A Riel (Estate) Plan for NYC

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Riel, 2015

Born and bred in Brooklyn, I firmly believe that the New York region remains the cultural capital of the world. With more people in the metropolitan area than in the entire continent of Australia, New York continues to harbor diverse and creative opportunities due to its inherent dynamism and density, catalyzed by the MTA. But after circumnavigating the globe, twice, in order to study transportation planning in more than 30 countries on five continents, and throughout the United States, I have realized that New York will not be able to remain at the helm for long if its infrastructure is not renewed, enhanced, and expanded for the 21st century. Climate change is already threatening the resiliency of the region’s infrastructure, while our region’s political climate and security are also paramount.


Hurricane Irene in Brooklyn (Riel, 2011)


New York remains the world’s premier global city, followed closely by London, and Asian hubs continue to rise. But in London, a 73-mile railway line, Crossrail, nears completion, while New York is nearing completion of only a few additional miles of subway, the first phase of the Second Avenue Subway. (And due to money and politics, this subway route only has two tracks, so express service won’t be an option once the route is finished. And how are they going to repair it with 24/7 service if service cannot be rerouted onto express tracks? With more delays.)

Author @ Second Avenue Subway

Author @ East Side Access


Author @ South Ferry Terminal


Nevertheless… The MTA is working on countless other exciting initiatives, as evident in its recently funded Capital Plan – such as East Side Access, the 7 Extension, the Fulton Center, and the South Ferry Terminal. Courtesy of the MTA:

  • East Side Access, will bring Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) commuters into Grand Central Terminal, creating a terminal on Manhattan’s East Side to complement Penn Station on the West Side.
  • The Second Avenue Subway will relieve pressure on the overcrowded Lexington Avenue line and improve access to Lower Manhattan. The full length will run from 125th Street and Second Avenue to Hanover Square in Lower Manhattan. Phase I, which will construct the 96th, 86th, and 72nd Street Stations and tie into the existing system at a new station at 63rd Street, is now underway.
  • Extension of subway service to the far West Side will provide a link to the Javits Convention Center at 34th Street and 11th Avenue and support the transformation of the surrounding manufacturing and industrial neighborhood into a mixed-use community.
  • The Fulton Transit Center will improve access and passenger flow throughout an existing complex that connects subway lines. The design includes an underground concourse that will connect the Transit Center to the World Trade Center site and the subway lines there, as well as the PATH train to New Jersey.
  • The new South Ferry Terminal, now complete, replaced the existing single-track loop with a two-track station, greatly improving passenger flow at this critical intermodal point that connects the subway to the Staten Island Ferry and numerous express and local buses as well as the Whitehall Street subway station. The improvement supports better access to Lower Manhattan destinations, including the World Trade Center site and historic Battery Park.

7 Line at Hudson Yards (Riel, 2015)


But Asian cities are building modern subways from scratch, and/or expanding rapidly. Established global cities, such as Tokyo, Seoul, Hong Kong, and Singapore continue to expand their subways, while Beijing, Shanghai, and many other Chinese cities continue to build rapidly. Global cities compete with New York for trade and investment on a global scale. Where will a bank build its next office tower, creating thousands of local jobs and opportunities? Where will a school build its next campus, fostering innovation and fueling a creative economy? Where are the young and educated moving? New York must balance these global considerations with local concerns. How can the city alleviate affordability concerns while also improving its infrastructure and livability?


MTR T.O.D. in Hong Kong (Riel, 2015)


If given unlimited resources, of course, the MTA should expand the system. The L Line and the 7 Line should connect on the West Side and form a loop. The L’s B Division platforms should be widened in order to fit A Division trains, and the L could become an A Division line. The L already has CBTC, and the 7 is getting it soon. And yes, there are a myriad of additional extension proposals, but let’s stick with prioritizing the Second Avenue Subway for now…


Triboro RX (Courtesy of RPA)


Yet unlike Chinese subways, which have all been built within the past few decades, with current technology, the MTA is dealing with an extremely old system, whose maintenance was deferred for decades in the 70s and 80s. Thus, the MTA must continue to spend most of its limited resources bringing its infrastructure into the 21st century. Or, since a lot of it is failing or falling apart, at least bringing it back into the 20th century. We all know too many stations that desperately need attention. Paint chips off ceilings, goo drips from wall tiles, sludge sits on track beds, and garbage stains platforms. Ironically, the subway was originally created in order to alleviate health concerns resulting from congestion in Manhattan, but now, it’s become a public health hazard itself…


Chambers Street (Riel, 2014)


Chambers Street (Riel, 2014)


Chambers Street (Riel, 2014)


Thankfully, the MTA has been fixing up stations. For instance, only a tiny swath of chipped ceiling remains at West 4th Street. How hard can it be to do this simple fix on all stations? And then keep it maintained?


West 4th Street (Riel, 2015)


West 4th Street (Riel, 2015)


West 4th Street (Riel, 2015)


But on the streets, too, the Department of Transportation needs to continue to repair and maintain our infrastructure, most of which was built from 1890 to 1930. Gridlock Sam has already warned us that we’re entering a period of rapid failures throughout the city, as most of our infrastructure is quite old. Concrete falling from a bridge? Water main burst? According to Sam Schwartz via Crain’s New York Business:

What’s on the transportation horizon for New York this year?

My concern is there will be a major infrastructure failure sometime in 2016 or 2017.

A bridge collapse?

More likely a concrete failure, which will result in engineers shutting it down. The concrete will either rain down on the traffic below or punch a hole through the deck. That hole could be as big as a car. Or it’ll be a major water-main burst. We may see Fifth Avenue underwater with the sun shining.

Why now?

Our infrastructure is reaching the end of its useful life. The big period of building in New York City was 1890 to 1930. It was such a rapid period of building that now there’s going to be a rapid period of failure.

Are there any particularly problematic spots?

Most worrisome to me is the BQE system in Brooklyn Heights, the triple cantilever. That needs to be addressed immediately.

Probably the Kosciuszko Bridge—that’s also a structure that has the potential for some failures. [Construction of a replacement is underway.]

Your Move New York Fair Plan would toll the East River bridges and raise money for infrastructure projects. What are its prospects?

We are waiting for the “three men in the room.” The governor hasn’t killed it, which we take as a pretty good sign.

What about subways?

Sadly, we’re going to see pretty much the same subway system we had. At the end of 2016, I predict that Governor Cuomo will get on a Second Avenue subway and ride it from 96th Street to Times Square. It will open to the public sometime in 2017. [North Brooklyn] riders are going to still stuff into the L train, or watch three or four trains go by until there’s room. We won’t see anything like [London’s universal fare card] until 2019.

You drove a cab while in college. What do you think will happen with Uber and taxis?

The mayor’s going to come out with a report; Uber is going to instantly challenge it. The mayor may try to introduce some legislation. He’s going to find himself weakened by his City Council—Uber has bought up just about every major lobbyist. So to see a cap [on car services’ growth] is unlikely. If the mayor decides to go a pricing way, Uber has already said to me that they would support a pricing formula that was fair as long as it was applied to everybody the same way.

Is the number of for-hire vehicles going to keep expanding?

What we had in the 1910s and 1920s, the car came up—gee, what a good business! And we had a depression. So everybody just took his own car and made it into a taxi. And if you go to Moscow now, everybody does that, and that’s why Moscow doesn’t move. So if you carry Uber to infinity, you have paralysis. This was so disruptive. We’ve never seen anything this dramatic, but there’s something that’s coming that’s much bigger than this. And that’s the self-driving cars. The Uber driver has a life of about 15 years, and then it’s going to be autonomous vehicles anywhere, any time you want them.

Also on the streets: I’ve found that the Department of Sanitation rarely enforces dumping violations. I cannot think of another American city where residents consider heaps of trash along sidewalks to be acceptable. Yes, Manhattan was not designed to have alleys because the elite and influential New Yorkers at the time charged in establishing a comprehensive street plan for Manhattan viewed alleyways as dangerous to the health and well-being of the city. But because DOS does not pick up commercial trash, these businesses contract private companies to haul their garbage, and often, these irregular schedules create havoc on the streets. Trash piles and rats arrive.

And while these are public health issues that New Yorkers can see (and smell) easily, they are only the tip of the iceberg. For instance, subway passengers are rightly frustrated by delays, or by a lack of cell service. But in order to tackle the root causes of delays, signal systems would need to be updated, so that increased ridership can be met by more frequent service. In order to fix signal systems, work on the right-of-way would need to be conducted, causing more delays and service changes. And since the subway operates 24/7, delays are going to be common as track, line equipment, and line structures are renewed and enhanced. People also forget about electrical substations, pumps, and tunnel lighting. And what about delays from actual train problems, or adding countdown clocks in stations? Well, in order to maintain trains, the subway’s shops and yards need to be maintained. And in order to install countdown clocks in the B Division, the signal system would need to be updated, so NYCT knows exactly where trains are located; in fact, they spent billions in order to update signals for the A Division so that countdown clocks could be installed. Unfortunately, the MTA does not do a good job explaining why they have these problems. Perhaps passengers would be more understanding of delays if the authority had a better narrative. Yet they have a hard enough time even announcing that there’ll be delays


NYCT 20th Century Signaling Infrastructure (Riel, 2015)


Courtesy of MTA


But we mustn’t lose hope for a brighter future for our city. We must dream big and build big. We must reform our zoning and land use in order to streamline development, and make it easier for housing to be constructed, thereby increasing the supply and quenching the demand, so as to alleviate cost. We must encourage public-private partnerships. Land along subway corridors should continue to be up-zoned, and developers should be allowed to build taller if they build affordable units and contribute towards the renovation of nearby subway stations. Moreover, the MTA’s far-flung assets, such as its yards and depots, should be exempt from municipal zoning and land use laws, so as to incentivize developers to construct transit-oriented, transit-owned developments atop, wherever feasible. These are already cost-prohibitive sites, due to their location, their size, and the costs of decking (and ventilating) over active sites with complex machinery operating 24/7. Zoning does not need to add to the mess. The city needs to be even more dynamic and dense, while also being livable.

The MTA provides for a sustainable commute, reducing GHG emissions, and more MTA ridership increases farebox revenue, allowing them to, perhaps, one day, become self-sufficient. And more MTA real estate revenue, however marginal, cannot hurt. The same can be said for Port Authority assets and air rights, and, essentially, all public assets. Could developers build atop schools and libraries, and contribute funds towards renovating these New Deal (or earlier) buildings? This is the type of creative financing that New York needs. Enough of the siloization! We need choice!

Riel Estate

mta3 mta2 mta mta2


P3 Station Entrance (Riel, 2014)


P3 Station Entrance (Riel, 2015)


New York’s physical infrastructure — from the Brooklyn Bridge to the IRT, BMT, and IND — allowed it to come together and become, arguably, the capital of the world. The powers, identities, and ideologies behind the creation of these networks believed in regionalism and understood that transportation allowed for people to access jobs and opportunities. But its people are the true reasons why it has succeeded for centuries. New York is fueled by its diversity and multiculturalism, and its people must be protected from displacement. While neighborhoods are always changing, a balance must be found between change and preservation, and between place and people. Urban planning can help to create meaningful communities and (re)New York City.


NYC DOT Brooklyn Bridge (Riel, 2014)


Port Authority George Washington Bridge & Air Rights Buildings (Courtesy of APA)


Lincoln Tunnel Helix (Riel, 2015)


Since most Port Authority and MTA expansion projects are unfortunately never going to happen, we need to think creatively. The city needs to encourage choice, by regulating informal transportation opportunities, rather than banning them. When it comes to choice, the city, too, needs to foster school choice, and allow schools to build housing atop their structures in order to fuel Department of Education revenue. Transportation hubs, too, need to be built taller. There is no excuse for a four story Fulton Center in Lower Manhattan. The MTA may not have a profit motive or real estate expertise, but if they are going to be spending billions renovating and relocating to a new HQ only a few blocks away along Broadway, then they might’ve simply built a HQ atop their own eminent domain property.



