Home View from Underground Some thoughts on when NYC last opened new subway stations

Some thoughts on when NYC last opened new subway stations

by Benjamin Kabak

While looking into the history of the Hudson Yards’ subway stop last night, I came across a series of dates that represent a stark reality. That reality focuses around how we have essentially stopped growing out the subway system for nearly sixty years now. Even with massive investment in capital expenses since the early 1980s, the subway we have now is nearly the same subway we had in the early 1950s, give or take just a handful of stops.

Mull on this, the most recent opening dates for new subway stations per borough:

Manhattan: 2015 (34th St.-Hudson Yards)
Queens: 1989 (21st St.-Queensbridge)
Brooklyn: 1956 (Grant Ave.)
Bronx: 1941 (Dyre Ave. stops) or 1933 (Concourse Line)

Staten Island, of course, still doesn’t have connection to the rest of the New York City subway system and most of its modest Railway dates to the 1860s. The year for the Bronx is up for debate since the Dyre Ave. stations in 1941 reopened as part of the IRT after they were converted from what we would now consider commuter rail. The most recent original subway stations to open in the Bronx are the Concourse Line stops which date from 1933.

Even this figures obscure the depth of the lack of system expansion. Since Grant Ave. — also a replacement stop for a formerly elevated station along Fulton St. — opened in 1956, four stations opened in Queens and seven (including South Ferry) have opened in Manhattan. That’s 10 new stations and one replacement over 60 years. If you look at New York’s so-called peer cities, including Paris and London, what we’ve done is embarrassingly inadequate in comparison.

It’s relatively easy to trace the history of divestment in the subway. Robert Moses bears some of the blame as does a crippling forty-year insistence on a five-cent fare. White flight in the 1950s followed by the collapse of the city in the 1970s meant that money simply wasn’t available to invest back into the transit system, and national trends at the time didn’t really support federal funding for transit expansion either. It’s been a perfect storm of non-investment at both the local and federal level since my parents were children.

Yet, I have a nagging concern that we’re simply not thinking big enough. The MTA has a $28 billion capital plan on the table, and yet, the plan would add a handful of Metro-North stops to the Bronx and no subway stations. The three new Second Ave. Subway stations set to open this year are part of the capital plan that ended in 2015, and the next three that are a part of Phase 2 aren’t likely to be fully funded until the 2020-2024 plan. We’re not expanding, and we’re not keeping up.

So what happens next? It’s hard to deny the city is growing. Although Brooklyn’s population, for instances, remains a hair lower today than it did in the early 1950s, Queens has 50% more residents now than it did in the 1950s. Can we add transit on par with European counterparts? We would need massive investment and proper prioritization (unlike, say, the Brooklyn-Queens Connector). It’s possible but improbably as long as the city and state play a tug-of-war over control of transit planning within and around New York City.

At some point, though, this lack of investment and growth will come back to bite us as competitive cities can offer better and more efficient mobility. We should have a Utica Ave. subway, a circumferential line, extensions through Queens, and a new cross-Bronx subway (or light rail). That we do not and have no plans to build any or all of this should cause some internal urban soul searching. That it hasn’t so far is the problem.

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James March 15, 2016 - 1:27 am

Frankly, it’s already too late.

London and Paris are ALREADY constructing massive new systems: Crossrail/Northern Line extensions/Overground and Paris’ new Metro/RER/tram lines, respectively. Even most Italian cities from Milan to Rome to Naples are opening first-class driverless metro systems with escalators that work. And, of course, Tokyo has been ahead of NYC for decades.

Even the bike lanes and “plazas” of NYC look third-rate. In London, they seem to be able to construct new bike lanes with concrete dividers and new plazas with real paving stones — in a matter of months. Meanwhile, in NYC, bike lanes are just paint on the street and plastic poles and “plazas” are just bumpy brown paint on the street.

I recently returned from Bangkok — a third-world city building first-class new transit everywhere — to NYC and after the luggage belt broke at JFK and I had to wait 45 minutes for my bag in a grim arrivals space, I hopped the “AirTrain,” which was blowing freezing cold air on a day when it was about 0 degrees F outside. For this, I had to pay $5, more than the cost of a Tube ride from Heathrow to Central London at the current exchange rate.

NYC is no longer in the running to be a model global city of the 21st Century. It’s too far behind. It’s impossible to catch up with the new public transportation improvements in Paris or London — heck, even Naples is kicking NYC’s butt at the moment with new construction.

It’s all a bit depressing that the wealthiest and biggest city in the most powerful nation on Earth is literally falling apart, but it is what it is — given current political economy, it’s impossible for NYC to catch up. Maybe the silver lining is that as NYC becomes a less desirable city because it’s impossible to get around without taking an Uber, rents will fall to more manageable levels, real people will once again be able to move to the city, and maybe in 2050 or 2100, a new generation of New Yorkers will have the financial resources and political will to improve things.

Chris C March 15, 2016 - 8:48 am

Crossrail (newly christened The Elizabeth Line thanks to our soon to be departed Mayor) – no new stations but it does link with several existing tube / rail stations.

Northern Line Extension – only new 2 stations but with no connections to any other tube or rail lines!(though one of them will be very handy for the new US Embassy currently being built)

Overground – created by mainly using existing lines/ tracks. Yes some new stations. The latest expansion in North East London is due to TFL taking over a previous rail franchise not by new building

RailRun March 17, 2016 - 8:56 pm

What about Canary Wharf? There’s a new station going up there on the Elizabeth line?

Alon Levy March 15, 2016 - 9:01 am

Bangkok’s transit system is pretty sad, especially when you compare it to cities of roughly comparable wealth levels like Mexico City, Shanghai, Beijing, and even Sao Paulo. Within Southeast Asia, Thailand and Malaysia are the USAs – the countries with the pro-car transportation policy, high car ownership for their wealth levels, and low transit usage. (In Kuala Lumpur, the transit mode share is 16%, barely more than in Chicago and Washington.)

Eric March 15, 2016 - 3:10 pm

Bangkok’s subway currently has about 56 stops. A lot of that has been built in the past 5 years. Extensions with a total of about 69 stops are under construction. So it’s getting rapidly better.

Kualu Lumpur is uniquely bad in this respect.

anon_coward March 15, 2016 - 9:32 am

Paris and London have ring systems where you can go from an outer part of the system to another outer part of the system without going through the core and center of the city.

anytime someone proposes the same thing for the NYC subway there are all kinds of objections. NYC is going to be third rate as long as virtually every trip has to go through manhattan

Larry Littlefield March 15, 2016 - 12:54 pm

“Paris and London have ring systems where you can go from an outer part of the system to another outer part of the system without going through the core and center of the city.”

The 1929 Regional Plan called for ring systems. They were highways, with transit going into the center. With the exception of the outer ring connection from Westchester to Long Island, these were built.

