Who Through-Running is For

Shaul Picker is working on an FAQ for the benefit of people in the New York area about the concept of commuter rail through-running and what it’s good for. So in addition to contributing on some specific points, I’d like to step back for a moment and go over who the expected users are. This post needs to be thought of as a followup from what I wrote a month ago in which I listed the various travel markets used by modern commuter rail in general, making the point that this is a predominantly urban and inner-suburban mode, in which suburban rush hour commuters to city center are an important but secondary group, even where politically commuter rail is conceived of as For the Suburbs in opposition to the city, as in Munich. My post was about all-day frequency, but the same point can be made about the physical infrastructure for through-running, with some modifications.

The overall travel markets for regional rail

The assumption throughout is that the city region has with a strong center. This can come from a few square kilometers of city center skyscrapers, as is the norm in the United States (for example, in New York, Chicago, or Boston, but not weaker-centered Los Angeles), or from a somewhat wider region with office mid-rises, as is the norm in European cities like Paris, Stockholm, Munich, Zurich, and Berlin. Berlin is polycentric in the sense of having different job centers, including Mitte, City-West at the Zoo, and increasingly Friedrichshain at Warschauer Strasse, but these are all within the Ring, and overall this inner zone dominates citywide destinations. In cities like this, the main travel markets for commuter rail are, in roughly descending order of importance,

  • Urban commuter trips to city center
  • Commuter trips to a near-center destination, which may not be right at the one train station of traditional operations
  • Urban non-work trips, of the same kind as subway ridership
  • Middle-class suburban commutes to city center at traditional mid-20th century work hours, the only market the American commuter rail model serves today
  • Working-class reverse-commutes, not to any visible office site (which would tilt middle-class) but to diffuse retail, care, and service work
  • Suburban work and non-work trips to city center that are not at traditional mid-20th century hours
  • Middle-class reverse-commutes and cross-city commutes

I center urban commuter trips because even in places with extensive suburbanization, commutes are more urban than suburban. Long Island, an unusually job-poor, commuter-oriented suburb, has 2.9 million people as of the 2020 census and, per OnTheMap, 191,202 Manhattan-bound commuters and 193,536 outer borough-bound commuters. Queens has 2.4 million people, 871,253 in-city commuters, 384,223 Manhattan-bound commuters, and 178,062 commuters to boroughs other than itself and Manhattan. The Metro-North suburbs – Westchester, Putnam, Dutchess, and Fairfield Counties (New Haven omitted as it’s not really a suburb) – have 2.35 million people and 143,862 Manhattan-bound commuters and 79,821 outer borough-bound commuters. To work regionwide, commuter rail needs to be usable by the largest commute market; it’s urban rail that’s capable of also serving the suburbs without building suburban metro tunnels, rather than predominantly suburban rail.


Through-running means that trains run from one side of the region to the other through city center, rather than terminating at a traditional city terminal. Rarely, this means running trains through a city center station that already has through-tracks, like Penn Station or Stockholm Central; usually, this requires building new tunnels to connect different terminals, as it would to get to Grand Central and as it did in the other European comparison cases.

This rearranges the travel markets for commuter rail, but only somewhat. The largest group, urban commuters to city center, shrinks somewhat: terminating trains to some extent already serve it. The qualifiers come from the fact that city center is rarely entirely within walking distance of the terminal; it is in Stockholm, but it’s small and I suspect the reason Stockholm’s monocentric CBD is walking distance from the intercity station is that it opened as a through-station in 1871 already. In Boston, most of the CBD is close to South Station, but much of it isn’t, and little is within walking distance of North Station. In New York, the CBD is large enough that service to multiple destinations is desirable when feasible, for example both East Side and West Side destinations in Midtown and even Lower Manhattan, requiring additional through-running commuter rail tunnels.

What really shines with through-running is urban trips that are not commutes, or are commutes to a near-center destination on the wrong side of the CBD (for example, south of it for commuters from Uptown Manhattan or the Bronx). New York is unusually asymmetric in that there’s much more city east of Manhattan than west of it, where there’s just the urban parts of Hudson County and Newark. But even there, New Jersey-Brooklyn and New Jersey-Queens commutes matter, as do Bronx-Brooklyn commutes.

