It’s winter again in Boston. Anyone who was there last year during February and March knows what that means. The ability to move about the city could come to a screeching halt in the blink of an eye.


6fd929f Boston (Riel, 2015)


The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA, or the “T”) completely shut down last winter after repeated large winter storms, stranding thousands of travelers and creating severely overcrowded trains and buses on services that were operational. The T relies every day on outdated, obsolete, overburdened, and overstressed equipment, some of which was built a full seventy years ago, shortly after the end of World War II. Before the storms that brought the T to a halt last winter, we knew that the MBTA had a maintenance backlog upwards of $5 billion. It is now estimated to be upwards of $7 billion. If nothing more, last winter proved that the continuing trend of kicking the can down the road on putting together a feasible plan to address the MBTA’s needs is materially harmful to the residents of eastern Massachusetts who currently rely on the T.

Yet despite this, demand for transit services in Boston has been growing. Since 2010, the number of unlinked trips on the MBTA has increased by 15%. In the same time period, the population of the Boston area grew just 6%. And Boston is hardly alone in seeing increasing demand for transit: all across the country, transit ridership is growing (except in D.C.). Transit agencies across the United States handled more than 10.5 billion unlinked trips in 2014, a 5% increase from 9.95 billion in 2010. The population of the United States grew just 3% in the same period.

While Boston’s elected officials wrangle over whether or not to fund the Green Line extension, new transit services in other parts of the country, such as the new Green Line light rail in Minneapolis and Saint Paul, Minnesota and the CTfastrak system in Hartford, Connecticut have been so successful that they are approaching their 2030 ridership goals nearly fifteen years ahead of schedule.

Clearly, there is a serious disconnect between Boston’s demand for transit and our leaders’ willingness to provide that transit. Right now, the state and city have just agreed to spend almost $150 million to encourage General Electric to move its 800-person corporate headquarters to Boston, while concurrently the T’s new Fiscal and Management Control Board is doing its utmost to kill the MBTA’s popular late night service and save a mere $14 million. Our leaders are willing to develop Boston as a hub of innovation, but not Boston as a hub for transportation.


South Boston Innovation District (Riel, 2015)


Disabled passenger cannot enter MBTA train threshold (Riel, 2016)


Why are many cities across the country choosing to expand and improve the quality of their transit systems, while cities such as Boston are unable to come up with the political willpower to even maintain the systems they have? Are Boston’s transit woes just political, or is it the case that it is actually impossible for transit to be fiscally sustainable for cities and states? Is it possible for cities such as Boston to not invest in transit, given that urban areas are seeing population growth at a significantly greater rate than the rest of the country?

Yes, the T is underfunded, perhaps partly because of a persistent stigma against public transportation in America, and its connection with race, class, and suburbanization. And yes, the T operates America’s oldest public transportation network, and newer systems do not have as many maintenance issues. Plus, granted, it’s harder to be creative on Boston’s narrow streets, built before the age of the automobile. Newer cities have a lot more room for bike lanes, light rail, or bus lanes. Density is also still a dirty word in some circles. Understandably, density used to mean disease, and in fact, New York’s private companies were forced to build into the outer boroughs (which were, back then, still largely rural, having only recently been consolidated) in order to alleviate congestion in Manhattan. (They also were forced to maintain a low fare, even along these low-ridership segments, which contributed to their bankruptcy).

But surely the T could also manage its finances better. Unfortunately, for public authorities, there is a lack of a profit motive, and the T’s bureaucracy is not properly incentivized to perform more effectively and efficiently for the 21st century. Due to this, akin to other public authorities, they lack the expertise necessary to reform themselves. They lack a narrative. Can they even be trusted with more of the public’s money, when customers lose faith in arriving on-time, resorting to their vehicles and resulting in more clogged roads?

As a public authority, the T is risk-averse, and it has no will to innovate (especially in terms of transportation finance and real estate development), while it is hard for it to coordinate with private partners. The problems facing the T cannot be solved merely by providing more funds to the authority, or by raising fares.

While these measures will certainly help, larger structural problems must not be ignored. Radical change is necessary, but there is no will to do it, partly because most people do not understand the core problems facing the authority and partly because people don’t want to pay for improvements. In the City of Boston, only 33% commute with the T, so the majority don’t know how bad it can be during rush hour, or during blizzards.


Blizzard of 2013 (Riel, 2013)


Streamlining all transportation agencies (except for Massport) into a single MassDOT in 2009 was a significant step towards greater efficiency, but politics get in the way of most long-term planning. In the New York region, which has many more authorities, and three states to coordinate, more still arguably seems to get done while Boston and its increasing population is left to increasingly congested and delayed roads and rails. (Though, the T does have cell service and countdown clocks, while the 24/7 NYC subway continues to work on implementing these services in all 469 stations).




MBTA Red Line (Riel, 2016)


I know that it is a feat to move so much complex machinery every single day and that Boston’s existing infrastructure is crumbling, so it’s hard to focus on the future. But, if leaders don’t act, Boston will be left behind with its early 20th century technology and serious institutional disconnects. In fact, by 2020, without additional investment, the MBTA projects that its annual operating deficit will more than double, to $430 million.

Clearly, we need to find creative ways to finance the renewal, 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 century. Change is constant, but we must plan for it, so that Boston can continue to prosper into the 21st century and beyond. Building an underground North-South Rail Link, and building a Red-Blue Connector, for instance, in order to bridge the gap and fill the void.


Longest suspension bridge in the USA, in Brooklyn (Riel, 2011)


DOT East River Bridges (Riel, 2015)


To begin thinking about reform, it’s important to recognize that even though the T is a perpetually cash-strapped authority, they curiously lack the motive to innovate. Why, for instance, have they not built a taller facility for their one-story Red Line station entrances at Davis Square, when surrounding buildings are all at least a few stories tall?

Davis Square is the hustling central business district of the thriving City of Somerville, and the T could build additional stories atop their entrances in order to rent to a supermarket (Trader Joe’s), and build apartments and increase the supply of housing in the neighborhood. This would create jobs, provide a better transit experience, and improve the dynamism of Davis Square.


SketchUp (Riel, 2015)


SketchUp (Riel, 2015)


SketchUp (Riel, 2015)


SketchUp (Riel, 2015)


SketchUp (Riel, 2015)


SketchUp (Riel, 2015)


SketchUp (Riel, 2015)


SketchUp (Riel, 2015)


SketchUp (Riel, 2015)


SketchUp (Riel, 2015)


SketchUp (Riel, 2015)


Moreover, if the Green Line Extension is built, the corridor between it and the Red Line at Davis Square would need to be improved. Perhaps for active transportation, connecting Trader Joe’s with my school’s fitness center near the Green Line. As seen in this zoning map for my active transportation course, in Medford, the corridor is surrounded by Tufts University (and privately-owned fields). But in Somerville, the corridor passes through residential neighborhoods, before entering Davis Square, which is the CBD of the City of Somerville. The area is quite dense and primarily composed of renters (renter occupied) rather than owners (owner occupied), especially along the corridor buffer.

Conveniently, as a state authority, the T does not even need to obey municipal land use or zoning regulations, and that renovated Davis Square station would have all the real estate revenue necessary for maintenance, just as the Green Line Extension would have ample funding if developers contributed to construction costs in exchange for building tall along the route and atop the future station structures. Indeed, this is how the proposed light rail in Brooklyn and Queens in New York City would primarily be funded, with ample new housing to be built in order to meet demand and alleviate (at least some) valid affordability and displacement concerns.


Brooklyn continues to grow… (Riel, 2016)


Brooklyn continues to grow… (Riel, 2016)

Build, Brooklyn, build! (Source:


But unfortunately, the T does not have a developer mindset, and it is hard for it to coordinate with private partners. Plus, local residents would surely (and sadly) object to change and to increased density. Even though the city is growing and demand needs to be met in order to combat displacement, politicians tend to bow to the fears of current residents, without considering the voices of those that would like to move into the community.

And to be fair, even if the T maximized its limited assets for transit-owned development, it would still be quite marginal and it would still need plenty of additional funding from the Commonwealth. Many of the T’s real estate assets are in far-flung locations, where the costs associated with decking atop active operations would make joint development infeasible. Yet in Davis Square, there is arguably no valid excuse.

As a public authority, the T is risk-averse, and even though it does not legally need to follow municipal zoning regulations, it has no motive to innovate. Also, as aforementioned, the T is controlled by politicians that easily bow to Not In My Backyard (NIMBY) activists. These so-called progressives are strangely against progress.

Yes, increased density could mean increased congestion, which is a valid concern, though building atop a rapid transit hub would be the best place to alleviate vehicular congestion concerns. And the region is growing regardless of whether or not buildings become taller; in fact, if they don’t become taller, housing costs will continue to rise while poorer people continue to be displaced.


The Green Line Extension, which theoretically would reach my school, Tufts University, at the College Avenue and Boston Avenue intersection, may not be built. Unlike the Green Line elsewhere, this section would be built alongside the existing commuter rail tracks, separated from the roads, so it would be faster and more convenient. And my campus would have a new gateway — perhaps to be fondly known as College Square — with extended sidewalks and new facilities for learning and socializing. This area of campus is already growing, with 574 Boston Avenue and the soon-to-be completed SEC, as well as the new Central Energy Plant, and the renovated Memorial Steps.

In fact, Tufts rightly understood that space would be available atop the station entrance for development, so they proposed an Air Rights Building, and developed a public-private partnership (P3) in order to have a 99-year lease on air rights. Tufts will be paying for project redesign and construction changes for the station below (if the project moves forward), and paying for ongoing maintenance and station security. This practice is known as value capture, and in particular, joint development, and it is a form of transportation finance.

The school may even be building a pedestrian bridge to the Air Rights Building from the Academic Quad, bypassing College Square below, in order to increase pedestrian capacity throughout campus and above the dangerous intersection, currently with narrow sidewalks and a lack of public space. In fact, Tufts already has many skyways at its Boston campus, where it continues to expand towards the skies, and manage ground-floor retail. (But do these skyways detract from street dynamism? Probably.)


With a rendering of the planned Tufts building, from left, Bill Cummings, A58, H06; Frank DePaola, interim general manager of the Massachusetts Department of Transportation; Medford Mayor Michael McGlynn; and Tufts President Anthony P. Monaco. Photo: Matthew Healey

br1-1 (1)

Tufts Skywalks in Boston (Source:


While the T may be risk-averse, especially concerning real estate development, Tufts clearly does not appear to share these traits. In fact, Tufts even tried to build directly atop South Station’s train platforms between the terminal and the bus station, creating the Tufts University Development Corporation (TUDC) in the 1980s in order to secure permits and air rights and build a skyscraper originally designed with a height of 759 feet. Of course, former University President Jean Mayer, arguably Tufts’ greatest visionary, was the man behind this proposal, envisioning the creation of a skyscraper dedicated to medical research decked atop the station.


Due to a lack of real estate expertise of this scale and complexity, the university brought on Hines Interests LP, a development firm, in the 1990s. Since then, money and politics have gotten in the way, as well as additional complexities related to decking and ventilating atop New England’s busiest (diesel) rail terminal. Thus, the South Station Tower remains on hold, with potential plans for a hotel, condominiums, and office space. Moreover, due partly to vibrations from the trains below, it is unlikely that Tufts will have a place in the skyscraper. However, Tufts would nevertheless be the visionary behind improving South Station, providing real estate revenue to MassDOT, and improving the Northeast Corridor experience.

According to Tufts University Professor Gittleman, President Mayer had a vision of pharmaceutical companies coming into Boston and attaching themselves to the Tufts medical school, with Tufts building facilities atop rail and road transportation assets, from South Station to the Boston Turnpike. While this impressive, LEED pre-certified building is on hold, President Mayer succeeded in getting the university itself ‘on track’, with a sizable endowment and the creation of the Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging, the nutrition school, and the veterinary school.

Clearly, President Mayer understood the importance of interdisciplinary connections — indeed, of bridging the gap socially, economically, politically, and physically — and taking risks. In fact, his vision increased undergraduate enrollment so much that while new dorms were being built, the university needed to shuttle students to a hotel in Harvard Square. And no, unfortunately, they did not just give them free T passes.


Unlike most Northeast and Midwest cities, Boston continues to compete with the Sun Belt’s relatively cheaper cities, which began to boom during the rise of the interstate highway era and the advent of air conditioning. It attracts the best and brightest, keeping it competitive, and it is strong and resilient because it is constantly changing. New students come every year to its anchor institutions, fueling Boston’s innovation economy. But it needs some constructive criticism. And, it also needs some construction.


Cambridge is a ‘livable’ city, but costs continue to rise (Riel, 2016)


Cambridge is a ‘livable’ city, but costs continue to rise (Riel, 2016)


All of this economic activity does have its consequences. Boston is becoming even more expensive. According to Rachel Slade for Boston Magazine, the cost of living in Boston is 39.7 percent above the U.S. average, while median household income remains on par with the rest of the country. Thus, in order to pay for housing, more than a third of homeowners work for four or more months each year to simply own a home. No wonder fewer and fewer are getting mortgages, with the rate of homeownership reaching an all-time-low of less than 60 percent.

We should not be blaming developers for gentrifying our neighborhoods and raising costs. We should be blaming government for not allowing more developers! The simple truth is that there is such a large disconnect between the supply of houses and demand for them that costs are soaring. Boston was shrinking until the early 1990s, when it began to bounce back, but construction rates haven’t grown with population rates.

Because of the soaring value of land, developers are building small luxury units, which do not attract families. They also build office space and hotels, since it’s easier to build for a single tenant. But the BRA has been “woefully behind on zoning”, and developers simply don’t know how much a property is worth, forcing them to routinely bargain for variances. When that happens, the BRA should be forcing developers to renovate nearby subway stations or fund the Green Line Extension, in exchange for more FAR. This is more common in New York, where Frank Gehry’s 76-story 8 Spruce Street was built in exchange for a 100,000-square-foot public school in the building. Rising costs mean longer commutes for working people, and fewer incentives for creatives to move and innovate. We need rational up-zoning along subway corridors, for our health, safety, and welfare, now!


