Home View from Underground Three ideas that won’t resolve transit capacity issues and one that could

Three ideas that won’t resolve transit capacity issues and one that could

by Benjamin Kabak
Gondolas, now a thing. (Photo via East River Skyway)

Can we not with this again?

I have a few more thoughts rattling around my head on the heels of yesterday’s exploration of crowded subway conditions. In particular, it’s worth discussing briefly a few other ideas around the margins of New York City’s transit capacity issues and whether or not these ideas solve, exacerbate or simply skirt the problem. So let’s discuss three proposals that won’t address the capacity crunch and one that will.

1. Gondolas East River Skyway. Remember that ridiculous gondola plan from late 2014 in which a real estate executive proposed an East River gondola system connecting Williamsburg with the Lower East Side? Thanks to the looming L train shutdown and DNA Info’s willingness to respond to a pitch email, it’s back in the news. Dan Levy wants to spend $135 million of private money to construct two stops in Williamsburg and one near Delancey St. He claims by running 40-person cars every 30 seconds, he could shuttle 200,000 people over the East River during the L train shutdown, but the math doesn’t work. The vast majority of subway ridership arises during peak hours, and even if Levy’s plan can be achieved, the most the gondolas could in an hour is 4800 passengers, a far cry from peak hour L train ridership. Plus, gondolas simply dump passengers into the subway at another point down the line, and thus, capacity problems are not resolved.

2. Ferries. I have lots of thoughts on ferries and none particularly positive. The mayor is sinking a lot of money and time into his five-borough ferry system (air pollution concerns be damned), but its returns will be marginal. It’s great for people who live and work near the water and don’t mind paying an additional fare for another mode of transit. It may won’t be totally useless, but it’s not a panacea. For $180 million, the city could do more to help improve freedom of movement for many more.

3. Brooklyn-Queens Streetcar. Does this take people from where they are to where they want to be? Not really, if you drill down on the plan. Plus, a large percentage of riders will be looking to transfer to the subway anyway, thus adding riders or simply shifting them around. Again, for $2.5 billion, I would expect more.

So what’s the solution that could be implemented quickly and at a reasonable cost? It’s all about that bus.

By investing in better bus routing and better bus infrastructure (including a massive rollout of pre-board fare payment, dedicated lanes and signal prioritization), the city could bolster a means of transportation that can add capacity to the core network and get people from where they are to where they want to be. Despite campaign assurances, de Blasio has dragged his feet on expanding Select Bus Service, and while buses have a reputation as an underclass means of mobility, a robust network can help move everyone. Buses will, by necessity, be a big key to moving people during the L train shutdown, but turning a pair of Manhattan avenues into dedicated bus-only lanes should happen sooner rather than later. Restructuring routes to include more cross-borough options would be a big help as well. Yet, buses seem to get the short shrift in conversations concerning capacity. That attitude should change.

As a postscript, I would note that bikes too can help, but I see this as a scale issue. You would need far more robust bike infrastructure from lanes to parking to alleviate capacity concerns. A few hundred people biking won’t make the subways emptier.

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Kenneth Barr May 4, 2016 - 10:57 am

You’ve given a lot of thought to this issue. I agree that the gondola is a non-starter. It can’t be built in a manner that would relieve over-crowding on any Lower Manhattan-Brooklyn line (J/Z, M L). I need more information about the Crossrail. So far, I’m not on board with it.However, I cannot agree with you that buses are the answer. SBS is not reliant on the Mayor alone, it is a combination of City DOT, MTA and State Legislature. Crosstown bus service remains a problem due to traffic management, i.e. traffic light programming. 23rd Street still has heavy school bus traffic which results in over the top delays. That will only go away if schools are moved to other locations or implementing a light rail there. The geography of this city alone argues against bus re-routing To move passengers among the islands requires over water crossings. How many more can be built?

