Bridge the Gap

NYC’s “Sixth Borough” — NYC Harbor (Riel, 2015)

NYC’s “Sixth Borough” — Hudson River and Downtown (Riel, 2015)

NYC’s “Sixth Borough” — Hudson River and Uptown (Riel, 2015)

NYC’s “Sixth Borough” — East River Bridges (Riel, 2015)

Brooklyn Bridge (Riel, 2015)

Brooklyn Bridge (Riel, 2015)

Statue of Liberty (Riel, 2015)

Rockaways (Riel, 2015)

Rockaways (Riel, 2015)

Sea Gate: Brooklyn’s Gated Community (Riel, 2015)

Coney Island (Riel, 2015)

Western Queens and East River (Riel, 2015)


New York City, arguably the world’s premier global city, is the largest in the richest country in the world. The metropolitan region hosts 23+ million people, more than the population of Australia, and New York’s population continues to rise. The MTA network spans 5,000 miles, with more than 2,000 miles of track—enough to stretch from New York to Phoenix, Arizona. One in three public transit riders in the U.S. are on the MTA network. And just one line, the IRT Lexington Avenue Line, has more ridership than San Francisco, Chicago, and Boston’s entire systems, combined.


So, what is the state of the city? Seems as though the State has announced plenty for the City, fueling the feud between Mayor Bill de Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo. Indeed, after recently reaching an agreement with the City of New York to fund the MTA Capital Plan, Governor Cuomo has proposed a series of exciting projects to renew, enhance, and expand our region’s transportation infrastructure. While nowhere near the $305B allocated for America’s highways for the next five years, Governor Cuomo is proposing quite a lot of projects.

Courtesy of the New York Times:

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.

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.

While some have criticized this list, stating that it is about entering and leaving the Big Apple, and not improving the system within the city, Governor Cuomo has also announced Wi-Fi and cell phone service at numerous additional stations, and, alongside improved signal technology, subway station countdown clocks on the B Division. Overhauled stations, new subway cars, new buses, and bridge and tunnel repairs will also be part of the $29 billion Capital Plan.

So, how will Governor Cuomo pay for all of this? Sure, our economy is strong, but is he serious? The MTA doesn’t have funding for the next phase of the Second Avenue Subway, and cannot seem to maintain existing stations. Garbage piles on the tracks. Paint chips from the ceilings. Goo leaks from the walls. Gum blackens on the platform. Existing infrastructure remains vulnerable to climate-related threats. Flooding. Ice. Snow. And it took years upon years to figure out how to finance the Hudson Tubes. Now all of these projects?


Repainting West 4th Street Station (Riel, 2015)


Should we be focusing on building new legacy projects, or upgrading what we’ve neglected for decades? We certainly don’t have enough money for everything. Who decides if a Utica Avenue extension is more important than a universal fare card? And why are four new Metro-North Railroad stations in the Bronx (Penn Access) being mentioned, while a Sunnyside station (and related through-running and regional rail solutions) are not being mentioned. What happened to Triboro RX, currently only a freight railroad (Bay Ridge Branch), connecting the national network with the subway system in South Brooklyn and Linden Shops, as well as via car floats? Or, bringing back service to the remainder of the Rockaway Breach Branch, or building a QueensWay? Or less expensive projects, such as redesigning the subway map in order to include PATH, Select Bus Service, New Jersey Transit light rail, and ferries more legibly, while also including frequency? And a regulated, informal transit map?



Include NJT Newark Light Rail on Regional MTA Map? (Riel, 2014)


Include NJT Light Rail in Jersey City on Subway Map? (Riel, 2014)


Finally, what about connecting the PATH with NYCT? Bringing the PATH at WTC into the 1 or 6 Line? Or extend it to the 7 at 42nd? (It was built to IRT specifications, so it could only fit within A Division tunnels). After all, it is a rapid transit network, operating 24/7, and it already accepts MetroCard.

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.

According to Subway NY NJ:

New York has Two Subways

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.

The Subway Map Today

The current New York City Subway Map shows the PATH tracks and stations in Manhattan, but there are several deficiencies with the current display.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

Proposed: A More Complete Map, Displayed on Both Systems


1. Display PATH as a Rapid Transit Service

Show PATH lines using a solid line rendered in the light blue color used for the PATH logo. Include PATH logo to identify the line. Replace current blue squares representing World Trade Center, Christopher St, 9th St, 14th St, 23rd St, and 33rd St stations with circles and labels that match the visual style of New York City Subway stations. PATH trains make all station stops, so black circles should be used to indicate local service. In Subway Map Key, add PATH logo and the following information: “Port Authority Trans-Hudson (PATH) service is operated by the Port Authority of NY & NJ. PATH accepts the Pay-Per-Ride MetroCard for fare payment; Unlimited Ride and EasyPayXpress MetroCards are not accepted on PATH: Visit for more information.”

2. Include Hudson Waterfront and Stations

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.

Of course, this makes complete sense. But our agencies are social, economic, political, and physical silos, and the gaps between them need to be bridged in order to connect the PATH with the MTA, and in order for through-running at Penn Station between New Jersey Transit, LIRR, and, perhaps, one day, Metro-North. And in order for so many more projects to commence, so we’re ready for the 21st century. However, regional planning is difficult in the United States, and it is important to recognize States’ rights. If it is difficult for PATH to be shown on the subway map, then it will definitely be difficult to actually connect it physically!

Ideally, the MTA should be completely reformed. It makes no sense for New Jersey to not be connected to our subway network. In an alternative universe, a 51st state, based upon our metropolitan region, would allow for regional planning. Let’s call it the Big Apple State, or New Netherland; after all, the area was, historically, controlled by the Dutch, before the British decided to divide the colonies of New York and New Jersey, respectively, along the Hudson River. (The British messed up borders all over the world).



For now, let’s get our heads out of the clouds and be practical. All of these plans are nice to envision, but we first need to fix our current system. We need to fix our signals, fix our tracks, and fix our fleet, so that we can have fewer delays due to malfunctions. We’d also have fewer delays because frequency would be increased, leading to less crowding on a system with continually increasing ridership. (Less crowding, of course, means less time spent in stations, with passengers holding doors and dealing with platform congestion).


Courtesy of MTA


Courtesy of Gothamist:

Governor Andrew Cuomo has spent the week running from press conference to press conference, trash-talking New York City’s railways, airports and transit hubs even as he promises to make themgrander, glassier, and, he hopes, more efficient.

On Friday morning, the MTA was the focus of the Governor’s poetic waxing. From a podium at the MTA Transit Museum in Downtown Brooklyn, he promised a bevy of technology updates to be rolled out over the next five years, some more cosmetic than others.

For one, Cuomo is pushing for an expedited rollout of countdown clocks for lettered trains and the 7 line, starting this year. Granted, the MTA promised eventual letter train countdown clocks back in 2009. But last March, MTA spokeswoman Amanda Kwan told us that the MTA doesn’t have “a specific timeline for the lettered lines.”


Cuomo also announced a new digital ticketing system that will allow straphangers to buy their MetroCards online by 2018, and the LIRR and Metro North have pledged to introduce mobile ticketing in the next six months. This technology will extend to subways and buses in 2018, allowing riders to enter the subway by waving their cellphones in the direction of a contactless detector.

The MTA confirmed its intention to phase out the MetroCard completely.

Insisting that his goal is to build a New York for the “next hundred years,” Cuomo added, “The MTA is the heart of it. Because you know what the future is? The future is mass transportation.”

Cuomo also promised system-wide Wi-Fi by the end of the year, and cellphone service in 2017, plus USB charging stations in 200 subway cars this year and 400 more next year. All new buses added to the system this year will have Wi-Fi. The number of buses with Wi-Fi and charging ports should clock in over 1,000 by 2018.

“I don’t want to get on a train and feel like a sardine for an hour and a half on the way to work. I don’t want to do that,” Cuomo extrapolated. “I want to be able to sit in a seat, I want to be able to listen to my music, I want to be able to make a telephone call, be connected to Wi-Fi. I’ve come to expect that.”

This, from the guy who, apparently, has never taken a city bus. The same governor also declined multiple requests from advocates to take a peak-rush-hour subway ride, and instead made an underground appearance in cardboard form.

And then there’s this. MTA Chairman Thomas Prendergast took to the podium Friday as well, promising to “re-envision” 30 subway stations by 2020. The MTA plans to make these stations “cleaner, brighter… easier to navigate, with better and more intuitive wayfinding, as well as a modernized look and feel.” This means more On The Go touch screens, new signage, new lighting.

Rather than close these stations on nights and weekends to accomplish this “renewal”—the Governor described the current approach as “piecemeal”—the MTA will shut down entire stations for an average six to twelve-months per station to expedite renovations. Will your neighborhood’s subway station be one of them? Read it and weep/breathe a sigh of relief.


An MTA spokesperson said the full shut-down plan may be modified at stations without an obvious alternative transit option nearby.

After Cuomo’s announcement, some critics argued that the MTA is facing more pressing issues than, say, “customer-friendly” initiatives.

There’s the issue of extreme overcrowding, for one, and the $1 billion in funding cut from the second phase of the ever-elusive Second Avenue Subway line (tunnel boring for Phase II, which will serve 96th through 125th Streets, is now projected to start no sooner than 2019). Ambitious East Side Access andPenn Station Access projects are currently slotted for 2022, and delays due to rail issues are a thing most New Yorkers are now wearily familiar with.

As for how this large-scale, high-tech makeover will be funded, MTA spokesman Adam Lisberg confirmed that the funding will be covered by the 2015-2019 Capital Program, which has yet to be formally approved.

“The MTA is committed to meeting Governor Cuomo’s challenge head-on, eliminating every possible inefficiency to deliver these improvements faster, better and at a lower cost,” MTA Chairman Thomas Prendergast said in a statement. He added that the authority will accomplish this in part through public-private partnerships.

“These are vital investments to modernize subways and buses and make the daily commute less awful for eight million New Yorkers,” said Rider’s Alliance director John Raskin. “But in order to make them happen, Governor Cuomo has to approve the MTA capital program so the MTA can begin doing the work, and he has to identify how he plans to pay for it all.”

Remember, our system already maintains more stations than any other system on the planet, and operates 24/7, while working on the right-of-way when most other systems are closed for their nighttime windows. We can do this, thankfully, because we have express and local tracks for re-routing. The ingenuity of engineers long gone continue to keep our wheels moving strong.


New York continues to attract the creative class, but needs to work on creative financing. Informal transit networks are creative, distinct, and vibrant, providing a self-sufficient backbone to neighborhoods without good transportation access. Right now, the city is actually trying to destroy these routes with excessively bureaucratic regulations and outdated laws. As it stands, the city has made it easier to get licensed as a van operator, and they continue to crack down on unlicensed drivers and unsafe driving. However, there’s a Catch 22: to be licensed is one thing, but to pick-up passengers is another thing entirely. Akin to non-medallion car services (a.k.a., non-yellow and non-green taxis), vans are not supposed to pick up street hails. They also are not supposed to stop at bus stops or compete with the MTA (i.e., the “Monopolized Transportation Agency”). But they have to pick up street hails in order to, well, exist. These laws don’t make sense.

Imagine, as The Atlantic imagines, these services popping up throughout the city.

What’s interesting about dollar vans, if they’re properly licensed and insured — and reasonably legal — is that they could gravitate to where the riders are and where they want to go faster than public transit, which requires more infrastructure and meetings. In some cities, bus routes have histories going back decades, and they don’t change to reflect how people’s lives and work habits have changed. ([Buses] certainly don’t [wait for you to drop off your children] at daycare centers.) Dollar vans are out there to make a buck, and that’s not bad for passengers.

