New York Regional Rail: the Central Segments

I’ve written a lot of articles over the years about what should be done with regional rail in the New York area, focusing either on the overall shape of the system (as on The Transport Politic) or on specific aspects of the central links (as in past posts here). I’d like to synthesize these ideas into one coherent proposal. Unlike my posts on The Transport Politic, I’m going to pay relatively little attention to how to match branches for ridership, but more attention to what to do in a central region consisting of the city proper, New Jersey as far as Newark, and New Rochelle. I will also indicate things that can be done to keep construction costs under control for a plan that includes 30 kilometers of urban and underwater tunnel, about six times as much as the planned tunnels across the Hudson.

The Principles, Restated

The most important principle for infrastructure planning in developed countries is organization before electronics before concrete. In New York, it’s possible to squeeze some extra capacity out of the first two: notably, the LIRR and Amtrak together only run about 40 trains per hour into Penn Station from the east on four tracks, whereas the maximum capacity is about 50, and this is before trains are diverted to the East Side Access tunnels to Grand Central. The LIRR’s bottleneck is not the East River Tunnels, but the platforms at Penn Station, and this means it’s possible to use improved operations, including through-running, to squeeze extra capacity even before East Side Access opens.

However, the biggest bottleneck in the region is from the west, across the Hudson, and there, present traffic peaks at 24-25 trains per hour on just two tracks. I know of limiting cases in which mainline operations achieve about 30, using moving-block signaling on captive tracks (e.g. the RER A, which shares tracks with nothing else in its central segment), with one example that uses fixed blocks (the shared RER B and D tunnel achieves 32). Here, concrete is unavoidable, so new tunnels are required. In addition, providing service to more points than Penn Station, or Grand Central for commuter lines connected to it, requires new tunnels as well.

However, this new infrastructure should be built economically. The posts I linked to in the initial paragraph of this post provide some ideas, including the use of large-diameter tunnel boring machines to reduce station construction costs, and the use of the existing station cavern at Penn Station. This should be paired with seamless fare and schedule integration, including through-routing, and a fleet replacement plan to get rid of locomotive-hauled trains and replace them with EMUs (electrifying unelectrified branches as needed).

Subject to the requirement for new infrastructure, New York should remember that it’s a major city, and as such, it’s capable of supporting multiple independent commuter lines. Paris has five RER lines, of which only the B and D share tracks, and only between one pair of stations, on top of several major commuter lines disconnected from the RER network. It’s better to keep the map relatively coherent, so that one central trunk will split into several outer branches, but nearly all outer branches will feed into consistent central trunks. (As an example, the London Underground’s deep-level lines’ branching is coherent, while the New York subway’s mostly isn’t, with the E, F, M, and R trains running on what’s technically a branch and then diverging to three different Manhattan trunks.) This simplifies the junctions that need to be built just outside the city core, and also makes the network easier to remember.

The Tunnels

There should be a new pair of tunnels between New Jersey and Penn Station, parallel to and south of the existing tunnels. Those tunnels should then continue to Grand Central. This is the core of ARC Alternative G, which was removed from consideration in the original ARC project for reasons that were never explained adequately (Stephen Smith has been making freedom of information requests for years). However, unlike Alt G, it should not include new railyards in Manhattan, as those belong in areas where land is cheaper, nor should it include a loop for trains from the Erie lines to get to Penn Station.

The lynchpin of the plan is not the tunnels to Penn Station, which are already on the political radar in the form of the Gateway Project, albeit at a large multiple of an acceptable cost, due to such frills as new Penn Station tracks. Rather, it’s a new set of tunnels, meeting at Lower Manhattan in the vicinity of Fulton Street, going in four directions: north to Grand Central, south to Staten Island under Lower New York Bay, northwest to New Jersey via the Erie Railroad’s old Pavonia terminal, and southeast to Brooklyn to the Flatbush Avenue LIRR station. Using a double-O-tube large-diameter TBM, the Fulton Street station should feature cross-platform transfers, large banks of escalators to the street, and, to reduce costs, no station structures outside the tunneled station, putting timetables and ticket-vending machines on the street. All connections should be to Grand Central’s existing station and not the new East Side Access cavern, as the cavern leads only to the LIRR, which is already connected with both Penn Station and Flatbush Avenue. The existing tracks connect to Metro-North, which is not.

A possible additional tunnel in the far future would connect Hoboken with Grand Central’s new cavern, via Union Square. This is only in case the existing lines become congested. Current commute patterns make such congestion very unlikely, but things could change if, as a result of the new capacity, more people choose to live in suburban North Jersey and work in Manhattan.

The Network

There should be five lines running through Manhattan, without any track-sharing between them, and one using East Side Access and terminating in Manhattan. I am going to try using consistent numbering, different from the order I used in my posts on The Transport Politic, in order to group the lines using Penn Station and the lines to Lower Manhattan separately.

Line 1 is the existing mainline. Its inner route goes from Secaucus Junction to Sunnyside Junction, via the existing tunnels to Penn Station. Intercity trains use it (and should continue doing so), but most traffic will always be on commuter rail. Beyond Secaucus, trains can go to either the Northeast Corridor or the Morris and Essex Lines; to simplify junctions, most trains should use the Northeast Corridor (including the Raritan Valley Line, which splits past Newark). Beyond Sunnyside, they can go to the LIRR or the Northeast Corridor; to ensure adequate capacity for intercity trains while still providing service to the eastern Bronx, trains should use a mixture; in the long run, four-tracking everything north of Hell Gate Bridge will be necessary. It may be best to dedicate Port Washington trains to this line. At Penn Station, it uses middle-numbered tracks.

Line 2 uses the new tunnels to Penn Station and Grand Central. Its inner route goes from Secaucus to Penn Station, Grand Central, and Harlem-125th Street, splitting into branches thereafter. Most trains should go to the New Haven Line, since Line 1 could never provide adequate traffic for it; the rest should go to the Hudson Line – see below for Line 3. At the New Jersey end, it should run to a mixture of Northeast Corridor trains (including to the North Jersey Shore and Raritan Valley) and Morris and Essex trains, as required by demand. At Penn Station, it uses low-numbered tracks, potentially just 1-4. I expect it to be the most crowded, because of the service to both primary Midtown Manhattan stations.