We need a more integrated regional approach with massive investment to maintain the old while building new. Without Phase 2 to 125th Street, the Second Avenue Subway is a line to nowhere and will nothing to alleviate the crush conditions on the Lexington. That project must have absolute priority. Phases e and 4 must begin immediately after the completion of Phase 2, in fact, breaking ground on Phase 3 should begin while Phase 2 is in its final stages. LIRR East Side Access must be exploited by creating better public transit options to and from GCT. We must revive the 42nd Street light Rail plan to move added passenger traffic. Unfortunately, 34th Street cannot be used for light rail due to its designation as an Interstate Highway connection (I-495 between Queens Midtown and Lincoln Tunnels). 23rd Street may also be a good place for light Rail. Some kind of vehicle traffic control must be implemented for Manhattan south of 59th/6oth Streets, be it congestion pricing or some other form. Bus lanes must be strictly enforced and buses must be given European style absolute priority on the streets. Whether the political will for all this and more exists requires a more powerful public transport lobby than presently exists.

John May 4, 2016 - 11:36 am

The political will for everything you’re saying doesn’t exist because it never has. This is America; the car is king. It’s devastating to be honest. Everyone moves more slowly and congestion is worse because of it. Last week I was in two of the largest cities in Spain and was absolutely astonished to see how much respect people have for public transit and biking. No one dared enter a bus lane in their car. The entire time I was there, taxicabs were completely unnecessary because the metro and bus system was unbelievably efficient. From the Barcelona Airport to the center of the city in under 30 minutes, and we didn’t use a rail connection. How long does it take to get to LGA from midtown via bus? Years? And that’s not even that far of a distance. This city is really falling behind.

AMH May 4, 2016 - 12:15 pm

“…34th Street cannot be used for light rail due to its designation as an Interstate Highway connection…”

Is that true? If so, that’s really messed up. I know the mid-Manhattan expressway was planned for that area, but treating a city street as any kind of federal highway is ridiculous.

Eric May 4, 2016 - 1:47 pm

If that’s true, what about 33rd St or 35th St? All the subway stops there span multiple blocks.

Kenneth Barr May 4, 2016 - 2:07 pm

Have you ever noticed the signage “To I-$95” along 34th Street? That is to inform motorists that 34th Street is the connection between the two tunnels. It does date back to the MId-Manhattan, which would have demolished a 4-5 block are in midtow, including the Empire State Building and Macy’s. When asked at the time, Robert Moses merely shrigged his shoulders. Fortunately, both the Mid Manhattan and Lower Manhattan Expressways were stopped by the intrepid Jane Jacobs.

Otis Boone May 4, 2016 - 3:40 pm

I don’t think 34th St is a chargeable interstate (like the Ben Franklin pkwy in Philly). Those signs are there just for driver reassurance – no different than the signs on Broadway in W’burg telling drivers how to get to the BQE.

Kenneth Barr May 4, 2016 - 6:56 pm

That was an issue when NYCTA (Surface) was planning the M34/M34A SBS. They acknowledged that 34th Street, while not an Interstate highway, is considered by the FHA/FTA as a “connecting artery” and certain rules apply.

Bolwerk May 4, 2016 - 2:56 pm

Almost certainly not true, and even if true there is precedent for rerouting and removing fully grade separated interstates.

Adirondacker12800 May 4, 2016 - 4:02 pm

Designate it as a federal highway it’s eligible for federal highway money.

rewenzo May 4, 2016 - 10:58 am

The looming L shutdown, while apocalyptic, really is an opportunity for the city to (1) demonstrate how effective souped up select bus service can really be ; and (2) add a storage yard after 8th Avenue and widen the platforms so that when the L reopens it will have drastically enhanced capacity.

Larry Greenfield May 4, 2016 - 11:01 am

I agree that bus improvements would be a help but the solution to expanding the city’s transit capacity is dependent on the capacity of our mayor and governor to do their jobs and lead. They need to find a reliable long-term source of transit funding and even though there are some good ideas available to them, such as MoveNY, neither of them has begun to lead the way to a solution.