Why does the city keep them from flourishing? After all, according to the Wall Street Journal, they can be faster, and you get a seat every time. But part of the problem, according to me, is a lack of smart regulation. These drivers are incentivized to pick up as many passengers as possible and compete against other vans, so sometimes they’ll go fast, make illegal turns, or honk really loudly all the time. The city wants to keep passengers safe, and they also don’t want vans competing with the TLC’s taxis, which pay a lot for street hail medallions.


Vans on Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn (Riel 2014)


But the benefits of these vans far outweigh the costs, so long as the city regulates these vans with smarter laws. How about GPS devices to make sure they aren’t speeding or making illegal turns? After all, these services combine the efficiency of private-sector enterprise with the safety of law enforcement. With people getting forced to live further and further away from subways, these services need to be catalyzed. Plus, if there’s better transportation access in the outer boroughs, perhaps there will also be more “back office” jobs located there.

We are definitely lucky that we have the MTA. But in cities without safe, government-subsidized subways and buses, informality takes over. Vans like those in the outer boroughs of NYC are omnipresent in many developing countries, where the battles and balancing acts between formality and informality are played out daily. Kenya’s matatus, recently being pressed to adapt Google’s electronic payment methods in order to combat corruption and increase efficiency, are one example of this phenomenon. In fact, my friend has been working tirelessly on this project for years now through his organization, Groupshot.

These are just some examples of how informality can bridge the gap – often literally, if the vans go on bridges or in tunnels. These vans are essentially Uber/Lyft services on “steroids”, helping to take more cars off of the road, and helping to free up more space for humans. Imagine a downtown with fewer parking lots, and more space for parks. Or, imagine transit-oriented infill development, catalyzed by a public-private partnership and informality-formality collaboration.


We have a city with rising rent, rising seas, and rising inequality. The peripheries of the metropolitan area are under-served by mass transit, and they also have plenty of opportunity sites for housing and for jobs. Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn, for instance, is a major East-West corridor. The Mayor’s affordable housing plan has identified Eastern Brooklyn as a primary center for residential development, due to a relatively high amount of opportunity sites. This is partly due to arguably outdated zoning laws, which prohibit residential development on abandoned lots that are currently zoned for manufacturing, so the lots are remaining vacant until it becomes profitable to develop them (i.e., until the zoning changes). In my opinion, corridors akin to Atlantic Avenue, with subways nearby, should be a lot more dense. We cannot complain about high housing costs when we’re living in single-family homes above a subway station, and when there’s vacant land nearby.

We should not be limiting the freedoms of these drivers; we should be enabling them. Likewise, we should be unleashing developers. 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-owneddevelopments 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.

Thus, creative financing can bridge the gap, at least, marginally, in Cuomo’s projects. He understands that developers can finance much of a new Penn Station, for instance:

Cuomo Reveals Renderings For Dramatic Penn Station Overhaul

Governor Cuomo announced on Wednesday that he is spearheading a comprehensive overhaul of Penn Station. In conjunction with Amtrak and the MTA, the renovation will seek a private developer to convert the Farley post office building on Eighth Avenue into a grand, sun-soaked waiting area. The project—dubbed the Empire Station Complex—is estimated to cost more than $3 billion, with $2 billion going towards the Farley-Penn overhaul, and an additional $1 billion towards retail development along 7th and 9th Avenues.

About $325 million is expected to come from the government, split between the Department of Transportation, Port Authority, and Amtrak. The rest will be privately funded, in exchange for interest in the revenue generated long term by retail and commercial rent.

The Farley conversion, to be dubbed “Moynihan Train Hall” according to Politico, would be the realization of the significantly stalled Moynihan Station project. Acknowledging that such an overhaul has been a long time coming, Cuomo said that the project would be expedited, and completed within three years. The Farley renovation is slotted for completion first. According to the Governor’s office, the new hall at Farley will increase the size of Penn station by 50 percent, and will be comparable in size to the main room at Grand Central. An underground “link” will ultimately connect Farley to the existing Penn Station building under Eighth Avenue.

In one scenario, the Madison Square Garden Theater on Eight Avenue would be removed entirely, in what Cuomo described as a “friendly negotiated condemnation and removal.” The demolition would allow for a possible block-long entrance to Penn Station across from the post office building. This proposal is similar to one put forth by the Municipal Art Society in 2014, and would theoretically yield a new space with abundant space and natural light.

Another option would involve temporarily shutting down the 33rd Street block of the station, and constructing a massive, glassy new entrance with accompanying skylights. Developers could also leave the exterior of the station largely unaltered, “improving the configuration of the interior” with wider concourses, new signage, and integrated wifi, according to the Governor’s office.

The Farley overhaul and Penn renovation may be carried out by one private developer, two, or a small coalition. In the case of Farley, the developer will earn full retail rights inside the space. Cuomo announced that his office will be issuing solicitations to private developers this week, which will be due back in three months.

Citing anonymous sources close to the Governor, the Wall Street Journal reports that such a renovation could lead to the severing of a decade-old agreement between Penn Station and private developers Vornado and the Related Cos., who had initial plans to renovate the post office building into a station. However, the sources told WSJ that the cost of severing that agreement would be small “relative to the overall project.”

Municipal Art Society executive director Mary Rowe said, “We echo the Governor’s conviction that Penn Station is in need of urgent and ambitious change… finishing the Moynihan project and relocating the MSG theater is critical to improving Penn Station.” However, “In the long term, these improvements won’t be enough to fully address Penn Station’s severe overcrowding or meet the growing needs of its rapidly developing neighborhood and our regional economy.”

Mayor de Blasio did not attend the announcement, which is no surprise given the strained relationship between the governor and mayor. De Blasio spokesman Wiley Norvell stated this evening, “These are improvements the City has been pushing for over the past two years, and we’re glad to see the State stepping up with renewed commitments. It’s going to take the City, State and Federal governments working in close cooperation to make an expanded and revitalized Penn Station a reality. Together, we can deliver the 21st century transportation system New Yorkers deserve.”

I’m glad that Governor Cuomo is implementing value capture in order to, potentially, get this monster rebuilt. Ironically, developers paid for the original, decrepit Penn Station to be demolished and rebuilt underground, so that they use air rights and build Madison Square Garden and Penn Plaza. Now, they will be paying again. But this practice is carried out elsewhere in the city, the country, and the world. It needs to be streamlined, and public-private partnerships need to become more commonplace. Government needs to make it easier or get out of the way.


Here are a few examples I’ve compiled:




Transit Bonus

Courtesy of MTA


(And of course, value capture and joint development don’t have to only finance rapid transit. What about building atop schools, libraries, or highways, in order to finance these operations?)


7 Extension & Hudson Yards Value Capture (Riel, 2015)


P3 Renovating Station Entrance in Brooklyn (Riel, 2014)

Brighton Beach A

Up-Zoning on Subway Corridors (Riel, 2014)

Best Density Example Ever

Vacant Lot Along Subway Corridor! (Riel, 2014)


Vacant Lot Along LIRR in Brooklyn! (Riel, 2014)


Vacant Lot Along NJT in Newark! (Riel, 2014)


Unfortunately, joint development had a dark period in our city, when Penn Station was destroyed for Madison Square Garden. This was allowed by the 1961 Zoning Resolution, which divided the city into residential, commercial and manufacturing areas, and introduced incentive zoning and floor-area-ratio (FAR). The resolution also introduced Transfer of Development Rights (TDR), also known as air rights, in order to preserve green space and historical landmarks, without interfering with the financial rights of property owners. But Pennsylvania Railroad sold their Penn Station air rights, and was given a modern, subterranean station, which lost the light and the circulation. Today, the country’s busiest train station remains congested, and through-running no only occurs due to the balkanization of Penn Central into NJT and LIRR, both of which terminate in Midtown Manhattan. Going from Newark to JFK, or from the US Open to Secaucus? Good luck.

Air rights were also used atop highways. The Port Authority’s George Washington Bridge and Bus Terminal funneled vehicles along the Trans-Manhattan Expressway, below the Bridge Apartments. The 4,000 residents of these four aluminum-sheathed high-rises deal with noise and exhaust every day, but like most urban dwellers, they deal with it, and it’s better than leaving a gaping hole in Manhattan.


Bridge Apartments (American Planning Association)


In principle, air rights go back to early English common law. To whomever the soil belongs, he also owns to the sky and to the depths. Though the air is now a public aviation highway, the practice remains utilized. But it should be easier to build atop assets. Since most railroad assets are in far-flung locations, land values are not as high as in a CBD. Yet zoning also limits potential. Transportation agencies should be exempt from municipal regulations. Technically, the MTA, as a state authority, is already exempt from municipal rules, but it follows them because it does not want to deal with so-called progressive, NIMBY protests.

According to the American Planning Association:

The Zoning Resolution of the City of New York, as amended September 1962, de­fines railroad or transit air space as “space directly over a railroad or transit right-of-way or yard, which right-of-way [is] open, except for structures accommodating activities incidental to its use as a right-of-way or yard, and not otherwise covered over by any building or other structure at the effective date of this amendment.”9

The Resolution states that the City Planning Commission may permit developments or enlargements in railroad or transit air space for any use permitted by the applicable district regulations, provided that the following findings are made:

(a) That the lot area for such development or enlargement includes only that portion of the right-of-way or yard which is to be completely covered over by a permanent fireproof platform, unperforated except for such suitably protected openings as may be required for ventilation, drainage, or other necessary purposes.

(b) That adequate access to one or more streets is provided.

(c) That, considering the size of the proposed development or enlargement, the streets providing access to such use will be adequate to handle increased traffic resulting therefrom.

(d) That, from the standpoint of effects upon the character of surrounding areas, the floor area or number of rooms is not unduly concentrated in any portion of such development or enlargement, including any portion located beyond the boundaries of such railroad or transit air space.

In addition, the City Planning Commission “may prescribe appropriate conditions and safeguards to minimize adverse effects on the character of the surrounding area, and may require that the structural design of such development or enlargement make due allowance for changes in the layout of tracks or other structures within such right-of-way or yard, which may be deemed necessary in connection with future improvements of the transportation system.”

Thus, air rights developments over railroad yards are permitted by essentially administrative decisions of the Planning Commission, leaving the Commission a certain range of discretion. Approval by the Board of Estimate, the City’s governing body, is not required.

You may be wondering: the MTA has so many assets. Open embankments. Yards. Depots. Why are they not developing them?

Often, it’s actually not profitable to develop them. To develop far-flung yards, for instance, would involve decking over active sites with complex machinery. Tracks would need to be moved, and ventilation would need to be installed. The value of the land may simply not justify these expenses.

If it is feasible, such as at Hudson Yards, which was built in the 1980s with enough space between tracks for decking, then zoning would still need to be changed, and the City and MTA would need to work together. Politicians would need to get behind the project and deal with NIMBYists in order to up-zone and streamline the process. Concerns about displacement and gentrification would immediately surface. The MTA would also need to have additional real estate staff, as there are currently only three people in the T.O.D. Group at the MTA Real Estate Department.

In Hong Kong, the MTR is a profitable, privatized transportation company. They develop some of the city’s tallest skyscrapers. They build housing atop almost all of their stations. They own, operate, and maintain malls. This works because Hong Kong is a dense and self-contained Special Administrative Region. It is very difficult to own a car. Thus, ridership fuels the MTR’s profitability, and the MTR builds transit-owned developments, thereby fueling ridership even more, in a positive feedback loop of density and dynamism. And as a privatized company, the MTR has a profit motive, and they have ample incentives to develop property. Furthermore, China’s land ownership laws allow for the central government to, essentially, lease the MTR land to develop. We cannot easily ‘transport’ this transportation model to New York.

