Home 7 Line Extension REBNY: Build the 7 train to Secaucus

REBNY: Build the 7 train to Secaucus

by Benjamin Kabak
REBNY is still trumpeting the 7 line extension to Secaucus. Click to enlarge.

REBNY is still trumpeting the 7 line extension to Secaucus. Click to enlarge.

I’ve had a tough time getting a handle on the Real Estate Board of New York’s position on transit advocacy over the years. Time after time, we’ve seen how better transit has a positive impact on the value of real estate and the pace of development, but REBNY never seems to be out in front of key issues. For instance, they supported a station at 41st and 10th Ave. on the 7 line extension years too late, and their website devoted to the cause is no longer up and running. They have power but not necessarily the will.

Now, though, they seem to have emerged as the most vocal supporters for one of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s odder proposals that will likely die when he leaves office at the end of the year. REBNY has become the champion for the plan to send the subways outside of New York City, under the Hudson River and to Secaucus. Jerry Gottesman, the chairman of Edison Properties, and Steve Spinola, the president of REBNY, made their case in the Daily News yesterday for a comprehensive study. Why stop at 34th St. and 11th Ave., they ask, and their answer has a twist.

Over the past three years, the mayor’s office, working with a bi-state multi-agency task force, has studied a plan to extend the No. 7 line through a new tunnel under the Hudson River, connecting it to the Lautenberg train station in Secaucus, New Jersey.There, it would become the transit connection of choice for many of the millions of New Jersey commuters each day, linking this key workforce seamlessly to the Hudson Yards, Bryant Park, Grand Central Station, Long Island City and Flushing — and giving Queens riders direct access to New Jersey as well.

…The extension of the No. 7 to Secaucus would create important ancillary benefits. With over 200 peak-hour buses full of riders travelling to Secaucus for a smooth transfer to the No. 7 Line, the Port Authority Bus Terminal on 8th Ave. and West 42nd St. would be relieved of a significant portion of the demand that presently clogs that facility daily, increasing its operating efficiency and finally unburdening it enough to allow it to undergo a much needed renovation…

The public should know that there are two rail-tunnel proposals, both necessary. In addition to the No. 7 extension — which would address the needs of regional commuters and employers in both the city and New Jersey — there is the Gateway Tunnel, a keystone in Amtrak’s realization of a robust intercity rail system between Washington and Boston on its premier line, the Northeast Corridor. It would also provide redundancy in the event of failure of the existing 100-year-old tunnel to Penn Station. Having the two systems share a tunnel is not a new solution…By building one tunnel that can serve both the 7 train and Gateway, both projects will be able to advance when the first one proceeds, laying the foundation for future regional mobility and growth.

This is the first a bi-level tunnel similar to the one under the East River at 63rd St. has been proposed in the public discourse surrounding the 7 line extension, and the two real estate execs have requested a $2 million effort to fund a serious study. That would be on top of the $500,000 study the EDC unveiled in April that termed the extension “feasible.” I’m not sure this idea even goes that far.

It’s hard to imagine the money coming in for the Gateway Tunnel, let alone for a subway tube literally on top of that. The wisdom of such an approach from a practical standpoint should be question, and as Stephen Smith noted, this idea reeks of “insane overengineer.” But it’s still a Big Idea with some champions, and as I’ve noted in the past, that’s how Big Ideas become reality.

Still, this latest salvo in the ongoing battle to drum up some support for this extension doesn’t reach the fundamental question of need. New Yorkers won’t back a 7 line to Secaucus without some major contributions from the Garden State because it doesn’t benefit them, and already Staten Island politicians have threatened to block any such efforts with a commitment to improve transit connections to and from that isolated borough. There are areas in the city that could use better subway service and are primed for development should the transit connections arrive. Perhaps that — and not westward across the Hudson — is where REBNY should devote its energies.

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Stephen Smith November 5, 2013 - 12:29 am

Given the slow pace of building on the far west side, I guess Steve Spinola and his subsidized, class A office builder buddies have decided that diverting $2 billion in property tax revenue from the general treasury wasn’t enough?

Larry Littleield November 5, 2013 - 6:45 am

Sorry, we already spent that money on retroactive pension increases and past underfunding. Including those for the construction industry, which the taxpayers are also paying for through excess costs for public projects.

Which is what is going to be said as the existing subway and NYC housing authority fall apart.

Stu Sutcliffe November 5, 2013 - 12:43 am

I’d be more impressed if they wanted to build subways further out into Queens and to Staten Island.

anon_coward November 5, 2013 - 8:13 am

fix the subways in queens first
the E and F lines are like the chinese trains on youtube

Tommy P November 5, 2013 - 10:49 am

What does that even mean?

Nathanael November 5, 2013 - 11:27 am

Very crowded.

Eric Brasure November 5, 2013 - 4:18 pm

I had the misfortune of taking the F from Bergen Street this morning. It’s not just in Queens. I had to let one F go by before I could get on, and they do not run every 3-5 minutes like the L. I waited 10 minutes. Is it like that normally?

Henry November 5, 2013 - 7:18 pm

Delays on the Queens Blvd Express tend to knock back into the rest of the system, especially during the rush hours.

The E and F theoretically run every four minutes each, assuming that everything is going just super. In practice, delays and overcrowding can slow down trains on both lines significantly, and there’s a particularly delay-prone stretch eastbound between Queens Plaza/21st Queensbridge and Roosevelt.