Line 3 uses the Empire Connection, realigned tunnels to Penn Station, and the northern pair of the East River Tunnels to reach the LIRR. Its inner route goes from Yonkers to Penn Station and thence to Sunnyside. Intercity trains to Upstate New York use this line, but there are fewer of them than on the Northeast Corridor. Beyond Yonkers it can only go on the Hudson Line, so most Hudson Line trains should use it rather than Line 2. At the LIRR end it should run alongside trains to the East Side Access tunnel; as the splits are far to the east of Sunnyside, it may be prudent to have each branch serve both it and East Side Access, but in either case, timed East Side Access/Line 1 transfers at Sunnyside are necessary. At Penn Station, it uses high-numbered tracks. I expect it to be the least crowded, since to the west it only reaches one commuter line, one whose present traffic is moderate.

Line 4 is the main north-south line, from Staten Island (both the existing Staten Island Railway and the North Shore Branch) through the underwater tunnel to Fulton Street, Grand Central, and Metro-North. North of Harlem-125th Street, it can connect to any line, but I think the Harlem Line is the most coherent, as the only Metro-North line that is not needed for lines that don’t go to Grand Central. I expect it to be very crowded with inner-suburban and outer-urban traffic, as it serves Staten Island and underserved neighborhoods of the Bronx and the suburbs to its immediate north.

Line 5 is the combination of the Erie Lines, and possibly also the Northern Branch and the West Shore Line, and the LIRR’s Atlantic Branch, via Pavonia and Flatbush. For interlocking simplicity, all trains should go to one or two lines beyond Jamaica, ideally the Atlantic and Montauk Lines (the existing turnouts already favor trains from the Brooklyn Atlantic Branch continuing along the branch to Far Rockaway and Long Beach), leaving the Main Line to Line 3 and East Side Access. As there are five possible branches in New Jersey – the Northern Branch, the West Shore Line, the Pascack Valley Line, the Bergen County Line, and the Erie Main Line – frequency would be limited if all were used, so it may be best to choose just three.

Here is an unlabeled map of the five lines, with only inner branches shown; the decision of what station to terminate branches at has nothing to do with the desired service pattern, and is purely illustrative.

A potential Line 6 would take in all Morris and Essex lines, go to Hoboken, cross into Manhattan via a new tunnel with an extra stop at Union Square and then go to Grand Central and East Side Access; as discussed above, it’s omitted due to its very long-term nature.

Penn Station

I have discussed what to do with the Fulton Street Station. Penn Station is more complicated. The easiest thing to do is nothing, beyond new tunnels. There would be many platform tracks, two per access track for Line 2 and more than two for Lines 1 and 3; Line 3 would involve difficult switching moves and slow speeds through the station. Line 1 is the most important priority for allowing intercity trains to serve the stations with few (ideally no) diverging moves at turnouts, to maintain speeds.

To avoid platform congestion, especially on Line 2, more staircases and escalators should be installed. This, however, clutters the narrow platforms.

The second possibility is to pave over tracks to widen the platforms. I vacillate between preferring paving over pairs of tracks to create very wide platforms, and paving over every other track to create wider platforms at which trains can open doors on both sides. Right now I lean toward the former, as it would allow reusing preexisting escalators: the platforms currently have single-direction escalators as they’re too narrow for an adjacent pair of escalators, one per direction, and merging two platforms would be the easiest way to allow wider escalator banks.

Unfortunately, on the line with the biggest platform crunch, Line 2, this would imply a single platform with two tracks serving two tunnel tracks, so that dwell times would limit capacity somewhat. This limit is not too sharp – 24 trains per hour are achieved at through-stations in many cities without additional tracks, with some limiting cases of 30 (such as the moving block signal-equipped RER A) – but it’s still a limit, and requires good timetable adherence departing the station. These are only commuter trains, which run shorter routes than intercity trains, but Line 2 is likely to involve some long-range commuter runs, as far as Trenton or Dover or New Haven. (Since Line 1 is the only one serving local Northeast Corridor stations in the Bronx, it should only get the local trains, while longer-range trains to New Haven should use Line 2.)

The most expansive solution is to rebuild the station’s track level. There is an RPA study Penn Design study in that direction. For optimal passenger usage, the two concourse levels would be replaced by one, and the station’s 21 tracks would be reduced to 12, facing six 15-meter-wide platforms; the platforms’ eastern ends would be shaved slightly, to allow longer curve radii heading from the Lines 2 and 3 tunnels with simple turnouts, each tunnel track turning into two station tracks facing the same platform. In principle, it can be sequenced to shut down parts of the station in succession: first the southern tracks (New Jersey trains would be immediately interlined with Northeast Corridor and LIRR trains for a combination of Lines 1 and 2), then the northern tracks (the LIRR would have East Side Access by then), and finally the remainder of the central tracks. The bulk of the work on the central track could be done in conjunction, first removing the platform between the existing tracks 11 and 12 and then realigning tracks from the center outward.

I want to clarify that I do not support the most expansive solution, as it is likely to cost billions of dollars. It would create a nice Penn Station for train travelers. Those 15-meter platforms could have 6 escalators side by side with not too much obstruction, and 4 with practically none (the widest escalator is 1.6 meters wide outer end to outer end, with 1 meter used for the moving stairs). Reducing the two concourses to one would allow taller ceilings throughout, and redesigns of passageways for maximum passenger throughput. The only problem: it would be extremely expensive.

I bring this up only because the Municipal Arts Society and the RPA have teamed to propose a multi-billion dollar remake of Penn Station above track level, with high aesthetic value and zero transportation value. In addition, Amtrak wants to move its passenger facilities one block west, in the wrong direction, which has negative transportation value. If there has to be a redo of the station, it might as well be one that improves it at track level as well, rather than just making it pretty from the outside.

Phasing and Costs

The ideal phasing is “as soon as money becomes available.” There is a tendency in the US to be overly cautious about everything and chop projects into little pieces, in the name of prudence. It’s always easy to show one’s moderation by chopping a fixed amount of money from every proposal (quintessential moderate Senator Olympia Snowe was famous for this) and by funding many projects by small amounts. These small projects then fail because of reduced network effects or sometimes higher costs due to smaller orders.

The tunnels I proposed in this post sum to about 30 kilometers. These 30 kilometers are objectively difficult to build. The tunnels for Lines 4 and 5 of this proposal go under wide rivers and a bay, and once they reach Manhattan land they have to go under the entire Lower Manhattan subway network. Half a billion dollars per kilometer would be a good deal: Crossrail is more than a billion dollars per double-track tunnel kilometer, assuming there is nothing to build except tunnels (which is far from true), while Crossrail 2’s cost range is $600-850 million per km (see also my first comment in the link). London is a high-construction cost city, but New York is even higher-cost; building a line for London’s costs would be a major achievement for New York.

