Making a 42nd Street Tramway a Reality for New York

Proposed Vision42 42nd Street Tramway Map

» Vision42 group adds real estate industry to its backer list, but it cannot rely on the MTA or the City of New York to foot the project’s bill. Private investment may be the key.

If you’ve ever been to New York, you’ve been to 42nd Street — to Grand Central Terminal, the United Nations, Bryant Park, or Times Square. It is the city’s main street, and it attracts hundreds of thousands of businessmen, residents, and tourists every day.

For such an important thoroughfare, however, the pedestrian experience is lacking. Sidewalks are often packed to the brim; the subway lines that run underneath are difficult to use; buses are slow; getting to the Hudson and East Rivers at either end is inconvenient. Despite it attracting a huge number of daily users, the street suffers from inadequate retail offerings.

The Vision42 group has been attempting to correct those deficiencies for a decade now, planning a light rail line that would run river-to-river and replace all car traffic on the road. With 16 stops along a 2.5-mile route, the line would traverse Manhattan in 21 minutes with speeds limited to 15 mph for pedestrian safety. A new maintenance yard would be constructed adjacent to the existing LIRR yards west of Penn Station. Overall costs, including the acquisition of vehicles, would range between $400 and $600 million, depending on the extent of utility replacement work.

Vision42’s recent report suggests that the benefits of the project, in the form of increased retail and tax revenues, would be double overall construction costs over the course of just one year. It’s hard to imagine not wanting to implement a tramway line with such significant advantages.

And indeed, while I have some questions about the line’s routing and its rather large number of proposed stations, a tramway built in coordination with the elimination of automobiles from the road would greatly improve the street experience for the vast majority of users. Walkers would get more space; bicyclists would get dedicated lanes. Access to the United Nations and the two waterfronts would be made easier for everyone, and commutes between Grand Central and Times Square for tourists and local riders would be reduced to waiting a few minutes for the next trainset, rather than heading underground in the subway’s confusing network of tunnels. People using the Subway Shuttle between Grand Central and Times Square to transfer between lines or to end a commute from somewhere else in the city would find their trains less crowded than before.

42nd Street would be cleaner, quieter, and better looking. Drivers would continue to have access to virtually every other street in Manhattan.

The New York Times profiled the proposal in an article today, suggesting that the project was gaining momentum as corporations along the corridor have come out in support of the proposal. Clear Channel has even offered a free billboard to the project for advertising on Times Square. Everyone, however, seems to be waiting on Mayor Michael Bloomberg to sign on to the project.

But the administration is more focused on the extension of the 7 subway to the Far West Side, which will serve a wholly different purpose: long-distance commuters. The tramway, on the other hand, would provide local users quicker and more convenient connections along the street, but not replace the subway, which will continue to assure borough-to-borough travel.

The Mayor mentioned a new light rail line during this year’s campaign, but it would run along the waterfront in Brooklyn and Queens. That proposal has some merit, but the 42nd Street line would serve more passengers and have more dramatic effects on its surroundings.

Nonetheless, Vision42’s expectation that the city or state will be able to cobble together the funds to pay for this project is unrealistic. The city has suffered significant declines in tax revenue during the recession, and the MTA is unable to complete the first phase of the Second Avenue Subway on time, let alone the three planned extensions of the project.

But there’s another option for financing: private donations.

In Detroit, major corporations and wealthy individuals have assembled one hundred million dollars to finance that city’s planned Woodward Corridor light rail line. Though the Michigan city faces a cataclysmic economic environment completely unlike that of New York, which is able to pay for most of its obligations through public financing, Gotham could learn something from the pursuit of new transit in the Motor City.

If Vision42 can provide hard evidence that the tramway will up real estate values and expand the use of 42nd Street’s retail offerings significantly, it should also be able to convince the land owners already assembled in groups like the Times Square Alliance, Grand Central Partnership, and Bryant Park Corporation to contribute funds for the line. Their workers, after all, must use the street every day and would be the primary beneficiaries. Though finding $500 million in private money for a tramway may seem quixotic, companies lining the 42nd Street corridor represent a not insignificant portion of the United States economy. New York is no small town.

