Home Capital Program 2015-2019 Years too late, politicians renew focus on Second Ave. Subway construction timelines

Years too late, politicians renew focus on Second Ave. Subway construction timelines

by Benjamin Kabak

Phase 1 of the Second Ave. Subway project may open by the end of 2016. How much longer will we have to wait for the rest?

When the MTA first published its 2015-2019 Capital Program toward the end of last year, it seemed that Phase 2 of the Second Ave. Subway would soon see the light of day. Without pinpointing the total funding need for the stretch of the line that will run from 96th St. and 2nd Ave. to 125th St. and Lexington, the MTA had proposed a $1.5 billion line item that included project management and design, real estate acquisition and initial tunneling. The best laid plans would have seen initial tunneling being in 2019 with the remainder of Phase 2 funded in the 2020-2024 capital plan.

And then nothing happened. Governor Andrew Cuomo, the ultimate arbiter of all things MTA in New York State, didn’t make an effort to ensure the capital plan would be funded until mid-summer, and even then, he used the MTA to wage a petty political battle against the city and Mayor Bill de Blasio. By the time the two leaders set aside their childish fighting, nearly a year had elapsed between the MTA’s initial proposal and ultimate approval of the capital plan. For the MTA, this year meant uncertainty over funding and an inability to move forward on projects for which dollars were not guaranteed. Phase 2 of the Second Ave. Subway was one of those casualties.

When the MTA unveiled its revised 2015-2019 Capital Program last week, funding for the Second Ave. Subway had taken a big hit. Instead of a $1.5 billion request, the agency now included just over $530 million — still a lofty sum and one that would cover the full costs for Phase 2 were we in, say, Paris or Madrid — but the $1 billion cut was the single biggest reduction in the revised plan. The $535 million would fund “environmental, design, and real estate and project support to undertake preliminary construction work, such as utility relocation.” The MTA still plans to build Phase 2, but after a 13-month delay in capital funding approval, they claim to no longer have the time or resources available to spend $1.5 billion on the project before the end of 2019. With fewer dollars available, the MTA could make the decision to ask for more in four years.

And then everything hit the fan. Fallout was loud and angry with politicians accusing the agency of further delaying a massively delayed project, and the optics of withholding money for the Harlem-based sections after building the route through the Upper East Side looked even worse. If you take the MTA at its word, the agency still plans to build Phase 2 when it can, but the when looks a little more distant today than it did a year ago. Plus, New Yorkers aren’t keen on trusting the MTA. Can you blame them?

On Tuesday, local politicians struck back, and they were loud. Urging the MTA to just build the damn thing already, they condemned the agency for cutting the budget now. This was positive activism from politicians who were turning to a familiar whipping boy. In a letter to the MTA, Reps. Carolyn Maloney and Charles Rangel expressed their displeasure with the situation. “We understand that the MTA will be moving forward with preliminary engineering and design, but it is disappointing to know that this project is once again being short-changed,” they wrote. “As you know, the long history of the Second Avenue Subway has involved repeated incidents of funding allocated and withdrawn, plans made and cancelled, ground-breakings celebrated and construction halted. We hope that this substantial funding cut does not signal the MTA’s lack of commitment to building phase 2 of the project.”

The two members of Congress posed a series of questions that need to be asked. They questioned the timetable for Phase 2 — something that is currently a real mystery. Noting that the MTA hasn’t yet requested federal dollars, a move that would commit the agency to build all of Phase 2 or refund a billion dollars to the feds, they asked when the agency plans to apply for New Starts money and enter into a full funding agreement. And importantly, they asked about the total expected cost, another mystery.

Yet, I couldn’t help but think that it was long overdue and years too late. Politicians tasked with oversight duties should have been asking these questions years ago to ensure that Phase 2 started once (or even before, as the Final Environmental Impact Statement contemplated) Phase 1 was completed. These questions need to be answered, but based on the MTA’s speed and competence (or potentially lack thereof), the MTA cannot start Phase 2 work much before 2020. As MTA CEO and Chair Tom Prendergast said in a statement in response to Tuesday’s happenings, “[The $535 million] reflects the work we can realistically accomplish in the next four years given the regulatory and engineering constraints on heavy construction in a densely populated section of Manhattan.”

