Home Second Avenue Subway Inside the SAS Phase 2 FONSI: Twenty years for six subway stops

Inside the SAS Phase 2 FONSI: Twenty years for six subway stops

by Benjamin Kabak

SAS Phase 2 is indeed underway but will not be completed until 2027 at the earliest.

Under the best-case scenario, Phase 2 of the Second Ave. Subway will not open until 2027, and this three-stop extension of the Q train through East Harlem may not be ready for passengers until 2029, according to new documents released last week by the MTA.

As part of the refresh of the environmental review process in advance of starting heavy construction toward the end of next year, the MTA received certification recently from the Federal Transit Administration that the Phase 2 documents showed no significant environmental impacts that were not previously addressed. Included in this FONSI were a series of questions and answers that arose out of this past summer’s public comment period, and in response, the MTA discussed the lengthy construction schedule and its hopes to speed up work. “[The] MTA will continually seek opportunities to reduce the construction schedule, if feasible and if it can be done without compromising safety,” the agency stated. “The Supplemental EA assumed a construction completion year of 2029 to provide a conservative (i.e., worst-case) time frame, so as not to underestimate the period of time during which the community would experience construction-related effects. [The] MTA is investigating alternative project delivery and other methods to expedite an opening date potentially as early as 2027, contingent on timely funding.”

On the one hand, the MTA’s response says nothing new. We’ve known about the lengthy construction schedule for Phase 2 for a few years, and the agency is constantly “investigating alternative project delivery” methods in an attempt to speed up their pathetically lengthy construction timelines (with little to show for it). On the other hand, the MTA’s response is notable for what this means for the present and future of the Second Ave. Subway. If the MTA can somehow achieve a 2027 opening date for Phase 2 of this project, a full 20 years will have elapsed between the 2007 groundbreaking for Phase 1 and the revenue service date for Phase 2, and in that 20 years, the MTA will have built only six new subway stops and less than four miles of tunnels. Needless to say, this is an unsustainable pace for a city trying to keep pace with international peers and in desperate need of massive expansion of its transit network.

To add insult to injury, a glimpse back at the original Environmental Assessment documents for the full-length Second Ave. Subway reveals an alternate timeline in which the full-length project would be wrapping up within the next 13 months. Originally, the MTA wanted to begin construction in 2004, build segments concurrently, including starting Phase 3 before Phases 1 and 2 were to be completed, and finish the full project for a total cost of $16.8 billion by the end of 2020. Now, the MTA hopes to start Phase 2 by 2020, and we still don’t know how much this modest segment will cost. (The most recent cost estimates for Phase 2 were $5.5-$6 billion, nearly double the figure the MTA put forward in the 2004 EA documents.)

Like I said, this problem isn’t anything new: The MTA’s inability to build any major project in a timely manner has garnered headlines for years, and it’s why East Side Access is going to take 15 years to complete. It is also in stark contrast to peer cities such as London and Paris, both of which are building significantly more new transit connections and new miles of track in far less period of time for far less money. But it highlights part of the city’s mobility crisis: How can New York City grow if the transit network simply cannot keep pace? How can the city expect to develop new potential job and population centers if it takes two decades to build six new subway stops?

I do not have the answers to these questions, but neither does the MTA. Without serious transit construction reform though, New York City will stagnate. The roads can’t handle more personal automobiles, and buses can’t move efficiently through traffic. For now, we wait — somehow, until 2027 at best — for the only three new subway stops under consideration right now.

Other Highlights from the FONSI

Reinforcing a slow construction timeline wasn’t the only newsworthy bit from the FONSI Q-and-A document. I’m mostly going to embed Tweets from this thread of mine. First up, why are the stations so overbuilt? The MTA says, “Projected ridership.” I find this to be a real symptom of extremely onerous safety requirements that require massive underutilized mezzanines. At no point are the Second Ave. Subway mezzanines crowded, and the stations aren’t projected to be popular enough to warrant more space that even more crowded IRT stations.

How about station entrances? Those can’t be relocated due to costs.

Finally, the construction process. This warrants a post on its own due to the short-sightedness of the answer. Once the MTA sinks a tunnel boring machine into the ground, the agency is actually pretty good at operating it. Tunnel construction times and costs are generally in line with international standards, and it’s the rest of the project that costs so much and takes so much time. For Phase 2, a lot of people have called upon the MTA to dig a tunnel long enough for connections to West Side trains (or even toward New Jersey), but the MTA has no plans to do so. It’s a bad and costly decision. More on that soon.

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Stephen Smith November 27, 2018 - 11:20 pm

Does anybody really think that this will get funded and built if the costs remain $5.5-6 billion?

