The New Triboro/Interboro Plan

Governor Kathy Hochul announced a policy package for New York, and, in between freeway widening projects, there is an item about the Triboro subway line, renamed Interboro and shortened to exclude the Bronx. The item is brief and leaves some important questions unanswered, and this is good – technical analysis should not be encumbered by prior political commitments made ex cathedra. Good transit advocates should support the program as it currently stands and push for swift design work to nail down the details of the project and ensure the decisions are sound.

What is Triboro?

The Bronx Times has a good overview, with maps. The original idea, from the RPA’s Third Regional Plan in the 1990s, was to use various disused or barely-used freight lines, such as the Bay Ridge Branch, to cobble together an orbital subway from Bay Ridge via East New York and Jackson Heights to Yankee Stadium. Only about a kilometer of greenfield tunnel would be needed, at the northern end.

In the Fourth Plan from the 2010s, this changed. The Fourth Plan Triboro was like PennDesign’s Crossboro idea, differing from the Third Plan Triboro in three ways: first, the stop spacing would be wider; second, the technology used would be commuter rail for mainline compatibility and not subway; and third, the Bronx routing would not follow disused tunnels (by then sealed) to Yankee Stadium but go along the Northeast Corridor to Coop City. Years ago, I’ve said that the Fourth Plan Triboro is worse than the Third Plan.

Unlike the RPA Triboro plans, Hochul’s Interboro plan only connects Brooklyn and Queens, running from Jackson Heights to the south. I do not know why, but believe this has to do with right-of-way constraints further north. The Queens-Bronx connection is on Hell Gate Bridge, which has three tracks and room for a fourth (which historically existed), of which Amtrak uses two and CSX uses one; having the service run to the Bronx is valuable but requires figuring out what to do about CSX and track-sharing. The Third Plan version ignored this, which is harder now, in part because freight traffic has increased from effectively zero in the 1990s to light today.

Stop spacing

The stop spacing in the governor’s plan appears to be more express, as in the Fourth Regional Plan, where the service is to run mostly nonstop between subway connections. In contrast, the Third Regional Plan called for regular stop spacing of 800 meters, in line with subway guidelines for new lines, including Second Avenue Subway.

I’m of two minds on this. We can look at formulas derived here in previous years for optimal stop spacing; the formulas are most commonly applied to buses (see here and follow first paragraph links), which can change their stop pattern more readily, but can equally be used for a subway.

The line’s circumferential characteristic gives it two special features, which argue in opposite directions on the issue of stop spacing. On the one hand, trips are likely to be short, because many people are going to use the line as a way of connecting between two subway spokes and those are for the most part placed relatively close to one another; farther-away connections such as end-to-end can be done on a radial line. But on the other hand, trips are not isotropic, because most riders are going to connect to a line, and the stronger the distinguished nodes are on a line, the longer the optimal interstation is.

On this, further research is required and multiple options should be studied. My suspicion is that on balance the longer stop spacing will prove correct, but it’s plausible that the shorter one is better. A hybrid may well be good too, especially in conjunction with a bus redesign ensuring the stops on the new rail link are aligned with bus trunks.

The issue of frequency

The line’s short-hop characteristic has an unambiguous implication about service: it must be very frequent. The average trip length along the line is likely to be short enough, on the order of 15 minutes, that even 10-minute waits are a drag on ridership. Nor is it possible to set up some system of timed transfers to 10-minute subway lines, first of all because the subway does not run on a clockface timetable, and second because the only transfers that could be cross-platform are to the L train.

This means that all-day frequency must be very high, on the order of a train every 5 minutes. This complicates any track-sharing arrangement, because the upper limit of frequency on shared track with trains that run any other pattern is a bit worse than this. The North London Line runs every 10 minutes and shares track with freight, and I believe there are some short shared segments in Switzerland up to a train every 7.5 minutes.

The upshot is that freight can’t run during normal operations. This is mostly fine, there are only 2-4 freight trains a day on the Bay Ridge Branch, where there are segments of the right-of-way that are only wide enough for two tracks, not four. This means if freight is to be retained, it has to run during light periods, such as 5 in the morning or 11 at night, when it’s more acceptable to run passenger trains every 10 minutes and not 5.

