New York City Subway Expansion Proposal

I wrote a post proposing disentangling the subway in New York a few months ago. On the same basis, I’ve drawn some extra lines that I think should be built in the event the region can get its construction costs under control:

A higher-resolution image (warning: 52 MB) can be found here. The background image is taken from OpenStreetMap. Python 2.7 code for automatically downloading tiles and pasting them into a single image can be found here. Make sure you get PIL or else the file won’t run; first run, and choose whichever tiles you’d like (the boundaries I used for this image are given in the code as x1, x2, y1, y2), and then run, changing the x1, x2, y1, y2 variables in the code as needed. As a warning, pasting images together makes them much bigger – the sum of the individual tiles I used is 15 MB but pasted together they became 46 MB.


Local stations are denoted by black circles, express stations by bigger circles with white filling. On four-track lines and three-track lines with peak-direction express trains (that is, the 2, 6, and D in the Bronx and the 7 in Queens), the local/express designation is straightforward. Two-track tails are denoted as all local; for the most part the trains continue as express on the three- or four-track lines, but on the Brighton Line the expresses keep turning at Brighton Beach while the locals are the trains that go into Coney Island. On a few two-track segments stations are denotes as express and not local, for example the 2 in Harlem or the A in Lower Manhattan and Downtown Brooklyn: this occurs when a two-track line turns into a three- or four-track line farther out, so that people don’t get the impression that these are local-only stations that the express trains skip.

The local and express patterns are barely changed from today. On Eastern Parkway trains run local east of Franklin Avenue, without skipping Nostrand and Kingston-Throop as the 4 does today. Skip-stop on the J train is eliminated, as is express-running between Myrtle and Marcy Avenues. On Queens Boulevard and Central Park West, the trains serving Sixth Avenue (i.e. the orange ones) run express and the ones serving Eighth (i.e. the blue ones) run local, but I’m willing to change my mind on at least one of these two designations; on Queens Boulevard, 36th Street is also turned into an express station, so that passengers can transfer to 63rd or 53rd Street.

As far as possible, I’ve tried to be clear about which stations are connected and which aren’t. The rule is that circles that touch or are connected by a black line denote transfer stations. However, in the lower-resolution version it may hinge on a single pixel’s worth of separation in Downtown Manhattan. The only new interchanges in Downtown Manhattan connect the 1 with PATH in the Village and at World Trade Center (and the latter connection also connects to the R, E, and 2/3).

No existing subway station is slated for closure. If an existing subway station is missing a circle, it’s an error on my part. Edit: I found one mistaken deletion – the 9th Street PATH station (which should be connected with West 4th, but the West 4th circle doesn’t touch PATH).

New lines

Most of this map should be familiar to people who have followed discussions among railfans in New York (and not just myself) about the next priorities after Second Avenue Subway. Utica and Nostrand are there, with stops that match nearly all of the east-west buses. Northern Boulevard, which Yonah Freemark pointed is a denser corridor than Utica, is also there. Triboro RX is there: the route through the Bronx includes a little more tunneling to connect with the 2 train better, forced by incursions onto the right-of-way farther north. LaGuardia gets an elevated extension of the N, which I’ve periodically argued is superior to other alignments and sound in its own right. Second Avenue Subway continues west under 125th Street, providing crosstown service on a street where buses are very busy despite being slower than walking.

In New Jersey, a hefty proportion of the lines already exist, as part of PATH or the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail. PATH is completely dismembered in this proposal: the line from Newark to World Trade Center is connected with the 6 train, an idea that I don’t think is a top priority but that some area advocates (such as IRUM) have proposed; most of the rest is turned into a 7 extension and connected with the two southern HBLR branches, both of which are extended, one to Staten Island and one to Newark; what remains is reduced to a shuttle from Hoboken to Sixth Avenue. Note that the 6-PATH train also gets an infill stop at Manhattan Transfer for regional rail connections.

The other extensions come from a number of different places:

  • The 6 is extended to Co-op City, the 7 is extended to College Point, and the 1 to the edge of the city. The first two are big ridership generators, and all three also extend lines beyond their bumper tracks, increasing turnback capacity.
  • The Queens Boulevard express trains branch in Jamaica, as they do today, and both branches are extended to near city limits. The southern extension also increases turnback capacity (some E trains run to Jamaica-179th and not Jamaica Center today for this reason), but the primary purpose is to improve coverage to areas of the city that are already at worst missing middle density and redevelopable as mid-rise apartment blocks, and have very long commutes today.
  • The 1 is extended to Red Hook. This was proposed by AECOM a few years ago; my alignment differs somewhat in that it doesn’t connect Red Hook with the subway within Brooklyn, but does connect it directly with South Brooklyn, where in the event of such a subway extension a high-frequency bus (the B71) could run onward.
  • Instead of the periodically mooted 7 extension to Secaucus, the L is extended there, with a four-track tunnel under the Hudson providing for easy 7/L transfers.
  • There’s a preexisting bellmouth for connecting the C train to New Jersey across the George Washington Bridge; it is activated in this plan, with an extension to Paterson elevated over Route 4, with tunneling within Paterson itself. Route 4 is a freeway, but it’s flanked by shopping centers in Paramus, has good regional rail connections and good potential connections if the Northern Branch and West Shore Line are reactivated, and terminates in a dense working-class city.
  • The old Erie Main Line gets converted to subway operations, running elevated through the built-up area of Secaucus.
  • To connect some of the new lines to one another, two new Manhattan trunk lines, both two-track, are built: under 50th Street, and under Third Avenue, the latter substituting for phases 3 and 4 of Second Avenue Subway in order to avoid reverse-branching. Third then connects to the northern reaches of Eighth Avenue Line via a super-express line, with new stations at 110th and 125th; the alignment through Central Park is designed to allow cheap cut-and-cover construction.
  • Bergenline Avenue, where traffic fills a bus every 2 minutes, gets a subway. One station is designed for a commuter rail transfer to new Hudson tunnels with a Bergenline stop. The segment south of Journal Square is weaker and can be removed from scope, but as it can be done in an existing above-ground right-of-way, it’s also cheaper than the rest.
  • The D train gets a two-stop extension to the north to connect to Metro-North at Williams Bridge and the 2 train at Gun Hill Road.

