Home View from Underground For MTA commission, it’s reinvention vs. reiteration

For MTA commission, it’s reinvention vs. reiteration

by Benjamin Kabak

Under other circumstances, last week would have been a big one for the long-term future of the MTA. For three days, the MTA Reinvention Commission paraded a series of bold-faced transit names through the MTA offices as it fielded suggestions concerning the future of transit. Eventually, it will develop action items aimed at considering and responding to “changes in customer expectations, commuting trends and extreme weather patterns” while focusing on future capital plans. Of course, the LIRR negotiations stole the show, but the Reinvention Commission’s work isn’t done.

As I could, I followed along with the commission’s happenings. I couldn’t attend the meeting, but various transit reporters and other news websites covered the happenings. As you can see from the three-hour video above, the MTA recorded (and streamed) the proceedings, and at times, I wasn’t overly impressed with what I saw. You can, if you wish, watch nearly all the sessions on YouTube.

Early on, the meetings delved into a policy discussion on affordable housing, and many of the subsequent comments concerned fairly obvious initiatives that aren’t so much about reinvention as they are about forward progress. We know the MTA hasn’t been able to move quickly on a MetroCard replacement program, and we know the costs of maintaining the current fare payment system will balloon in five years. That’s old news.

In a way, one set of testimony sums up the need for reinvention and the problem with last week’s commission hearings. It came from REBNY, and as Dana Rubinstein previewed last week, it focused again around the idea to send the 7 line to Secaucus. The idea, seemingly born on the back of a cocktail napkin by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, involves an ambitious plan to send the subway beyond New York’s border to a densely populated area of New Jersey.

“It has been more than 100 years since we have built a rail connection under the Hudson River,” outgoing REBNY head Steven Spinola said. “Since then, the city’s population has almost doubled and the population of the counties west of the Hudson has tripled. More significantly, almost a third of the city’s workforce is comprised of suburban workers, with a growing share coming from New Jersey.”

As always, the MTA expressed lukewarm but noted that “the Transportation Reinvention Commission exists to consider a wide variety of ideas from a wide variety of stakeholders.” The real issue though remains costs. To reinvent the MTA involves asking tough questions about why every construction project costs so much and can’t wrap on time. Once those hard issues are resolved, the MTA can focus more on expansion, improvement and reinvention.

In a related vein, last week for The Atlantic’s City Lab site, I focused on the Second Ave. Subway and wrote about the MTA’s need to build and need to control costs. The two are at loggerheads right now with no real solution in sight. I’ve written about the need to think big on this site before, and here’s a selection from my piece:

At $2.23 billion per mile, the Second Avenue subway is orders of magnitude more expensive than similar projects across the world. At various times, MTA officials have blamed the exceedingly high price tag on overstaffing due to onerous union requirements, the environmental review process, NIMBY opposition, the cost of working in New York, and the number of eligible contractors. The dollars present a major impediment to the future of the Second Avenue subway and to citywide transit expansion at large. Few politicians will fund projects that outlast their terms and cost so much money.

Meanwhile, New York faces a capacity problem. The city is expected to add one million residents over the next few decades, and river crossings—a key barrier separating where people live from where they work—are increasingly nearing capacity. Economically, the city can’t support construction that costs more than $2 billion per mile and takes a decade to build out a mere two of them. And New Yorkers are facing a future where political inaction could prevent badly needed subway expansion projects from seeing the light of day…Only subway lines can sustain New York’s projected growth, but New York can’t sustain multi-billion-dollar subway lines.

I don’t have the answers; if I did, I could head up the Reinvention Commission. But that issue — the cost vs. the need — should be the primary focus of any effort to reform the MTA. We can’t build subway lines that cost a few billion per mile, and we can’t move enough people through half-hearted Select Bus Service lines. Hopefully, the reinvention commission can look beyond the reiterative interest group politics at play and find some way to reform the MTA.

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Bolwerk July 23, 2014 - 12:51 am

Well, maybe some of the bleating on blogs about costs is catching on in the MSM. Here’s to hoping!

