MTA Service Bump Next June Won’t Keep Up With Growth in Subway Trips


Talk about running in place: At current growth rates in subway ridership, the service increases that NYC Transit is promising to roll out next June will probably be used up by April.

That doesn’t mean the increases are a bad idea, of course. Rather, it underscores the need for transformational increases in subway capacity, rather than incremental moves like the bump announced by the MTA last Friday.

Here’s the deal: Annual subway ridership increased every year from 2009 to 2014. (Data for 2015 aren’t in yet.) The 11 percent rise, to 1.75 billion trips last year from 1.58 billion in 2009, works out to an annual average increase of 2.1 percent. There are now 6 million subway trips on a good weekday, with some 90 percent of those trips, or 5.4 million, happening between 6 a.m. and 7 p.m. Just a single year’s growth, at 2.1 percent, amounts to 113,000 rides during that 15-hour peak.

By comparison, the 36 additional trains that NYC Transit intends to run on weekdays — 10 on the 1/2 line, six on the A/C/E, six on the J/M/Z, and 14 on the 4/5/6 — will add room for 45,900 additional passengers (multiplying 36 trains by 10 cars per train by 127.5 riders per car). Throw in 5,000 to 10,000 more spaces for the greater frequency promised on the 42nd Street Shuttle, and the total gain in capacity reaches 55,000 — enough to handle a mere six months’ worth of ridership growth.

The takeaway is that enhanced service commitments like last Friday’s will be needed much more frequently. The only way that will happen is through transformational change, like implementing Communications-Based Train Control (CBTC) on every line.

CBTC supplants the century-old analog “fixed block wayside signal” system for monitoring and controlling train movements. In its place will be fiber-optic communications that link tracks and vehicles into a seamless system, as the Regional Plan Association summed it up in its comprehensive report on CBTC earlier this year. In a nutshell, where subways currently run at 20-25 trains per hour, CBTC would allow at least 30.

If that could be done across the system, a simple calculation — 14 lines (I exclude the L, which was already upgraded to CBTC) times 7.5 more trains per hour times 15 hours per day times 1,275 additional passenger capacity per train — suggests an increased capacity of 2 million passengers per day. That means subways could carry at least one-third more passengers than the estimated 5.4 million riders now traveling between 6 a.m. and 7 p.m., when the trains are most crowded. Or some of the new capacity could alleviate crowding, not only making subway travel more humane but reducing delays caused by crowding itself as passengers struggle to enter and exit packed trains and stations.

The calculation here doesn’t address logistical concerns, not to mention costs of buying, staffing, servicing and running the increased trains. But it underscores the vast potential and need to begin bringing subway infrastructure into the 21st Century now — a process that will require full funding of not just the current MTA capital plan but future five-year plans as well.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Unfortunately, even more investment would be needed. Take the L, for example. CBTC removed the main line capacity constraint. But there are still terminal capacity constraints on both ends of the line, and not enough room in the Canarsie Yard to store additional trains.

    If the MTA had anticipated the level of ridership on that line, it could have dug out 14th Street from 8th Avenue to 9th Avenue and added tail tracks, and created a second terminal at Atlantic Avenue for some of the trains, but it did not.

  • Alexander Vucelic

    a good argument can be made that least expensive method to address congestion is bicycling. For example, protected bike lanes in NYC cost under $1 million per mile.

    Curently DOT barely installs 5 miles of protected bike annually.

    $50 million would create 50 miles of protected bike lanes. That’s a protected bike lane for 100 blocks each on on 2nd, 5th, 6th, Lexington, and Amsterdam . (25 miles in Manhattan) Plus 12 1/2 mies in Queens and 12 1/2 miles in Brooklyn.

    At current rates of cycling, these 50 miles of protected bike lanes should induce demand

  • sbauman

    The growth of subway use has occurred during off peak hours. On most lines the peak hour and peak 3 hour totals are way below the Hub Bound Report figures for 1971. N.B. according to the figures in the article yearly subway use was 1.2 billion in 1971 vs. 1.6 billion in 2013. This 33% yearly increase does not translate into higher peak hour demand today.

    Here are some figures that show am peak hour or 3 hour service is should not be a problem.

    Lex Ave (exp & loc) in 1971 were: 61,780; 131,370 and 258,150 for 8-9am; 7-10am and 24 hours respectively. The 2013 figures were: 51,292; 117,696 and 357,093.

    Bway figures for 1971 were: 48,910; 97,270; and 207,750 vs. 40,309; 89,183 and 268,529 for 2013.

    8th Ave figures for 1971 were: 49,810; 109,940 and 194,550 vs. 32,497; 74,254 and 208,684 for 2013.

    A line by line comparison is more difficult for the Queens sector because the 63rd St. tunnel wasn’t in service in 1971. Total sector counts are given for a comparison. The 1971 data includes the 42nd, 53rd and 60th St tunnels; the 2013 data also includes the 63rd St tunnel.

    Queens figures for 1971 were: 138,210; 286,810 and 414,220 vs. 93,521, 241,379 and 481,629 for 2013.

    A line by line comparison for the Brooklyn sector is also difficult. The problem is the Montague St. tunnel was not in operation, when the 2013 Hub Report data was collected. Again sector totals will be used for a 1971 vs. 2013 comparison.

    Brooklyn figures for 1971 were: 231,450; 414,470 and 645,964 vs. 155,820; 348,134 and 790,568.

    These figures show that peak demand is well below previous levels. It follows that attention need not be wasted on increasing peak service levels through new technology. It means the MTA needs to run its existing equipment more frequently in off-peak hours.

    These figures do raise the interesting question of how the TA managed to handle so many more passengers 40+ years ago. The answer is simple. They ran more peak hour trains than the do today. Grandfather tales of trains coming one right after another isn’t a fable. Here’s what the TA claimed they ran during 1954 rush hours.

    You will note that they ran 24 tph on the 14th St Line without CBTC and a century old block system. They manage only 20 tph today with CBTC. They promise they might be able to run 26 tph. Theoretically, properly designed signal systems have only a marginal effect on maximum service levels. These levels are determined by rolling stock parameters. A signal system’s only effect is the delay in acting on a command and its uncertainty in locating a train. When allowances are made for two-way communication dropouts, CBTC offers no advantage in either of these parameters to the existing block system.

  • Kevin Love

    How did they manage to carry so many more people in 1947-48?

  • Joe R.

    My educated guess is better train operators and a more disciplined ridership. Remember until the late 1980s the trains didn’t even have speedometers. Train operators had to estimate their speed, which the better ones could actually do to within 1 or 2 mph. On top of that, there was less micromanagement with things like timers.

    Better TOs notwithstanding, I think the main reason was the ridership. Back then we were a more polite, much more disciplined society. That includes motorists. People realized the value of this in that it meant everyone got where they’re going faster then if people acted solely out of self interest. When everyone rushes to be first in or out of a train, what happens is a mass of people all fighting each other to the head of the line. Or more recently you have people distracted by their electronic toys, not paying any attention, with similar results because they unknowingly get in each other’s way. Same thing on sidewalks. People walk around like they’re on a pleasure cruise, oblivious to all around them. You never saw that years ago. NYC was a place where you lead, follow, or get out of the way.

    It’s hard to say when general behavior started changing for the worse but I started noticing in maybe 20-25 years ago. Maybe 10 years ago things started getting much worse. That especially includes motorists be in general this slide just seemed to be a symptom of the emphasis over the individual instead of the community. You can thank mass media for much of that.

    So in a nutshell the selfish combined with the clueless have basically made it harder to carry lots of people on the subway.

  • Bobberooni

    NYC in the 1940’s was less centralized. Skyscrapers were lower and there were proportionally more jobs outside of today’s midtown/downtown Manhattan. Think of all the formerly industrial areas that are now residential.

  • Bobberooni

    Maybe the least expensive method to address congestion is to stop building in NYC and encourage new jobs to go elsewhere. That also addresses affordable housing problems.

  • Alexander Vucelic

    how does one ‘encourage’ new jobs to go elsewhere ??

  • Komanoff

    Interesting history. But so what? Car loadings were probably higher back in the day — before the obesity epidemic, the backpack explosion and the generalized sense of entitlement to “one’s space.” It could also be that tolerance for “near misses” or actual collisions was greater in the past, allowing lower headways. The facts are: there are many hours on many lines when trains can’t accommodate 100 percent of people who want to board; the throngs trying to step on/off trains and platforms cause constant delays that then “ricochet through the system,” in RPA’s felicitous phrase; and riders want, deserve and, increasingly, expect a modicum of space and comfort. CBTC can address all of those issues.

  • Alexander Vucelic

    extraordinary data – illuminating !

  • Boris

    I would qualify this to say, “encourage new jobs to go somewhere else than Manhattan below 59th St and Downtown Brooklyn.” Lines like the L actually have very low average ridership, if you look at both directions at once. NYC needs to become more like London, Paris, and Tokyo, with multiple job cores around the city. Putting jobs in a new location is essentially a free transit upgrade, since reverse-peak trains that now run almost empty can serve more people without increasing service in the peak direction.

    This is encouraged through zoning. We can zone for backoffice jobs, shared spaces for startups, and light manufacturing in transportation hubs like Broadway Junction and Flushing instead of transportation deserts like Sunset Park.

  • Alexander Vucelic

    agreed in principle, but the devil isbin the details

  • Alexander Vucelic

    if you examine population for the various boros, you might conclude that NYC was more centralized in theb1940s.

  • sbauman

    The MTA could remove the 8th Ave constraint without digging out any tail tracks. All they have to do is relay half the trains at 6th Ave. There is a 3rd, center track between 6th and 8th Aves. This track is long enough to hold an entire train. This center track could be used to short turn alternate trains at 6th Ave. All that’s required is to add a switch west of 6th Ave to use it as a relay.

  • The real issue is about the jobs I suppose, and also, the trip lengths. Perhaps trips were shorter in 1940s, and the jobs less centralized.

  • Andrew

    Since when is there a constraint at 8th Avenue?

    If 8th Avenue were a constraint, then why does this press release indicate that three substations will do the trick? Is there another project that I’m not aware of to mitigate this supposed constraint?

    Trains pull into the terminals a lot faster under CBTC than they did with wayside signals. I can’t say what exactly the current capacity is at the terminals, but it’s clearly greater than it was before CBTC.

  • Andrew

    For all its numbers, I think this piece is missing the point. Ridership increases are not distributed evenly across all locations and all times of day. A lot of the increase is in off-peak ridership that isn’t focused on travel to and from the CBD. Any increase in ridership that doesn’t pass through the peak load point doesn’t require any extra service, since the existing service (by definition) can already accommodate it, and off-peak increases can often be handled by increasing service without running up against capacity constraints.

    Installing CBTC on a single line requires years of highly disruptive service outages. Even if the budget were somehow available, any notion of implementing CBTC systemwide in a few years completely ignores the realities of the situation. It isn’t remotely feasible. (As you admit, “The calculation here doesn’t address logistical concerns.”)

    I also suspect that you’re vastly overstating the benefit of CBTC. What’s your source for 7.5 more trains per hour per line under CBTC? And why don’t you acknowledge that some lines are not running at the capacity of the current signal system, because ridership on those lines isn’t high enough to require more service?

  • sbauman

    “Car loadings were probably higher back in the day”

    That’s fairly easy to verify. The 1971 and 2013 Hub Bound Reports list sq ft/passenger between 8 and 9 am. Here’s the comparison.

    Line: 1971 vs 2013

    Lex: 4.0 vs. 4.2
    Bway: 3.5 vs. 4.5
    8th Ave: 5.5 vs. 4.9
    Bklyn: 4.3 vs. 5.2
    Queens: 4.1 vs. 5.3

    There is some truth to that assertion. For example the Lex carried 62K vs. 51K, one would expect sq ft/passenger to increase from 4.0 to 4.8 for the same service levels. The increase to only 4.2 sq ft/passenger reflects the reduced service levels.

    “It could also be that tolerance for “near misses” or actual collisions was greater in the past, allowing lower headways.”

    Neither collisions nor near misses were tolerated in the past. It’s virtually the same signal system in place. It’s the signal system that prevents both collisions and near misses. It has not changed. If the MTA were to run the same number of peak hour trains as they did in 1971, the signal system would handle it without collisions or near misses.

    The facts are: there are many hours on many lines when trains can’t accommodate 100 percent of people who want to board…

    Is it “can’t” or “doesn’t.” I had occasion to board an uptown Lex Ave express at Grand Central yesterday (Sunday) around 7am en route to the Tour de Bronx. That express was packed. The scheduled headway (time between trains) was 15 minutes. Had the MTA operated the Lex express on 7.5 minute headways, half as many people would have been on that train. It would not have been packed.

    The MTA “can” operate Lex expresses more frequently; it “didn’t.” It wasn’t a signal system that prevented the MTA from running trains more frequently. It was a management decision.

    “riders want, deserve and, increasingly, expect a modicum of space and comfort. CBTC can address all of those issues.”

    Let’s try to understand what CBTC is. It’s an acronym that stands for: Communication Based Train Control. The “Train Control” portion means collision and near miss avoidance. Any train control system needs to know the position of all trains on the rail.

    Conventional block systems do this by dividing the track into a series of blocks. A train passing on rails causes a short circuit between the rails that is detected by the train control system.

    CBTC uses a different method to locate trains. Equipment on the train has an independent way of determining its position. The train then communicates its position to the train control system.

    That’s the entire difference between CBTC and block systems: how the train is located. The train control system then uses this information to stop or control train speed to avoid collisions or near misses.

    The algorithm for avoiding collisions and near misses is based on the train’s emergency braking rate and speed. The train control system doesn’t care how these input parameters were derived. The train control system is going to allow the same spacing between trains, whether these parameters were derived from a block system or CBTC. Maximum service level capacity will be the same for block systems and CBTC. This is why the TA, BOT, IRT, BMT and IND operated subway trains at higher service levels in the past. This is why CBTC will not improve on that performance.

  • sbauman

    Two reasons.

    There were more lines: the Third Ave, Myrtle Ave and Lexington Ave Els were still operating.

    More importantly, there were very few transfers between the IRT, BMT and IND systems. A trip from the Bronx to Coney Island most likely cost two nickel fares. The free transfers between systems was a result of raising the fare from a nickel to a dime.

  • sbauman

    “Since when is there a constraint at 8th Avenue?”

    Since the line was extended from 6th Ave to 8th Avenue in 1931.

    It’s a constraint because non-terminals can handle around 40 tph. The workaround is to have two branches at each end.

    why does this press release indicate that three substations will do the trick?

    What’s the trick? The press release states it will add 2 additional trains for a 10% increase. That means an increase from 20 to 22 tph. N.B. they operated 24 tph at the 8th Ave terminal in 1954.

    “Trains pull into the terminals a lot faster under CBTC than they did with wayside signals.”

    Why don’t you take a stopwatch and time them.

    You need to time both the entrance and exit. That’s 4 measurements: entrance straight in; entrance crossover; exit straight out and exit crossover.

    For incoming trains, you want to measure the interval from when the train’s front passes the eastern part of the crossover until it comes to a complete stop in the station. For outgoing trains, you want to measure the interval from when the train starts to move until its rear clears the eastern part of the crossover.

    You will need to be discrete while taking these measurements. The MTA keeps a sharp eye out for would be saboteurs or time and motion experts. You will need to take several of each because of sample variability.

    Now add up the average of each of the 4 measurements. Add 8 seconds to change the switches between each run. This will give you a reasonable estimate of how long the terminal will take to handle 2 trains. When you’re done, I believe your total will be 300 seconds for the 4 train and switch movements. That’s 24 tph.

  • sbauman

    This is encouraged through zoning. We can zone for backoffice jobs, shared spaces for startups, and light manufacturing in transportation hubs like Broadway Junction and Flushing instead of transportation deserts like Sunset Park.

    High rise residences offer builders a greater return than business or office buildings. Office and old manufacturing buildings in transit hubs are being converted to residences – e.g. LIC. Flushing has already been discovered. Its street grid is paralyzed by pedestrians. The Flushing West project is trying to convert the last few industrial buildings into residences.

  • ahwr

    RPA says the old block system on the L had a capacity of 20 tph, with CBTC it’s 28 tph.

    The picture you linked above says in 1954 service was 24 trains consisting of 140 cars, capacity was 32 trains consisting of 256 cars. Why the discrepancy?

  • neroden

    Last time there were this many riders on the “Subway” — in the 1940s — the “Subway” *included the Manhattan Els* which were later torn down.

    In order to accomodate this number of riders, some of those Els MUST be rebuilt or replaced, such as the Second Avenue Subway will do.

  • neroden

    This is actually the biggest reason. the Lexington Avenue subway line is the most unbearably overcrowded right now. If the Third Avenue El were still operating, it wouldn’t be nearly as bad.

  • neroden

    Jobs were more centralized. Trips were shorter though; people lived close to their jobs. That’s mostly been made illegal by zoning…

  • neroden

    No, none of this. As noted above, *you actually had more subway lines* in the form of the Els. And as noted below, they ran trains more frequently.

  • Joe R.

    I think the bigger advantage of CBTC is that it allows trains to get over the line much faster. That in turn means less equipment for the same level of service, plus faster trips for the riding public. As we’ve discussed previously, thanks to flaws in the signal system, the MTA neutered its trains in terms of both acceleration and top speed. Locals barely get past 30 mph before they need to start braking for the next stop. Expresses top out at maybe 45 mph, but they take forever to get there. With CBTC you’ll have locals holding their initial acceleration rate until about 25 mph but still accelerating strongly up to, perhaps past, 40 mph before needing to stop. Braking will be more accurately controlled also, allowing faster entries into the station. All told, these things save something like 20 to 25 seconds per stop. It may not sound like much, but over 10 miles you’re saving 7 or 8 minutes. That’s huge on trip which now takes perhaps 30 to 40 minutes. The time savings on expresses might be even larger if they can get to 55 mph, then just stay there until the next stop, unfettered by timers. I figured you might shave 4 or 5 minutes just off the Queens Plaza to Forest Hills portion of the Queens Boulevard express. That run is now scheduled for 12 to 14 minutes, depending upon time of day. Based on the distances and acceleration capabilities of the new trains, it could be done in as little as maybe 8 minutes (even less if we allow the 65 mph running the QB line is laid out for).

  • Alexander Vucelic

    Its a interesting question.

    until 1924 or thereabouts jobs & residences were significantly more centralized in NYC. that is solid. The 1940s, not so sure

  • Larry Littlefield

    I think they went to 15 max to 20 max, maybe a little more.

    But recall the claim is 40 for CBTC between terminals.

  • BBnet3000

    Were jobs actually more centralized? There were a lot more jobs in industrial areas and the waterfront, and I would assume a lot more light industry in residential neighborhoods like you see in Chinatown still today.

  • sbauman

    There’s no doubt that operating more trains would reduce crowding on the Lex. The question is whether those additional trains could be added on the Lex or an additional line is needed like the old Third Ave El or the proposed Second Avenue Subway.

    The data shows the TA operated more peak hour trains and rail cars on the Lex in the recent past (1971). They operated 547 peak hour rail cars in 1971 vs. 490 today. Today’s 490 car service level translates to 4.2 sq ft/passenger. If the MTA were operating 547 rail cars there would be 4.7 sq ft/passenger. The TCRP Report #13, “Rail Transit Capacity” rates the following loading criteria: 2.2 sq ft/pass – Totally Intolerable; 3.8 sq ft/pass – Tolerable With Difficulty and 5.4 sq ft/pass – Adequate. Today’s peak hour service loading rates slightly above “Tolerable with Difficulty.” If the MTA operate up at their 1971 service level, the service loading would rate slightly below “Adequate.”

    The TA operated a peak of 546 rail cars per hour in 1954. However, locals were only 7 or 8 cars long in those days. If full length platforms were available in 1954, they would have operated 620 rail cars per hour. That would have translated to a service loading level of 5.3 sq ft/passsenger. The post war program of extending the IRT platforms did not increase service levels. It allowed the TA to run the same service level with fewer trains.

    The existing Lex tracks have the capability of providing service loading levels that are described as “adequate” by a non-MTA source. Public policy is to build a Second Avenue Subway for $16 billion to achieve the same service loading level.

  • sbauman

    “RPA says the old block system on the L had a capacity of 20 tph, with CBTC it’s 28 tph.”

    The RPA is mistaken regarding the 14th St Line’s capacity. The TA actually operated 24 tph, as per the insert in their first annual report.

    Nobody has yet operated anything like 28 tph with CBTC on the 14th St Line. The best the MTA is promising is 22 tph. The 28 tph capacity figure is conjecture. If power is a problem, they could test their hypothesis by trying to twice as many half length trains as an experiment. Train length, within reasonable limits, has a minimal effect on service level capacity.

    The picture you linked above says in 1954 service was 24 trains consisting of 140 cars, capacity was 32 trains consisting of 256 cars. Why the discrepancy?”

    Which discrepancy? The number of trains per hour or the number of cars per train. I can answer the second question. The BMT standard cars were 67 feet long vs. 60 feet for the rail cars that operate on the 14th St Line today. The BMT platform lengths were/are 536 feet long for an 8 car train composed of 67 ft long rail cars. That would explain the 32-256 car capacity.

    They also operated Multi-Section trains on the 14th St Line’s Lefferts Ave Branch in 1954. These rail cars were 170 feet long. These differences would explain the odd number of cars per train with the actual 24-140 operation.

    I don’t have an explanation for the 32 tph capacity, other than they were assuming short turning half the trains at 6th Ave. My timing studies showed that 24 tph was the capacity for 8th Ave.

  • Matthias

    I don’t know the reasons (Sandy?), but the IRT has definitely gotten slower during rush hour. The expresses used to be really fast just 2-3 years ago, and now they crawl along slowly. That really kills capacity.

  • sbauman

    “I think the bigger advantage of CBTC is that it allows trains to get over the line much faster.”

    My 1961 copy of the Brooklyn Street Guide, published by Geographia, shows the running time for the 14th St Line to be 35 minutes end-to-end. The MTA’s website shows the scheduled running time for the L is 35 minutes.

  • sbauman

    The Sixth Ave El stopped running in 1938. It was replaced by the Sixth Ave Subway in 1940. The Ninth Ave El stopped running in 1940. The Second Ave El north of 57th St also stopped in 1940; its Queens Branches stopped running in 1942. Only the Third Ave El remained for the 1940’s peak years.

  • bolwerk

    I’d be curious to see this kind of statistic applied to the whole transit system including streetcars and buses. Obviously some els were bustituted over the years.

  • Joe R.

    In 1961 the trains weren’t neutered. A fairer comparison would be the running time immediately prior to when CBTC was installed.

  • Brian Howald

    It’s reassuring to know there are other subchatters around here.

  • Joe R.

    Probably the MTA installed more timers. The MTA has a penchant for doing that, even along track which is dead straight where there’s really no reason for them. It seems to be a typical pattern now where expresses accelerate to the first stop they skip, then slam on the brakes for a timer. I think the MTA wants to decrease the time savings of expresses so they could eventually get rid of them.

  • zstewart

    Zoning is the reason why we have an affordable housing crisis and jobs all clustered in one area (although the clustering is also due to the fact that it is accessible from everywhere).

    What we could do is adopt a zoning system that is similar to Japan’s. There are very few zones to choose from and each of those zones is mixed use. If you allow commercial development in one area, it inherently includes residential development as being allowed. If you allow residential, residents are allowed to run corner stores.

    Building heights are based on the width of the street to avoid shadows blocking out the sun (though localities can wave this rule).

    Because of this, the Japanese can build at a furious pace. Subway systems can speculate and build in green fields knowing that dense urban development is allowed. Likewise, urban development can spring up anywhere.

    NYC used to be able to organically grow like this. It’s how it was built up. We need to get back to this sort of thing; we’ve figured out building codes and know not to build toxic waste dumps next to schools. We need to rediscover how to build.

  • Matthias

    How exactly would they “get rid” of expresses? There is no way they could run everything on the local tracks, even at weekend service levels.

  • Joe R.

    Yes, that’s the idea. Get rid of expresses as part of an overall service cut, or at least get rid of them during off-peak times. If the expresses aren’t any faster than locals, then the opposition when they go away off-peak won’t be as vocal. Maybe I’m being paranoid, but I can’t think of any valid safety reason for most of the timers the MTA uses. In fact, I think it works against them. I’ve noticed that trains running 30 to 40 mph tend to oscillate a lot and likely tear up the tracks more than if they were to run faster. Yet this is exactly the speed range where the MTA seems to like its expresses to run. They might reduce maintenance by allowing the trains to run full speed, other than where curves make this impossible.

  • Brian Howald

    Forgive me if I’m mistaken, but I was under the impression that grade timers (not station timers) restrict speed on sections of track that are either curved or inclined (entrances to the river tunnels come to mind as examples of both). Given that CBTC will not change track geometry, why do you believe that trains will no longer be fettered by timers?

  • sbauman

    a good argument can be made that least expensive method to address congestion is bicycling. For example, protected bike lanes in NYC cost under $1 million per mile.

    That’s precisely the reason high priced consultants do not recommend the bicycle solution. Consultants make about 1.5% of a project’s cost to manage it. It’s in their self interest to suggest costly projects.

    “$50 million would create 50 miles of protected bike lanes. That’s a protected bike lane for 100 blocks each on on 2nd, 5th, 6th, Lexington, and Amsterdam . (25 miles in Manhattan) Plus 12 1/2 miles in Queens and 12 1/2 miles in Brooklyn.”

    You’ve got your priorities wrong. 97% of Manhattan residents already live within 0.5 miles of a subway stop. The figures for the Bronx and Brooklyn are 82% and 85%, respectively. The figure for Queens and Staten Island are 52% and 31%, respectively. Walking is the fastest way to travel a distance of less than 0.5 miles.

    The bicycle’s sweet spot is between 0.5 and 2.0 miles. At that distance it’s faster than a bus. The remaining 3% of Manhattan residents reside in that sweet spot. However, the figures for the other boroughs are: 17% (Bronx); 14%(Brooklyn); 31%(Queens) and 43%(Staten Island). Only 6% of NYC residents live more than 2.0 miles from a subway. Buses will be a quicker option for them, before subways are extended beyond their current limits.

    Bicycles cost about $1K and serve 1 person; buses cost around $500K and serve 50 people. The per person cost of a bus vs. a bicycle is $10K vs. $1K. 1.5 million people reside within the bicycle’s sweet zone. Assume 1/3 need transit on any day. The bus project will cost $5 billion; a bike project will cost $500M. The consultant’s management fee will be $75M for the bus project vs. $7.5M for the bike project. Small wonder SBS is being pushed. :=)

  • Joe R.

    I’ve seen them put on sections of track which are dead straight (i.e. near the 74th station on the #7) or with curves which don’t require reducing speed (i.e. right after the Elmhurst Avenue station moving east on the E/F)/ Also, why exactly do you need to have a grade timer on an incline unless there’s a sharp curve near the bottom? The East River tunnels are usually dead straight or close to it. The trains could just go down the grades, hit whatever maximum they reach, then use that momentum to carry them back up the other side. That’s exactly what they do in the 60th Street tunnel, for example.

  • Matthias

    Interesting idea, but I don’t see that happening. As it is, when everything runs local (or express) on the weekend, headways have to be lengthened to fit all of the trains on the same track. (It could be exacerbated by the new flagging speed limits I’ve been hearing about but don’t understand.) If you’re really cynical you could say it’s all a conspiracy to cut service permanently, but with trains packed all weekend I just don’t see that being possible.

  • fdtutf

    The Third Avenue el in Manhattan went in 1955, right, with the TA promising to replace it with a Second Avenue subway from that recent bond issue?

  • Joe R.

    It’s probably not likely to happen, but honestly I’m so paranoid I won’t discount the idea completely. As it is now, the subway system is really pokey compared to a lot of other systems where locals average 20 to 25 mph, expresses average as fast as 40 mph. Granted, some of the tracks are really old, perhaps lack the geometry for higher speed running, but most of the IND was indeed laid out with high-speed running in mind. I can posit all sorts of theories on why things degraded to this point, but the fact is the MTA needs to speed the trains up to the maximum extent possible (and reduce headways on off-peak service). NYC deserves an efficient rapid-transit system.

  • fdtutf

    Trains have been slowed down since that report was issued because with (at least some of) the current fleet’s braking performance, many signal overlaps are too short to stop trains in time to prevent collisions if the train is tripped.

  • Joe R.

    I’m aware of this but it’s only a small percentage of signals on some lines which are causing the issue. There was no need to neuter trains system wide. Just do so only on trains running on lines with the signal issue (and correct that issue as quickly as possible). The MTA has had 19 years to deal with the problem. It probably could have fixed it in 5. What is happening now is just intolerable and inexcusable by any reasonable standards.


Subway Ridership Hits 65-Year High. Does Cuomo Care?

Subway ridership hit a 65-year high in 2014, serving 1.75 billion trips last year, the most since the New York City Transit Authority was formed in 1953. That’s an increase of 2.6 percent over 2013 and 12 percent since 2007, according to the MTA. The subway now serves 5.6 million passenger trips on an average weekday, and 6 million on an […]

The Boom in Subway Ridership Is Waning. Why?

Transit officials recently reported that 1,763,000,000 subway trips were taken last year, the most since 1948. But the rise in ridership was meager, with only 12 million more trips in 2015 than in 2014. The percentage growth rate was seven-tenths of one percent. Over the same year, employment in New York City rose three times […]

Off-Peak Discounts for NYC Transit: An Intriguing Idea

Photo: cunningsue/Flickr Discounting off-peak transit service could be a boon to New York City’s transportation and quality of life, so long as revenues can be found to make up for the likely farebox shortfall. MTA chief Jay Walder floated the idea of off-peak discounts in an interview in today’s New York Times. While Walder didn’t […]