With Moynihan Train Hall in the Works, New York Really Needs a 34th Street Busway

"The subway system is the economic circulatory system of the entire city," Governor Cuomo said today. But the new LIRR and Amtrak waiting area will make connections to subways less convenient.

Transit riders using Governor Cuomo's new train hall at the former Farley Post Office building would benefit enormously from a full busway on 34th Street, which DOT proposed nearly a decade ago. Image: DOT
Transit riders using Governor Cuomo's new train hall at the former Farley Post Office building would benefit enormously from a full busway on 34th Street, which DOT proposed nearly a decade ago. Image: DOT

Governor Cuomo came to Manhattan this morning for a press conference marking the start of construction at Moynihan Train Hall, the forthcoming Penn Station expansion into the old Farley Post Office on Eighth Avenue.

The $1.3 billion project will transform the old post office into a “state-of-the-art” waiting area for Long Island Railroad and Amtrak passengers, increasing concourse square footage by more than 50 percent. Moynihan will also include 700,000 square feet of new commercial and retail space.

“The subway system is the economic circulatory system of the entire city,” the governor said today. But while Moynihan will reduce crowding at Penn and create a more pleasant waiting environment, it doesn’t affect subway service. In fact it makes subway connections more inconvenient for intercity and commuter rail riders. As Second Avenue Sagas’ Ben Kabak noted on Twitter, the new waiting area will be a whole avenue farther away from subway stations on Seventh and Sixth avenues.

Expensive transit edifices with no concurrent service improvements, like the Moynihan Train Hall or the new World Trade Center PATH station, have become all too common in New York City. But there’s a way to improve connections between Moynihan and the subway system: a 34th Street transitway.

During the Bloomberg administration, DOT proposed a full-fledged busway on 34th Street, with transit lanes physically separated from other traffic and a large new pedestrian plaza between Fifth and Sixth avenues. It would have been a new standard for prioritizing surface transit on city streets, but that design died in 2011 thanks to opposition from Midtown property owners.

The conventional bus lanes on 34th Street are prone to all the problems that an exclusive transitway is supposed to avoid. They are constantly obstructed, and as a result crosstown service remains slow and unreliable.

The rationale for a full transitway has only gotten stronger in the years since the city abandoned the idea. More development at Hudson Yards is coming, and buses need better self-enforcing street designs to bypass increasing traffic congestion. Maybe some of those influential Midtown property owners have seen the light.

The construction of a new rail concourse without adequate connections to the subway adds one more powerful reason to make 34th Street a great transit street. Riders won’t think the Moynihan hall is very “state-of-the-art” if they feel separated from the rest of the transit system. A fast, reliable busway on 34th Street can connect them.

  • Vooch

    why allow any private cars on 34th ?

    there is zero reason to have any private vehicles on 34th. The best solution;

    30′ of 34th dedicated to exclusive bus lanes and drop-off.,

    10′ protected bike lane

    20′ wider sidewalks

    capacity would increase tenfold and congestion would be eliminated entirely.

  • ohnonononono

    NYU med center happens to have an old schedule from 2014 online so it’s easy to see how the SBS lanes couldn’t save it from the death spiral of slow service cuts:

    https://med.nyu.edu/pediatrics/genpeds/sites/default/files/genpeds/m034scur.pdf
    http://web.mta.info/nyct/bus/schedule/manh/m034scur.pdf

    The MTA runs 8 less runs in each direction on weekdays. The bus lanes on 34th Street mainly serve as parking lanes for Con Ed, NYPD, ambulances, and even the MTA itself parking express buses in them during the day. Their purpose as transit is clearly secondary to everyone involved in decision-making.

    Is there an archive of old MTA schedules anywhere? It’d be a great way to see how great transit used to be and get sad about it.

    Why are we so obsessed with the whims of property owners in this city of renters? It’s so old school. I thought we got rid of that when we allowed everyone other than white men over 21 to have a say.

  • JarekFA

    Headways don’t matter when they crawl, crawl and crawl and are held up by double-parking and commercial vehicles the whole way.

  • PeopleBusWay!

  • AMH

    “everyone other than white men over 21”

    Don’t you mean “everyone, not only white men over 21”?

  • bolwerk

    Anything bad that would happen from halving or more the daytime traffic in Midtown would be purely anecdotal.

  • bolwerk

    Moynihan is still such a nonsensical project, and a transit corridor won’t fix that. It adds at best a little bit of passenger comfort and capacity, and does nothing to solve the bottlenecks at Penn.

    If Penn should be moved, the only efficacious directions for it to be moved would be north and east, not west. And Gov. Dipshit even wants to spend enough money to do that.

  • Vooch

    indeed – we want to reduce private car traffic and increase pedestrian traffic, bus traffic, and cycling traffic

    🙂

  • Jason

    Let not forget the Port Authority relocation. However awful the PABT is, I would rather keep it the way it is forever and preserve the direct subway connection than get a nice new PABT that’s an above-ground block away from the subway.

  • BruceWillisThrowsACar@You

    I agree with all of this. As a cyclist, pedestrian, rare bus user, and occasional subway user, this needs to happen. De-prioritize private motor vehicle capacity. The love affair with privately owned automobiles needs to end and make it much more fair and appropriate for every other mode of transport.

    At the center of it all, excellent transit service and cycling infrastructure + legislation + enforcement is what will reduce car traffic. More space needs to be given for commercial use and deliveries to prevent them from using an inappropriate portion of a roadway as their loading zones.

  • Vooch

    “… More space needs to be given for commercial use and deliveries to prevent them from using an inappropriate portion of a roadway as well….”

    Agreed. I think it is high time the Parkways in NYC be reallocated to exclusive use byFor Hire Vehicles and Commerical Vehicles under 5,000 lbs. ( basically Vans and Pick Ups )

    We should be encouraging small trucks and one way to do this is allow them on the parkways. If a Denali is able to drive on the FDR why not a econoline delivery van ?

  • Andrew

    Check archive.org.

    Also, check the MTA committee meeting books, specifically the Transit Committee (or NYCT and Bus Committee – I don’t know why they can’t give it a consistent name). Every three months or so they include a list of proposed changes to bus frequency, based on loading data. The most recent changes were announced in June. If you’re looking for a specific bus route, it can take some time to find what you need, but the archives stretch back to January 2012. Every permanent change to bus (or subway) service frequency goes to the MTA Board in one of these books, so if it’s happened since 2012, you’ll find it eventually.

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  • Utin

    Here here. It’s just “Penn Station western edge lobby reno” It will do nothing. Cuomo seems to get fed terrible ideas from every direction and just jumps before looking

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