Bear in mind that Amtrak thinks the Gateway Project alone would be $16 billion. When I propose to build an entire regional rail network for perhaps $20 billion (in 2010 dollars, not year-of-expenditure dollars), based on what it would cost in other cities, I am not taking into account the bloat that leads to high costs in New York. At the per-km costs Amtrak thinks are appropriate for what would be one of the simpler tunneling projects for this system, this is plain unaffordable.

Still, precisely because of the network effects, and because this plan neatly separates branches of the existing commuter rail system, it should be proposed all at once. If it’s expensive then it will also be delayed; it’s better to have six mainline rail tracks under the lower Hudson by midcentury, than to have four and then realize there’s a capacity crunch and six tracks are required after all. Of course it’s best if everything is in place by the late 2020s, on the schedule of the Grand Paris Express. But the point is that longer project latency encourages bigger rather than smaller plans. The Line 2 tunnel, by whatever name, is still the most important priority, but the phasing then becomes “whenever it can be designed and built.”

The lower-end cost I’m proposing is for a project without any frills. It includes a bare minimum touch for Penn Station – simpler interlockings at places and some extra access points, but no more. It includes no Sunnyside decking or other redevelopment, which should be funded separately in any case. (When people build highways, do their projected cost figures ever include the construction of the suburban subdivisions they’d sprout?) It doesn’t include electrification of branches, although that is cheap enough as to be well within the uncertainty in even a first-order estimate. It doesn’t even include rolling stock, although the large preexisting fleet of decent EMUs means there’s no need for immediate fleet replacement as on the MBTA and other diesel-hauled railroads.

The only thing this project does include is more paths for more commuter trains to serve Manhattan and other regional job centers.

78 comments

  1. Henry

    Doesn’t the price tag for Gateway also include land acquisition and building a Penn South?

    Also, is Line 4 really necessary? I’m not aware of any capacity constraints on the Harlem Line as it is (unlike the current capacity constraints on the LIRR and NJT), and the cost of a giant, underwater tunnel under the Bay would be very high. Would it be feasible to build a Staten Island tunnel from St. George to the rail line by the Bayonne Golf Club, along Rt 440 and the HBLR ROW to Liberty State Park, and then build a much shorter tunnel to Manhattan from there?

    • Alon Levy

      Line 4 has no new construction north of Grand Central. South of Grand Central there is a capacity constraint, on the 4 and 5, since Metro-North riders have to switch to the subway if they work in Lower Manhattan.

      It’s totally feasible to build other tunnels to Staten Island, with a shorter underwater component. One of the posts I linked to talked about this; I didn’t consider an option that goes via Bayonne since it’d be very circuitous, but I did look at options going through Brooklyn. There’s a tradeoff between overall length and underwater length.

      • Adirondacker12800

        Just like Long Islanders like to go to Barclay’s Center so do Metro North Riders and Staten Islanders. Staten Islanders have a lot of connections in Brooklyn. Dragging it through Brooklyn adds a mile or two and two stops. Atlantic and 65th, it lets it connect to the Brooklyn end of the Triboro.
        Dekalb Ave and the Fourth Ave stations have capacity problems. Extend the Second Ave Subway to the West End Line, currently the D, add a few stops in Brooklyn. The D and the N riders Triboro could change for an express ride to Grand Central along with the Staten Islanders.

  2. ant6n

    A RER-style network would probably have another station along the main line in Manhattan. This would spread people across two stations, reducing dwell time and capacity issus at Penn. At the same time it would reduce travel times for many people, by providing another access to the cbd and connections to more subway lines.

    • Eric

      This would be nice, but how practical would it be? There’s a lot of tall buildings east of Penn Station, reconfiguring active tracks to allow platforms between them would be a real pain, and I assume at some point the tracks slope down too much to allow easy stopping.

      • ant6n

        Well, there are 4 tracks. Once EA opens, it may be possible to shut down one at a time, or two for weekends. Usually with an infill station like this, tracks wouldn’t be reconfigured to insert center platforms, one would add side platforms. Or one could convert a pair of tracks to track + platform, and build a new platform+track alongside the old one.

        Slope is an issue, but checkout this profile: http://www.gutenberg.org/files/18065/18065-h/images/plate14.png
        Up to Madison it’s .3%. To 4th/Park Avnue, where the subway is and Alon’s proposed North-South tunnel would be, it’s 1.5%. So depending on how far east this goes, one could smoothen the slope almost within the envelope of the existing tunnel. E.g. if you allow a station slow of say .8%, and extend 150m east of the point where the slope changes to 1.5% (in order to reach Park Ave), the height difference is 1m.

        So how about this plan for one of the tunnel pairs:
        – Build a tunnel next to existing tracks for for a bit more than the length of the proposed station. The tunnel should be easily configurable to either two tracks or platform + track.
        – Reroute the tunnel via this new tunnel section.
        – Reconfigure the old tunnel (via deepening a bit?) to have one track and a platform.
        – Reroute one of the tracks back to the old tunnel.
        – Reconfigure the new tunnel to station + platform.

        • Joey

          Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think a 1.5% slope is outrageous for a station platform. It would have to extend through the vertical curve but I don’t think that’s unreasonable either.

          • ant6n

            For Stuttgart 21, they’re planning with 1.5%, and it’s a huge controversy. Although that will be a large intercity station, and not just a regional rail stop. If you have tracks that steep, you need the platform itself to be sloped away from the track (so that wheelchairs and strollers don’t roll onto the platform). Apparently those slopes can add up to like 2.5% for the passengers.
            So Maybe the American planners won’t go for that.
            But either way, it shouldn’t be that big a deal to deal with the slope.

          • Max Wyss

            FWIW, the new Selnau station of the SZU in Zürich has one part more or less level, and then turns into a 4% grade. And it has been working well for almost 25 years now…

    • Adirondacker12800

      There’s one overcrowded subway train at 33rd Street. If the suburban train goes 9 blocks north it connects with 4 and half subway lines and Metro North. and is closer to all the jobs there.

  3. Jonathan English

    This is a fantastic plan that would do more for transportation in New York than anything else. It’s the kind of plan that should have been put in place decades ago, at the dawn of suburbanization, rather than retaining plans (largely rehashes of the IND Second System) that rigidly hew to municipal boundaries and ignore where most of the population growth has occurred.

