Home East Side Access Project Musings on East Side Access, Penn Station Access and fare policies

Musings on East Side Access, Penn Station Access and fare policies

by Benjamin Kabak

Penn Station Access may have to wait for East Side Access. (Image via @NYGovCuomo)

The news that East Side Access is yet again over budget and off schedule isn’t just an embarrassment for a project that’s been plagued with troubles. It has a cascade effect too on the entire region. The longer we wait for East Side Access, the longer we have to wait for Penn Station Access, and the longer we wait for Penn Station Access, the less likely its current champion will be in office. Meanwhile, the MTA is trying to incorporate commuter rail into the city’s transit fabric, but can it do so without rationalizing the fare?

In a sense, Penn Station Access is the dependent stepson of East Side Access. When ESA finally opens, a few trains will shift from the West Side to the East Side, and despite the selfish whining from Long Island politicians, the MTA will have space to send some Metro-North trains to the West Side. New Yorkers from both sides of New York City’s suburbs will be better distributed to the side of the city with their places of employ, and everyone wins. The planning for Penn Station Access can start now, and if the money is there, work can begin. But until East Side Access opens, Metro-North riders hoping to get to Penn will have to wait.

Furthermore, with Gov. Cuomo throwing his support behind the Penn Station plan, we may cast a wary eye at East Side Access delays. There’s a chance Cuomo could still be governor in 2020 when ESA opens, but he could move on to bigger and better things by then. If he’s not around, will Penn Station Access live to see the light of day (and the green of money)? It’s no sure thing, but the longer East Side Access takes, the more likely enthusiasm for Penn State Access will dim.

Finally, there is a question of fares. The MTA clearly views Penn Station Access as a way to better serve areas in the Bronx that seem — and are — remote. As The Times details today, Co-Op City would stand to benefit tremendously from a Metro-North stop promising access to both Midtown and Greenwich, CT, in 30 minutes. But some residents are skeptical, and the culprit lies in the fares.

As Stephen Smith detailed in a New York Magazine piece a few weeks ago, the MTA’s desire to get city residents on commuter rail clashes with fare policy and operations. He wrote:

The MTA treats Metro-North and the Long Island Rail Road as a limited, luxury service for suburbanites commuting during peak hours, with city residents largely excluded from the lines that run through neighborhoods like Ozone Park and Jamaica in Queens and Tremont in the Bronx. But each of them could be transformed into super-express subways: The LIRR, for example, could easily handle trains every twenty minutes from Forest Hills into the city midday and late at night (to pay for it, retrain conductors as train drivers), compared with the hour-long waits between trains today—a welcome relief line for the overcrowded subway beneath Queens Boulevard. And with more frequent trains, railroad stations in Queens that were axed decades ago could be added back without slowing down existing commuters. Elmhurst could get its LIRR stops back, and the confluence of lines at Sunnyside Yards merits a major transit junction, with all of the development that would follow.

A one-way, peak-hour, off-board Metro-North from Fordham is $8.25 per ride and the monthly for MNR service only is nearly twice as much as a 30-day MetroCard. The costs are out of proportionate to the benefits and do little to encourage ridership. There is, after all, a reason why as of the mid-2000s fewer than 1000 people per day used some of the Bronx’s Metro-North stations.

So these are the challenges the MTA faces: Get East Side Access under control; continue the push for Penn Station Access; and figure out a way to better integrate intra-city travel into the Metro-North and LIRR fare structure. These aren’t insurmountable challenges, but the deck is ever so slightly more stacked against timely forward progress.

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marv January 14, 2014 - 12:39 am

Penn Station and Grand Central are not the only destinations in the NY area. Could hourly trains(requiring just one train set/crew) shuttle back and forth from Jamaica to New Rochelle via Hell Gate?

This would obviously link both JFK (via the airtrain) and Long Island with Westchester and Ct as well as providing intra-city links.

fkg January 14, 2014 - 12:51 am

From google maps it doesn’t appear so. The train would pull into sunnyside. Then you’d need the operator to run to the other side of the train to back out. By 51st avenue the LIRR mainline crosses the ROW that would be used to triboro X. Would that be wide enough for a trainset to turn? Other than that I don’t see how to get a train from Jamaica to hells gate without needing ROW acquisition.

Ryan January 14, 2014 - 1:04 am

The “linking” you describe between JFK/LI and CT is tenuous at best even if it could be done without a reverse move or ROW acquisition.