This image was made for a 2017 article and is as of 2015; numbers as of the eve of corona are different and somewhat higher.

Even then, the urban commutes are significant: there are 55,000 commuters from the Bronx to Manhattan south of 23rd Street. These in-city travel markets are viable by subway today, but are for the most part slow even on the express trains – the A train’s run from Inwood to Jay Street and the 4’s run from Woodlawn to Brooklyn Bridge are both scheduled to take 45 minutes for 22.5 km, an average speed of 30 km/h. And then the New Jersey-to-outer borough commutes are largely unviable by public transportation – they cost double because there’s no fare integration between PATH and the subway and the transfers are onerous and slow, and besides, PATH’s coverage of the urban parts of North Jersey leaves a lot to be desired.

Adapting the city

Berlin is in a way the most S-Bahn-oriented city I know of. It’s polycentric but all centers are within the Ring and close to either the Stadtbahn or (for Potsdamer Platz) the North-South Tunnel. This shouldn’t be surprising – the Stadtbahn has been running since the 1880s, giving the city time to adapt to it, through multiple regime changes, division, and reunification. Even Paris doesn’t quite compare – the RER’s center, Les Halles, is a retail but not job center, and the five-line system only has two CBD stops, the RER A’s Auber and the RER E’s Haussmann-Saint-Lazare.

Can New York become more like Berlin if it builds through-running? The answer is yes. Midtown would remain dominant, and overall the region would become less rather than more polycentric as better commuter rail service encouraged job growth in the Manhattan core. But it’s likely any of the following changes would grow the market for commuter rail to take advantage of through-running over time:

  • Job growth in Lower Manhattan, which has struggled with office vacancy for decades
  • Job growth in non-CBD parts of Manhattan that would become accessible, like Union Square, or even Midtown South around Penn Station, which is lower-rise than the 40s and 50s
  • Job growth in near-center job centers – Downtown Brooklyn may see a revival, and Long Island City is likely to see a larger upswing than it is already seeing if it becomes more accessible from New Jersey and not just the city
  • Residential location adjustment – Brooklyn workers may choose to depend on the system and live in the Bronx or parts of New Jersey with good service instead of moving farther out within Brooklyn or suburbanizing and driving to work
  • Residential transit-oriented development near outlying stations, in urban as well as suburban areas


  1. Diego

    Commutes to the “wrong side” of city centre are indeed very important. In my crayon for East-West through-running in Brussels, I imagine the main beneficiaries to be people in Southeastern suburbs having a more convenient commute to downtown and especially people in Northwestern suburbs having a good commute to the European Quarter just East of city centre. Everything I said about suburbs also applies for outer city neighbourhoods in the same directions.

    Suburb to suburb travel markets will also be served but they can’t really compare. Yes there’s the university UCL in the Southeast in Louvain-La-Neuve, and the downtowns of Aalst and Dendermonde, but that’s pretty much it as far as concentrated travel destinations go.

  2. Phake Nick

    Through run benefit everyone including commuters to city center since as stated city center is rarely a single station. Thus through running can allow increased accessibility to different part of city center from various location around the entire network, on top of directly accessing one side of the line from another side.

    Through run xan also increase transfer opportunity. If line A come in from west side of a city and terminate at north side of a city, while line B come in from east side of a city and terminate at south side of a city, they won’t intersect and thus passengers wouldn’t be able to transfer between the two lines directly. But line A through run toward the east or line B through run toward the west, then ultinate the two lines could meet at certain location that could allow extra transfer opportunity.

    But one thing some people hate about through running, in addition to impact on schedule reliability, is that when a line is over capacity, if most people wait at a central terminal station then ultimately most passengers can board the train as each trains can take thousand of people away. But in the case of through running, if the train already become fully packed before arriving certain specific station, then passengers would not be possible to board the train from that station until such peak time have passed.

  3. Matthew Hutton

    There are three primary reasons I own a car, listed in order of importance:
    Suburb/town to suburb/town journeys for work or pleasure
    Local journeys for work or pleasure
    Long distance journeys for pleasure

    The hardest to do by public transport are the suburb to suburb journeys so underestimate them at your peril.