They’d make nice busways if it weren’t for all the traffic.

anon_coward March 15, 2016 - 2:10 pm

except now it’s 2016 and all i’m reading is how we need to finish the SAS and there is no money for subways anywhere else

Clarke March 15, 2016 - 9:36 am

A Tube ride from Heathrow to Central London (pay-as-you-go) is £11.80, or $16.73 at today’s exchange rate. In fact, no pay-as-you-go ride in London is less than $9.

Chris March 15, 2016 - 10:39 am

Heathrow to Zone 1 is £5.10 ($7.22) PAYG on Oyster during peak, £3.10 ($4.39) off-peak. A single ticket in cash is £6.00 ($8.50). A single ride is most certainly less than $9.

I think you’re confusing the cost of a ride with daily capping on Oyster, which is just over $9 for unlimited trips in a day within Zone 1. That £11.80 from Heathrow will get you unlimited trips in a day within Zones 1-6.

Clarke March 15, 2016 - 1:57 pm

My mistake, misread the fare chart.

James March 15, 2016 - 11:52 am

No, absolutely not.

Marc Shepherd March 15, 2016 - 11:04 am

I have a nagging concern that we’re simply not thinking big enough.

There’s an easy answer. Politicians want shovels in the dirt before they are out of office, so that they can take credit for having gotten something done. This limits them to comparatively “easy” projects.

Mayor Bloomberg didn’t remain in office to see the #7 train’s one-stop extension in service. But by the time he left, the project was far enough along to be beyond the possibility of cancellation. A more ambitious project might not have gotten off the ground — and once he was out of power, it’s doubtful that the next mayor would have considered it a priority.

One reason Robert Moses got so much done, is that his tenure was not dependent on getting re-elected, so he was immune to the usual timelines that force a politician to face voters every four years. Of course, his projects happened faster, because he did not have to go through the time-consuming reviews we have today. Moses’ record of ramming projects through, and damn the consequences, is one of the reasons why such reviews are now mandatory.

Ethan Rauch March 15, 2016 - 7:57 pm

Has anyone seen the long “letter” from a R. Moses literary impersonator, defending “himself” against his latter-day detractors? It makes fascinating reading. The real Moses didn’t always win, especially when his nemesis appeared in the shape of Nelson Rockefeller. His lower Manhattan expressway would have wiped out much of Little Italy & Chinatown. Then the Bklyn-Battery Tunnel came where Moses demanded a bridge. And of course as the last writer implied, there was no EPA, no NEPA, no Title VI, no 4(f), no 6(f), no Clean Air Act, no NRHP, no wetlands protection, no Waters of the US, no T&E species, and on and on. Mr. Moses’s reincarnation is living the dream somewhere in China, which has none of those things.

Nathanael March 16, 2016 - 12:49 am

China actually DOES have a Clean Air Act, an Endangered Species Act, Wetland Protection, et cetera. (No 4f, 6f or NRHP.)

They’re even enforced these days.

The difference is partly that China is throwing trillions of dollars at its projects. You can do a lot of wetland avoidance and substitution and tunnels under endangered species habit when you’re shoving money at them.

The other difference is that China gets the work done by having workers actually do the work. The sort of contractor scamming and abuse we see in NYC would get contractors *executed* in China.

terranova47 March 16, 2016 - 4:23 pm

Queens: 1989 (21st St.-Queensbridge) is mentioned but what about Roosevelt Island which opened the same time on what is politically Manhattan?

bigbellymon4 March 15, 2016 - 2:18 am

This horrible reality details not only how NYC has not been able to keep up with global standards, but it also shows how the United States has fallen significantly behind. All of the momentum that was achieved during the industrial revolution fell by the wayside. Granted there are many factors that prevent expansion, but “big thinking” is no longer done anymore. Ben had an article about how the Bay Ridge residents argued and fought for their subway line down 4th Av numerous times when the company wanted to not build it. That type of enthusiasm and selfless is no longer seen as egos, photo ops, and awards for achievements is more beneficial than helping 1, 2, maybe 5 generations of people.

bigbellymon4 March 15, 2016 - 2:21 am

Also, what year was the most recent opening date for a station in Manhattan besides the Hudson Yards station? I’m guessing Lex/63rd.

Herb Lehman March 15, 2016 - 9:31 am

Correct, in 1989.

Alex March 15, 2016 - 11:58 pm

Also, on the national level, “Big Thinking” has been successfully linked to “(evil) Big Government” in many people’s minds. So the big dollars that are often necessary and best provided by the federal government under our current systems have gotten harder and harder to come by. Even large highway projects, which once enjoyed a relative immunity to this kind of scrutiny, are now coming under the microscope. That’s a good thing, but it’s taking already puny transit funding down with it. Excessive costs remains another obstacle, but these things will never be cheap even if we did weed out the corruption and pocket lining. This isn’t want Drumpf supporters want to hear, but America is what’s holding America back.

Michael549 March 15, 2016 - 3:29 am

London and Paris are the national capitals of their respective countries – meaning that there is national pride – and thus a willingness to spend what it takes on public transit.

New York City is NOT the capital of this country, and thus must fend for itself among the hundreds of the other places in the country when it comes to the national budget. That is why President Ford could say to NYC to Drop Dead!

Very often NYC’s subway system is compared to the subway systems existing within cities that are the capital’s of their nation. Just something to keep in mind.


Eric F March 15, 2016 - 8:57 am

Ford didn’t tell NYC to drop dead, that was a tabloid headline. Kind of like Sarah Palin never said she could see Russia from her house. Just propaganda. NYC had a fiscal crisis in the 1970s because it’s social program spending outran its revenues. Kind of like what’s happening right now…

Bronx Resident March 15, 2016 - 9:06 am

NYC had a fiscal crisis because of suburbanization and resulting white flight.

Eric F March 15, 2016 - 9:17 am

When the whites leave they destroy through their flight, when they return they destroy via gentrification. Why can’t these awful white people simply stay in one place?!

Bronx Resident March 16, 2016 - 1:46 am

Let me put it this way for you, anti-urban policies (building highways, promoting suburban development via FHA/VA Loans/Highways/etc and cutting funding for poverty programs, redlining, etc) and resulting middle class flight (residential, commercial and industrial) led to NYC’s fiscal crisis.

AG March 16, 2016 - 10:57 pm

Well considering they controlled all of the capital – yeah their “flight” did destroy all the cities. What was going to happen with redlining besides destruction? It didn’t take a Phd in Sociology to figure that out.

Michael549 March 15, 2016 - 2:04 pm

From a previous message, “Ford didn’t tell NYC to drop dead, that was a tabloid headline.”

I am talking about the attitude that underlies that expression!

With the rise of suburban and other places where cars are necessary, cities (like New York City and other places) often became seen as places that one escapes from, rather than places one gravitates toward. “Escape From New York” was not the just the name of a movie – but the constellation of thoughts, feelings, attitudes and actions by the many over a long period of time. Thus “NYC problems” are “your problems” – regardless of how the global city called New York City contributes to the national economy.