Tower18 November 6, 2013 - 11:21 am

To answer your question, yes, at the peak of the morning rush, that crowding is normal at Bergen St. It’s not normal to wait 10 minutes between trains though.

Spendmore Wastemore November 5, 2013 - 1:06 am

If they’re going to put 20 people on each TBM and otherwise inflate the costs by 100%, fuggeddaboutit.

Instead, draft all of the panhandlers’n old hippies currently getting SSI, annoying hipsters, politicians, Rikers residents and a few trustafarians. Have them build it with picks, shovels and dynamite, or toothpicks and Alka-Seltzer should that prove too efficient. Pay is what they’re already getting.

Weekly World News /alwaysOff

Eric November 6, 2013 - 8:59 am

I don’t understand that. 20 people, 2 years with a TBM, $100k salary/year figures to $4 million in salaries. If the project cost overrun were as low as $4 million, I would be overjoyed.

pete November 6, 2013 - 3:23 pm

Let us calculate the price of the Montague tunnel rehab. Total price $262 million http://www.businessinsider.com.....irs-2013-6 .

$236/.9 = $262.222222
/235 working days a year (generous holidays with union labor)
/24 working 24 hours a day in 3 shifts (non stop, 24h? yeah right)
$46493 per hour.
Lets cut that in half for materials.
$23246 per hour for labor.
I cant imagine more than 30 workers in the tunnel at a time. (/30)
$774 per hour per worker.
High end construction contractors sell their labor at $100 an hour per tradesman. Tradesman gets $40-$60/hr after benefits.

Who gets the other $600 per hour? kickbacks to politicians? The mafia?

pete November 6, 2013 - 3:08 pm


Chris November 5, 2013 - 7:13 am

Bring the NYC subway to Secaucus, and you subject it to the National Railroad act – something which reduces even further NYS control of the subway. Instead, have the PA expand the PATH tubes North, then connect them via this new tunnel – first to Penn Station, and then to Grand Central…. It will cost more money, but will provide more useful connections without overburdening the #7 line.

Eric F November 5, 2013 - 9:21 am

“Bring the NYC subway to Secaucus, and you subject it to the National Railroad act.”

If that’s really a problem, why can’t Schumer and Gillibrand (but I repeat myself), Booker and Menedez get us a waiver? Seems doable, and I can’t imagine any objection.

Ben November 5, 2013 - 9:58 am

Yeah, the waiver is easy. The Railroad Act is not a serious concern.

Bolwerk November 5, 2013 - 10:00 am

I’m not sure which, but the situation is probably one of the following: (1) no regulatory problem because there is no freight traffic on those tracks or (2) a waiver would probably be easy enough to get, given the FRA has already shown lenience about #1 on multiple occasions when there was shared traffic between freight and passenger service.

Nathanael November 5, 2013 - 10:14 am

(1) is the case for FTA-regulated subways like that in NY. Look at St. Louis Metrolink for an example.

Nathanael November 5, 2013 - 10:14 am

Or look at WMATA in Washington DC.

Bolwerk November 5, 2013 - 11:11 am

Read (1) as no additional regulatory problem then.

Eric F November 5, 2013 - 11:41 am

“the FRA has already shown lenience about #1 on multiple occasions”

That’s one way, or the Act itself could be amended to say that “this act shall not apply to the New York City Subway including any future extension thereof.” Append that to the next omnibus, must pass whatever act and there you go.

Joseph Steindam November 5, 2013 - 7:47 am

To achieve this bi-level tunnel design, it seems like REBNY is calling for the Hudson tube to split off the 7 extension right after the 34th street station,abandoning the blocks of tail tracks constructed for the 7 extension and make a hard curve towards the Hudson, where it will presumably sit on top of another train tunnel going to the same next station in NJ. This seems like a daunting engineering feat to start with, before being reminded that Related is starting to develop the site and the development activity almost prevented Gateway from being constructed before the money was approved for that first stretch of tunnel. As Related picks up the pace with Hudson Yards, I think this version of the 7 train to NJ is unlikely to be realized.

Other versions, perhaps one using the tail tracks to travel south before crossing the Hudson, and making a stop in Hoboken or Union City before Secaucus, might still stand a chance (no judgments on whether those are worthy proposals, I also suffer from the provincialism that the subway should first increase coverage in the boroughs before being extended beyond city limits).

Henry November 5, 2013 - 7:23 pm

You could theoretically have a flat junction with the tail tracks just south of 34th St at the first location possible, since they would just be used for the storage of trains and a flat junction would not impede service.

That being said, it would be virtually impossible to do since the shell being built for Gateway under Hudson Yards was not designed as a bilevel shell. I imagine putting the 7 in there would be very tricky.

John-2 November 5, 2013 - 8:52 am

This was always a plan where the benefits to New York were more in increased real estate values than anything else, especially for Hudson Yards, which would suddenly have bi-directional rail access. If New Jersey is willing to fund it on something like an 80-20 basis, with the bulk of the MTA’s cost limited to station access improvements along 42nd Street (Grand Central’s going to need it anyway when ESA arrives), then it’s workable project. But as a co-equal funding effort it’s a non-starter, since the vast benefit is to give NJT riders better access to Midtown East and the Hudson Yards, with little going in the other direction from NYC residents headed to Secaucus.