Even single, coordinated, timed, cross-platform transfers are far less attractive than single-seat rides and Jamaica-New Rochelle is two transfers.

An hourly shuttle between LIC/Hunterspoint Avenue and New Rochelle is more doable, less operationally complex, more attractive, and a better illustration of “running trains to places that aren’t NYP/GCT.”

Ryan January 14, 2014 - 1:06 am

By two transfers, I meant “two transfers between LI and CT or between JFK and CT” – one transfer at Jamaica and another at New Rochelle.

SEAN January 14, 2014 - 12:17 pm

Perhaps it’s not ideal, but it could work. The best solution would be to run both express & local service from as far up as Stamford. Local trains make all stops to New Rochele & then swich to the Helgate line. Expresses opperate from Stamford, Greenwich, Rye, Harrison or Larchmont as they currently do. Stamford express trains would originate further up the line as nessessary.

Having said that, most trains should stop at Sunnyside if built- to aford ample transfer oppertunities.

fkg January 14, 2014 - 3:18 am

Would sending trains to LIC/hunterspoint from New Rochelle instead of Jamaica cut down on transfers? If you have some development at Sunnyside – either a convention center, retail, housing, some combination, and set up a station there as a transfer point, with most LIRR trains stopping there, it might make more sense. Also, if LIRR riders want to switch trains to get to switch terminals between NYP and GC, it could be more pleasant in sunnyside than Jamaica – closer to the end of the ride. Add in some frequency from metronorth/NJT and it just gets better. And a stop with a dwell time of a few minutes would make it easier to reverse out to Jamaica if you want to serve JFK.

Ryan January 14, 2014 - 4:07 am

Sunnyside would be built on the section of track where the NEC and Main Line are merged but before the track splits to serve Penn Station, LIC and ESA, which means that you can still make transfers between trains going to any of those destinations but that now people coming from CT heading to LI are transferring once (at Sunnyside) instead of twice (at New Rochelle and again at Jamaica), and you’re not wasting limited space on the most valuable half-mile of track in the Northeast with a gimmicky little shuttle train that offers riders nothing they don’t have already if Sunnyside actually exists.

I’m not sure if any of the proposals for Sunnyside include stub-ended siding tracks but making the (reasonable) assumption that they don’t, terminating trains there is going to be extremely inadvisable to outright impossible for all the same reasons that reverse-moves on a regular basis between Hell Gate and the Main Line are – trains that pull into Sunnyside from anywhere east/north/south/west of it are going to have to continue out of the station in the same general direction as they were traveling to begin with. So the three real terminal options for New Haven Line trains are therefore Grand Central, Penn Station, and Long Island City.

Trying to route Metro-North trains from the East Bronx/Hell Gate through ESA back into Grand Central is a crazy left-field proposition that is certainly not going to be happening unless and until the LIRR and MNRR are forcibly married into one singular railroad (so, never) – GCT’s out.

Penn Station Access is the very name of this project. There’s no question that 100% of the existing runs into GCT that get diverted over the Hell Gate are going into Penn Station, and probably most of the new runs that get created (if any) are also going to be runs into Penn Station. Frankly, the initial complaint by marv that led me to comment – that being, and I quote, “Penn Station and Grand Central are not the only destinations in the NY area,” is an awfully weak reason to want to be sending Penn Station Access trains to anywhere that isn’t Penn Station because, again, the existence of a Sunnyside station guarantees the ability for riders to transfer between commuter trains going in every direction and a reverse-move shuttle to a different major transfer station offers absolutely nothing over just running everything into Penn Station as is definitely the plan.

If for some reason, however, it is impossible to send 100% of the new rail services into Penn Station (say because the East River tunnels are maxed out, say because the available slots in Penn Station aren’t enough to handle all of the East Bronx demand), and a shuttle service becomes necessary to implement – then Long Island City is the logical place to terminate that shuttle service.

By going to Long Island City, you avoid having to reverse direction in Sunnyside, you avoid tying up tracks that we can’t afford to have tied up with terminated trains, you don’t reduce the capacity to transfer any (because everyone is transferring at Sunnyside), and – perhaps most importantly – you don’t have to cross the East River.

SEAN January 14, 2014 - 12:00 pm

Correction – trains that travel via Helgate don’t serve the East Bronx. The junction to the New Haven line is just west of New Rochelle station & is ajacent to I-95.

