Assume Nordic Costs

I wrote a post last year proposing some more subway lines for New York, provided the region could bring down construction costs. The year before, I talked about regional rail. Here are touched-up maps, with costs based on Nordic levels. To avoid cluttering the map in Manhattan, I’m showing subway and regional rail lines separately.

A full-size 52 MB version of the subway map can be found here and a 52 MB version of the regional rail map can be found here.

Subways are set at $110 million per km underground, outside the Manhattan core; in more difficult areas, including underwater they go up to $200-300 million per km, in line with Stockholm Citybanan. Lacking data for els, I set them at $50 million per km, in line with normal subway : el cost ratios. The within-right-of-way parts of Triboro are still set at $20 million per km (errata 5/30: 32 out of 35 km are in a right-of-way and 3 are in a new subway, despite what the map text says, but the costs are still correct).

Overall, the subway map costs $22 billion, and the regional rail one $15 billion, about half as high as the figure I usually quote when asked, which is based on global averages. This excludes the $2 billion for separated intercity rail tracks, which benefit from having no stations save Penn (by the same token, putting the express rather than local lines in the tunnel is a potential cost saving for Crossrail 2). It also excludes small surface projects, such as double-tracking the Northern Branch and West Shore Line, a total of 25 and 30 km respectively, which should be $300-550 million in total, and some junction fixes. There may also be additional infill stations on commuter rail, e.g. at intersection points with new subway extensions; I do not have Nordic costs for them, but in Madrid they cost €9 million each.

The low cost led me to include some lines I would not include elsewhere, and decide marginal cases in favor of subways rather than els. There is probably no need for the tunnel connecting the local tracks of Eighth Avenue and Fulton Street Lines, but at just $1.2 billion, it may be worth it. The line on Northern Boulevard and the Erie Main Line should probably be elevated or in a private right of way the entire way between the Palisades and Paterson, but at an incremental cost of $60 million per km, putting the Secaucus and East Rutherford segments underground can be justified.

In fact, the low cost may justify even further lines into lower-density areas. One or two additional regional rail tunnels may be cost-effective at $300 million per kilometer, separating out branches like Port Washington and Raritan Valley and heading to the airports via new connections. A subway line taking over lanes from the Long Island Expressway may be useful, as might another north-south Manhattan trunk feeding University Avenue (or possibly Third Avenue) in the Bronx and separating out two of the Brighton Line tracks. Even at average costs these lines are absurd unless cars are banned or zoning is abolished, but at low costs they become more interesting.

The Nordic capitals all have extensive urban rail networks for their sizes. So does Madrid: Madrid and Berlin are similar in size and density, but Berlin has 151 km of U-Bahn whereas Madrid has 293 km of metro, and Madrid opened a second Cercanías tunnel in 2008 for around $100 million per km and is planning a third tunnel for next decade (source, PDF-pp. 104-108). Things that are completely ridiculous at American costs – say, any future subway expansion – become more reasonable at average costs; things that are completely ridiculous at average costs likewise become more reasonable at Nordic or Spanish costs.


  1. SB

    How much would it cost to lengthen HBLR/PATH platforms to NYC subway platforms?
    Is Newtown-Westside (Line 7?) tunneling under 42nd street? Would digging under existing tracks in Midtown have any effects on the costs?

  2. Jacob Manaker

    I assume this doesn’t includes costs of re-electrification/purchasing new bimode stock (e.g. the LIRR mainline to NEC line south [orange in the Regional Rail map] or the HBLR to 7 [purple in the subway map])?

    • Alon Levy

      All of my cost figures are without rolling stock whenever possible. Electrification of everything is around 600 km, which at Nordic costs is… maybe $1.5 billion? And at French costs it’s more like $1 billion (yeah, usually Nordic costs are lower, I’m not sure what the deal is with electrification in Denmark).

  3. Jacob Manaker

    Not shown: a high-speed rail tunnel between Port Morris and the Palisades…$2b

    North of 123rd St., the existing Empire Connection is at-grade or elevated. In the most constrained part, it’s next to the 9A highway. Why put the new tracks underground?

  4. Transportation Justice DC

    I’m confused about what you’re doing with the L and the 7. Do they share one tunnel across the Hudson and branch on either side?

    I’d run the L to Hoboken and the 7 to Secaucus, because Hoboken already has a 24-hour subway to Midtown.

  5. Gary M Davidoff

    Why run your new Utica Av Line up 3rd Ave in Manhattan (and then across the GWB?) instead of 2nd and then on to the Bronx?

    • Alon Levy

      Three separate issues:

      1. Utica goes up 3rd and not 2nd in Midtown because the jobs are from 3rd westward and the east-west subway transfers are at 3rd and Lex.

      2. North of Midtown the line carves new super-express ROW because today there are 12 lettered tracks feeding Midtown from the north and Queens (CPW*4, SAS*2, 63rd*2, 60th*2, 53rd*2) and also 12 tracks through Midtown (8th*4, 6th*4, Broadway*4), so if you add another north-south trunk through the center you have to add another north-south line farther north.

      3. The CPW trunk line has 4 tracks but then splits into 7 tracks in Upper Manhattan and the Bronx. With the extension over GWB it would still have tracks but they’d get busy enough to overwhelm the trunk, especially the express tracks, which are already very crowded. So you need another trunk feeding it, ideally running express.

      • adirondacker12800

        Just because the GW had capacity for trains in 1931 doesn’t mean it does today. they went and added a lane to the upper level and then added the lower level. Then there is the problem of there not being much demand in New Jersey to go to Fort Washington… people aren’t going to fly their private jet to Teterboro Airport and then take the subway to shop in Paramus Park Mall. Even if all of them got that bizarre urge, there aren’t many of them. People don’t want to go from Paterson to Inwood, they want to go to Midtown and they already have tracks that could do that, once there are new tunnels to Midtown.