61 comments

  1. Henry

    As far as freight goes, NY&A (the freight operator) only really runs at night anyways, because there’s not really capacity to go further east during other times. Freight activity is busy (there’s a yard in Fresh Pond that I believe is actually pretty much at capacity).

    Apparently she also wants the Port Authority to speed up review of the Cross Harbor Freight Tunnel, but the sticking point there has always been where exactly you would put an intermodal facility. There’s not really a decent enough location with highway access that is both not affected by road congestion and not affected by rail congestion, and with available land. And existing freight traffic is so low to not justify some crazy expensive cross harbor tunnel.

    Penn Station Access did look at an Astoria station and the result was not pretty, basically saying it would be really expensive to construct even at a 4-car length. To be honest, if Hell Gate isn’t really feasible anyways, maybe it should cut due west down Astoria Blvd & 86 St. Or maybe jog north towards LGA, cross to Hunts Point and then go west to Yankee Stadium.

    • Alon Levy

      Hell Gate is technically feasible, it’s just that it requires shunting literally all other traffic onto two tracks (unless Hell Gate freight traffic is light enough to do it in the off-hours too, which I don’t think it is?). Astoria is feasible too, the PSA study concluded it was cost-ineffective because it assumed trad commuter rail fares and timetables.

      • adirondacker12800

        Or build more tracks. Supposedly Lindenthal, the designer of the Hell Gate Bridge, wasn’t thrilled with the idea of the Triborough and proposed putting automobile traffic on the Hell Gate Bridge too.

  2. Andrew in Ezo

    There are upwards, (including irregular services) of 20 freight trains/weekday on the Keihin Tohoku/Negishi Line between Negishi and Sakuragicho Stations, mostly run in the early AM and evenings, but with some during the off-peak midday hours. The public timetable shows 9 pax trains/hour off-peak, which would mirror the situation described above on the N. London Line. There appear to be three 10 minute gaps in the off-peak hour cycle, which would allow pathings for freight.

  3. Sascha Claus

    On the one hand, trips are likely to be short, because many people are going to use the line as a way of connecting between two subway spokes and those are for the most part placed relatively close to one another; […] But on the other hand, trips are not isotropic, because most riders are going to connect to a line, and the stronger the distinguished nodes are on a line, the longer the optimal interstation is.

    One could also use it as feeder to a radial line, but this requires stations outside of the transfer points. If the transfer points are the only stations, it can only be used to switch between radials, which can also be done with one change of train instead of two by riding towards Manhattan until the two radials meet.

    • Eric2

      It’s hard to imagine that saving a couple minutes off a 3-seat ride, by deleting stops that would serve 2-seat trips, is worth it.

      • Henry

        This is furthered by the fact that in this particular area even the road connections suck. There isn’t a great way to drive from Jackson Heights to Middle Village, or Broadway Junction to Sunset Park. Literally anything grade separated would be better than anything that exists now.

  4. Greg Homatas

    They should do the San Diego solution where they run freight at night and passenger service during the daytime. They would have to work out something with NY and Atlantic Railway that is the contractor for LIRR freight operations. They should do something similar or network it with the lower Montauk branch of the LIRR which has had proposals to revive passenger service. Another possibility not mentioned is to reactivate service on the Rockaway Beach Branch of the LIRR by either subway or commuter rail which would give a one-seat ride from JFK to midtown and spur economic development in southern Queens and the Rockaways.

    • Alon Levy

      The problem with this is that this kind of operation means no nighttime maintenance windows. If you don’t run the passenger trains overnight, at least shut down the line for maintenance.

      • Greg Homatas

        How about weekend maintenance windows? Why did it work for San Diego and it would not work here?

        • Alon Levy

          Weekend maintenance windows force bad GOs on the subway.

          Now, San Diego has some of the lowest operating costs in the US; its farebox recovery is surprisingly good (around 35%?) for a city with effectively no transit. So they’re doing something right. But very little of MTS runs like this, nearly the entire system is dedicated light rail tracks.

          • Gregory Homatas

            I have yet to see the MTA or any transit agency (I work for the TA in engineering) use up every night or weekend for s single line for maintenance. They usually go by a schedule at least 6 weeks in advance or more. I think it’s a rather severe restriction being imposed besides most of the run is in open cut with some tunnels under streets and highways and if this idea of Hochul ever comes to fruition they would need to double track at least and resignal it not to mention other infrastructure upgrades and building of stations etc.

