Home Second Avenue Subway What it means for the MTA to ‘fast-track’ Phase 2 of the Second Ave. Subway

What it means for the MTA to ‘fast-track’ Phase 2 of the Second Ave. Subway

by Benjamin Kabak

The MTA is working to “fast-track” Phase 2 of the Second Ave. Subway, the norther extension shown here in blue.

With Phase 1 of the Second Ave. Subway set to wrap later this year, in an ideal world, Phase 2 would be well under way now. The original proposal for the line contemplated a far more compressed construction schedule with work on multiple phases at the same time. There is no reason, for instance, other than money, why Phases 2 and 3 can’t begin concurrently. Yet, here we are, near the end of Phase 1, and the most exciting news is word that the MTA is going to follow through with its promises to “fast track” Phase 2.

The latest development came on Friday, but first let’s recap. When the MTA unveiled the 2015-2019 capital plan, the proposal included $1.5 billion for Phase 2 of the Second Ave. Subway with the promise that actual construction would begin toward the end of the five years. Then, late last year, thanks to delays in approval, the MTA chopped $1 billion from the SAS proposal, and New Yorkers were upset. The MTA later promised to accelerate Phase 2 if possible.

Meanwhile, the MTA’s five-year capital plan still remains unfunded thanks in large part to smoke-and-mirrors accounting on the part of Gov. Andrew Cuomo (more on that issue later this week), but the MTA is forging ahead with Phase 2 acceleration efforts. On Friday, the agency released two procurement documents that will usher in design and engineering work for Phase 2 [pdf] as well as operations for a community center for Harlem segment of this new subway line [pdf]. Much of the work will involve refreshing the environmental impact statement and planning and finalizing design options for subsequent bids. It’s all fairly modest as work goes but a very necessary first step in moving forward.

In announcing this new work, the MTA reiterated its commitment to Phase 2 and projected awarding these contracts over the summer. “Our goal is to fast-track Phase 2 to every extent possible, and if these efforts to speed up the project timetable are successful, the MTA will amend our Capital Program and seek additional funds to begin heavy construction sooner,” MTA Chairman and CEO Thomas F. Prendergast, echoing comments he made earlier in the week in Albany. “With the opening of first phase of the Second Avenue Subway planned for the end of this year, we are taking steps to ensure a seamless transition to the next phase of work ahead.”

I’m glad to see the MTA’s commitment to this important section of the plan survive. The plan calls for new stations at East 106th and 116th Sts. and 2nd Ave. along with a curve west to a connection with the Lexington Ave. IRT at 125th St. and tail tracks to 129th St. that could one day serve the Bronx. It’s perhaps the most vital part of the Second Ave. Subway, but it’s still a long way off.

The MTA doesn’t, as I mentioned, have an approved capital plan yet, and the agency doesn’t have the money to spend on these awards yet. They’re also still the same agency that has trouble meeting deadlines and builds projects that are exponentially more expensive than similar work the world over. If this phase is going to cost $5.5-$6 billion, as MTA Capital Construction President Michael Horodniceanu predicted in November, we have bigger problems to worry about than whether construction will begin in early 2019 or early 2020.

But either way, this project will lumber forward, and perhaps, we’ll have half of the Second Ave. Subway before the 100th anniversary of the original proposal to build a subway underneath that part of the East Side.

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Streater March 6, 2016 - 11:26 pm

it’s too bad the first phase is in the center of the line… forcing both sides to be separate phases instead of building it all together.

They should be contracting a design-build firm to do the whole thing… financing it with increased real estate values… just sell more air rights downtown and midtown for this and it’s built in 5 years.

Joe Steindam March 7, 2016 - 6:31 am

The MTA doesn’t own the land that would get the increased real estate value from the Second Avenue Subway. Also, much of 2nd Avenue and its environs was already upzoned in the 40’s when it was presumed that subway construction was starting. There isn’t the opportunity for value capture on the scale necessary to finance the remainder of the project.

The phased construction plan allowed service to begin with the start of the first segment. If they had started in Harlem or the Financial district, they would have had to build to the same point (the junction with the 63rd Street line) before starting service, since that is the only physical connection to the rest of the system and its access point to train yards. Also despite many mishaps along the way, I believe Phase I was presumed to be the easiest segment to construct. It was always assumed the later phases would be much harder.

Jeff March 7, 2016 - 8:12 am

I think part of it was also they didn’t want to repeat the mistakes of the 70s when they decided to build the whole thing at once and ran out of funding which left them with stretches of unusable tunnel. At least now there is assurance that parts of the line will open.

I think Phase 2 should be easier to build though, in an ideal world, since it contains a major portion of preexisting tunnel. Let’s see if they can actually take advantage.

Nick Ober March 7, 2016 - 9:24 am

I keep hearing contradictory statements on what the tunneling will look like for Phase 2. I had thought they’d take advantage of the existing track sections north of 96th Street and then do deep bore tunneling for the curve to 125th and Lex, but I’ve also heard that some of the preexisting sections might not in fact be used.

Will March 7, 2016 - 9:27 am

Its being used as tail tracks, they should use these tunnel or they will be criticism from all fronts

David M March 7, 2016 - 9:40 pm

Here’s why you may be confused: they are using the pre-existing segments from 96th-116th streets for Phase 2. However, there are also downtown segments that were built in the 70’s, around Grand Street I believe, which will not be used in Phase 3 or 4. Of course, with enough shouting, that could change for when they finally get around to phases 3-4 in 50 years or so.

BrooklynBound March 7, 2016 - 10:10 pm

I believe that part of the problem with Phase II has to do with the fact that when the tunnels were built in the 70’s, there was no space provided for an 116th St station. There is some degree of work that needs to be undertaken, though I think the bulk of is trying to meet up with the 4,5,6 and MNRR at 125th/Lex (because of the curve).

Joe Steindam March 8, 2016 - 5:44 am

While the tunnels exist, they are not large enough to accommodate the modern style of stations the MTA is expected to deploy for the 2nd Avenue Line. They weren’t designed with considerations to ADA, having predated the law. Also, the PE documents were unsure whether using the existing tunnels would permit the construction of a station at 116th Street, due to the narrowness of the tunnel and location of large, nearly immovable utility lines.

As for the curve and 125th Street, the bedrock line drops significantly at the curve, so it requires different tunneling techniques. For the station at 125th Street, it requires cut and cover mining and deep boring beneath the 456. This would be the most technically complex station they’ve constructed to date.

Ryan March 8, 2016 - 8:09 am

It’s almost prohibitively complex, depending on how much of the final price tag ends up being associated with just this one station.

And people honestly believe that diverting half of the capacity away from this billion-dollar station into a tunnel that will never be filled is going to be seen as a prudent use of funding?

If it gets built, all future talk of extension to the Bronx is DOA.

…sure is too bad that there’s no other location at which we could connect to Metro-North or the Lexington Avenue services! Oh, wait. There is. It’s just across the river.

Will March 8, 2016 - 8:38 am

Built 116 station with side platforms and street access like the old irt. Who cares about a modern look. If that was so then all the recent renovation project would have a modern look

Nathanael March 8, 2016 - 8:31 pm

I don’t see any way to connect to Metro-North in the Bronx. There’s no stations from 125th St until Melrose (Harlem/New Haven) and Yankees (Hudson).

Besides, a 125th St. crosstown line is actually extremely necessary.

Ryan March 9, 2016 - 3:43 pm

The transfer to Second Avenue would and will work just as well as the transfer to Seventh Avenue service does, a few blocks in the opposite direction. We aren’t trying to pull people off of Metro-North, we’re trying to pull them off of the Lex – this will and should actually in a number of cases translate into putting more people onto Metro-North instead. (If there’s a tremendous number of people emptying out of downtown Lex trains at Grand Central who transferred onto those trains at Harlem, they should be able to take the free capacity available on Metro-North’s trains instead; if there’s a truly absurd number of people emptying out of the trains at or around 86, reactivating 86 St station should be explored as an option.)

The Lex already has a transfer to Metro-North and a parallel route to it through uptown and midtown. Second Avenue will not, but going over the river and into the Bronx will enable those transfers at less congested stations closer to the start of people’s journeys, enable increased services to several under-capacity portions of the system at extremely little cost to existing services (the only real losers are 145 St and Lenox Terminal) and would likely carry the same absolute cost as the current plan for far more route-mileage added to the system.

As I mentioned a lot earlier in this discussion, if the goal is pulling people off of Metro-North trains, then Second Avenue isn’t worth building, so it’s incredibly fortunate for us that that isn’t and shouldn’t become the goal.

adirondacker12800 March 9, 2016 - 3:53 pm

The goal of the Second Avenue subway is to relieve overcrowding on the Lex. It does that many ways. One of the many ways is that some Metro North riders will be able to transfer to it at 125th instead of going to Grand Central and changing to the Lex.

Rob March 7, 2016 - 10:03 am

Why isn’t Cuomo doing this as Design-Build? Isn’t that his model for the Tappan Zee Bridge?

Tower18 March 7, 2016 - 1:33 pm

Efficiency techniques should be applied to roads so we can build as much as possible with the same dollar. Transit? Eh, whatever the fuck, doesn’t matter, just as long as we can point to something afterwards.

nb211 March 7, 2016 - 9:40 pm

Very much agreed, otherwise construction costs and timelines get out of control.

