Penn Station Tracks

In 2015, I argued that New York Penn Station should be replaced with a hole in the ground, and such a station would have sufficient capacity. I will defend those posts: in the 21st century, elaborate stations are not required for high-quality rail service, and it’s more important to have good passenger egress and intermodal connections than a signature station. The topic of this post is more niche: which rail lines should connect to Penn Station?

The three-line system

In all writing I’ve done on the subject since around 2010, I’ve assumed that Penn Station should be a three-line stations. In blog posts about regional rail for New York I’ve consistently called them Lines 1, 2, and 3; one map can be found in this post, with slightly less expansive version on Google Maps, and, consistently, Line 1 (red) is the existing Northeast Corridor, Line 2 (green) runs along the same route but uses the Gateway tunnel across the Hudson and then goes via Grand Central, and Line 3 (orange) connects the Empire Connection to the LIRR via a slightly realigned approach, otherwise using existing tracks.

At the station, their order from south to north is 2, 1, 3; the numbers are chronological (1 preexists, 2 is a higher priority to build than 3). Gateway is to enter Penn Station south of the existing tunnel and the room for a Grand Central connection is to the south (31st Street), forcing that line to be the southernmost. The East River Tunnels go under 32nd and 33rd, each as a track pair going in opposite directions rather than 32nd running eastbound and 33rd westbound, and the track pair under 33rd has a better connection to the LIRR while that under 32nd has a better connection across the Hudson; the Empire Connection loops under the Hudson tunnel to connect to southern tracks, but that’s a single-track link and needs to be doubled anyway, so it might as well be realigned.

With three lines and six approach tracks, Penn Station should have 12 platform tracks: each approach track should split into two and the two tracks should serve the same platform, a solution used for the expensive but operationally sound Stuttgart 21 project. There should not be any flexibility, save perhaps some emergency crossovers at the station, not to be used in service: the required throughput is so extensive that such flexibility is fake, reducing capacity by almost as much as the full closure of a track.

The footprint of the station looks around 155 meters wide gross, or around 145 net, corresponding to 24 per platform. The total width of the tracks is 1.7 (track center to platform) plus 4.5 (distance between track centers; Shinkansen regulations say 4.3) plus around 2 if a safety zone between each track pair is desired, which is a total of about 8 meters. The platform width is then 24 – 8 = 16. If a heavy column between two tracks adjacent to different platforms is required, this adds about another meter to maintain the safety zones, for a total of 9, resulting in 15-meter platforms.

15-meter platforms are extremely wide. Châtelet-Les Halles’s RER A and B platforms are 17 meters, and are wider than necessary; they in contrast have insufficient vertical circulation at rush hour. At 15 meters, there’s room for six escalators per access point and possibly also a staircase; at 16, there’s definitely room for the staircase. Six escalators can run without any rush hour variation, always three up and three down, and would still clear a full train with many standees in a minute. I do not foresee any capacity problems at the station if it is built this way.

But this leads to the question: since the platforms are so oversize, perhaps it is useful to have more of them at lower width?

The four-line system

Penn Station could potentially serve not three lines but four. Right now it only has infrastructure for a line and a half, and with Gateway it would have one and two halves; even three looks like a generational project. But there’s good cause to think even farther ahead and make room for a fourth line: a dedicated intercity railway. The four-line system would maintain Lines 1, 2, and 3 as above, but then add an unnumbered line with no regional trains, only intercity train.

This comes out of my ridership model for high-speed rail for the United States: at full buildout, the system would be difficult to fit into an approach track with regional trains, and regional trains would only be able to run every 5 minutes or even worse, rather than every 2 or 2.5. Moreover, once high-speed rail exists on the Northeast Corridor, the return on investment on extensions is so great that it is likely that such extensions will happen. Politics make such extensions even more favorable: high-profile investment in the Northeast’s intercity rail and in New York is likely to lead to demand for such investment in other regions, regardless of the business case, and it is fortunate that the business case for such extensions is strong independently of the politics.

I presume that, from south to north, the platform order should be Line 2 eastbound, Line 2 westbound, intercity eastbound, Line 1 eastbound, Line 1 westbound, intercity westbound, Line 3 eastbound, Line 3 westbound. The problem here is that Penn Station’s footprint is only adjacent to three east-west streets, not four, and so the intercity tunnels have to duck under private property, and the best place for them going east is to act as 31.5th and 32.5th Streets. Using the existing tunnels and then displacing regional rail to new tunnels is also possible, but less desirable: the existing tunnels have small diameter, and so it’s easier to keep them lower-speed while the new tunnels get to be bigger and support 200 km/h while maintaining enough free air to avoid creating pressure problems in passengers’ ears.

Under this system, the existing footprint of Penn Station is wide enough for 18 meters gross per each of the eight platforms, or 10 meters net. This is not out of the question, and would ordinarily be completely fine: it’s enough for four escalators per access point, or three and a staircase. At Penn Station I am slightly squeamish purely because on Lines 1 and 3 it’s the only city center station, and thus more crowded than the usual for a regional train station.

But it’s possible to slightly widen the footprint. Under no circumstances should there be any digging past the footprint of 31st and 33rd Streets: the cost of construction under existing buildings is too high. Plans for demolishing the block between 30th and 31st Streets (Block 780) are in an advanced stage, related to both a real estate deal with Vornado and plans for Penn Station South expansion, but they are extraordinarily expensive (around $10 billion at this point), and redevelopment of the block is easier on firma than over rail tracks. For all intents and purposes, the maximum usable footprint is between the lot lines of 31st and 33rd, which is 175 meters gross, perhaps 160 net with some distance between the dig and the lot line.

With 160 net meters, there are 20 meters per platform with tracks, or 12 per platform alone. This is wide enough for anything: four escalators and a staircase fit, which has enough capacity (albeit with some compromises) with permanent escalator directionality and more than enough if escalators run three-and-one at rush hour.

