Imagine if the 2nd ave line was done this way - sure you'd get a lot of pissed Upper East Siders, but their property value is going to skyrocket from the project anyway. As far as I'm concerned, they could deal with a year of inconvenience instead of getting it built over decades for magnitudes of money more.
Of course, the City Council would never agree to this plan. It's easier for them not to disturb anyone if they want to be re-elected...
This is what it looks like when you do such a thing:
The stores in the neighborhood are complaining that they'll probably go out of business before the works are done.
You're right. In fact, the Market Street passage of BART/Muni in San Francisco was a cut and cover. The closure of Market Street and delays in construction caused a lot of damage. Not the least of which the collapse of businesses
The Theaters went out of business, became porn cinemas and liquor stores. Much of what Civic is today was a result of that era.
Not to say Cut and Cover was the 100% cause - but it was a major, major contributor.
Aside: I'm not a student of architecture, and Modernist (and especially International Style) architecture didn't really click for me until someone explained the design of that building. All building services (restrooms, stairwells, elevators, etc) are located in the giant, black, windowless monolith. To my mind that feature is most descriptive of the style and its motivations, particularly regarding the relationship between form and function and the emphasis on the latter. Its shape and materials are, at least superficially, almost entirely dictated by its pure function. Yet it's the defining characteristic of the form of the building and clearly intentionally imposing.
EDIT: You can't see the monolith from the Wikipedia or Wikimedia photos. Which is actually sort of strange given how imposing it is in real-life. Here's a better photo, https://www.som.com/FILE/16472/crownzellerbachhq_788x900_gab... , from the SOM website (see https://www.som.com/projects/crown_zellerbach_headquarters).
I've always loved that building.
Very different neighborhood from Civic though -- even though they're only 20 minutes walk apart.
During and post-war that end of town was much less desirable. That changed significantly when the shipping moved. Also that building marks arrival of modern building techniques suitable for an earthquake zone. That triggered a construction boom in FiDi.
Mid-Market on the other hand was in a post-War retail boom. Civic was a major hub of retail and Theaters -- and was impacted a lot more by the BART construction.
All that said, the arc of San Francisco neighborhoods does baffle me at the best of times.
I don't think it's the cut and cover method per se. Here in Minneapolis when they built a surface light rail line from Downtown Minneapolis to Downtown Saint Paul iirc nearly 200 businesses closed along the LRT and cited the construction as the primary reason. Any construction that impedes travel to businesses for a long time is going to be negative for businesses. Here we subsidized about half the affected businesses along the line during the 4 years of construction but it apparently was not enough.
Once you have enough sewer/natural gas/electric/cable/telephone/fiber/water/who knows what else/ lines buried under the streets I can totally understand how nobody would want to touch that with a ten foot pole, just like legacy code :)
Even with the tunnel boring they did on the Upper East Side of NYC for the 2nd Ave Subway, half the avenue was dedicated to construction entrances and other above-ground activities. Ultimately, may stores did go out of business. My point is, tunnel boring is also quite disruptive to what happens at the street level.
Most businesses sign long-term leases, often 10 years. Landlords are under no legal obligation to offer rent breaks while construction is underway.
In fact, landlords would probably prefer the businesses go under so they can sign more lucrative deals post-subway construction -- see the current NYC store vacancy problem: http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/change-math-keeping-nyc-s...
You're assuming the area will become undesirable during construction and landlords will be forced to offer cheaper rates to lure tenants, but as we see above more likely they'd prefer to wait. Especially if a subway is about to be built there.
Not only that, it's not always feasible depending on the depth of the tunnel. The 2nd ave tunnel is 80 feet deep, and in a city with heavy underground infrastructure already in place.
Not to say that it can't work out (or that some of those services don't have to be moved for tunnels) -- but cut and cover was a lot easier when we had less infrastructure.
These problems are obviously 10x in such a dense city as NYC.
What if that subway needs major maintenance in two years because of a mistake during construction? Why would I open a business on that street if the city has already shown it'll put me out of business to work on it?
Well, it IS getting better, slowly. Maybe it will take 75 years to recover. How long-term are you thinking?
