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New York Regional Rail: A Coda

» This guest post by Alon Levy is the third in a three-part series on a potential New York Regional Rail Network. Check out the First and Second Pieces.

In a two-part series on The Transport Politic, I previously argued that to improve Greater New York’s commuter rail service, the agencies controlling it should orient their capital plan to emphasize good service on existing lines instead of spending on outbound extensions, with a special focus on through-routing. Such a system would remodel New York’s commuter rail along the lines of the Paris RER or a German S-Bahn.

In the six months since my articles were published, I have continued to refine some of the points in the proposal. Some of those refinements come from tweaks proposed in the comment threads; others come from reading more about good commuter rail operations in France and Germany, as well as about the state of tracks in New York, for which Rich Green’s maps are an invaluable resource.

The basic premise of the plan remains the same, and almost the entire map of the proposal and most of the details I gave in the previous posts could stay the same. I believe a few of the route choices should be tweaked, but beyond this, most of the changes would be in station layout and in operations and scheduling.

All proposed improvements here have a unified theme, which is that New York regional rail should look more like the RER or an S-Bahn. The previous two posts emphasized through-routing and service to city neighborhoods; this coda will stress seamless operations, highlighting transferring and schedule convenience.

Transfers

The best transfer is one that is timed and cross-platform. Timing reduces waiting time, and cross-platform configurations simplify walking from one train to another. The transit planning literature recognizes this fact: ridership projections for future New York City subway lines assign a time penalty to transfers, recognizing the fact that walking from one platform to another is inconvenient for commuters beyond the extra time cost; those projections, however, do not assign any transfer penalty to cross-platform transfers beyond the waiting time for the connecting train, which transfer timing reduces to zero.

The proposed Fulton Street station, where Yellow, Orange, and Blue lines will meet, should be converted to cross-platform operation. In the  initial proposal, the tracks are laid in a cross shape. The north-south tracks (Blue Line) could stay the same, but the east-west tracks (Yellow and Orange Lines) could be tweaked: the tunnel from Flatbush to Manhattan would be moved further south to give the tracks time to curve north, and then the tracks would curve west to the Village as in the first plan.

In addition, if possible, the underground Hoboken station for trains to Fulton should be at the same level as PATH, with cross-platform transfers. This is little different from the practice in Paris, which configured the central transfer station, Châtelet-Les Halles, to allow cross-platform transfers from the north-south RER B to the east-west RER A.

The other transfers in the proposal—Secaucus, Tonelle, Jamaica, and Sunnyside—either are already cross-platform or cannot be converted. Those that are cross-platform should always be configured with two platforms, four station tracks, and possibly two bypass tracks; as much as possible, each route should stop reliably at the same platform, and schedules should be coordinated for timed transfers. This would allow cross-platform transfers between the LIRR-Morristown and Northeast Corridor trains at Sunnyside and Secaucus, relieving Penn Station.

At Secaucus and Tonnelle, the cruciform two-level transfers between the trains to Penn Station and those to Hoboken cannot be converted to cross-platform, but can simplified by tearing down or not building faregates. But they could still be timed if trains wait for one another for a minute at each station, a process that can be performed off-peak without straining capacity; this is done on the Berlin U-Bahn for wrong-way transfers between the U6 and U7 at Mehringdamm.

Finally, three additional infill stops should be considered, two in New Jersey and one in Brooklyn. The West Shore Line (part of the Orange Line) should have a new stop at 51st Street, near the Tonnelle Avenue stop of the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail. The Morristown Line  (Purple Line) should have an infill stop at Orange Street in Newark, intersecting the original Newark subway, which has no direct connection to Newark Broad Street Station. And the new Flatbush-Fulton tunnel (Yellow and Orange Lines) would pass under the Jay Street and Court Street-Borough Hall subway stops, permitting a new Borough Hall station to be constructed; this stop would offer transfers to both Court Street and Jay Street stations.

Route Changes

The above-described change in the Fulton Street station layout suggests a second route for the Hoboken-Fulton segment (Yellow and Orange Lines) through Manhattan. Instead of going north under Hudson or Greenwich Street and stopping at Houston Street, it could go north on the same route as the Staten Island-Harlem connection (Blue Line), on separate tracks, and curve west north of Houston, stopping below the existing West 4th Street subway stop.

This option reduces the amount of necessary construction in Lower Manhattan, as well as the total route-length of tunnel to be built, which correspondingly lowers costs. It also serves the Village in a more central location. Unfortunately, West 4th is a three-level station, so crossing under it would require diving deep underground, substantially increasing costs. In Tokyo, one of the reasons for substantial subway cost escalation in recent years is that to cross existing lines, new lines have to burrow deep underground, as this new tunnel would have to. I believe this option would be worth it if the cost were the same or lower than that of the route proposed in the original plan.

At the same time, I am no longer convinced by some of the outbound extensions I had previously proposed. It may not be cost-effective to run improved regional trains on their respective commuter lines’ full length. The original plan already cut out some low-ridership branches and line segments; however, there may be room for more cuts, for examples west of Raritan on the Raritan Valley Line, east of Ronkonkoma and Babylon on the LIRR, and west of Dover on the Morristown Line.

On the other hand, there should be more double-tracking of single-track bottlenecks, such as the single-track bridge over the Hackensack over the Erie Main Line, which is otherwise fully double-tracked.

At least according to the comments on my posts, the most controversial idea I suggested was the tunnel from Staten Island to Manhattan. This tunnel would be expensive, at $7.4 billion, using the estimated costs for a Brooklyn-Jersey City freight tunnel as a baseline. The main benefit of the Staten Island tunnel is not cost per rider, but commute shortening. Residents of Staten Island are in a near-tie with those of Queens for the longest average commutes in the United States. However, Staten Island’s situation is worse: unlike in Queens, where neighborhood retail is often within walking distance, on Staten Island most people need a car to run errands, so shopping trips take much longer.

In either case, it might be useful if expensive to extend the proposed Staten Island lines west to meet New Jersey Transit. The existing Staten Island Railway would have to be extensively modified, complete with a new railway bridge, an elevated line in Perth Amboy, and a raised Tottenville station on the bridge’s approach; this would connect the line with the Perth Amboy commuter rail station, where there could be a cross-platform transfer. At a much lower cost, the North Shore Line could be extended west on an existing freight rail bridge, follow the Morristown and Erie and Conrail lines to cross the Northeast Corridor at an infill station north of Linden and then join the Raritan Valley Line at Cranford.

Penn Station Pedestrian Flow

While through-routing is enough to eliminate the capacity problems resulting from Penn Station’s limited track space, there remains the serious issue of pedestrian capacity. One of the arguments I have heard proponents of the under construction Access to the Region’s Core project use is that the platforms at Penn are narrow and have narrow stairways to the concourses, so a new station is necessary (and will be built according to current plans for the ARC tunnel).

There are multiple solutions to the circulation of pedestrians at Penn Station besides the new connections and stations proposed in my plan. First, Penn Station does not use its existing tracks as efficiently as it could. The LIRR recently remodeled its platforms and the lower concourse so that each of its platforms has four or five staircases leading up to waiting areas. NJT has done no such thing, and each of its platforms only has two such staircases. Remodeling the NJT tracks would be expensive, as it was for the LIRR, but building a new station would be much more pricey.

In addition, today’s station has 11 island platforms, each flanked by two tracks, with only one track adjacent to two platforms. Paving over half the tracks so that each track is adjacent to two platforms would not only widen the platforms and allow the installation of wider staircases and elevators, but also double the number of usable doors on the train. This would leave Penn with 11 or 12 tracks, of which only nine would connect to both the North River Tunnels under the Hudson and East River tunnels.

For reference, with four tracks to the east and six to the west (four to New Jersey, two through an upgraded Empire Connection), Penn would not need more than six to eight through-tracks; it would run out of access tunnel capacity before it would run out of station track capacity. This solution would be more radical than remodeling existing platforms but might be cheaper for a given capacity.

Finally, the concourses should be stripped of back offices immediately, and space-consuming concessions should be eliminated as traffic increases. George Haikalis of the Institute for Rational Urban Mobility notes that only 54% of the lower concourse is used for passenger circulation purposes; the rest is consumed by Amtrak back offices and concessions. This goes against standard practice worldwide. As train stations get too busy, sometimes even existing retail gets kicked out, as was necessary at Shanghai Metro’s busiest station, People’s Square.

Scheduling

Compare the following two off-peak train schedules for Monday, January 4th. Both schedules only list departure times.

Metro-North, New York-White Plains
1:25 pm local
1:48 pm express
1:55 pm semi-express
2:25 pm local
2:48 pm express
2:51 pm express
2:55 pm semi-express
3:17 pm express
3:20 pm semi-express
3:23 pm local
TER, Monaco-Nice
1:43 pm local
2:13 pm local
2:43 pm local
3:13 pm local
3:43 pm local
3:51 pm express
3:58 pm express
4:13 pm local
4:27 pm express
4:43 pm local

I selected these two schedules at random, based on trips I had taken recently. The TER schedule is clockface: trains leave at regular intervals, at the same time every hour. It is easy to remember. The Metro-North schedule has some clockface patterns as well, but they are less regular and break down on the shoulders of rush hour.

By making timetables easier to remember, clockface scheduling makes travel easier for passengers, increasing ridership. While the clockface example above is of half-hourly service, there is no lower limit to frequency: in New York, some buses already run clockface, even if they operate every five minutes.

Best industry practice is in Germany, where the S-Bahn not only maintains clockface scheduling, but also rationalizes the additional rush hour service. The regularity is such that in Stuttgart, there is no need for a  comprehensive timetable; instead, a system map indicates at how many minutes after the hour each line arrives at each station. Each line has two departure times, spaced exactly half an hour apart, with additional peak hour trains at the quarter-hour marks. Berlin, whose services are more complex, does have a timetable, but each of its lines maintains clockface scheduling with intervals of five, ten, or twenty minutes; further, the schedule shows that on the Stadtbahn, the S3 and S5 arrive at the shared stops simultaneously, allowing cross-platform transfers.