    Better suburb to suburb links with compatible stopping patterns on the long distance express services also should enable more long distance travel by public transport too.

    • Alon Levy

      Yeah, so the bigger question is, why do you need to travel suburb-to-suburb? If it’s for work, then one of the benefits of a stronger regional rail network is that it makes the CBD and near-CBD areas more accessible and therefore encourages jobs to locate there rather than deurbanizing. If it’s for pleasure, then there are other ways public transport can be improved for leisure trips, like good all-day frequency (which I think is available in Britain?), group fares for families, or even better location of leisure projects relative to train stations.

        • Matthew Hutton

          Plus the stopping patterns, especially on the west coast mainline, are very outdated.

  4. adirondacker12800

    New York area about the concept of commuter rail through-running and what it’s good for.

    Almost nothing. It would NOT be this tidy but there are ten physical branches on the LIRR or NJTransit. Which means there is a 1 in 10 chance of there being a trip on one train. It’s not ten logical branches, there are locals and expresses. That assumes everyone has an origin at a train station and are destined for one. They don’t.

          • adirondacker12800

            There is a 90 percent chance my train doesn’t go where I want to go? I still have to change trains? For twice the risk of delays?

          • Phake Nick

            As mentioned above even without direct train, through-running is still likely to help with reducing number of transfer needed for every trips. It’s likely that a throughrun service will cross multiple terminal stations inside a city instead of maybe just one before commercing throughrunning.

    • Alon Levy

      Right, because as I’m pointing out, the main benefit of through-running isn’t branch-to-branch but branch-to-other-side-of-trunk: NJ Transit to Grand Central or Long Island City, Harlem Line to Penn Station, LIRR to Newark, etc. With the longer tunnels through Lower Manhattan, add NJ Transit to Downtown Brooklyn, Bronx or Metro-North to Downtown Brooklyn, anything to Lower Manhattan…

      • adirondacker12800

        Why do New Jerseyans want to go to Long Island or vice versa? Someday far far in the future, when there are suburban trains to Wall Street they can change trains in Jamaica, Newark or Secaucus. It’s just too too bad that people on the Harlem Line will never ever be able to take a Metro North train to Penn Station. Into every life some rain will fall. Too too bad.
        And it’s too too bad that this isn’t Sim City where everything is neat and tidy. It’s not and all the trains aren’t going to be going all the places.

        • Spencer Dean

          It’s too bad sounds like defeatism. Adding choices increases the economic potential of the whole metropolitan area. People need to have in person meetings, still, for all sorts of reasons: medical, legal, business, governmental, academic, you name it. I might be an engineering professor at Rutgers in Newark and I want to spend a day working with a colleague at NYU Tandon in Brooklyn. I might be a lawyer in Queens representing a small technology business that needs to meet with a VC team in Westchester. A hedge fund manager in Conneticut that needs to meet with a technical team based in Jersey City. A Julliard professor that lives in Hoboken needs to visit a Luthier in Brooklyn.

          Just because you personally wouldn’t benefit from this kind of transportation doesn’t mean others wouldn’t.

          • adirondacker12800

            It’s apparent you don’t understand the scale. Queens would be the country’s around 30th biggest metropolitan area if you moved it to Montana. Or Newark’s metropolitan division. Or New Brunswick’s. Clump Newark and New Brunswick together, it doesn’t quite make the top ten, you get something the size of San Francisco or Seattle. Clump Queens with Nassau and Suffolk, the LIRR’s service territory excluding the shuttle to Brooklyn it would the in the top ten. Brooklyn, Queens, Nassau and Suffolk would be the country’s 4th biggest, between Chicago and Dallas-Fort Worth. You don’t understand the scale.
            Or that there are ten branches on either side of Manhattan. If everything was equal I have 90 percent chance of not being on the suburban train that goes someplace I want to go not-Manhattan. If you finagle something with Metro North it’s even lower. With twice as many delays!!

        • SB

          “Why do New Jerseyans want to go to Long Island”
          JFK airport (via Jamaica station), games and concerts at UBS Arena, racing at Belmont Park, beach (yes I know that there are beaches in New Jersey), meeting with friends or families, etc.