The benefits of creating about two extra meters per platform should be weighed against the cost of adding to the footprint of Penn Station, which is not $10 billion but also not zero, and I don’t want to make pronouncements without seeing a reliable estimate. This also depends on the difficulty of building intercity rail tunnels under private property.

Coordinated planning

A coordinated Penn Station rebuild plan should be considered together with some plan for how to use those tracks. Infrastructure investment must always come with a precise service plan, with sample timetables to the minute shared with the public for democratic review.

The upshot is that Penn Station rebuild must come with a good idea of how much service the region expects to run. A high-speed rail plan argues in favor of the four-line system, provided the cost of the extra tunnels is reasonable (low-to-mid single-digit billions; $10 billion is far too high). Otherwise, the three-line system is better.

66 comments

  1. Sascha Claus

    If a heavy column between two tracks adjacent to different platforms is required, this adds about another meter to maintain the safety zones, for a total of 9, resulting in 15-meter platforms.

    If a heavy column is required, it should be on the platform, so that the space between columns can be used by passengers. (As in Leipzig Hbf. tief, stolen from urbanrail.net)

    At Penn Station I am slightly squeamish purely because on Lines 1 and 3 it’s the only city center station, and thus more crowded than the usual for a regional train station.

    The “only city center station” might be changed, although at some serious additional cost. How about new stations at Hudson Yards (might be built cut and cover) and Park Ave. (for its subway line)?

    • Eric2

      > How about new stations at Hudson Yards (might be built cut and cover) and Park Ave. (for its subway line)?

      I imagine the tracks are on a grade in these locations, so it would be harder for trains to stop, and easier for passengers in wheelchairs to roll off the platform onto the tracks. Not sure if they would be willing to build a station despite this.

  2. Phake Nick

    Looking at the Google Maps, I would prefer Line 4 and Line 6 do a really tight turn south of the Grand Central station, so that both lines can have a new station just east of the Penn station, and allow interchange be done through walkway connecting them together.
    And I don’t think building two tunnels into Manhattan in order to form the Line 5 yet only having one station on the island with only one transfer is a good idea either, might as well extend both of them to the aforementioned Penn East station, and let the lower amount of inter-regional travelers make a transfer.

  3. thenerdysaxophonist

    There was/is a proposal to rebuild the original Penn Station, albeit with wider platforms and configured to support through-running (complete with a new Secaucus station, new Sunnyside station, and new Port Morris station). Details of the plan can be found ‘ere: https://www.rethinkpennstationnyc.org . I was quite enthusiastic about ReThinkPennStationNYC’s plan about a year ago, especially in the architectural department, but upon reading your much better functioning plan, and upon reading a bunch of other plans that might also be better, my brain has gone numb not knowing what to think.

  4. seangillis78

    “In the 21st century, elaborate stations are not required for high-quality rail service, and it’s more important to have good passenger egress and intermodal connections than a signature station.”

    I’m not going to argue, but am intrigued by this. What is the line between acceptable and unacceptable stations? Is there research/ literature on the quality of stations and what it means to passenger experience and ridership?

    • Phake Nick

      When you go to a high speed rail station, needing to work 10 minutes from the nearest metro station exit to the train station hall, then another 10 minutes to pass through security check and getting to the platform, you know it is unacceptable, when in some other countries it could literally be two escalator away from the regional rail or metro platform to the high speed rail platform.

      • adirondacker12800

        Depends on the station.
        Union Station in Washington D.C. is mostly a terminal. It’s hike from anything but the first class car at the front the trains. Then across a gate concourse, retail concourse and the main hall. The exit/entrances are across a broad lawn from Massachusetts Avenue. Quite spectacular. It would need a bus from the far end of a 16 car train.
        Boston is a terminal too. It’s not quite as expansive as Union Station in D.C.
        At 30th Street Station in Philadelphia the suburban trains are on an upper level and the intercity trains are on the lower level. The connections to the El and subway/surface lines have been boarded up.
        Penn Station New York has the four track 8th Avenue Subway integrated into is western side and the four track 7th Avenue Subway into it’s eastern side. The connection to the Herald Square subway stations on 6th Avenue… has been boarded up. With a few exceptions all of the trains can use any of the tracks at any of them. At the other stations the suburban trains and Amtrak trains use the same platforms.

      • seangillis78

        Ok, I see the point here: the goal of a station should be passenger flow so you get off your train and quickly get where you are going, like the Metro, bus or a cab. My only experience at Penn Station in NYC (a decade ago) seemed like a heck of a walk to make it from the Amtrak train to the subway. In my European experiences, it’s much quicker to get from the TGV to RER at Paris Gare du Nord, or to get from high speed rail to the subway at Rome Terminii.

  5. adirondacker12800

    Wall Street trains must go to Newark. If they don’t go to Newark, using PATH will still be faster and they will still use PATH.

      • adirondacker12800

        People use PATH to do lots of things. It’s the country’s 6th busiest mass transit system
        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_United_States_rapid_transit_systems_by_ridership
        So busy the Port Authority wants to build a storage yard for ten car trains, instead of eight car trains, out near the airport. Having a station there is a side effect.

        There are lot of people in New Jersey who change from suburban trains to PATH in Penn Station Newark. Across the platform east/north bound if the train comes in on track 1 or 2. Down ramps or stairs west/southbound.

        Newark has many high frequency bus routes, many of which go to Penn Station. All those people can have an express ride to Wall Street so that people in Hudson County will actually be able to get on PATH trains. If you send trains through Wall Street to Suffern or Spring Valley they won’t be able to do that.

        • Eric2

          You’re aware that Alon’s plan provides approximately 8 regional rail stops in Hudson County? 5 of them with direct service to Wall Street? I don’t think Hudson County riders overloading PATH is going to be a problem. And riders from the rest of NJ aren’t going to overload PATH because they can transfer to the Wall Street regional rail line at either Secaucus or “Bergen Arches” – this trip will be faster than transferring to PATH.