Even today, New York has the track capacity to maintain clockface schedules with regular intervals on each line. The local/express train alternation is not a problem for two-track railroads with passing sidings, let alone four-track railroads such as the Northeast Corridor and the inner portions of the LIRR and Harlem Line mainlines. Once a new pair of tracks under the Hudson River is in place, clockface scheduling will become even easier.

Service Patterns

On New York’s commuter rail systems, as on the RER, not all trains stop at all stations. This does not worsen service as long as express trains are run on a limited-stop basis like express subway trains and if schedules are regular. As on the subway, regional rail express trains should enable people to make diagonal travel, going from suburb to suburb without passing through Manhattan, switching instead at an outlying transfer point such as Jamaica. While transit’s greatest advantage over cars is over straight trips that end in or pass through Manhattan, it can also serve useful purpose for a substantial number of diagonal trips. The current train service pattern squanders this opportunity: for example, the New Haven Line trains skip all stations in the Bronx, making it difficult to travel to stations on the Harlem Line.

A better way of treating diagonal trips would be to require all or most trains to stop at stations located such before splits, as far as track arrangement permits. The LIRR does this at Hicksville; other important junction stations include Woodlawn, Floral Park, Rahway, Valley Stream, Summit, and Newark Broad. At those stations, as far as possible the schedule should time outbound and inbound trains to facilitate diagonal transfers: where platform arrangements permit cross-platform transfers, for example at Valley Stream, the trains should arrive at the same time, and where they do not, for example at Woodlawn, the outbound train should arrive one minute after the inbound train.

No system mainline should have less than two trains per hour at any hour of operation; ideally, the minimum frequency should be three trains per hour. Branches and low-ridership outlying segments should have no less than one train per hour. When there is too much branching to run hourly trains to all branches without running them empty on the common trunk lines, the branches could be served with shuttles with timed transfers off-peak.

In the urban areas, frequency should be higher, starting at six trains per hour. This could cause problems on the Northeast Corridor, the LIRR lines feeding into East Side Access, and the lines feeding into the Hudson Line, which begin to branch out in inner-urban neighborhoods. On the lines feeding into East Side Access, timed transfers at Sunnyside could be enough. But on the Hudson Line’s two branches and the Northeast Corridor, off-peak service should include short-turning trains serving just those branches: for example, the Northeast Corridor could be served by local trains running from New Rochelle to Newark or Penn Station.

None of this applies to peak hour, when there is enough demand to permit one-seat rides to Manhattan from every branch. The system should still avoid mixing lines, for example running Montauk Branch trains to Penn Station instead of Fulton, but on the Northeast Corridor, Hudson Line, and LIRR Main Line, direct trains should serve both inner-urban branches from all outlying corridors.

Fare Collection

My original proposal called for faregates, on the models of Paris and Japan. However, it may be better to use a  German- and Swiss-style proof of payment system, in which stations would be barrier-free and passengers would have to present tickets at fare inspections to be conducted at random. Such a system could even extend to bus service, and would go a long way to reducing operating costs. The MTA’s recent Making Every Dollar Count report says that out of every dollar the agency obtains in revenue, it needs to spend fifteen cents on fare collection.

The tradeoff between faregates and proof of payment is an issue of ridership. At the passenger density of the RER or Tokyo’s commuter rail system, or for that matter the New York City Subway, fare inspections are infeasible. But at lower passenger density, fare inspectors cost less than station agents. The busiest lines in New York straddle the boundary between RER and S-Bahn ridership. But either faregates or proof of payment would cost much less than having multiple conductors per train collecting tickets.

103 Comments | Leave a Reply »
  • D. R.

    I’m a little surprised by a few aspects of your routings in Brooklyn.

    First, you send the LIRR from Flatbush under Boro Hall. Why? There is already a large abandoned tunnel (which Bob Diamond gives tours of) under Atlantic Avenue. Using that tunnel would save costs as well as avoiding other tubes currently in use. (And using those is tough because clearances would not work out due to LIRR car lengths.)

    Second, You construct a long tunnel under the harbor instead of using the Bush terminal LIRR lines which would need far less tunneling to reach Staten Island. And if you were going to tunnel under the harbor, wouldn’t it make sense to include a stop on Governor’s Island?

    Finally, I’m surprised to see no usage of the LIRR branches between LIC and Richmond Hill or between Brooklyn’s Bush Terminal and Queens (which goes past the LIC branch and the Port Washington branch wye). Queens needs much better transit and those routings could easily provide it.

    I like the ideas overall, but the details might need to be tweaked.

    • Russell Warshay

      “First, you send the LIRR from Flatbush under Boro Hall. Why? There is already a large abandoned tunnel (which Bob Diamond gives tours of) under Atlantic Avenue.”

      That tunnel can’t be used in Alon’s proposed alignment because it is not deep enough to continue through a subaqueous tunnel to Manhattan.

    • The Lower Montauk Branch has a serious problem with not connecting to anything more interesting than the LIC terminal. If it could be shoehorned to the East River Tunnels, it would have been electrified and turned into a frequent commuter corridor decades ago.

      The Bay Ridge Branch I’m assuming would be used for subway-style service levels – it’s called Triboro Rx in the RPA’s proposals, and featured in my older posts on regional rail.

      As for the SI routing: I’ve been wavering on Governor’s Island ever since I first started thinking about the idea. Right now I’m leaning toward no stop because for park space, Randall’s Island is a lot easier to access. For TOD, maybe… Anyway, the problem with going through Brooklyn is that the cost estimate for just the underwater section is the same for Brooklyn-Jersey City as for Brooklyn-SI (I’m operating under the assumption that Brooklyn-Jersey City would cost about the same as SI-Manhattan).

      • AlexB

        The Lower Montauk should just be converted to subway standards and connected to a new subway under 34th St or maybe connected to the Times Sq/Grand Central Shuttle. It would be the cheapest 10 mile subway NY will ever build besides the Bay Ridge branch conversion and would do a lot to relieve the subways serving Jamaica.

      • D.R.

        AlexB makes exactly the point I was implying: that branch would be a cheap stretch of subway for a borough that needs much better transit. Perhaps that’s the problem: I’m thinking subway and you’re thinking commuter rail.

      • The problem with Queens’ subways isn’t lack of ROW – both the LIE and the Lower Montauk line can be used for at-grade construction. The problem is the access to Manhattan. By subway standards the existing LIRR tunnels are operating below capacity, so they’re the most logical option for providing local service.

  • AlexB

    I’d think this project could easily cost more than $20 billion. This is a lot, but comparable to how much is being spent on the ESA + ARC/THE + SAS.

    I think it’s unreasonable to expect that any of this could be constructed as a cut and cover. There are so many existing tunnels in the vicinity of Fulton St especially, I really don’t think it’s possible that this could be anything other than a deep station. The routing shown indicates the lines would often have to go under private property to maintain large enough radii to maintain decent speeds.

    A connection from the SI north shore line to the NEC could be an interesting short cut and potentially useful redundancy in the system. It would be more useful than connecting the SI line to the NJCL at Perth Amboy due to the much higher ridership along the NEC and the shorter number of stops in SI it would have to pass along the way.

    • I’m trying to use existing project costs as much as possible for the underwater sections. My understanding of ARC is that the actual tunnel as a standalone project is $2.4 billion; it’s the deep-cavern station, jettisoned in this plan, that raises everything about the $7 billion mark.

      Where I’m assuming rest-of-world construction costs is in the land section, between GCT and Fulton. Fulton itself can’t be done cut-and-cover, but north of about Canal, the Fulton-GCT section might be doable. Bear in mind, outside New York, even something as complicated as Fulton in this plan would cost $400-500 million per km, at most…

      • Tim

        Crazy idea here, but given the setup of GCT as it is now, only ESA is goign to be capable of any through running without gutting the basement of GCT. It would seem like the best solution is to just sned the TBMs back into the caverns for LIRR and send them continuing south to accomplish your goal. Cut-and-cover between 42nd and Fulton is downright impossible, considering the disruptions you would face going directly down the middle of the island. That’s not parkland, that’s some of the most expensive real estate on earth.

        Also, won’t this all have to wait until 2020 when water tunnel #3 opens? I believe I read they’d have to shut down tunnel #1 to facilitate this type of project.

      • At subsurface level, the vertical separation from Water Tunnel 1 is big enough to allow crossing over.

        I don’t think there’s anything wrong with gutting the basement of GCT. The food court there has zero historic value.

  • Russell Warshay

    Alon, you did a very good job putting this together, and it is clear that a lot of research and thought went into this.

    Some of your proposal’s components are things for which I completely agree.

    These include bringing the LIRR’s Brooklyn line to Manhattan with a new stop at the Borough Hall area. I think that new stop, below the current terminal, should also be built. I also agree with a Lower Manhattan station with a north/south alignment, as well as the Union Square station. Sunnyside Station should be as you describe, and illustrate.

    Here’s where I prefer a different approach, some of which I’ve mentioned in the past.

    I’d drop the new Hoboken-Manhattan tunnels, commuter rail to Staten Island, and through traffic from Grand Central’s current lower level.

    Instead, I’d start with converting either the LIRR or MetroNorth’s third rail type to the other, so that they can operate on each others lines. This would make it practical to build a connection so that MetroNorth can access the ESA station.

    ARC, in my view, should eventually proceed to the ESA station, as well as south to Lower Manhattan.

    Here’s a link to a map that shows this.

    As far as Staten Island, I still believe that extending the 1 train is the best option. The 125th St station could be rebuilt as a 4 track station to terminate Tottenville trains. 242nd St would send trains to the North Shore line. Here’s a link to another map that illustrates this.

    It is my belief that this also offers an improvement to regional commuter rail at a lower cost, while better serving the needs of Staten Island, as well as Red Hook.

    • Woody

      Not one mind-boggling proposal for remaking regional rail in Greater NYC but TWO!