A stop in Sunnyside I find is esential to create transfer oppertunities. Not everyone is heading to Penn Station or Grand Central. Speaking for myself, I spend a fair amount of time in Queens & LI. It would be nice being able to take the train to say Sunnyside & switch to a direct train to where I’m going & avoid Penn, GCT & the subway all together. It would knock my commute by half. Not only that, getting to the land of the toll scandal would be just as easy.

Ryan January 14, 2014 - 6:26 pm

I’m pretty sure they do, because the Hell Gate Line is named for the Hell Gate Bridge which is adjacent to I-278 and the only way that trains going through East Bronx actually get to Sunnyside.

Sunnyside is absolutely essential. A shuttle from New Rochelle to Jamaica that wastes valuable train slots (and everybody’s time) by reversing direction and backing out of Sunnyside is just the opposite.

Alon Levy January 14, 2014 - 9:41 pm

Because of where Midtown jobs are and how capacity across the East River will be distributed after ESA opens, any scenario in which the East River tunnels are maxed is one in which the ESA tunnel is also maxed.

Ryan January 15, 2014 - 12:39 am

In that case, even more so, the only real option for a shuttle run terminal left on the table is Long Island City because any scenario in which both tunnels are maxed is a scenario in which there’s absolutely zero spare capacity for reverse moves from Hell Gate to Jamaica.

Frankly I’m not sure how much extra capacity there even is on the Hell Gate Line beyond the limit of the East River tunnels, so discussing options for what to do with Penn Station Access trains once the crossing is maxed out might be entirely academic anyway.

Assuming Amtrak increases the total number of BOS/NYP round-trips by 50% tomorrow morning, how many slots are actually left through the East River tunnels and how many slots are left on the Hell Gate Line?

Alon Levy January 15, 2014 - 8:53 pm

I think 6-8 tph through the East River Tunnels, many more than that on Hell Gate Bridge. Right now, there are eight passenger tracks merging into four, and after ESA there will be eight merging into six. The limiting factor, especially if there is no Astoria station, is capacity across the East River, and that is in reasonable supply.

But there is no reasonable scenario under which there’s no capacity for Metro-North after ESA opens. For the purposes of this discussion, “assholes in Long Island monopolize all capacity” does not count as a reasonable scenario. The LIRR is managing today with 37 tph across the East River, give or take. Amtrak has about 2 at rush hour. Capacity right now is 48, and after ESA opens it will be 72. If the LIRR thinks it needs all 70 non-Amtrak slots, bully for it.

Ryan January 15, 2014 - 11:36 pm

Amtrak is actually capped to two trains per hour over MNRR territory (because of political infighting) and also over the upper Providence Line in MA (ostensibly because it’s got way too much double track territory but probably also because of political infighting). One of these problems is correctable for $0 capital investment, the other one is not.

Crewing concerns and other cases of political hostage-taking further up the line in CT aside, there’s at least nine weekday round trips terminating in NYP that don’t appear to have any scheduling conflicts preventing full extensions to BOS – but long range planning I feel should assume that Amtrak wants 4 tph peak, because there’s clearly demand for it.

That leaves – if I understand your numbers correctly – 44 non-ESA East River crossing slots per hour not dedicated to Amtrak plus the 24 ESA slots opened up into Grand Central.

I’m assuming the LIRR intends to use all 24 of those slots starting from day 1, which leaves ~13 LIRR tph still utilizing the present East river tunnels into Penn Station, plus (because Long Island is greedy this way) let’s say an extra 11 LIRR future growth/expanded services tph – for 48 total LIRR peak tph across the river, 24 into each terminal, and leaving 20 peak tph left over for Metro-North Penn Station Access?

If that is the case, there’s absolutely no need to ever run Penn Station Access trains to anywhere other than Penn Station because even under the most aggressive service patterns I can imagine for this I don’t see 21+ peak tph into the East Bronx stations.

Alon Levy January 16, 2014 - 3:32 am

That is indeed the case. It’s actually impossible to run 20+ tph from Metro-North territory to Penn Station without diverting a huge amount of traffic away from Grand Central, because the quad-track New Haven Line can’t handle so many trains with so many different stopping patterns.

Assuming Amtrak decides to not just add trains but also run them at 21st-century speeds, the capacity is 6 tph for each of Amtrak and Penn Station Access. It’s possible to add more only if there’s extensive, and in my opinion unwarranted, quad-tracking in the Bronx. But even that may pose a problem of local trains, express Metro-North trains, and HSR sharing the same line for a long continuous segment. Best practice would be to make Penn Station Access trains local-only to Stamford or something, with timed transfers between express trains and local trains at New Rochelle, because the local trains do not ever need to share tracks with intercity trains. The express trains would only share tracks on a shorter segment, New Rochelle-Stamford with bypass segments in the middle that are required for high speed anyway.

