Staten Island RR map, 1952 via Wikipedia
Presently, Staten Island has only one passenger rail system, the Staten Island Railroad (SIR) , which runs from St George at the northeastern tip to Tottenville at the southwestern tip. Though it is often referred to as Staten Island Rapid Transit it is in fact a standard gauge railroad by FTA standards (but with third rail power). This means that subway trains would not be able to operate on the line, making it more of a commuter rail.
Like with Brooklyn, rapid transit on Staten Island traces it’s routes back to steam powered trains. Originally there were three branches, the North Shore branch, Main Line (the only surviving line), and the South Beach branch. The North Shore branch ran from Cranford, NJ to St George Terminal and parts are still used today as freight-only service serving the Howland Hook Marine Terminal at the northwestern point of Staten Island. The North Shore branch right-of-way still exists, parts have been turned into a walking path while others remain decaying with the remnants of stations still hanging above the streets. Politicians and planners are currently trying to reactivate the North Shore branch, either as heavy rail like the SIR or as a light rail system.
The South Beach branch split off from the Main Line after Bay St in the Clifton neighborhood and wound its way through Rosebank, Fort Wadsworth, Arrochar, and South Beach, terminating at Wentworth Avenue. Service was discontinued in 1953 and was literally wiped off the map, demapped and redeveloped as housing. Almost nothing remains of the South Beach branch other than a few ghostly markings (e.g. Railroad Ave).
A track schematic from NYCSubway.org showing what the full SIR looked like in 1949.
Like other outer boroughs, Staten Island developed slowly in the 19th and early 20th Century. Originally it served maritime industries, then moving on to light manufacturing and eventually heavy chemicals. The rocky terrain and sandy soil limited farming and many towns developed as seaside resort communities. It wasn’t until after World War II when suburban development began to take hold, in part aided by new automobile-only bridges which the Port Authority of NY and NJ were building. Subways from Brooklyn were planned as early as 1914 but shelved as too costly. The car became king. The Verrazano-Narrows Bridge had been originally planned as a tunnel but when Robert Moses took the project over he built what was at the time the longest suspension bridge in the world. He also criss-crossed the island with highways, though many he wanted to build were stopped.
Still to this day a subway to Staten Island seems like a long shot. The ride alone would be hours long at some points but it would be a one seat ride into Manhattan. The only ways off the island are via clogged bridges or the Staten Island Ferry (which is free). The two options for improved rapid transit on the island being seriously studied are a reactivated North Shore branch (which will not be cheap since the line has been essentially abandoned for 60 years) and connecting the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail system to Port Richmond, either over a new bridge (possibly a replacement for the Bayonne Bridge) or a tunnel under the Kill Van Kull.
Downtown Manhattan Connection
Downtown Manhattan connection to a subway to Staten Island
The first time I had ever heard of a plan to build a subway to Staten Island the thought which came to me was of a tunnel from downtown under the harbor. I realized that an underwater tunnel over 5 miles long was a ridiculous concept but one which seems to pop into most people’s minds when they also hear of a subway to Staten Island (and one which apparently had been proposed back in the 1950s). Though it would be the most direct route it would also be the most expensive. However, for sake of comparison, I’ll take a good look at a direct tunnel between downtown Manhattan and Staten Island. Also for sake of simplicity, in the map to the right, I have the tunnel connecting to a fully completed Second Ave Subway even though any of the other lines which run through downtown Manhattan could be used instead.
Like I mentioned before, the fastest and shortest way to connect Staten Island to Manhattan would be a tunnel under the harbor. Right away this would be thrown out as a possibility since the Staten Island Ferry makes the exact same trip at a fraction of the cost. One benefit to such a plan would be that Governors Island could be connected to Manhattan with a new station along the line. With new planned development which will occur over the next 20 years there will be an increased need for better transportation to the island. Like for Roosevelt Island it may make more financial sense to build a tram system, such as the one proposed by Santiago Calatrava.