Eric F November 5, 2013 - 9:27 am

“since the vast benefit is to give NJT riders better access to Midtown East and the Hudson Yards, with little going in the other direction from NYC residents headed to Secaucus”

I don’t have a particular cost formula in mind, but the benefit is that NYC businesses (commercial, entertainment, etc.) can draw deeper from the roughly 10 million people in NJ, Rockland and eastern PA. It’s the commercial activity supported by that workforce that generates the tax revenue to give us such wonders as the billion dollar parks on the Brooklyn waterfront and colorful bike lanes.

SEAN November 5, 2013 - 10:40 am

As someone who is transit dependent, I could support this. I travel to NJ to visit friends & shop quite frequently & this could make transfering much easier than dealing with Penn Station.

Another benefit of this project is the development of the areas in Secaucus near the station & along the Turnpike access road.

John-2 November 5, 2013 - 11:54 am

A lot of the economic benefit New Jersey would dreive from having New Yorkers coming over on a regular basis would be dependent on how many stations were built between Hudson Yards and the Secaucus transfer point.

If the 7 line basically mirrored the route of the current Amtrak tunnels and the planned Gateway route, putting a station at Port Imperial (combined with a reworking/removal of the Lincoln Tunnel helix) would cause the shore area there to explode economically, in the same way Jersey City has over the past 30 years near the shoreline PATH stations. Of course, that might also create some new opponents of the plan among both the real estate and retailing communities with big stakes in Manhattan, who don’t want their tenants/customers to have easy access to cheaper options just across the Hudson.

SEAN November 5, 2013 - 2:39 pm

Why does it need to be either one or the other? Newport has clearly shown the benefits cross state borders & it can happen here as well if done correctly.

John-2 November 5, 2013 - 6:17 pm

I’m not against the plan. I just think the benefits aren’t a 50-50 split, and that New Jersey should be the bigger funder of the project, whether on an 80-20, 75-25 or even a 60-40 split, and that you will have some businesses in Manhattan who, like people in the outer boroughs, will have their own problems with the project.

AG November 5, 2013 - 2:46 pm

John-2 NJ residents need NYC jobs… and NYC employers need the NJ workforce… it goes both ways (pun intended)

Brandon November 5, 2013 - 9:00 am

Further south into Chelsea rather than to New Jersey.

Im also the last person generally to trumpet siloing, but so long as the MTA is a single-state agency, they shouldnt be building trains to New Jersey. (yes, i know about the Port Jervis line)

Eric F November 5, 2013 - 9:37 am

If the capital costs are covered by some extraneous funding source, I bet the 7 train runnings to NJ would be a money maker for the MTA. You’d probably have a charge at the Secaucus entry point that is a multiple of the NYC fare., say $5 in current dollars. Plus you can get some ad revenue and if they put up a big garage, a flow of parking revenue as well. The riders will lean toward commuters and tourists, who tend to pay full fares (as opposed to students, etc.) and cause fewer safety and vandalism issues.

Henry November 5, 2013 - 7:26 pm

The issue is not revenue generation – the subway costs less than $2 to operate per rider. The issue is that entire suburban counties would end up with less service than Hudson/Bergen (trains into Manhattan every 2.5 minutes or less during the peak is a very good deal), but would be subject to more MTA taxation than the New Jersey communities affected.

If the New Jersey counties involved would be happy to pay the same dedicated taxes that New Yorkers pay to the MTA, then I imagine that the comparison wouldn’t be so galling.

Eric F November 6, 2013 - 8:46 am

They need to be exposed to the taxes that finance the whole thousand-station MTA (and the commuter railroads/bus system operated by the MTA) to get a single extension of one line? Good luck with that argument. And it’s not like Nj commuters aren’t paying NY income and sales taxes that do finance the MTA anyway.

Henry November 6, 2013 - 3:31 pm

Orange County has been paying the tax since 1968, and there have never been (and never will be) plans to bring direct Port Jervis service to Manhattan. Heck, right now they only get half hourly service for an hour during the AM Peak to Hoboken.

On the other hand, New Jersey would be getting trains every 2.5 minutes during the peak that would be accessible to the majority of their population, yet doesn’t deserve to be taxed at the same rate? Give me a break. If you want the MTA, you have to get everything it entails.

(Note that I am not proposing this for the whole of New Jersey, but only the counties the train line would pass through.)

johndmuller November 6, 2013 - 6:51 pm

IMhO, if NJ pays for the construction, an extra half dozen trains, and the passengers pay double fare to the MTA, that’s more than enough. Since that’s a lot like the deal for the ARC project, NJ may not go for it, but as they would presumably have more control over the construction costs this way, perhaps they would.

Chris November 5, 2013 - 2:38 pm

And I want to keep the MTA a single state agency.

That’s why I advocate the PATH system being extended into NY via a third route, which also connects to Secaucus. It could fix many of the problems in the NY-NY transportation network, and still leave the MTA alone.

And on a side note – someone mentioned Metro North and NJ Transit with the Port Jervis line…. The railroad was already covered by federal law, and the two states simply divided ownership, leaving management of schedules, etc. to NJ.

Eric F November 5, 2013 - 9:14 am

“The public should know that there are two rail-tunnel proposals, both necessary.”

I want to marry whoever wrote this. At least two is more like it. We have a rail infrastructure on the Jersey side that is sealed in amber since World War I. It is absurd that there aren’t several new access points sprouting around the area since the Pennsylvania Railroad worked it’s magic. I know that the Hudson is a tougher nut to crack than the East River, but the sheer number of East River access tunnels stands in stark contrast to the 1×1 track alignments for PATH and the NEC.