Eric November 28, 2018 - 3:51 am

Nope. Gateway is projected to cost $30 billion and it has fewer stations than this, so we can expect this to cost about $40 billion.

Nathanael December 2, 2018 - 8:51 pm

Actually, yes. It’s a political imperative.

That said, that is a ridiculous amount of graft for a subway project. It should not cost that much, period.

A pessimist November 28, 2018 - 1:18 am

I’m ready to concede a sobering and disheartening point: very few of us will probably live long enough to see the Second Avenue Subway (phases 1-4) completed. It’s really not fair… but this is the reality we must confront, when endless political maneuvers and publicity stunts always manage to succeed in ruining our hopes and dreams. (Sigh…)

Sebastian Sinisterra November 28, 2018 - 3:27 am

It’s ridiculous that they can’t cover the costs of utility relocation for an extra entrance, but can build full-length mezzanines… (Also I’m surprised my name actually showed up in comment 16 & 23).

sonicboy678 November 28, 2018 - 3:50 am

We really need the city to step in and smooth things out so the MTA can at least build those entrances without issue.

I figured that was you in those comments.

Eric November 28, 2018 - 3:51 am

The answer is to massively upzone in Brooklyn where there is already excess subway capacity to Manhattan and nothing needs to be built.

orulz November 28, 2018 - 7:05 am


tacony November 28, 2018 - 10:03 am

Why is that easier (politically)? I think that’s even harder.

Eric November 29, 2018 - 3:23 am

There are 4 boroughs that would benefit from this in terms of more affordable housing (due to alternatives in Brooklyn). 4 to 1 (more precisely: 6 million to 2.6 million people) is a voting majority.

Billy G December 3, 2018 - 1:29 pm

Fill in the East River from the northern point of Roosevelt island to just north of the Battery. Create a narrow artificial river bed from the mouth of Newtown creek to the sound in the old riverbed hugging the LI shore.

Then, build a major north-south rail line from GCT to Fulton to Atlantic Ave and continue SAS in the filled East River down to Downtown Brooklyn and connect it at Barclays.

WillyB4567 November 28, 2018 - 6:03 am

I think that the city should pay for it. Or, maybe they shouldn’t make the stations so large. And, if they don’t increase the frequency of the Q, it will be a waste of money and time because some of them will use the 6 train.

BrooklynBus November 28, 2018 - 8:29 am

Why do you say Easy Side Access is taking 15 years? Isnt the still unused lower level of the 63 St Tunnel part of the East ASide Access Project?

VLM November 28, 2018 - 8:59 am

Projected opening: 2022
Groundbreaking: 2007
Time in between: 15 years

Past provisioning and plans that died decades ago don’t count in these types of calculations.

Subutay Musluoglu November 28, 2018 - 12:28 pm

It’s actually closer to 20 years if you count the early work projects: enlarging the 1970s era bellmouth on the lower level at 2 Avenue and 63 Street with roadheaders as a prelude to a TBM launch; MNR’s Highbridge facility to replace the loss of the Madison Avenue Yard (the future ESA concourse); and the Arch Street Shop & Yard in LIC, Queens, which will be the future running repair facility for the ESA fleet.

t-bo November 28, 2018 - 10:57 am

There’s an even lower level at 63rd St? Ear popping. Wish something useful was at the second level.

SEAN November 28, 2018 - 6:53 pm

It’s only two levels – not three.

Miriam Fisher November 28, 2018 - 8:39 am

Light rail. Models in Europe, even now in New Jersey. Faster, less environmental impact, not multi multi billion cost, not as disruptive to community

sonicboy678 November 28, 2018 - 4:02 pm

That’s more myopic than the current plans for this line.

Also, where are the tracks and maintenance facility supposed to go?

Eric November 29, 2018 - 3:16 am

It’s more disruptive, not less, since it’s all above ground.

It also has a much lower capacity, since trains are shorter, and sometimes they have a “red light” so road traffic can flow on cross streets.

It’s still expensive, i.e. the Charlotte light rail extension which opened in 2018 cost $1.2 billion. Per rider that may be more expensive than a subway.

sonicboy678 November 29, 2018 - 9:55 pm

Not to mention that in the long run, trying to get cheap will be more costly thanks to being fundamentally incompatible with the subway.

Paul Berk November 28, 2018 - 9:26 am

It seems to me many many New Yorkers, ones with loud, insistent voices who have the ear of politicians, too, are perfectly happy with the city stagnating. They have their job or their generous pension or savings, their free parking, their cheap food delivery, their comfortable paid for or inexpensive house or apartment, their weekend house outside the city or Florida condo. I know quite a few people who never cease going on about NYC being a better place in the 70s and 80s. Of course swathes of Brooklyn and Queens close to subways should be upzoned, and new local parks, even if they are small ones, created at the same time. Try to get that through the city council.