          • adirondacker12800

            There are funner ways to indulge your masochism than taking a train from New Jersey to Jamaica to get on AirTrain to eventually get to a terminal at JFK. Fly out of EWR to almost all the same destinations at similar fares.
            A fraction of the LIRR trains use the Main Line through Elmont which means most of your imagined fabulous rides to UBS or Belmont Park would mean changing trains anyway. Family/friends very likely means one of the branches, you will be changing trains anyway. “Beach” probably means the Montauk branch and you will likely be changing trains anyway. Meh. For twice the risk of delays!!!

        • Alon Levy

          They probably don’t, but they do want to go to LIC, Jamaica, and Flushing, and once those trains exist, might as well continue them to Long Island.

          • adirondacker12800

            Define Long Island City. The Hunterspoint Ave LIRR station is two stops away from Queensboro Plaza on 7/Flushing line. The Long Island City LIRR station is three away and doesn’t connect to Penn Station. It’s unclear if they are going to continue to serve either after Sunnyside opens. Sunnyside isn’t in Long Island City, it’s in….. Sunnyside….
            Flushing is on the lonely lonely Port Washington branch. Unless you are lucky and happen to be on the single branch in New Jersey that pairs up Port Washington trains, you’ll be changing trains anyway.
            …. and it’s not balanced. The LIRR is going to have 30 trains an hour to Penn Station someday and NJTransit will have more. If they pair up the New Haven Expresses with Trenton Expresses…. you’ll have to change trains. It’s not a blue line and a green line crossing over a red line and orange line. For twice the delays!!!

          • Alon Levy

            1. The infill station they’re planning at Queens Boulevard is walking distance to around 60,000 jobs.
            2. The train changes to the subway are extremely painful – Penn Station to Queens is only even semi-viable on the E. Changing to a train that goes to the PW Branch on the same platform or across the platform is a lot easier; this is also how Paris works, in that Métro-RER transfers are extremely painful.
            3. There’s a fair amount of east-west balance at Penn, actually. The LIRR has 37 tph to Penn right now, and with Penn Station Access there will be capacity for more. The basic 3-line through-running setup I propose has more stuff coming in from the east (with the Alt G tunnel) than from the west but that’s not that big a deal.

          • adirondacker12800

            There will always be more than two island platforms at Penn Station. The chances of something being cross platform are very low. You are imagining things to be red line and blue line crossing over a yellow line and green line. And it falls apart even more when there are 20-ish trains an hour through Wall Street providing high frequency service to stations 20 miles, 32 km, ish, out. Especially if they make some of the New Haven trains run through to New Jersey. Like they do now on certain Sundays.

          • adirondacker12800

            The eastbound cross platform transfers at Penn Station Newark are to PATH. Jamaica has six islands. Woodside or Secaucus would need major reconfiguration. Secaucus might easier because it’s in the middle of a swamp and was designed for expansion someday. Sunnyside appears to be for southbound to eastbound or westbound to northbound, which is fabulous if you live along the New Haven line or want to go to the New Haven line but isn’t very effective for getting to New Jersey. But then there already is a train every half hourish from the New Haven line to New Jersey. Which few people use…. you are imagining things that will never be attractive to normal people.

          • Alon Levy

            So, in the 3-line system that I’m crayoning, what I expect to be the transfer system to get to the Port Washington Branch is,

            – Operationally, the branch is bundled with Penn Station Access for purposes of which Hudson tunnel it gets (the preexisting one).
            – On the New Jersey side, trains from the preexisting tunnels go via Newark Penn and trains from the new tunnel go to the Morris and Essex lines (or to the Raritan Valley Line); this is also in the official service plan for after Gateway, except I don’t remember if they also bundle the RVL with M&E.
            – Because the old-tunnel trains drop to two tracks, connections to the right branch are a same-platform (not cross-platform) transfer, with a wait of 2.5 minutes peak, 5 minutes off-peak (read: PW has enough traffic demand for 5-minute peak, 10-minute off-peak service).
            – New-tunnel trains get a cross-platform transfer to old-tunnel trains at Secaucus or, if Secaucus doesn’t work for this, at an infill station to be built near the site of the old Manhattan Transfer.