A second alignment, one which would be much less expensive but politically difficult, would build a new tunnel under the Hudson River over to Liberty State Park in New Jersey where the subway would run at grade (thus reducing the cost) along side the existing Hudson-Bergen Light Rail line to Bayonne. New bridges over roads would need to be constructed as the light rail currently crosses the streets at-grade. What makes this tricky is that any transportation infrastructure crossing into New Jersey would be under the jurisdiction of the Port Authority of NY and NJ, making a connection with the MTA would add another layer of bureaucratic red tape. Both alignments would reach Staten Island at the St George ferry terminal. The current SIR is considered by the federal government to be standard rail rather than rapid transit. Because of this subway trains would be prohibited from running on the existing rail.
Brooklyn connections to a subway to Staten Island
The more realistic route for building a subway to Staten Island would be under the Narrows between Brooklyn and Staten Island. On the Brooklyn side there already exists the subway infrastructure to connect to so the tunnel wouldn’t have to be as long as if it went directly to downtown Manhattan. Supposedly, when the 4th Ave subway in Brooklyn was being built, a short tunnel was started from Bay Ridge to Staten Island but was never completed since there was no addition funding.
The first option would be to create a branch of the 4th Ave subway (N/R) after 59th St (Brooklyn) which would dive under the harbor and head straight to St George Terminal. This route would follow the path of the extinct 69th St Ferry from Bay Ridge to St George. The original IND Second System plans called for a subway under Bay Ridge Ave. It would be better to built the subway along the Long Island Railroad Bay Ridge branch both for cost and because in doing so it would allow for a 4 track tunnel to be built to allow for freight trains to travel under the harbor, a long standing plan known as the Cross-Harbor Tunnel which has never had the demand to justify the cost (this tunnel has been proposed by the Port Authority since its inception and is still being proposed by planners). Staten Island trains would run express up the 4th Ave line and could enter Manhattan via the Manhattan Bridge or via Whitehall St (tunnel).
An alternative would be to bring back the original IND Second System plan to build a new subway branching off of the Culver (6th Ave) Line at Ft Hamilton Parkway. The 4 track subway would have two branches, one which would serve Dyker Heights (local) and one which would run under the harbor (express) as discussed above. Unlike the 4th Ave alignment, a Ft Hamilton alignment would provide new service to parts of Brooklyn as well as provide express service to Staten Island.
The last alternative would be a variation of the Ft Hamilton subway where instead of the subway terminating in Dyker Heights it would run up on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge (much like my proposal for a subway on the George Washington Bridge). This alignment would be cheaper than a tunnel as the bridge already exists, though it would have to be retro fitted to allow trains (which Robert Moses famously designed his roads without). This would take away road space from automobiles and cause many delays during construction.
Subways and other transit options in Staten Island
The only “serious” plans I could find of a subway to Staten Island were from the 1939 IND Second System map showing a tunnel under the Narrows to Staten Island with two short branches hugging the coast of the island, one north to St George Terminal and Westervelt Ave, the other south to Grant Ave in Tompkinsville. Having not much to go on I would wonder if these short branches were designed so that one day the North Shore and Main Line branches of the SIR would be converted to subway use. It may be safe to assume this given the history of rapid transit companies and the city converting old railroads into subways.
- North Shore Branch
As I talked about above, the North Shore branch is being tossed around by politicians and planners for reactivation. The most popular ideas for the line would be to rebuild it as heavy rail so trains would use the same rolling stock as the existing SIR or to build it as light rail, which would be cheaper but would prohibit freight trains from using the line. Other ideas are for a bus-way or a commuter bike/walking path. Reactivation, it is hoped, would bring redevelopment to this sleepy corner of the island, something improved bus service would not do.
While reactivating the North Shore branch seems simple enough, it still might face a higher price tag relative to projected ridership. For much of its route the branch hugs the coast, running parallel to Richmond Terrace. There is not much development along this route and it isn’t until you get out to Port Richmond and Mariner’s Harbor when the line runs through built up neighborhoods. The line also ends suddenly in Arlington, past which are rail yards, marshlands, and industrial zones. Because of this I would alter the planned path of the railway by swinging it south when it reaches the Bayonne Bridge to run along the median (or the side) of Route 440, the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Expressway, south through Willowbrook Park to a point where Richmond Ave meets Rockland Ave. This routing would serve many more people including parts of western Staten Island which have only developed in the last 50 years. The line might even be extended further south to the Staten Island Mall and the new Fresh Kills Park.