Doug G. May 4, 2016 - 11:02 am

Thanks for the postscript on bikes. I’ve been contacted by a few media people for quotes on how bikes could help alleviate the pressure on the subways, especially during the L train shutdown. I’ve passed each time. Biking will be a good option for some people, but even a massive investment in dedicated lanes and expanded Citi Bike service – which NYC should make anyway – would barely make a dent. Bus lanes are going to be the only way to go and the city should be focusing its efforts there. The rest is noise.

Bolwerk May 4, 2016 - 1:13 pm

Where are buses going to help though? They aren’t very useful between boroughs other than Brooklyn/Queens. The cheapest fix for that capacity crunch is probably bridge light rail.

In those places where buses are already moving the mid-five figures in daily riders, it is time to start looking beyond them to surface rail anyway. That is the stupid irony of BQX.

Diane May 4, 2016 - 1:27 pm

Hardly quickly and cheaply.

Busses with respect to the L:

“We found that for a 20 minute bus shuttle service, all but 5 stops on the L, riders would be better off transferring to another existing line. The challenge that we realized was that the shuttle is the best option for almost 75,000 riders per day. Given large buses with 65 passengers this would still take 1,154 bus trips per day, or a bus every minute and a half or so. That’s pretending there are only completely full buses or rush hours. To handle this capacity they’d have to build a new bridge”

via: http://blog.cartodb.com/looking-at-the-l/:

Tower18 May 4, 2016 - 8:53 pm

Awesome data, proves what I always suspected: the only people to really worry about are those from Bedford to maybe Grand…although this analysis basically ignores the G train for some reason, which makes the “trouble spot” really just Bedford and Grand: riders at Lorimer and Graham should use the G, riders at Montrose should probably just walk to the M at Lorimer or Flushing, riders at Morgan and Jefferson should ride backwards to Myrtle, and riders at Dekalb could either walk directly to M or ride backwards as well. Those farther out that that have very easy transfer opportunities.

That really just leaves Bedford and Grand. Those two happen to be stations that could relatively easily be connected directly to the J/M/Z by bus via Williamsburg Bridge Plaza.

Stephen Bauman May 4, 2016 - 1:42 pm

Any L Train “solution” must pass its peak hour stress test. According to NYMTC’s 2014 Hub Bound Report, 21,853 people on 20 subway trains cross from Bedford to First Avenues between 8 and 9 am. How close any “solution” comes to meeting this demand should be a principal metric for evaluating it.

There are close to 13,000 and 16,000 people using the L Train during the hour before and after the 8 to 9 am peak. Any peak hour solution will have to be sufficiently robust to handle 50,000 people over the 7 to 10 am morning peak.

The gondola scheme is ingenious but comes up short. Its peak capacity is 40 passengers/trip x 120 trips/hour = 4800 passengers/hour. Five such gondolas would do the job. The price tag for 5 such gondolas comes to $675 million. Dollar wise this solution comes close to building an extra tube. That extra tube looks more practical by the day.

Ferries are a niche market. All those small NJ ferries currently handle only 4,742 passengers during the peak hour. Just getting the required hourly capacity would require something like the Staten Island Ferry fleet. NYC is ordering 3 new ferry boats for delivery between 2019 and 2022. The two Barberi Class boats can each handle 6000 passengers. If the 14th St Tunnels could hold out for a few years longer and the life of the 3 boats to be replaced are extended a few years longer then there might be a possible solution equal to the problem’s magnitude. However, the overhead of an additional Staten Island Ferry fleet is not what the ferryboat proponents have in mind.

Various bus solutions have been proposed. Here’s why they deserve the short shrift they receive. Approximately 23,000 people travel on buses through the Lincoln Tunnel between 9 and 10am. These people are on 737 buses. These buses will require the equivalent three-quarters the loading space of the Port Authority Bus Terminal. Two would be required: one in Williamsburg and the other in Manhattan. That’s 1.5 Port Authority sized bus terminals, whose replacement cost is estimated to be $10 to $15 billion. The extra buses would cost an additional $350 million.