Ryan January 16, 2014 - 4:02 pm

What I could see them implementing or at least attempting to implement is combined local/express service through the East Bronx; that gets dicey during peak hour but I think there’s probably enough room off-peak with a fourth track for 2 local-then-express tph from New Haven expressing to Sunnyside after Stamford plus 2 semi-express tph from New Haven expressing to Hunts Point after New Rochelle plus 2 local tph from Stamford or somewhere immediately east/north of it (South Norwalk?! New Canaan?!?!) and 2 more local tph from New Rochelle.

Two of those (probably the extra one of each of the two tph originating from New Haven – I don’t know if central CT is ready or willing for 8 tph between New Haven and Stamford, and maybe even 4 tph is pushing it figuring a 50/50 service split between GCT and Penn-bound trains) could be axed if 8 tph is too much when 4 of those 8 tph are running various degrees of express service.

I agree that the fourth track isn’t strictly necessary, nor is it technically necessary, but in this particular instance I am absolutely on board with installing it anyway – less because it might let Metro-North go crazy with varying levels/speeds of services and more because it provides us with additional redundancy in case of general/unspecified failure.

Nathanael January 17, 2014 - 12:13 am

The long-gone NY Westchester and Boston tracks leave room for extra tracks through a strategic segment in the Bronx, including Hunts Point….

marv January 14, 2014 - 9:57 am

Long Island City to New Rochelle does not make sense, as one can just take MetroNorth to Grand Central and then take the #7.

The question is: What is the “effective” travel time:
a) if you are already on a Penn Station(Grand Central??!!) bound LIRR at Jamaica (eliminating the waiting/boarding time): to be on a Ct bound MetroNorth train just north of New Rochelle
b)f you are on a JFK airtrain pulling into Jamaica: to be on a Ct bound MetroNorth train just north of New Rochelle

How would these times compare if there were direct links (express buses with/without priority lanes or rail) between the two.

What would be the costs of implementing each option?
How many users would there be?

Ryan January 14, 2014 - 6:37 pm

Except if they’re coming from any of the four new East Bronx Stations, which won’t be serving Grand Central under any but the most wildly unlikely of service patterns.

And again, the primary reason to send shuttles there is not because there’s some huge pent-up demand for one-seat rides between New Rochelle and LIC but because there IS a huge pent-up demand for rail access into and out of the East Bronx – and because sending trains to terminate in LIC is orders of magnitude simpler than trying to back trains into Jamaica would be.

This is all assuming that it’s somehow impossible to run shuttles between New Rochelle and Penn Station and yet required that shuttle service be implemented to adequately service the East Bronx stations. Sending Penn Station Access trains to anywhere that isn’t Penn Station – be it Jamaica, LIC, wherever – makes no sense unless every available slot for Penn-bound trains is occupied first.

Eric January 15, 2014 - 7:05 am

We can barely find the ridership to justify a line from East Bronx to GCT, a primary destination. There’s definitely not ridership to justify a line to a secondary destination like LIC.

Ryan January 15, 2014 - 1:16 pm

Only the boardings at the East Bronx stations actually matter in terms of ridership for running trains to LIC because the only reason we start running them there is once we run out of room in the East River crossings to accommodate additional East Bronx trains.

Even if the ridership for the LIC – Sunnyside portion of the run is exactly 0 passengers (and it won’t be) sending trains there is justifiable when sending them anywhere else is impossible.

Or would you rather service to the East Bronx stations be, say, half as frequent as it could have been if the low ridership secondary destination was served?

fkg January 14, 2014 - 1:04 am

What’s happening with Atlantic terminal after ESA? If Atlantic bound trains get rerouted to GC, how many slots does that leave at Penn for MNR to take over? Did Cuomo drop hudson line to penn because there aren’t enough slots to split with the new haven line? At peak is there room for even 5 tph?

RailPhilly January 14, 2014 - 9:51 am

My understanding would be that Atlantic Terminal would be served only by a shuttle from Jamaica. Which comes back to the idea that both LIRR and MNRR, like most commuter rail in the US, build their service for suburban 9 to 5 commuters, not for intra-metro mobility like an RER or S-Bahn

Rob January 14, 2014 - 8:58 pm

Did anyone answer your question about Cuomo dropping the Hudson Line to Penn? And there were supposed to be two west side stations north of Penn, at 59th and 125th.