- Hudson-Bergen Light Rail
Another plan floating around is to extend the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail, which currently terminates at East 22nd St in Bayonne, into Staten Island. The Port Authority of NY and NJ is currently looking at ways of dealing with the Bayonne Bridge since new super-sized Post-Panamax container ships have trouble clearing the bridge (dredging only can go so far.) One option is to literally jack the bridge up, but replacements are also being studied. If a new bridge was constructed it could easily have a space for mass transit, a light rail extension or even for express buses (perhaps both). Though no serious plans have surfaced it would seem to be more prudent to keep any extension of the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail short, perhaps a single park-and-ride facility at the toll plaza on the Staten Island side.
- Staten Island Expressway
In keeping with the suburban nature of Staten Island it might make sense to build a subway, elevated or at grade, along the median of the Staten Island Expressway. This alignment would be a continuation of the aforementioned Ft Hamilton Parkway subway which would cross over the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. Running closer to the geographic center of the island the line could be built with stations farther apart with large parking garages to attract drivers. A major downside would be that this line would not serve the St George Ferry Terminal, the largest transportation hub on the island.
- North-Central Alignments
When proposals for subways on Staten Island come up (now and then), one idea that usually floats to the surface is a subway along Victory Blvd. Victory is the major east-west road crossing the entire north side of the island. If the North Shore branch was reactivated then a subway along Victory Blvd would sit between the two branches of the SIR, serving the island in a nice, geographically proportional way. However, the population of the island is not distributed in such a simple way and Victory Blvd runs though some lightly settle areas (relatively speaking). A better alignment would be one slightly north along Forest Ave or Castleton Ave through West Brighton. These alignments would more directly serve developed areas and commercial strips. These north-central alignments would run west to Jewett Ave and turn south to meet up with Victory Blvd. If there is to ever be an actual subway on Staten Island (and voters like to say, “no”, there won’t) then these are the three most optimum places for one to run.
If I was to create a list of the many, many proposals I’ve discussed throughout this series, which would rank the actual likelihood of a subway being built, a Staten Island subway might be last on the list (excluding a reactivated North Shore Branch which might be at the top). However, no list of proposed subways throughout New York City would be complete with out mentioning Staten Island. The density required for such an expensive project does not exists, nor do the traffic patterns justify building a train line which would take as long as it would to make the journey to Manhattan (the ferry takes about 25-30 min, a train would take a good hour or more). But at the same time the island does need more connections to the world since it only has 4 bridges, most of which are outdated and clogged. A railroad tunnel to Staten Island, be it a subway or part of a Cross-Harbor Freight system, would give island residents another route off in case of emergencies (or another way for supplies to come in). It would also take pressure off New Jersey and Brooklyn highways with other commuting options other than by car. But the most interesting case for a subway to Staten Island is from the Peak Oil debate, that being what will happen when oil prices become so high that the suburban, autocentric lifestyle of the island becomes untenable. The only way off the island is by a machine that uses oil (car, truck, bus, ferry). A train to the rest of the country, now a rather pricey endeavor, might be the more affordable option not too far long down the road.
Subway diagram showing Staten Island subways. Note: No file to download.
- IND Second System
- Post War Expansion
- The Second Ave Subway: History
- The Second Ave Subway: To The Bronx and the Nassau Line
- Brooklyn: Bushwick Trunk Line
- Manhattan: West Side and Hudson Crossings
- Queens: Flushing Trunk Line
- Staten Island: The Last Frontier
- TriboroRX and Atlantic Ave Super-Express
- Conclusion: the vanshnookenraggen plan
Elevated Train, 9th Ave, 1940 by Andreas Feininger
Manhattan is the only borough of New York City where major subway expansion is actually taking place. The Second Ave Subway and the 7 Line extension are the first major subway expansion projects in almost 40 years. I’ve covered both in previous posts so I want to look further into what might be possible for expanded service in Manhattan. The areas along the west side of the island are still far away from subway service (elevated trains once rumbled up 9th Ave but were replaced in the 1930s by the 8th Ave Subway). The 7 Line extension, as it is currently being built, will not include a station at 10th Ave/41st St which will mean that trains will bypass a large residential section of town, Hells Kitchen and Clinton, in order to serve a neighborhood which is not even built yet, the Far West Side and Hudson Yards.