Informal Transit Map (Source: http://goo.gl/kte5ZW)


School on MTA Property (Riel, 2014)


Hudson Terminal T.O.D. of Hudson & Manhattan RR (Predecessor to WTC and PATH)


The most important transportation project of the century may be a transportation policy: congestion pricing, which is already commonplace in many European cities. But we cannot simply ‘transport transportation‘ here, as our own context must frame the discussion. NYCDOT bridges are not tolled because they are directly controlled by the City, which, over one hundred years ago, removed tolls on the East River bridges. But as public authorities, the MTA’s and Port Authority’s bridges and tunnels, some of the longest and busiest in the world, are tolled, supplying revenue to their respective public transit operations. Tolling our free bridges will reduce congestion, alleviate public health concerns, and positively impact the Mayor’s Vision Zero transportation safety policies. Funds will be used to maintain roadways, commuter rails, and subways. And better subway service helps drivers, too, by keeping more vehicles off of the roads throughout the region of 20+ million people.


The MTA network spans 5,000 miles, with more than 2,000 miles of track—enough to stretch from New York to Phoenix, Arizona. They use enough power to light the city of Buffalo, and their bridges have enough support cabling to circle the Earth more than 3.5 times. One in three public transit riders in the U.S. are on the MTA network. Put together, these assets are worth nearly $1 trillion and require ongoing investment to keep them safe and reliable. Thus, the MTA is working on exciting projects, as detailed in their 2015-2019 Capital Plan:

  • Continue the progress we’ve made on two of the largest transportation projects in the nation: the next phase of the Second Avenue Subway and East Side Access, which will bring the LIRR into Grand Central Terminal. Both of these projects will add capacity to our system, and improve the reliability of our service by giving customers new ways to get where they’re going—to, from, and within New York City.

  • Complete the Long Island Rail Road Double Track project, which will allow us to add off-peak service in both directions for intra-Island commuting.

  • Replace our 1930s-era subway signals with Communications-Based Train Control, increasing capacity and reliability while improving safety.

  • Introduce a host of service improvements, including a new fare payment system, mobile onboard ticketing, and more real-time service information with new apps to match.

  • Continue to modernize our system with new trains, buses, and Help Points.

  • Review Transportation Reinvention Commission recommendations, so Capital Program investments maximize economic growth and better address the challenges of climate change and regional population growth.

Then, there’s Penn Access:


… And all of the Port Authority’s visions, as well as the City’s. But these agencies and authorities need to cooperate and interconnect! Imagine through-running from New Jersey to the US Open or JFK, or from Long Island to EWR. Indeed, Penn Station (and/or Moynihan Station) should be a station, and not a terminal. Currently, the region’s commuter rails require separate ticketing, and at Penn Station, NJT, LIRR, and Amtrak are clogged by politics. Unlike the Center City Commuter Connection in Philadelphia, and unlike the RER in Paris or S-Bahn in Berlin or Crossrail (& Overground) in London, our commuter railroads are stymied by separate agencies and state boundaries. Penn Station was designed for through-running, but currently, conductors need to check their trains to make sure no one’s there before heading to rail yards; Amtrak needs to clean their cars and restock their cafe cars. According to ReThinkNYC, “these capacity limits prevent riders on certain NJ Transit lines from taking single-seat rides into Manhattan (tunnel capacity is another constraint), and this also means that Metro-North is unable to offer service to Penn Station from New Haven”…


And, what about updating the PA Bus Terminal? Or light rail along crosstown routes? Or more public spaces, more ferries, more bike lane enforcement from NYPD? Getting the new Hudson Tubes built? Expanding BRT (Select Bus Service) and coordinating with DOT in order to keep buses moving faster (i.e., transit signal priority), whilst working with NYPD to enforce bus lanes? Courtesy of NYC.gov:

Select Bus Service Features

Select Bus Service can feature a number of different elements designed to improve bus speed and reliability, as well as enhance the customer experience. The New York City Department of Transportation, New York City Transit, and MTA Bus study each Select Bus Service corridor in depth, and seek substantial community feedback, in order to design the right set of improvements for each corridor. These can include:

Enhanced road markings will increase the visibility of bus lanes. Many bus lanes are colored with dark red terra cotta paint, and all bus lanes include white BUS ONLY markings. The red treatment has been shown to help make sure motorists are aware of the bus lane, and do not drive or park in the lane during restricted hours.

Curbside bus lanes

Curbside bus lanes are travel lanes for buses at the curb. Curbside bus lanes are only in effect during certain times of the day and can be used by regular traffic during other times. For hours of operation, check the on-street curb regulation sign.

Offset bus lanes

Off-set bus lanes are travel lanes for buses one lane away from the curb. These lanes serve buses as well as right-turning traffic and emergency vehicles. The lane next to the curb may be used for parking, loading, or kept entirely clear.

Bus lane cameras

Bus lane cameras are used to enforce bus lane rules on selected streets around the city; cameras may only be used on specific corridors authorized by the New York State Legislature. All potential camera violations are reviewed by a DOT employee before being issued, to ensure that a violation took place. On all corridors, DOT works closely with the New York Police Department to enforce bus lane rules. All bus lane violations are adjudicated by the Department of Finance, not by DOT.

Off-board fare collection

Off-board fare collection means that bus riders pay with a MetroCard or coins at a sidewalk ticket vending machine at the Select Bus Service bus stop before they get on the bus. Riders may then board the bus through any door, without needing to show the ticket to the bus operator. This shortens the time the bus is stopped at the station substantially, compared to the traditional method of entering one at a time through the front door. NYCT employs fare inspectors who may randomly inspect tickets to ensure compliance; passengers without a ticket are subject to a $100 fare evasion summons.

Bus bulb stations

Bus bulb stations are locations where sidewalks have been widened to meet an offset bus lane or general travel lane. Bus bulbs provide more room for people to wait, provide more room for amenities like bus shelters, benches, and greenery, and they allow buses to travel straight into and out of the station without pulling over. These stations also have a high curb wherever possible that will be near-level with the floor of the Select Bus Service buses, making it easier and faster for all passengers to get on and off the bus.

Transit signal priority, uses GPS to track when a bus nears an intersection, and turns traffic signals green sooner, or keeps them green longer, allowing the bus to keep moving through the intersection and shortening the overall time of the bus trip. Implementing transit signal priority also includes coordinating the traffic signals on the corridor for all vehicles, which improves travel times for both buses and other traffic on the street.

Minimum bus stop spacing allows buses to travel faster by not having to stop very frequently. Select Bus Service routes have a simple route pattern with stops farther apart than typical bus routes, such as at major destinations or transfer points. Local buses will typically continue to serve all stops.

Real time arrival information provides riders with how far away the next arriving bus is, as provided by the MTA Bus Time system. Real-time information can be viewed on real-time signs located at bus shelters and is available by cell phone or over the internet.

Upgraded signage on all routes will establish when the bus lanes are in effect. At a minimum, this will include at least one sign per block, positioned for high visibility for motorists. Additionally, large overhead signs will be located along the corridor to ensure that the rules of the road are clear.

Pedestrian and driver safety is an important aspect of SBS design. Features such as neck-downs and pedestrian islands are used to shorten crosswalks and increase safety for pedestrians while enhanced street organization improves safety for drivers, bikers, and pedestrians alike.

New bus shelters are installed by Cemusa, the city’s bus shelter franchisee. Bus shelters are installed at all Select Bus Service stations where physically feasible, with double shelters used where possible.

New bus sheltersNew bus shelters


Plus, some of the best visionaries in the city, at ReThinkNYC, want to update LaGuardia Airport while also solving some of the region’s other problems. According to Business Insider:

Last month, US Vice President Joe Biden joined Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York to unveil a much needed $4 billion renovation to New York’s “third world” LaGuardia Airport.

Criticism of the plan to revitalize New York’s smallest and most despised airport came quickly. Most notably, there were complaints about a lack of adequate transportation to the terminals and decreased parking on-site.

While politicians patted themselves on the back in front of the decaying terminal, thousands of commuters faced repeated delays into and out of Penn Station, the busiest rail hub in North America, because of issues with aging infrastructure in the century-old tunnels beneath the Hudson River.

A group called ReThink NYC has a plan to alleviate both these issues, ease Penn Station overcrowding, raise the airport above the flood plane it now inhabits and extend the runways to standard length.

The hallmark of the group’s proposal is an intermodal rail hub, with connections to Amtrak and Metro-North, as well as a hotel and convention center, in the Bronx just across the bay from LaGuardia. 

The lead designer of the group, Jim Venturi, told Business Insider that inspiration for the lofty plans came from the recently opened Fulton Center, a retail and transit complex near the World Trade Center, which overran projected time and costs to the tune of seven years and $650 million.

“I thought, ‘I have other ways to spend $1.4 billion,'” Venturi said. “And eventually I thought to myself, ‘Well instead of criticizing someone else’s things why don’t I come up with my own ideas?'”

ReThink NYC’s plan solves more than just LaGuardia’s woes. It would also increase capacity at the clogged Penn Station, open space in the Sunnyside Yard, where trains from Penn Station bide their time between commuter runs, and allow easier access to the airport from the Northern Suburbs.

“If you look at what Biden said last year, and you compare that with the scheme that was proposed, it doesn’t meet the goals that Biden set out,” Venturi said. “It is an evolutionary change, not a revolutionary one, and Biden specifically counseled against that.”

It’s a big bet, and it certainly won’t be cheap or easy, but big projects are what’s missing in the new New York, Venturi believes.

“LaGuardia, with its proximity to the Northeast Corridor, has the opportunity to become the greatest rail connected airport in the world,” he said. “And it’s not hard to do it.”

Mr. Venturi, for the New York Times:

“I disagree with the type of thinking that we’ve had after Moses, where changes have to be small, and people’s first reaction when you bring up an idea is ‘It’ll never happen,’ ” he said. “That’s what stops you.”

He added: “It’s 50 years after Robert Moses left power. And yet we still live in a Moses reality. We haven’t updated it. I think Moses wouldn’t want to live in a Moses reality today.”

Queens needs a real downtown, accessible by commuter rail. Midtown Manhattan is right across the East River from Sunnyside, but Sunnyside is no commercial hub, partly because it is not a transit hub. Yet subways already stop there, and so, too, could Metro-North, Long Island Rail Road, New Jersey Transit, and Amtrak. This hub would be one stop away from LaGuardia, which would be extended, expanded, and raised (to prevent flooding) towards Randall’s Island. Currently, runways are too short for larger airplanes, and they also cause weather delays, which impact the entire domestic flight network, and force planes to circle around the skies, emitting GHG, awaiting arrival. With LGA connected to the Northeast Corridor, only a few minutes from Midtown Manhattan, New York will be ready for the 21st century.