        • Alon Levy

          Per OnTheMap, the municipalities in Jersey that the line would pass through plus Englewood have 30,000 residents who work in New York, disproportionately in Midtown. In the other direction there are 10,000 reverse-commuters, disproportionately living in Washington Heights and Inwood, disproportionately working actually near Route 4 in Fort Lee or Paramus.

          • adirondacker12800

            so 30 train loads to Midtown and 10 trainloads to Route 4. Spend the money making service to Midtown better. Level boarding and electrification of existing already in service tracks. Assuming the four lanes in each direction they added since 1931 hasn’t used up all of the carrying capacity of the bridge.

          • Alon Levy

            The train doesn’t need to be at capacity crossing the bridge – remember that this is also a way to add capacity to Washington Heights. Ultimately if this gets 80,000 weekday riders then at Nordic costs it’s a great deal, and at French ones it’s still an okay deal, comparable with the okay-but-not-amazing parts of GPX on a cost per rider basis.

          • adirondacker12800

            It’s not going to get 80,000 people a day, there aren’t enough people along it and never will be. Assuming the bridge actually has capacity to do it. They haven’t added any lanes since they built the lower level.

  6. samw

    Curious about your decisions to:

    1) not use the NYSW line from Paterson to Bogota for anything. Paterson-Hackensack isn’t an insane market to want to serve, and to get to the Paterson NJT station you’d only need a short tunnel. Is there a reason you don’t like it?

    2) route the northern branch and whatever the current freight line thru Dumont and Bergenfield is called thru its own tunnel through Midtown and not just having them join the current Hoboken division somewhere on the east side of Jersey City

    3) Given that the turn north from the Penn East tunnels would have to happen underneath a skyscraper, is it really feasible to build?

  7. Josh

    A 34th and/or 23rd St Crosstown serving the Maspeth transit gap might be a nice addition

  8. EfficientAG

    3 q’s for the subway map.
    1. Why did you decide N-to-LGA via GCP, when the EIS from the 90s shown the flight path problem to be real? On that topic, Vanshook’s N extension north to the ConEd yard, then making a turn east into a tunnel to LGA would be a alternative.
    2. Also taking inspiration from Vanshook, what do you think of sending 2nd (or 3rd Ave in your map) to the Manhattan bridge, and instead linking the 6th Exp tracks to Utica? For Brooklyn riders, 6th and Broadway can be rather close to one another, so having 2nd instead of 6th opens up much more coverage.
    3. Also about Utica; why send it north to Broadway before turning east? You could use it to cover BedStuy and the Navy Yard, before turning back north to 2nd (or 3rd in your map).

    • Alon Levy

      1. To hit intermediate stations on Ditmars. If dropping the trains to grade by GCP isn’t possible (and I think it is) then the Giuliani/Vanshook option could work too, sure.

      2. That’s fine and honestly the only reason it’s not depicted on my map is that I started working from a map of deinterlining, and in some places it’s actually hard to move lines between colors without screwing up station locations. That said, I will defend the pairing of Washington Heights with local service, the Concourse with express service, and Route 4 with super-express service.

      3. Because that’s where the B46 goes; Malcolm X serves Bed-Stuy too. You could go diagonally northwest but that’s a bit longer, doesn’t relieve the L, and has an awkward J/Z transfer.

  9. df1982

    A small question I had from your last post on new subway lines: why no extension of the A from Dyckman St to the 1 at either 215 St or Marble Hill? It would short and probably not too expensive but a useful gap filler allowing transfers between the two lines, which seems to be the principle on many of your other extensions (e.g. D to Gun Hill Rd).

    • Eric

      Especially because the tracks for that already exist, just not the station.

      I would extend it further though – east along Fordham Road and Pelham Parkway, all the way to the 6 train. East of Fordham University, it could be elevated.

      • adirondacker12800

        Pelham Parkway has a wide park in the middle… to make a nice park for the parkway. Elevated over it would be very very ugly. Digging up the service road or the park would be moderately cheap. Or the main road. or under the south side and move all the traffic to the north side temporarily or sumptin. Plenty of space to do lots of things. Elevated over a nice park wouldn’t fly.

        • crazytrainmatt

          I believe Pelham (like Mosholu) was originally riverbed or marshland, which explains why it was still open space when the parkway was built and why its drainage is so bad today. The whole premise of this post is about nordic costs and efficiency, but in reality rebuilding Pelham Parkway has taken the city something like 8 years, and I think they might not be done yet.

  10. Eric

    It looks like your deinterlining plan forces most of the (5) passengers to switch to the (4) at 149th/Grand Councourse. Which sounds like it would cause massive station congestion and unnecessarily empty (4) trains north of there. Do you have a solution for that?

    What I think I would do is build a little elevated track to make the (2) and (6) cross each other near Hunts Point Ave. So the (2) would continue to Coop City, and the (6) to Wakefield and Eastchester. This would give the Wakefield/Eastchester passengers two different stops at which to transfer to Lexington Ave trains, and create additional transfer possibilities for trips within the Bronx.

  11. IAN! Mitchell

    Are you taking the A over the GWB or what? Brand-new line?

    No PATH (or anything else?) extension to EWR? No PATH-LEX?

    No extension of L and/or 2,3,4 to the Airtrain Station for JFK?