          • Gregory Homatas

            I have yet to see the MTA or any transit agency (I work for the TA in engineering) use up every night or weekend for a single line for maintenance. They usually go by a schedule at least 6 weeks in advance or more. I think it’s a rather severe restriction being imposed. If this idea of Hochul ever comes to fruition they would need to double track at least and resignal it not to mention other infrastructure upgrades and building of stations etc.

          • Stephen Bauman

            According to a National Transportation Database Monthly Report in July 2020, for 2019 NYCT recorded approximately $3.6B in fare revenues and expended $5.2B in operating costs for its heavy rail operations. That’s a FRR of nearly 70%. Bus operations are the sink hole.
            The comparable figures for San Diego light rail were $42M from fares against $86.4M for operations for a FRR of nearly 49%.

        • F-Line to Dudley

          In most parts of the world the rails and wheelsets on mainline RR’s and rails and wheelsets on most LRT & HRT rapid transit systems are ground to different profiles such that metro rolling stock and mainline rolling stock CAN’T readily intermix in regular operation. There’d be an increased derailment risk at track speed because of the slightly different profiles (Example: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flange#/media/File:TreinTramwielprofiel.svg). While the profiles are *broadly* similar, running coexistence only happens under fairly punitive speed restriction. They’re designed for different purposes (in the metro profile’s case, generally tighter turning radii at higher speed and larger shares of street-running track done at higher speed).

          I know in cases like NJ Transit’s Newark Light Rail that used to (but no longer) have some trace overlap with Norfolk Southern freight on the Grove St. extension, the freights were consigned to overnight shutdowns and were forced to crawl at like 5 MPH on the LRT-ground tracks in order to reach their customers without derailment risk. Hudson-Bergen Light Rail’s Northern Branch extension will operate under similar overnight time-separation rules and sharply-limited speed for its trace remaining CSX freight customers. All fine and dandy when you’re not doing any more than spotting more than a few cars to no more than a few customers using a single switching locomotive, but it doesn’t scale well at all to freight manifests of any appreciable length/heft or freight schedules that trend daily/multiple-times-daily vs. just a couple odd quickies per week. NJT’s River Line DLRV rolling stock by contrast are equipped with RR wheelsets for its time-separated ops on a Conrail freight line that’s in use every night for much longer freight manifests. Those River Line vehicles would derail at track speed if you tried to plop them on the Newark or HBLR systems instead. I’m not exactly sure what San Diego’s wheel profile situation is. If they’re metro-profiled like most other LRT systems on the planet they’d be forced into similarly punitive time-of-day and/or speed restrictions for any of its freight overlap unless the MTS trolley system happened to be designed from Day 1 to use RR-profile rail grinding and wheelsets (with their associated performance compromises vs. traditional metro-profiled LRT).

          This is important for Triboro because all of NYC Subway is very much generic metro-profiled stock. The RR-profiled Bay Ridge Branch has multiple network connections with NYC Subway yards for interchanging rolling stock via freight rail, but those sidings are very seldom used in practice because of the practical difference in wheel profile. Subway stock that’s been delivered over the years via freight rail has usually come in via flatcar and not transitioned onto their own wheels until safely past the track profile transition point inside the NYCTA yards. They’d derail if they were towed on the Bay Ridge Branch on their own wheels at anything approaching track speed. Work equipment does exist ground with more expensive dual-profile wheelsets for changing modes (specialized track critters like rail grinder sets, ballast hoppers and flatcars used on the subway, etc.) that split the difference well enough sidestep the derailment risk and travel natively between networks, but they’re capped at “medium-slow” speed such that they’d only be running on the Subway on a maintenance shift doing their specialized maint task or would have to be delivered as a one-off/special-handling freight job so as not to excessively slow down the regularly-scheduled freights that enter NYC via the Northeast Corridor or Hudson Line.

          Obviously for any revenue service that cleaves the Triboro rolling stock choices pretty hard. It’s a choice of. . .

          1) Subway stock with full track grade separation everywhere the modes meet so there’s no track intermixing whatsoever. Potentially doable here, but at cost of widening the Bay Ridge overlap to at least 3 tracks end-to-end and possibly shorting somebody’s capacity on the 4-track max Hell Gate ROW.

          2a) RR-profiled mainline stock (i.e. running it as an LIRR EMU shuttle) that can only interline with the RR network and never sniff the Subway.