          • adirondacker12800

            I don’t think Hudson County riders overloading PATH is going to be a problem.
            They have been for years. The Port Authority is spending a billion or so, so they can run ten car trains instead of eight car trains on the Newark-World Center line.
            8 regional rail stops in Hudson County
            Is 7 too many. Secaucus has some charm so people in Bergen and Passaic Counties can get to the rest of New Jersey without going into Manhattan. Or vice versa. If I’m in Penn Station Newark and I want to get to Wall Street why would I change trains any place else except across the platform to PATH? Or up the stairs from the multiple high frequency bus lines or the Newark Subway?

          • Eric2

            They have been for years.
            That’s why I said “is going to be”. As in once Alon’s plan is built. Which was the basis of the discussion, if you remember.
            If I’m in Penn Station Newark and I want to get to Wall Street why would I change trains any place else except across the platform to PATH?
            Why would you get off the train in Newark? Get off in Secaucus and transfer to the regional line to Wall Street. That will save you time compared to transferring to PATH in Newark.
            Or up the stairs from the multiple high frequency bus lines or the Newark Subway?
            Bus or Newark Subway passengers can continue to take PATH. They are a minority of the commuters we’re discussing.

          • adirondacker12800

            I’d get off the train in Penn Station Newark because it’s a very short walk across the platform to a PATH train east/northbound. And a shorter walk down west/southbound than it would be at Secaucus.

            I’m almost sure that view is from the track 1 side of the PATH track to the track 2 side of the PATH track. It’s a Spanish Solution track, the doors open on both sides so there are cross platform transfers from mainline trains on either side. If you are unlucky enough for your train to come in on track A or track 3 it’s a much shorter change of platforms than it would be at Secaucus.

            It takes time to get to Secaucus and time to get from the upper level to the lower level and time to get to Wall Street from there. It would be faster to use PATH from Newark.

            They allow people who use the local buses in Newark to get on NJTransit trains. Even Amtrak trains. They could use the express trains to Wall Street too.

  6. adirondacker12800

    the Empire Connection loops under the Hudson tunnel to connect to southern tracks, but that’s a single-track link and needs to be doubled anyway, so it might as well be realigned.
    They went and built 10 billion dollars worth of skyscraper over it. With piles that go down into the bedrock under them. Just because the railfans can only see one track out of the train doesn’t mean they didn’t reserve space for a second track. Not a cheap solution, there is plenty of space under it.
    Squint at the satellite views of the extravaganza, Hudson Blvd. aligns with the High Line and the Empire Connection. The express companion to Carnarsie line trains can go up the West Side on top of the express suburban trains. Or next to them if it’s wide enough north of 34th.

  7. Tom M

    Would the intercity service require six-track NEC, or would it run “super-express” on the express tracks?

    • adirondacker12800

      If NJTransit is running 40 trains an hour, in each direction, through Penn Station Newark, most of the NEC between Rahway and Manhattan would need six tracks. That implies 80 an hour into Manhattan which is excessive.

        • adirondacker12800

          There will be 10 or 12 intercity trains along with the 40 New Jersey trains. There isn’t enough demand for that many New Jersey trains.

    • Alon Levy

      It depends. At full buildout, six tracks are needed up to Rahway, corresponding to Line 1, Line 2, and intercity. But if it’s just Penn Station, then the Line 2 system (i.e. Gateway) should feed the Morris and Essex Lines while Line 1 takes the NEC; it’s just, in the long run the NEC needs more than that.

  8. Car(e)-Free LA

    Alon,

    I’m concerned you’ve come up with a system that has a massive demand mismatch–probably because you were looking to logically pair lines instead of population blocs. If we are to take the New York urbanized area and subtract out the population that is or should be predominantly served by subway service (basically Newark Penn to Jamaica, Brooklyn to the Bronx), there are 11.6 million people living in the Tri-State area regional rail catchment area.
    They are broken down as follows:

    West of the Hudson: 6.1 million people (52%), of which
    35% is in Raritan/NEC/Coast: 2.1 million people
    31% is in Morris/Essex: 1.9 million people
    26% is in Bergen/Rockland: 1.6 million people
    8% is in Staten Island: 0.5 million people

    East of the Hudson: 5.6 million people (45%), of which
    68% is in Long Island: 3.8 million people
    32% is in Westchester/Connecticut: 1.8 million people

    Underserving New Jersey is almost inevitable once you dedicate a full line to Staten Island. With this in mind, you want 100% of remaining capacity to go west of the Hudson, whether it be 4/5 lines or 5/6 lines. The problem, of course, is how you’ve dedicated 2/6 tracks into Penn from the west to the Hudson Line. These population figures tell us that 100% of Westchester capacity should enter Manhattan east of Penn or north of Grand Central. It should be noted that in a full six-line system, a population-proportionate design would allocate just two lines to Westchester/Connecticut and a full four lines to Long Island. TL;DR: Allocating more than the existing four tracks along Park Avenue wastes capacity that could be better utilized by Long Island or New Jersey. If you do not think four tracks to Westchester is enough for future demand, then six lines is insufficient for New York. Either way, sending trains over Hells Gate or up the West Side is a bad use of precious paths. It should be further emphasized that only 325,000 people live in the Hudson Line’s catchment area–a miniscule number compared against the Harlem and New Haven lines. Moreover, Long Island and North Jersey seem much more primed for TOD than a line that loses half its catchment area to a river.

    To me, the big implication of this is that after Gateway, the top priority should be a third set of Long Island-New Jersey tracks, either via Downtown, a more northerly crossing of Midtown to Bergen, or from GCT through Penn to Secaucus. Knocking down a block of Midtown East for a 4 track east-west, 4 track north-south transfer station might be less insane than one might immediately think, especially if you can throw up a couple supertall towers on top of it once all is said and done.