Vision42 should be not working to change the Mayor’s mind, but rather to deliver a check to City Hall covering the line’s entire costs upfront. The administration might then find it easier to support the project.

Image above: Slightly altered version of Vision42’s idea for a 42nd Street Tramway, from Vision 42

31 Comments | Leave a Reply »
  • I’m not sure what’s worse: that the cost estimate is of about $200 million per route-km, which in most other cities gets you a subway, or that the benefits consultants look incompetent.

    The consultants in question, the same people who run all the other budget-breaking disappointments for the city, are so behind the times that they talk about their special tools they use for projections:

    The firm’s work is supported by state-of-art computer technology and access to one of the region’s most extensive in-house set of economic and planning databases including:
    – Extensive collection of federal, state and city databases
    – Geographic Information Systems (GIS) software, including ArcView 9.3, MapInfo
    – In-house high-resolution color printers and plotters
    – T-1 Internet Connection
    – Dell Pentium® 4 Computers
    – Microsoft Access, Excel, Word, IMPLAN, CommunityViz

    I want to find reasons to give the benefit of the doubt to a company that thinks having Excel and Word, a color printer, and broadband internet makes it worthwhile paying it millions of dollars to produce studies.

  • Chris G

    First off let me say I’m thrilled to see the articles on Vision42. I’ve been following this for years and would love to see it become reality.

    Think of all the cities around the world that have traffic free streets. Shopping options increase. The time people spend there increases. That should be the key factor in this. You want people to increase the time they spend somewhere. Because the longer they’re there, the more likely they are to spend more money.

    Not sure getting private firms to donate the money is the right idea. But if they set it up as a full tax deduction I think they could get somewhere. I’m not in finance and do not know what is already available and what isn’t, but this project needs to get done. However I would think your comment about the Brooklyn/Queens light rail should not include “some” in front of merit. It has merit too.

    Good job getting Vision42 more press.

  • tacony palmyra

    I’m confused about the enthusiasm behind this project. With all the transit and infrastructure needs in New York, why spend so much money on another crosstown transit mode on the ONE street with the best crosstown transit in Manhattan? I don’t see the subways as being “difficult to use.” You can take the 7 train 24 hours, or the shuttle during the day, (or the bus of course, if the subway really is too difficult). It’s easier to get across 42nd Street than it is pretty much every other east-west street in Manhattan. If any street needs a better crosstown link it’s 125th Street, where the buses are also slower than walking yet there are no crosstown subways. Of course I guess the point is that all that private money could only be solicited in Midtown, but even there I’d think it’d make more sense to put it on 34th Street, to create a better link from Penn Station to the East Side…

  • AlexB

    It really is a great idea in a lot of ways, I know I would use it frequently. But why is it close to four times as much per mile as the Hudson Bergen Light Rail built right on the other side of the Hudson? I think that averaged $50 million a mile. This will be $150 to $200 million a mile. The discrepancy is insane.

    Has any surface based streetcar or light rail system in the world even been close to this much? Does anyone know why the cost is so high? Is it because there are so many stations or because they are proposing to rebuild the entire street? Something else?

  • Woody

    I can see that it would cost more to build this streetcar line in NYC. Everything does is the flip answer.

    But if moving utilities has been an unexpectedly large factor in costs and delays on upper Second Ave, multiply that factor on 42nd St.

    Then add some extra costs for putting a heavy streetcar line directly on top of the cut-and-cover built and the tunneled subways. Lessee. We got the north-south 8th Ave line, the IRT 7th Ave line, the BMT, the 6th Ave line, and the Lexington, with the SAS coming on 2nd Ave in the sweet bye and bye, so they need to build for that too. (Maybe some MetroNorth tracks go a few feet south of the Grand Central facade?) Not to forget the east-west Shuttle and the #7 Flushing line to Queens.

    Life in NYC can be expensive, but still worth living. Transit in NYC can be costly, but still worth doing. The benefits can be greater than in other locations.