This attitude manifests itself with issues like mass transportation and subways, among other city-related issues. The lack of the “national pride” manifests itself when it comes to funding for various projects that the city can not afford for itself, and the fights to gain such funding. NYC has to compete with the hundreds of other places for funding, and to make its case – in a way that a national capital does not have to.


NFA March 15, 2016 - 5:28 pm

If you consider basic city services “social program spending” then you are correct. The city outran its revenues because of a rapidly eroding tax base caused by a mixture of forces which cannot be simply blamed on city gov’t, not because they were too generous with liberal welfare programs like you seem to be implying.

John March 15, 2016 - 9:02 am

That may be the case for London and Paris, but in addition to being national capitals, they are the economic powerhouses of their countries.

New York City is largely that for the United States. Just because it isn’t the nation’s capital (a much larger nation than the UK and France combined) doesn’t mean it doesn’t deserve the same type of investment. This city is a huge piece of the American machine – it should be treated as such.

Ryan March 15, 2016 - 10:24 am

Plus, unlike most countries which take a sense of national pride in their capital cities, here in the USA, we fear and despise Washington, DC.

Even in political climates that aren’t rigidly anti-city, DC is despised.

This can only help New York.

SEAN March 15, 2016 - 3:05 pm

Also DC’s own local government is subject to fed oversight in ways NYC isn’t. John Oliver pointed this out.

As for WMATA, it is subject to the whims of the feds as well as Richmond & Anapalis.

Eric March 15, 2016 - 3:23 pm

DC got the entire Washington Metro built between 1976-2004 (not including the recent Silver Line). That’s a period when other US cities were building very little heavy rail. Seems that DC got the benefit of being the capital in this regard.

NFA March 15, 2016 - 5:38 pm

This capital city explanation is a red herring. London and Paris would have the impressive infrastructure and public transportation that they have even if they were not the capitals because they are the singular principal cities of those nations – the seats of commerce and national cultural identity, even if they are also the seats of gov’t. It’s also important that the capital city explanation does not always apply. No one is arguing that Sydney or Melbourne are less impressive and invested in because the capital is Canberra. A second world example would be Rio and São Paulo neither being the national capital.

Jeff March 15, 2016 - 6:58 pm

Barcelona is not the capital city either and its country was actually practically broke, yet saw more metro lines being built.

DF March 15, 2016 - 7:54 pm

Great, now you guys jinxed the DC Metro.

Alon Levy March 17, 2016 - 10:22 pm

Munich. Zurich. Osaka. Shanghai. Guangzhou. Milan. Lyon. Barcelona. Sapporo.

Max Roberts March 15, 2016 - 4:29 am

And not even a state capital either. You have to wonder about the worldwide 20th century experiment of putting administrative centres in towns that were somewhat unimportant. It disconnects the politicians from the reality of what is paying for their lifestyle. The stench of the River Thames outside the Houses of Parliament might have been a contributing factor to cleaning up London during Victorian times.

Eric March 15, 2016 - 7:20 pm

In the US, this was actually a 19th century experiment. It was specifically designed to make them closer to the reality of farmers.

Nathanael March 16, 2016 - 12:51 am

It failed. Let’s reverse it.

adirondacker12800 March 16, 2016 - 2:20 am

In New York putting the state capital in Albany was an 18th century innovation.

Larry Littlefield March 15, 2016 - 8:00 am

“Yet, I have a nagging concern that we’re simply not thinking big enough.”

You haven’t noticed the size of the average new American suburban house. Or the average new American motor vehicle. Or the extent of American spending on health care. Or the share of American workers in retirement. Or the share of Americans who have taken flights to far off destinations.

We’ve gone big on other things. Mostly on consumption, rather than investment. And on investment in health care, which has not only moved into diminishing marginal returns but even on to negative marginal returns — more years of suffering in old age, more threat of a devastating epidemic due to the over-use of antibiotics.

Where there has been investment is information technology. The result is life transformed with, among other things, this blog. That’s what investment does in the long run. But it does little except cost in the short run, and this has been a short run society in the age of Generation Greed.

Chris C March 15, 2016 - 8:52 am

Oh Larry you were doing so well until that last sentence.

Please give this whole ‘generation greed’ thing a rest. Do what you want on your own blog but some of us are fed up with your constant mentioning of it in almost every post you make on here.

Herb Lehman March 15, 2016 - 9:31 am

Thank you for saying it first. I couldn’t agree more.

thfs March 15, 2016 - 3:02 pm


meow March 15, 2016 - 5:10 pm

+4… can you finally retire the “Generation Greed” meme please? So tired of seeing it all over here and Streetsblog. Otherwise, you are always on point.

Eric F March 15, 2016 - 8:55 am

NYC is investing big. In “affordable housing”. So I guess housing will become generally affordable, or maybe it already is now in the wake of the multi-year push for it, but anyway that’s the main priority. Transportation infrastructure of any kind is not a priority.

tacony March 15, 2016 - 9:22 am

Housing will not become more affordable. It’ll become more “affordable.”

The “affordable” housing industrial complex does not want to lower market rate housing prices, which is what most people are talking about when comparing relative cost of living in a city. They want to ensure that market rate prices remain sky high, so that the profits are high enough to cross-subsidize the income-targeted units pegged at 1/3 of income for the lucky lottery entrants who win them. Everyone else will still pay high market rates as ever, and if you’re not rich you’ll continue to have to double up with roommates in old walkup buildings.

The city isn’t even investing much money in this anyway. It’s mostly being asked of developers in exchange for the right to build.

Josh March 15, 2016 - 11:06 am

In fairness, it’s not the construction industry’s job to make (market-rate) housing affordable. The state and local governments should be doing more to make housing affordable and not just “affordable”. (And by the way I completely agree with you about the disconnect between the two.)

Miles Bader April 4, 2016 - 7:37 am

Good transportation infrastructure is an important part of making affordable housing practical and available, by increasing the area in which it’s reasonable to live and still work in other places in the city without an insane commute.

rustonite March 15, 2016 - 12:31 pm

Everyone born after 1980 is a latter-day American. We’ll never get to see a country that functions properly. Because (and Larry is right) previous generations screwed us over. Thanks, old people!

Larry Littlefield March 15, 2016 - 9:16 am

“NYC is investing big. In “affordable housing”

Not big at all, compared with the 1950s, or even the late 1980s or early 1990s. The only thing it is investing is some of what would be the future property taxes from new development.

Meanwhile, our future money will go here.


To pay for those public and private debts. Describe the era from 1980 to 2008 however you want, but we’ll be paying for it for a long, long time. As will our children. It’s bigger than transportation, or even the public sector.