    No connection from Jamaica to Flushing? It’s under 7 km between two major hubs in queens and the fastest transit connection between them takes over 40 minutes. You can literally bike between them faster.

    Why run the N to LGA when abolishing LGA means allowing Flushing to build a skyline and the former site of LaGuardia to be re-developed, while improving the overall capacity and reducing delays for other area airports?

    Why L to secacus and 7 to Hoboken, rather than vice-versa? Or only one or the other?

    Passaic County gets a lot of love, Orange County gets none. Why?

    • Alon Levy

      Are you taking the A over the GWB or what? Brand-new line?

      New line, the Third Avenue super-express; check the map colors.

      No PATH (or anything else?) extension to EWR? No PATH-LEX?

      EWR gets regional rail. PATH-Lex is depicted (check the colors), it’s just hard to see unless you zoom in.

      No extension of L and/or 2,3,4 to the Airtrain Station for JFK?

      No, I don’t think such an extension would be useful. The L is completely useless for this – Broadway Junction has LIRR service. An extension of the A from Lefferts to Jamaica is interesting, but it’s not about JFK. If new rail to JFK is warranted, it should be a new regional rail trunk.

      No connection from Jamaica to Flushing? It’s under 7 km between two major hubs in queens and the fastest transit connection between them takes over 40 minutes. You can literally bike between them faster.

      Light rail!

      Why run the N to LGA when abolishing LGA means allowing Flushing to build a skyline and the former site of LaGuardia to be re-developed, while improving the overall capacity and reducing delays for other area airports?

      If you want, you can think of the extension as N to The High-Density Waterfront Development Site Formerly Known As LGA.

      Why L to secacus and 7 to Hoboken, rather than vice-versa? Or only one or the other?

      To ensure the 7 and L cross and the resulting L line is not a fugly go-north-to-go-south alignment.

      Passaic County gets a lot of love, Orange County gets none. Why?

      Because Passaic and Paterson are way denser than anything in Orange County. Orange can live with regional rail branches.

      • adirondacker12800

        To ensure the 7 and L cross and the resulting L line is not a fugly go-north-to-go-south alignment.
        It’s not very pretty to take the Bergenline train to change to the Carnarsie train, go two stops and have to change to a Flushing train. Send two thirds of the Flushing trains up Bergenline and one third down to Journal Square. And while allowing people to change to a train going across 14th Street has it’s charms, it keeps them out of Midtown and out of Wall Street, there isn’t enough demand for four tunnels.

        • Eric

          2/3,1/3 division leads to unequal headways on the branches and thus to serious bunching difficulties.

          • adirondacker12800

            They manage two “branches” on the Queens end, local and peak direction expresses. 30 trains an hour, which is more than the Flushing Line runs now but keeps the arithmetic tidy, is ten trains an hour at Journal Square. Journal Square currently has ten trains an hour to 33rd Street. Of 8 car trains. The Flushing line runs 11 car trains. It would take a very long time for the demand to appear, if ever. The branch to Fort Lee would have a train every 2 or 4 minutes. The demand is never going to appear. It’s not a problem. I suppose they could turn one third of them around in Manhattan.

      • theslibbert

        Couple days late to this, but what does a regional rail trunk to JFK look like? A split from line 2 onto Conduit Blvd or line 3/6 onto the Rockaway Beach Branch ROW depletes necessary service to Jamaica, and even a split from line 7 would be awkward for the same reason. But I can’t think of a reasonable route through Brooklyn/Queens other than Atlantic Branch/Lower Montauk/Main Line unless you want to take over the J train or something silly like that. And for that matter, where does the route go through Manhattan and into Jersey?

      • IAN! Mitchell

        Re: EWR/PATH:
        To run 10-car trains PATH needs a new yard. EWR has the land. Without 10-car trains, no PATH-lex. Unless you have a better place for that yard?

        L/2,3,4 to JFK:

        Broadway junction makes some sense if there’s subway-equivalent fares on LIRR, but as it stands it seems more sensible to have a better route for lower manhattan and brooklyn, one that doesn’t require going to Jamaica (which is a go-north-to-get-south solution).

        Furthermore, with subway fares on LIRR, I’d be concerned with congestion there. Feeding the 2,3,4 and L into Howard beach means more one-seat-rides and less strain on LIRR.

        N to LGA:
        Fair, it’s just a matter of ensuring the stations and service are applicable to that kind of development, not airport-centric.

        See, I have a (maybe?) different vision on how to do it. I’d make the airtrain red its own line past federal circle, then extend it from Jamaica to Flushing (or maybe father?). Unless by light rail you mean something compatible with airtrain.

        Similarly, any restoration of north shore service or changes on Staten Island should be with equipment that works elsewhere.

        Ideally-No new orphan systems.

        Orange vs Passaic:
        Kiryas Joel (Palm Tree) is denser than Patterson, but certainly smaller. Orange county NY has some pretty interesting things going on in terms of domestic and international migration (especially orthodoxim, so also high birth rates), and the Port Authority has an opportunity to either screw up (as expected) or leverage and effectively utilize Stewart Airport (See: Oslo-Torp or Stockholm Skavsta for nordic examples, and Frankfort Hahn, Munich-West, Paris Beauvais, , Dusseldorf Weeze, for continental examples, or London Stansted in the UK)- SWF shouldn’t be the raison d’etre or focus of any transit expansion there, but it’s a consideration.

        • Alon Levy

          PATH-Lex can use the Lex yards, no?

          And the light rail plan is not just an orphan line, it’s a citywide system for which Main Street is just the strongest (or second strongest) route.