Alon Levy March 8, 2016 - 6:50 am

What makes you think design-build saves money? There’s an argument to be made in the opposite direction, even – that separating design and construction makes it easier to do small changes as required by unforeseen developments (link).

paulb March 6, 2016 - 11:30 pm

I thought that the original 1920s plan was to run it under the river into Brooklyn via the Court Street station and connect to what’s now the A line. Has that ever ever been mooted for this version of SAS?

Eric March 7, 2016 - 4:47 am

How would that be a gain over the current plan? Either way you have one line continuing to Brooklyn and another ending in Lower Manhattan. Why does it matter which is which? Better to continue with the current arrangement, which is cheaper (already exists) and involves less interlining.

Jeff March 7, 2016 - 8:17 am

The plan he’s referring to involves continuing the 2nd Ave subway to what is currently the abandoned station that the Transit Museum is housed in, which is connected to the Fulton Street line in Brooklyn. This means there will be no train ending in Manhattan.

Eric March 7, 2016 - 9:46 am

Hmm, that’s interesting. But given that there are already 9 subway tunnels/bridges from Brooklyn to Manhattan, adding a 10th seems like a low-priority use of resources.

Though maybe it wouldn’t be so expensive if you already have the TBM active and you remove the need for tail tracks.

Alex March 7, 2016 - 10:07 am

Seems it would make the most sense to connect to a river tunnel that has excess capacity like the Rutgers or the Montague.

Russell March 7, 2016 - 10:34 am

Those tunnels won’t have the capacity if another line is brought from Queens in the 63rd St. tunnel, and then south on 2nd Ave.

By feeding these lines to the Fulton St. subway, along with the A and C, a Utica Ave. subway will be feasible without overloading the already over-capacity Brooklyn IRT.

Eric March 7, 2016 - 12:13 pm

If you use the Rutgers tunnel, you miss Lower Manhattan which is a large part of relieving the Lexington, so that seems like a bad idea.

If you want to put more trains through the Montague tunnel – just extend the J/Z which already go there.

The nice thing about the A/C is that it has 4 tracks in Brooklyn, 2 of them currently unneeded. A SAS extension would get to use those tracks for free. It would also serve a longer stretch of Utica, replacing more of the bus and make more of a subway grid in Brooklyn.

Larry Littlefield March 7, 2016 - 12:35 pm

“If you use the Rutgers tunnel, you miss Lower Manhattan which is a large part of relieving the Lexington, so that seems like a bad idea.”

There is lots of unused capacity in Lower Manhattan already, with the Montigue Tunnel, and BMT lines there. No need to build an expensive new subway to serve that area. They could do it now.

The Lex in Lower Manhattan is crowded with people going to East Midtown. Give them a faster way by bypassing Lower Manhattan and the Lex becomes less crowded.

aestrivex March 7, 2016 - 2:59 pm

If it’s a choice between having service along the nassau street line in place of phase 4, or no phase 4 at all, of course we’ll take it. But chatham square really could be better served than it currently is.

Eric March 7, 2016 - 12:38 pm

“It would also serve a longer stretch of Utica,” compared to an IRT Utica branch.

Michael549 March 7, 2016 - 12:41 pm

From a previous message: “By feeding these lines to the Fulton St. subway, along with the A and C, a Utica Ave. subway will be feasible without overloading the already over-capacity Brooklyn IRT.”

How so?

None of the previous plans for the IND Utica Avenue subway involved diverting trains off of the Fulton Street line on to Utica Avenue IN Brooklyn. The passenger connection and partially built transfer station at Utica Avenue/Fulton Street exists like a “cross” between the two lines – there were no flying junctions or other trackage that connected those subway lines.

Think of the Fourth Avenue-9th Street stations with the F & R trains except with local/express platforms – no place or space for track junctions between those lines. Or use Columbus Circle with the (A,B,C,D,1) were only passenger connections – no track connections exist among those subway lines. Completely unlike Essex & Delancy Street (F,J,M,Z) or 149th Street-Grand Concourse (2,4,5).

Of course both of the IND Second System plans involved creating subways in Brooklyn that replaced the current J & M train lines, and originated a Utica Avenue subway. These plans fell by the way-side with the Great Depression, and have no serious application to the current planning (since the early 1970’s) of the Second Avenue subway. Yes, there has been debate over how or if to connect the proposed Second Avenue subway to Brooklyn subway lines, but direct service to Brooklyn was not the main purposed of this new subway line.

The plans for the Second Avenue Subway since the 1970’s were to expand transit in Manhattan, Queens and the Bronx. The plans for the Bronx has fallen to the way-side a very long time ago. The NIMBY actions of Queens residents and politicians put the kabash to the Queens Super-Express ideas that would have connected the 63rd Street Tunnel, the Archer Avenue segments and the further extensions into southern eastern Queens. The various multiple funding problems and other serious issues have plagued the Manhattan sections of the Second Avenue Subway since the 1970’s.

The Stub-Way may come to represent all that is physically able to be used under Second Avenue of what was once a grand vision to ease passenger congestion in the subways.


Alon Levy March 8, 2016 - 6:55 am

There are nine track pairs between Manhattan and Brooklyn, but they’re not distributed equally along the river. There are only two track pairs heading toward Williamsburg and points east, and one of them is less useful than the other; this more than anything leads to very high L crowding levels. This is why building that extra tunnel from SAS (and a de-M-ified V line) to Williamsburg for a connection to Utica makes sense – it does relieve an overcrowded connection.

Eric March 8, 2016 - 5:21 pm

The L should not have crowding problems. If there were tail tracks in Manhattan, it would be able to run at double the frequency.

Jeff March 7, 2016 - 8:14 am

Nope. There were thoughts of connecting this to the Nassau Street line so it can go into Brooklyn however. But it was determined that the disruption to be too great at the street level (i.e. tearing up one too many parks) to make it work.

Larry Littlefield March 7, 2016 - 9:24 am

My view is still to build the Rutgers-DeKalb connection and then hook the SAS into the “F” on Houston east of 2nd Avenue station.

Some trains could terminate at 14th Street. Others could travel on to one of the BMT southern lines (the Sea Beach for example). Some trains could run down from the Upper East Side as a second service, come could come from the Queens Boulevard Line via the 63rd Street tunnel as originally planned.

It would be a rapid straight shot to E. Midtown for those transferring at Pacific and DeKalb, from the F/J/M at Delancey, from the L at 14th. And from the QB line.

Eric March 7, 2016 - 12:14 pm

If you connect to the F, you miss Lower Manhattan which is a large part of relieving the Lexington, so that seems like a bad idea.

Jeff March 7, 2016 - 11:31 pm

I think as designed Phase 4 and bottom of Phase 3 are sort of a waste of money. Lower Manhattan is small enough such that everything is basically walking distance from the subway, and even in the East Village and Lower East Side the line isn’t far enough east to achieve its max potential.
I think below 14 Street they need to move the line eastward to nearer Alphabet City. Houston St and Grand Street, besides serving as transfer points, are essentially redundant and should really be dropped.

Eric March 8, 2016 - 5:21 am

Indeed, I would get rid of all the stations below Midtown except for the transfer points – 14th St, Grand, and “Seaport” (Fulton St). This would save money and there’s no reason why SAS can’t be an express on this segment.

Alon Levy March 8, 2016 - 6:57 am

There’s high residential density at 34th, 23th, Houston, and Chatham Square.

Jeff March 8, 2016 - 7:29 am

Yeah I wouldn’t touch anything above 14th St, but Chatham Square really isn’t that far from train stations to need that stretch of subway IMO, and has access to multiple lines from there. Subway construction resource is scarce and I think the priorities from back when the line was designed in the 90s have shifted considerably.

But going back to the LES again – back when the route was first determined back in the 90s there was a proposal to run the line east on 10th Street, down Ave B, and down East Broadway before going to Lower Manhattan… That route was shot down be caused on potential ridership statistics (again, back in 1997)

I think demographics have shifted enough for them to seriously look into that again.

Dave of Sunnyside March 12, 2016 - 7:38 pm

Let’s face facts it makes no sense to build the SAS any further south then Delancey Street. From that point south it should be plugged into the unused tracks of the J train to Brooklyn Bridge. It save a ton of money and accomplished 75% of what you need to get folks downtown.

Eric March 8, 2016 - 5:22 pm

I include 34th in Midtown. The other stops are well enough served by the 6.

Alon Levy March 8, 2016 - 7:42 pm

It’s 2 blocks away and the 6 is almost as crowded as the 4 and 5.

Ryan March 8, 2016 - 8:19 am

The reason it can’t be express is that the express tracks were deleted from the plan.

You could, of course, put them back in. You could even still retrofit express tracks into Phase 1 in much the same way the Lexington Avenue Line has them in parts – express pair beneath local pair.

Actually, if the express tracks were being built, the Bronx extension would no longer be precluded by the current 125 St alignment! You wouldn’t be able to send local and express services into the Bronx, of course, but you could marry the express track pair to the river crossing and the local pair to 125 St.

(PS: Houston isn’t a transfer station? What?)

Eric March 8, 2016 - 5:31 pm

What I was suggesting is that you build an “express” line with no local. This has a parallel in Paris which in recent decades built more RER than subway lines in its core. Tunneling with a TBM is relatively cheap, the expensive part is the stations, so you hold down costs by only building the express. And if you’re lucky, like Paris and NYC, local lines already exist so you can just tunnel below them.

Houston is a transfer, but less important than the others because the F is less frequent than the B/D, and less frequent than the L should be.