Brooklynite March 15, 2016 - 9:47 am

Why is nobody mentioning the absurdly high cost and low quality of construction here? The new station on the 7 line cost several billion dollars and is leaking already. South Ferry was (only) $500 million, and it was covered with water marks before it was put out of its misery by Sandy. SAS is running around $40k per inch and counting, and I’m not very confident that it will somehow avoid the shoddiness of the other recent stations.

The political issues with transit investment are a problem, but the MTA’s reputation of being Money Thrown Away doesn’t help procure funding.

Benjamin Kabak March 15, 2016 - 9:55 am

Why is nobody mentioning the absurdly high cost and low quality of construction here?

You are not new here; you’ve seen me mention it plenty of times, more recently yesterday!

Brooklynite March 15, 2016 - 7:23 pm

You’re right, of course. We can talk about it on a blog until the cows come home, though: when will the people with power realize there’s an issue? Cuomo, et al don’t seem to see anything is amiss in this regard. Or, at least, they have an incentive not to see anything…

Nathanael March 16, 2016 - 12:54 am

Ask who’s bribing them, perhaps.

New York City is getting *appallingly bad* results from its contractors.

I mean, even compared to *upstate*. Even for something like the Niagara Falls Railway Station, egregiously high bids cause rebidding (often repackaged and advertised to more-distant contractors), and contractor failure to deliver required quality causes them to be fired and pay liquidated damages.

What is going *on* in New York City?

lawhawk March 15, 2016 - 10:07 am

It all starts with controlling costs on capital projects – so you get more for less while maintaining the same level of quality. As it is, we’re seeing problems with water intrusion at newer stations (South Ferry pre-Sandy), pipe issues, escalator/elevator problems at 34th Street, etc.

The MTA needs to take a hard look at how European peer cities do capital construction and manage their costs – and this is a good apple-to-apple review given the dense infrastructure underground, comparable size, etc.

We need to reduce construction costs to at least that level, which means we get more for our limited capital funds.

At the same time, do we need to get over the aversion to elevated subway tracks so we can reach far flung reaches of the city? New technologies allow for quieter rides, and it might result in faster construction with less disruption, particularly in the outer boroughs.

The capacity issues keep coming up, and the MTA seems incapable of taking even the modest step of purchasing a sufficient number of train sets that have open gangways, even though that’s an easy way (and only way) to gain capacity where there’s no room to run more trains per hour.

We need a mindset change at the MTA, and frankly it isn’t going to happen until there’s a new governor who wants to prioritize mass transit – Gov. Cuomo simply isn’t that guy.

MordyK March 15, 2016 - 6:46 pm

I know this sounds crazy, but perhaps the answer lies in giving the city back the ownership over the city’s transit systems as it was before the 70’s, so that there’s a real stakeholder interest and responsibility. Just look at how DeBlasio is going for the streetcar to avoid investing money in the MTA.

Brooklynite March 15, 2016 - 7:25 pm

The streetcar seems like De Blasio showing off that he can operate without Cuomo more than a serious, well thought out transit proposal.

Giving control back to the city wouldn’t really do anything. The subway would just stop receiving state funding, thus putting the city budget under enormous strain.

MordyK March 15, 2016 - 7:42 pm

Obviously the city wouldn’t be asking to give up the state funds. But more along the lines of health and education services, where the state gives the designated funds to the city agency earmarked – in this case – for transit.

I know this is a big ask, but after Giulani fought to bring education back under the city’s purview Bloomberg finally got it. SO it’s not like there’s no precedent.

The truth is that while commuter rail should be under a joint city-state (and inter-state – but that’s a whole different mess) agency, it makes zero sense that the subway system which is entirely within the city for it not to be a city agency. Imagine if the NYPD or dept’ of sanitation were state agencies…

Will March 17, 2016 - 10:18 am

Is there a regional sales tax to.fund MTA? Here in Cleveland there’s a county sales tax that was implemented in 1970s to fund a Regional Transit Authority, but recently with population decline of the county population to surrounding counties there’s a a massive funding shortage. Lets not talk about the state. Rta gets no money from them. It seems to me that the federal government should be an active participant in urban planning and mass transit funding

MordyK March 17, 2016 - 12:26 pm

I’m not sure on that although there are plenty of people on this blog who know the MTA funding minutia. But what I do know is that the state does fund a large portion of the MTA.

When it comes to the feds, while their money is welcome it also comes with extensive additional and burdensome requirements. Historically federal participation in mass transit investment is relatively recent, as most of the systems that have been around for awhile were built by the city and private companies. It can be argues that the federal participation has become an unhealthy crutch.

Just looking at the new gateway tunnels and the politics that have been hampering it. When the original tunnels were being built, it was a private company that funded the entire thing with zero city participation and certainly no feds. To put that into context tunneling under rivers was still relatively new and risky with many unknowns, whereas today one knows precisely how to build and the resulting outcome is guaranteed.

I’m not saying go back to private ownership, but let’s get things done like they did. It’s not like there were no politics and corruption then. Somehow politics let things get built in a timely fashion, which is something we can learn from.

AG March 17, 2016 - 9:28 pm

The MTA gets a piece of real estate transactions… There is also a payroll tax but the suburbs successfully broke out of it some years back.

JJJ March 15, 2016 - 11:05 am

“in the 1970s meant that money simply wasn’t available to invest back into the transit system, and national trends at the time didn’t really support federal funding for transit expansion either.”

Thats not true at all. The 70s are when we saw massive fed investment in transit. BART, MARTA, Miami, Boston subway extensions, 3 people-mover systems, PRT, and Im sure I missed some.

I do not know why NYC chose to sit out this decade of investment.

Of course, we can also look at how LA has expanded their metro system since it was born in 1990. They found the money, even during years of budget crisis. While it may not be the highest ridership route, they just opened up a 24 mile extension this month (Gold Line), and a 9 mile extension for the Expo line early this summer. They’re also working on two subway lines (Purple and Regional Connector) and an elevated line (Crenshaw).

It’s mostly light rail, yes, which obviously couldnt handle Manhattan ridership – but surely light rail can handle the kinds of tips we need to accommodate in the Bronx and Queens.

If America’s driving capital can invest in transit at this rate, why can’t NYC?

Larry Littlefield March 15, 2016 - 11:19 am

Because NY spends more on other things. More on active and retired teachers. More on Medicaid, and health care in general. More on active and retired police.

Our taxes are higher, as a percent of the income of people who live here. So are our debts, our pension underfunding. So in addition to what we spend more on, more of what we pay is sucked into the past, at the MTA and in general.

Not to mention all that ongoing normal replacement that is required to maintain a transit network that already exists, as opposed to building one that isn’t there yet.

Nathanael March 16, 2016 - 12:56 am

NYC and NYS apparently decided to spend more on corruption.

This is particularly evident in the NYPD.

And, of course, in the state legislature.

TimK March 15, 2016 - 1:05 pm

I do not know why NYC chose to sit out this decade of investment.