Conspicuous absences

There is no subway connection to JFK or Newark Airport on this map. The JFK AirTrain is adequate with better regional rail and fare integration; so is a Newark connection at the current commuter rail station. A direct JFK regional rail connection may be included in a 9-line regional rail map (for reference, the map I usually peddle has 5 or 6 trunk lines, not 9). A Newark rapid transit connection may be included in a much more expansive version, but even then it’s unlikely – the only reason to build such a connection is for extra capacity, and it’s better to resolve mainline rail capacity crunches by building more mainline rail.

There is no R train to Staten Island, an extension that some railfans (including myself many years ago) periodically call for; this could be added, but is a low priority, as regional rail could provide faster service to Downtown Brooklyn with a transfer than the R train ever could.

But the biggest absence is Second Avenue Subway phases 3 and 4. Phase 3 is replaced with a subway under Third Avenue, and phase 4 is omitted entirely. The reason for this omission is, as mentioned above, to avoid reverse-branching, and permit the new system to consist of separate lines without track-sharing, which is more reliable than today’s heavily interlined system.

Phase 4 is also difficult and not all that useful. Lower Manhattan construction is sometimes necessary but should be avoided when it isn’t, as the area has narrow rights-of-way, complex underground station footprints, and archeology going back to the 17th century. There is no capacity crunch heading to Lower Manhattan – southbound trains unload in Midtown in the morning peak – and the area is so small and has so many subways that there is no coverage gap that Second Avenue Subway would fill. Even phase 3 mostly duplicates the Lexington Avenue Line, but serves a large and growing business district in East Midtown where trains do have a capacity crunch, hence the Third Avenue subway.

Scope and costs

The map has around 110 km of new subway and 100 km of new els and other open-air lines (such as the Triboro and Erie rights-of-way). Some of the subways can be built cut-and-cover given sufficient political cajoling, including Nostrand, most of Bergenline, parts of Third and Utica, Northern, and the outer Queens extension. But many cannot: there are 6 new river crossings (50th*2, 7, L, Utica, 1), a kilometer of pure pain in connecting the 6 with PATH, another PATH pain involving a new Exchange Place dig for platforms for the 7, and some new stations that have to be mined (e.g. 50th Street).

At what I consider a normal first-world cost, the tunnels would be around $25 billion in last decade’s money, so maybe $30 billion in today’s money, and the els would add around $10 billion. To put things in perspective, the current five-year MTA capital program is spending $33 billion, nearly all of which is routine maintenance. It’s affordable within a decade if the region gets its construction costs under control.


  1. Lawrence Velázquez

    Would the central HBLR segment continue to operate? Otherwise the 7 misses a lot of Hoboken by sticking so close to the river. (Although I guess it can’t stray too far inland if it’s to stop at Hoboken Terminal.)

  2. IAN Mitchell

    Why not PATH to EWR? My understanding is that would allow for longer trains, so that interlining the Path and the lex ave line wouldn’t mean lowering capacity on an already crunched subway.

    Am I wrong?

    • alexhutcheson

      There’s no reason that extension of existing platforms needs to be bundled with an extension to the airport. You could definitely do the former without the latter.

      As for EWR, I think frequent RER-like regional rail + fare integration would make the existing connection useful enough that a PATH extension isn’t needed. They should still replace the monorail rolling stock with something faster and more reliable, though.

      • adirondacker12800

        They need someplace to put the cars they will need to run longer trains.

        • alexhutcheson

          Assuming it’s connected to the 6, the trains can go in Westchester Yard.

    • Stewart

      Stopping at EWR on the way to Elizabeth (which is just a little smaller than Paterson) might make sense. Though both have lots of commuter rail capacity already

      • Alon Levy

        Elizabeth doesn’t have commuter rail capacity today, but that’s what new Hudson tunnels are for (cost assuming good cost control: ~$1 billion for surface four-tracking including Portal Bridge, $3 billion underground including a Bergenline stop and a Grand Central connection). On my 6- and 7-line maps, the NEC from Newark to Rahway gets 24 local tph peak, 12 off-peak, and 12 express peak, 3 off-peak.

  3. Rewenzo

    Another absence is anything in Staten Island, e.g. re-activating the North Shore branch.

  4. Alex

    How would the commute to Midtown from Paterson/Bergen County compare to the existing buses that run to the PABT? It seems like all the stops would make it take forever.

    • Rewenzo

      I think the main problem with the PABT commute (I take it from Teaneck) is that you have to wait for 30-45 minutes to get from the I-95 to the XBL to the tunnel to PABT. The bus ride home at night (ca. 7:45) is 40 minutes. In the morning rush it’s closer to 1.5 – 2 hours.

    • Alon Levy

      As drawn the lines in Jersey are all two-track, but I did consider making the Route 4 line four-track with a mix of local and express trains, same as the Fulton Street and Brighton Lines today (i.e. four-track lines that drop to two tracks heading into Manhattan). I keep going back and forth on this. On the map, from Fair Lawn east, there are nine stops that don’t have transfers to existing or potential NJT lines or to the Bergenline subway, but one of these stops is the Garden State Plaza, which should be express, so there’s a total of eight stops to skip.

      At subway speeds and suburban Jersey dwell times, that saves you about six minutes; Route 4 is a fast route with ROW geometry good for 80-90 km/h, but modern subway EMUs accelerate fast, and at what would be a local-only station people should be able to get on and off a subway train with lots of doors in a 20-second dwell. Does that justify the cost of bigger els, the operations of what is effectively a branch, the reduced frequency to the local stations, and probably the alternation between crowded express trains and less crowded locals as they enter Manhattan at rush hour (since suburban drivers would definitely drive to the express stops)? I don’t think so.