The government should first be concerned by not crushing individuals' rights. That is what Rule of Law is for. Many societies have been utterly destroyed by putting "the general good" as a pretext for policies.
That's just a standard good governance principle.
> and now is projected to be closer to 3 years.
Right. Belgium. :P
It can still be cost effective, but it can be rather unpleasant during the construction period.
When you dig, you have to deal with all of this. If you break something, you have to fix it -- and in the case of fiber or multi-hundred-pair copper, you can't necessarily just "splice" it or easily reroute around your construction site.
Here, the gas company (contractor of same, really) put in detection wires so that the location of the new, plastic pipes can be sensed. However, the contractor ran them in the most convenient fashion for them, meaning often on angles from a single starting point, and also rather close to the surface in places. Their are minimum depths they are supposed to maintain at various positions from the main to the meter. I'm not sure they always did so. Some homeowners who landscape or garden more aggressively, may be in for a surprise.
Going deeper is possible but does have drawbacks; access shafts must be deeper and it takes a longer time for people to move between platform and street level. New York's older cut-and-cover sections also do not deal with ventilation systems, because regularly installed grates to the surface essentially use the piston effect to circulate air in and out of the system.
Quite a few of London's lines are deep, but they generally have escalators which I don't see a lot of in Manhattan.
Oh no, democracy... On a more serious note, boring causes far less disruption to street-level commerce. I haven't seen an analysis which includes the lost tax revenue and economic activity from cut and cover.
Moreover, something deeper is going on as even boring in NYC costs more than in other countries.
Corruption. Rampant, unabashed corruption. That's what's going on. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/28/nyregion/new-york-subway-...
And I certainly don't want to know the insurance costs for this kind of project, no matter the method...
Plenty of other cities worldwide use tunnel boring and get far better cost per mile than in the states. That's not the issue.
Overreaching unions. Layers of consultants. Squabbling jurisdictions. And as the article mentions, the fact that they build so infrequently that they essentially have to skill up from scratch every time and can never optimise or learn from previous mistakes.
There's a lot of information about this out there but that about covers it I think. Here's a nice quote from a nytimes article:
"Trade unions, which have closely aligned themselves with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and other politicians, have secured deals requiring underground construction work to be staffed by as many as four times more laborers than elsewhere in the world, documents show."
The major issue seems to be that construction unions do not negotiate with the public authorities paying for it, but the construction contractors, and the contractors are more than happy to just pass along the cost and pad their margins. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/28/nyregion/new-york-subway-...
It's taken so long that projected peak system congestion _with_ the extra line is predicted to be worse than it was without the line when it was funded, even though its capacity is about 10 passengers per second through the core. The lines it's "relieving" are hopelessly over-capacity, so it will fill immediately when it opens AND it's expected to increase total usage because hey, there's this line from outside London right into the core, why not live there and commute...
But certainly it's a comparable problem, in the sense that e.g. Crossrail had to "thread the needle" fitting the new tunnels between existing escalators and the Northern Line underground rail tunnel that both remained in use during construction.
This seems pretty reasonable to me, to be honest. And most of it is done ahead of schedule isn't it?
How quickly do you think it should take from zero to a 21 km tunnel underneath London? It seems insanely fast now I think about it.
It's the biggest civil engineering project in Europe, or so they say. And a big part of that is because you don't just massively increase transport capacity into the core of a major metro area. That would just overload all the other infrastructure.
The BBC's documentaries on the Crossrail are great at showing all of the complexity of building the thing and dealing with historic buildings, super-hard brickwork, archaeological discoveries, concert halls and more.
Some shops on the street could very well go out of business due to lack of local traffic... would they be compensated?
In light of that cut and cover sounds downright peachy.
I don't know whether that was ever factored into the decision to bore instead of cut, but I'd bet that cutting through schist is a lot harder than the chalk and clay of London and Paris.
Because London's transport is all integrated under control of the local government (an option which is prohibited in most UK cities to facilitate "competition" ie price-gouging by foreign owned corporations) you might not have realised that you weren't using the Underground but one of the other modes, almost all of which are covered by the same ticketing system (the "Dangleway" isn't and neither are the boats).