Someone please correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe it’s because there was lots of money available specifically for the construction of new systems, and relatively little available for the expansion and/or maintenance and improvement of existing systems.

JJJJ March 15, 2016 - 1:17 pm

That might be the case, but Boston moved their Orange line from an el to a trench and expanded their red line both north and south in that period.

Michael549 March 15, 2016 - 1:28 pm

From a previous message:

“Thats not true at all. The 70s are when we saw massive fed investment in transit. BART, MARTA, Miami, Boston subway extensions, 3 people-mover systems, PRT, and Im sure I missed some.

I do not know why NYC chose to sit out this decade of investment.”

Let’s see, the MTA started construction of the 63rd Street Tunnel complex of the Second Avenue subway, and opened the brand new 57th Street-Sixth Avenue station; built the un-used Second Avenue subway tunnels in East Harlem, and in Lower-Manhattan – Chinatown, started construction of the Archer Avenue segments of the south-eastern Queens subway lines. All of this from a 1968 Master Plan study that had several transit improvements in each of the boroughs. The city’s Master Plan of 1969 also incorporated those plans, and included plans and projects of a whole variety for the variety of the city’s neighborhoods. It is true that the 63rd Street Tunnel and the Archer Avenue segments of the Second Avenue Subway-Queens Super-Express Project would not open for passenger service until a decade later – the beginnings were in the 1970’s.

Plus the MTA obtained the first of the 75-foot subway cars still in usage today, among other improvements in the subways.


AG March 16, 2016 - 11:02 pm

Los Angeles funded their transit expansion by voters approving a sales tax for 40 years. That wouldn’t work here since we already have a huge system. They were/are buckling under the weight of their car congestion.. People were quick to vote in favor of it.

Josh March 15, 2016 - 11:18 am

That’s 10 new stations and one replacement over 60 years. If you look at New York’s so-called peer cities, including Paris and London, what we’ve done is embarrassingly in adequate in comparison.

For comparison:

NYC: 10 new stations opened between 1955 and 2015
Paris: 36 new stations (Metro only, not counting RER expansion)
London: 19 new stations including two entirely new lines (Underground only, excluding other systems such as DLR)

Benjamin Kabak March 15, 2016 - 11:27 am

London has also done a better job modernizing and running more frequent service. That’s part of the equation. Look at NYC headways vs. Underground headways.

Josh March 15, 2016 - 12:07 pm

Also true. I wasn’t disagreeing with you, just filling in some details. (Sourced from Wikipedia if anyone was curious.)

Eric March 15, 2016 - 3:32 pm

Yep, London lines currently run 34 trains per hour. Their eventual goal is 36. The MTA claims that it’s impossible to get above 30.

Brooklynite March 15, 2016 - 7:29 pm

Hell, they run 26tph on the Lexington express and 23tph on the local, and these are the lines that are so crowded that they’re building a relief line at $40,000 per inch!

Jeff March 15, 2016 - 7:03 pm

I think a huge difference is that NYC LOST mass transit stations over the last 50 years, not gain. When considering all of the elevated stations and lines torn down, we’re at a net negative in mass transit by far.

Ryan March 15, 2016 - 11:38 am

Even saying we have had very little expansion since the 50s is somewhat dishonest: the great network of elevated railways we once had has been torn down, and the system in general has actually contracted in a lot of places and in a lot of ways.

Of course we need an actual vision for a rollout of a modern Second System, but even before the conversations around cost, we need to start with an exploration of scope – which parts of the system we had need to be restored? How can we begin better leveraging parts of the system that became dramatically over or under capacity as other components disappeared?

Benjamin Kabak March 15, 2016 - 11:56 am

Not dishonest, but incomplete. I’m not trying to lie or obscure the reality that we have fewer rail miles now than we did 60 years ago.

Michael March 15, 2016 - 12:28 pm

What are those numbers?

Ryan March 15, 2016 - 1:58 pm

I’m sorry, you’re absolutely right – incomplete would have been a much better word choice. That was not at all fair of me.

My vote, for whatever it’s worth, would go towards an upcoming piece on system contraction though.

Nathanael March 16, 2016 - 1:18 am

A full piece on system contraction has to start in the 1890s with the earthquake and the initial discussion about replacing els with subways.

It really gets going in the 1930s with the destruction of all the streetcar lines and most of the elevateds.

Nathanael March 16, 2016 - 1:18 am

(though the system has been contracting since 1919 when the streetcars started being ripped out)

LLQBTT March 15, 2016 - 11:56 am

Well said!

Ethan Rauch March 15, 2016 - 12:18 pm

Even more depressing would be side-by-side lists of NYC station closures and openings since WWII. By then most of the “independent” els were gone and the rest would soon be history. The only truly new lines after that were Fulton St. (which replaced an adjacent el) and the Rockaway line along an existing right-of-way. Afterward the closures continued, albeit on a more modest scale, while just a handful of new stations opened along short extensions, stubs and connections (Grand St.). A comparison with selected U.S. cities (Washington, the Bay Area, LA, even Chicago) is sad enough–let alone foreign capitals. Still, those of us who rode the early 1980s NY subway can celebrate the recovery of the existing system.

Nathanael March 16, 2016 - 12:58 am

Well, LA saw its system (Yellow Cars, Red Cars, SP, Santa Fe) *completely destroyed to nothing* before they started rebuilding. Chicago has a rather famous list of lines which they lost.

Eric March 17, 2016 - 9:45 am

Losing mixed traffic streetcars is not a big deal.

Isaac March 15, 2016 - 12:53 pm

“It’s relatively easy to trace the history of divestment in the subway. Robert Moses bears some of the blame as does a crippling forty-year insistence on a five-cent fare.”

Ben, I tend to enjoy reading some of your opinions placed on this site. Yet, one subject I take a stance on which I don’t agree with you is the constant blame that is erroneously given to Robert Moses for the inept job of the MTA and lack of expansion in the NYC subway system.

Moses is not to blame for this at all. He was a champion for transportation and individual ridership. He wanted people to self-empower themselves with the ability to travel where ever and when ever they liked. Yes, a car is a form of transit.

The reality is, the subway’s downfall was thanks to Nelson Rockefeller and William Ronan. If you are not as deeply familiar with the latter, then now is the time for you to (re)discover him.


1) The state should have never fully taken over the subway system dedicated to the five boroughs.
2) The Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority – created solely for the mass development of road and bridge infrastructure in the city – should have never been taken over by the MTA. (Notice the minimal development in repair and construction since the MTA took over since the 1960s, and the escalating fair hikes for tolls).