          • IAN! Mitchell

            Interesting. I still would like to see the airtrain red north of federal circle used for regular public transit and not just an airport connector. I personally think of a JFK-Jamaica-Flushing-North? line as being important enough for its own subway line, but maybe high-dollar light rail (LA Metro style) would work too. Costs matter.

        • adirondacker12800

          PATH to Lex: there are extensive threads on that boil down to that it may have been possible in 1910 but they went and built lots of expensive skyscrapers in the mean time. Except for the crank in Greenwich Village who insists really reallllly hard that it could be done. It would mean punching holes in the World Trade Center “bathtub”, you may not want to do that when it was empty and they went and built stuff inside it. Nah…. People who want to get from Jersey City to Bleeker Street have alternatives. Nah. … If you do anything with New Jersey and the World Trade Center/Wall Street you want to do things that discourage using PATH not encourage it. Nah.

          but as it stands it seems more sensible to have a better route for lower manhattan and brooklyn, one that doesn’t require going to Jamaica (which is a go-north-to-get-south solution).

          They aren’t going north/south. they are avoiding going north/south by changing trains in Midtown to get to Wall Street on the LIRR side and avoiding PATH on the New Jersey side. See it as east/west it’s one of the better routes. The scale is different than in most places. Wall Street is a bigger job destination than anyplace else in the country except for Chicago’s Loop. There are other trains they can change to. S’kay if there are ten tracks of railroad, two of them don’t stop every 20 blocks. Change trains. Out in the suburbs, not in Midtown. There is enough demand that it doesn’t have to be timed. It’s so frequent that almost no one looks at a schedule. People who have a smartphone welded to their hand might check but most people won’t worry about it. The scale is different. …….. It’s is encouraging people to avoid Midtown or using PATH. The scale is different, it doesn’t have to be all things to all people.

          Orange vs. Passaic. I’m not in the mood to go parse which sect is where, doing what with the non-observant. Some of them avoid the non-observant and would prefer a bus that would facilitate that. All of them tend to stay home. I don’t think it’s a big market. And if it is, they don’t want to stop 20 times in New Jersey. They want to go to Brooklyn… There are enough of them in Passaic Park to support kosher delis. No-dairy-anywhere delis not kosher-style. Which have waitresses so it’s probably less strict sects. But then I haven’t been in Passaic Park in decades either. I don’t know if they have the urge to go to Kiras Joel or Fairlawn, which has quite a few. So many in Fairlawn with enough money to indulge kosher Chinese, kosher sushi and kosher pizza. I’m not in the mood to go parse who is where and willing to do what with who. It’s not a big market in the overall market…. and it’s a 6 day a week market not a 7 day a week market…..

  12. adirondacker12800

    Passaic County gets a lot of love, Orange County gets none. Why?

    Because there is “only” 400,000 people in Orange County, most of them leading fulfilling lives without leaving the county? It’s far away from Manhattan and even a ride on a train that expresses through New Jersey takes a lot of time. Or a lot of them are Real Americans(tm) who drive everywhere and think Manhattan is a sinful cesspit filled with crime and wouldn’t even drive there? Twice an hour during peak hours is probably enough.

    Passaic County has two tracks of railroad that could go to Midtown. In some far off future when NJTransit is running 60 trains an hour to Manhattan, 40 to Penn Station and 20 to Wall Street, 15 trains an hour through the lower level in Seacaucus to the “Erie” lines would be more than enough. Unless you want to bulldoze lower Passaic County to make it look like the Upper West Side. There could be something every 12 minutes at Paterson. Every six if you wanted to stop the express to Suffern, providing local service between Ridgewood and Suffern, in Paterson. It’s probably excessive but there would be some demand for things like Ramsey to Paterson..

    • Alon Levy

      The fastest-growing segment of Orange County isn’t Real Americans by any stretch of the imagination. They don’t even speak English among themselves.

  13. adirondacker12800

    and they want to go to Brooklyn where they speak that dialect. Stopping a train in Glen Rock doesn’t interest them much.

  14. MordyK

    Highlighting how addressing the cost issues would allow the development of a ‘second system’, is an important way to start a conversation about the benefits to ALL parties in reigning in costs.

    In this vein I would like to point to another important issue to address as it relates to costs. Which is the need to create a master plan, and then ‘safeguard’ the routes from any interfering development. Which will either increase costs exponentially or kill project in its entirety due to costs and community opposition.

    For example: the need for a flying crossover at Rogers Ave. in Brooklyn has been on the table for a long time, yet as the area redevelops the low lying buildings on the corner of Nostrand Ave, have proposed developments. And once those developments get off the ground it will become exponentially more difficult to either retrofit those buildings to allow relatively shallow tunnels underneath or demolish the new high rise, which either way you look at it is not an optimal way to go about it.

    Possible NY style solutions can include:

    1. During the proposed development, the MTA can shoulder the costs of modifying the building to allow the tunnels to pass through the building. (The cash strapped MTA won’t go for this)
    2. Developer does the work in exchange for some form of development credits, such as height and FAR modification. This approach is being implemented for affordable housing development
    3 Any other solution that will allow ‘safeguarding’ to keep expansion and improvement costs in check.

    I haven’t seen this issue discussed much in any expansion roadmaps (i.e. Corey Johnson’s plan, this blog etc)

    • adirondacker12800

      Having the “Second” System take over the Nostrand Ave line solves the problem too. All of the IRT trains could go to New Lots.
      Squint at maps the right way, read about how they widened this or realigned that for when the subway comes some day, don’t assume the city doesn’t already have an easement, that they arranged when the subway was built.

