Home Staten Island Staten Island’s EDC still fightin’ the light rail fight

Staten Island’s EDC still fightin’ the light rail fight

by Benjamin Kabak

At least someone out there is fighting for better Staten Island transit. (Source: SIEDC)

It’s not a good time right now to be angling for projects that are not in the MTA’s 2015-2019 Capital Program. Agency head Tom Prendergast has started to discus prioritization in the face of a $15 billion funding gap, and the MTA is — painfully, rightfully — going to prioritize system maintenance and modernization over expansion. This is a very costly decision as institutional memory and lessons learned from recent expansion projects will fade away as the MTA’s network doesn’t expand to meet growing demand. We could see a future without more phases of the Second Ave. Subway, B Division countdown clocks and other growth options unless Albany makes some tough but necessary decisions.

For those who want something not in the MTA’s capital plan (and who aren’t named Cuomo), times are even tougher. The MTA isn’t exactly receptive to ideas they haven’t put forward, and the agency is especially unwilling to look at plans without political backing and money behind them. Still, that’s not stopping the Staten Island Economic Development Corporation for continue its uphill fight for West Shore light rail.

Over the past few years, in fits and starts, Staten Island’s transit options have come under scrutiny. The MTA and NYC DOT have tried to bring Select Bus Service to the isolated borough, but politicians have pushed back hard on everything from dedicated bus lanes to flashing lights. Meanwhile, the MTA has examined reactivating the North Shore right-of-way, but the alternatives analysis disappointing picked a BRT option over light rail. Still, those fighting for more transit are eying the West Shore for light rail, and they’re not giving up.

Vincente Barrone of the Staten Island Advance has the latest:

With huge development anticipated for Staten Island’s West Shore, the Staten Island Economic Development Corporation (SIEDC) refuses to let its West Shore light rail proposal die. Steve Grillo, the SIEDC vice president, has been championing the service over the past decade, garnering support from virtually every local politician without successfully finding a financial sponsor. “It’s been really good in terms of support,” he said. “We recently had the letter of support from [U.S. Senators] Gillibrand and Schumer’s office. So that’s great having both senators on board. All local elected officials have supported this. So right now the obstacles are the transportation agencies.”

…The rail line would run a 13.1-mile route along the Island’s West Shore, with stops from Richmond Valley to Elm Park. The proposed line would carry Island commuters to the Bayonne Bridge to connect with New Jersey Transit’s Hudson Bergen Light Rail Line. Currently, the SIEDC needs $5 million to conduct an alternative analysis study. A necessary step to receive any federal funding, the study would offer a comprehensive look at the proposal that would determine the most feasible mass transit options for the corridor…

Grillo has talked about the plan with the state and city transportation commissioners in the past to no avail. He’s also spoken with high-ranking officials at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), which is currently dealing with its own funding quagmire…MTA’s Island board member Allen Cappelli says that the MTA should be able to find money for the study. “The funding needed is pittance,” said Cappelli. “We’re talking spare change that fell into the MTA’s sofa, which is why it’s so appalling that it hasn’t been picked up.”

The problem, as I’ve said before, concerns a champion. This West Shore line has no political champion. It has no one opening up the wallet to find money for a study, and it’s coming out at a time when the MTA is fighting for itself first and other projects second. It’s certainly worthwhile and deserves more of a look that anyone in the city seems willing to give, and that’s a shame.

Grillo, meanwhile, isn’t afraid to call a spade a spade. In the piece, he calls Select Bus Service “bus rapid transit light, at best” and expresses his desire for better Staten Island transit. “We need 21st century solutions for 21st century problems,” he said. “What we’re getting from our agencies are out-of-date ideas.” Out of date and out of money.

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Nathanael March 3, 2015 - 2:02 am

It’s an extremely good idea. Of course, that’s why vested interests will never allow it to happen. 🙁 Gotta keep Staten Island car-oriented.

lop March 3, 2015 - 2:36 am


1.8 billion and 13k daily riders. Doesn’t sound great.

Bolwerk March 4, 2015 - 12:25 am

Seems like a good idea…at a third or even 3/7 the price.

