Why the 7 to Secaucus Won’t Work

Bloomberg’s expressed support for the now $10-billion proposal to send the subway to Secaucus is generating buzz and speculation about the ability to secure funds. Missing from this discussion is any concern for whether more people would actually transfer at Secaucus than do today. The instinct is to say that this provides a better connection to most of Midtown, but the transfer penalty literature suggests otherwise.

One important thing to note, writes Reinhard Clever, is that for commuter rail, downtown-side transfers are much more inconvenient than suburb-side transfers. Suburban commuters will drive to a park-and-ride, but balk at a transfer at the city end. Clever’s example is Toronto, where commuter rail riders tend not to transfer to the subway at Union Station but only take transit to jobs that can be reached from the station by walking. This problem is what doomed the Austin Red Line. For all its flaws, ARC offered a one-seat ride from the Erie lines to Penn Station.

Another thing to note is that suburban commuters routinely change trains at Jamaica today, but not at Secaucus. I’m not aware of a study on the transfer experience, but I am fairly certain that the difference is that at Jamaica the transfers are timed and cross-platform whereas at Secaucus they are not. Transferring at Secaucus today involves going up steps, passing through faregates, and going down steps, with no guarantee of a connecting train. The literature is unanimous that passengers will spend more than one minute of in-vehicle time to avoid a minute of transfer or waiting time: the MTA uses a factor of 1.75, the MBTA 2.25, Houston METRO 3.5-4 (last two from pp. 31-2 of Clever’s thesis). None of this is going to change if people are instead made to transfer from a commuter train to the subway, except perhaps that the subway train is going to be less crowded because it won’t be carrying commuters from the Northeast Corridor and Morris and Essex Lines.

Both issues boil down to the same fundamental: not all transfers are created equal. Within urban rail, people transfer all the time. Perhaps the disutility of getting up while changing trains is not an issue when passengers do not expect to find a seat in the first place. Regional rail riders transfer as well, when the transfers are easy and there’s no additional waiting time – in fact, setting up a timed transfer on a highly branched regional line increases the frequency on each branch, so any disutility from transferring is swamped by the more convenient schedule. What people don’t normally do is ride a regional line that gets them almost to their job, and then take urban transit for the last mile.

Commuters on the Erie lines can already make an uncoordinated transfer involving passing through faregates at two locations: Secaucus, and Hoboken. Some, but not many, already take advantage of this to get to jobs near Penn Station or in Lower Manhattan. The contribution of the 7 to Secaucus would then be to create a third opportunity for a transfer to 42nd Street. While 42nd is closer to most Midtown jobs than Penn Station, the heart of Midtown is in the 50s. At Queensboro Plaza more inbound riders transfer from the 7 to the N/Q than the reverse, emptying the 7 by the time it gets to Manhattan: the MTA’s crowding estimate as reported by the Straphangers Campaign, has the taken at the entrance to the Manhattan core, ranks the 7 the least crowded subway line at rush hour. Thus, although the 7 to Secaucus would add to the number of jobs served by a two-seat ride, many Midtown jobs would require a three-seat ride, no different from transferring to the E at Penn Station.

Therefore, good transit activists should reject the 7 to Secaucus as they did ARC, and I’m dismayed to see NJ-ARP‘s Douglas John Bowen throw in his support behind it as an ARC alternative. Before anything else is done, the Secaucus faregates should be removed, and the platforms should be remodeled to let passengers go directly from the Erie platforms to the NEC platforms. Here are better candidate projects for adding a pair of tracks under the Hudson:

1. ARC Alt G. Despite the ARC cancellation, it remains the best option.

2. Hoboken-Lower Manhattan. This doesn’t give Erie commuters a one-seat ride to Penn Station, but compensates with a one-seat ride to Lower Manhattan, and a two-seat ride from the Morris and Essex Lines to Lower Manhattan. The Manhattan terminal should not be more than a two-track stub-end with short tail tracks and the potential for a connection to the LIRR Atlantic Division. With about 50 meters of tail tracks and a platform with many escalators, the Chuo Line turns nearly 30 tph on two tracks at Tokyo Station. It’s an outlier, but given the extreme cost of building larger stations in Manhattan, the response should not be “They’re different, our special circumstances won’t let this happen,” but “how can we have what they have?”. Modern signaling and punctuality are critical, but, as the Germans say, organization before electronics before concrete.