          2b) Generic Subway stock with wheelsets (and nothing else) swapped out for RR-profile so they can operate otherwise unmodified on Triboro, but perform like regular old Subway cars when/where they do run. But only as a Triboro-“captive” fleet that likewise has zero possibility of ever interlining in revenue service with any other part of the Subway. And only under rigid FRA temporal separation (i.e. no NEC passenger track sharing) given the colossal weight differential between Subway stock and any FRA-blessed stock, which is going to dash a lot of dreams of Hell Gate running.

          3) The old Newark solution of metro-ground rails but kneecapping the freights to nighttime temporal separation and sub-10 MPH crawls. Works OK when it’s only spot customers getting spot service, but is extremely unlikely to sniff a Federal waiver given the daily carload sizes of what’s currently scheduled on Bay Ridge Branch…let alone what *could* be using the branch if they ever build the PANYNJ tunnel. Tempting daydream given the prospective usage-share disparity of the modes, but very unlikely to be any halfway-realistic solution. The degree to which movement-of-goods would be compromised certainly puts it outside the realm of any best practice.

      • Paul

        The Swiss do even heavy maintenance on one track while maintaining service on the other one. I’ve seen a track laying machine working on one track with freight and passenger trains running on the other one. Any reason this can’t be done in the US? Obviously it requires regular crossovers, the signaling to support two-way operation on both tracks, and flashing beacons and such to alert maintenance workers when a train is coming through, but single-tracking is not onerous overnight unless your maintenance segment is super long.

  5. CA

    Given how awful the MTA’s operating costs are, and how freight railroads always seem to extract crippling concessions even on barely-used lines like these, it might be better to use the existing ROW to host an elevated automated light metro. 4 car Canada Line-style trains running at 30-36 tph would provide really high quality service, cost almost nothing to operate, and could support more infill stations due to higher performance.

  6. Henry Miller

    Is it really worth doing another study on stop spacing, or should they just say screw all these delays and start building stations now so they can be up and running faster. I think the lead time on train orders should be (but isn’t) the largest limit to when they can start operations.

    • Frederick

      Can they reserve space for potential stations and decide later whether they are going to build the stations?

      • Henry

        Safeguarding properties is not really a thing in the US.

        Recently, this has come into play where Sound Transit in Seattle was looking at a particular parcel for a station in West Seattle, but the lot was developed since the initial alternatives study to be a large, dense multiunit property, which is part of the cost blowout on that project.

  7. GojiMet86

    In my own little fantasy lala-land maps, the line started being sent to the Bronx via the Yankee Stadium/Port Morris alignment. I then realized that that ROW was basically dead and it was a little impractical to split it off the main line.
    The next iteration I sent it instead to Co-Op City. But then MNRR came up with their Penn Access plan and figured it was a better use of service.
    Now I have it running below Northern Boulevard, across 30th Avenue and 86th Street in as a Manhattan-Queens crosstown to North Bergen in NJ. Instead of it going to the Bronx, the G is sent up 21st Street (connection available at 30th and 21st) to the Bronx. Still pretty fantastical.
    In each iteration it was a standard NYC subway line, no passenger trains running on freight tracks. Basically imagined a new tunnel underneath the existing one in the Maspeth cementary area to separate it.

    ———-

    If this Interborough line never, ever gets to the Bronx, it might be worthwhile building a station/extension on Northern Boulevard for transfers. That way, Metro-North riders have access to Queens subway lines and an extended Interborough. Meanwhile Brooklyn riders and other subway riders can transfer to the MNRR for Bronx service.

    • adirondacker12800

      Pelham Bay to Hells Gate is 8 tracks wide. It made sense when they laid it out but then automobiles and truck happened.

  8. Alex Cat3

    What would you think would be the maximum cost at which you would support this plan?

    • Alon Levy

      Ooh, good question. The answer is that I don’t know because it depends on ridership projections, which depend on line characteristics like whether the Bronx is served at all. At the 152,000/day commuter volume (76,000*2) that the Third Plan projected, my threshold of groaning at the benefit/cost ratio is $4 billion and my threshold of thinking of canceling is $7 billion. My threshold for thinking there are serious cost problems is more like $1 billion. All of these numbers are lower if the line only goes as far as Jackson Heights, without any new tunneling.