Barclays Center Station Improvements in Brooklyn (Riel, 2015)


Barclays Center Station Improvements in Brooklyn (Riel, 2015)


P3 Maintained Subway Entrance (Riel, 2016)


Creative Cluster: Brooklyn Navy Yard (Riel, 2015)


Creative Cluster: Brooklyn Navy Yard (Riel, 2015)


In the Twin Cities, the new Green Line light rail now links Minneapolis and Saint Paul for the first time since the 1950s. Unlike the Boston MSA, where a bunch of cities and towns fight to move jobs a few miles here or there, the Twin Cities are working as a metropolitan area. According to Whet Moser for the Chicago Magazine, in the 1970s, the region passed the Fiscal Disparities Act, which greatly reduces inequality in the area by collaborating on taxes across municipalities. Chrissy Mancini Nichols, director of research and evaluation for the Metropolitan Planning Council, states that the law puts “40 percent of the growth in the commercial-industrial tax base in each municipality annually into a seven-county regional pool and then distributes those funds back to participating municipalities and school districts based on tax base and population”. By keeping property taxes level for the entire region, they have reduced the property tax base between the richest and poorest municipalities in the region. They even have an urban growth boundary in order to promote smart growth and protect forests, farmers, and aquifers.

Can this collaboration happen in New England, which continues to pride itself for its balkanized town mentality? If not, I don’t see how the MSA can actually plan a region, or how the MBTA can renew, enhance, and expand. Yes, Boston also has ‘twin cities‘, and rapid transit does connect various municipalities. But this network was built largely by private companies, almost 100 years ago, and companies did not care about municipal boundaries. New York has NYC, Jersey City, and Newark. And the Port Authority’s PATH train connects the three cities. But it was also built by a private company, a long time ago. (Though, granted, the IND subway was built by NYC, a few decades after the City of New York was consolidated).

In a city that continues to grow, one cannot lower housing costs if one is not building more places for people to live. But government is limiting how many more units we can build! Government is discriminating. I do realize that if a luxury tower is built in a poor neighborhood, then prices may rise on goods and services nearby, and cheaper neighborhood establishments may be forced to raise prices or shut their doors. But if more units are not built, the same would happen eventually, as people are displaced and spread out farther from most job opportunities, and farther from rapid transit access. Wouldn’t you rather want developers to build vertically, near subway stations?

In Boston, and New York, we have these valuable transportation assets, but often, our leaders zone for density as if they don’t exist. Measured over the entire metropolitan area, Los Angeles has lower per-capita gasoline use than NYC. Everyone has to drive everywhere in LA, but no one has to drive far, because New York’s suburbs are several times less dense than the standard eighth-acre lots in LA. Sprawl is contextual, and so is transportation. It cannot be ‘transported‘, it needs to be ‘translated’ into local contexts. We need to be careful when using sprawl as a term…


Los Angeles (RR)


Los Angeles (RR)


San Francisco (RR)


San Francisco (RR)


Salt Lake City (RR)


Salt Lake City (RR)


Phoenix (RR)


Phoenix (RR)


Phoenix (RR)


Phoenix (RR)


Miami (RR)


Dallas (RR)


Columbus, OH (RR)


Columbus, OH (RR)


Dayton, OH (RR)


Quito, Ecuador (RR)


Quito, Ecuador (RR)


Plettenberg Bay, South Africa (RR)

Kiryas Joel, NY (RR)


Kiryas Joel, NY (RR)


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


Above: San Francisco (RR 2015)

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

The opportunities are truly endless if we think creatively! With more density, our city will be even more dynamic, even more exciting, and even more inviting, with plenty of additional opportunities for living, working, and playing. And, at least in the eyes of this beholder, it will also be more progressive, and more just and equitable.

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

More than half of the world’s population lives in urban areas. By 2050, this will increase to 80%. Climate change, loneliness, and severe health issues are all linked to our cities, according to the Danish architect and professor Jan Gehl. Cities are more than buildings, and we need to plan beyond them, between the disconnects, bridging the gap. How many people pass this street throughout a 24 hour period? How many percent of those are pedestrians? How many are driving cars or bikes? How much of the street space are the various groups allowed to use? Is this street performing well for all its users? Is it car-free, like Roosevelt Island or Governor’s Island, or Broadway in Times Square, Herald Square, Madison Square?

Our zoning needs to be reformed for our 21st century, dynamic, resilient, mixed-use economy.

Bostonians remember the corruption, the waste, and the fraud associated with the Big Dig. It seems as though nothing can get done, and as our country becomes more and more polarized, it can seem hopeless. And Boston shares this mentality with many other regions. We may look at China with awe, as they continue to expand their infrastructure, but a lot of it is built to nowhere, part of a deceptive bubble economy. Can we find the balance between building nothing and building too much? Between planning big and planning small?


Bike, Motorcycle, Bus Lanes in Kunming, China (Riel, 2010)


Informal Public Space in Hong Kong Skyways (Riel, 2015)


Informal Public Space in Hong Kong Skyways (Riel, 2015)


Where are the public spaces to sit and relax in Hong Kong? (Riel, 2015)


… Maybe here? (Riel, 2015)


… Or here? (Riel, 2015)


…Or at the mosque? (Riel, 2015)


… By the bay? (Riel, 2015)


…Probably not here. (Riel, 2015)


Building, building, building in Kunming, China (Riel, 2010)


Excessive spending on street trees in Kunming, China? (Riel, 2010)


Kunming, China (Riel, 2010)


Beijing (Riel, 2010)


Beijing (Riel, 2010)


Temple of Heaven in Beijing (Riel, 2010)


Complex public spaces… Tiananmen Square… (Riel, 2010)


Beijing Airport (Riel, 2010)


Beijing Airport (Riel, 2010)


Flying into Beijing (Riel, 2010)


Flying into Kunming (Riel, 2010)


Flying into Kunming (Riel, 2010)


Chinese Countryside (Riel, 2010)


A village for humans, not for cars (Shaxi, Yunnan, China) (Riel, 2010)


A village for humans, not for cars (Shaxi, Yunnan, China) (Riel, 2010)


Chinese town for humans, not for cars (Riel, 2010)


Chinese town for humans, not for cars (Riel, 2010)


Old China (Riel, 2010)


We know a lot about animals’ habitats, but what about human habitats? Over the past few decades, they have been dramatically shifted, planned for vehicles, rather than humans. Planned for traffic flow, rather than pedestrian flow. We have been planning our public spaces so that cars can congregate, not people. Cars do not need benches, trees, and seating. Our basic idea of a city street needs to change. Of course, it will encounter resistance, but a new narrative for a 21st century American city needs to be constructed. And constructed, physically, too.

With what money? Congestion pricing may work in New York, but still, we need to do more with less. Bus rapid transit needs to be expanded rapidly (Select Bus Service). And, building a new train station? Find a way to also build new housing, or a new school, or a new park, in the same space. Building meaningful, livable communities. And while riders should not (literally) have a free ride, we should cut the waste before raising user fees. Easier said than done, but can greater efficiency be found by partially privatizing transportation agencies, akin to European or Asian systems? (There are also P3s in the USA, such as TransDev in New Orleans, but that only happened because Hurricane Katrina completely destroyed our northernmost Caribbean city’s public transit agency’s capacity). Statisticians should not trick us, and government should work with businesses and the social sector.

I know that private transportation companies went bankrupt. But times have changed again. People are returning to cities. More and more young people are losing their vehicles. Subway ridership is already climbing to levels unseen since the 1950s in NYC. How can we get the political decisions to be focused on the facts and figures, and the reality on (and below) the ground? New York, after all, is grounded by the MTA. What would we do without electricity, elevators, and, subways?

We have spent trillions building infrastructure in Iraq and Afghanistan, while our own infrastructure crumbles. We should be furious. But we should also be constructive, and practical. Even after cutting out waste and improving incentives for innovation (i.e., value capture), our transportation agencies will still need a lot of support in order to become competitive with European and Asian networks. New York’s MTA is already more of a competitor with international agencies, but it still needs to catch up. Delays are increasing. Change is necessary. We mustn’t fear it.


Beijing Metro (Riel, 2010)


These open gangway subway cars increase capacity on Beijing Metro (Riel, 2010)


Delhi Metro (Riel, 2011)


Delhi Metro (Riel, 2011)


Active Transportation on Delhi Metro (Riel, 2011)


Tokyo (Riel, 2015)


Tokyo (Riel, 2015)


Tokyo (Riel, 2015)


Tokyo (Riel, 2015)


Tokyo (Riel, 2015)


Tokyo (Riel, 2015)


There’s no place like New York, but we mustn’t become complacent. We need a new narrative, a new perspective, for a new ‘ameraissance‘ in the 21st century. Do we need Michael Bloomberg? If not, we have three other New Yorkers: Hillary, Bernie, Trump. According to Danielle Allen, a liberal political theorist at Harvard University:

Trump is exploiting the fact that we cannot unite across any ideological divides. The only way to stop him is to achieve that just kind of coordination across party lines and across divisions within our own parties. We have reached that moment of truth.

And we have also reached that moment of truth, that end of the road, not only for our political infrastructure, but for our physical infrastructure. We need to make a choice.

What are our priorities? Our first priority should be to create a set of priorities. Mayor De Blasio and Governor Cuomo continue to dislike each other, proposing their own set of capital projects, while Governor Christie has his own agenda, too. Mayor De Blasio originally touted a Utica Avenue Subway Line, but recently, he’s announced the BQX Light Rail. Thankfully, value capture would be used to primarily finance this route, with developers footing the bill. And developers would hopefully also foot the bill for a new bus terminal, if they’re allowed to build skyscrapers atop a new structure, unlike the current, dilapidated one.

The Port Authority will be opening the PATH hub soon, and retail is arriving to the Fulton Center.


WTC (Riel, 2016)


WTC (Riel, 2015)


WTC (Riel, 2015)


MTA Fulton Center (Riel, 2016)


MTA Fulton Center (Riel, 2016)


MTA Fulton Center (Riel, 2016)


Port Authority Retail (Riel, 2015)


How a Commuter Rail Station Became a $4 Billion Colossus

By DAVID W. DUNLAP FEB. 24, 2016

The World Trade Center Transportation Hub, designed by Santiago Calatrava, was supposed to be a diaphanous structure that would be finished in 2009 at a cost of $2 billion. It is only now beginning to open (and without public fanfare), with a price tag of at least $3.7 billion — not counting the cost of damage caused by Hurricane Sandy in 2012.


Jim Simpson/The New York Times

The original PATH station at the World Trade Center served 67,000 commuters every day to and from New Jersey. Its only imposing feature was an array of extra-long escalators to move travelers from the concourse level, under the No. 1 subway, and onto the PATH mezzanine.


Edward Keating/The New York Times

Beside everything else that was destroyed on Sept. 11, 2001, was more than 400,000 square feet of retail space at the trade center that had just been leased to Westfield, a shopping center operator. The need to replace that space ultimately shaped the design of the hub. Its Oculus pavilion is much more shopping mall than train station.


Andrea Mohin/The New York Times

Santiago Calatrava showed a model of the hub to Gov. George E. Pataki, who spoke approvingly of its monumental quality. The Oculus was to have had glass-and-steel wings that would open and close, like those at Mr. Calatrava’s Milwaukee Art Museum pavilion.


Port Authority of New York and New Jersey

A year after the unveiling of Mr. Calatrava’s original design (left), security concerns prompted substantial revisions. The number of structural ribs was increased, they were made more robust and the interstitial glass panels were taken out of the wings. Three years later, as a cost-cutting measure,the wings were rendered inoperable by Port Authority officials.


Santiago Calatrava/Port Authority of New York and New Jersey

The greatest aesthetic benefit to commuters was to have been a skylight ceiling above the mezzanine transit hall. But that required that part of the memorial plaza be paved in glass blocks, which was unacceptable to Michael R. Bloomberg, who was both mayor and head of the memorial foundation. The plan was scrapped.


David W. Dunlap/The New York Times

That long black box stretching along the left side of the photo is the No. 1 subway line, carrying thousands of passengers every day through the trade center construction site. It would have been easier, faster and cheaper to have built the hub had the Metropolitan Transportation Authority suspended service to South Ferry for a few years. But that is a vital lifeline for Staten Island commuters. And downtown had been disrupted enough.


Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times

Instead of running straight down to the floor, the Oculus ribs terminate in elbows above the floor level. This opens space and prevents shops from being hidden behind a colonnade. But it also required engineering dexterity to cantilever such enormous structural members.


Hilary Swift for The New York Times

What looks like a low ceiling at the left of the photo is the underside of a tied-arch bridge that carries the No. 1 subway through the hub without need for columns, which would have been cheaper and easier to employ. Mr. Calatrava said the solution strengthens security and improves navigability. But it also serves his penchant for structural drama. To stand beneath a column-free expanse while trains rumble overhead is to marvel.

And, perhaps, by December 2016, the Second Avenue Subway’s first phase will be completed, and the W will return. East Side Access, in a few more years.

But all of these projects are astronomically more expensive than construction projects in peer cities. Why? “Labor costs, work rules, managerial incompetence, the spaghetti of infrastructure tangled beneath Manhattan’s streets, a political firmament without incentive to tackle hard issues”. Nevertheless, I am excited for some new stations! Here’s a map for 2017:


RR @ LIRR East Side Access (Riel, 2015)


Yet, soon, the Hudson Tubes will need to be closed for repairs. What about Penn Station itself, which serves far more people than the PATH hub? Or the bus terminal, which serves more people than East Side Access will serve at Grand Central? A rail connection to LGA (via the abandoned LIRR Rockaway Beach Branch)? Penn Access? New subway cars, new buses, new rail and new signals, CBTC? Wi-Fi? Bike bridges?