      • MordyK

        That was case in point, although I can point to a bunch of other examples of already lost or soon to be lost expansion ROW’s. And if the city decides in the master plan that there is no longer a need for a certain ‘safeguarded’ element, then they remove it from the protected ROW list.

        My point is:
        1. The need for the city to develop and maintain a “fantasy map” and some level of engineering plans for it. As you don’t wanna go about creating these tunnel segments and then not use them (i’m referring to the existing tunnel boxes on the Second Avenue Subway)
        2. To have the discussion about this and the best way to go about it. I’m

        I like the zoning carrot approach, as it incentivises developers to actively participate, and doesn’t really add a cost to the MTA if done right.

        An additional benefit of an ‘official’ fantasy map, is that instead of a tiny extension being seen as a big deal. It may start an official conversation about an ongoing expansion project, and how to get there – including reigning in costs.

  15. adirondacker12800

    The detailed maps of the Second System I’ve been able to find, have a note on them that says plans may change after December 1930. How many iterations has the Second Avenue Subway gone through? They spent a lot of money to future proof Confucius Plaza. They aren’t going to use any of it last time I checked. Plans change…

    • MordyK

      I’m not saying I know the answer, just that a conversation is warranted on the topic. However, IMHO improvements to existing lines or tiny segments that can bring new life (i.e. connecting the S and G) and value to existing lines and neighborhoods, should be high up on the list. This is akin to creating stub-end’s.

      The second system can’t be used as an example, because expansion was effectively removed from the conversation. You need to look at cities that have an ongoing expansion schedule, as they continually maintain plans, skills and methods. Even now with teh SAS, the fact that construction of the phases were not continuous is causing so many overhead issues.

      • adirondacker12800

        They have been having the conversation since the first elevateds were built and proved to be so popular they were inadequate. Anything you can come up with, someone else has suggested in the past. Plan something now, decades from now when someone else is considering what to they are going to do, they will decide that whatever you planned is a bad idea and do what they want.
        There is future proofing a century old laying around. For instance the Second Ave. Station on the Sixth Avenue lines is deep enough that when the Second Avenue comes through some day it can pass over the Sixth Avenue line. That lovely park just south of it, where they put some of the Chrystie Street Connection, was carved out in the 20s. Nah they don’t want to do that. They wanna spend lots more money to put the Second Avenue station three levels down instead of one. It’s admirable to make plans but decades from now those planners aren’t going to use it.

        • MordyK

          I’m not saying to build out complete S4th street like stations, but missing opportunities is also not an answer. Which is why I suggest a realistic conversation on a policy that works.

          The same issue can be seen in reconnecting street grids, with Utica Ave. as an example. The only reason Utica is so full of traffic is because all the nearby parallel roads are blocked off, but there’s no incentive for re-developers to re-open and connect the disjointed ends of those roads. A similar example further north is Nostrand Ave, which is overloaded because all the other nearby N/S roads are misaligned by Fulton.

          A plan that “safeguarded” both surface and underground pathways, without any cost to the taxpayer would be beneficial IMHO.

          • Alon Levy

            FWIW, Utica and Nostrand would follow roads so closely that it’s possible to do shallow construction within ROW.

            It gets harder on some other corridors, but the reason deep boring was invented in the first place is that it makes it feasible to cut curves under buildings.

          • adirondacker12800

            They were realigned when the Fulton Subway was built and have features for when the Second System trains arrive. Any century now.

          • adirondacker12800

            There are streets they realigned and streets they didn’t. Utica is the most obvious one because you can see the underside of the someday subway that was going to pass over it from the A/C platforms. They changed their minds about something while Nostrand Ave was being built. There’s all sorts of stuff laying around all over the place that someone did after planning for years or decades.

  16. MordyK

    for the actual ROW sure, but those examples I was referring to were the turns from Eastern Parkway.

    In those examples deep boring isn’t an options because you already have the existing grade, which mandates shallow tunnels.

    Speaking of deep boring: To expand subways in Brooklyn, we need to bring back cut and cover. Its just needs to be done rapidly.

  17. adirondacker12800

    I passed this on to a few people in Metro New York. A tunnel from Port Morris in the Bronx to the west side of the Palisades isn’t long enough. You are looking at South Elizabeth or Rahway. Though why you would do that is another question. There are just under 2 million people in Westchester and Fairfield counties and just under 8 million on Long Island. Though people in Westchester along the Hudson Line, who are headed south will just go to Manhattan not schlep to New Rochelle. Probably on the Harlem line too. All of them through Stamford serves Westchester and New England or around 15 million people.Send most of them through Long Island and a few through Stamford it’s 23 million. The ROW on Long Island is nice and straight and owned by one government agency or another. Why does the Empire Connection to be realigned?

    • Alon Levy

      The Empire Connection realignment is for letting trains reach the northern tracks of Penn Station without at-grade conflicts with the other tracks.

      And yeah, extra tracks through Elizabeth have to happen as part of the 100% dedicated tracks for intercity trains, but they don’t have to be tunneled, and a lot of the ROW for that from Newark south already exists (though, granted, it doesn’t through Downtown Elizabeth).

