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Yesterday, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie viewed the Gateway announcement as a vindication of his decision to cancel ARC, but as Steinemann explains in the post below, Christie is off base. If anything, the chart is a testament to just how beneficial the ARC Tunnel promised to be, noting, for example, that ARC promised to connect commuters to the subway lines at Herald Square. In addition, Gateway’s new Penn Station South adds four new platforms serving seven tracks underground between 30th and 31st streets from 7th Ave. A critical benefit of Gateway, that is not being widely touted, is the system redundancy that the connectivity to Penn Station provides. The price comparisons between Gateway and ARC, reported at $13.5 billion and $10 billion respectively, are also misleading. The 63rd street tunnel was prefabricated and lowered into a trench on the bottom of the east river, while the proposed Hudson tunnels will be constructed with tunnel boring machines due to the longer distance and deeper channel. Build the tracks to Penn, lose the Penn South, and have NJ Transit joint operate a few LIRR lines, such as Woodmere or Port Jefferson. That said, SF actually needs some sort of parallel line or secondary platform, when theres delays during rush hour, Embarcadero can reach dangerous levels of crowding on the platform very quickly.
Forgive as I’m not a BART expert, but isn’t this an apples and oranges type comparison? BART has service patterns typical of an S-Bahn, track infrastructure typical of a subway, and station surroundings typical of American-style commuter rail. You might be able to picture it if you think of a setup where all of the Bronx IRT lines ran deep into Westchester County, and ran only on the Lexington Ave Local in Manhattan. It is also somewhat similar to how Metro North RR and current LIRR run, in stretches during rush hr (I.E. While the Park Ave tunnel was built with local stations at 59th, 72nd, 86th and 110th, the stations at 59th and 72nd were never used in regular service. Building a 1-seat ride would once again turn the Transfer into a boondoggle that costs NJ Transit more than it could bring in to support the operating costs and debt repayment that is an ongoing drain to the agency. North Jersey riders aren’t getting a one-seat ride, but that means that Secaucus remains viable and not the boondoggle that it has been since the outset. Um, as an Amtrak intercity rider I’d like a decent station, rather than a hole in the ground. As a frequent user of Amtrak myself, I would like a railroad that runs on time and a station that’s convenient to get into and out of.
Now couple the news of this project proposal with the timing of Obama’s push for $52 billion in new HSR funding over 5 years. A very large fraction of the money would go to California HSR, whose current problem is funding and not NIMBYism. That could leave one train per hour on each of the New Haven and Hudson lines, if Lautenberg’s site means only six trains per hour, three each way (or two each if it is six trains per hour each way). Honestly, with track connections to the LIRR tracks, and Metro-North Access, this will hugely benefit New York as well. Alt G is still the right idea, but this project actually is Alt G compatible, unlike NJT’s. In the first part of this proposal, I argued that in order to improve its regional rail system, New York should through-route train services and build new infrastructure with an eye toward making more through-routing possible rather than extending the service area. The centerpiece of this plan is a set of new expensive tunnels in Manhattan, which would allow through-running of all services and considerably improve travel times to both Manhattan and the main secondary job centers. A new pair of tunnels paralleling the North River Tunnels between New Jersey and Penn Station. Penn Station access is the most important part of the system, entailing four-tracking the North River Tunnels and linking Penn Station to Grand Central; this was Alternative G in the major investment study for the ARC project. Despite the Penn-Grand Central connection, some Metro-North New Haven Line trains should serve Penn Station directly through the East River Tunnels.
Direct regional rail service to Manhattan from Hoboken would instantly transform the Hoboken Division of New Jersey Transit, giving its riders a one-seat ride to Manhattan. Staten Island suffers from inconvenient travel to Manhattan and downtown Brooklyn, by any mode of transport. Note that despite the through-routing, some regional lines may remain diesel-operated, in which case they should terminate at either the current Hoboken Terminal or Long Island City. In addition to the major projects outlined above, Amtrak and the MTA should work to rebuild the Empire Connection along the West Side of Manhattan with third rail electrification and double-tracking, enabling electric Hudson Line trains to use Penn Station.
In addition to the lines already used for commuter service, in two cases abandoned passenger rail lines should be restored: the West Shore Line on the New Jersey side of the Hudson, and the North Shore Branch in Staten Island.