Is this a private ROW or on-street? Street-running should be much cheaper than $137M/mile! What’s the deal? Multi-million dollar stations?

lop March 4, 2015 - 12:53 am

Highway median, 440. See picture at top of this post or in the link I shared. 1.2 billion from Bloomfield over the bridge to connect to HBLR with 10k riders. 120k/ daily one way trip before expected massive cost overruns is much more expensive than other proposed transit projects in the region would likely run. Magically fix cost issue and build this for half? No reason to think you wouldn’t lower the cost of other projects at the same time, so this still would be a bad project compared to other regional priorities.

Nathanael March 10, 2015 - 2:50 pm

The expensive part is the bridge crossing. But seriously, it should be obvious that that’s worth the money. Ridership is undoubtedly being underestimated.

Nathanael March 10, 2015 - 2:51 pm

…and I should point out that if Staten Island were in New Jersey, the extension would probably already have been built.

adirondacker12800 March 10, 2015 - 4:26 pm

Nah, NJDOT can look at flood maps just like NYDOT can and decide there’s never going to be any demand. It’s 2015 and we don’t let people build things in swamps anymore.

AG March 10, 2015 - 10:58 pm

Yes – the folly of regional politics.

Eric March 4, 2015 - 3:34 am

Graft, as usual.

With every new project, the contractors ask themselves “How much can we overcharge this time without anyone getting upset?” And each time, nobody gets upset, so they charge even more than the previous time.

Bolwerk March 4, 2015 - 12:42 am

I’m all for LRT in NYC, but I’d rather see it on the busy routes where buses just choke on their loads. Or at least put it on routes that have ridership that buses just aren’t that good at handling for other reasons (e.g., tight streets or too many turns).

Hell, I can even understand seeding an LRT network with a periphery route with facilities other routes can use (yards, heavy maintenance shops) in any borough* – except Staten Island!

* Queens would get my vote because it’s central with lots of industrial space and could use more rail.

Alon Levy March 4, 2015 - 2:02 am

I’m trying to think what routes would make good light rail corridors in New York. These aren’t the busiest ones, because those should be subways. So the best routes for light rail are ones that are busy but don’t make good subway corridors, which means routes that don’t hook into the subway well. Some examples:

Flatbush in Brooklyn has nothing to connect to north of Brooklyn College; south of Brooklyn College, the subway should go on Nostrand rather than Flatbush, since Nostrand is busier, Flatbush is too close to Utica, and Flatbush has water table issues.

QB, from the bridge either to Grand Avenue-Newtown or all the way to Jamaica; the part that’s not covered by a subway has nothing to connect to (the 7 can’t branch because of Flushing’s importance), but light rail could use the trolley terminal on 59th.

Flushing-Jamaica, along Main or Kissena-Parsons; it’s a busy bus corridor, but a crosstown subway line wouldn’t be able to connect to additional secondary destinations, so it’d be a 7-km shuttle without tooooo much ridership.

Junction, maybe. I still like the idea of a shuttle from LGA to Woodhaven on the QB Line, intersecting a subway extension on Northern, the 7, and an infill LIRR station. But given short length and limited ability to connect the line to anything interesting, light rail might be better. Or even nothing. (Note: for the purposes of this discussion, buses are nothing, and this includes SBS, which is what Europeans call “the bus.”)

Bolwerk March 4, 2015 - 10:52 am

QB seems like a good start to me. It’s not far from some industrial spaces that could be used as shops and it’s not like QB lacks for lanes to appropriate. It could even relieve a somewhat burdened 7 Train.

For political expedience, maybe waterfront developments the development-industrial complex types like throwing ferries at? They’re often buttressed by old neighborhoods that have remarkably poor transit access anyway (even Williamsburg). Buses just don’t work so great on those old narrow and windy streets. They might even have storage/facility space. (Downside 1: they may dump more passengers on busy subway lines. Downside 2: flooding.)

Alon Levy March 4, 2015 - 4:29 pm

Those narrow and windy streets are bad for all surface transit, regardless of what material the wheels are made of. The optimal roads for surface transit are wide and continuous, like QB, Flatbush, Woodhaven, and the Manhattan grid. Of course the Manhattan grid’s super-congested, but at Manhattan’s density all road networks are going to be super-congested.

