Home 7 Line Extension Symbolic support from New Jersey for a 7 line extension

Symbolic support from New Jersey for a 7 line extension

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

Will we hear more on the plan to send the 7 to Secaucus? Click to enlarge.

As Mayor Bloomberg’s last month in office dawns upon us this weekend, the plans to send the 7 train to New Jersey will likely exit the political arena along with hizzoner. Despite some feasibility studies, the proposal hasn’t generated much support from others on our side of the Hudson River, and the MTA has bigger, New York-centric fish to fry. With some Staten Island politicians threatening to torpedo any funding initiatives that may come through the City Council, we’re unlikely to see much action on the plan now or in the foreseeable future.

That fate, though, isn’t stopping New Jersey from trying. The New Jersey State Assembly recently passed a resolution expressing support for the project. That is, unfortunately, all this resolution — available here as a PDF — accomplishes. Taking a jab at Governor Chris Christie’s decision to cancel the ARC Tunnel, the measure that it is “in the best interest of this State to extend the 7 Train to New Jersey.” Thus, “this House” — the NJ Assembly — “supports the extension of the New York City IRT Flushing Line into the State of New Jersey.”

Beyond a token gesture of support, the bill isn’t worth much more than the paper it’s printed on. There is no talk of a funding scheme or any attempt at contributing to the project’s forward progress. In fact, reports out of New Jersey indicate that even the politicians who supported the resolution are not so keen on the 7 line extension as currently proposed. NJBiz’s Andrew George has more:

Though the Assembly Transportation, Public Works and Independent Authorities Committee voted to release the resolution for further consideration, legislators said there were still too many concerns surrounding it…Committee chair and Assemblyman John Wisniewski (D-Sayreville) said that the extension is worth further consideration if only to continue looking for an alternative to the $8.7 billion Access to the Region’s Core project, a trans-Hudson rail tunnel that Gov. Chris Christie nixed in 2010.

Wisniewski said that while everything had been in place to move forward with the ARC project, Christie “chose to pull the rug out from underneath that.” But Daniel O’Connell, a state legislative director for the United Transportation Union, testified before the committee that rather than diverting resources to extending the 7 Line, the state should instead look to support efforts “that get the biggest bang for the buck,” such as the Gateway Project and viable alternatives to the ARC project.

He said a priority should also be given over the project to exploring a one-seat ride route for NJ Transit’s Raritan Valley Line, which currently requires passengers to change trains in Newark before continuing on to Manhattan. That’s something Assemblywoman Linda Stender (D-Scotch Plains) said she could get behind, given that the Raritan Valley Line cuts through her district. Stender said legislators “have to keep the pressure on” about exploring that option.

In a world where transit funds are limited, the best use of New Jersey’s resources likely involve pushing forward on Gateway rather than the 7 line extension or a one-seat option for Raritan Valley riders. Still, even though this resolution has no teeth and even though this project’s biggest supporter is leaving office in a mouth, it has at least gotten people talking. If talk becomes action of one form or another, after the fallout and ill will from ARC, the zany 7 line extension may just serve a purpose yet.

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Roxie November 29, 2013 - 1:35 am

Why is it we aren’t considering extending the 7 line down toward the Lower West Side? Hell, just extend it to the PATH station at the Trade Center, or add a transfer point to Christopher Street.

Granted, the 1 train does cover the LWS to some extent, but it’s worth looking at, I think; moreso than a cockamamie idea like sending the Subway out of state.

Chris C November 29, 2013 - 6:48 am

There are almost 100 articles re the #7 line extension here (link just to the right) covering numerous issues and options so I suggest you have a look at those.

Alon Levy November 29, 2013 - 9:41 am

Because there’s no real need for it. The 1 and A/C aren’t very crowded.

Bolwerk November 29, 2013 - 1:56 pm

Neither is the M Train, but none of those trains are particularly close to the far west side.

(Not to say the 7 being sent that way is more meritorious than the 7 to Secaucus, but I don’t see either as a particularly bad project.)

Alon Levy November 29, 2013 - 6:15 pm

No, the 1 and A/C serve the Lower West Side pretty well.

Bolwerk November 29, 2013 - 10:58 pm

Maybe some areas below 14th Street and more below Christopher/West Fourth. Even then the services are arguably of lower value and only the E might take you to the east side. And the Tunnel monkeys with the walkability around Canal.