If you travelled on ordinary seeming trains above ground, those weren't the Underground but instead ordinary "heavy rail" trains on National Rail infrastructure within London. Many of those lines are indeed far above the ground in parts of central London, but those are just called viaducts and aren't usually considered an "elevated railway" per se.
If you travelled on small trains in East London that didn't have a driver (you can sit at the front like a roller coaster), that's the Docklands Light Railway, almost all of which is elevated, it was built towards the end of last century during regeneration of the "Docklands" area.
If the trains seemed to be sharing a road with cars at street level, in South London, that's the Tramlink.
If the trains were smaller and red, that's a bus.
It's not part of the Underground, but it's also managed by Transport for London as part of its integrated network of public transport.
The Blues Brothers was set and filmed in Chicago (although they did shoot a scene in Milwaukee). It showed the "L" rapid-transit system.
I don't think that was necessary. Yes, The Blues Brothers was centred around Chicago, but it might have been a while since GP saw the film, so their memory may have been hazy.
Aside from that, The French Connection featured a famous car chase that included the elevated trains in New York City:
Not entirely true - the Crossrail in London goes under the Barbican arts centre, and that section of the track has special floating tracks to reduce noise and vibrations:
There's multiple articles about the issue, but this article from the NY Times does a good enough job illustrating the problem: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/08/18/nyregion/new-...
Faster is reasonably objective. But one reason it might be "cheaper" is that the extra cost is paid as an externality by all the people who just have to lump being inconvenienced.
Also a good chunk of NYC subways were built with cut & cover (sections of IRT 2/3 lines as an example).
For a good short documentary: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tMhjxp_CZng
The owners of the forever destroyed street-level businesses, you mean?
Chicago's "L" goes directly to both ORD and MDW. My brief time there showed that things could be far more connected than New York's system.
Seattle just built a train to the airport (yay) but for bureaucratic reasons, it doesn't actually go in to the airport. It goes to the far edge of the airport, so you have to lug your luggage outside through the entire parking lot.
Meanwhile, everyone who took an Uber can step right into the departures area.
And, as you mention, New York is much much worse in this regard. The AirTrain from JFK costs $5, more than it costs to go from anywhere to anywhere else in all of NYC on the subway.
I'm okay with this. If I'm going to the airport, I'm identifying myself as a New Yorker (or visitor) with the means to travel by air. It doesn't make sense to use a minimum wage worker in the Bronx's taxes to subsidize my vacations.
Broadly, however, I agree that our lack of downtown-to-airport express rail lines is embarrassing.
In reality people don't visit a city and spend a precise, calculated number of dollars.
Realistically speaking, who is making leisure or business trips where a few dollars is a major concern?
It's a highly salient point of failure for visitors, and generally is bad PR. But besides looking bad, it's not clear that investing in single-seat-to-terminal trains to the airports are actually the best use of very limited dollars.
The JFK AirTrain for example has a ridership of ~11,000 per day. There's an argument to be made that those riders have greater economic impact than average, but ultimately that ridership resembles some of the more far-flung residential neighborhood subway stations (see: Graham St L, Bergen St F, 145th St 1 in Harlem, etc).
Compare that with parts of the system that are in dire need of maintenance/renovation with much greater ridership (see: Herald Square - 125,000 riders a day, Union Square - 106,000 riders a day, Times Sq - 202,000 riders a day).
In a world where costs are under control and funding abundant, I am all in on airport links, but right now? Right now I'm not convinced this is where money should be going, as much as it sucks for someone who flies a lot like me.
Somehow other countries manage to justify it. Tokyo, London, Paris (TGV too!), Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Beijing... the list goes on. But somehow building infrastructure is hard to justify in the US. Pennywise and pound foolish.
China is able to rapidly build infrastructure because it didn’t have very much. In twenty to fifty years when everything is dur for replacement, that will be the true test of infrastructure.
NYC can and should build trains that go from dense center city locations right into airport terminals. Like real countries do. If they did they would be wildly popular.
The baseline is the JFK AirTrain, which carries 11,000 riders per day, out of an estimated total of 5.6M daily subway riders (not counting commuter rail), against a total flyer volume of ~60M a year.
