about communication: ask a specific question, and you can get a specific answer. You didn’t ask for an explanation. You just asked, “HUH !!???!!” That leaves others to guess what you want.

Nyland8 May 6, 2013 - 11:42 pm

” … we might still have ARC if NJT had been allowed to share GCT with MNRR.”

No. We wouldn’t have. I was just correcting the record.

But point taken. Next time I’ll ask a specific question … if I even remember who you are. I post on so many different boards, on so many different topics, I’m quite undisciplined about keeping track of, and identifying, different people’s names – let alone their politics or perspectives.

Bolwerk May 7, 2013 - 12:58 am

And why not? Canceling a ~$4B tunnel that was already being built is a far cry from canceling the cavern monstrosity with cost overruns that might well have exceeded estimates for the tunnel alone.

Christie was wrong to cancel ARC, and certainly may have anyway, but doubling or more than doubling the price is non-trivial and played into his hands. It’s fairly in line with “conservative” tactics: run up costs/inefficiency of government, either through malice or incompetence, and then blame the government itself. But in this case, NIMBYs and petulant stakeholders like MNRR did the work for him.

Alon Levy May 7, 2013 - 12:09 am

Alt G did not have a cavern. It had NJT trains coming into the same tracks they currently use and then going along the new tunnels to Grand Central.

And the cost overruns in question were before ground was ever broken. The Major Investment Study pegged all alternatives at about $3 billion. By the time Christie canceled the project, the pricetag was $8 billion.

Bolwerk May 7, 2013 - 1:02 am

As I recall, they were just projected overruns, and the feds refused to cover them. Weren’t they were almost all on the Manhattan side?

It’s a crock. Low inflation right now means it’s the perfect time to be doing these types of projects.

Alon Levy May 7, 2013 - 3:57 pm

No, $8 billion was confirmed, and then there was a projected overrun of $1-4 billion that the feds refused to cover.

Bolwerk May 7, 2013 - 6:58 pm

Wait, there was a confirmed $8B overrun? Or the total project was confirmed at $8B?

Alon Levy May 8, 2013 - 12:54 am

The total project was confirmed at $8 billion.

Bolwerk May 8, 2013 - 2:07 pm

That’s what I thought.

Henry May 6, 2013 - 9:56 pm

They kind of are – LIRR and MNRR have never really integrated, have two different operating rulebooks, and personnel were extremely angry about the MTA’s earlier plan to merge the two railroads together. (The MTA later shelved this plan.)

The MTA is less like a corporation with obedient subsidiaries, than it is a loosely knit coalition of businesses whose owners shook hands in a bar way back in ’68. For all intents and purposes, NYCT/SIR, RBO, LIRR, and MNRR are functionally separate entities that have a sticker slapped onto them.

llqbtt May 7, 2013 - 10:06 am

Perhaps the MTA should be disbanded at long last (or perhaps better, wholly re-envisioned and organized).

Bolwerk May 7, 2013 - 1:42 pm

No. Disbanding, mergers, and atomization all ignore the real problem, and maybe even reenforce it. The problem is the organizational culture, which will just move to a new organization if it’s not fixed.

Nathanael May 7, 2013 - 11:40 pm

The MTA should have forced the merger and fired the personnel who were angry about it.

To be clear about this, the MTA should have *liquidated LIRR* and given its operations to Metro-North. LIRR has been the worst-run passenger railroad in the country for decades. Maybe longer. It has a completely intransigent and archaic corporate culture.

Make no mistake, it was LIRR who wanted the deep cavern under GCT rather than sharing tracks. LIRR does not like cooperating. There is more cooperation between Metro-North and Amtrak, and between NJT and Amtrak, and between Metro-North and NJT, and between Metro-North and the NYC Subway, and between Amtrak and the NYC Subway, than there is between LIRR and *any* of them.

Amtrak is so frustrated with LIRR that they wanted the Harold Flyover — and I don’t blame them. It’s technically pointless, but institutionally it helps get the impossible LIRR out of Amtrak’s hair.

AG May 8, 2013 - 4:25 pm

True… and that’s probably part of the reason ridership is higher on Metro North now than the LIRR

Michael K May 7, 2013 - 11:38 am

But…Metro North is in some kind of bitter rivalry from a totally different region to LIRR in the perspective of management.

John Doe May 6, 2013 - 10:23 am

Maybe in the next century this will happen?!?! I am done with bureaucratic incompetence and NIMBYs, enough is enough! lets just build for the greater good and get on with it already!! put the pettiness aside!

Walter May 6, 2013 - 10:38 am

“In fact, Metro North went undisturbed by the LIRR move to Grand Central because the LIRR was forced to create its own space, literally carving out a cavern for its own terminal.”

He could have at least gotten his facts straight, as that’s a blatant lie. Metro-North lost the entire Madison Ave yard as well as a couple platform tracks on the lower level, and the lower level loop is now a memory. They had to rebuild Highbridge Yard in order store and service trains, taking precious capacity from the Park Ave tunnel to get trains there.