      The schedule looks something like the following:

      Paterson 0:00
      Fair Lawn 0:07
      Garden State Plaza 0:12:30
      GWB Plaza 0:30:30
      168th Street 0:35
      125th Street 0:40 (current 168th-125th schedule is 7 minutes, but timers)
      59th Street 0:47 (current schedule is 8 minutes with 1 fewer stop and no zigzag to the East Side, but, again, timers)

      NJ Transit tells me a Paterson-PABT bus takes 58 minutes at rush hour and the diesel commuter trains take 47 to Penn Station with a transfer, so even at the outer end, the subway extension is competitive to Midtown. Is Paterson-Midtown competitive with electrified regional rail? No (Paterson-Secaucus would be 17 minutes and Secaucus-Grand Central 10), but with better frequency and no transfer, Fair Lawn-59th Street is sort of competitive and connections from Paramus and points east are way better on the subway.

      • adirondacker12800

        The Erie and the DL&W didn’t engage in the folderol with level boarding. Away from the NEC most stations have patch of asphalt by the side of the tracks. People are clambering up and down stairs. The trains loiter while they do that. Level boarding, electrification, level boarding, direct connection to Penn Station, level boarding and some level boarding it will be much faster than 42 minutes. Might be nice to double track some places too.

        • Alon Levy

          Yeah, hence my point about Paterson-Secaucus-Grand Central taking 27 minutes plus transferring time given electrification, level boarding, and good EMUs. Even with the transfer penalty, it beats the subway. But then as you go east the subway looks better, hence Fair Lawn, or even more so Garden State Plaza and New Bridge Landing. But you can’t really have a direct connection to Penn Station without either making severe compromises on frequency or building a third tunnel.

      • Eric

        Isn’t 4-track drastic overkill for such suburban areas? Needless to say NIMBYs will not let you redevelop those areas the way NYC outer boroughs were developed after the 4-track arrived.

        • Alon Levy

          Jersey isn’t that NIMBY. Bergen County permits 3.2 annual housing units per 1,000 people (NYC: 2.5; Long Island and Westchester: 0.8). The Mount Laurel doctrine isn’t great but it’s better than the NIMBY-fest east of the Hudson.

  5. Bobbo

    Would it make any sense to extend the Utica Line to Ft. Tilden? Jacob Riis is an extremely popular destination all summer.

  6. alexhutcheson

    Do full-length 7 trains run at-grade via the current HBLR right-of-way, or do you envision a trench or tunneling?

  7. alexhutcheson

    Hasn’t almost all of the old Erie right-of-way that you’re using here been turned into roads? Do you envision building an el all the way from Secaucus to the corner of Clifton/Getty in Passaic?

    • Alon Levy

      The Erie ROW is mostly backlots and parking, plus the occasional errant small building incursion. East of the Passaic there’s no ROW and you have to be elevated over the Paterson Plank Road/Hoboken Avenue. It’s hairy west of the Pascack Valley Line (the road is ~20 meters wide and residential, i.e. NIMBY), but east of the railroad it’s wide and the only plausibly NIMBY part is in Secaucus, where you can run next to the freeway with surprisingly little loss of utility if people don’t want an el.

      • adirondacker12800

        And there are two tracks of underutilized current Main Line. Or underutilized Bergen Line. In some alternate universe where a 10 or 12 car multilevel coming through every ten minutes isn’t enough capacity think about doing something more. when it isn’t enough capacity, there probably won’t be enough Hudson River crossing capacity either. Sending trains to Wall Street would probably be more useful than sending them to Washington Heights.

        • Alon Levy

          The total commuter volume from Bergen, Passaic, and Rockland Counties to the city is 130,000, about on the same order as from the counties with direct commuter rail service today (Essex, Morris, Union, Middlesex, Somerset, Mercer, Monmouth, and Ocean total 170,000, but subtracting Newark proper it’s 160,000). So if there are four tracks’ worth of capacity for the existing lines with direct service, and two tracks’ worth of capacity for the Erie lines, the Erie lines are likely to be pretty full. Four tracks’ worth of capacity for everything is not really enough if you improve service on the Erie lines.

          • adirondacker12800

            All of New Jersey manages to wedge itself into the two tracks under the Hudson. There are people who change to PATH in Newark or Hoboken. And will continue to until the LIRR and NJtransit meet in Brooklyn. The bazillion dollars for Gateway is to make it four which if I’m doing the arithmetic correctly is twice as much.

  8. James Sinclair

    I would add an extension of the 2nd Avenue subway into NJ.

    Also, Canarsie is still undeserved in your proposal.

    The best solution for Newark Airport is simply a JFK-style Airtrain to Newark Penn Station. This provides maximum connectivity and would allow closure of the EWR Train Station which simply serves to delay some NJT and Amtrak trains.

    However, a Path extension to south Ironbound (where tracks already exist) is appropriate.

  9. adirondacker12800

    A Newark rapid transit connection may be included in a much more expansive version, but even then it’s unlikely – the only reason to build such a connection is for extra capacity, and it’s better to resolve mainline rail capacity crunches by building more mainline rail.

    Extend the PATH storage tracks west of the NEC, south of Penn Station to store the extra cars for ten car trains it’s in Newark Airport might as well build a station and a yard, that trains can get in and out of easier, instead of miles of storage track.
    When PATH gets to the Airport, there will be 8 tracks of railroad at Newark Airport not counting Airtrain. In what dystopian carless future is there a need for more than 8 tracks? Connecting the six tracks north of Elizabeth with the six tracks south of Elizabeth might be useful. The local to Matawan can stay out of the way of the local to North Brunswick and it can stay out of the way of Amtrak and the Trenton and Philadelphia Expresses. “Fix” the Elizabeth curve with a short tunnel to connect the two and if some day the center four tracks need the capacity, another short tunnel. Four tracks of short tunnel, the curve doesn’t matter much because the only thing up over downtown Elizabeth is the local that has to slow down to make the stop anyway. They could ease the curve a bit by making it three tracks or even two. Matawan locals and Raritan Valley line on the outermost tracks. North Brunswick locals and Long Branch and Bay Head expresses on the center of the three tracks and stuff expressing through to Trenton and beyond on the innermost. Someday far in the future fix the squiggles between Metropark and New Brunswick, for the expresses, with a tunnel. If the Regional from Boston or DC is going to be stopping in Metropark it matters less that it’s going slower through Metuchen. Like the Regional that stops in Stamford is going slower through Port Chester matters less. The express to Boston can hurtle through Garden City without stopping.

