I Gave a Talk About Regional Rail

I expect there will be writeups about the talk (e.g. on Streetsblog). But meanwhile, here are my slides (warning: 17 MB, because of pictures). These are identical to what was shown at the talk, with two differences: I fixed one small mistake (Fordham Road vs. Pelham Parkway), and I consolidated the pauses, so each slide is a page, rather than a few pages, each page adding a line.

There were light fantasy maps in the talk. Because of size, I’m not embedding them in the post. But there are links:

Yellow highlights around a line indicate it’s new; Gateway is highlighted in one direction since it’s an existing two-track line to be four-tracked. On the infill map, solid circles are existing stations, gray circles are planned stations, white circles are my suggestions for additional infill.


  1. newyorksfuturetransit

    Great job! I wish I could have been there. You don’t think an infill stop at 138th or 149th in the Bronx would be a good idea. It would provide direct access to the South Bronx, while allowing for reduced crowding on the subway.

    • newtonmarunner

      For the longest time, I felt the same as you: that Morrisania should get its own infill stop. But there already is a subway line there.

      My potential dream — and this would be long after regional rail and the 2nd Ave/125th St/University Ave/Utica Ave C Division Lines are built — is having the Broadway Express Line go up 3rd Ave (there would be 8 tracks — 4 on Lex, 2 on 2nd and 2 on 3rd — plus Regional Rail on UES), and prune either the Wakefield or Dyre Ave Line so the Lex Ave Express didn’t branch, and could be automated.

    • Lawrence Velázquez

      Was a bit hard to hear from the back, but fortunately it was all familiar to regular readers 🙂

      No one in the room noticed that he wiped the West Hempstead Branch off the map!

      • Alon Levy

        Yeah, I didn’t put up the map for long enough. The explanation is that West Hempstead is circuitous as a radial but good as a circumferential, so it should be a tram-train continuing north to Mineola. The other wiped branch, Oyster Bay, has no ridership to speak of.

          • Alon Levy

            The Port Jefferson Branch has okay ridership for being unelectrified. It helps that it serves Stony Brook and Port Jefferson whereas the Oyster Bay Branch serves low-density suburbs.

        • orulz

          The Oyster Bay, West Hempstead, and Far Rockaway branches all line up pretty much end-to-end. How about converting the whole shebang into a circumferential line tram-train line? If not the whole thing, at least part of the Oyster Bay branch seems like it should be salvageable by extending electrification and increasing frequency. Greenvale, Glen Street, or Locust Valley perhaps?

          You’d likely need grade separations where this crosses the LIRR main line, Central (Hempstead) branch, and Babylon branch, and a relocated station in Valley Stream, so there is probably a bit of Concrete involved here, but this is mostly an Organization and Electronics sort of change, and it simplifies operations on the rest of the LIRR as well.

          • Eric

            Because this is a route from nowhere to nowhere, that almost nobody would want to take?

          • orulz

            Removing the one-seat ride could allow much higher frequency, which could lead to a jump in ridership.
            Of course the big piece of construction that would be needed (that I neglected to mention since Alon’s comment had already suggested it) is re-extending the West Hempstead branch up to Mineola.

          • Alon Levy

            Oyster Bay-Mineola and Far Rockaway-Valley Stream aren’t really circumferential; only Mineola-Valley Stream is. So this gets into the radial-circumferential combo that doesn’t work. The other problem is that trying to connect these lines would result in missed transfers: the Far Rockaway-West Hempstead connection would meet the Babylon Branch just east of Valley Stream, uncomfortably far for a transfer but uncomfortably close for an infill station for the transfer.

          • Eric

            I think it’s more likely that people would drive to the remain LIRR stations. This is far-out Long Island after all.

  2. newtonmarunner

    Thanks, Alon. Great work.

    Do you have your crayon map of NYC Regional Rail with the lines from Grand Central to Union Square to W 4th to Jersey and from Barclays to Jerz vía Fulton and W 4th Sts?