I don’t like how the committee has so many of the usual suspects. The only representation from outside the English-speaking world seems to be Enrique Penalosa, who once compared subways to highways. Toronto and London have decent-ish transit, but they’re probably the first world cities that exhibit New York-like problems with regard to funding and planning. I don’t think RPA means so badly, but did they ever really have a good grip on costs? And Straphangers seems borderline hostile to reform.

John-2 July 23, 2014 - 1:48 am

Kevin Walsh’s Forgotten New York website has a piece up this week about the Greenwich Village/SoHo area that includes mention of the huge scars torn through the neighborhood when Seventh Avenue South was pushed through from 11th Street to hook up with Varick for the 1/2/3 trains, and the extension of Sixth Avenue south of Third Street, so the A/C/E could reach Church Street south of Canal. All that happened over a 15-year period a century ago and its virtually inconceivable anything like that could happen again even in the outer boroughs, let alone Manhattan. But on the other hand, it’s hard to imagine the area today without those streets connecting Midtown and Downtown, both for the subways below and the traffic and pedestrians above.

Today, you can’t even do cut-and-cover after the fabled Battle of Heckscher Playground in the early 1970s, let alone carve out a six-lane street for a four-track subway line. Which is a large part of the problem — the methods and actions that helped spur the vast subway expansion from 1900 to 1940 have been tightened more and more in the ensuing years, to where any MTA project has to survive a minefield of cost-heightening obstacles, and fewer and fewer people are willing to endure short-term pain for long-term benefits.

That doesn’t mean you have to go back to the days of streetcars or buildings falling into subway excavations or a total abandonment of safety rules for workers. But as long as there’s no collective public groundswell for major subway expansion, to the point it drowns out the NIMBY crowd or others who delay the process, it’s going to be easier for the MTA to move at a snail-like pace with higher costs, because it will give them less grief from any project’s passionate opponents (we’ll see over the next decade if Hudson Yards, Phase I of SAS and East Side Access rekindle any major public support for continued expansion, or if they look at the costs involved and the benefits and simply say it’s not worth it).

Larry Littlefield July 23, 2014 - 10:32 am

Were it not for NIMBYS and inflated costs, it would be possible to hook up the former LIRR tracks to the Rockaways to the Queens Boulevard line, and provide service direct to both Midtown and Downtown from that area of Queens, Howard Beach, Richmond Hill and Woodhaven, not to mention new stops at Rego Park/Glendale.

SEAN July 23, 2014 - 3:01 pm

At some point public officials will need to grow a spine & tell “nimby’s” we’re doing this anyway & shut up.

Larry Littlefield July 23, 2014 - 3:37 pm

Most NY state legislators owe their job to one thing: only special interests show up and vote for that office (and, more generally, for any office except President).

They don’t want to do anything that might cause anyone else to show up.

Christopher July 30, 2014 - 1:18 am

It’s interesting that in SF despite it’s very powerful NIMBY culture, the scars of the BART that have only just begun to recover after 35 years, and the extensive regulation on environmental quality reports is still able to build their new subway line with cut and cover. And yet, there it is. Not an extensive line, but the entire schedule of the line, plus expanded light rail, and a whole new intercity bus terminal (with room for an extended rail line) is all being built in the same time we’ve managed to start a few subway stations. (And SF is the slow one, LA builds things much faster as LA tends to be a lot more top-down.) Something is incredibly broken here.

Alex July 23, 2014 - 2:13 am

It’s really disturbing to keep hearing about this stupid 7 train extension to NJ being talked about even semi-seriously. The absolute top priority for building a new Hudson River tunnel needs to be to Penn Station. Anything else would be foolish given the state of the existing tubes. But given how billions are being spent to build a completely unnecessary deep cavern station under GCT and how close we were to something similar being built under Penn (thank you, Gov Christie…?) it’s not inconceivable that such a massive blunder is possible.