Open Gangway Car in Toronto (Riel, 2012)


CBTC Installation on MTA NYCT 7 Line (Riel, 2016)


When we get around to building these structures, we should make sure to do it right. The 7 Line Extension didn’t even leave room for a future station at 10th Avenue and 41st Street, and the new PATH terminal didn’t connect the PATH with the A Division of NYC Transit. The Second Avenue Subway won’t have express tracks. We are not planning ahead, and in many ways, we’re still relying on the foresight and the ingenuity of the original engineers of our subways. These were feats of art and engineering, the marvel of the world, and we’ve let them decay into near obsolescence, while our government agencies sit on profitable assets, and talk, talk, talk. We need action, now!

I realize that joint development has a dark history in New York City. It literally darkened Penn Station into a subterranean cavern. It lost the light and the circulation. Pennsylvania Railroad hadn’t been maintaining the station, and, facing declining revenue in the automobile and jet age, they thought they’d be able to stay afloat by building Penn Plaza. After all, railroads had been building real estate at their terminals for decades. Hudson Terminal. Terminal City. Hotel Pennsylvania. Pan Am. The list goes on and on…

But, bankruptcy loomed, even for the merged Penn Central Transportation Company. Today, decades after Penn Central Transportation Co. v. New York City, debates about air rights over the privately-owned Grand Central Terminal continue to surface. A few years ago, American Financial sold assets acquired from successors to the dissolution of the Penn Central Railroad, including the land under Grand Central Terminal and the 156 miles (251 km) of Metro North track leading to the New York City landmark, to Argent Ventures. The new owner of the terminal, which already receives a fortune from the MTA for leasing it, wants SL Green Realty’s One Vanderbilt to transfer GCT air rights for additional development rights. Meanwhile, SL Green wants to provide transit improvements in exchange for additional FAR. Which is fairer? Which is more rational, and for the public good?

Thus, New Yorkers are rightly timid when it comes to planning big. At least we can dream big:


What if you could take one train all the way from Fulton Street to LaGuardia Airport? Or if the Second Avenue Subway didn’t just cover the east side of Manhattan (already a far-off promise) but also branched into Queens and south Brooklyn? The MTA may be in no position to contemplate such radical projects, as it’s preoccupied with repairing debilitated tunnels and making good on some of itsless outlandish promises, but that hasn’t stopped cartographer Andrew Lynch from envisioning a wildly fantastic future for the city’s subway system. This isn’t Lynch’s first foray into subway futurism: in previous projects, he’s cooked up the notion of a Manhattan-bound G train and made several suggestions for improved subway service in Queens.

From extending the Second Avenue Subway across 125th street to connect with the 1, to lengthening the F, M, and 7 lines to serve the current subway desert that is northeastern Queens, there’s a lot to look at here. Below, the five most intriguing suggestions Lynch has offered to help the New York City subway system better serve its passengers. Feast your eyes, and then cry them out because it’s unlikely even one of these ideas will be realized in your lifetime.

1. Meet The K Train


Lynch’s plan would not only restore G service to Forest Hills, but also add another train to the line: the K train. The K would effectively replace the Franklin Avenue Shuttle and extend it up to Bedford-Nostrand Avenues. Though G train service would still terminate at Church Avenue in Brooklyn, the K would run with the Q all the way down to Brighton Beach. In Queens, it would be the express counterpart to the G and extend beyond Forest Hills, running all the way out to Jamaica.

2. The Utica Avenue Subway


This is perhaps one of the more realistic proposals in Lynch’s map, though that’s not saying all that much. Mayor de Blasio has asked the city to study the feasibility of a Utica Avenue subway line, which has been proposed many times in the past. Indeed, in the early 1900s, planning for such a line got so far that the Crown Heights-Utica Avenue station was built with space for a north-south platform. The B46, which covers the same ground as this proposed extension of the 3 train, is the second-busiest bus route in the city, carrying 50,000 passengers per day. Unfortunately, the Utica Avenue line appears to have fallen to the bottom of de Blasio’s transit to-do list, which is currently dominated by talking up his $2.5 billion streetcar.

3. The Bushwick-Queens Line


With the T and mythical K trains serving southern Brooklyn along with the Q, the B train would be free to take over the M’s current path through Brooklyn, which would also be conveniently replaced by extensions of the Second Avenue Subway. Lynch envisions the B peeling off from M just past Myrtle Avenue to follow the path that the M currently takes up to Middle Village-Metropolitan Avenue—but in this transit utopia, it’d go even farther, running all the way to Woodhaven Boulevard, which would be transformed into quite the hub, connecting the E, F, G, K, N, and V trains.

4. The 10th Avenue Subway


The L train would be business as usual if Lynch has his way—that is, until it hits Eighth Avenue, at which point it wouldn’t terminate but continue to 10th Avenue, turning right and heading uptown until meeting up with the 1, 2, and 3 trains at 72nd and Broadway. Stops at 23rd, 34th, 42nd (joined by the 7, at the initially planned extension of that line), 50th, and 57th streets would serve portions of the far-West Side that are currently a bit of a hike from the nearest station.

5. The Second Avenue Subway On Steroids


Forget just completing the second phase of the Second Avenue Subway and bringing the T and Q trains up to East Harlem: Lynch would like to see the T joined by the currently-defunct V and W trains, recoded in the new line’s teal blue. At its northern tip, the T would cut west, hitting stops along 125th Street before joining up with the 1 on Broadway. The V, which would join the T in midtown and lower Manhattan, would then head into southern Brooklyn, covering much of the same ground that the R and D trains do today.

The W, for its part, would peel north in Queens, following the same path as the Q and N trains do now but continuing past Ditmars Boulevard, along with the R, to take passengers all the way to LaGuardia airport. Oh, and a magical AirTrain even more far-fetched than the one Governor Guomo is proposing would connect LaGuardia and JFK, with a quick pitstop at Citi Field for all those mid-transfer Mets games you’ve been dying to catch.

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


Sunnyside (Riel, 2016)


Sunnyside (Riel, 2016)


Sunnyside (Riel, 2016)


Sunnyside (Riel, 2016)


Sunnyside (Riel, 2016)


Sunnyside (Riel, 2015)


Sunnyside (Riel, 2015)


Sunnyside (Riel, 2015)


Sunnyside (Riel, 2015)


If you think that this is outlandish, remember that the Hudson Yards are coming along nicely. Only a few years ago, light shown down here, in the photo below, but if I were to take this photo today, it would be completely dark:


Hudson Yards (Riel, 2013)


And, don’t forget about Southern Brooklyn:


BMT Brighton Line (Riel, 2015)


And where Robert Moses built highways, we can build train routes.


AirTrain JFK (Riel, 2015)


Rail and Road in Los Angeles (RR 2015)


Rail and Road in Virginia (WMATA Silver Line) (RR 2015)


Rail and Road in Tel Aviv (RR 2012)


Rail and Road in Tel Aviv (RR 2012)


Rail and Road in Tel Aviv (RR 2012)


Rail and Road in Tel Aviv (RR 2012)


We need to be planning beyond boundaries and borders, bridging the gap, regionally, coordinating, communicating, connecting for creative solutions. Our future leaders are being educated behind closed doors, behind gated communities, in ivory towers. Campus planning often doesn’t reflect the ideas espoused by faculty.


Harvard (Riel, 2016)


Brown (Riel, 2016)


Brown (Riel, 2016)


These disconnects of power, identity, and ideology are expressed through our planning. We need to connect them in order to create livable communities


To conclude, here’re some places with some positive ‘developments’. What do you think?


Bike Lanes in Montreal (Riel, 2015)


Probably a well-used public space when it’s not so cold, in Montreal? (Riel, 2011)


Toronto streetcars! (Riel, 2012)


Toronto Union Station (Riel, 2012)


Toronto bike infrastructure (Riel, 2012)


Toronto’s underground walkway: PATH (Riel, 2012) [More than 50 buildings/office towers are connected through PATH. Twenty parking garages, six subway stations, two major department stores, eight major hotels, and a railway terminal are also accessible through PATH. It also provides links to some of Toronto’s major tourist and entertainment attractions such as: the Hockey Hall of Fame, Roy Thomson Hall, The Air Canada Centre, Rogers Centre, and the CN Tower. City Hall and Metro Hall are also connected through PATH. The building furthest north on the PATH network is College Park at College and Yonge Streets. The building furthest south that can be accessed through PATH is the RBC WaterPark Place building which is just across the street from the Toronto Island ferry terminal and the Westin Harbour Castle hotel. PATH does not follow the grid patterns of the streets above. Each segment of the walkway system is owned and controlled by the owner of the property through which it runs. There are about 35 corporations involved.]


Toronto’s underground walkway: PATH (Riel, 2012). [According to Guinness World Records, PATH is the largest underground shopping complex with 30 km (19 miles) of shopping arcades. It has 371,600 square metres (4 million square feet) of retail space. In fact, the retail space connected to PATH rivals the West Edmonton Mall in size. There are more than 125 grade level access points and 60 decision points where a pedestrian has to decide between turning left or right, or continuing straight on. The average size of a connecting link is 20 metres (66 feet) long by 6 metres (20 feet) wide. In 1987, City Council adopted the recommendation that the City become the co-ordinating agency of PATH and pay for the system-wide costs of designing a signage program. PATH’s name and logo are registered to the City of Toronto. The City co-ordinates and facilitates the directional signage, maps and identity markers throughout the system.]


Toronto’s underground walkway: PATH (Riel, 2012) [The approximate 1,200 shops and services, such as photocopy shops and shoe repairs, found in PATH, employ about 5,000 people. Once a year, businesses in PATH host the world’s largest underground sidewalk sale. Each letter in PATH is a different colour, each representing a direction. The P is red and represents south. The orange A directs pedestrians to the west, while the blue T directs them to the north. The H is yellow and points to the east. Signage includes a symbol for people with disabilities whenever there is a flight of stairs ahead. The signage enhances PATH’s visibility and identity, ultimately increasing its use, attracting more people to downtown Toronto, and drawing more businesses there.]


Biking in Boston (Riel, 2012)


Providence WaterFire (Riel, 2016)


Lovely neighborhood in Providence, RI (Riel, 2016)


View of Providence (Riel, 2016)


Woonasquatucket River in Providence (Riel, 2016)


Restore the trolley! (Red Hook, Brooklyn) (Riel, 2011)


Biking in D.C. (Riel, 2015)


Biking in D.C. (Riel, 2015)


T.O.D. next to MARTA in Atlanta (Riel, 2015)


City of Atlanta Streetcar (Riel, 2015)


City of Atlanta Streetcar (Riel, 2015)


Biking infrastructure in Dayton, OH (Riel, 2015)


Biking infrastructure in Dayton, OH (Riel, 2015)


Bus Lanes in Columbus, OH (Riel, 2015)


Bus Lanes in Columbus, OH (Riel, 2015)


Chicago! (Riel, 2015)


Salt Lake City Light Rail (Riel, 2015)


Utah Commuter Rail (Riel, 2015)


Sharrows in Salt Lake City (Riel, 2015)


Soaking up the sun in Los Angeles (Riel, 2015)


Venice, Los Angeles (Riel, 2015)


Phoenix is trying to reinvigorate its CBD with light rail (Riel, 2015)


Dallas is also trying to reinvigorate its CBD with light rail (Riel, 2015)


Seattle (Riel, 2013)


Seattle (Riel, 2013)


Seattle (Riel, 2013)


Seattle (Riel, 2013)


Seattle (Riel, 2013)


Seattle (Riel, 2013)


Seattle (Riel, 2013)


Seattle (Riel, 2013)


Seattle (Riel, 2013)


Seattle (Riel, 2015)


New Paltz, NY (Riel, 2011)


Cusco, Peru, has quite an inviting atmosphere (Riel, 2010)


Tight and compact spaces in Cusco, Peru (Riel, 2010)


I’m sure the Inca Empire also built livable cities? (Riel, 2010)


I’m sure the Inca Empire also built livable cities? (Riel, 2010)


I’m sure the Inca Empire also built livable cities? (Riel, 2010)


PeruRail (Riel, 2010)


Kite festival in Jaipur, India (Riel, 2011)


Car-free spiritual city: Pushkar, India (Riel, 2011)


Relatively nice public space in Mumbai, India (Riel, 2011)


Relatively nice public space in Mumbai, India (Riel, 2011)


Decent public space in Phnom Penh, Cambodia (Riel, 2010)


Decent public space in Phnom Penh, Cambodia (Riel, 2010)


Jerusalem Light Rail (Riel, 2012)


Tel Aviv, Israel (Riel, 2012)


Haifa, Israel (Riel, 2012)


Amman, Jordan (Riel, 2012)


I do believe that Vancouver should get its own livability section, because it is one of the most livable cities in the world. (To be fair, who decides what’s livable? Always important to be critical…)

b3ef05c b6a3ecc b6f1d7e b78ee3a b818add ba1f981b3350ac b280186 c031a6a ba68e42 c0c2f78baaec6e  bc9d05c bd7175e be0730b    c1484e8



And, not as livable?