  3. Eric

    Great slides. I hope they make an impact and lead to changes.

    One really tiny recommendation: put page numbers on the slides! Also a typo: on the “New Tunnels: New York Practice” slide, you wrote “even tough”.

  4. Subutay Musluoglu

    Alon – Thanks again for an excellent presentation. You have clearly given this a lot of thought and put in good work. I look forward to continuing our discussion offline. Here are a few points that you may want to consider / modify:

    1. The large deep cavern approach that has become common practice in NY is less about aesthetics as it is by engineering / geologic concerns and the obvious need to avoid existing infrastructure. There are also the stringent requirements mandated by NFPA 130 and other codes with respect to quick evacuation of stations and clearing smoke and heat in an emergency. That is not to say that a large single bore cannot address these, but we should leave it up to the structural and ventilation engineers to figure that out.

    2. The LIRR’s current efforts to untangle the Jamaica Interlocking complex in advance of ESA’s completion will offer opportunities to eliminate many of the cross platform meets and speed throughput at the station. The Atlantic Branch between Jamaica and Downtown Brooklyn is to be changed to a higher frequency shuttle to make this work. What are your thoughts on this?

    3. What are your thoughts on the reuse / role of other dormant infrastructure, such as the NY Connecting Railroad (Hell Gate Line to Bay Ridge – RPA’s Triboro Rx proposal; BQX Streetcar is a costly distraction), Montauk Branch, and the Rockaway Beach Branch?

    4. The decision to take the LIRR ESA into deep caverns at GCT was to avoid several significant risks – underpinning almost building along the west side of Park Avenue from 52 Street on south, and the disruption to MNR operations posed by a long term outage of at least one Park Avenue Tunnel track for several years. There was also serious doubt that the proposed passenger circulation spaces, comprised primarily of tie-ins to the existing GCT passageway system along with a handful of new street entrances, would provide adequate access/egress, let alone satisfy the same aforementioned NFPA 130 requirements. At the time, the engineering and financial risks in going deep were deemed to be much lower. Obviously we see now how things have actually evolved in terms of costs and length of construction time, but there are lots of factors away from GCT that are also contributing to this.

    5. Your presentation should place equal emphasis on the intra-city benefits of speeding up existing trips across the city as it does on distributing suburban commuters closer to their final destinations. This is one of the Paris RER’s best qualities; as you rightfully pointed out that it complements the legacy Métro with an express metro, so as the capacity of our legacy subway is strained, a fast alternative across the boroughs for city residents is a great selling point seeing as how there are no new subways on the horizon for them.

    • Alon Levy

      1. I don’t think the ESA and ARC caverns are/were about aesthetics. They’re a compromise between two rules: the station must be a stub-end and the station must be able to turn 24+ tph at the peak. Flat 4-track stub-ends can do it too (Tokyo Station turned 24 tph on the Tokaido Main Line before the through-line to Ueno and points north opened), but it’s difficult; Haussmann-Saint-Lazare turns 16 tph and is capable of turning 18. Penn South resolves this issue by having 7 tracks and leveling an entire block for $7 billion. The caverns resolved this by having two levels of track. Because neither plan was designed around through-service, the possibility of doing a 4-track station with an onward connection was never studied for ESA, and rejected for ARC (in Alts S and G).

      2. They’ll help a little bit. But it isn’t really possible to connect all branches to Manhattan at decent frequency, unless the PW Branch is turned into a very high-frequency line on two dedicated (or almost dedicated) tracks. There’s ultimately a four-track narrows between Jamaica and Woodside, and the LIRR plan of shoehorning 7 branches there (8 if you count Oyster Bay), all with demand for high frequency, isn’t going to work. The tracks today actually work better for my 5-line plan, with the Long Beach and Far Rockaway Branches running to Brooklyn and Lower Manhattan, than the track plan the LIRR is moving to.