1) Governor Cuomo should fully separate the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority from the MTA. A new NYC Bridge and Tunnel Authority (NYCBTA) should be created which would fully take over the (TBTA). It would have no affiliation whatsoever to the MTA, and the final authority on the NYCBTA should be held by the Governor. The NYCBTA would be the official authority for all toll bridges and tunnels in Downstate New York (between Dutchess County and Suffolk County).
2) The NYC Subway and Bus system should be separated from the MTA. The MTA should be the authority for commuter rail only (Metro North and Long Island Rail Road). In other words, the MTA runs trains that run outside the NYC limits within the state of New York and exclusively within the NY metropolitan area. The MTA would also remain under the Governor.
3) All public mass transit (Subway / Metro, Light Rail, Streetcar, Bus, Ferry, Tram / Gondola, Bike, etc) that run exclusively within the city limits should be under a new transit authority: the NYC Transit Authority (NYCTA). This system, would remain under the Governor, with the Mayor of NYC having an important influence.

Separating all three systems would help New York and Governor Cuomo create billions of dollars in improvements. Each organization would be responsible for itself.

To be fair to the MTA, the authority was given to big of a task to handle. The burden is overwhelming.

Enough is enough.

If Govenor Cuomo separates the three, and he can, he would be a true champion for New York.

VLM March 15, 2016 - 1:07 pm

Moses is not to blame for this at all. He was a champion for transportation and individual ridership.

I don’t have time to do a rigorous takedown of this position, but it’s wrong, especially with regards to transit expansion vs. prioritization the automobile (i.e., not roads built for individual vehicles). There is no doubt that Ronan was a terrible “architect” of the MTA and responsible for a lot of the post-1950s contraction of the subway. But the reality is that the city has barely grown out the system since the IND opened, and Robert Moses played a significant, if not primary, role in ensuring the subway system did not expand. To say he is “not to blame for this at all” is to completely whitewash the reality of NYC’s 20th century history.

Isaac March 15, 2016 - 2:30 pm

“I don’t have time to do a rigorous takedown of this position”

Me neither.

The reality is people like to use Mose as a scapegoat for all that is wrong with transit in NYC, and that is completely wrong. He did more good for NY than many actually realize. Agree to disagree.

Nevertheless, the real problem still exist and, as I mentioned, it was created by Rockefeller and Ronan. When we look at the root of the problem, then we can find ways to solve it.

After nearly 50 years of the MTA, we can confirm that its system does not work.

We want better transportation (in all forms) in NY? Then Governor Cuomo, create three separate and unaffiliated agencies.

Eric March 15, 2016 - 3:35 pm

Moses specifically killed a rail extension to JFK when the Van Wyck expressway was being built. It would have cost very little then, since the whole area was being torn up anyway. We had to fix that problem decades later and at much higher cost with the Airtrain.

Eric March 15, 2016 - 3:36 pm

He also specifically built low bridges on parkways so that bus riders (poor people) would not be able to get the parks and beaches he was building.

Isaac March 15, 2016 - 5:00 pm

It’s interesting how some can be distracted by Moses, and not focused on Ronan and the MTA, the real problem.

For the past 50 years, since 1965, Moses stagnated rail transportation growth? Clearly not. The MTA’s structure did. The MTA has had every opportunity to implement cost effective expansion. We have seen the results thus far.

When Moses ran the TBTA, there was a surplus. Investment in city infrastructure was at an all-time high.

Regarding the AirTrain, remember that back then the present day IND A line already ran to the airport and buses connected passengers to the individual terminal. Plus there weren’t as many vehicles on the road. Furthermore, many one stop express buses from Jamaica ran.

As for the second statement regarding parks, you are likely referring to the public spaces built in the counties outside of New York City, not within, such as Nassau, Suffolk, and Westchester. I’m not going to get into the political and cultural aspect of that situation here, but those areas had a population that made it clear to Moses what they wanted in their areas.

Nevertheless, Moses built or rebuilt MANY big public parks and beaches in NYC that were all accessible to people of every working class (e.g. Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, Soundview Park, Orchard Beach, Jacob Riis Park and Beach, redid Pelham Bay Park, redid Riverside Park, Van Cortland Park, Crotona Park, and Claremont Parks, and the list goes on and on). During Moses tenure, more parkland was built for public access than any other time in NYC. He built those spaces because he believed that every person of every financial background deserved an opportunity to enjoy them.

Back to the main point – if we really want vast improvement and expansion in commuter rail, inner city transit, and with NYC bridges and tunnels, then Governor Cuomo has the power to completely separate the three areas while still having the final say on all of them. Time for change.

Eric March 15, 2016 - 7:24 pm

Oh yeah, another Moses highlight – He built hundreds of playgrounds across NYC. But literally none of them were in black neighborhoods. When the mayor forced him to build at least one playground in a black neighborhood, he did, but he decorated it with pictures of monkeys.

Eric March 15, 2016 - 7:26 pm
Justin Samuels March 17, 2016 - 5:43 am

Many of the expressways in NYC were either deliberately built with no median ori if they do have space in the middle, support posts from the overpass BLOCK the path of potential train lines. Moses deliberately wanted to make it hard to build future transit lines over expressways.

Tim March 17, 2016 - 6:49 am

You’re overlooking the fact that much of what Moses accomplished was done with federal dollars given through housing programs. The freeways popped up because Moses, under the aegis of building housing projects with federal money, was able to clear the slums to get the roads built.

When the federal money dried up, so did Moses’s building boom. THAT is why we saw a huge infrastructure growth. He was aided by a federal gov’t that was hell-bent on building out the interstate system. Remember, the Feds had to step in to get the Bruckner finished.

AG March 17, 2016 - 9:26 pm

Yup and al those public housing projects became a scourge as well. That’s why most cities outside NY are demolishing them and building mixed income communities. Expressways through cities and clusters of housing projects are both bad legacies. Well I know they built the Interstate to emulate the Germans with their Autobahn (minus the great road conditions and high speed flavor) but the idea for all those projects – I’m not sure what happened at all.

TimK March 15, 2016 - 1:10 pm

Moses is not to blame for this at all. He was a champion for transportation and individual ridership. He wanted people to self-empower themselves with the ability to travel where ever and when ever they liked. Yes, a car is a form of transit.

1. He deserves a great deal of the blame, as he was sucking up resources that otherwise could have been devoted to transit and ensuring that they were invested into private automobile transportation instead.
2. A car is not a form of transit. It is a form of transportation.

The reality is, the subway’s downfall was thanks to Nelson Rockefeller and William Ronan. If you are not as deeply familiar with the latter, then now is the time for you to (re)discover him.

The roots of the problems that became acute in New York City’s transit system in the 1970s lie in the 1950s and 1960s, when Moses was still in power and before Rockefeller and Ronan were in control. That was the era of disinvestment in the subway system particularly.

Isaac March 15, 2016 - 2:34 pm

“A car is not a form of transit. It is a form of transportation.”

I’ll let you reassess that statement, as it is clearly flawed.


TimK March 15, 2016 - 3:14 pm

No, sorry, it’s not.

Isaac March 15, 2016 - 4:42 pm

To each their own.

Thomas Graves March 15, 2016 - 7:48 pm

How does bureaucratic reshuffling and separating the agencies “create billions of dollars in improvements”…? Where does the money come from?

