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Local planner offers alternative route to connect NYC subway with Secaucus

Port Authority officials and other officials speaking about a three-year-old New York and New Jersey commuter capacity study suggested in late September that a previously shelved plan to extend the No. 7 subway line from New York to New Jersey may be revived in an effort to reduce bus traffic flow into the Port Authority Bus Terminal in midtown Manhattan.
A study done by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) three years ago estimated that bus traffic could be reduced by as much as 20 percent during rush hours if the subway line was extended.
While Port Authority officials said funding is not available in the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s budget for the subway extension, some local officials believe costs can be reduced by using existing rights of way, including the Bergen Arches, connecting not just Secaucus, but also Journal Square in Jersey City and possibly the Meadowlands Sports Complex in East Rutherford.

“New Jersey is starting to rival Brooklyn and Queens for ridership.” – James Greller
James Clifford Greller, a retired transportation planner for the Hudson County Improvement Authority, said New Jersey already has access to many of the key elements to support the project, and the expansion of the subway line could also help fill in the missing pieces of a transportation network in and around Hudson County.
Greller has been involved in a number of key transportation projects in Hudson County over the last ten years including the establishment of a bus link from Staten Island to the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail system in Bayonne, overseeing the development of the Portway route for redirecting cargo trucks away from local highways and street, and plans for the redevelopment of Charlotte Circle, Witt Penn Bridge, and the Doremus Bridge.
As a planner for Hudson County, he was also deeply involved in preparing plans for the extensions of the MTA subway route via Hoboken, Jersey City, and Secaucus.
He said one of the current proposals for the extension of the subway system would have the new access tunnel drilling through the Palisades, similar to the work done when the Light Rail line was extended to Tonnelle Avenue. But he said, a network of rightaways that include use of New Jersey Transit property near the Hoboken terminal would allow the project to move ahead more quickly and with less expense, and in addition, would provide a more complete network of transportation within Hudson County – including the current overburdened PATH subway system.
“The PATH tunnels are over 100 years old,” he said. “They date back to the 1800s. Portions of it in Hoboken are made of brick.”
While the Port Authority is currently undergoing a $400 million rehabilitation on the two PATH tunnels between New Jersey and the World Trade Center, Greller said this will not significantly increase the service between the two states.
While the PATH can increase frequency of trains to accommodate the increased ridership, the number of cars are limited by the size of the PATH platforms. Planned development in Harrison, Kearny and Newark is expected to put even more pressure on the system.
The Gateway Project, which will build two new trail tunnels under the river to access Penn Station in New York, will reduce bus traffic anywhere from 10 to 20 percent. But Greller said it is not an answer for Jersey City and Hudson County.
“We need a rapid transportation system, the Gateway is designed to handle commuters from other parts of the state,” he said.

A lot more riders going to NY from NJ

Estimates from a plan he developed show a significant increase in ridership from New Jersey to New York over the last two decades. Robert Yaro, of the Regional Plan Association, showed that this figure has jumped from just under 230,000 in the 1990s to more than 300,000 in 2009. Greller said this is already an under-estimate considering the massive amount of residential development ongoing in Jersey City alone.
He said the latest estimate showed about 409,000 people going to New York from New Jersey daily. Of these, about 38 percent use rail, and about 33.5 percent use buses.
Currently, there are only three rail lines into Manhattan from New Jersey, while Brooklyn and Queens have 17.
“New Jersey is starting to rival Brooklyn and Queens for ridership,” Greller said.
Bergen, Union, Essex and Hudson alone account for about 195,650 riders daily into Manhattan, and would most benefit from a subway connection.
The Port Authority study seems to agree with Greller in suggesting the subway extension would significantly reduce bus demand in and out of the city.
The 2013 MTA study on the extension estimated that the subway could divert nearly 130,000 passengers away from existing public transportation and would make a good companion piece to the Gateway Project which would accommodate riders using Amtrak and New Jersey Transit trains.
The subway would also give passengers an additional option when reaching the Secaucus hub, allowing them to travel directly to Times Square and Grand Central, rather than having to transfer to the New York City subway system in Penn Station. A subway, Greller noted, could allow passengers to access New York in a relatively short time, under a half hour.
Greller estimated that the subway would be able to bring more than 32,000 people per hour in or out of Manhattan.

Extending the subway through Hoboken, not Weehawken

Envisioned as a possibility for more than a century, the extension of the cross-Manhattan No. 7 subway line came under serious consideration when Michael Bloomberg was mayor of New York, then was apparently discarded when he left office. The MTA study revives the plan, even if the many billions required to pay for it are still questionable.
Greller’s proposal, however, differs from previous plans because his route would come through Hoboken rather than Weehawken. The original plan would extend the line west under the Hudson River to the Lincoln Harbor (Weehawken) light rail station and then would tunnel under the Palisades to North Bergen where it would go above ground to eventually end up in Secaucus.
Greller said by going through Hoboken and using existing NJ Transit rail rights of way to connect with the Bergen Arches and other currently unused rights of way, the subway could cost less overall and serve to connect more existing transportation elements already at work in Hudson County. It would also provide a more economic commute for some who currently have to pay three different fares on three different transportation services to get to their destination in New York City.
A 1926 proposal for a Meadowlands transit hub originally proposed a connection from 14th Street in New York to access New Jersey.
“Today, a clear right of way exists that did not in 1926, the abandoned Erie railroad right of way through the Bergen Arches which the state of New Jersey owns and it stops at the Secaucus Transfer Station,” Greller wrote in his plan for the project. This is about 6.13 miles.
New York has only two cross town subway lines, the L line which stops in the Meat Packing District at W. 14th Street and 9th Avenue, and the No. 7 that ends just south of W. 34th Street near 11th Avenue. Either of these two would serve to provide subway services to New Jersey.
Under Greller’s proposals, a new hub would be constructed in New York, and the line would cross under the Hudson River from 11th Avenue to the Hoboken terminal, where riders would have access to all New Jersey Transit rail lines, the PATH system as well as the Hudson Bergen Light Rail and all local buses. The line would follow existing rail rightaways along 18th Street on the Hoboken/Jersey City border to Hoboken Avenue, and connect to the Bergen Arch, which runs in a culvert alongside Route 139, near Journal Square and then into Secaucus.
Greller said a station might be constructed near Summit Avenue in Jersey City to allow subway riders to access the Journal Square transportation hub as well.
The subway route could then be extended even from the Secaucus Transfer Station to the Meadowlands Sports Complex.
This route would require far less heavy tunnel boring, he said, and would be constructed on property already owned by local municipalities and the state. The existing Bergen Arches already provide four tracks through the Palisades, saving the project an estimated $800 million in boring costs associated with the Weehawken route.
Al Sullivan may be reached at

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