In New Report, RPA Reinforces Link Between Transit and Growth


Following yesterday’s Build for America launch and last night’s presidential debate, the Regional Plan Association released a major report today recommending an array of public transportation improvements for New York City and northern New Jersey, adding its name to the ever-growing list of orgs and officials calling for federal investment to spur and sustain economic growth in the coming decades.

Over a dense 53 pages, "Tomorrow’s Transit: New Mobility for the Region’s Urban Core" [PDF] lays out dozens of projects, large and small, that would improve transit access and performance, with a focus on underserved and, in many cases, high poverty areas. The report, as breathtaking in scope as the $29 billion five-year capital plan unveiled by MTA head Lee Sander last March, also proposes augmentations to long-planned mega-projects like the Second Avenue Subway, and stresses links between modes to maximize coverage and efficiency.

Proposals are categorized by cost and level of need, as determined by existing transit service, income levels, and rates of auto ownership.

Follow the jump for highlights.

  • Bronx: Extend the Second Avenue Subway to the Third Avenue corridor and Co-op City; provide added service on Metro-North at six Bronx station stops on the Harlem and Hudson River lines; offer peak express service on the Dyre Avenue line; and establish ferry service from Soundview.
  • Brooklyn: Convert the Atlantic Branch of the LIRR to subway service and connect it to the Second Avenue Subway; build a Utica Avenue branch off the converted Atlantic Branch of the LIRR; extend the Nostrand Avenue 2 and 5 lines to Kings Highway; extend the Canarsie L line to Spring Creek Towers/Starrett City; and establish high speed ferry service from Williamsburg, Greenpoint, and Bay Ridge.
  • Manhattan: Implement no-fare rides on the 34th Street, 42nd Street and 50th Street cross-town bus routes; extend the Second Avenue Subway west along 125th Street; construct a station entrance on the east end of the First Avenue L station; and establish a midtown Bus Rapid Transit or light rail route loop.
  • Queens: Convert the LIRR Atlantic Branch to subway service; connect Queensboro Plaza and Queens Plaza and the E, F, G and V at Court Square; and begin Bus Rapid Transit on Queens Boulevard.
  • Staten Island: Proceed with Hylan Boulevard Bus Rapid Transit; establish ferry service from southern Staten Island; and establish a bus lane along the full length of the Staten Island Expressway.
  • New Jersey (Hudson County and Newark): Extend currently planned Bus Rapid Transit routes in Newark to include cross-town and Sumner/Mt. Prospect Avenue corridors; construct a new Hudson Bergen Light Rail Station at Grand Street and 17th Street in Hoboken; and extend the Hudson Bergen Light Rail to Route 440.

In addition, the RPA recommends a number of complementary measures, including parking and land use reforms, transit-oriented development, and congestion pricing.

"Tomorrow’s Transit" was composed over the course of a year in conjunction with area transportation experts, NJ TRANSIT, the MTA and New York City DOT.

  • Tom S

    “The report, as breathtaking in scope as the $29 billion five-year capital plan unveiled by MTA head Lee Sander last March”

    If everything listed in the plan were implemented, it could easily cost 10-20 times as much.

  • Larry Littlefield

    I guess you’ve got to give the RPA folks credit for keeping up their attitude for decade after decade.

    A couple of decades were enough for me.

    Perhaps the fact that the majority of money spent on new infrastructure over the past 50 years has gone to studies and EISs encourages people to keep releasing studies and EISs. And all the new IT means it’s less work to produce documents with no effect.

  • Boris

    As usual, Staten Island gets scraps. Why is it the only borough with no proposed rail projects? At the very least, extending Hudson-Bergen Light Rail over an existing bridge designed with such a rail line in mind (Bayonne), and resurrecting the North Shore rail line should’ve been mentioned. On the Island, both projects have considerable support.

    What doesn’t have as much support but would do the most to get cars off the road is a rail tunnel to Brooklyn with NJ Transit, LIRR, and/or subway service. The tunnel can be built as a spur to the proposed freight rail tunnel to New Jersey.

    In any case, I support any and all projects mentioned in the report.