While over on the west side let’s look across the Hudson River and realize that there are many commuters who pour into New York from New Jersey every day through the Lincoln and Holland Tunnels and over the George Washington Bridge, the most heavily trafficked bridge in the world. There are also rail connection between New York and New Jersey via the PATH system and New Jersey Transit into Penn Station. Construction of a new 2 track tube under the river from New Jersey to Penn Station has recently begun which will double capacity along the Northeast Corridor (check out the ARC Tunnel). The PATH system went through an identity change in the 1970s when the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey took over the defunct Hudson & Manhattan Railroad which was built to shuttle passengers from various train terminals in Hoboken and Jersey City into downtown and midtown Manhattan. As service grows between the two states and as capacity along the automobile lanes is stretched to capacity, new rail connections seem inevitable.
Another inevitability is that Manhattan will need a new crosstown subway line soon. Planners have seen this as an issue for over 70 years as crosstown subways have been proposed from 57th St to 23rd St. Any new subway lines into Queens will have to enter Manhattan at some point and even with a completed Second Ave Subway there will be little extra capacity on existing East River tunnels. A new crosstown subway in midtown Manhattan would be ideal for adding the additional capacity needed and could be extended out into Queens.
Flushing Line 7 Train Extensions
7 Line extensions into the Far West Side of Manhattan.
Currently under construction from 8th Ave/41st St to 11th Ave/34th St with layup tracks extending south to 11th Ave/25th St, I covered the history of the 7 Line extension in a previous post. Now I want to look at some past proposals for extension and some future possibilities.
- High Line and West Side Highway
Before the High Line was a park it was just another abandoned railroad line though a major city which most people didn’t even know about (you can see my pictures from before the park was built on my“A Walk on the High Line” post). In the 1980s and 90s when the West Side Highway was being torn down and replaced by the Hudson River Park and a landscaped boulevard, many transit advocates called for using this opportunity to build a new transit line along the west side to the World Trade Center. A transit option had been proposed as an alternative to the plans for the Westway, a massive highway tunnel system along the Hudson River to replace the decaying West Side Highway. When the Westway was killed in 1985 it was hoped that the new replacement would have space from transit of some kind, be it a subway, elevated rail, or bus lanes.
The proposal to extend the 7 Line south along the west side would have brought the 7 Line west from Times Sq down to the Hudson Yards where it would have connected to the High Line at the point where the High Line tracks enter the ground along 34th St at 11th Ave. From here the 7 Line would have looped around the train yards and made its way through the middle of the block along the High Line. Since the High Line was built only for freight trains it never had stations (though each building through which it ran did have loading platforms for freight). New stations would have meant that many warehouses and residential buildings would have needed to be demolished. The High Line had originally run south to West Houston St where it terminated in a large meat packing facility. The portion of the High Line from Gansevoort St to West Houston St was demolished in the 1990s for new housing development. Had this section not been removed then it could have been extended along an elevated structure from West Houston south along the West Side Highway to a new terminal at the World Trade Center.
History has written a different story. Though the West Side Highway was replaced by a landscaped boulevard and park system, no space for transit was made available. The High Line was in danger of being demolished entirely but was saved by creative community activists and a new mayor.
Please note: I am not in favor of replacing the High Line Park with active rail transit. This was merely an historical proposal.
- 23rd St Crosstown
7 Line extension into Hoboken and Jersey City.
The current extension of the 7 Line will end at West 25th St at 11th Ave. Since 11th Ave starts/ends at West 22nd St there are only two options for where the line could be extended from here.
The first option would be to turn the line back east at 23rd St and create a new crosstown subway. Crossing the East River at 23rd St the line would be pointing directly to Greenpoint, Brooklyn. The 7 Line could possibly be extended southeast into North Brooklyn or could be sent northeasterly back into the southern tip of Long Island City to connect back with the 7 Line to Flushing thereby creating a large loop through midtown Manhattan.
- Hoboken and Jersey City
The second option for extending the 7 Line past 25th St would be to send it west under the Hudson River into Hoboken, New Jersey. There are jurisdictional and bureaucratic issues with building anything across the Hudson River since it is a state boundary. The Port Authority was set up to build and maintain all interstate crossings inside a 25 mile radius area from the Statue of Liberty. Knowing this it is easy to understand why the New York City Subway has never crossed the Hudson River, but this does not mean the need does still not exist.