Nyland8 July 23, 2014 - 7:03 am

From the standpoint of our western neighbor, the highest function of Penn Station is to absorb an influx of morning Jersey commuters – from which they then redistribute themselves across the Manhattan subway trunk lines. That commuting paradigm might have served us well for the last 100 years, but it isn’t the solution to our problems today.

That redistribution of humanity is best served by sending a cross-town subway to Lautenberg. Whether it turns out to be the 7, or the L, or some other as-yet unimagined subway, it is still a far better, far cheaper solution than building another ridiculously deep monstrosity – the equivalent of Trump Tower laid on its side – under Penn Station. Not only the building costs, but the maintenance costs over time should preclude any such idea, and we need look no further than the delays and cost overruns associated with ESA for all the proof we need.

I opposed Christie’s unilateral abortion of the already well-developed ARC project – only on the grounds that it was so far along in things like environmental review and federal and state funding. But we all know exactly where the overwhelming preponderance of New Jersey commuters go once they reach Penn Station – and they do NOT walk to work from there. They head for the 1,2,3 Lines, they head for the A,C,E Lines, and a tsunami of them cross 7th Ave with every changing traffic light to head over to Herald Square to climb aboard the N,Q,R,B,D,F,M Lines. That’s what they do. Every weekday morning.

So any thinking person must ask themselves, “What is the most efficient way to redistribute them across the Manhattan trunk lines?”. And the answer will always be: Run a cross-town subway to Secaucus.

The solution to Penn Station’s problems isn’t to make it bigger. The solution is to reduce the necessity to pump people into and out of it. No single project would do that better, and serve New York better, than to have 80% of those western commuters bypass Penn Station altogether.

Brandon July 23, 2014 - 9:47 am

These are all good points. The reason the 7 is such a good train for this (as opposed to the L) is that it would bring a lot more people directly to their jobs, as well as allowing more regional commute options like NJ to LIC. It could actually be a boon to NYC if it allows that secondary office cluster to develop further. Then we just have to figure out how to connect the G train to other lines so that NYC commuters can get there….

Brandon July 23, 2014 - 9:51 am

I wish you could edit comments. Something to add is that this need to either go to East Midtown or connect better regionally from suburb to suburb (or secondary downtown such as LIC, Downtown BK, or JC) is one of the reasons that ARC should not have been built with the selected alternative.

Jon July 23, 2014 - 10:49 am

One of the major reasons to build the gateway tunnels (The new Amtrak tunnels into Penn) is also because the North River Tunnels are very close to the end of their useful lives. Building gateway will allow Amtrak to fully rebuild/renovate the old tunnels.

fiona July 23, 2014 - 1:15 pm

As long as you have an alternate way for Jersey commuters to get to Manhattan then you can shut down the existing tunnels for repair one at a time without it being a disaster. ARC didn’t go to Penn (would have had to diverge under the Hudson, they didn’t want the mess of disturbing all the contaminants on the bottom), but NJTransit could have sent most of their trains there, a few to Penn, with AMTRAK taking the rest of the slots from just one tunnel and it would have been fine. Existing tunnels carried 21k people 8-9am, after dumping people onto other subway lines the 7 took 19.5k. It would mean a transfer at Secaucus for most NJTransit riders, but they could still get to Manhattan.

sonicboy678 July 23, 2014 - 4:07 pm

You missed the point. People take trains from places west of Penn Station in on NJT and Amtrak. As much as NJT may not be able to afford the lost capacity, it is ultimately not of NJT concern. Amtrak controls Penn Station, so those tunnels closing will hurt Amtrak first and foremost. The only way that can be circumvented is to have two open tunnels so any operators using Penn Station from New Jersey will be able to have decent rail access between Manhattan and most of the rest of the United States. With capacity and equipment constraints on both the 7 and L, it would take miracles for NJ extensions to work properly for both routes. Moreover, that may actually prove to be detrimental to many other Manhattan trunk lines, especially if one particular station on a crossing trunk line is only served by local trains which are already experiencing massive problems with existing transfers.

fiona July 23, 2014 - 8:50 pm

Amtrak said they could shut the tunnels down one at a time for rehab, wouldn’t have to be both at once. Amtrak controls them, they don’t need an entire single tracked tunnel for themselves, they would get by fine, NJTransit would lose most slots at Penn.