The West Shore Line is single-tracked with many grade crossings, and would require substantial rebuilding. There is also a substantial market of commuters to Manhattan far past North Tenafly, and the West Shore Line should be electrified and rebuilt for passenger service as far north as practical. Based on this principle, the New Jersey Transit should allocate resources away from constructing new junctions to permit one-seat ride. Trains on most lines would have to be capable of drawing power from both third rail, used on Metro-North and the LIRR, and overhead catenary, used in New Jersey and Connecticut. The red line provides local through-service on the Northeast Corridor, complementing the intercity service provided by Amtrak.
The blue line, combining the Harlem Line with the Staten Island Railway, would see a quick rise in ridership: the Staten Island-Manhattan rail tunnel would likely cause a major modal shift, bringing daily rail ridership to 100,000 on that segment. The purple line connects the Morris & Essex Lines and the Montclair-Boonton Line to the LIRR Main Line and some of its branches. The green and brown lines form a system combining the Port Jefferson, Raritan Valley, and Hudson Lines; the Hudson Line, which is the busiest of the three, can enter Penn Station from both directions, helping match ridership. In order to speed up service and save labor costs, the regional rail system should mimic rapid transit and have fare gates instead of conductors who collect tickets. Without new construction, it is already possible to through-route some services, increasing the range of the affected secondary job centers.
Once the Empire Connection is electrified, Hudson Line trains may continue eastward onto the LIRR as well; as an added bonus, Amtrak could then operate electrified Empire Service trains as far north as Croton-Harmon, reducing fuel consumption and improving the run time. Finally, it is relatively cheap to build infill stations, and many, especially Tonelle Junction and Sunnyside, would provide a big bang for the buck. The complete system would be lengthy and expensive to construct, which means it would have to be broken into phases. Tunneling from Staten Island to Grand Central; this would complete the Staten Island-Harlem line. Extending service and electrification elsewhere; the greatest demand would likely be on the Montauk Line, which would eventually be electrified to Speonk, followed by the Montclair-Boonton Line, the West Shore Line as far as Stony Point, and perhaps the Pascack Valley Line. But what is the real likelihood that East Side Access will allow MNRR into Penn instead of just increasing service on the LIRR? I’m not too sure on the specifics of its implementation, but your plan makes sense for the most part.
Also, this map left out the West Trenton line, which would be good for not just commuter rail service to southern Hunterdon and northern Mercer counties, but also, built as a four track line, would be good for relieving intercity congestion between NY and Philadelphia, and two of the tracks would be reserved for high speed rolling stock, which would allow the Acelas to run at 200 mph between Somerville and West Trenton (from West Trenton to Philly the line is electrified for commuter rail service). Orulz, the subways in London and Tokyo are local only, but the local lines have interstations of about 1.2 km, compared with 700 meters in New York and 500 in Paris.
Adam, the main contention of this series is that capital construction dollars should be spent on systemwide connectivity, rather than new lines. Having now fully read the second article (hadnt when first comment was made) I can agree with the above about SI. I also think the country as a whole should realize that overhead catenary is the way to go and we should start to phase out the other modes or at least not allow further construction of them. To run new catenary around the system would allow those trains to run through while not tearing up the existing 3rd rails would allow those locals to continue to run. Electrifying, and a common electrification would be the priority for NYC and the entire country. Speaking of connectivity and Amtrak, what’s it going to take to get Amtrak to add Secaucus to its NEC routes? Chris, SI doesn’t look like a priority because right now Staten Islanders usually end up driving.

As for Metro-North to Penn, it’s actually officially planned to go online as soon as ESA goes online.
In the 1960s, as demand for rail travel fell, Penn Station went into disrepair and critics argued that its eight acre footprint would be better used for other purposes. Despite the chaotic transit dance that occurs every rush hour in Penn Station, NJ Transit still claims an on-time performance rate of 91% along the Northeast Corridor. The biggest difference between the two projects, however, are the compromises that Gateway requires of NJ Transit.
Whereas ARC mentioned it as a possible future project, new access for Metro North at Penn Station is a full component of Gateway. The Gateway Tunnel also includes the Portal Bridge Replacement project, which ARC critics demanded should have been considered part of ARC’s total cost. The new option that would allow the two new tubes at least some sort of East River connection via the southernmost LIRR tunnels means the new tubes can be beneficial as part of an overall high-speed rail corridor from Washington to Boston.
When I look at the double track Embarcadero BART in San Francisco, compared to the 20 tracks of NYP, its amazing how much they get done during rush hour, and how NYP is such a glutton for platforms due to their old-timey railroad orientation. Penn doesnt have this problem because passengers typically arent waiting on the platform itself. So on the one hand it’s primarily suburban, with multiple lines converging to create a single high-frequency urban line, just like the Munich S-Bahn. Only he explains it with analogies that are a lot more comprehensible to New York railfans. Off-peak trains are limited on the North Jersey train lines, and parking is the single biggest impediment to greater commuter train usage.