      • adirondacker12800

        Don’t fix the Elizabeth curve bypass it. With short tunnels from North Elizabeth to South Elizabeth. Though if you are attempting to shove 50 commuter trains through Newark there isn’t enough capacity for 10 intercity trains. Newark gets twice an hour Kodama-ish. …. The trains to Wall Street have to go to Penn Station Newark or taking PATH will be faster. Express without stopping in Hudson county. You want to get to Exchange Place etc. use PATH.
        To beat a dead horse for the umpteenth time if they were planning the grand opening ceremonies for ARC nearly the moment it opens you could take Tracks 5, 6, 7 and 8 out of service and double deck them. Then take 9, 10, 11 and 12 out of service and double deck them. Commuter on the upper level and intercity on the lower. Connected to the new tunnel so it doesn’t conflict with commuter trains. It’s in the perfect spot to do that. And it it where it is, they are busy building 20 billion dollars worth of skyscrapers over it.
        You have to trim back your fantasies. While the Hell Gate Bridge probably has unsed capacity, I’ve read the designer thought the Triboro would ruin the aesethics and proposed adding automobiles to it, two tracks of freight, two tracks of intercity, two tracks of commuter and two tracks of subway is double of what it has now. Though I doubt it’s going to have subway anytime soon because the really cheap “just take over the freight tracks for Triboro!” proposals become really expensive if you have to double deck it through Brooklyn and Queens.

    • adirondacker12800

      One them pointed out that your Sunnyside station is in the wrong place. They are building one farther east at Queens Blvd.

      • Alon Levy

        *Farther west. But yeah, I know about that station and still think it’s not a great location whereas a junction would be really good.

        • adirondacker12800

          West, I frequently confuse east-west because for most of my life towards Manhattan and away from Manhattan was the interesting thing. It’s at Queens Blvd. At Queens Blvd, it’s a hike to the Queens Plaza Station or Queensboro Plaza or the jobs in LIC but those things would be an even longer hike if the station is farther east. What is so compelling farther east?

  18. Pokemon Black Card

    I like the subway extensions into Northern New Jersey, but I feel like Kings Plaza is a really anticlimactic end to the Paterson / Route 4 line.

    A couple alternatives:
    (i) Extend SAS north to feed into the Grand Concourse. Extend Triboro west to 145th using the old Grand Concourse line. Paterson Line then takes over the whole 8th Ave express and Fulton Express, which lets you run 24tph+ with zero interference from other lines.
    (ii) Keep the Central Park diagonal into 3rd Avenue routing, but tie 3rd into the north side Manhattan Bridge tracks and connect your Kings Plaza line into the existing stub track under Houston Street east of 2nd Avenue. Run Paterson trains straight through to Staten Island. Requires a bit of trackwork in Brooklyn to connect the BMT Brighton Express tracks into the Jay Street tubes, but again you get zero interference and 24tph+.

    • Alon Levy

      A lot of people have proposed something like your second idea, though without the Staten Island link. The idea is to connect Utica with Sixth Avenue via Houston and then the Third Avenue line with the Manhattan Bridge to Coney Island via Brighton (or maybe via Fourth Avenue and then Brighton gets the Broadway express). I’m not opposed to it and honestly the main reason I didn’t depict it is that based on how I drew the base map it would’ve been slightly harder to draw.

      • adirondacker12800

        And there are all those pesky people, in trains, using the Manhattan Bridge.

        • Alon Levy

          I mean, sure, but in either case it doesn’t mean reducing capacity for anything. The East River tunnel from Utica to Houston is still there, it’s just that people on Twitter are slowly convincing me to send that tunnel up Sixth to become the new B/D and then have the BMT Southern Division head up Third to give DeKalb better East Side coverage.

          • adirondacker12800

            The only way those maps need more capacity is if cars and birth control are banned. Banning birth control has very ugly consequences.

          • Alon Levy

            Just end zoning! If New York grows its housing at the same per capita rate as Vancouver, it’ll produce 100,000 housing units a year outside of recessions.

          • adirondacker12800

            Come back to planet Earth. No-zoning may work in Peoria and maybe even Vancouver. The reason New York City has byzantine zoning laws is because without them you get the Equitable Building. And those 100,000 housing units are going to be mostly filled with people who expect to go to work. You’ll get the Equitable. Ain’t gonna happen.
            Two other things that ain’t gonna happen. The Ninth Street PATH station opened in 1908. It’s the least used station. If demand hasn’t appeared in over a century building another station there isn’t going to make it appear. It’s in a world famous historic district filled with rich people who know how to hire competent lawyers that will block a station being built. Or anything that might create demand. Or I’m sure there are dozens and dozens of people who would love to go to Penn Station Newark and go to Liberty State Park. And perhaps a few score on the west side of Jersey City who want to get to downtown Newark. Any other place normal people want to go, they have faster alternatives and will use them That’s just two. Come back to planet Earth. With a different brand of crayons.

          • Alon Levy

            Historically, New York has zoning because Upper East Siders worried about Jewish garment sweatshops creeping up the East Side, so they zoned their area residential. Not that the Equitable Building is bad or anything, but it was an excuse. Then came the 1961 code, which was not about preventing Jews from encroaching on WASP territory but about keeping Eastern Queens and such single-family forever; all the developers were pissed except Fred Trump, so the city kept waving him as an example of how the real estate community did actually support the new code.

          • adirondacker12800

            Fred Trump made most of his money building and operating apartment buildings. Then inflating costs that would then inflate the rent. I hope the tenants suing to get inflated rent back, win. Inflating them by passing expenses through a paper corporation his children owned so they could all fraudulently avoid taxes. Building houses is a relatively simple single transaction. No opportunities to cook the books long term. He didn’t do much of it.

            The Dual Contracts were near completion. They weren’t worried about about the great unwashed invading Fifth and Park. When the first subway arrived Harlem was torn down, not Fifth and Park. People fled there or Bronx. Like Trotsky did during the short time he spent in New York. Or Brooklyn. There were loud sucking sounds as people fled to the suburban splendor of Bed-Stuy or Bushwick or even East New York. Or if they had a bit more money Queens when the Queensboro opened. Hop on a Second Avenue El train and be in Woodside in no time. Life was very much different. The Upper East Side was Park and Fifth. Second and Third had noisy dirty Els over them and were lower middle class or poor. Those smelly East Europeans would move there if they didn’t move to the Bronx. ……. I’m old enough to remember when there was a distinction between the Upper East Side and Yorkville and that there was a neighborhood called Yorkville. Life was different.