If the 7 goes to Secaucus then NJTransit riders could transfer there.

Instead of overloading the ACE123 at 34th, you distribute the load at Times Square, 5th Avenue, and Grand Central. How is that worse? Possibly an extra transfer for NJ riders, but not horrible.

Equipment constraints? By the time an extension is built they could get more cars, so why would that be an issue?

sonicboy678 July 24, 2014 - 1:26 am

To reiterate: both tunnels must be closed and must have replacements ready for use to circumvent severe inaccessibility to/from Penn Station. Since Amtrak controls the tunnels and Penn Station itself, it would be most detrimental to Amtrak first and foremost. Capacity in general is an issue that should never be taken lightly.

Having the 7 go to Secaucus would require more trains just to handle the increased loads that may rise faster than you think. Sure, the distribution may seem to be more even, but then all that’s being done is a massive problem shift. There’s already plenty of people that use the complexes along 42nd Street and this plan could end up adding far more than is practical to almost every one of them (IRT services are practically hopeless on the matter and the closest to having a decent number of available slots are 6th Avenue services).

Okay, since you claim equipment constraints are a non-issue, let me tell you something. Even with CBTC, Flushing only has so many places where trains can be stored and Corona Yard isn’t hammerspace. Why would I bring up space constraints? Because car orders and displacements should not exceed available storage space. Not to mention adding to either the total amount of space or total rolling stock available costs money (and this isn’t even talking about doing both at once). The L is even worse off on this point, as equipment is scarce and storage space is, in some ways, even more limited. As bad as that is, it’s only worse when you factor in train frequencies. The room for more trains hardly exists and extending either to NJ may even result in a situation similar to Lexington Avenue’s, where poor alternatives continue to draw more people to the cheaper, faster option, thereby slowing that down and pushing the services to their limits (if not already there).

Nyland8 July 24, 2014 - 4:18 am

Train storage is a non-issue, sonicboy. There is no space constraint in Secaucus. It would be easier to build a yard for a dozen trains there then perhaps anyplace in the four boroughs. And since all we’re talking about is the addition of 2 – 4 stops to either line, a dozen trains will be more than sufficient – even in some future world where we run 2 minute headways at peak time. No … the fact is, in terms of yard capacity, running out to Lautenberg would HELP either line …

… especially the L, which has almost zero storage at its westernmost reach. Not only that, in the case of the L, which has no tail tracks, it would mean inbound riders from Brooklyn to 8th Ave, would be guaranteed a much faster trip, because 1) trains could finally enter that station at speed, and 2) they’d never have to wait for an open slot to pull in. This is especially helpful at a time when growing ridership on the L has far overrun its projections. And the reverse commute has little or no impact negative impact on that ridership.

Also, with wider trains, wider platforms, and a future connection to the SAS – something the 7 line may never have – the L Line is a better candidate for a link to Lautenberg. Any advantage the 7 might have once had was lost when the TBM was demobilized.

Mike July 24, 2014 - 2:42 pm

But wouldn’t the 7 still have the advantage of being in the center of Midtown Manhattan and being better positioned to relieve auto and bus traffic in the Lincoln Tunnel and on 42nd St? It’s true that the L has wider trains than those on the 7, but the 7’s trains are longer (561 ft for an 11-car train of 51-foot R188 cars vs 480 ft for an 8-car train of 60-foot R143 cars).

Nyland8 July 24, 2014 - 7:36 pm

Have I oversimplified my preference for the L Line link to Lautenberg?

Well … it wouldn’t seem to have any impact on the Lincoln Tunnel or 42nd Street at all. Nobody who is already willing and able to use the subway system is going to suddenly opt for driving and paying for parking if their best means if ingress is 14th St. All the Bergen, Passaic, Orange and Rockland County train riders ALREADY have to change at Secaucus – and the rest of NJT trains have access. The L is just a more efficient way to hit the Manhattan trunk lines than scrambling out of NYPenn. And while there IS a plan for the SAS to have a stop at 42nd Street, there is NO plan to interrupt the 7 Line with another station at that intersection. But the eastern reach of the 3rd Ave station on the L Line WILL connect with the SAS! So east side access is better on the L than it is on the 7.

