NYTIP – enhancing the nyc subway, part 8: the low-hanging fruit

UPDATE (10.29.2020): Post updated with modified recommendations.

Welcome to my ongoing NYTIP series! Recall my three-point plan to fix the NYC Subway – enhance, extend, and expand. Though I started talking about subway extensions recently, I’m circling back to point one – enhance – to address some low-hanging fruit.

Point one – enhance – addresses subway improvements using existing infrastructure; hence, I focused on de-interlining. However, there is another way to use existing infrastructure to improve subway service.

Consider the Harlem – 148th Street terminal on the 3 line. This is an example of a line extension using existing tracks (in this case, tracks inside a train yard). As it turns out, there are several other yards amenable to similar enhancements – with a few minor modifications, of course.

I. Concourse Yard

In 2016, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. proposed decking over the Concourse Yard to spur development. However, nothing has come of it. Of course, there’s low-hanging fruit here that could catalyze development:

Potential capital investment: extend the D train to a new station inside the Concourse Yard.

[Fig. 1] D extension to Concourse Yard.

Any development at the 19-acre Concourse Yards site should be transit-oriented development – and what better way to catalyze such development than the D extension? Based on the track layout, one could site the Concourse Yards station as follows:

[Fig. 2] Conceptual layout of the Concourse Yards station.

One potential drawback is interference with yard movements. Unlike Lenox Yard, a train traveling from the Concourse Yard station must traverse the entire yard lead to reach Bedford Park Boulevard station. Owing to this and the relative proximity of the existing Bedford Park Boulevard stations on the Jerome and Concourse lines, this will be an optional investment under NYTIP.

II. Livonia and Pitkin Yards

Several subway lines serve the East New York neighborhood in Brooklyn. Under NYTIP, these are the 5, A, C, J, L, and Z trains. However, opportunities exist to provide greater coverage, so under NYTIP:

Extend the 5 train to Livonia Yard, and extend the C train to Pitkin Yard.

[Fig. 3] 5 and C train extensions to their respective yards on Linden Boulevard.

On the 5 line, the Livonia Yard is elevated between the playgrounds north of Hegeman Avenue and Stanley Avenue. NYTIP contemplates a station on the far west side of the yard between Linden Blvd and Stanley Ave. The proposed station design includes a provision for further extension to the Gateway Center mall, less than a mile from the yard. NYTIP recommends this extension.

On the Fulton Street line, NYTIP contemplates a C train extension to Pitkin Yard. This yard is already decked over – the Linden Plaza apartments sit atop the yard – and there are other housing complexes in close proximity. NYTIP recommends this extension.

III. Jamaica Yard

Under NYTIP, the M extends to Jamaica – 179th Street on weekdays. This extension relieves pressure on the Forest Hills terminus. To further mitigate congestion at Forest Hills – 71st Avenue station and increase subway coverage:

Extend the G train to Kew Gardens Hills.

[Fig. 4] G train extension to Kew Gardens Hills.

This extension is tricky because Jamaica Yard is surrounded by highways and not easily accessible. Thus, NYTIP contemplates a station on the yard’s east side, as follows:

[Fig. 5] Conceptual layout of the Kew Gardens Hills station inside Jamaica Yard.

This station requires several elements – an overpass over the Van Wyck Asthmaway, new crosswalks at 77th Avenue and Park Drive East, and a new entrance area where no sidewalks currently exist. Thankfully, existing traffic-calming measures make this arrangement possible with minimal disruption.

IV. Other Improvements

Yard extensions aren’t the only way to realize immediate improvement. There are opportunities to improve service throughout the system – here are a few:

Aqueduct Racetrack Station

The Aqueduct Racetrack and Aqueduct – North Conduit Avenue stations are very close together, and the former only serves uptown trains. To improve A train service with minimal inconvenience:

Build a downtown platform at Aqueduct Racetrack, and abandon the North Conduit Avenue station.

[Fig. 6] Overview of the proposed Aqueduct improvement.

Consolidating these two stations at Aqueduct Racetrack improves A service with minimal inconvenience to users of the existing North Conduit Avenue station. Potential entrances at Bristol Avenue or Eckford Avenue/Cohancy Street could accommodate North Conduit Avenue riders.  To further encourage ridership, NYTIP recommends additional entrances at Pitkin Avenue.

Broadway Station (Brooklyn)

The J/M/Z and G lines intersect each other, but offer no transfers between them. One alternative for connecting the two is building an in-system transfer between Hewes Street and Broadway stations. An oft-discussed alternative, given how close Hewes Street station is to Marcy Avenue station, is:

Replace the Hewes Street and Lorimer Street stations with the new Union Avenue – Broadway station.

[Fig. 7] Proposed Union Avenue – Broadway station.

The new station would be a local station with side platforms served by J and M trains. The station includes entrances and an in-system transfer to the G train’s Broadway station at its west end, and additional entrances at Middleton Street – one block from Lorimer Street – at its east end.

NYTIP recommends this investment to improve connectivity and enable slightly faster service on the J/M/Z lines.

Queens Boulevard

One of the busiest stops on the Queens Boulevard trunk line is actually a local stop – Woodhaven Boulevard. Over 6.38 million people used this station in 2019. The station serves the Queens Center Mall and is also a transit hub served by several buses, including the Q52 and Q53 Select Bus Service to the Rockaways.

Incidentally, the station contains provisions for express stop conversion. While the IND included this provision to support the unbuilt Second System, the heavy passenger traffic alone – not to mention the potential for major transit improvements – would justify such a conversion. Nevertheless, NYTIP will only contemplate this conversion in conjunction with subway expansion.

Now, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the closed entrances systemwide. An obvious improvement is one echoed by other advocates:

Reopen closed entrances systemwide, and accelerate ADA accessibility.

This is the ultimate low-hanging fruit in the NYC Subway. Reopening closed entrances would increase the subway’s reach and encourages ridership. ADA accessibility would do the same. Unfortunately, Governor Cuomo’s so-called “Enhanced Station Initiative” not only failed to make stations ADA compliant, it also doubled down on sealing these entrances! For example, formerly visible closed entrances at 174th-175th Streets on the Concourse line are now completely sealed. This is completely backwards. As such, NYTIP recommends the opposite – reopen these entrances and make the stations ADA compliant.

Taken together, this is the low-hanging fruit of NYC Subway expansion and improvement. These ideas – almost all of which use existing infrastructure – would improve travel for tens of thousands of people.

In my next post, I’ll return to point two – extend – and discuss the 7 train. Until next time!

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