Desk Jockey March 15, 2016 - 11:58 pm

Lack of forward thinking, or drive to accomplish what forward thinking did exist in the MTA’s 1968 “Program for Action”, can be laid entirely at the feet of Rocky & Bill Ronan, sure.

But you are wrong about Moses for a reason that trumps all of those yet mentioned: debt. Moses used the borrowing capacity of the City to fund his constructions, without then repaying the City from the various Authority funds. He built his toys & left a league of mayors from LaGuardia to Lindsay to Beame to pay for them. It was this black check from City coffers, combined with the expense of the IND, generous welfare programs and a declining tax base that directly lead to the City’s fiscal problems in the 1970s.

& Bob Moses knew exactly what he was doing–that’s why the initial authority bonds were left unfulfilled while he was in power. To give up the bonds would be to free up borrowing capacity that could, possibly & powerfully, be used by someone other than he.

Nathanael March 16, 2016 - 1:13 am

While Robert Moses was certainly a prime villain, a fair amount of blame has to go to:

— Mayor Hylan, who established the IND specifically for the purpose of bankrupting the IRT and BMT. Rather than attempting a city buyout of the IRT and BMT, he built a competing subway which was essentially duplicative; the result was shrinkage of the IRT and BMT networks, and massive overbuilding of the IND.

— Mayor LaGuardia, who aggressively pushed to rip down all the elevated lines ASAP even if there was no IND line to replace it.

The problems started in the 1920s with Hylan, and continued straight on through LaGuardia and through Robert Moses, and through Nelson Rockefeller, who loved to build giant highways almost as much as Moses did. (They’re ripping out one of Rocky’s highways in Rochester as we speak.)

Bill Ronan did his best, and honestly he did a great job given the cluster**** he had been handed. (In addition to the subways, he had to somehow rescue the suburban service of the LIRR, which was bankrupt, the NY Central, which was bankrupt, the New Haven, which was bankrupt, and the B&O’s Staten Island operation.) But his MTA “solution” was always intended as a temporary emergency fix, and he was the first to say so.

Isaac March 15, 2016 - 1:01 pm

Note for #3: All public mass transit that run exclusively within the city limits, and extends to Westchester County (South of White Plains) and Nassau County (west of Garden City), should be under a new transit authority: the NYC Transit Authority (NYCTA).

meow March 15, 2016 - 8:28 pm

This, but it should actually include everything out to Newark on the west side as well. This is a single urbanized area that functions as one economy and the transit system should reflect this reality.

Tim March 17, 2016 - 6:51 am

Unfortunately, the PA will stand in the way of that.

Jerrold March 15, 2016 - 1:50 pm

Staten Island DID add one new station, at the new minor-league stadium.
Also, maybe the “sixth borough” Roosevelt Island should be included as having gotten a new subway station when the 63rd St. Line finally opened up.

Benjamin Kabak March 15, 2016 - 1:53 pm

For purposes of the subway system and NYC geopolitics, Roosevelt Island is part of Manhattan. That station opened at the same time as 63rd St.

Michael549 March 15, 2016 - 2:18 pm

From a previous message above:

“That’s not true at all. The 70s are when we saw massive fed investment in transit … I do not know why NYC chose to sit out this decade of investment.”

It is interesting that in an above message, folks are talking about “non-investment” – when it was the NYS Urban Development Corporation that spearheaded the development and building of Roosevelt Island, Battery Park City, and a myriad of commercial and residential developments within New York City, and across the state in the 1970’s!

Basically there would not be a need for a subway station on Roosevelt Island if there was not a plan and the actual building of the housing on Roosevelt Island by the NYS-UDC. It was simply that the housing and its related infrastructure was being developed before the subway station would open, and a tram would be needed to transport the residents. The rest is “history”.

These other plans were fore-told in the City’s Master Plan and other documents – they did not “just happen”!


adirondacker12800 March 15, 2016 - 3:07 pm

The subway station was supposed to open as the housing was built. The tram was supposed to be a temporary solution because the subway was so behind schedule.

SEAN March 15, 2016 - 3:11 pm

The development on Roosevelt Island over the past few decades couldn’t be possible without the subway station.

Michael549 March 15, 2016 - 5:37 pm

The development on Roosevelt Island over the past few decades couldn’t be possible without the NYS Urban Development Corporation!

SV March 15, 2016 - 3:43 pm

Having the governor who sits in Albany governing the MTA doesn’t help the city of New York.

Nathanael March 16, 2016 - 1:15 am

I live upstate and I see no value in having the capital in Albany. I suppose the City of Albany sees some value in it, but as far as I am concerned, move it back to NYC.

John-2 March 15, 2016 - 4:49 pm

New subways lines just don’t have the same type of ‘fast turnaround’ in winning voters for politicians that spending money other places does, especially thanks to the extended time period it takes to build anything. A politician who OKs a new line extension today is likely to catch grief from residents and store owners along the line due to the construction disruptions, which will continue through the next election cycle.

So he or she is out of office, and their successor gets the credit when the line finally opens (or if you’re lucky like Bloomberg, the line’s completed just enough so you can tow a train into the new area on your final day in office). As long as the pols self-interest leads them to believe the money’s better spent on other projects with a faster return on their personal popularity rating investment, new lines are going to be a low priority.

MordyK March 15, 2016 - 8:13 pm

Perhaps it’s time to figure out how to do things in a less disturbing way. WHen Eastern Parkway and its infrastructure was rebuilt in the 80’s, it took 10 years to complete, but most of it was simply a lack of coordinated planning.

The amount of time nothing happened aside for having a big hole in the ground was more that 90 percent, which means the whole thing could have been done in under a year. If planned right it’s fairly simple: dig, build, update infrastructure, fill and pave. This should be doable inside a month, if planned and staged efficiently.

Tim March 17, 2016 - 6:54 am

This is what the Euros and Brits do. Plans before drawings, drawings before concrete.

Get the whole thing planned properly, draw it up to match the plan, and then start working. None of this piecemeal stuff. The Crossrail project in London is an example of what ESA should have been, were there any semblance of planning between major agencies in the Tri-state area.

MordyK March 17, 2016 - 11:50 am

Aside for the time and money savings of doing things fast, there are serious policy ramifications.

If you can get the time it take to build segments down to somewhere in the range a month, you can cut-and-cover with the community being understanding and even welcoming, as they can see the light at the end of the tunnel. It’s only when it drags out for years that it has a serious effect on the community and causes backlash. YOu don’t see a big backlash when sewers or gas line are updated.

The other element is that if you build in sections in a rapid pace, politicians can proudly put their name on a short segment and point to it after for years and say I brought this, without it being a negative. When it drags on forever politicians have nothing personal to gain by staking their reputation and mandate on it. ALso if you can break it down into multiple mini segments, you can begin extension projects in multiple districts, which can gather a larger political support base and mandate.