After all, in the United States, we (rightly) have private property rights, and eminent domain is always a challenge. And even when it does occur, such as to build the MTA Fulton Center, the MTA ends up building a four story building in the heart of Lower Manhattan, only a few blocks from their new HQ at 2 Broadway, which they spent billions to renovate. Apparently, they are looking at selling air rights, and they did not want to build taller because, at the time, post-9/11, they did not know if Lower Manhattan would bounce back. Imagine the outcry from the public if the MTA built a vacant skyscraper? Plus, recall that the Port Authority had struggled with vacancy at the World Trade Center for decades, and, at only a block away from the Fulton Center, the MTA did not want to be seen as competing with the new World Trade Center. Money and politics.


Courtesy of MTA



Besides more transit-oriented, transit-owned joint development, we need to advocate for congestion pricing. Governor Cuomo did not mention this as a potential source of funding for his projects, even though it would make complete sense!



We bridged the gap, physically, in order to build our region socially, economically, and politically. Now we need to fund our gap, so we can renew, enhance, and expand — physically, socially, and economically — for the 21st century.

Riel Estate

In the end, New York City was once the model city for transportation infrastructure in the entire world, and its public authorities were the epitome of progress, building feats of engineering that remain impressive decades later, from America’s longest bridge span and longest contiguous underwater vehicular tunnel, to the world’s busiest vehicular bridge. As one of the largest natural harbors in the world, the region built a complex and innovative port network, connected by railroads and highways. Our skyscrapers, from the Empire State to Rockefeller Center, were the envy of the world. And of course, our subway remains the most intricate, by far, in the United States. The city continues to lead the world in commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and entertainment, and it also continues to host the United Nations.

But today, our roads are congested, our subways are crowded, and our infrastructure is decaying, while tolls and fares continue to increase. We need a visionary plan to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and get back to work, in order to renew, enhance, and expand our subways and roadways.

Again, how will this be financed? Well, Robert Moses’ TBTA was able to build bridges and tunnels and, as a public authority, use toll revenue in order to remain self-sufficient. The Port Authority, meanwhile, remains legally self-sufficient today. TBTA roads are now part of the MTA as MTA Bridges and Tunnels, and in terms of traffic volume, it is the largest bridge and tunnel toll agency in the United States serving more than a million people each day and generating more than $1.5 billion dollars in toll revenue annually as of 2011.

But NYCDOT East River bridges have remained without tolls for more than a century. As a result, these bridges are heavily trafficked, and truckers use city streets, causing countless deaths and other public health concerns, such as higher rates of asthma. Moreover, these bridges have, historically, not had enough funding for maintenance; the Manhattan Bridge was about to collapse in the 1980s due to inherent flaws in its design (subways on the sides, causing excessive swaying) and a lack of maintenance. (At least the Manhattan Bridge and Williamsburg Bridge were designed for subway lines, unlike Robert Moses‘ bridges and tunnels, which did not provide any right-of-ways for rapid transit. And where rapid transit existed, he allowed for divestment and deferred maintenance to become commonplace. To him, and many other New Yorkers, subways were as archaic as horse-drawn carriages, and they did not belong in the modern era).

But if the DOT’s East River bridges had remained tolled, the revenue would have totaled $31 billion today. This would have been more than enough for maintenance, and, according to Sam Schwartz, “we could have built a subway from Staten Island, we’d have the Second Avenue subway from the Bronx to the Battery and trains from the airports to Midtown and downtown.”

However, Mayor Gaynor, in 1911, rescinded the fees on these bridges. Since the City of New York had only recently been consolidated, he felt as though this gesture would further unify the city, and of course, help him get reelected. “For my part,” he said, “I see no more reason for toll gates on the bridges than for toll gates on Fifth Avenue or Broadway.”

While tolls for pedestrians may not have gone over well (they had to pay a penny to cross the Brooklyn Bridge), the City also removed tolls for horse-drawn carriages and automobiles. And Mayor Gaynor was not even renominated, because Tammany Democrats chose someone else. Sadly, he died before the election, of wounds sustained during an assassination attempt three years prior.

But this decision, made over one hundred years ago, severely impacts our city today. We need the Move NY campaign to get passed by the City Council, State Assembly, and State Senate. This will allow for fair tolling into Manhattan’s CBD, alleviating congestion and providing funding for mass transit and bridge maintenance. But how does Move NY push through the white noise in the City and State? How can momentum be built in the outer boroughs and suburbs? The Move NY plan is, strategically, not termed congestion pricing. But how can the campaign continue to provide a cognitive shift, and change how New Yorkers see the problem and see the solution? How can the campaign continue to reframe key values?

New York needs a narrative for the 21st century. In centuries past, we devised Manhattan’s grid system and we built the world’s tallest buildings. The Move NY plan will be seen, in the future, as the stepping stone that allowed the city to continue to grow tall and strong. Because we are growing, fast, and we need to plan for it.


In lieu of Hudson County seceding from New Jersey to join New York, and the PA and MTA joining forces (with an integrated PATH and NYCT network), we need to focus on New York’s bridges and tunnels. We need to focus on our transit gaps. We need to introduce more variable, electric tolling. More ferries. Tolls on our East River bridges in order to fund the MTA Capital Plan, and get more drivers onto trains, thereby further decreasing congestion even more. For suburban commuters, the LIRR and Metro-North will also need to be renewed, enhanced, and expanded. East Side Access will be done relatively soon, but Penn Station commuters are also going to be getting modest public-private Moynihan improvements soon.

So, in the end, it comes down to advocating for these ideas to New Yorkers. The MTA needs a narrative and a champion in City Hall and in Albany, in order to bridge the gap socially, economically, politically, environmentally, and of course, physically. Transportation infrastructure can be transformation infrastructure.

Born and bred in Brooklyn, Rayn Riel is a Senior Editor at


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49 Comments on “Bridge the Gap”

  1. Shabazz Stuart January 10, 2016 at 9:02 pm #

    “Finally, 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? 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.”

    Putting the PATH on the NYC subway map, along with the HBLR and possibly the Newark subway is a brilliant idea. We need a regional focus instead of the silly silos that we currently have.

    Your suggestion to connect the Path to the NYC Subway is also a no-brainer that would be implemented tomorrow in any European or Canadian City. But because of the American provincial system (states) cities are bisected by arbitrary boundaries. The federal government could bridge this gap with incentives, but provides no leadership.

    One small quibble: the PATH, to my knowledge, isn’t actually compatible with the IND. It’s cars are actually built closer to IRT specs


    • RR January 18, 2016 at 12:21 am #

      Yes! Imagine the MTA with 13 more stations…

      Here are some photos I took last summer.


  2. Shabazz Stuart January 10, 2016 at 9:02 pm #

    What you’re suggesting is a complete re-engineering of the MTA. This is something that I support. London has done it, with Transport For London (which was created in 2008).

    The MTA really should be abolished and completely restructured. It would take billions and a great deal of political capital, but the current system is completely ill-suited for future growth and development. Moreover, the MTA is completely bogged down in it’s organizational mentality and seems completely incapable of changing.

    A new regional authority, with more power vested in the City, and smaller amounts of representation from the State and the Port Authority, should be created. The mayor, not the state’s executive should appoint the head of the MTA,


  3. Shabazz Stuart January 10, 2016 at 9:03 pm #

    “I’m glad that Governor Cuomo is implementing value capture in order to, potentially, get this monster rebuilt. Ironically, developers paid for the original, decrepit Penn Station to be demolished and rebuilt underground, so that they use air rights and build Madison Square Garden and Penn Plaza. Now, they will be paying again. But this practice is carried out elsewhere in the city, the country, and the world. It needs to be streamlined, and public-private partnerships need to become more commonplace. Government needs to make it easier or get out of the way.”

    Cuomo should really take a trip to Hong Kong where their MRTA is basically a real estate holding company and developer. The MTA has quite a bit of land and air rights that could be monetized into billions, especially in the current market climate. It’s completely ridiculous that the MTA and state haven’t done this. The MTA has open air tracks in Brooklyn (think the Brighton line in Brooklyn), massive urban rail yards, (Broadway Junction), station head houses (BMT Brighton Line again) that are basically squat buildings. This portfolio alone is worth many billions, especially if the deal is structured in the right way.

    Any future transit development, including future second avenue phases, should become special assessment zones where property owners have to pay a yearly fee to the city as the property value appreciates. New developments could also pay a special annual assessment. Much of this could be done, easily, through zoning law changes or property tax laws on the state and city level

    Liked by 1 person

    • RR January 18, 2016 at 5:56 pm #

      BMT Brighton Line

      Deck! Deck! Deck!


  4. JCity January 11, 2016 at 6:41 pm #

    Don’t forget Journal Square!


    • G0th4m January 17, 2016 at 9:25 pm #

      Politicians rarely talk about transportation finance, infrastructure, rapid transit, etc!

      Not even an issue here:


      • G0th4m January 17, 2016 at 11:55 pm #

        Unfortunately, money continues to buy up the candidates and the campaigns. Wars. Guns. Insurance. Security. Immigration. Education. Of course these issues are discussed. Urban schools continue to fail, opportunities dwindle, inequality rises, minorities are jailed for petty violations while the rich get richer. The poor can’t get to work easily without a car. They can’t afford to get trained for better jobs. They get sick and don’t get treated because they don’t have the money. Families suffer, children suffer, people live with pain every day.

        Candidates fail to discuss the URBAN in all of this, the interconnection with the PHYSICAL REALITIES that the candidates probably have never truly experienced. The shrinking emptiness of post-industrial cities. The traumas of flooding from climate change. If only more of our highways were built with rapid transit ROW (like the WMATA Silver Line, or AirTrain to JFK in NYC)…

        Look at the socioeconomic depression alongside the rails…

        (Though, maybe the landscape is so decayed partly due to the noisy rails, just as highways contribute to blight nearby… So in the future, at least put the rails alongside the highways in order to minimize disturbances!)


      • G0th4m January 18, 2016 at 5:37 pm #

        See here in N Philly


    • RR January 18, 2016 at 11:45 am #

      “The state-run MTA may close the L train for a year, or more, for Superstorm Sandy repairs.

      The chaos this closure will cause for hundreds of thousands of young workers is a reminder of how much the city depends on subways. Yet in last week’s budget speech, Gov. Cuomo offered no real way to fix our broken transit system — because what’s really broken is how we pay for transit.

      We can barely fit new people on the subways, as the L train crowds from Brooklyn are proving. We built “luxury” apartments instead of building better trains, subjecting people to a miserable quality of life. Last week, Sen. Chuck Schumer called for the feds to pay for new electricity sources so that the MTA can handle 2,200 more passengers on the line every hour (presumably after Sandy repairs are done).

      But even if the feds pony up — hey, our next president may be from New York, and sympathetic to supporting “luxury” real estate — they won’t pay the whole thing.

      Plus, the rest of the subways, commuter rails, buses, bridges and tunnels need $29 billion every five years in repairs and upgrades to barely keep up with a growing city. The fares you pay don’t cover this cost — they don’t even cover paying the people who run the trains to come to work.

      So where to get the money?

      Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio said late last year that, don’t worry, they’d find it. To fill the gap left over after the MTA borrows money and Washington sends us their share, the state would put in $8.3 billion over five years, and the city would put in $2.5 billion.

      People wondered last year where Cuomo and de Blasio would get this money, and were told to wait till next year.

      Well, it’s next year — and the governor’s new budget makes the answer clear.

      The grandchildren of the L-train hipsters will pay. Instead of putting in $8.3 billion, Cuomo has reserved only $1.4 billion over five years — a little less than $300 million a year.