Meanwhile, the city too put some pressure on the MTA, and this too seemed oddly timed. Just last week, Polly Trottenberg, who is, thanks to Albany inaction on other potential appointees, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s only true representative on the MTA Board, praised the MTA’s capital plan with nary a peep about funding for the Second Ave. Subway. Yesterday, de Blasio’s words seemed to indicate that this cut was unexpected. “I do think it came as a surprise to many people that there was a change in the funding,” he said, “and I think that has to be reconsidered to make sure that everything is being done to move phase two as quickly as it can be done.”

The mayor, as you may recall, recently promised to contribute over $2.5 billion to the MTA’s capital program. Apparently, he wasn’t concerned enough with the details to follow up on how the city’s money will be spent and whether the MTA should be focusing on certain priorities. It is another move that shows the mayor’s lack of attention to transit matters, and it gave Cuomo, via Prendergast, the opportunity to ding de Blasio. In his statement, Prendergast highlighted how Trottenberg a week ago had called the new capital program a “very terrific capital plan.” What a mess.

At this controversy continues to boil, I hope New York City’s political representatives can learn a thing or two. First, paying attention to what the MTA is doing before it gets too late to do anything to change it is important. Imagine if Maloney and Rangel used their influence years ago to find out why Phase 2 planning hadn’t yet begun. Imagine if politicians were willing to hold the MTA’s feet to the fire on the outrageous costs associated with these capital projects. Imagine if de Blasio were to pay attention to transit spending priorities before they become news and not after. Imagine if the MTA were engaged in an aggressive effort to build out the Second Ave. Subway as fast as possible rather than as slow as possible.

The MTA knows it’s facing an uproar. As Prendergast said, “We have committed that if we can speed up the schedule to begin tunneling the East Harlem phase sooner, we will pursue a Capital Program amendment to do so. Governor Cuomo has made clear that he would like us to accelerate work on the Second Avenue Subway, and we are actively looking for ways to deliver the project faster.”

It is also not too late to right this wrong, but it will take considerable political effort and a lot of money. Phase 2 may now not finish until 2025 or beyond, and Phase 3 — the southern part — was originally supposed to take another nine years to complete. Maloney and Rangel should question that work as well. How much longer can we wait?

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Stephen Smith November 4, 2015 - 12:19 am

Here’s a number that should (but won’t) shake the city and state out of their construction cost complacency: for the $535 million that the MTA wants to design phase II, Paris could almost build the segment (they paid $230 million/km for Line 14, which cut through the heart of the city).

Brooklynite November 4, 2015 - 6:00 pm

I’m surprised that no politician has brought this up. In their long-term struggle to scapegoat the MTA for all their misdeeds, they’ve missed this. And it’s obviously not work rules or contractor corruption that make DESIGN costs go absolutely through the roof… what is it?

Rick November 9, 2015 - 9:47 pm

All the more pathetic because a good deal of the tunnel between i96th Street and 116th Street was dug in the 1970’s. At least those two stations — 106th and 116th — could be fast-tracked.

SEAN November 4, 2015 - 7:54 am

Just shut down the entire MTA network for a week including the railroads. Once enough pain has been felt by all, all polls will realize the value the MTA brings to NYC & will change their toon on funding it.

Benjamin Kabak November 4, 2015 - 9:03 am

Their tune on funding isn’t the issue at all. In fact, just throwing more money at the MTA won’t solve any of its problems. The issue is the need to control costs and gain transparency on this project. Even in The Times today, the MTA admits it doesn’t know when Phase 2 will be completed or how much it will cost. How can that possibly be an acceptable at this stage in the game?

Bolwerk November 4, 2015 - 9:37 am

Are we even sure when Phase 1 will be completed yet? :-p

I’m not really surprised they can’t even make a good projection. It requires guessing things like what concrete and steel will cost in 7+ years (safe bet: more*) from the start date, which is still up in the air. A construction timeframe on MOS segments of 3-5 years, instead of long enough for your elementary schooler to reach college age, would make projecting total project costs easier.

All that against the backdrop of the fact that these cats can’t even keep construction costs down in nearly recessionary conditions.

* with rapid urbanization around the world, maybe helluvalot more

Jon November 13, 2015 - 10:27 pm

I wouldn’t count on an inexorable rise in prices of those commodities. Concrete prices basically track the price of energy, which may or may not rise–at this point, it seems likely to stay fairly flat for the next while. Steel prices have dropped in recent years and may continue to drop, as it seems China has massively overbuilt steel production capacity while its physical infrastructure investment seems to be plateauing.