And, what about connecting the PATH with NYCT? Bringing the PATH at WTC into the 6 Line? Or the PATH at 33rd into the IND 6th Avenue, if it fits? Alternatively, bringing the 7 to Secaucus? I know that PATH goes to New Jersey and the MTA is a New York public authority, but perhaps Governor Christie would be fine allowing the MTA to operate PATH? Plus, surely the self-sufficient Port Authority would also be fine if it no longer had to deal with PATH, as it is a big financial drain on the authority, propped up by bridge and tunnel tolls, as well as airport and port fees. And, New Jersey could still help to pay for it, just as the MTA currently pays New Jersey Transit to operate the Metro-North Port Jervis branch, and just as Connecticut DOT (ConnDOT) shares the costs associated with Metro-North’s New Haven Line in Connecticut. So, there is precedent in the region for more inter-state, inter-agency collaboration! Moreover, with PATH under MTA control, as simply an additional two or three subway lines, there will be free transfers, and it will be interconnected with the rest of the subway, fueling growth in Hudson County and Newark.


What if the PA, NJT, and MTA were actually integrated? Courtesy of MTA.info


Trans-Hudson Railroad (Prior to Bankruptcy & PATH)


There’s a lot to do in order to renew, enhance, and expand our city and region for the 21st century. Will money and politics get in the way? Or will a champion be able to frame a fair and balanced narrative, and bring us together, so that we can be proud of our infrastructure, and so that we can continue to attract the best and brightest? Because New York needs new, creative leadership, which understands the interdisciplinary and interconnected importance of transportation infrastructure.


Born and bred in Brooklyn, Rayn Riel is a graduate student at Tufts University with comparative and contextual experience in transportation, urban planning, and international urban development in 30+ countries on five continents and 25+ U.S. states in the Northeast, South, Midwest, and West. He’s designed his own undergraduate urban-related degree, he’s founded Tufts’ only undergraduate urban planning student organization, and he’s also been working as a GIS Lab Assistant. He is particularly interested in reforming joint development real estate T.O.D. practices in New York City, and he has received grants in order to circumnavigate the globe twice in order to research T.O.D. contextually. He’s written about this topic extensively and intensively as a Senior Editor at PlaNYourCity.net and for his Honors Thesis.

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37 Comments on “A Riel (Estate) Plan for NYC”

  1. Rayn Riel December 27, 2015 at 11:21 pm #

    Or… bring PATH under NJT control?

    “Just a few weeks ago, the Rudin Center released a report on the future of the Port Authority that cast the PATH train’s fate into question. PATH, you see, is a drag on the PA’s finances as fares don’t come close to covering the exceedingly high operating costs and, unlike in New York with the MTA, there are no dedicated taxes or fees that support the popular trans-Hudson rail connection. The money for the system comes from the rest of the Port Authority’s user fees, and as more and more projects demand PA resources, PATH is starting to drag down everything else.”

    (The PA is legally self-sufficient, which is why both NY and NJ send their expensive projects to the PA, since it won’t require raising taxes. Rather, it’ll require raising bridge and tunnel tolls, port fees, airport fees, and so on and so forth, but Christie and Cuomo wouldn’t necessarily be ‘responsible’ for that directly…)


    And show it on NYC Subway map?


    After all, the PATH “operates 24/7, provides frequent service with short headways (time between trains), accepts the same pay-per-ride MetroCard as the Subway for fare payment, and has six underground stations in Manhattan”. NYC Subway map already shows the Staten Island Railway, which is not technically part of the NYC Subway and has longer headways than PATH. (And should we also show SBS routes on the NYC Subway map?)



    • Rayn Riel December 31, 2015 at 4:37 pm #



    • PA December 31, 2015 at 7:55 pm #



    • Rayn Riel January 1, 2016 at 11:13 pm #



      • Rayn Riel January 1, 2016 at 11:15 pm #


        “New York City Subway, operated by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), is the seventh busiest rapid transit rail system in the world, and the busiest in the US, with over 1.7 billion riders in 2012. Including the Staten Island Railway, the system provides service 24 hours a day, every day, in all five boroughs of New York City.”

        “Port Authority Trans-Hudson (PATH), operated by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ), connects the New York City borough of Manhattan with the northern New Jersey municipalities of Harrison, Hoboken, Jersey City, and Newark, and carried 72.6 million riders in 2012, more than the entire public transit systems in Atlanta, Los Angeles, or Miami.”

        “PATH is Incorrectly Represented – PATH is a rapid-transit system. It operates 24/7, provides frequent service with short headways (time between trains), accepts the same pay-per-ride MetroCard as the Subway for fare payment, and has six underground stations in Manhattan (four with direct physical connections to the New York City Subway). The current fleet of PATH train cars (PA5) are an updated version of the Subway cars (R142A) used on the 4 and 6 trains. However, PATH is represented on the Subway Map using the visual style labeled “Commuter rail service” in the map’s key: pale blue “railroad track” lines, square station markers, and small, lightweight text labels. This appears to be an incorrect application of the MTA visual style guide, and doesn’t effectively communicate to Subway riders that PATH is also a rapid-transit service”

        “Hudson Waterfront is Missing – PATH connects New York and New Jersey, but the Hudson Waterfront and stations across the river from Manhattan are missing from the current Subway Map, so Subway riders who want to connect to PATH to reach destinations in New Jersey currently see no information about where PATH can take them”


      • Rayn Riel January 1, 2016 at 11:16 pm #


        “There is room within the current boundaries of the Subway Map to include the Hudson Waterfront and four of the seven PATH stations in New Jersey. Add geographical representation of Hudson Waterfront to left edge of map, and include labels for Jersey City and Hoboken, waterfront cities with PATH stations. Add black circles and labels to represent stations at Exchange Place, Grove Street, Hoboken, and Newport. Add an arrow to indicate that service continues off map to Journal Square, Harrison, and Newark.”

        “Transit maps like the New York City Subway Map are more than just way-finding tools; they become cultural assets that frame how people see the city. Over 5 million people ride the subway on weekdays, and New York City received over 58 million visitors in 2012, which means the Subway Map is one of the most widely recognized public transit maps in the world. Besides appearing on Subway trains and in stations, the map is featured in apps, clothing, home furnishings, souvenirs, sporting goods, toys, works of art, and derivative works, like this Super Mario-themed design.”

        “Including PATH on the Subway Map in a manner that better reflects its role as New York’s “second subway” improves knowledge of cross-Hudson rapid transit among the largest audience of transit riders in the New York area, supports greater transit use and economic activity on both sides of the Hudson, and acknowledges the economic, cultural, and geographic ties between Manhattan and the area of Hudson County that has been described as New York City’s “sixth borough”.”

        “For the MTA and Port Authority, it would serve as another example of smart inter-agency cooperation that directly benefits the transit-riding public. The Subway Map already displays AirTrain JFK, which is operated by the Port Authority, using a visual style consistent with the rest of the Subway Map. This kind of cooperation for the public benefit is seen in other cities, too. For example, the Philadelphia Rail Transit Map shows rapid transit services provided by two agencies: Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA), which operates most lines, and Delaware River Port Authority, which operates the PATCO Line connecting Philadelphia with Camden and several other points in New Jersey. The SEPTA map key includes the disclaimer “not a SEPTA service” next to the PATCO Line, but represents the line using a visual style consistent with all other rapid transit lines in Philadelphia.”


  2. Rayn Riel December 28, 2015 at 1:05 pm #

    And, finally, RE: UNIVERSAL FARE CARDS…

    What if NJT, MTA, and Port Authority created a universal fare card, making it easier to travel throughout the region? And it could double as a debit card, being used to make payments in transit-owned shopping malls, incentivizing transit-oriented economic development?

    In Paris, they’re making a universal fare card for the region — without it doubling as a debit card (which they have in Hong Kong) — and they are reducing the commuter rail (RER) costs. In New York, this would mean that one could take LIRR or Metro-North in Brooklyn, Queens, and The Bronx instead of the subway, for around the same price, and, it would also be around the same price in outer zones, too.

    But should public transportation try to pay for itself, or should it be a social service, with more assistance from the government? In Paris, they’ve decided that it should be a social service. And it’s easier to decide this there, as France is a unitary state, centralized, while in the New York region, there are three states and three governors to deal with… And, the New York region is also larger and more populous.

    For more: http://www.thetransportpolitic.com/2015/03/30/broadening-the-city-through-a-universal-fare-card/

    “The Paris region plans a single monthly fare for transit access, eliminating zones for pass holders, with the dual goals of encouraging more transit use and social integration”

    “What if it were possible to travel as much as you’d like by train or bus within Connecticut, from Stamford to New Haven, Hartford, New London, Waterbury, Danbury, Putnam, and hundreds of other towns, and then to travel within them, all on one transit fare card at the monthly price of just $76?”

    “Everyone in the region with this fare card will now benefit from unlimited travel on the region’s metro, bus, regional rail (RER), and commuter trains. The fare policy change was a political decision. It responds to the sense that the Paris region, as frequently reported, has become increasing geographically unequal, as manifested by poverty in the suburbs and wealth in the inner city. By universalizing access to transit everywhere, people who live in the suburbs and commute to the city no longer have to pay more than their counterparts living within the city. It promotes the idea that access to transportation throughout the region is more of a right than something that you only use when you can afford it or really need it. Moreover, it reflects the fact that as population and jobs have decentralized, commutes are no longer primarily suburb-to-center city; a zonal system radiating from the center is a relic of that antiquated economic geography.”

    “Equally important, it is an aggressively pro-transit policy that further reduces the cost of riding the train or bus compared to commuting by car; this effort corresponds directly to the national and regional government’s massive investment in suburban tramway and BRT lines, plus a vast new network of automated metro lines. Perhaps its greatest benefit is that it encourages people to take the fastest services available on any trip, while current fare policies give people discounts for taking slower local services. For example, while rides on local buses or the metro are currently priced at a single fare per trip, no matter the distance, rides on much faster regional rail or commuter rail services (even when they’re in the same alignment and cover the same stops as the bus or metro lines) are charged by zone, which can significantly increase the cost and likely dissuades many riders from traveling as quickly as they could.”

    “Of course, this fare policy has its tradeoffs. By eliminating the current zonal policy, the region is reducing the financial disincentive that currently inhibits people from using the system more. While that may mean fewer cars on the road—a benefit—it may also mean more discretionary trips on an already-crowded network, and it may mean eliminating the financial reason many have not to take longer trips, which violates the user pays principle. With several of Paris’ main transit arteries already at or above capacity, will more riders be a good thing for the region? Will the region be able to handle the congestion?”

    “Most importantly, the decision to spend hundreds of millions of euros on reduced fares could mean hundreds of millions of euros not being spent on better transit service every year—and some would argue that the best way to improve transportation is to expand service, not to lower fares. Indeed, given a constrained budget, choosing to devote new revenues to reduced fares probably means something else is losing out. (Or, looking at the economy as a whole, raising taxes to spend this money on fare policy means less money for companies to either spend on salaries or profits.)”


  3. Rayn Riel December 30, 2015 at 11:22 pm #

    Final comments… In summary, before starting new expansions, the MTA should renew and enhance their existing network. Yes, finish Phase 1 of the Second Avenue Subway. But then focus on cleaning existing stations, bringing in local artwork and placemaking, and WiFi. Fortifying for flooding and other climate-related threats. Installing more CBTC signaling and countdown clocks. Designing a 21st century universal farecard, working with the Port Authority and NJT, and ferry companies. Integrating PATH into subway maps alongside SBS and ferry services. Advocating for congestion pricing and zoning reform, for more transit-oriented, transit-owned joint development. And along existing ROW, an LIRR Sunnyside station, and Penn Access Metro-North stations, for more regional commuting options.


    • Rayn Riel January 8, 2016 at 2:29 pm #

      Cuomo’s Multibillion-Dollar Wish List

      Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo of New York has been busily announcing big projects that would put him in a league with the master builder Robert Moses — if he can figure out how to finance them. That’s a big “if,” since the price tags run into tens of billions of dollars and the governor hasn’t been too forthcoming on where he thinks all that money will come from.