2b. Jersey City-Lower Manhattan. The same as option 2, but with somewhat less tunneling in Manhattan and a lot more tunneling in Jersey. The main advantage is that new underground stations at Journal Square and Exchange Place would serve more jobs and residents than a station in Hoboken. It may be cheaper due to reduced Manhattan tunneling, or more expensive due to less maneuvering room coming into Lower Manhattan. It also forces the Manhattan platform to be east-west rather than north-south for a far-future cross-platform transfer with Grand Central and Staten Island.

3. The L to Secaucus, or to Hoboken. This has all the problems of the 7 to Secaucus plus more – 14th Street is at best a secondary CBD – but it conveniently replaces the L’s current low-throughput terminal with another. Ideally the L should only be extended a few hundred meters west, to the Meatpacking District, but if such an extension has large fixed costs, the incremental cost of extending the L all the way could be low enough to be justified by the benefits of a Secaucus extension, which are low but nonzero.


  1. Caelestor

    Excellent response. Here’s my thoughts from the NYC Transit Forum:

    “A subway should be built to facilitate not just commutes, but all-day transportation as well, in dense urban areas. 2nd Ave, Northern Blvd, and Utica Ave come to mind. Secaucus Junction doesn’t fit the bill. I’m guessing one reason behind this plan is to turn Secaucus into something like Jamaica (the regional transportation hub) by trying to extend subway service there, but it’s going to be limited in effect because the 7 will take a circuitous route and it doesn’t serve northern Midtown.

    I still maintain the most important thing is to connect NYP to GCT to relieve congestion at those awfully skinny platforms in the former (one side benefit is that you keep some riders off the already strained subway system). This can also divert Amtrak trains to use GCT as the second NYC stop, further relieving congestion. Also just as good is to find a way to merge NJT and LIRR so they can attempt to reduce turnbacks at Penn as much as possible (granted, this is def. more difficult than my first proposal).

    Two things for sure though: considering the distance, it should not take 20 minutes to get from Newark to NYP, and the passenger flow at NYP is appalling. You should try to fix those before throwing money at a subway which will only receive usage in peak times.”

    • Walter

      Merging NJT and the LIRR isn’t even needed; LIRR will be sending a good number of its trains to GCT after East Side Access is complete. Metro-North is then supposed to run New Haven-Penn Station service to take advantage of those subsequent openings in Penn Station.

      Merging Metro-North’s New Haven Line and NJT’s Northeast Corridor Line makes much more sense. These are the two busiest commuter routes in the country, and through-running from New Haven to Trenton could help with capacity issues in Penn. The new M8 cars can take power from both New Haven RR-voltage catenary and Pennsylvania RR-voltage catenary, so even a scenario where MNRR and NJT crews change at Penn could be put into effect almost immediately.

      • jim

        through-running from New Haven to Trenton could help with capacity issues in Penn.

        Something like this is often stated, but the arithmetic doesn’t work.

        Right now, at AM peak, NJT runs 8tph into Penn on the NEC and 2tph out. New Haven is planned to run 4 tph into Penn and 1 tph out. Assuming late in the morning that all NJT storage spaces east of the Hudson are full (this simplifies things, but doesn’t alter the situation), without runthrough, the four New Haven trains discharge their passengers, run into the West Side Yards, one reverses there and comes out to receive passengers and run out the East River tunnels to Hell Gate; the eight NJT trains run into Penn, discharge their passengers, reverse at the platform, six deadhead out through the SB North River Tunnel and the other two wait to receive passengers and then run back through the SB North River Tunnel. With runthrough, two of the New Haven trains discharge and receive passengers and then run through the SB North River Tunnel, while the other two run into the West Side Yard; seven of the NJT trains discharge passengers, reverse at the platform and deadhead through the SB North River Tunnel, the eighth discharges, receives and runs through the East River tunnels to Hell Gate.