      OK, a quibble. Why terminate any 1 trains at 125th St? That is elevated station seems sort of an out of the way place. A few blocks north, the station at 137th used to see some services terminate. I’ll bet there’s already space there, near the City College Campus, for passenger and track transfers.

      And are you sure the 1 ltracks can handle much more demand? On the Upper West Side the local trains are full, FULL, and already run pretty frequently.

      • Russell Warshay

        The reason to terminate trains at 125th St is for four reasons.

        The first is that 242nd St station can’t turn 30tph. Granted, the 1 does not currently operate at that frequency, but the city’s population won’t stop growing. Answering your last question, the tracks can definitely run more trains.

        The second is that if Tottenville trains are to be run on the West Side IRT local tracks, the route gets very long. Terminating at 125th St is 30.0 miles long. This is not the longest route in the system, but it is close.

        The third reason is the fumigation rules. As I understand it, current operations dictate that a train must be verified as empty before it reverses. With the frequency of train operations, that makes any station south of 242nd St difficult to use as a terminal. A station will have to be rebuilt. Because 125th St is an el, it will be less expensive to rebuild than a subway station.

        The last reason is that 125th St is very close to the 137th St yard. This should make operations a bit easier.

    • Yes, the idea of extending the 1 down is the main alternative for SI-Manhattan. If this plan ever made it to the official planning stage, this would be one of the options studied in the EIR.

      The reason I think it’s not as good is that subway-style service is incapable of skipping stops without express tracks or skip-stop. The SIR has no express tracks, and skip-stop doesn’t save that much time. This service plan would be good for people in or near St. George, but not necessarily for people further out.

      Getting Metro-North into ESA would be really hard – there’s no connection, and the vertical distance is insane. You’d have to branch off the main line around 72nd, then tunnel underneath the existing line. (Make no mistake about it, ESA is almost as bad a project as ARC. The reason I devote more time to ARC is that it’s still being held up for further scrutiny, so there’s a chance to replace it with something better.)

      • Russell Warshay

        How would a commuter rail, from Tottenville, be any any faster than a subway on the same corridor?

      • Commuter rail service is capable of skipping stops on a two-track line. Very few subways are – the only two I know of are in Tokyo and have four-track bypass sections.

        The issue is scheduling. Commuter rail runs on a schedule, which makes it possible to time express overtakes. Subways don’t run on a schedule, but at intervals; Tokyo’s running subways on a schedule is unique.

        Besides which, there’s the issue of what happens in Manhattan. The 1 would not be able to skip stops in Manhattan, so Staten Islanders would need to watch the train stop at South Ferry, Rector, Cortlandt, and Chambers before hopping on a faster train. And even that wouldn’t get them to the East Side without a further transfer.

  • Bob Hayes

    Alon:

    Great work, let’s hope some of these ideas can be realized.
    One thing you haven’t mentioned is parking, especially in New Jersey where there is an acute shortage near the stations. One low cost way to improve transit is to get some parking or better access at/to Secaucus, where they built a new station w/o any parking, last time I checked there was alot of empty lots around the station. Improving the parking at Metro Park and Princeton Junction would help a great deal as well.

    • Bob, at some stations, parking is actually counterproductive. The places where parking makes the most sense are stations built as suburban stations serving local residents, for example Metropark and Princeton Junction. Those need ample parking.

      The problem with Secaucus is that it makes no sense except as a transfer station. There’s nothing near the station itself. Secaucus the town is too far away, and too well-served by the Lincoln Tunnel and its buses. The cities to the west, south, and east of the station are better served by the NEC, M&E Line, and PATH, and many have very low car ownership rates. The cities to the north don’t have good service, but running their lines into Manhattan, or even improving Secaucus’s transferring experience, would take care of the problem.

  • LA

    Alon, you presented some really great ideas here. I can envision trans-hudson express trains from New Jersey (or even Philadelphia) to Long Island and Westchester requiring no transfers. A seamless and integrated network of public/rail transportation is crucial for the success of transit and the vitality of any region.

    It still remains a mystery to me why tghe US is almost constantly stuck on stupid when it comes to transportation policy.

  • LA

    Do you think that by current plans it is possible to eventually connect the ARC terminus at Penn to the ESA terminus at Grand Central? It seems such a project would also also through-running of trains between NJ and LI, and would connect Penn and Grand Central.

    • It’s possible to connect ARC to ESA, once the Water Tunnel issue is resolved. But this is not what I’d do in the plan, because it would just duplicate the existing connection from New Jersey to Long Island on the North River and East River Tunnels.

      The first preference would be dropping ARC and replacing it with a tunnel pair connecting to the existing Penn Station, plus a tunnel pair connection Penn to GCT.

      If ARC is inevitable, then it should be connected to the existing subsurface GCT, which leads to Westchester, not ESA, which leads to Long Island. The ARC-GCT connection would run into grade problems – ARC is 175 feet underground – but the distance between ARC and GCT is such that a connection would have a ruling gradient of about 3%, which EMUs are perfectly capable of. It would be pretty slow, though.

  • Lou

    this all sounds great… if you have 50 billion dollars. remember nyc commuter railroads uses 2 types of third rail, 2 types of overhead cantary, and diseal. if all this is going to built it would put a huge strain on the subway in the long run… the more trains, the more one seat rides, the more lines, and the more people using the system. i dont know how the subway will cope let alone local transit in nj. can never build enough parking for that demand or would you want to. next map and plan should be a full subway buildout and a full plan for people to get to this stations from their homes and offices (not everyone can walk).

    • On the contrary, this would relieve the subway. Better service levels would encourage more people to ride the LIRR Main Line and the Harlem Line, instead of the overburdened Queens Boulevard and Lexington subways.

      The only thing that would strain the subways further is growth in peak-hour suburb-to-Manhattan ridership. This market already has an 80% rail share east of the Hudson; west of the Hudson, the stations served, Penn and Fulton, serve lines that are not at capacity. The 1-6 and the E have a dominant southbound direction in the am peak; service from Fulton and Penn would essentially be reverse-peak.

      The electrification issues are less brutal than you think. Trains already run dual-voltage on the New Haven Line; tweaking them to run dual-voltage from the LIRR to New Jersey should not be difficult. The Metro-North and LIRR third rails use almost identical voltages; the issue is the location of the third rail shoe, which again should be easy to resolve. This is not difficult, not any more than the incompatible RATP and SNCF voltages on the RER, which require the RER B and D to run dual-voltage.

      • Adirondacker12800

        the issue is the location of the third rail shoe, which again should be easy to resolve.

        The issue is where the supports for the third rail are. That dictates whether or not you use shoes on the top of the rail or shoes on the bottom of the rail. Run a Metro North train on the LIRR or vice versa and all the shoes would get ripped off by the third rail’s supports. Probably take out some third rail too.

        You either have to rip out all of the electrification on Long Island, all of the electrification on the Hudson and Harlem lines or design a reliable system of swapping shoes on the fly.

      • If the trains are dual-voltage, then you can buffer them using catenary. Since the only place where you’d logically through-route Metro-North and the LIRR is the Empire Connection, which needs new electrification anyway, you could do it there. Alternatively, you could pick any station between Spuyten Duyvil and Penn for the switch. As long as the swap consumed less time than a station dwell, it could be done at Penn.

        The way to do it on the fly would be to have a section with Metro-North third rail on one side of the rails and LIRR third rail on the other, with the trains extending one type shoe out before retracting the other. But this would require some method ensuring this doesn’t create a short circuit.

      • Adirondacker12800

        Nominal voltage on both Metro North’s and the LIRR’s third rail is the same.

        Why would having the train connected to top running rail on some shoes and bottom running rail on other shoes create a short circuit problem?

      • I know the voltage is (almost) the same. My point is that dual-voltage trains could run with one type of shoe, then switch to catenary, and then switch back to the other shoe.

        With some implementations of third rail, you might get a short circuit between the shoes – I’m not sure.

      • dejv

        @Alon: why aren’t you considering swith on-the-fly? It’s routinely done at phase breaks or voltage/current breaks. It can be automated by trackside beacons that tell the train to retract shoes at start of unpowered section and another at start of the other system to extend the other set of shoes.

      • Dejv: the issue is somewhat different from voltage breaks because the physical show needs to be replaced. So, for example, if the third rail stays on the same side of the tracks, and if the mechanism for retracting one shoe and extending another takes too long, then this doesn’t work.

      • dejv

        Alon, it’s not that different. In some cases, the whole EMU must pass under the phase brake with pantographs retracted to make sure that it doesn’t cause inter-phase short circuit. You don’t notice it if the train passes phase/voltage break at full speed but it makes a real mess if it is near the station where trains needs to accelerate.

      • Nathanael

        In the long run, the entire third-rail electrification of the Hudson Line ought to be replaced with overhead AC electrification, because this is part of a high-speed corridor. So indeed, overhead electrification of the Empire Connection is a good place to start.

  • andrew

    The Staten Island RR already *does* extend to New Jersey. The northern branch recently saw the restoration of freight service, and will likely be reactivated all the way to Summit, where it could potentially meet up with the M&E. However, there are no plans for passenger service, and I’m pretty sure it’s single-tracked the whole way.

    A few other things to be considered:
    None of this can be taken seriously until the ARC tunnel is completed. Service across the Hudson runs at virtually 100% capacity around the clock.
    Penn station needs to be completely overhauled and rebuilt. A separate ARC station will seriously impede transfers and passenger flow throughout the station.
    A Penn -> GCT connection needs to be built once and for all.

  • A $30 per litre gas tax should cover it

    Good plan.

    Well, other than being completely unrealistic and cost prohibitive by a minimum factor of 4 or 5.

    So why not go ahead and throw in an elevator to the moon and a time machine? Lay out a 4-part case on how we can use it to go back and bring forward mastadons to green power giant Habitrail wheel generators. Because, you know, if we adopt European wheel standards a mastadon can be rated 1.2736 zilowatts per minute higher than the equivalent zebra unicorn duo.