      Worse: To pay for this, he’s slashing the state’s funding of the City of University of New York — by about $500 million a year.

      You don’t have to be a genius to see that $300 million a year is less than $500 million a year. So really, the city is getting nothing — or nearly $200 million a year less than nothing — in return for Gothamites’ high tax payments to the state.

      How do you make this work?

      Simple: You push the costs to the future.

      The state — whether through the MTA or some other fancy way — will have to do more borrowing than it planned.

      That would be lovely if the future didn’t have its own need for money. But inconveniently, in another five years, the MTA is going to need another $29 billion, because of intense wear and tear on the subway system.

      It doesn’t help that Cuomo keeps adding new things for the MTA to do. Earlier this month, he said that he’d build a third track along the Long Island Rail Road. A worthy idea. But that means another billion — at least — in MTA spending.

      And remember, Cuomo can only come up with this $1.4 billion because New York City’s economy has done so well since he’s been governor — meaning unexpected budget surpluses from city taxpayers paying their state taxes.

      In 2010, when Cuomo won office, the state collected $34.5 billion in personal-income taxes. Last year, it took in $45.4 billion. And three years from now, the state expects to haul in $54.9 billion.

      But what if it doesn’t? Wall Street, and the global economy, may be crashing right now. But if not now, they will eventually.

      That means deficits — and “emergency” tax hikes and spending cuts, just like what happened with the MTA back in 2009, when then-Gov. David Paterson had to enact a new $2 billion-a-year tax package just to keep the buses running.

      Despite all of Cuomo’s grand promises, then, there’s no plan — except to wait for a crisis, when we’ll need a plan in a hurry.”

      Nicole Gelinas is a contributing editor to the Manhattan Institute’s City Journal.


  5. RR January 23, 2016 at 3:44 pm #

    … Yet even amid all of our problems … None of the new subways in the world are being built with express tracks. Our city’s innovative engineers, +/- 100 years ago, understood that our future prosperity would depend on speed. New York was built on a grid. Skyscrapers continue to bust into the sky. We are alive and well.


  6. Rayn Riel January 26, 2016 at 4:33 pm #

    » More than 240 miles of new fixed-guideway transit is expected to come online in the U.S., Canada, and Mexico this year. Also, check out a new way to visualize existing, planned, and proposed transit lines in North America: Transit Explorer.


    • Rayn Riel January 26, 2016 at 4:34 pm #

      Cities across the country are waking up to new bus and rail lines in droves. In 2016, North American transit agencies are expected to open 245 miles of new fixed-guideway transit lines, including 89 miles of bus rapid transit, 93 miles of commuter rail, 7 miles of heavy rail, 39 miles of light rail, and 18 miles of streetcars. This is more than triple the new mileage of such lines opened in 2015.

      Thanks in part to significant expenditures by national governments—such as the Urban Circulator and TIGER grants distributed by the U.S. Department of Transportation—but also due to the allocation of significant new funding from cities and states to transit agencies, 2016 will be a banner year, bringing new rail and bus lines to neighborhood after neighborhood. Projects opening this year, listed in detail below but including nine bus rapid transit lines, eight streetcar routes, seven light rail lines, six commuter rail lines, and two heavy rail extensions, will have cost more than $15 billion to build.* Three of these projects—the Second Avenue Subway in New York, University Link in Seattle, and BART Warm Springs Extension outside of San Francisco—each took more than seven years to build.

      In the U.S., Canada, and Mexico, projects costing a total of $70 billion and representing more than 470 miles of new, fixed-guideway transit will be under construction by the end of the year, with completion expected in the coming decade. Much more is in planning.


  7. Rayn Riel January 31, 2016 at 5:53 pm #

    RR 2015

    Maintaining Brooklyn Bridge

    Other bridges in region…


  8. Rayn Riel February 2, 2016 at 11:46 pm #

    Infill development on NYCHA’s parking lots?
    Already essentially car-free, tower-in-the-park neighborhoods!


  9. Rayn Riel February 6, 2016 at 6:28 pm #

    Unlike the MBTA Green Line Extension in Boston, which may not be built because of a lack of government funding, New York’s proposed light rail would be primarily paid for by real estate developers…

    A Streetcar Ride to New York’s Future
    FEB. 5, 2016

    Mayor Bill de Blasio’s proposal to build a streetcar line connecting 16 miles of neighborhoods along the booming East River waterfront of Brooklyn and Queens presents an eye-catching, ambitious exercise in what the mayor terms “equity and innovation.” Equity for local residents who feel marooned from the city’s subway system, and innovation in reviving the streetcar as a modern feature to serve a fast-growing waterfront.

    The move by American cities to revive streetcars has been underway since the 1990s, helped by federal subsidies. Transit specialists and critics caution that “heritage trolleys,” with short runs more inviting to tourists than city residents, don’t really amount to progress. But Mr. de Blasio’s proposal is far more than a means for nostalgia with a dramatic view of Manhattan. It aims to ease the daily, less Manhattan-centric commutes of masses of people.

    The mayor, who has promised a more equitable city, should make sure that a major project like this will serve all kinds of communities, wealthy and low-income. It’s promising that, as he points out, 45,000 people live in public housing along the route.

    Proponents of the trolley, including eager real estate developers, estimate the streetcar line would serve millions of New Yorkers each year, invite billions in local investment and be more than paid for by the higher tax revenues generated from fresh development and rising property values. Such are the usual estimates of any big city proposal. But questions abound. One of the most obvious is whether further investment in bus transportation would be a less glamorous but more efficient and cheaper alternative to embedding tracks on city streets for trolleys to run alongside automobile traffic. Another is whether there are neighborhoods away from the waterfront with more urgent transportation needs.

    The estimated cost of the streetcar line is $2.5 billion — vastly cheaper than building another subway — but the price undoubtedly will shift as the proposal is vetted through neighborhood reviews and city government debate, for a possible opening in 2024. (Mayor de Blasio is entitled to smile at the likelihood that approval will not be needed from Gov. Andrew Cuomo.)

    One caution from trolley skeptics is that true mixed-use zoning must be protected if the service is not to become a chic convenience for the affluent. The de Blasio administration says the route would help commercial centers like Long Island City and the Brooklyn Navy Yard.

    City planning is always part art. And this proposal does not lack for vision. But Mayor de Blasio, so invested until now in social welfare issues, will have to show fortitude in defending the practicality of his venture in mass transit innovation. It will have to survive the inevitable criticism of urbanites who think they know better ways than a trolley car to get around New York.

    A Waterfront Route to Serve the Poor, Not Just the Wealthy
    FEBRUARY 4, 2016

    Bill de Blasio has promised to undo one of history’s great blunders.

    And, by the way, it is not one that the mayor made himself.

    Mr. de Blasio said on Thursday that he planned to build a new streetcar line along the waterfront from Brooklyn to Queens, a stretch of real estate that now commands stupefying prices but offers almost no public transit options. “Not everybody rides bicycles,” observed Richard Ravitch, the former lieutenant governor.

    Of course, streetcars would aid and abet the rampage of gentrification.

    But they would also provide a chance at decent transit for more than 40,000 people who live in New York City housing projects that were built along the waterfront in the 1940s and ’50s, when the area was an industrial zone that was about to die. “There were many streetcar lines around there that got torn up around the time to be replaced by buses,” said Harris Schechtman, who for many years was the general manager of the city bus system.

    So many trolleys ran through the streets of Brooklyn that the nimble natives who became adept at getting out of their way, the dodgers of Brooklyn, inspired the name of a certain baseball team.

    Until the late 1940s, trains and trolleys carried 400,000 people a day across the Brooklyn Bridge. Then a master plan was carried out: Tear up the tracks and make more room on the bridge for cars.

    The 400,000 people in trains and trolleys became 170,000 in cars, according to Sam Schwartz, a transportation planner and the author of “Street Smart: The Rise of Cities and the Fall of Cars.”

    “That was such a stupid thing to do,” Mr. Schwartz said.

    It was stupid by design, a plank in the 1942 Regional Plan issued by the Regional Plan Association. The streetcar industry was killed off in most cities in the country by the middle of the 20th century, unable to survive a hostile economic climate, including the emergence of suburbs, or a criminal conspiracy by manufacturers of buses, tires and petroleum products to encourage 45 cities in 16 states to remove older street transit systems and replace them with their products.

    The last streetcar in New York City ran across the Queensboro Bridge on April 7, 1957.
    Nearly 59 years later, the city and times have changed so drastically that Mr. de Blasio is prepared to build a 16-mile route from Sunset Park in Brooklyn to Astoria in Queens. A feasibility study, which both Mr. Schwartz and Mr. Schechtman worked on, was paid for by real estate interests, including the Durst family, which has property in Astoria, and the Walentas family, which has developments in Brooklyn.

    How would the line be paid for?

    It would increase the property values along its route, and the increase in property taxes over time would amount to $4 billion, Mr. Schechtman said. The cost of the line is currently put at $2.5 billion. As an example, Mr. de Blasio points to the extension of the No. 7 line to the Far West Side of Manhattan, where it will serve developments over train yards. Under his predecessor, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, the cost of extending the train was to be put entirely on the increased property values, but so far, the city has had to kick in $367 million in debt service on the bonds for that project, according to the city’s Independent Budget Office.

    Perhaps the streetcar line would not be in perfect economic equilibrium, but it would make it possible for more people to live along the waterfront. Mass transit works like irrigation for skyscrapers and housing.

    The new streetcars would each carry 150 to 175 people, Mr. Schwartz said. The articulated buses that now run in parts of the city have room for about 100 passengers. The study had considered using the extended buses in dedicated lanes, known as Bus Rapid Transit, but Mr. Schwartz said those buses required more space, particularly when they turn.

    Who would build and run a streetcar line? The Schwartz team recommends that a single company design, build and operate the system. With one company in charge, Mr. Schwartz said, “there’s no value in stalling construction.”

    The city has grown by more than a million people in the last two decades; if is to continue to grow, it needs more housing and more transit. Low-income people who live here now already face commutes of up to an hour.

    “People say, ‘Aren’t you just serving the upper-middle class of hipsters?’ ” Mr. Schwartz said. “It turns out we’re also serving a huge number of people who live in housing projects.”

    Mayor de Blasio to Propose Streetcar Line Linking Brooklyn and Queens
    FEB. 3, 2016

    In a major reimagining of the New York City waterfront, Mayor Bill de Blasio is set to propose a streetcar line that would snake along the East River in Brooklyn and Queens, a 16-mile scenic ride that would be his administration’s most ambitious urban engineering project to date.

    The plan, to be unveiled on Thursday in the mayor’s State of the City speech, calls for a line that runs aboveground on rails embedded in public roadways and flows alongside automobile traffic — a sleeker and nimbler version of San Francisco’s trolleys.

    By winding along the East River, the streetcars would vastly expand transportation access to a bustling stretch of the city that has undergone rapid development — from the industrial centers of Sunset Park, Brooklyn, to the upper reaches of Astoria, Queens — but remains relatively isolated from the subway.

    For Mr. de Blasio, a Democrat focused on social reform, the plan also represents a shift to the kind of ambitious Robert Moses-style planning that New Yorkers more often associate with his predecessor, former Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who made transportation a hallmark of his tenure.

    The streetcar system, which would realize a long-held fantasy of the city’s urban planners, is expected to cost about $2.5 billion, significantly less than a new underground subway line, city officials said on Wednesday.

    Its operation, however, remains far-off. Under the plan, construction would start in 2019, after studies and community review; service would begin several years after that, perhaps not until 2024, officials said.

