Home Staten Island Savino report details Staten Island Railway flaws

Savino report details Staten Island Railway flaws

by Benjamin Kabak

Some Staten Islanders want to see rail service return to the North Shore Railway. (Photo by flirk user Mambo’Dan)

For the past few weeks, I’ve spent some time examining the contradictions of Staten Island and the borough’s tenuous relationship with transit. Its residents want better options, but they panic once they realize adding something such as Select Bus Service may mean fewer lanes for cars. They ask for subway connections to the rest of the city but are worried it could disrupt their quasi-suburban lifestyle. What Staten Islanders want in principle isn’t always what they want in practice.

Now, it’s the Staten Island Railway’s turn to come under the microscope, and State Senator Diane Savino has supplied us with the perfect opportunity to assess the MTA’s southern-most subway. Savino, an on-again/off-again champion for transit who has thrown a fit over plans to send the subway to New Jersey but not Staten Island yet voted to steal money from the MTA without bothering to read the bill, has commissioned a report on the Staten Island Railway. Hardly scientific, it relies on anecdotes and assessments from the line’s riders, but it doesn’t paint a positive picture.

Staten Island Railway riders want better service. Period. They want better security, better lighting, better ferry connections, better station environments. They want rail — and not a bus lane — on the old North Shore right of way, and they seem to want a connection to the Hudson Bergen Light Rail in New Jersey as well. As I read the report, though, I kept wondering if they were all willing to pay for it.

The Staten Island Railway is a curiosity in New York City. It provides 4.4 million paid rides annually, but fares are collected upon entry or exit only at the two most northern stations. Not many do, but Staten Islanders are free to ride from Stapleton to Tottenville without paying as often as they’d like. To improve the Staten Island Railway — to eliminate odors many find pervasive and offensive, to improve security — would likely involve rethinking how the fare works.

So onto the report. You can read the whole thing right here on Savino’s website, but I’m not sure I’d recommend it. It’s white text on a blue background, and it’s poorly written. Yet, it’s earnest. It’s fighting for better transit and features the voices of the people who actually ride the Staten Island Railway. “We need a North Shore Railroad built, not a bus lane,” said one of them. “As a Staten Island resident who does not live near/use the SIRT, I would like to see more stations and lines extending to centralized parts of Staten Island like the North Shore. This will encourage more public transportation and dispel traffic,” said another. “The trains are over 40 years old They need new cars. They also need a public address system at each station so riders can be told of delays/problems on the line,” said a third. These are real complaints for real people.

These folks who ride though aren’t happy with the service. The trains are dirty, they say. They want express service from popular stations, new rolling stock, more frequent service and nicer station environments with better connections to buses and the ferries and perhaps park-and-ride options as well. The service received an F from its riders in an admittedly biased survey.

Ultimately, Savino’s suggestions are practical and reasonable. She urged upzoning around train stations to spur development, a train tracking app for the SIR, weather protection and concessions at high-traffic stations, security cameras and even a new station to serve the Rosebank area (with funding from bond acts and a governor’s transit fund). These are incremental changes that could drastically improve intra-borough travel along the Staten Island Railway. But does anyone want to pay for them?

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Ian MacAllen July 10, 2013 - 1:35 am

The north shore alignment needs a train, but it also probably should just be a connection through New Jersey. It sounds crazy until you consider that by linking to Manhattan through New Jersey means doubling the number of Senators who would go after money for such a project, as well as pulling in several additional congressman.

One idea that has been floated among decision makers has been extending the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail, though this looks increasingly less likely, especially with the raising of the Bayonne Bridge. Besides that, while that train connects to transit like PATH, its not a one seat ride to Manhattan.

Either way, continuing to refuse to think about transit in a regional way will only hurt New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

Bolwerk July 10, 2013 - 1:22 pm

People must stop the “link Manhattan through New Jersey” masturbation. It’s either link SI to NJ, or do not. Manhattan is scarcely a factor. As a route to commute to Manhattan, it sucks.

If SI needs a rail link to Manhattan, it needs to be under the harbor. If it needs a rail link to Brooklyn, it can be the R Train. It probably should be both.

llqbtt July 11, 2013 - 9:48 am

I haven’t yet figured out why we can’t adopt transit corridors like for example the Blue Line in Chicago out to O’Hare. The R (or should I say the 4th Ave Line) is a perfect candidate for this, extended up the center median of the forever being reconstructed SI Expwy. It’d be elevated and ground level, thereby mitigating the hyper-expensive tunneling costs. Put it on a concrete viaduct, lessening noise/vibration etc. The NIMBYer’s would even have a hard time with the because the train can’t possibly contribute any significant further deterioration of QOL compared to a major interstate right at someone’s front door.

Bolwerk July 12, 2013 - 1:31 pm

NIMBYs almost never have a basis for complaining. A surface or subsurface rail line can only improve quality of life. They may have a case with els being an eyesore, but only sorta.