Medford (Automobile) Square in Medford, MA (Riel, 2012)


Poor lighting in Oakland, CA (Riel, 2015)


Few trees, few inviting facades, in Skid Row, LA (Riel, 2015)


There should be solar panels atop these car awnings in Phoenix, AZ (Riel, 2015)


Typical vehicle-oriented strip mall in Seattle (Riel, 2013)


I think Montreal would be fine without a casino? (Riel, 2011)


Townships in South Africa. I was here in 2011 assisting HIV/AIDS and TB patients with home-based caregivers, while learning about public health on my gap year. (Riel, 2011)


Townships in South Africa. I was here in 2011 assisting HIV/AIDS and TB patients with home-based caregivers, while learning about public health on my gap year. (Riel, 2011)


Townships in South Africa. I was here in 2011 assisting HIV/AIDS and TB patients with home-based caregivers, while learning about public health on my gap year. (Riel, 2011)


Informal and formal, government housing townships in South Africa. (Riel, 2011)


Not the safest environment (at all), especially for women… (Riel, 2011)


Light poles are relatively high, partly in order to prevent criminals from stealing fixtures (Riel, 2011)


A more formalized township in South Africa (Riel, 2011)


Urban farm for local soup kitchen in township (Riel, 2011)


… Meanwhile, in the ‘white South African’ neighborhoods on Western Cape (Riel, 2011)


… Meanwhile, in the ‘white South African’ neighborhoods on Western Cape (Riel, 2011)


… Meanwhile, in the ‘white South African’ neighborhoods on Western Cape (Riel, 2011)


… Meanwhile, in the ‘white South African’ neighborhoods on Western Cape (Riel, 2011)


… Meanwhile, in the ‘white South African’ neighborhoods on Western Cape (Riel, 2011)


… Meanwhile, in the ‘white South African’ neighborhoods on Western Cape (Riel, 2011)


Port Elizabeth, South Africa (Riel, 2011)


Port Elizabeth, South Africa (Riel, 2011)


Building a new highway through the rainforest in Ecuador (Riel, 2010)


Chaotic road conditions in Ecuador (Riel, 2010)


Poor infrastructure in Ecuador (Riel, 2010)


Not the most livable streetscape in this Ecuadorian town… (Riel, 2010)


But resilient people try to make it work, in the informal economy (Riel, 2010)


This town on the Ecuadorian Pacific Coast should be full of life, on the weekend, by the beach, but it’s ghostly quiet because it’s during the 2010 coup attempt (Riel, 2010)


This town on the Ecuadorian Pacific Coast should be full of life, on the weekend, by the beach, but it’s ghostly quiet because it’s during the 2010 coup attempt (Riel, 2010)


India is not known for its livable cities. This road in the background in Mumbai floods with the tide, rendering it useless for a large portion of each day. (Riel, 2011)


Density certainly produces dynamism, but is there a point at which chaos topples livability? Here, the commuter rail station in Bandra, Mumbai, India (Riel, 2011)


Density certainly produces dynamism, but is there a point at which chaos topples livability? Here, a street in Jaipur, India (Riel, 2011)


Density certainly produces dynamism, but is there a point at which chaos topples livability? Here, a street in Jaipur, India (Riel, 2011)


Density certainly produces dynamism, but is there a point at which chaos topples livability? Here, congestion in Mumbai, India (Riel, 2011)


Pedestrians can escape the havoc of the streets on these skyways in Mumbai. But wouldn’t it be better to just make the streets safer? I suppose that’s quite a difficult task. (Riel, 2011)


Not the most sanity environment for children to be playing in Mumbai… (Riel, 2011)


Slums alongside the commuter rail in Mumbai (Riel, 2011)


Slums alongside the commuter rail in Mumbai (Riel, 2011)


Not the most inviting place to be a pedestrian. Similar to other capital cities, I believe that this portion of Delhi was not planned from the bottom-up, for human sensibilities? (Riel, 2011)


Not the most inviting place to be a pedestrian. Similar to other capital cities, I believe that this portion of Delhi was not planned from the bottom-up, for human sensibilities? (Riel, 2011)


There’s simply not enough space for the farmer’s market to not interfere with pedestrian traffic, so pedestrians are walking along the road in Jaipur, India (Riel, 2011)


Smog in Jaipur, India (Riel, 2011)


Pollution in a river in a Cambodian town (Riel, 2010)


I don’t think the elephant wants to be walking next to a car in Phnom Penh, Cambodia? (Riel, 2010)


Phnom Penh, Cambodia (Riel, 2010)


If you thought New York and New Jersey couldn’t collaborate on regional planning, consider Eilat, Israel, and Aqaba, Jordan. These twin cities are separated by a military zone, and only a few miles from Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Here, Eilat. (Riel, 2012)


Border to Israel (Riel, 2012)


Border to Jordan (Riel, 2012)


If you thought New York and New Jersey couldn’t collaborate on regional planning, consider Eilat, Israel, and Aqaba, Jordan. These twin cities are separated by a military zone, and only a few miles from Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Here, Aqaba. (Riel, 2012)


New planned neighborhoods being built in Aqaba, Jordan (Riel, 2012)


Aqaba, Jordan (Riel, 2012)


Aqaba, Jordan (Riel, 2012)


Aqaba, Jordan (Riel, 2012)


Auto-oriented streetscape in Jordan (Riel, 2012)


And of course, a “complex” situation in the region… (Riel, 2012)


And of course, a “complex” situation in the region… (Riel, 2012)



Last but not least, transportation finance opportunities!


Philadelphia should up-zone this corridor and fund SEPTA via value capture! (Riel, 2015)


Philadelphia should up-zone this corridor and fund SEPTA via value capture! (Riel, 2015)


Room for retail in Baltimore Metro Subway, but, would not be many customers? (Riel, 2015)


Up-zone in order to fund this light rail in Washington, D.C. (Riel, 2015)


Deck over suburban commuter rail parking lots! (MTA Metro-North Port Jervis Line) (Riel, 2015)


Place advertisements on these columns in PATH stations? (Riel, 2015)


Place advertisements on these columns in PATH stations? (Riel, 2015)


Place advertisements on these columns in PATH stations? (Riel, 2015)


Still room for more advertisements in PATH! (Riel, 2015)


Advertisements along columns at Ft. Hamilton Parkway on the F Line? (Riel, 2016)


Advertisements along columns at Prospect Park on the F Line? (Riel, 2016)


More advertisements along walls at Fulton Center? (Riel, 2016)


Improve shopping experience at PABT? (Riel, 2016)


Improve shopping experience at PABT? (Riel, 2016)


More advertisements at DC Union Station? (Riel, 2015)


Good! More joint development at WMATA! (Riel, 2015)


Imagine Burnham Place at Union Station! (Riel, 2015)


Transit-oriented development along WMATA (Riel, 2015)


Plenty of room for advertisements in MARTA in Atlanta (Riel, 2015)


Decking opportunities in Los Angeles? (Riel, 2015)


Advertisement opportunities in Los Angeles? (Riel, 2015)


Advertisement opportunities in Los Angeles? (Riel, 2015)


Value capture opportunities along Los Angeles light rail network? (Riel, 2015)


They can fit more advertisements in the Seattle Transit Tunnel? (Riel, 2013)


They can fit more advertisements in the Seattle Transit Tunnel? (Riel, 2013)


Decking opportunities in Chicago? (Riel, 2015)


Deck the Rhode Island Transportation Center in Providence? (Riel, 2016)


Deck the Rhode Island Transportation Center in Providence? (Riel, 2016)


Deck the Rhode Island Transportation Center in Providence? (Riel, 2016)


Deck the Rhode Island Transportation Center in Providence? (Riel, 2016)


The Amtrak/MBTA station in Providence, RI is only one story tall… (Riel, 2016)


The Amtrak/MBTA station in Providence, RI is only one story tall… (Riel, 2016)


The Amtrak/MBTA station in Providence, RI is only one story tall… (Riel, 2016)


(Meanwhile, here’s a placeless shopping center only a block away from the station. Imagine the retail revenue potential if Amtrak or the MBTA owned a mall atop their station…) (Riel, 2016)


(Meanwhile, here’s a placeless shopping center only a block away from the station. Imagine the retail revenue potential if Amtrak or the MBTA owned a mall atop their station…) (Riel, 2016)


(Look at these support columns in the station… Clearly, can support more than a single-story “Amshack” in Providence… And these agencies call themselves ‘cash-strapped’…) (Riel, 2016)


Mall atop Amtrak/MBTA ROW in Providence, but not revenue-generating… (Riel, 2016)


T.O.D. Opportunities in Providence, RI? (Riel, 2016)


T.O.D. Opportunities in Providence, RI? (Riel, 2016)


Decking in Tel Aviv? (Riel, 2012)


Decking in Tel Aviv? (Riel, 2012)


Joint Development Opportunity in Hong Kong? (Riel, 2015)


Joint Development Opportunity in Tokyo? (Riel, 2015)


Decking in Jaipur, India? (Riel, 2011)


Deck this bus depot in Santo Domingo, Ecuador? (Riel, 2010)


Thank you for reading! (Who needs Instagram when you’ve PlaNYourCity, right?)

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


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

38 Comments on “Connect”

  1. Rayn Riel February 27, 2016 at 12:02 am #

    PS: Regarding my school’s capital project initiatives: Tufts is rightly infilling its campus for the SEC, connected to additional School of Engineering facilities, rather than sprawling further outward into the community. Indeed, Tufts has even more additional vacant space, not used for athletics or for leisure (such as its historical and beautiful hills along the Academic Quad). I’m not even talking about parking lots, which could be decked, as was done for Dowling Hall. Just think about the spaces between buildings on the Lower Campus.

    However, the City of Somerville and the City of Medford both have ample height restrictions for Tufts, keeping it from even more infill. An up-zone would cause an up-roar, even though the lack of dormitories is forcing students into the community, raising rents for families. Why can’t Tufts build between its gaps, filling its voids? Or, build on the athletic fields, and then put the fields on the roofs of buildings, as they did with one of the courts over the garage near South Hall? Of course, that would need to be a particularly long and wide building in order to fit an athletic field on the roof; however, as mentioned, there are still many spaces that are not fields, not used for leisure, and, not used for parking.


    • Rayn Riel February 27, 2016 at 3:28 pm #

      Look at these parking lots on my campus. Even after accounting for setbacks from existing structures, surrounding communities should not complain that Tufts students are raising nearby rents if these municipalities don’t allow Tufts to build tall buildings, with housing, perhaps also with ground-floor academic space, or retail. Do you want to provide for cars or provide for people?

      As aforementioned, I’m not talking about decking athletic fields, or Tufts’ historic hills, quads, and so on and so forth. Perhaps, focus on the parking lots? There was, in fact, a small parking lot where the SEC is being built, so there’s ample precedent.


      (How about decking over these tennis courts in the first photo below, and putting them on the roof of a new structure? Easy enough. They don’t even require turf. And it was done near South Hall already, as seen in the second photo below…)

      Or, build here? You can see that they build Dowling Hall atop a parking garage in the background. And this parking lot has around the same footprint. (They could also just build here, and not provide more spaces for vehicles…)

      How about here? Vacant space!

      Obviously, don’t build here. These are important public spaces, and heavily utilized.

      And, by the way, community residents should not complain about a lack of public school funding if their municipalities don’t build atop their schools. Growing up in public schools in NYC, I routinely saw small school buildings, often needing extensive repairs, next to rising condominiums and other skyscrapers. Let developers build atop schools, and make them repair the schools, and increase capacity. This will alleviate crowding concerns, and it will provide more revenue for education. Tackling gentrification from many angles. Also, in NYC, public schools are all controlled by the same municipality. Yet, funding is still unequal, because affluent neighborhood districts will provide more donations to their local school, and, of course, community problems also impact school quality. (And, housing prices depend on school districts). So, allow for developers to ‘donate’ to schools, too!

      My high school, surrounded by rising condos:

      (As you can see, it’s not just transportation agencies that don’t capitalize upon their real estate assets. It’s government agencies as a whole, since they lack a profit motive, leading to waste, fraud, corruption, inefficiency, and higher and higher taxes, fares, tolls…)


      • RR February 27, 2016 at 4:02 pm #
        The Science and Engineering Complex (SEC) will be an integrated teaching and research center on the Medford/Somerville campus featuring state-of-the-art laboratories for undergraduate and graduate students. Construction is scheduled for completion in the summer of 2017 and the SEC will be open for student use beginning in the 2017-2018 academic year.

        To be located between Anderson, Robinson, and Bromfield-Pearson Halls, the SEC project includes a 79,000ft2 laboratory addition connected via atriums to Anderson and Robinson (96,000ft2), as well as a full renovation of Robinson and upgrades to Anderson. Totaling 175,000ft2, the new complex will be a dynamic center of collaborative research, featuring high-end facilities strategically surrounded by the university’s science, math, and engineering departments.

        The SEC will foster interdisciplinary research within two broad research themes — environmental science and neuroscience. It will house research and equipment core facilities for use by the entire campus community, and multidisciplinary teaching labs. The new building will feature:

        Three floors of wet lab space to accommodate up to 21 principal investigators (PIs) in phase one; wet lab space that is “shelled” for future fit out could accommodate up to an additional 17 PIs.

        Four core facilities, two imaging suites, and a mass spectrometer suite; space that is “shelled” for future fit out could accommodate additional core facilities.
        Two introductory and two advanced teaching labs serving students in Biology, Biomedical Engineering, Chemical and Biological Engineering, and Chemistry
        Seven new meeting rooms, in addition to two meeting rooms that will remain in Anderson.

        Social spaces, including a café, an indoor atrium, an outdoor plaza, and “living rooms” in the center of each lab floor.

        Robinson Hall will be renovated as part of the SEC project following the relocation of the Physics and Astronomy Department to the newly renovated CLIC, located at 574 Boston Ave. Robinson will be the future home for part of the Biology Department, the Mechanical Engineering Department, and the Tufts Institute for Innovation.

        Anderson Hall will continue to be home to Civil and Environmental Engineering Department and the headquarters for the School of Engineering. Bromfield-Pearson Hall will continue to be house to the Math Department.

        Additionally, the SEC will be one of the most energy-efficient buildings of its kind in the United States. The facility will be a model for sustainable standards of mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems. The goal is to have the complex achieve LEED Platinum certification from the U.S. Green Building Council, and it is on track to meet Gold certification at minimum.

        The building is being designed by Payette Architects Inc. and built by Turner Construction Co. Leggat McCall Properties is providing owner project management services to Tufts. Tufts engages construction mitigation specialists to minimize negative impacts due to construction of this project. CSL Consulting’s Ed LeFlore and his team, in collaboration with campus project administration and Community Relations, have begun proactively planning for the busy construction period ahead. The mitigation group will regularly monitor job sites, openly communicate with all stakeholders, and work with Tufts staff to develop innovative solutions to complex construction issues and community concerns.


  2. RR February 28, 2016 at 4:04 pm #

    Only. One. Story. Tall. (Davis Square)


  3. Rayn Riel February 29, 2016 at 4:18 pm #

    Boston MSA (via Social Explorer)


  4. Rayn Riel February 29, 2016 at 4:31 pm #

    Just as people sometimes need to just take a step back and breath in order to reconnect themselves, cities need to find time to bridge the gap.