          • adirondacker12800

            No one is going to build your cockamamie commuter system because it has too much capacity in the wrong places.

          • Herbert

            Shared route
            From Schweinau to Nürnberg-Schweinau via Schweinauer Hauptstraße and Eisenstraße/Elisenstraße.

            3 min (220 m)

            1. Head southwest on Schweinauer Hauptstraße toward Eisenstraße/Elisenstraße
            2. Turn right onto Eisenstraße/Elisenstraße
            3. Turn right
            4. Arrive at location: Nürnberg-Schweinau
            To see this route visit https://maps.app.goo.gl/ceHDVuRjghvcQHCa9

            Are any transfers between RER and metro worse than this absurdity in Nuremberg? By the way, what exactly is the excuse for this? Unlike the tram, the S-Bahn was always supposed to be integrated with the subway….

        • Henry Miller

          Why do people want to get from X to Y?

          If people didn’t want to get places they would live in middle of nowhere (I can name dozens of western/mountain states/areas where you can afford to own an entire square mile of land all to your self). Those places are remote and so you get to very many things you can do – going to the nearest neighbor is just barely a reasonable activity, going to the nearest store is a major event. There are lots of advantages of such a life, but most people can only take it for a week or two and then they want the advantages of civilization.

          People live in cities because of all the things they an do. A city should seek to maximize that. Who cares if only one person wants to get from place X to Y, a city should enable that.

          • df1982

            I used to live in New Haven and would regularly fly out of Newark (since plenty of destinations are only serviced by one of the three major NY airports). This meant: Metro North from New Haven Union to Grand Central, subway to Times Square, another subway to Penn, then NJ Transit to Newark Liberty. Four trains, three changes (none of which were cross-platform) and three different ticketing systems, and that’s before factoring the Air Train into the equation. I would have to leave my house ca. 6 hours before the flight departure time. I could have taken a direct Amtrak but that was way more expensive, infrequent and not reliable.

            With a through-running plan the same trip would either be a frequent, reliable direct train or, at worst, a single cross-platform interchange which would be about as hard as changing from an express to a local on the subway. And all on a single ticket/smartcard system. That would have been a big win.

            Likewise, I had a friend who commuted from Crown Heights to Stamford. The subway to Grand Central took longer than the Metro North from GC to Stamford. Having through running to the Atlantic branch would take more than an hour off of that round-trip commute, even if it involved a change of trains. A massive win for him and, more importantly, his kids.

            But no, through-running is good for “almost nothing”.

          • adirondacker12800

            Picking dates in January and using single ride fares on Metro North, the subway and NJTransit versus a one seat ride on Amtrak you saved a whole six bucks and wasted hours. There are funner ways to get your masochism.
            Taking the 4 train to Atlantic Ave and changing to Metro North there, assuming Metro North ever goes to Brooklyn, Alon wants to send it directly to Staten Island, versus taking the 4 train to Grand Central would save minutes and minutes. Maybe even ten. The Census Bureau publishes estimates of how many people live in Brooklyn and work in Fairfield. It’s “not many”. It’s always going to be “not many” because there are lot of jobs in Manhattan, or even Brooklyn, that are a much shorter commute. You are imagining things.

          • df1982

            I’m not imagining things, I gave you concrete real-life examples where through-running would be immensely beneficial to people’s lives. If you can’t see that, that’s your problem.

            Getting an Amtrak to Newark gets way more expensive closer to the date, and people don’t always have the luxury to plan their airport transfer several months in advance, I’m afraid. But the biggest problem is reliability. Metro North and NJ Transit at least have decent on-time running, with Amtrak it’s a crap shoot, and you want to avoid missing your flight at all costs, so there are no real time savings. Of course you can and should fix reliability on the NEC, but that’s a project that would go in tandem with through-running.

            Have you ever been on a morning Metro North to Stamford? There are a hell of a lot of reverse-peak commuters. And there would be even more from places like Brooklyn (or even Jersey) if through-running was introduced. That’s the whole point.