I don’t really like the idea of rapid transit along highways though. The people are not next to the highways, they’re in neighborhoods. Rapid transit belongs in neighborhoods.

Peter July 15, 2013 - 9:45 am

The population density along the Staten Island Expressway is at least as great as the population density along the North Shore.

(As an aside, the population density along the LIE is probably greater than either of those. Put a line there!)

Nathanael July 14, 2013 - 12:05 pm

Extending the HBLR to Staten Island is a no-brainer and should have been done long ago. In fact, the raising of the Bayonne Bridge should have the HBLR extension as a *condition of the permit*, but it doesn’t, and that’s NY-area politics for you.

Alon Levy July 10, 2013 - 1:40 am

There are tradeoffs between some of the desires of SIR users. Express service and frequency in particular are opposing forces. More frequency means more local trains; express trains require overtakes and reduced frequency to the local stations.

It’s good to see people are complaining about the MTA’s idiotic idea to pave over the North Shore ROW, though.

Bolwerk July 10, 2013 - 11:03 am

That busway plot really is tragic. More theft from the future to gratify the present.

Larry Littlefield July 10, 2013 - 12:01 pm

I don’t consider the busway idea a plot or idiotic, given the density of Staten Island. It would allow the reconfiguration of North Shore bus routes, down to the busway and then express to the terminal.

Unless you are proposing the North Shore buses be converted to streetcars. What subway service should be cut to pay for that?

I’m just back from a vacation in the Bay Area, BTW, and there light rail, trackless trolleys and diesel buses run down the same right of way. It works great. It isn’t an either or.

Unless the goal is to limit the benefit of the service to walking distance from the SIR, to increase the level of cost relative to benefit to the level Staten Islanders could get behind.

Alon Levy July 10, 2013 - 12:06 pm

It is an either/or. I don’t want trolleys or trackless trolleys on the North Shore ROW, and according to Ajedrez’s reports from the local community meetings, neither do the residents. I want full-fat SIR service, and the residents want any rail without preference for light rail. Paving over a railroad ROW is more expensive than restoring rail service, but the MTA sandbagged the cost estimates to lead to the result it wants.

al July 10, 2013 - 3:25 pm

How about flush road/rail surface slab track. Both buses and LRT can run on it. Many LRT run via operator judgement when it comes to vehicle spacing. As long as both types of vehicles have similar acceleration and braking performance it should be compatible and safe.

Alon Levy July 10, 2013 - 4:21 pm

How about restoring the tracks and running heavy rail on it instead of introducing a new type of vehicle that doesn’t exist in the city and would require a new maintenance yard?

Bolwerk July 10, 2013 - 4:35 pm

I don’t have a hardon for any particular rail option, but you don’t think HBLR is a good idea? Storage could be in NJ, and the states could theoretically share the costs.

Then, I guess you probably figure it’s politically infeasible, which you can probably make a case for….

Alon Levy July 10, 2013 - 5:07 pm

I think HBLR is a good idea, but tying the North Shore to it isn’t. It’s expensive to build the bridge and the approach on the Staten Island side, whereas restoring the North Shore ROW is not even in its current state.

The other problem is that the service pattern of any rail is different from the optimal service pattern of a busway. Because the ROW is not the current center of activity, a busway should be nonstop, with local buses expressing to St. George. This isn’t really compatible with trains that make stops along the way.

al July 11, 2013 - 11:18 am

Unless you run single cars (ala Budd diesel railcar), you need 2 man crews. Getting the union to agree with OPTO on heavy rail is also a political mountain to climb. LRT can run with less manpower. There are also larger LRT railcar designs (for ex. Baltimore run 9.5′ wide LRV) that might also work with HBLR.

As for center of activity, frequent transit service and rezoning for more TOD and middle class high rise housing can change that quickly. There is an enormous demand for affordable housing in NYC.

Take a look at busways around the world. Many have several stops along the way. Some have over a dozen. The North Shore ROW can be fitted with stops and bypass lanes. It can look like the Brisbane’s South East Busway.

Alon Levy July 11, 2013 - 6:27 pm

What you’re saying is that inferior technology should be used because it’s easier to hoodwink the unions to accept OPTO with it. The problem is that even with 2PTO, heavy rail is cheaper to run than buses.

Since at higher frequency the operating cost advantage of rapid transit over buses is increased, upzoning only makes rail more useful. Where’s all the intense TOD around buses? I know there is a bit of it, but how come the Metrotowns and the Crystal Cities only spring up around heavy rail?