      Tunneling to New Jersey
      Governor Cuomo and Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey said their states would pick up half the cost of a badly needed new rail tunnel under the Hudson River, which could reach $20 billion. (A shaft, above, has been built to protect the tunnel’s right of way under the Hudson Yards project.)

      Javits Center’s Growth Spurt
      Mr. Cuomo said Thursday that the Javits Center, a convention and exhibition hall on the Far West Side of Manhattan, could be expanded by 1.2 million square feet under a $1 billion project “paid for by the Javits Center within existing resources.”

      Pennsylvania Station, Version 3.0
      Under Mr. Cuomo’s plan for an “Empire Station Complex,” the third Pennsylvania Station in 105 years would be created on the site of the current claustrophobic waiting room. A new Long Island Rail Road concourse would run along 33rd Street.

      From Post Office to Waiting Room
      Also as part of the “Empire Station,” the central court of the James A. Farley Building, New York’s general post office, would be turned into a railroad waiting room and shopping center. Planners have dreamed of this for 23 years.

      A New La Guardia Airport
      Mr. Cuomo promised last summer that the decrepit and unloved La Guardia Airport would be replaced “in its entirety” by 2021. The $4 billion estimate sounds low, since this was the cost of the World Trade Center Transportation Hub alone.

      Among Billions, Money for Utica Avenue
      The $29 billion, five-year infrastructure plan for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to which Mr. Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio agreed last year includes $5 million to pay for a study exploring a Utica Avenue subway extension in Brooklyn.

      A Third Track for the L.I.R.R.
      In Nassau County on Tuesday, the governor said he would push a plan to add a third track on the Main Line of the Long Island Rail Road, between Floral Park and Hicksville. He offered few financing details.

      Bridging the Tappan Zee Anew
      A new Tappan Zee Bridge, linking Westchester and Rockland Counties over the Hudson River, is under construction. But it is not entirely clear how its $3.9 billion cost will be fully financed.

      Four Stops in the Bronx
      The addition of four new Metro-North Railroad stations in the Bronx — at Co-op City, Morris Park, Parkchester and Hunts Point — has been on the governor’s agenda for two years.


    • RR January 22, 2016 at 7:26 pm #


      People aged 18 – 29 aren’t buying cars like they used to, and even G.M. knows it: The New York Times reported last week that the American automobile manufacturer has turned to MTV as a way to seduce young consumers.

      But Sam Schwartz, aka ‘Gridlock Sam,’ sees the downturn in four-wheel purchases as a reason to build three cyclist and pedestrian-only bridges that access Manhattan from Brooklyn, Queens, Hoboken and Jersey City.

      Last week, Schwartz, a traffic engineer and former New York City Department of Transportation deputy commissioner, released his blueprint for the future of New York City’s transportation infrastructure: “A More Equitable Transportation Formula for NY Metro Area.” Schwartz, who has worked on projects ranging from Brooklyn’s IKEA in Red Hook to the rerouting of traffic in anticipation of the Barclays Center at Atlantic Yards, said he has paid for the researching of this proposal himself.

      Schwartz’s plan proposes “fair pricing,” which adds tolls to the East River bridges but also lowers the tolls on the bridges that do not enter Manhattan. He also proposes a 50-cent toll for cyclists both entering and leaving Manhattan. He projects this will bring in $1.2 billion annually.

      MetroFocus spoke with Schwartz about the three new cycling and pedestrian-only bridges, which The Wall Street Journal referred to as “fanciful initiatives.“

      Q: Why does the city need these bridges?

      A: Well, I look to Mayor Bloomberg’s plan for 2030 that says a million more people will live in New York City metropolitan area. And in 2010, Gov. Chris Christie nixed the tunnel from New York to New Jersey. There is tremendous growth all along the waterfront in Brooklyn and Queens, and Jersey City and Hoboken, and people are getting more and more involved with what we call “active transportation.” The people moving in along the waterfronts are in many cases young and mobile, and they ride bikes and walk.

      Q: How much will the construction of these bridges cost?

      A: $250 million each, about the cost of the High Line, except it goes somewhere.

      Q: What are the other benefits, after easing congestion on the other bridges and building for the future?

      A: There are all sorts of benefits. People in subways burn more calories than drivers. This is a much more health-conscious generation.

      Q: Your plan proposes a 50-cent toll for cyclists on the East River’s current bridges. Will that toll also apply on these bridges?

      A: Yes, to pay for maintenance. For 30 years, I was in charge of roads and bridges in the city, and every pedestrian and bike path was in disrepair. The Williamsburg Bridge was a real danger, we had to close it entirely in 1988. I insisted that when the bridges got rebuilt, every one would have a bike and pedestrian lane.

      We have a pro-biking mayor and a pro-biking transportation commissioner, but we may not in the future. This sets up a dedicated fund for for the bike paths. It’s only fair that bike riders pay for the maintenance. This strengthens the legitimacy of bikes as a viable transportation option in New York City.

      Q: Why is now the time for bridges that prohibit cars?

      A: When Christie killed the tunnel, I realized we don’t have plans for a single subway being built from the boroughs into Manhattan. There is zero chance by 2030 we’ll see additional subway facilities by bridge or tunnel. This is a way to deal with that issue.

      Also, it’s the first time in my career that 18 to 29 year-old’s are driving less, by 12 percentage points across the United States. Car ownership has plummeted. I have a young staff, 60 people in the New York-area, and 80 – 90 percent of them don’t own cars.

      Q: So this is for younger people?

      A: Except I’m an older person, and I walk and bike.

      Q: How will this be paid for?

      A: The capital construction will be paid for with the revenue generated through the Equitable Transportation Formula, which is projected at $1.2 billion net revenue gain annually.

      Q: What are you doing now to make this happen?

      A: I’m looking for a champion, a titan of industry.


    • Rayn Riel January 26, 2016 at 11:59 pm #

      How to be an “outstanding” urban planner? Be out, standing, and studying the city!


  4. Rayn Riel February 10, 2016 at 12:50 pm #


  5. Rayn Riel February 17, 2016 at 6:01 pm #

    73-Story Tower Would Be Brooklyn’s Tallest By Far


    If you are (rightly) concerned about gentrification and displacement, then I urge you to completely support this project! (Though, thankfully, it does not require special approvals in order to be built, as it’s able to rise above 1,000 feet due to existing zoning and air rights transfers from the landmarked bank building below; however, to be clear, modifications to the actual bank building do need to be reviewed). In this case, they have arguably found a balance between the past, present, and future.

    In a city that continues to grow, you arguably cannot lower housing costs if you’re not building more places for people to live. And you cannot (rationally) complain about tall buildings and about affordability at the same time. Yes, these will primarily be luxury units, but as noted in the article, eventually, they’ll quench that market and prices will go down as new buildings are built and older ones lose value. And 20 percent of these units will be affordable, which will immediately be sold.

    I do realize that if a luxury tower is built in a poor neighborhood, then prices may rise on goods and services nearby, and cheaper neighborhood establishments may be forced to raise prices or shut their doors. But if more units are not built, the same would happen eventually, as people are displaced and spread out farther from most job opportunities, and farther from rapid transit access. Wouldn’t you rather want developers to build vertically, near subway stations?

    Ever wonder why San Francisco is so expensive? Or Paris? Progressives are, in many ways, ironically conservative, and they fear change, fear progress, and don’t want anything tall to be built. They think that neighborhoods should not change, even though change is the lifeblood of urbanity.

    When it was built, the Eiffel Tower was almost torn down because it represented change. Now, unfortunately, they’d never dream of building anything taller nearby in order to preserve neighborhood ‘character’, which is, of course, dependent upon their contextual tastes, and rooted in contextual powers, identities, and ideologies. Who gets to define (and brand) neighborhood character?

    Of course, it’s important to critique the design of these tall buildings. And they should look nice, because our physical environments do impact our physical, mental, and spiritual health, as well as our environment, culture, and so on and so forth. I know how many interdisciplinary and interconnected decisions need to be made in order to build a site’s form, shape, and character, thereby creating an inviting streetscape for humans. But, it is possible to build tall and build beautiful buildings, while protecting our light and our air.

    We can solve our affordability crisis relatively easily. All we need to do is up-zone along subway corridors, so that developers can quench demand. Concerned about more people crowding your neighborhood schools? Or your streets? Allow developers to build as tall as necessary in exchange for renovating nearby subway stations or contributing to the MTA Capital Program, in order to alleviate congestion concerns, reduce subway delays, and increase subway capacity. And instead of building parking lots, build safe and convenient bicycle storage facilities. Developers could even expand schools and libraries by building atop them (and adding rooftop solar panels and gardens) if they contribute to renovations. The opportunities are truly endless if we think creatively!

    There is no reason for a neighborhood to be zoned for single-family homes in New York City. If you want a single-family home, move to the sprawling suburbs, where there is not enough density or demand to justify the costs of building tall building, or, keep your existing single-family home, and don’t sell it to a developer. With more density, our city will be even more dynamic, even more exciting, and even more inviting, with plenty of additional opportunities for living, working, and playing. And, at least in the eyes of this beholder, it will also be more progressive.


  6. John July 9, 2016 at 7:39 pm #

    BQE is a great ride to look at all the eminent domain destruction.
    Along 3rd Ave in S Brooklyn, you can see how 3 Ave was stretched out because the eastern side of the avenue does not have any buildings facing the street with windows (like the western side), as it was widened and it ate part of those side streets so that side street buildings became the front of the avenue on the east side — not very good for foot traffic or “shared space”, that road is basically a two-level highway since the actual avenue is also pretty much a 6 lane highway, dividing water from city, dangerous and poorly lit at night, no artwork along the structure or community space or even advertisements along the structure…

    This is what the Promenade used to look like:


  7. Bobby July 17, 2016 at 8:55 pm #

    most americans don’t know that reporters finance the bulk of presidential candidates’ campaign travel, by buying seats on the candidate’s charter plane – similarly, developers should finance most of our transit! look at how much the city is growing – make developers pay for station improvements in exchange for taller buildings!



  8. Gabe July 22, 2016 at 9:22 am #

    I also live in Windsor terrace like the author (hi) — do you know this RR?


    Windsor Terrace consists of a small, but stable residential community with a small commercial strip in the northeastern corner of the district. Windsor Terrace is surrounded by the natural boundaries of Prospect Park and Greenwood Cemetery. The highest elevation in Brooklyn is found in Greenwood Cemetery, once a major tourist attraction. The Gothic Brownstone “gate house” at its entrance has been declared a New York City landmark. Much of Windsor Terrace sits on top of what had once been the City of Brooklyn’s landfill, more than 100 years ago. The Prospect Expressway bisects the community and the northern border is Prospect Park.

    The community is a mixed, working class community with many private houses and small apartment buildings and quiet, tree-lined streets. In the 1980s, much of the community was down zoned to prevent over development, particularly the areas around Prospect Park.

    Overdevelopment and height and bulk restrictions on buildings. Windsor Terrace residents are determined to keep their zoning district intact to preserve the character of the community.
    There are many infrastructure projects taking place in Windsor Terrace including the replacement of pipes and the Seeley Street Bridge. Many residents are concerned about construction delays, vibrations and the necessity of some of the work.
    As the host community for the Prospect Expressway and the only east-west corridor between the large Greenwood Cemetery and Prospect Park, Windsor Terrace experiences many traffic problems.



  9. Rayn Riel July 31, 2016 at 10:45 am #

    One of my school real estate/design projects in Boston:


  10. Kalino August 24, 2016 at 2:08 pm #

    NYC needs more water bottle refill stations, benches, playful pavements, trees, good lighting, news kiosks… So much foreign investment here, Russians and Chinese… they can do it!

