Rethink NY? It’s Time


At least for the Commuter rail System.  All too frequently it doesn’t do what you need it to do and doesn’t go where you want to go.  This is especially true for making connections at airports.  It’s time for a rethink.

New York City’s commuter rail system is a hodge podge of leftovers from legacy systems built back in the early 20th Century.  The commuter rail that we have now is a product of evolution rather than any attempt at a coherent plan.  That is not unusual, as most of the large cities in the world tha

It’s time for a reassesment. This plan is actually Pretty good, especially the thinking about Penn Station’s throughput.

The main stations in Tokyo handle similar loads and they also avoid having trains cross over because of the bottleneck issues. Operating the tunnels in single directions makes sense.  One initial problem is that once the Gateway tunnels are complete, the north river tunnels will have to be shutdown for long term maintenance, that is if they can be reopened at all.

The addition of a new station at Port Morris would have many advantages. Not least of which would be a boon development in the South Bronx. It would also allow transit access to LaGuardia, something that’s been badly needed. Especially if there is express service to Penn and Newark.

One advantage of this plan is that it takes advantage of some existing rights of way, not being currently being utilized and developments that are already under way. A Port Morris station utilizes the old New Haven Oak Point yard and perhaps sections of the Old Harlem River yard. It’s one of the few place in NYC that’s available for real growth.  Adding the Airtrain access to LGA and I imagine that that area could have real potential.

I’m not sure that Amtrak is ready to give up Sunnyside, but there’s no real reason for it too.  The whole yard could be slowly air righted, which would help cover the costs. I look at some of the things that JR EAST is doing at Shinagawa Station in Tokyo and I don’t see any real reason other than cost to not pursue the same things here.

NYC’s Commuter rail has just clunked along for 100 years with service declines being more common than service increases.  Yet for the last 30 years or so demand has actually increased, stressing the system to almost the breaking point.  The East Side Access Project will add some capacity and flexibility, but I’m not sure that it will be enough. I’ve posted about the East Side Access project before, here.

The fact is that the bottlenecks through the city don’t start a Penn, but at Harold interlocking, where three different railroads all terminate and cross over each other.  Harold is the most complicated interlocking on the corridor and it’s been a bottleneck for almost 100 years. The problem is that Harold was designed in 1910 or so for entirely different operation expectations. Here’s an “as Built schematic for Harold.


Note that this was before the addition of the Connecting Railroad and the New Haven connection and long before anybody considered running ALL corridor trains through Harold. Harold simply requires too many crossing trains and traffic bottlenecks. Which back up, right into Penn. Here’s a bunch of picture overlooking Harold and Sunnyside Yard.

With the changes that East Side Access are bringing there is an opportunity to address the long term Harold problems and as this plan points out, provide significant service improvements that are going to be badly needed. The plan also looks like it takes what is already happening and provides reasonable alternatives that will, in the end save  bunch of time for a lot of people. Which is what transit is all about.


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