The 7 extension is clearly not an idea solve all solution, and neither is Gateway, but ideally, you’ll get a few lines built and collectively you’d wind up with a more resilient system. It’s very hard to predict future development patters, but with a few lines in place, things can proceed more or less organically and many uses can be accommodated.

Bolwerk November 5, 2013 - 9:29 am

Strong provincialism today. If there were no political borders, a Secaucus-bound 7 would arguably be seen as the most logical of all possible NYC Subway extensions, with a large built-in ridership, relatively low costs, and strong potential to exploit capacity that currently can’t be used. Hell, it even might achieve one of the most elusive of all transit goals: actually reducing automobile traffic to Manhattan.

Not to say New Jersey shouldn’t pay for it past the state line, but it is almost nothing but a good idea if regulatory hurdles Chris mentions are overcome (or an issue at all).

Larry Littlefield November 5, 2013 - 12:09 pm

It isn’t provincialism to day that city residents should get improvements rather than paying for them for others.

“Regionalism” has meant less powerful people get screwed, at the MTA and otherwise. The real estate industry wants to increase their profits when they sell their buildings. They’d be happy to elminate whole lines in the low-class boroughs to pay for it.

Bolwerk November 5, 2013 - 12:26 pm

I have trouble seeing how something like 7toSecaucus is just beneficial to New Jersey. The west side of Manhattan potentially loses at least part of a big traffic problem, and trade between the states increases to the benefit of both.

The real estate industry deserves a foot in its ass, but good transit is important regardless.

anon_coward November 5, 2013 - 1:08 pm

most new yorkers don’t live on the west side or anywhere close to where this train will run. most new yorkers don’t even live in manhattan. MTA needs to fix the problems on some of the outer borough lines before spending billions of $$$ to dig another tunnel

Bolwerk November 5, 2013 - 1:42 pm

Most New Yorkers don’t live in Brooklyn, Queens, Manattan, Staten Island, or The Bronx? So what?

The MTA shouldn’t be paying for NJ’s transit, but there is no reason it can’t operate it.

Henry November 5, 2013 - 7:33 pm

The question is whether or not NJ is willing to get all the pluses and minuses of being in the MTA region, including the dedicated taxes. If the counties affected are willing to pay, then I see no problem, but if they aren’t, well they can’t have their cake and eat it too.

Bolwerk November 5, 2013 - 7:43 pm

Almost a non-issue. Assuming it’s not profitable, all they need to do is pay the MTA to operate and perhaps maintain a track segment. How they finance the construction is their problem.

Henry November 6, 2013 - 3:35 pm

It’s not about what it costs to maintain; it’s about the fact that all people in the MTA region currently have to pay these taxes. To establish fairness, logic goes that New Jerseyans must pay the tax too (what exactly is the pronoun used to describe someone from New Jersey, anyways?)

Having that real estate dedicated tax in those counties would do wonders for the MTA’s bottom line and allow it to pay off debt, in any case. Maybe we’ll have the means to actually start constructing more things in the service region, including in New Jersey if things should work out that way.

Bolwerk November 6, 2013 - 9:15 pm

The demonym is New Jerseyan I guess.

You must, of course, realize that (1) New Jersey does have its own transit system and (2) would never consent to paying MTA taxes. There is no reason to stunt smart transit over that.

AG November 5, 2013 - 2:51 pm

Wow – I agreed with a comment of yours word for word – LOL. That must say something about the validity of this project.

Phantom November 5, 2013 - 9:34 am

The compelling logic for this project to me is overwhelming. It should be done. All objections should be quickly removed.

But how would fare collection work?

Riders to / from NJ should pay an additional fare to help pay for additional costs.

Easy to do on the NJ side – just charge the agreed fare via Metrocard. But how do you collect an added fare for someone riding from say Grand Central to Secaucus? I don’t see any easy way of doing that.

Eric F November 5, 2013 - 9:40 am

“Riders to / from NJ should pay an additional fare to help pay for additional costs”

I agree with that, and you wouldn’t put it up against the base MTA fare, but rather the competing fare for NJT now, which I think is $5 from Secaucus to Penn. At 5 or even 6/7 dollars, a 7 from Secaucus would be competitive, especially given it obviates an additional priced transfer for many commuters.

Bolwerk November 5, 2013 - 9:42 am

Be satisfied with collecting one way? Or, better yet, keep a uniform fare and let NJ cover its share of the farebox operating shortfall?

Michael K November 6, 2013 - 1:18 pm

I would imagine that it would subsidize the route using the same legal mechanism NJ Transit uses to subsidize private bus carriers for operating losses.

Demetria November 5, 2013 - 9:49 am

Have both entry and exit turnstiles that require swiping in NJ. The swipe in will be the full fare including the NJ “extra” portion, the exit swipe will be the difference between the regular subway swipe, and the full fare.

Phantom November 5, 2013 - 10:00 am


Ahh, thats it.

That is akin to when the NYC subway once had a double fare to and from Rockaway, which involved a one token exit fare when arriving there

Eric F November 5, 2013 - 11:43 am

Yes and that is also how Airtrain works and how the NJT works at Secaucus. It’s a fare to get in and out of the place.