    • Car(e)-Free LA

      I would emphasize that if 1. Westchester needs more than two lines of capacity and 2. a dedicated pair of intercity/HSR tracks is built across Manhattan, moving all Connecticut services past Stamford, Norwalk, or Bridgeport over to intercity/regional-bahn services could release quite a few paths along the Park Avenue tunnels.

    • adirondacker12800

      Downtown/Wall Street. Wall Street is the country’s third or fourth biggest business district depending on who is counting what. Every person that doesn’t go to Midtown is a space for someone else to go to Midtown.

      • Eric2

        Also, a Downtown station would much better serve the 2.8 million people in Brooklyn. Or potentially many more than 2.8 million, given that Brooklyn has the richest rail network of any outer borough (or regional rail territory!) and thus can support the most upzoning.

        • adirondacker12800

          Brooklyn is fairly lousy with subway stops. With local and express service already. They don’t need another express system. Unless you think trading a one or two seat ride for a three seat ride is going to be attractive.

          • Eric2

            The point is that Brooklyn-New Jersey is much easier if you can avoid the crowds in Midtown.

          • adirondacker12800

            You can get from Brooklyn to New Jersey without going to Midtown. PATH from the World Trade Center. It doesn’t need to stop every 20 blocks in Brooklyn. The express subway trains already do that. They can change trains at East New York/Broadway Junction, Atlantic Ave./Barclays Center or Fulton Street in Manhattan.

          • Eric2

            Subways to Midtown are already crowded. PATH is already crowded.

            PATH from Brooklyn to New Jersey means a 2 seat ride to Hoboken/Newark and a 3 seat ride to anywhere else. Regional rail means a 1 seat ride to a large swathe of NJ and a 2 seat ride to anywhere else. That’s a big difference.

          • adirondacker12800

            If I’m reading Alon’s map correctly the trains to and from Brooklyn don’t go to Hoboken or Newark. They don’t go to most of New Jersey either. They go to Bergen and Passaic counties. There are an excessive amount of stations in Hudson county and Brooklyn. Most people in either place don’t live near them and would have to get on a bus or subway anyway.

    • adirondacker12800

      If you do not think four tracks to Westchester is enough for future demand
      It’s not enough for current demand. They run three tracks in the peak direction now.
      Which is why they want to run six trains an hour from the New Haven line to Penn Station and four trains an hour from the Hudson Line. Someone who gets on a Penn Station train is someone not in Grand Central or on the shuttle to the West Side. Which frees up a space for some who wants to get to the East Side.

      • Car(e)-Free LA

        All that tells us, then, is that Long Island and New Jersey have *even more* latent regional rail demand, as they have fewer Manhattan-bound tracks per capita than Metro North. Ergo, those 6TPH into Penn might be useful for MNR, but they would be *even more* useful for LIRR.

        • adirondacker12800

          The LIRR is going to be adding up to 20 an hour to Grand Central sometime soon. Metro North can’t run trains to Penn Station, from the New Haven line, until they do.

          • Tunnelvision

            24 Trains an hour is what ESA is designed for. Whether that’s what they run is a different story.

          • adirondacker12800

            It’s what the report called, if I remember correctly, the amount they can reliably run. I doubt it’s going to be that much initially. The constraint is probably between the Port Washington Branch and Jamaica.

          • Car(e)-Free LA

            Sure. I think it gets basic structure right (east-west on Hollywood, Santa Monica/Sunset, Beverly (least important), Wilshire, and Expo; north-south on La Cienega, La Brea, Western, and Vermont.)

            My first concern is one of scope. Certain areas that are close to DTLA are underserved (Northeast LA and–presumably–the inner parts of the Valley.) By contrast, metro service extends too far south, following the street grid without considering travel time. Anything south of 105 is just too far for metro to be reasonable. Places like San Pedro, Torrance, and Long Beach need regional rail trips of 25-30 min to DTLA, not metro service stopping every kilometer. Those are the deep suburbs, not the city. In general, I would draw circles with a radius of 10 miles around DTLA and the core Westside (Century City/Beverly Hills). Everything within those circles should have metro service, with most places being no more than a 10-minute walk from a station. Beyond that, you need to maximize regional rail access and speed, not use metro. You don’t see the Subway extending to White Plains after all.

            My second concern is one of centralization. Considering Alon’s posts on radial, circumferential, and gridded metro systems, I would adjust some lines to converge in DTLA and the core Westside. This system is too gridded, and not every line on the grid is created equal. A north-south line on Western which passes DTLA, rather than bending inward, is liable to underperform, especially adjacent to similar service on Vermont. By contrast, a line which serves the Western corridor south of Expo but which turns towards DTLA is extraordinarily useful. Similarly, a Pico line should bend towards Beverly Hills and Century City, then end up north of Wilshire. That way, it does triple duty–bringing people west of BH/CC to BH/CC, people east of BH/CC to BH/CC, and people west of DTLA/east of BH/CC to DTLA. Traffic from the far Westside to DTLA can use Wilshire.

          • adirondacker12800

            not metro service stopping every kilometer.

            Yet Alon’s map for New York does just that. Where there is parallel subway service a few blocks away most places in Brooklyn and Queens. A few of the stations already have service. Which few people use. So do some of the stations in Bronx. There is a lot of swamp on the New Jersey side, it would be silly to have stations there. Check out the streetview for where I think he wants to put the Bergen Arches station sometime. John F. Kennedy Blvd and the ramps to the Pulaski Skyway/Route 139, in Jersey City, down in the trench where trains to the Erie terminal used to run, that is now filled with trees.

            You don’t see the Subway extending to White Plains after all.

