UPDATE (04.10.2021): Post updated to reflect changes to the enhanced NYC subway. Because NYTIP is still a work in progress, I’m removing language referring to recommended plans, and instead listing the options I’m currently considering.
Welcome back to my ongoing NYTIP series! In my last post, I began expounding on point 2 in the three-point plan to fix the NYC Subway – extend – with SAS Phase 2X and an Astoria line extension to LaGuardia Airport. In this post, I will discuss subway extensions to Co-op City.
Note: Click any image to enlarge.
I. Co-op City South
Let us begin with a brief history of the Grand Boulevard and Concourse line. The Concourse line opened in 1933. However, plans for its extension date back to 1929:
[Fig. 1] Snippet of the ambitious IND Second System plan from 1929 showing the Concourse line extension.
From Norwood – 205th Street station, the proposed extension crossed under Bronx Park and ran via Burke Avenue and Boston Road to Baychester Avenue. The Great Depression of 1929 killed both this plan and the Concourse line’s original four-track layout. Instead, the city built a three-track line to Bedford Park with two tracks extending to Norwood and a provision for further expansion. After the New York, Westchester, and Boston (NYW&B) railway ceased service in 1937, the city planned a modified Concourse line extension via Burke Avenue and the NYW&B right-of-way to Eastchester – Dyre Avenue. However, to save costs, the city connected the NYW&B to the IRT White Plains Road line instead, forming today’s 5 train.
In 1968, the MTA planned a short Concourse line extension to White Plains Road, connecting with the IRT White Plains Road line at either Burke Avenue or Gun Hill Road station. However, this plan never came to fruition either. The MTA has not proposed any Concourse line extensions since then.
What would be the rationale for a Concourse line extension today? There are several justifications for it, including:
- Co-op City. It is the largest housing cooperative on Earth, and one of the largest neighborhoods in NYC without a rapid transit link. (Eventually, that won’t be the case since MTA’s Penn Station Access project includes a station at Co-op City South.)
- Cross-Bronx transit. The Bronx is the only borough among those served by the NYC Subway without any form of crosstown rapid transit (Select Bus Service doesn’t count, although one could argue part of the 6 line does).
- Crosstown congestion. All of The Bronx’s crosstown buses perform poorly due to chronic delays and car-caused traffic congestion; all but one of The Bronx’s crosstown routes received grades of D or F from the Bus Turnaround Coalition.
To address these issues:
Extend the Concourse and Pelham lines to Co-op City South.
[Fig. 2] Overview of the Concourse and Pelham line extensions to Co-op City South. Created using Brand New Subway.
The Concourse line extension sends the D train to five new stations at Williamsbridge Plaza (2 train), Boston Road, Eastchester Road (5 train), Allerton Avenue, and Co-op City South – Bay Plaza. The Pelham line extension sends the 6 train to Co-op City South, forming a major hub with the D train, several bus routes, and the future Metro-North station.
Note that the Concourse line extension traverses Gun Hill Road instead of Burke Avenue. This is because the Burke Avenue alignment is most likely infeasible. The Bronx Park Preserve, bounded approximately by Gun Hill Road to the north, the Metro-North Railroad to the west, Allerton Avenue to the south, and the Bronx River Parkway to the east, is a Forever Wild site; per New York State Constitution Article XIV, such land can’t be developed for any reason except as provided in said article. Therefore, the Concourse line extension must traverse an alternate route that does not disturb the Bronx Park Preserve, unless a connection to Burke Avenue doesn’t run afoul of Forever Wild rules.
While the Gun Hill Road alignment may seem like a long detour, the approximate difference in distance between this alignment and the Burke Avenue alignment is actually less than 1/3 mile. Using an average speed of 20 MPH, this amounts to less than one minute of additional travel time in each direction. Furthermore, the Gun Hill Road alignment offers the same connections to existing subways as the Burke Avenue alignment.