It’s therefore imperative to use all necessary building innovations to get things done both fast and cheap (relatively), so that we can re-acquire that old taste of building things for our generation and for those of the future.

Howards March 16, 2016 - 11:08 am

The Airtrain to JFK and Newark while not part of the Subway, does directly affect the city. Those were major enhacements and while not one seat, one ride they were are close as could have politcally been gotton

Paul March 16, 2016 - 12:20 pm

Ben Kabak’s analysis is right on the mark here. Transportation networks are the lifeblood of any city. What is it about the voters in New York City that they cannot organize themselves well enough to come together around a fundamental issue like this. The idea that political resistance by a minority (i.e., drivers using free bridges) can cripple a sensible idea like congestion pricing leads me to believe that the political system in this city is fundamentally incapable of serving the interests of the majority of the people. We should be planning today for what our needs will be twenty years from now, not responding to needs of twenty years ago. Let’s stop building billion dollar path stations and dubious airport links and begin to think about increasing in a meaningful way the transit capacity in New York City.

Michael549 March 17, 2016 - 3:20 am

Putting aside the merits of congestion pricing or the ways to achieve it in a city like New York – driving is the basic transportation method for the majority of the US population as a whole. The majority drives, their elected decision makers drive, and plenty of folks can vision themselves driving at some point in their lives or futures. There are many places and communities only accessible by a car. There are plenty of commercial, industrial, business, residential and other supportive sectors in the national economy. Basically there’s a lot of interests there, and thus elected folk who are supportive. That is the majority!

If you want to reduce it down, plenty of New York City and New York State, New Jersey and Connecticut residents also regularly drive, as well as the people they elect to represent them. Plainly speaking these folks are voting their many multiple interests ALL OF THE TIME!

These multiple factions of folks are ALWAYS concerned about higher gas prices, insurance costs, higher tolls, and similar related issues. This “majority” – is always looking after its interests.

Even the folks that do not drive regularly in NYC, NYS, NJ or Connecticut are voting their many multiple interests ALL OF THE TIME! The various groups and factions converge, merge, “un-merge” and vote their myriad issues all of the time – its called politics.

My point is simple – you’re attempting to make an equation between support for congestion pricing and the idea that the political system in this city is fundamentally incapable of serving the interests of the majority of the people. (Your words!)

Or to put it another way, because “they” did not adopt congestion pricing the “city” HAS TO BE fundamentally incapable ….

Your equation in simple words: Support For Congestion = (EQUALS) City Capable of Serving The Majority Of The People …

You’re trying to make an “equality” statement between two items, where both the positive and the negative are true. It is a kind of simple equation. I’m saying that that is not always the case.

My point in simple words: Support Either For Or Against Congestion =/= (Does Not Equal) City NOT Capable of Serving The Majority Of The People

Basically – the city is capable of serving the interests of the majority of the people whether congestion pricing is adopted or not.

The “majorities” are ALWAYS looking out for and electing folks to vote their many varied interests – whether or not a particular policy position is adopted or not.

(Yes, some times majorities can or should be constrained, etc. but that is a different set of arguments.)

Are there pretty good reasons to suggest congestion pricing for cities like New York? Yes! Are there some reasons not to support it. Yes! – I’m not making a case either for or against. There are debate-able issues of technology, home rule, toll policy among various branches of government or governments, plus political support on several levels and places. Of course there are related issues of traffic policy, environment, mass transit, etc. Of course there are commercial and business interests that weigh in on the debates. Debates on public policy issues are a regular occurrence and expected. There are debates because the issues are not simple – they never were simple!

Yes, there are plenty of New York City residents who either do not regularly drive, do not own or have regular access to a car, or who live in places where getting around without a car for the majority of their needs is not a problem. Those voters will also elect folks that represent their interests, and usually those elected folks will also drive. There are ZERO elected officials who do not have regular access to a car for transportation.

A kind of simple equation was being made about a very complex issue, along with the statement that this city is fundamentally incapable of serving the interests of the majority of the people.

My basic point is that often times important public policy issues are not simple! The “majorities” are ALWAYS looking out for and electing folks to vote their many varied interests – whether or not a particular policy position is adopted or not.


James Scantlebury March 17, 2016 - 6:52 pm

London is pushing forward Crossrail 2, a North South RER “Regional Express Rail” at a cost of £27-32 billion/$39-46 billion, to open in the 2030s. http://crossrail2.co.uk/the-route/

Paris is building over 200km/124 miles of new Metro lines, at a cost of €26.5 billion/$30 billion by the 2030s. https://www.societedugrandparis.fr/english

What’s NYC planning? Embarrassing really, for a city in the same league as London, Paris, Tokyo…

meow March 18, 2016 - 11:26 pm

It’s only in the same league as those cities because of inertia, cultural cachet, and good PR. It’s living off of its legacy and is now well on its way to second world status at this point because of failure to invest in the things that matter for a 21st century city. I would look to somewhere like Istanbul or Cairo as where the city’s headed.

AG March 19, 2016 - 9:37 am

Well let’s not go overboard here. When it comes to public transit it is true NYC is behind. However – if you are talking about the 21st century “knowledge” economy – only the Bay Area in San Francisco is creating more of those jobs worldwide. In 30 years that could change – but it most likely won’t be the London’s or Tokyo’s of the world that could overtake in those jobs.. It will most likely be the Shenzen/Shanghai’s and Bangalore/Mumbai’s.

Venture capital is one – but not the only measure for the 21st century knowledge economy. In terms of global “alpha cities” London is the only one close to NY in venture capital:


If you are talking about 21st century issues like “climate change”… NY spends more overall than any of it’s peers and more per capita than any city except Paris


Rick March 19, 2016 - 2:05 am

If we used only the tracks and right-of-ways that we already have, we could vastly expand the coverage of NYC’s subway system. For example, the barely used Amtrak open cut west of 10th Avenue could give us a new westside line connected at 31st street to the 8th Av line — all with existing track. The LIRR Bay Ridge line could be connected to the BMT Sea Beach express tracks and serve southeast Brooklyn with three or four new stations east of Nostrand Avenue. New stations at 14th St and Av C; at 42nd Street and 2nd-1st Av; and at 63rd St and 1st-York Av would bring service to the far eastside without any new tracks or tunnels.

Edward A March 19, 2016 - 9:54 pm

Do Staten Islanders want to have a subway line coming to their area? To a lesser degree, like the Second Avenue Subway, there were plans long ago to make it possible. To me, that is a big and tall order. For example, such a line would need to have a long tunnel under Lower New York Bay. However, if the section of the Fourth Avenue subway line south of 59 Street station becomes a continuation of the 4-track look, that possible tunnel project can be connected to it. Also, would there be a transfer station between the subway and the SIRT?

Anonymous March 20, 2016 - 10:03 pm

40 Years of five-cent fare ain’t so bad.
How about 70 years?


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