    This proposal sounds unimaginably ambitious for New York, but it’s quite reasonable by real world standards. Stuttgart, a region of about 3 million, is currently building a project involving 30 km of new tunnels and a new underground main rail station. Germany is an average cost country by global standards (higher than most of Southern Europe, lower than the English-speaking world) and it’s currently budgeted at 6.5 billion euros.

    I’ve put some thought into the Grand Central aspect of this plan. The central tracks on the lower level run beneath the lower concourse, so there are no heritage issues there for the tracks to be extended south. Most of the station’s tracks would become essentially redundant, including the entire upper level. That makes the ESA cavern all the more unnecessary. Ideally, platforms for the tracks continuing south would be widened by eliminating some of the tracks. They could be accessed both from the lower concourse and from the upper level track area, which could be converted into a long mezzanine with escalators down to the lower level platforms along their entire length. The remainder of the upper level track area and the redundant lower level track area could presumably be repurposed for something else. I suppose the MTA could convert it into hundreds of thousands of square feet of retail space in the highest value neighborhood in the country, which is a considerable bonus.

    • johndmuller

      Regarding Grand Central, there are a number of complications besides avoiding digging up some of the Lower Level’s gates and the food court area. There are also 2 east-west subway lines (the 7 and the Shuttle) crossing the path of the new tracks (at different depths) and the Lexington Avenue north-south line(s) (the 4, 5 and 6) switching here from Lex Ave. to Park Avenue (the street under which I presume the new tracks would also run). All three of these lines have stations here as well as their interconnecting passages, entrance and exit ways potentially obstructing new construction. Other issues along the route include steam and other utility tunnels as well as some major waterworks infrastructure. The GCT building itself would likely have to be underpinned in addition to whatever else that might have to get moved or impinged upon.

      I understand that these issues were confronted in the course of the (in)famous Alternative G of the ARC tunnel project, but I don’t have a copy of that report (or know how to get one). I believe that they had a reasonable plan to thread a tunnel through all this, but that the difficulty/expense and a potential timing issue barring messing with the existing water tunnel along the route prior to the new water tunnel (#3) being completed enough to be a backup (an issue which may no longer be a problem) weighed in against Alt G.

      I doubt that this connection would make GCT’s platform spaces largely redundant either, as I think that there are only two tracks being talked about here and that would hardly accommodate all of GCT’s traffic.

      • Adirondacker12800

        hogwash! that’s all solvable. All it needs is Readon metal and anti gravity pods to support everything above it while it’s being constructed.
        There’s copies of the Draft EIS and the Final EIS for ARC lurking on archive.org. Alt G has fatal flaws. Most of which you listed. That doesn’t stop people from saying it’s possible. Just like running LIRR trains through the 63rd St. tunnel has fatal flaws, that doesn’t stop people from insisting it could be done.

  4. Aaron M. Renn

    A couple of questions:

    1. I know very little about Staten Island, but that looks like a pretty costly tunnel for only 450K people. Looking solely at your map, could the Staten Island lines be connected to New Jersey to allow red line trains in your system to go via Staten Island to downtown? Right now a couple of those Jersey lines would have no direct access to downtown.

    2. If I read this right, there’s really only one station on these tunnels: Fulton. Crossrail has a lot of stations. If you aren’t building stations, a deep bored tunnel should be cheaper than Crossrail.

    • Alon Levy

      1. Yes, that’s certainly true. When I first came up with the idea of this system, Line 4 did not exist. But then I looked again and disliked the idea that all suburban counties would get access to Manhattan, except Staten Island. There aren’t too many people living on the Island, but,
      a) The population is growing faster than elsewhere in the city and most of its suburbs,
      b) Because it’s part of the city, the commute ties to Manhattan (55,000 daily commuters) and Brooklyn (29,000) are relatively strong,
      c) Staten Island has very long average commute times, the longest of all US counties by some measures, and
      d) Because of point c), the local NIMBYs are likely to acquiesce to TOD around St. George, increasing the tunnel’s usage, since the project would still offer great benefits to preexisting residents.
      It’s completely possible to extend the Line 4 branches farther out to meet Line 1, and my more expansive fantasy map does that. But it’s more for commutes between Staten Island and Middlesex County than for commutes between Central Jersey and Lower Manhattan: the Staten Island Railway and North Shore Branch (in proposals) have very closely spaced stations and limited top speeds, so it’s faster for riders from Central Jersey to just change at Secaucus.

      2. Yeah, that’s the limitation of my avoiding labels on the map, in order to avoid having to show every suburban station on the depicted branches. There have to be multiple new stations, in addition to Fulton: Union Square and Pavonia, for two, and St. George almost certainly would have to be within the tunnel since it’s so close to the water. I vacillate on whether other stations, such as Borough Hall and South Ferry, are also warranted. If the Lower Manhattan station were located one subway stop north, at City Hall, then South Ferry should get a station; if it were located one stop south, at Wall Street, then it’d be a waste. Fulton is where it becomes a dilemma. Either way, it’s fewer new stations than Crossrail and Crossrail 2 (4-6 on 30 km vs. 7 on 21 km on Crossrail and 12 on 30 km on Crossrail 2), but conversely the tunnels may well be more difficult because of the long rivers and bay.

      • Henry

        Would this only involve new stations in the CBD areas, though? As of right now there are no Metro-North stations south of 125th, and fairly few LIRR stations on the Atlantic Branch.

        Isn’t Jamaica station also going to be reconfigured in a way that will basically get rid of through running from the Atlantic Branch, anyways?

        • Alon Levy

          The main reason I didn’t label the map is to avoid making these decisions!😉

          There shouldn’t be infill stations on Metro-North, since it so closely parallels the 4/5/6. The Atlantic Branch, I’m not sure – it parallels the J/Z east of East New York, but maybe one or two stations would be useful to provide a usable express for people in that area.

          The ESA plans include cutting the Atlantic Branch, yes, but that’s 9 years away now. I don’t know what they’re planning to do with the interlocking, but presumably it won’t happen very soon.

          • Henry

            On the defunct LIRR Today website, there was (I don’t know if it was a hypothesis or a diagram of actual, published plans) to include a new dedicated Atlantic Branch platform and get rid of the current cross-platform flyover setup to route the vast majority of trains into the Main Line. In the event that East Side Access finishes, there would be 40% more through capacity to the Main Line, an Atlantic shuttle, and there’d still be a track connection, it just wouldn’t be practical at all to use during rush hour.