    Squint at Penn Station Newark one way, they were going to add a track B east of the station. Or another way, PATH was going to fly over it on the level the current arrival track is on. Once you get out of the tunnel from Manhattan there’s plenty of capacity to do all sorts of things. There are all sorts of rumors about how Secaucus could be rearranged. The side platforms, on the upper level, becoming islands seems the most reasonable. Some day in a far off future.

    The reason for this omission is, as mentioned above, to avoid reverse-branching, and permit the new system to consist of separate lines without track-sharing, which is more reliable than today’s heavily interlined system.

    Send the E, via 63rd Street tunnel and Second Ave to suck up some of the excess capacity on the Fulton Line. Send the T via the Culver to the West End which unclogs DeKalb to suck up excess capacity on the Culver. Via the existing Montague Street tunnel and the excess capacity on the Nassau Loop. Squint at the Fulton line one way they were planning on sending Second System trains down Utica. Squint at it another way they were planning on sending Fulton trains down it. Or both. Squint at it today and the E train via Second could. Or maybe the C and send the E to Lefferts so that all A trains go to the Airport.

    There’s a preexisting bellmouth for connecting the C train to New Jersey

    There’s a terminal station at 74th and Roosevelt for the companion to the G train. There were bellmouths at 7th and 57th-ish so the BMT could go up Central Park west. Or through the Park to Morningside Ave. Second Ave on the Sixth Ave line and Utica Avenue on the Fulton line are lower than they could be so Second System trains could pass over them. They were gonna “recapture” the Rockaway Beach Branch of the LIRR for Queens Blvd trains. None of it is gonna happen, except maybe two tracks of the Second Avenue subway is going to happen because other people went and used up the capacity.

    Back in olden days the slow trains took 15 minutes get between Penn Station Newark and Penn Station New York. Between the time the doors closed on an Arrow and the time they opened at the other station could be 11 minutes. They then built Secaucus and Mid Town Direct. It takes 20 today. The proposed tracks for ARC, in normal service, separated the former DL&W from the NEC. That would help greatly making Penn Station Newark to Penn Station New York less than 20 and Broad Street Newark to Penn Station New York much less than today’s 30. They are going to arrange something like that for Gateway. Level boarding between Paterson and Secaucus would make it faster than today fastest time of 42 minutes, sending the trains to Manhattan instead of Hoboken would make it faster too. they are still going to want to go to Hoboken until NJTransit and the LIRR meet up down on Wall Street.

    I lived in New Jersey most of my life. People want to go places south of 60th Street, occasionally Brooklyn, places south of 60th Street, sometimes Harlem, places south of 60th Street, the Bronx, places south of 60th Street, sometimes Queens, places south of 60th Street and places south of 59th. Why would I want to take a C train? Unless I wanted to go to Morningside Heights? Well from where I lived to get to Morningside Heights going to Paterson wouldn’t be my first, second or third choice. Assuming building the second level of automobile lanes didn’t use up all of the capacity on the George Washington Bridge. There’s a big empty space where they didn’t put automobiles. I suspect there is a reason for that.

    The old Erie Main Line gets converted to subway operations, running elevated through the built-up area of Secaucus.

    The old Erie main, in southern Passaic county, has nearly been erased. What is now the “Erie Main” is DL&W, south of Paterson. That there is as station in southeastern Clifton named Delawanna is a clue. I’ve never tried to disentangle what happened. The Erie and the DL&W merged. Lots of rationalization went on. The DL&W Boonton bypass got severed. And attached to the Erie Greenwood Lake branch through Essex county. All of it is out in the swampy parts of Secaucus. The built up parts are farther north along Route 3. There are still going to be trains on the Bergen line and trains to Suffern or Port Jervis. Why can’t the ones in Paterson and Passaic be the same kind of trains. Which could use 25kV instead of third rail? That go to Penn Station instead of wandering around Bergen County before they take a long slow ride through the Upper West Side? Level boarding and electrification, it should be around 20 minutes to Penn Station. From Paterson or Hackensack or Teaneck. Well Teaneck might be bit longer because that looks like it might someday be HBLR not service to Manhattan.

    • Alon Levy

      A couple notes, going roughly backward:

      1. The old Erie main was closed because it was full of grade crossings – the cities demanded the Erie grade-separate them on its own dime and it either didn’t have the money or didn’t want to spend it, same reason the Whitestone LIRR branch was closed. Wikipedia says the line was closed in 1963 as part of the Erie-Lackawanna rationalization. But the ROW is mostly intact, unlike the Whitestone – you can still see it on satellite maps, and there aren’t a lot of incursions, and as far as I can tell nothing residential (=NIMBY).

      2. Yeah, the C is slow, and for that reason I don’t think it’s a great idea to extend the IND beyond Fort Lee until that 3rd Avenue line with the super-express connection to Harlem is online.

      3. Slowdowns are everywhere :-/. The subway, too – the rolling stock can do 125th-59th today in 5.5 minutes, but is scheduled to take 8. The signal spacing was designed around the performance of the trains in the 1930s, and any subsequent change, even coming from more powerful trains, has led to mismatches that NYCT resolved with timers.

      4. At one point I drew crayon in which the T train went down Second, and a U train went from Queens to SAS (and thence to Utica). The first problem with it is that it means there are still only 6 tracks’ worth of inbound access from Uptown and Queens to Midtown (CPW*2, SAS, 63rd, 60th, 53rd) compared with 7 within Midtown (8th*2, 6th*2, Broadway*2, SAS). It ends up wasting capacity. The second problem is that Second Avenue in Midtown is too far east – the connections to the east-west lines would be horrific, and most employment is well to the west, so people on QB would prefer other trains. The Utica-3rd-superexpress-GWB line looks very crayon-y, but it adds an alt-SAS phase 3 closer to where people work and an approach track relieving the most crowded entry points to Manhattan from Uptown (the 2/3 and A/D), and hooks into existing IND capacity in Upper Manhattan.

