Today’s Headlines

  • Board Members Are No-Shows at MTA Hearings (News
  • Most New Jersey Car Commuters Earn $100K or More (Post)
  • Time for New Hudson Rail Tunnel (NYT)
  • Brian Ketcham Continues to Pitch Toll Plan as Pricing Alternative (News)
  • Rising — Not Spiking — Prices Bring ‘Curse’ of Oil Wealth (WaPo)
  • At Last, the Escalade Hybrid (Wheels
  • Cool Photos From the Transit Museum Bus Festival (Voice
  • Voters Reject More Parking in Downtown San Francisco (BeyondChron
  • Airline Releases Bike-Friendly Destinations List; NYC Not Included (Planetizen)
  • Australian Wants to ‘Tax’ Obese Plane Passengers (BBC)  
  • Ex-Congressman Sweeney Charged With DWI (Post)
  • Angus Grieve-Smith

    Yes, it is time to move on the Hudson tunnel, but please don’t build the crappy plan that NJ Transit is pushing! Build Alternative G!

  • Hilary

    Thanks for this link, Angus. I slogged through it and found the buried gem:

    “transportation imperatives gave way to commercial real estate pressures..”

    This is an important story that needs to be presented clearly to the public. Someone, please do it. It says a lot about what is happening to NY under this administration.

  • Larry Littlefield

    There are many advocates for eliminating much of the transit investment in the city and redirecting it to more expensive suburban improvmements.

    The goal would be to recreate the aftermath of the highway boom, and allow the affluent and the taxes they pay to leave the city for the suburbs. This may also allow greater cuts in funding for the city’s schools.

    Alternative G may be affordable if the first phase of the Second Avenue Subway (the only one likely to be built) is scarpped, and the reinvestment in some subway lines is reduced, leading to abandonment (a la the els). A social adjustment would follow, with the employed redistributed around the region.

    Yes, there are people who would favor this. Almost all the proposed investments would increase CBD accessiblity for the suburbs relative to the city, with certain impacts on demographics and public finance. The city is paying a large share of the cost of these. All we are getting is the Flushing Extension and a three-station Second Avenue Subway extenstion. The city is paying for the Flushing Extension. The New York City Partnership called for the Second Avenue Subway to be cancelled, with funds redirected to suburban improvments.

  • ?

    Larry, your posts are usually clear. This one is totally confusing – can’t tell what side of what issues is what. Consider re-phrasing please.

  • Davis

    The 2nd Ave subway project should be canceled and replaced with a high capacity, Bogota-style Bus Rapid Transit line running along 1st and 2nd Avenues. At most it would be 1/10th the cost of the subway.

  • Larry Littlefield

    My side of the issue — suspicous. Lot of improvements that have been promised isn’t going to get done. So existing services may degrade. As in my response to Mr. Fidler, I think promises of even more improvements are worse than pie in the sky, because if any happen they will suck money from other things.

    I don’t think city residents should be the loser in this — sharing the cost, not the benefits. I’m telling you that this is the attitude.

    So with regards the the Hudson Tunnel my attitude is that this will benefit New Jersey residents, and New Jersey residents should pay for it. And the relative desirability of New York City neighoborhoods will decrease if New Jersey and Long Island resident are given quick and comfortable access to the Grand Central area but city residents are not.

  • Chris H

    Well as it currently stands, NJ isn’t really directly taking money from city projects for ARC. $1 billion by a swap from future highway funding, $2 billion from the P.A. and the rest from NJ’s Transportation Trust Fund. Since NJ residents pay the largest component of the P.A. toll revenue, I don’t see this a shift to the suburbs. The only issue that I could possibly see is taking up a large slice of federal funding but the city is not directly subsidizing the suburbs with this one.

  • Larry Littlefield

    (Well as it currently stands, NJ isn’t really directly taking money from city projects for ARC.)

    Only to the extent that the NY airports make profits and have passenger facility charges and most of their airport access system was never built.

    Still, I don’t object so much to ARC as currently funded, even thought it means New York funds for New York projects and New York and New Jersey funds for New Jersey. But let’s not make it any bigger. You know where the extra money will come from — NJ transportation has been bankrupted by years of low gas taxes and rising debts.

  • Hilary

    “NJ residents pay the largest component of the PA toll revenue.” That’s an interesting way of looking at it. I think “NJ residents take the most benefit from the access provided to employment/opportunities in Manhattan” and for right of transit through the city to destinations beyond.

  • Angus Grieve-Smith

    Hilary, I’m sorry my link was a little hard to follow; I’m glad you slogged. The group that’s been paying the most attention to these issues is the New Jersey Association of Rail Passengers; the link was to their annual report. I highly recommend their blog and their Hotline newsletter for news that’s very relevant for NYC transit activists. Here are some more relevant documents:

    http://www.nj-arp.org/blog/2007/10/bunker-station-gets-deeper/
    http://www.nj-arp.org/arc4.html
    http://capntransit.blogspot.com/2007/10/access-denied-arc-nibbled-to-death.html
    http://www.rrwg.org/altg_nja.pdf

  • Angus Grieve-Smith

    There are many advocates for eliminating much of the transit investment in the city and redirecting it to more expensive suburban improvmements.

    The goal would be to recreate the aftermath of the highway boom, and allow the affluent and the taxes they pay to leave the city for the suburbs. This may also allow greater cuts in funding for the city’s schools.

    Oh, Larry, where do I start? First of all, I can tell that your comments come from a place of genuine concern for quality, affordable, sustainable transportation, and for the quality of life in the city. We agree on that, and I appreciate the perspective.