  9. Stephen Bauman

    One should take a hard look at a proposed rail link’s benefits before spending too much time on feasibility workarounds. I once read that Paris decided after the success of the first two Metro lines that every point within its boundaries should be within 500 m of a subway entrance. They have done a good job of meeting that goal.

    There’s no similar guidance for NYC. I suggest NYC’s goal should be every point in NYC should be within 0.5 mi (800 m) of a subway entrance. I further suggest that every proposal be measured by how much it expands access to those who do not live within 1/2 mile of a subway entrance.

    Open source databases, including the 2020 census, make it very easy to take such measurements. For the record, 26.9% of NYC residents live more than 1/2 mile from a subway entrance. The percentages for Brooklyn and Queens are 15.6% and 49.6%, respectively.

    How well does Hochul’s Interboro plan reduce the number of people living beyond 1/2 mile of a rail link?

    I took the proposed stop locations from the RPA’s Plan 4 Triboro Plan between Bay Ridge and Jackson Hts-Roosevelt Ave and selected the 2020 census blocks that were within 1/2 mile of the stations. I also compared the distance from these census blocks to an existing subway entrance.

    In total, 566,538 people live within 1/2 mile of a proposed Interboro Express stop. However, 85.0% of these people already live within 1/2 mile of an existing subway entrance. This means that only 70,169 new people will gain walking distance to a new subway stop. This project is Trojan Horse to provide better service for those who already enjoy it, in the guise of one that is providing walking access for those who don’t.

    Here are the results of my stop by stop analysis (cut and pasted into a spreadsheet):

    “stop_name”,”total_pop20″,”total_pop_near_sub_stop”,”tot_new_near_sub_stop”,”pct_near_existing_stop”,”pct_new_near_stop”
    “all_stops”,466538,396369,70169,85.0,15.0
    “Ave_D_Rockaway_Ave”,18933,14997,3936,79.2,20.8
    “Ave_H_Brighton”,33750,33750,0,100.0,0.0
    “Ave_I_Culver”,33511,33511,0,100.0,0.0
    “Brooklyn_Army_Terminal”,28452,26583,1869,93.4,6.6
    “Brooklyn_College_Nostrand”,31138,30223,915,97.1,2.9
    “Brooklyn_Terminal_Market”,18267,2305,15962,12.6,87.4
    “East_NY_Atlantic_Ave”,25498,25498,0,100.0,0.0
    “Grand_Ave”,22155,7832,14323,35.4,64.6
    “Jackson_Hts_Roosevelt_Ave”,54160,54160,0,100.0,0.0
    “Livonia_Ave”,40021,40021,0,100.0,0.0
    “Metropolitan_Ave”,11177,10216,961,91.4,8.6
    “Myrtle_Ave”,33378,26465,6913,79.3,20.7
    “New_Utrecht_Ave”,44667,44667,0,100.0,0.0
    “Utica_Ave”,21373,0,21373,0.0,100.0
    “Wilson_Ave”,25499,25499,0,100.0,0.0
    “Winfield_Jct”,24559,19341,5218,78.8,21.2

    • adirondacker12800

      There’s no similar guidance for NYC. I suggest NYC’s goal should be every point in NYC should be within 0.5 mi (800 m) of a subway entrance.
      The Second System’s goal was to do that. From nearly 100 years ago.

      • Stephen Bauman

        The Second System’s goal was to do that.
        Thanks for reminding us.
        I’ve seen many instances of money being diverted from providing mass transit for those who don’t have it to “improving” transit for those who already have it, in my life. The number of bait and switch con jobs is amazing.

        • adirondacker12800

          Just because some crayonista, in 1925, thought sending Astoria trains to Bayside was a good idea doesn’t mean it is. The bits and pieces, in far flung places, that were amalgamated into the subway, those people whine about how long their rides are. And there are all those people closer in, who are already using it. “Send the Flushing line to Great Neck” comes up now and then. There are people using the capacity in Western Queens. Or people farther out. The “Queens Super Express” proposed in the 60s, apparently, was going to use LIRR ROW. There are Long Islanders using it these days.

    • Henry

      The point isn’t access to new riders for this particular line but to connect them better. Outer borough travel sucks on the subway if not heading in the general direction of Manhattan. The farther out you get in the boroughs the less likely people are just heading to Manhattan.