      3. I forgot to say it in the talk, but Triboro is exactly why I proposed a second Elmhurst infill stop – it’s not about hitting QB (the street, not the line at Broadway), but about hitting Triboro. But the RPA’s Third Regional Plan had a better Triboro than the current effort; here is what I wrote about it last year. Lower Montauk is interesting but only with good connections to Manhattan at the western end, i.e. a third tunnel (perhaps under an Alt S variant, like what the RPA wants). The Rockaway Branch could eventually be useful, but the problem is that it branches before Jamaica, and it risks taking trains off the more important Penn-Jamaica mainline.

      4. Once the cavern costs started rising, they should’ve revisited connecting to the existing station. Even taking one of the four tracks out of service temporarily would not be deadly: Metro-North only uses one track outbound in the morning peak, and inbound traffic can fit on two inbound tracks (barely, but without any station in the three-track narrows between 63rd and the station throat, it could be done). It’s related to a decision California HSR made, to detour through Palmdale rather than go direct from LA to Bakersfield via the I-5 corridor; the I-5 corridor was deemed riskier, but as engineering progressed, it turned out the Palmdale detour required much more tunneling than previously thought in order to avoid environmentally sensitive areas, and yet the HSR Authority has kept that alignment instead of seriously revisiting the direct route.

      5. Yes, very much so, agreed. Regional rail is after all about both the city and the suburbs. The biggest benefits are in outer neighborhoods like Queens Village and inner suburbs like New Rochelle and Hempstead, but fast service from (say) Tremont to Midtown or along the new tunnel from Brooklyn to Lower Manhattan would help speed up commutes that don’t have as much access to express subway trains.

      • Bruce W. Hain

        Re: 4. I can’t see how using the existing tracks at GCT (There were supposedly 67 before they started this thing; the upper level is underused.) would require the underpinning used as an excuse in the Rational Urban Mobility suit. It’s just Haikalis wasn’t combative enough to force an appropriate outcome.The proposition is absurd. (I hope to inform myself on that suit in advance of mine coming up regarding the the Hudson Tunnel Project et al.) Of course the obvious, instinctive – and clearly, correct – alignment for the ARC project, and therefore ESA, would have been a 45th St. tunnel 6.4 miles long with a way-station replacing the Lower Level tracks at GCT. (Thus enabling further access by broad and gentle ramps instead of the 47 escalators.) The ESA alignment was an outgrowth of Mayor Wagner’s insistence on maintaining federal funding for the 63rd St. Tunnel, that went too far. In the absence of any appropriate design for a subway in Queens they simply said the second line was for a GCT connection. ( A white lie necessary to get the (believed first ((only?)) four-track sunk-in-place rail tunnel built.) But O What a Tangled Web… The two R=750′ curves are a mischievous continuation of the 4-track tube’s supposed raison de’tre. The one in Manhattan’s actually tighter since the tracks for the 20-story-deep station start propagating there. The one in Queens enters the 8-Track Sunnyside Speedway (now reduced it seems long-term to 30mph max.) at a point where it can only lead to complications. The underground curve coming from Penn where the two tunnels cross has a general radius of 3500′. And a proper ARC-ESA alignment would enter the existing line near there. Of course the original planners intended that the connection to Hell Gate would be expanded to four tracks when traffic demanded, and employed and extremely clever cost cutting measure in absence of the full build-out: they put the connection to the Port Washington Branch at Harold, and converted two tracks of the six-track LIRR main line to a separate two-track line, runnel east for two miles through Woodside, with its separate Port Washingon Branch station there, thus avoiding a flyover located where the branch actually branches off, as well as a lot of then-unnecessary trackage further west. (Eliminating this config. would afford two additional express tracks at Woodside.) They even diverted the inbound Hell Gate track, with a reverse curve, to get it out of the way so the necessary three-track concrete box bridge for the inbound LIRR tracks in the full build-out would cause less disruption getting built. Now their beneficial heirs are in the process of f-ing it up completely and permanently, with some lengthy bored bypass tunnel for Amtrak that is completely unnecessary, supposedly to avoid directional conflicts, which could be more easily avoided by building the necessary flyover in Woodside and simply following the original plan for connecting A, B, C and D (New Nomenclature – ERT 1; ERT 2; ERT 3; and ERT 4 ((in reverse order)) to the four-track Hell Gate and six-track LIRR lines – which efficient and compact config. is obvious if you look at it for a while. (I have produced an KMZ illustration if you are interested.)