    Alicia Glen, the deputy mayor for housing and economic development, acknowledged “some significant engineering challenges when you are putting a modern system like this in a very old city.”

    But Ms. Glen said the city’s existing transit network no longer met the needs of a metropolis whose commuting patterns have shifted significantly in the last two decades. A streetcar route, she said in an interview, offered a novel and practical fix at a time when federal money for infrastructure is scarce.

    “The old transportation system was a hub-and-spoke approach, where people went into Manhattan for work and came back out,” Ms. Glen said. “This is about mapping transit to the future of New York.”

    Streetcars are a staple of European capitals, and have arrived in cities like Atlanta; Portland, Ore.; and Toronto. But they have failed, until now, to catch on in New York, where the Bloomberg administration rejected a proposed line in Red Hook, Brooklyn, as being too expensive.

    The de Blasio streetcars would travel about 12 miles per hour, with a trip between Greenpoint and Dumbo in Brooklyn lasting around 27 minutes, less than current routes on buses and subways. Barriers could physically separate the streetcars from automobiles along some portion of the route, although officials said those details would be determined later.

    The cars would directly link Brooklyn and Queens, two boroughs that can be difficult to travel between without a detour into Manhattan. And though an exact route has not been made final, the system would most likely serve growing commercial centers like the Brooklyn Navy Yard and Long Island City, Queens. About 45,000 public-housing residents live a short walk from the route, the administration said, a priority for Mr. de Blasio, who has focused on combating inequities.

    Administration officials believe the system’s cost can be offset by tax revenue siphoned from an expected rise in property values along the route.

    The cars would directly link Brooklyn and Queens, two boroughs that can be difficult to travel between without a detour into Manhattan. And though an exact route has not been made final, the system would most likely serve growing commercial centers like the Brooklyn Navy Yard and Long Island City, Queens. About 45,000 public-housing residents live a short walk from the route, the administration said, a priority for Mr. de Blasio, who has focused on combating inequities.

    The neighborhood review process for the streetcar route could be onerous, given the vast distance it would travel. But Mr. de Blasio can expect support from major developers, including Jed Walentas of Two Trees Management, whose residential conversion of the Domino Sugar refinery on the Williamsburg waterfront in Brooklyn is set to open soon. Mr. Walentas, who has both clashed and collaborated with the mayor, has championed the streetcar plan, helping to pay for a study on its feasibility and cost.

    Mr. de Blasio, a self-proclaimed political ideologue, has acted more attentive of late to his mixed reputation as a manager, which could be a vulnerability as he looks ahead to a re-election campaign in 2017. His State of the City address is expected to include a plan for quicker trash pickup and a smartphone payment system for the city’s parking meters.
    Transit has never been a passion for Mr. de Blasio, and while the mayor earned praise from transportation advocates for his Vision Zero safety plan, he was criticized after casually suggesting that the city tear out the open-air pedestrian plazas in Times Square.

    On Wednesday, his embrace of the streetcar idea yielded positive reviews, even as some transit experts complained about wanting more details.

    “The more mass transit we have, the better off we are as a city that is growing,” said Richard Ravitch, a former chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
    In his book, Mr. Ravitch said, the plan was “brilliant.” He added, “Not everybody’s going to ride bikes.”


    • Rayn Riel February 29, 2016 at 7:13 pm #

      On Staten Island, de Blasio’s light rail proposal creates more frustration
      By Benjamin Kabak

      When Mayor Bill de Blasio unveiled his Brooklyn-Queens light rail proposal earlier this month, various commentators latched onto the selection of the route. It may not necessarily be a bad routing for a light rail line, but as the city’s first and as the city’s transit deserts go, the waterfront from Sunset Park to Astoria is hardly the most wanting corridor. The proposal came about more because it had deep-pocketed champions willing to fight for it. Whether that’s reason enough to build a new transit route with a new-to-New York transit mode has been a topic of constant debate over the past few weeks, but one thing is for sure: Other transit-starved areas aren’t too happy with this approach.

      Enter the Staten Island Economic Development Corporation. For years, the SIEDC has been shouting into the void of New York politics. For years, the group has been urging someone in power to take up their calls for a West Shore light rail line. The group has asked for $5 million to perform the alternatives analysis for a proposed 13.1-mile route that could connect to North Shore transit corridor and over the Bayonne Bridge to the Hudson Bergen Light Rail Line. As now, it’s nothing more than a line on paper, and the group is growing frustrated.

      But ultimately, this issue is basic politics. First, Staten Island isn’t exactly a de Blasio stronghold, and certain borough politicians have spent as much time obstructing transit improvements (such as Select Bus Service) as others have spent fighting for more options. Additionally, a light rail line through Staten Island should spur a massive upzoning along its route, and that’s not really part of the conversation Staten Island has had yet. Finally, the reality is that there are no interests behind the a West Shore light rail line. Major players in New York’s development and transportation scene haven’t voiced support, and so it goes nowhere.

      Rather than being discouraged by the Brooklyn-Queens Connector, the SIEDC should look to emulate that model and line up monied interests who would support a Staten Island light rail. That’s the political reality of New York’s transportation world where the MTA is controlled by Albany and the mayor isn’t an independently wealthy billionaire beholden only to the limit of his own bank accounts. Again, whether that’s a sound way to engage in transportation planning is a question open debate (and one where the answer is most likely a resounding no), but that’s where we are. Rather than threatening to give up, double down.


      • Rayn Riel February 29, 2016 at 7:15 pm #
        De Blasio Versus Good Transit
        Alon Levy

        In New York, the de Blasio administration has been spending considerable political capital pushing for a $2.5 billion light rail line connecting Astoria and the Brooklyn waterfront south to Sunset Park. There has been a lot of criticism from good transit advocates about implementation – namely, it’s unclear there will be free transfers to the subway and buses, in order to avoid having to share turf with the state-owned MTA – but also of the basic concept, which is not the biggest transit priority in the region, or for matter the twentieth. In comments and on social media, I’ve seen a few wrong arguments made in support of waterfront light rail and similar bad investments over and over, and I’d like to go in some detail into where cities should and should not build such lines.

        The principles below are based on various oppositions: first world versus third world, fast versus slow growth, subway versus no subway. I think a good meta-principle is that if the presence of a certain factor is an argument in favor of a specific solution, then its absence should be an argument against that solution. For instance, if high wages are an argument in favor of rail and against bus rapid transit, then low wages should be an argument in favor of bus rapid transit; this principle makes me wonder what Addis Ababa was thinking when it built light rail instead of BRT, while at the same time thinking very little of American cities that make the decision that Addis Ababa should have made. The upshot of the meta-principle is that many of the guidelines that work in New York could work in very different cities, in reverse.

        1. New York is a mature first-world city with low population growth; it should build transit exclusively or almost exclusively based on current population and transportation patterns, and not attempt to engage in development-oriented transit. The upzoning the city engages in is too small compared to current population, and cannot justify anything of the magnitude of Vancouver’s Expo Line, which was built simultaneously with Metrotown and the New Westminster offices around the train stations. And even Vancouver cannot reasonably expect the growth rates of various third-world cities with annual population growth rates in the vicinity of 5% and even higher per capita income growth rates.

        2. Rail bias is approximately the same on all routes. Routes with many turns and narrow roads have unusually slow buses, but they’ll also have unusually slow surface rail. Rapid transit does have the ability to avoid the extra traffic jams coming from such alignments, and this is especially important in cities where the main street is not the same as the nearby wide boulevard, but this is not what’s under discussion in New York. Yes, de Blasio’s proposed light rail line would get more riders than the buses on segments of the route in question are getting now; the same would be true of any number of light rail routes paralleling the busiest buses in the city.

        3. In a city with a subway, the best light rail routes are the ones that don’t make sense as subway extensions. Of the three busiest buses in New York, two make sense as subway lines, so there’s no point building light rail and only later a subway: the M15, on First and Second Avenues, and the B46, on Utica. In contrast, the third route, the Bx12 on Fordham, is crosstown, and cannot reasonably be an extension of any subway line, so it would be a strong light rail corridor. The same can be said of Main Street in Queens, between Flushing and Jamaica; and 14th and 86th Streets in Manhattan, where the M14 and M86 are the busiest surface routes in the US in terms of riders per kilometer, well ahead of the Boston Green Line (they both have about 8,000, and the Green Line 6,000). Of note, 14th Street already hosts the L, but a branch going on Avenue D is far from the subway, and the street is so well-trafficked that despite slower-than-walking bus speeds, that arguably light rail makes sense there even with the subway.

        4. As soon as a project is judged as not a top priority, it’s best to think of how useful it is once the top priorities are built. In the case of New York, let us zoom in on Brooklyn’s top two circumferential buses, the B4 and B35. Triboro RX is a higher priority than turning these routes into light rail, and once it’s in place, how much demand is there really going to be for them? It would be faster to take the subway and connect to Triboro, except at very short distances, where speeding up surface traffic is less useful.

        In New York, excluding the somewhat special cases of 14th and 86th Streets, I’d say there are three light rail networks that make sense: one in the Bronx, one in Brooklyn, and one in Queens. The Bronx network involves taking the borough’s most frequent buses and turning them into light rail routes: the Bx12 on Fordham as noted above, but also the Bx1/2 on Grand Concourse (like 14th Street, hosting both a subway and a very busy bus route), the Bx19 on Southern and 145th, the Bx15 on Third, and a route on Tremont combining the Bx36 and the Bx40/42. These routes roughly form a grid, each has at least 30,000 weekday riders, and none is SBS except the Bx12. In this case, light rail should really be thought of as the next step after publishing a frequent grid map based on these routes and equipping the entire city bus fleet with off-board fare collection.

        In Queens, there’s less room for a grid – the borough has street grids, but it really is based on several old centers, with major roads connecting them. The strongest routes are the ones that cannot reasonably be subway extensions, because they’re too circumferential; in turn, the strongest subway extension, i.e. Northern, is not a major bus route, because it’s close enough to the Queens Boulevard subway that people instead take the subway, which is overcrowded. Of the strong surface transit routes, the corridor with the highest ridership takes in several bus routes between Flushing and Jamaica; Main Street is the most important route, but potentially there’s room both there and on the second route, Kissena-Parsons. Other potential light rail routes radiate from Flushing and Jamaica, in directions not well-served by the subway and the LIRR, or even west on Queens Boulevard to help serve the gap in subway coverage between the 7 and the Queens Boulevard Line and relieve the subway lines.

        Brooklyn is the most interesting. The main missing pieces in subway coverage in Brooklyn are good subway extensions: Triboro, Utica, Nostrand. With those in place, the only real gaps are Flatbush, and some route serving Red Hook. Possibly service to the Navy Yard may be desirable, but the area is not very well-developed right now, and the buses serving it have low ridership. Those are two or three routes radiating out of the same center in Downtown Brooklyn, which makes it tempting to not only build light rail on them, but also send it over the Brooklyn Bridge to City Hall. This would be like the subway-surface lines in Boston and San Francisco, where one underground trunk splits into several at-grade branches, except that in this case the trunk would be elevated rather than underground. It’s not worth building by itself, but the possibility of leveraging Brooklyn Bridge lanes for several light rail lines may make the ridership per unit of cost pencil out.

        The common factor to all of these possibilities is that they are not meant for signature development areas that the city is targeting. Maybe there’s some new development there, but the focus is on improving public transit services to existing residents, who either are riding very slow buses or have given up on public transit because of the inconvenience. It can be marketed as an improvement in transit, but cannot really be sold as part of a plan to revitalize the Brooklyn waterfront. It’s about day-to-day governing, whereas the administration is interested in urban renewal schemes, which are rarely good transit.