The North Shore ROW is wide enough for two tracks, or two lanes. The structures, including the grade separations, aren’t wide enough for bypass lanes. It’s these extra features that make BRT in the style of Curitiba and Bogota so space-intensive, hence expensive in an environment without such enormous streets.

al July 12, 2013 - 11:10 am

What I’m saying is run large LRT with BRT . Once ridership reaches the point buses don’t cut it, cut the buses back to serve as station feeders. It allows the MTA to run the current fleet of buses and hold off rail car procurement.

As for the North Shore ROW, the run between St George and the bridge past the Port Richmond sewage treatment plant alternates as shore front, working waterfront, and industrial buildings. If you’re putting a double track there, you’ll need to find a way to restore access for pedestrians and work vehicles to the shore and parks. If you have heavy rail, that means FRA compliant grade crossings and pedestrian overpasses.

Bolwerk July 12, 2013 - 1:37 pm

@al: not sure I entirely agree with Alon’s analysis about LRT v. heavy rail (though either is really fine, AFAIC), but making a hybrid bus-rail corridor is even sillier than just making a BRT corridor. It is both more expensive than doing either by itself, and probably ultimately more disruptive since the trains can probably accelerate faster than the buses and maintain at least somewhat better average speeds.

If there is a need for buses and trains, the trains should be on the North Shore ROW and local “SBS”-style buses can easily run along Richmond Terrace.

Bolwerk July 10, 2013 - 1:00 pm

I would think you of all people know building a busway is more expensive than just laying track, especially where there already is track. Anyway, why should anything be cut? One of our few options for working our way out of the hole you always complain about is using what credit we have left to spur economic growth with transit.

I concur with Alon. They just wanted buses, but I guess what I don’t know is whether that is because of incompetence or deliberate malice. It hardly matters, since the result is the same in the end.

Larry Littlefield July 10, 2013 - 2:19 pm

It isn’t just laying track. The ROW is degraded, so it is money either way. And lots of it.

I expect the result will be nothing.

Bolwerk July 10, 2013 - 2:26 pm

A degraded ROW is all the more reason to expect a busway to be even more expensive.

al July 11, 2013 - 11:20 am

Regardless of transit mode, new construction is required for several sections.

Chris C July 10, 2013 - 3:43 am

“… but I’m not sure I’d recommend it. It’s white text on a blue background, and it’s poorly written.”

Indeed it is poorly written – spelling mistakes, format errors, words running into each other.

Parts of it look like it has been lifted from wiki. There is even a copyright notice right in the middle of one section.

Did no one proofread this before publishing it?

IMHO it is very poor work from an elected official who has tax payer funded staffing and other resources available.

That said it does raise some interesting issues but ignores issues such as financing the items on the wish list and the list appears to be in no order of priority which I would have expected.

Eric F July 10, 2013 - 9:20 am

That is the nature of your elected officials. Most are not too bright and they tend to be led around by the nose by activist groups. Thus makes the activist groups centers of power.

Bolwerk July 10, 2013 - 10:34 am

“Your elected officials”? Where do you live where this is not the case? Sweden?

Eric F July 10, 2013 - 11:05 am

In the Fortress of Solitude. Yes, it’s a comment of general applicability.

Bolwerk July 10, 2013 - 11:13 am

Ah, just wondering.

On second thought, it does seem like a special low when they parade their own illiteracy, however. WTG, Staten Island!

Sharon July 10, 2013 - 10:07 pm

This begs the question, why do we have so many elected officials in nyc. Why can’t the state assemblyman also serve in the city council. There is a la k of quality because there is just too many offices to fill?
Lets see how cuomo’s corruption panel works out . Having worked in a city agency with budget access, most times when these elected officials earmark money for a community project, it come with the catch of using their preferred contractor at greatly elevated prices.

Nathanael July 14, 2013 - 12:07 pm

I actually have a lot of very bright elected officials here in Ithaca, NY, a two-college town.

Chris C July 10, 2013 - 11:20 am

Well they are not mine either as I live in the UK!

I do know that over here if any serious elected official published a document like that they wouldn’t get very far in getting support for what they wanted no matter how much they were needed.

If it was the work of an activist group that she has then published then it is still a pretty shoddy piece of work.

AG July 10, 2013 - 7:28 pm

watching parliament sessions in the UK is a huge difference from what goes on in the U.S. Makes me think – U.S. wanted independence from the king – but the U.S. President is closer to a king than the P.M. in England.

Eric July 11, 2013 - 7:07 am

The UK has changed a lot since 1776. (The US less…)

Sharon July 10, 2013 - 9:56 pm

Most of these elected officials would never be able to get a job at a top company let alone be in charge of large budgets and staffs . Most have no idea how the real world works . Most served on staffs of other elected officials as thier only real world job experience. They are nothing more than talking heads . A shame . Nyc has a ton of tax dollars coming in. It is a shame that most is wasted.

Larry Littlefield July 10, 2013 - 6:54 am

“Ultimately, Savino’s suggestions are practical and reasonable. She urged upzoning around train stations to spur development.”