    ————————–

    The likely benefits of the 42nd St tram are enormous.

    It would be a demonstration project for a revival of urban streetcars across the continent. I mean, now officials from other cities fly to Portland to see the street car, but they have to “sell it” to their citizens who have rarely ever been to Portland. Many citizens of other cities do visit NYC.

    It would show off the traffic-calming and pedestrian-friendly “livable city” measures on Broadway at Times Square, and others sure to come soon with new bike lanes on other avenues.

    It would reduce traffic in Midtown by discouraging commuters from driving into the area when the street is closed to autos.

    It would become a tourist attraction in its own right, providing a familiarization tour of Midtown as well as an architectural and historical tour, while linking a large number of major tourist sites.

    It would provide a transit connection between the Convention Center and the hotel district of East Midtown. The extension of the #7 line is touted to do this but don’t believe it. The deep stations on the #7 at Times Square and Grand Central are like mazes where on wrong turn can take you to a street exit blocks away from where you meant to be. In other words, the #7 is very UNfriendly and intimidating to novice users. Anyone afraid of subways will not want to use this line. But a streetcar is always very friendly to first-time users.

    It could easily be extended, or twinned with another streetcar line, to go across 34th St. That is the other main crosstown street linking Penn Station, the main shopping district, and tourist attractions such as the Empire State Building.

    ———-

    I hope the 42nd St streetcar would be at the top of federal funding priorities for transit. Then the City and NY State can find some matching money. If they wanted a highway project they’d find the money, no problem, so let them find it for this.

  • Stewart Clamen

    How would this line be powered? The picture in the NYTimes article has no catenary. Maybe the high cost is based on using PRIMOVE or something similar underground?

  • Stewart Clamen

    Ah, the Vision42 report talks about power via fuel cells or similar.

    Oh, and as to the utility diversion question, they write:


    The costs of utility diversions requested by the
    utility companies and agencies for a rail-based
    system are significant and would dominate the
    capital costs. However, until 1946, NYC trolleys ran
    over the utilities without major problems. Modern,
    low-floor light rail vehicles are lighter than either
    the old trolleys or the many trucks that use the
    street today. Unless current restrictive policies are
    modified regarding relocation of utilities, this will
    also produce substantial temporary disruption
    during the construction phase, as well as higher
    costs.

  • Chris M

    Yonah, thanks for your consistent in-depth and comprehensive coverage of transportation issues. I read your blog almost daily. Below are my thoughts concerning light rail down 42nd street and US transportation policy in general.

    As a resident of midtown Manhattan, I agree that a pedestrianized 42nd street with light rail and perhaps BRT is a good idea. I’ve lived in various cities in Europe (including Strasbourg, France, which is where Vision42 gets some of its tram images). I’ve experienced first-hand the benefits of mass transportation networks that are pedestrian-friendly and fully integrated.

    I also agree with your assessment that in the US, private financing, via fundraising, may be a way to complete certain projects much more quickly than through government channels. Even after the last election, the US simply does not have as much cultural and political commitment as Western Europe and Japan do to using the government to create high quality mass transportation.

    In the US, getting private business interests on board with public works proposals can greatly accelerate the projects’ completion. The High Line park in Manhattan, although it received considerable public financing, was created in record time (at least comparison with other NYC projects) due to very competent grass-roots leadership that rallied local business interests to support the project as a way to boost property values. Of course, involving businesses in the creation of public projects can distort those projects in negative ways. But private interests already distort the public sphere, so working with them directly can be more effective than going through the cumbersome public financing process.

    But back to the light rail line down 42nd street. It should be just the first step.

    Why does no one ever consider integrating a 42nd street tram into a regional light rail network? Some of this system already exists -in New Jersey. A light rail line down 42nd street should be linked to the Hudson-Bergen light rail, possibly via the new Hudson River rail tunnels currently under construction, or via one of the Lincoln Tunnel tubes. I don’t know the exact numbers, but personal experience with over-crowded trips to NJ via Penn Station and the Port Authority suggests to me that a connection between light rail lines on 42nd Street and in NJ would multiply the daily usage in both systems.