John-2 November 5, 2013 - 12:01 pm

You don’t really have to do that — just follow the Port Authority’s example on the Jesery crossings and collect your fares from people entering Manhattan. Hypothetically, they could cheat you by somehow finding other ways into the city and then simply using the 7 to get back across the Hudson, but if they’re doing park/ride at Secaucus, the annoyance involved in trying to cheat would be more aggravating than just paying the surcharge (the most likely cheaters would be Hoboken-bound NJT riders, who’d take PATH to 33rd Street and then the 7 train back, but even there you might not have enough fare avoiders to make a significant difference).

BoerumBum November 5, 2013 - 3:30 pm

You beat me to it, John-2. I was just about to propose the same fare structure. If it works on the GWB, it can work on the Secaucus 7.

John-2 November 5, 2013 - 6:14 pm

Also, if the added cost for construction/operation is borne by New Jersey, they can simply solve the problem of NJT train riders using Hoboken and PATH into Manhattan and the 7 train back to Secaucus by setting the fare structure on NJT so that the cost to go between the Lautenberg transfer station and Hoboken is equal to whatever the fare surcharge on the 7 train would be.

SEAN November 5, 2013 - 7:45 pm

Currently the fare is $2.75 full & $1.25 S/D.

Chris November 5, 2013 - 2:40 pm

We already have a model…

Two fare collection which once existed when exiting/entering the subway in the Rockaways.

Henry November 5, 2013 - 7:35 pm

Here’s the thing though; if there’s an intermediary stop (I think it would be pretty silly to just have a one-stop extension to Secaucus), how would you end up charging that? Would that be one or two fares?

The logistics can get pretty complicated once you start thinking about other factors.

lawhawk November 5, 2013 - 9:42 am

Expanding the 7 to Secaucus would allow the PANY to divert more buses from the overcrowded PABT and rationalize service there, where real estate costs are extreme compared to the low cost of building out near Secaucus.

That’s the plus side.

On the negative, it’s provincalism that will keep any expansion to NJ from happening. Staten Island rightfully argues that the MTA should be focusing on better service to/from Staten Island, and that expanding the subway system should look to do so with Staten Island.

However, these same SI representatives will block proposals to improve mass transit on the island because it would change the character of the island – and their constituents don’t want to see an influx of people either (even though it’s the lowest density of the boroughs with the lowest number of residents).

Still, something needs to be done to improve and expand mass transit in the region and build redundancy for the existing services and tunnels that are already overloaded (especially between NJ and Manhattan).

For NJ’s part, they need to do something to free up revenues to spend on infrastructure and improve funding for the state’s transportation trust fund. That could include raising taxes on fuels that haven’t been increased in a generation and are among the nation’s lowest. If the rate is increased to devote specifically to certain infrastructure improvements, it could get voter support, but Gov. Christie isn’t going to raise taxes, especially as he considers a run for the WH in 2016.

For NY’s part, Gov. Cuomo has to drop the idea of chopping taxes by $3-4 billion and instead devote that amount to working on infrastructure around the state. An infusion of $1b a year – with the remainder to go to upstate enterprises, would help get the MTA up to a state of good repair, reduce debt load, and help expand mass transit to underserved areas.

The MTA and PANY need to do their part too, putting for rational proposals that make sense and take into account the lessons learned from Sandy and other storms on where/how to build robust and redundant infrastructure that are cost-effective and maximize results for the cost.

Eric F November 5, 2013 - 11:47 am

“For NJ’s part, they need to do something to free up revenues to spend on infrastructure and improve funding for the state’s transportation trust fund. That could include raising taxes on fuels that haven’t been increased in a generation and are among the nation’s lowest. If the rate is increased to devote specifically to certain infrastructure improvements, it could get voter support, but Gov. Christie isn’t going to raise taxes, especially as he considers a run for the WH in 2016.”

Nobody in NJ, regardless of party, wants to raise the gas tax. A raise wouldn’t bother me, but it’s highly unpopular across the board. I’d like to see a phased in increase of at least 25 cents per gallon, and an additional point of purchase tax on high mileage cars / electrics to recover foregone gas tax revenue (owners would still save net by using less fuel). That would make me as popular as a skunk at a picnic, but there you go.

Bolwerk November 5, 2013 - 11:58 am

Well, NJ has tolls out the ass, so it’s hard to blame them.

IMHO, tolls make more sense anyway because they actually relate directly to use. Gas taxes are charged to motorists who may not even use the highways the gas taxes pay for.

Phantom November 5, 2013 - 12:01 pm

Raising the NJ gas tax won’t raise as much money as you may think.

Very many NY CT and PA drivers go out of their way to buy gas in NJ precisely because gas is always cheaper there.

Take away that price advantage and most of that significant additional business from out of state goes away.

Bolwerk November 5, 2013 - 12:47 pm

If they deliberately cross state lines just to gas up, they’re idiots. It would be almost impossible for the trip to be worth their time, much less the few gallons of gas they’d probably waste making the trip (especially if coming from Connecticut). And that’s ignoring the tolls.

New Jersey happens to be unavoidable for a lot of very “important” trips, and that’s its advantage. It only needs nominally lower gas taxes to exploit that.

SEAN November 5, 2013 - 2:50 pm

Obviously you haven’t been to rockland County. If one lives in such towns as Orangeburg, Suffern or Pearl River, a jaunt to NJ to feul up can save a huge amount of money. The difference can be upwards of 50 cents PG.