Phantom November 4, 2015 - 8:36 am


You have it bass ackwards.

How about controlling some of the construction costs before committing a dime to any new money pits?

There would be much more political support for capital construction if there was some semblance of proper value for the money spent.

I’ve never heard any major politician address this in a serious way.

Bolwerk November 4, 2015 - 9:18 am

There is certainly a ton of popular support for more transit in general. I think the default political stance, among politicians themselves, is indifference to transit, but note that the real barrier to sane construction costs is that connected private contractors are buddies, if not cronies, to politicians.

Phantom November 4, 2015 - 9:59 pm

I don’t buy that.

The same major national and international contractors do projects elsewhere faster and for less money.

The problem rests with NYS / NYC laws and customs and a substandard, slothful, unionized work force.

NY ” Labor law ” in particular , which inflates construction workplace liability and insurance costs far beyond that of any other state is a particular problem.

AG November 4, 2015 - 10:12 pm

Yes people underestimate how much those labor laws affect the cost of these types of projects. Liability and insurance laws are ridiculous.

Bolwerk November 5, 2015 - 9:31 am

Large international contractors provide equipment and engineering expertise, but they themselves contract local construction firms.

Unions are the norm everywhere else too. Hell, French and German unions are probably belligerent enough to give American ones a coronary, so you can’t just blame the mere presence of unions.

Meanwhile, private construction costs with the same unionized workforce(s) in NYS are high, but they aren’t an order of magnitude high.

Nathanael November 5, 2015 - 4:45 pm

(1) You have much more corrupt management in the private construction mafia, I mean industry, in New York City.

Even going upstate to Syracuse or Rochester will get you better, fairer prices.

(2) You have no functional government oversight. Even the corrupt management of your private construction companies *will* do good work for reasonable prices if they know they’re being watched carefully. Upstate, for major projects, the elected city council is often actually overseeing it personally, and the mayor or city manager is certainly reviewing details all the time.

But that’s not what’s happening at the MTA. Management seems to have no in-house estimation ability, no ability to do design and engineering themselves, and very little ability to solicit bids from anyone but “the usual suspects”. On top of that, the way change orders work apparently irritates most of the contractors…

mister November 5, 2015 - 8:22 pm

I remember MTA tried to get one of the biggest outfits around that don’t typically go after their work to bid on one of the Fulton Center contracts. The company’s response was “no thanks”.

paulb November 4, 2015 - 9:08 am

“Imagine if politicians were willing to hold the MTA’s feet to the fire on the outrageous costs associated with these capital projects.”

Wouldn’t this be mock pressure or window dressing, at best? Politicians protecting certain of their constituencies are one of the main reasons for the outrageous costs.

Shawn November 4, 2015 - 9:21 am

This is the end of the SAS. It’s 3 stops through that only serve to make UES landlords richer.

From the moment they created “phases” and especially a first phase that would take 10 years, everything else was condemned to death.

By the time 2020 rolls around the governor, mayor, MTA head, most of the city legislation, and most of the national senators/reps will have since been replaced though election and new projects will become the pet project of that administration.

The SAS is dead.

VLM November 4, 2015 - 9:28 am

This was a political blunder by the MTA, but your take is far too pessimistic. It’s not like they’re spending $0. They’re still going to spend HALF A BILLION DOLLARS. It’s an obscene amount that would be enough, as Ben noted, in my countries to get you most of the way there on this project.

Neil M November 4, 2015 - 9:42 am

Does anyone know how MTA management and MTA Capital Construction are compensated? Why is their compensation not linked in any way to how well they manage these projects (i.e. timeliness, cost, quality). Is it really that hard to structure compensation in this way. The incentives seem all wrong.

Maybe this is a totally way off comparison, but it seems like, pre-1960, authorities like the Triborough Bridge Authority and Port Authority of NYNJ had in-house managers that were far more invested in terms of reputation/professionalism in getting projects completed on time and budget. Think of the legacy of Othmar Ammann, for example, at the Port Authority. In comparison, it’s baffling to me why someone like Michael Horodniceanu keeps his job.