    Jan Gehl’s urban design firm focuses on understanding urban life, people, and then buildings. How do people behave in a place? Is there a bench there? Near the sun? Under a tree? They find that people will stay longer in a place if it is inviting, which tends to mean that it’s not full of cars.

    Times Square, for instance, is now safer for pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorists, and people stay longer, and spend more money. 90 percent of users are pedestrian. Michael Bloomberg relied on facts, not politics, in order to transform New York.

    In European cities, granted, it’s easier to pedestrianize. These tend to be older cities, designed prior to the automobile, so streets are narrower, and denser. Also, European countries are arguably a lot more culturally homogeneous, sharing common values that increase public support for public spaces. They also don’t sue as much, so it’s easier to be creative and create flexible, informal spaces.

    But even outside of Europe, streets constitute the majority of public space. Cities akin to Copenhagen have been making them more and more bike-friendly. Of course, these are small cities. It’s harder to ‘transport’ this to American cities, which are larger, with a lot less infrastructure for bicyclists. Because Copenhagen is a lot denser than, say, Houston, it is easier to bike to places, as destinations are a lot more compact.

    (Thus, we need a lot of infill and T.O.D. in American cities).

    But when you create dynamic public spaces, you’re allowing people to socialize and interact. To spend more time outside. What if we made bus stops fun, for instance? Create some mural space for people to decorate? Or, if you want people to come to a public meeting, make it fun, and make it part of something larger, such as an exhibit or concert. Do intercept surveys, etc.

    Opportunities are endless if we choose to change!


  5. Rayn Riel February 29, 2016 at 9:13 pm #

    PS: Does this seem fair to you? Or like a good way to recruit top talent? If we want to attract the best and brightest into our transportation agencies, we may need to reach out beyond friends and family…


  6. Rayn Riel March 1, 2016 at 12:20 pm #

    The new localism: An Obama legacy?

    By: Bruce Katz and Ross Tilchin

    But what’s really interesting is the administration’s call for the federal government to change the way it does business. It voices a very different theory of change than what we have become accustomed to hearing from Washington—namely, that real progress can occur only if the federal government empowers local actors, and that spurring cross-sector collaboration on the ground is essential in confronting our toughest challenges. In other words, the budget articulates the Obama administration’s vision for how the federal government’s modus operandi might better reflect the realities of the 21st century.

    //Too often in the past, the Federal Government has taken a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to working with local communities, ignoring the unique challenges and resources of each place. Such an approach fails to fully leverage local knowledge and leadership in maximizing the impact of Federal resources and Federal-local collaboration. Addressing entrenched poverty or improving resilience in the face of climate change requires cross-sector solutions that bring together different agencies and different assets from local, State, Federal, public and private stakeholders.//

    It’s also interesting to see (particularly because this is the president’s final budget before leaving office) how strongly the administration characterizes its efforts to improve the way it works with local actors.

    //From day one, the President called on the Federal Government to disrupt this outdated, top-down approach, and to think creatively about how to make our efforts more user-friendly and responsive to the ideas and concerns of local citizens. This new approach is simple. First, we partner with communities by seeking out their plans or vision. Second, we take a one-government approach that crosses agency and program silos to support communities in implementing their plans for improvement. Lastly, we focus on what works, relying on evidence and using data to measure success and monitor progress, fostering communities of practice to share and build on local innovations.//

    While the administration likely overstates the extent to which it has changed the way Washington interacts with local actors, several of its initiatives—limited as they may be in scope—have represented a major shift in the way the federal government operates. ThePartnership for Sustainable Communities, launched in 2009, is a joint effort between the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Department of Transportation, and the Environmental Protection Agency that has provided coordinated funding across agencies for local transportation, housing, and environmental projects. Several programs within the initiative provide grants to aid the planning process for these efforts, which allow local actors to develop synergistic approaches to transportation and housing development and to leverage investment from the private and civic sectors. Since its creation, the partnership has distributed over $4 billion in competitive grants and technical assistance to over 1,000 communities.


  7. John June 16, 2016 at 12:17 pm #

    fix our sewers! tired of swimming in sewage after it rains… coney, riis, robert moses park… so many beaches but all get dirty after rainstorm


  8. John June 30, 2016 at 11:35 pm #

    NY will be at an advantage now that the UK has left the EU. More jobs, more tax revenue, more investment across the board….

    The race is on to be the new London.

    Unless Britain finds a way to undo its decision to leave the European Union, London’s days as the pre-eminent global financial capital, ranked even ahead of New York, may be numbered.

    I spoke this week to several high-ranking executives at major financial institutions that collectively employ tens of thousands in London. While none of them have any immediate plans to move their European headquarters from Britain’s capital, all agreed they would eventually shift a significant number of highly paid employees to cities that remain in the European Union.

    One executive in charge of relocation (who like the others, spoke only on condition of anonymity because of the political sensitivity of the issue) said the percentage of employees in his firm who might be required to move ranged from 10 percent to 40 percent. “Multiply that throughout the industry and it’s tens of thousands of people and their families,” he said. “And bear in mind that most of these people are millionaires.”

    Others said it would take five to 10 years, but a new London would almost certainly emerge in one of the other prominent cities of the European Union. “When I moved to London years ago, it wasn’t exactly cosmopolitan,” said another executive. “It wasn’t a place for great restaurants. The infrastructure has improved dramatically. It will take time, but eventually one big hub will develop.”

    Who might win this high-stakes financial sweepstakes?

    To handicap the race, I asked relocation experts at major firms to describe what they are looking for in a replacement for London. I also spoke to Mark Yeandle, a director of the Z/Yen Group in London and lead author of the Global Financial Centers Index, which ranks cities based on their attractiveness to financial services businesses. (Before last week’s vote, London was far and away the winner.)

    Here are the criteria most frequently mentioned: English-language facility, which is essential for attracting a global work force; a favorable regulatory environment, especially regarding employment; excellent transportation and communications infrastructure; availability of prime office space and luxury housing; good schools; good restaurants and cultural offerings; and finally, an intangible quality that includes a certain energy level and openness to an influx of highly paid, competitive City of London-Wall Street types.

    I scored numerous cities in the European Union on a 60-point scale: five points for office space and housing, five points for restaurants and cultural offerings — because it’s easier for any city to build new offices and housing, and import talented chefs and entertainers — and 10 points for each of the others.

    For English-language facility, I used the European Union’s 2012 survey, “Europeans and Their Languages.” For the regulatory environment, I used the rankings from the World Bank. For airports, I combined on-time departure statistics with a leading passenger satisfaction survey.

    To evaluate schools, I consulted Harriet Plyler, editor of “The Good Schools Guide International,” and the Pearson Learning Curve Index. For restaurants, culture and quality of life, I used Mercer Consulting’s Quality of Living Survey and a ranking of cities based on the number of Michelin-starred restaurants; for cost and availability of offices and luxury housing I used the Global Property Guide.

    Here, in ascending order, are the top nine, including the winner:

    Barcelona, Spain (23 points)

    Several executives spoke wistfully of moving to sunny Barcelona, with its excellent restaurants, cafe scene, night life and proximity to Mediterranean beaches. But other than a relatively good airport, Barcelona fails nearly every other test, starting with English-language facility: Just 22 percent of Spaniards have a conversational knowledge of English. “Barcelona is great for a holiday,” Mr. Yeandle said, “but not as a place to do business.”

    Milan (24 points)

    Much the same could be said of Milan. Italians are a little more fluent in English — 34 percent — and Milan has excellent restaurants and arguably the best shopping in the world. It’s already Italy’s financial center. But it lags in every other category, including business climate, where Italy is ranked 45th by the World Bank. Its two main airports are badly in need of refurbishing.

    Warsaw (24 points)

    Poland’s appeal is primarily its flexible labor laws, favorable business climate, a hard-working, well-educated populace and a low cost of living. Warsaw would welcome an influx of financial professionals with open arms, in contrast to many more affluent European cities. But it ranks very low on Mercer’s quality of life index, and luxury housing is limited. Still, one major banker told me his firm would move a contingent there from London and expand its technology operations, though its top investment banking professionals would balk at the idea of relocating there.

    Luxembourg (40 points)

    Residents of Luxembourg are the most affluent and multilingual in Europe (56 percent speak English, and 84 percent speak at least two foreign languages). Known in part as a tax haven, it is already a sophisticated financial services center, and is home to the European Investment Bank and the European Court of Justice.

    Mercer ranks it relatively high on quality of life (19th in the world) and it has a surprising number of Michelin-starred restaurants, a reflection of its proximity to France.

    But the World Bank rates its business climate last among these finalists. Its international airport ranks a dismal 99th. And the entire country had a population of just 576,000 at the beginning of this year. London has more than 360,000 employees in its financial services sector alone. It’s hard to imagine how Luxembourg could absorb even a small percentage of them.

    Paris (43 points)

    Already a major financial services center and easily the most culturally appealing city in the European Union, Paris seems an obvious choice. Its regional population of 12 million is the only one that rivals London.

    France’s limits on the ability to fire people doesn’t help Paris’s cause to be the next financial capital. Credit Charles Platiau/Reuters
    But Paris’s score is dragged down by almost every other category. Only 39 percent of the French are fluent in English, and despite big improvements in recent years, they maintain a reputation of being inhospitable to people who don’t speak French well.

    Its airports have low rankings and its rigid school system is inhospitable to foreigners (although it has excellent English-language private schools). France has strict limits on the ability to fire people, and it ranks just 27th on the World Bank’s list. Paris is among the most expensive cities in Europe after London, and is a distant 37th on Mercer’s quality of life index.

    Every financial services executive I interviewed mentioned an intangible factor: French hostility to the wealthy. President François Hollande tried to impose a 75 percent “wealth tax,” which prompted an exodus of rich French citizens before Mr. Hollande dropped the proposal.

    “All the noise coming out of the Élysée Palace the last few years has been that France wants to tax or regulate financial service companies out of business,” Mr. Yeandle said. “Financial services people are furious.”

    Dublin (50 points)

    Not surprisingly, Dublin gets top scores for English-language facility (albeit with an Irish lilt), and also for excellent schools. Dublin is charming, with good restaurants, theater and night life. It offers many of London’s advantages, but is much less expensive. It ranks high on ease of doing business, and of all the European capitals, is probably the most enthusiastic about attracting high-paid talent from London. The Irish Development Agency is already reaching out to financial institutions to entice them to Ireland, the Irish Times reported.

    Dublin is small in size, but several banking executives said they would be moving some operations there. Credit Paulo Nunes dos Santos for The New York Times
    Several banking executives told me they would definitely be moving some operations to Dublin.

    Dublin’s main drawback is its relatively small size (1.8 million people in the metropolitan area) and lack of infrastructure. Dublin is more distant from the European Union’s other countries and it lacks London’s direct rail link to the Continent. Its relatively small airport ranked 80th.

    Vienna (51 points)

    Vienna emerged as a surprisingly viable contender. Seventy three percent of Austria’s population is fluent in English; its rank in ease of doing business is just behind Ireland’s; Vienna has an excellent airport with high on-time performance, and it is Mercer’s top-ranked city in the world for quality of life. Its restaurants and wines have attracted international acclaim. “It’s a fantastic place to live,” Mr. Yeandle said.

    Like Paris, Vienna has the air of a world capital, which it was until Austria lost its empire after the First World War. And that, bankers told me, is part of the problem: Vienna feels like it has been asleep for much of the last century. It’s not a major financial capital now, and no one I spoke to has any immediate plans to start or expand operations there. Still, they told me they might have to reconsider.

    Frankfurt (54 points)

    In many ways Frankfurt is the obvious choice, because it is already home to the European Central Bank. It’s the financial capital of Germany, Europe’s largest economy and dominant political force. It ranks high on the ease of doing business index, although German labor laws can be as rigid as the French’s. After Heathrow outside London, it has the second-ranked European airport, next to a modern rail terminal connecting it to every major city in Europe. Its population of 2.5 million could absorb a large influx of financial professionals.

    But some of those same factors work against it. Even as most people I spoke with said Frankfurt would most likely emerge as the next London, they didn’t seem very enthusiastic about it. Some already think there’s too much power in Germany — and that London has acted as a financial counterbalance.

    And some said Frankfurt was simply too boring. It ranks low on the Michelin-star rankings (and far behind other German cities like Berlin and Munich) and isn’t known for its night life or culture.

    Language and schooling are potential drawbacks as well.

    And the winner is:

    Amsterdam (55 points)

    Not only do 90 percent of the Dutch speak English, many speak it better than the English themselves. Its schools are ranked the best in Europe, and there are plenty of English-language options. The city has beautiful architecture and housing options, picturesque canals, excellent restaurants, music and theater, lively night life, and a cosmopolitan and tolerant attitude cultivated over centuries as a major global trading center.

    Among the reasons Amsterdam scores high: the large percentage of English-speakers and excellent transportation facilities. Credit Ilvy Njiokiktjien for The New York Times
    It has one of Europe’s best airports, ranked just behind Frankfurt and Vienna, and an excellent rail network connecting major European capitals, including London. It’s a short train ride to Brussels, the capital of the European Union.

    Amsterdam is already a center of international commerce and both the financial and political capital of the Netherlands. It did lose a few points for its business and regulatory climate: The World Bank ranks the Netherlands 28th, just behind Switzerland and France.

    The problem? Badly hurt by the financial crisis, the Dutch have capped bankers’ bonuses at just 20 percent of their annual salaries — a far more drastic curb than was imposed by the European Union. Several bankers told me that unless the Dutch repealed the cap, they wouldn’t consider moving to Amsterdam. “I’d love to relocate to Amsterdam,” one top executive told me. “But I don’t think we’re wanted there.”

    Out of curiosity, I examined the same criteria and scored London itself. The result?

    London earns a near-perfect 58 points. The only black mark was its quality of life, primarily because of its high cost. Mercer ranks London just 39th (New York ranks 44th).

    “London has so many advantages,” Mr. Yeandle said. “I think that will remain true even if it’s outside the E.U. But if the vote costs London its pre-eminence, that will be a self-inflicted tragedy.”