I can’t believe Columbia University isn’t screaming for a west side train station adjacent to their new campus on 125th Street.

John-2 January 14, 2014 - 1:45 am

PM rush is likely the main concern of the MTA people when it comes to in-city fares. Bump it up too high, and you’re not going to get enough people on the trains in the morning or the afternoon to justify the cost of the new stations; set them too low and you could end up alienating your current MN and NH riders who after a day at the office will find at least the first 10-15 minutes of their ride is more likely to be as a standee, because there’s now too many riders getting off in the Bronx (and you don’t want to increase ridership in the Bronx at the expense of pushing annoyed riders from the suburbs back into their cars for the drive to and from the city).

JMB January 14, 2014 - 9:45 am

Good points. What about just buying extra trains or perhaps those double-deckers? Suburbanites sit on the upper level, city folk on lower level.

marv January 14, 2014 - 10:02 am

Yes, go with double deckers, with the lower level being standing room only with several doors per car to reduce station dwell time. Yes … for a short express run, people can stand (they do it all the time on the subway) especially since the price would be right.

The seat-less lower levels could also facilitate bicycles (especially non-rush hour)

Michael K January 14, 2014 - 9:56 am

It can be set up port Washington branch style

Marc January 14, 2014 - 8:41 am

I think having intra-city fares ($2.50) for the current central Bronx Metro North stations is a great idea. Am I too naïve into thinking that the normal Harlem Line (Wassaic bound) and the normal New Haven Line (New Haven bound) trains could run on the two express tracks from Melrose to Wakefield? This way the Bronx-bound Metro North trains could stop at the local stops and not interfere with upstate New York/Connecticut trains. Also, the new intra-city trains could finally provide central Bronx residents with a viable heavy rail option that was lost with the dismantling of the Third Ave elevated train in the 70s.

Roxie January 14, 2014 - 1:46 pm

I was thinking about this the other day. Maybe they could even just run regular subway service up on the local tracks to Wakefield station, then turn them, since most service doesn’t stop at the Bronx local stations. (In a world where the MTA puts their existing resources to the most use possible, this’d probably be the Bronx extension of the SAS, I think.) The only issues would be working out how to deal with Fordham station, since most MNR trains DO stop there, and building a place to turn trains at Wakefield without slowing down actual MNR service.

As for Fordham, I’d see about expanding the platforms into island platforms with a passing siding on each side for the subway service. Dunno what they’d do at Wakefield. (A tunnel with a balloon loop, a la City Hall, maybe?)

pete January 14, 2014 - 9:58 pm

That is irrelevant. Except for the upper middle class, nobody will pay once for Commuter Rail, then pay again for a subway on manhattan island. With a MC, your 30 minute bus reaches the subway, and all of manhattan is reachable by subway (since nobody would take a cross town bus on manhattan island anyway due to sluggishness). For poor people, they have more time than money. That is why the 2 south jamaica LIRR lines are completely unused by the locals. There was a proposal to extend the E train along one of them at one point and that would have “fixed” the fair problem. The actual Metro North fare prices are a formula. Here it is

2. The peak one-way fare to GCT is 18.17 cents per mile to GCT plus $5.45 additional for going to Harlem or GCT, but not to Fordham.


Ryan January 15, 2014 - 1:56 am

Discounted or free transfers for one-way travel between LIRR/MNRR and the buses/subways also solves the fare problem and doesn’t require a ridiculous amount of capital to be spent on reconfiguring infrastructure.

So does adding an unlimited ride MetroCard to any monthly passes that either originate or terminate at a station accessible by subway. Hell, disguise the next fare hike by throwing those deals into the package! You might get people actually supporting a global $56 fare hike on monthly passes originating or terminating in NYC if unlimited bus/subway for commuter rail passholders is attached to it.

anon January 15, 2014 - 2:10 am

Originating or terminating? Sounds like a real subsidy to the suburbs. Better off advocating a discount for passes originating and terminating in the city if you want a backdoor way to rationalize intra city fares.

Ryan January 15, 2014 - 4:11 am

It sounds like a subsidy to the suburbs because it is, and that’s the trade off for flushing huge volumes of intra-city travelers into a system that’s dealing with capacity crunches of its own and also oriented around the suburbs to begin with. As has been mentioned elsewhere in the comments, most of the peak commuter trains are already approaching crush loads and several of these lines are near or at their capacity to begin with. It’s not at all like these are empty trains to nowhere with plenty of room to grow in ridership.