Waterfront transit is not a big priority, to be honest. Half the radius of each station is wasted on fish. Exceptions are only for places where the waterfront itself is a huge destination, like Lower Manhattan, where the skyscrapers go right to the water’s edge, and where South Ferry is a major ferry-subway transfer point.

Bolwerk March 4, 2015 - 6:50 pm

Fair enough, though I’m not one to let the perfect be the enemy of the good. If you need transit in dense places with narrow streets and lots of turns, buses are pretty much pure fail. LRVs or even trams at least work.

Also I didn’t mean routing along the waterfront, but rather to it (“east-west”). I don’t think the Williamsburg proposal from last year is that horrible, but it wouldn’t be my first choice by any means.

But I mentioned either as backdoor ways to seed a network, not as first choices.

Alon Levy March 5, 2015 - 2:23 am

Ah. About the routes leading to the waterfront, I tend to think they should go over the bridges to Manhattan if at all possible, to help relieve overcrowded subways (i.e. the QB Line).

Bolwerk March 5, 2015 - 10:26 am

Crossing bridges would be great, but I’d at least hope they don’t just terminate right at the bridge landing like in olden times.

threestationsquare March 5, 2015 - 1:44 am

Cross-Bronx routes? (Fordham, Tremont, maybe others.) Grand Concourse, where the bus manages 39k weekday riders even though there’s already a subway?

What sort of transit do you think makes sense for 86th St? Avenue C/D?

Alon Levy March 5, 2015 - 2:32 am

Well, Fordham and Tremont, sure. Grand Concourse would also be interesting, but would raise questions about where the southern terminus should be – where it is now, or just across one of the bridges in Harlem (for example, going across a two-wayed 3rd Avenue Bridge to 125th and Lex to hit SAS Phase 2).

86th and 14th-D… maybe? 86th across the park is one lane per direction, so the only way it can be light rail is if it’s closed to cars. Maybe a route going across the park itself without the sunken road would work?

threestationsquare March 5, 2015 - 7:04 pm

Where are the riders on the Grand Concourse buses going anyway? Seems like shockingly high ridership for a route right above a subway line. Anyway extending to 125th might be nice (especially once SAS reaches there) but the line is surely viable without it.

The late 40s Third Avenue Railway System (shown in red) in the Bronx was actually pretty good, not too much circuitous routing or duplication of the subway system (which was a competitor then). Its bustitution was largely due to political rather than economic pressures. Of course, what worked well for our grandparents is only weak evidence about what would work well today.

Under the heading of troll transit projects, how about subway-surface lines using the disused Nassau St Subway tracks, Brooklyn and Williamsburg Bridges, and surface routes (Grand? Red Hook? Flushing Ave?) in Brooklyn? Also, to troll further, an aerial (monocable detachable) gondola across Manhattan at 86th St?

ajedrez March 6, 2015 - 6:32 pm

For starters, those routes don’t 100% duplicate the subway. North of Bedford Park Blvd, and south of 167th Street, the buses cover different areas than the (D) train. The Bx2 brings people to shopping over at The Hub, and both routes serve as feeders to the subway on the northern end.

As far as ridership along the duplicative portion, the Concourse is a pretty dense area, so that alone generates a lot of ridership. Then there’s the hospitals, the shopping over by Fordham Road, the civic area over by 161st Street, etc.

Alon Levy March 6, 2015 - 6:49 pm

I was thinking about it! The problem is that subway-surface lines should branch, so there should be several branches at the Brooklyn end of the Brooklyn Bridge. One branch would go on Flatbush. Maybe others would be very short, functioning almost as short-turns – but is there really that much demand between Downtown Brooklyn and Lower Manhattan? Going to Red Hook would be nice, but Court and Smith Streets are both too narrow for dedicated lanes plus a moving and parking lane per direction. Flushing Avenue is a bit wider and has off-street parking, but isn’t a very busy bus corridor; most of the demand would come from Vinegar Hill, not the Navy Yard area.

threestationsquare March 7, 2015 - 4:07 am

The usual Red Hook streetcar proposal is via Boerum and Atlantic (which are plenty wide) and then Columbia and Richards (which could lose parking or deal with mixed traffic). Myrtle and 7th Ave are also possible branches (though far from the most deserving routes for light rail in Brooklyn).