      • Stephen Bauman

        The farther out you get in the boroughs the less likely people are just heading to Manhattan.
        According to the 2019 US Census LEHD Origin-Destination Employment Statistics for primary private sector jobs, there are 210,328 people living in census blocks that are further than 1/2 mile from a subway entrance who work in Manhattan. This corresponds to 162,359 commuters from Long Island, and 35,063 from Connecticut. Please explain why 162K LI residents merit spending $12B for East Side Access over 210K NYC residents who also commute to Manhattan and need better access in their home borough.

        The point isn’t access to new riders for this particular line but to connect them better.
        The question remains how many will benefit from this connectivity. Again, from the 2019 US Census LEHD Origin-Destination Employment Statistics for primary private sector jobs, there are a grand total of 9627 people who live and work within 1/2 mile of one of the proposed stops. However travel distance between home and work is less than 1 mile for 55% of them, leaving 4332 who don’t work at home or walk to work. The 86th percentile is under 4 miles. That’s biking distance without a pedal assist. 95% of the journeys to work are under 6 miles – good enough for a e-bike. The final 5% constitutes fewer than 500 people.

        • Henry

          I’ve never said anything about East Side Access, and I personally don’t agree with it anyways, so not sure why that’s in here.

          The difference is that this is 12 miles and probably costs less than three stops of new subway. Outer borough extensions are in an even worse position due to a lack of core capacity (there’s no use extending 7, E, or F trains east that have no room on them as it is.)

          Do you put the money towards partial completion of a project (which is pretty much the same as zero completion of a project) or do you improve people’s lives now?

          > Again, from the 2019 US Census LEHD Origin-Destination Employment Statistics for primary private sector jobs, there are a grand total of 9627 people who live and work within 1/2 mile of one of the proposed stops.

          Is the primary benefit only going to those living immediately adjacent? By connecting up many different parallel lines it enables three-seat-rides that are time competitive or better with even today’s road options in the same area. This type of analysis ignores two-seat rides, let alone three-seat rides. This is patently ridiculous since many do at least one transfer getting to work in Manhattan, and most outer borough extensions would also require it.

          We know the ridership of parallel bus routes in the areas and they are quite large. Two of them, the B6 and the Q58, made the top ten bus routes citywide in 2019, and a third (the B82) is parallel if a bit farther. A fourth one (B35) made the top 10 in 2020, as remote work decreases the relative importance of going into Manhattan.

    • Alex Cat3

      There are some new areas that subway service should be expanded to– i.e. Utica Ave, south Nostrad Ave, Northern Blvd. However, digging new subway tunnels is expensive (especially with the MTA’s mismanagement) and thus can only be justified in areas of fairly high density. With the interboro, no new tunnels will be dug, they are just adding signals, stations, and electrification to an existing freight line to allow passenger use, thus it SHOULD be relatively cheap.

  10. adirondacker12800

    This is mostly fine, there are only 2-4 freight trains a day on the Bay Ridge Branch,
    They want to spend a few billion to make that dozens a day. The 8 million people on Long Island and the 14 million in New England will find it very very useful.

    • Matthew Hutton

      If we assume you want to run no trains overnight, 6 passenger trains an hour, 5am to 6am and 10pm to 12:30am, and 12 trains an hour from 6am to 10am and 3pm to 7:30pm and 10 trains an hour otherwise. Then if you also assume the capacity for the line is 14 trains an hour (which is the number the Tokaido Shinkansen tops out at) that would allow you to run 75 freight trains as well as passenger trains. If you assume you only want to fill roughly half your freight slots that would still let you run 30-40 freight trains a day.

      • adirondacker12800

        The freight trains have radically different performance characteristics. And radically different service patterns. For instance the stuff leaving New Jersey for New England doesn’t have to stop anywhere in New York.

        • Matthew Hutton

          If you can’t mix freight and passenger trains how does the north London line in London run a fair few freight trains as well as a subway style passenger service? Personally I’d have thought both freight trains and subway style passenger trains would have a similar average speed so it’d be fine.

          • adirondacker12800

            There are roughly twice as many people in New England and Long Island as there are in metropolitan London. What is “a fair few?” Wikipedia says the North London Line has four trains an hour all day and eight in the busiest section during busy periods. ….. you don’t understand the scale.

          • Henry

            To be honest, 8 passenger trains an hour sounds about right for Interboro. The G train runs that level of service today.