Alex November 29, 2013 - 9:45 am

Given the tail tracks already go all the way to 26th St, it seems adding a station at Chelsea Piers would be a logical next step, as well as adding the 10th Ave station.

BruceNY November 29, 2013 - 8:50 pm

I agree 100%. I find it incredibly wasteful to tunnel “tail tracks” eight blocks long and not add a terminal at 23rd–25th Street. (I don’t buy all the arguments that they are necessary for turning trains around. There are many other two track terminals that function well enough). The 10th Avenue omission is simply criminal.

Nyland8 November 30, 2013 - 11:43 am

Besides tail tracks providing for a mini yard to store a few trains, they also allow trains to enter the station at full speed. Anyone who has dealt with the westbound L Line into 8th Ave. knows what a pain in the ass it is. Most trains have to wait for the next outbound train to leave before a track is available, and then they’re forced by FRA regulations to enter the station at 5mph. Not a comforting delay when you are anxious to make an A/C/E connection on your inbound morning commute.

Tail tracks speed the trip, and speed the turnaround.

BruceNY November 30, 2013 - 4:41 pm

Well there’s nothing to connect to at 34th & 11th so the extra 45 seconds shouldn’t be cause for that much concern.
I wonder–which would have cost more: the extra eight blocks of double tracks to nowhere, or a three-track terminal.

Alon Levy December 1, 2013 - 1:11 am

1. FRA regulations don’t apply to the subway.
2. All the benefits of tail tracks can be obtained with tail tracks a few tens of meters long. Times Square looks like maybe 100-150 meters. No need for 600. The long tail tracks are for parking trains.

Nyland8 December 1, 2013 - 7:59 am

As I said – ” Besides tail tracks providing for a mini yard to store a few trains, …”

So … we agree.

Eric December 1, 2013 - 11:52 am

Yeah, but paying hundreds of millions of dollars to allow for a few trains to park underground does not seem like a good investment.

Jeff December 2, 2013 - 10:10 am

Tunneling a few hundred more yards using a TBM is probably a fraction of the cost of building out a full station.

Ben December 1, 2013 - 9:36 pm

Sure, but that doesn’t preclude an extension to NJ. In fact, I think the best proposal I’ve seen has stops at 11th Ave/23rd St (in Manhattan), 9th St/Washington St (in Hoboken), 9th St/Jackson St (also Hoboken, connection to the HBLR), Paterson Plank Rd/Central Ave (on the Jersey City/Union City border) and Secaucus Junction.

lawhawk November 29, 2013 - 10:17 am

Raritan Valley covers 2.3% of all NJTransit riders (bus and rail combined). They deserve a one-seat ride more than say the Main/Bergen/Port Jervis line that also requires transfers at Secaucus or Hoboken to go to Manhattan, even though the Main/Bergen has 3% of the riders?

I’d say that Stender’s comments are about parochialism – and if she can’t get service improvements, then no one does.

That goes back to one of the longstanding issues with these kinds of proposals; someone opposes not on the merits, but because it’s not servicing their political needs.

It’s why Staten Island opposes the 7 expansion when Staten Island doesn’t have a direct heavy rail/light rail/subway connection with Manhattan.

Yet, it would seem prudent to consider an extension of PATH to Staten Island via the airport and an additional stop in Elizabeth and Newark and new Goethals bridge while working on a 7 extension to Secaucus as well as Gateway.

Both NJ and NY’s governors need to do more to fund mass transit and infrastructure improvements. Gov. Cuomo has already shown himself unwilling to devote more funds to the MTA, and Christie’s put roads ahead of mass transit, even though funding for both is way down from what’s needed to bring about a state of good repair and improvements for the next century.

But it also means the relevant agencies – MTA, NJ Transit, and Port Authority must do far more to provide good stewardship of the limited funds available to them for these projects. All three have shown poor judgment in how the money has been spent, whether it’s major cost overruns (PA at the WTC transit hub, MTA at Fulton Center or South Ferry or NJT at Secaucus), or failing on foresight (NJT on flooding out its rail fleet).

Bolwerk November 29, 2013 - 1:58 pm

Staten Island is a petulant place.

But in reality, nobody is responsible for expanding transit. Not the MTA, not the PA, not NJT. That’s why every project is shoestringed together without thought for other projects or the region.