      5. The who-needs-8-tracks-at-EWR issue is why I’m not extending PATH south of Newark! Under the 5-line regional rail plan I keep peddling, the NEC and NJC get 18 peak tph, the RVL 6, the M&E lines 18, and the Erie lines 24, which is fairly proportional to current Manhattan-bound commuter volumes. The NEC can stay its current mix of 4 and 6 tracks. Even with a 6th line (i.e. ESA-to-M&E) the NEC + NJC get 36 tph, which means more 6-tracking, but even then I’m not 100% sure 6 continuous tracks from Newark Penn to Rahway Junction are needed if express regional trains keep skipping Elizabeth.

      • adirondacker12800

        1. The old Erie main was closed because it was full of grade crossings – the cities demanded the Erie grade-separate them on its own dime and it either didn’t have the money or didn’t want to spend it, same reason the Whitestone LIRR branch was closed. Wikipedia says the line was closed in 1963 as part of the Erie-Lackawanna rationalization. But the ROW is mostly intact, unlike the Whitestone – you can still see it on satellite maps, and there aren’t a lot of incursions, and as far as I can tell nothing residential (=NIMBY)
        You want to look at as they were being forced to grade separate go ahead. They were desperately trying to avoid bankruptcy because their business was collapsing. When you are desperately shedding assets, to get them off your property tax bills, you get rid of the lousiest ones first. People who are using those cheap jet airplanes to get places are the kind of people who switched to using oil or natural gas to heat the house. It doesn’t help your business when the mines that were supplying them, close.

        Nor that Canada and the U.S. came to agreement for the canals that would make it possible to send ocean going ships to Duluth. They had six tracks of railroad in the general vicinity of Passaic and only needed two, they got rid of the lousiest first. It’s good that they didn’t abandon what we call the Bergen line too. ….. There are extensive threads on that start off with not getting 20 inches of rain from the hurricanes of 1955 and have the triumphant EL absorbing Conrail. With about 40 other miracles. Their business was collapsing, they got rid of the lousy stuff first. Some bad decisions were made along the way. Abandoning the some of the really lousy stuff probably wasn’t one of them.

        The Whitestone Branch is an artifact of a round of railroad mania. They were going to conquer Westchester, probably had their eye on New England and then when they dominated that, the world. And Long Island which is why they thought going to Hempstead via Flushing was a good idea. Three different ways to get to Hempstead! That was abandoned almost before the rails had time to rust. Abandoning stuff back in the 30s was difficult. And the city agreed that it wasn’t worth the effort. I’m not sure it would be today.

        There’s other stuff all over the place. Just because it seemed like a good idea in the past doesn’t mean it ever will be. Two ways to get to an H&M station or a ferry didn’t make a whole lot of sense. And probably doesn’t until Paterson, Clifton and Passaic look like Yokohama. There’s little reason to be carving ROW through Passaic until the existing ROW is running out of capacity. It’s unlikely that will ever happen.

        The meme is that the Atlantic Avenue tunnel is too tight for M8s. Other people point out that an M8 fits in the freight Plate B dimensions and the LIRR ran freight to Brooklyn. The place to start your redesign of suburban services to Manhattan is on a clearance car that goes from Brooklyn to Jamaica. Then contemplate whether or not digging the whole mess up so there can more tracks could be a good idea. So super expresses along the Jamaica and Rockaway lines can express to Manhattan. And check to see if the George Washington bridge has 14 lanes because 15 would be too much. Not that going to 178th is very effective at getting people to Midtown or Wall Street.

  10. Nick Gorski

    Couple things:

    One, you’re not closing any stations as-is, but why not combine the Hewes and Lorimer JMZ stations into a single Union Av station with a connection to the G?

    Two, you’ve still got a big gap in Bedford-Stuyvesant. There’s a bellmouth to allow the Crosstown line to continue under Lafayette Ave (paralleling / replacing the B38)–why not continue that to connect to the J at Kosciusko and then into Bushwick / Ridgewood / Glendale?

  11. Reedman Bassoon

    I agree that 2nd Ave Phase 4 is wasteful. However, I believe 2nd Ave Phase 3 (to Houston St) is needed. Intersecting 2nd/Phase 3 and the L line (presently getting maintenance) and F line should be the goal. Considering that 2nd/Phase 2 is expected to take until 2029 to build (so, realistically add three years to that), I don’t think many of us will be alive to see Phase 3.

  12. Mike Whelan

    I notice that you didn’t extend a line along 3rd Ave in the Bronx. How many infill stations would you plan to add to the Metro-North line there in your regional rail proposal? I’m asking because even with commuter rail modernization, that corridor needs more than just Tremont and Melrose stations, which I think would argue for a two-track extension of the Second Ave line up Third to Fordham Road. Branching shouldn’t be a problem that far from the CBD.

    • adirondacker12800

      The Metro North trains have those pesky Metro North passengers on them. Which is why they want to spend lots of money moving some of them to Penn Station. Stuffing people from the Bronx on to them might not work out well. Pesky existing passengers.

    • Alon Levy

      I don’t know how many infill stations I’d put. Probably somewhere between 0 and 1 on the Harlem Line, and 1 on the NEC in addition to the 4 proposed (Pelham Parkway).

      The main reason I’m not too keen on more lines in the Bronx is that the existing lines are horrifically underused. They get overcrowded when they’re in Manhattan, but in the Bronx the ridership really does not scream “add more lines.” The total number of boardings at all Bronx stations is 481,267 per weekday; in Manhattan north of 59th (including 63rd on the F/Q but not Roosevelt Island) the total is 788,831.

      • newtonmarunner

        I personally wouldn’t do any infills on the Harlem Line: the route would be too slow for Northern Westchester County.

        I think at Third Ave (Bronx) Local/Central Park Superexpress to 5th Ave. in Midtown hitting 3/149, 3/138, and Lex/125 (then 5/60, 5/50, 5/42, …) can serve as a relief line post-Harlem Regional Rail (RR Line 4 or 5 on your map). But we’re just a weeee bit away from that. …

        • adirondacker12800

          If a southbound train is full when it leaves White Plains why does it have to make any stops? So the people on the platform have more time to see how full it is?

