Home Bronx Links: MetroCard money, an extended 3 train and SI countdown clocks

Links: MetroCard money, an extended 3 train and SI countdown clocks

by Benjamin Kabak

I’ve been sitting on a bunch of open tabs for a little while and thought it would be a good idea to get around to sharing these. These are stories I found interesting or newsworthy but just haven’t had an opportunity to post here.

$500 million from unused MetroCards

I’ve talked a bit about the MTA’s new green fee and the money realized from unused MetroCards, and a recent piece in The Times put those dollars into context. Throughout the first decade of the 21st century, the MTA collected half a billion dollars from unused fares. Since straphangers have to pre-pay for MetroCards, dollars that are left on the cards long after their expiration dates remain with the MTA, and on an annual basis, the money is a small, but important, part of the agency’s annual budget.

Unused fares isn’t something that’s come about because of the MetroCard era. Back in the day, New Yorkers would buy tokens and never use them. They would get lost, get forgotten, get overlooked, and the MTA could collect those fares. But today with uneven bonuses that make the math of a free fare more difficult, more dollars are left on cards that expire, and the $1 fee for new MetroCards means revenue as well.

As the MTA phases out the MetroCard — the topic of my March 19 Problem Solvers session — these unused fares may diminish a bit. The next system may well be a pay-as-you-go set-up that doesn’t focus around any proprietary fare collection system. While the MTA will lose the money from unused fares, it will also drastically reduce the amount it has to spend to collect fares. That’s a win for the customers, and a win for the transit agency as well.

Send the 3 to the Bronx

As New York City subways go, the 3 train runs an odd route. It stretches deep into Brooklyn but then stops short of anything in Manhattan. It terminates at 148th St. near the Lenox Yard and goes no further north. In a piece at Welcome2TheBronx, Richard Garey argues for extending the train to the Bronx. With the need for some cross-Bronx subway service and the incoming soccer facility near Yankee Stadium, the time may be right to look at some subway extension options.

Garey’s post focuses on the 3 train as a way to serve neighborhoods that once enjoyed streetcar service and now don’t, but I think he has the routing wrong. The 3 shouldn’t end up as another north-south route in the Bronx but could instead cut across the borough, serving areas that don’t have good cross-Bronx transit options while boosting subway service. It is, after all, a fast ride downtown on the IRT express. Without a massive infusion of cash, we’re just dreaming, but it’s an intriguing proposition after all.

Unhappiness at 149th Street

For years, I’ve been using the 149th Street-Grand Concourse subway stop as a transfer point on the way to Yankee Stadium, and for years, it has been one disgusting station. The walls were marred by leaking pipes, and on the way home from a World Series game in 2001, my sister and I saw squirrel-sized rats on the uptown 2/5 platform. It was very, very unpleasant.

Recently, the station underwent a renovation, but a few area residents are unhappy. One transit buff took a video tour of the station post-renovation and discovered some subpar work. Meanwhile, another group of residents wants to restore elevator service that was shuttered 40 years ago. As best as I can tell, the elevator in question went from the 2/5 platform to street level. The MTA has no money, and protestors hope Mayor de Blasio can help out. I wouldn’t hold me breath.

Countdown clocks for the SIR

Thanks to an infusion of funds from Council member Vincent Ignizio, four stations along the Staten Island Railway — Great Kills, Eltingville, Annadale and Huguenot — now have countdown clocks. The work is part of a $675,000 initiative funded by Ignizio’s office that will eventually include a Subway Time component that will add these SIR stations to the MTA’s tracking app. For now, the information is available on the St. George-bound side, but Tottenville-bound service will have its time in the sun as well. If you pay for it, it will come.

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Nyland8 January 24, 2014 - 12:29 am

So … where’d the extended 3 train go ??

Benjamin Kabak January 24, 2014 - 12:34 am

It’s there now! I left it out originally.

Frank B. January 24, 2014 - 12:45 am

About time that the SIR gets some countdown clocks. That thing has the worst headways in the system. I honestly think if they just ran the line more often, like every 10 minutes like the rest of the line, they actually might see decent ridership; it’s practically useless now.

They should pilot whatever will replace the Metrocard on the SIR, since they’ll be putting in turnstiles at every SIR station when the Metrocard gets replaced anyway; no more free rides.

At least the SIR gets Subway Time. When on earth is Queens, the biggest borough with somehow less than 80 subway stations, going to get BusTime?

Kai B January 24, 2014 - 1:28 pm

At least the SIR gets Subway Time. When on earth is Queens, the biggest borough with somehow less than 80 subway stations, going to get BusTime?

Sooner than its subway lines getting SubwayTime…

Although, as I commented on a previous post on the 7-Train, I don’t buy the whole having to wait for CBTC to get countdown clocks. The test at Junction Blvd. seems to prove me right…

John-2 January 24, 2014 - 3:42 am

Looking at the story on the 3 train, it seems as if the focus is not so much on extending the line east as part of some cross-Bronx service, but a new north/south line to serve the area between Jerome and the Harlem River. If that’s the case, they’d probably be better off just leaving the 3 at 148th-Lennox and replacing the Jerome el between Kingsbridge Road and Yankee Stadium with an underground line running along University and Grant Highway, since I don’t think there would be the volume for a 3, 4 and D/B trains running north/south on three streets between Kingsbridge and 161st.

Guest December 16, 2014 - 4:34 am

There’s definitely potential ridership. The area is increasingly becoming dense and those lines are at capacity during rush hours.