    (Not sure why I thought this blog was about at least slightly realistic proposals rather than wanks of transit fantasy.)

  • Andy K

    So, what is stopping some of these things from being implemented? Like through running at Penn Station from NJ to Conn.? Given the state of the economy, it seems like it is time to try this out. I would call this low hanging fruit. Next would be connecting the LIRR to NJ. After that, it seem like the costs accelerate – rapidly.

    The ARC and the East Access are not going to be changed. A tunnel to Staten Island – probably not going to happen. A tunnel from Hoboken to Brooklyn – nice idea, but probably not in my life time.

    • Nathanael

      “So, what is stopping some of these things from being implemented? Like through running at Penn Station from NJ to Conn.?”

      Well, Amtrak already does that.

      The real question is what’s stopping through running from Long Island to New Jersey. The answer is institutional turf wars. IF they’d gotten together to buy dual-voltage trains (LIRR third rail and NJT overhead) this could have been done decades ago. The tech is in widespread use.

      I think this should be one of the top priorities of NYC Metro area transit advocates. It can be done without new track construction, and would actually relieve congestion in Penn Station. And it’s only being stopped because of institutional stupidity.

  • AlexB

    I still think connecting the 4th Ave express subway (N train) to the SI railroad is the best option for direct service to Staten. It would involve building just a couple miles of tunnel, would connect SI to Brooklyn and Manhattan via one route, and would only be a few minutes slower than the any option that involves a massive 6 mile cross harbor tunnel. The N from midtown to St George would take 30 minutes. The 6 mile extension of the 1 would take no less than 25 minutes and the 10 mile Metro North extension would probably take 20 minutes. Would the time savings be worth an extra 5 or so billion dollars?

    • It would be way, way less than 20 minutes. From St. George to Fulton, it should be 7 minutes. From Fulton to GCT, it would be 10 if the trains crawl as slowly as they do today between GCT and 125th, or about 7 if they run at the same speed as subways with wide station spacing. This compares with about 35-40 minutes St. George-Midtown through the Narrows.

      • AlexB

        The Hudson is narrower than St George to Owl’s Head, but the tunnel they will bore for ARC goes from Herald Square to west of the Palisades, which is almost the same distance as what a St George-Owl’s Head tunnel would be. If you are using a tunnel boring machine for the whole thing, I don’t think it really matters if it’s under water or not.

      • dejv

        @AlexB: it depends on geology. If the bore goes through permeable sediments, it certainly does matter if it is under water table or not, because tunnel face must be pressurized. Immersed tube is usually the best technology for long underwater tunnels in such geology.

    • Russell Warshay

      If you send the N to Staten Island, what runs down the Sea Beach Line? This is the problem with an Owl Head Tunnel. There would be four branches feeding 4th Ave. This means that the subway to Staten Island would be limited to half of the tunnel’s capacity. That tunnel would cost less, but it also gives less capacity and a longer ride than any of the other options that have been discussed here.

      • I think the idea is to send the R to SI and make it run express on 4th Avenue Line.

      • Russell Warshay

        AlexB needs to clarify, but because he cited a tunnel to St. George with a distance of a “couple of miles,” it sounds like a connection as Owl Heads park. If the R runs to Staten Island through an Owl Heads Park tunnel, then a route needs to run to Bay Ridge.

        If a tunnel is built from Owl Heads Park to St. George, then 4th Ave is fed by four branches:
        1) West End Line
        2) Sea Beach Line
        3) Bay Ridge Line
        4) Staten Island

        If we assume that the maximum capacity is 30tph/track, and that these routes will operate at up to 15tph, then the tunnel is only feeding 15tph to Staten Island. The tunnel should be able to handle 30tph. 15tph might be all that is needed now, but it limits the growth potential to the fastest growing borough.

      • AlexB

        I did mean sending the N to Staten Island via Owl’s Head. R would continue running to Bay Ridge, M (or W) would use West End, and D is diverted to Sea Beach. After 36th Ave, there are no even remotely busy stops at all on the West End or Sea Beach so it really doesn’t matter if every branch is limited to 15 tph. The only rush hour subway service that’s about the be cut is the M on the West End, which should tell you something about how many people use that line.

        15 tph is more than any of those branches need, and the growth of Staten Island has been severely restricted by new zoning, so I doubt they’ll ever reach capacity. If they do, they can connect the Bay Ridge branch to the new tunnel and/or extend the Hudson LR to Staten from Bayonne.

        It takes 26/27 minutes to get from 59th St in Brooklyn to Times Square. St George is 3 miles from that stop, so it would take about 30/32 minutes to get from St George to Times Square. Going to downtown would require a transfer at Pacific, making the WTC/FiDi 20-25 minutes from St George.

        My thoughts are that this is billions cheaper than building a cross harbor tunnel and the three routes that currently use the very high capacity 4th Ave tunnel all serve low density neighborhoods that have all been downzoned. Don’t get me wrong, I can see how it would be awesome to get from St George to GC in 15 minutes and to have more redundancy on the NEC, I just don’t know if it’s worth $7 billion unless it also involved some sort of massive new commercial district in St George. Still, that sort of future would be many many decades away. Connecting the N would cost about $2 billion, less than the AirTrain and could be done in a about as much time.

      • I don’t think the N tunnel would cost $2 billion. The proposed Bay Ridge-St. George freight tunnel alternative costs about the same as the preferred Bay Ridge-Jersey City alternative. If you extend the R, it’s still more water to cross than the Hudson, whose new crossing is about $2.4 billion excluding the ARC chaff.

        The St. George density issue is real – the feasibility of direct rail service to Staten Island hinges on it regardless of the type of service used. I believe upzoning will not be too difficult if it is packaged together with the tunnel; Staten Islanders have a strong NIMBY attitude, but they’re also tired of having the longest commute times in the United States. In addition, St. George is already becoming denser and more racially diverse, which might reduce opposition to creating a secondary downtown near the ferry terminal.

      • Russell Warshay

        “I did mean sending the N to Staten Island via Owl’s Head. R would continue running to Bay Ridge, M (or W) would use West End, and D is diverted to Sea Beach.”

        What serves the West End?

        “15 tph is more than any of those branches need”

        For now. The city is still growing at a rapid pace. The city’s current policy is to rezone areas, well served by mass transit, for for denser housing development. This is beginning to happen on Brooklyn’s 4th Ave. As it builds up, more demand will be placed on that subway.

        “the growth of Staten Island has been severely restricted by new zoning, so I doubt they’ll ever reach capacity.”

        Zoning can be changed. Considering how powerful the real estate lobby is in NYC, I’d bet on it. If we build a convenient line from Staten Island to Manhattan, dense development is sure to follow.

        “If they do, they can connect the Bay Ridge branch to the new tunnel and/or extend the Hudson LR to Staten from Bayonne.”

        If extra capacity is needed, then new routes are needed to take people where they want to go. Those options do not, so it is highly unlikely that they will be very effective at getting cars and buses off of roads.

        “It takes 26/27 minutes to get from 59th St in Brooklyn to Times Square. St George is 3 miles from that stop, so it would take about 30/32 minutes to get from St George to Times Square. Going to downtown would require a transfer at Pacific, making the WTC/FiDi 20-25 minutes from St George.”

        St. George to Lower Manhattan, with no stops in between, should take about 5 minutes at full speed, or about 8 minutes at 45mph. With a 45mph speed limit, and three stops in between, it should be a 12 minute trip. The ferry takes 25 minutes. You’re projecting 20-25 minutes.

        In Alon’s propsal, Lower Manhattan to GCS should take about 5 minutes, maybe less. His propsal gets from St. George to GCS in under 15 minutes. With the Times Square Shuttle, St. George to Times Square would be 20-25 minutes. My proposal gets people from St. George to Times Square in about 28 minutes, or about 23 minutes if Brooklyn is not part of the alignment. The N from St. George to Time Square would be slower than all other options.

        “My thoughts are that this is billions cheaper than building a cross harbor tunnel and the three routes that currently use the very high capacity 4th Ave tunnel all serve low density neighborhoods that have all been downzoned. Don’t get me wrong, I can see how it would be awesome to get from St George to GC in 15 minutes and to have more redundancy on the NEC, I just don’t know if it’s worth $7 billion unless it also involved some sort of massive new commercial district in St George. Still, that sort of future would be many many decades away. Connecting the N would cost about $2 billion, less than the AirTrain and could be done in a about as much time.”

        Alon is advocating commuter rail to Staten Island, which ould cost more than $7 billion, if you include the cost of building a subway from GCS to Lower Manhattan. I’d guess in the $15+ billion range.

        I’m advocating the 1 train to Staten Island, via Red Hook. Including the restoration of the North Shore Line, and the reconstruction of 125th St, my guess is about $14 billion. Go straight from St. George to Lower Manhattan, and I guess at about $9-10 billion.

        The N train from St. George, including a new subway station at St George and all SIR stations rebuilt, will cost a lot more than $2 billion. I’d guess in the $5-6 billion range for that project. It costs less, but it also gives less. Half the capacity to Manhattan for more than half the price of a full capacity option, from the fastest growing borough in a growing city. It offers the slowest trip to Lower Manhattan or Midtown, and it will pull the fewest cars and buses off of the road of any option.

        As I see it, the Owl Heads alignment made a lot more sense when it was first proposed. Staten Island wasn’t suburban then, it was rural. Today, we’re playing catch up. I believe that we need to get to Staten Island in a way that allows for growth. We should not be discussing the construction of a second tunnel a generation later.

      • AlexB

        I don’t doubt that a tunnel along the length of Manhattan and the Harbor would be the highest capacity & fastest solution, I just doubt the SIRR will ever have that many riders. Maybe I’m cynical, or maybe you guys are optimistic. No way to really know without a multi-million dollar study.