Bolwerk March 5, 2015 - 12:18 pm

Manhattan has plenty of ripe routes, but maintenance facilities are probably hardest to site in Manhattan. So it probably doesn’t make the most sense to start a new network in Manhattan.

The M15 seems an obvious candidate, but maybe it won’t be when the SAS opens.

David Alexander March 3, 2015 - 3:47 am

If the line extended HBLR to a park and ride next to the College of Staten Island, it would probably come across as remotely sensible. If it snaked its way through Willowbrook Park to reach Richmond Avenue and pass by the mall and stop at the Eltingville Transit Centre, I’d argue that it’s probably the best you can do without pissing off too-many people. But a de facto NY 440 routing makes no sense given that there’s pretty much nothing along that corridor that screams “transit”. Even my concept would probably work out if we paid European prices for it, but I don’t know if I’d want to spend $150/M for HBLR to central Staten Island…

Eric F March 3, 2015 - 9:31 am

440 itself needs to be widened. The 2×2 alignment is absurd. It should be 3×3 and they could stick a reversible bus lane in the median. Likely allowing for substantially faster travel than a light rail system.

ajedrez March 5, 2015 - 1:07 pm

Richmond Avenue gets super-wide south of Victory. There should be no real objections to an elevated light rail down the middle of Richmond Avenue.

Nathanael March 10, 2015 - 2:53 pm

*sigh* Call the extension to Elm Park “minimal operable segment 1”, and call the extension to Richmond Avenue “minimum operable segment 2”. Build them and worry about the rest later.

Chet March 3, 2015 - 7:22 am

This project and so many others are a perfect example of why the MoveNY plan needs to become reality as quickly as possible.

As far as the West Shore of Staten Island, there is quite a bit of open land for commercial development available. The former Arthur Kill Correctional Facility has been bought and is in the process of becoming another outlet of Brooklyn Stages- a film and television studio center. A West Shore light rail would provide a huge boost to mass transit for that business and others that will most certainly follow.

tacony March 3, 2015 - 9:15 am

But the zoning around these proposed stations is terrible. The allowable densities are too low even if all the “open land” were developed. The residential areas only allow single-family homes with off-street parking, and most of the lower 440 corridor doesn’t allow residential at all– it’s mostly zoned for low density industrial. These are not the kinds of uses and intensities of use that will drive much ridership.

Would this project include rezoning the areas around stations to allow for “transit-oriented development”? If so, maybe this it a good idea. Is SIEDC pushing City Planning for that? Or are they imagining that Staten Islanders will drive from their single-family homes to park-n-ride lots to get on this light rail? If so, this is not a good project and will not attract much ridership for its cost.

AG March 4, 2015 - 9:43 pm

Of course it would include rezoning… The jobs are already on their way to that side… The plan is predicated on increased activity of all sorts as a result.

Eric F March 3, 2015 - 8:49 am

What would the average speed of the line be? The HBLR system in NJ is about as fast as a wounded sloth.

Douglas John Bowen March 3, 2015 - 12:21 pm

And yet HBLRT works, and continues to (very slowly, ’tis true) increase its average passenger count.

Eric F March 3, 2015 - 12:24 pm

It “works” because it’s by design the only game in town. There is no adequate north-south roadway, so one’s options are the snail-paced light rail or an arduous car trip. The pace of the HBLR is a cruel joke on the people who use it. I know the anti-car people pat themselves on the back that you can’t get from Jersey City to Edgewater in under an hour, but what big prize have you won? Each waterfront city is isolated from the others. Congrats!

Bolwerk March 4, 2015 - 12:08 am

You can’t get to Edgewater without transferring to a bus. But you can do the ~4.3 miles from Port Imperial to Hoboken in about 12 minutes. Given the route alignment that is a service speed of about 21mph. That’s faster than some NYC subway lines, and probably better than daytime traffic no matter how “adequate” you make the roadways.