          • lop

            Platform F at Jamaica is from the MTA, not Patrick O’Hara (sp?) He did add a proposal I haven’t seen from the MTA, to extend the Brooklyn-Jamaica shuttle east, maybe to Hempstead, cutting that line and the Queens stations off from Manhattan bound trains, at least during peak hours.

      • Eric

        How necessary to the plan are stations like Union Square and Pavonia? They would be nice, of course. But these are relatively low-density areas by Manhattan standards, certainly compared to Midtown and Lower Manhattan. And the subway transfers to them are pretty good. What if they were omitted from the initial plan in order to save costs? And if there were sufficient demand, they could be added back in?

        • Alon Levy

          Pavonia is necessary for the PATH transfer, and also for the secondary business district. (Exchange Place would be even better, but it forces the Line 5 tunnel to be east-west through Manhattan, making it impossible to have a cross-platform transfer at Fulton Street.) Union Square is also a very important destination, possibly the most important in Manhattan outside Midtown and Lower Manhattan; it’s the city’s four busiest subway stop, after Times Square, Grand Central, and Herald Square.

          Adding stations later is easy if the construction uses large-diameter TBMs, in which case the platforms can be entirely inside the tunnel, and impossibly difficult if it uses narrow-diameter TBMs. The problem with building lines 4 and 5 with small-diameter TBMs is that it would require blasting a cavern for Fulton Street right underneath the tangled mess that is Lower Manhattan’s underground infrastructure; such a cavern would easily top the cost of the Calatrava PATH terminal.

          • Adirondacker12800

            Tear down the suburban shopping mall hovering of the Newport, a.k.a. Pavonia, a.k.a. Erie PATH station and it can be re-re-re-developed into bigger version of Exchange Place. For what it’s worth ridership is at Exchange Place is lower than at any other PATH station in New Jersey except for Harrison.

            http://www.panynj.gov/corporate-information/foi/13889-O.pdf

            Exchange Place is very deep, so that the trains can get under the river. Newport is much shallower since the trains are running north/south there. A lot cheaper to tear down a mall and do it cut and cover-ish than it is to build a deep cavern next to the deep cavern that Exchange Place is in.

          • Alon Levy

            Ooh, I like the passenger numbers. They neatly illustrate the difference between dispersal at origins and concentration at destinations. In Manhattan, the station ridership numbers, from highest to lowest, are 12.9, 10.7, 2.9, 2.3, 1.6, and 1.3 million entries per year; in Jersey, they are 8.6, 8.2, 7.3, 5.7, 4.8, 4.4, and 2. I did not expect Journal Square to be so high – I knew it was the traditional business district of Jersey City, but thought it had completely lost out to Exchange Place.

    • knott

      I agree with your first point. I think Alon is usually very good at transcending both dysfunctional political economy considerations due to administrative borders (i.e. Staten Island is “different” from for example New Jersey as it is a part of “New York), and additionally usually is very cost oriented, but regarding line 4 it dosent seem to make any sense from either of those two aspects. Alons plans for east-west investments in RER-like commuter train seems like a wonderful plan for New York, on the other hand.

      In general in Europe these kinds of decisions are usually made with heavy input from traffic modelling and Cost-benefit analysis, but this seems largely absent from the discourse about transit investment in the US (despite all American public policy schools at fancy universities). Do people here know why that is the case? My understanding is that they can give quite reliable ridership estimates for these kinds of projects.

      • ant6n

        In Europe they also make plans that go far into the future and include components that today don’t have a goot cost-benefit ratio, but may in the future. The plans are made with consideration for these complete networks, and provisions are made to make future construction easier. This may be true especially for underground stations that may be built with shells of a future intersecting line.
        http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bauvorleistung

        • Adirondacker12800

          The reason people are talking about new tunnels now and another set of new tunnels in 2040 is that the ridership projections say that the four tunnels under the Hudson will reach capacity in 2040. The existing tunnels were supposed to reach capacity in 2010 They reached it in 1995, soon after direct service to Midtown, from the former Delaware Lackawanna and Western lines – the Morris and Essex lines, was opened. Months instead of years for the ridership to grow that much. The same thing will happen with the former Erie lines and Central of New Jersey lines once they have faster, one seat rides into Manhattan.

      • Eric

        Line 4 is clearly justified as far south as Lower Manhattan. The only question is about the underwater tunnel to Staten Island. And if the main expense in a project like this is really the stations not the tunneling, then this tunnel may justified too. And my gut feeling is that a line which so nicely completes the geographical network deserves the benefit of the doubt. Even if it appears like a slight luxury at present, it is more likely to have unforseen benefits later.

      • Ralfff

        You should take the $100 million+/year SI Ferry being eliminated into consideration as well. Also, repair yard consolidation with currently isolated SIR system as well as heading off the idiotic, infrastructure-duplicative idea of a BRT or worse, LRT on the North Shore Branch.

  5. Mycroft

    Alon:
    Thank you for a thought-provoking note. It deserves an encompassing and carefully argued alternative. In the meantime, two quick observations/queries about details followed by a serious concern about planning criteria and aggressiveness, finished off with a request for help.
    1. How long do you want a train to sit at Penn or Grand Central loading and unloading, assume that these are station stops and not terminal stops. A properly designed train can empty and refill in five minutes. From this data point and the volumes of people to be moved, one can then derive a platform design. At Penn, I believe (prior to necessary expansion) this amounts to 8 – 40 foot wide platforms serving 16 tracks plus two through tracks in the middle connecting LIRR/Amtrak 32nd street tunnels to Penn/Amtrak North River Tunnels. (There is just enough space to do this if you burrow a little outward under 31st and 33rd.) All the platforms need to be at least 1205 feet long (to accommodate regional rail trains) and some as long as 1740 feet (to accommodate long intercity services like the old Florida Special). To keep a satisfactorily low level of crowding, every platform needs to be connected not only directly and multiply to the main concourse (Clear out the mezzanine. Clear out other impediments and enlarge the main concourse.) but also to the 7th and 8th avenue Subways, and to two new exit bridges opening all the way to 31st and 33rd Streets – One of these is inadequately included in the Moynihan Station proposal and the other would be at approximately the position of the old baggage and mail bridge. (One would like a direct connection to the 9th Avenue Subway, but then one needs a 9th Avenue Subway.) The rail connection northward to the Hudson should be two tracked and this service needs to be supported by storage tracks going eastward through the pre-existing aperture to a new tunnel under 31st street. If one were to grow both regional rail and Amtrak services or just to connect Penn and Grand Central, the analysis becomes much more interesting.
    2. The hardest single constraint to overcome north of Grand Central is the four track portion of the tunnel north of 58th Street. Currently, peak hour operations into GC saturate the capacity of this choke point. One can build a more robust system north of it, and one can play signalling games that might permit peak hour traffic in excess of Grand Central’s current 60 trains per hour in each direction – a remarkable achievement in itself, no UK railway station has achieved even 24 trains per track per hour. But, expanding the four tracks to eight without shutting down current operations into Grand Central or being assassinated by residents of the Upper East Side is a nearly insuperable task. (Specific proposals as to how one might realistically eliminate this bottleneck are earnestly solicited.)
    3. I worry that the proposal may be inadvertantly counter-urban and not radical enough. I agree that the North East Corridor intercity connection should closely parallel the present cross-island path, possibly stopping at a new Kips Bay station on the east side where Amtrak and regional rail could connect to the 2nd Avenue Subway (real soon now) and the Manhattan Overground. I agree that all regional rail services need to have multiple stops going up and down Manhattan. And, I believe, that you would agree, that Manhattan needs to be served by a grid of local transport, serving every location you suggest. But, for New York to grow and prosper as a bourgeois city, regional rail needs to enable ever increasing numbers of middle class passengers to comfortably travel single seat to a consistent set of concentrated destinations, linking directly beyond those points over the LOCAL GRID across and to the rest of Manhattan.
    4. Significant volumes of useful data and analysis relevant to this discussion used to be available to all on “The LIRR Today” website. Something has happened and now the site is “by invitation only” How can one request an invitation or otherwise obtain access once again to this remarkable body of work?