BDawe November 4, 2015 - 5:43 pm

In the olden days they were just better able to hide their cost overruns. They could get a project done quickly, but they were certainly never on budget.

adirondacker12800 November 4, 2015 - 11:20 pm

It wasn’t unusual to be ahead of schedule and under budget.

Brooklynite November 5, 2015 - 4:28 pm

Heck, the 2013 Montague rehab was both ahead of schedule AND under budget. It can still be done!

johndmuller November 4, 2015 - 6:45 pm

I can’t imagine that job satisfaction is especially high at any office responsible for projects like these. It’s like just about anyone (and I do mean that literally down to a perfect stranger who somehow found out where they work) feels that they can weigh in on how poorly they are doing their job (and don’t they really work for some corrupt contractor or politician as well) and how they make too much money – and all this abuse with totally zero information about any real facts. How would you like that with your morning coffee?

I imagine that whatever real control they have over how well the project is performed is thoroughly diluted by seemingly irrational and arbitrary jerkings around by political and/or budgetary authorities. Their salaries too are political footballs pretty much out of their control, no matter the quality of their work, plus or minus. The Robert Moses era was probably the Golden Age of these civil servants where things could get done and oversight was always too late to get in the way of progress. In these times, nobody is butting heads in their behalf and mostly the people who value self respect in their jobs are fairly likely to have shorter tenure, leaving those who probably value their steady paycheck more than greater job satisfaction to work the projects; which would you rather have building your subway? Which kind of job would you rather have?

If people alienated from this kind of job end up working for the contractors actually building the projects, it makes perfect sense from both sides. Is it wrong? Maybe, but how can you tell, and what can be done differently to make it better?

Nathanael November 5, 2015 - 4:48 pm

Remember how the Second Avenue Subway lost years of time and ended up having to spend lots of extra money because the *New York City Department of Buildings* absolutely refused to do its job?

Since the DoB refused to monitor the state of the buildings next to the line — which was their job — the MTA had to pay for it themselves. Most of the buildings where the landlords claimed “damage” were actually damaged before the digging even started, but the DoB refused to do its job and prove that.

So corruption at the DoB — and I can only call it corruption — hurt the MTA in both schedule and budget.

If a City Agency can’t even help out the MTA by *just doing its damn job*, you have a *major* problem in NYC.

mister November 5, 2015 - 8:26 pm

Horodniceanu is not a Builder, he’s a planner, and he is running a company whose primary function is construction and certainly does no planning. Draw whatever conclusions you deem necessary from that.

Larry Littlefield November 4, 2015 - 10:42 am

“We have committed that if we can speed up the schedule to begin tunneling the East Harlem phase sooner, we will pursue a Capital Program amendment to do so. Governor Cuomo has made clear that he would like us to accelerate work on the Second Avenue Subway, and we are actively looking for ways to deliver the project faster.”

Do what Cuomo did on the Tappan Zee. Put it out design-bid for $1.5 billion. The whole damn thing.

If no one bids, because a construction boom has made labor scarce (though not materials, due to a global glut) wait three months and do it again. And again. And again.

When the recession reaches NY and private construction goes down, someone will come in with a responsible plan at $1.5 billion and build it.

Rob November 4, 2015 - 1:08 pm

As Cuomo controls the MTA, why can’t he do a Tappan Zee bidding process as you suggest? There has got to be a French, Spanish, Swedish or Chinese company that can do this on budget.

Nathanael November 5, 2015 - 4:54 pm

Because of the nature of phase 2, you’ll get better results if you subdivide it logically:

— Put 106th St. out for a single design-build contract.

— Do 90% design for the elevator / stair interchanges between the 125th St. SAS station and Metro-North, and between the 125th St. SAS station and the IRT.

— Put 116th St, 125th St., the tunnels between them, and the related bellmouths out as a design-build project with the specification that the interfaces with Metro-North and the IRT must be accomodated as designed, but that construction of the IRT/Metro-North ends of those interfaces will be left to the MTA.

— Build the IRT/Metro-North ends in house.

— Design and build the signals and systems from 106th to 116th — outfitting the existing tunnel — in-house or with small contracts.

This gets everyone out of each others’ *hair*, and allows separate firms to work on the two major sections in parallel.