Seems to me HBLR has its problems, like station siting/accessibility and some unfortunate transfers/routing, but speed?

lop March 4, 2015 - 12:57 am

Other way from Hoboken 2.8 miles takes 16 minutes on a circuitous alignment. Why are you comparing the fastest part of a line to average route speed elsewhere? Are almost all boardings on that stretch you mentioned so the much lower speed elsewhere doesn’t count?

Bolwerk March 4, 2015 - 10:34 am

I didn’t compare anything, I just illustrated the point that HBLR’s speed is hardly universally offensive.

Okay, an offensive part: ~8mph from Hoboken to JC. That’s a lot of rail in mixed traffic, probably averaging better speeds than a city bus and at least competitive to Manhattan SBS. Would it be “anti-car” to point out there is little hope of cars competing with that speed during times of high traffic volume?

As for something close to what Eric mentioned (Edgewater to JC in an under an hour), take Port Imperial to Exchange Place. That’s about 23 minutes at ~14mph. You happen to travel slowly for the last leg of that trip, but is the overall experience enough to turn HBLR into a joke? Still competitive speed-wise with some NYC Subway lines, I’d think,

If there is anything stupid about the above it’s the circuitous alignment you mentioned and other issues I mentioned. I can’t speak to segment ridership, but it looks to me like HBLR has meh ridership overall.

lop March 4, 2015 - 4:33 pm

“a lot of rail in mixed traffic”

really? take another look

old ridership numbers on page 7 if interested

Bolwerk March 4, 2015 - 6:42 pm

Jersey City has mixed traffic at worst, like this, but even with dedicated lanes and medians it has to deal with traffic signals. Railroad south of Exchange is even worse. That and pedestrian safety are probably why HBLR is not so fast in Jersey City.

Chris C March 3, 2015 - 11:58 am

I don’t know SI very well but to me those stops look very far apart south of Bloomfield

ajedrez March 5, 2015 - 1:39 pm

There is very little development south of Bloomfield (Bloomfield itself is VERY low-density. There’s just a few hotels along South Avenue). Then, Travis is the next area that is at least reasonably dense. Then you go through the former landfill until you hit Arthur Kill Road, at which point all of the development is to the south and east (because to the west and north is parkland), but once again, fairly low-density.

You get the most “bang for the buck” by just covering the first three stops: Elm Park, Forest Avenue, and Richmond Avenue.

I prefer the Richmond Avenue alignment, because it passes through more dense areas (while much of the area to the west is the former landfill, the area to the east is around 20,000 ppsm, and of course, you pass by the mall, and potentially the Eltingville Transit Center and Eltingville SIR station if you want

Emilio March 3, 2015 - 1:20 pm

Most of this would need a ROW since it’s not recovering an old railroad grade but rather it’s a brand-new route. Those areas of eastern SI are sparsely populated (take a walk down Arthur Kill Road and you’ll think you’re in the middle of a huge nature preserve.)

The S74 bus, which services that area and goes all the way to the ferry terminal has a paltry 5K riders and that’s on a shared route and would guess a huge chunk of that is way east of this proposed line.

Overall, 95,000 people live in the ZIP codes along this route, but the huge majority on the northeastern shore.

It would only make sense if it would take up the north shore ROW and then have it go somehow to CSI-CUNY and end up on Staten Island Mall.

The rest of the route south of Arthur Kill seems completely unnecessary.

Having said that, there are many parts of eastern Queens and south Brooklyn more deserving of high-density transit projects which would bring in a much higher ridership.

Moshe Feder March 3, 2015 - 2:57 pm

Critiques of this project based on current low population density are missing the point. If that had been the standard a century ago, Queens would never have gotten its subway lines. Development followed transit investment back then and it can again.

Obviously such a line should serve existing nodes of density like a college and a shopping center, but it also has to tied to transit-oriented development, both commercial and residential, with revised zoning as required.

adirondacker12800 March 3, 2015 - 3:37 pm

Most of it can’t be developed. It’s either swamp or park or both. It’s 2015 we don’t fill in swamps anymore.

Eric F March 3, 2015 - 4:04 pm

This seems like more of an exercise of drawing lines on a map. I don’t see much use for a snail-paced low-capacity system on the west shore. The north shore alignment would at least run through denser areas and connect to the ferry.