          • Alon Levy

            No, they actually were worried. That’s the point. They weren’t worried about Jewish residents, who could never pay high enough rent to outcompete them, but they were worried about commercial and industrial development, which could. The person handing over the rent check would not be a working-class Jew but a boss profiting off of many working-class Jews making garments in crowded sweatshops.

            Trump built apartment buildings, but evidently he did support the 1961 downzoning. I don’t know the details beyond that, like maybe he was disproportionately in areas where he expected property values to rise, or maybe he was developing smaller buildings than his competitors.

          • adirondacker12800

            Fifth Avenue mansions are owned not leased. Pissed off nephews are a greater threat to you genteel lifesytle than people who will never be in the 400.


            They had been engaged in selling off the old place, the one a few decades old and moving to an even fancier mansion farther uptown for generations. They understood if you imposed zoning when your heirs want to get rid of your quaint white elephant if it zoned for nothing else it’s harder to get rid of.

            Grifers say whatever they think will grift you best. And something else to different mark. And insist that they never said either to the third. Apples don’t fall far from the tree. I’m Donald had a lot of home schooling.

            Fred Trump was developing things hard by the subway. Not very small if you ask me.


            I’ve tried to wrestle the shovel out of your hand twice. You wanna keep digging a hole go right ahead.

  19. Eric

    A couple thoughts:
    1) You don’t want to attach the Newark light rail to the HBLR-Newark extension?
    2) Is there really demand for the New Jersey part of the Third Avenue super-express, seeing how most of its route overlaps regional rail, and Paterson already has a more direct line? Perhaps a better idea would be to skip the Route 4 section, and continue from the GWB to the Bergenline line?

    • adirondacker12800

      Why would you want to do either is better question. There is no demand, there never will be any demand. Spend the money where there is demand.

    • Alon Levy

      1. I don’t think so? There’s a giant demand mismatch, and, not to judge or anything, but Newark doesn’t strike me as the kind of place where you can have enough housing growth to turn a weak line into a strong line.

      2. I think so? The two systems overlap heavily, yes, but Route 4 serves some important gaps between the regional rail mainlines, i.e. Fort Lee and Paramus. There’s also nontrivial (although not-huge) commuter volume between the Route 4 corridor and Washington Heights, esp. reverse-commutes.

  20. adirondacker12800

    There’s never going to a lot of demand for Penn Station Newark to Liberty State Park. I lived on the west side of Newark or it’s immediate suburbs most of my life. That’s where it goes. It’s never going to have much demand. Ever. And there is never going to be demand on the west side of Jersey City for downtown Newark and beyond. Not enough to be building bridges or tunnels across the Passaic and Hackensack. The stuff the CNJ was allowed to abandon in 1946 is barely there and the stuff they were allowed to abandon in 1967 isn’t much better. It needs new bridges. Or a tunnel. Any other trip you can imagine has faster alternatives. People aren’t stupid, they will use those. Even in an alternate future where cars are banned, buses won’t get stuck in traffic and they can have an articulated one every 5 minutes. Though I don’t see there being enough demand for articulated buses. If you stiill insist connect to the city subway. …. though all the destinations up on Broad Street, other than Prudential and PSE&G, if I wanted to get to them, I’d go out to Market Street and get a bus. There are so many of them there is one picking up passenger every cycle of a the light all day long. ….and if wanted to get to PSE&G I’d walk, it’s not worth effort to get on anything. And Pru? Meh. Climbing down into the subway and back up, meh, there’s a bus out on Market Street every cycle of the light. ….you do understand that one of the reasons, at Penn Station Newark, that there are buses on Market Street and buses on Raymond Blvd is that there are tooooooooooo mannny buses for them to all be on Market? So many that in the peak direction Market Street is one long bus stop between University Ave. to Penn Station?

    They added lanes to the George Washington Bridge in 1962 and haven’t added any since. That might be because it would be silly, there isn’t capacity on one side or both. I doubt that. There are lots of local streets on either side. That they haven’t added lanes since 1962, that tells me the bridge is carrying as much as it can and you can’t send trains over it. Not ten car BMT/IND trains. You can’t put it in the median of Route 4 because the median of Route 4 is a Jersey barrier not a median. So it would have to be elevated over the highway and over the overpasses. I visited clients in Bergen and Passaic. And have been in the malls because they were vaguely on my way. Few of the clients were on Route 4. They were a short drive from Route 4 but they weren’t on Route 4. It’d be a long hike for someone, who is desperate, from a train station on Route 4. The malls are a long walk. The ones that are on Route 4. The ones that aren’t on Route 4 are a really long hike. Spend the money on more useful things, like level boarding, so the existing trains are faster and going to Penn Station and taking an uptown C train to the Museum of Natural History is faster than wandering across the George Washington Bridge and through Harlem on a downtown C train. … get a different brand of crayons.

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  27. Eric2

    I have to say I don’t like the use of the Empire Connection here. It’s a case of reverse branching from the Hudson Line which decreases capacity there. The UWS/Washington Heights stops are unnecessary because the subways there are below capacity (and easier to walk to). Perhaps worst of all, it limits the East River tunnels to half capacity.