        Re: 1. A Single Bore Tunnel! – That sounds very interesting (if not familiar) Alon. Would be curious to know where you propose putting it. Is there a script of your talk available? As you may know I proposed one for the trans-Hudson (and am proposing) – back in ’95 when this whole ARC thing started in. My entire Harbor Circumferential, and Atlantic Avenue Line connection, is single-tube. It’s somewhat shocking that they suddenly changed their emphasis to ESA given the crowding on Penn Station trains that resulted from opening the Kearny Connection, a move that at-least-borders-on illegal – synthesized passenger circulation problems at Penn notwithstanding. I think that will be coming up for review as well. Yes, as you see the deep cavern approach is counterproductive in a place like West Street – downtown where there’s plenty of room for something more affordable and attractive as a passenger draw. There’s plenty of room for storage tracks as well. (You know, the Jersey City line would follow the exact lateral config. of the original Bergen Arches shown in topo maps, as it crosses under the Turnpike built high for the purpose – with the J.C. station to the E. on the existing big stone plinth. ((Better hurry or they’ll f. it up permanently.)) The Manhattan tunnel follows the heading of Chambers St. under the Hudson.) Hell, I wouldn’t bother diverting the alignment of the Empire Line at Penn, that’s a can of worms. My West Side Line along West St. (West Side Highway) with it’s stations at Javits, Ocean Terminal and Trump going N. – and six others S. – could be made accessible later from Penn South, albeit in a northerly direction only. I have come up with a 1750′ Amtrak station at Penn which obviates Penn S. for the time being. (and I don’t mean that two-level 7-track thing requiring removal of the Southgate/Govorner Clinton (( It’s so splendid – convinced they intended two big entrances on 30th, after the St. Regis Cab Call, but ran out of money. The 7th Avenue one’s more intimate, for the lady in the cloche hat with feather.)) Like I say, the whole ARC-thing-with-current-plans needs review regardless of how irrevocable the damage currently is. I hope maybe you’ll consider entering an appearance therefor. Hey! waddayagot-ta lose?

        • Bruce W. Hain

          I see now, have found the PDF. I was inferring the talk proposals from Subutay Musluoglu’s comments, but don’t see anything about any two-track tunnels.The connecting of Empire to all station tracks save 20 & 21 at Penn is not so difficult as they’re letting on. While another lengthwise tunnel with frequent stops is a good idea given results so far with 2nd Avenue Subway, to build something coming off the Harlem Line onto Madison would require removal of some of the Abraham Lincoln Houses (though residents would probably not be terribly averse to that) or tunneling under the Harlem as well, to meet the Harlem Line in the Bronx somewhere. Have often thought that on replacement the bridge should be converted to two, splitting the line in Manhattan and taking 7/10-mi. off the Hudson Line route. Two bridges / two tunnels – it’s a lot for 7/10-mi. But the post office is finished as a rail asset. Still, to restore capacity at GCT a storage and maintenance facility is needed to replace Mott Haven.

          • Alon Levy

            Why do you need to do anything on the Harlem Line north of about 59th Street? Just do the connection underground; in the Alt G discussion, the obstacles for connecting to the Grand Central lower level were never about anything north of Grand Central, but about things like “it might require realigning the Lex slightly” or “it would impact the food court.”