Justin Samuels March 3, 2015 - 5:02 pm

This line doesn’t quickly get people to major job centers. Translation it will not be built.

LIRR to Grand Central and Penn Access are taking riders to major job centers. Second Avenue Subway Phases 2-4 relieve pressure on the 4,5, 6, spur development on the East Side, and take people to major job centers. All of these will be funded long before anything happens on SI.

Even if MoveNY’s wildest dreams were to come true, I would see the Triboro Rx and Rockaway Beach LIRR activation happen before this.

Really before major new money is spent on transit the city or the state would have to come up with new revenue sources. Congestion pricing is an option. Adjusting the real estate taxes are another option. Or a sales tax increase is another option. Then they could issue bonds and pay the debt back with the new revenues.

Alon Levy March 3, 2015 - 6:28 pm

A century ago, there was no zoning, and Queens doubled in population every decade. Today, Staten Island is tightly zoned and was recently downzoned, and grows a few percent per decade.

lop March 4, 2015 - 4:41 pm

By the time Queens was as dense as Staten Island is today it was growing at ~20% per decade, did zoning hold it back from growing faster? At the time Queens still had plenty of undeveloped land to build on, more than SI does today. So in SI wouldn’t more growth have to come from replacing existing structures? If you got rid of zoning tomorrow, gave land owners and developers free reign to build anything they want, started construction on a subway or mainline rail connection to Manhattan, with a branch on the north shore, extend HBLR over the bridge down Richmond, extend the R to SI college over 278 or whatever other transit project you could come up with could you get the population of SI to double in ten years?

Alon Levy March 4, 2015 - 5:44 pm

By the time Queens was as dense as Staten Island is today it was growing at ~20% per decade

The Flushing, Astoria, and QB Lines are built through the densest areas of Queens; the West Shore is the least dense area of Staten Island.

If you got rid of zoning tomorrow, gave land owners and developers free reign to build anything they want, started construction on a subway or mainline rail connection to Manhattan, with a branch on the north shore, extend HBLR over the bridge down Richmond, extend the R to SI college over 278 or whatever other transit project you could come up with could you get the population of SI to double in ten years?

Of course it wouldn’t double in a decade (although the number of Manhattan-bound commuters might). That’s the reason it’s so important to prioritize areas that are already developed!

threestationsquare March 5, 2015 - 7:40 pm

Are you sure it wouldn’t? What if in addition to those land-use policies the US enacted sensible immigration reforms?

Alon Levy March 6, 2015 - 7:16 pm

It’s an interesting hypothetical, but I don’t think the immigrants would have a reason to end up on Staten Island’s West Shore. Any housing there would be new, i.e. expensive. Most likely, the immigrants would end up in neighborhoods that already have people from their respective nations. St. George would see a population boom, but I don’t see Staten Island as a whole post such growth rates. To put things in perspective, the highest decadal growth rate in Metro Vancouver is 35%, in Surrey; Vancouver isn’t quite at Stephen Smith level of liberalization, but it permits a lot of housing, especially in suburbs like Surrey, and Canada has a high net migration net.

threestationsquare March 10, 2015 - 6:56 am

Canada has high immigration by present-day-first-world standards, but surely nothing like NYC would get if “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free” were taken seriously (i.e. almost free immigration). Is there really room in Washington Heights, East New York, etc for the number of immigrants who would arrive to live near the existing communities?

Dense trailer parks/manufactured housing along the West Shore would have very low rents and could double Staten Island’s population. Such development might be in demand if the NYC area needed to absorb millions of immigrants, and there are few other places in or near the city where it would be possible even under a libertarian-land-use regime.

That said, the fact that we find ourselves imagining such extreme changes to justify the West Shore Light Rail proposal should tell us something about how reasonable the project is in the real world.

SEAN March 3, 2015 - 3:04 pm

If a light rail line were to be built, it would need to be an extention of the HBLR serving St George. Serving SI Mall & CUNY atr also important. Without that, the project is pointless.