  9. John July 13, 2016 at 7:25 pm #

    Voters want nice things but do not want to pay for them.


  10. Fred July 14, 2016 at 8:00 pm #

    yes, it is very complex. few other systems have so many merges, esp between routes with different headways, different terminals and dispatchers, lunch breaks, union rules, crew culture… will the operator/conductor be fast/slow, or one fast/one slow? slow into stations? to open/close doors? also depends on train equipment, slope of track… door holdings… control points to keep them to schedule, if delayed or going fast… depends on tail tracks so can go faster into terminal stations (unlike L at 8th avenue)… signal system…

    yes there should be a uni card, integrating comm rail, path, njt (if competing agencies in diff states can share a card/free transfers)… turnstiles on regional rail or just POP so more stations in the city (penn access)… more bike lanes, bus lanes, pedestrian plazas, BRT. honestly the light rail in brooklyn/queens is going to be a joke, will it even take metrocard if not mta? or free transfers? (same Q with ferry system)… but, still a lot cheaper than SAS/subway extensions, but BRT would be even cheaper, and NYC is bad with BRT.

    they should stop building new subway lines, focus on maintaining what they have (fix the signals, repair the stations, add wifi, get a new fare card, fix the tracks, leaking ceilings, underground passageways w/ retail, ads like gimbels to ease congestion on street, etc etc)…. and with BRT, now they aren’t in center of the road, so the bus lanes on the side deal with parked cars/turning vehicles, not enforced… buses are the future in this city since it’s so expensive to build! they now have wifi, usb, but… still so slow. a new card will make it cheaper for SBS, since they won’t need those sidewalk machines, just tap on/off at all doors for POP.

    but will MTA IT get to it? such simple coding/processing, but for government, good luck. recall! haha… maybe they should privatize. we’re lucky enough to get the W train again once SAS is done, hopefully they have enough trains from the yard for the service if not reducing service elsewhere. scheduling may be a nightmare… they should just give it to google. GTFS data for the win!


    • Al July 15, 2016 at 9:24 pm #

      this is a good post. the T gets more fed funding as a percentage compared to the MTA. apparently mass does not provide a lot of funding. but feds don’t have a stake in boston. and the feds don’t seem to have much funding either (gas tax too low, etc)…

      meanwhile, wmata is poorly governed, no stable state/fed/dc long-term funding, always fighting for the scraps due to states rights… ridership is going DOWN! (ridership UP elsewhere, except for buses in NYC). oy, so many issues, I just hope we can STREAMLINE and find the right incentives, enagement, empowerment, communication! Unlike venezuela:

      for instance, induced demand – more highways, more cars. well, more subways, more passengers! if we congestion price the roads, we should have SURGE PRICING for subways! charge a peak fare during rush hour. the subway was designed as best as it could be; notice at major xfer stations, like penn station on IND and IRT, or atlantic terminal on IRT, there is no xfer between local/exp on shared platform in order to reduce dwelling. (express shares a center island platform). also… at these stations, easy to xfer local/exp at nearby stations (nevins is right next to atlantic); this is probably why GCT on IRT has local/exp shared platforms, even though it makes for a rush between trains during rush hour. crowding, dwelling…

      mta is making good strides. the sandy group is doing good, I see “blast doors” at whitehall now, hopefully will prevent flooding. now we just need to prevent delays – weather, fires, objects, door holdings, sick passengers…


  11. Al July 16, 2016 at 9:30 pm #

    maintenance is not sexy for politicians


  12. Al July 18, 2016 at 10:08 am #

    You are probably right. Just as wider highways do not ease congestion due to induced demand, the SAS will not alleviate crowding on the Lex. Wider highways allow for more growth and sprawl and more drivers, just as more bike lanes bring more bikers, more subway lines bring more riders, and more growth. Now since the City has been up-zoning and population is growing, it really won’t make a dent on Lex service. If anything, it will become more crowded because it will be even more convenient to ride the subway. The MTA is lying about it reducing congestion and they are also lying about 2 Ave being too narrow for express tracks… Lex is even narrower and the express tracks are a level lower, where water infiltration is a serious problem. Smith Street in Brooklyn (F/G) is even narrower than Lex and they have express tracks on the lower level. So really they just lie lie lie on an expensive project… And lie about it being done Dec 2016 also. Lies!


  13. Bobby July 19, 2016 at 6:50 pm #

    This is why we have SBS… A COLLABORATION between DOT and MTA.

    New York’s transit network is the lifeblood of the city and its economy. Since 1990, subway ridership is up 57 percent and bus ridership is up almost 60 percent. The bus system alone now carries over 2.7 million passengers a day. But with the resurgence of our transit system has come a new set of transportation challenges.

    Subway crowding and unmet transit needs: subway lines such as the Lexington Avenue line in Manhattan are at capacity. Moreover, many jobs and residents are located beyond the reach of the subway network.

    Slowing bus speeds: New York has among the slowest buses in the nation. In congested areas, such as Downtown Brooklyn and Midtown Manhattan, buses move at four to five miles per hour, barely faster than the average pedestrian.

    A growing city: New York is expected to grow by nearly one million residents by 2030. To accommodate this growth without increasing New York’s carbon footprint-the core goal of PlaNYC, the City’s sustainability plan-will require expanded transit options.

    Limited capital funding: The City of New York and Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) have very limited resources. Subway extensions beyond those already planned are not financially feasible.

    Bus Rapid Transit: Part of the Solution

    Faced with these challenges, how can the City and the MTA meet the growing mobility needs of New Yorkers? Part of the answer is to improve the city’s bus system by implementing bus rapid transit (BRT). BRT is a cost effective approach to transit service that cities around the world have used to make riding the bus more like riding the subway. BRT does this in two key ways:


    Frequent service: on high-ridership BRT corridors buses arrive every five to ten minutes or more frequently.

    Station spacing: BRT stops are spaced about every half a mile, reducing travel time.

    Off-board fare payment: riders pay their fares at stations before boarding, reducing stop time.

    Traffic Signal Priority (TSP): BRT buses receive an extended green at traffic signals.

    Bus lanes: BRT buses operate in their own bus lane or busway, bypassing congestion.


    Enhanced stations: BRT stops include attractive shelters with seating and lighting. Stations with bus bulbs can have level boarding, landscaping, and other amenities.

    BRT vehicles: BRT buses are low-floor and have up to three doors, making boarding faster and more convenient.

    Branding: BRT routes feature a unique brand, making them easily identifiable. MTA New York City Transit (NYCT) and the New York City Department of Transportation (NYCDOT) have worked together to create a BRT pilot program with five planned routes. In June of 2008, the City and the MTA launched the city’s first version of BRT, called the Bx12 Select Bus Service (SBS), on Fordham Road in the Bronx. The results have been striking: travel times are down almost 20 percent and ridership is up by over 5,000 passengers per day. Based on this success, the City and the MTA have begun planning a comprehensive BRT network, complementing and supplementing the existing bus and subway networks.


    • Al July 19, 2016 at 10:46 pm #

      The New York City subway system is gearing up for a major overhaul meant to bring a “modernized look and feel” to lighting, wayfinding and subway cars by the year 2020. At a press conference on Monday, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s $27 billion, five-year plan to add 1,025 new subway cars, more informative digital screens, better security features and — most importantly for anyone who needs to get some work done underground – WiFi and USB charging ports in the cars and stations.

      “People want to work, and they want their device to work 24 hours a day,” Governor Cuomo during the event at the New York Transit Museum in Brooklyn. “They don’t want to have to look up. There has to be WiFi, and there need to be charging ports.”

      In addition to free juice and an internet connection, the new subway cars will sport “full color digital customer information displays,” as well as new digital ad space. On a practical level, the cars will offer wider doors to expedite boarding times and up to 750 of new cars will feature an open-ended design that allows for more passenger space.

      Governor Cuomo’s announcement also included plans to create a new, unified design standard for all subway stations, starting with some extensive renovations at 31 key stations across the city. Like the train cars, those stations will be getting amenities like WiFi, improved cellular connections and new digital signage with real-time updates at entrances and count down clocks on the platform – all while being careful to consider each station’s “architectural legacy.” If the first phase of renovations is successful, there are plans to upgrade another 170 stations in the future.

      While the plan is still in the proposal stage at this point, the MTA did manage to meet their goal of rolling out a new generation of WiFi-equipped buses on the streets of Queens earlier this year. And if the city’s LinkNYC smart kiosk plan stays on track, there will be a total of 4,550 WiFi public WiFi hot spots above ground by the year 2020 as well.


  14. Gabe July 28, 2016 at 8:53 am #

    It’s all about connection. Transfers.

    New fulton center,… jay street xfer with R, court square, b-way lafayette with 6…

    In the New York City Subway there are several types of transfer stations:

    Station complex, i.e. two or more stations connected with a passageway inside fare control. The 469 stations of the New York City Subway are enumerated each station alone. When station complexes are considered to be one station each, the count of stations is 422.[1]
    Station serving two or more lines. It may be a multi-level or adjacent-platform station and is considered to be one station as classified by the MTA. Typically each track in a station belongs to a certain line.
    Station serving two or more services. Different services may share tracks. These stations are not included in this article; see List of New York City Subway stations.[2]

    ransfers are not limited to enclosed passageways. The New York City Transit Authority (NYCTA), manager of the New York City Subway, also offers limited free transfers between subway lines that allow passengers to reenter the system’s fare control. This was originally done through a paper ticketing system before it was replaced by the MetroCard. Now the only existing MetroCard subway-to-subway transfer is between the Lexington Avenue / 59th Street complex (4 5 6 N Q R trains) and the Lexington Avenue – 63rd Street station (F train).

    Some paper transfers between specific subway stations and bus routes also existed prior to July 4, 1997, when the MetroCard allowed free system-wide subway–bus transfers with fewer restrictions. The Rockaway Parkway station on the BMT Canarsie Line (L train) offers a transfer to the B42 bus within the station’s fare control, the only such transfer within the NYCTA.

    The system was created from the consolidation of three separate companies that merged in 1940: the Interborough Rapid Transit Company (IRT), the Brooklyn–Manhattan Transit Corporation (BMT), and the Independent Subway System (IND). The earliest transfer stations were between lines of the same system: either the IRT, BMT or IND. The earliest free connection between lines that remains in existence is at Grand Central – 42nd Street between the IRT Flushing Line and the original IRT subway (now served by the IRT 42nd Street Shuttle), which opened on June 22, 1915.[3] Some stations were constructed with passageways that connected different systems, such as the original IRT subway’s (now IRT Lexington Avenue Line) Brooklyn Bridge station with the BMT Centre Street Loop Subway’s (now BMT Nassau Street Line) Chambers Street station.[4] On July 1, 1948, post-unification, many free transfers between the former systems were created coincident with the doubling of the fare from five to ten cents.[5]

    The most recently created station complex is the Jay Street – MetroTech complex in Brooklyn on the IND Culver Line, IND Fulton Street Line and BMT Fourth Avenue Line; opened on December 8, 2010.[6] The Court Square complex in Queens, which opened in 1988 as a connection between the IND Queens Boulevard and IND Crosstown lines, was expanded by adding a passageway to the IRT Flushing Line on June 3, 2011. A free transfer from the Broadway – Lafayette Street (IND Sixth Avenue Line) to the uptown platform of the Bleecker Street (IRT Lexington Avenue Line) opened on September 25, 2012.[7] A transfer to the downtown platform has existed since the 1950s.


  15. Yoyo July 29, 2016 at 3:58 pm #

    Yea it’s all about communication — this is why the new rail control center is great, all the decisions in one place… requires a lot to get it all there, all the wires, radios, technicalities…

    And, in our country as you mention, we are obsessed with “independence”, so all of our independent agencies, cities, states… will often work against each other and not communicate/trust each other, wasting time/money, adding to the costs of projects, etc.


  16. Friedrich July 31, 2016 at 9:19 pm #

    It is ridiculous that the T has not yet electrified their commuter rail network. Would make decking a lot easier atop South Station. Grand Central Terminal pioneered electrification back in the 1900s, and allowed for immense profit to the railroad through real estate development, since the tracks could be brought underground.,_New_Haven,_and_Hartford_Railroad

    Also, electrifying it means it can run more quietly, more efficiently, faster acceleration… great for a commuter rail service with many stops. And no longer dependent on diesel fuel. Electricity can be supplied from various sources, including renewables. The subway of course is electrified, since it is underground, with EMUs, since having an electric locomotive underground won’t fit in the tight tunnels, and not efficient for such fast acceleration requirements…

    Though of course, they could also use DMUs to increase acceleration on commuter rail, but that is noisy. And then you still can’t deck very easily… (like a subway w/ EMUs). Perhaps Boston is too worried about all of the snow and maintaining the overhead wires in the ice. But, the NEC is already electrified… they could at least electrify their MBTA to providence! would be worth the investment.

    it is not third rail so they are not going to have snow issues like on the red/orange line… (blue line is overhead above ground because it is near the ocean and they did not want to deal with all the ice)…

    (third rail is not good for high speed service, since the shoe will not be able to maintain contact at such high speeds… )

    EMUs are popular on commuter and suburban rail networks around the world due to their fast acceleration and pollution-free operation.[1] Being quieter than DMUs and locomotive-drawn trains, EMUs can operate later at night and more frequently without disturbing residents living near the railway lines. In addition, tunnel design for EMU trains is simpler as provisions do not need to be made for diesel exhaust fumes, although retrofitting existing tunnels to accommodate the extra equipment needed to transmit the power to the train can be expensive and difficult if the tunnel has limited clearance.

    A train composed of DMU cars scales well, as it allows extra passenger capacity to be added at the same time as motive power. It also permits passenger capacity to be matched to demand, and for trains to be split and joined en route. It is not necessary to match the power available to the size and weight of the train – each unit is capable of moving itself, so as units are added, the power available to move the train increases by the necessary amount. DMUs may have better acceleration capabilities, with more power-driven axles, making them more suitable for routes with frequent closely spaced stops, as compared with conventional locomotive and unpowered carriage setups.
    Distribution of the propulsion among the cars also results in a system that is less vulnerable to single-point-of-failure outages. Many classes of DMU are capable of operating with faulty units still in the consist. Because of the self-contained nature of diesel engines, there is no need to run overhead electric lines or electrified track, which can result in lower system construction costs.
    These advantages must be weighed against the underfloor noise and vibration that may be an issue with this type of train.


