Source: The MTA Wants to Deny the Bronx a New Subway | Suite101.com
The MTA Wants to Deny the Bronx a New Subway
…the MTA is taking steps that will inhibit the line from serving the borough.
Isolating the 2nd Avenue Subway
The MTA divided the construction of the 2nd Avenue subway into four segments (phases) and commenced work on Phase I (63rd St. to 96th St.), which benefits the very wealthy Upper East Side. In the planned Phase II (96th St. to 125th St.), the agency has broken with all previous 2nd Avenue subway plans which proposed a station at 125th St. & 2nd Avenue with the line continuing north into the Bronx. In its current proposal, the MTA turns the line west on 125th St. with the station on an east-west axis to facilitate transfers from Metro North and the Lexington Avenue line.
This alignment has grave consequences for the Bronx:
- As far as the Bronx goes, the east-west station alignment creates a dead end. The 15 "Q" trains from the 63rd St. junction, projected to use the line, would never go to the Bronx.
- A 2nd Avenue subway going north from 125th St. could split in the Bronx and provide 2 new subway lines in that borough. With the "Q" line marooned in Manhattan, the remaining 2nd Avenue line would have the capacity for only one extension.
- A bellmouth at 125th St. & 2nd Avenue which the MTA does plan to provide would be totally dependent upon the completion of Phase III (Houston St.-63rd St.) and start of the proposed "T" train service. If Phase III is not built, the Bronx won’t have a new subway.
It must be added that this westward extension is extremely expensive. The Phase II tunnels, built in the 1970's by the cut and cover method are shallow. The western extension, however, would have to go under the Lexington Avenue line, which has 2 levels. This means deep bore tunneling with a super expensive cavern station. All of this for a transfer! Wouldn’t going into the Bronx serve more people? Absolutely! Thus, why is the MTA wasting money on a transfer point?
This alignment provides substantial evidence that the MTA has no intention to extend the new subway into the Bronx. The agency hopes that the transfer will add riders to the 2nd Avenue subway, which otherwise, would suffer from low ridership. This is a highly optimistic scenario since riders always prefer the quickest and most direct connection to their destination. They have no time for an additional cruise through the Upper East Side.
Not content with making an Bronx extension of the 2nd Avenue subway more difficult, the MTA is taking steps to prevent the Bronx from using its best route: the Amtrak line.
Obstructing the Most Effective Bronx Extension Route
The Amtrak railroad line traverses the entire eastern part of the Bronx. The roadbed has room for 6 tracks with Amtrak using only two. Furthermore, the line crosses the Bronx in exactly the right areas: Hunt’s Point, Parkchester, the Municipal Hospital Complex and the huge Co-op City housing development.
In terms of cost, extending the subway via the Amtrak would save a fortune: no tunneling (except at the tail end), no blasting, no digging, etc. It would be a matter of laying the ties, tracks, the 3rd rail, signals and building stations. The Regional Planning Association (RPA) proposed using a part of this route as did the MTA.
In the 1970's, the MTA considered extending the 2nd Avenue subway into the Dyre Avenue line. Trains would have used the Amtrak route to 174th St. and then an elevated connection, remaining from the defunct New York, Westchester & Boston railroad, to the E. 180th St. (#2, #5) station. At the same time that the agency decided to turn the 2nd Avenue subway west at 125th St., it also decided to tear down the elevated connection at 174th St. This was done in 2003 ending the possibility of a connection to Dyre Avenue and sending a signal that the MTA no longer wanted to extend the 2nd Avenue subway into the Bronx.
Since East Side Access will allow LIRR trains to go directly to Grand Central, space will open up at Penn Station. The MTA wants to run Metro North commuter trains from Connecticut on the same tracks as Amtrak to Penn Station. Since the roadbed has room for 6 tracks, this in itself would be no problem. The 2nd Avenue subway could use the other four tracks.
Recently, however, the MTA has revived a 2006 proposal (Kappstatter) to build four Metro North stations directly on the Amtrak trackbed and thus, block its use for a 2nd Avenue subway extension! It would improve the commute for the 1% while preventing one for the 99%. Would the commuter train alone make a difference for the Bronx?
Currently, the Metro North Harlem line runs directly through the center of the Bronx. The ride is prohibitively expensive and thus, few Bronx residents benefit. It has a few stations but aside from Fordham Road, they are so little used that most trains simply bypass them. No entrepreneurs established any significant companies along the route knowing that without a subway, the area would be unattractive to good employees.
The same pattern would likely hold on the Amtrak. The proposed stations would not attract many riders and would mostly be bypassed. The only exception is the Bronx Municipal Complex where the station would be very useful for wealthier doctors and hospital administrators but not to hospital workers or the families of patients.
What makes the MTA Metro North station proposal so galling is that the Amtrak line can accommodate both–amazingly, a project for the 100%--if the planning process is done right: The Metro North station at the Municipal Hospital complex should be built to accommodate both Metro North and 2nd Avenue trains. Parkchester and Hunt’s Point may not need Metro North stations at all if these two areas are served by the 2nd Avenue extension. At Co-op City the 2nd Avenue subway would leave the Amtrak and via a short tunnel enter the heart of Co-op City. A Metro North station built north of this point would not pose any conflict.
If the stations are built on the trackbed, however, they will block the best and most inexpensive route for a Bronx 2nd Avenue subway. This action would force the extension to be dug elsewhere at enormous expense. Taken together with its plans for Phase II, it’s clear that the MTA doesn’t want the Bronx to have a new subway.
I was under the impression that a station at 125 Street and 2 Avenue wasn't possible due to the water or impediment to future extension to the Bronx.