      • Subutay Musluoglu

        Meant to add this last week – I raised the question of aesthetics (in point 1.) in the context of the criticisms that were leveled at Second Avenue Subway around the time of its opening. There was much discussion of the long escalator runs, the stations being overbuilt, too extravagant, etc. These comments are clearly aimed at the deep cavern design, so no doubt that when ESA opens, and everyone realizes how long it’s taking to travel between street and platform, these same criticisms will be bandied about again.

        Having said that, I must say that I was quite surprised at the layout of the two Paris RER E center city stations at Magenta and Haussmann-Saint-Lazare. I knew they were deep, and the photos I had seen prior to visiting conveyed the complex layouts. Upon experiencing them first hand, I was put off by the confusing arrangement of the escalator shafts, counter intuitive paths, and very poor wayfinding, which instead of providing some remedy, only serve to make things worse. It seemed that the emphasis was more on the station finishes and the subterranean greenery, and less on passenger circulation. At that depth and the number of complex metro interchanges being made, passenger circulation should have driven everything. I would love to meet the designers and find out their justification for the layout.

      • Bruce W. Hain

        The likelihood of getting a connection built 30 years hence when the water tunnel was done was slim to none. Besides it would be a sh*tty connection, single track, problematic.

        • adirondacker12800

          Water Tunnel 3 is on time and on budget. When they started it in the 70s they predicted it would be complete in the 2020s. It seems it will be complete in 2020.The schedule would have slipped but ARC was due to complete this year. Gateway… sometime in the future. Doesn’t matter to me because I’ll be dead. None of that changes that ARC was designed to head east. WIth two tracks. All of the official documents, as opposed to railfan froth, are in the archives.

          • adirondacker12800

            It wasn’t that deep. 30th Street, where the southernmost platforms of Gateway will be, is four blocks from 34th. Across Penn Station instead of in new access under 34th. And it will connect to Sunnyside!!! which can’t be reached because of those pesky LIRR trains.

          • Bruce W. Hain

            Well that’s in the very optimistic scenario they build the lower level sometime after the top one is completed and opened. I don’t put much store by that 2013 drawing. It has impossible alignments – at the west there are three reverse curves in the space of about 100 feet to get to half the station tracks (save 20 and 21) guaranteed to cause derailments. In the FEIS for Hudson Tunnel Project the impossibilities persist – they show a track branching deep inside the box running into one of the sets of double-driven piles. Both lateral and vertical alignment of the box are problematic, hence the fudging. It was bright of some Amtrak guy to sound the alarm about no access due to the Hudson Yards development – but telling someone to design and build a box is not enough and the back end is too high, resulting in low cover under the river. The tunnel (which apparently, by order of documentation anyway, was designed after the box) will require an iffy process of ground stabilization by divers in the river bottom. Though I have come up with a solution to address this (the only feasible one I know of) and it can be found under: Hudson Tunnel Project vs. the Correct Alternative, at rail-nyc-access.com

          • Alon Levy

            It’s fine, there’s no need to connect the new tunnel to the northern tracks. That’s the advantage of doing Alt G: the tunnel would feed the southern tracks to Grand Central, while the northern tracks wouldn’t connect to anything crossing the Hudson. My suggestion, cribbed from IRUM, is to realign the Empire Connection with a few blocks’ worth of tunnel to connect to the high-numbered tracks.

            The ladder tracks are pretty shitty, but I managed to get Foster Nichols to say that it’s possible to connect to the existing low-numbered tracks without them. The middle-numbered tracks are still a problem, but they have a straight shot to the old tunnels. It’s not that useful trying to connect everything to everything else, especially not when the crossings between different paths would be at-grade.

          • Bruce W. Hain

            It’s possible to connect to the entire station without realigning the tunnel, and that would be impossible now anyway. While connecting the entire thing might be useless (though you never know what future needs might require, even of a permanently one-track tunnel) …and one of the branches off the EL used to achieve the connection has a rather gentle reverse curve as I drew it – nothing involving switches – the original layout at Penn is exceptionally fast and direct with R=500′ max radiuses except certain crossovers. (and my drawing obviates one of those, with a full-blown connection to track 14 from the 33rd St. tunnel.) The EL scenario as drawn and pictured under Hudson Tunnel vs. the Correct ect. doesn’t interfere with original fast design.