          • Alon Levy

            For the same reason the 4 train stops at 86th Street rather than skipping it because it’s full and doesn’t need more people.

          • adirondacker12800

            I suspect people who work at that retail in the neighborhood, few if any of them live there and walk to work. People get off the train at 86th Street. What’s someone from Scarsdale gonna do in Melrose? The post office? The one in Scardale has all the same services.

          • Alon Levy

            Very few people get off at 86th; the area is residential (the job centers on the UES are elsewhere). Melrose might actually have higher job density.

          • adirondacker12800

            and how come the 4 and the 5 don’t stop at 116th, 110th, 103rd or 96th. Hmmmm. Peculiar.

          • adirondacker12800

            I worked on 166th and Washington. Compared to 88th and Third there’s nothing up there. A quick surf of Google Streetview confirms not much has changed, partly because I recognize it after all these years. Go ahead, name one compelling destination in Melrose.

            Lots of people get off at 86th. When they are coming home from work. Grand Central doesn’t do a whole lot of good for people who use the 86th Street stations, any 86th Street station, if they swiping to go to work or swiping to go home.

          • adirondacker12800

            Unless you are a trainspotter a bit more interesting than the railroad tracks in the Bronx. There is isn’t a Barnes and Noble in the Bronx as near as I can tell. If I was along the 4, 5. or 6 in the Bronx, and wanted to go to one, the one at 86th and Lex might be intriguing. I haven’t been in one for a long time. I’m assuming they haven’t replaced the cashiers, stock clerks, assistant mangers etc. with robots. They get to work somehow. So do the people at Whole Foods, Best Buy, Duane Reade and CVS, Starbucks….

          • Alon Levy

            Okay, so within 1 km as the crow flies there are 46,000 jobs from 86th and Lex, 19,000 from Melrose, 21,000 from Fordham, 16,500 from Tremont, 25,000 from where the Metro-North tracks intersect 149th, 20,000 from 125th and Park, 634,000 from 42nd and Park, and 493,000 from 34th and 7th.

          • newtonmarunner

            I bet people in north Bronx would get off at Tremont and Melrose as well for retail (or to transfer to a mythical Triboro to get to Yankee Stadium or South Bronx hub).

            Come on.

    • newtonmarunner

      I wouldn’t branch SAS/125th. With fewer trains per hour, branching would make the Q on 125/Lenox and 125/Lex less competitive with the overcapacity 2/3 to Times Sq./Midtown West, increase the transfer penalty going from Washington Hts./Grand Concourse to UES and the Bronx/63rd Tunnel to Columbia, etc.

      Also, I fully subscribe the one-branch under the river rule.

      If the Harlem Regional Rail Line gets overcapacity in the Bronx, then as I wrote downstream do another Third Ave. Trunk to relieve the Harlem Line, 2/3, and 4/5/6.

  13. Henry

    A couple of notes:

    Some of these lines go way farther than I would extend them; there’s not really a need for Nostrand past Avenue U, or SE Queens past Springfield, or Co-op City past Bartow. (In fact, you could solve many Co-Op City issues with a road link for E 222 St across I-95, and some buses to Baychester Av on the 5.) Past these points, the outer boroughs are not very dense, and there aren’t really crosstown buses to connect to, so why bother instead of just sending buses over?

    Does the Central Park express tie into the existing Eighth Avenue tracks? Squeezing six tracks into four sounds like a bad idea.

    Some of these stations (most notably the 7/L West St station) look way too close to the water; they’d have to be extremely deep to clear the river. For a similar reason I believe the AECOM proposal has the Red Hook tunnel diverge south of Rector St, to go even deeper than New South Ferry.

    The E currently has tracks to South Road right under the Locust Manor branch. Any reason why you would prefer Linden? I don’t think the LIRR really needs the Locust Manor branch, since there are a total of six tracks that go to useful places west of Jamaica (the Lower Montauk is not useful).

    Any reason why your Northern Blvd line stops at Broadway LIRR? Even at inflated intra-city LIRR prices, Bayside is a top-ten LIRR station; having ridden the overcrowded Q27 I think a line to at least Northern and Bell would be useful. Especially since the Asian newcomers to those neighborhoods are pretty pro-density.

    Given how the city is growing, I believe that there needs to be a second orbital route in addition to the Triboro RX. Starting from Jamaica LIRR, it would go up either Main or Kissena to Flushing, then head to College Point via College Point Blvd, then head to Soundview and go under White Plains Road to Parkchester 6, then head west either as a Tremont Av subway or to Fordham Plaza. As it is the Q44 is quite a busy route despite being so slow, and I don’t believe the northern segment of the Triboro RX will serve Bronx-Queens demand very well.

    • Alon Levy

      Gah, my spamfilter got overly zealous. Rescued.

      Ad your comments:

      – There’s a method to my madness in choosing outer ends, but it’s not always the same reasoning for each line. Northern terminates at the LIRR because past that people can take the LIRR and the main goal of the line is to serve Flushing. Nostrand goes to Sheepshead Bay because Emmons has some local neighborhood retail and is difficult to serve by bus (going east-west the Emmons route would miss its connection to the B/Q). The E goes deep into Cambria Heights because that area is really far from commuter rail. The 6 goes into Coop City and Eastchester because Coop City isn’t walking distance to where the commuter rail would be and thence the route to Eastchester is short.

      – The Third Avenue super-express gets two new tracks at 125th with their own station, probably under Frederick Douglass to save money, and only hooks into the existing IND farther north, where the line widens to six tracks.

      – If the basic regional rail network is built as I’m proposing, then the busiest line at both ends is likely line 5, because of the high density and many branches on the South Side LIRR and the Erie lines, hence the idea for a 7th line using the Lower Montauk for relief. So I’d rather not give away the Locust Manor branch to the subway.

      – Main is a really attractive light rail route. I don’t think it works great as a subway – Flushing-Jamaica is compelling but not that compelling a corridor. Triboro doesn’t either – the only reason it’s viable is that most of the route has a preexisting ROW. But lines like Main, Tremont, Fordham, and U are all attractive as surface tramways.