        It really boils down to this: You have to upgrade all the SIRR stations and build a brand new subway station at St George regardless of the solution, so those are sunk costs of any connection of the SIRR to anything. The only difference is whether you want to upgrade the current situation from a 60 minute ± commute to a 30 minute ± commute via the N for $2.5 billion ± with max capacity 15 tph or to a 15/20 minute commute for $5 billion ± with maximum capacity of 30 tph.

        • Brian

          Unless you want to run trains from North Jersey Coast Line (NJCL) from Perth Amboy to Tottenville up the SIRR and Northeast Corridor from a junction in Linden over the Arthur Kill lift bridge and along the North shore line. New Jersey Transit has a need to divert some trains away from Penn Station and since most NJ commuters need to get to lower Manhattan, and PATH trains require a transfer, are slow, and are crowded, routing NJT trains on the NJCL and NEC through Staten Island to Lower Manhattan i think would be a hit. NJT and MTA can split the costs of the cross harbor tunnel from St. George to Lower Manhattan and also, rebuilding the Platforms, a third track would be required to allow express trains from NJ and the outer boundaries of Staten Island to access Lower Manhattan. In addition, a lift bridge across the Arthur Kill would be need to connect NJCL at Perth Amboy to Tottenville and a ramp connection would be needed to the NEC from Linden to the old B & O Staten Island Line. I think the cross harbor tunnel from Staten Island to Lower Manhattan with connections to NJT is a win win for both systems that need access to lower Manhattan.

  • Wdobner

    This is starting to look a little familiar. You’ve got the tunnel under the length of Manhattan, the four river crossings, the cross platform transfers, and most of the same station locations. You’ve just got all those components placed so as to maximize cost and minimize regional connectivity. Your focus on through-running for the sake of through running leads to a situation where many passengers will be forced through less than optimal existing transfer stations to reach their destination. Yes, your layout for a Fulton station is nearly ideal, with the exception of dual-side door openings. But in order for a passenger to get there from Newark and use it to reach Brooklyn you force passengers through the less than ideal transfer at Secaucus.

    I don’t understand the focus on serving Hoboken, because most development has been to the north and south of there. PATH and HBLRT will ably serve the area between Newport and Lincoln Harbor. A reduction in PATH ridership following the completion of any NJT access to Lower Manhattan will provide more space for Gold Coast residents in the two PATH tunnels.

    I do not believe the increase in capacity attributed to through running at Penn Station is nearly as great as has been promised. NJT and LIRR’s operations through NYP are already nearly through-running, with very few trains actually terminating and changing ends in NYP during peak hours. West Side Yard and Sunnyside allow both NJT and LIRR to terminate trains without occupying valuable platform space. Through-running beyond West Side Yard and Sunnyside would only result in virtually empty trains past Jamaica and Newark as they’d be running against peak hour flows with peak hour headways. We’d just drive up operating costs without significantly increasing ridership.

    Then of course there’s the issue of line pairings in through-running systems. SEPTA has recently made news for their elimination of their fixed through-running arrangement, in part because of disparate ridership on line pairs. I realize your example is hypothetical, but I can’t see the Hudson Line absorbing the ridership of both the Raritan Valley Line and half the LIRR’s mainline ridership. Yeah, you can terminate trains in the city center, and mix interline routes to balance ridership, but then you’ll just recreate SEPTA’s passenger unfriendly mess.

    As an aside, why are there only two lines from the LIRR mainline to the east? Which of the Oyster Bay, Port Jeff, and Ronkonkoma trains did you cut?

    Finally I don’t think it is politically feasible to combine NJT and LIRR operations. NY has proven itself unable to combine MN and the LIRR under one aegis and they’re already under the same authority. Why do we expect them to go one step further and combine their incompatible operations with another system outside their authority and state? It is unrealistic to expect these three entrenched bureaucracies to put aside their independent operating practices, their union rules, and everything else.

    And yeah, the technical hurdles can be overcome, but only at tremendous cost. Both NJT and LIRR have either recently completed or are in the process of procuring very large equipment orders which are totally incompatible with all other local operations. The LIRR and MNRR M7s are restricted to their respective power supply systems. A dual position shoe would enable LIRR and MNRR through running, but that’d restrict the 1170 M7s to half the Hudson Line and LIRR Mainline ridership. Similarly NJT’s Multilevels are unlikely to clear the Atlantic Avenue branch, which leaves about a third of their fleet incapable of being used on the two Erie lines that are interlined with the LIRR tracks through Flatbush. Replacing these virtually brand new units with rolling stock which is compatible with all regional transit systems to achieve through running any time soon would cost billions of dollars which otherwise would be spread out over an amortization period of 30 to 40 years.

    With this in mind I contend that we should seek to get the maximum capacity out of the current round of projects, and get the maximum capacity without having to tackle the problems created by through running. Two interlocked loops can provide full utilization of track capacity and cross platform transfers between the LIRR and NJT systems while keeping them physically separate. Passengers would not be forced to choose between trains to midtown or lower Manhattan. I’ve called this plan a NY RER system because it takes cues from Paris’ system as well as the German S-bahns.

    Google Maps layout of NY RER

    Track Plan for NY RER trunk

    • The current service pattern isn’t really through-routing. People coming from Jersey to Brooklyn and Queens have to transfer in either case. And the station dwells have to be terminal dwells because by law the train has to be certified empty before it goes to the non-revenue terminal.

      The turf wars are part of the commuter railroads’ overall incompetence. Where competence levels are higher, trains routinely run from one railroad’s lines onto another without a hitch. This happens on the RER B, on multiple subway lines in Tokyo, and throughout the German-speaking world’s railway system.

      Where competence levels are higher, the operators don’t try to run every train at capacity, either. The biggest cost of running a train is labor; you have to pay people a salary regardless of whether they’re hanging out at the terminal waiting for the pm rush hour or driving a train. So you might as well have them drive the train. By requiring less yard space near the CBD, it’s actually a cost saving measure. (The same is true for high off-peak frequency. Split shifts are so expensive you lose little by having people operate trains in the off-peak.)

      Another feature of competent systems is that they make transfers work – this is mostly what this coda is about. With minimal work, the operators could time the transfers between Fulton- and Midtown-bound trains.

      The LIRR line that I cut is Oyster Bay, which underperforms too much – it has 1,700 weekday riders, versus 17,000 on PJ (of whom 10,000 come from east of Hicksville) and 20,000 on Ronkonkoma. The ridership levels on the other lines more or less match up, except that I’m predicting higher ridership on the Erie and West Shore lines; the Hudson Line gets 23,000 riders, more than any single LIRR branch.

      Newark-Lower Manhattan already exists on PATH, which is a cross-platform transfer from Newark Penn.

      The RER’s deep-level stations were actually very expensive. They were unavoidable because of lack of suitable ROW, but where possible the RER has used subsurface stations.

      Finally: your plan for SI service seems to have an entirely greenfield line in IS. Is that intentional? I’m asking because the RER has so far tried to minimize new construction, using existing railroads outside city centers.

      • Wdobner

        The current service pattern isn’t really through-routing. People coming from Jersey to Brooklyn and Queens have to transfer in either case.

        Of course, but in your example it’d be people along selected lines going to certain destinations who wouldn’t have to transfer. Passengers from the Erie lines headed to Queens would still face transfers at Secaucus. It’s only a marginal improvement on the status quo.

        The turf wars are part of the commuter railroads’ overall incompetence. Where competence levels are higher, trains routinely run from one railroad’s lines onto another without a hitch. This happens on the RER B, on multiple subway lines in Tokyo, and throughout the German-speaking world’s railway system.

        It helps when there’s a central organizing group to force the railroads into a standardized method of operation. RATP and SNCF have a relatively tumultuous relationship, especially when it comes to their labor agreements. None of the S-bahn systems has had to suffer under three different bureaucracies. It is unrealistic to expect NJT to be integrated into MN and the LIRR when the MTA can’t even reconcile the differences between the LIRR and MNRR.

        The biggest cost of running a train is labor; you have to pay people a salary regardless of whether they’re hanging out at the terminal waiting for the pm rush hour or driving a train. So you might as well have them drive the train. By requiring less yard space near the CBD, it’s actually a cost saving measure. (The same is true for high off-peak frequency. Split shifts are so expensive you lose little by having people operate trains in the off-peak.)

        The single biggest reason we don’t run much off peak service has nothing to do with the level of competency of the TA and everything to do with the onerous FRA crew requirements. All those systems you list use an OPTO arrangement, so they can provide midday headways equal to rush hour headways without a problem because they’re only paying one person. The FRA requires our trains have at least two personnel aboard, and most will have at least three, and that has nothing to do with the competency of the operators. To achieve the same cost effectiveness as the S-bahn and RER systems we have to run one third the service or pay three times as much. No politician is going to allocate the funds for such an increase in service, which will incur non-personnel costs, and to maintain the off peak headway during peak hours would lead to unacceptable crowding. I spent a few weeks in Berlin, Frankfurt, and Munich and would love to see us eliminate the off-peak headway increase, but we can’t do that economically. The workforce costs are just a part of the equation, and while they’re the biggest portion we’d still have to find money to pay for the increased wear and tear on the equipment as they make a greater number of less utilized trips. Thus we are going to have to plan for train storage between peak periods.

        Another feature of competent systems is that they make transfers work – this is mostly what this coda is about. With minimal work, the operators could time the transfers between Fulton- and Midtown-bound trains.

        Or else we set up a system wherein a passenger has almost half the traffic of the transit line they’re transferring to across the platform from the train they’re transferring from. Instead of partitioning out the transfers such that to reach the Ronkonkoma line from an NJT NEC train one must go to NYP it makes more sense to offer every destination at every station.

        Newark-Lower Manhattan already exists on PATH, which is a cross-platform transfer from Newark Penn.

        Yes, but I was referring to a Newark to Brooklyn trip via the convenient transfer station you’re touting at Fulton. Yes, I could ride PATH and walk through the Dey St passageway, but that is pretty much the antithesis of a cross platform transfer.

        The RER’s deep-level stations were actually very expensive. They were unavoidable because of lack of suitable ROW, but where possible the RER has used subsurface stations.