Fbfree May 4, 2016 - 4:06 pm

“These buses will require the equivalent three-quarters the loading space of the Port Authority Bus Terminal.” or the equivalent loading space of up to 4 subway platforms. There obviously isn’t enough room for 4 subway platforms in either Lower Manhattan or Williamsburg.

Larry Littlefield May 4, 2016 - 3:51 pm

There is the L train issue, and the capacity issue overall. Don’t confuse the two.

The only solution to the L train issue is to shut it down from Broadway Junction on. Trains from Canarsie would travel over the Broadway line, perhaps joining the L in running up 6th Avenue and over to Queens.

More trains would be added to the G and C. L riders would be encouraged to walk, bike or take local buses, to those lines. If the additional C or M-ish service could be accommodated on the Queens Boulevard line, perhaps former L riders to Midtown could take the G there and transfer.

TimK May 4, 2016 - 6:25 pm

It’s my understanding from the A/C Line Review (PDF) that there’s no capacity for significantly more service on the A/C in the peaks, due mainly to the capacity constraint imposed by the shared segment between Hoyt-Schermerhorn and Canal.

Tower18 May 4, 2016 - 9:01 pm

I believe there is room for 1 more train without reducing A service. But extending C trains in length is “free” from a TPH standpoint.

TimK May 4, 2016 - 10:59 pm

Right, but Larry said, “More trains would be added to the G and C.” I was responding to that.

Larry Littlefield May 5, 2016 - 8:04 am

I find it hard to believe they can’t get about the 26 tph now running at peak. There certainly seems to be a substantial gap between trains from time to time.

Tower18 May 5, 2016 - 9:44 am

Certainly the fact that the G train doesn’t go to Manhattan, and only connects to Manhattan-bound lines which themselves are at track capacity, makes it difficult to rely on the G to absorb the L ridership.

However, I’m wondering if the solution is thus:

The problem will be mopping up crowds at Hoyt-Schermerhorn, who transfer from the G and are unable to fit on the regularly-scheduled A/C trains which are already more crowded than usual from Broadway Junction transfers. This is essentially similar to after events like baseball games: a mass of ridership all in one place during a short peak time.

There is a layup track between Lafayette and Clinton/Washington on the A/C. Not sure how long it is but I assume it’s at least 1 train length, maybe 2. 2 would be ideal. Anyway a train should be stationed there during the morning rush, and when platform crowding at Hoyt becomes out of control, this train goes in service and Hoyt is the first stop. It absorbs the crowds and continues to Manhattan. If the layup track can fit 2 trains, this can happen twice during the 8-9 hour.

During the southbound evening peak, there is plenty of room for more Brooklyn-bound A/C trains–the track capacity issue is only during the Manhattan-bound AM peak.

Kenneth Barr May 5, 2016 - 12:25 pm

That is an excellent idea, much more practical than turning Gs around at Queens Plaza. It is much like what is done with Rockaway Park during the PM Rush. They come out of the 207 Yard, get laid up first at Dyckman and then in the layup between 81st and 72nd and then put into service at 59th. Your idea would probably be called the gap filler C.

ajedrez May 5, 2016 - 11:48 pm

Those (A) trains now start at 168th Street, with one starting from Dyckman.

Kenneth Barr May 6, 2016 - 1:44 am

Great. Just after I moved back from Inwood to Jackson Heights.

TimK May 5, 2016 - 12:36 pm

The MTA says that 26 tph is the current capacity. I have no reason to doubt them. What are your reasons?

Jonathan R May 4, 2016 - 4:00 pm

Let’s just fill in the East River and create more buildable land, bisected by a surface-level rail that can take the L trains between Brooklyn and Manhattan

SEAN May 4, 2016 - 7:47 pm

This may appear crazy at first blush – but before any decisions are made, the power brokers in this arena must be forced to master a pair of simulator games.

1. Cities in Motion
2. City : Skylines

Both games come from the same publisher & are far better than Sim City that came out in 2013. The latter game has a NYC mode FYI.