        What have we achieved? We have less platform congestion, but we have more congestion in the SB North River Tunnel. Without runthrough there were eight trains through the tunnel; with runthrough, there are nine. But the critical congestion at Penn is the North River Tunnels. Late in the AM peak, Amtrak is limited to 2 tph southbound to permit the maximum number of NJT trains to make it into Penn before 9AM. NJT’s commuter passengers are more schedule-sensitive than Amtrak’s intercity passengers. So runthrough alleviates the less critical congestion and worsens the more critical. It doesn’t help.

        If more tunnel capacity is built, then runthrough, by alleviating platform congestion, will be helpful. But not now.

      • anonymouse

        Unfortunately, you were misinformed about the capabilities of the M8’s. The New Haven Line and NEC use the same voltage (or close enough), but different frequencies of alternating current. The M8’s can’t handle the 25Hz current that Amtrak uses. Metro North considered this option but discarded it as it would have added about a ton of weight to each car. So when the M-8’s run to Penn, it will be under third rail power, which will require an extension of the third rail for about a mile along the Hell Gate Line, and also dual-pickup shoes on the cars that can deal with MNR-style and LIRR-style third rail.

        Interoperability in the other direction isn’t necessarily possible either: the bridge at Cos Cob requires that trains either have height limiters on their pantographs (as Metro North trains have) or automatic lowering (as NJT locomotives have) to avoid pantograph damage from overextension. So while NJT MUs are compatible with the power supply, they probably can’t cross that bridge, at least in regular service. On the plus side, at least M8’s will have enough compatibility to run all the way to Boston.

        • Alon Levy

          Fortunately, fixing the Cos Cob bridge both is and should be on Amtrak’s medium-range plan for unrelated reasons (it’s the slowest segment of the NEC away from station approaches, and is in an area without alignment-based speed restrictions).

  2. jim

    Hoboken to lower Manhattan just duplicates existing PATH service. At 2nd Ave Sagas I suggested hooking a Hoboken-lower Manhattan tunnel into the BMT Broadway line to turn into a second service on the SAS, but thinking a bit more about that, I doubt that one could clear the bulkhead and rise to the BMT level with tolerable grades. That may also be true of extending the L to NJ, though there’s more room to get down to below the bulkhead there. The advantage of the 7 is that it’s already deep on 11th Ave, so it doesn’t have to descend much more to clear the bulkhead.

    When all is said and done ARC Alt G still looks best.

  3. carlosthedwarf

    1)Does it make a difference that riders transferring from NJT to the 7 at Secaucus would be transferring at the end of the 7 line? Might they be more willing to transfer than the average commuter, given the increased likelihood that a) there would be a train on the platform, ready to pull out within two minutes and b) they would have an increased likelihood of finding a seat?

    2) Assuming no new trains were purchased for the 7 line, how much impact would this extension have on rush-hour headways?

  4. Tom West

    For the passenger rail work I did in the UK, we always used a transfer penalty amount, rather than a factor. Generally it was 17 minutes… so, a direct journey of one hour was the ‘same’ as a journey with a transfer and (overall) travel time of 43 minutes. (That was an average – for commuters, it was higher).

    On city-side transfers: there is also a cost element. If you have to ride the train and the subway every day, that’s an extra fare. Transfers between suburban trains run by the same agenecy will cost no more than a direct train.

  5. Lawrence Velázquez (@larryv)

    I’m baffled that anyone considers the 7 Secaucus extension to be an ARC alternative. It would provide a little more flexibility for riders but would not relieve the North River Tunnels and allow NJ Transit to run more service, as ARC would have. If it made intermediate stops, it would no doubt be useful to Hudson County residents while becoming much less attractive as a transfer alternative for NJ Transit riders. (I’m not saying that would necessarily be a bad thing, but it does turn the 7 extension into an entirely different project.)

  6. Emily Washington

    I really like your common sense thinking about the psychology of transfers. This entrepreneurial approach to the problem is missing waaayy too often from transportation authorities, or if they consider these issues, they do not effectively convey them to the public.

    Anecdotally, my preference is nearly always to walk farther to avoid transfers even if it takes longer because transfers are stressful to transit riders in the way that sitting in traffic is stressful to drivers.

  7. Pingback: Urban Omnibus » The Omnibus Roundup — No Bins, CityBench, Secaucus 7, Parking Reform, The Civilians on OWS and Urbanized at IFC
  8. Steve


    Perhaps part of the problem is that we need more than just two new tracks under the Hudson? It looks like we need at least four: two into Penn (Moynihan?) and two more from Hoboken to Lower Manhattan.