She clearly does not represent the neighborhoods affected.

NYCT just spend a zillion completely overhauling the SIR.

Sharon July 10, 2013 - 10:01 pm

Many of the station on sir are right in the middle of residential areas. No too. To upzone.
As long as it is written into law that the ferry and express buses go away, Si really needs a rail connection straight under the harbor . But it can only be accomplished if, once built the other two hated services go away.

Plus if they want more transit, why not pay full toll on the Verrazano bridge. Plus $1 surcharge on the express bus until new tunnel paid.

Let be fair, most staten islanders pay a large array of income and property taxes while a significant portion of bus and subway riders pay little to no tax of any kind(illegal immigrants, public housing residents etc)

Phantom July 10, 2013 - 7:02 am

If the service received an F, it was a biased study with input only from SIPCS ( Staten Island Professional Complainers Society )

The service is a decent one. The trains are no ” dirtier ” than other regional transit.

It could and should be expanded to the north shore and maybe west shore also.

A rail connection to Bayonne PATH is a great idea.

lawhawk July 10, 2013 - 9:01 am

This page highlights the conditions of the North Shore branch (and the SIR in general), and how the years haven’t been kind to the right of way – the rail is built hard along the shore, and decades of neglect will mean that substantial investment will be needed to build new higher bulkheads, and infill to reduce chances of being flooded out in significant storm conditions.

But just because the conditions of the existing rail is poor doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be done. As anyone who’s had to commute to St. George to catch the ferry or to see the SI Yankees play can attest, your options are limited. The North Shore is poorly served, and when combined with expected development around St. George and across the North Shore, there’s a built in population who will want improved mass transit to reduce congestion.

Whether this restored rail link takes the form of light rail or a subway would depend on whether the powers that be decide whether to take advantage of the Bayonne Bridge rebuilding to get mass transit extended via the HBLR or not.

It would be a no-brainer to get it done concurrently, but cost will keep that from happening, and the SI Reps aren’t going to put the money up to get that to happen. As much as they clamor for mass transit, they don’t want the riff-raff to come in.

Eric F July 10, 2013 - 9:38 am

I hate to be “that guy”, but if the highway network for Staten Island originally envisioned were actually built, dropping arterial lanes for SBS wouldn’t be a problem. As it is, you have one north-south highway on the far west corner of the island at a countrified two lanes in each direction and a single east west highway in the north quadrant, a great deal of which is taken up by vehicles just passing through. The south loop and willowbrook, intended for intra-island trips, were never built and so everything is stuck in conga lines going from traffic light to traffic light. Staten Island’s population would place it in the 30-40 top U.S. cities if it were stand alone, it really needs a more coherent network.

Bolwerk July 10, 2013 - 11:06 am

Nah, things like SBS do not work on highways. SBS should be on streets where it can pick people up. People don’t want to be picked up on highway overpasses.

Eric F July 10, 2013 - 1:34 pm

That’s what I’m saying. You’d have the circumferential network in place, freeing up space on arterial streets for SBS. The Hylan Boulevards of the world were not designed for what they’ve become.

Bolwerk July 10, 2013 - 4:30 pm

It would cause more traffic. The best thing for automobiles is to be rid of both the Hylan Blvds. and the highways, and let traffic diffuse across a street grid as much as possible.

Where there is high demand and low supply for road space (e.g., a bridge), use price signals to bring allow the optimal amount of traffic.

AlexB July 10, 2013 - 9:55 am

It’s hard to disagree with her findings. The SIR could really be so much more – more convenient, more user friendly, more pleasant, etc. If you take a regional view, it’s hard not to see the North Shore ROW as a great place to start a regional light rail system that would extend to South and West Staten Island, Elizabeth and connect to the existing Bayonne light rail. With so few people living near it, its usefulness really depends on what it connects to. With all the traffic on the Staten Island Expressway over the Goethals and the new Ferris wheel/mall being built at St George, it’s hard to not think all those people parked in the highway wouldn’t want some alternative. In that light, making major improvements to bus service along Victory Boulevard make much more sense than converting the North Shore right-of-way to a busway and forever precluding good rail service.

D in Bushwick July 10, 2013 - 10:19 am

In a dream world where money flows, turn the north shore into a partially underground double track freight rail line. Sidewalls act as a hurricane barrier and a lid can be a new highline park.
The line continues to new large double tubes at the Narrows and onto the LIRR rail yards. The tubes also allow new subway lines that extend the subway down the length of Staten Island.

llqbtt July 10, 2013 - 10:57 am

I am for rail service of some form on the North Shore, but where the current ROW is, will there actually be much ridership? The line hugs the shoreline, meaning any ridership comes from the south, i.e. it is not central to a periphery of ridership, and also the North Shore within walking distance of the train simply doesn’t appear to have the population to support heavy rail rapid transit. But would the ridership be there for a NJT spur off the NEC or some type of light rail/trolley style?