      • Rayn Riel February 29, 2016 at 7:58 pm #

        (As elucidated in these quoted articles above, from my favorite sites, perhaps the City could be spending its limited time with a Utica Avenue extension, or the Triboro RX, or the Queensway, or a LGA connection, rather than the BQX, which would not even be connected with the existing network. Surely East Brooklyn needs more transit, compared to residents right along the East River, next to Manhattan, and next to ferries…)

        How do we prioritize?


  10. Rayn Riel February 7, 2016 at 6:38 pm #

    NY also needs to continue incentivizing innovation. Expand ‘Silicon Alley’, and design better, with more solar panels and rooftop farms in order to attract creatives. Roosevelt Island will be a good start, but what about other areas of the city? We need to connect the disconnects, and I don’t just mean ‘wayfinding’, and frame and create a narrative for the 21st century. Use data to visualize lifecycle problems and bridge the gap between divisions, departments, communities, municipalities, unions… NYC needs more of an interdisciplinary, team-based approach to solving problems, updating data, streamlining approaches, connecting institutions and stakeholders. Someone has to do the grunt work, succinctly.


  11. Rayn Riel February 9, 2016 at 5:01 pm #

    By the way, unification between the PATH and NYCT could be complicated by the fact that the PATH is a railroad under the jurisdiction of the Federal Railroad Administration. PATH used to share trackage with Pennsylvania Railroad in the section between Hudson interlocking near Harrison and Journal Square, so historically, it needed to adopt to federal railroad safety requirements.


  12. Rayn Riel February 16, 2016 at 11:01 pm #


  13. John May 17, 2016 at 12:28 am #

    Soon you may need to “bridge the gap” in more places when the city becomes Venice:

    New York City is nearly 400 years old; in the worst-case scenario conjured by the research, its chances of surviving another 400 years in anything like its present form would appear to be remote. Miami, New Orleans, London, Venice, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Sydney — they are all near sea level and just as vulnerable as New York, or more so.

    Now, London has london clay, which makes tunneling a lot easier, less prone to leaks… NYC has hard bedrock, which is more expensive! and so it’s a trade off. But we used to build anyway, the manhattan bridge has 4 train tracks, so can go to BMT broadway and IND 6 av, whereas williamsburg bridge only has 2 tracks. And BK bridge is too old, probably trains too heavy. Capacity, capacity, capacity!

    …The Tube was originally built for steam locomotives, before electric tunnels were invented! Sorta like the tunnels to GCT under Park in NYC.

    The Metropolitan initially ordered 18 tank locomotives, of which a key feature was condensing equipment which prevented most of the steam from escaping while trains were in tunnels; they have been described as “beautiful little engines, painted green and distinguished particularly by their enormous external cylinders.”[38] The design proved so successful that eventually 120 were built to provide traction on the Metropolitan, the District Railway (in 1871) and all other ‘cut and cover’ underground lines.[38] This 4-4-0 tank engine can therefore be considered as the pioneer motive power on London’s first underground railway;[39] ultimately, 148 were built between 1864 and 1886 for various railways, and most kept running until electrification in 1905.

    In the belief that it would be operated by smokeless locomotives, the line had been built with little ventilation and a long tunnel between Edgware Road and King’s Cross.[40]Initially the smoke-filled stations and carriages did not deter passengers[41] and the ventilation was later improved by making an opening in the tunnel between Gower Street and King’s Cross and removing glazing in the station roofs.[42] With the problem continuing after the 1880s, conflict arose between the Met, who wished to make more openings in the tunnels, and the local authorities, who argued that these would frighten horses and reduce property values.[43] This led to an 1897 Board of Trade report,[note 11] which reported that a pharmacist was treating people in distress after having travelled on the railway with his ‘Metropolitan Mixture’. The report recommended more openings be authorised but the line was electrified before these were built.[43]


  14. Bobby July 17, 2016 at 2:05 pm #

    Hudson Yards is not as bad as the new PATH station. They are going to be spending so much cleaning that to keep it sparkling white. And how much retail do they need? Going to have vacancy issues like the WTC itself. Plus now the 7 has tail tracks so it can pull into the terminal a lot faster. It is a shame though that they did not build a station shell for another station to be built along the extension.

    PATH should just be brought under MTA control. it fits IRT tracks.


  15. Al July 17, 2016 at 2:06 pm #

    Subway always been one of the best, definitely the best in the USA. Very smart people involved. From IND color codes ( and trunk colors, skip stop service, to the signal system… types of stations, signs, tracks… all how speed is controlled, on curves…
    unlike other US systems, there are so many levels of subways here, they can be merged and rerouted, so it can run 24/7, despite track work… yes, it is an inconvenience, and yes, it is an inconvenience to have some shorter trains (G, C, weekend M), but it cuts costs and they still run to every station at least!

    WMATA apparently was built with automatic train control but they turned it off because of an accident, now operators enter stations so SLOWLY… even though such bad safety procedures. trains do not stop if they go past a red signal! but at least they have AC in their stations.

    the old R 32s are more reliable than some WMATA trains and they’re from the 60s, first cars with AC in nyc, and they don’t even have the ding dong noises for doors closing. (though, the operator is in a small space and it makes it hard to do one-man operation since s/he can’t go to both sides of the tracks to open/close doors).

    it’s not rocket science folks.


  16. Gabe July 22, 2016 at 9:14 pm #

    The TZ bridge is longer than the V Narrows but the VN has longer span as a suspension bridge and built better. TZ built poorly thus they are redoing it alrdy!!! And at longest span across hudson to be 25 mi from statue of liberty and outside control of port authority so NYS thruway does not have to share revenue toll LOL


  17. Greg90NY August 7, 2016 at 4:15 pm #


    The National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) is a coalition of the Departments of Transportation of 22 of the largest cities in North America, and 17 affiliate member cities.

    Founded in 1996 by former New York City Transportation Commissioner Elliot Sander, NACTO’s mission is a commitment to “raising the state of the practice for street design and transportation by building a common vision, sharing data, peer-to-peer exchange in workshops and conferences, and regular communication among member cities.” Since its founding, NACTO has participated in a number of research initiatives dealing with surface transportation in urban areas. Past campaigns have focused on bicycling, bus rapid transit, light rail, bike share, and freight. Its Urban Street Design Guide and Urban Bikeway Design Guide have gained the endorsement of over 40 cities, eight states, and other organizations, in addition to gaining FHWA acceptance for use in conjunction with other mandated guidance and resources.[1] NACTO is headquartered in New York City.

    They understand that to get EQUITABLE HEALTHY VIBRANT CLIMATE-FRIENDLY CITIES… not only resilient to natural disasters, but to unemployment, inefficient transit, violence, chronic food/water issues, finance… it is important to be resilient, to share, to collaborate, across boundaries… and be reflective, resourceful, flexible, robust, integrated, inclusive — the OPPOSITE of Donald Trump, building walls, dividing us…


  18. Wixx September 18, 2016 at 12:46 pm #

    Airlines need to be SO PRECISE with air traffic control… precise communication between pilots, airports…

    the air control towers often have outdated technology, and NY airports are so busy and congested, seems like more and more people are flying than ever before (and there are more people on the planet than ever before)

    Laguardia has tight runways, conflicting, so close to the water, so narrow, bad weather, so lots of clog… and, delays at JFK or newark mean laguardia also gets delayed, since the area is really one big airport, since flights can’t run into each other…

    USDOT, FAA, need to work with port authority to fix these delays (FAA says it is delayed if 15+ minutes late)

    LGA: The disjointed, half-century-old terminal building features a warren of concourses with inadequate gate seating, restrooms or power outlets for 27 million travelers a year. Because bad weather often adds another burden to the busy runways and congested taxiways, LaGuardia has one of the worst records among major airports for flight delays and cancellations.

    For now, five problems that Cuomo and others hope to remedy include:

    LaGuardia has several fragmented terminals, which the plans call for replacing with a single architecturally unified building. The airport, built decades before the terrorist attacks Sept. 11, 2001, has limited room for security checkpoints. For now, “the concourses are too small and the waiting areas are jam-packed,” said Brett Snyder, who writes an aviation blog called The Cranky Flier. “Some airline lounges are outside security, which makes them far less useful than they should be.”
    In contrast to the sparkling skyscrapers downtown, the airport looks its age other than renovated terminals C and D. “It’s really crazy in a city as important as New York has such an antiquated airport,” said George Hobica, founder of “The central building was built in the age of the propeller, not the jet.” The crowded concourses have no room for shops or restaurants that invigorate modern airports. Fliers find it drab and run down. “Even ‘great’ airports have pockets within them that look like ‘The Land That Time Has Forgotten,’ but pretty much the entirety of the LaGuardia central terminal building owns that title,” said Robert Mann, an airline analyst with R.W. Mann & Co.
    Despite its proximity to downtown, LaGuardia lacks a subway station to make access easier. “You basically have to take a cab from mid-town Manhattan,” said Hobica, who avoids LaGuardia in favor of John F. Kennedy airport. “The buses are crowded and infrequent and it takes forever.” The overhaul would move the terminal 600 feet closer to Grand Central Parkway, which rings the airport, to allow room for nearly 2 miles of new taxiways. Cuomo has proposed a future train to link the airport to the subway.
    Sitting along the East River, LaGuardia also suffers more than its share of challenging weather. Wind and fog are common. Superstorm Sandy flooded the low-lying airport with an estimate 100 million gallons of saltwater in October 2012, shutting the airport for two days and disrupting travel plans for 250,000 passengers.
    The congestion and bad weather combine to give travelers some of the worst delays and cancellations in the country. LaGuardia ranks 29th out of 29 major airports for on-time arrivals (70%) and cancellations (4.48%), according to Transportation Department statistics. Departure delays rank near the bottom, too.

    Analysts warn that the construction won’t cure the limits of runways and weather, and rebuilding the airport while it continues to operate will make conditions worse than they are now. “Safe to say that LaGuardia will have the ‘worst’ title for years to come,” Mann said.

    In the first half of 2011, the region’s airspace — defined as the big three airports, plus Teterboro Airport in New Jersey, which caters to corporate jets, and Philadelphia International Airport — handled 12 percent of all domestic flights but accounted for nearly half of all delays in the nation.
    These delays ripple across the country. A third of all delays around the nation each year are caused, in some way, by the New York airports, according to the F.A.A. Or, as Paul McGraw, an operations expert with Airlines for America, the industry trade group, put it, “When New York sneezes, the rest of the national airspace catches a cold.”

    Delays come from a variety of causes, including mechanical problems with planes, late crews, missing passengers or misplaced bags. In many cases — though the exact share is impossible to estimate precisely — weather plays a big role. Snow or fog can ground planes for hours in the winter, while summer storms frequently send airline schedules into disarray.
    According to the Department of Transportation, a flight is considered on time if it leaves or arrives at its gate within 15 minutes of its schedule. But even that statistic can be misleading. To minimize late arrivals, airlines have long padded their schedules, counting flight times as longer than necessary.

    The region’s challenges are unique and daunting for air traffic managers. There are four airports within a 30-mile radius, heavy traffic and little room to build a new runway anywhere convenient. Complicating matters further, such proximity means that what happens at one airport has an effect on the operations of the other airports.

    A change of winds at Kennedy, for instance, can affect what runway is used at La Guardia so that planes heading into either airport do not cross paths. In turn, that can affect how traffic is directed into Newark Liberty and Teterboro.

    “You have to think about it as one giant airport,” said Robert Maruster, the chief operating officer of JetBlue Airways, one of the top operators at Kennedy Airport.

    “Managing air traffic in and around New York is challenging because so many aircraft want to fly there and the airports are so close together,” David Grizzle, the F.A.A.’s air traffic chief operating officer, said in a statement.