          • adirondacker12800

            You book a very expensive flight and then spend six hours saving a few bucks. There are very expensive flights out of Bradley too. And the limo ride would be a lot cheaper. I suspect the bus from Grand Central to Newark Airport will still be running in the future. There’s that option.
            The theoretical trains from Grand Central to Flatbush Ave. aren’t going to be diving into a wormhole and instantaneously appearing in Brooklyn. The 4 train takes between 21 and 23 minutes to get between the the two. A commuter train wouldn’t be much faster. Getting from Brooklyn to Fairfield county is never going to as fast as staying in Brooklyn or getting to Manhattan and the amount of people who decide to take jobs in Stamford is always going to be “not many”. They can spend billions of dollars on moving people will there will be “the country’s 10th largest mass transit system” instead of “not many”.

          • df1982

            You’re clutching at straws: Bradley doesn’t have the same connections as Newark, as anyone even remotely familiar with aviation in that area would know. The bus from Grand Central to Newark takes longer than the train and gets caught in traffic. There’s no real way to reliably do that journey significantly quicker than what I outlined above, and there are plenty of people in New Haven who do precisely that. The direct Amtrak trains, by the way, come roughly every three hours, so cost aside it’s actually pretty rare that they line up with flight departure times. I know, I actually did look at the different options. Maybe you could give people a bit of credit once in a while.

            Same with the Stamford commute. From Nostrand Av it in theory takes 30min. In practice it takes reliably longer than that in peak-hour, and added to the time consuming transfer at GC, it means that commuters have to give themselves a very generous buffer if they need to get on a particular train to a place like Stamford. Probably more like 45min. A regional rail from the Atlantic branch’s Nostrand station could conceivably do the same trip in 15-20min. Add a few minutes for interchanging and you’re still way ahead of the status quo.

            This is why through-running and increasing frequency and reliability on the commuter rail network would shave significant amounts of time off of those kinds of commutes, and make more kinds of these trips possible. Not everyone has the luxury of turning down a good job in Stamford just so they can “stay in Brooklyn”. Fixing the area’s transportation system means giving its 20 million people dramatically more options for work, study and social connections. Try to understand this instead of running your mouth off about things you don’t know.

          • adirondacker12800

            I know how it works. I arranged my life so the bus stop at the corner had service to the Port Authority Bus Terminal and service, on a different bus, to Penn Station Newark.

            I know how these aeroplanes work too. Bradley has service to bunch of hubs on more than a few airlines where you can walk across the concourse to a connecting flight instead of taking five trains to get to a terminal in Newark. Though if you are doing it at O’Hare or Atlanta you might have to walk to the next concourse.

            For dates in January, Amtrak is offering me 19 trains between New Haven and Penn Station Newark. Where instead of hiking from a Metro North train to the shuttle, changing in Times Square for a 1, 2 or 3 and hiking across Penn Station, you can walk across the platform to a NJtransit trains to the airport. If the Amtrak train that stops at the airport, doesn’t fit your schedule. There are funner ways to get your masochism.

            The hypothetical train to Stamford isn’t going to stop at Nostrand Ave and Eastern Parkway. If they go to Brooklyn at all. The unicorn job available in Stamford isn’t a good reason to contort things for the few dozen people it might be marginally helpful to. And it doesn’t help the person who took the unicorn job in Hackensack, Or lives in Queens. It doesn’t increase reliability outside of Sim City, it gives twice as many people twice the chance of delays/cancellations.

          • Alon Levy

            The unicorn job available in Stamford isn’t a good reason to contort things for the few dozen people it might be marginally helpful to.

            OnTheMap tells me there are 1,387 New Jersey -> Stamford commuters as of 2019 and 634 Stamford -> New Jersey commuters. The latter market is mostly people working right next to the road crossings, like Fort Lee; the former isn’t – Bergen, Passaic, and Hudson Counties are only 731 of the 1,387 residents, and even they are partly serviceable with better commuter rail (e.g. by changing at Secaucus).