JEG November 4, 2015 - 10:54 am

As this post points out, cost is the real hidden issue with respect to the MTA’s budget problems. Yet no one seems to have any answer as to why the MTA’s capital construction costs are so high. Genuine engineering issues? Labor rules? Outsourcing capital construction projects? Managerial incompetence? Corruption? Organized crime?

What’s disappointing is that no one seems to have any sense as to which combination of factors is driving up the costs, and each issue requires a different set of tools to address that problems. Corruption or crime, that calls for attention from the NY AG or the USAO. Labor rules can require the attention of the MTA board, the governor, legislature, and possibly federal agencies, among others. Etc., etc.

It would seems there is enough information out there for someone to draw some very informed conclusions, but that never seems to happen.

Larry Littlefield November 4, 2015 - 12:56 pm

I worked there, and still don’t have an answer, and neither do the other people that work there. But I have two possibilities.

1) The MTA releases cost estimates for project. The bidding contractors use that as a floor — bidding more, not less. The higher cost of the new project becomes the estimate for the one after. They should just cut the estimate and wait the contractors out.

2) The same reason why the serfs are paying more and getting less from the government in general — pensions that were underfunded, retroactively enhanced, or both. In this case the multi-employer pension funds of the construction unions.

The politicians, their unions, the contractors and the real estate industry want to force the MTA to pay for the pension hole left by past public AND private construction in metro New York. With all the power interests behind this, I believe it is under Omerta. All the private construction is non-union until they pensions are out of the hole and the cost drops.

Guest November 4, 2015 - 4:24 pm

I don’t believe anyone has even analysed the MTA’s structure since it was formed in 65. The agency is so opaque that I believe even the higher ups don’t fully understand what’s going on in their organization.

It seems former agencies and companies were just shoved together into one big entity without much, if any, thought put into consolidating them on an administrative level. The LIRR/Metro-North infighting probably illustrates this best but there are also other examples that demonstrate the lack of reorganization such as the MNR and LIRR disposing of their own redundant administrative structures instead of both sharing unified one (why do they have independent employee pools and distinct operating procedures if both system are FRA governed heavy rail commuter networks?).

It sounds about as nightmarish as the organization of British Leyland in the 70s and I don’t know how anyone could even hope to get costs under control if the organization itself continues to be this haphazardly organized.

Nathanael November 5, 2015 - 4:56 pm

Major railroads have merged and kept ‘grandfathered’ employees on separate union contracts… while still merging the administrations. They end up with two pools of ‘grandfathered’ employees and one new pool of employees who can work on lines of either railroad.

Merging the operating procedures is slower, but it could be done over the course of about 5-10 years if anyone in management WANTED TO.

mister November 5, 2015 - 8:34 pm

They did try this. It failed.


Brooklynite November 4, 2015 - 6:03 pm

It’s probably all of the factors you stated. But let’s go back to the first comment on this post, by Stephen Smith: the DESIGN costs of this project alone would get the entire thing done in Paris. It seems to me that somewhere on the engineering side of everything is a huge money pit.

Peter November 4, 2015 - 12:53 pm

This is a familiar script by which politicians evade any accountability for failed transit policy. Step 1: Exercise no effective oversight of an agency that has proven itself time and time again to be woefully incompetent. Step 2: Place blame on said agency when its incompetence comes to public attention. Sadly, the public never seems to make a connection between Step 1 and Step 2 when selecting its leaders.

Justin Samuels November 4, 2015 - 2:47 pm

Actually this is the perfect point to actually END the phased construction of the Second Avenue Subway. Just FUND the ENTIRE thing! Now that phase one is nearing completion, all the politicians expressing outrage over how the MTA had not done any of the preliminary work for phase 2 can avoid a repeat of the problem by coming up with ways to find the rest of the Second Avenue Subway and fund phases 2-4. Excellent coverage of this issue and wherever it goes I am happy the public outcry is forcing the MTA and the politicians hands.

Let’s hope Hillary Clinton gets elected President, New York’s politicians would be able to lobby her to push more federal money to MTA NYC. While I do think NYC and NYS can and should do more, the bottom line is that major transit expansion is most countries is funded by the national government and there is no reason our government should not do the same.

Spuds November 4, 2015 - 4:50 pm

Hillary as president? Keep dreaming, the woman who helped destroy manufacturing and their associated unions by sitting on Walmart’s board as the company went from selling items only made in America to those made in China and as “co-president” signing NAFTA. Plus Who would want to get behind a candidate that could be indicted before Election Day?