Alex November 28, 2018 - 10:41 am

Hi. Did the document mention anything about the extra tracks that were not built at the 72nd Street station and how that would impact future service? I remember last year this came up and it seemed like it basically doomed the SAS for Phases 3 and 4.

Brooklynite November 28, 2018 - 1:51 pm

With the current layout, Phases 3 and 4 (the T train) will simply diverge after 72nd. The third track was unnecessary for through operations, and would only have come in handy for short turning or disruptions.

manc November 28, 2018 - 3:02 pm

Im pretty sure the original plan was to have all Q trains terminate at 72 street, in the 3 track station, at least at rush hours so that the T could run 30 tph up and down second avenue.

Brooklynite November 28, 2018 - 7:46 pm

That’s been semi-officially replaced with the extra capacity south of 63rd going to a 2 Av – 63 St – Queens service, using the bellmouths in the river tunnel. Of course, for any of this to happen Phase 3 needs to be built…

Riverduckexpress November 29, 2018 - 10:01 am

That was never part of the plans. From the original SDEIS, the plan was to always have the Q and T both run up to 125th St. The 3rd track at 72nd St would have been reserved for turning trains during service disruptions – for example, extra service running up the Broadway Line, like when the Q local, Q express, and W all ran on the Manhattan Bridge from 2001-2004.

Comradefrana December 1, 2018 - 7:08 am

“The third track was unnecessary for through operations, and would only have come in handy for short turning or disruptions.”

I don’t know. If it was supposed to be anything like in other cities, then the third track would be used in normal operation so northbound T and Q trains arrive at different platforms, which should lessen delay propagation and improve headway management north to 125nd street.

Or something like that, I don’t fully understand the theory behind it.

Subutay Musluoglu December 1, 2018 - 11:31 am

You are correct – the center track would have been used in normal operations to mitigate schedule delays resulting in two northbound trains arriving simultaneously from 63rd Street and from lower Second Avenue. It would also have come in handy during overnight maintenance – allowing single track shuttle operations on upper Second Avenue to terminate at 72 Street, and allowing cross-platform transfers to trains from 63rd Street and from lower Second Avenue which would be turned at 72 Street.

Nathanael December 2, 2018 - 8:54 pm

Phases 3 and 4 aren’t happening. The MTA never wanted to build them and has done everything in its power to prevent them from happening. They were inserted in the EIS to appease certain transit advocates and the Alphabet City community, but the establishment has been trying to kill them forever.

The Bronx extension and 125th-crosstown subway are *both* more likely to happen.

Stephen Bauman November 28, 2018 - 10:48 am

A benefit analysis for the SAS 2 would be in order, considering its high cost.

Approximately 112K people, 36K workers and 20K jobs are within 1/2 mile (walking distance) of the proposed stations. However, 98% of the population, 98% of the workers and 97% of the jobs are already within 1/2 mile of an existing subway station. This means that SAS 2 would provide a subway within walking distance to only an additional 2K people; 720 workers and 400 jobs. Moreover, the distance savings would be only 475 feet for those currently not within walking distance of an existing subway.

Such extravagance for so few might be justified, if all New Yorkers were already within walking distance of a subway station. They aren’t. There are 8.3M people of whom 2.7M live and work within NYC. Of these 71% of the people, 75% of the workers and 85% of the jobs are within walking distance of an existing subway station. Extending existing subways or adding short branches to where these people live would serve far more people per mile of construction than SAS 2.

Preston November 28, 2018 - 1:24 pm

The point of the SAS is not to reach new people, it was to relieve traffic from the 4/5/6 which is already reaching capacity. That’s why it’s essential to connect to 125th for the transfer. Not all projects are about adding more commuters, some of for relieving overcrowded lines and stations.

Guest November 28, 2018 - 6:50 pm

It should connect to the 2, 5, and 6 in the Bronx at E 138th and E 149th before turning west on 125th. That is much more likely to pull riders from those lines into the Q.

Stephen Bauman November 29, 2018 - 12:15 am

The point of the SAS is not to reach new people, it was to relieve traffic from the 4/5/6 which is already reaching capacity.

That was the excuse for SAS 1. It’s time to declare “mission accomplished” and go on to projects that reach new people.
The MTA already has. The number of scheduled Lex expresses and locals leaving 125th St rose from 602 on 11/29/13 to 611 on 11/30/16 (shortly before SAS 1 opened) and back to 602 for 11/30/18. The number of scheduled Lex expresses and locals leaving 125th St between 7:30 and 8:30 am went from 50 in 2013 to 49 in 2016 and stands at 47 today. The MTA’s policy is to adjust service levels to equalize crowding throughout the system.