Bolwerk July 10, 2013 - 11:11 am

The whole point of light rail is for lower-ridership services. If it’s getting subway loads, build a subway.

Or, just build a busway, if you want to maximize expense!

Ed Unneland July 10, 2013 - 12:38 pm

How about selling SIRR to the Port Authority? I wonder how much it would cost to extend PATH service down the Hudson-Bergen ROW, over the bridge, onto the North Shore ROW, and down the current SIRR service? It would be substantial, but not gargantuan (gargantuan being, say, on order of completing the Second System).

Lady Feliz July 10, 2013 - 1:16 pm

Staten Island is part of NYC, not Hudson County. Islanders want to get to Manhattan or Brooklyn, not Bayonne.

Benjamin Kabak July 10, 2013 - 1:20 pm

That’s not exactly true. More want to get to Brooklyn or Manhattan, but around 15,000 SI residents work in New Jersey. The demand is there.

Bolwerk July 10, 2013 - 1:24 pm

But how do those 15,000 diffuse across NJ? The bulk could be scattered from Little Ferry to Trenton.

Benjamin Kabak July 10, 2013 - 1:25 pm

Probably. I’d have to look closer at the census data. I also don’t think a connection to Manhattan via New Jersey is worth much discussion. Cross-Harbor tunnel or bust really.

Bolwerk July 10, 2013 - 2:25 pm

I actually think HBLR to the ferry is worth considering. But, if anything, it’s more beneficial to NJ than to SI. It’s a good way to bring people from Bayonne to Manhattan, while still boosting SI too.

However, a rail trip into NJ from SI to get to Manhattan is silly.

Alon Levy July 10, 2013 - 4:51 pm

Census data has the following breakdown of SI-to-Jersey commuters by county:

Hudson: 4,244
Middlesex: 3,179
Essex: 2,023
Union: 1,855
Bergen: 973
Monmouth: 911
Somerset: 598
Morris: 522
Passaic: 301
Ocean: 110
All other counties less than 100 each.

For more granular but older data, go here. As of 2000, within Middlesex County, Edison and Woodbridge each had about a quarter of the county’s SI-resident workers.

Nathanael July 14, 2013 - 12:22 pm

HBLR across the Bayonne Bridge would get all the Hudson County commuters (4244) and some of the Union and Essex commuters. If they ever extend HBLR to Bergen County (eyeroll) it might get some of the Bergen County commuters too.

Looking at the numbers for Middlesex leads me to suggest running SIRT across the channel to Perth Amboy, and really, onward to Metuchen, providing an orbital connection between the NJT lines. Oh look! There’s multiple abandoned railway lines following the correct route, apart from the channel crossing! (Sigh….)

Alon Levy July 14, 2013 - 4:40 pm

Wait, how do you get from Perth Amboy to Metuchen?

Sharon July 10, 2013 - 10:09 pm

Many work in jersey city, where many of the hated back room Wall Street jobs moved

Nyland8 July 10, 2013 - 1:17 pm

The last time I checked, PATH was already being extended down to Newark Airport. Add another stop or two through Elizabeth, build a two-way rail bridge across the Kill and connect to the western reaches of the already existing North Shore corridor.

Voila! An SIR/PATH hybrid is born. (Of course, PATH should be subsumed into the MTA first. The Port Authority shouldn’t be running a subway) Naturally this presupposes that Staten Islanders want to actually be a borough of the New York City.

OR … if Staten Islanders insist on being treated as a suburban non-borough, then a no less viable idea would be another NJTransit/MetroNorth joint venture, where the train from Tottenville becomes MetroNorth commuter rail, runs right along the North Shore corridor, crosses the Kill and merges with NJTransit on its way to NYPenn Station. As a NY County, Richmond would be served the same way Westchester, Rockland, Orange, etc. are served.

Either proposal can be done for a fraction of the money, in a fraction of the time, of tunneling the Narrows and connecting to the subway system.

And either proposal would be Billion$ less, and find much less opposition, than any cross-harbor tunnel would.

Alon Levy July 10, 2013 - 4:39 pm

It’s too circuitous.

Also, there are no current plans to send PATH to the airport.

Nyland8 July 10, 2013 - 7:01 pm

Any look at a map reveals that SI to Manhattan via New Jersey is LESS circuitous than going via the Narrows through Brooklyn. And because it uses mostly existing ROW, and doesn’t require Billion$ in tunneling costs across the Narrows, those projects would likely be cheaper too.

Have I jumped the gun on PATH to Newark Airport ???

“”Extending PATH to Newark Liberty International Airport has been discussed for a generation,” said Port Authority Deputy Executive Director Bill Baroni. “We are now moving this process forward quickly to bring together our PATH system, Newark Liberty International Airport, and Lower Manhattan. It is a regional win for all.”