            No it doesn’t because the inbound trains are full when they get to the city line. If there is a train full of people wanting to go to Manhattan they don’t have to stop every ten or twenty blocks until they get there. Wikipedia is mum about distances for BART. The usual number tossed around for Caltrain between San Francisco and San Jose is 50 miles. That would be Brewster. Ish. BART goes the long way around the Bay.

      • Nilo

        In 2019, despite running more trains at peak than the LIRR MRNN was actually running less floor space into Manhattan.

    • Alon Levy

      I expect a modernized commuter rail network to also get high urban ridership. What I call Line 3, coming from the east, barely even serves the suburbs – it makes local stops in Queens and then goes to Hempstead and East Garden City, acting as a mainline version of the Queens Super-Express plans from the 1970s. The other lines are intended to get heavy city ridership as well, Lines 2 and 4 acting as a Lex relief, Line 1 serving PSA and also running parallel to the 7, and Line 5 running near the A/C.

      • adirondacker12800

        barely even serves the suburbs
        Just because it consolidated into the city in 1899 doesn’t mean it’s not-suburban….. Rego Park was farmland a century ago. Still quite suburban to my eyes. Has something to with single family houses and two car garages.
        Most places, East Garden City would be in a different MSA if it wasn’t farmland.
        Lines 2 and 4 acting as a Lex relief,
        They can get to Grand Central from the stations in the Bronx already. They don’t but they can.
        Line 1 serving PSA and also running parallel to the 7,
        They can get on the LIRR from the buses that converge on Flushing. They don’t but they can.
        The Corona Station closed in 1964, I suspect for lack of interest. Elmhurst closed in 1985, likely also for lack of interest. … the Rego Park LIRR station closed in 1962 when service on the remnants of the Rockaway Beach line was abandoned. For lack of interest.
        These people have alternatives that are somehow “better”.

      • adirondacker12800

        The super express was going to go to Springfield Gardens, not Floral Park. Those pesky Long Islanders went and used up all the capacity on the LIRR.

        And those pesky people in Western Queens went and used the capacity on the subway lines. And the people in Westchester and Connectcut used up most of it along Webster Ave. And hipsters in Bushwick are clogging the Canarsie line.
        …but then I’m not real sure how they were going to run more trains to Grand Central from Long Island and more super express subway trains too. There was a blurb about LIRR service to “the general vicinity of Broad Street” I suspect they were were eyeing using the Montague Street tunnel and the excess platforms at Chambers Street on the Nassau Street line.

    • Onux

      Car(e)-Free-LA, this is an *excellent* analysis, and I commend more rational thought on network design than most. There are three things to consider, however:

      1. Although population is evenly distributed across the Hudson, demand is not. MNR and LIRR combined have three times the ridership of NJT. Some of this is chicken-and-egg regarding capacity (they each have 4 tracks into Manhattan where NJT has 2), but a result of the century plus of capacity disparity is that live-work patterns favor demand from the east. Giving NJT equal capacity wouldn’t mean equal ridership.

      2. Geographically, population in Westchester/Conn. is funneled to NYC, and exclusively so for Long Is. The catchment population you give for W of Hudson includes places like Trenton that are closer to Phila. than NYC. Thus for an equal pop. we should expect more ridership from E of Hudson even if capacity was equal.

      3. With 8 tracks from the N and E (10 including W Side Railway), balancing capacity to population would require 6 new cross Hudson tracks, or Gateway times three, which really isn’t practical or necessary right now.

      Adirondacker is correct that after Gateway the next cross-Hudson priority should be through downtown from Hoboken to Atlantic Terminal. In addition to downtown’s size, a station under the Fulton St complex has incredible subway connections. But a lower Hudson crossing would already be matched with Atlantic branch tracks, still leaving more tracks to the E than the W.

      Given existing infrastructure, the best bet is to connect the new Hudson tunnels to GCT going north (ARC Alt G, again). Then two of the E River tunnels could be rerouted to also connect to GCT (“ESA Alt G”). At this point ESA becomes a waste of billions and abandoned, and the lower level of the 63rd St Tunnel could be converted to some future subway line.

      With this setup plus the Hoboken to Brooklyn line, then a single connection at Jamaica, GCT, Penn, or Secaucus gives a ride from anywhere to anywhere in the region. Some single connection rides don’t make sense (Bergen to DT to Jamaica to transfer to a line going from LI to White Plains) but they are possible.

      In any scenario, however, you are correct that routing trains from LI to the Hudson line via the west side railway is unnecessary. Although it is attractive because it makes it easy to “through route” without further construction, there is not much point to through routing if you are giving LI residents a scenic view of Riverside Park and a stop in Croton instead of stops at 125th St and Fordham.

      • adirondacker12800

        MNR and LIRR combined have three times the ridership of NJT.

        More New Jerseyans take the bus to Manhattan than take a NJTransit train. Many of them go to the train station, that has passenger trains, to get on a bus. Because taking the train to Midtown sucks. It’s not that bad if you want to go to Wall Street. Quite a few New Jerseyans get off the train in New Jersey to transfer to PATH. Bus ridership, into Manhattan from Long Island or Westchester is approximately zero. There are masochists who take a bus to the end of a subway line and schlep in that way. They might be doing that schlep for intermediate points too.

        https://www.panynj.gov/bridges-tunnels/en/lincoln-tunnel/xbl.html

        Trenton that are closer to Phila.