Fred March 8, 2016 - 9:06 pm

The F has always been more frequent and reliable than the B/D. Trains run every 4 minutes during the rush hour.

Alon Levy March 9, 2016 - 6:56 am

The F provides service to South Brooklyn that the B/D don’t. Intersecting a subway line without offering a transfer is stupid.

Ryan March 9, 2016 - 3:42 pm

Building an “express” that has no corresponding local is not a great way to service people who generally expect something in exchange for the massive amount of construction work they’re expected to put up with. Even deep-bore subways have surface-level impacts.

Actually, the primary reason to build an express track pairing is to expand capacity beyond what a single pair of tracks can provide. I use express nomenclature because that’s what is used throughout the system already, but my vision for Second Avenue Express services is closer to the way Eighth Avenue Expresses in midtown make nearly every stop. (I’d expect Second Avenue Expresses on phases 1 through 3 to skip 23, 72, 96, and 116 – or if the express pair goes to the Bronx and the local pair to the upper west side, skip 106 instead of 116.)

Also, no such local exists under Second Avenue, which sort of invalidates comparisons to other systems elsewhere in the world that are bulking up their express services or express-analog services.

Brooklynite March 9, 2016 - 4:00 pm

The 8th Av express in Midtown is the way it is to discourage transferring between locals and expresses. People who live south of 125th will board the local and then stay on the local because transferring won’t save time, while passengers from north of 125th will be on the express and stay on the express.

A potential second pair of tracks on upper SAS, in my opinion, should go virtually nonstop. After 72nd the next stop could be 125th, or even in the Bronx. In Midtown, it makes sense to make more stops.

Alon Levy March 9, 2016 - 5:43 pm

The IND pattern is really bad. It leads to underpowered locals – despite the attempt to keep people on the locals, the QB locals are more undercrowded than the IRT locals.

Then again, there’s almost never a reason to bore a four-track line. I can’t think of a single place in New York where a new-build four-track line is appropriate; US-wide, the only one I can think of is the North-South Rail Link in Boston, and that’s in large part because the southern portals are so complex that it’s easier to build two separate tunnels than to build one tunnel with flying junctions to reach multiple portals.

Brooklynite March 10, 2016 - 3:18 pm


The IND Queens line may suffer from too much ridership being concentrated at the end of the line. That’s not necessarily an issue with the traditional local/express pattern, which I would argue is a good one. Look at the 4th Av line – nobody really uses the R for anything except as a feeder to the nearest express stop. That’s not a sustainable way to operate. On Fulton, many people switch from the C to the A in an attempt to save a few minutes. The zone express method is more efficient: people from farther out don’t have to stop at stations closer in, and people closer in get trains without people from farther out. In the CBD, expresses make most stops to discourage transferring.

Ike March 10, 2016 - 9:56 pm

My understanding is that building a tunnel under Alphabet City would be exceedingly expensive. The ground supposedly isn’t conducive to tunneling. (Not the right kind of bedrock or something? I’m no geologist.)

Will March 7, 2016 - 7:16 am

If the fast track construction happens, then go straight to 125 st. And 2 ave with tracks heading to the Bronx with possible connections to NEC and sections to throng neck. The curve and deep tunneling is going to be the most expensive part of the project

BoerumHillScott March 7, 2016 - 8:36 am

Stations are almost always the most expensive part of a subway (including required utility relocation, ancillary buildings, etc), and for this one I would assume the 125th station with connections to the Lex and MNRR would be the most expensive part of the Phase.

Will March 7, 2016 - 9:25 am

Just cut and cover the tunnel with side platforms. The reason why these stations cost a ton because they blast massive deep caverns just to install a station. Why don’t you think that original system was built near the surface.

BoerumHillScott March 7, 2016 - 10:35 am

Even with simple cut and cover today, you have enormous expenses with moving utility lines, few of which existed with the original system was constructed.
You also have much more advanced ventilation, fire protection, and access requirements that add to the cost.

In the case of 125th, the SAS station has to go underneath the 3 level 4/5/6 station (mezzanine and 2 platform levels).
This will be a huge undertaking, especially while keeping the current station open.

Will March 7, 2016 - 11:19 am

It’s far cheaper and faster to complete then deep tunnels. You only built deep tunnels if the soil is unstable or can’t cut through the bedrock and major obstuctions. The East side have a few of these

Will March 7, 2016 - 11:30 am

I’m ditching the curve if I’m MTA. Just to the build the station would cost billion not including building the passageway and new stationhouse for MNRR 125 street. Take the line to the Bronx and have transfer station at 138 ave and 149 street 3ave or built some tracks on NEC to Bunkner expreeway

D. Henry March 7, 2016 - 2:01 pm

If you don’t build the Lex and MNRR connection then the entire purpose of the SAS from the north end will have been defeated. If I work closer to York, 1st and 2nd along upper East side and midtown then the SAS connection at 125 is my best bet. Without it I’m just going to stay on the 4/5/6 until I reach the closest station and the Lexington Av line will see no relief from the north and MNRR. It’s worth the money and would be foolish not to build.

Mike from Whitestone March 7, 2016 - 3:23 pm

By having stations at 3rd Ave-138th St and 3 Ave-149th St, the SAS would certainly provide relief and would certainly accomplish at least some of its purpose at the northern end. How would it not do that? Transfers would be available to the 2 and 5 trains at 3rd/149 and to the 6 at 3rd/138. And because both of those stations have both uptown and downtown trains stopping on the same level (unlike 125/Lex), the transfers would be much easier to make and would more likely be better-used than a long, deep-level transfer at 125. The 125th & Lex transfer station is a “penny-wise, pound-foolish” solution.

The only way the SAS will fully accomplish its purpose is to go south of 63rd St. But that’s going to be much further into the future (if at all).

Will March 7, 2016 - 3:27 pm

The SAS is being built to relieve the Lex nothing more and nothing less. It includes extension to the Bronx and SAS to lower Manhattan to achieve its goal. That’s even any possible way to save cost and connections. One important connection that its important and time saving is the Nassau street connection. It would tremendously reduce and eliminate phase 4. Phase 3 is going to be the biggest issue of all

Alon Levy March 8, 2016 - 7:00 am

The curve west toward the Lex (and a Phase 5 going west along 125th to Broadway) can’t be built cut-and-cover. Once you need to keep going below preexisting lines you need to use TBMs or mine the whole way. The north-south subway lines in New York were built cut-and-cover near the surface, but then deep-level lines, like the London Tube lines, were built with tunneling shields from the start, as were the Hudson Tubes in New York.

Will March 8, 2016 - 8:47 am

MTA is not building the crosstown route. There’s no political pressure from black politician to expand itto Harlem. Plus Harlem has 3 trunk subways.

Alon Levy March 9, 2016 - 6:59 am

Harlem has north-south subways, not east-west ones.

Preston March 9, 2016 - 11:49 am

Why would you need the black politicians pressure to build a crosstown route? The issue here is that the SAS is supposed to help relieve the crowding on the 4/5/6 and I think having a crosstown connection on 125th could get some of the passengers who need a westside connection to take that route. It would be how the L works right now connecting all the lines east to west. To me it’s sort of a no brainer since upper manhattan has nothing to connect any of the lines.

Also it would be one of the few connections for any of the non-4/5/6 lines to the new SAS before having to go all the way down to grand central and possibly having to come back up to get to their destination.

Brooklynite March 9, 2016 - 3:57 pm

If I need to get to the West Side from the Bronx, I will either make my way to the 1/2/B/D in the first place or take a crosstown bus or train once I get to the correct street. Transferring in the middle of the trip is unlikely for most people.

Ryan March 7, 2016 - 10:03 am

The curving section to connect to 125 and Lex shouldn’t be built. Instead, the line should extend into the Bronx, with the Lex connection being built at 138 St.

The reality of the situation is that the tail tracks are worthless when the design means that there’s no way to fill the bridge or tunnel across the river into the Bronx without first ending service to Lexington Avenue (which means, in other words, that a crossing is unlikely to be built). You might as well save some money by not even building the tail tracks at this point. Come up with some harebrained scheme to run trains up 5 or 6 Av and double back into the Bronx later, or just say the Bronx already has enough subways and don’t bother to do anything.

BrooklynBound March 7, 2016 - 10:45 am

I second that! I’ve been thinking lately about the whole thing. They should, of course, at least provide a provision for a 125th St crosstown. Their current plan seems short-sighted in my opinion. The line could extend to the Bronx more easily, under Third Ave. Could the MTA instead build a station on 125th St/2nd Ave and make an out-of-system transfer with the 4,5,6 trains? I think that such a plan would make more sense.

Will March 7, 2016 - 11:35 am

It’s to far out, like 4 1/2 regular city blocks

Ryan March 7, 2016 - 1:09 pm

The intersection of 125 and Lexington is roughly 1/4 mile from the intersection of 125 and 2 Av. Further south in Grand Central, the Lex is actually farther away from 2 Av – it curves over to Park Av at that point. No such exit to 3 Av that you describe as servicing the 7 line exists. It is absolutely a farther walk for the proposed in-system connection than any out-of-system transfer at 125 St would be.

While I personally doubt the MTA’s ability to install such a connection, the distances involved are not in question. 1/4 mile – less depending on absolute exit placements (and if a 125 St crosstown is provisioned for I would expect some perpendicular exit placements, eg into Triboro Plaza or onto 125 St midblock between 2 and 3 Avs) and in no cases more than a 5 minute walk. An out of system transfer is entirely doable and entirely appropriate here.