Bolwerk November 5, 2013 - 3:24 pm

Um, what percentage of NYS lives in Suffern, Pearl River, or Orangeburg?

50 cents/gallon × 20 gallons = $10 savings for a pretty big gas tank

Subtract what it costs a discrete driver in time, fuel spent traveling the extra distance, and whatever tolls there might be (if any). That’s not to say nobody can casually, regularly take advantage of NJ’s lower prices, but there is little reason to think the state is winning a gasoline price war, and if they were other states would probably try to compete.

The real advantage of NJ’s gas prices is a lot of people pass through, they see they have lower prices than surrounding states, and they try to fill up there. That’s fine, but not something they lose by halving the savings. Plus, they use tolls to capture more out of state money.

SEAN November 5, 2013 - 5:07 pm

Um, what percentage of NYS lives in Suffern, Pearl River, or Orangeburg?Rockland has a population of 300,000 & most of them can be in NJ within 10-minutes as most of the population lives in communities near the state line.

50 cents/gallon × 20 gallons = $10 savings for a pretty big gas tank. Multiply that $10 savings over the course of a year & you are looking at a payback of at least $600 if not substantially more than that.

Bolwerk November 5, 2013 - 6:59 pm

So, that’s less than 2% of NY’s population. What percentage of them actually do consciously make that trip?

It might be a boon for some borderland gas stations, but as far as being a revenue source for NJ and a loss for NYS it’s a pee trickle in a swimming pool.

SEAN November 5, 2013 - 7:58 pm

You asked who would go out of their way to fill up there gas tank in Jersey & I told you. I never implied the numbers were huge, rather I simply stated they are mostly Rockland County residents who live near the border & could do it quite easily.

Bolwerk November 5, 2013 - 10:57 pm

No I didn’t. I just said such people were idiots and, with a few exceptions who live so damn near the border the trip is worth it, they pretty much are.

Incidentally, it’s the type of irrationality that driving frequently encourages. Like toll shopping.

Phantom November 5, 2013 - 9:41 pm

No NYC resident travels to NJ for the much cheaper gas.

But very many of us have family and friends in NJ or PA, or we fly out of Newark, etc.

We’re in NJ a lot anyway. And we always try to arrive with a near empty tank.

Nearly every driver I know in Brooklyn or SI knows this , and takes advantage of it.

If NJ equalizes gas tax with NY, they’d be morons. They’d lose jobs and economic activity. They’re not morons, and they won’t legislate away this competitive advantage with NY and PA.

Bolwerk November 5, 2013 - 11:03 pm

Well, they are morons, but not because of gas.

Filling up in NJ when you happen to be there makes sense, but it only does so much for them. The gravy train for them is geographic: anyone passing between any number of major metro areas has to pass through New Jersey, and they can extract a toll from these people. That doesn’t change even if they do make gas taxes higher than surrounding states.

Bolwerk November 5, 2013 - 11:05 pm

(Put another way: they’re basically saving their own people money by taking it from people passing through.)

pete November 6, 2013 - 3:33 pm

I have a couple 5 gal gas cans. Use a gas price finder website and get 20 cents off per gal off the “closest to NY state” station that are very expensive in NJ prices. Delta brand or Costco is dirt cheap in NJ. I’ll buy ~45 gallons in 1 fillup. I’ll have enough gas for 6 weeks. The math says the gas made crossing the GWB free or a buck or 2 profitable. The cans were handy after the Sandy nobody has gas emergency.

pete November 6, 2013 - 3:39 pm

Extending the 7 train to Secaucus can be done for $100,000. Just give portable Metrocard readers to NJT Conductors. Its $2.50+free transfers to get from any NYCT station to Secaucus. Out of system transfers already exist, 59/63rd street transfer and the former court square transfer.

Henry November 6, 2013 - 3:44 pm

This plan makes absolutely no sense; the point is not that NJT people pay out of the ass (they can keep doing that AFAIK), but that there is simply no more capacity in any vehicular or rail crossing south of the City Line anymore.

Lurker November 11, 2013 - 3:03 pm

There’s also the crowd going from the city to destinations on the Thruway – taking a route via NJ 17 can barely be considered out of the way, but due to the cheaper gas prices it is the preferred way to gas up on the way out. Due to the other low taxes, while on NJ 17 they may also stop at a shopping center.

Henry November 5, 2013 - 7:47 pm

I’m pretty sure at this point that Cuomo is content to govern by press release until 2016.

Also, it isn’t even about Staten Island; Queens is now the second largest borough in the city, yet has very little to show for it in terms of subway access. Sure, Staten Island has a lot of people, but the Town of Hempstead is denser and more populous, for crying out loud. Staten Island does not yet warrant a full blown train tunnel across the Harbor (and building it from Bay Ridge would just result in a train ride slower than the Ferry)

You also have the ghosts of promises past; the city has seen big plans come and go, and many plans never really came to be. The outer boroughs have not seen a new extension proposed since 1968 (besides the LGA extension, but that would mostly benefit Manhattan, not Queens commuters with hour+bus commutes). It becomes more pressing now that the middle class is decamping to the outer boroughs as Manhattan becomes more and more expensive.

ajedrez November 6, 2013 - 12:17 am

The Town of Hempstead has more people (roughly 750,000 vs. 500,000 on Staten Island), but Staten Island’s population density is greater (8,000 ppsm vs. 6,400 ppsm)

Nathanael November 5, 2013 - 10:13 am

Big election day today.