        • F-Line to Dudley

          The stuff leaving New Jersey for New England goes to Albany then Springfield/Worcester before fanning out, and that predominant pattern will be absolutely no different after this tunnel opens because the NEC isn’t suddenly going to make itself more amenable to running dense schedules of giant unit trains amid its breakneck passenger slate. Nor will the NEC suddenly gain the expensive vertical clearances required to make itself some hot intermodal lane. That’s what CSX’s River Line is and always has been for. It is and always will be easier to reach New Haven via Albany-Springfield on a freight manifest because of how many more comparably available freight slots there can be via the less-crowded and less vertically-challenged backdoor routing vs. charging up the NEC, and how many more total freight slots the diverging goods megahubs @ ALB, SPR, and WOR command by their daily demand. It’s no practical inefficiency that it isn’t the straightest-line route to New Haven and Providence; the “box”-shaped route into New England will always be king on scheduling demand, and the NEC is conveniently left to laser-focus its dispatching priority exactly where it most needs to go.

          The Cross-Harbor Freight Tunnel, whatever it’s ultimately worth, serves considerably more localized distribution needs. The Bronx-New Haven NEC is not suddenly going to flip into a freight raceway because the tunnel exists. The NEC probably gets *zero* additional scheduled freights post- tunnel vs. pre-.

          • Matthew Hutton

            Ok, but why can’t you run a stopping passenger service and freight trains on the same line? Perhaps with shorter freight trains in the New York area?

            And I know train drivers are expensive, but even at say $250k a year total cost of employment you’d need 4000 train driver years to pay back $1 billion of concrete.

          • F-Line to Dudley

            RE: Matthew Hutton. . .

            I just explained. You don’t do it because you don’t need to. There are superior pre-existing alternate routes to New England. It’s the difference between “create this artificial construct as a self-pleasing proof-of-concept” vs. straight-line dollars-n’-sense business decision. Straight-line shipping business doesn’t trend straight up the NEC…it runs via Albany and Springfield/Worcester splitting at mega-nodes along the way. The current and potential freight business simply doesn’t contour like the current and potential passenger business does. Jury-rigging the works to make it so…isn’t going to make it so.

            Albany is a yuuuuuuuuuuuuge diverging hub for goods. Springfield and Worcester secondarily also are. The demand created by those diverging lanes commands a multitude of incumbent freight frequencies, on lines that have the slack to handle it even in futures of increased passenger schedules. If you have goods heading to CT/RI, you can simply tack the carload increases for dirt cheap onto the backs of literally dozens of preexisting daily freight schedules hitting ALB/SPR/WOR…and if need be add additional freight schedules for peanuts because all manner of labor & logistics already glom tight and efficiently to those corridors. Diverse enough slots to be had that you even get all the requisite time sensitivity to places like New Haven in spite of the longer mileage vs. jury-rigging more frequent but way way shorter new freight trains along the NEC. These are also rail corridors which conveniently are already vertically cleared to double-stack shipping cube clearance thru ALB/SPR/WOR and some points beyond, unlike the New Haven Line which would be one of the most painfully expensive and invasive retrofits on the continent for attempting to stack loads.

            To accomplish similar efficiency with the NEC–which currently has *one* incumbent daily Bronx-New Haven freight local–means creating wholly new schedules out of thin air, with all associated cost-bearing logistics. Even if your diverging point is New Haven you have more freight schedules available to glom off of, expand out, and maximize today running south out of Springfield than you ever would coming north out of the Bronx. So why would any for-profit freight carrier choose to go via the NEC…and pay big to upgrade the NEC…when that pump is already running hot on the “box”-shaped route and its cornucopia of freight schedules? Nobody in the shipping business is going to think that way. There aren’t even that many potential truck loads you could possibly divert off I-95 in Connecticut by running NEC intermodal off the Tunnel because the land use simply isn’t available for new transload terminals to get plopped anywhere infilling between the Bronx and New Haven, or between New Haven and Providence.