    We already have refilling MetroCards. http://web.mta.info/metrocard/EasyPayXpress.htm

    Too bad the trains are too slow, signals too constraining, flagging, train traffic… can’t they find a way to have trains go fast through planned work zones? install barriers or something like other railroads? fix the schedules? sure, I get it, weather sucks, more planned work, so going to be more delays, more riders, but c’mon, we can do better right? even when ridership seems low, there are still delays… so we can have crowding and lower ridership, if trains are bunched, just like one bus can be very crowded and right behind it, very empty buses.

    Get the MTA Board to improve service!


  11. Ed August 26, 2016 at 4:57 pm #

    Here the developer paid for the subway sign and also 33rd is closed off to vehicles… Part of a Penn Plaza renewal???


  12. Lixor September 26, 2016 at 12:30 pm #

    At the board meeting!


  13. Webster October 13, 2016 at 11:52 am #


    New Jersey Transit, a
    Cautionary Tale of Neglect
    The swift decline of one of the nation’s busiest commuter
    railroads is a story of failures and mismanagement, and
    ominous for mass transit systems across the country.

    In the 1990s, New Jersey Transit was riding high.

    Its ridership was increasing, and its trains were new and running on time. It won a coveted award for outstanding public transportation three times. In the years ahead, faster routes to Manhattan and double-decker trains would put it at the forefront of the nation’s commuter railroads. Even as recently as 2007, it won a leadership award from New York University.

    That all seems like a very long time ago.

    Today, New Jersey Transit is in crisis. Its aging tracks and trains need billions of dollars in improvements. Delays and fares are rising along with ridership, with passenger cars packed to the breaking point. The century-old tunnel that carries its trains to New York is crumbling. And it has gone nearly a year without a permanent leader.

    “It was an excellent railroad and running quite well until the last seven years, and it has been in constant decline,” said Martin E. Robins, a former deputy executive director of the agency.

    Under the administration of Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican, the state subsidy for the railroad has plunged by more than 90 percent. Gaping holes in the agency’s past two budgets were filled by fare increases and service reductions or other cuts. And plans for a new tunnel under the Hudson River — one of the most ambitious infrastructure projects in the country — were torpedoed by Mr. Christie, who pushed for some of the money to be diverted to road-building projects.

    The result can be felt by commuters daily. So far this year, the railroad has racked up at least 125 major train delays, about one every two days. Its record for punctuality is declining, and its trains are breaking down more often — evidence that maintenance is suffering.

    Now, New Jersey Transit is facing its most high-profile test: A train slammed into a station in Hoboken last month, killing a young mother, injuring more than 100 other people and raising concerns about whether the railroad’s financial and leadership problems are creating an unsafe system. Even before the crash, the Federal Railroad Administration had taken the unusual step of launching an investigation of the agency after a spike in safety violations.

    The story of how the nation’s third-busiest commuter railroad declined so rapidly is a tale of neglect and mismanagement that represents an ominous symbol of the challenges facing mass transit systems across the United States in an era when governments are loath to raise taxes.

    The agency’s troubles are especially perilous because it serves the country’s most crowded region, where hundreds of thousands of commuters depend on mass transit; the loss of productivity from the many wasted hours commuters endure on delayed trains is impossible to calculate.

    A Rise in Riders, and in Problems

    A decade ago, New Jersey Transit was laying the groundwork for robust growth. While ridership has indeed boomed — nearly 20 percent more passengers have flooded the system in the past seven years — the railroad has failed to make the investments in infrastructure needed to meet the rising demand or to simply provide reliable service.
    Today, its trains break down about every 85,000 miles, a sharp decline from 120,000 miles between breakdowns four years ago. The region’s two other large commuter rail systems, the Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North Railroad, are twice as reliable: Their trains travel more than 200,000 miles between breakdowns. New Jersey Transit also reported more major mechanical failures: 213 in 2014, compared with 89 for the Long Island Rail Road and 169 for Metro-North.

    The New Jersey Transit board plans to meet on Thursday after not holding a public session in months. It is expected to promote an executive from within the agency, Steven Santoro, to the top job.

    The railroad’s falling reputation, some fear, could push people out of the state and turn others off from living there.

    “If I had known how inconvenient New Jersey Transit was going to be, I never would have moved to where I did,” said Melissa Walters, 31, a social worker who lives in Union County. After having a baby this month, she and her husband are moving to Westchester County in New York in favor of the Metro-North Railroad.
    State Support Plummets

    Today’s grim picture is a far cry from the recent past, when major investments by the agency helped to fuel a real estate boom in New Jersey. Three initiatives — Midtown Direct in 1996, the Montclair Connection in 2002 and Secaucus Junction in 2003 — increased the value of homes near lines with improved service by $23,000 on average, according to a 2010 report by the Regional Plan Association, an urban policy group. All together, the projects raised home values by $11 billion.

    The proposal for a new Hudson River tunnel, known as Access to the Region’s Core, was a crucial next step, creating the path for more trains to New York. The project had cleared the high hurdle of securing federal financing and could have opened in 2018. But nine months after Mr. Christie became governor in 2010, he abruptly canceled the plan. That year, fares grew by nearly 22 percent.

    Under Mr. Christie’s administration, the railroad’s finances have been dealt a blow. The direct state subsidy to its operating budget plummeted to $33 million last year from $348 million in 2009, according to the agency’s financial reports.

    That decline has been offset by temporary infusions from New Jersey’s toll roads and utilities. But each year the railroad’s executives are still left to figure out where they will get the money to keep the trains running. New Jersey Transit has also had to divert billions of dollars from its capital budget to pay for operating costs, siphoning money from future improvements.

    Mr. Christie has said he canceled the tunnel project over concerns that the state would be responsible for cost overruns. He also criticized the project’s inclusion of an underground station near the Macy’s store in Herald Square in Manhattan. The governor’s office has also argued that the overall state financing for New Jersey Transit’s operations has remained about the same, despite its shifting sources.
    Mr. Christie and Richard T. Hammer, the state’s transportation commissioner, declined to discuss the challenges facing the railroad. Stephen Schapiro, a spokesman for the Transportation Department, responded to some questions submitted by email.
    A nearly $45 million budget shortfall this year, he said, was “absorbed through internal efficiencies and using cash reserves.”

    On the ground, belt-tightening means making do with less: Commuters complain about missing cars; some late-night trips have been canceled. The train that crashed in Hoboken was a car short, and a device required on board to record speed was not working.

    “We’re not looking for extravagance, but you have to fund this in a safe manner,” said Stephen Burkert, a rail union leader and longtime conductor who joined New Jersey Transit in 1989.

    Midway through Mr. Christie’s first year as governor, New Jersey Transit was spending about $1.35 billion on projects to maintain and improve service. By the middle of last year, that figure had fallen by more than half, to about $600 million. The average age of the agency’s train fleet — nearly a quarter of which was flooded during Hurricane Sandy — is 16 years, compared with less than 13 years for the Long Island Rail Road.
    Transportation experts argue that New Jersey Transit needs dedicated sources of revenue similar to those that New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority has, instead of relying on a tumultuous state budget process. New York collects a fee on taxi rides, a payroll tax and other taxes for its transit system.

    To close a $60 million budget gap last year, New Jersey Transit raised fares by about 9 percent, causing an uproar among commuters. Mr. Christie has hinted that fares could soon increase again.

    In March, Mr. Christie settled a long-running dispute with rail unions over a labor contract, narrowly avoiding a crippling strike. Union leaders said the episode had hurt morale among workers, who had been working under an expired contract.
    Mr. Robins, the former New Jersey Transit executive, agreed.

    “That is a cardinal sin in labor relations,” he said. “It creates a very incendiary situation where people feel like they’re being taken advantage of.”
    Mr. Burkert said that Mr. Christie did not seem to understand New Jersey Transit’s essential role in the state’s infrastructure.

    “Had he taken buses or trains he would have seen — no, it’s not just people going to Wall Street,” he said. “It’s the blue-collar worker holding two or three jobs who doesn’t have money for a car, and they need that train.”

    A Leadership Vacuum

    New Jersey Transit has lacked steady leadership amid its mounting challenges. Veronique Hakim, a highly respected executive director, stepped down last year to join the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

    Transit advocates rejoiced this spring when William Crosbie, a formerAmtrak executive, was named to the post. But he quickly withdrew over a disagreement about keeping a home in Virginia — a reversal that angered Mr. Christie. Instead, a bus operations official, Dennis J. Martin, served as interim executive director.

    Several top New Jersey Transit officials — all with deep experience running a railroad — have left for high-level transportation jobs elsewhere.

    Last year, Michael Drewniak, an ally of Mr. Christie’s, joined the agency. Mr. Drewniak, who was embroiled in the scandal over the closing of traffic lanes at the George Washington Bridge in 2013 and is known for his combative tactics, now serves as New Jersey Transit’s chief of staff despite having virtually no transportation experience. Mr. Drewniak was Mr. Christie’s press secretary at the time of the lane closings and helped manage the administration’s response. He declined to comment about his current role.
    “Planning for the future really can’t be done when you have temporary leadership in place,” said Thomas K. Wright, president of the Regional Plan Association and a New Jersey train commuter for 15 years.

    It remains to be seen what Mr. Santoro, who has worked at New Jersey Transit on capital planning and light rail projects, will choose as his priorities as the agency’s next leader.

    Delay Upon Delay

    Trevar Riley-Reid is fed up with her chronically unreliable commute from Union County in New Jersey. Ms. Riley-Reid, 48, a librarian at the City College of New York in Harlem, said that delays kept her away from her family, including a 10-year-old daughter on the autism spectrum.

    Eager to make it on time to a performance at her daughter’s school one night, Ms. Riley-Reid got off a stalled train in Newark and took a taxi. She arrived 20 minutes late, just as her daughter mounted the stage.

    Despite having two master’s degrees, Ms. Riley-Reid has considered taking an overnight job at Target to be closer to home.

    “I love my job,” she said. “And I love the students I work with. But I don’t know how much longer I can do this commute.”

    When things go awry, and they often do — there were at least 15 major train delays in September — commuters suffer. They wait in the Meadowlands on stalled trains. They cram onto overstuffed buses, PATH trains and ferries.

    A Railroad in Decline

    Just last week, a crowd of devoted Beyoncé fans were stranded on a broken-down train on their way to the singer’s concert at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford.

    New Jersey Transit says about 93.5 percent of its trains are on time — a 2 percent decline from recent years and a seemingly exemplary record that commuters have trouble accepting. The figure refers to the full schedule rather than just rush hour, when delays are more disruptive.

    Ridership has continued to grow. The railroad now carries about 165,000 people a day — up from about 138,000 in 2009. New Jersey Transit also has about 274,000 daily bus riders and 37,500 riders on light rail.

    Many delays are a product of aging infrastructure that includes not just the Hudson River tunnel but also the Portal Bridge, a century-old swing bridge over the Hackensack River. It is difficult to imagine better service without a massive overhaul of the entire corridor leading to New York City — a project that Amtrak, which controls the corridor, says could cost more than $20 billion.

    Both Amtrak and New Jersey Transit rely on a single, two-track tunnel under the Hudson River that was severely damaged during Hurricane Sandy. There was little effort to jump-start plans for a new tunnel until a series of paralyzing delays last summer led to a scolding from the federal transportation secretary, Anthony Foxx, who called the neglect “almost criminal.”

    Now a plan for a new tunnel is finally progressing. New Jersey and New York have agreed to pay for half the project, though neither state has said where its portion of the money would come from.