That quote was from September of last year. Properly translated, I guess that means it might still be another generation before anything is actually built.

In other words, about three generations sooner than any cross-harbor tunnel.

Alon Levy July 11, 2013 - 11:12 am

You’ll be surprised how fast things move when people want them. In 2000, nobody was thinking about a 7 extension. I just think that in this case, the political interests in spending money on Staten Island and in developing St. George’s real estate coincide with good transit and with the need to serve an underserved part of the metro area.

It is hard to build a connection from the NEC to the North Shore Branch. They intersect at an angle in north Linden. Building the required grade separation and demolishing property is still much less expensive than an SI-Fulton tunnel, but has a nontrivial cost.

The distance along the North Shore Branch and NEC from St. George to Penn Station is 43 km. This compares with 14 km St. George-Grand Central direct. The R would do Grasmere-Herald Square in 22 km via bridge with an N/Q transfer; from St. George, make it 26 km. Staying on the R and going via the Montague Street Tunnel adds 2 km. So no, it’s not more circuitous to take the R than the NEC.

Nyland8 July 11, 2013 - 1:23 pm

Well … it also depends on where you are on Staten Island … as well as what you plan to develop.

Hey … I’m all for a “14km … Grand Central direct” … and for every borough! Draw a 14km ring around GC and see where it touches Bronx, Queens and Brooklyn, and start the 4 tunnels tomorrow. I’m on board.

Of course a viable connection through New Jersey would have a non-trivial cost. It seems every type of mass-transit infrastructure has a non-trivial cost. What is PATH thinking of spending on an extension to EWR? A couple Billion? Just reconstructing all of the North Shore corridor would probably cost that, too! But when you were done, that’s what you’d have – a truly viable commuter rail that spans the borough, reclaims unused ROW and offers a connection from the borough to the mainland, with unlimited potential to develop the western reaches of the island.

Look … if you have your heart set on a grand cross-harbor tunnel, don’t let me dissuade you. Have at it. I’ve always supported mass-transit expansion – even ill-conceived projects like ARC.

But if what we’re talking about is connecting New York and Richmond counties with some sort of train link – well … then the cheapest, fastest and most doable way – one I might even see in my lifetime – still runs through New Jersey.

I’m not responsible for the geography … but I can read a map.

Alon Levy July 12, 2013 - 1:56 am

Even from Arlington, the distance to Grand Central via the R is less than via the NEC. It’s slower because the R is slower, but the distance is less. And from any point on the Island, a cross-Harbor tunnel is much faster.

AG July 10, 2013 - 7:37 pm

money was allocated to study PATH to Newark… in the release they pretty much said that’s just a formality for doing it.

AG July 10, 2013 - 7:36 pm

why do you lump westchester with rockland and orange? westchester has 3 lines that run directly to grand central… the Port Jervis line doesn’t serve westchester.

Nyland8 July 10, 2013 - 9:48 pm

?? I’m not “lumping” anything. I’m simply using those suburban counties as examples served by MetroNorth … because they are …

… as opposed to the other counties which are boroughs of New York City and served by the subway system.

Frank B July 11, 2013 - 4:20 am

I’ve been saying this for years; the track connections exist that you could run a diesel-electric train from Staten Island to Pennsylvania Station TOMORROW. (Granted, it would be from Howland Hook, but you get my point)

If we’re not going to finish the Staten Island Tunnel, we’ll have to get the borough better service somehow.

Nyland8 July 11, 2013 - 8:18 am

Indeed. If Richmond were a New Jersey county, the North Shore corridor would never have been abandoned and Staten Island would have always had direct rail access to midtown. Warren County, which is further away from NYPenn, is served by NJTransit trains – and it has 1/4 the population of Richmond.

The reason it isn’t already connected isn’t geography – it’s politics and provincialism.

As you rightly point out, if the will existed, you could run a train there tomorrow. That’s how much closer that option is than tunneling the Narrows – let alone tunneling the entire harbor between Manhattan and Staten Island.

And it would logically lead to the development of western Richmond.

But the naysayers will always make the “perfect” be the enemy of the “good”.

It’s their nature.

al July 10, 2013 - 3:27 pm

I think middle and western part of the North Shore Line is actually CSX.

Lady Feliz July 10, 2013 - 1:20 pm

The North Shore Line will never be rebuilt, nor should it be. As stated by other commenters, the rail line hugs the Kill Van Kull shoreline for most of its run, so there are no homes, commercial structures, NOTHING to the north of the line. Everyone who rode the old North Shore Line lived/worked south of the tracks, and all those shipyards and manufacturing concerns closed after WWII. Nobody wants to move to Mariner’s Harbor and West Brighton just so they can take a light rail to the ferry. These neighborhoods are some of the most depressed, sad, nasty parts of NYC and need a lot more than a trolley to make them livable (trust me, I grew up in this ‘hood, and it ain’t pretty).