Chet November 4, 2015 - 6:02 pm

First, indicted for what? Second, you think one of the Republican lunatics will do better? They’ll kill any Federal funding for ANYTHING and EVERYTHING- except defense if they have the chance.

The GOP HATES cities as much as they hate, well, anyone who isn’t like them.

Your post reads like it was written at Fox News.

Spuds November 4, 2015 - 7:46 pm

I happen to be a moderate Independent who sees both sides of the issue.
When running for US Senator in 2000 she promised that She would create 200,000 jobs for upstate NY https://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20080324133042AAzyBEv.
Well as a former down stater who been here for a number of decades that was quite a hollow promise. Nothing, Nada, Zippo was created via her terms before taking the Sect of State job under Barry. I am pro transit and I am sick of seeing the infrastructure crumble but when you have leaders on both sides of aisle who are more concerned about themselves does anyone here expect anything positive to be done?

Nathanael November 5, 2015 - 4:57 pm

Hillary is a pretty terrible candidate in my opinion, and yest the Republicans are all worse.

So I’m voting for Bernie Sanders, who has common-sense, proven policies. I expect everywhere in the country would get better transit funding under *his* administration.

smotri November 4, 2015 - 5:08 pm

Rio de Janeiro is building a brand-new 16 km (over 10 miles) metro line to the main 2016 Olympics area, to be completed in time for the commencement of the games. If a place like Rio can do this, why is it so hard for a more developed place like New York to do this? These delays, phases…what have you…are outrageous.

Edward A. November 4, 2015 - 11:14 pm

You could add Beijing and/or Shanghai to your post. Both cities are on the subway building spree for years, making the New York City subway look puny in scope.

Eric November 5, 2015 - 4:45 am

Yep. The Shanghai subway first started running in 1993 and it already is longer and has more riders than the NYC subway. That’s a whole new NYC subway, and more, built in just 20 years.

AG November 5, 2015 - 4:51 pm

Not sure why people bring up China. If the NYC government could do whatever it wanted whenever it wanted – we could do the same thing. Not gonna happen. European cities are better comparison – but not even really – since the federal governments in those nations actually believe in mass transit.

Jon November 13, 2015 - 10:44 pm

It’s worth remembering that virtually the entire NYC subway was built in a little more than 30 years. It’s amazing to think about: the whole system in a period from about the mid 80s to now.

I agree that China isn’t a fair comparison but European cities certainly are, and it’s not because their governments are spending more. Paris is now planning a new rapid transit network that will be 155 route-kilometres long. The budget? About 20 billion. That’s about what New York is spending on a three stop subway, a short mainline spur and two new terminals. Speaking of ESA, Bologna just finished a four track station deep under its existing station. Including approach tracks on both ends, it cost 530 million euros.

Any European city would be quite pleased with the size of the capital plan MTA is getting. It’s just that they would get vastly, vastly more for it.

Kevdflb November 4, 2015 - 2:52 pm

Having spent the last month in Spain, traditionally one of the less rich western European countries, all I can say is NY is pathetic. Countdown clocks on all platforms. Fare integration between all buses, light rail, metro and commuter rail, actual bus lanes, high speed rail. Oh, and about 15 miles of metro rail under construction. Probably for a 1/10th of the cost per mile in NY. WE must live in the most corrupt county in the western world.

Guest November 4, 2015 - 7:05 pm

I really wouldn’t use Spain as an example of a country that’s doing transit right.

The Madrid and Barcelona metro systems are far too large for those cities. They’ve poured so much money into building subway lines that they’ve neglected the alternatives and stretched their resources for operations. There are entire corridors in both cities that could have easily been well served with 2nd gen tram lines but since they went with the more expensive subway option they now have multiple lines that just bleed money away from the rest of the system. Ridership is so low on some lines that trains run at 10+ minute headways and use 3 car trains. The subway mania has also left the suburban commuter networks woefully underfunded. It has gotten so bad on some lines in Barcelona that delays cause by the poor condition of the tracks are a daily occurrence.