Before then, Secaucus was a billion dollar boondoggle because the transfer traffic wasn’t there. NJ Transit, if it built the loop connector, would be cannibalizing ridership from Secaucus, and riders from North Jersey would still be faced with increased commute times (5-7 minutes each way) to Hoboken as has been the case since the track realignment and opening of Secaucus (most folks still ride the train to Hoboken for transfers to Lower Manhattan and Midtown below 34th Street). Fortunately, it’s a stub-end that allows trains from either the new or the old tunnel to access both the new and the old tracks. For most of the way, the people along the line support construction because they want the jobs and the access to LA and the Bay Area. Its my understanding that many foreign systems (RER, S-Bahn) operate more in this fashion as well. Assuming that when the Empire Corridor gets upgraded and electrified, it would need two frequencies per hour each way. Most riders could be intercity passengers heading to Penn Station to connect to Next Gen Acelas going to Boston or DC.
Now New York and New Jersey can benefit equally; hopefully Christie will use that thick head of his and actually work with others to get this done! It includes not only through-routing and extra connections through Manhattan, but also extensions of electrification and some new service.
It would be cheaper to do this than to build an entirely new deep-level station underneath Penn Station as is currently planned. This would relieve capacity in the tunnels north of Grand Central, as well as provide service to Queens and the eastern Bronx. The MTA is already building the Fulton Street Transit Center, which would sit atop twelve subway lines and PATH; it is only necessary to bring regional rail there. However, in order to make full use of the Fulton Street station, Lower Manhattan should be connected not only east to Brooklyn, but also south to St. Running under Greenwich or Hudson Street in Manhattan, it could also serve the West Village with an intermediate stop at Houston Street. A tunnel diving under Lower New York Bay would be expensive but well-patronized, as it would take close to 100% of the Staten Island-to-Manhattan commuter market, which in 2000 had 53,000 daily users and has only grown since. The communities those lines run through have inconvenient commuter rail, but are likely to see much more demand once links to Fulton are constructed; they are also quite dense by suburban standards.
Any LIRR line, most NJT lines, and with the new connections, all Metro-North lines, would be able to serve Penn Station. The current ARC plans include a direct Penn link from the Erie lines—the Pascack Valley, Main, and Bergen County Lines. This is easiest to do on lines that have a high market share and are unlikely to see an explosion in demand. The New Haven Line trains are already dual-mode, so this would not be a significant obstacle to combining services. Its two ends are already the two busiest commuter lines in the country, each with about 110,000 weekday rides. There is more demand to the east than to the west, so some LIRR trains would use East Side Access and terminate at Grand Central.
All lines should be fully electrified early as their diesel sections already see many commuters. This is not unusual for mainline trains—even intercity trains sometimes have fare gates, for example on the Shinkansen.
However, the fare systems would be unified, so that one could travel from one suburb to another on one ticket. At major stations such as Penn Station and Grand Central, the retail should be outside fare control, and through-tickets should allow one to swipe out and back in within a time limit without paying an extra fare.
The fully electrified New Haven Line and Northeast Corridor Line can be combined to form a single regional route, as can the Morristown Line and the LIRR Main Line, which are electrified deep into suburbia. Note that if Amtrak electrifies the Hudson Line with catenary as part of a high-speed rail program, then it would make sense to add catenary to the portion of the Hudson Line between the junction with Amtrak and Grand Central, to enable trains to run from the Raritan Valley Line to the Hudson Line without requiring the use of third rail. This would complete the Northeast Corridor, Hudson-Port Jefferson, and Morris and Essex-LIRR lines but for extending electrification.
This is a low-cost stage that can be done within the current stub-end framework of commuter rail; however, at this stage the West Shore Line should be electrified and connected to Hoboken. With a restored West Shore Line, the tunnel is a greater priority, but electrification would be necessary immediately afterward to make full use of the new connection. This phase can be done immediately after phase 1 if there is money for electrification but not tunneling. Ocean County is among the fastest growing in the region, and this phase may need to come earlier if the overall construction schedule lags.
Remaining lines on the map are marginal, and lines not on the map would likely never have enough demand to justify electrification. The SI route doesn’t end in SI, but continues past Port Ivory or Tottenville over to NJ, providing more commuter capacity across the Hudson. Express tracks can be built on the SIR to make it so through trains don’t take forever to make their way through SI. My one complaint is that you left the ESA Grand Central Terminal as a stub, in spite of the fact that it has tail tracks which will make it very easy to extend.