The Heathrow Express, which does take you straight to the terminal, for example carries about 17,000 riders per day, out of an estimated 7M total daily Tube riders (not counting commuter rail), against a total flyer volume of ~78M a year.
Another data point: the BART SFO station (also direct-to-terminal) carries about 6,500 riders per day, out of an estimated total 423,000 daily riders system-wide, against a total flyer volume of ~50M a year.
It's not all doom and gloom - we also know that Narita Airport was able to double its proportion of passengers arriving/departing by rail by improving service. But even if the same results can be replicated in the US - the baseline numbers are so low that the increased ridership would still represent one of the smallest parts of the overall transit system.
FWIW I'm one of the beneficiaries of these rail links, and I'm very grateful they exist - but these projects are ultimately more about signaling/politics/PR than they are about shrewd allocation of infrastructure spending.
To get from the station to the airport, you need to take a bus or a taxi round half the perimeter of the airport. Which, if you don't have long before your flight, and the bus drives off before you board, leaving several passengers fighting over the handful of taxis in this tiny town, can be quite stressful, i can assure you.
Is there a well understood reason why?
I've looked into this some - but if someone is better versed in the history of this stuff, please jump in.
For LGA, there have been attempts for years to extend the N train north from its current terminus in Astoria, to LGA. This is the most economical way to connect the airport to the mass transit system (there is currently no train whatsoever, the only way to LGA via public transit involves a bus).
Most proposals for this line extension called for the N train to become elevated on its approach to the airport, and the neighborhood has loudly opposed any of the nuisances that come with living next to an elevated train. This political pressure has been impossible to overcome, while tunneling has not been considered feasible or affordable.
On top of this, the state government which runs the NYC subway is reluctant to endorse this plan also, since connecting LGA to the NYC subway doesn't serve the (very important) suburban electorate. The state government has consistently pushed instead for the airport to be connected to a nearby suburban commuter rail station instead (Mets-Willets Pt on the LIRR). The political calculations behind this are pretty obvious, despite this option being far less connected to the greater transit network and promising far less ridership, and also perpetuates the need for a "monorail" transfer, like JFK and EWR.
The history of the transit situation for JFK and EWR are also interesting (and like most things NYC-infrastructure related, extensively documented), but this post is running pretty long. Happy to go into it if people are interested, but the tl;dr is: funding instability, financial downturns, squabbling fiefdoms, jurisdictional battles between NJ/NY, and the ever-present NIMBYism.
LaGuardia, by all rights, shouldn't exist. It needs to be shut down - aside from the fact that the airport itself is already falling part, its mere existence actually creates delays across all three airport systems in the area (JFK, LGA, and EWR). Because of the way the traffic zones intersect, it would actually be more efficient to reroute all existing traffic from LGA to EWR and JFK, and we'd end up with fewer delays with the same overall capacity.
Unfortunately, LGA is the most convenient airport for people who live on the Upper East Side. They're wealthy and politically well-connected, so they would strongly oppose any efforts to shut it down. They also are only a $20 cab ride away from LGA, so the fact that it doesn't have heavy rail/light rail transportation there doesn't bother them.
The constraining factor for flights in and out of NYC, or nearly any place, is runway capacity, not available airspace. For all practical purposes airspace is essentially unlimited. You could bulldoze Brooklyn, strategically place a couple hundred runways on it, and land thousands of planes per hour if you wanted to, maybe a couple less if it got foggy.
For reference I have a pilots license and have flown across and through NYC's class B airspace many times. This post makes no sense.
What you're saying flies in the face of a decent amount of reporting on the matter, as well as what I've been told by a friend of mine who happens to work in ATC at one of the aforementioned airports.
1. Normal rapid transit cars have no space for luggage
2. There are no express trains, so it’s not guaranteed to be faster than driving (it often is during rush hour however)
3. The airport stations are a 10 minute walk to security instead of a 1 minute walk like the car dropoff gets
4. When traveling for business I can charge in an Uber, spread out in the back seat and get some work done. On the L I’m in a cramped seat where using a laptop is hard.
So on paper I appreciate the approach New York and London (and others) have taken with a premium airport-only service.