The subway extension would leave Manhattan at 23rd St and head straight across the river to Hoboken at 12th St. The subway would curve south at Main St and head down to the Hoboken Terminal. Here there would be a transfer point for the PATH, Hudson-Bergen Light Rail, and New Jersey Transit. After Hoboken Terminal the subway would run parallel to the PATH down to Pavonia/Newport station, then down to 6th St where it would turn west. Jersey City was once covered in train tracks as it was the eastern most place trains could travel before they hit the mighty Hudson River. Jersey City was the home of many terminal buildings which allowed people and freight to transfer to barges headed to Manhattan. Because of this there are more than a few ruins left over from the railroad days. Like the High Line, Jersey City has a large abandoned railroad embankment running through the old residential neighborhood between 6th and 5th St. The 7 Line subway would ascend to the surface along 6th St here and run elevated along the embankment. The right-of-way leads directly to Journal Sq which is where the 7 Line extension would terminate, along side the PATH station.
- Union City and the Upper West Side
7 Line extension into Clinton, Union City, and the Upper West Side.
Back in Manhattan, instead of continuing the existing 7 Line south, an alternative would be to turn the 7 Line north into the Clinton/Hells Kitchen neighborhood along 10th Ave. On 10th Ave the 7 Line would run north to 72nd St where it would merge with the existing 7th Ave Subway at Broadway. From here north the 7 train would run along side the 1 train as a local service up to the Bronx. 10th Ave is interesting in this case since just west of 10th Ave, running through the block, is the depressed Amtrak right-of-way built at the same time as the High Line. This below grade rail line runs up the west side of Manhattan under Riverside Park and by Inwood before skirting the coast of the Hudson River up to Albany. This would allow for the 7 Line to act as a super-express subway for the west side of Manhattan up to Inwood. An actual current proposal for a similar transit expansion would have MetroNorth trains use this right-of-way with stations at 66th St, 125th St, and Dyckman St. MetroNorth trains would require no new tracks like a subway would so this is a much preferable and economical option.
Alternatively the 7 Line could jump the Hudson River at 55th St and head into Union City, New Jersey. There is currently a train tunnel through the high cliffs on top of which Union City is built. The tunnel is currently being used for the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail. If these tracks were converted to subway service the 7 Line would have a ready to use tunnel into New Jersey. At the portal to the tunnel there could be built a large park and ride station which would attract commuters who might normally drive into Manhattan.
10th Ave and Crosstown Subways
10th Ave Subway and Crosstown alternatives.
As I stated above planners have seen the need for new crosstown subways for decades. In the 1960s an underground people-mover system was envisioned that would connect Grand Central Terminal with Rockefeller Center. Because the Midtown Central Business District (CBD) is so important to the economy of the region it is crucial that it is served well by transit. Since there is no more room for cars in this dense area the best option at the moment is mass transit. Currently there are crosstown subway lines at 59th St (N/Q/R trains), 53rd St (E), and 42nd St (7/Shuttle).
A new, 2 track, crosstown subway would serve an additional purpose, that of new capacity. Even if the 2nd Ave Subway is fully built out there will new capacity on existing lines in Manhattan but no new capacity in Queens. In my next post I will talk more about new subways in Queens but for these to be possible they need a place to go. A new crosstown subway in midtown Manhattan would be the perfect connection for a new subway to Queens. The 63rd St tunnel was built for this very reason but due to lack of funding no new capacity was constructed in Queens and the current 63rd St tunnel is operating under capacity because of this (read more about the history of the 63rd St tunnel here.)
The two best options for a new crosstown subway would be at 57th St or at 50th St. The 57th St alignment would connect with Columbus Circle, major express subway stations, and the hotel areas above midtown but the 50th St alignment would directly serve the CBD and still connect with major subway lines. A benefit to the 50th St alignment would be that an underground pedestrian mall could be constructed and connected into the existing concourse at Rockefeller Center. An underground concourse connecting Times Sq, the Midtown CBD, and Grand Central Terminal would reduce pedestrian traffic on the streets and allow for substantial retail which could help pay for the subway.