    That said, I think your argument rests on some faulty assumptions: that the amount of transit funds is fixed and there is a zero-sum game; that the city/suburb and New York/New Jersey distinctions are paramount; that residents of the City are more deserving of transit access than suburban residents, and New York State residents more deserving than people coming from New Jersey, Connecticut or Pennsylvania.

    It’s not like there’s this single pot of money, and anything that goes to “NJ” comes from “NY.” If a project is sold well, it can attract money that would otherwise have gone to highways or conquest or something similarly undeserving, or even justify increased taxation. Conversely, if a project is not sold well, it can wind up requiring money that would otherwise have gone to some other transit project.

    I’ve always thought it was silly that we’ve still got this “tri-state area” when people move back and forth across these lines so much. Hudson County, NJ has a better claim to the status of “fifth borough” than Staten Island ever did. Douglaston and Throgs Neck are more suburban than Elizabeth or Stamford. The suburbs are not uniformly wealthy, as can be seen from a quick trip to Paterson, Port Chester or Hempstead.

    One goal of PlaNYC is to shift the car commuters to transit. This may happen anyway, given the price of gas, but if congestion pricing passes it will give that shift a boost. We’ve been hearing lots of complaints that people living in certain suburbs “have” to drive because they have no good transit access to Manhattan. This tunnel is aimed at giving them that access.

    You could argue that it would be better for these people to move to NYC, or else for them to lose their jobs to NYC residents who can commute by transit, but I’m not convinced. PlaNYC says that a million more people will live in NYC by 2030, but rather than building more humongous apartment towers or unsustainable housing on the waterfront and on railyards, wouldn’t it make more sense to increase the density near suburban train stations? To have real satellite cities like Newark (minus the urban decay) or Stamford (minus the parking pedestals) where people can have city-style apartment living, commute at city time-frames and city frequencies, but just not in the city?

    There’s only one factor I can think of that’s relevant: the commuter tax. The elimination of that tax means that people who don’t live in the city pay less for city services than people who do. They shouldn’t be the primary beneficiaries of city tax money.

  • Angus Grieve-Smith

    Alternative G may be affordable if the first phase of the Second Avenue Subway (the only one likely to be built) is scarpped, and the reinvestment in some subway lines is reduced, leading to abandonment (a la the els).

    I certainly wouldn’t want Alternative G at that cost, and I don’t think many of its proponents would. This is coming from transit geeks, not from business interests, who seem perfectly happy to have the tunnel terminate in a deep cavern station below 34th Street.

    The main objection that I have to the currently favored alternative is that it would be a dead-end; according to NJ-ARP director Al Papp:

    NJT is proposing to construct a stub end “deep dungeon” terminal that will forever preclude a link to GCT (unless Alternative “G” is resurrected in some form by a generation yet unborn). Due to construction conflicts with NYC Water Tunnel #1 beneath 6th Avenue, the lower 3 tracks under 34th Street will never extend further east than that and probably not the upper 3 either (although Executive Director Sarles didn’t preclude this at the September 7, 2007 meeting). Recall in the last twin 2 track over 2 track iteration, all 8 tracks (6 to be constructed initially) would have had stub tracks extending to 5th Avenue – and thus gave advocates some minimal consolation that links to both the LIRR ESA (lower level 34th Street tracks) and GCT (upper level 34th Street tracks) could be built.

    Spending tons of money to create a partial system that can never be expanded is just stupid. I’m not saying that Alternative G has to be the top priority, but don’t create something that could never be linked up!

    The Flushing line is my subway. A true “Flushing extension” – extending the #7 line east across Flushing to Northeastern Queens – would be great. (Incidentally, the 1999 reconstruction of the Main Street station made that more complicated than it would have been.) The currently planned extension to the Javits Center would be of almost no use to me or anyone else in Queens, especially if it includes no intermediate stops. As far as I can tell, the only people who want it are the developers.

    The Second Avenue Subway is to transit geeks kind of like the Dodgers are to Brooklyn: a symbol of how the city let them down. This is what was promised long ago when the Third Avenue El was torn down, and until it gets built the city can’t really justify any other subway expansions.

    I think you’re being fatalistic about the prospects for subway expansion, and transit expansion in general. If the suburban politicians are out to screw the city, then they will, regardless of which tunnel gets dug. If the politics are right, there is the chance that the city and state will bring their MTA contributions back up to the old levels, and find new taxes to pay for them. If they don’t, we’re screwed anyway.

  • Jonathan

    Angus, I agree with you about the desirability of linking Jersey to the East Side. It would be nice not to make the same mistake with the East Side as was made with the development of downtown, where the regional commuter lines do not reach directly. (My argument here is only the grossest oversimplification possible.)

  • Larry Littlefield

    (I think your argument rests on some faulty assumptions: that the amount of transit funds is fixed and there is a zero-sum game)\

    If you want to know what my greatest expertise is, it is public finance. And the big picture involves not only roads and transit, but all other public services and the burden of past debts and future senior benefits. Looking beyond even the government, there is the economy as a whole and the income available to support the public sector.

    And I can tell you that we will be very lucky to get what is already proposed without losing anything.

    The State of New Jersey is heading for massive tax increases and spending cuts, or bankruptcy.

  • Angus Grieve-Smith

    I have to admit that public finance is nowhere near my greatest expertise. Clearly there’s a consensus that tax revenues will be declining, and people are scaling back projects.

    The scaling-back makes sense, but I think the current phase of the Second Avenue Subway should be completed; if it gets put off one more time it’s going to be a real disaster. If they can’t build that line during “a time of unparalleled prosperity,” then transit expansion in this city is in bad shape.

    As I said, if the LIRR and NJ Transit tunnel projects are scaled back it’s okay with me, but I want them to be set up so that the expansions can happen.