    The argument that a 42nd street tram should be only for short distance users is narrow-minded. Almost every subway, tram, and commuter train system in the world has a higher density of stops in their central business districts than in outlying areas for obvious reasons: downtown is the location of the most jobs, stores, etc.

    Of course there are numerous technical, financial, and bureaucratic hurdles to extending light rail from 42nd street to NJ.

    The tunnel would have to be multi-use (shared with NJ transit in the new ARC tunnels, or with buses in the Lincoln tunnel). But in Germany and other places around the world, trams, trains, and buses, or some combination of them, often use the same right-of-way.

    Digging additional access points to the new ARC tunnels on both ends would be very expensive. But the expense of adding light rail entry to them would be a small fraction of the projected $6 billion (probably underestimated) cost of the new tunnels. But since the hardest and most expensive part of an expansion of light rail to NJ (the new tunnels) is already underway, lets seize the opportunity! Of course, even the planned ARC tunnels may already be at capacity with commuter trains, as I believe one of the Lincoln tunnel tubes is with buses.

    But the issue is one of priority and creativity. We should use the resources we have (such as tunnels that currently exist or are under construction) to maximize capacity and flexibility. Similarly, perhaps the 42nd St light rail could eventually connect, via the Queens-Midtown tunnel, to the Brooklyn-Queens waterfront light rail that Mayor Bloomberg has advocated. Integrating light rail systems would certainly be a lot cheaper, and could happen a lot faster, than building massive new subway lines and rail connections between Grand Central, Penn Station, and the World Trade Center transit hub. Such Paris RER-style through-routing would make more sense as a longer term, incremental project.

    But the technical, financial, and bureaucratic hurdles to creating and integrating light rail systems are incidental. The real underlying problem is a lack of political will and regional vision. Instead we have NJ Transit, the MTA, Amtrak, and a host of other agencies engaging in silly turf wars over how to spend limited resources. We need an independent (perhaps federally-based) entity endowed with enough resources and authority to transform this country’s transportation policy. As a small first step, hopefully the upcoming federal transportation re-authorization bill will contain mass transit provisions that streamline the approval process, increase funding, and reorient planning away from individual states and towards long-term sustainable development of entire metropolitan areas.

    But my main point is this: It is time for the NYC metropolitan area, and other areas around the US, to stop acting in a piecemeal, incoherent, and often self-contradictory fashion with regard to transportation policy. We need coordinated, integrated, and flexible regional transportation systems. Like the mutually reinforcing 4 track lines of the NYC subway, the system should be able to adjust to unanticipated incidents. That way, unlike the 2 track lines in Washington, DC, one breakdown does not disrupt an entire line or network.

    In the long term, a new system for NYC, and every major metropolitan area in the US, should include subways, trams, bus rapid transit, through-routing of commuter trains, connections to true high speed rail (220 MPH or higher), extensive protected bike lanes, dense / multi-use zoning requirements (especially in suburban areas), market-rate parking on public streets, dynamic congestion pricing to increase economic productivity and fund mass transit capital projects, etc.

    Infrastructure is the backbone of the NYC area. Although the mass transit options in and around NYC are the most extensive in the US, they have not expanded significantly, despite massive regional population growth, since at least the 1940s.

    It is time for us to use America’s strengths, such as strong private capital (at least until the recession, but the economy will revive again eventually), ingenuity, and considerable existing infrastructure (at least in the NYC area), to begin a cultural shift towards a transportation policy that is better for the economy, environment, and pedestrians. Perhaps most importantly, this kind of transportation policy would be more humane.

  • Woody

    Nice research, Stewart.

    No catenary. Hmmmn. The foreigners are working on this matter and making good progress. A few French cities have or will have systems using power from beneath the surface or simply battery power for considerable distances in their historic cores. Of course, the whole world is still waiting waiting waiting for a breakthrough in battery technology, alas.