Michael549 March 7, 2016 - 10:31 pm

“An out of system transfer is entirely doable and entirely appropriate here.”

I flatly dis-agree. One of the goals of the Second Avenue Subway project was to give Bronx Riders the option of taking trains from the Bronx down the Second Avenue line to their destinations along the eastside of Manhattan and downtown.

You are proposing a Second Avenue station at 125th Street/Second Avenue with only an “out of system” transfer between the 4-5-6 trains and the Metro-North station to the new station you are proposing. That kind of “out-of-system” for a 1/4 mile walking distance is simply not going to cut it. Bronx riders 4-5-6 will simply remain on those trains for their trips downtown and along the eastside – under-cutting one of the major goals of building the Second Avenue subway line in the first place. One of the major goals for the Second Avenue subway was to provide relief for the Lexington Avenue line.

Given the great un-likelihood of there ever being a Bronx extension of the Second Avenue Subway the proposed and almost funded transfer station at 125th Street-Lexington Avenue-Metro-North serves several purposes. This station provides the transfers for Bronx riders, provides the capability for a possible route under 125th Street, and the capability of a Bronx extension in the future if the funding is found.

I’ve read over the decades many of plans for the Second Avenue subway as well as own a copy of the city’s Master Plan of 1969 that outlined the various proposals for the entire Second Avenue project. There were several plans for the Bronx portion over the years – with no final one selected. In addition there has been much discussion and debate about these ideas over the decades.

Your idea of an “out-of-system” and “that’s it” is not appropriate for this situation.


Will March 8, 2016 - 8:53 am

Neither is a 2 billion dollar curve and deep station carven extension.

Ryan March 8, 2016 - 9:02 am

Building this thing in such a way that it guarantees any proposal for a Bronx extension either fails CBA to a hilarious degree or requires essentially an entire new line (ie express tracks) to service it is a very curious way to “help” Bronx riders.

You mention the great unlikelihood that 2 Av trains will ever reach the Bronx as you sit here arguing for one of the largest reasons why that will be so! In contrast, here’s an incontrovertible fact: if all the money wasted on the 125 St turnout is instead diverted to extending Phase 2 to 3 Av – 148 St instead of Park/Lex Avs – 125 St, then the line will already be in the Bronx.

An out-of-system transfer is all that is necessary while we look for funding to make that tunnel happen, because the elephant in the room is that the transfer could be a timed and guided walk across the platform and the overwhelming majority of riders who would take advantage of this transfer are those who are trying to get to locations east of Third Avenue, who currently face at least a 1/4 mile walk anyway, who are going to make the out-of-system transfer because the ride down Second Avenue is both less congested and far more importantly gets them closer to where they want to go.

The Lexington Avenue line’s biggest issue is that it’s stuck serving way too many markets, trying to accomodate too many different people. The Second Avenue line doesn’t need to (in fact, it can’t) service every market that the Lexington Avenue lines do. An out of system transfer, combined with everyone living on or east of 2 Av who now take the the train that goes under their street instead of the one 1/4 mile over, is enough to provide relief to the Lex.

If you disagree, I welcome your opinion. If you believe that serving 125 is more valuable than serving the Bronx, that’s just fine. But you need to acknowledge the realities of Phase 2 as designed:

1) It neither serves the Bronx nor helps Bronx ridership,
2) It all but guarantees that Second Avenue services never will.

Will March 8, 2016 - 9:19 am

I was wondering instead of deep cavern station why don’t MTA just built the tunnel right next lex instead under it.Lex Mezzanine could be expand to serve all the routes and connections.

Michael549 March 8, 2016 - 5:15 pm

I can be long-winded, so I will be brief, even though I could expand upon each of the points I’ve made.

I flatly dis-agree with your notion that an – “out-of-system transfer is all that is necessary!” You are proposing the MTA build a subway station at 125th Street/Second Avenue with only an “out of system” transfer between the Lexington Avenue #4, #5 & #6 trains and the Metro-North station with a 1/4 mile distance between these places. You also propose that the Second Avenue subway be extended to the Bronx. You paint this as an “either / or” situation – where your “idea” is better because it is your idea, and that we should trust that.

By constructing a transfer station under the 125th Street-Lexington Avenue and Metro-North stations to the Second Avenue subway the planners are a) attempting to service Bronx riders, b) provide transfers for Metro-North riders, c) provide a possible opening for a 125th Street Cross-Town line, and provide an opening for Bronx service if/when funds become available. That transfer station allows folks to travel to and from the most eastern sides of Manhattan and as to several locations in the Bronx. The planners have considered and left open the possibilities of future expansion, when and if the funds become available.

Considering the long history of funding and other problems with the overall Second Avenue Subway and Queens extensions this IS the best usage of available funds.

One noted long-time criticism of the Second Avenue/Queens subway project was the building of new transit lines that did NOT have connections to other transit lines – reducing the utility of the millions/billions spent. The famous two decades of the “63rd Street Tunnel To Nowhere” is one prime example, with the already built but un-used tunnels as another example.

You claim that building this transfer station stops any further expansion into the Bronx, and call the building of this transfer station a waste of funds. You would prefer an immediate expansion into the Bronx by building a Harlem River tunnel with stations at 138th Street-Third Avenue, and a terminal at 149th Street-Third Avenue allowing transfers for #2, #5 and #6 lines. You also claim that an “out-of-system transfer is all that is necessary” for riders of the #4 train (West Bronx), and Metro-North riders that would want to use the new Second Avenue line, or for east side riders heading to the Bronx.

Except that there has been NO WORK concerning your tunnel proposals, the cost of stations or any engineering work. In other message streams it has been explained that the engineering work required in building new under water tunnels and the funding requirements are great – see 14th Street.

In another message that YOU WROTE – you said the following:

“Tunnels under water are more expensive than tunnels under land, and the logistical challenges involved ….”

So basically you are proposing an idea where no work has been done – and saying, “trust me”! It is really a denial of transit service in the guise of saying that you want to improve transit service.

I’ve followed the plans for the Second Avenue Subway and Queens Extension since high school in the 1970’s. There have been several plans for improving Bronx service presented in beautiful reports ranged from: a) replacing the Third Avenue El with a new direct Second Avenue line, b) using Metro-North trackage with new stations in the Bronx, c) connecting to and then replacing the #5 and #6 lines to Dyre Avenue and/or Pelham Bay Park, d) using LIRR/Amtrak trackage with new stations at Parkchester and Co-Op City, e) using converted railroad trackage near 135th Street shadowing the #6 train until Hunts Point Avenue and replacing the #6 at or about the Whitlock Avenue station, f) the Regional Plan Association and others proposed a new transit line on Lafayette Avenue in the Soundview sections of the Bronx, and plenty of other proposals.

Basically there were different plans to service the West Bronx, the Central Bronx, and the East Bronx by the Second Avenue Subway – with no final plan gaining favor.

Often these suggestions would a) NOT increase subway trackage in the Bronx – simply replace one form with another; b) did not increase transit options by replacing the #5 or #6 lines in some form/fashion (same stations, problems, issues); or c) open new areas in need of transit, and d) most importantly would deprive the remaining IRT lines of needed train maintenance and storage facilities. The majority of the train maintenance facilities and storage is in the Bronx.

The idea of providing new stations at Parkchester and Co-Op City by using Bronx Amtrak trackage has been on the drawing boards for decades. I read an RPA report about that while visiting the Transit Authority Jay Street offices in the late 1970’s, then it was proposed that the N-train would make such trips to the Bronx. Governor Cuomo recently proposed a new scheme with commuter trains.

How many times on this forum have folks complained – moaned and groaned – and birthed kittens over the idea that “$4 Billion Was Spent On One PATH Station Resulting In Not One Inch Of New Additional Trackage!” They are still banging that drum now!

The idea of greatly proving transportation by simply providing IND/BMT type subway cars/service as some kind of magic transit “elixir” is at best un-proven. Until the rest of the Second Avenue line is built, the frequency of service provided solely by the Q-train is simply no match for the combined service provided by the 4-5-6 trains. While I am heartened that there is expressed interest in improving Bronx transit I question the idea of replacing IRT trains for BMT/IND type trains. Is that really an improvement or just a substitution?

In addition, you confuse “serving Bronx riders” with “expanding service in the Bronx” as a reason to suggest to not build this transfer station. Many Bronx riders use the 125th Street-Lexington Avenue station as a transfer station to complete journeys about the Bronx when there is no direct bus service. Been there – done that. This transfer station would allow riders to travel to and from the eastern most sides of Manhattan and to locations in various parts of the Bronx.

You say that an “out-of-system transfer is all that is necessary” for riders to use in all types of weather in NYC. The day to day experience of the riders undercut such assertions. Three examples: a) the daily experiences of #4 and #5 train riders both to/from the Staten Island Ferry, as compared to the usage of a subway station right underneath the Whitehall Ferry Terminal; b) the daily experiences of folks transferring from the 63rd Street-Lexington Avenue F-train station, between and versus the 59th Street-Lexington Avenue station with the #4, 5 #6, N, Q and R train station direct transfer among those trains. (An awful amount of folks use the R-train to travel between Queens Blvd and Lexington Avenue. An awful amount of folks transfer at the 51st/53rd Street-Lexington Avenue stations also.)