And it isn’t just train width, it’s platform width. There is at least one, and perhaps two center-platform 7 Line stations that would become nightmarish if an eastbound 7 arrived to unload at the same time a westbound 7 arrived in the morning rush. The platforms themselves couldn’t accommodate the crush of humanity. This would not be an issue anywhere on the existing L Line – which, by the way, has been CBTC ready since April 2012, and Opto ready since June 2005.

Moreover, an enormous number of people go south from Penn Station. Just spend some time on the 1,2,3 and A,C,E platforms at 34th St during either rush hour. Midtown is NOT the only destination, and all those southbound commuters gain a station with an L Line connection.

I used to work stumbling distance from NYPenn, and during my evening commute northward, whenever a northbound 2,3, or A (I could take either) arrived in the evening rush, you would have to run for cover. The angst of the hordes racing to make their NJT or LIRR train was palpable.

From an engineering standpoint, there may be some advantages to making the cross-Hudson jump from 14th Street in Manhattan to 9th Street in Hoboken, because 9th and Congress has an HBLR station there. If we’re already going all the way to Secaucus, we had better pick up the HBLR somewhere.

Of course, other arguments, both pro and con, can be made – as people will do. But viewed objectively, there’s a lot of compelling reasons to run the L Line cross-Hudson. It’s 14th Street terminal is an abysmal way to end what has become a major Brooklyn artery into Manhattan.

Nevertheless, I’m not married to either plan – only to the idea that a cross-town subway should go to Lautenberg. If I had billions to throw away, I might run a subway from the Howard Beach JFK station northward along the unused LIRR corridor, up along the east side of the Newtown Creek, jump the creek at Greenpoint Ave, pick up the G Line at that station before proceeding across the East River and along 23rd Street – and straight across to Secaucus from there. A subway from Lautenberg has such rewards, it would be worth it even if the cross-town train only hit the Manhattan trunks on local stops.

fiona July 24, 2014 - 1:05 pm

But do the tunnels have to be closed at the same time?


Says one tunnel is more than Amtrak would use. So their intercity trains wouldn’t be affected if you shut the tunnels down one at a time. Sure Amtrak would lose out on fees than NJTransit pays, but that doesn’t seem the right part to focus on.

The 7 carries almost as many people into Manhattan from Queens as the Amtrak tunnels carry from NJ, but that’s after dumping people onto other lines right before entering Manhattan. Carrying NJ people isn’t why you’d want to up 7 frequencies once the signaling allows it. The L carried a bit less than the 7 in 2012. If you need more train storage space you would build another yard in Secaucus. With the L you might have fewer people who don’t need a second subway, but you’d be connecting to less congested points, so it might be better. As far as I know if you fix the 8th avenue issue you’d be able to up frequency significantly on the line. Put a yard in Secaucus and buy new trains (much cheaper than the tunnel) and Brooklyn riders could benefit from higher frequencies.

Price it the same as NJTransit from Secaucus to Penn once the tunnel rehab is done and you don’t have the issue of crowding on the cheaper line.

Adding to the influx of commuters from the PABT on 42nd is a good point, in the short term if a hudson tube was shut down and the only other option was the 7 to Secaucus then sending some buses downtown or to the east side might be necessary to control crowding. Probably worth doing anyway, just requires the city to cooperate.

My point is that there are two things to focus on in expanding trans hudson travel capacity. Short term, dealing with the Amtrak tube shutdown of two years or so, and long term, the decades after that. All the problems with using the 7 to deal with the short term issue seem manageable. Long term, I don’t know that it would be ideal, but options seem minimal.

Nathanael July 26, 2014 - 8:14 pm

“As long as you have an alternate way for Jersey commuters to get to Manhattan then you can shut down the existing tunnels for repair one at a time without it being a disaster.”