    • Alon Levy

      1. First things first: no accommodation should be made for Amtrak’s long-distance trains. A couple daily trains should not drive decisions about infrastructure that’s supposed to carry close to 30 trains per hour. Also, storage tracks shouldn’t go in Manhattan, but in places with cheap land – Chatelet-Les Halles has no storage tracks either. With these parameters, it’s perfectly adequate to have 16-car platforms for intercity trains, and 12-car platforms for regional ones – longer regional trains are problematic given the number of suburban platforms that would have to be lengthened, whereas intercity trains serve fewer stations, and in addition many of the Northeast Corridor’s intercity stations already have long platforms.

      You’re completely right that the Empire Connection needs to be fully double-tracked. It’s implied in what I say about realigning it to the northern platforms, matching the northern pair of East River Tunnels. Similarly, the part about adding access points to the southern platforms I totally cribbed from IRUM, which is also right about the possibility of clearing the concourses. The reason I didn’t talk about clearing the concourses is that, frankly, I don’t think Penn’s problem is concourse crowding, not after having had to deal with Stockholm Central at rush hour.

      2. The Park Avenue Tunnel runs 3 tracks in the peak direction and 1 in the reverse-peak. That’s how they get that level of traffic (which is 50 tph peak, not 60). The way to remove traffic from the tunnel, allowing 2-and-2 running with some breathing room for more trains, is to move some Hudson and New Haven Line trains to Penn Station, using the Empire Connection and the NEC. The East River Tunnels only run 40-41 inbound tph on their four tracks in the morning peak, including Amtrak.

      3. Well, for the local grid there’s the subway… Amtrak shouldn’t be making more than one New York stop – it’s perfectly fine for intercity trains to make just one stop in the city. In Tokyo, Shinkansen trains make two city stops (Tokyo and either Shinagawa or Ueno) and one inner-suburban stop (Shin-Yokohama or Omiya), and in Paris, TGVs make just one stop, at whichever terminal they serve. An East 33rd Street station could serve the tunnel not carrying Amtrak trains given extra construction, i.e. Line 3; this is less about Second Avenue Subway and more about the 6.

      Single-seat rides aren’t always good to provide. It’s usually better to provide good transfers, i.e. cross-platform and timed. Jamaica has that. Secaucus doesn’t, which is a matter of how the tracks on the two lines that meet there are aligned, but also a matter of the internal faregates.

      4. I don’t know. He emptied his Twitter account, too. Something involving official work, I think.

      • Adirondacker12800

        The Lexington Avenue Subway is the busiest line on the system. Which makes it the busiest line in the country. The express trains don’t stop at 33rd. Neither does the Flushing Line which is one of the busiest lines on the system. If we are going to be digging deep cavern stations in Manhattan dig it diagonally from Penn Station to Grand Central. The middle of the platforms would be at 38th Street halfway between 5th and 6th. The ends of the platforms would be on 36th and 40th. By the time the escalators get up to street level they’d almost be in Penn Station or Grand Central. Pity there are those pesky skyscrapers up at street level.

    • johndmuller

      Regarding item 2. Park Avenue tunnel, etc. constraints:

      They say that the tunnel is operating near capacity, but I suspect that there is still some room for meaningful improvement. I imagine the state of the tracks and roadbed and the speed and trustworthiness of the switches are contributing to a general slowdown which could be improved at some outrageous but still finite level of expenditure. I assume that the switching patterns have been optimized, but perhaps over time changes in service patterns have occurred without corresponding recalculations of the optimal platform assignments, routing and sequencing of the trains. Possibly there is room for extra capacity if the existing system was currently actually optimized for some other function. Maximum traffic flow in the tunnel is also a function of the rolling stock, its acceleration and particularly its braking factor into the necessary headways; more capable rolling stock and signalling timed to reflect that could add something to capacity. I don’t know if all this amounts to much, but it’s got to count for something.

      As to adding additional tracks in the tunnel, it might be doable enough in the tunnel section (given that an agreement could be reached as to a tolerable level of surface disruption during construction). Except for a small section at the north, where there was a hill, the tunnel is really more like an enclosed above-ground right of way. There is a central 2 track section roughly under the grassy median. There are wide single track compartments on either side (wide enough for a couple of old local station platforms), perhaps already wide enough for an additional track on each side (even if not, the widening should be much less difficult than would ordinarily be expected).

      The viaduct portion would probably require elevating the extra tracks above the current viaduct; widening the viaduct would be quite close to numerous residential buildings and would either squeeze out the narrow roadways on the sides or overhang them in what would probably be deemed a too unsightly fashion. An additional 2 tracks above the existing viaduct would certainly not be an aesthetic improvement, but it would probably be tolerable. The 125th St. station might need to be raised a level as well as would the Harlem River bridge. Complicated trackwork in the Bronx would be necessary and the transition between the viaduct and the tunnel segments could be tricky.