Some time ago, I lived on 83rd Street between First and York Avenues while working on 125th Street. I regularly rode the buses along 125th Street and the connecting buses on Second & First Avenues. I also made the regular trips to and from the 86th Street at Lexington Avenue subway station. I very much understand the nature of the walk that you express great fondness for between 125th Street-Lexington Avenue and 125th Street-Second Avenue. I appreciate your heart felt suggestion that the 1/4 mile walk is “nothing” – but my feet say other-wise. I’ve done the walk – it is no picnic, and I was younger then!

Bronx riders 4-5-6 will simply remain on those trains for their trips downtown and along the eastside if the proposed transfer station was not built, thus under-cutting one of the major goals of building the Second Avenue subway line in the first place. This is basically your goal!

The Second Avenue Subway project has been plagued over the decades with the “bird in hand” versus the “bird in the bush” problem! (There are several aspects of this issue.)

The effort now is for actually achieve-able goals – rather than “pie in the sky” futuristic dreams that will solve all problems “some-day”. Given the numerous efforts of obstructionists – the NIMBY actions of Eastside and Queens’ political folk and neighborhood residents and others – both current and past – it is simply better to have “Real Achieve Able Goals And Plans That Happen To Be Funded.”

You have neither!

The MTA and various planners for a long period of time have gone over and over the goals and aspirations of and for a Second Avenue Subway line, as well as created the detailed plans for their ideas. None of the plans and working documents were just “thought up a few days ago.” They have consulted with community groups and others for very long periods of time, and have done the hard work.

You propose an extension of the Second Avenue Subway into the Bronx. What the MTA is doing does not stop such a proposal when and if the funds are available.


Will March 9, 2016 - 1:24 am

I wouldn’t consider the Harlem river a major river Crossing. More like a creek and very easy to tunnel

Michael549 March 9, 2016 - 1:10 pm

The article on Wikipedia concerning the Harlem River is a very interesting read that you might what to take a look at.


Ryan March 9, 2016 - 3:45 pm

This is an either-or situation. It emphatically, empirically is.

The tail tracks – which you and others claim would allow for future service extension if funding becomes available – cannot carry trains from 125 and Lexington to the Bronx. With the track alignment as currently designed, your only routing options are between 116 St and 125/Lexington, or between 116 St and 138 St in the Bronx. That is a fact.

It’s also a fact that any tunnel under water, no matter short the length/width of the water body is, carries with it logistical challenges that make it exponentially more expensive than an equivalent tunnel under land. We agree on this.

But you mention the long, sordid history of Second Avenue. You touch briefly upon decades of history in this City and with these agencies, the legacy of which is all around us, underneath our feet as we walk through lower Manhattan and the outer boroughs. It’s a legacy of provisions that have amounted to nothing, expensive plans that have evaporated, and modern projects whose value just don’t justify their costs.

An alarming portion of future Second Avenue Subway phases completely disregard the provisions that were put in place, opting for expensive underpinning projects at Grand and Houston instead!

And here you sit, arguing that putting tail tracks in which will force the capacity of Second Avenue’s subway services to be split between 125 St and the Bronx, ensures that a Bronx extension is “only a matter of time and funding.” The elephant in the room is that nobody gets to write a blank check, least of all for transit. And that’s a damn shame, considering transit’s importance as a vital piece of infrastructure, but it is nevertheless a reality. Would I like to have blank checks for transit? Absolutely! I’d love for subways to be exempt from cost/benefit analysis. I would love for it to just take someone drawing a line on a map to make new subways happen. In that universe, sure! Split the capacity, why not? Doesn’t matter that the tunnel won’t ever be more than half-full in that world, since CBA doesn’t happen.

In this universe, unfortunately, what gets built is just as much about what CBA comes out to as it is about actually fulfilling the goals of increased mobility and access to transit. In this universe, any extension of Second Avenue into the Bronx must first produce a satisfactory answer to the question of “is this worth the price tag attached to it?,” a question whose answer is in large part influenced by the amount of service it is possible to send through the new infrastructure. Service which, again, must be less than or equal to half of the total service capacity possible in any given track pair, because of the branching nature of the tail tracks.

You mention the high cost of water crossings that we are both aware of and in agreement on. The difference is you’re arguing on just as much faith as you’re accusing me of arguing on! You’re telling not only me but all of the other commenters in this thread who are in agreement on the importance of a Bronx extension to trust you, and those on your side of the argument, when you say that splitting branches and reducing capacity is no big deal. That is emphatically wrong, because in sending trains to Lexington instead you’ve permanently reduced the capacity of Second Avenue to service the Bronx by half. The Bronx, as you know, which is already littered with expensive and underutilized pieces of subway infrastructure.

And you really think that there will be sufficient will to get another half-capacity line built? There won’t be.

Here’s another elephant in the room that has been brought up in other comments but has yet to be addressed by you: people are not likely to transfer to a subway that takes them farther away from where they’re trying to go. People are also not likely to transfer halfway through their journey unless a transfer is required to get them to where they want to go. But, conversely, people are more likely to walk a little farther at the beginnings of their journey to get to a superior subway option. That means, in other words, that if Second Avenue services go to the Bronx in Phase 2, riders of the 456 trains may elect to take a bus or walk to the Second Avenue transfer station, where they are currently taking a bus or walking to a Lexington Avenue station instead.

The people whose commutes already include a transfer to Lexington Avenue in the Bronx are all but guaranteed NOT to transfer again to Second Avenue trains, no matter where that transfer is! Conversely, the people who are transferring are doing so because Second Avenue gets them much closer to where they want to go, and it’s this group that will utilize the out-of-system transfer nearly as much (if not exactly as much) as they would utilize a transfer station built at 125 and Lexington. The gains from going to 125 and Lex are marginal, and the costs extreme by comparison.

You mention that no work has been done to study the Bronx extension. I find that fascinating, considering that you also try to make the point that this is, if not the only way, then the best way to help the various parties you identify as benefiting from the transfer station. If no work has been done studying alternatives, how can you make that assertion? If we know the value and cost of Second Avenue trains going to 125 and Lex, but not to 149 St and 3 Av in the Bronx, then how can we be certain that this is in fact the best way? Is that not, and to a much larger degree than the discussion we’re having here, a request by certain interested parties to go on blind faith? I don’t want you to have to “trust me.” If it turns out, as I said in another comment, that serving 125 St and West Harlem on a crosstown is more valuable than servicing the Bronx, I’m fine with that! I need to see the data that says that, but I am absolutely fine with that!

What I’m not fine with is the argument that half-and-half is a possible service routing, that an extension to the Bronx which is handicapped by half of its capacity going to West Harlem instead is somehow doable in a way that many other subway extensions facing far less of an uphill battle on the CBA front aren’t, and that installing a transfer in Harlem is somehow more beneficial to Bronx ridership then actually running trains into the Bronx would be.

The fact of the matter is that sending Second Avenue service into the Bronx isn’t just a flat replacement of one service type with another – it IS an expansion, and enables an expansion. Sending trains up Third Avenue and then over to Dyre Avenue allows the 5 on Dyre Avenue to be replaced by the QT combined service, the 4 on Jerome Avenue to become the 45 and have its frequency thereby doubled, and at the low cost of a closure of the two stations on the 3’s short branch in upper Manhattan, allows the 3 to replace the 5 on White Plains Road, preserving its current service levels. In other words, exactly two stations in Manhattan (both within spitting distance of other subway stations) lose service in exchange for some of the most overburdened portions of the system in the Bronx gaining doubled service. And even if that doesn’t happen, if phase 2 only goes as far as the 3 Av – 149 St transfer station on the White Plains Road line, there is still a great many transfers that are opened up and a vast number of three seat rides (bus to subway to other subway) that become two seat rides instead.

The fact of the matter is that none of these things are possible if Second Avenue services are split in Manhattan. Without a full capacity line going over the Harlem River, several of these overburdened yet underutilized lines in the Bronx are stuck – perhaps permanently – at half capacity, and the appetite for adding more underutilized infrastructure to the Bronx is likely nonexistent.

This is an either-or decision, and all I’m asking for is an acknowledgement of that. Half-and-half is unrealistic.

And as a closing thought? Because half-and-half is unrealistic, there’s a quite easy cost savings measure to be had in deleting the Bronx tail tracks from the plan. No sense in building a provision doomed to join the likes of the cross-platform transfer at Grand St on the long, long list of unutilized subway provisions.

Alistair March 7, 2016 - 1:18 pm

Eventually yes, they should definitely build a 125th crosstown. But remember that the main target of the interchange at 125th is not the Lex, it’s Metro-North. If they can get people to get off Metro-North at 125th and take the SAS south, that’s a big win.

Extending to the Bronx is quite compatible with this — eventually the Q will go to the Bronx and the T to 125th and Broadway.

Ryan March 7, 2016 - 2:53 pm

Extending to the Bronx is completely incompatible with connecting to Harlem – 125 St.

It’s completely incompatible because Lexington Avenue is hard west of 2 Av, so there’s no way to send the full track capacity to both the Bronx and to 125 St unless a gigantic double-back is instituted, running trains from 2 Av to 5 Av over 125 St, from 125 St to 132 St over 5 Av, and then into the Bronx via a tunnel under 132 St (which is both dumb from a route-mileage standpoint and gets even dumber if you have to go to 8 or 9 Avs to get the other trunk lines as well).

Tunnels under water are more expensive than tunnels under land, and the logistical challenges involved in surfacing at or around 125 for a bridge into a cheaper 3 Av Elevated carries its own costs and logistics challenges. It is incredibly unlikely that the effort would be undertaken for a line that is completely impossible by design to fill.