Here’s what the MTA said regarding the Lex capacity in the SAS-DEIS: “The current NYCT signal system on the Lexington Avenue line is designed to allow 90-second headways, including a 30-second allowance for station dwell times, with operating headways of 120 seconds. The additional 30 seconds in the operating headway is meant to allow trains to move far enough ahead of the following trains, so the following trains generally can run on green signals.”

This means that up to 90 second headways (40 tph) on each track. Thus, speculation regarding Lex reaching capacity are appropriate when the number of locals and expresses approach 80 tph not the current 47 tph.

sonicboy678 November 29, 2018 - 2:01 am

Except it’s far from over.

If you want new markets, then push for Bronx service on the line to make it more effective in the current capacity and to secure future effectiveness. (Yes, there are other places that also need subway service, such as large swaths of Queens, but that can’t preclude building more of this line.)

Abandoning it now would be saying that that entire side of Manhattan has no meaning, which is decidedly not reflected by the buses or the rest of the Lexington Avenue Line.

Stephen Bauman November 29, 2018 - 12:55 pm

If you want new markets, then push for Bronx service on the line

I assume that “new markets” means people/workers/jobs that lie more than 1/2 mile from an existing subway station.

The percentage of Bronx residents and workers living within 1/2 mile of an existing subway station 77%; the percentage for jobs is 71%. There’s only wiggle room for finding “new markets” in the Bronx.

Subway extension costs are driven by extension length. Therefore, the greatest “new markets” return on investment (ROI) is in building subway extensions where none currently exist.

Here are the by borough percentages for population/workers/jobs that are within 1/2 mile of an existing subway station.
Staten Island/25%/25%/29%

Yes, there are other places that also need subway service, such as large swaths of Queens,


Staten Island’s problem is that it’s necessary to dig a long tunnel to get there. That reduces the ROI.

Queens has no such problem. Moreover, most of the “new markets” are beyond the existing subway line terminals. Extending each a couple of miles will provide the highest ROI. It’s possible to propose Queens extensions that have the overhead of duplicating existing service. One need only look to the RPA’s latest Regional Plan for examples.

AMH December 5, 2018 - 11:17 am

Most of the lines in Queens need to be extended. The excuse for not doing so is that serving more riders would simply worsen overcrowding.

Adirondacker12800 December 5, 2018 - 11:43 am

Putting people from Eastern Queens on the subway sounds like a good idea. The problem is that people in Western Queens are already using it. We need more tracks in Western Queens so people in Eastern Queens can use them. There’s no place in Manhattan for the tracks to go. Figuring out someway for people in Eastern Queens and beyond to get to Wall Street without going through Midtown might be a good idea. Can’t do it on the subway because people in Brooklyn are already using it. It’s gonna be expensive no matter what gets done.

Larry Littlefield November 29, 2018 - 9:05 am

There are a whole lot of jobs on the Far East Side near the existing Second Avenue stations. As many as in most Downtowns.

The extension would provide improved access to those jobs for everyone riding MetroNorth and the IRT from the Bronx.

Stephen Bauman November 29, 2018 - 12:02 pm

There are a whole lot of jobs on the Far East Side near the existing Second Avenue stations.

Only 35,930 primary private sector jobs, according to the LEHD census. These are job locations whose closest subway stop is one of the 3 existing SAS stop. That would qualify them as being on the Far East Side. All the other job locations are closer to the Lex.

The per worker cost of SAS 2 is in the Amazon LIC ballpark. The 15K Amazon workers are supposed to be new ones, who will add to the tax base. The 36K Far East Side workers already exist.

The extension would provide improved access to those jobs for everyone riding MetroNorth and the IRT from the Bronx.

Might it not be appropriate to determine where these 36K workers live before proposing a subway extension to ease their commute?

TimK November 30, 2018 - 4:28 am

Only 35,930 primary private sector jobs, according to the LEHD census.

Why are you only counting private-sector jobs?

Stephen Bauman November 30, 2018 - 1:36 pm

There’s an artifact in the LEHD data. It’s derived from worker tax form data. It’s not bad for determining an employee’s residence. There are problems using the employer’s official address with the actual place of employment for an individual worker.

If there’s a large employer, like the NYC Board/Department of Education, all employee workplaces will show up as a single address in a Downtown Brooklyn census block. I’ve found that primary job private employers are less prone to such artifacts.

TimK December 3, 2018 - 3:46 am

So this is a reason to pretend that public-sector workers don’t take the subway? This makes your calculations unreliable.

Larry Littlefield November 30, 2018 - 9:52 am

“Might it not be appropriate to determine where these 36K workers live before proposing a subway extension to ease their commute?”

Why base decisions on where the existing workers live when they will all be retired before the improvements are finished.