    • Friedrich July 31, 2016 at 9:21 pm #

      This is a great, thorough resource, btw:

      Over the past few years this site has significantly delved into the history of Grand Central Terminal and how it came to be. We’ve talked about the Park Avenue Tunnel wreck that led to the banning of steam locomotives in Manhattan – considered one of the catalysts for building the new all-electric Terminal. We’ve also talked about the power plants established to provide the electricity to power the trains operating to Grand Central. But somehow along the way, we’ve neglected to discuss the integral bit of tech that delivered the electricity to the trains in Grand Central, and is still used today – the third rail.

      After the recent, tragic crash on the Harlem Line, the topic of third rail has become a talking point in the media. For those not exceptionally familiar with railroading (who have been frequenting the site as of late), electric trains can be powered by various methods, and most railroad systems picked one method of power for their road. Since Metro-North is made up of two historical railroad systems – the New York Central, and the New York, New Haven, and Hartford – you will not find just one method of powering electric trains here. One common type of power, which is seen on the New Haven Line, is the overhead catenary system. Wires above the train carry electricity, and trains have special “arms” called pantographs that reach up and connect with these wires.

      The other common method of train power, the third rail, comes in a few different “flavors,” but the concept on each is similar – an extra rail that conducts electricity is placed on the ground, and special shoes on the train connect with it and draw power. The New York City subway and Long Island Railroad, for example, use an over running third rail, where power is collected from the top of the third rail. This is the oldest type of third rail power. Metro-North, however, uses a method of under running third rail, which is also known as bottom contact third rail (or the Wilgus-Sprague system, for its inventors). As one would gather from the name, the power is collected from the bottom of the third rail. This method was especially invented for use in Grand Central Terminal, and was an improvement on the original by inventors William Wilgus (Chief Engineer of the New York Central) and Frank Sprague for safety. It is still used on the Harlem and Hudson Lines today, and is what was involved the recent crash.

      Before I continue on, let’s break down some facts about the third rail in Valhalla, and about under running third rail:

      The railroad tracks running through the area in question have been in service since 1846.

      Under running third rail has been in service in the New York Metropolitan area since 1906.

      Third rail in the area in question was installed in 1983 when the Harlem Line was electrified to Southeast (then Brewster North).

      Over running third rail (like the LIRR uses) is the oldest type of third rail. Under-running third rail was developed later as a safer methodology, as it was less likely to electrocute a worker or trespasser, and better covered from rain, snow, and ice.

      The original NYC subway (IRT) used the older version of third rail because the under running variety had not been invented yet. The Long Island Rail Road followed suit when electrifying due to connections / planned connections with the subway.

      The same year that under running third rail was patented, the legislature of the State of Connecticut banned unprotected third rail technology after several people / animals were electrocuted. The whole concept of under running third rail was that the rail was protected, and thus considered far more safe.

      In modern usage, under running third rail seems appears overwhelmingly safer in comparison to over running. The subway and LIRR have had far more deaths in this manner – from numerous trackworkers, to people walking across the tracks, falling on the tracks, graffiti artists getting zapped, people trying to rescue dropped items, and even peeing on the third rail. Over the five year period from 2002 to 2006, one person was electrocuted by Metro-North’s third rail, while six were electrocuted by the Long Island Rail Road’s.

      The over running third rail used by the LIRR and subway are far more effected by rain, snow, and ice. Even a dropped umbrella onto the tracks managed to shut down the 7 line recently.

      Metro-North is not the only transit system to use under-running third rail. One line in Philadelphia uses it. Historically, a tunnel from Detroit to Windsor, Ontario used it, but that line was de-electrified. Transit systems in Vienna, Warsaw, Sao Paulo (and more) use under-running third rails.

      Few systems using under-running third rail means nothing about the soundness of the technology. It is only a legacy holdover to a country once comprised of many different railroad companies, each of which picked the technology best suited for them. The lines that comprise Metro-North were not even a unified system until 1969, which is why different modes of electrification are used across the system.

      Of course, discussing third rail this early in the story is jumping way ahead. When plans for Grand Central were being made up, they knew that they needed to use electricity – but it had not yet been decided how exactly to do that. Overhead wires and third rail were both contenders. Each of the two aforementioned systems has its pros and cons – overhead wires keep electric far away from the public, carry electricity better and require fewer power substations, though are susceptible to high winds and extreme temperatures, while third rail requires more substations, but is more hardened against weather issues. To debate the issue a committee called the Electric Traction Commission was formed, consisting of the New York Central’s Chief Engineer William Wilgus, two other senior railroad engineers, and three outside electrical engineers to serve as consultants.

      However, even before deciding on the way the trains would be electrified, the committee needed to decide where exactly they would be installed. Initially debate circled around just satisfying the demands of the city – removing steam from Manhattan island and nothing more. Under this plan, electric trains would operate from Grand Central to Mott Haven, in the Bronx, where trains would be switched back to steam power. Wilgus, however, was far from a timid man, and always envisioned plans on a massive scale. He instead pictured an “electric zone” stretching 33 miles along the Hudson from Grand Central to Croton-Harmon, and 23 miles on the Harlem to White Plains. By that date, few other systems had already electrified, and those that had were relatively short distances. In all, including multiple tracks and yards, the project would require 292 miles of electrified rail. For comparison, the entire tally of electrified rail in the world at that date was 212 miles. This one project would consist of more electrified track than currently existed in total across the globe.

      Wilgus was a bit of a visionary, able to see how the railroad would grow, and what was needed to encourage that growth. His “electric zone” would be a boon to the steadily growing commuter traffic into Grand Central. Steam locomotives had difficulty serving the commuter zone quickly and efficiently due to their slow acceleration, exacerbated by the fact that there were so many stations, all located close together. Wilgus sold his electric zone plan the same way he sold Grand Central Terminal with his air rights plan – by citing the revenue that would be returned to offset what would have been too hefty an investment. Though the initial electric trains were pulled by electric motors, Wilgus and Sprague also came up with a plan for electric multiple unit cars, which are the bread and butter of electrified roads like Metro-North and the LIRR today.

      As the puzzle pieces all began falling into place, one last major decision was whether to use Direct Current, or Alternating Current – something that was highly politicized at the time. The Westinghouse Corporation promoted AC, while General Electric advocated DC. Though AC would have been far superior over long distances, no one was quite sure it would be able to handle the immense load of Grand Central’s train traffic – thus the decision was made to go with DC. As part of the contract with General Electric, the first electric engine was to be completed in under a year, and a four mile electrified track to be set up outside Schenectady for testing. By September of 1906, years before the Terminal would be completed, electric trains were being tested into Grand Central Station, and by the end of that year a few electric trains were on the regular schedule. The New York Central had kept its promise to eliminate steam locomotives from Grand Central.


    • tinker August 20, 2016 at 6:56 pm #

      Through-running at Penn Station can only work along the current NEC route due to LIRR using third rail (over running) and NJT using overhead. MNR uses third rail (under running) into GCT and overhead along NH line, with trains switching between the two. A through-running train would have to either use overhead all the way from NJ down the NH route, or, overhead in NJ and third rail in LIRR, requiring a new set of cars that can use both sources.


  17. Alex August 2, 2016 at 7:27 pm #

    we’re still so auto-centric, even in nyc, with mass transit, walking, and bicycling. even here, people don’t understand the connection between transit and land use. buses are so slow, stuck in traffic, with stops too close to each other, routes that don’t make sense… hard to coordinate with DOT, yes. hard to share data, yes – because, hard to trust, when politicians at the head of these separate agencies have separate agendas, competing for resources/grants… but the public suffers because of it. the public is less safe, riding on less efficient transit. we can cut the expenses and political constraints if we become a more united region. as a whole, we could get more federal funding, by uniting together. developers, transit agencies, unions… if everyone worked together, to keep transit working for changing demographics, travel patterns, street configurations… bus ridership is declining because otp, spacing, all are worse and worse. street design improvements will help. but we need the maps, graphics, presentations, stakeholders all on board to get progress… the qual and quant research… outreach… education… state, local collaboration… DATA! CAPACITY!


    • Alex August 7, 2016 at 2:59 pm #

      Even tho IRT, BMT, IND were built separately, they are now operated together, by one agency, even though they rarely connect… See, it is possible to unify!

      Due to the difference in tunnel clearances, the IRT and BMT/IND lines are operated separately. However there are some places where the former IRT lines and former BMT/IND lines connect. These are mostly used for work and revenue collection trains (which are IRT sized), and for moving IRT passenger cars to shops on the IND/BMT lines (Coney Island Overhaul, 207th Street Overhaul) for maintenance. The connections are:
      A one-track connection between the IRT #3 (New Lots Line) and the BMT “L” Canarsie line near the Junius St. Station, for Linden Yard access. There is no third rail on this connection. The yard is normally used for work trains powered by diesel locomotives.
      A diamond crossover on the upper level of Queensboro Plaza, between the N and the 7. This connection is the #7 line’s sole connection to any other line in the system and is used for bringing #7 cars on and off the line for maintenance (or delivery of new cars).
      Yard leads connect the Concourse Yard to the #4 line just north of Kingsbridge Road station and to the Concourse Subway just south of 205th Street.
      Yard leads connect the 207th Street Yard to the #1 line north of 207th St station and to the 8th Avenue IND subway.


  18. Bigg August 23, 2016 at 1:09 pm #

    The biggest things impacting throughput are the size of the blocks, speed of the trains (necessary spacing for braking distance), station dwell time, and the amount of time needed to switch and reset switches.
    Add a buffer onto that since it’s impossible to achieve (since that would mean approaching a red signal at full speed only for it to turn green the moment you hit it).
    Basically, low-speed, short dwell, quick braking, no interlining, and CBTC are how you can get incredible throughput
    Although the L’s wayside signals currently exist mostly to show that CBTC is active, they also serve as the backup in case CBTC has to be cut.
    OPTO on the L would work phenomenally well, even without platform screen doors (just put cameras along the length of the platform and have them line up with the motorman’s cab), but the union won’t allow it
    That’s the entire reason why it wouldn’t work

    Then again… with automatic announcements based on wheel rotation and at stations, all conductors need to do on newer trains is open and close doors. This could be done by the operator and cameras could be installed along platforms so they can view everything. But the only issue is that they can’t check for dragging passengers as the train leaves the station since then they’re operating and in the tunnel? Unlike some other one man operations, we don’t have platform screen doors, which is also why the L cannot be fully automated…


  19. Sink September 17, 2016 at 10:37 am #

    Before the city was consolidated, Brooklyn was its own city, which had annexed many other small towns… But Queens, was never a city itself, it is a county (like Kings County), there was no big city there that took over… so, in Queens, there is a lot more neighborhood pride than Brooklyn. These were small towns, like the dutch town of flushing, and in Queens, you can still write your neighborhood on your mail (Flushing, New York), while people in Brooklyn don’t write Park Slope, New York for instance…

    And marble hill in Manhattan is physically in the Bronx, since they isolated it by building a canal and filling in the river to the north,_Manhattan

    Politically a part of Manhattan and New York County, Marble Hill became an island in the Harlem River when it was separated from the island of Manhattan by the construction of the Harlem Ship Canal in 1895. In 1914, the Harlem River was filled in on the north side of Marble Hill, connecting it to the North American mainland and the Bronx.[3] Because of this change in geography, Marble Hill is often associated with the Bronx and is part of two of the latter’s Community Board Districts.

    After an increase in ship traffic in the 1890s, the United States Army Corps of Engineers determined that a canal was needed for a shipping route between the Hudson and Harlem rivers. In 1895, the construction of the Harlem River Ship Channel rendered Marble Hill an island bounded by the canal to the south and the original course of the Harlem River to the north.[6] The Greater New York Charter of 1897 designated Marble Hill as part of the Borough of Manhattan. Effective January 1, 1914, by an act of the New York State Legislature Bronx County was created, but Marble Hill remained as part of New York County. Later in 1914, the old river was filled in, physically connecting Marble Hill to the Bronx and the rest of the North American mainland.

    The United States Census Bureau defines Marble Hill as Census Tract 309 of New York County. As of the 2010 census, it had a population of 8,463 on a land area of 0.3065 km² (0.1183 sq mi, 75.7 acres).[9] Because Marble Hill is legally part of Manhattan, residents who serve on jury duty go to the courthouses at Foley Square in lower Manhattan. Marble Hill is represented by the offices of City Council District 10 Manhattan as well as elected officials in both Manhattan and the Bronx. Bronx Community Board 8 oversees the day-to-day operations of Marble Hill.
    History of political dispute

    On March 11, 1939, as a publicity stunt, Bronx Borough President James J. Lyons planted the Bronx County flag on the rocky promontory at 225th Street and Jacobus Place. Lyons proclaimed Marble Hill as a part of the Bronx and demanded the subservience of its residents to that borough, saying it was “The Bronx Sudetenland”, referring to Hitler’s 1938 annexation of a region of Czechoslovakia.[10] The incident was met with boos and nose-thumbing by 50 residents of Marble Hill.

    Residents of the neighborhood wished to remain residents of Manhattan, and petitions and signatures were gathered to be sent to Governor Herbert H. Lehman to ensure that Marble Hill remain part of Manhattan. In 1984, the matter was settled when the New York Legislature passed legislation declaring the neighborhood part of Manhattan.

    Marble Hill residents remain part of a political district that includes the northernmost areas of Manhattan (Washington Heights and Inwood), but city services – for example, the fire and police departments – come from and are located in the Bronx for reasons of convenience and safety, since the only road connection to the rest of Manhattan is a lift bridge, the Broadway Bridge.

