Thursday, September 7

The T

Decided to combine some feedback on the bus post with questions about the 2nd Ave Subway.

The map below shows the planned route of the 2nd Avenue Subway, which will be designated the "T".

The purpose of the 2nd Avenue Subway, according to the MTA's website, is to "reduce overcrowding and delays on the Lexington Avenue Line, and to improve mass transit accessibility for residents on the far East Side of Manhattan." The 2nd Avenue Subway will probably achieve these goals. The question, in my mind, is whether these goals are worthy of the $6.3-$7.8 billion the project is estimated to cost.

For that much money, why not a higher mission? Sure, life on the East Side of Manhattan has its challenges, but aren't there people in other parts of the city that could use the transit investment even more? For a project that's costing about $1,000/resident of NYC, how many people are going to get a tangible benefit from this effort? If the MTA was a private company, soley concerned with cutting a profit, then I'd say they can spend their money however they want. But the MTA is a quasi-public agency -- it has a certain responsibility to serve the people of New York. Less than a year ago, in fact, the city's taxpayers ponied up a ton of money by voting for a $450 million bond act. (An act of goodwill promptly rewarded by the transit strike.)

Urban tunnels are REALLY expensive. Boston's 3.5 mile Big Dig, like the 2nd Ave Subway, was originally estimated at a cost of about $1 billion/mile. It ended up having a whopping $14.6 billion price tag. And now chunks of the ceiling are falling off and killing people. I'm not saying that the 2nd Avenue Subway will turn out like the Big Dig, but I wonder if all that money wouldn't be better spent on something else.

In 2000, Bogota, Colombia created the Transmilenio -- a 40 mile BRT system which was carrying 1 million people/day by 2006. (You can see a photo of the main trunk line at the bottom of the previous post.) The cost? About $240 million. While it's unlikely a system in an American city could be produced as cheaply, there are certainly things to be learned from the cost-effectiveness of the Colombian example.

Stay tuned for more transportation week!


Anonymous said...

have you ever taken a bus? they suck. and the Bogota system is running along highways with large medians that can be turned into separate lanes and platforms. utterly impractical for NYC. though it could have been an alternative to the la subway which is a total joke. but the only sensible thing for the city is to expand and integrate with the existing subway system (which is what they should have done at JFK instead of that bullshit airtram)

jackson said...

I take buses all the time. My favorite is the B48, which gets me from Crown Heights to Williamsburg in about 20 minutes. (Much faster than the G train or Q to L transfer.)

Which NYC are you talking about -- Manhattan or the 5 boroughs? In most cases, I agree, BRT doesn't make a lot of sense in Manhattan. But Bronx, Queens, Staten Island and Brooklyn are filled with wide boulevards that could easily accommodate the separate lanes and platforms you were so quick to dismiss.

While I don't agree 100% with the way their going about it, I am a huge supporter of the MTA/Dept of Transporation's BRT Study, which is implementing pilot corridors in 2008. (

Unknown said...

I think you should be careful with the apples and oranges effect here and avoid comparing a subway with a bus. There are many routes in NYC where BRT could be extremely cost effective and hold great promise. The MTA talks about using a BRT type system for service while the subway is being constructed, great idea. Nonetheless the second avenue subway is the most cost effective on the ass per seat cost of any new start project.

It is designed for cynergy with the LIRR East Side Access project. Without the 2nd Ave line the East Side Access project will be much less valuable since anyone going downtown off the LIRR will have to jam onto the enormously overcrowded Lexington Ave. trains.

Also, back to the apples and oranges issues we have the Big Dig. Going by the standards set by the Big Dig all other projects look efficient by comparison. And, Boston has done precious little to reclaim the space they gained by the project for beneficial economic use. The space will mostly be parks, not that parks aren't nice.

The worst thing for me about the Big Dig is that they dug up all of Downtown Boston for one time every three centuries and they didn't bother to connect North Station and South Station. They did, however, leave a space under the tunneled roadway for a rail connection should anyone ever demonstrate the wisdom of adding the tracks, signals and service.

The whole money pit that the Big Dig became really cries out to be tolled. Massachusetts tolls East West travel on the Mass Pike but not North-South travel from the Cape to New Hampshire and Maine.

Anonymous said...

There is a political component to initiating BRT service. Chiefly it can only be efficient to the extent you take the space from the cars and trucks on the roads. Subway service allows the surface roads to retain the anarchy and terror they presently inflict on urban life. Nearly 200,000 American highway deaths since 911. Never Forget.

Anonymous said...

the glaring issue for me...

so much is being spent for this project...would it be so terribly expensive to extend the northern end westward to AT LEAST the 125th A-line stop. A harlem cross town subway makes so much sense, and is very much needed. (and if I can be greedy, have it then run northward along the A line to 168th street, stopping at 145th street along the way for our 1-train friends)

hopefully someone important see this post :P (hi mr. mayor)