Alon Levy March 3, 2015 - 6:32 pm

What’s the point of any of this? It’s the lowest-density area in New York. It connects to Exchange Place, which is a nice secondary downtown, but doesn’t actually pass through dense residential areas to feed it. It provides crosstown service, but too far from the main activity nodes for people to use it. And it requires on-street construction, which is expensive.

Just stick a fork in it and spend money on useful stuff, like the standard complement of future SAS phases, Utica, Nostrand, 125th, and Triboro. Or, if the money has to be spent on Staten Island, then a second SIR line on the North Shore Branch.

AG March 4, 2015 - 9:46 pm

“if the money has to be spent on Staten Island, then a second SIR line on the North Shore Branch.”

Well they touched on that in their report… In any event – why shouldn’t Staten Island get transit money??

Alon Levy March 5, 2015 - 2:35 am

Yes, there is a report saying SIR would be more expensive than a busway; it is fraudulent.

Staten Island should get transit money. I just think the North Shore Branch should be funded behind SAS, Utica, Nostrand, 125th, and Triboro. It’s a small project, so if Staten Island wants it in exchange for supporting subways in the rest of the city then I’m fine with that, but in terms of merit, it’s a second-tier priority.

Phantom March 5, 2015 - 6:18 am


I suspect that SI gets a lot more than others in NYS do as respects ” transit money ” already.

The island is well served by local bus, SIR, ferry, and you can’t swing a dead cat at Hylan Blvd without hitting an express bus. The heavily subsidized express buses, many of which travel empty on the on the way back from Manhattan in the AM, on the way into Manhattan in the PM, causing more road congestion and pollution than they alleviate.

SI is doing very very well right now IMO.

al March 5, 2015 - 10:17 am

Could we go with a spiral approach? Build a high quality busway, that is designed for but not equipped with rail. Run BRT. When it comes time to replace the pavement, see if the ridership warrants a track, or upgrading to platooning or multiple unit buses.

Bolwerk March 5, 2015 - 10:47 am

Why? Just pick one and go with it. Since a ROW needs to be constructed anyway, buses can’t have a cost advantage here.

However, if you ask me, North Shore makes much more sense to tie into HBLR than this West Shore LRT scheme. Alon favors heavy rail on the route, I guess. Either is probably preferable to buses, probably without costing much more.

Alon Levy March 5, 2015 - 3:07 pm

Not really. First, it would be more expensive, since the ROW is an abandoned railroad, which favors rail over a busway in the first place. Second, building a busway and then rail means spending money on two things rather than on one. And third, once there’s an active busway, replacing it with light rail involves service disruption; that’s why LA isn’t trying to railstitute the Orange Line.

Nathanael March 10, 2015 - 2:56 pm

The point is getting HBLR across the Bayonne Bridge, which should have been done years ago. The rest of it is irrelevant.

Ralfff March 4, 2015 - 12:02 am

I agree with Eric F, it’s useless and connects to an already-flawed infrastructure. This is a project based on the work NJ already did to create a good suburban light rail in Bayonne that goes desperately slowly in most of Jersey City, and the regret of not using the Bayonne Bridge’s capacity. None of the rest of it makes any sense. The land has little potential in most of the run. Connecting a line from Bayonne to the ferry is pretty dumb as well; if you can get easily to one you don’t need the other. A plan that wouldn’t please too many people but would actually improve commutes is connecting it to the North Shore rail west of the Bayonne Bridge, but other than that I can’t see much use for it without significant new rights of way being obtained.

The only advantage to this is that it’s a “gimme” in terms of pre-built infrastructure, but there’s nothing here that can’t be done later. Grillo (who I grew up with actually) slams SBS but doesn’t mention that it’s drivers who are largely responsible for lobbying against that working at all. Get traffic light priority for all buses and we can reassess how bad things really are.

cheapstep March 10, 2015 - 10:02 pm

A shoulder running bus lane (like rt 9 – NJ) would be far cheaper and almost as effective.

Maybe there should be a camera enforced law (with signs to remind motorists) requiring traffic to move to the left lane when a flashing bus is behind.

In short 90+% of the desired benefits should be able to be achieved at 10% of the cost – a very desirable tradeoff.

AMHess April 16, 2015 - 1:28 pm

Good letter to the editor from a Staten Islander with some perspective:



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