          • adirondacker12800

            They went and built half billion dollar skyscrapers where you blithely want to realign things.

          • Subutay Musluoglu

            It’s not Water Tunnel 3 that’s the issue – it’s Tunnel No.1. Water Tunnel 3 is no where near the then proposed ARC 34 Street Terminal, and at a depth of 800′ would not have been as issue at all. On the other hand, Tunnel 1 comes straight down 6th Avenue, at a depth of 150′ – 200′ which would have precluded the extension to GCT from one of the ARC levels, but not both.

          • adirondacker12800

            And it’s reasonable to postpone digging near Water Tunnel ! until after Water Tunnel 3 is fully in service.

      • Bruce W. Hain

        This in response to AL’s comment of 11/16 – The notes from the talk suggest a north-south line with several stations in Manhattan connected to the Harlem Line, along the lines of the Paris RER re-working. The cheapest way to do it would probably involve a bridge connection from the Bronx leading to a Madison Avenue tunnel. The idea of such a tunnel is really more in keeping with needs around GCT than the 2nd Avenue Subway, since it is too far away. (That they included the after-thought of having the Subway plunge to the deep 63rd St. station, then back up again, is really difficult to explain.) The DEIS for ESA is impossible to find and there is no mention of any Alternative G in the several documents I have searched including the 1998 investment study, though it is mentioned in in a few google searches.

        • Alon Levy

          No, the cheapest way to do it is to use the existing four-track line from Grand Central to Harlem and only start tunneling south of the lower level of the Grand Central tracks. Might as well use the fact that a Penn-Grand Central connection would require extending a tunnel from those tracks anyway, so shoring up the food court has to happen either way.

          Alt G was for ARC, not ESA. It called for a tunnel across the Hudson to the existing Penn Station tracks and a tunnel from tracks 1-5 of Penn Station to the Grand Central lower level.

          • Bruce W. Hain

            While it jibes with the Paris RER- type successes and the objective of having as many stations in Manhattan as possible I don’t subscribe to the widely held obsession with connecting the station tracks at Penn and Grand Central. In this instance it’s what’s beyond the food court that worries me. I’d like to see the No. 7 curl around under 31st St. (There are actually project related drawings with that config. somewhere.) with a stop at Penn then back to GCT. Thus a bi-drectional quasi-loop service connecting the three big Midtown transit nodes. Under Park Avenue there is the former connection to the West Side IRT that might serve as a station, assuming the line can be threaded into it around 40th St., with two tracks, three broad platforms.

          • Alon Levy

            I really wouldn’t like to see such a 7 extension. I believe it has negative transportation value, because it makes it difficult to use these streets for more direct rail tunnels. Nobody would ride this 7 extension from points east to Penn Station (from Queensboro Plaza, N-to-1 would be much faster, and even from farther west, 7-to-1 would likely be even on time). It would also be expensive because of the deep stations, and connecting it to the 42nd Street Shuttle is likely impossible since that shuttle is at-grade with the 4/5/6 at Grand Central.

            What do you mean by “what’s beyond the food court”? Points north, i.e. the throat at Grand Central, or points south, i.e. threading the tunnel under Madison south of 42nd?