        Trenton is closer to Manhattan than New Haven or Poughkeepsie. SEPTA converts a station with low platforms to level boarding once a decade or so. SEPTA’s Trenton line still has stations with low platforms. Takes forever to make a stop. NJTransit has level boarding and it takes an express a few minutes longer to get to New York than it takes SEPTA to get to Philadelphia

        Short single level SEPTA trains toddle into Trenton around once an hour. Last time I looked there was a, as in one, rush hour express. NJTransit runs multiple, long multilevels, per hour. Approximately half the people using Trenton or Hamilton are Pennsylvanians going to Manhattan. The Pennsylvanians can get off in Newark and transfer to PATH too. I’m not in the mood to ferret out details. There may be more Pennsylvanians commuting on NJTransit to Manhattan than there are Pennsylvanians on SEPTA’s Trenton line commuting to Philadelphia. …. There are a few Pennsylvanian masochists who take SEPTA to Trenton to change to a NJ Transit train for NY. And a few non masochists who do it with an Amtrak monthly ticket using Cornwells Heights.

        population in Westchester/Conn. is funneled to NYC

        They can get to all sorts of places all over New England and Upstate New York. They don’t. If you look at American Community Survey numbers they work in the county they live in. So do the ones in Rockland County where it seems every foamer in the universe thinks there is demand for rail service across the Tappan Zee Bridge to Westchester. There isn’t. It’s for New York County a.k.a Manhattan. They already have trains that could go there. Someday. Right now they have to change in Secaucus or Hoboken.

        With 8 tracks from the N and E

        It’s four to the north or four to the east. Contrary to foamer belief Long Islanders don’t have overwhelming desires to shop in Macy’s White Plains. Or Macy’s Short Hills. Or work in Westchester/Connecticut or New Jersey. There’s a much richer employment market in Manhattan. And a truly spectacular Macy’s.

        LI residents a scenic view of Riverside Park and a stop in Croton instead of stops at 125th St and Fordham.

        The railroad is mostly under the park. You get to see concrete walls or glimpses of the river and New Jersey through the support columns. Or underpinnings of condos where the yards used to be. It peeks out here and there in the trench through the 30s, 40s and 50s. Fordham doesn’t have a Macy’s. There’s one in Parkchester and another one in Co-op City. Though why someone on Long Island, New Jersey or even Westchester would want to do that because there are Macy’s out there too. And a truly spectacular Macy’s in Manhattan. Much closer to Penn Station than any of the suburban stores are to a suburban station.

        best bet is to connect the new Hudson tunnels to GCT

        Someday soon Long Islanders will be able to change to any Metro North line their little hearts desire at Grand Central. And vice versa. Soon after that New Jerseyans will be able to change to Hudson line and New Haven line trains in Penn Station. Without building anything at all. They won’t be able to get to Harlem line stations or the New Haven Line stations between Woodlawn and New Rochelle. That’s too bad.

        • Eric2

          Oryx gave you a nice compliment, and you had to ruin the impression by replying with a gigantic flood of mostly irrelevancies.

          • adirondacker12800

            What’s irrelevant?
            I lived in New Jersey most of my life. Where, depending on the time of day and the day of the week, trips into Manhattan had the decision about whether to take a bus to the Port Authority Bus Terminal, a bus to Penn Station Newark, for a train or drive in. Decades ago ago traffic was a lot better and the bus to the PABT or driving in looked a lot different than they do today. And it depends on the destination. South of 23rd Street PATH makes a lot of sense. Weekdays while there is direct service to Journal Square. The bus or commuter train isn’t an option late at night. PATH runs 24 hours a day.
            I had a job that took me all over the metro area. In a van that was hauling what we were installing. I’m moderately familiar with east of Hudson suburbs. I’ve had zero interest in going to Westchester or Nassau, other than in one of those vans. I’ve been to Suffolk County once. It wasn’t near an LIRR station. I did and do go to Fairfield County often but I have relatives there. Never thought of taking the train because it would take too long. And while they live near Metro North stations it’s unlikely any of those would have service to New Jersey. Stations in Fairfield County have had service to New Jersey since Penn Station opened over a century ago.
            I used to go to the outer boroughs quite frequently but that’s because off hours it was a 45 minute, hour long drive. With free parking. It’s a four of five hour drive now so I do it a lot less. If it involves paid parking I take the train. Not often because it’s still four or five hours.
            Without looking at Alon’s map again I knew there wasn’t a one seat ride from Brooklyn to Newark and Hoboken. I then checked, there isn’t to either. There could be a train between Brooklyn and Newark every five-ish minutes during rush hours. Masochists who risk taking unlinked flights could use it to get between JFK and EWR. It would make it easier to get to the places along the Brighton Line (Q train) that I visit. The places I visit along the Culver Line (F train) I’d still be taking a Fulton line train (an A or C train) from the the World Trade Center, however I got there, to change to the F. If it involved taking a Penn Station train to Secaucus to change to a Wall Street train, I’d take PATH. It would be faster.
            …. I lived in New Jersey most of my life. I understand there are usually three ways to get to Manhattan and once there, the subway has local and express service that has places to change trains in the outer boroughs. There are or could be cheaper alternatives to building billion dollar stations in Hudson County, Manhattan or Brooklyn. What’s irrelevant?

          • Richard Mlynarik

            Oryx gave you a nice compliment, and you had to ruin the impression by replying with a gigantic flood of mostly irrelevancies.

            Usenet newsgroup readers used to have “kill files” and “score files”. You didn’t have to see nonsense. You could outsource that to your personal robotic servant. But here in the future it is up to you, global citizen, to tediously and repetitively recognize nonsense — LIKE AN ANIMAL, without machines to do this tedious mechanical labour for you — and to ignore it, entirely manually. Over and over and over and over.

      • Car(e)-Free LA

        Thanks for your response. I think you’re right in identifying the “crux” of my argument: that allocating the Hudson line and nothing else to 1/5th of track capacity into Manhattan is a really bad use of resources. If anything, the population figures I threw out are useful only to reveal how insignificant the Hudson line is compared to basically every other route in the tri-state area. Keep Alon’s system; reconfigure this one specific line for a fourth trans-Hudson tunnel, to be prioritized below Gateway and Secaucus-Downtown-Brooklyn.