    Another consideration that somebody else commenting on Second Avenue Sagas raised is the possibility of bus replacement: in other words, that a contingent of ridership on such a line as the proposed 7 extension could come from not commuter rail transfers, but bus transfers looking to save time and not gamble on Lincoln Tunnel congestion. That leads me to develop the suggestion that the 7 extension could be workable if and only if two conditions are met: (a) that such an extension would just be an extension of the extant subway network, not have any sort of surcharges or added fares à la the JFK Airtrain, and have free transfer throughout New York’s system–particularly helpful if the network was better timed–and (b) if the bus terminal was shifted to Secaucus, which, among other things, provides a new New York gateway and frees up capacity in the Lincoln Tunnel.

    However, since I don’t think the bus terminal would be moved to Secaucus–and it may not even be a wise idea to–it’s also highly doubtful Bloomburg’s proposed 7 extension makes sense, particularly when the MTA still needs to meet greater transit needs without leaving city lines!

    • Ian Mitchell

      Secaucus as a replacement for, or additional substitute alongside, Port Authority Bus Terminal, is exactly where I think the project makes the most sense.

  9. Robert

    “What people don’t normally do is ride a regional line that gets them almost to their job, and then take urban transit for the last mile.”

    Say what? Isn’t that exactly what pretty much everyone who commutes on NJT but doesn’t happen to work within walking distance of Penn Station is doing right now? Hopping on the 7 in Secaucus wouldn’t be any worse for these people than what they’re doing now — they’re just making the connection to the subway earlier.

    You’re right that anyone who works near Penn Station or along the West Side would have no reason to use the 7 connection. Their current ride is pretty good, and they’d have no reason to do anything else.

    But there is potentially a very large contingent of NJT commuters that the 7 could take straight to their jobs, or save them a transfer (like if they work on the East Side or need to get on the Lexington Ave. Line — one transfer, to the 7 at Secaucus, replaces two transfers, to the 7th Ave. Line and then the shuttle). And people on the Main, Bergen, and Pascack Valley Lines of NJT have to transfer at Secaucus anyway to reach Penn Station, so transferring to the 7 instead certainly wouldn’t be any worse for them. (In fact, under the current fare structure, it’s $3.75-$4 cheaper to ride to Secaucus than to Penn Station, so people would save a couple bucks using the 7 even if they weren’t going to pay the fare in Manhattan anyway.) And again, for people who work close to the 7 or on the East Side, it would save them a lot of time and transfers.

    • Alon Levy

      Some people do that. Others ride Port Authority buses and cut a transfer from the trip.

      You’re absolutely right that the 7 extension turns a three-seat ride into a two-seat ride for a fair number of people. As I said, it has nonzero benefit. The problem is that the benefit isn’t all that large; it saves a transfer for some, and simplifies the transfer at Secaucus relative to current operational practice while making it worse relative to best industry practice, which isn’t the huge game changer everyone is talking about. For this amount of benefit, $2-3 billion would be an acceptable budget – maybe somewhat more if there’s intense redevelopment around Secaucus. Certainly not $10 billion.

      • Ian Mitchell

        Would a move of the PABT to Secaucus and committing any funds from redeveloping the site of the current PABT possibly (via both increased benefit and reduced cost) make this pencil out?

  10. Adirondacker12800

    For all its flaws, ARC offered a one-seat ride from the Erie lines to Penn Station.

    Would have offered one seat rides for trains originating at Bay Head, High Bridge, Raritan and Hackettstown too. One day one seat rides to Scranton. Until then one seat rides to Andover. Would have taken trains from the former DL&W off the NEC, improving their run time 10-20 minutes.

    Another thing to note is that suburban commuters routinely change trains at Jamaica today, but not at Secaucus. I’m not aware of a study on the transfer experience, but I am fairly certain that the difference is that at Jamaica the transfers are timed and cross-platform whereas at Secaucus they are not.