  • Niccolo Machiavelli

    Sorry about Staten Island Boris, its really a shame when the only borough with a “suburban” life style (read low population density, driveways, parking lots) gets the short end of the stick on transit investment. One of the really great “scraps” SI does get is the free ferry ride that the rest of us pay for (you’re welcome). And everyone supports any and all of these projects, just no one wants to pay for them.

  • Some of those ideas are insane!
    For example, adding a third track to the JZ line after Broadway junction is crazy.
    The JZ line is an elevated line through Brooklyn and Queens.

    They would essentially have to rebuild the entire elevated heavy rail structure.

    As someone who used the JZ for over a year, there are some things they could do to make it much better.
    The JZ has a third express track between Myrtle ave and Broadway junction, they could use that to offer rush hour express service, and eliminate three stops.
    It would probably only shave two minutes off of the route, but it would be very easy to implement.
    They could also eliminate several of the stops after Broadway junction.
    Look at it on a map, they have stops every few blocks in some cases.

    Also, about the LIRR Atlantic ave line, I don’t agree with turning it into a subway, depriving Brooklyn of a connection to the LIRR.
    What would be a much better idea would be to have the LIRR run shuttle trains between Jamaica, East New York, Nostrand ave, and Flastbush ave.

  • Dequeued, I understand your concern, but they say in the report that the J/Z el was built to hold a third track, but the track wasn’t built because the density didn’t warrant it at the time. By the time they had enough density, nobody wanted to pay for it. you can see in Live Search that there’s room for a third track. There’s a little bit of track on Crescent Street already.

    I agree about express service between Broadway and Myrtle. The idea about the Atlantic Branch is to connect it to the Second Avenue Subway, so that we don’t have to pay to dig a whole new tunnel. The 1939 plan had the SAS hooking up with the Crosstown (G) and Fulton (A/C) lines in Brooklyn, but since the A and C trains are running on the Fulton line, you’d have to dig the Worth Street tunnel to free up space there.

    I don’t know why the Worth Street, South Fourth Street and Utica Avenue lines weren’t mentioned in the report, because they’d serve several of the RPA’s target (dense, poor and underserved) neighborhoods: the Lower East Side, South Williamsburg, Bushwick and Bed-Stuy. Probably too expensive to consider.

    There’s a lot to think about in this report; I’ll be digesting it for a while. But it seems that they didn’t put as much thought into Brooklyn as they did into the Bronx.

  • Jason A


    While SI is certainly under served with transit, it did itself no favors by completely downzoning the entire borrough.

    What does the island want: suburbia in the city, or a more responsible living arrangement that lends itself to transit?

  • Where are the Brooklyn/Queens connections? Astoria to Wall St. via Brooklyn?

    I’m only half joking…

  • paulb

    No problem for me making over the LIRR from Flatbush to Jamaica as subway. It’s the same trip, even if it would be a few more paces to transfer. An expensive frivolity, but I am no fan of the Atlantic Ave viaduct and would enjoy seeing it replaced with a modern structure, though how it could be done with the old one standing, I don’t know.

  • Red


    The report actually does recommend that the North Shore and West Shore studies be merged and include a study of a connection to the Hudson-Bergen light rail. It doesn’t go so far as to recommend that those lines be built, probably because RPA staff isn’t sure the density on Staten Island will justify rail transit once the studies are complete.


Cuomo’s Green Agenda Comes Out Swinging for Smart Growth

Last Friday, Andrew Cuomo released his green agenda, the final installment in a series of policy papers his campaign published over the last few months. In it, Cuomo strongly endorses smart growth and suggests the creation of a competitive grant program to encourage better planning. He also expresses his support for high speed rail, public […]

A Smart Growth Wake-Up Call for NIMBY-Plagued Long Island

Last week, a report from the Long Island Index outlined how rail service can guide economic growth, and it also contained warnings about the slow pace of construction for transit-oriented development in the region. If transit stations are to become focal points for growth, the authors argued, Long Island’s governments need to start taking action. […]

Quick Impressions of the MTA’s Sustainability Report

This afternoon the MTA released a draft of its eagerly anticipated sustainability report, which has been in the works since September 2007. The product of a "blue ribbon commission" featuring heavy hitters in the transportation world, the report reads like the MTA’s version of NYCDOT’s "Sustainable Streets" strategic plan. Much of the report deals with […]