Rick May 5, 2016 - 1:10 am

There is a no-new-construction way to relieve the L crowding significantly. What’s required is to bring the G into Manhattan. That can be accomplished by having the G go north all the way to Queens Plaza, then reverse direction and go through the 60th St tunnel to Manhattan. To achieve this the R should be re-routed through the 63rd St tunnel and a switch track should be installed north of Queens Plaza to allow the southbound M train to enter Queens Plaza on the express track. That would free up the local tracks for reversing the G, which would continue through the 60th St tunnel and terminate at Whitehall Street.

Another way to relieve L crowding would be to attenuate the line, to run trains from Canarsie along the Brooklyn Broadway line and start Manhattan-bound L trains at Broadway Junction.

Tower18 May 5, 2016 - 9:49 am

The G can’t access the Manhattan-bound 60th St tracks without crossing over the whole Queens Blvd line, delaying E and M service. Unless you’re suggesting the “Manhattan-bound” G cross over at Court Square and then wrong-rail into Queens Plaza.

Rick May 5, 2016 - 12:34 pm

Yes, the G train would cross over at Court Square. The northbound G train would enter Queens Plaza on the Manhattan-bound side and then enter the 60th St tunnel. Reversing direction real fast is done all the time at terminal stations.

Kenneth Barr May 5, 2016 - 12:47 pm

You are asking for a head on collision. It simply isn’t safe, especially during peak and shoulder times. If you want to re-route either the M or R through 63rd Street plus returning the F to 53rd Street and extend the G back to Forest Hills that’s one thing. But playing around with reverse track operations is a disaster waiting to happen. This system is just too old for that.

AMH May 5, 2016 - 1:57 pm

I don’t think age is the problem (single-tracking happens regularly for track work) but capacity is. Any single-track operation knocks capacity waaay down, and there’s the question of where the trains would go in Manhattan. The Broadway line is at capacity, especially once the W returns.

Rick May 5, 2016 - 3:13 pm

The crossover at Court Square is no worse than occurs in rush hour now at The Franklin Av IRT station and at the Manhattan Bridge north of DeKalb. As for the W taking up BMT Broadway line capacity, the disaster awaiting the L requires some sacrifice from other lines. Maybe the W and the R (diverted to the 63rd St tunne) will have to learn how to share. The N, Q and R currently share the 60th Street tunnel. To have the W,R and G share the BMT local tracks in Manhattan is perfectly feasible.

Kenneth Barr May 5, 2016 - 3:54 pm

What you propose is both infeasible and dangerous. The max load on the Broadway local is two lines and has been since 1967. The N and W will already be under increased load condidtions due to an ever increasing population along the Astoria line. Rerouting the G into it will also mean a longer elapsed trip times and increased headways, never mind the reckless operation you propose for Court Square/Queens Plaza. You will increasing the Capital Budget exponentially at a time when it is absolutely critical that Phase 2 of Second Avenue gets off the ground. I would never propose robbing the East Side Peter to pay the North Brooklyn Paul or vice versa. I would rather build that idiotic gondola or beef up ferry service with Staten Island type transfer privileges than do as you propose. As someone who has been involved in two crashes, Roosevelt Avenue and the Williamsburg Bridge, I cannot and will not support these ideas. This system has to be considered as part of a complex regional one rather than putting one community against another. That was Shelly Silver’s way of doing business. The G should never, I repeat, never, be diverted into Manhattan. That would defeat the whole purpose of the Brooklyn/Queens Crosstown. Extend it back to Forest Hills, yes. Turn it around to go to Manhattan, no way.

Rick May 6, 2016 - 1:02 pm

I don’t understand why a crossover south of Court Square is any more dangerous than the crossovers that occur at ever terminal station lacking tail tracks. But, okay — I defer to your judgment. What about, then, pursuing this proposal (R uses the 63rd ST tunnel and southbound M enters Queens Plaza on the express track) ) without turning the G into Manhattan, just terminating it at Queens Plaza. If the G is extended to Forest Hills, either the R or M service in Queens would have to be eliminated. Fewer trains would cross into Manhattan from Queens than do now. How can that possibly help?