        And where is there a suitable ROW in Manhattan between 42nd and South Ferry? It is unavoidable to do shallow construction in Manhattan because the geotech and insurance costs involved in building around the city’s aging buildings will be completely cost prohibitive.

        Finally: your plan for SI service seems to have an entirely greenfield line in IS. Is that intentional? I’m asking because the RER has so far tried to minimize new construction, using existing railroads outside city centers.

        If you’re spending the billions to dig a five mile tunnel under Upper NY Harbor we may as well spend the few bucks to provide access beyond the existing ROWs to new attractions and while avoiding the capacity constraints imposed by AK Draw for traffic into NJ. It’s rather pennywise and poundfoolish to spend billions on a tunnel under the harbor, bypassing potential ridership from Brooklyn, yet insist on sticking to the North and South Shore ROWs for the service.

      • Systems all over the world use transfers. You can’t get from the Stadtbahn to the Nord-Süd-Bahn or from the Paris Left Bank to La Defense without a transfer. The way competent systems resolve the question is by making the transfers as painless as possible. Jamaica does it well – you transfer by crossing the overpass, or cross-platform. Secaucus, with its faregates, does it horribly.

        While the S-Bahn systems all run OPTO, the RER doesn’t. It has one conductor per train, which is permissible under FRA rules. But even OPTO could be obtained with a waiver. Caltrain did the work and is now in the process of getting a waiver allowing it to run lightweight EMUs. The MTA and NJT could collaborate on getting separate waivers for OPTO. The FRA is clueless about modern passenger rail, but it’s not evil.

        Every destination from every platform is not done anywhere where passenger rail works, for a good reason: it kills frequency. Most passengers would rather have a 10-minute headway from Long Island to the NEC with a timed transfer than a 30-minute headway without a transfer. The everywhere-to-everywhere approach also complicated the system map, making it harder to use for irregular riders. There’s no cultural essential that says transfers can work in Japan or France or Germany or Switzerland but not in the US.

        The existing SIR rights of way are pretty good when it comes to serving the population centers. There’s a dense area between the two lines that’s not served, but it would be better served with a circumferential line, not a radial.

        In Manhattan, the suitable ROW involves the various north-south streets. North of Union Square, Madison and Park are possibilities; between Union Square and Canal, anything between Broadway and West Broadway would work. (Yes, insurance would be expensive – as it is in Tokyo, where Tokyo Metro simply ran out of subsurface options, and has to spend a full one third of Manhattan cost on deep-level construction. We can safely assume that this is not what makes New York construction costs so high.)

      • dejv

        @Wdobner:

        None of the S-bahn systems has had to suffer under three different bureaucracies.

        Are you sure? Look at scope and ownership of BVV or VOR.

  • Jason

    Wdobner:

    What about Metro North?

    • Wdobner

      For now I see no particularly feasible way to integrate Metro North into this system. I do not share Mr. Levy’s optimism as to the ability to extend tracks beyond the lower Metro North level at GCT. Yes, going through the food court would not be a significant impediment, but the disruption to build those tracks could cause irreparable damage to the historic structure. Then there is the prospect of doing shallow construction around some of the highest priced real estate in the country. The insurance costs alone would be prohibitive.

      And even bringing the train to a point that shallow could prove problematic. The ARC tunnels are sticking with the same 2% grade the original Hudson River tunnels were built to. Increasing that value by two thirds, even if it remains within the capability of the EMUs, is a significant departure from their current practices. There are, admittedly anecdotal stories of NJT’s ALP44 hauled trains struggling up the grade into NYP. Doing much more than that would likely result in stalled trains.

      IMHO if you want to take the right lessons from the RER then don’t chase shallow construction in the a futile effort to reduce the project cost. The RER system was mostly constructed in deep bored tunnels under Paris, so I see no reason to expect anything different in Manhattan.

      It’s worth mentioning that I do not believe MN would be totally left out of this project. So long as an M8 will fit through the 63rd St tube and has shoes compatible with the LIRR’s third rail (and we extend the third rail up to GATE interlocking) then New Haven Line trains will be able to access the NYRER just as easily as a Port Washington branch train will. We already know the Port Washington Branch tracks will have access to ESA, so since the Amtrak route over the Hell Gate diverges from the Port Washington tracks at the north end of HAROLD interlocking then anything on the Amtrak tracks should be able to reach the ESA terminal as well. At the southern end it is possible the New Haven trains would go to either Jersey City or Flatbush Avenue and use the extra tracks to change directions, or they’d go off to either Jamaica or the Meadowlands yards to be stored for the PM peak. If we were to restore the St Mary’s Tunnel and rebuild the southern end to provide a flying junction onto the Hell Gate Bridge’s northern approach we could get M8s on the Harlem line to run into Lower Manhattan via the same route as the New Haven Line would use.

      I doodled up another RER-like line which wouldn’t integrate MNRR into my other system, but would provide downtown access to MN passengers, and bring commuter trains to Staten Island. I mostly drew it up as a bypass of the congested Rahway-Newark corridor, but its expense would require greater utilization than merely hosting NJT’s 3900 series NEC trains. I like the idea of giving MNRR customers the choice between GCT, downtown via the East Side (for Harlem and New Haven line passengers), or down the west side via this different line. But by no means would this be a priority. IMHO SI may be the fastest growing borough, but its needs still pale in comparison to NJ, LI and Westchester County’s need for transit improvements.

      • Nathanael

        The goal is not to reduce the project cost; the goal is to reduce operations costs, substantially, and forever, while providing better service. The MTA’s own analysis said Alternative G (connecting GCT to Penn) was the best choice financially — and would still be so even with large construction cost increases.

        The problem is that they were simply afraid to do shallow construction through 8 north-south blocks and one curve in, as you say, expensive real estate. This is NOT a long tunnel. Massive cost overruns would still make it the best option. Hell, buy the buildings and knock ‘em down, it would STILL be an overall financial benefit to the City of New York. (You can always resell the land after.) But nooooo, fear won out.

  • Metropod

    I know New York inside and out, upside and down. My family has called this city home for more than 125 years. and I can say with abosulite certainty…

    This isn’t going to work out the way you think it will. You can sit there and study and do calculations and comparisions and show off your math; but when it comes down to it you simply can’t say “If it works in (insert city name here) it will work in New York”. Because it won’t. There is way more to transit planing than a map, a sharpe and a rainy afternoon.

    Look, I know these people. I know how they think, I know how they act. I know what makes them happy.

    Why? Well to start, like I said, I’m one of them. Who better to speak for the masses than a blue collar guy from the borderlands of Queens and Brooklyn.

    I am giving you an A for effort. It’s not like you just doodled in your sleep. Your problem is pracicality. Penn station is functionaly three stations in one, so that you don’t acually have 600,000 people squezzing through the exact same space. That seems to be how Amtrak likes it, otherwise I wouldn’t think the LIRR and NJT’s landlord would have let it be so.

    I’m more inclidned to agree with Wdober in the problems you’d face in the situation.

    • Penn doesn’t have 600,000 people. First, half of those are on the subway, where they squeeze through less space. And second, the number includes boardings plus alightings, which is not the usual way of counting.

      More to the point: New York isn’t special. Everyone thinks he’s special and other people’s solutions don’t apply; New York has some trivial properties that make it unique, but it’s not uniquely unique. A good rule of thumb is that if your “It wouldn’t work here” line would have applied to Paris’s copying the German S-Bahn concept to create the RER, or to London’s copying Singapore’s congestion pricing, then it’s probably not as central a characteristic of the city as you think.

      • Metropod

        It is 600,000 a day, on the railroads alone. The subway fares don’t count.

        You’ve just proven you don’t know what you are talking about.

        You’re not a New Yorker. You’re not one of us. you’ll never be one of us, you’ll never understand. All the booksmarts in the world will get you no where in this town. You can’t stand there and say “well, it works there, it’ll work here,” because this is America and that doesn’t happen here. We don’t want to be like everyone else. we don’t want copy the idiot europeans who are currently dranging down our econimic recovery, becuase the euro finally has come back to bite them in the butt.

        We have the largest rapid transit system in the world by track miles. We have the largest number of stations. We hae the largest fleet of subway cars. We have the only system in the world that is open in it’s entirety all day every day. We have the only system that offeres all day every day express service on dedicated express tracks.

        If anything, they should be the ones copying us!

        • It is 600,000 a day, on the railroads alone. The subway fares don’t count.

          The LIRR and new Jersey Transit together don’t have 600,000 riders a weekday. And only about half their riders go to Penn Station, and half of those exit rather than enter. NJT used to provide information about how many boardings it had at its busiest stations; Penn had 67,000 per weekday. The only way you can get to 600,000 from that is if you include entries and exits on both systems plus the subway.

          It would take five minutes to check that Copenhagen has 24/7 service, that Seoul has dedicated express tracks on one of its lines and so do many of Tokyo’s commuter lines, and that while New York may have twice as many subway cars as Tokyo, it only gets half the ridership. Yay, efficiency. If ignoring all that makes you a real New Yorker, maybe New York needs to be governed by outsiders for a change.

          Go work as a Wal-Mart greeter or something.

  • Peter Brassard

    Another major transfer station could be located at 149th Street in the Bronx. 149th Street is the location where Metro North’s Harlem and New Haven lines split. This would allow for easier transfers between Connecticut and Westchester cities and suburbs. A 149th Street Station would be near Yankee Stadium, the Grand Concourse and The Hub in the South Bronx. Platforms could be located just north of the split and connected by a station mezzanine above the tracks on the north side of the 149th Street Bridge. Subway lines are nearby and a direct connection could be made to the 149th Street-Grand Concourse Station, 2, 4, and 5 trains linked by a tunnel to new Metro North platforms a few hundred feet away.