          • adirondacker12800

            If you live in Fort Lee it doesn’t matter if there is a New Haven-Trenton express. Though I suspect Metro North would be more inclined to make it New Haven-Poughkeepsie. That wouldn’t help either. The magical New Haven-Babylon train, through Brooklyn, doesn’t either. It doesn’t if you four track the Staten Island Railway so the Bay Head – New Haven trains can express through Staten Island either.
            Why would most of Hudson County go to Secaucus? Most of Hudson County lives along the Hudson. there’s swamp, Secaucus and more swamp until you get to western Hudson. Your view across Ninth Avenue is showing.

          • adirondacker12800

            Big whoppee. Instead of changing trains in Penn Station they’d be able to change trains in Secaucus. Where there are less services. I suspect forever and ever and ever they are going to clever things, like they do now and instead of having ten tunnels under the river they will have a train use the tunnel every three minutes or so. Few trains are going to have well timed transfers, for far flung suburb to far flung suburb. It works real well in Sim City where it’s a red line and orange line crossing over a blue line and green line.

            Not all of them live at a train station and not all of the jobs are going to be at a train station. Nor are all of them actually commuting because the question on the ACS is where did you work last WEEK. Which is why it’s not uncommon for Los Angeles County California to show up as residence county all over the country. So does Honolulu County, Hawaii. People ain’t commuting, daily, transcontinentally or from Hawaii to the mainland.

            Complicated fourth grade arithmetic rears it’s ugly head too. In very round numbers the commuter systems were carrying a million passengers on weekdays. 2,000 people a day is two tenths of one percent. It would be overwhelmed by events at Yankee Stadium, Citifield or the Meadowlands. As far as I know the LIRR runs extra trains when there are events at Barclay’s. It’s rounding errors/variations in day to day demand, not a design concern.

          • Alon Levy

            They’re not changing trains at Penn Station now, because there are no trains from where they live to Penn Station. Come on.

          • adirondacker12800

            And there isn’t going to be any magical through running train until after Gateway opens and there are trains to Penn Station. If the Metro North trains go to Staten Island they won’t be doing that through New Jersey.

            You have to juggle more than one thing in your addled brain at once. All the trains aren’t going to be going to all the stations. It would be too much capacity and cost too much money.

            The first thing you have to decide is that Long Island the trains through Wall Street to New Jersey must go to Newark. If they don’t go to Newark people will use PATH. And how many of there there are going to be. 18 an hour means there can be three branches with service every ten minutes in southeastern Queens. Without building much east of Jamaica. Or in New Jersey west of Jersey City. 24 there can be four branches. With the magic of timed transfers some of them could even be cross platform…. just like to do now in Newark and Jamaica.

          • Alon Levy

            There aren’t going to be trains from that area to Penn Station after Gateway. There are plans to do so with the Bergen Loop, but that loop is not going to be built (at this point they’re even sort of descoping the four-track Portal Bridge from the highest-priority Gateway elements), so in practice it’s a Secaucus transfer.

            The other issue is, 2,000 is just commuters to and from Stamford. If you add up Queens, Long Island, the Bronx, Westchester, and all of Connecticut, it’s 73,338 westbound commuters and 97,776 eastbound ones. (I’m ignoring Brooklyn for now.) In both cases, a bit more than half of the New Jersey trips involve Hudson, Passaic, and Bergen Counties – and if you remove these you’re still left with around 80,000 commuters, so 160,000 trips, in a region where the total number of linked commuter rail trips before corona was around 800,000. So it’s a lot more than 0.2%.

          • adirondacker12800

            Amtrak sells monthlies. The question on the ACS is “Where did you work last WEEK” not where did you work for the majority of the year. It’s how people who reside in Hawaii manage to work on the mainland.

            Ya made me go look at an old ACS. There were 2200 residents of Fairfield County Connecticut that worked in all of New Jersey. 343,000 of them worked in Fairfield County. That’s 6 tenths of percent of the people who live and work in Fairfield. It’s ten percent-ish of the people who commute to New York County a.k.a. Manhattan. Or ten percent-ish of the people who commute to New Haven County. This not a great concern of NJDOT, CTDOT or NYDOT and it’s not a design consideration for trains either. Anything that happens will be a nice side effect. And no matter how hard you clap, long distance commutes take more time than short distance commutes. Not very many unicorns doubles it’s still not many unicorns.