No, you can’t. It would cause problems with scheduling as far out as DC. And you know the politicos would like their Acelas to run on time.

More to the point, with one tunnel, Amtrak would probably keep the Acelas and NE Regionals running… but the ENTIRE NJ Transit rail network would pretty much be kicked out. You can’t even get that many people on and off of the existing platforms at Secaucus, let alone loading all of that onto a single IRT-gauge subway line. Think about the way the PATH terminal is laid out at WTC for an idea of the minimum scale you’d need for your #7 terminal if you wanted to do this.

Caelestor July 23, 2014 - 2:12 pm

There are multiple proposals that can relieve the congestion:

* The obvious solution is to build a tunnel connecting GCT and Penn Station, which should reduce subway congestion significantly. Not certain how it would mesh with ESA though, which is already severely delayed and messed up.
* Extra tunnels under the Hudson River – not absolutely necessary if trains went to GCT or even were through routed to Jamaica and onwards, but still a good investment in case the tunnels go down (which has happened and can happen again)
* The 7 extension to Secaucus is a good medium-term investment. This is not because it would link up to Secaucus – though that is a useful connection, the area around the station does not justify all-day service there initially. Rather, it would further integrate Hoboken/NJ with the entire city, probably spurring a lot of development while reducing congestion in all the road tunnels.

SEAN July 23, 2014 - 2:55 pm

One of the upsides of the 7 extention that nobody has mentioned relates to the greater utility of the Main/ Bergen County & Pascack Valley Lines. Even though it doesn’t solve the transfer problem in Secqaucus, it does allow for the direct bypass of both Hoboken terminal & penn Station wich is something to think about.

Larry Littlefield July 23, 2014 - 9:34 am

“The idea, seemingly born on the back of a cocktail napkin by Mayor Michael Bloomberg.”

Proposed by the Department of City Planning many, many years before Bloomberg even got to City Hall.

In any event, how much should (not would) it take to simply build a third, one-track tunnel to the existing Penn Station complex, and add LIRR compliant third rail on one or two of the NJ direct lines? The PBS show on Penn Station implied that tunneling under the Hudson proved to be a relatively easy part of that project.

The third track would allow:

1) Two tracks under the Hudson even if one fails and is out of action for long term repair.

2) Two tracks during maintenance, rather than single tracking.

3) Two through-running tracks, one track to a termination at the Sunnyside Yard for NJT, and one track to a termination in the West Side yards for the LIRR, during rush hours.

The Flushing line to Secaucus could be built later, when the MTA is prepared to pay to operate it (costs in excess of fares) and New Jersey is prepared to pay to built it.

Larry Littlefield July 23, 2014 - 9:35 am

BTW, when City Planning proposed it, I was there. The biggest proponent was former director of Strategic Planning Sandy Hornick.

tacony July 23, 2014 - 10:41 am

The MTA should be able to pick up more revenue to run under the river by charging a double fare to enter or exit the subway at Secaucus. I’d think they’d have precedence as this was the policy for years for what is now the A train in the Rockaways, and this is essentially the practice for express bus fares.

Jon July 23, 2014 - 10:47 am


If you are going to build a tunnel, why only single track it? Regardless you’d need a TBM, so why not double track it to give a real redundancy.

Larry Littlefield July 23, 2014 - 12:51 pm

I’m proposing a simple hook-in to the existing tracks in the existing station. That might be easier with one track. but perhaps not.

Alon Levy July 23, 2014 - 7:02 pm

No, it’s actually harder, because a double-track tunnel can be hooked to existing parts of Penn Station more easily without requiring too many switching moves or train conflicts.

Larry Littlefield July 24, 2014 - 9:07 am

How so? Let’s say the new tunnel is south of the existing tunnel. One track could be hooked into the southernmost platforms.

Two tracks would have to be hooked into more platforms farther north, or it would not be usable.

Unless by a double track tunnel you mean two tunnels, one to the north and one to the south.