Rick May 6, 2016 - 1:16 pm

BTW, the Broadway local is currently carrying three lines — the N, Q and R — from through the 60th St tunnel to 57th Street. Also I would argue that only Phase 3 of Second Avenue will truly alleviate the situation by keeping the bulk of Second Avenue traffic from overtaxing the BMT Broadway line. Page 3 should be Phase 2.

Kenneth Barr May 7, 2016 - 3:01 am

I’ll take both issues here. The Queens Boulevard Line can handle three local lines to Forest hills due to the turn around being Kew Gardens (Jamaica) Yard, thereby allowing for line rotation that a standard terminal station can’t do unless it has an over-run like 179th Street (Hillside) or Hudson Yards. Plus, extending the G give Queens Boulevard a full time local so that the E or F (prefer the F as it is a longer line) can run express full time, shifting to local past Continental (71 Ave). Phase 2 is critical to alleviate the crushing conditions coming out of The Bronx on the 4, 5 and 6. Phase 3 will further alleviate the condition but Phase 2 gets the 125th Street transfer in place. Having just travelled Queens Plaza today confirmed my suspicion that the interlock is on the Manhattan side of the station, meaning whichever local coming Manhattan bound must platform on the local track. The Plaza layup, used by the Holiday Special during the Thanksgiving/Christmas season, must platform on the express track going back into Manhattan.

Jeff May 5, 2016 - 6:19 am

Isn’t it a fact that all the bus improvements, i.e. SBS, Bustime, etc., haven’t done much to improve capacity nor ridership when you look at long term trends? Buses being the bottom end of the totem pole in terms of ways to commute will never be the solution to capacity problems as long as there are alternative services out there.

Larry Littlefield May 5, 2016 - 1:08 pm

I wouldn’t dismiss cycling completely.

The best option is a total shutdown. And for anyone near or east of the G, the best option is the walk to another subway line and beefed up service there.

For those closest to Manhattan, cycling can help. How about the “lowline,” the Essex Street trolley terminal? It could probably be converted to bike parking for several thousand bicycles. Riders could transfer to the F or M to go uptown, and the J/Z to go downtown.

You’ve got 20 trains at peak hour on the Canarsie Line.

Six could stay on the lower Canarsie and run over the Broadway line to downtown. Six could run on an expanded M, providing more service in from Brooklyn AND Queens. One could shift to the C. And the rest could shift to the G, getting riders to those additional M trains in Queens.

problemsolver May 6, 2016 - 12:52 pm

All of this discussion about half-way “solutions” does a miraculous job of skirting the obvious revelation: absolutely NOTHING compares effectively to the subway when it comes to capacity and space efficiency – New York’s two biggest needs when it comes to transit solutions. This is of course obvious and the reason why we have the subway at all and why we rely on it so much.

Let’s address the problem for real – we are nearing all-time high ridership numbers for the NYC subway and the previous highs we are now matching were achieved during a time when there were 3-5 full, additional other lines in operation. The subway is smaller and is carrying the same number of people, hence crowding etc. It takes Olympian-level mental gymnastics to avoid the elephant in the room that is the obvious lack of capacity on the NYC subway in general.

The only real solution to the actual problem is to get serious about adding subway capacity. There are a number of gaps in the system that are long-identified (previously planned routes and routes that were once served by elevated lines). There are also new gaps in the system that have emerged from NYC’s post-1990’s renaissance. Addressing these gaps with NEW service, as in real, actual subways, is the only intelligent and competent approach to take. As NYC has a budget of $70 billion and NYS another $140 billion, and the federal government has nearly infinite spending capacity, there is simply no reason to accept that we “can’t afford it.”