ChetStedman November 5, 2013 - 11:11 am

Would a PATH style tube for the 7 be viable and less expensive than a tunnel? Does anyone have any idea if this would be substantially cheaper?

Gateway is still necessary either way, I’m just curious why this never seems to be considered.


Nathanael November 5, 2013 - 11:29 am

Nobody wants to stir up the dirt at the bottom of the Hudson due to 100 years of industrial contamination. That didn’t seem to stop the Port Authority from dredging it to allow deeper ships into the Jersey ports, though….

ChetStedman November 5, 2013 - 12:05 pm

Is this actually the reason or are you speculating? It makes some sense, but I’ve never heard this reason cited before.

Bolwerk November 5, 2013 - 11:39 am

Beats me. For an idea of what this should cost, take a look at this. ~€5B for for 11mi of tunnel seems to include two rail tracks and four lanes of roadway.

For four tracks on two levels, the cost probably shouldn’t be more than the middle nine figures per mile. It’s the type of thing that should be considered in place of Andy Cuomo’s ill-advised cross-Hudson driving range.

lawhawk November 5, 2013 - 12:57 pm

The PATH tunnels as originally built were using techniques developed 100+ years ago. They tried using compressed air to keep the face open, but there were several blowouts and work stopped before they switched to a safer system with a shield at the front of the tunnel face. The tunnel walls were fashioned out of iron segments bolted together.

A TBM automates much of the process, and does so far more safely than the old tunnel systems. Each TBM is designed to deal with specific soil types – so if it was decided to do a tunnel under the Hudson, they’d choose one that worked for the soil types likely to be encountered.

The tunnel itself would be assembled from concrete sections put in place as the TBM moves forward.

So, it wouldn’t be any cheaper.

That is, unless you’re questioning cost on basis of the tunnel diameter, and I think the difference is so slight as to be nominal in the total cost of tunneling to NJ.

The tunneling costs would be comparable between a single tube (each way) for a PATH tunnel, MTA tunnel, or even a Gateway tunnel if they’re all using current tunneling methods. The difference in costs would come due to engineering and depths needed to get around existing infrastructure, routing into NYC, etc. that add to the complexity of the project.

ChetStedman November 5, 2013 - 1:40 pm

Thanks lawhawk, that’s very informative.

So am I to understand that tunneling is as cost effective as laying tubes in general nowadays, or is it just specific to the Hudson? I believe the most recent East River crossing was the 63rd Street tube and they used immersed tubes.

lawhawk November 5, 2013 - 2:01 pm

An immersed tube construction, which was used on some of the East River tunnels, may save some costs as compared to a TBM, but that might not be appropriate method for building the Hudson River tubes due to the depths needed for proper track alignments in and out of NYP. There’s significant costs to dredging and relocation of that material.

Since the Hudson River gets significant traffic, including passenger cruise ships above the potential crossing points, the immersed tube has to have sufficient clearance above for ships to safely pass and be reinforced by stone riprap to protect the structure from being struck by inadvertent anchor drops or other such events.

Using a TBM alleviates disrupting the Hudson River soils and the environmental concerns that come from that, and you have a more stable surface in which to tunnel.

From what I’ve gathered, the ARC would have used a TBM, and Gateway would likewise use a TBM. Not sure whether it’s feasible to do otherwise in this situation.

ChetStedman November 5, 2013 - 2:48 pm

Thanks for the detail replies, lawhawk.

Tsuyoshi November 5, 2013 - 11:32 am

Sending the 7 to New Jersey is a good idea. But Secaucus? There’s nothing there except some awful commuter rail. Hoboken or Union City would be better ideas.

Another good idea would be sending Hudson-Bergen Light Rail to New York. Have it cross at Weehawken and go down the middle of 34th or 42nd.

The real trick will be getting the people of New Jersey, who are about to reelect the man who killed the last attempt to cross the Hudson, to pay for any of this.

Bolwerk November 5, 2013 - 11:45 am

Iif we actually got costs under control, we could start doing real regional planning rather than ad hoc projects. The debate should not be (Secaucus || Staten Island || SAS || Queens). It should be details about how to achieve (Secaucus && Staten Island && SAS && Queens).

Chris November 5, 2013 - 2:43 pm

You’re asking the right question…

It’s how we expand transit to NJ, SI, and the West Side, connecting them into one network.

I prefer to keep the MTA a single state agency, to avoid the extra hassles of the Federal government getting involved in NYS affairs. But we have a second transit system perfectly poised to do the job – the PATH system. It could be extended into Staten Island, to Secaucus, and to Manhattan via a third tunnel pair. And then the new tunnel would connect NYC’s two major train stations. Voila – we’d have the missing links in our system….

Ben November 5, 2013 - 11:57 am

Well, the extension to Secaucus could also have interim stops at Lincoln Harbor in Weehawken, connecting to the HBLR, and somewhere in Union City. That’s better than connecting to Hoboken, I think, because connecting to the HBLR in Hoboken would be challenging (unless they open a new station at 15th St in NW Hoboken, which has been discussed and where the HBLR could interchange with the 7 instead of a 7 stop at Lincoln Harbor).