Joseph Steindam November 29, 2013 - 4:26 pm

At this point, only the capacity constraints in the North River Tunnels and in Penn Station are stopping NJT from running Raritan Valley line trains into Penn Station. NJT bought dual-power locomotives for the Raritan Valley line since it is not electrified. In fact, some of the towns along the Raritan Valley line had rezoned the area around their stations for mixed-use development and large apartment complexes.

In order to bring Main/Bergen Line trains into NYP, NJT would need to build a rail connection between the line to Hoboken and the line to the tunnels, through either marshland or built up industrial areas. It seems very difficult to site such a route, along with a place for a junction, especially since the tunnels begin at the western foot of the Palisades. It seems very difficult.

Nyland8 November 30, 2013 - 8:18 am

“It seems very difficult.”

Part of the ARC project plan was to make a loop where the southeast bound Bergen/Main/Pascack Valley Lines all swung around clockwise back through Lautenberg into the same northwest alignment as the NE Corridor. You can probably find ARC project maps online that depict this.

It was actually quite simple.

Joseph Steindam November 30, 2013 - 9:48 am

True that is the simpler way, I was thinking of finding a route that didn’t involve entering Secaucus twice. Ideally, a route shouldn’t serve the same station twice (of course there’s no reason it should stop on the upper level, just run through to the tunnels), I was looking for a route from the Hoboken-bound platforms that would head northeast towards the tunnel alignment, which from armchair planning (using Google Maps) seems tougher to accomplish.

Alon Levy November 29, 2013 - 6:18 pm

The Erie lines have such low ridership because Secaucus is a terrible transfer station and the buses provide an alternative. If you measure population density, they are potentially very strong transit lines, much more so than Raritan Valley, they just lack decent rail transit.

BruceNY November 29, 2013 - 8:57 pm

Could anyone explain why they would design a transfer station where one cannot simply go up or down one flight of stairs directly from platform to platform but instead require one to take a longer route to the concourse level and through turnstiles? (Does any other NJT station have turnstiles??? I’m only an occasional NJT rider).

lawhawk November 29, 2013 - 9:16 pm

The circuitous route is because of the different elevations, and the imposition of fare control in and out of the NEC line to the concourse.

BruceNY November 30, 2013 - 9:40 am

OK–but why is fare control required here and at no other NJT Station where one could transfer from one line to the next–such as Newark-Penn? Wouldn’t a passenger be required to show their ticket on board anyway? It’s not like at the Airport Station where you are switching to a different system (Airtrain) altogether–this is still within NJT’s system. Or is it that so many passengers are expected to alight in Secaucus that the potential for skipping payment altogether (the ride from NY-Penn is only a couple minutes) is too great? Thanks for your insight–this just always struck me as an anomaly.

JJJJ November 30, 2013 - 5:34 pm

Its because of the five people that can park at Secaucus and could theoretically get a free ride every day, as the conductors can’t check everyone before that stop.

lawhawk November 29, 2013 - 9:30 pm

According to the NJ Transit statistics, 29.6% of the daily NJT riders take rail.

That breaks down as follows:
13% for NEC
3% for Bergen/Main (Erie) lines (that’s roughly 13,000 riders a day)
2.5% for NJCL
2.3% for Raritan Valley
6% for M&E
1.6% for Montclair Boonton
0.8% for Pascack Valley
0.3% for Atlantic City

Part of the reason there’s low ridership is that there are insufficient numbers of trains running, especially on the near peak periods. Heck, there are insufficient numbers of trains for peak periods (problems exacerbated by the NJT flooding out its rail fleet by Sandy). At some stations, there’s insufficient numbers of parking and towns discourage parking on street near stations, meaning that buses are preferred or necessary to pick up slack. That’s even though NJT can’t handle the flow in/out of PABT and delays are all too common on the roads leading to the PABT.

Secaucus is a case study in how NJT screwed the pooch on capital projects – what was envisioned as an $80 million project turned into $450m, and never met its usage projections, even after the parking lot was built by Edison next door.

Heck, NJT just spent additional money to build out 10-car platforms on the lower level to get it ready to handle traffic for the Super Bowl.

Bolwerk November 29, 2013 - 11:02 pm

Heh, statistics like that make canceling ARC without an alternative plan in place all the more damning.

si7 November 30, 2013 - 10:58 pm

As a hypothetical, you could make Staten Islander’s happy by providing a one-seat rail line from Staten Island to Penn station via New Jersey by taking advantage of the Arthur Kill rail bridge. Hypothetically.


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