The O/D pairs of people going to and from airports also tends to be very dispersed, which is not great for rail unless you have an extremely comprehensive, rapid rail network covering nearly all possible trips.
Airports also, by their nature, tend to be out of the way and away from busy neighborhoods, which limits their potential catchment. Even when they are linearly arranged, terminals are generally set back from these linear routes due to their circular road networks and parking requirements. Look at how much additional mileage is required to serve the terminal at Dulles in DC, for example: https://i1.wp.com/www.thetransportpolitic.com/wp-content/upl...
Finally, airport layouts themselves tend to be really bad for transit; common configurations for airports, laid out in a circle (JFK) or a very long terminal (LGA) will require some significant chunk of passengers to walk to and from any rail station sufficiently long enough for a regular train, to the point where you need a people mover around the airport anyways (SFO, ORD). And if you need a smaller people mover to shuttle people around anyways, why not just shuttle them to a central train station a bit of a distance away, so that the rail can effectively serve both further destinations and the airport passengers?
JFK: just have to transfer from AirTrain to regular subway in Jamaica (?) Queens.
Newark: take the bus to Newark station and take PATH train to lower Manhattan.
Plus you get to see real New Jersians and New Yorkers. They are not overly friendly and they dress way too fancy compared to the Californians.
From Manhattan, it's an NJT to the Newark airport stop from where the cutest little monorail  takes you to the airport.
The NEX in Tokyo is great, since Narita is way outside of Tokyo. As is the connection to Incheon directly from the center of Seoul.
Turns what would have been a painful ass commute into something relaxing.
In Seoul I could even check in the luggage for my flight before hopping on the train.
I guess if you hate convenience....
When I told a cab driver in Tokyo I wanted to go to Narita he was extremely confused and had the hotel bell hop explain to me that, basically, I was nuts and should take the train.
That's about as convenient as taking the LIRR to/from JFK, or the NJ Transit to EWR, which many people in NYC already do.
It's the same train that takes you from one terminal to the next. The alternative would be to force the LIRR or the A train to stop at literally every terminal on its way to Jamaica/Far Rockaway. That would be way worse.
It's not like transferring between them is any more inconvenient than having to transfer between two subway lines, so it seems like a distinction that not particularly meaningful.
I live in Manhattan and regularly take the LIRR to Jamaica, from where I catch the Airtrain to JFK. It's a predictable-duration trip. It costs $10 to Juno to Penn Station, $7.50 (off peak) to $10.25 (peak) for the train ticket, and $5 for the Airtrain. And I don't get sick reading on a train like I do in a car.
Airports are a particularly visible omission, for a certain class of people, but they aren't in the top 5 or so most valuable possible extensions to the subway system.
Speaking of class, some transit systems suffer more than others from lacking a healthy mix of ridership affluence (MTA isn't one of them). Descending into a spiral of "only for the poor" is one of the failure modes of transit systems. If an airport line "injecting" its share of non-destitute riders is what keeps the while system from falling off that cliff it would be worth far more than just their tickets or the directly prevented road traffic.
High status destinations have indirect benefits for the whole system.
This is sort of like the case of the couple who buys more house than they need because the in-laws visit once a year and they insist on having a room for them. It's silly to optimize for rare events. When you have to go to the airport, then it's particularly noticeable that there isn't a route to the airport. But going to the airport isn't on your everyday agenda. There are far more beneficial routes.
Some lines in Brooklyn that people aren't even aware of (beyond the 2nd and 3rd Ave lines):
* The Myrtle Ave elevated, running from Downtown Brooklyn down Myrtle and connecting with the M's Ridgewood spur. Torn down in the 1960s.
* The Lexington Ave elevated, running from the Brooklyn Bridge waterfront across Downtown Brooklyn and Bed Stuy, connecting to the current J/Z line near Broadway Junction. Torn down in the 1950s.
* The Fulton St elevated, since replaced by the A train, that ran over Fulton St all the way into Downtown Brooklyn. Torn down in the 1940s.
You can see these elevated lines crossing Northern Brooklyn in this map from 1949: https://www.nycsubway.org/perl/caption.pl?/img/maps/system_1...