Larry Littlefield May 6, 2013 - 10:49 am

“In fact, Metro North went undisturbed by the LIRR move to Grand Central because the LIRR was forced to create its own space, literally carving out a cavern for its own terminal.”

I believe those in the Metro North service territory, and in New York City, are paying for that terminal too.

Boris May 6, 2013 - 12:03 pm

Like any big lie, this one has a grain of truth that makes it believable: “by 2016, four railroads – LIRR, NJ Transit, Amtrak and now Metro-North – would share the tracks and platforms…”

If anything, Martins should be calling for a unification of the commuter railroads, the same way Quinn is calling for transferring control of the MTA to the city.

Alex C May 6, 2013 - 12:47 pm

Can we just cut Long Island out of the state already? They’re more trouble than they’re worth politically.

Alon Levy May 6, 2013 - 4:51 pm

Do you have any idea how much Long Island subsidizes the rest of the state? Do you really want Upstate to make up the shortage by making New York subsidize it even more than it already does?

Bolwerk May 7, 2013 - 12:11 pm

I thought only kinda, unlike NYC and the wealthier northern suburbs.

Meanwhile, LI’s nasty political culture doesn’t do the rest of the state any favors. I’d say it’s a wash, at worst.

Alon Levy May 7, 2013 - 4:00 pm

I never saw state tax imbalance numbers by county, but on the federal level Nassau and Suffolk Counties run about the same tax imbalance (in absolute numbers, not per capita) as the city, each. So does Westchester. Lots of rich people on the North Shore.

Nathanael May 7, 2013 - 11:45 pm

LI’s nasty political culture has been hurting the *entire* rest of the state. It’s the reason we don’t have a Democratic State Senate right now (yes, upstate is turning away from Republicans… but not Long Island!)

Just as a thought experiment, if Nassau and Suffolk were split off from the state and given to Connecticut or whatever, it would be straightforward to get the tax money from LI residents by taxing them where they work (which is New York City) and where they trade stocks (which is New York City).

It doesn’t make sense, of course: it would make more sense to chop NJ in half and give the north half to NY and the southern half to PA, but our state borders are nearly impossible to change.

AG May 8, 2013 - 4:34 pm

Yeah – when they drew the borders… northern NJ (if not all of it) should have been a part of NY state…. but yeah – can’t change it now.

Henry May 6, 2013 - 9:58 pm

Where would you put them?

There’s no other situation where a state can only pass through a single other state to get to the rest of the country.

Steve May 6, 2013 - 11:31 pm

Maine can pass through only New Hampshire to get to rest of the country. Alaska has to pass through another nation to get to the rest of the country. Hawaii has to pass over an ocean to get to the rest of the country. Just exactly what is your argument concerning Long Island? Whether or not Alex was seriously suggesting that Long Island secede from NY, your argument against it makes no sense.

Henry May 6, 2013 - 11:43 pm

Long Islanders would still be dependent on New York – the only access to the mainland United States would be through New York, for both the movement of people and freight, since Long Island doesn’t have a big port facility or a sizeable airport.

Maine residents can drive through Canada to get to the other states. Hawaii is not surrounded by any state, and most people fly out. Most people traveling out of Alaska travel by plane or sea. None of the examples you mention would be so dependent on another state for transport access.

Alon Levy May 7, 2013 - 12:01 am

Eastern Long Islanders would probably travel by air or by ferry.

Patrick May 8, 2013 - 2:05 am

Or if some people had their way some odd years ago, a Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel like connection to either Connecticut or Rhode Island via Interstate 495
-Patrick W/O A Blog

AG May 8, 2013 - 4:34 pm

Long Island has many significant institutions NY state wouldn’t want to give up. Cold Spring Harbor, Brookhaven National Laboratory, Stony Brook… Not to mention though the maritime and aerospace industries have declined – they are still important.
Suffolk county is also the #1 agricultural county in the state believe it or not (when measured in dollars)… and the North Fork is home to one of the hottest wine making regions in the nation not named Sonoma or Napa (the Finger Lakes upstate also is rising in prominence). Plus – there is no way all those Hampton’s real estate transactions would want to be given up by any state.

majortom1981 May 11, 2013 - 11:03 am

YOu do know Suffolk and Nassau have 8 million people . Would New York State really be able to handle the loss of all that tax revenue? Long island sends 8 billion dollars in taxes to the state and only receives back 5.2 billion.

IF Long island succeeded it would be the 13 largest state by population. Anybody else in the state would be stupid to want long island to leave.

AG May 11, 2013 - 11:26 am

Well i think he was talking about Nassau and Suffolk (not including Brooklyn and Queens)… but yest your point is correct. They just need political reform… Long Island was once a great resource… hopefully it will go back to that.


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