Some people prefer to live in the suburbs. Some people can only afford to live in the Bronx, the cheapest NYC borough. That connection would provide an option for both.

Larry Littlefield November 30, 2018 - 9:54 am

“Why are you only counting private-sector jobs?”

Because that’s what he has. beware establishment data at the local level. Often the data is based on the location of someone’s accountant. The household-based data by place of work used in the Journey to Work file is more complete, and includes government workers.

Stephen Bauman November 30, 2018 - 1:42 pm

I could have used all jobs public/private/full time/part time.

You guessed the real reason – government employer data is not completely reliable and can introduce large scale errors.

The problem with the census Journey to Work file is that it’s census tract based and less current than the LEHD. Census tract data isn’t sufficiently precise for first/last mile calculations.

Stephen Bauman November 30, 2018 - 3:44 pm

Why base decisions on where the existing workers live when they will all be retired before the improvements are finished.

For starters it introduces some reality into pie-in-the-sky scenarios.

Some people prefer to live in the suburbs. Some people can only afford to live in the Bronx, the cheapest NYC borough. That connection would provide an option for both.

There already are Lex stations that are close to these work places. There’s nothing from preventing these Bronx or Westchester residents from changing to the Lex at 125th or for Westchester residents to change at Grand Central and double back uptown.

Just how much did these people have to to go from the Lex to these jobs before SAS 1?

For the 1/2 mile threshold the percentages were:
before or after/population/worker/job

So, 26% of the jobs were brought within walking distance. That rewards 9K jobs for how many billion in construction cost?

I would suggest that it would be more equitable and less costly to bring the Queens percentages up to these before figures.

Nathanael December 2, 2018 - 8:56 pm

Ever actually been to 125th St. station on the Lex? It’s wildly overcrowded. The relief line is needed.

Actually, it needs to go to the Bronx and releave the crowding at 149th St – Grand Concourse, but that’s another matter.

Stephen Bauman December 4, 2018 - 9:29 am

Yes, I’ve visited both 125th-Lex and 149th-Grand Concourse (both stations) during the am rush hour. Service levels can be increased before building new facilities are required to eliminated overcrowding at both stations.

smotri November 28, 2018 - 11:39 am

People say, sometimes, ‘Rome was not built in a day’… I guess that for the Second Avenue Subway, the saying will be something like this: You know, the Second Avenue Subway was not built in a century. I’ll be repeating this to myself when I’m stuck trying to figure out a way to take public transit to someplace near Second Avenue below 63rd Street. The joke is on us all for letting this happen.

sonicboy678 November 28, 2018 - 4:05 pm

Perhaps it would’ve been better if the previous attempts hadn’t hit economic roadblocks…

smotri November 28, 2018 - 4:24 pm

And so the explanation this time is that we are a rich, advanced civilization that is too inept to get something simple done anymore?

sonicboy678 November 28, 2018 - 10:49 pm

If it doesn’t involve building roads for cars, it’s a hard sell.

TimK November 30, 2018 - 4:30 am

If it doesn’t involve building roads for cars, it’s a hard sell.

Which calls into question smotri’s characterization of the U.S. as “advanced.”

SEAN November 30, 2018 - 3:28 pm

We’re advanced? HHHHAHAHA, is this an SNL skit? Where are Alic Baldwin & Tracy Morgan.

smotri December 3, 2018 - 10:50 am

We ‘think and keep telling ourselves that we are advanced’…

SEAN December 5, 2018 - 7:45 pm

It’s like those in the spiritual sciences, believe it & it will come true. Not all that dissimilar to politics in some ways. I stand by my above statement.

Will December 20, 2018 - 1:31 pm

China will get this built in less then 5 years

Rick November 28, 2018 - 1:19 pm

The tunneling between 97th Street and 105th street already exists under Second Avenue, dug at untold expense during the early 1970’s. Same with the tunneling from 108th Street to 115th St — something like that. Not to utilize this existing tunneling would be criminal. But it raises the possibility of breaking Phase 2 into two stages, going up to 116th St first and then completing the rather elaborate crosstown connection to Lex and 125th St. in the fullness of time.

Eric November 29, 2018 - 3:21 am

Part of the reason NYC construction is so expensive is that they only do it a couple stations at a time. So they need to do all the planning, hire all the workers, build all the machines, then use all those resources for a very short time before sending them home. And 20 years later when they want to build another 2 stop extension, the whole process has to be repeated.

meesalikeu December 2, 2018 - 8:10 pm

What you are saying is, to save money and time in the future when they turn the corner and head west on 125st they should keep on drilling west until they reach the ABCD station.