    In the meantime, federal officials worry that Amtrak may have to close one or both of the existing tunnel’s tubes for major repairs before a new one opens in a decade — a prospect that would be devastating to travel across the Northeast.

    Then there is the quagmire that is Pennsylvania Station. The dispiriting maze — North America’s busiest train station, shared by Amtrak, New Jersey Transit and the Long Island Rail Road — was never meant to handle a daily flow of 600,000 passengers and 1,300 trains.

    With only 21 tracks, keeping trains moving requires a complex dance — one that determines the fates of commuters scrambling to make it to work, and home, on time.
    On a recent morning inside Penn Station’s cavernous control center in Manhattan, trains were moving smoothly until a North Jersey Coast Line train reported a mechanical problem. A different train was canceled so its equipment could be used for the next North Jersey Coast trip out of the station.

    That kind of hiccup that can trigger a cascade of delays across the vast rail network. A day earlier, a signal problem with a train near Secaucus had delayed 26 trains.
    “We have tracks, signal systems, catenary, power grids,’’ said Dennis Hamby, who runs the control center for Amtrak. “All the stuff has to work perfect or else we have a problem.”

    Mounting Safety Lapses

    In June, federal inspectors swarmed New Jersey Transit’s rail operations, part of a “deep audit” by the Federal Railroad Administration prompted by an increase in safety violations and a lack of leadership at the railroad. The federal agency fined the railroad for several violations and warned officials of the problems it had uncovered.

    The railroad administration, which has not made its audit public, examined New Jersey Transit’s operations, including whether crews were following safety rules. The agency is weighing additional enforcement steps against the railroad.

    New Jersey Transit has cooperated with federal inspectors, and if they raise any issues, the railroad will promptly address them, Mr. Schapiro, the Transportation Department spokesman, said.

    An investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board will determine whether the crash in Hoboken was caused by a mechanical problem or by human error, as well as whether the railroad had a poor safety culture — the damning conclusion of a federal review of Metro-North Railroad after a fatal derailment in New York in 2013.

    The accident in Hoboken was New Jersey Transit’s first fatal crash involving a commuter in 20 years — an impressive feat for a railroad that runs hundreds of trains across a huge system each day. Nontheless, the railroad has been cited for a large number of safety violations in recent years.

    Since 2010, New Jersey Transit paid about $465,000 to settle 76 safety violations identified by the Federal Railroad Administration. During the same period, the Long Island Rail Road paid $77,000 to settle 18 safety violations, and the Metro-North Railroad paid about $346,000 to settle 71.

    Train accidents were twice as common for New Jersey Transit during those years as they were for the region’s other commuter railroads. New Jersey Transit had 200 train accidents since 2010, though most were minor episodes. Metro-North Railroad had 100 accidents during the same period; the Long Island Rail Road had 58.

    Days after the Hoboken crash, John McKeon, a New Jersey state representative, called for the railroad’s administration to release its findings and let commuters know whether the problems had been fixed.

    “If trains are going to be delayed now and then, that’s one thing,” Mr. McKeon, a Democrat who represents northern New Jersey, said in an interview. “But safety’s nonnegotiable.”

    The crash also revived calls for the addition of technology that can automatically stop a train headed for trouble. American passenger railroads are required to install such technology, known as positive train control, by the end of 2018. But New Jersey Transit has made virtually no progress toward that goal.

    It was only after the crash that Mr. Christie reached a deal with Democratic lawmakers to raise New Jersey’s historically low gas tax by 23 cents a gallon to replenish a fund that pays for much of the state’s transportation work. When negotiations over the fund stalled this summer, Mr. Christie declared a state of emergency, halting work on $2.7 billion in New Jersey Transit projects. While the gas tax increase will finance billions of dollars in infrastructure projects, it will not solve the annual battle over financing the railroad’s operating budget.

    Karl Ward, who was seriously injured while riding in the lead car of the train that crashed in Hoboken, said he was angry that New Jersey Transit had not installed an automatic braking system. Mr. Ward, a site-reliability engineer recovering from surgery on a knee hurt in the crash, said the brakes and the broader reliability problems must be fixed.
    “I want to know that there’s a plan in place to solve the systemic problems,” he said. “The State of New Jersey has dragged its feet. It’s very disheartening.”


  14. Mars October 21, 2016 at 4:12 pm #

    TOD is possible because railroads electrified. Penn Station is underground. Grand Central is underground. Meanwhile, Boston’s North and South stations are both above ground. Never were electrified. NEC is electrified now to South Station, but the MBTA has no electrified routes. Pathetic. If they want to build a tunnel between N and S station, will need at least an electrified tunnel and hybrid locomotives. But I think they’re looking at DMU instead of EMU locomotives, for faster acceleration and more frequent stops, but without the quieter and more sustainable electricity. No need to rely solely on diesel energy.

    This is overhead, folks. No third rail, no dealing with the snow and leaves. Trains can go fast, no need to go slow for the contact shoe. And no need to raise platforms if it’s overhead, though that means no level boarding to speed up service. Right now, with just one locomotive, if it breaks down, the train is stuck. And, all that exhaust.



  15. Joell October 25, 2016 at 10:14 pm #

    Many towns in America were built by TOD. But then they sprawled, and started forcing massive parking lots. Change the zoning, change the design rules, bring in car sharing and HOV and bike lanes, increase the density and reduce car ownership, fight the suburban politicians, for HUMAN planning and livability.

    Why? Businesses are flocking to livable places to live, work, and play, for millenials, who continue to appreciate access to transit. And of course, access to jobs, schools, family, friends, entertainment. If you have a station surrounded by a parking lot, it’s not accessible. It may be good for commuters, but not for frequent users, not for sustainable transit use. All those fixed costs can be managed better with high ridership throughout the day, which is possible with TOD and density.

    People will walk to stations if they are not in a parking lot, even if it is a long walk, as long as it is pleasant, with trees, shops. Or, they can take a bus. Bus stations need to be seen as assets, not liabilities. Improve them with WiFi, better traffic signals, payment options, but most importantly, frequency, speed, and real-time information. This is a great way to grow an economy, reduce congestion, improve health and environment.

    And stop with the “sexy” branding, if it is not going to improve service in a walkable area. NJ used to be at the forefront of TOD but Christie stalled it, which is sad for a state so reliant on mass transit. People in dense, mixed-use areas use various modes of transit. Not just one. People are bicyclists, motorists, transit users. Across all sexes, incomes, races, ethnicities.

    We won’t need parking lots in the future with autonomous vehicles. We will need mass transit. Let’s keep the pressure on our region. Be in the room when decisions are made. Improve buses, trains, fix the schedules, connect the services.



  16. Vanessa November 3, 2016 at 2:29 pm #

    NYC is a dense city with dirty people. Want to improve real estate? Get more BIDs and privately owned public spaces (POPs) like 6 1/2 Avenue
    Unfortunately no alleys were ever really built here, since they wanted to maximize real estate, so that also harms the cleanliness.


    6½ Avenue is a north-south pedestrian passageway[1][2] in Midtown Manhattan, New York City, running from West 51st to West 57th Streets between Sixth and Seventh Avenues.[3]

    The pedestrian-only avenue is a quarter-mile corridor of privately owned public spaces, such as open-access lobbies and canopied space,[4] which are open except at night. There are stop signs and stop ahead signs at six crossings between 51st and 56th Streets. The mid-block crossing at 57th Street is equipped with a traffic light.[5] At the crosswalk areas, there are sidewalk pedestrian ramps with textured surface and flexible delineators to prevent vehicles parking in the areas.[6]

    Each intersection along the thoroughfare has a street name sign that reads “6½ AV” and the name of the cross street to officially mark the street name.[7] The mid-block stop signs are unusual for Manhattan, and the fractional avenue name is a new idea for the numbered street system of New York City.[4]

    … And then there are roads maintained by the parks dept, DOT, MTA, a whole alphabet soup of bureaucracy


  17. Huxley December 6, 2016 at 12:19 pm #

    State eyes massive development over South Bronx rail yard
    Empire State Development testing builders’ appetite for decking over tracks
    By Joe Anuta

    The state wants to deck over a nearly 13-acre rail yard in the South Bronx to make way for a massive waterfront development in the area, which is attracting more private investment as land costs rise elsewhere in the city.

    Last month, Empire State Development released a request for expressions of interests, inviting developers to present offers for leasing or purchasing the land, decking over the yards, then building a sizable residential or mixed-use project on top.

    The parcel sits along the Harlem River, just north of the Willis Avenue Bridge. It is currently used as a transfer station to move goods between cross-country trains and trucks that traverse the tristate area—a use the state plans to maintain going forward.

    “It’s exciting, and very rare to offer the opportunity to develop more than a dozen acres of prime waterfront land in New York City,” ESD head Howard Zemsky said in a statement.

    The site is part of a 96-acre area called the Harlem River Yards, which is owned by state Department of Transportation and leased to a private company, which in turn leases out many of the buildings to industrial tenants. Because the zone is governed by something called a general project plan, the state does not need to get any local approvals to change the zoning—say from manufacturing to residential or retail—which can instead be implemented through a state approval process.

    In addition to maintaining the transfer station beneath the deck, the state wants proposals that cover opening access to the waterfront, boosting the local economy and creating affordable housing. At 12.8 acres, the site is slightly less than half the size of the Hudson Yards development going up over rail yards on Manhattan’s west side, and is on par with the scale of a proposal released last year by Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.

    That plan called for decking over a 13-acre rail yard near Lehman College, between the neighborhoods of Bedford Park and Kingsbridge Heights, farther north in the borough. Diaz predicted such a project could create more than 1,000 apartments.

    “New deck construction has the potential to bring transformative development projects to many Bronx neighborhoods,” Diaz said in a statement. “I look forward to examining the level of interest this [request] brings to the Harlem River Yards and how that interest could inform future opportunities for platform projects.”

    The state plans to conduct an on-site tour Dec. 14. Interested parties must submit proposals by Feb. 2.



  18. SAS! January 5, 2017 at 5:18 pm #

    Man, thorough! Check it out, vornado $$$ being used to narrow these columns at grand central station — increase flow!

    But, many other potential sites for development!!

    not all just at PATH/Fulton Center

    Let’s not forget the story that came after the WTC fell..

    From Dan Rather

    The United States became the most powerful nation in the history of mankind not merely on the basis is its fearsome military, as lethal and well trained as that may be. It wasn’t solely based on its unprecedented economic engine, as dynamic and far-reaching as that may be. America’s greatness was forged by a Constitutional compact of grand and universal ideals that the country has tried to live up to ever since.

    For generations, we have been an imperfect but vital beacon of freedom to a world too often wandering and failing in moral confusion. But that ultimate strength has dimmed considerably in light of the recent actions on immigration from the new President Donald Trump. We are turning around desperate refugees. We are singling out men, women, and children on the basis of their faith – and we are doing all of this with a randomness and capriciousness that defies reason.

    A colleague of mine used the term “heartless” to describe so much ot the President’s executive actions. Sadly, I found it an apt and dispiriting diagnosis—especially when faced with the results of his executive order on immigration. For over the years, I have seen that our greatest American leaders extol empathy rather than condemnation. They have known that in a complicated world, it is best to make policy choices with a scalpel – not a hacksaw. Sometimes, when our national security is threatened at the level of World War II, all-out conflict is the only recourse. But those instances are by far the exception.

    From Vietnam, to the Iraq War, from Japanese internment camps to the centuries-long persecution on the basis of race and ethnicity that almost toppled our democratic experiment, broad strokes channeling our least compassionate and most jingoistic impulses have always made us weaker rather than stronger.