However, I think a better plan for the Harlem River corridor is to open a station along the Metro North in Highbridge at Depot Pl and reduce inner-city fares. Already perfectly good stations Yankee Stadium-153rd St, Morris Heights and University Heights.

I would run the 3 train across E 161st Street in the Bronx, E 163rd east of Washington Ave, slight down Hunts Point Ave before making another eastern turn on Lafayette Ave, pressing east into Throgs Neck to terminate.

john T January 24, 2014 - 8:27 am

Good luck extending the #3 to anywhere! Simple & cheap el extensions are impossible these days – #6 to Co-op City, #1 north, N to LGA – anything involving tunnelling is a fantasy!

Richard Garey January 24, 2014 - 3:49 pm

It was not so long ago that Roosevelt Island was the recipient of a new tunnel and station.

tok January 24, 2014 - 5:04 pm

And only 20 years after construction started! And only 12 more years after that before it went to queens.

ajedrez January 25, 2014 - 12:57 pm

Technically, 21st Street/Queensbridge is in Queens, though I know what you mean (it wasn’t connected to the QBL for another 12 years).

Tower18 January 24, 2014 - 8:49 am

He makes interesting points about that part of the Bronx, but I think an extended subway of any kind doesn’t make much sense. The neighborhood is too narrow to fit a subway in the middle, and it’s rarely a good idea to build lines on either edge of their catchment area (in this case, along the river).

However, luckily, there is ALREADY a transit line along the river: Metro-North. People who don’t want to walk uphill could walk downhill, if only they’d build maybe one more station, and rationalize the fare structure. Problem solved with no new ROW construction.

There are plenty of neighborhoods in the Bronx needing transit expansion, but I don’t think this one is where you focus.

JimD January 24, 2014 - 9:39 am

Mr. Garey’s nostalgia for the olden days of Bronx streetcars conveniently overlooks the fact that those car lines were not like today’s fast light-rail services but were slow plodders that stopped on every block – the same as today’s buses.

Eric F January 24, 2014 - 1:54 pm

Article in today’s local WSJ section concerning east side access. They are now indicating delays to at least 2021 and a budget of over $10 billion. I’m curious as to whether the plug may be pulled on this project.

Benjamin Kabak January 24, 2014 - 1:56 pm

I’m minutes away from publishing a post on it. The short of it is that too much work has been done and too many dollars sunk into it to pull the plug. It’s a mess.

Eric F January 24, 2014 - 3:03 pm

Ah, great minds think alike.

Bolwerk January 24, 2014 - 2:13 pm

FWIW, my hunch is canceling it doesn’t even make financial sense. Past cost is sunk, so we don’t worry about that no matter how badly executed it was. The outcome of whatever future cost is left to finish is probably worth more than stopping.

But, if that’s wrong, can you really see the political will being there? The above is a little bit like evaluating your next coin flip without resorting to gambler’s fallacy, but maybe the public would resort to gambler’s fallacy either way.

Bill Reese January 24, 2014 - 7:43 pm

Ben, I know you’re a big Yankees fan, but before you buy into the hype of the Yankees-owned MLS soccer team beginning play in 2015, you should come see a New York Red Bulls game at their stadium in Harrison, NJ off the PATH train. I’m a fan of teams in all four major sports leagues, but there is nothing that compares to sitting in the South Ward at Red Bull Arena with the Empire Supporters Club. There are a couple of transit geeks among us who’d be happy to buy you a beer pre-game.

capt subway January 24, 2014 - 10:58 pm

As regards an extension of the #3 – interesting historical note. In the late 1930s they knew the 9th Ave el would be coming down. Only the segment between 155/8 & 167/River (Jerome line) lasted as a shuttle until 1958. Anyhow it had been proposed in the late ’30s (see Joe Raskin’s book “The Routes Not Taken”) to extend the Lenox line from its terminal (at the time) at 145/Lenox through the Lenox Yard then up a ramp on the existing 9th Ave el structure around 148/8 Ave and on into the Bronx and the Jerome line.

The beauty of this proposal would have been, aside from much improved connectivity and more choices for Bx Jerome line riders, wonderful redundancy for all the IRT express lines: 2, 3, 4 & 5. At present the 2 & 5 can flip/flop between the East Side & West Side for planned and/or emergency reroutes. Not so the 3 & 4. If only the Lenox/9th Ave el connection had been realized.

NewYorkGuy718 January 25, 2014 - 4:28 am

#3 into the Bronx? No.

Metro North Station in Highbridge (at West 167th Street and the MDE), Yes. That would eliminate that one gap that exist which is topographically isolated Highbrige.

Any subway extensions into the Bronx should replace the Third Ave El and/or run East across Lafayette Avenue and terminate in Throgs Neck.

johndmuller January 26, 2014 - 10:00 pm

There seems to be the notion that MN is going to take in all these extra riders from the eastern Bronx to Penn, or points in between. LIRR riders say, “Whoa…we haven’t given up those slots and there is no room in NYP”.

Well what do you suppose MN riders are going to say to running subway-like service into GCT on the Hudson and/or Harlem lines? GCT is also supposedly getting full during rush hour, so where’s the sense in filling up the line with short haul local NYC customers? (Some would also say at a reduced price.) Equity maybe, sense no.

Conceivably one could run short haul trains along the Hudson and western Bronx to somewhere else (148 St? Harlem anyone?), but over the Park Ave Bridge seems not to be one of those places. The other end is not obvious either, unless it went all the way to Croton or some other terminus were created at that end too. There might be something left of where the Putnam division forked off the main line where a terminal could be located (could also transfer to the #1 line there too).


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