A cheaper alignment may be along 53rd St where the existing IND subway runs. The problem with this alternative is while the tunnel segment from 8th Ave to 6th Ave is 4 tracks, the tunnel from 6th Ave to the East River is only 2 tracks. Queens bound trains would have to be cut back to allow for an additional train, though an additional crosstown train at 53rd St would have the benefit of being able to directly connect to the 8th Ave Subway and add additional express service along the west side of Manhattan to downtown.
Crosstown subways from midtown Manhattan entering Long Island City.
Where ever the crosstown subway is built it will have end up somewhere. Like the existing 14th St-Canarsie Line it could terminate at 8th Ave but because there is a large residential neighborhood just west of 8th Ave (Hells Kitchen/Clinton) it would make more sense to extend the subway over to 10th Ave and run it south to 14th St to connect with the 14th St-Canarsie Line. This would mean trains could enter from Brooklyn and unload passengers heading south, then swing north to serve the proposed Hudson Yards development and the Hells Kitchen neighborhood, then turn back east into midtown and on into Queens. Due to the commuting habits at rush hour it is foreseeable that there would be three different trains running on this subway: an all local train running from Brooklyn to Queens via 10th Ave, a Brooklyn only train at 14th St which would terminate at 10th Ave, and a Queens only train at 50th St (or another alignment) which would also terminate at 10th Ave. Off peak hours could run one or two all local trains from Brooklyn to Queens.
On the Queens side of the East River the new 10th Ave-Crosstown subway would need a place to enter Long Island City, a growing mixed use neighborhood. This fact has more to do with affecting the location of the new subway in Manhattan than anything else. Because existing subways in Long Island City are at capacity a new 4 track subway would need to be built. Currently the IND Crosstown G Line is cut back to Court Sq instead of connecting to the Queens Blvd Line and running to Forest Hills. Because of the ridership demand for midtown Manhattan service G train riders must transfer to the E/M trains to get to Queens Plaza. A new tunnel under the East River servicing a 10th Ave-Crosstown train would allow for the G train to finally get a proper terminal.
Depending on the alignment, a new 2 track tunnel under the East River would enter Long Island City and head towards Queens Plaza. A more southern alignment, like the one at 50th St, would meet up with the IND Crosstown G Line before Court Sq, thereby allowing a new tunnel and station to be built which would combine the two subways into a 4 track trunk line built parallel to the Queens Blvd Line to Queens Plaza. The new subway would be built inside the Sunnyside Rail Yards so no buildings would need to be demolished for this expansion to take place. A new 4 track terminal station would be built adjacent to the existing Queens Plaza station for transfers.
Morningside Ave Line
Proposals for a super-express subway to Morningside Heights.
One of the more peculiar proposed subway lines from the original IND Second System was for a super-express subway under the west side of Central Park to Morningside Heights that would terminate at 145th St. The subway would have only had stations from 110th St to 145th St and would have connected with the BMT Broadway Line at 57th St. Early BMT subway maps actually show a small stud aimed this way at 57th St. While a new subway line through the Upper West Side was very much needed around this time, the peculiar thing is that this subway was still being proposed well after the 8th Ave Line opened, serving this same are.
My theory, and I have nothing to base this on, was that a Morningside Ave super-express subway was planned to compliment a pair of super-express tracks which were planned for the 2nd Ave Subway. Originally the 2nd Ave Subway was planned with 6 tracks through the Upper East Side, 2 local, 2 express, and 2 super-express with no stops until the line reached the Bronx. The subways through the Upper West Side were older, the original NYC Subway ran up Broadway, had two express stations at 72nd and 96th Sts, and only a third track for rush hour express trains after 103rd St. The areas around Morningside Heights, meanwhile, were rapidly developing at this time because of the improved transportation the new subways were bringing; in a sense the subways were too popular too handle the growing demand. A super-express subway would have taken considerable stress/directly competed with the IRT (keep in mind that the subways were still operated by three different companies at this time).
Today the shortcomings of the early subway designs are as evident as ever (for instance there is no express station at 125th St at Broadway). Already I’ve suggested three options for a super-express subway through the Upper West Side: a 7 Line extension along the Amtrak Hudson River tracks, a MetroNorth alternative along the same way, and a subway up Amsterdam Ave which would be an extension of the 14th St-Canarsie Line up 10th Ave.