    People have been changing at Jamaica since the Long Island City ferries started to run. They’ve had time to build commuting patterns. Someone who moved to the suburbs in 1995 wasn’t basing decisions on a connection that wouldn’t be open until 2003. Anyway commuters in Bergen and Passaic have the option of taking the bus to the Port Authority Bus Terminal if they want to get to Times Square. So do commuters in most places in Northern New Jersey. …ever wonder why Long Island and Westchester don’t have the same volume of bus commuters that New Jersey has? Has a bit to do with the commute involving a ferry or PATH, unless you were at a PRR station, until the late 60s…. The bus was faster. And until the PABT opened, buses from New Jersey made local stops in Manhattan…. one seat rides to most places on the West Side.
    I used to work on 41st and Broadway. One seat ride to the PABT from the bus stop at the end of my block. I took the bus to Penn Station in Newark from the same bus stop, train to Penn Station in New York and either walked or took the subway. The three seat ride was faster. And more reliable, even with the XBL traffic through the Lincoln Tunnel is unpredictable.

    Regional rail riders transfer as well, when the transfers are easy and there’s no additional waiting time

    LIRR has Jamaica. New Jersey has PATH. They make transfers. Some of them make a third transfer either at Journal Square or to the subway in Manhattan… the transfers are fast and reliable….

    What people don’t normally do is ride a regional line that gets them almost to their job, and then take urban transit for the last mile.

    Union Station in DC is the Metro’s busiest stop.
    Fern Rock?
    Almost anybody in Chicago, though lots of them just walk the blocks and blocks to the office.
    People will make transfers if they are fast and reliable.

    no different from transferring to the E at Penn Station.

    Transferring to the E would be a two seat ride ( on the train that served Penn Station directly ) and the transfer to the E at Penn Station is a lot easier than the transfer to the E at Times Square from the 7. But then someone who lives in Bergen County and works on E54 St. probably takes the bus to the PABT instead of a train, it’s faster.

    the Secaucus faregates should be removed, and the platforms should be remodeled to let passengers go directly from the Erie platforms to the NEC platforms.

    You’d have to tear down the station to do that, the flyovers and duckunders would be interesting – the lines cross more or less at a 90 degree angle.

    The long range plans for Secaucus are that suburbanites have one seat rides to Manhattan and the people using Secaucus have Secaucus as their destination or have some oddball trip like Linden to Ridgewood. The only people transferring between levels would be off peak.

    The faregates are there because there’s not enough time to check each ticket between Secaucus and Penn Station, either of them. Not enough time for POP to be effective either.

    This doesn’t give Erie commuters a one-seat ride to Penn Station, but compensates with a one-seat ride to Lower Manhattan, and a two-seat ride from the Morris and Essex Lines to Lower Manhattan.

    It’s doesn’t preclude it. They can still build the ramps in Secaucus and run trains to Penn Station. If trains from the former Erie lines can get to Lower Manhattan so could trains on the former DL&W lines.

    Think big. If you are going to do this a short tunnel for Newark Division trains and a short tunnel for the Hoboken Division trains – to Newport where passengers can change for one seat rides to any PATH station. Continue on to Lower Manhattan, Brooklyn and Jamaica. Lets Amtrak serve Lower Manhattan, Brooklyn and Jamaica. Should do wonders for Acela service, much easier for the machers to get from Wall Street to DC and vice versa….

    Might not need as much tunnel as you think, the Bergen Arches ROW is still there and the PATH ROW is wide enough for four tracks to halfway between Journal Square and Grove Street. The ROW trains used to get to the Erie terminal and the PRR terminal.

    If you want to get to Journal Square, Exchange Place or Hoboken change at Newark or Newport. No need for an underground station at Journal Square, if they want a suburban station at Journal Square, there’s enough room in the cut for more platforms next to the extra tracks that are there.

    and develop the parking lots at Newport.

    Connect the former Erie and DL&W to Lower Manhattan and Hoboken becomes obsolete. I see mixed used where the platforms and yards are and redevelopment of the terminal. Newport with the headhouse intact…. Newport is where the Erie terminal used to be…

    It also forces the Manhattan platform to be east-west rather than north-south for a far-future cross-platform transfer with Grand Central and Staten Island.