Phantom July 10, 2013 - 2:32 pm

Very interesting comment there.

Some years ago, I took a long bike meander through Staten Island. I ran into the old North Shore Line tracks, spotted a hole in the fence, and went up on the dilapidated platform for a look-see.

Could not the sparse population up north be seen as an advantage in a way – you could have a limited stop access right of way all the way from St George to the Goethals area. Which could be fed by a West Shore or Bayonne light rail very nicely.

You’d have few eminent domain battles hopefully and a faster ride for many.

The buses can be tortorously slow getting into or out of St George. A North Shore rail breaks that logjam.

pubadmin031568 July 10, 2013 - 4:10 pm

The North Shore of Staten Island is the most densely populated part of the borough. If the MTA already saw fit to run Limited Stop buses along Richmond Terrace back in 1998, the next logical step is a reactivation of the NORTH SHORE LINE. Of course there has been residential development along the old North Shore Line since it closed to passengers in 1953. The elevated segment is intact; the segment closest to West Brighton needs repair. If there is money to raise the Bayonne Bridge so that taller tankers can fit through the Kill Van Kull, why can’t money be found for coral reefs to prevent flooding along the North Shore of Staten Island? What Federal agency is responsible for this: the Army Corps of Engineers? Staten ISlanders, lobby your elected officials.

Sharon July 10, 2013 - 10:10 pm

Because the Bayonne bridge project is paid by the port authority and will keep thousands of port jobs

pubadmin031568 July 11, 2013 - 4:23 pm

And the installation of a coral reef to prevent storm surges would not create federal jobs?

Nathanael July 14, 2013 - 12:24 pm

The Port Authority could have built the Cross-Harbor Rail Tunnel — it was actually *created* for the purpose of building it — and moved those port jobs into BROOKLYN, which has the natural deepwater ports, rather than trying desperately to keep them in NEW JERSEY, which does NOT.

For some reason, NY doesn’t give a damn about the Port Authority spending money to move jobs from NY to NJ, however.

Nyland8 July 10, 2013 - 7:08 pm

” … As stated by other commenters, the rail line hugs the Kill Van Kull shoreline for most of its run, … ”

Uh … no. It doesn’t. It hugs the Kill Van Kull along the shoreline for 3 miles – then it travels inland at Jewett Ave for 3.5 miles before it reaches the Arthur Kill. 54% of it – “most of its run” – is inland.

Lady Feliz July 10, 2013 - 8:18 pm

Hair-spliiting at its best. Most of the area north of the elevated portion west of Jewett Avenue is barely two/three blocks from the waterfront. Face facts: The old rail line is never coming back. There’s no demand for new housing/manufacturing on the North Shore, and the entire area within two miles of the length of Richmond Terrace is a shithole. No amount of hair-splitting will bring back the glory days folks, and the city/state/feds have no money to blow so that a few transit nerds can get their panties wet taking pics of a new North Shore Railroad.

Nyland8 July 10, 2013 - 9:52 pm

Whatever your opinion about the North Shore corridor coming back, your statement was inaccurate regarding where “most of it” was.

You stand corrected.

Sharon July 10, 2013 - 10:12 pm

A rail line with quick access to the city and reasoning will bring it back. Remember jersey city was a waste land of old rail yards

Lady Feliz July 11, 2013 - 12:58 pm

Jersey City is a five-minute subway ride from Manhattan. Seriously folks, get out a map and take a look at how far Port Richmond is from Midtown (or even Downtown). Unless the North Shore line is connected to a brand-new cross-harbor tunnel to Manhattan, it’d still be a 60 minute trip to Battery Park.

And as far as Nyland8 and his taking out the tape measure to prove me wrong, dude, really? We having a pissing contest over 53% vs 47%? I only stand corrected in your little transit fantasy world.

Nyland8 July 11, 2013 - 1:29 pm

That’s the wrong response. The correct response would have been:

“I stand corrected. Thank you.”

Try to work on that.

Unless your hyperbolic pitch is really more important to you than being accurate in what you’re saying … in which case, I can’t help you with that.

pubadmin031568 July 11, 2013 - 4:21 pm

check out Michael Minn’s excellent website for pictures of the North Shore line taken in 2009, and figure out the exact % from those. in any event, part of the line is intact (port richmond and points west), and part could benefit from re-construction, and possibly coral reefs in the kill van kull to prevent storm surges.

Lady Feliz July 11, 2013 - 9:10 pm

How about “go screw yourself you silly blowhard”? That work for you?

And since you’re such a perfectionist/stickler for numbers, here’s one for ya: zero, as in “the chances of the North Shore line being rebuilt in our lifetimes is zero percent.”