Consequently, NYTIP contemplates an elevated extension that curves away from the existing tail tracks east of Norwood – 205th Street station. There are two potential locations for el portals:
[Fig. 3] Potential Concourse line extension alignments and approximate location of el portals.
Given residential construction near Parkside Place, I am leaning toward the Webster Avenue portal; the Webster Avenue portal results in a smoother curve from the Norwood – 205th Street station. Building the vast majority of the Concourse line extension as an el reduces its overall cost. NYTIP contemplates a modern reinforced concrete viaduct or similar that reduces noise and is more aesthetically pleasing than the bare steel els of old.
One particular challenge with an elevated extension is Gun Hill Road’s elevation profile, which runs steeply downgrade between Eastchester Road and Allerton Avenue:
[Fig. 4] Elevation profile of the Concourse line extension; the X’s denote the surface elevation at station sites.
My “back-of-the-envelope” calculations suggest an el must maintain a grade of roughly 3.8% to maintain constant height (e.g. 20 feet) above the ground, which is a bit higher than the standard 3% grade. At a 3% grade, an el that starts out 20 feet above the ground at Eastchester Road will end up about 37 feet above the ground at Allerton Avenue. Not insurmountable by any means, especially given that 37 feet isn’t even half as high as NYC’s highest elevated station, but a consideration nonetheless.
Importantly, the Gun Hill Road alignment covers the span from the Bronx River Pkwy to the New England Thruway (I-95) – each of which contribute to traffic woes on Gun Hill Road:
[Figs. 5, 6, 7] 2019 Annual Average Daily Traffic (AADT) counts for the Gun Hill Road corridor.
As the AADT figures show, over 20,000 vehicles per day traverse multiple stretches of Gun Hill Road. The D extension, therefore, would provide significant relief to this corridor.
II. Co-op City North
Co-op City is divided into five numbered sections. Co-op City South is Section 5, located below the Hutchinson River Parkway. Sections 1 through 4, which includes Bay Plaza, are all north of the parkway.
Initially, I considered extending the 6 or the D – or both – to Co-op City North. These extensions generally traversed Co-op City Boulevard. More recently, I thought of a simpler way to serve Co-op City North:
Construct the “Co-op City Jughandle”.
[Fig. 8] Overview of the “Co-op City Jughandle”.
From Eastchester – Dyre Avenue, the Jughandle reroutes the 5 train via private property and Conner Street, which eventually meets Co-op City Boulevard. Here, the 5 train serves a new station at Co-op City North – Peartree Square with entrances at both the square and the Carver and Dreiser loops. From here, the line curves onto Tillotson Avenue and then rejoins the Dyre Avenue line at Baychester Avenue. To facilitate the curve from Tillotson Avenue to the Dyre Avenue line, the Baychester Avenue station shifts about 300-400 feet south of its current location. This relocation allows new entrances at 222nd Street. To encourage ridership further, the Eastchester – Dyre Avenue terminus receives a new entrance at 233rd Street.
The 5 train connects to the Concourse line extension at Gun Hill Road station, obviating the need for extending the Concourse line past Co-op City South.
Taken together, these projects provide ample service to both the north and south sides of Co-op City, significantly improving travel options for thousands of Bronxites.
Optional Enhancement: Westchester Square Express Stop Conversion
The Pelham line extension to Co-op City has high ridership potential, owing both to Co-op City’s size and the Bay Plaza mall. Consequently, it could exacerbate crowding conditions on the 6. To mitigate these conditions, the Pelham line extension includes an optional capital investment – converting Westchester Square – East Tremont Avenue station to an express stop:
[Fig. 9] Optional Westchester Square express stop conversion. (Original track map by vanshnookenraggen.)
This conversion promotes faster peak-directional express service and expanded local service on the 6 line in The Bronx. NYTIP recommends this investment only if existing 6 service can’t handle increased demand from Co-op City.
In my next post, I’ll discuss subway extension options for Utica Avenue in Brooklyn. Until next time!