I personally would have found these lines quite useful, but what took their place was a collection of bus routes, running along old streetcar routes (read: weird routes that stop suddenly at borough and neighborhood boundaries). And NYC buses cannot be trusted...
Using a Perl script to wrap a (non-animated) GIF of an old map. So much history in that one link.
This one would have been convenient for me if they'd kept it.
One of the commuter tips is "Try to shop between 10 and 4". Were shoppers overwhelming the peak-hour commuters?
EDIT: other interesting things on the map: the 5-digit telephone number.
It's not 5 digits, it's 7: MAin 5-6200. The first two digits are 6 (M) and 2 (A): 625-6200. Telephone exchanges used to be named, this particular one was called MAin.
See also https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Telephone_exchange_names
You don't even have to leave Manhattan to see elevated lines, just take an uptown 1.
There were multiple efforts to create a Detroit subway starting in 1910 but each one fell short. Finally in late 1928 the subway was approved! Two stations were built but construction stopped with the great depression. Today sadly no one even knows the location of the two stations.
Here's the winner of a dream subway contest for Detroit:
Detroit did have an extensive trolley system. I found out that when the trolley's were secretly purchased and discontinued by GM in 1956 that 25% of Detroit families didn't have a car. The majority switched over to the bus lines which were expanded. Course the buses were made by GM ;<).
A lot of places felt the need to take the suspiciously over-enthusiastic step of burning the trolley cars... ostensibly to strip the wood & recover the scrap metal.
Now if they were replacing subways or light rail with buses that would be horrible.
Instead you get this absurd patchwork of expensive stand alone projects, ARC, the huge building over of of a cap on the LIRR Hudson railyards which required maybe a billion in spending. Talks about a new Penn Station. Etc.
As a plus you reduce the demand on the existing Penn tunnels used by Amtrak.
If this had all be planned as one system the money already spent or being proposed to be spent on these disparate/disconnected things could provide do wonders.
Everyone agrees but insiders who know about the current state of the transit organizations consider this suggestion so absurd as to write an April Fools post about it.
The difficulty comes down to regional politics. The regional rail systems (LIRR, Metro-North and NJTR) were set up to give those on Long Island, upstate/in Connecticut and in New Jersey, respectively, a dedicated regional transit authority. A politician attempting to unify operations would need to convince those voters should risk giving up their regional transit control.
Amtrak has owned and operated the HRT (tunnels built in 1905) since 1976 when it took over the NEC from the failing Penn lines in the early 70's. It's the busiest segment of track (Interlock-A) in the world and out of the busiest train station in the world (NYP).
You could reduce demand on the existing tunnels by building ARC.
Oddly, the GAO effort to figure out why infrastructure costs so much isn't in the budget, last time I checked: https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2017/5/24/15681560/g...
Effectively the PATH & 4/5 train already do this with a transfer at Fulton Street. And while unifying the system may look good on paper, I'd hate for the PATH to descend to the MTA's low standards of reliability and cleanliness. Better part of the system work well than all of it work poorly.
How would this address the principal problem identified in the article, the rising cost per mile of building new track?
My point in this instance is that even at the inflated construction costs you could still accomplish a lot more with better planning and linking these systems up. A tunnel and new stops in manhatten connecting them is going to accomplish a lot more for the same price as capping a huge rail yard. Building new tunnels that terminate three separate systems in different locations. And building a new Penn station.
It’s a nightmare in my city just between neighboring counties. Only 2 counties were included in the initial build out of public trains and not any significant expansion since. The other counties vehemently reject any such proposals. One county is going through expansion talks again but the train will only go one stop to their bus hub. I bet they will end up rejecting all of it.
NIMBYism isn’t very strong in my city but it certainly is regarding public transport, trains especially.
The general exceptions to this rule are Kansas City and Washington, DC, where the workplace loci are truly distributed among multiple jurisdictions so that no one state is dominant. In DC, the standard subway (WMATA) runs across all three jurisdictions, although there is some amount of political football over funding. The commuter rail systems are not integrated, but that is largely due to limited capacity over the Long Bridge. (MARC, the Maryland system, is participating in the Long Bridge replacement project in part because they do intend to extend service to Alexandria once there's capacity to do so).