    Newport and Flatbush Ave are far enough away from each other that you could orient the platforms almost anyway you wanted to. Tunnels don’t have to be straight, after all most of them aren’t level…

    • Alon Levy

      I wasn’t even thinking of Newport – I was thinking of using the PRR ROW and starting to tunnel east of Journal Square and going under Exchange Place for the secondary CBD – but Newport could work, too. It’s very flexible when you’re going underground anyway; the question is what’s easier and what serves more jobs. And yes, one of the points of making Hoboken’s existing station obsolete is that it could be cut to 2-4 tracks for the odd diesel to Scranton or another place far from electrification and do TOD around the PATH station.

      The idea of putting faregates for transfers within the same system is so passenger-hostile that it’d be better to just POP-inspect the hell out of the Penn-Secaucus segment(s). It’s clearly possible – they POP-inspect short segments of rail on any S-Bahn, using roving teams of inspectors. In Paris they have inspectors set up positions at choke points and behind corners in the corridors; Penn Station’s platforms don’t have anything comparable, but they could use the narrowness of the platforms and coordinate e.g. two inspectors blocking the platform and two on the train. It’s possibly more expensive than the faregates at current ridership levels, but it opens up the possibility for a nicer transfer. Cross-platform configuration is obviously not possible, but adding egress points so that people can go directly from the Erie to the NEC platforms would help.

      As for the examples you give of people transferring, first, there’s a difference between “people won’t transfer” and “people prefer not to transfer when there’s an alternative” (hence, they drive in Austin and ride PA buses in North Jersey). Second, are the ridership levels due to transfers? PATH carries a lot of Manhattan-bound commuters from Hudson County and Newark, about 50-60 thousand people taking two trips in each direction; Newark’s NJT boarding count is 19,000, and this includes people working in Newark, and Hoboken’s is 17,000 (link to boarding numbers). In Chicago the integration between the L and Metra is so poor that I doubt anyone who works in the Loop transfers – probably they walk, as you say.

    • Beta Magellan

      Adirondacker, the center of gravity of the Loop’s office space has been moving west for decades now, so most Metra commuters are only a short walk over the river from their offices, with an increasing number on the same side as Union and Ogilvie/Northwestern stations. The eastern loop has become more centered around education, retail, culture and condos and doesn’t draw as many Metra commuters. As Alon notes above, there’s basically no el-Metra connection. There is CTA bus shuttle service, but it’s poorly patronized—I’ve seen the Union/Ogilvie buses called the “cognoscenti routes” because they’re used by so few (and numbered so confusingly). So, at least in terms of commuter rail riders, almost nobody transfers downtown, and trends in office construction have been geared towards keeping it that way.

    • Eric L

      So are there any advantages to the 7 to Seacaucus over the Amtrak Gateway Tunnel, given the latter will be necessary to build high speed rail?

      If you’re going to go big and build a tunnel from Jersey City to Lower Manhattan to Mid-town, you certainly don’t want to make Lower Manhattan a terminus for any train, and you’ll get better use of platforms in Mid-Town if trains don’t terminate there either. The trick is solving the political problem of multiple agencies if you want through routes. So make it so NJ transit trains on the NEC can go to Jersey City, Lower Manhattan, Penn Station, then continue back into New Jersey, perhaps to the west or north. If you want to bring NY trains into Lower Manhattan too, perhaps connect the Staten Island Railroad to Bayonne, then connect to a through platform at Grand Central so that the SIR could be a branch of the LIRR.

      The general idea is have lines terminate outside NYC where platforms are cheap, and you can more efficiently use stations and tunnels in New York.

      • Alon Levy

        The main advantage is that it keeps Amtrak out of the loop. Amtrak isn’t exactly the world’s most competent railroad; the fact that it thinks the Gateway Tunnel is necessary for HSR, even though its own Vision proposal calls for the same amount of NEC traffic as today (2-3 tph), should be a big warning sign.

        And you’ll get no argument from me about the need for through-running. Adirondacker may feel differently though.

        • Eric L

          Sure, but through running will never happen if it requires NJ transit to co-own routes with New York. A solution allowing for through routes that begin and end in the same state would make the best use of the tracks.

          • Alon Levy

            The problem is that the main outlet from Penn west is to Jersey. (The Empire Connection just leads to the Hudson Line). The benefits of through-routing within New York State only are pretty small, and the agency intransigence is so bad that just merging LIRR and Metro-North management or having them share tracks at Grand Central was vetoed; the difficulty of adding NJT to the mix if the LIRR and Metro-North are whipped into shape is comparatively small.