Now, the usual challenges, viewed incorrectly to be insurmountable, are on closer inspection not at all insurmountable – they simply require leadership of the kind that is willing to take risks, communicate directly and effectively to the people, and that is geared toward actually serving the people rather than some corrupt interest that has access to our government representatives. We need bold, loud, and consistent proposals for building new routes and a major initiative that puts it on the line – the approach is to say THIS IS WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE and then get down to doing it. View it as a project that will succeed and then behave accordingly and it can be done. Finally, we have to set our aim a lot higher than it has been by considering some “radical” suggestions that are far too quickly discarded in our current conversation (one that is failing to solve the problem).

First of all, we need to talk about cut-and-cover construction. Deep-bore tunneling is more expensive, more time consuming, and provides lesser service (takes longer to reach the platform, make transfers, etc). The only benefit is to not disturb a few people – that idea has to go out the window. In this conversation, the one that solves the real problem, we focus on mitigating that disturbance. The best way to do so is to REDUCE THE AMOUNT OF TIME that people and business are subjected to the disturbance. For that reason we need to look at cut-and-cover construction in any place it is viable technologically and look at doing it fast. This means labor – lots of labor. This is how you get it done. A new subway line built via cut and cover with a huge labor force can be completed far faster than we’ve seen with recent construction. It should be very possible to disturb a cut and cover area for ONE YEAR at most – a length of time that is absolutely manageable to the public. Individual blocks could be completed in as little as six months in non-station areas.

Now that we’ve accepted how we’re going to do it we need to decide what we’re going to do. Here are my suggestions:

1. 3rd avenue subway in the Bronx. This is obvious as the area was developed around a previously existing elevated line. This makes it incredibly easy to use the route to serve a large population effectively. The development opportunities and economic benefits to the Bronx are enormous. I believe this to be one of the easiest possible routes to get approved and built in the city. Where it ends/connects is TBD, but I believe it is wise to intend for it to join a future 125th street crosstown line in Harlem. Build it with that in mind.

2. Utica subway in Brooklyn. This is another obvious line, one that was previously planned and intended. The Utica street corridor is an excellent development candidate and an area that has long been under-served. This line would connect with the 2/3, the a/c, the JMZ at Myrtle Ave, then JOIN the L for Montrose and Graham (rebuild the segment with dual tracking). It would continue north to Greenpoint making an additional new stop or two (possibly creating a transfer at Greenpoint Ave to accommodate huge new growth in N. Greenpoint). The line would then cross the East River and become a crosstown 23rd street Subway where it can transfer to every line in Manhattan, and add service to 10th Street on the west side of Chelsea, diverting north to meet the 7 at Hudson yards and serve 10th avenue through the west side.

3. 21st Street Queens subway. Massively underutilized corridor can be served with brand-new top-of-the-line cut and cover subway. I would run this south through the western areas of LIC (where huge growth has occurred) and have it meet the new Utica line in North Greenpoint, continuing to the new Manhattan cross-town line.

4. An additional line/branch of one or two of the above that serve Northern Blvd, Western Astoria, Maspeth, and/or other under-served parts of Queens.

5. Finish the entire length of the 2nd avenue subway, with interconnections to the other new lines above.

Now, you tell me if that vision is anything short of THE RIGHT THING FOR NEW YORK CITY. This is what we want, and what we need to solve our transit capacity and make the subway and the city better. We can do all of this in 5-10 years if we make the commitment to do it fast, built it the right way, and not let a few loud neighbors stop what is best for 9 million residents of the city, millions more regional commuters, and tens of millions of visitors per year.

This is a $20-$40 billion project and the city, state, and Federal govt together can absolutely afford it. This is what we should be demanding instead of wasting our time talking about shitty streetcars, lousy gondolas, mediocre bus “rapid transit” and other distractions. You live in the greatest city in the world and this is how New York City became that – stop acting like we can’t get it done and start getting it done.

Rick May 7, 2016 - 12:49 am

ProblemSover’s plan is great, and come the revolution we may see it implemented. Meanwhile, there are low-cost alternatives, a whole lot that can be done with existing infrastructure:

1. Instead of a Third Avenue subway in the Bronx, convert the two outer-tracks of the Metro North Harlem line (just a couple of blocks to the west) to subway service.