    Improvements have also been made on the ground. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns the New York airports, recently expanded one of Kennedy’s four runways and added more taxiways so that airplanes can get on and off the runways faster.

    It also set up a program that provides departing airplanes a more precise time frame to leave their gate so they can reduce their time on the taxiways, and cut delays before takeoff.

    But after all that has been done to reduce delays, the biggest drop has been because of the airlines’ reductions in the number of scheduled flights since 2007. They have also switched from frequent flights with smaller planes to fewer flights on larger ones. Last year, 81 percent of the domestic flights departed on time, according to the Department of Transportation.

    Some airports are building more runways to increase takeoff and landing capacity. In recent years, new runways have been built in Seattle, Charlotte, Chicago and at Dulles International in Washington. Philadelphia has planned an expansion that would add a fifth runway. That plan, however, is being challenged by US Airways, the airport’s biggest operator, which fears its investment in the project would be too high.

    Chicago once had the worst airspace in the country. But after O’Hare completed a 3,000-foot extension of its busiest runway in 2008, the airport experienced the largest drop in delayed flights among the nation’s top airports. The new runway enabled O’Hare to accommodate 9 percent more flights than the previous summer, which meant 16 more hourly arrivals in optimal weather. In poor weather — the litmus test for any airport — O’Hare can land 84 planes an hour, compared with the 68 to 72 before the new runway.

    On-time departures from O’Hare jumped to 77 percent in 2010 from 68 percent in 2008. The airport is building another runway, which it plans to complete by the end of 2013. It will be able to accommodate larger planes, and further cut congestion. Even so, the airport still ranks as having among the most delays in the nation.

    One measure that could help is increasing the use of more precise navigation tools like GPS to fly more direct routes. Those procedures, part of a wholesale modernization of the nation’s airspace over the next decades, will eventually give air traffic controllers a much better picture of where airplanes are flying and allow them to fly closer together. According to the F.A.A., this technology will also allow the system to operate as smoothly in bad weather as in good. In New York, the F.A.A. is about to start testing new arrival and departure routes at both La Guardia and Kennedy that would require airlines to perform more precise landing routes.

    “There is a lot of wasted space that has to be factored in because of safety,” said Susan M. Baer, the director of aviation at the Port Authority.

    “Radar is not as precise as GPS. You can be in a cab in Manhattan with GPS and you are dealing with more sophisticated technology than is being used by the F.A.A.”


  19. Binok September 21, 2016 at 4:38 pm #

    In 2015, NYCT implemented the Q44 Select Bus Service, which connects the Bronx and Queens via the Whitestone Bridge. A good way to bridge the gap!


  20. Tioh October 4, 2016 at 12:26 am #

    The Hell Gate Bridge was built to connect 2 railroads. A good gesture for bridging the gap.


  21. Eiona October 6, 2016 at 3:06 pm #

    Governor Cuomo Announces Transformational Plan to Reimagine New York’s Bridges and Tunnels for 21st Century

    October 05th, 2016
    Rendering of Verrazano Bridge transformation

    “Open Road” tolling and colorful LED lights are among the changes you’ll see in the coming years when traveling on MTA’s Bridges and Tunnels. Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced a transformational plan to reimagine New York’s crossings for the 21st century. The plan will institute state-of-the-art automatic tolling at all MTA bridges and tunnels – reducing traffic congestion and decreasing emissions to improve the overall travel experience for millions of residents and visitors in New York State. At the Governor’s direction, the state will also deploy cutting-edge technology and security personnel to high-profile crossings in New York to enhance public safety and fortify anti-terror efforts.

    As part of the New York Crossings Project, the Governor also announced the state will implement new tunnel barriers to control major floods and seismic measures on bridges which will provide long-term protection from earthquakes and other natural forces. The transformational project also includes the addition of energy efficient LED lighting. In addition, the MTA will join cities around the globe in providing a renewed focus on public art to ensure our infrastructure projects reflect the grandeur of the Empire State. Under the Governor’s plan, New York will redesign tunnel plazas with cutting-edge veils equipped with LED capability, and gantry structures supporting the new electronic toll equipment will feature artistic “wave” designs which will vary in size and scale.
    “By investing in New York’s transportation network today and equipping it to meet the challenges of tomorrow, we are cementing our state’s position as a national leader in 21st century infrastructure and cutting-edge innovation,” Governor Cuomo said. “From speeding up commutes and reducing emissions on key roadways with automatic tolling to bolstering resiliency on our bridges and tunnels and increasing security at key checkpoints, this transformational project will revolutionize transportation in New York and ensure that our state is built to lead for generations to come.”

    The New York Crossings Project encompasses all seven MTA-operated bridges and its two tunnels, including the Henry Hudson Bridge, Whitestone Bridge, Throgs Neck Bridge, RFK Triborough Bridge, Queens Midtown Tunnel, Hugh L. Carey Brooklyn Battery Tunnel, Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, Marine Parkway-Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge, and Cross Bay Veterans Memorial Bridge. The coordinated lighting plan will include the George Washington Bridge operated by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Funding for these transformational improvements is allocated as part of the MTA’s $27 billion capital plan.

    State-of-the-Art Automatic Tolling

    New York’s roads are some of the most congested in the nation, with commutes from Long Island, White Plains, and Northern and Southern New Jersey averaging upwards of two hours. On average, 800,000 vehicles cross MTA tunnels and bridges each day, and as a whole, New York drivers spend more than 6,400 hours per day waiting to pay tolls.

    Under the Governor’s leadership, New York State is making record investments in increasing regional public transit capacity. To further reduce traffic congestion, the state is implementing automatic tolling, or “open road tolling.” These new, automated tolls will significantly enhance traffic flow, reduce congestion and decrease commute times making it easier for New Yorkers to get where they need to go. Sensors and cameras will be suspended over the highway on structures called “gantries” and vehicles will not be required to stop. Vehicles with E-ZPass will be automatically charged, and non-E-ZPass vehicles will have their license plate recorded and a bill will be mailed to the registered owner of the vehicle.

    Automatic tolling is projected to save commuters up to 21 hours of drive time every year. Additionally, automatic tolling reduces emissions and significantly decreases amount of fuel burned by drivers, who will no longer have to stop and start waiting to pay tolls. This will conserve approximately one million gallons of fuel and save $2.3 million each year. Automatic tolling will begin at select bridges in January and be completed on all MTA-operated bridges by the end of next year.

    Enhanced Security at New York Crossings

    New York is increasingly a target of threats to security. In recognition of this threat, the New York Crossings Project will integrate emerging technologies into the security design of bridges and tunnels across the state, deploying additional personnel and equipment. At each crossing, and at structurally sensitive points on bridges and tunnels, advanced cameras and sensors will be installed to read license plates and test emerging facial recognition software and equipment. These technologies will be applied across airports and transit hubs – including the Penn-Farley Complex – to ultimately develop one system-wide plan.

    Anti-terrorism teams will be combined with traffic enforcement at crossings and will develop new operating protocols across agencies. Approximately 525 TBTA officers will provide security and traffic management at bridges and tunnels and will collaborate with State Police on toll enforcement; 150 members of State Police Troop NYC will be assigned at crossings to handle security and anti-terror activities; and 150 National Guardsmen will reinforce troopers on security and anti-terror initiatives. Special barricade trucks will be positioned at both ends of each crossing to serve as intercept vehicles and mobile barriers in the event of an emergency.

    Flood Resiliency

    Previously, New York’s tunnels were built to protect against a 100-year flood, but the devastation wrought by Hurricanes Sandy and Irene demonstrated a need to enhance protections to withstand a 500-year flood. Tunnels will have new barriers installed to block floodwater from entering with water-tight barriers to protect the tunnel and its facilities. Additionally, tunnels will have increased submersible pumping capacity to protect against flooding. Follow this link for more information.

    Seismic Measures

    MTA’s bridges – like many in the Metropolitan region – were built nearly a century ago. The plan includes comprehensive seismic upgrades to make MTA bridges more flexible in the event of an earthquake. All existing bridge bearings will be replaced with “seismic isolation bearings” that allow for rotation, reducing the transfer of seismic forces and mitigating damage. Bridges will have added reinforcement to bridge columns and piers to provide greater resistance to seismic forces. Concrete armor units around the underwater portion of bridge piers will be installed to provide long-term protections beyond seismic events. Follow this link for more information.

    Building the New New York – Public Art

    Under Governor Cuomo, New York is recapturing the bold spirit that made it the Empire State in the first place. In the past, New York built projects that were not only practical, but works of public art, like the New York State Capitol, Grand Central Terminal, the original Penn Station and the Central Mall Mosaics at Jones Beach. The MTA has made efforts to incorporate art underground, but this plan will bring back public art aboveground.

    The New York Crossings Project will reconfigure toll plazas into modern transportation gateways. Plaza walls will be transformed by veils that shield security personnel and equipment, while acting as LED message boards. Intercept vehicles will be stationed behind the veil and security personnel will have line-of-sight monitoring portals. While plaza redesign will vary, each automated tolling structure on MTA-operated bridges and tunnels will be covered with a decorative artwork presenting a “wave” effect. The wave will be constructed from chainmail fabric which moves with the wind.

    LED lighting will be adopted on all MTA bridges and tunnels. LED lights use 40 to 80 percent less power and last six times longer than other types of roadway lighting. In addition to costing less and lasting significantly longer, LED lights can be programmed into different colors and patterns.

    The New York Crossings Project will lead the nation by encompassing all MTA-operated bridges and tunnels in New York City, plus the George Washington Bridge. “The City That Never Sleeps,” a dusk to dawn lighting schedule, will illuminate these crossings with spectacular, multi-color light shows that will be visible for miles. Illuminating New York’s already awe-inspiring structures will transform them into international tourist attractions with the potential to drive additional tourism revenue. LED installations are set to begin this January.

    State Senator and Senate Democratic Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said, “This is a smart undertaking that will not only make our transportation infrastructure more efficient but also safer and create more jobs. New York must redesign and rebuild for the 21st century to compete in the global marketplace. I look forward to working with the Governor as this transformative project moves forward.”

    Senator Joseph Robach, Chair of the Senate Transportation Committee said, “New York’s bridges and tunnels are used by millions of people each year and essential to our entire region’s economic success. Governor Cuomo has put forward a plan to reimagine our transportation system for the 21st century and it will result in less traffic, increased capacity, and more durability to withstand natural disasters. This project is a win-win for New York and its residents, and I can’t wait to see it move forward in the months to come.”

    Assemblyman David Gantt, chair of the Assembly Transportation Committee said, “Efficient and secure transportation is an essential to life in our state, however, for many years, our bridges and tunnels have not been meeting the demands of modern day New York. By combining energy-efficient and beautiful construction with common sense innovation and heightened security, Governor Cuomo’s plan meets and exceeds the needs of New York commuters now and for years to come. We must act now to ensure the sustainability of our transit system and Governor Cuomo has laid out a bold plan to do just that.”

    Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. said, “New York is leading the nation in infrastructure investment because Governor Cuomo recognizes the connection between strong infrastructure and a strong economy. With the needs of the modern economy in mind, the plan includes innovative solutions to everyday problems facing commuters, like automatic tolling, while improving sustainability and efficiency for a stronger, greener New York.”

    Building and Construction Trades Council of Greater New York President Gary Labarbera said, “No one in recent memory has demonstrated such a commitment to the hard-working men and women of this state than Governor Andrew Cuomo. The proposals unveiled here today are challenging us to consider the future we want to build together. It’s a future that invests in energy efficient, cost-effective projects that are built with the strength and sturdiness necessary to weather the heavy use and heavy storms they’re bound to experience. Our aging bridges and tunnels are eyesores, and the Governor has delivered a plan, right on time. The working men and women of New York stand ready to make it a reality.”