        If there’s anything to be gained from Adirondacker’s textwall, it’s that lots of people from Jersey go to Manhattan by bus, while nobody from Westchester or Long Island does. This is very true, and it’s also a policy failure. Busses to the world’s biggest CBD are slow, operationally expensive, and inferior. Their presence represents an enormous unmet demand for expanded rail service, particularly from Hudson and Bergen Counties, into Manhattan. In a well-designed system, the Port Authority Bus Terminal wouldn’t exist. With that in mind, I’m pretty comfortable prescribing more regional tracks into Manhattan from the west. For whatever it’s worth, the population figures I threw in don’t even extend as far south as Princeton, let alone Trenton.

        • adirondacker12800

          Busses to the world’s biggest CBD are slow, operationally expensive, and inferior.
          They are faster than taking the train to Midtown. People take the train to get Downtown, which is why there are still trains in many places. Level boarding and electrification would do a lot to speed the trains up.
          In a well-designed system, the Port Authority Bus Terminal wouldn’t exist.
          The buses from places that don’t have trains and never will, have to have someplace to go. There are 300 million-ish people past the west end of the Lincoln Tunnel. They scurry in and out of the tunnel without clogging local traffic much.

  9. Tunnelvision

    Although it does not fix the Penn Station issue the East Bound Reroute and Westbound Bypass being constructed in Harold Interlocking for the East Side Access project get Amtrak trains out of the way of LIRR trains in Harold helping with the East River tunnel issues.

    As for taking any line from Penn to GCT there’s an issue with any alignment, Water Tunnel 1 gets in the way especially if your trying to link to ESA. We looked at connecting GCT to Penn when Gateway was ARC. Water Tunnel 1 and all the other stuff under Park Ave makes this a very challenging connection at any elevation unless you go with a tunnel deeper than the new ESA project.

    • adirondacker12800

      The dirty little secret of any reasonable plan to get New Jerseyans to Grand Central is that lots of people will be changing trains. People who want to go to Grand Central don’t need to see the platforms at Penn Station. Extend East Side Access to Secaucus, they could change trains there.
      ….ARC’s “continuing to Rockefeller Center” got deleted relatively fast. … People aren’t stupid, they would get off at Penn Station and take the subway because that would be faster. Same way they aren’t going to take a longer trip from Newark to get to Wall Street via Secaucus. Someday when Son of East Side Access gets built under Fulton Street.

      • Tunnelvision

        Getting ESA anywhere would be a problem as the tail tracks house a ventilation plant at 38th St……and there’s one of the TBM’s buried in concrete around 37th St. I mean that can be fixed but the water tunnels are a real issue if your aiming for Penn St, certainly they were to connect into the 34th St ARC station. The other big problem is that ESA was designed for the M7’s and bi levels don’t fit, primarily because the immersed tube tunnel at 63rd st built in the 60’s could not easily be expanded. SO NJ Transit with its fixation on Bi Levels would be excluded, but LIRR could get into NJ except for the fact its third rail not catenary and no ones using diesel locos in such tunnels as the ventilation systems are not designed for them…..The invert had to be milled out to get the new direct fixation track in for the single deckers as it is…… Given that ESA has gradients over 2% already I don’t recall gradients being an issue.

        Getting to Secaucus though from GCT……interesting concept. The alignment would be horrendous and the cost of obtaining the easement under the private property would not exactly be cheap. Even getting from Park Ave to say 34th St would be very expensive before you even put a shovel in the ground. Then you would need to get across Manhattan. thread between 7 Line extension and City Water tunnel #3, get beneath the Hudson Bullhead, a massive problem for Gateway, get deep enough under the Hudson to avoid buoyancy issues in the tunnels and then get back up to a station at Secaucus which is located on top of a swamp………..

        There was talk a while ago about a possible extension of the 7 Line to Secaucus……smaller tunnels might make that more do-able. The buoyancy issues for the Gateway tunnels due to their diameter for bi-levels plus separate emergency egress corridors as no one in their right mind wants to undertake ground treatment and hand mining to link the twin tunnels by cross passages beneath the Hudson. But subway tunnels would be smaller and make that an “easier” engineering challenge to overcome. Not sure of the grades needed though, one of the reasons Gateway loops south away from the existing tunnel is grade issues allied to buoyancy and ground cover issues.

        • adirondacker12800

          Don’t aim for Penn Station. No one seems to be bothered that East Side Access trains don’t go to Penn Station. No one seems to be bothered that Penn Station Access trains won’t be going to Grand Central either. There is enough demand that trains don’t have to go to Penn Station. Same logic as LIRR or Metro North service to either.
          East Side Access takes a broad sweeping curve across the 50s. If I remember correctly “1,500 easements” Since it’s not going to Penn Station it could take a broad sweeping curve across the 20s. Which also keeps it out of the way of any future tunnels to Penn Station. It would cause huge amounts of screeching. Use Madison Square Park for the hole for the TBMs.
          Rumors on railroad.net are that you can’t even get an M8 into the 63rd St. tunnel. And running third rail all over New Jersey isn’t a viable option. Terminate it at Secaucus means people change trains just like they do now for the World Trade Center.
          Spend a lot of money one third of them could go to Broad Street Newark and two thirds of them to Penn Station Newark. The people on Wall Street trains could change for Grand Central there. ………….. the stereotype is that wannabe Wall Street moguls live in Connecticut. They change trains.
          Secaucus was designed to have a mall and office towers over it. Squint at it, it’s designed to expand sideways too. ( one iteration would be for the side platforms to become islands ) There’s no reason why the non-stopping trains have to not-stop between platforms, they could fly over them. The far off in the future, very unlikely scenario, is that the very high speed intercity trains don’t stop in New Jersey. They don’t need to go through Secaucus station to do that.
          7 train to New Jersey sucks except for getting to Hudson Yards. I worked on 41st and Broadway. It would be faster to walk from Penn Station, for Times Square. It might be marginally “better” for Grand Central. Not better if I want to get to Rockefeller Center or Union Square or almost any place else. You run into the problem that people complain the platforms in Manhattan are crowded, it would be adding even more people.