    I wonder about the fully-loaded weight of the modern, low-floor light rail vehicles. Most passengers today will be considerably heavier than those of the stylishly svelte pre-1946 riders. OTOH, we won’t be able to crowd so close together in the old way due to the excessive girth of some passengers.

  • Russell Warshay

    This is an interesting idea, but it is a lot of money for an incremental improvement in transportation. It seems to me that the greatest merit of this project is the pretty drawings that draw an emotional response. Emotion aside, is this really a greater priority than unfunded needs like rebuilding the Rogers Street Junction?

  • jim

    I have to say I don’t see the point. Yes, widen the sidewalks (so that there’d only be two lanes for motorized traffic). Yes, ban cars (and cabs). Bus lanes, bike lanes and lots of room for pedestrians. The 42 (and east of Times Square the 104) would be nearly as fast as the tram. Run more buses, maybe. What would the tram add? Charm?

  • dist

    Capacity surely. ;) A tram can transport a greater load of passenger than a bus. A 45m long modern tram can transport around 350 passengers (in a awfully packed situation). Far more than an articulated (200 pax) and bi-articulated bus (270 pax).

    Second possibility. The tram systems around the world were found too be more attractive to customers than regular buses. Each time a tram line opened the global utilisaiton of mass transport skyrocketed (at least in Europe).

    Third possibility. Tram can run on electricity and be more environment friendly than buses.

    ——-

    Clearly 16 stations for a 2.5 miles is too much. That’s a station every 0.15 miles! A normal spacing for bus but not for tram. In Europe the spacing are thought to be more effective with a station every 0.3 miles or so.

  • jim

    1. Capacity: $400M would buy an awful lot of buses. It is interesting that the V42 pitch that was linked to made no mention at all of ridership estimates.

    2. People do use Manhattan buses. I recognize that a tram might be more attractive to tourists, though.

    3. Trolley-buses run on electricity. Just stringing catenary and buying a bunch of trolley-buses would run much much cheaper than $400M.

    16 stations may be too much, but which ones would you drop? Grand Central? Fifth Ave? Bryant Park? Times Square? The Bus Terminal? Theater Row? Circle Line Pier? There are very many destinations along 42nd St.

  • The tunnel would have to be multi-use (shared with NJ transit in the new ARC tunnels, or with buses in the Lincoln tunnel). But in Germany and other places around the world, trams, trains, and buses, or some combination of them, often use the same right-of-way.

    German cities don’t have the same capacity problems of Hudson River crossings. The tunnel pair under the Hudson needs to use the highest-capacity form of transportation, which is heavy rail. If you want to link New York’s urban rail with New Jersey’s, ask for an extension of the 7 that doesn’t turn south, but goes to Hudson County and interchanges with the HBLR and NJT.

    Like the mutually reinforcing 4 track lines of the NYC subway, the system should be able to adjust to unanticipated incidents. That way, unlike the 2 track lines in Washington, DC, one breakdown does not disrupt an entire line or network.

    Or, for a fraction of the cost, the system should make sure it doesn’t have breakdowns whenever there’s too much rain, or too many passengers. Tokyo’s subway lines are two-tracked. Even the high-speed lines in Japan are two-tracked; in their 45-year history, they have only been out of service for one day.

    Most passengers today will be considerably heavier than those of the stylishly svelte pre-1946 riders. OTOH, we won’t be able to crowd so close together in the old way due to the excessive girth of some passengers.

    Most of the weight of a transit vehicle comes from the vehicle, not the people.

  • Chris G

    Many of the posters above are missing, or at least not talking about, the main point of this project.

    To get cars off of 42nd Street and expand the sidewalks out to where there is only 1 “lane” in each direction for the tram/lightrail/what ever.

    So more buses in a situation as is won’t help. Only removing cars will.

    Also. Tracks show a sign of permanence to everyone. It helps tourists find the stations. It can carry more passengers.

    This isnt to replace the subways. This is to remove cars and make it a pedestrian street. But the tram/lightrail would give a way to get across town while remaining on the surface.