Nathanael December 2, 2018 - 8:58 pm

Absolutely correct. They should actually keep tunneling west from 125th all the way to the Amtrak tracks by the Hudson River shoreline. One tunnelling job.

Billy G December 3, 2018 - 1:35 pm

They should tunnel to Teterboro.

sonicboy678 December 4, 2018 - 10:18 am

What good would that do?

Billy G December 4, 2018 - 5:06 pm

Multiple transfer points on existing transit, airport connection.

sonicboy678 December 4, 2018 - 11:12 pm

We already have some routes that do too much. Having the subway go to New Jersey while also providing substantial NYC service will take that concept to an extreme, especially since Teterboro is on the opposite side of the Hackensack River from Secaucus.

Also, how many people in Teterboro (or on the way there) are actually clamoring for that?

As for an airport connection, it would make far more sense to extend the Astoria Line to LaGuardia instead, which can also be done for far cheaper and with substantially less risk of permanent closure (yes, in spite of flooding concerns).

SEAN December 5, 2018 - 7:54 pm

The N should had been extended like yesterday, but some irrational Astoria residents basicly said… over my dead body even though they could in effect benefit from such an addition to the line.

smotri November 29, 2018 - 8:40 am

If Phase 2 is split into two stages, you might as well tack on yet another decade to get the entire Phase 2 done.

Brooklynite November 28, 2018 - 2:12 pm

Nearly nobody will get off a Lex train from the Bronx (that they have already waited for and boarded) at 125th to use a lengthy escalator to go downstairs, and then spend several minutes waiting, to transfer to the Q (or T). Except for the hospitals on the east 70s by the river, no destinations of significance will get faster trips from the Bronx IRT (or from Metro North) as a result of this new connection. While the additional stops at 106th and 116th will divert East Harlem ridership from the IRT, the connection to 125 will not.

To truly relieve IRT congestion once and for all, the SAS must go to the Bronx. Preferably, it would either run via a new corridor entirely (3rd Avenue, for instance) or via a recaptured IRT corridor, as proposed in the 60s. Jerome, Dyre, and upper Pelham are all possibilities. If none of this is possible, then at the very least a transfer point at one of the 149th St stations should be built to give WPR – East Side passengers an option that avoids Lexington entirely.

Yes, I know there is supposed to be a provision for Bronx extension. However, given the glacial pace of construction I highly doubt that it will ever be used, and even if it is the mere existence of the 125/Lex terminal will force reduction in train frequency to the Bronx. The time to build it right is now.

manc November 28, 2018 - 3:05 pm

Im actually pretty sure in the new phase 2, the bronx provision is less than it was. Originally there were supposed to be tail tracks to 129 street, but that is not the case anymore.

sonicboy678 November 28, 2018 - 4:14 pm

I don’t mind having the line split between a crosstown service and a Bronx service via Third and Webster Avenues.

It would be nice if Phase 2 went across Manhattan, though.

Also, I’m not too keen on a service abruptly ending two stops into the Bronx or attempting to take IRT tracks.

Guest November 28, 2018 - 7:02 pm

125th St would be better served by buses for now while the SAS proceeds north into the Bronx. 125th St could become a busway (only buses) from 2nd Ave to Morningside Ave, deliveries would have to take place around the corner on the avenues. Wider sidewalks. Traffic signal priority.

Way worse traffic and more limited options to access the Bronx via roads than to go west-east in Harlem.

Guest November 28, 2018 - 7:04 pm

Correction: 2nd Ave to Broadway on 125th St to provide connection to the 1 train.

sonicboy678 November 28, 2018 - 10:48 pm

I would consider it better for a Bronx connection to be a part of Phase 3, seeing how it would allow for a better connection to a yard for the primary service (Concourse, rather than having to try to leech off of Coney Island or Jamaica) and to keep the Q’s length down. It would also enable the Q to act as an intraborough circulator of sorts that doesn’t focus too heavily on the CBD without completely excluding it.

Rick November 28, 2018 - 4:42 pm

How about using the local tracks in the Bronx of the four-track Metro North Harlem division to send the SAS up Park Av (just a few blocks west of Third Avenue)? Placing all the Metro North trains on the inside (express) tracks and leaving the outside tracks for the SAS trains would require diverting some of the New Haven line traffic over the underused Hellgate Bridge and into either Penn Station or Grand Central via the new east side access connection. (This, of course, is the current Amtrak route from Boston.)

SEAN November 28, 2018 - 6:35 pm

How about using the local tracks in the Bronx of the four-track Metro North Harlem division to send the SAS up Park Av (just a few blocks west of Third Avenue)? Placing all the Metro North trains on the inside (express) tracks and leaving the outside tracks for the SAS trains would require diverting some of the New Haven line traffic over the underused Hellgate Bridge and into either Penn Station or Grand Central via the new east side access connection. (This, of course, is the current Amtrak route from Boston.)