You can take that number to the bank! Moron.

Nyland8 July 12, 2013 - 6:39 pm

LOL … well … I know the definition of the word “Lady” … and I know “Feliz” means happy … and apparently you are neither. I guess that’s the joke, huh? You’re just the opposite.

So … since you are neither, and in the interests of full disclosure, have you ever considered changing your handle to Angry Bitch? Just a thought.

Whatever your agenda is Nostrodamus, nobody will be taking your “number to the bank”, because the reactivation of the North Shore corridor is NOT in your control.

I personally have no real estate position in the “shithole” you claim to have come from, so it doesn’t matter to me one way or the other. But the people who DO speculate on development in Staten Island – financially, intellectually, politically or … emotionally – might have more of a say in that ROWs future than you do. Annoying, isn’t it?

That said, attacking me, no matter colorfully, still hasn’t made you right about where “most of its run” is – in case you had forgotten.

Eric July 11, 2013 - 7:16 am

Shoreline industrial land is pretty much the ideal location for redevelopment and gentrification.

Lady Feliz July 11, 2013 - 12:59 pm

How so? What makes it ideal in Staten Island’s case?

pubadmin031568 July 11, 2013 - 4:17 pm

1) it’s proximity to the Kill Van Kull (look at EMMONS AVE., BROOKLYN), and the Bayonne Bridge (look at the opening credits of the old sitcom “too CLose for Comfort”, set in San Francisco).
2) there are some grand old houses already on Richmond Terrace (look at Michael Minn’s excellent site on the North Shore Rail Line, compiled in 2009).

Lady Feliz July 11, 2013 - 9:15 pm

1) You are seriously comparing the Kill Van Kull to San Francisco Bay?! Holy crap, you are smoking some good weed, no?
2) There are about three nice houses along the entire 7-mile stretch of Richmond Terrace, and even they are in woeful shape. Otherwise it’s abandoned shipyards, sewage treatment plants, smelly heating oil companies, junkyards and housing projects galore. Hurry up, build a billion-dollar rail line so we can all take advantage of free rides to the ferry terminal!

pubadmin031568 July 12, 2013 - 4:43 pm

sorry, but i’m still with eric: homeowners pay premium for waterfront views. look at the re-development of sunset park and downtown brooklyn. and, please, no drug references; i am interested in re-development issues and home construction. where would you propose to build more homes on staten island: in the south shore which was heavily damaged by superstorm sandy, or the already densely populated north shore?

Hank July 19, 2013 - 10:33 am

The waterfront view from Richmond Terrace is of industrialized New Jersey. There’s no comparison with the San Francisco Bay area.

Brian August 4, 2013 - 11:54 pm

I don’t see any train line in Staten Island, going under the Harbor, until the demand is extremely high, which it sounds like the Savino reports do not seem to support. However, I do feel Staten Island needs to be connected to the US mainland. I think the North Shore Line being built to support heavy rail should be done. The line should run from the Ferry Terminal and I feel right to Elizabeth Port (near the Jersey Gardens Mall). Also, the Newark Airport Monorail should be extended to this point and the Hudson/Bergen Light rail should tunnel under Newark Bay and reach this destination and you would have a major transit, shopping, and business hub. Since Staten Island would have an easy connection to ports and a major airport, you will see significant development on the North Shore ROW. The infrastructure is mostly there, need to rebuild the North Shore Line, the NJ. connection is there currently supporting freight train operations, and there is plenty of land near the Jersey Gardens mall to build a station. The North Shore Line should be a diesel engine service, to not interfere with freight operations. There should be Six stations along the North Shore Line and one of them a park a ride facilty near South Ave with a direct connection to the West Shore Expressway, this should allow for better access for Staten Islanders on the West Shore to access rail. I think the North Shore Line could be the project to bring investment to the area.

Nyland8 August 5, 2013 - 6:01 am

One can’t help but imagine what things would be like if Richmond had originally been a New Jersey county. Well, for one thing, it’s safe to assume that it would have always been connected to the mainland by passenger rail. And not only from Port Ivory to Elizabeth, but also from Totenville to Perth Amboy, and from Bayonne to Port Richmond.

If it does nothing else, your proposal begins to corrects that historic oversight.

Brian August 5, 2013 - 7:45 pm

Well, look at it this way. When the connection of the North Shore Line to Elizabeth is made and it is successful; there is an easy connection to Newark Airport, then you will probably see the MTA interested in getting a subway to the North Shore route (and Staten Island), so that the NYC Subway system will have a quick way to get to another New York Area airport (Especially Lower Manhattan). By building a heavy rail and a Diesel Engine Service running from the Ferry Terminal to about where the old Jersey Central Elizabethport Station was the cost should not be too expensive and if demand permits, then electrify the service. Then, I feel the MTA will begin to look at reaching Staten Island with Subway service.


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