    You want to tell me you can do it with buses, thats fine. But the better be electric buses if you’re going to have sidewalks that are 2-3 lanes of traffic wide with tables and chairs and people hanging out. You can not have the air pollution from vehicles in such a setting.

    So this is about improving pedestrian quality of life more than it is about mass transit. Although they’re both a part.

  • Chris G

    Also, a follow up to the points about other routings.

    First. 125th. You’ll have a harder time getting autos completely off of 125th with the bridge right there on the east side. But yes, some sort of improved crosstown traffic up here is needed.

    Second, 34th street. This is already included in Vision42 for the future. To create a loop. The first stage is to be 42nd street, but they want to loop it down the west side and then across 34th street and back up. 42nd really has to happen first IMO.

  • People don’t travel in loops. They travel in lines. If you want light rail on 34th and 42nd, then put a line on each and don’t have each street’s service interfere with the other. There’s no reason to build north-south rail service only between 34th and 42nd on 1st and 12th Avenues; given New York’s exorbitant construction costs, anything that increases track length needlessly should be cut.

    Triboro Bridge is exactly why traffic reduction is necessary in Harlem. Midtown isn’t an asthma crisis zone; East Harlem is. Any project whose main goal is to remove cars from a relatively clean white area but ignores a car-choked black neighborhood nearby makes me automatically suspicious. There’s no localized pollution issue in Midtown that makes removing cars from there in particular a priority. If you want to deal with global issues instead, then you’d be better off shipping the projected $600 million cost to Houston or Atlanta, where it could build 30 km of surface rail instead of 3.

    In addition, Harlem has a huge east-west connectivity problem, which 42nd Street, home to a 5-track crosstown subway, doesn’t have. Vision42 would be replacing the M42; a 125th Street line would be replacing multi-transfer subway trips.

  • Adam

    Question: Why 42nd Street? There already is a subway there. Why not 34th Street, where there is a need for a crosstown link?

  • dist

    @Jim:

    1. Very classic argument. Yes, 400m$, and even more 600m$, will buy a awfull lot of buses. But an awfull lot of buses might not get the job done as well as smaller number of trams. When you have too many buses things usually get clog up. That the same with tram and then wether you have to upgrade to an another more capacitious means of transport (metro or heavy rail) or to open a new route.

    2. Because you don’t think that people use buses anywhere else in the world ? They are more attractive to toursit and locals because, like someone said it earlier, the rails make them more tangible than a bus line. We could also add that trams on rails are in general more confortable than a bus.

    3. True. But we are back to point 1. and 2.

    As for the 16 stations you don’t really need to lose a station but more rethink the spacing. Just by looking at the map you can see that some are unnecessary. For exemple there is four stations to link 6th avenue and Lexington. Three could be enough. Same thing goes for the line’s extremities, you can easily lose one or two stations by moving them by half block in a way or another.

    No need to cramp the stations like this. People can still walk. Vision42 is advocating for a friendly street environment, why not use it for the best?

  • Woody

    Alon — A loop makes sense on the far East Side where gigantic development is underway on the site of the former Con Ed facilities. It makes sense on the far West Side where both 42nd and 34th would serve the Convention Center. A loop also makes sense if it allows one car barn instead of two. Anyway, what is proposed doesn’t seem loopy to me. It seems like two long crosstown lines with two short north-south connectors.

    We need several streetcar lines in NYC, for all the good streetcar reasons, debated at length elsewhere on this site. I’d like to see one on 125 St and in the other boros. I think the easiest way to get the others might be to start with one on 42nd St.

    I called it a demonstration project for streetcars nationwide, better than out-of- the-way Portland. It’s also the best possible demonstration project for surface rail in NYC. Start here, then Harlem, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx.

    I’d argue that BRT may already be tainted, in a city as snobbish as any, by having been launched in a Hispanic section of the Bronx. You wanna load the Community Board members on buses and take them up to the Bronx to show them how BRT works and tell them to put it on First Ave? Hey, I’m not sure you could sell Harlem on having something that is “good enough for the Bronx.”