          • Adirondacker12800

            They didn’t do it because digging up Park Ave and the skyscrapers along it wasn’t a viable option. The northern reaches of Grand Central extend into the 50s. There are switches under 57th street.

        • Nathanael

          The digging necessary to connect GCT with Penn would be almost entirely under streets; only the block to the NW of 34th & Park would go under any buildings at all. Most of the hard work was already done for the original tunnel now used by cars. It really is viable.

          • jim

            It’s the breakout through the south wall of GCT which is problematic, and running tracks through what is now the food hall. MTA doesn’t see what’s in it for them and the historic preservation issues are real.

            It’s more than one block gets affected, too. The curve would run between Fifth Ave and 31st St and Park Ave and 35th or 36th St.

            And the ARC MIS said that one of the 6 train tracks would have to be relocated between Grand Central and 33rd St.

            None of these are insurmountable issues, but they’d have to be worked.

            I still think that grafting the ARC Alt G treatment east of Penn (the tunnel along 31st St and Park Ave connecting tracks 1-5 of Penn with tracks 105-112 of GCT) onto Amtrak’s Gateway project (and dropping the South Penn idea) is probably the ideal.

  11. david vartanoff

    A different plan. Build from the 50th/8th Av lower tracks to Secaucus making a transfer station at the mistakenly canceled 41st/10th Av point on the 7. Run the E to Secaucus.
    Benefits: If the northern edge of midtown is the destination, then this route serves it directly. IND/BMT specs provide greater capacity. Also provides a New Jersey link directly to AirTrain for JFK.

    • Alon Levy

      Yeah, I saw this proposed on SAS, after I posted. It’s a better idea than the 7. The capacity is lower because the E shares tracks in Queens and is therefore limited to 15 tph, but with the expected demand of today’s Secaucus, it’s no big deal. (With the expected demand from a Secaucus that’s built up at the same density as Hoboken, West New York, and Union City, it’s another matter.) But yes, the direct service to the heart of Midtown would make it better.

      I wasn’t even thinking of the service to JFK, which could be provided with commuter rail through-running. But you’re right, adding this is an extra fringe benefit – it removes North Jersey’s dependence on Newark.

    • jim

      I don’t see the benefit of running the E to Secaucus. Every E train from Queens that runs to Secaucus is an E train that doesn’t run to Chambers St. I imagine there are many more Queens residents that want to travel to lower Manhattan than want to travel to Secaucus.

      And the majority of the NJT riders at Secaucus can already transfer to the E at Penn Station. It’s only people on the trains to Hoboken that gain.

  12. jim

    it removes North Jersey’s dependence on Newark

    …which is why the NJ govt. wouldn’t support it.

    • Adirondacker12800

      Today most New Jerseyans can take a train to Penn Station, change to the LIRR and be in Jamaica relatively fast. E to Secaucus may be slower than the LIRR. Cheaper but not by much. They can take a bus to the Port Authority Bus Terminal and change to the E there. Or take the airport bus from the PABT. E to Secaucus isn’t going to attract a lot of airport riders.

  13. jim

    Rather than run the 7 to Secaucus, perhaps run it to Hoboken. Extend the tail tracks south to cross the Hudson on a diagonal. The underwater tunnel would be about a mile and a half, vice about a mile for the ARC underwater tunnel. But there’d be no bellmouths to excavate (at unsocial hours, too, when 7 frequency is low enough that trains can be turned at 34th St, leaving the tail tracks free to be worked on), no twisting tunnels to connect from the ARC tunnel to the bellmouths on the 7 tail tracks, no new shafts and adits at 12th and 28th and in Weehawken, no tunnel through the Palisades, no aerial structure from Bergen to Secaucus Junction and no need to reconstruct Lauter Station (one of the commenters on SAS dismissed the Secaucus Junction 7 terminal as “just a loop”, but there are real paxflow issues, complicated by multiple faregates).

    Even adding back the 41st and 10th station, building a new one at Chelsea Piers and a new deep station below Hoboken terminal, this shouldn’t cost more than $5B.