    • Alon Levy

      Did you use 2% or 4% grades? Because one of the planners I spoke to said that there would be some problems dodging the subway on 6th Avenue with locomotive-friendly 2%, but 4% should be fine.

      • adirondacker12800

        One of your complaints about ARC was that it was too deep. NYCsubway.org says the IND platforms are 40 feet below ground. Which means the underside of the tracks are 45ish. The FEIS for ARC says the top of the project would be at 100 to 145 feet below grade

        Click to access 0_5_executive_summary_feis.pdf

        Page ES-20. Where two sentences later it says “the NYPSE design does not preclude future rail extension to the east”

        None of this matters because Governor Christie lied about a lot of things and cancelled the project. Which should have been open by now.

  10. Herbert

    The Nuremberg area is currently debating about where to put a plant that would store, maintain and clean ICE trains overnight. There’s a lot of NIMBYism involved and sometimes it is cloaked in environmental concerns (“we can’t go to this place because that would involve cutting down trees”).

    One proposal that has led to quite a bit of debate is to, in essence, fill in one of the harbor basins (Nuremberg has an inland port on the Main Danube Canal it’s popular with cruises but freight traffic is minimal especially if one excludes that which only goes through the harbor to be passed from one truck to another). Setting aside all other issues, do you think the geometry works?

    • Alon Levy

      I don’t know, to be honest. Normally I think railyards belong at the ends of lines; the Tokaido Shinkansen stables trains near Shin-Osaka, I believe. This is especially important if it’s for overnight storage, rather than annual maintenance. Is there no place that’s closer to the ends of lines, like near Munich or Hamburg or Berlin?

      • Richard Mlynarik

        Well for intercity lines the “ends of lines” are … other CBDs.

        While the tidal balance of local and regional traffic may be from the CBD to the periphery in the evening through late night — and so there is a there is happy confluence of overnight idle rolling stock volume and of stabling real estate costs in the peripheries — an opposing tendency for inter-city trains with longer (multi-hour) run times — they depart original CBD several hours before midnight, arrive at destination CBD in the hours before and shortly after midnight and then … need locations to be serviced and turned before early morning departures which at arrive at distant CBDs during the next morning hours.

        Every non-revenue km from the CBD station(s) to and from an intercity train maintenance site represents lost minutes of overnight maintenance, and hence lower intercity fleet availability/utilization. So providing the real estate for light intercity (hub-to-hub) train maintenance and servicing close in to central city rail stations makes sense in a way that regional (periphery-to-hub) trains don’t warrant. The higher cost/train and revenue/train-hour of high-speed inter-city equipment also plays into this.

      • Andrew in Ezo

        On the Tokaido Shinkansen, the end point stabling areas are (as Alon mentioned) near Shin-Osaka in Settsu City and in Tokyo, at the Oi Vehicle Inspection Center/Depot in Shinagawa Ward. Both serve as stabling areas and have facilities for monthly/30000km inspections which don’t involve complete disassembly of car bodies. Heavy inspections (i.e. complete disassembly) are done at the Hamamatsu facility approximately midway between Tokyo and Osaka. There are two smaller facilities, one at Mishima and the other at Nagoya, that serve mainly as stabling points for shorter-distance services that don’t run the complete Shin-Osaka – Tokyo leg, and have two or three track covered sheds for running inspections of the undercarriage and catenary.

      • Sascha Claus

        Is there no place that’s closer to the ends of lines, like near Munich or Hamburg or Berlin?

        Even if that were the case, it becomes the middle of the line if trains are extended beyond Berlin, like Schwerin, Rostock or Rügen (uhh … branching!). Then you have the general problem that these routes run multiple hours, so it’s not always feasible to have all of them run to the end of the route; a midnight ICE from Berlin would arrive in Munich at 4:00 in the morning; it might make sense to short-terminate it in Halle, Leipzig or Erfurt.
        And then you have regional equality stuff, like the ICE4 maintenance depot in Cottbus.

        … and so there is a there is happy confluence of overnight idle rolling stock volume and of stabling real estate costs in the peripheries …

        A depot at the end of the line is good for trains ending there, but the furthest away for trains ending at the other end of the line. And also for trains ending at the ends of all the other lines which don’t have a circumferential bypass and have to go through the center to reach the depot.

    • Sascha Claus

      There’s a lot of NIMBYism involved and sometimes it is cloaked in environmental concerns (“we can’t go to this place because that would involve cutting down trees”).

      Surely they were even more concerned about all those warehouses in the commercial area by the A6 between Kreuz Nürnberg Süd and Nürnberg Ost. >:-> That certainly required a lot more trees to be cut down.

      One proposal that has led to quite a bit of debate is to, in essence, fill in one of the harbor basins (Nuremberg has an inland port on the Main Danube Canal […] but freight traffic is minimal especially if one excludes that which only goes through the harbor to be passed from one truck to another).

      There ssems to be only one basin remaining, but a lot of truck-to-truck transshipment halls, including one of DB Schenker. The location in a rail-connected harbour and orientation parallel to the basin seems to be perfect for a rail connection, but of course nothing was done. 😦 (There’s also the likely lack of a rail connection at the other end of the transport, the chicken-egg-problem.)

  11. adirondacker12800

    It all costs too much. They spent 8 billion rehabbing LaGuardia, rebuilding terminal A at Newark is almost 3 billion which implies rebuilding B and C would cost as much. I just stumbled across a blurb that the Port Authority is considering a 13 billion plan for JFK. For less passengers than Penn Station handles, per day.

  12. Pingback: How Many Tracks Do Train Stations Need? | Pedestrian Observations
  13. Pingback: I Gave a Talk About Through-Running | Pedestrian Observations

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