I decided to go with the subsurface station because a) the Harlem Line is the best ridership match for what the SIR would become if it went into Manhattan, and b) it would provide Metro-North with service to Lower Manhattan, which the LIRR would already have via Brooklyn. A new West Trenton line may make sense if the NEC and Raritan Valley line get too clogged, though. A stop there would make many towns in New Jersey a two-seat ride from any other NEC station, but even the slowest regional-service Amtrak trains blow through Secaucus while making stops at less useful stations (New Carrollton comes to mind).
The transit modal share from SI to Manhattan is probably sub-50% (the ferry’s ridership is 60%, but it includes tourists). With through-routing it can go up even sooner, since right now the problem is track capacity at Penn Station itself, rather than rolling stock or East River tunnel capacity. He’s going to track the progress of the Gateway Tunnel there, and he is allowing me to post some of his analysis here as well. For passengers on trains from Bergen, Passaic, Rockland and Orange Counties on the Main-Bergen and Pascack Valley lines, Gateway will not provide the long-promised, one-seat ride to Manhattan (at least not at first). In fact, a presentation on Lautenberg’s site promises capacity for six hourly trains on Metro North’s New Haven and Hudson Lines.
Finally, Amtrak’s proposal also suggests extending the 7 train not westward but eastward from its future terminus at 34th St.

If, for some reason, a train dies in one tunnel, as happens frequently now, the Gateway tunnels will provide a back-up. Like ARC and the Portal Bridge projects, Gateway will double the right-of-way from Newark Penn Station to New York Penn Station from two to four tracks. The more federal funding that is sought, the more it helps to have House and Senate members in states besides New York and New Jersey who can see a benefit from a Hudson River tunnel project. But unlike an S-Bahn, it’s entirely greenfield, and incompatible with mainline rail, raising the costs of everything.
Where is NJ Transit going to get the funds to operate 12 additional trains into Penn Station, let alone the 25 claimed under ARC (and Amtrak gets an additional 8-12 trains – so the total capacity is actually close to the same number as under ARC, but with the added benefits to HSR on the NEC).
It’s now utilized for additional traffic from the parking lot and those who would use the station to attend events at the Meadowlands via the spur line that opened last year. For Penn Station, there was access to Sunnyside Yards, while there was no such access for ARC, which meant that the trains had to go somewhere (back into New Jersey?) that would reduce the actual capacity.
Unfortunately, it’s still unnecessary infrastructure and still costs about five times what most Continental European cities would be spending on the same project. The billion(s of?) $ being wasted on Mohnihan, which will in no way improve mobility,* could go to straightening tracks, improving signals, investing in constant tension catenary, electrifying commuter rail, or any number of worthy local transit projects. The NIMBYs are cocooned in the Bay Area demagoguing about how grade-separating the local commuter line and running high-speed trains on it at low speed will be the end of the world.
The first part explained the reasoning behind the proposal and the general principles underlying it.
Completing this option instead of the current ARC project would increase operational flexibility, as the deep-level station is blocked to the east by Water Tunnel 1 and will only be able to reach Grand Central after Water Tunnel 3 is completed around 2020; in either case, it will not be able to continue through the East River Tunnels to connect to LIRR service. In addition to stations at Coop City, Parkchester, and Hunts Point, there should be a major transfer point at Sunnyside, as well as new stations in Astoria and Port Morris flanking the Hell’s Gate Bridge between Queens and the Bronx. Continuing this link further north to Grand Central would ease commutes to both Midtown and Lower Manhattan from both the Harlem Line and Staten Island, further increasing ridership.
Even now there are proposals to operate light rail service on both lines, to serve growing transit needs.
Stations along the corridor still exist, though as they are too closely spaced for commuter rail, some may need to be removed.
For full commuter rail, the line would need both electrification and double-tracking, as well as a new junction from the line to the Hoboken access tracks. The greatest demand is south of the state line, but there is still substantial demand in Rockland County as far north as Stony Point.