      A tunnel from the Bronx could substitute for decking the viaduct (and optionally for remodellilng the Park Avenue tunnel), but that would be much more expensive and could encounter underground show-stoppers along the way. On the other hand, it could be the centerpiece of a different approach to getting more tracks into GCT and could possibly connect with the LIRR tunnel at 63rd St and their GCT (Under) as well as Old GCT. More ambitiously it could also continue through beyond GCT to connect to Penn and/or the proposed lower Manhattan stations. The portion under the Harlem River could even be shared with the Bronx-bound SAS much as the F train shares the 63rd St. tunnel.

      • Adirondacker12800

        Amtrak as part of the money they are spending on the stuff everybody talks about – new wire for New Brunswick to Trenton – is replacing all of the switches west of Penn Station. They are upgrading from 15MPH switches to 30MPH switches. IIRC the switches south of 59th are all 10MPH switches and the clearances are too tight for anything faster. IIRC and the source I don’t remember anymore is correct. Take “10 mph” with a grain of salt the size of a bowling ball.

  6. Eric

    “Line 1 is the existing mainline. … Intercity trains use it (and should continue doing so),”

    You don’t think intercity trains should go via Grand Central once that tunnel is built?

    • Alon Levy

      No, for three reasons:

      1. The Penn-Grand Central link is of prime importance to commuters, and is likely to fill to capacity with commuters.
      2. The Grand Central-125th Street is at capacity now and is likely to continue having high commuter demand even if the New Haven and Hudson Lines have alternate routes to Penn Station, whereas there is comparatively less demand for commuter rail service along the NEC in the Bronx and Astoria. This also affects maximum intercity train speed: intercity trains can run at 160 km/h in the Bronx, with slowdowns for curves, whereas on Park Avenue they get stuck behind commuter trains.
      3. To reduce land acquisition requirements where the link curves from 31st Street to Park or Madison Avenue, it should be built with the minimum curve radius that the trains that would use it can negotiate. The limit for commuter trains is lower than the limit for Shinkansen trains.

      • Adirondacker12800

        Until if fills to capacity why shouldn’t we use it for intercity travel? When it fills up we need the tunnel from North White Plains to Woodbridge. A causeway from New Haven to Shorham has it’s charms. But they we are building tunnel from Hicksville to Woodbridge.

        • Alon Levy

          Because it’s likely to be filled to capacity on the day that it opens. A morning commuter train heading east of Penn Station will still have a ton of riders if it’s going to Grand Central; it’s less likely to be full if it’s going to Sunnyside.

          • Adirondacker12800

            Only reason commuters would want Grand Central to Penn Station is Harlem Line passengers. Into every life some rain must fall. Change trains.

  7. Zmapper

    With regards to the Park Ave tunnel capacity constraint, below may be an optimal use of track capacity, balancing the large peak-direction demand with appropriately timed reverse peak service. I’m assuming 24 tph, per track. Times listed are approximations; actual times would be set by measured demand.

    Open – 7:30a: 2 in, 2 out. Up to 48 tph in each direction, well enough to meet outbound needs; an outbound “push” would be scheduled between 7-7:30a or so to meet reverse-peak demand, and to clear out station for as many inbound trains as possible.
    7:30a-8a: 2 in, 1 out. Fourth track reversed. Reverse peak trains from last “push” arrive at suburban stations between 8-9a.
    8-9a: 3 in, 1 out. Peak “tripper” inbound trains held in GCT (up to 48, plus 12 from track change).
    9a-5p: 2 in, 2 out.
    5p-6p: 3 out, 1 in. Peak “tripper” outbound trains held in GCT (up to 48, plus 12 for track change).
    6p-6:30p: 2 out, 1 in. Fourth track reversed. Reverse peak trains arriving in PM wave depart suburban stations starting between 5-6p.
    6:30p-Close: Reverse-peak train wave arrives at 6:30p-7p, with service not capacity constrained.

    While off-peak demand certainly does exist, and would be met by no less than a limit of 24 tph in either direction, the strongest peak is centered around a 9-5 work day. My goal was to provide as much capacity as possible to meet the peak-of-peak, while ensuring that times meet the 9-5 work day not just for the peak but also the reverse peak.

    One interesting consequence of a schedule like this would be that while demand is “smooth”, track capacities go from 48 to 72 to 48 in the peak direction, and from 24 to 48 to 24 in the reverse-peak direction; ironically, the least crowded trains practical for commuting may end up being in the middle of the peak hour!

    • Alon Levy

      The problem with this is that it wrecks the through-running. Ordinarily, there are two southbound tracks and two northbound tracks in the Park Avenue Tunnel. Under this proposal, one of each connects to Penn Station and thence to New Jersey, and one of each connects to Lower Manhattan. If the Park Avenue Tunnel is run 3-and-1 in the morning, then the northbound trains from Lower Manhattan and the eastbound ones from Penn Station have to merge onto one track, reducing their capacity by half. Unlike at Grand Central at the end of the Park Avenue Tunnel, there is no train storage space on either Line 2 or Line 4, since the new tunnel to Lower Manhattan would (presumably) only connect to a handful of Grand Central tracks and the southern Penn Station platforms don’t connect to any yard.

      • Adirondacker12800

        If you tear down Grand Central and the Met Life building. Otherwise you are sorta stuck with what ya got. Wall Street is a smaller destination. If you are running 60 trains an hour not all of them need to go to Wall Street. New Haven line passengers will be getting access to Penn Station soon after East Side Access opens. Then Hudson Line passengers. Just like LIRR passengers are going to be changing trains at Hicksville, from their express to Penn Station to the express to Grand Central, Metro North passengers can change from the express to Penn Station to the express to Wall Street in Stamford. It doesn’t have to stop in midtown. Clearances in the Park Ave. and 63rd St. tunnels are too tight for 12.5 kV catenary so running trains through to New Jersey isn’t an option unless we lay third rail all over New Jersey. … Barcelona solution at Stamford, New Rochelle, Yonkers and Croton. Like PATH inbound at Newark. Everybody merrily changes trains and then when they leave the local to Grand Central comes in.

        If there is enough traffic to fill 30 trains an hour to Grand Central and 15 trains an hour to Penn Station and 15 trains an hour to Wall Street there isn’t enough capacity. Especially if they want to run 32 trains an hour to Grand Central, 17 to Penn Station and 18 trains to Wall Street. . Not with local and express service at reasonable speeds.

  8. Max Wyss

    One thing to keep in mind when getting to 30 tph and direction is that the trains must have more or less the same performance profile. They do not need to be identical, but they should have comparable dwelling time, as well as acceleration and decceleration behavior.