SEAN November 28, 2018 - 6:51 pm

Sorry, my computer went rogue on me.

This is got to be the nuttiest idea I ever read on this site & I’ve been reading the great work here for over a decade. You want to compress the ROW of MNR that is getting close to capacity? If anything, MNR needs greater track space through The East Bronx.

Guest November 28, 2018 - 6:56 pm

How about elevated rail above Park Ave in the Bronx.

Rick November 29, 2018 - 12:48 am

Much of the ROW of MNR is taken up by traffic from the New Haven line. If most of this traffic was diverted to the new Co-Op City /Morris Park line over the Hellcat Bridge, there would be ample room on the MNR express tracks to accommodate all the traffic from Westchester

Adirondacker12800 November 29, 2018 - 1:36 am

Except for those pesky people from Long Island that are already using the East River tunnels.

sonicboy678 November 29, 2018 - 2:04 am

I seriously doubt they’ll even try to start running that before ESA is finished.

SEAN November 29, 2018 - 4:08 pm

Yes exactly. Once ESA opens you can start talking about train diversions, but not now.

Also if you want to reroute some New Haven trains, you would need to construct a platform between tracks 2 & 4 & a rebuilt overpass at New Rochelle. This would allow for easy transfers between services without overcrowding the narrow platform between tracks 4 & 6.

In addition, remember in order for this service to use track 3, that would require trains to cross to track 2 witch isn’t necessarily a good idea for train opps.

Adirondacker12800 November 29, 2018 - 5:29 pm

If they want to run 8 or 9 trains, Metro North and Amtrak, an hour to the Hell Gate line they have to reconfigure New Rochelle. 8 trains an hour bump into LIRR traffic to and from Penn Station. Even when ESA opens, there’s still gonna be lots of LIRR trains to Penn Station….. Pesky current users getting in the way…

SEAN November 30, 2018 - 9:59 am

Unless of course & this is a long shot, pushing the LIRR out of penn Station & putting all service in & out via ESA. By doing so, Hudson line trains could travel via the Empire line & New Haven trains can go via Hellgate. But again, long shot.

Will December 20, 2018 - 1:42 pm

Well in London they do that arrangement with the overground

Guest November 28, 2018 - 6:54 pm


The SAS should go to 138th and 149th for connections to the 2, 5, and 6.

The Bronx is the fastest growing borough and will be at least until 2030.

Ben November 28, 2018 - 6:23 pm

This raises the need for a discussion about developing NYC transit in anticipation of rising waters.

East Harlem will become a flood zone. Is it the best place to invest transit resources? (Ditto Red Hook.)

Alon Levy November 28, 2018 - 6:25 pm

Why not? Perhaps if the American middle class were compelled to live within 2 meters of sea level it would be less inclined to drive everywhere.

Nathanael December 2, 2018 - 9:02 pm

Harlem’s in pretty good shape, altitude-wise, compared to Red Hook and Long Island City. The real area which needs abandonment is the Rockaways — restore their status as barrier islands and get the people off.

sonicboy678 December 4, 2018 - 5:23 am

Good luck convincing people to do that, especially those all the way at the western tip.

SEAN December 5, 2018 - 8:04 pm

No way is that going to happen especially after Bloomberg gave tax incentives to the construction of Arverne by the sea http://www.arvernebythesea.com & other such projects on other underutilized land parcels.

Larry Littlefield November 29, 2018 - 9:03 am

Am I to take from this that the existing tunnel segments will be abandoned rather than used? Why not just build cut and cover up to the curve?

And how much of this cost should simply be deposited into the construction union pension plans, whether or not anything gets built? Can there at least be an agreement for them to not retroactively enrich their pensions again to retire even earlier? Who do they think they are, the UFT?

Will November 29, 2018 - 9:31 pm

There idiots. Just built the stations ? and use the tunnels. Don’t even go to 125st lex go to the Bronx and make the connections there

Rick November 30, 2018 - 2:16 am

At least use the existing tunneling to build cut and cover up to the curve, constructing the l06th and 116th St stations along the way. Our grandchildren will have plenty of time to decide whether to extend from there to Lex/125 or to the Bronx. The fact that the tunneling up to the curve is largely complete already presents the real possibility of getting to 116th St in the lifetimes of many of the people reading this.

Will November 30, 2018 - 9:34 am

Too me the whole curving to 125 st. Make no sense. Like they can’t built prefab tunnels to go under the Harlem River and cut and cover in the Bronx for connection to the IRT or taking over the Dyer Ave line at 180 st and Pelham at Hunters point like originally intended. And there’s stations on East Harlem should be side platform with each entrance and elevator since it’s cheaper

David J Brown December 2, 2018 - 11:53 am

I am not a construction expert, but from everything I have read, Phase II is supposed to be ” The Easiest” because of the pre- existing tunnels. If it takes 20 years to build stations, how can we expect to see Phases III and IV before 2100?