Both branches are going to Lexington Avenue, or both branches are crossing the river on a single structure. It’s either/or, not half of both.

As an aside, the main goal being to pull people off of Metro-North is completely and utterly stupid. Metro-North isn’t over capacity, the Lex trains are. We should be trying to pull people off of Lexington Avenue, whether that means putting them on Metro-North or on 2 Av. Send the trains to the Bronx right now and you can get people transferring off of (or never getting onto) Lexington Avenue trains, and getting people onto Metro-North is a matter of fare rationalization and other exciting political issues rather than a need for new infrastructure since there’s plenty of room on the trains already running under/over Park Avenue.

If pulling people off Metro-North is the real goal, this isn’t worth building, so it’s a very good thing that that isn’t the real goal.

adirondacker12800 March 7, 2016 - 3:04 pm

Um people get off Metro North and get on the subway. Very often the Lexington Ave. Lines. If they get off at 125th and change to the Second Avenue they aren’t on the Lex.

Ryan March 8, 2016 - 9:18 am

If they get off in Harlem and transfer to the subway, they’re probably transferring to whatever subway gets them the closest to where they want to go.

If they’re trying to go to Second Avenue, or First Avenue, or anywhere east of those streets, they’ll probably transfer to a Second Avenue train, even if that means walking a few blocks.

If they’re trying to go to Park Avenue or Lexington Avenue, they’re probably going to transfer to a Lexington Avenue train no matter what we do to incentive taking Second Avenue and walking more instead.

Of course, the Lexington Avenue services are overburdened in large part by the number of markets that have no other options right now (2 Av and points east) or ever (Lex Av itself and Park Av to a lesser extent.) Pulling in the 2 Av market frees up space on the Lex to be filled by those trying to go to somewhere on the Lex. Making Metro-North fares rational so that people who could be/would be taking it if not for the price point does the same thing.

Indeed, Harlem riders jumping onto Metro-North as the White Plains constituency jumps off would solve both problems nicely, no fancy new subway required, meaning the fancy new subway can instead stick to serving the people actually living/working/playing within walking distance of Second Avenue.

MWill March 8, 2016 - 9:23 am

MTA really cared about the East Side. They would have open up the the closed stations on Park Ave

aestrivex March 7, 2016 - 3:13 pm

I agree that the transfer to metro-north is not a critical goal. Providing crosstown service north of central park is a much more important goal.

That goal doesn’t have to be realized in our lifetimes, for it to make sense to build provisions for future expansion into the design.

And that’s true even if providing service to the bronx, whether along the pelham railway branch or something else entirely, is the best solution.

orulz March 7, 2016 - 4:52 pm

Disagree. Sending half the trains to 125th and half the trains to the Bronx is a perfectly reasonable solution. When the 2nd ave subway is completed, half the trains will profceed down 2nd ave, and the other half will take the 63rd street connection to the Broadway express tracks. You could easily send half of those trains, probably the Q, up to the Bronx and the other half, probably the T, over to Broadway/125th.

If the main goal is congestion mitigation on the Lex, people riding from the Bronx could just get on the Q and never get on the Lex as you mention. Or, existing Lex riders headed to destinations further east could transfer to the T at 125th.

If the line can handle a train every 2 minutes, that’s only 4 minutes between trains on each branch. Thereby, everybody on the Lex can reach the 2nd avenue subway with either zero or one transfers.

Jeff March 7, 2016 - 8:23 pm

One of the many proposals in the past was to send the 2nd Avenue Subway to the Bronx, and have it capture the Pelham line past 3 Ave-138. That way you have the Pelham people on 2nd Avenue and can have a substantially less crowded Lexington Ave local (the most crowded local in the system) as a result.

I think that remains a good idea, assuming it’s not too expensive to convert the line to IND standards.

adirondacker12800 March 7, 2016 - 8:40 pm

Back when the 2nd Ave. line was going to be four tracked and six tracked.

Bigbellymon4 March 7, 2016 - 8:51 pm

Four-tracking SAS should be done but six-tracking would be overkill right now. In the it might be necessary, but not now.

Jeff March 7, 2016 - 11:23 pm

That’s true… The downside is that they lose the cross-platform express transfer if it gets implemented today, but the current 2nd Ave line has stops that are spaced far enough such that it’s probably a quick ride downtown nonetheless.

In terms of getting a substantial amount of people off the Lexington Avenue trains though I don’t think there’s a cheaper way out there

Eric March 8, 2016 - 5:26 am

It’s too late to four-track SAS. Future UES tracks will probably have to be under 5th Ave.

Ryan March 8, 2016 - 10:24 am

It isn’t too late to retrofit express tracks by digging them underneath the local track pair over the span of Phase 1 and Phase 2 (similar to the Lex track arrangement) and it certainly isn’t too late to add them back into Phases 3 and 4.

Of course, each successive phase without them makes it harder to do (in turn more expensive, then harder to justify) but we’re not past the point yet where it is “too late.”

Alon Levy March 9, 2016 - 7:02 am

The Lex track alignment was built all in one go. Retrofitting new tracks under a street that already has them, like Sixth Avenue, is a recipe for a cost blowout. Don’t do that. If there’s demand for two extra tracks on the East Side, put them under First or something.

Ryan March 9, 2016 - 3:43 pm

Doing anything at all in this town tends to be a recipe for a cost blowout.

That having been said, I’d want it studied, maybe it turns out that building the express tracks parallel to the existing tracks in the same (expanded) tunnel is cheaper than building them underground. I have no preference, as long as they’re underneath Second Avenue.

Expanding a tunnel that already exists, even underpinning a tunnel that already exists, is bound to be far cheaper than going ahead and building an entirely new tunnel and all of the associated support infrastructure some number of avenues over.

Alon Levy March 9, 2016 - 5:49 pm

Sixth Avenue Subway was expensive by the standards of the rest of the IND, and very expensive by the standards of the Dual Contracts. Not all costs are equivalent.

Contra what you say, expanding a tunnel is more expensive than building a new tunnel. The work of digging the tunnel has to be done either way, but now you’re dealing with more preexisting infrastructure.

Bigbellymon4 March 7, 2016 - 8:50 pm

True this is a good idea that should get implemented, but then where do you put the 6 line? Terminate it at 3av-138st? What should happen is the SAS extended to 149st-3av with stations at 138st-3av and 125st-2av. For people who work on the east side and they live in the Bronx, they would transfer if SAS brings them closer to there job. Plain and simple.

Will March 8, 2016 - 9:02 am

When the Pelham branch was it built as a irt and BMT contract?

Will March 8, 2016 - 9:14 am

You have The 6 terminate at Hunts Point and send 2ave up to 3ave to 163 and then turn towards to Hunts point and take the el towards Pelham. You have taken the lex crowd at 138 street and the lex crowd at 149 and provided service to soundview morisanna hub, or go cheap and built transfer station at 149 street 3ave and 138 ave 3ave. Wow there is so many possibilities

Michael549 March 9, 2016 - 3:04 pm

“You have The 6 terminate at Hunts Point and send 2ave up to 3ave to 163 and then turn towards to Hunts point and take the el towards Pelham Bay…”

Which by definition means that you’re separating those #6 trains from their only train maintenance and storage train yard near Westchester Square. That was the same problem noted by the Regional Plan Association proposal for this idea in there report in the mid-1970’s, a report I read while in high school in the mid-1970’s at the Transit Authority Jay Street head-quarters.

Just like the MTA switching the R & N train terminals in Queens, or the #2 and #3 train terminals in Brooklyn – why would the MTA un-link its transit lines from their train storage and maintenance facilities? They would not!

Bringing up old un-work-able dis-credited ideas as if they were “fresh” and “new” is just plain wrong!


Dexter March 7, 2016 - 11:29 am

Or just make Phase II end at 3rd Avenue-149th Street. Not only would you guarantee The Bronx the two branches it deserves, but you’d also get the under river tunnel out of the way now while it’s cheaper to do so. A terminal at The Hub would do a lot more to relieve Lexington Avenue congestion than a terminal at Lex and 125th.

Will March 7, 2016 - 11:39 am


Ryan March 7, 2016 - 12:00 pm

The in-system transfer indicated on the maps for connecting Grand Central to 42 St – 2 Av station is exactly as long, if not longer. An out-of-system transfer is very possible here.

Will March 7, 2016 - 12:10 pm

That is because the lex is at 4ave and the 7 line is underneath with an exit at 3ave

Will March 7, 2016 - 12:12 pm

Or 2ave

Ryan March 7, 2016 - 12:58 pm

My initial reply somehow got attached to the wrong comment chain, so please see above for the continuation of this discussion.

Tower18 March 7, 2016 - 1:50 pm

In your previous reply, you seem to be arguing that the 7 train’s Grand Central station does *not* have a 3rd Avenue exit…but it absolutely does (or rather almost to 3rd Ave, inside 150 E 42nd)

Ryan March 8, 2016 - 9:30 am

A midblock exit into a privately owned building, while a very useful thing in its own right, is not a substitute for and does not qualify as an exit onto any given street that building happens to have its own exits to.

Larry Littlefield March 7, 2016 - 9:20 am

“In announcing this new work, the MTA reiterated its commitment to Phase 2 and projected awarding these contracts over the summer.”

Then put it out design build for $2.5 billion. No bids? Do it again next year, and every year thereafter until there is a construction bust and work is mostly finished on the third water tunnel, etc.