    Instead, I would make the main Hudson tunnel 4-track, with one track pair continuing to the Northeast Corridor, and one adopting the Bergen County lines. The Empire Connection would have no regional service, or else a small amount between Spuyten Duyvil and Penn Station. The casualty here is the Long Island City line which stays a dead end, but this line is surrounded by inferior land use (cemeteries, parks, river) and can suffice for the forseeable future with a transfer to the 7 rather than a direct Manhattan connection.

    • adirondacker12800

      The Hudson line’s capacity constraint is sharing Park Avenue with Harlem Line and New Haven line trains. There’ are four tracks of capacity north of Spuyten Duyvil. Every passenger diverted to Penn Station is a space someone else can use to get to Grand Central. The New Haven’s line capacity constraint is sharing Park Avenue with Harlem line and Hudson line trains. Every passenger diverted to Penn Station is a space someone else can use to get to Grand Central. And they aren’t on the shuttle to get to the West Side.
      The Long Island Railroad originates and terminates trains in Long Island City or Brooklyn because there isn’t enough capacity into Manhattan. They haven’t run passenger service on the Montauk Branch, west of Jamaica, for long time. The trains from Long Island City use the Main line where all the other trains are.
      There are 8.8 million people in New Jersey. 1.4 million of them live in Bergen and Passaic counties. Some of them in Passaic County would be using trains that go through Newark. It doesn’t need two tracks all to itself.

      • Eric2

        Hudson line has by far the lowest ridership of any of the three major Metro North lines. So it’s not clear the extra service is needed. Nevertheless, rethinking things, there should be no issue with sending extra trains to Penn Station as long as they terminate there. In the future, if ridership grows, those trains can continue on the Montauk line, passing through GCT and not Penn station.

        Comparing that situation to Alon’s plan: a single 4-track Hudson tunnel is built rather than two separate tunnels; the low-ridership Montauk East River tunnel is deferred to when it is needed; the current East River tunnels are always used at full capacity.

        • adirondacker12800

          You argued that sending trains to Penn Station reduced capacity on the Hudson line. The Hudson line doesn’t have capacity problems. The Hudson line’s capacity constraint is sharing Park Avenue with Harlem Line and New Haven line trains. The Long Island Railroad has a project that might be finished sometime this century to divert LIRR passengers from Penn Station.

          That will free up capacity into Penn Station for New Haven line trains. Some of them can swoop through Manhattan and go to Croton or even Poughkeepsie. Hudson line passengers destined for the West Side will have a shorter commute, It frees up space for someone else to get to Grand Central. They won’t be using the shuttle. Which frees up space for some one else to use the shuttle.

          • Eric2

            Interlining is always bad for frequency. Terminating in Penn Station at least avoids interlining.

            Even if East Side Access leads to Penn Station Access which leads to more GCT capacity, that will be quickly be eaten up by more demand on all the existing lines. So this doesn’t change the situation.

            The bottom line remains that using the East River tunnels for the Empire Connection wastes half of a tunnel’s capacity, and that capacity is desperately needed if any housing growth is going to take place on Long Island.

          • Alon Levy

            My operating assumption for that line is that half the trains go Long Island-Penn Station and half continue to the Empire Connection.

          • adirondacker12800

            Both of you understand that if train comes into the station one has to have left the station? A train coming in on the Empire Connection, turning around and going back out doesn’t use capacity in the East River Tunnels. Or the North River Tunnels. If the mail platform can be reconfigured it would be relatively isolated and wouldn’t conflict with anything except pedestrian flow. There’s going to be housing growth in Metro North territory and NJTransit territory. Metro North is proposing that someday there will be 6 trains an hour from the New Haven line and four trains an hour from the Hudson line. That’s ten trains an hour of people who don’t have to go through Grand Central to get to the West Side. Which is ten trains an hour of people not on the shuttle. Capacity other people can use.

  28. Nilo

    Alon, a small thing, but what about a stop at Governor’s Island on the Staten Island RR trunk? Isn’t it theoretically designated for housing?`

    • Eric2

      Is it viable to build housing without building a road connection (for deliveries, etc)? And if not, do we really want to build a road connection?

          • Nilo

            Roosevelt Island is like 95% car free. Presumably whatever is used there can be used with the modification that goods come via ferry. Since it’d be an entirely new development pneumatic trash could be to avoid having to ferry trash back and forth.

          • Nilo

            Nobody needs to own a car. Amazingly we invented truck ferries decades ago. This is not a difficult problem, and it’s funny coming from a guy who insists that building HSR through Long Island and over the Long Island sound is reasonable idea.

    • Alon Levy

      I keep going back and forth on this. Right now there isn’t much there, but yeah, it could be the Ap Lei Chau to Manhattan’s Hong Kong Island.

    • adirondacker12800

      WIkipedia says a lot of things about it’s status. Along with this tidbit
      On January 31, 2003, the rest of the island’s 150 acres, as well as 32 acres (13 ha) of underwater land, were sold for a “nominal sum” (reported to be $1) and placed under the management of a joint city-state agency, the Governors Island Preservation and Education Corporation (GIPEC).] The transfer included deed restrictions which prohibit permanent housing or casinos on the island

      • Nilo

        Compared to NYC figuring out how to build a regional rail tunnel from Grand Central to Staten Island, allowing housing on Governor’s island would be a trivial thing to accomplish.

        • adirondacker12800

          using an existing bridge is a lot more sensible than building ferry docks and buying ferries

          • adirondacker12800

            The one in the thread about Roosevelt Island. There’s a two lane bridge to the island that makes it a lot easier to get the cars and trucks on and off the island. Ambulances. Fire trucks. Police cars. No one is going to be building lots of housing on Governor’s Island. It’s a park.

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