    “Better off shipping the projected $600 million to Atlanta”? You’ve seen much eagerness in Georgia lately to support any kind of rail? I’m not gonna hold my breath for ATL.

    Oh, and holding my breath, “Midtown isn’t an asthma crisis zone” because it is not a residential neighborhood. But the people who work there breath in the auto pollution and their disease is counted where they live. And lessee. A CUNY branch on 42nd between 6th and 7th. Norman Thomas H.S. on 33rd and Park. Another h.s. on 50th west of 9th Ave. John Jay College on 10th at 60th, Fordham on 9th at 62nd, and a few more that I forget.

    I want to reduce the use of cars all over Manhattan, and a good place to do it is on 42nd St, and on 34th St too.

  • Woody

    About the “stations”. Almost every avenue in Midtown has a bus heading uptown or downtown. Which ones do not need a connection to the 42nd St Tramway? I’m a 65-year-old man with arthritis in both hips. Don’t tell me to walk a long NYC block in January to get to some other bus line on some other avenue, no thanks. We can live with a stop at every avenue, just the way the M-42 runs now.

  • Woody: no, even the residential sections of Midtown don’t have big asthma problems – the figures are given in cases per 1,000 residents. The most polluted parts of the city are, as far as I’ve read, East Harlem and Long Island City, in that order.

    The reason SBS has a bad reputation isn’t that it’s in the Bronx; it’s that it’s not real BRT, and doesn’t function well as a subway connector. I haven’t seen anyone start to argue that it’s only for poor people after the Bronx line opened – on the contrary, plans for 1st/125th/2nd SBS are still on track. Nor have I seen any good argument that disinvesting in a poor neighborhood now will improve it later; on the contrary, restricting rail projects to rich areas is what gets transit agencies slapped with civil rights lawsuits every time they try to expand the rail system.

    If you want a demonstration project, go to Jersey City. I know a lot of New Yorkers have a mental block on Jersey, and the HBLR was more expensive than it had to be, but it’s at least well-patronized. It feeds rapid transit stations, it was built to minimize new construction, and it uses modern vehicles without on-board payment. In short, it’s everything you’d want from light rail. A second demonstration project for three times the cost of the first would if anything cool down support for more streetcars.

    If you want is to connect 34th and 42nd for stabling reasons, then there’s no need to do it on 1st or 12th, much less both. Park, which would allow direct Penn-GCT service, is much more natural.

  • jon

    I know everything costs more in NYC but wow, 200 mill a mile for surface?!?!?

    doesnt 34th make more sense for LRT than 42nd which already has the 7 and the shuttle plus the u/c 7 extension? 34th is right by penn station and which means a crosstown line would be useful on 34th. i dont understand this fixation with this 30 year old idea for a crosstown LRT line specifically on 42nd.

  • AlexB

    Just because people don’t travel in loops doesn’t mean that the idea is bad for a transportation model. When people refer to loops, I don’t think they usually mean it literally. The point is not that anyone will travel the entire thing, but that points are linked along the route. In NY terms, a “loop” provides a well connected uptown/downtown and crosstown service. Some of this country’s most used sections of highways are urban loop routes that connect outlying areas of cities to each other. Interstate 278 in NJ is a good example of this. The Van Wyck and GCP in Queens provides a similar function.

    Even though the routes don’t run as loops, there are loops created by the linear routes of the NYC subway that effectively provide a part of this function; for example, the box created by the N/R/W, 7 and 4/5.

    Just because a 34th St and 42nd St loop can be described as a loop, doesn’t mean the tram would run continuously. Each route would run separately (I assume) and connect at the Hudson and East River ferry terminals, not unlike the bus routes operated by New York Waterways.

  • John W

    In any event, the point about loops is a bit of a red herring. The article on humantransit that Alon linked to talks about the problems of loops that travel in a single direction (which would be a disaster here). The failings of that model don’t apply to a two-track loop, where you can travel in either direction rather than having to go the long way round. If the loop wasn’t closed (say, with turnarounds at the convention centre), then the problem of delays magnifying (as with London’s Circle Line) wouldn’t be an issue either.