            It would be very very silly to have four tracks of railroad under the Hudson and two in New Jersey. Apparently they have land acquisition for the second bridge completed and preliminary engineering. Gives them plenty of time to reopen environmental etc. in 2033 when Gateway is expected to open in 2045. 50 years after we needed it. ….They will have four tracks between the time the new bridge is completed and the old bridge gets torn down. They can postpone tearing it down for a few years because the second bridge has been delayed. It also gives High Line Park fabulists time to imagine people want to bicycle from a desolate place on one side of a swamp to a desolate place on the other side.

            There will be trains from Bergen and Passaic because the state knows how much cheaper it is to have people walk to the train station and get on train instead of walking down to the train station to get on a bus. It’s why they run trains to Hoboken and not buses. When Midtown Direct opened ridership met 15 year projections within months. The New York City buses I used are a shadow of their former selves. …..They know how much cheaper trains are and how much more popular they will be. It’s why we needed new tunnels in 1996 not 2010.

            Trains don’t get stuck in Lincoln Tunnel traffic. The Port Authority will be delighted because that will get lots of buses out of the their bus terminal. Throwing a few billion Port Authority dollars at trains saves them billions over expanding bus terminal that doesn’t have enough Lincoln Tunnel. …. they rummaged around in their couch cushions to find 3 billion for Access to the Region’s Core. Which should have been open by now. They will be rummaging around in the cushions to build “the Loop” too.

  5. Herbert

    Are there S-Bahn networks you’d call “truly polycentric”? I’d say at least in terms of jobs, the Nuremberg metro area is pretty polycentric, what with the University in Erlangen and whatnot…

    • Alon Levy

      Rhine-Ruhr… but it’s also the weakest among the major German ones. (Same thing in Upper Silesia, which is way more auto-oriented than Warsaw.)

  6. Robert Campbell

    Philadelphia does have through running of trains in Center City linking what were the Pennsy and Reading downtown commuter lines. There are also commuter trains that are all in the city limits (the two Chestnut Hill lines) and the Fox Chase and Bala/Cynwyd lines (mostly city passengers). Boston does have the Fairmount line mostly for city customer and there is a line in Chicago going south mostly in the city (a former Rock Island service).

  7. Philly Cheesesteak

    I’d like to hear more about the realities of through-running on Madrid’s Cercanias lines and the potential/fantastical ideas of through-running on Metra’s lines in Chicago (since there are many in-city stations).

    As for the New York area, I think Adirondacker’s valid points are not being recognized fully. Major issues with reliability, on-time performance, express/local patterns, and employees would also come into play.

    If someone boarding in Ridgewood wanting to go to Ronkonkoma (to catch a flight at MacArthur Airport) sees that the train is 45 minutes late in arriving from Port Jervis, what will that passenger do?

    If someone boards the express in White Plains wanting to go to Trenton, OK, no problems, that passenger can take the hypothetical White Plains-Trenton express. But what about the passenger from Hartsdale (local stop) wanting to go to Berkeley Heights (local stop on a different branch), how is that any less reliable than the current situation?

    If someone boarding in Linden wanting to go to Massapequa asks if this train stops at Massapequa or skips it, is the conductor going to answer the question or ignore it?

    OK, I can see the benefit of running NJ Transit trains into Queens or the Bronx, and Metro North and LIRR trains into urbanized Hudson/Bergen/Essex counties in NJ, but Adirondacker’s point about which branch serves which destinations on the other side of Manhattan still stands. My train from Union City to Fordham doesn’t do me much good if I want to go to Flushing.

    • Richard Mlynarik

      … I think Adirondacker’s valid points are not being recognized fully …

      Super-sophisticated multi-level neuro-buzzword corpus-trained context-aware analysis suggests … this is an embarrassment to sock puppets everywhere. Come on, dude, at least try!

      All aboard the Secaucus—Hartsdale—Massapequa express! Now boarding on track [redacted]!

    • adirondacker12800

      You have to be really desperate to go to Islip from New Jersey. There’s a big airport that serves lots more destinations in Newark. You have to be desperate to go to LGA or JFK too.

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