    The United States Postal Service assigned Marble Hill the ZIP code 10463 – the “104” prefix is used for Bronx localities, while “100” through “102” are reserved for Manhattan addresses – although mail can be addressed to either “New York, New York” using the USPS designator for Manhattan, or to “Bronx, New York”.
    Marble Hill – 225th Street subway station

    In 1984, area code 718 was created out of area code 212 for the boroughs of Brooklyn, Queens, and Staten Island; in 1992, the Bronx and Marble Hill were added. Marble Hill residents fought to retain the more prestigious 212 area code but lost. This was mainly because New York Telephone persuaded officials that, since Marble Hill’s trunk line is wired into the Bronx’s line, it would have cost too much to rewire it. Marble Hill, unlike the rest of Manhattan, is in area code 718 (now also served by three overlay codes: 347 and 929 for the outer boroughs, and 917 for the entire city), but residents are listed in both Bronx and Manhattan telephone books.


  20. Yuni October 9, 2016 at 3:28 pm #

    Did you know that the LA region is actually more dense than the NY region, certainly than the Boston region? These Northeast cities are older, developed before the automobile, with dense center cities and smaller surrounding towns connected by railroads. In Boston, these small “towns” are now suburbs, but with strict zoning laws that keep large lot sizes, unlike LA, or Phoenix suburbs. As a result, while Boston itself is denser than LA, the region of LA – the commuting area, economic area – is denser! Even with commuter RR service that is infrequent, pulled by slow diesel locomotives, on single track territory. And jobs are less centralized in downtown LA. And NY’s suburbs are not as dense as LA’s, even with the busiest commuter RRs in the country, because railroads do not control zoning! And TOD is scary to most people. The train stations are just surrounded by car parking, controlled by municipalities, mainly. These places think of themselves as “towns”.

    Compare American cities to European cities, and it’s also interesting contrast. They built many boulevards with limited access, but they did not sprawl as much because they don’t have much of an “independence” culture with state rights, strong local powers, independent battling authorities… There, government is more centralized, with strict land use controls that promote density, high taxes on cars, more public transit investment, etc. Suburbs and city municipalities work together to promote this. And middle-class europeans did not leave for the suburbs, so they were in the center cities to protest highways. European cities are also older (if they weren’t bombed by war), so they were more NIMBY towards skyscrapers. And they have strong agricultural subsidies too, unlike the US, where farming moved to the midwest and left the northeast long ago, so there was more room for sprawl.

    (Now in Hong Kong or Singapore, everywhere is dense, there are no suburbs, it is all on an island)

    NY is a dense city, so the fewer cars, and more bikes, the better. It may not have as many tight streets as European cities, but it is dense. And european cities can be smaller, where biking makes more sense. But from train station to home, biking works. And for some commutes. We are working on changing the culture and infrastructure here, in NY. Maybe more should be done in Staten Island, which is less dense than LA.


    • Dimitri October 11, 2016 at 5:27 pm #

      And Europe has better transit over all, so it is easier for intercity rail to be efficient. American rail often drops you off in parking lots, not intermodal hubs. Except in older cities. But again, generally more sprawled in US.

      “Sprawl has no single definition. Many people, however, tend to think of “sprawling” cities as places where people make most of their trips by car, and non-sprawling cities as places where people are more likely to walk, cycle, or take transit. This is why Los Angeles, which has more vehicles per square mile than any other urbanized area, and where transit accounts for only two percent of the region’s overall trips, is considered sprawling, while the New York urbanized area is not. We also know (or think we know) that places where people frequently walk, cycle, or take transit tend to have high population densities, and for this reason we tend to view low density as a proxy for sprawl. But as it turns out, the Los Angeles urbanized area—which in both myth and fact is very car-oriented—is also very dense. In fact, Los Angeles has been the densest urbanized area in the United States since the 1980s, denser even than New York and San Francisco.”


  21. Wexel October 11, 2016 at 4:30 pm #

    The Acela is great. Only 3:45 to Boston from NY. First class has attendants and meals. Lots of leg room unlike planes. WiFi. Train stations with ample seating like airports. Cafe car. Reservations. Lounges for Amtrak passengers. NEC so impressive… Sunnyside yards zoning changes and decking proposals, so many railroads coordinating signals and such. A feat of engineering and rather scenic too.

    But not free (unless you are in the industry and get benefits)… unlike some transit systems like in Tallinn. Residents get free passes but in NY, we would be hawking those passes to tourists and they would rather pay us than the full price. Then again thats a metro system not a full railroad with reservations and ticketing procedures based on demand.
    (Though nyc subway is basically a railroad especially with portions formerly belonging to railroads)


    • Hank October 13, 2016 at 8:08 am #

      The current route through RI is slower than if they went through Hartford CT.


  22. Gord October 16, 2016 at 9:58 pm #

    LIRR east side access is being built right under MNR GCT. They have plenty of room. But even within the MTA, the railroads want to keep to themselves and not share operations. As a result, costs are a lot higher, they need to build whole new concourses and platforms and everything…


    • Yuni October 16, 2016 at 11:42 pm #

      It’s not as simple as “Americans care too much about freedom to cooperate”.

      Yes, LIRR and MNR are both MTA agencies, so HQ could have forced them to cooperate, rather than build an entirely new terminal and spend all that extra money.

      But, there would’ve needed to be a steep grade to get LIRR tracks low enough from the tunnel from Queens to cross under the current infrastructure, then up to the lower level of GCT. And, it would have been logistically difficult to install over-running third rails. LIRR takes over-running; MNR takes under-running. LIRR was electrified before under-running was invented and they had plans to connect it with the subway, which is also over-running.

      (This is why MNR Meadowlands trains to SEC use NJT equipment. The MNR M8s are compatible with catenary, but they have shoes for over-running third rails for the GCT approach, and catenary for the NH line with Amtrak along the NEC. Those M8s would run into under-running third rails if they went from NH line down Amtrak’s Hell Gate into LIRR Sunnyside territory. Would not be able to work with a different third rail type. We can’t fit B Div subway trains in IRT tracks or MNR on over-running third rail.

      Now if LIRR wanted a one seat ride, I guess they would need a hybrid diesel / over-running third rail. Since they don’t have overhead after Amtrak diverts over the Hell Gate. And there are no third rails at all in NJ. What a mess!

      Even the LIRR and MNR diesels would have a hard time, since they have shoes for over-running and under-running third rail, respectively. Only NJT can work… they have no contact shoes. No third rails in NJ. LIRR was a Penn subsidiary but they electrified before the rest of the PRR, without catenary, before catenary was really brought into the mainstream and not just used for streetcars. (Pantographs weren’t invented yet either, allowing trains to go fast on catenary and not clamp on to the wires like the old streetcars did.)

      MNR and LIRR trains simply can’t use each other’s tracks. Neither can B Div subway trains use IRT tracks. Too narrow. What’s next?!


      • Mars October 21, 2016 at 3:59 pm #

        New Haven Line was originally operated by a private company called the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad, and it got from Woodlawn (Bronx) to Grand Central Terminal via trackage rights over another private company called the New York Central Railroad. The New Haven had chosen 11Kv/25Hz AC distributed via catenary as its electrification method, while the New York Central had chosen 650 VDC distributed via third rail. Since the Central preferred third rail (due to tunnel clearances, NY City ordinance prohibiting exposed wires, and other, more technical reasons), the catenary ended at Woodlawn Junction

        the great “Current Wars” NY Central picked Edison’s DC system and NH RR picked Westinghouse’s AC system. Time has proven that the AC system advocated by Westinghouse and Tesla was the better way to go.

        Keep in mind that NY Central was only interested in using 3rd rail to get their trains in and of of GCT, while the NH RR was thinking in bigger terms and longer distances. Too bad that NY Central didn’t choose the overhead AC system. But at the time they thought they were doing the it best way.

        Third rail has a practical speed limit of 80 mph because the steel shoes get too hot, even with the rail being alternated from side to side. Trains in France and Japan have exceeded 200 mph under catenary wire.

        Snowstorms over the third rail can cause the shoes to lose contact with the rail. That doesn’t happen with overhead power.

        When the overhead wire is damaged, trains can drop their pantographs and cost through the area. With most equipment, you can’t retract third rail shoes.

        Now that the overhead third rail has been removed, trains with Genesis power can get stuck in a gap(of course they can just go to diesel mode to move). There are very There are very few gaps in the overhead wire that an MU train can’t bridge.


  23. Venus October 21, 2016 at 3:17 pm #

    Forget adding the PATH to the NYC Subway map. Be happy that the IRT, BMT, and IND are all showing on one map!

    The origins of the map lie in the problems of the previous decade. In the mid-1960s New York City Transit Authority was facing unprecedented difficulties in delivering information to its riders:

    Inconsistent and out-of-date signage still referred to the old operating companies (IRT, BMT, IND) long after they had been subsumed under a single public authority.
    An influx of 52 million visitors for the 1964 New York World’s Fair (April 1964 to October 1965) highlighted shortcomings in wayfinding information for public transportation in New York City.

    Structural changes to the subway network (costing $100 million) to reduce bottlenecks, in particular the Chrystie Street Connection (approved 1963, expected 1965, opened at the end of 1967[26]), effectively merged two of the three historical networks.
    To deal with this, the TA created the role of Director of Public Information and Community Relations, and hired former newspaper reporter Len Ingalls.[27] In his later years, Vignelli often said that the most important factor in the success of a design project was having a good client, and he praised Ingalls for being a very good one. Ingalls began an overhaul of both signage and the subway map. When Unimark International opened an office in New York in 1965, Mildred Constantine, curator of design at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) put Ingalls in touch with Vignelli, who headed up the New York office from the end of 1965. In the Spring of 1966, the TA engaged Unimark to redesign the subway signage and review the ongoing changes to the map. Robert Noorda and Massimo Vignelli created a system of signage that the TA adopted and which still pervades every station in the subway today. But the TA did not follow up Vignelli’s preliminary study of the map as they were already at the testing stage of their own new map.[28][29]

    The 1970s Vignelli map[edit]

    The TA’s new map, released in 1967, used Raleigh D’Adamo’s principle of color-coding for the first time, but it suffered from what Vignelli called “fragmentation” and was not well received. The following year, the parent body Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) was formed over the TA, chaired by Dr William J. Ronan, who wanted to create a modern brand image for this new body. While the Unimark signage project was still being finished off up with the creation of the New York City Transit Authority Graphics Standards Manual, Vignelli went to Ronan with a mock-up of part of the map for lower Manhattan.[30] Ronan approved it, and in July 1970 the TA awarded Unimark a contract to design a new system map.

    Original maps for the privately opened Interborough Rapid Transit Company (IRT), which opened in 1904, showed subway routes as well as elevated routes.[1] However, IRT maps did not show Brooklyn–Manhattan Transit Corporation (BMT) routes; conversely, BMT maps did not show IRT routes, even after the Dual Contracts between the IRT and BMT.[2] In fact, even in 1939, the year before the unification of the IRT, BMT, and Independent Subway System (IND) into one entity,[3] maps by private businesses were still being printed showing only the routes of one company.[2] The three subway companies also published their own maps, showing their own routes.[4] (Even in 1968, maps were published that neglected to show IRT routes.)[2]


  24. Xeno December 1, 2016 at 8:10 pm #

    …and when there’s no snow:

    Shutting Down New York’s Subways Is Very Expensive

    JANUARY 27, 2015

    Monday night, for the first time in the 110-year history of New York City’s subways, the system was shut down for a snowstorm. Tuesday morning, with eight inches of snow on the ground in Central Park as of 7 a.m., that decision is looking pretty unnecessary.

    At a news conference this morning, Gov. Andrew Cuomo characterized the subway closure as a “decision to err on the side of caution.” The thing to remember about these sorts of decisions is that caution can be really expensive.

    As of 2014, there were 3.9 million people working in New York City, earning an average daily wage of $409. A majority of those workers commute via the city’s public transit system, even when the roads are in good condition. If the subway closing led just 10 percent of people who work in New York City to take the day off today, the cost in lost labor was around $160 million — lost wages for those who are not fortunate enough to get a paid snow day, and lost productivity to the employers of those who did get paid without working.

    Of course, you have to weigh that cost against the cost of being caught unaware in a snowstorm that’s really big. This storm could have hit New York as hard as it hit Boston. This was a good reason for a road travel ban; as Mr. Cuomo noted at the news conference this morning, unexpectedly high snowfall in Buffalo in November stranded many people on roads for hours.

    “You can have a significant loss of life in these situations,” he said.

    What’s harder to defend is the choice to close the subway, which is more resilient to snow than the roads are, in large part because so much of it is underground. The subway hasn’t closed in previous snowstorms, including some about as big as this was forecast to be; the ability to run in the snow was even a crucial reason the subway was built in the first place. One of the reasons to keep the subway open is it lets people who must travel do so without resorting to dangerous roads.

    On Tuesday, Mr. Cuomo and Tom Prendergast, the president of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, contended that closing the system was a smart move because it’s easier to return a closed system to full capacity than one that is operating with modified service. But that’s inconsistent with both past M.T.A. practice and Mr. Prendergast’s own comments on Monday, when he was saying there was “no reason” to close the underground portions of the subway system, because they are shielded from snow.

    Aboveground subway lines can run into trouble during blizzards, especially those that run in trenches where snow can accumulate. But N.Y.C. Transit has a plan for dealing with that: closing the aboveground parts of the system most likely to be affected, shutting down express service and using express tracks to store extra trains.

    This doesn’t always work perfectly. In 2010, an A train got stuck in the snow for 10 hours, stranding several hundred people. The M.T.A. ended up paying a $2,500 settlement to each stranded rider. It was unfortunate (particularly for the riders), but if a stuck train is the worst thing that might happen when running the subway in the snow, that makes a very strong case for running the subway in the snow. After all, those settlements totaled a bit over a million dollars, a small price to pay for keeping the city running and working for a day.

    Politicians face strong political incentives to overreact to crises. Mr. Cuomo made a similar overreaction to the Ebola crisis several months ago by ordering quarantines of returning medical workers that were widely considered unnecessary and punitive by public health experts.

    He wasn’t wrong on the politics; an unnecessary abundance of caution on Ebola polled well. But that doesn’t make it smart policy.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: