The New Second System, Revised

After publishing my proposal for subway expansion, I received feedback on the plan. Some of it was constructive, and got me thinking, so I revised the proposal in order to improve it. Most of the adjustments were in the Bronx, but there were some small ones in Queens as well.


In the Bronx, the (A) is curtailed to Fordham Plaza, where a convenient cross-platform interchange would be built. The (A) to Bay Plaza would add way too much mileage to the longest route in the system, and if the transfer is convenient enough, it would be just as good as one continuous Pelham Pkwy/Fordham Road Line.

The second part of the revision is a link from 145 St on the Lenox Avenue Line to 161 St – Yankee Stadium on the Jerome Avenue Line. Something like this was actually planned in the early days of the TA using the former 9th Av Elevated ROW. As part of this, 148 St would be closed, also providing a future possible home for the Transit Museum. This would allow for the doubling of Jerome Avenue service, allowing Jerome Av peak express services while also reducing transfer volume at 149 St – Grand Concourse. The boosting of this service would provide more service to the corridor and points west, thus reducing the need for a University or Sedgwick Avenue Line.


As noted by vanshnookenragen, it would be significantly easier to make a 73 Av Line via the Jamaica Yard. This has been depicted in the map shown, although I have my doubts about whether or not you could do it without significantly harming yard operations. The 73 Av Line is also extended two stops east, to Francis Lewis Blvd and Springfield Blvd. Francis Lewis Blvd is definitely a worthy terminal stop; the cost-benefit of Springfield Blvd station (or Bell Blvd instead, which is denser but has poorer bus connections) is dubious given the very low-density nature of the neighborhood. However, the relatively close distance of Union Tpke and the overcrowded Q46 ensures at least some level of high ridership, and it is also a faster trip to take a train from Springfield/73 to Forest Hills than to take the bus to Springfield/Hillside and the train from there due to the wider stop spacing and the lack of stops between Main St/73 Av and Forest Hills.

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The Second Avenue Subway as part of a new Second System


In my previous post, I described a “core” expansion that would relieve the Lexington Avenue Line in Manhattan, the Queens Blvd Line in Queens, and the Jerome Av and Grand Concourse Lines in the Bronx. This new Second System would relieve services enough to embark on a new series of expansions in the outer boroughs that would relieve congested bus corridors, and shorten commute times for outer borough commuters by a significant amount.

The Bronx


The new Second System would see very minimal expansion in the Bronx. Most north-south travel needs would be met by the existing network, the Third Av/Pelham Pkwy Line, and the planned Penn Station Access project in the East Bronx. Coupled with the fact that there is no available north-south capacity from the new “core” system or the existing system to extend north, that would mean no new north-south lines within the Bronx.

However, a new extension of the A to Fordham Plaza would run east, using the yard tracks into the 207 St Yard, crossing the river using a bridge, and then tunneling into the ridge before traveling under Fordham Rd to Fordham Plaza. This would replace the western half of the busy Bx12 Select Bus route, connecting the A to the 1, 4, D, and Metro-North, and the new Pelham Pkwy line to Co-op City. At Fordham Plaza, the line could either terminate at a middle platform built at the station, or merge into the Pelham Pkwy line and continue on to Bay Plaza.

Side note: due to the use of the 207 St Yard tracks, trains would turn off just before Dyckman St. As a result, Inwood-207 St could potentially be shut down if the MTA desired to do so, and used for train storage or as a relocation of the Transit Museum, which the “core” connection between Hanover Square and Court St would’ve displaced.

Queens and… Nassau?


The “core” system would relieve the overcrowded Flushing and Queens Blvd lines by either taking over railroad rights-of-way (in the case of the Port Washington Branch) or by constructing lines parallel to them (in the case of the Main Line.) While the takeover of the Port Washington branch would give subway service to Northern Queens and Nassau immediately, the Second System would be needed to fully utilize the capacity freed up by the Queens Blvd Bypass, which would link the 63 St tunnel to Forest Hills, taking over local service east of Forest Hills to 179th St. Using this new capacity, nearly all the lines currently terminating in Forest Hills and Jamaica could be extended.

Illustration of current and future Queens Blvd & Bypass services.

Illustration of current and future Queens Blvd & Bypass services.

The local Queens Blvd lines would also be extended, but for different reasons. Currently, both terminate at Forest Hills, but the service run on these lines is limited by the need to fumigate passengers at the end of a line. One of the local lines would be extended south to meet the deactivated Rockaway Beach Branch ROW, running south before terminating at Howard Beach – JFK Airport. This would provide a valuable north-south connection in Queens, as well as provide faster midtown access than the current A train. The other local line would be extended east of Forest Hills via 73 Av to 188th St. While bus service past 188th St continues to be intense, extension east would be complicated by the slow speed of the local train. (It doesn’t matter which local service gets extended where, but for the sake of argument let’s suppose that the M goes to Howard Beach and the R goes to 188th St.) This would decongest the situation at the existing terminal, but if either extension occurred Woodhaven Blvd on the Queens Blvd line would have to be converted to an express station; even today, Roosevelt Av gets too crowded from people transferring from the east, and the extension of the local lines would only make it worse.

The express Queens Blvd lines would be extended both east and south. The F would be extended down Hillside Avenue to Springfield Blvd, while the E would turn south and join the LIRR ROW directly south of the existing station paralleling the existing tracks to Springfield Blvd, as the 1968 Program for Action called for. Both would make stops at streets with major bus routes, providing quick connections to the bus network while obviating the need for many bus lines to divert into Jamaica. This would allow for a rationalization of the bus network in both eastern and southern Queens. Either could be extended to Nassau and terminate at a major hub (North Shore LIJ for the F, and either Valley Stream LIRR or Green Acres Mall for the E), but I would consider that too expensive and too extensive to include in this Second System.



In the “core” expansion, a Utica Av line would be built, extending the 4 south to Avenue H and eventually Kings Plaza. This line would then be connected to the Second Avenue trunk via Williamsburg and the Lower East Side, giving one of the two major subway-free corridors in Brooklyn a subway line. As part of the new Second System, the Nostrand Avenue line would also be extended south to Avenue U. No other major expansions would occur, except the Triboro RX.

Triboro RX


This is included as part of the Second System mostly because it would be cheap to construct. There are two versions of the plan that have been pushed, differing in how they travel through the Bronx. One would use an abandoned railway line to connect to the 6, the 2/5, and eventually the B/D and 4 at Yankee Stadium, while the other would run along the Amtrak ROW to Hunts Point and Co-op City. I don’t like either option; the former has poor connections to some of the subway lines it crosses and doesn’t connect to many more of them, while the latter doesn’t even intersect subway lines. In fact, I don’t really support the notion of the Triboro RX going into the Bronx at all; it would needlessly make the circumferential arc too wide while suboptimally connecting to lines in places that do not currently support a lot of Bronx-Queens travel. (There was formerly a bus line across the Triboro between the Bronx and Queens, but it was discontinued due to low ridership.) Instead, I would rather have the line turn west at Randall’s Island and connect to the 125th St spur of the Second Avenue Subway. It would provide quick, easy connections to all of the north-south lines, and for the majority of people it would not significantly increase circumferential travel time.

Ultimately, I believe that these expansions would be suitable for New York for the next fifty or hundred years. After this expansion, focus should be shifted to building a robust surface network, whether or not it is light rail, BRT, or streetcars. This will be detailed in a later post.

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Second Avenue: The Key to Future Expansion

The Second Avenue subway has been the aspiration of New York’s transit planners for the better part of a century. Originally envisioned as a massive trunk line that would be six tracks wide at its largest point, the current plans only call for a short “stubway” between 96 St and the Broadway Express at Lexington Av and 63 St, with future expansions north and south to be completed in the future. At first glance, the project seems like it isn’t enough; a third track at 72 St was omitted, and there are no express tracks planned for the line. However, two tracks is more than enough to provide core capacity for future expansions.

Why We Don’t Need Express Tracks

New York is unique, at least in the West, in having such a complex, extensive system of express and local lines. The system allows for a large amount of branches to converge into a tight, dense core; if the five north-south trunks were unbundled into ten north-south pairs, crosstown lines like the 7 and the L would have to make impossibly close stops to connect to all the north-south lines. In light of the fact that all the Manhattan trunk lines have express tracks, it can seem lile the Second Avenue Subway is not enough, especially when you consider that it’s meant to relieve a four-track trunk that carries more passengers than several North American systems combined. However, in this day and age, constructing express tracks is more trouble than it’s worth. Gone are the days where entire streets were ripped up and laying two or four tracks was only restricted by street width; four tracks means four TBM drives, doubling tunneling costs. Express tracks would also require bigger stations, something to avoid in a project where the most expensive parts are the stations themselves. Even if express tracks are built, they wouldn’t be particularly useful; you wouldn’t be saving a lot of time traveling from 125 St to Hanover Square, and the planned pair of tracks can actually handle quite a bit of traffic, as shown in the diagram below: SAS-possible-capacity In the following paragraphs, I will elaborate further on the possible expansions if the core system is built as planned.

Expansion to the North and West

The planned northern terminus of the line is at 125th and Park Avenue, with tail tracks for future expansions located as far west as Lenox and as far north as 129th and Second. This differs from previous plans, which had termini in either the Bronx or at 125th and Second. The proposed location does limit the Bronx to one new SAS service instead of two, but there isn’t enough money at this time to terminate in the Bronx, and 125th and Second is a poor location for a terminal; the area is at a higher risk of flooding, and the ramps for the Triboro Bridge start there, causing increased danger for pedestrians and potential subway riders while reducing potential development opportunities. (Note: It is assumed that two is the maximum number of services that a pair of tracks can reliably handle. Where three services run on a pair of tracks in the system, such as the 60th St tubes, congestion and cascading delays are not uncommon.)

The logical western extension would be to the West Side via 125th St. 125th St is currently a very busy, slow crosstown corridor; a crosstown connection would help redistribute traffic from the Bronx and northern Manhattan amongst the trunk lines, and would speed up commutes for many. Two options for termini exist: 125th and Broadway is the most logical one, and would provide connections to the 1 and a potential Penn Station Access station for Metro-North. Another possible terminus would be a deep-level platform at 116 St-Columbia University on the 1, to provide access to the university and potentially allow for a southern extension down the West Side.

To the north, there are three logical extensions to make, following either the Harlem Line, the Hudson Line, or the future Penn Station Access right-of-way. Of these, I would prefer to extend it via the Harlem Line ROW; since the area lost the Third Av El around it in the ’70s, the lines around it have become crowded, and restoring subway service would ease the pressure on these trains. Such a line could be built in three phases; from the existing tail tracks to 3 Av – 149 St via Third Av; from 3 Av – 149 St to Fordham Plaza; and from Fordham Plaza to either Gun Hill Road on the 2/5, or east via Pelham Parkway to Co-op City at Bay Plaza, possibly combined with an extension of the 6. The former would restore the old Third Av El’s full route, while the latter would serve as a vital crosstown connection across the Bronx that currently doesn’t exist, and would relieve one of the busiest bus routes in the system. SAS-North-West

The 63 St Turnouts

The Second Avenue Subway, in its first phase, will connect Second Avenue to the Broadway Express going north to west. The third phase will provide a turnout connecting Second Avenue to the 63 St Tunnel’s upper level, going from south to east. The plans from the 1970s called for connecting the 63 St Tunnel to either Forest Hills or Jamaica via the LIRR’s Main Line Row, but the plans were scaled back, resulting in the current 63 St Tunnel and Archer Avenue Line stub. Any Second Avenue service would require a new pair of tracks along the Main Line, which has room for at least six tracks to Rego Park. and a tunnel from the 63 St upper level to the Main Line route. Fortunately, the latter already exists, as evidenced by this excerpt from the East Side Access EIS:


As for the pair of tracks, there would be two options. The first would be to build a pair of tracks from Long Island City to a stop on the Main Line at Rego Park via Woodside, then tunneling under Yellowstone Blvd to reach Forest Hills, connecting to the local tracks. A Second Avenue service running local from Forest Hills to 179 St would allow the F to stay on the express tracks east of Forest Hills, increasing reliability, decreasing travel times, and would pave the way for a long term extension east of 179 St; current service takes too long for extension east to be feasible. However, this plan has a major drawback – all space on the Main Line ROW between Long Island City and Woodside is taken up by the six existing LIRR tracks, so some land acquisition would be needed.

The second option would be easier from a technical standpoint, but significantly harder politically. Connecting the Port Washington branch to the 63 St upper level would require minimal new construction for significantly improved service to Corona, Eastern Queens, and Western Nassau; stations at Elmhurst (Queens Blvd & Broadway) and Corona (Junction Blvd & 108 St) would serve areas currently only serviced by overcrowded, slow feeder buses to the subway, and a grade crossing at Little Neck would have to be removed. The current Auburndale LIRR station could also be replaced by two stations at Utopia Pkwy and Francis Lewis Blvd to provide better bus connections. However, the main difficulty would be NIMBYism; it’s unclear whether even a fairly dense Nassau neighborhood such as Great Neck would be okay with the replacement of LIRR service with subway service, to say nothing of the more suburban communities east of Great Neck. If it were doable, it would be cheap, and would also make future core expansion cheaper; a short elevated line from the Astoria Line east of Queensboro Plaza to the PW tracks would provide the cross-river capacity to build the Queens Blvd Bypass. SAS-East

Expansion to the South

The current plans call for a set of tail tracks south of Hanover Square as provisions for extension to Brooklyn. The most logical, cheap connection would be to the Fulton Line via the former Court St station, which currently functions as the Transit Museum. If this were to happen, it would allow for a reorganization of Fulton St service; all Eighth Avenue services would run express past Hoyt St, with C trains going to Lefferts Blvd and the A alternating between Far Rockaway and Rockaway Park, while Second Avenue trains would all run local to Euclid. This would reduce switching and improve reliability, and the provision of East Side service on the Fulton St line would also reduce loads on the Brooklyn IRT, which currently provides the only East Side service in Brooklyn. The decrease in crowding would allow for the expansion of IRT service to Nostrand Av and Av U, and the extension of the 4 down Utica Av to Kings Plaza.

In the future, it would be possible to use the storage tracks on Second Avenue between 21 and 9 Sts to provide an additional link to Brooklyn via the LES, Williamsburg, and Stuyesant Av, connecting to the Utica Av Line. Such a route would have to be studied more in depth, since the street network in the area isn’t straight, and the Second System plans for this line would require bulldozing a path for a new street. (Due to the way the Utica Av IND station is setup, a connection to the Fulton local tracks would be impossible, although it would be cheaper than a new line through Williamsburg.) SAS-Brooklyn As described above, the SAS provides more than enough core capacity to relieve significant sections of the subway, even without express tracks. This relief would also allow for the extension of existing overcrowded subway lines, to be detailed in a future post.

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Regional Rail for New York, Part II

Regional Rail Map

In my previous post, I presented a proposal for half-hourly diesel-electric regional rail service in New York, to be implemented after completion of Gateway, East Side Access, Penn Station Access, and the Third Track. With all the additional capacity, providing this kind of robust regional express capacity would be possible. However, with time, the excess capacity would be exhausted. In addition, it would not fix one of the most pressing problems of the transportation network; currently, passengers are dumped into the local transit system at just two locations, overloading the subway system. If capacity on the rail network is reached after the completion of the initial phase of work, a main goal should thus be to more evenly distribute passengers, to relieve east-west and north-south subway lines. The goal is something akin to London’s Crossrail, or the Paris RER; a cross-city link with multiple stations providing an alternative express network within the city.

That being said, there are several caveats to building such a network. First off, the small width of Manhattan makes building multiple stations in a straight east-west direction very difficult; in the studies for East Side Access, a East Side station on the existing rail line serving Penn was ruled out as too difficult, expensive, and disruptive to build, and was considered operationally undesirable since all trains would have to stop at this new station. To the south, the main sites for potential stations, WTC and Fulton, are so close together that they are connected by a walking passageway, and any such east-west station would have to be carefully nestled into the thicket of lines around Lower Manhattan.

Connecting the future Penn South to GCT also wouldn’t do a lot by itself; passengers heading downtown would still overload north-south subway lines. In addition, if inbound capacity into either terminal was reached during the AM Peak (or outbound in the PM peak), it wouldn’t do much to provide additional peak capacity; it would certainly improve equipment utilization, but ultimately the tracks are the main restricting factor in running more trains, and in the case of Grand Central and Metro-North there are more than enough tracks and platforms to accommodate all the trains that could terminate there, even with inefficient practices. Linking Penn South with the LIRR’s cavern at GCT wouldn’t be good in the long-term either; through-running trains would have to fit in the tight clearances of the 63 St tunnel, so trains with multi-voltage transformers or double-deck cars would not be able to through-run, ruling out the possibility of through-running on track without third rail.

The electric fleets for the three operators would further limit possibilities for connections. As previously mentioned, they all run on different power supplies; making an all-in-one EMU would be very difficult considering the three AC catenary systems and two DC third rail systems. The current fleets were all bought at different times as well, and are sizeable; replacing every last train with a new, multi-voltage train would take a long time, holding up implementation of electric regional rail until most or all of the trains necessary were available.

The solution I am proposing would thus be more similar to Melbourne’s City Loop, Sydney’s City Circle, and New York’s Nassau Street Loop. The primary component of this proposal would be two new two-track tunnels; one for the LIRR from Grand Central to Atlantic Terminal via the East Side and Lower Manhattan, and another two-track tunnel for NJT running from Penn South to Hoboken via the East Side and Greenwich Village. The two tunnels would meet at a central transfer station at Union Square, providing direct regional rail access to fast-growing areas of Brooklyn via the L train.

Click for full image.

Click for full image.


The two tunnels central to the second phase of regional rail.

Greenwich Village Stop

A Greenwich Village stop could potentially be built along Houston or King St.

Intermediate stops at Greenwich Village and at Fulton St would provide additional access to Manhattan and also allow for additional transfers to the subway system at Houston St on the 1 and Spring St on the C and E trains, and also provides new east-west transit links, redistributing passengers more efficiently and reducing the load on the subway.

In New Jersey, the former Morris & Essex Lines (Gladstone Branch, Morristown Line, and Montclair-Boonton Line) would only serve the tunnels via Hoboken, while the Northeast Corridor, Raritan Valley Line, and North Jersey Coast line would only serve the tunnels via Penn. This segregation would allow for a doubling of capacity on those lines while reserving the original two North River Tunnels for use on the diesel regional network and Amtrak.

The proposed configuration of New Jersey Transit services through the new tunnel.

The proposed configuration of New Jersey Transit services through the new tunnel.

In the east, the Port Washington and Hempstead branches, along with a new branch to a park & ride at Belmont Park, would run via GCT and Atlantic to Far Rockaway, Long Beach, and West Hempstead. This would be the basis of a new metro-style express service between the inner neighborhoods of Nassau and the City, and super-frequent services would allow for a few additional stops to be added within the city itself without significantly impacting overall travel times, boosting intra-city as well as suburban transportation.

  • On the Port Washington branch, two additional stops at Elmhurst (Queens Blvd) and Corona (National St) would provide service to an area that currently relies on the overcrowded Q58 and 7 train.
  • The Main Line would see an additional station at Rego Park where the former Rockaway Beach Branch split off.
  • On the Atlantic Branch, an additional stop at Woodhaven Blvd would be built.
  • On the Far Rockaway and Long Beach branches, stops would be added at Linden (Linden Blvd) and Rochdale (Baisley Blvd).
  • On the West Hempstead branch, stops would be added at Farmers (Farmers Blvd) and Springfield (Springfield Blvd).

Upon electrification of the Oyster Bay Branch, services from Belmont Park could be shifted to the Oyster Bay Branch, with diesel services shifted over to the other branches of the regional rail system. Alternatively, Oyster Bay and Babylon trains could also run through the tunnel upon electrification, but this would split the tunnel amongst four services instead of three, limiting frequencies on the outer branches to six trains an hour, or a train every ten minutes; still a large increase in service.

Proposed LIRR "Metro-East" service, with new stations shown.

Proposed LIRR “Metro-East” service, with new stations shown.

With all this service redirected out of the main railroad tunnel to Penn, express services to Penn on the New Haven Line and Hudson Line could be redirected via Penn to provide additional capacity in the event of the Park Avenue tunnels reaching capacity. Long-term, the success of these plans would also depend on the streamlining and grade separation of junctions throughout the system, and the continued progress of the installation of new signalling, double-tracking, and electrification. However, if fully realized, the plans would result in the biggest change in regional-area transit since the construction of the subway.

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Regional Rail in New York, Part I

The subject of regional rail in the metro area comes up from time to time. Regional rail is a great idea in theory; there should be no reason why the metropolitan area’s rail network is physically connected, yet is separated and rendered operationally inefficient by three agencies guarding their turf. However, there are several issues with running regional rail using today’s infrastructure.

A lack of intermediary stations

One of the main features of regional rail, from Paris’s RER and London’s Crossrail to the Center City tunnel in Philadelphia, is multiple, widely spaced stops in central areas. Using multiple stops instead of one stop has two benefits; one, it reduces congestion on other transportation networks, since less people need to  make last-mile trips on other networks, and the ones that will remain will be shorter than they were before. The other benefit is a reduction in dwell time at the existing center city train station; now that people have multiple options instead of being forced to get off at the terminal, it now takes less time for people to get on and off trains at the terminal, allowing for more throughput due to decreased dwell time.

The current commuter rail system has a lot of these issues. Penn and GCT are the only center-city stations, and the overwhelming majority of passengers get off at these stations. As a result, the subway stations serving Penn and GCT serve 45 million to 46 million passengers annually, making them the second and third busiest stops in the system (if you count the Eighth and Seventh Avenue stops at Penn as one station). The lines serving these hubs are overcrowded during the rush, as people heading downtown from Penn crowd onto Seventh Avenue trains, people heading to Midtown from Penn rush onto the E, and passengers from Grand Central overload the maxed-out Lexington Avenue line. Future commuter rail expansions are not going to ease this burden; East Side Access will only serve to overburden the Lexington Avenue line even more, and Penn Station Access will do the same as well. Regional rail would be hard to implement with today’s infrastructure; previous studies for East Side Access have ruled out multiple stops along the 34th St tunnels for NJT and LIRR trains, so dwell times at Penn would remain high, reducing throughput. To make matters worse, the rolling stock itself is not conducive to short dwell times; the two-door per car layout is not good at letting passengers in and out quickly. BART has similar capacity issues on its two-door trains, even though they are much shorter, and is planning to replace them with three-door trains to speed up service.

Inappropriate rolling stock: interoperability

The trains currently in service all run on different power supplies, making interoperability today somewhat difficult. No one currently has all-electric rolling stock that can run on all voltages in the regional rail network. NJT has the most compatible rolling stock, since its electric stock can run on 12.5 kV 25 Hz, 12.5 kV 60 Hz, and 25 kV 60 Hz; they can run on MNR’s New Haven Line, but nothing else. Metro-North has stock running 12.5 kV Hz 60 Hz and 25 kV 60 Hz, but the East River Tunnels and North River Tunnels are electrified at 12.5 kV 25 Hz, meaning that current electric rolling stock can’t run into Penn. The rest of the electric rolling stock on Metro-North and the LIRR run on 750 V DC third rail, but even stock between these two agencies is not compatible; Metro-North uses over-running third rail while the LIRR uses under-running third rail. Theoretically, M8s on the New Haven Line can be run on both types of third rail, but in practice there is not much of a chance or need to do so in operation; the Hell Gate Line splits off before the transition to over-running third rail, making it unnecessary to accommodate both over and under-running third rail at the same time. The only other link between Metro-North and the LIRR is through the Empire Connection, which isn’t electrified, so the use of trains that can switch between over and under-running on demand is mainly for flexibility purposes.

Low likelihood of replacing inappropriate rolling stock

There is also little likelihood that new electric-only rolling stock with appropriate layouts will be ordered for the sake of interoperability. Aside from the M3s and M3As, all three rail operators have electric fleets that are new and could stand another two or even three decades in service, and are thus unlikely to need replacement anytime soon. Replacing them early would not work very well; as the MNR and LIRR are the only two commuter rail operators that use third-rail power and are also the two biggest commuter rail operators in the nation, selling their fleets would be virtually impossible. The M3/3A replacement orders are not nearly big enough to justify multi-voltage trains either; due to the lack of clearance for transformers in the 63 St tunnel to Grand Central, ordering multi-voltage trains would require splitting the M9/9A contract into a multi-voltage and single-voltage train, increasing costs for relatively small benefit. So electric-only through service is virtually impossible for the foreseeable future.

The picture is much rosier when it comes to diesel-operated service; both MNR and the LIRR have expressed interest in replacing their old, unreliable diesel locomotives, with either DMUs or new diesel locomotives. It just so happens that NJT recently received a new reliable diesel-electric locomotive, the ALP45-DP, that can switch between modes on the fly and handles 12.5 kV 25 Hz, 12.5 kV 60 Hz, and 25 kV 60 Hz. This would be a significant upgrading from the existing diesel fleet of the MNR and LIRR; currently they can only handle being on electric mode for about ten minutes, to get in and out of the city, and belch fumes on the rest of their trips. The ALP45-DP would be able to operate at high speeds in both modes and transition easily, and would be able to operate anywhere on the regional rail network; making them third-rail compatible with a similar seamless switch between modes would allow them to maintain electric operation on all electrified track in the region. Coupled with new double-deck cars ,like the Bombardier Multi-Levels, that are able to run across the regional rail network, and the basis for a new regional rail network could be forged from existing diesel services. Such a network would be relatively barebones, and could look something like this:

Click for full Image

Click for full Image

With seven terminals on either side of Penn Station, running two trains an hour from every terminal to the other would result in 14 TPH in both directions. If Gateway, the LIRR Third Track, and East Side Access were completed, that would result in an additional 24 TPH on both sides of Penn, giving more than enough capacity to run this service while still leaving 10 TPH on either side for additional service in New Jersey and Long Island. All this would require is an investment in the rolling stock required, and a small capital improvement; under this plan, the Maybrook Line would be reactivated and two stops would be added so that diesel services on the Harlem Line could access the New Haven Line and Penn Station. This wouldn’t be absolutely necessary, but would become more urgent as the tracks into Grand Central approached capacity.

This provides a lot of additional service to stations that my not see that much of it currently, particularly out in Greenport and Montauk. However, this doesn’t solve a big problem with the commuter rail network; it’s still not particularly good at distributing passengers throughout the core, instead dumping passengers into just two overcrowded transfer hubs. Eventually, as the capacity from East Side Access and Gateway is used up, a more comprehensive plan will be required, to be described in the next post.

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Q44 Select Bus Service, What It Means, and What It Could Be

Planned Q44 SBS Service and Stops (Source: DOT)

The Q44 and Current Plans

The current Q44 is one of the busiest routes in Queens and the city, linking 9,240,459 riders annually with Jamaica, Flushing, and the Bronx. In Queens, it runs through severely congested corridors such as Main St in Flushing, and Hillside Blvd, Sutphin Blvd, and Archer Av in Jamaica, while in the Bronx it makes all local stops. With the introduction of SBS, travel times will be slashed by using off-board fare payment, traffic signal retimings, and bus lanes in congested areas.

Q44 DelaysProposed Bus Lanes

Offset bus lanes in the most congested sections of road in Jamaica and Flushing (as is proposed for Main St, and hopefully the plan in Jamaica) would be a godsend and allow significantly improved bus flows if the bus lanes work as intended and are properly enforced. In this case, curbside lanes are not an acceptable alternative; in the sections where there will be bus lanes, there are often so many bus stops that the entire curb has no parking because it is all reserved for bus stops. Curbside lanes implemented in areas like this would effectively be useless, because buses coming up to occupied stops would have to pull out into general traffic to get around bypass stopped buses, rendering the bus lanes rather pointless.

Ultimately, the plans for new bus lanes are very welcome. However, they’re not the best plan, and they certainly don’t solve all the issues with traffic congestion in Jamaica and Flushing.

What the Jamaica-Flushing SBS Could’ve Been

Original plans did not call for the Q44 to be the only SBS link between Jamaica and Flushing. Originally, as seen in these images from previous study PDFs, the Q25 on Kissena and Parsons Blvds was also considered for SBS treatment in the beginning stages of the study.

Flushing-Jamaica Travel Speeds Original Flushing-Jamaica Plan

The Kissena Blvd/Parsons Blvd corridor is similarly very congested in both Jamaica and Flushing; due to the street layout of Downtown Flushing, nearly all bus routes heading from the southeast (the Q17, 25, 27, and 34) all have to merge onto Kissena Blvd and then Main St to get to Downtown Flushing. SBS treatments such as bus lanes, traffic signal priority, and prepayment would’ve helped traffic on not only the Q25, but these other routes.

To illustrate this point, here are the amount of buses entering Downtown Flushing and Jamaica on a weekday between 6-7PM:

Jamaica-Diagrams Flushing-Diagrams

Highlighted in these images is the path of the Q44:

Jamaica-Diagrams-Q44-only Flushing-Diagrams-Q44-only

As you can see, the Q44 shares its main stretches with a large number of bus routes. However, the lanes for the Q44 would not cover all of the busiest routes (in the case of Jamaica) or would only cover a short distance of the busiest routes (in the case of Flushing.)

Highlighted in the following set of images are the paths of the Q44, and the Q25:

Jamaica-Diagrams-Q44-Q25 Flushing-Diagrams-Q44-Q25

Existing Jamaica Bus LanesIn Jamaica, the impact of the additional Q25 bus lanes would be limited; Jamaica is already covered by a good deal of both offset and curbside lanes, as shown here in an image from DOT’s earlier Jamaica Bus study. However, it would provide bus lanes to a particularly segment of Parsons Blvd that hosts the Q110, Q111, Q112, Q113, and Q114, and would also provide bus lanes on a stretch of Sutphin Blvd that the Q44 does not serve.

In Flushing, the Q25 lanes would have a bigger impact. Most buses heading into Flushing from the south do so using the path of the Q25, from Kissena Blvd to Main St. Bus lanes on these routes would benefit the Q17, Q27, and to a lesser extent the Q65, as well as the Q25. So it is unfortunate that the Q25 seems to have been passed up for SBS improvements.

What to Do Next

Giving the Q44 SBS is good. Giving other busy routes into Jamaica and Flushing SBS service like the Q25, Q65, Q12, Q43, etc. would be even better. However, the limited nature of SBS improvements would probably only be good for a short period of time before Flushing and Jamaica would become congested again. The core of the issue is that all bus traffic in Flushing (and to a lesser extent, Jamaica) is largely funneled into a few roads that become very congested. The problem is particularly acute in Flushing, where nearly all traffic from the south heading further north than Roosevelt Av must merge onto Main St.

The only true way to solve these problems in the long term would be to both extend the subway network east, and to grade separate the busiest of the remaining bus routes. Currently, many routes from the south and east of Jamaica, and the north and east of Flushing, must go out of their way to reach the two subway hubs. Extensions of the subway, while certainly very expensive and very far in the future, would allow routes to be reconfigured in a more optimal manner so that routes would only go into Flushing and Jamaica when necessary. That being said, Flushing and Jamaica are also the two biggest commercial hubs in Eastern Queens, so even then there will still be significant bus traffic in the area.

This significant bus traffic would be best off grade separated; doing so would allow the freeing up of sidewalk space currently taken up by bus stops, and in addition would improve both surface and bus congestion. Ideally, either busway or light-rail tunnels (built to B Division subway standards for later conversion) would traverse the busiest roads in Jamaica and Flushing, with surface portals in less congested areas for diverging branches, similar to what is done in the Philadelphia and Boston streetcar systems. Such a busway system could also be configured to have turnstile-restricted fare control, thus allowing both all-door payment and potential in-station transfers to subway stations. These developments would reduce congestion and allow future growth in Eastern Queens.

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Moving to a new page!

Hello! It’s been more than a year since I’ve made a post on this blog, and I’d like to apologize for the delay; I’ve been working on making new maps after being inspired by the wonderful posts at Transit Maps on Tumblr. So, I have some announcements to make:

1. I’ve started a general New York transit map Tumblr blog. Most of my regular maps will be moving here, as well as the frequent transit maps I post.

2. All the Tomorrow’s Subway posts are stopped, at least for now. I’ve had a year to reflect on and refine my proposals, and at some point I’ll make a new post series on a revamped fantasy subway plan.

To start off, here’s a post from my Tumblr:

Map of 2030 New York City Subway

This is the culmination of a fairly long project to create a modern map based on George Salomon’s 1959 subway map, which was New York City’s first diagrammatic map. However, he was far more visionary than that; in a report he published for the MTA, he recommended a unified wayfinding system for the subway that would represent each trunk line as one color, which is the system we use today to represent subway routes. Unfortunately, the Tauranac map threw out the diagrammatic map, so I took it upon myself to create this.

The original map, while good, had many issues – tick marks and stops were off-centered, stops were unevenly spaced, geographic inaccuracies, etc. However, thanks to the wonders of digital art-making, I was able to fix all of these issues.

Stop spacing was standardized and condensed in Brooklyn, Manhattan, and the Bronx, while the spacing in Queens was expanded (and made geographically accurate as well.) Trunk line names were replaced by the subway’s ubiquitous bullets. Airport routes were also included, as well as the system’s expansions since 1959 (the Chrystie St connection, the 63rd St tunnel, the Archer Av line, and the future 7 Line and 2nd Av extensions, in addition to the various transfers added and the spread of wheelchair accessibility across the system.)

A full link to the PDF can be found here.

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