          • Bruce W. Hain

            Believe one of the early drawings approved for the configuration of Hudson Yards development showed the No. 7 Line extended east under 31st. To have a station at Penn/Moynihan/Eighth would not interfere with anything tunnel-wise, being so extremely low coming off 11th Ave. Though there is absolutely no way to get out of Penn that would run east under 31st, and now no way to run west either. I see the line as curving north under Park, at a higher grade by this time to avoid the ESA “tail tracks”, and perhaps with a couple tail tracks of it’s own to supplement those already in place under 11th. (This scenario with heavy use as I foresee it, would thankfully rule out extending the short-car 9′-wide subway trains to NJ.) In the cheapest scenario this line would then need to be threaded onto the express tracks of the old connection running from the east end of the Times Sq. Shuttle Sta. to Park Avenue. (One track is sometimes used for celebratory excursions with dignitaries on board but that one would not be affected.) Rising in the center of Park near 40th St. and splitting onto the two express tracks that formerly led to the crosstown segment that now terminates at the Shuttle station, then passing over the current connecting ramps to the Lexington Avenue Line (The shuttle is somewhat higher than the Lex. Ave. Line Station at GCT.) the two tracks would dead-end before hitting the connecting hallway between the Shuttle and Lexington Avenue Line, and the three platforms would be made to give off the hallway. A picture of the track configuration under Park is available here: http://www.columbia.edu/~brennan/abandoned/grandcentral.html – scroll way down for the good one.

          • adirondacker12800

            N to Herald Square and walk a whole block would probably be faster than changing trains. Depending on where I was in the general vicinity of Queens Plaza I might opt for the E.

          • Bruce W. Hain

            That’s a great way to get there alright. The object of my loop is to get frequent subway service connecting the three Midtown transit nodes, and secondarily to make some use of the deep and pretty-much-useless-without-an-intermediate-stop-at-the-bus-terminal Number 7 Line Extension.

  5. newyorksfuturetransit

    Do you think the platforms at Kew Gardens and Forest Hills should be lengthened from four cars? How about many stations on the Port Washington Line which are only ten cars long?

    • Alon Levy

      I didn’t really have time to go into that detail. But yes, Shell is important, but it’s high 8/low 9 figures.

      The NEC/North Shore Branch transfer isn’t thaaaaat important in the grand scheme of things. It’s useful, esp. in the context of more infill in Elizabeth, but the system can survive without it.

  6. ckrueger99

    I believe you wrote an article somewhere on the topic of reorganizing the RER/Transilien lines in Paris, but I can’t find it. Can you help?

    • Alon Levy

      Yes! One of the commenters here recorded it. I’ll listen to it soon to figure out whether it’s any good, and if it is, I’ll link to it.

  7. Untangled

    I noticed a tweet from you complaining about NJT travel times. Gateway isn’t going to as successful as it should be if travel times are still slow. In fact, regional rail is too slow in the region, sure it’s faster than the subway but that’s not enough. Through running isn’t going to fix that alone. Infill stations won’t help with travel times, in fact, NY should forget about infill stations until travel times improve.

    • adirondacker12800

      The new Portal bridges should allow traffic to disentangle itself. Penn Station Newark to Penn Station New York should improve, maybe even back to what it was in the 70s. ( 15 minutes or less ). Broad Street Newark to Penn Station should improve greatly.

      • Untangled

        The new Portal Bridge should help improve speeds in that section of track and will be disentangled when both North and South bridges are built, but NY regional rail generally (LIRR and MNR included) is just slow, slow.

        • adirondacker12800

          The first bridge should help a bit. The speed limit on Portal Bridge used to be 90. it’s now 60. The new bridge will 110 IIRC. No point to building the second one until Gateway is underway.

    • Alon Levy

      EMUs would help with travel time, esp. with infill stations. There’s a reason I insist through-running be done with M8s and Arrows and not with ALP-46s.

      • adirondacker12800

        In theory M8s could run to Penn Station by installing some third rail in Queens. They can’t run to New Jersey, the AC is 25Hz, there is no third rail. ALP46s or ACS64s do it today. Not that there are enough M8s just laying around doing nothing to be able to do that. You wanna put it off until Bombardier figures out how to stuff dual frequency converters into an MU or until the 25Hz system is replaced, okay.

        • F-Line to Dudley

          There’s no theory. Installing 1/2 mile of third rail from its current terminus north to the 25 Hz/60 Hz phase break is exactly how the M8’s are getting into Penn when MNRR Penn Station Access happens. They’ve already been non-revenue tested on the LIRR third rail in and out of Penn from Sunnyside, so it’s just that little bit of Hell Gate gap-filler required before it happens for-real.