This connection should dropped in favor of transfers at Secaucus, unless the Hoboken-Fulton tunnel proves impossible to build. With lines that are likely to see much more service in the future, this requires more guesswork. All trains serving stations beyond Great Neck and Ronkonkoma should be so diverted, as those segments are single-tracked; through-routing requires relatively symmetric service, which requires two tracks. Total ridership is currently 100,000, but would markedly increase with TOD in Yonkers and Tarrytown and electrification on the Raritan Valley Line. The Montauk Line would be matched with the West Shore and Pascack Valley Lines, the Long Beach Line with the Main Line, and the Far Rockaway Line with the Bergen County Line. This compares with a total market of 750,000 people, consisting of traditional and reverse commuters, as well as people who live in the suburbs and work in an Outer Borough with good rail access or in a suburb on the other side of Manhattan. As this would involve travel in both the peak and the off-peak directions, such a combined ticket should not cost more than a ticket from the further of the two suburbs to Manhattan. However, at transfer stations with little origin and destination traffic, such as Secaucus and Tonelle Junction, any retail may be placed within fare control.
Such a system would require moving dual-voltage trains from the New Haven Line to the Morristown-LIRR line and AC-only trains from the Morristown line to the combined Northeast Corridor line, but would not need new rolling stock. At this stage, electrification need only cover the nearest and densest suburbs—say, Ridgewood on the Main and Bergen County Lines, and Orangeburg on the West Shore Line, immediately north of where the two branches meet. Hudson and New Haven Line commuters would still have to transfer, but they could make a cross-platform transfer at Harlem-125th, instead of go from subsurface Grand Central to deep-level Grand Central.
Right now Borough President Molinari complains every time they hike bridge tolls to pay for the subway. The details of the Gateway operating arrangement are not clear, but improvements over the current arrangement are essential.
Due to the complicated nature of the train platforms underneath Moynihan station, however, it seems impossible for NJ Transit and Amtrak to utilize three of the four tunnels for peak-directional flow as the LIRR currently permits in its four tunnels under the East River. Any changes to the connection between the Northeast Corridor and NJT’s Morris & Essex and Montclair Lines (located just west of the Portal Bridge) remain unclear at this time.
And the dominance of parking lot stations in the suburbs, with very little development, is inexcusable.
These other systems are commuter rail that put multiple stations within the CBD as well as through-running.
The stations in Astoria and Port Morris would not only provide regional rail service to those neighborhoods, but also allow transfers to the proposed Triboro Rx circumferential line.
To serve the neighborhoods on the way, there should be intermediate stops at South Ferry, which most trains could skip, and 14th Street-Union Square, where all trains should stop.
There are two branches, separating in northern Hudson County and joining just north of the state line; New Jersey proposes service only for the eastern branch, but the western one should be used as well, as it serves denser suburbs, with a similar number of people working in Manhattan. This may tempt regional planners to offer ad-hoc through-routing, so that trains from a given line on one side of Manhattan may be sent to multiple destinations on the other side.
In addition, I had some extra considerations, such as ensuring all three Manhattan destinations—Grand Central, Penn Station, and Fulton—would be accessible from Jamaica.
This system includes the North Jersey Coast Line and the New Canaan and Danbury Branches, but not the Waterbury Branch, which is unlikely to see much ridership. The single-track section from Farmingdale to Ronkonkoma could be double-tracked, but further east there is no demand; on the Port Washington Line, there is no room for double-tracking beyond Great Neck.
I project relatively high West Shore traffic, as its cities have more Manhattan-bound commuters than the other Erie lines. Although with TOD we could see a higher suburb-to-suburb modal share even without crossing Manhattan, most riders would still be traditional commuters, and much of the initial increase in ridership would come from the new connections to Staten Island and the Erie lines.
This would provide a discount to people making use of through-routing, who are essential to the system’s full success. Finally, as I noted yesterday, Gateway increases NJ Transit’s peak train capacity by only 13 additional trains, as opposed to ARC’s 24 additional trains. Penn Station currently suffers from two major bottlenecks, train capacity in the North River Tunnels and pedestrian flow in the station concourses. Those commuters currently drive over the George Washington Bridge, which is used by almost 300,000 cars every day, or take the Lincoln Tunnel buses; rail service to Manhattan would provide them with faster, congestion-free commutes.
Such an option would provide more one-seat rides, but frequencies to each destination would be low, especially at the local stations.
About half the trains should serve Grand Central, while the other half use the East River Tunnels.
The total weekday ridership on all lines in the system is currently 150,000, and would only increase with suburban TOD.
Electrification on the Port Jervis Line is provided only as far as Harriman, as beyond that the line is slow and circuitous and cannot compete with cars. Total ridership is currently 90,000 on the LIRR side and 33,000 on the NJT side, but direct connections to Manhattan and West Shore Line service should raise and equalize the numbers. The fixed route principle borrows from the RER, where not only is each line its own system, but also each line’s branches on one side are permanently matched to branches on the other side.

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