    Today, in the wake of his one-man decision to wreck and reverse immigration policy so suddenly, there is chaos and confusion mixed with heartbreak and fear. A well thought-out, measured overhaul of immigration policy, with organized-in-advance measures to implement that is one thing—and one that perhaps a majority of Americans would support, But this mess, created overnight, is quite another. With this, we have embolden our enemies who want to see nothing else than to compete in a world of moral relativism. In the Cold War, our struggles over civil rights fed into the propaganda of the Soviet Union – as our new actions fuel the extremism Mr. Trump claims to be attacking.

    Too many people during the campaign explained away Mr. Trump’s irresponsible rhetoric as metaphors and euphemisms. These are not concepts he understands. Serious foreign policy experts know that this is a boon for our enemies and undermines our democratic principles. But too many Republican leaders in Congress, even ones that denounced the Muslim ban during the campaign, stand by cheering it now. History will mark their names, as it marks this moment.

    This will be challenged in the courts, who may very well strike it down. But damage, real damage, has been done to our global image. I believe Vladimir Putin is smiling, and would-be global powers like China see a vacuum forming that they will be eager to fill.

    I still remain optimistic that the vast majority of American people will recoil and speak out at this unwise policy. But whether we like it or not, as the detentions and impediments already springing up make all too real, this is the stated de facto policy of the United States today. Every day that it goes on, every day the chaos, confusion and heartbreak deepens, America loses more pieces of its soul and standing in the world.


    • sas January 8, 2017 at 2:09 pm #

      and public plaza in Times Square, developers paying for subway entrance!!

      now, what about better SBS service along 42? Fewer stops, faster service, more throughput, dwells…

      from apa:

      • Admire the city’s resilience. It’s weathered several storms in recent years — meteorological, financial, and otherwise — and it’s working to make itself even stronger.
      • Learn how the Regional Plan Association is using scenario planning to draft its fourth plan, due in 2018. See what’s involved in planning to guide a three-state, 13,000-square-mile metropolitan area through the next 20+ years.
      • Get acquainted with NYC Parks: Framework for an Equitable Future, the city’s ambitious plan to put every resident within a 10-minute walk of a high-quality public park.
      • Cross the Hudson and discover transformed cities along New Jersey’s “Gold Coast.” Revitalization in Newark, Jersey City, Hoboken, and other cities is sparked by solid planning and driven by economic development, new housing initiatives, and federal and state assistance


  19. Balanced Connection March 30, 2017 at 4:38 pm #

    What does mass transit do? Reduces traffic congestion, protects the environment, provides access to jobs… and on and on!


    What is the LIRR Expansion Project?

    The LIRR Expansion Project is a key initiative of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s comprehensive plan to transform and expand our vital regional transportation infrastructure to strengthen our local economy, create jobs, enhance our environment and protect Long Island’s future. The project will improve transportation service, public safety, and quality of life for hundreds of thousands of people who travel, work and live on Long Island.

    The project calls for the construction of a third track along a 9.8-mile stretch of the railroad’s heavily traversed Main Line corridor between the Floral Park and Hicksville train stations, and the elimination of the seven street-level train crossings along its route, among other benefits. These crucial infrastructure improvements would maximize the benefits of complementary LIRR projects, such as East Side Access to Manhattan and a second track from Farmingdale to Ronkonkoma. Every Long Islander stands to benefit from the new Main Line third track, which will improve reliability, frequency, and on-time service; provide new mass transit alternatives to driving; improve traffic, safety and noise conditions in communities with street level grade crossings; reduce noise levels along the tracks where retaining walls and sound attenuation walls would be installed; add commuter parking and enhance train stations in the project corridor.

    What are the benefits?

    • Fewer delays and improved reliability for both peak and reverse-peak direction commuters with the extra capacity of a third track
    • Smarter scheduling that allows for two-directional commuting and easier intra-Island travel
    • Fewer delays and improved reliability due to extensive infrastructure upgrades, including signals and switches
    • Better service to employment centers on Long Island and in New York City
    • Less crowded trains for passengers boarding at Long Island stations, especially in evenings going westbound to New York City
    • Less crowded trains for passengers after delay-inducing incidents
    • Additional parking for commuters driving to rail stations
    • Upgraded stations and lengthened platforms for easier, faster, more enjoyable commutes
    • Fewer cars on the road, easing traffic congestion and improving air quality
    • The elimination of traffic congestion and safety issues caused by street-level train crossings along the project route
    • Noise reduction from the elimination of train horns and crossing gate bells required at street-level train crossings in the project corridor
    • Noise reduction from the installation of retaining walls and sound-attenuation walls along tracks in the project corridor

    Will the LIRR need to acquire private homes to complete the project?

    No. No residential homes will be taken for the project. The project eliminates the need for residential property acquisition by building the third track within the existing LIRR right-of-way and using retaining walls instead of wider earthen berms. Construction will be handled in a way to minimize the impact on property owners.

    What if we don’t do this project?

    As long as the two-track Main Line serves as the bottleneck for the numerous additional tracks feeding it from the east and west, the promise of better, more reliable service and faster commutes can never be accomplished.

    Without better train service, people will remain in their cars and plans to ease automobile traffic and improve air quality will remain unrealized. The corridor between Floral Park and Hicksville will continue to suffer from commuter train congestion and there will be increased potential for disrupted service along the most heavily traveled line on the LIRR. It would also prevent the addition of true two-directional commuting options and severely limit intra-Island rail service.

    As long as street-level rail crossings exist in the project corridor, the local community – from commuters trying to get to work to first-responders trying to get to emergencies to residents trying to get rest – will have to continue to deal with the traffic, noise and safety issues that these crossings pose.

    Without the noise-reducing features of the LIRR Expansion Project in place, homeowners living along project corridor will be faced with greater noise levels both today and in the future, with significantly greater passenger rail traffic projected with the future completion of the East Side Access Project.

    What does the LIRR Expansion Project have to do with the future of Long Island?

    As population in the region grows so does vehicle traffic, and the need for better transit options becomes critical.

    Now, more than ever, Long Island needs to leverage its mass transit infrastructure to attract new investment, create additional jobs, strengthen real estate values, and grow its economy.

    With a third track, the LIRR will be able to more reliably run more trains on the Main Line during morning and evening peak periods, improve on-time performance, and provide an alternate path for trains in the event of a breakdown, fallen tree, weather event or other issue. All this will result in more frequent and reliable service, including expanded options for off-peak travel.

    When the independent research organization, Long Island Index, undertook a study of a third track, it concluded the project would improve mobility on Long Island and benefit the regional economy.

    Long Island-based businesses would find it easier to attract and retain employees, especially for specialized industries such as education, biotechnology, and the health sciences, the lifeblood of the Island’s economic health. Colleges and universities would also be more attractive to area students, who would be more likely to stay on Long Island to live and work after graduation.

    How will the LIRR Expansion project benefit the environment?

    In 2010, Long Island vehicular traffic, including cars idling at grade crossings, produced nearly 11 million metric tons of carbon dioxide, or about 30 percent of the entire Island’s greenhouse gas emissions. And an area of the Long Island Expressway that runs parallel with the proposed third track is among the most congested stretches of highway in the nation.

    If we do nothing, traffic in this corridor is expected to increase more than 25 percent over the next 25 years. With improved LIRR service, elimination of street-level grade crossings and additional mass transit options for Long Island, we can reduce traffic congestion, thus reducing greenhouse gas emissions and improving air quality.

    Will this project increase freight traffic on the LIRR?

    No. The project is intended to increase capacity for passenger train service. The LIRR has committed that freight trains, which are currently running at less than capacity and do not need a third track, will continue to be prohibited from traveling along the Main Line during peak hours. The project will have no impact whatsoever on freight trains.

    Are there regulations about the speed and cargo of freight trains?

    Yes. The speed of freight trains is limited to a maximum of 45 miles per hour to ensure safety for rail passengers and operators, as well as local communities. LIRR and federal regulations also require freight operators to carry freight materials in safe, appropriate, and regulated cars to ensure rail, road and community safety and comfort.

    How will the LIRR keep noise, vibration and other disruptions to a minimum during construction?

    Incorporating extensive input from local communities, the Project Team is exploring neighbor-friendly and innovative construction methods and practices to keep the impact of construction as minimal as possible. This community-focused approach to construction includes:

    • Pre-construction home inspections
    • Satellite parking to keep workers’ personal vehicles out of residential streets
    • Using existing track to transport materials to and from work sites
    • Advance notification of any disruptive work or road closures to residents, municipalities, school districts and first-responders
    • Scheduling construction deliveries outside of school and commuter traffic peak hours to the extent practicable
    • Creating and implementing a community noise and vibration monitoring program
    • Implementing an air quality control plan to include dust control measures, ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel, the use of best available tailpipe technologies such as diesel particulate filters, and the utilization of newer equipment
    • Environmental monitoring consistent with a Construction Health and Safety Plan
    • Protecting access to existing businesses
    • Street cleaning as needed
    • Door-to-door outreach to residents
    • Regular online updates to the public
    • Staffing the Project Information Office with on-site supervision for rapid response to neighborhood concerns
    • 24/7 hotline assigned to a community outreach representative

    Where exactly will the three tracks go?

    The third track will be added within the existing LIRR right-of-way, eliminating the need for residential property acquisition. For technical drawings and maps of how the three tracks are proposed to be positioned within the LIRR right-of-way, see this appendix to the Draft Environmental Impact Statement.

    How will the grade crossings be changed?

    The elimination of the LIRR’s street-level rail crossings, called grade crossings, has been underway since the 1980s along the Main Line. There are still seven grade crossings remaining along the Main Line corridor between Floral Park and Hicksville—all of which will be eliminated as part of this project. The project team is working closely with local communities to identify the most appropriate solution for each grade crossing, building underpasses at most, while considering closures in potentially one or two cases. Once the grade crossings are eliminated, there will be significant safety and noise benefits for local communities, since separating the paths of cars and pedestrians from that of trains will eliminate the need for loud train horns and gate bells to sound every time a train passes through. For full details on specific proposals on grade crossing modifications, see the Draft Environmental Impact Statement.

    Why can’t we eliminate the grade crossings without adding a third track?

    This is a comprehensive project that will benefit the entire region, reducing traffic and increasing safety for both regional rail riders as well as local community residents and drivers. Eliminating the grade crossings along the 9.8-mile stretch of the Main Line must happen at the same time that a third track is added because doing the work separately would make construction time, cost to taxpayers, and disruption to local communities many times greater. See Chapter 18 of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for a full discussion of alternatives to the project.

    If the project requires the taking of commercial property, will owners be reimbursed?
    Yes. As noted above, the project will not require the taking of any residential property for construction of a third track. While commercial property acquisitions are expected to be minimal, those business owners will be compensated for their property and will receive assistance from New York State to relocate within the same community in which they are currently operating. Extensive outreach from the project team is currently underway to address these issues.

    How is the LIRR informing adjacent property owners or businesses and how is it engaging the communities affected by the project?

