NYTIP – extending the nyc subway, part 2: from the concourse to co-op city

UPDATE (11.19.2020): Post updated with a new proposal for Co-op City North. Some images updated.

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 C 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 C 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 no longer feasible. 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, any Concourse line extension must traverse an alternate route that does not disturb the Bronx Park Preserve.

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 a conservative average speed of 15 MPH, this amounts to less than 1 minute and 20 seconds 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.

NYTIP recommends the Webster Avenue East portal, as this allows construction of a smoother curve from Norwood – 205th Street station. Building the vast majority of this extension as an elevated reduces the overall extension 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.

My “back-of-the-envelope” calculations suggest that an el would need to 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 C 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 optional extensions of the 6, the C, or both to Co-op City North. This extension 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 elevated “Co-op City Jughandle”. The rectangles are station sites and not necessarily station layouts.

From Eastchester – Dyre Avenue, the Jughandle reroutes the 5 train via Conner Street, where the line takes a curve onto Co-op City Boulevard. Here, the line 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, NYTIP recommends relocating the Baychester Avenue station platforms about 300-400 feet south. This relocation allows new entrances at 222nd Street. NYTIP also recommends a new entrance to the Dyre Avenue station at 233rd Street to encourage ridership.

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 Enhancements

An optional capital investment is converting Westchester Square station on the 6 line to an express stop, extending 6 local service to Westchester Square, and expanding <6> express service to Westchester Square.

[Fig. 9] Optional Westchester Square express stop conversion with new switches built to accommodate increased service. (Original track map by vanshnookenraggen.)

NYTIP only recommends this investment if the increased ridership from the Co-op City South extension results in crowding levels that make the existing pattern untenable.

In my next post, I’ll discuss the Utica Avenue subway. Until next time!

3 thoughts on “NYTIP – extending the nyc subway, part 2: from the concourse to co-op city

  1. The tail tracks past the Norwood-205th St station are pointing towards Burke Ave, not Gun Hill Rd on the White Plains Line. If there are no plans for directional express on the WPL, it shouldn’t matter which station the Concourse extension connects to, and therefore it would be a much straighter ROW if it were to continue under Burke Ave and Gun Hill Rd, rather than Gun Hill Rd all the way.

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    1. While it’s true that the Burke Avenue alignment is the straighter shot (and indeed, the original plan for the Concourse extension), such an extension would disturb Bronx Park and the Bronx River – both of which are protected IINM. Since the tracks end at Webster, a Gun Hill alignment would begin somewhat west of there. I haven’t considered the WPL express north of East 180th, so if it’s possible to build a Burke Avenue subway without impacting the Bronx Park and River, then I’m not opposed (though it’d likely have to be underground).

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    2. Hi Leo:

      I wanted to swing back to this comment, because a recent post update addresses this. The “straight-shot” alignment via Burke Avenue is no longer feasible since the Bronx Park Preserve is Forever Wild.

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