2. Use the Amtrak open cut west of 10th Avenue for subway service (adding a third track for the few Amtrak trains that come through to Penn Station).. The line would go from 72nd St to 31st Street, then turn west through the Hudson Yards and connect with the 8th Avenue subway.

3. To relieve 7 train overcrowding, convert the LIRR Port Washington line to subway service. Bring it into Manhattan on the half-unutilized 63rd St tunnel’s F train tracks. .

4. Build the Triboro RX from Co-op City to Bay Ridge. This will bring new service to southeast Brooklyn, Middle Village Queens, and the northeast Bronx. Add a third track for Amtrak trains in the northeast Bronx.

Adirondacker12800 May 7, 2016 - 1:16 am

And let all of the Metro North passengers drive to work? Whether it’s in the Bronx or on the West Side?

Rick May 8, 2016 - 6:27 pm

If the outer tracks along Park Avenue in the Bronx were switched to subway service, Metro North trains would all run on the express (inside) tracks south of Mount Vernon. These is the same squeeze to one track that currently occurs just north of the bridge to Manhattan. The Hudson division occupies two of there Manhattan tracks, the Harlem division the other two. Metro North does not need a total of six tracks going through the Bronx.

Adirondacker12800 May 8, 2016 - 11:29 pm

More than half of the trains going through 125th Street come from the Harlem Line. Metro North traffic isn’t going to go down anytime soon. If ever.
There’s a cliff on the west side of the tracks. Going up Third Avenue serves more people.

Rick May 9, 2016 - 12:26 pm

There’s no question that this highly populated corridor of the Bronx would be better served by a 3rd Av subway than by a Park Avenue subway. But converting the existing Park Avenue outer tracks and its stations to subway service would cost a pittance compared to digging a new 3rd Av subway line. And remember, converting the outer tracks to subway service should substantially reduce the total number of Metro North Harlem division trains using the center tracks since all Bronx ridership, including perhaps Mount Vernon and even Fleetwood, would now be diverted to the outer-track subway service.

Adirondacker12800 May 9, 2016 - 1:03 pm

….There are Metro North passengers using it.
There are so many Metro North passengers using it, Metro North wants to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to send 6 trains an hour to Penn Station instead of Grand Central.

Rick May 10, 2016 - 4:39 pm

The Penn Sta destination for metro North traffic would all come from the Hudson Line. It’s for passenger convenience, not to ease traffic to Grand Central.

Adirondacker12800 May 10, 2016 - 5:11 pm

Last time I looked, the MTA wants to build new stations along the Hell Gate line which connects with the New Haven Line. Eventually 6 trains an hour during the peak. Someday 4 trains an hour along the Hudson line. Someday. Hudson Line service, last time I looked, hasn’t progressed as far as New Haven Line service. Passenger convenience is a pleasant side effect of getting people out of the Park Avenue tunnel.

There are too many people already using the tracks to repurpose them for subway service.

Eric May 8, 2016 - 9:23 am

For #1-#3, converting MNR/LIRR lines to subway lines is an unnecessary expense. Instead, just fare-integrate the lines with the subway, and increase frequency and add some infill stations. It will be functionally the same as the subway, without the need for any new construction (except fare gates).

Rick May 10, 2016 - 4:43 pm

You’re right, Eric. If the fare inside Queens is brought down to subway levels, with free transfers to the rest of the system, The LIRR Port Washington branch could be used to ease crowding on the #7 train. The question is whether penn Station has the capacity to accommodate the could the number of trains that it would take. Ithink a physical subway connection is probably necessary.

MordyK May 8, 2016 - 1:22 pm

Anyone look into why a system like Futrex 21 is not an option for Manhattan Crosstown? The only 2 issues I see are tree clearance and turnaround.


Josh May 9, 2016 - 6:19 am

Nobody who’s ever taken the Roosevelt Island tram thinks 40-person cars at 30-second intervals is even remotely a realistic suggestion.


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