  • Ted Elliss

    I have studied NYC mtro’s transit development for decades, and I’m sorry to say it is a fractured and further-damaging array of systems which do not all work together for connective convenience for both the commuter and tourist alike. Grand Central and Penn Stations should have been built directly across from one another- and with through tracks for direct service between Long Island/upstate NY/CT and New Jersey. The former World Trade Center (now Fulton St. Terminal) should be a destination for commuter rail lines from Long Island and New Jersey (and what were they thinking when creating the LIRR Flatbush Ave.- Brooklyn terminal- when they could’ve extended the tracks through new stations at Borough Hall and into lower Manhattan? What an nightmarish and costly task for one to have to transfer to buses and subways; and to top that off- the terminal is over two miles from downtown Brooklyn. Look at Queens…why do subway/elevated lines go no further than Jamaica? The population densities in eastern and southeastern outreaches of the borough easily support rapid rail service. The LIRR has been the mostly unreliable source of rail service to these areas, as stations are served infrequently- and on higher fare levels than MTA buses.
    In The Bronx, the subway that terminates south of Orchard Beach could easily reach Co-op City- and even branch off toward the area near Whitestone Bridge. In Brooklyn, existing subway lines should extend to lower Canarsie, along Flatbush Ave. to Avenue U, and extend the A Line branch into southeastern Queens and Kennedy Airport. By the way, I am always amusingly disgusted at how both Second and Tenth Avenues, and Greenwich Village do not have subway lines. As for Richmond/Staten Island, I find that its sole rail line is underused, and somewhat unpopular. There is a study now happening to install rail service along the north shore of S.I.- a costly mistake. However, I truly believe that PATH could be extended into S.I. via the Bayonne Bridge from NJ as a supplement to its existing Hudson-Bergin Light-Rail line, with new stations along a north/south central corridor- then branching off between Tottenvile to the west, and the ferry terminal/St. George to the northeast. This would offer a wonderful and fast option for Manhattan and Jersey City/Newark-bound commuters…if officials could see development for this as worthwhile. Finally, crosstown subways or light-rail routes would likely be highly utilized between east-west Bronx via Fordham Rd., between east-west Brooklyn via either Avenue U or Kings Highway, and north-south between LaGuardia Airport and Rockaway Beach/Far Rockaway via Woodhaven Blvd. (which could replace the A Line subway branch partially or completely). The bus system? Don’t get me started!!!
    new lines would prove quite feasible as crosstowns

    • Nathanael

      Most of these system design errors date from the days of private, competing railroads.

      However, unlike Paris, Berlin, or London, which have tried to FIX the errors from those days, New York insists on making the errors WORSE. (Early examples are shutting down the 2nd and 3rd Avenue Els without replacing them; more recent examples include the inability to merge LIRR and Metro-North or to get either of them on the same electrification system as Amtrak, and the unwillingness to connect GCT to Penn.)

  • Tim

    Alon,

    Thought you might get a kick out of this. Video of an NJT test run on the MNR tracks at Larchmont, NY, with a double-decker electric train set.

    Enjoy.

  • Tim

    Ted,

    Most of the infrastructure was inherited from failed private companies. Penn and GCT are named for the railroads that once occupied them. GCT exists where it is as laws forbade operation of steam trains south fo 42nd. Its footprint has been the same for 130+ years at this point (I know it’s been rebuilt since). Creating a connection between the two ran contrary to the business interests of the corporations who developed the structures.

    As for Queens, well, *insert Robert Moses thoughts here*. In all seriousness though, Moses did a lot to squash transit expansion plans, and aside from the initial boom in transit construction in the first half of the 20th century, there hasn’t been a really renewed focus on intensive transit capital growth until recently. With the developmento f the interstate system, all eyes were on cars, and most of the money went that way.

    Creating a unified through-running system will be nigh impossible, given the multiple state-level government agencies in multiple states with differing political needs and customer bases. I’d love to have a large, unified system like Paris or Berlin, where one fare gets you access to the system and transfers, but getting the MTA, NJT, and PANYNJ all on the same page would be a nightmare, and probably require federal intervention, which might get shot down in the court system. Just look at the WTC. 9 years later, and the only thing that’s been rebuilt is the only privately owned tower in the complex.

    • Tim, in both Paris and Berlin the system has multiple operators. The RER is owned half by RATP and half by SNCF; the RER B is owned by both, with a quick change of drivers at Gare du Nord. The Berlin S-Bahn is run by DB, whereas the U-Bahn is run by a local transit agency.

    • Note that Tokyo has what might seem like an even worse situation for interoperation: just in Tokyo itself we have two subway companies, the national rail operator, and at least eight different private rail operators. (There are also several different companies running buses.)

      As one example of interoperation, on the Den-en-toshi line, owned by Tokyu, trains run from Den-en-toshi in Kanagawa prefecture (a prefecture here is like a state in the US) to Shibuya in the Tokyo prefecture, continue on the Hanzomon subway line owned by the private Tokyo Metro corporation to Oshiage where it is now on the Isesaki line, owned by Tobu, continuing on through the Saitama prefecture into the Gunma prefecture. You can get in a train car at one end and come out two hours later at the other end a hundred kilometers and four prefectures away. You’re charged your twelve bucks for this via one swipe of a contactless smart card going in and another going out.

  • Transportation planner in LI

    Realistically, the item that can be made possible now is a single ticket for use on all three systems. That alone would made suburb-to-suburb travel much easier.

    Coo-Coo text service (provides schedule info for the LIRR) is starting to provide cross-carrier scheduling soon, simply by sending a text message “merrick to suffern”, would give you detailed information about the next few departures + details about the transfer times.

    It is my view however, that the FRA has dropped the ball with the Northeast. There should be a mandated standard for all rolling stock – YES, the Pennsylvania RR, Central RR and Long Island RR all did compete, this has not been the case for many years. It seems that the MTA and NJT kept on the former employees of the RR’s and their corporate culture. This needs to be eliminated.

    At this point, we need to slowly wein off 3rd Rail use on LIRR and MNRR, by requiring all new car to have dual systems: 3rd rail AND ac canternary.

    Which regard to through service at penn, it is obvious that not every train would continue through, only some. However, there are many trips made from JFK to EWR that would now be made easily from Jamaica to Newark Airport Station.

    The removal of an entire industry that take advantage of this lack of through service (taxi from EWR to Queens, JFK to Bergen, ect.) would mean the loss of many jobs in the Region!

    Finally, it the transfer experience that really makes the cake. Thousands of people transfer at Jamaica everyday, because the signs are clear, the trains are scheduled to arrive at the same time and it is a single ticket.

    (NJT does a terrible job at this at Secaucus, it is common that trains going to NYP do not wait for a Hoboken Bound train with a scheduled transfer.)

  • Michael Schaeffer

    How hard would it be to bring all of New York’s Rail Lines to 25 kv 60hz Standard with overhead catenary?

    • High hundreds of millions. The LIRR and Metro-North run 220 miles of route under third rail and NJT about 70 under 11 kV (almost all of which should be switched anyway if Amtrak installs constant tension catenary to increase Acela speeds); at the same cost as the NEC electrification project, it’d be $700 million, excluding the NEC portion, which Amtrak should do on its own anyway.

      • Nathanael

        WELL worth it at that price. It would probably save money in the long run (fewer substations, fewer “leaves on the third rail” for LIRR, no duplicate electrification of Penn Station, no frequency switching on NJT or for Amtrak), and Metro-North’s Hudson Line needs to be wired with overhead anyway for Empire Corridor plans.

        And of course it would make run-through much easier.

        • You’re completely right. I haven’t figured this into my cost estimate (though I did figure electrification of unelectrified lines), but it’d only add about 5%. But the correct phasing for it would be to add catenary as the new tunnels are built, prioritizing Penn-Jamaica since most of the initial benefits of through-running are really benefits of connecting more suburbs with Brooklyn, Queens, and Newark.

      • Max Wyss

        It may have further consequences when electrifying the third-rail sections. The loading gauge may not be sufficient for overhead catenary at 25 kV. This may affect tunnels, but also overpasses and bridges.

        In tunnels, one can usually lower the tracks, and squeeze a few more inches by using contact rails, such as the ones made by Furrer&Frey. For overpasses, this may be trickier.

        • Well, for the tunnels it’s not as big a deal, since the worst tunnels, under the East River, have catenary. I don’t know about overpass clearance, though, and you’re right that this could cause a cost blowout.

          • Adirondacker12800

            Lower the tracks just like they do with tunnels. Or in the few cases where that’s not possible have a phase break at the bridge, lower the pantograph and coast through

          • Max Wyss

            Thanks, Adirondacker12800, you made my day with this comic relief :-) .

            Lowering the tracks under an overpass is feasible, of course; the ramps will just be way longer than the actual overpass.

          • Adirondacker12800

            dig holes at ground level is really cheap.

            • Nathanael

              The trick is drainage. You can lower tracks easily if you don’t have drainage issues, but if you do… cost starts going up and it start to be easier to raise bridges.

              I suspect the road-over-rail bridges aren’t actually that serious a problem though. They’re not a problem at *all* on the Metro-North Hudson Line, and I believe they’re unliekly to be a problem on the NJT diesel lines. LIRR is another matter, but there the tricky part is probably the Brooklyn (Atlantic Avenue) branch, not the miscellaneous suburban bridges.

        • Nathanael

          Metro-North has sufficient overhead clearance on pretty much the entire Hudson line; the thing is at the bottom of a cliff, so the overpasses are HIGH above. The third-rail portion of the New Haven line is short. Not sure about the Harlem Line, but it’s kind of last priority for conversion.

          NJT’s non-electrified lines are generally in the countryside (cheaper to rebuild bridges) and usually have high overhead clearances anyway.

          LIRR might have more issues, I haven’t looked at it much. The Atlantic Avenue section comes to mind as a potentially serious problem; the rest seems unlikely to be difficult.

      • Michael Schaeffer

        Exactly how high in the hundreds of millions. $700-900 Mill? And another thing, if the FRA Standards change, would the Bombardier Spacium work as an appropriate replacement for NJ Transit’s Comet Fleet? And do you think NJ Transit will sell its Bombardier Multilevel Cars to Amtrak to replace their retiring fleet of viewliners, and purchase Bombardier OMNEOS as a replacement? And when will the M7’s be retiring?