            At most that single short CSX local that’s already on the NEC schedule would grow somewhat longer with backfill from the Tunnel, and that’s plenty good for what it’ll be. But that’s how little the Tunnel’s existence ultimately moves the needle for New England. It remains to be seen how much the immediate NYC environs and Long Island would benefit, too, as it’s not even well-established by the Tunnel studies that those inlying areas are going to be all that supremely well-served by it given the land-use needs (and likely community resistance therein) of needing to create lots of necessary new yard and transload facilities in/around the immediate City for processing the new volumes. If they don’t get the lion’s share of that necessary support structure built out up-front the overall carload utilization is going to be half-assed by any measure…probably too half-assed in the end to justify the ginormous PANYNJ-premium construction cost for the Tunnel.

          • adirondacker12800

            8 million people on Long Island will be the major market but there’s going to be more freight going to New England.
            You are answering the wrong question. The scoping was “How many trucks does this get off the Brooklyn Queens Expressway?” and “How many trucks does this get off the Long Island Expressway?” and “How many trucks does it get off the Cross Bronx/New England/Connecticut Turnpike?” How many trucks it gets off the Connecticut Turnpike was a consideration. How many trucks can it substitute for, not how many trains don’t go up the West Shore to metro Albany.

          • F-Line to Dudley

            RE: “You are answering the wrong question” (so I’m going to ask an even wronger/more-irrelevant one!). . .

            I stated it plainly: If you don’t have the land for rail-to-truck transloading facilities anywhere along the route, the trucks aren’t coming off the Connecticut Turnpike to begin with. There’s no places available or willing to build facilities for those off the NEC anywhere between Bronx and New Haven. You can transload in New Haven-proper at the cavernously large freight yard at Cedar Hill (it’s been done before!)…but freight schedules to New Haven are way more scalable to grow from the Springfield Line direction via ALB hub than they ever will be from whole-cloth new schedules on the NEC so any/all overall growth there is going to contour by lane accordingly. The tunnel won’t change the macro-level flow of goods into New England much at all, and in fact PANYNJ’s prior tunnel studies have grasped at straws trying to find evidence that it would.

            Furthermore, if PANYNJ can’t figure out an action plan for building out large-scale transloading infrastructure across Long Island, the 8 million people there are not going to be super well-served by this either as too many trucks are still going to be originating from Jersey from lack of adequate local facilities. The prior PANYNJ studies for the Tunnel *at best* did a hand-waving act at those on-the-ground realities. If the land use doesn’t come to fruition because the host communities are too unwilling to allow it, guess what…the bridges and expressways get slammed by much the same truck traffic from Jersey because that’s where the transloads still am while L.I. is where they still ain’t. Yes, they could pull it all off if they execute diligently across the board…but so far they haven’t laid the groundwork for how they plan to do that.

  11. Eric2

    If it’s really so hard to put freight and metro rail on the same tracks, the obvious solution is to extend the L and M trains on new tracks along the ROW, parallel to the one freight track. Nearly all the ROW is wide enough to do this easily.

      • Eric2

        If freight and metro can’t coexist, then you’re stuck with the problem segment no matter what. Might as well use a technology that lets you reuse existing tracks and provides a one-seat ride to Manhattan.

        • Henry

          Is a one-seat ride into Manhattan really useful in this scenario, though? At every single transfer the new line will be linking to a more direct line that might also host express services into Manhattan. No one is taking the L or M the long way around from Jackson Heights or Flatbush Junction if they can just get the F or 5 in instead.

  12. Henry

    An interim report on feasibility is out. https://new.mta.info/document/72081

    The alternatives being considered are electric commuter rail, light rail, and BRT. In places where the ROW is constrained, the LRT and BRT alternatives either cap the trench on an elevated deck, or use surface streets.

    It seems like the LRT is primarily being considered for the potential to reduce the scope of stations; the concept station depicted for LRT uses a ramp for ADA access to one platform and access to the other is achieved by crossing the tracks at-grade.

    • Alex Cat3

      The LRT should just share the tracks with freight IMO. Haven’t they heard of the NJ river line and its time sharing agreement? Light rail runs during the day and freight during the night. This line wouldn’t be very useful during the night anyway because of the very low nighttime frequencies of the lines it connects to, and as it avoids river crossings busses could provide decent nighttime replacement service.

      • Nilo

        I think mostly this is all a response to NEPA which requires you vomiting everything you’ve ever done onto the page. Might as well pre-release some of the vomit.

        They still don’t seem to realize they don’t have to use derated LIRR rolling stock though.

    • Reedman Bassoon

      Are the ridership estimates reasonable/rational? Higher ridership justifies spending more money to implement better service.

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