Let’s add the original proposal into the mix, a branch off the BMT Broadway Line along Central Park. This would be the least disruptive option of them all since it would only require digging through the park. At the north end of the park the subway could swing west, like originally proposed, and run under Morningside Ave and Convent Ave to 145th St. Here the subway could terminate or merge with the IND 8th Ave Line and add super-express service directly to the IND Grand Concourse (B/D) Line in the Bronx. Alternatively, the subway could run under Lenox Ave in Harlem to 148th St (the IRT 7th Ave 3 train terminal) or connect to the IND Grand Concourse Line at Yankee Stadium.
George Washington Bridge Subway
George Washington Bridge with subway connection.
The George Washington Bridge (GWB) is notable for many reasons, but one that is almost never mentioned is that it was the first major bridge built in New York City which was not built with a mass transit connection. The Brooklyn (1883), Williamsburg (1903), Queensboro/59th St (1909), and Manhattan (1909) bridges all were built with some form of mass transit but the GWB (1931), completed almost 30 years after the Manhattan Bridge, did not. What has been noted many times was that it was overbuilt (the original design called for a skin of brick and granite) and space was left over for a second deck which would have allowed for mass transit. A second deck was added in the 1960s but no mass transit option was built, not even a bus lane which could have served the busy bus terminal on the Manhattan side of the bridge. Because the bridge spans the Hudson River the bridge is owned and operated by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey there are legal, jurisdictional, and bureaucratic issues that need to be dealt with if mass transit is to be a reality on the GWB.
There are two ways that mass transit could operate on the GWB, both of which would require the removal of a travel lane in each direction. This may seem counter productive since the GWB is the most heavily trafficed bridge in the world but mass transit would only cut down on the amount of space for cars; many more people could cross the bridge if mass transit was added.
- Bus Lanes
A bus-only lane along the top deck would better serve the bus terminal on the Manhattan side. The GWB Bus Terminal is a strategic part of the region’s transportation network which diverts traffic away from the main Port Authority Bus Terminal at 42nd St. A bus-only lane would also allow charter buses, which would normally cross along at one of the tunnels further south, a quicker way into Manhattan.
An extension of the IND 8th Ave Line from 168th St (the current terminus for 8th Ave local trains) across the lower deck of the bridge to a new transportation facility/relocated bus terminal in Fort Lee, NJ. There exists, underground, a train yard under Broadway at 174th St to serve 8th Ave trains. The tracks connecting the yard to the 8th Ave Subway could be extended up Broadway a few blocks and curved west to run along the lower deck of the bridge (see map). On the New Jersey side a large new bus terminal and park-and-ride facility would be built where commuters would transfer to express trains to Manhattan. The facility would be built above the existing highway when space is freed up from the removal of the tool booth plazas (which would be replaced by automated license plate readers currently being installed on other bridges). The air-rights on the New Jersey side and the air-rights from the removal of the existing GWB Bus Terminal in Manhattan would be a way to finance the subway.
The unfortunate fact about all the subway expansion going on in New York City right now is that when it is all finished the Far West Side, Clinton, and Hells Kitchen neighborhoods won’t be that much better off. New subway connections which would extend existing lines through these neighborhoods are needed when the planned developments (and current developments along W42nd St) start to bring thousands more people into this area. This being the case it only makes sense to look at these transportation needs in a broader context. Subways in Manhattan are already close to (and in some places surpassing) their designed capacity. If other boroughs of the city are to grow (an additional 1 million people are expected to move into the city within the next 20 years) they will need a way to get around. New subways are the only desirable answer.
I’ve talked about new crosstown connections into Queens and in my next post I will discuss just where those new subways will lead to: the Flushing Trunk Line.
Subway diagram showing 10th Ave Subway, 7 Line to Hoboken, Bushwick Trunk Line, and Second Ave Subway systems.
- IND Second System
- Post War Expansion
- The Second Ave Subway: History
- The Second Ave Subway: To The Bronx and the Nassau Line
- Brooklyn: Bushwick Trunk Line
- Manhattan: West Side and Hudson Crossings
- Queens: Flushing Trunk Line
- Staten Island: The Last Frontier
- TriboroRX and Atlantic Ave Super-Express
- Conclusion: the vanshnookenraggen plan