          M8’s did have the option when first ordered to have 25 Hz transformer cores installed, but it would’ve blown out their already porky weight profile so wasn’t meant to be. But now that NJT has formally funded and issued the Request for Proposals for its Arrow-replacement EMU’s (bids from manufacturers due 2/15/2018), the last vehicles from the Jersey side that can’t natively negotiate an on-the-fly change from 25 to 60 Hz are going away. The new MultiLevel EMU’s, much like the SEPTA Silverliner V’s, will be fully frequency-agile and can switch between 25 Hz/12.5 kV, 60 Hz/12.5 kV, and 60 Hz/25 kV. Run-thru from New Jersey to Connecticut with NJT EMU’s will indeed be possible as soon as 2021.

          With the Arrows gone, the solution to running the M8’s (and the upcoming supplemental order of 60-94 additional M8’s just placed by ConnDOT) south of Penn doesn’t have to be onboard the cars, or require redesigning to square the weight. You can instead just move the 25/60 phase break from the Hell Gate into Jersey while keeping the same 12.5 kV voltage. Metro-North changed over from 25 to 60 at same voltage on the New Haven and New Caanan Lines in 1984 in the span of a single weekend by changing out circuit breakers. All of the preliminary work for the changeover was done during a normal component replacement program and staged at zero disruption to service. Most of the electrical infrastructure in Jersey that’s seen component renewal in the last 15+ years is already pre-provisioned for this kind of changeover, so biggest one-time cost is going to be at the main feeders. But you can do that changeover as piecemeal and fragmented as you want when all all vehicles running between Penn and Trenton are finally frequency-agile. So, figure:

          — 12.5 kV substations are spaced about 10 miles apiece and Sunnyside + Metuchen are the first two frequency converters going north-to-south in 25 Hz territory.
          — Metuchen converter’s coverage area spans 1 or 2 substations north of its physical location, which plants a conversion target more or less where the North Jersey Coast Line splits from the NEC.
          — Plan a switchover to 60 Hz to the nearest substation at or near the NJCL splits: approx. 25 miles south from the current Hell Gate phase break, inclusive of the Penn/Sunnyside terminal district. NJT then self-funds the lone 25 Hz NJCL substation at South Amboy that pipes shared power onto the NEC. The other two remaining in-house 25 Hz subs on the NJCL are already pre-provisioned for conversion to 60 Hz/25 kV matching the Mattawan-Long Branch electrification as a nod to their next EMUs’ frequency-agility, and will probably be changed much sooner.

          There…now you have clear sailing on any vehicle from any direction: New Haven to Newark and/or the proposed Mid-Line Loop near Elizabeth, and to/from the beaches.

          Points south you’d only be waiting for SEPTA to scrape up enough money to replace the ancient Silverliner IV’s with frequency-agile new stock before similar conversion from 25 to 60 Hz @ 12.5 kV can breach Trenton. But now you can really go as slow, bite-sized, and fragmented as you want flipping the power sections through the rest of Jersey and beyond because transitioning from 60 to 25 and back again won’t make any difference to any vehicle.

  8. Robert Hale

    To what extent is the advocacy community working on developing a single regional rail entity to supersede the state-controlled bodies that oversee the networks today?

    • SC

      I don’t think a single regional rail entity in the New York City metro is possible without major governance changes on the federal level, considering that it would involve 3 or 4 different states, each with different concerns and powers. Even the bi-state Port Authority is a miracle-cum-disaster considering the governance concerns.

      I do wonder what Alon’s thoughts are on how the governance situation in the New York City holds back transit in the metro area.

    • Alon Levy

      Not at all.

      That said, unifying the authorities isn’t necessary (they’re not unified in France or Switzerland or Germany) or sufficient (the MBTA and SEPTA are unified but still treat commuter rail as separate from regular transit).

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