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Bus Rapid Transit

Second Avenue Subway Keeps on Slipping Into the Future

4:39 PM EDT on July 21, 2009

brt_config_3.jpgWhy wait? The optimal BRT configuration on First and Second Avenues would convert multiple traffic lanes to physically separated busways.

Following another revision to the Second Avenue Subway construction timetable, the first phase of the mega-project remains, as ever, about seven or eight years away from completion. Pete Donohue reports in the Daily News:

The Metropolitan Transportation Authorityhas finished an in-depth analysis of the work schedule, budget andpotential hurdles for the long-awaited addition to the system, sourcestold the News.

The conclusion: the official completion date for phase one of theproject should be pushed from June 2015 to December 2016, with possiblefuture delays placing the opening in the summer of 2017, the sourcessaid...

The original schedule for the first phase projected a 2012 completiondate but MTA officials have pushed the date back several times over theyears -- most recently in March 2008.

I'm lucky. I don't have to put up with sardine-style rush-hour commuting on the Lexington Avenue line. But if I did, I'd want relief as soon as possible. Eight years is a long time to ask people to wait, especially when a viable alternative like physically separated Bus Rapid Transit can be provided much sooner, at much less expense. And if experience is any guide, this won't be the last time the Second Avenue Subway gets pushed back, either.

ITDP director Walter Hook said it well in an interview with Streetsblog this February:

I don't know why Japanese and Chinese cities can roll out 10 miles ofnew subway line a year, and the richest city in the world has beentrying and failing to build the Second Avenue Subway since the 1960s.But I've lived in this town a long time, and I am skeptical. Theoptimists are telling us that we will have a Second Avenue Subwaybetween 125th Street and 63rd Street by 2015 and only after we spend $4to $5 billion. So this means we are probably talking about 2018 or2020, and $10 billion. The Second Avenue Subway would be great, it’sneeded, it would have higher demand than almost any other metro line inthe country. At those volumes, metros are often a good investment. Butwill it happen?

The MTA has a huge hole in its next capital program, with billions in funding for core maintenance still unaccounted for. That comes first, no matter what. If our legislative goons in Albany can't muster the will to fund mega-projects, too, we can still expand the system: On the east side of Manhattan, the right BRT configuration would carry almost as many commuters as the Second Avenue Subway, for a fraction of the cost.

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