This is not going to be a unilateral ‘the boroughs benefit, residents of the suburbs lose’ arrangement. There’s room to make the system as a whole work better and things like fare integration and redistributed local service patterns are how that happens.

But fare integration doesn’t at all mean that Metro-North and LIRR trains can’t or shouldn’t be treated like premium services, because they are. And it isn’t the Greatest Evil if it costs someone twice as much to take the Harlem Line out of Woodlawn instead of the 2. It is a problem when they pay three times as much and then pay again if they have to change to the subway, that’s why transfers between the subway and the MNRR/LIRR should be discounted. That’s rational. “Everyone pays $2.50 no matter where they’re going or how they’re getting there but the minute they cross City Limits on a commuter train, it’s $7.50 plus another $2.50 if it’s a peak train” is not rational.

There has to be a give and take here, and discounting the cost of unlimited subway travel in exchange for now requiring all commuters from the suburbs to pay for it (even if they never step foot on a subway or local bus) is absolutely a fair trade in light of the huge volumes of people coming into the system as a result of fare integration.

Making transfer off of LIRR/MNRR onto the subways free and discounting LIRR/MNRR one-way tickets by $2.50 for people coming off of the subways also makes sense and is in fact a de facto fare cut anyway.

Ryan January 15, 2014 - 2:01 am

The intra-city fare between Bronx stations on MNRR today is $3, not $2.50.

Matthew January 14, 2014 - 9:53 am

“There is, after all, a reason why as of the mid-2000s fewer than 1000 people per day used some of the Bronx’s Metro-North stations.”

Don’t you mean the mid-2010s?

If this is a statistic from 10 years ago, do you have the number for now? That seems ridiculously low.

tacony January 14, 2014 - 10:01 am

That’s “some” of the Bronx’s stations. Meaning the least-used stations. I don’t have numbers off-hand but the Fordham station has exploded, most of which is due to reverse commuting.

Alon Levy January 14, 2014 - 9:42 pm

The numbers I have are from 2006-7, and have practically no GCT-bound traffic at Fordham. It’s all reverse commuting.

AG January 15, 2014 - 3:36 pm

If I am not mistaken – no GCT bound passengers are accepted at Fordham (anytime I use it I hear the announcement)

Ryan January 15, 2014 - 3:40 pm

This is only true for the New Haven Line.

GCT-bound passengers must board the Harlem Line at Fordham.

AG January 15, 2014 - 11:16 pm

“GCT-bound passengers must board the Harlem Line at Fordham.”

Please clarify… which passengers?

Ryan January 16, 2014 - 1:07 am

Essentially, anyone who walks/rides/drives/bikes/whatever to Fordham station and wants to go to 125th or GCT is required to board inbound Harlem Line trains to do it. The New Haven Line is discharge-only inbound and receive-only outbound at Fordham due to – you guessed it – a ridiculous and byzantine contract inherited from before Metro-North came into being essentially declaring this to be The Way Things Are Done Here.

There’s no actual reason why this has to be the way of things and there hasn’t been since the MTA (via Metro-North) became the only organization operating over this particular railroad, but inertia mostly keeps the agreement between Metro-North and Metro-North intact.

It’s funny (by which I mean sad) all the little things in the day-to-day operations of the various transit brands within the metro region that pretty much boil down to “agreements or disagreements between the MTA, the MTA, and possibly also the MTA.”

(To summarize: if you’re on the platform at Fordham, you can get on the next Harlem Line train in either direction or the next New Haven Line train going outbound – but you can’t get on the next New Haven Line coming inbound.)

Bolwerk January 16, 2014 - 11:30 am

I thought the continuance of the New Haven stopping pattern was because CDOT doesn’t want to feel like it’s subsidizing transportation for a place full of out of state blacksNew York.

AG January 16, 2014 - 3:43 pm

Ok thanks – that was much more clear.

Alon Levy January 16, 2014 - 8:11 pm

But the New Haven Line is funded by both states…

AG January 15, 2014 - 3:44 pm

I believe GCT bound riders are forbidden at Fordham…they usually make the announcement anytime I have been on it

tacony January 14, 2014 - 10:00 am

The MTA treats Metro-North and the Long Island Rail Road as a limited, luxury service for suburbanites commuting during peak hours, with city residents largely excluded

Metro-North rolling stock is luxurious compared to the subway. If you’re standing on a packed subway car for an hour vs. a half hour Metro-North car for a half hour you know that. I’m not against the concept of Metro-North being the more expensive option for the comparable journey in length. It is a more expensive operation in every way.