    • ant6n

      How high can one go if most trains are EMUs, and loco+bilevel trains arrive in bunches? Also, what if the stations have multiple platforms per incoming track?

    • Adirondacker12800

      In December they run extra trains for the holiday crush. There’s a 60 minute period when they run 26 trains an hour through the Hudson River tunnels. Many of them 12 car double deck trains. Going to 30 per hour, around a 15% increase, doesn’t cut it. We need new tunnels. Twenty years ago.
      Metro North projects that eventually they’ll have 6 trains an hour on the New Haven Line that go to Penn Station. And 4 an hour from the Hudson Line. They want to do that because ridership is increasing fast enough that any seat to Grand Central that gets freed up by someone going to Penn Station will get used by someone going to Grand Central. They are going to need new tunnel by 2030 or 2040. If we want to open new tunnel in 2035 we have to start planning it now.
      …if there are 60 Metro North trains an hour entering Manhattan, 30 of them can go to Grand Central, 15 of them to Penn Station and 15 of them to Wall Street, change out in the suburbs to the express that goes to your destination. Harlem Line riders would get screwed out of a one seat ride to Penn Station. Like the Port Washington branch riders will get screwed out of a one seat ride to Wall Street when that tunnel gets built. Life is tough sometimes.

      • Purple City

        I love unlabeled maps!

        Two questions:

        (i) If the Penn-GCT link is live, wouldn’t it make more sense to route Acela via the Metro-North tracks? The Hell Gate, for all its magnificence, is sort a kludge, sending trains over the East River so that they can then cross under the East River. The cheap version of this would just follow the New Canaan Line tracks, but a spiffier version would bypass the serpentine alignment through Mt Vernon with a straight shot underneath Pelham Parkway, connecting with the current NEC at around Co-op City.

        (ii) Given that (a) SIRR currently operates BMT-spec vehicles modified to conform to FRA rules, and (b) multiple BMT/IND lines terminate in Lower Manhattan (e.g. the E at WTC, or the J/Z at Broad), shouldn’t the LowMan/SI connection be subway? The SIRR could be removed from FRA jurisdiction (using a time-share arrangement at the western edge of the North Shore, if need be), allowing regular-spec subway vehicles without the chains hanging off the front. This would actually make an ideal extension to the 2nd Avenue Subway, if one presumes that the Lower Manhattan piece of that will be completed prior to First Contact.

        • Adirondacker12800

          No. If I’m reading the Metro North trip planner correctly the fastest express serving New Rochelle takes 27 minutes. The fastest Acela takes 28 to get to Penn Station.
          Can’t run catenary in the Park Avenue tunnels. Not that there would be room with all the Metro North customers in 2040.

          • Joey

            You might be able to with a bit of work. Rip out the ballasted tracks and replace them with thinner slab and maybe you’ve gained enough room for an overhead conductor rail. Whether that’s worth the cost compared to railcars with both pantographs and shoes is another matter. And in any case it doesn’t make sense to send intercity trains over tracks that will be saturated with commuter trains.

        • Alon Levy

          i) No. As Adirondacker mentioned, it’s difficult to fit the tunnel with catenary (and for extra fun, it’s impossible to lower the tunnel to create more clearance because the F and soon-to-be Q trains are right underneath). On top of that, that line has way higher commuter demand than Hell Gate and the East River Tunnels. It’s shorter than the current NEC mainline – by a bit more than 3 km – but may not be any faster because of the need to run at approximately the same speed as commuter trains through 125th Street and across the Harlem River.

          ii) It’s possible, yes. The reason I lean toward a commuter rail extension rather than an SAS extension is that, first, SAS is capable of terminating on a two-track stub in Lower Manhattan at reasonable capacity, and second, Staten Island’s distance from Manhattan is such that the speed of a commuter rail link is probably more useful than the direct service to more destinations of a local subway.

          • Adirondacker12800

            If a train fails at Grand Central, it can sit there for an hour while people use other tracks. If a train fails at Penn Station rush hour is screwed for hours.
            Metro North, in very round numbers, has the same ridership as the LIRR and NJTransit. Metro North doesn’t have to cope with intercity trains appearing in their midst just outside of Manhattan. They do have to cope with “we’ll save money by making the platforms on the Harlem line short” And with “lets save even more money by sizing the substations just right for service level predictions in the near future”, There may be more trains moving in and out on Park Ave. than there are under the east river.

            The quickest cheapest solution to capacity constraints on the Harlem is to lengthen the platforms and upgrade the substations. By the time they do that they are gonna have to encourage as many people as they can to go to Penn Station…. Which means the LIRR has even more trains appearing a few miles from Manhattan.

            Putting a thick piece of high tech plastic on the ceiling works well when it’s 750 volts. Not as well when its 12,500.

  9. Jonathan Rynd

    Why do trains from NJ have to go via the Pennsy tunnels or downtown? Most NJ commuters want to go to midtown — and midtown east at that. How about a midtown tunnel, perhaps able to connect toe the 63rd street tunnels that go to Sunnyside Yard?

    • Alon Levy

      The tunnels that East Side Access uses, via 63rd Street, only serve one Manhattan stop: Grand Central. So in terms of Midtown East service, it’s no different from ARC Alt G, i.e. connecting the trains from Penn Station to the preexisting Grand Central lower level. But there are advantages to connecting to the preexisting Grand Central: it is shallower and hence easier to reach, and it serves Metro-North, whereas the East Side Access tunnel serves Long Island and the Northeast Corridor, which the existing Pennsy/New Haven tunnels already serve.

      • Joey

        The ESA cavern may be easier to reach because of the mess of subway tunnels closer to the surface. Not that connecting to the existing tracks doesn’t make sense for other reasons. And IIRC they abandoned the ESA TBMs south of the station which complicates connecting to those tubes.

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  15. paulb

    Could you really bore a tunnel shallow enough to connect with Grand Central lower level without undermining the structures above it?

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    • Alon Levy

      Delete the NOSPAM from the email address😉.

      Re your map, it has a lot of reverse-branching, which increases system complexity; the Y service pattern between the Hoboken tunnel, the line up to Grand Central, and the tunnel to Brooklyn is especially bad – this kind of service pattern causes delays to propagate. Separately there’s also conventional branching at the wrong spots, reducing capacity on trunk tunnels – for example, the Staten Island lines seem to be sharing the Harlem Line with another line, which means that the Staten Island-Manhattan tunnel can’t run trains to the full capacity of a 2-track tunnel.

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