    Having a NYCT station at Hoboken should incentivize NJT to run more trains there, relieving pressure on Penn. There are existing tracks between Newark and Hoboken. NJT runs very few trains along them because there’s nothing at Hoboken now except transfer to PATH and riders can already transfer to PATH at Newark. Additional trains into Hoboken for riders to transfer to the 7 which, remember, connects to all north-south Manhattan subway lines between Times Square and Grand Central, gives NJ commuters a two-fare ride (and for many a two-seat ride) to anywhere in Manhattan or downtown Brooklyn. Currently, it’s not just a three seat ride, it’s a three-fare ride: NJT ticket to Hoboken, then swipe your PATH card to get into Manhattan, then swipe your Metrocard to get to where you want to be.

  14. jim

    The fundamental problem with 7 to Secaucus is that there’s nothing at Secaucus Junction but NJT trains. No-one will go there except to transfer to an NJT train. No-one will take the 7 from Secaucus unless they’ve gotten off an NJT train there. So the 7 will run empty from 34th St to Secaucus Junction in the mornings and empty from Secaucus Junction to 34th St in the evenings and the rest of the time empty both ways. It is not in the interest of a cash strapped transit agency to run empty trains.

    The New York subway isn’t a commuter operation.

  15. Nathanael

    I have mentioned before that Toronto Union Station is *not* a good case for evaluating commuters’ willingness to transfer downtown, because the subway station is actually overcrowded.

    • Alon Levy

      See latest post. I’m a bit skeptical of a nobody-goes-there-it’s-too-crowded explanation; it suggests people would want to transfer in Austin, and they don’t. (Of course, in Austin the transfer is to a local bus, which introduces other problems…)

      • anonymouse

        One of the TTC’s current funding priorities is building a second (side) platform to supplement the existing island platform at Union Station, because it’s too crowded. So I’d say that concerns about crowding at Union Station are worth noting.

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  17. Bob Schwartz

    But 7 to Secaucus won’t reduce train congestion in the tunnels to Penn Station, which is the key problem! It is no substitute for ARC or what ARC could have been.

    Yes, some AM commuters would get off at Secaucus to take the 7, but the only way there would be less congestion in the tunnels would be if some NJT trains turned around at Secaucus; that’s very unlikely.

  18. Bob

    The 7 train to Secaucus may not have helped whatever ARC was to solve, but it could be very useful for NJ’s bus system — which carries more passengers into Manhattan than its railroads. Build a new bus terminal in Secaucus, and commuters would see the value of transfering to the 7 train instead of waiting on a bus as it …crawls… the last few miles through the Lincoln Tunnel into Manhattan. The Lincoln Tunnel is also at capacity, whereas bus ridership in NJ is expected to expand. The 7 train would allow for increased NJ bus service without rebuilding Port Authority, or expanding the Lincoln Tunnel — which nobody has any idea how to do, but it would clearly be very expensive.

    • Matthew

      Morning commuters get the Lincoln Tunnel eXclusive Bus Lane until 10am. It’s pretty successful, I don’t think riders would prefer a 7 transfer at Secaucus.

      • Peter Brassard

        Many would use a #7 transfer from Secaucus, which would be easier than having to transfer to the subway at Port Authority. For those who work in Midtown around Grand Central, it would be an easy uncomplicated ride. There was discussion of also constructing a #7 station under Hoboken Terminal, which would provide an easier transfer for the Pascack, Main and Bergen, Montclair, Morristown, Gladstone Branch, and Raritan Valley lines rather than using Secaucus.

        • Matthew

          Would they reroute the current NJtransit buses from the PA to Secaucus Junction by branching every one of the routes (split between Secaucus and PA), detouring them to Secaucus before going into NYC (sounds terrible), or just eliminating use of the Port Authority bus terminal altogether?

        • Adirondacker12800

          It’s not easier if you want some train other than the 7.
          Raritan Valley line riders can take PATH from Newark to the World Trade Center or a NEC train or NJCL train to Penn Station. Why would any of them, who are destined for Manhattan, want to go to Hoboken?

          • Ian Mitchell

            Seems like a station under Hoboken Terminal, and at Secaucus junction, would be conducive to a plan to built a Secaucus bus terminal, and close and completely overhaul the existing Port Authority Bus Terminal. NJT bus traffic would route to the 7 in the interim, and there would be capacity for improved service once the new PABT was finished.

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