Alon Levy July 24, 2014 - 5:09 pm

Okay, one track is hooked into station tracks 1-5. Five morning rush hour trains enter Penn Station. Now they have to get out of Penn Station, via the same track since anything else would conflict with trains using the preexisting tunnel. So now you have to run your track contraflow, which means you can’t use the track to run trains into the station. So in reality you get five extra rush hour trains.

Now, if instead you run two tracks into the station, then one track is used for getting trains in and one is used for getting them out, and then you have more or less full capacity on each track.

Larry Littlefield July 24, 2014 - 7:55 pm

“Now they have to get out of Penn Station, via the same track since anything else would conflict with trains using the preexisting tunnel. ”

Not what I suggested. NJT runs a number of one-trip trains to the Sunnyside Yard. These could go right through rather than reverse to New Jersey on one outbound track under the East River (or inbound in the afternoon).

The LIRR also runs one-trip trains to the West Side Yards. They could use one of the East River tracks.

That leaves two tracks under both the East River and Hudson River. These could be used for through running, with dual power source locomotives.

Larry Littlefield July 24, 2014 - 7:57 pm

You see, three tracks under the Hudson are equivalent to four tracks under the East River, because for one-trip (per rush hour) trains the trains from the East don’t have to go under the Hudson to get to the yards.

Nathanael July 26, 2014 - 8:17 pm

Larry, as long as you’re digging one tube with a TBM, you might as well dig two. It saves relatively little to single-track it, and it causes a *massive* reduction in capacity.

Bklyn1 July 23, 2014 - 1:55 pm

Subways to New Jersey? No no no!!!! PATH from Hoboken to Javits Center then Port Authority Bus Terminal.

SEAN July 23, 2014 - 2:41 pm

Wait – just wait… if your going to propose that, you might as well extend such a line to GCT.

Tower18 July 23, 2014 - 5:37 pm

How does that help anything? A stop at PABT is marginally better than Penn Station, and Javits is a waste of time. The HOB-33rd train accomplishes almost the exact same thing you propose, already exists, and is even closer to desired job centers than 8th or 9th Avenues would be.

Bklyn1 July 24, 2014 - 10:26 am

And how would the 7 or L to Secaucus Junction help? Extend PATH to Secaucus Junction, then across to the Port Authority. Let it be on NJ tax payers and the PA NY NJ.

I live in Bushwick, and sure, I’d love it if the M train was extended from Metropolitan Avenue to 74th Street Roosevelt. It would make my life easier. But I’m for anything that extends and increases subway service and decreases auto traffic.

Mike July 24, 2014 - 1:56 pm

A 7 extension to Secaucus Jct could certainly decrease auto traffic, because it could siphon off auto/bus traffic from the Lincoln Tunnel and 42nd St. Rather than run buses to PABT via the Lincoln Tunnel, NJT could keep its buses on the Jersey side of the Hudson and passengers can connect to the 7 not just at Secaucus, but at possible intermediate stops in Union City and northern Hoboken.

fiona July 24, 2014 - 2:52 pm

2012 Hub bound report said 32653 bus passengers used the lincoln tunnel 8-9am, 3711 in cars/taxis/vans/trucks. The 7 could move a lot of people, but you’d still need the PABT. It would let you cut down on buses idling in the street waiting for a slot at PABT though.

Mike July 24, 2014 - 4:24 pm

Yes, of course PABT would still be needed, but slots for intercity buses and exurban commuter buses would be freed by NJT being able to run fewer transit and close-in commuter buses though the tunnel, especially transit buses. Those would most likely be the buses that could be rerouted to connect with a 7 train extension in Jersey.

Rob July 23, 2014 - 3:13 pm

“why every construction project costs so much and can’t wrap on time, Second Avenue subway at $2.23 billion per mile…” — a shame NY can’t get hamas to do it — they have no problem building lots of elaborate tunnels fast and cheaply.