    • F-Line to Dudley

      That’s going to be difficult with the Manhasset Bay Bridge inducing a stretch of single-track ops between Great Neck and Manhasset stations that’s physically impossible to double-up at any reasonable cost given the extreme height of the trestle. Now, there can be some capacity gains by infilling DT between the stations to the foot of the bridge approaches to chop the length of single down to its absolute minimum (two-thirds mile, more or less), and then DT’ing to the end of the line. That should be plenty fine for cranking LIRR frequencies up to solid Regional Rail service levels. But the single-track constriction is probably still going to be a bit lacking for pushing full-on subway frequencies to Port Wash.

      • Untangled

        How expensive are bridges and viaducts in America?

        You don’t have to demolish the existing one, just build a new single track bridge next to the old one.

        • adirondacker12800

          There’s not a lot of people out there, there never will be a lot of people out. Twice an hour east of Great Neck will be more than enough forever.

        • F-Line to Dudley

          Doubling up Manhasset Bay would probably be more expensive than the ridership it would haul, because the trestle spans a valley gorge with steep sides. It’s not trivial to even find anchor spots on the steep hillsides for a parallel span, much less find footings that can erect a parallel span of equal height…so the killer (beyond simply the modern costs of erecting a gorge trestle) is that each span could end up having wildly different track approach areas or grades. New span could have to be offset hundreds of feet from the current one, and with the approaches being similarly variable BOTH for a lateral offset or a height offset. Diverting off the ROW footprint for a differing-geometry bridge approach is especially problematic on the west side of the gorge where there are lots more adjacent buildings.

          Keep in mind that as far as LIRR Regional Rail is concerned it is fully possible to extend full frequencies to Port Wash without needing to short-turn at Great Neck or scrape together nonexistent yard space in that vicinity. It’s only the mode conversion to NYCT where you probably can’t swing representative subway frequencies. For RER the end of double-track can be extended another 2000 ft. from before the Colonial Rd. overhang to the foot of the viaduct before East Shore Rd., then pick back up behind Manhassat High School after 2200-2500 ft. of single to re-double on the Manhassat station approach and continue as DT to the end of the line. The only maneuvering you would have to do on the ROW cut east of the trestle is moving the wood 750V DC feeder poles back a few feet to anchor onto the embankment of the cut instead of standing on top of the would-be second track berth. Do that and everywhere to Port Wash can get the fullest that RER service has to offer, with the single-track on the trestle being a reliably shorter trip than the tightest bi-directional headway.

          The really tough infrastructure improvement that has to happen any which way is elimination of the Little Neck grade crossing so the line is 100% grade-separated. Overpassing Little Neck Pkwy. and viaducting the station is going to be a prickly negotiation for the neighborhood given how closely abutted the crossing is by local businesses, but it has to happen because that one always makes every Top 3 to Top 5 list of most dangerous crossings in New York State.

      • marvin gruza

        The “port washington line” should add a two track branch east of Great Neck south to a North Shore Hospital terminus with a major park and ride (massive garage) at Macy’s (former A&S). There is plenty of land for such a park and ride topped by luxury income producing commercial and residential development.

        The park and ride would be accessed via both Northern Blvd and Community Drive/the LIE.
        The North Shore Hospital terminus is a major employer/destination.

    • Ethan Finlan

      Why convert it to a subway? Under Alon’s plan, frequent regional rail would allow Port Washington to function as an express 7 line between LIC and Flushing.

  14. The Greater Marin

    One of the unfortunate things about crayons is they aren’t GTFS-exportable, which would allow isochrones and workplace access studies to be done. I’d love to combine your Brooklyn bus + regional rail + subway crayons to see how this would change NYC, but can’t.

      • The Greater Marin

        You can do it to KML, which you can then turn into a shapefile, which can *then* go into a GTFS conversion. You’d need to create a schedule matrix for each stop and each departure, too; I’m sure there’s some kind of tool that could do that from headway, span, route, and travel time between stops for each route.

  15. ethanfinlan1028

    Quick thoughts, focusing on the NJ end:

    1) My impression of Route 4 is that it’s low-density shopping malls for a long time west of Fort Lee. Are you assuming upzoning, or am I wrong about the current land use?

    2) A lot of people have mentioned the motivation for PATH to EWR being storage for 10-car trains. One crayon I’ve entertained for a while is a PATH extension that cuts off just north of EWR and runs as a subway through Clinton Hill and Irvington, ultimately terminating at a park-and-ride in Union at the Garden State Parkway/I-78 interchange (would require buying out a bottling plant.) Expensive, but the Clinton Hill area is dense, and not really able to access regional rail, and Irvington provides bus feed. If you really wanted airport access, the AirTrain could extend to a station near Weequahic Park.

    • Alon Levy

      1. There’s already some upzoning – Bergen County is not Long Island (but neither is it Houston). And Garden City Plaza is enormous.

      2. In the presence of the PATH-6 connection you can store things at the northern end.

      • adirondacker12800

        Garden Plaza is enormous. Rich people in Bergen County have to shop somewhere. The retailers who make great big gobs of money selling stuff to them won’t be too pleased about being evicted. Whatever you have in mind will face stiff competition to selling stuff to rich people. They have to shop somewhere. Where?

          • adirondacker12800

            You do understand the concept of a mall? they have the same stores as all the other malls. A quick scroll through the store directory that they have a Neiman Marcus did stand out. There will be one in Hudson Yards someday soon. Nordstrom’s? The Tesla showroom! Once they buy a car they don’t need to take the train anymore. I know! shuttle bus to Paramus Park Malll so they can compare the stock in that Macy’s to the one in Garden State Plaza, have lunch and compare both the one in Herald Square!

            It would be marginally useful for getting low wage workers out to the mall from places low wage workers live. So would a bus. That can pick them up closer to their door. Spend the money on level boarding at existing stations so it doesn’t take so friggin’ long to get to places people wanna take a train to.