        • Michael Schaeffer

          Ignore the quote about the how high in the hundreds of millions from my last post. I’m also curious about electrifying NJ Transit’s and MTA’s non-electrified lines. How much would that be?

          • I’m not sure about the Spacium, honestly. The Omneo isn’t a very useful train for this sort of regional service – the door placement isn’t optimal, and the main feature is that it’s compatible with both low and high platforms. I’d go with one of the standard single-level regional trains coming from Europe, or the limited express trains (both single-level and bilevel) from Japan.

            I forget how much electrification the plan has of diesel-only lines. I think around 300 miles, which should cost a little less than a billion.

      • Michael Schaeffer

        Or the Talent 2, Aventra, or DBAG Class 423 and 425? And by the way Alon, have you got a final price estimate for your project?

        • Yes – those are newer models than what I had been thinking of.

          Remember that the price estimate for this system is dominated by the tunnels, not the electrification. If you asked me to come up with a range for the whole thing, I’d say $15-20 billion. Electrification of currently unelectrified lines, of which there are about 400 miles of route, would be about $1.2 billion. Additional electrification of gaps – namely, the remaining LIRR lines not on the map, and connecting the Staten Island lines to Jersey – would add about 100 miles and cost $300 million.

          In contrast, the appropriate budget is about $2-3 billion for each of the shorter underwater tunnels, $2-3 billion for the connections within Manhattan, and $5-8 billion for the Staten Island tunnel.

          • Michael Schaeffer

            1.2 Billion for the unelectrified lines, 1.4 billion to upgrade the catenary on the NEC and change the third rail to catenary on the existing electrified third-rail lines, and 300 million for electrification of the gaps, leads to a total of 2.9 Billion dollars to change the current rail lines to a standard, 25 kv 60 hz electrification. That correct Alon?

            • $700 million, not $1.4 billion. Add another $200 million for the NEC, but that would be done separately by Amtrak (at least, it should).

              • Michael Schaeffer

                So, it should be 1 Billion to change all the third rail lines to a 25 KV 60 Hz Overhead Standard and to electrify the gaps (I.E. Fully electrifying the current electrified lines, such as the Morristown Line, Montclair Boonton Line, Hudson Line, and North Jersey Coast Line), 1.2 Billion for the diesel only lines (Raritan Valley Line, West Shore Line, Bergen County Line) Total of 2.2 Billion Dollars. Perhaps we should write up a list of the individual projects needed (Ex. tunnels, track construction, and electrification projects). This would simplify things a bit for those who r new to this page. BTW, since the NEC will be having their electrification upgraded soon (Albeit for a short length), should it make sense for NJ Transit to change the 11 kv portion of the North Jersey Coast Line to 25 kv?

    • Ocean Railroader

      The Pennsyvinia Railroad had trains that could go over a 150 miles on hour in the 1960’s on the existing 11Kv 25Hz system and that was limited by the catenary being from the 1920’s.

      What they really need to do is go along the catenary lines and replace the old worn out catenary wires and add the new high speed rail tensioned brackets to the catenary masts and replace a few old catenary masts.

      • The 11 kV system has two important limitations. One is that it doesn’t provide enough juice for very high-speed trains; it’s completely fine for 150 mph, but not for 220 (outside the NEC, the only 11 kV in the New York area is a few miles of the North Jersey Coast Line). The other is that 25 kV is more standard, so it’s (marginally) easier to get trains for it.

        • Max Wyss

          Well, it is not 11 kV, but 15 kV, 16.7 Hz, but the German Neubaustrecke between Frankfurt Airport and Köln is electrified like that, and is operational for 330 km/h, with some rather serious (short) grades.

          I agree that 25 kV/50 Hz is the worldwide standard; but with modern converter power trains, it is not really an issue anymore; you can feed almost anything into the intermediate (DC) circuit from where the 3-phase AC is created.

          For catenary material, there are a few more suppliers having 25 kV material in their catalog than 15 kV (which would do well for 11 kV).

          • aw

            Wouldn’t 15kV catenary material work as well for 25kV? At the higher voltage, you would need fewer amps. Maybe you need bigger insulators though. It seems like you could have a compromise solution that would work for either 11kV or 25kV.

          • Ocean Railroader

            Amtrak needs to extend the 25Hz 11Kv system down south in to Vrginia where it can tap into the cheaper major power company Vriginia Power eletric system though a new system of genertors at eather it’s Chesterfield Power Station or the North Anna Power Plant. The power companies in New York and Phili Pay far more higher eletric prices for Amtrak and the 25Hz having it’s own power line system would allow it to send this cheaper power north into the NEC south of Baltomore.

        • Michael Schaeffer

          Will the upgrades currently planned for the NEC between Trenton and New Brunswick, change the voltage over to 25 kv 60hz? Or will they wait until the entire NEC between D.C. and New York has their electrification systems upgraded?

          • I believe it’s the latter. At least, none of the press releases mentions anything about changing the voltage.

            • Nathanael

              I’m hoping the alterations at least immunize the signal system against a future frequency change and provide wire suitable for changing voltage, so that it’s possible to simply swap out transformers when the time comes…. but like Alon I have seen absolutely nothing out of Amtrak indicating any intent to even prepare for changing the voltage. Though they did change a short section of the Hell Gate line, that’s it.

            • Michael Schaeffer

              It’s probable though. How hard would it be?

  • Michael Schaeffer

    I would like to make a suggestion regarding some of the lines. You should reroute the Brown Line (Formerly Raritan Valley Line) over the Staten Island North Shore Branch, through the Staten Island-Lower Manhattan Tunnel to Grand Central Terminal, where it would return to your originally proposed route. Add a new Linden station where the North Shore Branch crosses the NEC, and you can create another transfer station where Red Line passengers (Former Northeast Corridor and North Jersey Coast Line) can connect with the Brown Line. Rerouting the Brown Line would reduce pressures on the NEC. Also, capacity pressure could further be relieved as Red Line passengers traveling to Lower Manhattan and other areas from stations south of Linden could switch to the Brown Line to complete their journey. Let me know what you think Alon.

    • You know, I didn’t think about it. On the regional fantasy map on my computer, there’s a link from the North Shore Branch to the Raritan Valley Line, turning at Cranford, with an intermediate station at the junction with the NEC. It might make sense to instead make all Raritan Valley trains go through Staten Island.

      On the other hand, the NEC is much faster than the Staten Island lines; the North Shore Branch only has two tracks and has very tight stop spacing, and even with timed overtakes it can’t realistically support higher speeds than 100 km/h at rush hour. But it might have to come to that if traffic on the NEC and the Morris and Essex Lines exhausts the capacity of two tunnel pairs.

      • Brian

        Alon:

        I like the idea of the Staten Island tunnel, but justifying the costs as an immediate benefit would be the key. In New Jersey, Monouth, Ocean, and Middlesex Counties are the fast growing counties in NJ, seeking rail access to NY Penn. Since Governor Christie killed the ARC tunnel expanding capacity in to Penn Station doesn’t seem likely, where can space be attained? Your tunnel could alleviate congestion on approaches to New York Penn. Maybe branching off the capacity, especially on the North Jersey Coast Line and Northeast corridor would be the best way to free up capacity on the existing lines. I would think building a vertical lift on the Arthur Kills between Perth Amboy and Tottenville would allow North Jersey Coast to zip up on the SIR to the Fulton Station you had proposed. On the Northeast Corridor, trains could be funnelled off building a ramp north of Linden trains station, on the old B & O line Cranford to Staten Island line, use the Arthur Kill lift bridge and rebuild the North Shore Line, then have some trains go in to the tunnel from this direction as well. Not to forget the Staten Islanders, there would need to be express service for the stations furthest away. I would suggest express trains for the extreme ends (Tottenville and Arlington yard), but this train would need to make a stop before entering the tunnel to pick up local train customers. So, NJT trains running express would need to make 1 Staten Island stop before entering tunnel and Staten Island Railroad Express running (Tottenville area or Arlington Area) make 1 stop before entering the tunnel. Like wise, the SIR trains going away from Harbor tunnel could pick up riders from the extreme ends of Staten Island and drop them off at either Linden Station or Perth Amboy Station to transfer to trains heading to New York Penn. The major problem would be, could there be cooperation between the SIR and NJT, I think it is possible since the MTA hasn’t come through from their promise to the borough of Staten Island they inherited for past politicians a subway link to NYC. I feel that this proposal, in NJ and MTA could flip the bill together, would alleviate the major costs. Plus, this project could allow for additional rail capacity, since NJT is looking to expand in to Monmouth, Ocean, and Middlesex. These trains could be dispersed between Fulton St. Station and NY. Penn. However, PATH may lose in this situation since we are taking away PATH riders from these lines that would de-bark at Newark Penn to WTC, but the PATH during rush hours are horribly packed, so this project could be doing PATH a favor.

        Would like to hear feedback.

  • Michael Schaeffer

    The map should be revised a bit. BTW, since there is a lot of talk about developing the MOM (Monmouth Ocean Middlesex) Rail Link, that should be included in this new system, with the new line following either the Lakehurst to Matawan alternative or the Lakehurst to Monmouth Junction alternative, with the option to extend the line on an unused right of way to end in Downtown Toms River. Also, I figured out a way to implement through running while having catenary and third rail. We purchase trains from Bombardier with the capability to do dual running, similar to what the Eurostar had before High Speed 1 was built. We did build catenary for new construction, NJ Transit’s unelectrified lines and segments, as well as on the Danbury Branch, New Caanan Branch, the Hudson Line, and the LIRR Main Line and Ronkonkoma Branch (With the last 3 being done to accomodate dedicated high speed rail tracks, built along the corridor. Then, we will bring up the Third Rail lines to catenary over time, and remove the shoes needed for third rail running, like Eurostar did.

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