NYC is a truly special case because it's simply so massive. In terms of geographical boundaries, there are roughly three natural independent sheds: trans-Hudson, trans-East, and trans-Harlem rivers. Each of these sheds is massive enough to let each of the three commuter systems that focus on their own sheds to not have to coordinate. These sheds also happen to largely coincide with different states: NJ is trans-Hudson, NY (or, rather, Long Island) is trans-East, and CT (as well as parts of NY) is trans-Harlem.
DC's MetroRail system has a very large share of rides that begin in one jurisdiction and end in another, so it makes a lot of sense for it all to be managed centrally by WMATA. But I suspect there aren't a lot of commuter train rides that begin in Connecticut and end in Suffolk County (or that start in Baltimore and end in Prince William County). Given that, just how would a MetroNorth/LIRR merger help riders?
Yes, AMTRAK 
Amtrak is great for vacations or other travel but I don’t thinks its use case is daily commuters. At least it’s not the use case for the majority of the US.
You're thinking of the South Shore Line , which is entirely independent of Metra  and the RTA.
> and Southern Wisconsin
Metra has just one stop on one line in Wisconsin (Kenosha on the Union Pacific North line).
If you are standing in downtown Chicago, you can jump onto a train and conveniently go to O'Hare International (Blue Line CTA), Midway International (Orange Line CTA), Milwaukee International (Amtrak), and South Bend Regional (South Shore). South Bend has daily non-stops to NYC so I'm not sure why it's called a regional airport, but, well, there you go.
Furthermore, I'm not sure what good a Union Station to McCormick Place link would do. Union Station is already within a 20 minute walk to every single CTA/Metra/SS line. Furthermore no one really lives/works near McCormick Place. It's primarily a convention center.
Although it really sucks when someone misses the correct train and you have to drive to Winthrop Harbor to pick them up.
To summarize, the article is premised on "three broad lines of history":
- lure of the suburbs
- battles over control
- deferred maintenance costs
It concludes by noting how battles and costs are still big factors, but nothing on the "lure of the suburbs." It just mentions in passing that the city population is growing, but doesn't connect any dots. The diagram makes it seem like that yellow "line of history" is still sky high off the charts.
But there is in fact a big migration back into the cities. People don't want McMansions in the burbs as much. Empty nester baby boomers are moving back too. This is undoubtably why the article is written in the first place and what is placing more pressure on overcoming the other two problems.
"This shows that at almost every age level, the country continued to de-urbanize from 2000 to 2013. Various trend pieces about empty nesters moving to the big city simply aren't reflected in the data."
My experience is that people are overall more willing to trade space for urban convenience than they used to be, but still not so willing/able to trade both space and affordability for it. In places where the suburbs are also stupidly expensive - NY and CA - you don't see it as much. Everywhere else in the US - where property in the suburbs gets dramatically cheaper once you're five, ten, fifteen miles outside the city center - that's hard to resist.
Instead, there has been a slowdown in the continuing move to the suburbs. And a suburb-centered population is one that still won't move so quickly on transit and the like, at a state and national level.
But the infrastructure debt from all those years of decay still looms, and cities will be paying that off for decades to come.
Pretty much the same thing happened in SF but with street cars instead of subways.
https://www.citylab.com/transportation/2012/05/secret-tokyos... (<-- also from citylab.com)
He ran the Triborough and build a lot of bridges, parks, parkways etc. Most of those bridges do not have rail decks, because he also believed the future was cars, and rail would compete with his source of revenue, toll fees.
It is hard to overstate the impact that one person had on the NY infrastructure, but this article very much understates his impact.
On the flipside, the NY metro is so decrepid and underbuilt for its demand if you didn't have inflating fares driving potential travelers to clog up other, less efficient transit systems the lines for trains would be out in the streets nearly 24 hours a day.
From a local controlling agency, from unifying our commuter rails, from joining with the path. All these things would be good for the city and people who live here but I cry because I'll never see a sliver of it in my lifetime.
And the map as a pdf
1. Eglinton Crosstown started in the 1990s. They started boring, and when Mike Harris became premier he cancelled the project, so they filled in the existing tunnel.