AlexB November 5, 2013 - 1:17 pm

If the goal is to provide more high speed capacity to Midtown (and especially East Midtown) from Jersey, the obvious extension is for the East Side Access project, not the 7. It would cost a bit more because it would have an extra mile of tunneling involved, but would be way way more useful. At Secaucus, NJ Transit riders would switch to the Long Island Railroad for direct trips to Grand Central and the rest of Long Island. Metro North customers could use it to transfer to both NJT and LIRR. The 7 would be way to slow and would not be competitive with NJT trains. For the few routes that don’t have direct Penn Station service, the 7 would help, but there aren’t enough people on those branches to make extending the 7 worth it. Look at Woodside in Queens. Some LIRR riders transfer there to get to the east side of Manhattan, but most all of them find it faster to go to Penn and take the subway a few stops.

Chris November 5, 2013 - 2:46 pm

Alex –

Great idea…. Philly did something like that when they connected two different rail networks in the center city.


David Brown November 5, 2013 - 4:49 pm

Alex if you know how expensive East Side Access actually is, and what is involved, you would understand a big reason it is not being extended. I strongly suspect the MTA cannot wait until 2019, and this project ends. The next big LIRR project involves the Main Line including reactivating the Republic Station, and increasing capacity past Farmingdale. Beyond that they need to find a way to do four tracks at Mineola ( that station has 3 lines pass through it, and a Reverse Commute during PM Rush Hour is a pain in the ass).

Henry November 5, 2013 - 7:50 pm

Most of the cost of ESA is that giant cavern with what is it, 8 platforms?

The tunneling itself isn’t very expensive. Blowing out a large cavern with a full mezannine some 90 feet under the existing GCT and then linking it (very poorly) to the existing terminal is very expensive.

That being said, the TBM is being laid to rest past the cavern, making any extension impossible unless it were to somehow either be reactivated or destroyed.

AlexB November 12, 2013 - 7:30 pm

If you’re building a two track extension and a 2-3 platform station in Secaucus, it doesn’t make much difference if the label on the train says LIRR or NYCT. I do know why ESA was so expensive – the massive cavern under GCT, the Harold Interlocking, the train yard expansions, etc, etc. None of that would be included in a two track extension to Jersey. The LIRR would have to go a little bit farther than the 7. The tunnel boring machine is just one machine and there are 4 tracks, so they could probably figure out a way to dismantle and remove the machine or go around it.

David Brown November 5, 2013 - 2:46 pm

The REBNA asking for this right before an Election is like De Blasio saying that he has a mandate to be more Progressive, basically its red meat for the base, and coming up with the most extreme bargaining position possible. The City and (or) the MTA, are not paying for the (7) Train to New Jersey, anymore than The City will put people on Welfare in 57th Street Condos. REBNY knows this like De Blasio knows that. The compromise solution is of course, full funding of the Second Ave subway, Continued Rezoning (particularly East Side Midtown, followed by (I hope) The West Side (starting with Broadway and 6th Ave from 32rd to 25th Streets)), and improved transportation alternatives for the Outer Boroughs (Metro North Expansion to The Bronx is one example). Do we get a compromise? We will get an idea if and in what form the East Side Rezoning occurs. I bet on a yes answer.

Chris November 5, 2013 - 2:49 pm

David –

Another reason to keep the MTA separate….

NYC will have a much easier time advocating for expansion of its subways when the agency that has to build and maintain them is within NYC.

With that being said, I have no objection if the NYC subway system were expanded into the near suburbs, as Chicago’s system does with its near suburbs…. The agency stays single state, and is easier to manage,,,,,

David Brown November 5, 2013 - 4:33 pm

Chris, An expansion into Nassau County is not happening either. Assuming the polls are correct, and Ed Mangano wins another term, his bet about taking Nassau County Bus away from the MTA did not come back and bite him. You can debate if he was right or wrong, but the point is he got away with it, and it has not even been brought up by Tom Suozzi. To be fair, the big issue was the fate of the Nassau Coliseum which may have decided the Election in his favor, but a collapse of the bus system could have finished him early on.

BoerumBum November 5, 2013 - 3:34 pm

Do you think it would be possible to extend the 7 into New Jersey, then send a spur down to Bayonne, across the Bayonne Bridge and onto a reactivated Staten Island North Shore Line?

SEAN November 5, 2013 - 5:12 pm

Isn’t that sort of going left to go right?

Ben November 5, 2013 - 5:58 pm

That’s an insanely long-distance line. I don’t think you have a conception of how far the 7 would then be traveling. Also, Secaucus is way out of the way for a train from Manhattan to Bayonne and Staten Island.

You could do something extending the 7 to Staten Island via NJ, but it couldn’t go to Secaucus at the same time unless there were two branches (one to Secaucus and a separate one to Hoboken-Jersey City-Bayonne-Staten Island). Even then, it wouldn’t line up properly to be incorporated into the North Shore Line and would have to follow a different route.

If you want to integrate Bayonne and Staten Island by transit, far better to extend the HBLR to Staten Island.

Henry November 5, 2013 - 7:52 pm

The problem with this (and nearly all proposals to go to SI) is that it isn’t a time improvement over the current ferry ride.

With this specific proposal, you’d also be making the southern half of the HBLR useless.

Nets Cowbell Guy November 5, 2013 - 11:26 pm

Considering how all these projects cost so much, let’s avoid it. We have service to NJ already. Maybe provide more service in those far reaches of Queens

Beebo November 6, 2013 - 5:51 pm

Stupid question of the day: what’s wrong with routing the PATH? Do we *need* a new tunnel? Or better use the ones we have now?


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