Mass Transit in the Stimulus; Shanghai's Rail Boom

The New York Daily News and Newsday report that New York State stands to gain billions of dollars in the upcoming stimulus bill, enough to not only iron out the enormous expected budget deficit that is coming as a result of decreasing tax revenues, but also enough to provide for the improvement of transportation in the Empire State. Senator Chuck Schumer and Representative Jerry Nadler had a press conference yesterday in Manhattan to announce that they were busy negotiating with the incoming administration on the specific terms of the now $675-775 billion stimulus. And they suggest that transit capital projects will receive $20 billion of the total bill, with one-fifth of that amount, as per tradition, going to New York because of its huge mass transit ridership. This is very good news for New York City, whose fiscal crisis is threatening transit especially dramatically.

Keep in mind that the point of the stimulus bill will be designed for projects that can ramp up immediately, so long-term projects that will require several years to get through the design stages, will not be funded. In other words, we’re not going to see a sudden $20 billion to complete Phases II, III, and IV of the Second Avenue Subway. But that’s not to say that New York City doesn’t need the funds!

Here are the specific projects that Mr. Schumer and Mr. Nadler mentioned might be funded:

  • 1,500 new hybrid buses for the fleet
  • More renovated LIRR and subway stations, including those in Brooklyn that were recently delayed (as Second Avenue Sagas describes)
  • An extra station at 34th Street and 10th Avenue on the extension of the 7 Line to the Far West Side, a project cancelled by the city because of funding problems
  • A cash infusion to ensure the completion of the LIRR East Side Access Project
  • A renovation of the LIRR Atlantic Line Viaduct in Brooklyn
  • Completion of the Oculus at the Fulton Street Transit Center
  • Bus Rapid Transit in all five boroughs
  • Aluminum tracks, to “save electricity” as Metro reports; we’ve never heard of this one before but we’re looking into it

We’re very excited about the potential use of this money to allow the MTA to pay for improvements in its system even as it is wracked by scary budget problems. Here’s to the stimulus bill!

From Shanghai comes news that four new subway lines will open in the next year. Obviously, this will be another year of record acheivement on the part of that city’s transit planners, who are expanding their system at a rate only matched by… Beijing. The principal purpose of this large push to expand transit in Shanghai is the opening of the World Expo there in 2010, a massive event only rivaled by… the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

Shanghai’s subway network is already extensive, and it will be as large as New York’s within five years, meaning that it will be the biggest in the world, even though its first line opened in 1995! Last year, three new lines opened, and by 2014, six additional lines are on track for completion. Pretty impressive.

3 Comments | Leave a Reply »
  • Re: Aluminum “tracks”. These are probably aluminum third rails, as aluminum is a better conductor of electricity but is probably not strong, durable or fatigue-resistant enough for main support rail service. For the same physical size rail, heat-treated aluminum is only about half as strong as some of the better steel alloys.

    See this MTA link

    Thanks for the blog, it’s really interesting and informative.

  • Ray

    I say lets dispense with the onerous planning phases for some of these projects long discussed and not mentioned. The Shanghai story suggests we are doing something wrong. Where on Schumer’s list is Penn Station, ARC, HSR to Upstate, Tappan Zee Corridor or new HSR between Bos and Was. Why can’t Second Ave Phases start sooner? BRT – is that all we can imagine?

  • thetransportpolitic

    There are two important points here:

    1. While everyone wants, as Ray put it, Penn Station, ARC, etc, the stimulus plan being put together by the incoming Obama administration is meant to provide funding for projects that can be started within 90 days. We’re not sure this is the best policy – does this mean that once the economy improves, we’re not going to sponsor the longer-term improvements we need? This is a question for which we’ve yet to get an honest response.

    2. Chinese planners have the “advantage” of not having to undertake expensive and onerous planning studies, which involve community opposition, environmental studies, and the like. Also, they have cheaper construction costs as a result of poor labor laws and fewer safety standards. One thing we shouldn’t forget is that Western democracy, though it is slow, is far better at minimizing construction and environmental impacts than is Chinese totalitarianism. That said, we could attempt to speed it up a little bit…

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