Thinking big about the future of commuter transit in New York
Any commuter who’s passed through Port Authority or Penn Station during rush hour knows something needs to be done: The terminals are overcrowded, and too often trips are delayed owing to overburdened surrounding transit infrastructure. And that’s the least of it. Under the Hudson River, a critical tunnel connecting the Garden and Empire states for Amtrak and NJ Transit is decaying by the day.
The state governments and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey have floated plans to redesign the train and bus tunnels and terminals, but one of the city’s most well-known transit advocacy groups has established it’s own set of more aggressive recommendations for the future of transit surrounding the city’s most crucial hubs.
In the Regional Plan Association’s (RPA) forthcoming Fourth Regional Plan, the group dreams big about how to fix some of the most pressing problems threatening commuters coming in from New Jersey, and leaving from Penn Station and Port Authority. A press release for the plan reads, “To date, only piecemeal solutions have been proposed to address these problems. A much better outcome could be achieved through a series of complementary investments that address the problems of the system as a whole.” So what does that look like?
First, RPA wants to see the Gateway Tunnel project come to fruition—but instead of stopping at its Penn Station terminus, RPA proposes extending Gateway through Manhattan, and into Sunnyside, Queens. This could be done at a cost of about $7 billion, the Times suggests, though RPA president Thomas K. Wright hesitates to give a specific number.
Even at that cost, RPA believes it would be a cost-effective solution to dealing with overcrowding on trains and buses. The tunnel, RPA suggests, could help increase the capacity on trains traveling between Queens and New Jersey by about 40 percent.
To support the proposal, RPA calls for a new bus terminal for intercity buses to be constructed under the Javits Center to help meet demand for trans-Hudson travel. The proposal would require the Javits Center to expand about two blocks north. The new terminal would alleviate congestion at the Port Authority Bus Terminal, or whatever may come to replace it. The second terminal would accommodate long-distance riders. About 20 percent of gates in Port Authority now are dedicated to intercity busses.
“You don’t have to decide the longterm future of the Port Authority. Instead you relieve the pressure and buy some time,” Wright said on Wednesday, reports Gothamist.
The proposal also supports the expansion of Penn Station one block to the south and the relocation of Madison Square Garden, as other rigorous reimaginings of the site have suggested.
Of course the proposal is no more than that: a proposal. But as Wright points out, the ongoing crisis in the subway has “opened up the eyes of public officials and political leaders to these ticking-time-bomb sorts of problems.”
- Transit Group Proposes Extending Gateway Project to Reach Long Island [NYTimes]
- Crossing the Hudson [RPA official]