Eric November 5, 2015 - 4:53 am

Subways don’t “bleed money”. They run faster with less costs per passenger than any other transit mode. It’s true that lots of money was spent on tunnels and now there’s not enough money for operations, but that’s a result of the economic bubble popping, not of a bad approach to transit. Remember that Spain builds subways for the same price that the US builds light rail.

Guest November 5, 2015 - 10:13 am

I’m sorry but they do bleed money in some cases. It would be insane to build a brand new underground subway line designed to handle Manhattan levels of traffic along the tip of suburban Long Island instead of an overground LRT system and that’s essentially what has been done in Barcelona and Madrid.

If you want a North American example I suggest you like into the Sheppard line in Toronto. That subway line essentially traverses low-density suburbs and consequently it has a minuscule ridership figures (excluding Don Mills, which has developed into a high density neighbourhood) and has shackled the TTC with large tunnel and station maintenance fees. Due to this situation precious resources that could have gone towards upgrading the crowded Younge-University-Spadina line or towards segregating the crowded at-grade tram lines go towards maintaining stations like Bessarion station, a station that only gets about ~2,500 patrons on a daily basis.

“Remember that Spain builds subways for the same price that the US builds light rail.”
Sure but that doesn’t excuse poor planning. Trams cost something around a tenth of what it costs to build a subway in Europe (I’m going off figures I’ve read in Le Monde so it may not be an exact figure but it gets the point across).

Furthermore, the subway obsession has the unintended consequence of fuelling NIMBYism. The cost-effective Barcelona tram system*s* were supposed to be joined by a tram line that would have traversed the Diagonal but NIMBYs and drivers (including the last mayor) have fought against this proposal for more than a decade and instead have been campaigning for more expensive subway lines.

Jon November 13, 2015 - 10:48 pm

To clarify the above, if we consider the Sheppard ridership figures to be minuscule, we’d have to say the same about the majority of the New York City subway. The deserted Sheppard subway is a bit of a popular myth up in Toronto. For a short, four-stop suburban spur, its ridership of well over 50,000 a day is very respectable.

Spuds November 4, 2015 - 4:54 pm

For all you downstater’s who voted for Cuomo, I see that “buyer’s remorse” is setting in. Let’s hope for your sake Shelley and Deano start taking singing lessons.

Nathanael November 5, 2015 - 4:59 pm

Well, I’m an upstater, but I voted for Zephyr. :shrug: Cuomo’s signing of the gerrymandering of the legislature was infuriating to me.

g November 4, 2015 - 5:41 pm

Combine phases 2 with a modified phase 3 that sends the line into Brooklyn after Grand. Issue an RFP for total design-build with significant early completion bonuses and late delivery penalties. Encourage foreign consortiums to bid on the project.

Somebody (USDOT, Congresspeople, or both) also needs lock Amtrak and the MTA into a room until they agree to actually cooperate on getting the ESA done sometime before the end of the decade or that there will be hell to pay. I mean Horodinceanu is out there still telling people it’s on budget for christ’s sake. The MTA leadership is contemptuous of anyone who dares to point out it’s all f’d up while they tell us it isn’t.

Chet November 4, 2015 - 6:05 pm

Beyond all the cost questions, if we had a governor who cared as much about the subway as he does about cars and bridges, all three remaining phases of the T would be in progress right now…and they’d be finished by 2022 or so.

smartone November 5, 2015 - 1:33 pm

Once again I am baffled why De Blasio didn’t earmark city money for phase 2 of 2nd Avenue Subway AND Utica Avenue extension .

Bloomberg spend 1.5 Billion of City’s money on Javis Station and not a peep from anyone

As far as cost overruns- I don’t understand why emergency repairs to subway tunnels (9/11 and Sandy) come in under budget and a head of schedule?

mister November 5, 2015 - 9:07 pm

This is an opportunity to revisit the phasing of the Second Avenue Subway. The funding currently allocated to engineering and design should be put forward towards both Phase 2 and 3. This way, come 2020, you will have 2 phases ready to go, and you press to get funding for construction on both phases. It’s the only way to get the bulk of SAS built before 2030. Phase 2, with the tunnel up to the 106th street station already in place, and another segment around the 110th street station built out as well, should be a relatively low cost per mile build. So fight to get funding for both, and build them as separate projects with separate management teams.

Stevebf March 21, 2016 - 6:22 pm

Second Ave. Subway construction DOW NOW IT IS 2016


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