    Teamsters Joint Council 16 President George Miranda said, “Investments in infrastructure is one of the best ways to create jobs and jumpstart economic growth, and nobody knows that better than Governor Cuomo. This plan will not only transform New York’s bridges and tunnels into the transportation system of tomorrow, but it will create good-paying jobs for thousands of New Yorkers. The working men and women of this state are ready to build for the future and we thank the Governor for his leadership in making these projects a reality.”

    NYC Carpenters District Council President Steve McInnis said, “While much of our country struggles to keep up with modern infrastructure demands, Governor Cuomo is leading the way forward. This transformative plan will not only fortify our bridges and tunnels that transport millions of New Yorkers every day, but will heighten their security. The Governor knows that investing in infrastructure means creating jobs and strengthening our economy – since day one he has stood by the side with the men and women of our state, and this renaissance is the cornerstone of that commitment.”
    NYS Ironworkers District Council President James Mahoney said, “New York is leading the nation in infrastructure investment because Governor Cuomo recognizes the connection between strong infrastructure and a strong economy. With the needs of the modern economy in mind, the plan includes innovative solutions to everyday problems facing commuters, like automatic tolling, while improving sustainability and efficiency for a stronger, greener New York.”

    Follow this link to see renderings of the LED lighting plan. Follow this link for video.


  22. Brad October 7, 2016 at 3:38 pm #

    Over the past three years, neighborhood leaders, community groups, elected officials, and hundreds of you have come together to envision a sustainable, livable, and inclusive future for the area around the Gowanus Canal. The “Bridging Gowanus” community planning process has laid a solid foundation of thoughtful, community-led planning and strong public action to shape our neighborhood.

    Now, beginning this fall, the NYC Department of City Planning (DCP) will convene a series of conversations in our community—to build upon our work together though Bridging Gowanus, and develop plans for the future of the area. On Thursday October 27, DCP will host a kick-off meeting for the Gowanus neighborhood planning study:
    Kick-Off Meeting: Gowanus Neighborhood Planning Study with the NYC Department of City Planning

    Thursday October 27th at 6:30 pm
    PS 32 – 317 Hoyt St, at Union St

    At the kick-off meeting, you can meet the staff from the NYC Department of City Planning (and other City agencies who will work with us) and learn more about the neighborhood planning study process, also known as a PLACES study. As DCP describes these studies: “PLACES studies examine and address key land use and zoning issues in neighborhoods, but also take a broader look at current and future community needs to identify a wide range of strategies and investments that support the neighborhood’s growth and vitality.”

    That approach will mesh well with the work we’ve done together through Bridging Gowanus. This summer, more than 500 of you helped to prioritize goals for the neighborhood – through an online survey and four in-person “open house” events. The top priorities you identified are:

    • Invest in our parks, schools, transit and waterfront
    • A sustainable, resilient, environmentally healthy community
    • Keep Gowanus creative and mixed-use
    • Preserve and create affordable housing
    • Secure a pathway for responsible growth
    • Strengthen the manufacturing sector and create good jobs

    It won’t always be easy. We’re a neighborhood full of smart, creative people with strong opinions, and of course we’ll have different points of view on what matters most. As I said in a New York Times article this summer about this process: “Shaping real estate development in a capitalist economy is no easy feat. But our chance of seeing a future Gowanus based on the values we have — sustainability, livability, inclusion — get better if we try to shape that development ourselves, rather than just hope it doesn’t happen.”

    Through each stage of the Bridging Gowanus process, we’ve brought diverse members of our community together—long-time and newer homeowners, tenants, NYCHA residents, business owners, environmental activists, artists, affordable housing advocates, and more—to talk honestly about the opportunities and challenges we face, and to develop a shared future.


  23. Huntington October 11, 2016 at 4:58 pm #

    Bridge this gap


  24. Webster October 17, 2016 at 2:58 pm #

    Foundation is necessary for subways. If it’s messed up, everything else is messed up. Cracks begin to form. Water will leak in. It’s all an ecosystem. Similarly, the culture needs a strong foundation.


  25. Eugenie October 18, 2016 at 2:17 pm #

    The PATH could connect with the IRT since it was built to IRT widths. It would mean that PATH and NYCT rolling stock would be mixed together. But it could be worked out.

    And in Chicago, the els are even narrower! Toronto… wider, because newer. That city was pretty small, never got els like Chicago or NY. Detroit was bigger and also never had els.

    Our newest rolling stock:

    Still, I think we need open-gangway for some more space, the curves aren’t that sharp, it will work out, with 60-foot trains. Those 75-foot trains can’t fit on some B Div (definitely no A Div) tracks without swiping each other… but 60-foot trains are good! And, get buttons to open each door on its own, to save energy heating/cooling costs, and costs of door motors… if the doors don’t open as often, money is saved, long-term, though short-term, lots of extra circuits and $…

    In terminals, the trains already close doors except for one, to keep the cool/heat in/out.


  26. Venus October 21, 2016 at 2:39 pm #

    While transportation costs and seas continue to rise, as it appears as though New Yorkers do not understand that renewing, enhancing, and expanding infrastructre requires temporary inconvenience. Uproar ensues at any change, accompanied by fears of gentrification and displacement. Naturally, this makes politicians nervous, and limits the scale of projects, while raising costs. Indeed, what Robert Moses accomplished would be impossible today, which is why it is unfortunate that he did not provide ROW for rail along his highways. (The AirTrain shares a ROW with one of his highways; today, many subway and light rail systems are expanding along highway corridors, such as in D.C., Los Angeles, and Portland).

    the subway requires a lot of hard infrastructure. it’s not sexy, and these days, people just want to trade on each other’s money, look good and be fake… but we need infrastructure for it!

    and we need to repair it…

    not just abandon it and cut off the old platforms

    or put up drip pans to keep the water from leaking

    or make the track stronger from leaks without fixing the real problem…

    you can keep it from derailing with extra side rails, but… what about the core problem?



  27. Sara October 21, 2016 at 4:59 pm #

    PATH should definitely be shown on the map. NJ too. But… lack of cooperation.

    Transit maps in other cities display multiple services, regardless of whether they are run by multiple agencies. 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. In Berlin, Germany, the two agencies that run public transit services appear together on the city’s official transit map.


  28. EZ June 5, 2017 at 11:12 am #

    Governor Andrew M. Cuomo has announced cashless tolling will begin on the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge on June 15. Implementing cashless tolling on the RFK Bridge will reduce congestion and improve travel for motorists in time for the summer travel season. As part of the transition to a more convenient and cost effective way to travel New York’s crossings, the Governor is encouraging all commuters to sign up for an E-ZPass and save on tolls across the state, including 30 to 50 percent at all MTA bridges and tunnels in New York City.

    “A critical route for both commuters and visitors, cashless tolling on the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge will improve the safety of all motorists and reduce congestion to streamline travel between Queens, Manhattan, and the Bronx,” Governor Cuomo said. “By transitioning to cashless tolling at New York’s crossings, we are transforming our transportation infrastructure to meet the needs of 21st century travelers, while providing safe and easy commutes for generations to come.”

    The RFK Bridge joins Henry Hudson Bridge, Hugh L. Carey Tunnel, Queens Midtown Tunnel, and Rockaway Bridges, where sensors and cameras suspended over the highway on structures known as “gantries” read E-ZPass tags and take license plate images, so vehicles no longer have to stop and pay the toll. Vehicles with E-ZPass tags are automatically charged, and vehicles without E-ZPass have their license plate recorded and a bill is mailed to the registered owner of the vehicle. E-ZPass tags should always be mounted and never waved to ensure that the tag is properly read and that the driver’s attention is not diverted from crossing the facility safely.

    Cashless or open road tolling will be the method of toll collection at all MTA Bridges and Tunnels’ facilities this year. The schedule is as follows:

    Verrazano-Narrows Bridge – July 2017
    Throgs Neck Bridge – September 2017
    Bronx-Whitestone Bridge – October 2017

    Cashless tolling is projected to save commuters up to 21 hours of drive time every year. It also reduces emissions and significantly decreases the amount of fuel burned by drivers, who will no longer have to stop and start waiting to pay tolls. This will conserve approximately one million gallons of fuel and save $2.3 million each year.

    “I am excited to see cashless tolling come to the RFK Bridge. The benefits of this technology will provide customers with a smoother ride at all of our facilities, making it easier for New Yorkers to get where they need to go,” said Veronique Hakim, MTA Interim Executive Director. “The accelerated schedule we are undertaking to bring Cashless Tolling to all of our facilities in 2017 underscores our commitment to investing in New York’s transportation network to meet the needs of a growing region.”

    To ensure that all users of MTA toll facilities pay their fair share, a series of enforcement measures are in place to tackle toll payment evasion and chronic toll scofflaws. Customers who do not pay their tolls are subject to violation fees, registration suspensions, and other enforcement actions. Late fees accrue if an initial toll bill is unpaid, and if a second notice is also ignored, violation fees of up to $100 per toll violation may be imposed.

    The New York State Department of Motor Vehicles has enacted regulation that allows suspension of the vehicle registration of motorists who fail to pay three tolls, violation fees, and other charges resulting from violations on different days, within a period of five years, and ignore toll authorities’ repeated notices.

    “Most customers already get it—with E-ZPass, it’s a fast commute and the lowest cost,” said MTA Bridges and Tunnels Acting President Tim Mulligan. “But what some people still don’t know is we have eliminated the excuses not to get E-ZPass. You don’t need a credit card or even a car, and as all our crossings go “Cashless” it makes more sense than ever to get E-ZPass.”

    Everyone is encouraged to visit to sign up and save 30-50 percent on MTA tolls. E-ZPass “On-the-Go” tags will continue to be sold in all cash lanes at the RFK until June 15, and at Bronx-Whitestone, Throgs Neck, and Verrazano-Narrows Bridges. Tags cost $30 and come with $20 in prepaid tolls and have a $10 refundable deposit, which is waived if the tag is linked to a credit card or bank account for automated replenishment. E-ZPass tags can also be purchased at local DMV offices.

    E-ZPass accounts can be funded in several different ways. The most popular is automatic replenishment with a credit/debit card or automatic deductions from a bank account. MTA customers who don’t like pre-paying for tolls, maintaining a minimum balance or providing a credit card, can also choose MTA’s Pay Per Trip plan. This plan allows you to link a checking account to your E-ZPass account to pay for trips as you go.

    Those customers who prefer cash can use the MTA Reload Card to conveniently refill accounts at any of the 2,500 Visa ReadyLink locations throughout the region or pay in cash at one of the three regional E-ZPass walk-in service centers. The MTA Reload Card is not a credit card; it simply identifies the account for the cash reload.

    For drivers who don’t have E-ZPass and drive through a Cashless Tolling facility, the registered vehicle owner will receive a Toll Bill in the mail. Drivers who receive a bill can pay it online at the Tolls By Mail website, by mail, over the phone, or in-person, and payment options include check, credit card, bank account, or cash. Customers who call **826 from most mobile devices will receive a text with a link to the Tolls By Mail website and information on how to set up a Pay Toll Now account that can be used by rental car customers.

    For additional information on Cashless Tolling and E-ZPass, please visit or call 1-800-333-8655 (TOLL).



  1. Connect | PlaNYourCity - August 31, 2016

    […] enhancement, and expansion of our infrastructure. Because in the end, in order to physically bridge the gap, we’ll first bridge it socially, economically, and politically, transporting it into the 21st […]


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