Are there really no capacity issues during rush hour such that increasing service in the outer Boroughs wouldn’t degrade service between the ‘burbs and Manhattan in any way? I’m skeptical but I don’t know. The real value of Metro-North and LIRR is connecting Manhattan to the ‘burbs. The Outer Boroughs have their (sure, slow as hell) bus and subway options. So again I don’t necessarily disagree with the idea that the boroughs get the shaft over suburbanites when it comes to those rail systems. It shouldn’t be reduced to this insanely dumb us-vs-them pissing match as usual where city residents just want more and hate the fact that there’s a system that’s basically for going to and from the suburbs and if their commutes are longer ’cause most of the trains are stopping every 5 minutes in the Bronx then they be damned or whatever I’m sure lots of people would say… these rail systems make more sense for longer trips. The subway makes more sense for shorter trips.

marv January 14, 2014 - 10:14 am

Jamaica is a major hub for Queens serving thousand of Queens commuters per day.

If they can be placed on Penn Station and Grand Central bound LIRR trains at reasonable fares, you have:

*improved commutes (and removed drivers and express buses from the roads)

*you have effectively increased badly needed capacity on the the Queens Blvd IND

This is done without the capital cost or running time increases of additional stations.

anon_coward January 14, 2014 - 10:30 am

doesn’t the LIRR already run 2 trains per hour from forest hills to penn at night?

but yes, peak hours i think they should make the trains that run on the platform tracks stop at every local station

ad January 14, 2014 - 11:19 am

2 tph from forest hills to penn at night? during the week it’s 2:27 then 5:39. Leaving penn it’s worse at 1:01 then 5:47. Midday during the week service is hourly. Off peak during the week is worse than service on the weekends. Given the price, it probably only attracts people who are walking distance from penn.

anon_coward January 14, 2014 - 12:03 pm

maybe at zero dark thirty, but in the 7pm to midnight or so time frame its 2tph. i’ve taken the LIRR into penn at night on the weekends rather than drive in to work

ww8 January 14, 2014 - 11:52 am

Couldn’t agree more on the need to be more intelligent about intra-city fares, and there’s no reason that can’t start in 2014:

For example MTA could shift a goodly number of people off beyond-crush-capacity morning rush hour subways on Lexington Av to Metro-North trains with spare capacity by offering discounted train fare from Yankee Stadium and 125th Street down to Grand Central.

fkg January 14, 2014 - 11:59 am

How much spare capacity do rush hour metro north trains have? And if you do the same in the PM, and you make suburb commuters from way out stand on a crowded train the first 20-30 minutes, then some of them will start driving in to the city. Metronorth may not be available as a freebie to relieve crowding on Lex.

SEAN January 14, 2014 - 12:29 pm

They won’t start driving in to work. It’s a valed thret that rarely bears fruit once someone adds garage/ feul costs & time stuck behind the wheel in bumper to bumper traffic every day.

tacony January 14, 2014 - 12:58 pm

If they’re a 9 to 5 office worker around Grand Central and they commute from Bronxville, sure, they’re not driving. Metro-North serves them perfectly. But I know tons of people who have experimented with both transit and driving and given up on the former after frustration with far less ideal commutes.

The breaking point is often little stuff. Let’s say you work at NYU Langone Medical Center, which is far from GCT on the East River at the fringe of what might be described as “Midtown East,” and you receive maybe partially subsidized parking so it’s not going to break the bank, and you live somewhere in the ‘burbs north of the city where you can’t walk or easily take the bus to a train station. You’ve already got to drive to the station; why deal with the hassle of all the transfers and standing when you could just drive all the way? These are not unrealistic considerations for workers.

SEAN January 14, 2014 - 2:25 pm

First of all – what suburb are you refering in your example? Most of them north of the city have a train station within a 15-minute drive or less of most residents. I’ll give you Yorktown Heights, but that’s in the minority.

Second – truely how many people commute to the litteral northeast corner of Midtown? It cant be that large of a group.