    Governor Cuomo has promised an unprecedented community outreach program as part of the project. This outreach has been ongoing since January 2016. The outreach activity includes:

    • Meetings with mayors and other officials representing the communities along the Main Line
    • Outreach to local community, business, and civic organizations in the affected communities
    • Signs, announcements and handout literature at stations and in train cars
    • The opportunity for all stakeholders – through the environmental review process – to comment on the project, review preliminary plans, and lend their ideas to the project
    • The release of a “Scoping Document” that outlines what potential impacts of the project would be studied by engineers and experts
    • Six public input meetings to take the public’s comments on what potential impacts of the project should be studied by engineers and experts. The meeting schedule is here.
    • A project website – aModernLI.com – that is updated regularly and through which residents can be in contact with the LIRR and others involved in the project
    • A project field office at the Mineola Station south platform that the public can visit to get information, ask questions and give comments

    On Nov. 28, 2016, MTA/LIRR released a comprehensive environmental study – called a Draft Environmental Impact Statement – that describes the proposed project in detail, including its purpose and need, its benefits, the potential environmental impacts, and many other issues including community engagement. Like the Scoping Document released before it, the draft study reflects extensive input from local communities and commuters, focusing on and making proposals on matters that matter to them. As for engaging with communities during construction, Chapter 13 of the Draft EIS notes that the project team is exploring numerous measures including:

    • Pre-construction home inspections
    • Advance notification of any disruptive work or road closures to residents, municipalities, school districts and first-responders
    • Creating and implementing a community noise and vibration monitoring program
    • Door-to-door outreach to residents
    • Regular online updates to the public
    • Staffing the Project Information Office with on-site supervision for rapid response to neighborhood concerns
    • 24/7 hotline assigned to a community outreach representative

    What happens now?

    On Nov. 28, 2016, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced the release of a comprehensive environmental study – called a Draft Environmental Impact Statement – that describes the proposed LIRR Expansion Project in detail, including its purpose and need, its benefits, its potential environmental impacts, and many other issues including community engagement. The public comment period for this document will continue through Feb. 15, 2017. Six public hearings were held in January to receive comments from the public. The public may continue to comment on the project generally after Feb. 15. See above for more about the project timeline.

    When will construction begin?

    Construction is projected to begin in the second half of 2017 following the completion of the environmental review, the approval of funding and the selection of a design/build firm to finalize design and build the project.

    What will the LIRR Expansion project cost and how will it be funded?

    The Draft Environmental Impact Statement contains, for purposes of the environmental study and analysis, a project cost estimate of approximately $2 billion. The actual cost will be based upon competitive proposals made by construction firms who will be incentivized to design and build the project with minimized community impact and cost. The project will be paid for with MTA and other state funds.

    The current heavily utilized two-track Main Line segment of the Long Island Rail Road between Floral Park and Hicksville faces many challenges that impact rail service, reliability, and public safety. The LIRR Expansion Project is a new proposal that will improve mass transit, reduce traffic congestion, protect the environment, and ensure Long Island’s economic health now and for the next century.

    The LIRR Expansion Project will mean fewer delays for LIRR customers. Today, with two tracks being used at capacity, a single incident or delay can severely hamper train service. Building a third track will address the delays and congestion along the Main Line that currently affect tens of thousands of commuters. The track will provide the kind of redundancy required for optimal railroad operations, allowing trains to avoid track and signal problems and to bypass disabled equipment.

    The LIRR Expansion Project is the key piece in a multi-pronged, system-wide effort that will ultimately increase the Railroad’s capacity into Manhattan and speed rail travel throughout Long Island. The end result will be faster, direct service to the East Side of Manhattan, saving up to 40 minutes off commuting times for many customers, and reduced crowding on trains headed in and out of Penn Station. In addition to the LIRR Expansion Project, other ongoing efforts that will improve your commute include:

    • East Side Access – Direct LIRR service to Grand Central Terminal
    • Farmingdale to Ronkonkoma – Double Track Project
    • Great Neck – New pocket track to support future East Side Access service increases
    • Port Washington — Track extensions to support future East Side Access service increases
    • Jamaica Capacity Improvements – Track & switch upgrades to reduce the “Jamaica Crawl”
    • Mid-Suffolk and Huntington/Port Jefferson yards to support fleet and service growth

    The LIRR’s Main Line carries 40 percent of all riders using just two tracks, which greatly limits its ability to serve Nassau and Suffolk Counties because both tracks must run in the same direction during peak hours in order to meet demand. This creates huge challenges for customers traveling to jobs on Long Island in the morning, customers traveling within Long Island and customers bound for New York City at night, ultimately forcing many of them into cars. In addition to making LIRR more reliable, with faster service and fewer delays, this project will enable true bi-directional train service for the first time.

    Family, friends, sports teams, concerts, culture, airports, beaches, vineyards, and more will be easier to reach, no matter what time of day you’re traveling or which direction you’re heading.

    A third track will bring the flexibility needed for better train scheduling to and from Manhattan, which will help to ease crowding. Along with the Double Track Project adding a second track between Ronkonkoma and Farmingdale, more frequent service at more evenly space intervals will give customers more options and a better chance at finding a seat during the morning commute.

    The Main Line corridor’s seven street-level railroad crossings currently pose safety risks for drivers, pedestrians, and LIRR customers; cause substantial traffic delays, especially during rush hours; generate noise from bells and train horns at all hours.
    The project team has been working hand-in-hand with the villages along the Main Line to develop a unique plan for each grade crossing that meets community needs. LIRR is committed to the modification of all seven crossings, building underpasses at some, while potentially closing others.
    • Horns must be blasted 4 times as trains approach and pass through each street-level crossing. For example, in New Hyde Park, this results in nearly 3,000 horn blasts every day.
    • There have been 24 deaths at the seven Main Line grade crossings since 1980.
    • At the busiest of the seven grade crossings, gates are down up to 24 minutes per hour during the am and pm rush hours causing severe traffic for drivers heading to schools and local jobs.
    • In 2015 alone, gates were struck by vehicles 138 times, causing mandated reductions in train speed and inconvenience for riders.
    • The Proposed Project will include various station improvements and modifications in order to accommodate the third track; enhance ADA accessibility; enhance pedestrian access; improve lighting, landscaping and other visual elements; and improve platforms and passenger waiting areas. One major improvement that will facilitate better service will be the lengthening of some station platforms, to allow passengers to disembark from 12-car trains without moving to the front of a train – an exercise that holds trains up at stations every day.

    New Parking Facilities
    Extensive consultation with local elected officials along the project area has led to Project proposals to add parking modifications throughout the project corridor, including new parking facilities to add spot capacity at Mineola and New Hyde Park Stations.
    Crossing Noise Reduction

    Currently, trains are required to blast their horns as they pass through grade crossings, whose gates are accompanied by loudly-ringing bells to warn nearby drivers and pedestrians, at all hours of the day and night. These sounds would be completely eliminated with the elimination of the seven grade crossings along the project corridor.
    Noise Walls

    Furthermore, the project proposes to build sound walls along the LIRR right-of-way in sections throughout the project corridor, lowering noise levels from passing trains even when they don’t blow their horns.

    The noise–reducing benefits of the project’s noise walls will be especially felt after the completion of the MTA’s East Side Access Project, which will cause significantly more trains to pass through the Main Line corridor and is slated for completion in less than a decade.

    Improving Our Air Quality

    Highway congestion is a major contributor to air pollution. The LIRR Expansion Project will help us all breathe easier by getting more people out of cars and onto mass transit.
    • In 2010, Long Island vehicular traffic, including cars idling at grade crossings, produced nearly 11 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent, or about 30 percent of the entire Island’s greenhouse gas emissions. (Long Island Carbon Footprint Project)
    • A commuter rail trip produces two-thirds less greenhouse gas per mile than a trip made in a single-occupancy vehicle. (MTA 2012 Sustainability Report)
    • The MTA transit network – subway, bus, and commuter rail – saves the region more than 17 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually. (MTA 2012 Sustainability Report)

    Getting Cars off the Road

    By improving the availability and reliability of rail service on the Main Line, we can provide a more attractive alternative to driving. The result will be less congestion on the Long Island Expressway (LIE) and Long Island’s other major thoroughfares. According to the Long Island Index, it would require the equivalent of 10 traffic lanes to carry the daily equivalent of LIRR riders into Penn Station.
    • The LIE, which runs parallel to the Main Line, ranks among the worst in the nation in terms of congestion cost – the value of lost personal time and wasted fuel – at an estimated $150 million annually.
    • The average automobile commuter on Long Island experiences 110 hours of traffic delays every year. This is the equivalent of three 35-hour work weeks, time that could otherwise be spent with family and friends.
    • These delays cost the average commuter 35 extra gallons of gas a year.
    Retaining and Attracting Talent
    Workforce: The ability to attract skilled workers is crucial for Long Island’s economic health. Specialized industries like education, biotechnology and the health sciences – the lifeblood of the Island’s economy– will benefit from an improved mass transit system that connects them to the top talent they need.

    Higher Education: More reliable train service will attract students to Long Island colleges and universities and make it more likely they will choose to live and work here after graduation. Today, students and faculty don’t always have the mass transit choices they need to make commuting to school an option. By ending the reverse peak blackout and scheduling better intra-Island service, they’ll be able to get to colleges and universities on their schedule.

    The LIRR Expansion Project is a new proposal, unlike any before it that will improve mass transit, reduce traffic congestion, improve the environment, improve safety, improve local community quality of life and ensure Long Island’s economic health now and for the next century.

    The project calls for a completely new approach to the construction of a third track along a 9.8-mile stretch of the railroad’s heavily traversed Main Line corridor between the Floral Park and Hicksville train stations, the elimination of the seven grade crossings along this route, as well as the upgrade of railroad infrastructure, stations and parking in the project area.

    It will provide a more attractive alternative to driving and will reduce traffic on Long Island’s already congested roads.

    It will reduce train congestion and delays, and enable true bi-directional service during peak hours, as well as more intra-Island service. This will promote job growth and opportunities for Long Islanders and make it easier for Long Islanders to enjoy all the region has to offer, such as entertainment, sporting events, dining and nightlife in New York City.

    Unlike previous attempts to build a third track on the Main Line, the project requires ZERO residential property takings, and substantially reduces the need for commercial land acquisition by building the track within the existing LIRR right of way. Construction will be handled in a way to minimize the impact on daily routines, with extensive mitigation efforts being planned in conjunction with local communities.

    The end result will be a Long Island with better rail service; with safer, less-congested roads; with cleaner air; with quieter backyards and neighborhoods; and a public transit infrastructure better equipped to serve the job and population growth our region needs to prosper.


    The proposed Long Island Rail Road Expansion Project, which adds a third track to the congested two-track Main Line in Nassau County and eliminates seven street-level train crossings in the project area, would reduce delays and improve reliability for hundreds of thousands of commuters due to the interconnected nature of the LIRR’s 10 branches, officials said. The project would also add peak-hour passenger service.

    “Because of the central position of this corridor and the interconnected nature of the system, having just two tracks on the Main Line causes delays throughout the entire LIRR system,” said MTA Interim Executive Director Veronique Hakim. “The region will never reach its full potential with a transit bottleneck like this in place – it’s just not sustainable and it must be fixed.”

    “Imagine trying to drink through a straw while pinching the middle of it with your fingers,” said LIRR President Patrick Nowakowski. “That’s what’s happening with the severely bottlenecked Main Line, in which four tracks from one end and six tracks from the other all converge into one narrow two-track corridor.”

    Project officials also released a short video of LIRR customers describing their current travel experiences and how a third track would help their commutes. The video was released on Twitter via @aModernLI and is also viewable on the project website at http://www.aModernLI.com or directly on YouTube at

    “Especially when there’s a problem, it would just eliminate a lot of the large delays,” says a commuter from Syosset in the video.

    “It would be good for business on Long Island, so we get more people out there and make more people willing to do the commute,” says an employer in Mineola.

    “Just one extra train would change my life,” says another Long Island commuter.



  1. Connect | PlaNYourCity - August 31, 2016

    […] course, most of these are recycled ideas. But it doesn’t hurt to be a “rielist” and envision a renewed New York, where transit agencies reap the value from their […]


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