  • The Vision42 plan calls for a continuous loop, as far as I can tell, so it is relevant.

    The most successful loops are those that function as circulators, connecting many radial lines. Freeway beltways allow cars to bypass congested downtown traffic; subway loops (e.g. Yamanote, Koltsevaya) allow riders to bypass congested central transfer stations.

  • Adirondacker12800

    Alon look at this way, instead of terminating and turning around at the river they are running through….. By running through the end of the line at the river It facilitates a lot of trips that aren’t possible by subway or bus – UN to Penn Station or NYU Medical center to Times Square or Independence Plaza to Macy’s or…Makes some of the NY Waterways buses unnecessary. Even thought the loop is less than ideal for some trips, trains that are going faster than automobile traffic ( and buses ) will be faster and easier than alternatives.

  • Yes, it allows one-seat rides on those trips. However, two-seat rides are almost as workable, and for the most important trip to convert to a one-seat ride, Penn-GCT, those trams aren’t going to be faster than walking. Those other trips are secondary – even for trips that are currently one-seat by crosstown bus, there just aren’t enough passengers. The M42 and M34 aren’t high-ridership routes, especially not when compared to the M86, M14, M15, the various buses using the 5th/Madison corridor, and the various buses using the 125th Street corridor.

  • Adirondacker12800

    The M42 and M34 aren’t high-ridership routes

    During the day it’s frequently faster to walk than it is to take the bus. Do you think that might have a bit to do with the low ridership numbers? The M42 has ridership numbers similar to the streetcar system in New Orleans. The M34 has ridership numbers similar to the light rail in Cleveland. Midtown Manhattan is a bit denser than either New Orleans or Cleveland, D’ya think with an exclusive right of way it might a attract a few more riders than the current bus line that is as fast as walking? Even if what is on the exclusive right of way is a bus?

    However, two-seat rides are almost as workable, and for the most important trip to convert to a one-seat ride, Penn-GCT,

    Why is a two seat ride for people who aren’t going between Grand Central and Penn Station acceptable but people who already have a one seat ride between Penn Station and Grand Central, on the M4 bus, more worthy?

    There’s more to life than getting suburban commuters crosstown – one seat ride from Grand Central to Penn Station isn’t needed by most subway riders. You have noticed that the streetcar is part of larger plan to pedestrianize 42nd and 34th? Giving more space to pedestrians crowded on the sidewalks is one of the major goals.

    If someone desperately wants a one seat ride between Grand Central and Penn Station there’s the M4 bus. Some of them won’t need it once East Side Access opens, taking a train destined for Grand Central is better than a transfer, one seat of otherwise, after taking the train to Penn Station. Changing from the train destined for Penn Station to one destined for Grand Central at Jamaica or Woodside is better than transferring to a one seat ride at Penn Station for Grand Central or vice versa. When Metro North starts service to Penn Station on the Hudson and New Haven lines into Penn Station a one seat ride from Grand Central to Penn Station won’t even be on suburbanites minds. Suburbanites are quite good at looking at schedules and getting on the right train. Or when NJ Transit extends to Grand Central there will be even less need for it … the only ones left out will be people on the Harlem Line. In the mean time they all have alternatives, the subway, the M4 bus, walking or even taking a cab ….though on a weekday taking a cab might be slower than walking.

  • When will NJT extend to Grand Central – 2100?

  • Adirondacker12800

    When will NJT extend to Grand Central – 2100?

    I dunno, before the Second Ave Subway goes all the way downtown on Second Ave? :-)

Leave a Reply

 

 

 

Comment preview below as you type. You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

Prove you\'re not spam (required) Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.

For help if you have trouble posting or your comment is marked as spam, please email:
info (at) thetransportpolitic.com | Comment Rules

The Site / The Fight

  • by Yonah Freemark
  • Twitter: @yfreemark
  • yfreemark (at) thetransportpolitic (dot) com
  • Le progrès ne vaut que s'il est partagé par tous.

Email newsletter

Network

rss feed
comments feed
twitter feed