Third – Is the parcially paid parking enough of an insentive to endure traffic every single day? I seriously doubt it. In adition you need to factor in the cost of feul & maint of the car wich eats away at the parking benefit received.

anon January 14, 2014 - 2:57 pm

I’ve known people in Eastern Queens, Nassau, and Suffolk who drive to midtown east, and a couple who worked downtown. They could drive to an LIRR stop instead. But then they’d have to deal with the subway. And well…there’s a reason they live in the suburbs. LIRR and metronorth move a lot of people. Turning off just a few percent of each and you might have an extra ten thousand cars driving to Manhattan. If 95% put up with any marginal inconvenience you come up with to better serve residents of the city proper, it still means a lot of new cars on the road.

anon_coward January 14, 2014 - 3:36 pm

LIRR doesn’t go to midtown east from queens
its penn station to the E or C and then some other train and walk. that’s why they drive

tacony January 14, 2014 - 12:36 pm

Nobody will take Metro-North from 125th to Grand Central. Even if the MTA encouraged it by honoring Metrocards on the trip, check the timetable: it doesn’t save you more than a minute tops. If you don’t work near GCT you’ll have to transfer back to the subway through packed GCT, negating whatever time you saved. Add the fact that the 1,000 other people getting off the train sludge a slow commuter’s march down the platform and through the crowded station and the trip is now going to be usually longer than even the most delayed 4/5. The trains are less frequent so you have to keep to a schedule instead of just running down and hopping on, and it’s not like you’ll get a seat–by the time Metro-North rush hour trains get to 125th they’re packed.

People have to think this through more clearly. The subway is far preferable for these kinds of trips. At Fordham Road it starts to make sense, but even there, the flexibility of all the different subway lines make Metro-North a losing option for most even if fares are equal.

AG January 14, 2014 - 1:54 pm

Even at 7 am – New Haven Line trains are standing room by the time they get to lower Westchester… I’m not sure about the “spare capacity” idea.

Rob January 14, 2014 - 4:29 pm

“monthly for MNR service only is nearly twice as much as a 30-day MetroCard; fewer than 1000 people per day used some of the Bronx’s Metro-North stations.”

how many people from those areas drove into Manhattan? and paid how much for parking? not everybody there is poor. or unwilling to spend for a nicer service.

AG January 15, 2014 - 11:21 am

On the Harlem line a lot of ppl use the Woodlawn station to/fro GCT. Well during rush hour… Many live in the Bronx neighborhood of the same name – but some also live I southern Yonkers

Rob January 15, 2014 - 10:05 pm

Sorry to repost this question, but it didn’t get answered and I’m sure this is a board where somone knows the answer.

Did Cuomo and the MTA the drop Hudson Line MetroNorth access to Penn Station? And there were supposed to be two west side stations north of Penn, at 59th and 125th, that were to be served by the Hudson Line as well.

I can’t believe Columbia University isn’t screaming for a west side train station adjacent to their new campus on 125th Street.

Thanks in advance for help with this.

Alon Levy January 16, 2014 - 3:36 am

I don’t know if they formally dropped it, but they’re not mentioning it as part of the plan. Hudson Line Penn Station access is a bit harder to implement than NEC service because it requires dealing with the electric systems (and also electrifying the short gap between Penn and Spuyten Duyvil).

Ryan January 16, 2014 - 4:16 pm

This is going to be pretty far out there as far as suggestions go, but the Empire Corridor is far overdue for electrification anyway.

Why not piggyback Hudson Line access off of that, just shut the third rail off entirely, and paint some of the M8s green?

AG January 16, 2014 - 5:56 pm

very overdue… but i guess it all goes according to the money. I think 500 million is being spend to upgrade the Empire Corridor – but I’m not sure if any money is going towards that…

I think the Connecticut DOT just finally approved funding for more M8’s… they were the ones holding it up.

Nathanael January 17, 2014 - 12:20 am

No money is going to electrification at this time. 🙁

The Empire Corridor needed complete resignalling from Poughkeepsie to Schenectady (“Hoffmans” actually), and double-tracking from Albany to Schenectady (again, actually “Hoffmans”), plus a new platform in Albany (and junction rearrangement), and a new station in Schenectady. This is eating up most of the funding.

Some of the rest is going to flood prevention, some went to stabilize rock cuts, some went to fix the Sputen Duyvil bridge, etc.

But yeah, the corridor needs to be electrified with overhead, from Penn Station to Albany at least, and it needs to be done a long time ago.

AG January 16, 2014 - 12:54 pm

I think there are issues with the amtrak bridge that may have pushed the price too high for now


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