Eventually someone will need the work, and find a way to do it.

Will March 7, 2016 - 9:32 am

Or bid it to the Chinese Government. No federal funds will be needed. They will take it. Didn’t they expanded their subways as big as ours at a faster pace then we build the 63 street connector and 2ave subway combine

Eric March 7, 2016 - 9:48 am

indeed, the first segment of the Shanghai subway started operating in 1993, and already it carries nearly twice as many people as the NYC subway.

BrooklynBound March 7, 2016 - 10:50 am

Or we can get “El Chapo” and his henchmen when he gets sent over here to be sentenced, since they built that elaborate tunnel in Mexico from the jail he escaped!

Joking aside, it’s very sad to see that so many good, innovative projects in NYC were never carried out because of political reasons, lack of money, or lack of political will!

Alon Levy March 8, 2016 - 7:04 am

In Israel, a lot of people call for bringing in Hamas to use its knowledge in building terror tunnels out of Gaza to build the Tel Aviv subway.

paulb March 8, 2016 - 6:18 pm

The Mexican cartels show real ability that way, too.

Alon Levy March 8, 2016 - 7:44 pm

Proposal: let Trump build the border wall, in order to stimulate the Mexican tunnel-building economy. Then the city could declare itself not bound by US immigration laws and hire those Mexican tunnel builders to build the subway.

Stephen Smith March 7, 2016 - 11:47 am

Design-build might be appealing to politicians who want things done quickly, but it has not yielded cost savings or satisfaction. Other countries with low tunneling costs don’t use design-build for subway tunnels (Manuel Melis Maynar, who led Madrid’s amazingly cheap Metrosur project, was adamant about not having the same firms both design and build tunnels).

The solution to NYC’s cost quandary is a lot more complicated than “keep asking contractors to do it more cheaply.”

aestrivex March 7, 2016 - 12:10 pm

I have an idea, maybe we could convince Donald Trump to start a construction company.

He has 18 TBMs. And they’re all five times as big as your TBMs. You should be ashamed of having such small TBMs.

Brooklynite March 7, 2016 - 10:16 am

Curving over to 125/Lex kills a substantial portion of capacity on a future Bronx extension. On the other hand, it guarantees that UES will have trains that are not jampacked with Bronx passengers like the 6 is today. It’s a mixed bag. Personally, I think the SAS should take over either Dyre, Jerome, or Pelham past Hunts Point.

Will March 7, 2016 - 11:15 am

That was the original idea. It was to run on the NEC to 180 and then run on the original Boston Westchester alignment. TA decide to use the funds for maintenance and platform extension on the old IRT

Eric March 7, 2016 - 12:27 pm

I would have it go north under 3rd Ave, then east on 163rd (roughly), then to Soundview and Throggs Neck. This would serve entirely new neighborhoods, and have Bronx transfers to the 2/5/6 to reduce crowding on those lines.

BrooklynBound March 7, 2016 - 10:03 pm

I’m imagining a subway running along 3rd Ave, then Webster Ave (maybe even along the MNRR tracks next to Webster), curving to the right to meet with the D line and run under Burke Ave up to Co-op City.

Eric March 8, 2016 - 5:30 am

The thing is, MNRR already exists. Add a couple local stops and integrate its fares with the subway, and a new line under 3rd/Webster becomes redundant. That’s why I said Soundview instead.

Ryan March 8, 2016 - 9:49 am

I completely agree that fare integration should happen, but that isn’t really relevant to a routing decision. There’s a sizable portion of Third Avenue which is around half a mile away from the Metro-North tracks, which in turn sit next to a fairly steep cliff that greatly diminishes the walkshed west of Webster Avenue.

Running up Third Avenue to 163 plugs a transit gap that Metro-North couldn’t really fill effectively. North of 163 you have redundancy, but the line could still turn east to Soundview at 163 or go somewhere else from there.

Alon Levy March 8, 2016 - 7:07 am

I don’t see the point. The subway is not very crowded coming in from the Bronx. The southbound 6 only goes standing-room only at 125th Street or so. The tidal rush of morning commuters comes from East Harlem and especially the Upper East Side. In contrast, 125th Street has 30,000 bus boardings according to the MTA, which over a 3 km stretch makes it a more crowded bus corridor than the M14 and M86 (both at 8,000/km or so) as well as more crowded than any US light rail system (the busiest, the Boston Green Line, has 6,000 boardings per km). This is for a bus that is slower than walking. A subway is desperately needed.

Ryan March 8, 2016 - 10:03 am

Where are all those riders going? An educated guess tells me probably not to the places Second Avenue trains would take them east-to-south of Lexington Avenue.

An argument for a subway it may well be, but it’s far from an argument for this subway. If anything, a subway should replace the M60 completely, and connect to Astoria Boulevard – but I do think we ought to try exclusive bus lanes first.

Alon Levy March 8, 2016 - 7:47 pm

The Upper East Side, for one, including the hospitals around Lenox Hill. Or even Queens – the connections from the Upper West Side and West Harlem to Queens are awful, without any good two-seat ride; Q-to-F would be way better than the current options. And don’t knock Second Avenue, which is right on the edge of the Midtown office building cluster.

Ryan March 9, 2016 - 3:44 pm

Okay, that’s fair. I’m questioning the idea that West Harlem/UES is worth more riders than Bronx/UES on a single-seat ride, and a 125 St crosstown connected to Queens directly is almost certainly worth more ridership than a West Harlem/Queens two-seat ride, but you make valid points here.

I don’t have a problem in principle with it if the studies come out and reveal that no, in fact, the Bronx isn’t worth serving. If West Harlem truly turns out to be a better value add to the system, that is fine with me. I don’t think it is, but I’m happy to be proven wrong.

My real problem is with the dishonesty inherent in the argument that the tail tracks (which should be deleted immediately as a cost saving measure) will ever be used to extend half of a subway into the Bronx, which is already littered with halves of subways which cannot be filled. This cannot and shouldn’t be sold as half-and-half, the opportunity for half-and-half is not gone per se but relies on a second track pair, in and of itself an expensive ask that gets more expensive the longer we delay.

Alon Levy March 9, 2016 - 5:53 pm

There are already tons of one-seat rides from the Bronx to the UES. In contrast, getting from West Harlem and Washington Heights to the UES involves a three-side ride, an awkward transfer to the F (only from the B/D) that only goes to the margins of the neighborhood, or a crosstown bus crawl. Things will considerably improve when SAS Phase 1 opens – my UES-to-Columbia commute from 6 years ago would’ve been cut from 50 minutes to 37 minutes each way – but I lived near the southern end of the UES and commuted to Columbia rather than Washington Heights or Harlem.

Bobby March 8, 2016 - 1:33 pm

Does your comment apply to the 2/5 as well as the 6? I am heading north on the 5 in the Bronx in the morning, and the trains going the other way appear packed, as do the Bx15 and BX41.

AMH March 8, 2016 - 3:48 pm

The 6 actually empties out at 125th as people transfer to the expresses. It quickly returns to being crush-loaded as it picks people up at local stops.

The 4 is generally packed coming into 125th; the 5 less so. That’s not to say that trains aren’t full in the Bronx–they are. There are also overcrowded bus corridors (e.g. 3rd Av) that desperately need subways.

Ryan March 8, 2016 - 4:33 pm

Here’s a radical idea that can’t happen if Second Avenue trains do not reach the Bronx: disconnect Dyre Av from White Plains Road, connecting it to Second Av services instead. Then turn every single 5 train into a 4 train, and end service to Lenox Terminal so that every 3 train runs as a 2 train in the Bronx. No service is lost on White Plains Road (now the 23 instead of the 25), but service doubles on Dyre Av with the QT replacing the 5 and service also doubles on Jerome Av with the 4 becoming the 45.

This is the knock-on effect of sending a full track pair’s worth of capacity into the Bronx. There is no other way to leverage unused existing track capacity on the Jerome or Dyre Av lines. And as new construction must enable trains to travel over/under unserved Bronx streets to get from 125 to 180, this plan would not preclude restoring rail service to Third Avenue.

The only thing that can preclude this plan, other than an absurd contingent of Lenox Terminal ridership materializing from the void, is if Second Avenue trains are sent to 125 and Lexington instead.

Brooklynite March 9, 2016 - 1:02 am

YES. This. By taking over one of the Bronx branches currently feeding Lex, we will distribute ridership better and give Lex more capacity. The de-interlining idea will also increase capacity and reliability.

That said, closing Lenox Terminal would be politically infeasible, unfortunately. When they tried to close 145th after they opened 148th the politicians intervened; now you’re proposing closing two stations.

Ryan March 9, 2016 - 3:44 pm

That happened before, but that doesn’t mean it will happen again – or if it does, political impasses can be negotiated around.

I’d imagine the will to expand service in the Bronx would prove far larger than the will to keep a stub service extension open, particularly when keeping it open means the whole scheme to double service on Jerome (and presumably Dyre, see below) falls apart.

Nathanael March 8, 2016 - 8:46 pm

So the 4 is packed. There are no connections the Second Avenue Subway can possibly make in the Bronx which would relieve the 4, though 125th St. can relieve the 4.

The SAS should continue west from 125th St to 125th St [B, D]. People will switch from the 4 to the Grand Concourse Line and change to the SAS there.

Brooklynite March 9, 2016 - 1:05 am

Nobody is going to take the B/D to 125th on the West Side line, only to then ride SAS all the way back to the East Side, then to proceed south making all local stops.