    • adirondacker12800

      The buses are at Irvington Terminal. (which isn’t a terminal for many buses ). Different direction than the can plant. To be pedantic it can’t go through Clinton HIll, it’s too far north. The destination in Weequahic is Beth Israel Medical Center on Lyons Avenue. Elizabeth Avenue to catch the buses there, Beth Israel and Irvington Terminal. It would be interesting, the parking lot next to bus terminal hovers over the Garden State Parkway. So it would be very deep under the Parkway or elevated over it. Very interesting. the big chunk of retail-less sorta classical building next to the bus terminal is a substation, quite handy when it was a trolley terminal. I have no idea how the high voltage arrives there. Or the lower voltages depart. This sounds like it’s getting expensive. Something like that was suggested back in the 70s when converting what’s now the Raritan Valley line to PATH service was proposed and turned down. The screams of “Queeeeesification” out that way were very loud. The old people said “yeah, ain’t gonna happen, they’ve been proposing that since forever” Apparently something was proposed when four tracking the H&M was being discussed.

      Unless you are eyeballing the former Lehigh Valley freight line. It’s one track wide and has freight on it. That has the same problem as Irvington Terminal. the trains would have to elevated over I-78 or deep under it. It’s s good thing that stuff arrives by rail. Keeps trucks off I-78. And off the road in Connecticut and Virginia. Massachusetts, Pennsylvania. Maine. some of the stuff is frozen french fries from plants in Maine and orange juice, I assume from Florida. That is even farther away from Clinton Hill or Weequahic. HIllside and the northern side of Elizabeth could probably scare up passengers. The way to do that is to put a station on the Raritan Valley line.

      I-78/New 24 was a wonderful thing until they went and completed the more suburban parts. So little traffic on it only the local lanes were open. But they did and the local and express lanes can be a parking lot during rush hour. The Parkway has been a rush hour parking lot even longer. The thing to do is make the service out in the suburbs suck less. So they don’t get the urge to drive, making the bumper to bumper traffic worse, to a park-n-ride in Weequahic, Hillside or Union. Suburbanites don’t want ugly parking structures near their train stations. Ugly parking structures in Union for people who don’t live in Union are even less attractive. Make service suck less out in the suburbs they don’t need to drive to Union.

      • ethanfinlan1028

        Yeah, PATH to Plainfield via EWR actually sounds good, but NIMBYs will NIMBY.
        A 78 alignment, while not going close enough to the peak South Ward density, doesn’t sound that bad, if you can get decent circulation to get people from the highway to the street. Generally highway alignments are bad, but not always. And you can still hit the Irvington Terminal buses with some realignment.

        • adirondacker12800

          May have sounded good in 1970 but Grove Street has gone from almost deserted to overcrowded. It sounds like a reallllly reallly bad idea to me, if you encourage people to get on the train in Cranford people in Jersey City can’t get on it. People west of Harrison need a different way to get to Wall Street.

  16. Mike Whelan

    Alon, I’m not sure if you’ll see a comment on an old post, but thought I’d leave it anyway. I was just re-reading this because I’m visiting NYC and thinking about subway expansion, particularly in Queens. I noticed a conspicuous absence in your “Conspicuous absences” section: Re-opening the northern portion of the old LIRR Rockaway Beach Line to provide service to Rego Park, Forest Park, and other neighborhoods in Central Queens. With Forest Hills as the Queens Blvd Line express station, the connection is admittedly difficult to make from the Queens Blvd Line. Riders from Ozone Park won’t want to slog through Woodhaven, Grand, and Elmhurst only to connect to a packed express at Jackson Heights, and riders from 67 Ave won’t want to lose half their trains. But since you’re building a Northern Boulevard Line, there’s the new option of branching off at Junction Blvd, running under that road to 63rd, and then a short jog under 63rd to get up onto the Rockaway ROW.

    Obviously, this reduces Northern Blvd frequencies to Flushing, but that may be outweighed by the huge number of new intra-Queens subway trips that this plan enables. There would be direct connections to the 7, the Port Washington Branch (build an infill station), Queens Blvd locals at 63rd, a short walk to the J at 104th, and then finally the A. I’m agnostic as to whether this new line takes over service to Far Rockaway or if it’s better to just have people transfer to the A. If the Flushing frequency reduction on the Northern Blvd Line is too much to bear, you could also expand the scope a bit and send the N down 94th after it stops at LaGuardia, but then the line’s usefulness as a quick one-seat connection to Long Island City and Midtown goes away even as building it gets more expensive.

    • Alon Levy

      I see all comments! So do readers who are careful enough to check the “recent comments” widget.

      There are two main reasons I’m not putting the Rockaway Beach Branch on this map.

      1. It’s not that high a priority. Yes, there’s demand for circumferential travel in Queens, expressed in high ridership on Woodhaven buses, but there are higher priorities out there, i.e. relief for Queens Boulevard. The busiest circumferential corridor in Queens, the closely parallel Main and Kissena-Parsons routes, don’t get subways either on any of my maps, only light rail.

      2. To the extent it would be a useful line, it works better as regional rail. It would necessarily be highly branched because of the Rockaway Park and Far Rockaway branches, and this could be accommodated on either a subway or regional rail, but the JFK connection is more useful for regional rail because then the trains could have a ready line to run through to in Jersey and possibly also better transfers to other regional lines at Penn Station or Grand Central, depending on what exactly it gets connected to.

      • adirondacker12800

        It sucks as a line. You’d be trading long trains for short trains or it would have lousy frequency. Most people would get out there and have to change to Airtrain anyway. Jamaica is good enough.

        • Alon Levy

          Yeah, the fact that Jamaica isn’t terrible is one of the two main reasons the RBL isn’t such a high priority; the other reason is lol A ridership in the Rockaways.

  17. ragnar1

    The northern blvd extension / use of the lirr line to broadway bayside etc has been opposed since ww2! Oldest issue in Queens transit. ALL broadway residents were opposed. Now, At over 1miilion a home ……….

  18. Pingback: Assume Nordic Costs | Pedestrian Observations
  19. Yossi Sprei

    What about a new subway line under Church avenue That would continue into Queens via Kings Highway, Cooper avenue, Yellowstone Boulevard and Jewel Avenue

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