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.


Building The Second Ave Subway

The Second Ave is the largest and longest awaited expansion of the NY Subway in the last 50 years.  In fact a proposed expansion of the Subway onto 2nd Ave has been a part of NY Subway planning  for over a Century.  At last  phase 1 is almost completed.

A wonderful gallery of pictures in the tunnels.

More from business insider.

Some pics on flikr.

Looking Uptown

Some Albums from the MTA.

Second Avenue Subway Update: 72nd Street Station
Second Avenue Subway Update: First Work Train Ride
Second Avenue Subway Update: February 27, 2015


Second Avenue Subway Update: January and February 2015


More here.

A drone takes a trip.

And more video from WCBS.

And the NY Times.

A video from the MTA.

The Second Ave sagas blog.

MTA’s info page.

In spite of all the complaints it’s important to remember that these are huge projects under very trying conditions and severe constraints.  And they seem to be doing well.


How NOT To Run A Railroad

I’ve been riding train my entire life.  I’ve been riding subways and Commuter trains since I was seven.  I’ve talked to a LOT of railroaders over the years. This is NOT how it’s done.

The fact is that management at Metro has LET this happen.  Frankly, they should have taken steps in the ROCC decades ago, especially about the extra tricks the people were doing.  Operating a railroad takes attention to what’s going on and you aren’t attentive when you work a double trick all the time.  As for the operator/controller spats, that’s just inexcusable as is the ROCC staff never leaving the building and seeing the railroad.  Frankly things are going to get worse before they get better.

Rethinking Transit

A bus that I would WANT to ride in.

This is more of a limo service than public transit.  That’s OK. I think that such options should be available for people who can afford them and don’t want to drive themselves and don’t want to be crammed into the typical transit bus.  The fact is that when transit systems were run privately such options were available, at an extra cost to rider.  On most of the NYC railroads to the suburbs, for instance, groups would lease “club cars” for their members morning and evening commutes into and out of the city.  these cars were usually old parlor cars from mainline trains and had a clubby atmosphere, with many commuters not only taking the same train, but the same seat every day.  Here’s the most  famous of the cars, the V:XI GBC, which stood for 5:11. which was the train it was on Gentleman’s Bar Club.

The club cars disappeared in the early 1970’s when they were retired and replaced with far more pedestrian M2 bar cars which lost the atmosphere of the old clubs because they were run by the state supported railroad and not as clubs.  Not to mention that the bar cars where on the toilet ends of the M2s and they never managed to remove the smell of the toilets from the trains for the entire lives of the M2.  That, and the fixed seats sort of killed the clubby atmosphere of the evening commute.

By making transit more egalitarian, maybe we’ve lost something.  When there are no aspirations for better service, the service runs down.  I wouldn’t want to repeat the bad old days of the 1970’s and we need to consider that unless, like these busses, good and comfortable transit options are not available people who can afford to drive won’t use them.  Which draws the transit down  to the lowest common denominator and loses it’s ability to improve the traffic situation and have people actually use to it’s maximum possibilities.