2. Sheppard subway (aka. the Stubway) built despite objections of planners, who said that it would be woefully underused. Built anyways because of political pull. 16 years later, still woefully underused.
3. Transit City proposed and supported by provincial government. First, funding was reduced by the provincial Liberals. Then, Rob Ford, claiming a "war on the car!" cancelled it, pushing all the money into...
4. The Scarborough Subway. Originally estimated at a 3-stop 2B line, it's now a 1-stop 3.5B+ line - and its cost keeps climbing. All politicians support it because Scarborough is vote-rich territory, despite its ridership projections being lower than that of the Sheppard subway. It's a frickkin mess.
5. Meanwhile, the Relief Line (which everyone acknowledges is needed) languishes because of the perception that it'll serve the "downtown elite".
I mean - it's not all doom and gloom I suppose: the Crosstown is finally being built, again, 25 years later.
I think that points to the meta problem hamstringing development of subways, and so many other things: the hold unions have over not just politics, but culture, and especially academic culture.
If you could cut back on car traffic - which is a positive regardless - then buses are going to benefit.
About 5.7 million people ride the NYC subways every day, buses aren't going to cut it.
For a real-world NYC example, check out the planning for buses to temporarily replace the L train: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/03/nyregion/l-train-shutdown...
It seems that a whole lot of resources (i.e., money, including ongoing maintenance) is being tossed at outlier situations.
A single train can carry 1,000 people. It's not a "rush-hour event."
> Shouldn't the whole system be more flexible? Does everyone have to leave work at the same time?
The work day is still roughly 9-5, nothing the MTA does is going to change employers' opinions on scheduling. Good luck telling your boss you want to come in 2 hours late to avoid subway overcrowding.
> How economical is it to run subway trains with few passengers?
Train frequency is slowed down significantly during non-peak hours.
Don't get me wrong, there are efficiencies to be had -- like not having a live human at every station 24/7 -- but unions fight those measures.
> It seems that a whole lot of resources (i.e., money, including ongoing maintenance) is being tossed at outlier situations.
I'm not sure what you're proposing. Buses? Again, buses won't work -- see above.
They could massively increase fares but that is essentially a tax on poor people.
What they need is for both the state and city to cough up more money to address crumbling infrastructure and overcrowding.
> Train frequency is slowed down significantly during non-peak hours.
Agreed. So with the exception of the outlier events there is A LOT of idle capacity. Capacity that was VERY expensive to build and maintain.
Traditional buses? Or a rethinking of above ground transportation, congestion, flexible work hours, whatever, etc.
BTW, I didn't notice anything here about off-hours / peak-hours pricing.
Given the cost to add more (excess) subway capacity, I don't see the warm in a pause and asking "what if"? What they tried once, where the only goal was a twist on the status quo, isn't the type of mindset I'm proposing.
p.s. If climate change goes as planned, (lower) Manhattan is going to be prone to more and more flooding, etc. Does it make sense to sink more money into the ground, for unrealized capacity?
I understand your example. Unfortunately, it's red ocean. We need a blue ocean approach at this point.
The MTA's biggest problems right now are overcrowding and old, crumbling infrastructure, not idle capacity.
This article just pointed out we're chasing our tails so much on those 2 problems we don't even think about (gasp) adding new subway lines, although it argues because we're more committed to cars as a form a transit.
> rethinking of above ground transportation, congestion, flexible work hours, whatever, etc.
Since the Bloomberg Era the city transportation dept has added thousands of miles of bike lanes but there's not much more it can do to "rethink" above-ground transportation.
Flexible work hours are just a nonstarter for most companies. Starbucks going to let you start your shift late? Goldman Sachs? No.
> where the only goal was a twist on the status quo,
What constitutes a twist? What specific policy proposals would change the reality of public transit? DeBlasio proposed a Brooklyn trolley line -- the kind of "out of the box" thinking you're proposing -- and it's gotten nowhere.
> I didn't notice anything here about off-hours / peak-hours pricing
The pricing is always the same it's just that the trains run at different frequencies. During rush hour they can come every 3-4 minutes, in the middle of the night every 30 minutes.
There are no magical fixes to NYC's transit problems. It just requires more money (via higher taxes) and better management.