The SAS could, however, simply take over a Bronx branch. All IRT lines in the Bronx (except WPR south of 180th I believe?) were built under the Dual Contracts so they are convertible to B Div standards. If the SAS took over the Dyre branch, Jerome would have twice as much service as it does today.

Ryan March 9, 2016 - 3:45 pm

Besides Jerome, Dyre would also presumably gain twice as much service as it’s unlikely (not impossible the way splitting service south of 125 is, but highly unlikely all the same) that services from Second Avenue would branch in the Bronx. In the event that they did, Jerome and WPR would still be filled, Dyre would remain at half-capacity (unless the conversion included a turnout track so that the Second Avenue service could share Dyre Avenue with a full-time Dyre Avenue Shuttle), and wherever the other half of Second Avenue gets sent (Throggs Neck?) would similarly be restricted to half capacity.

WPR may or may not be convertible to B Division standards but it doesn’t matter unless and until you decide to convert EVERYTHING to B Division (thereby abolishing the A Division standard entirely) – running B Division trains on A Division platforms may not be possible, and WPR needs to remain connected to the A Division Seventh Avenue Line services.

Islandher93 March 7, 2016 - 4:07 pm

So what if the 125th st curve is built as an extension to the #2 line, with provisions in place to make another arrangement like the 42nd st shuttle?

Have the curve made from 2nd Ave onto 125th st, and have the station centered midway between Metro-North and the Lex, so that it remains one combined station plaza. Next stop west would be centered under the 2,3 on Malcolm X Blvd, then under the A,C,E at St. Nicholas Ave, and finally a stop under 1 on Broadway, with a set of stub-tracks extending out towards the waterfront.
While all of this is being constructed, have the curve from 2nd to 125th fitted with provisions for a stub for future extensions to the Bronx.

When the above is finished, we’ve got a terminus for the line, the traffic-carryover from the MNRR 125th station, and we can still go to the Bronx.

1. If no extensions are ever made, we’ve got the cross-town connection of following 125th St across town north of Central Park, while still pulling from the Lex, MNRR and other north/south lines.

2. If we extend into the Bronx, tunnels can be bored, or the line could surface, or whatnot from the stub that was left behind.
The remaining “125th st cross-town” becomes a shuttle with a track connection to the 2nd Ave for maintenance. In order to restore connection to the 2nd Ave for operations, a station is opened on the 2nd Ave where it crosses 125th, and the 125th cross-town line gets extended due-east to a point over or under the 2nd ave line continuing to the Bronx.

3. If for some reason we decide to extend this 125th cross-town line, it can be carried out eastward towards the RFK bridge, extending off the eastern terminus created in step 2. Where you take that is another argeuement.

My main point is, why can’t we mimic the seemingly successful setup of a free cross-town shuttle that exists at 42nd st? It seems to work fine over there, though instead of trapping the shuttle west of 2nd Ave (like the S) we leave provisions to get it across 2nd to the east (like the 7).

Will March 7, 2016 - 4:18 pm

Stop dreaming and wasting other people money

Islanderh93 March 8, 2016 - 12:45 pm

What have I said that is dreaming?

Leaving provisions for expansion so we don’t require an expensive retrofit in the future? I suppose you’d have thought the #7 having to bore through an existing station platform was a sign of good forethought in previous plans?

Wasting other people’s money? Isn’t it a waste of money subsiding highways into a city with no parking?

Bigbellymon4 March 7, 2016 - 9:00 pm

Well not only should the SAS be extended to Broadway/125st from Lex/125st, but the 42nd street shuttle should be extended to 2av/42nd (if the western end of the 7 train platform is too far from 2av).

Michael549 March 8, 2016 - 2:47 am

“…but the 42nd street shuttle should be extended to 2av/42nd (if the western end of the 7 train platform is too far from 2av).”

Simple observation of the 42nd Street-Grand Central Station and shuttle platform passageways would show that it is simply impossible to extend the shuttle train to Second Avenue. Basically the mezzanine of the 42nd Street-Grand Central subway station, and the Lexington Avenue subway train platforms and stairways, escalators and other items are in the way.

The simple walk from the 4-5-6 train platforms to the 42nd Street Shuttle platforms illustrates the problem clearly.


MWill March 8, 2016 - 9:35 am

Thank You Mike. People throwing ideals out thier ass. If you don’t the system and history then don’t comment

Nathanael March 8, 2016 - 8:55 pm

Islandher93: I’d make one change to your 125th Street Subway proposal.

The final station should be under the West Side / Empire Connection railroad line, where the Metro-North Hudson Line “Penn Station Access” will eventually extend into Manhattan, and should feature a Metro-North station over the top.

It should also be deep enough for a potential future tunnel under the Hudson, terminating at Edgewater. In the meantime it should have a direct ferry connection.

This “125th Street crosstown” line would revolutionize traffic patterns in New York, redistributing all traffic from the Bronx and Harlem *before* it gets to Midtown.

Brooklynite March 9, 2016 - 1:08 am

The idea of “redistributing” doesn’t really work. People will not want to transfer right in the middle of their journey from the Bronx to Manhattan. They will either travel slightly farther in the Bronx to get to the correct line, or take the closest thing they have to Midtown/Downtown and then navigate.

Duke March 7, 2016 - 11:09 pm

I can’t help but wonder what work necessary to keep existing subways running reliably is going to be sacrificed to fund this.

At current funding levels and construction costs the MTA is struggling to keep the infrastructure it already has from falling apart. Any system expansion of any sort should be completely off the table until this changes, if they were being fiscally responsible. Maintenance comes first.

Will March 8, 2016 - 9:40 am

Thanks Ted Cruz, you wont win New York.

Brooklynite March 9, 2016 - 1:10 am

Duke has a point. There’s no reason for us to be opening $4 billion boondoggles a few blocks away from a notoriously filthy station where service was disrupted a few days ago because of debris falling from the ceiling. There can’t be more lipstick than pig.

smartone March 8, 2016 - 4:41 pm

The thing that is amazing and is finally mention by this post

Phase 2 and Phase 3 were designed to be built concurently-
It is sad that there is ZERO discussion on making this happen.

Phase 3 is in prime manhattan midtown and downtown real estate – You would think that they would be a way for the city to fund Phase 3 with a Tax Increment Financing (TIF) bond sale to be repaid with property tax revenues from future developments in areas served by the new line exactly like that did with the 7 Avenue extention

Brooklynite March 9, 2016 - 1:12 am

Midtown East is already chock-full of development. I’m not sure how much more room there is for new stuff, unlike the 7 extension which serves a completely empty area above a train yard.

Bronx Resident March 8, 2016 - 4:45 pm

Run the SAS phase 2 to E 149th St/Third Ave with transfers to the 2/5 and provisions for continued northbound service. Additionally, provide provisions for future cross town 125th St service in East Harlem and an East 138th St station in Mott Haven for transfer to 6 train.

This would really change things up on the East Side.

ajedrez March 8, 2016 - 7:34 pm

The thing with a 125th Street crosstown line is that it requires underpinning the 2/3 and A/B/C/D (in addition to the Lexington Avenue Line, which is already being underpinned as part of Phase 2). I’m with those who are for extending it to 149th & 3rd.

Another thing to consider is that it also adds more people and increased passenger congestion at 125th & Lexington. Imagine a scenario where a northbound 4/5 & 6 meet across the platform, at the same time a Q train is discharging people from below. Granted, some of those passengers will be going up to the street level, but it would be better if those passengers made their transfers at the less busy stations in The Bronx.

Alon Levy March 8, 2016 - 7:49 pm

Why is that scenario any more problematic than the same thing that happens every day at 59th and Lex, or 53rd and Lex?

Brooklynite March 9, 2016 - 1:13 am

Just because it happens elsewhere doesn’t mean we should seek to replicate it.

Alon Levy March 9, 2016 - 5:56 pm

No, but it indicates it’s not the end of the world, and it may well be easier to work with it than to build redundant infrastructure.

Speaking of a single point of failure, every single subway line in Stockholm as well as the mainline rail system goes through one station, T-Centralen, with daily ridership comparable to that of Times Square. Somehow, the system manages to work without major disruptions, even while there’s ongoing construction in the area (Stockholm is building its own Gateway tunnel, with opening projected next year); bypassing T-Centralen is just not a priority given the transit system’s needs.

Brooklynite March 10, 2016 - 3:26 pm

Studies have been done, which showed that a network is more efficient with multiple smaller interchanges rather than a single mega-hub station. I’m not familiar enough with Stockholm’s system to comment, but in this case the “single point of failure” is essentially the entire Lex line. There’s no way to turn around any meaningful service anywhere except Brooklyn Bridge, so one incident anywhere on Lex will cause epic delays and crowding conditions that will kill capacity.

Sending the SAS to the Bronx, and possibly taking over one of the Bronx branches, will let people bypass the Lex entirely, whether because of crowding or one of the perennial incidents.

Brooklynite March 9, 2016 - 1:15 am

The platforms are pretty wide at 125th, so it won’t be the end of the world. However, the problem is that 125th (and by extension the Lex itself) becomes a single point of failure, around which there is no bypass. It’s impossible to run a decent level of service from the Bronx and terminate at 125.

That’s why, IMO, the SAS should take over the Dyre branch and the 5 should be rerouted to Jerome.

ALAMOOPA13 March 16, 2017 - 1:06 pm



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