Bklyn1 July 23, 2014 - 5:39 pm

Why shouldn’t the subways go to New Jersey? Because we have bigger needs here in the 5 boros as we have all discussed here. PATH from Hoboken to Javits may or may not work. Midtown workers could pick up the 7 from there for GCT. Times Square would allow easy access for the A, C, E, 1, 2, 3. Or would you rather have PATH end somewhere in between Javits and Moynihan Station? How would you go to Grand Central without disrupting 7 service? Where would you build the tunnel?

sonicboy678 July 23, 2014 - 6:03 pm

I think you meant to send this to Tower18.

Nyland8 July 24, 2014 - 4:29 am

“Because we have bigger needs here in the 5 boros as we have all discussed here.”

Every person in the boroughs can think of what their own “bigger need” is, and conflicts abound – especially with NIMBYs. But most thinking people would agree that any solution that best serves the future of NYPenn, best serves the City of New York. And it’s hard to imagine a better service to NYPenn than pulling 80%+ of its NJTransit trains out of Penn Station slots.

Fool July 24, 2014 - 10:01 am

The MTA could not get its own agencies to play nicely and had to build a $2 Billion deep bore station and GCT rather than have manager from LIRR and Metro North share a room and work together.

You think those idiots are capable of operating across state lines?

Nyland8 July 24, 2014 - 10:30 am

MetroNorth (MTA) and NJTransit have been playing nice together for many decades. Orange and Rockland Counties are served through New Jersey from Hoboken all the way to Port Jervis. Running a cross-town subway to Secaucus serves New Yorkers.

Nathanael July 26, 2014 - 8:18 pm

LIRR is the extremely uncooperative agency. Everyone else does tolerably OK at playing nice.

Alon Levy July 23, 2014 - 7:07 pm

You occasionally see this line in Israeli comedy, about hiring Hamas to build the Tel Aviv Subway. Tel Aviv doesn’t have the same construction cost problem of New York, of course, but its construction costs are still pretty high, and the Tel Aviv Subway is subject to so many delays and schedule slips that nobody really believes it’ll open. It’s even worse than SAS that way.

Asher July 24, 2014 - 7:16 am


If we’re already including issues over in Israel, don’t forget what the recent trouble with the light rail in Jerusalem teaches about light rail vs. BRT.

SEAN July 24, 2014 - 9:54 am

And what lessen is that…

Alon Levy July 24, 2014 - 5:11 pm

Huh? Shuafat and Beit Hanina don’t even have bus service to central Jerusalem.

marv August 14, 2014 - 11:28 am

subway to NJ vs a commuter rail tunnel

The whole question is sad as the nation’s largest city has but 6 (very old) rail tracks connecting it to NJ. Given population, this must compare poorly to connections in other cities around the country and globe.

An 8 track addition should be built resulting in a total of 14 (6 existing+8 new) rail tracks would still be far less than the 24 road lanes of the GWB+Lincoln+Holland tunnels but would carry many more people.

Two precast tunnels of 2 tracks over 2 tracks each (total 8 new tracks) should be sunk to to the bottom of the Hudson in the area of Hoboken. Each of the tunnels will be like the 63rd street tunnel with subway lines on top and commuter rail below.

From Manhattan, both the L and #7 trains should enter the “subway level”. These 2 track sets should split into branches in NJ servicing:
*newark (or maybe even Liberty airport)
*Staten Island via Bayonne NJ
*and a subway take over of one NJT branch

The 2 (lower) sets of commuter rail tracks should be configured to connect to Penn Station, Grand Central (LIRR or Metro North open to debate) and a Wall Street connection to the LIRR Atlantic Avenue Branch.
From Hoboken, one set of tracks should provide service to the north including Secaucus and one set providing service to the south/the north east corridor.

In short, one under water equivalent of but the the upper level of the GWB would more than double present rail capacity to NJ and provide:
*service options
*option for rehabilitating existing tunnels without stressing the system

Given how hard any construction is in NY one (once a era) project may be a far better approach rather than hoping to build more down the (rail?!!)road.

Such a project would be a solution to much of the metropolitan area’s transit needs for the next 50 years doing for future generations what had been done for us.

marv August 14, 2014 - 12:13 pm

I further note that such a mega project would solves both penn station and pabt issues.


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