Alon Levy December 3, 2018 - 4:30 am

I’m not 100% sure phase 2 is easier than 3 (phase 4 is by far the hardest). What’s needed for phase 2 is,

– 106th Street station (can be dug cut-and-cover to save money)
– 116th Street station (ditto)
– The approach tunnel to 125th Street and the station (tunneling under an older subway = $$$)

Phase 3 doesn’t have the preexisting tunnel segments, but every crossing of an older subway is at least an overcrossing, and if the MTA had the political will it could build it mostly cut-and-cover.

Larry Littlefield December 5, 2018 - 9:20 am

The part of the line south of 14th Street no longer makes sense. There are far fewer jobs downtown, and plenty of capacity in the Montigue Tunnel and on the Nassau Street line. If more service were needed, NYCT could just extend the J.

The right thing to do would be to tie the SAS into the Rutgers Tunnel — and tie the Rutgers Tunnel to the Gold Street interlocking on the Brooklyn side. And allow 14th Street to be a southern terminal for some trains.

AMH December 5, 2018 - 11:14 am

Absolutely, that would be an excellent way to make better use of existing infrastructure.

SEAN December 6, 2018 - 4:45 pm

Could you explain with some more details involving the track tie ins please? Thanks.

Adirondacker12800 December 5, 2018 - 11:30 am

Using up the excess capacity on the Fulton and Culver would make sense. Sending the J train out there wouldn’t encourage them to use Second Ave trains instead of Lexington Ave trains through Midtown. Send all of the Second Ave trains to Brooklyn via Montague and terminate the J at Chambers?

sonicboy678 December 5, 2018 - 11:37 am

Congrats, you just flooded a bunch of Brooklyn with empty trains and made the J significantly less attractive.

Adirondacker12800 December 5, 2018 - 2:00 pm

Then why is there perpetual whining about how the F is overcrowded and why does it run local? If the J train is so popular why do they run M trains? I suspect it isn’t very popular south of Chambers. A whole 7,000 people an average weekday use Broad Street. They can change trains at Chambers to a Second Avenue train that is running more frequently.

You are getting a few people in Brooklyn off overcrowded west side trains that they are using to get to the East side via the overcrowded Lexington Avenue lines. Send three services out along the Fulton, one of them can go down Utica. Send the F and Second Ave out along the Culver they can have express service and when someone wants to spend the money the Second Ave service can go out the West End to get the D train out of DeKalb.
Three services on Fulton ya can do something fancy like sending allllll of the A trains to the airport and sending the C or a Second Ave train to Lefferts. They can hash it out when the draft environmental report is being drawn up in 2070 so they can start service in 2109.

sonicboy678 December 6, 2018 - 1:02 am

Make up your mind.

Vnga December 5, 2018 - 12:04 pm

They should curve the line to make a transfer to the L at 1st ave. Then have it go down Avenue A and make a station at Tompkins sq park. Then have it connect to the F at east broadway and to Rutgers.

Will December 6, 2018 - 5:41 pm

Agree. The last of the subway desserts in alphabet city and connection to the Rutger tubes. With access to Fulton express all the way to Euclid. The City should start promoting east Brooklyn for affordable housing and development

AMH December 10, 2018 - 4:14 pm

Yes exactly. Even a flat junction at Houston/Essex could work. Threading the line through Stuy Town would be difficult–might have to curve sharply under 14 St to form a lower level at the 1 Av L, with another sharp curve into 2nd Av.

Vnga December 5, 2018 - 11:47 am

Would? it be useful to extend down to 55st and introduce the T train for phase 2 ? It would open up a transfer to the E, M and 6 trains sooner. It would also double service on 2nd ave without having to wait for phase 3.

sonicboy678 December 5, 2018 - 2:01 pm

Aside from having to do more studies (and delaying the project), the station would need to easily turn trains, and this service would need cars from somewhere.

Leave it as part of Phase 3 and have that connect to the Bronx (which should be built as part of that phase).

Will December 6, 2018 - 5:43 pm

Yard can be built by park ave and 149st in the Bronx

sonicboy678 December 7, 2018 - 1:15 am

Where? There’s no space.

Will December 8, 2018 - 2:51 am

On Metro North near 149 st

sonicboy678 December 8, 2018 - 6:49 am

Did the second part fall off your radar?

Will December 10, 2018 - 10:05 pm

Why are they building large canvases

sonicboy678 December 11, 2018 - 12:39 am


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