5 months ago
My subway improvements: one small (can be implemented tomorrow with immediate improvements), one medium-to-big (years to implement, possibly $100 million cost).
SMALL PROPOSAL: ALTERNATE R TRAINS BETWEEN 60 ST TUNNEL AND 63 ST TUNNEL
On the M-R local tracks out in Astoria and Woodside, the trains run M-R-R, i.e., two R trains for every M train. For one of those local R trains during rush hours, they would continue down the 63 Street tunnel making stops 21 St Queensbridge, Roosevelt Island, and 63 Street Lex Av instead of Queens Plaza, 59 Street Lex Av, and 5 Ave stops via the 60 Street tunnel. In both cases, both R routes would rejoin at 57 Street and 7 Ave.
How would this work? Just as the F train (and other trains) have slightly different routes and stops (e.g., some F trains go to Stillwell Ave, others go to Kings Highway), the R train would go a different direction at the switch about 30 feet beyond the 36 Street and Northern Blvd station: it's that switch that either takes you straight to Queens Plaza, or diverts to 21 Street Queensbridge. Roosevelt Island F train riders are already familiar with this capability when they see F trains making local stops to Jackson Heights (i.e., diverting to the local tracks) or when they see an M, R, or E train coming through the Roosevelt Island station.
Q: Would this change jam up the subways elsewhere? A: No, and for several reasons. For the F trains, they run most frequent at a capacity of approx 10 trains/hour (approx every 6 minutes). The trains can be spaced as frequent as 30 trains per hour (approx every 2 minutes), which you can experience in mornings on the Manhattan-bound express track at Roosevelt Ave Jackson Heights. Thus, there is extra capacity in our 63 Street tunnel for more trains. The second reason this won't jam up is because the potential bottlenecks in the flow are the R trains (e.g., Manhattan-bound) but they don't actually increase traffic flow: if there are 8 Manhattan-bound R trains per hour leaving 36 Street LIC, then whether they take the 60 Street tunnel (as all of them do now) or half of them take the 63 Street tunnel (as I propose), the train flow remains the SAME at 57 Street and 7 Ave: 8 trains per hour -- thus, no additional congestion or additional flow.
Q: Are there other benefits to this proposal? A: Yes. For example, with this kind of route, it means that people can work/study at Cornell Tech, but easily live in LIC, Astoria, and Woodside because it's an easy commute to Roosevelt Island -- which puts LESS of a strain upon on-Island housing for Cornell Tech. It also means that Roosevelt Island residents can easily commute via subway to LIC, Astoria, and Woodside for shopping and work, too. Also, this provides a benefit to the LIC, Astoria, and Woodside communities in that they have an easy route to Upper East Side (and vice versa) by taking the R63 (the R train route that uses the 63 Street tunnel) and switch at 63 St Lex Ave for the Q train to the Upper East Side - a broader access to the Upper East Side, not merely constrained to the 4, 5, and 6 trains.
Q: Won't this make Roosevelt Island more crowded? A: No. Unlike the morning F trains, the R trains are not jam packed, so Roosevelt Island residents will be able to take an R train ... or even take an R train one stop the 63 St Lex Ave where there will be more room on the F train as many F train passengers depart at that station. Also, if people are coming to the Island via the R train (as I suggest a new home-work commute pattern to/from LIC-Astoria-Woodside), these people will either be doing the reverse commute, or departing at Roosevelt Island before residents board Manhattan-bound F trains.
Q: How much does this improvement cost? A: Virtually zero dollars. Sure, there is some cost in updating signage and schedule information, but it is in the noise. Most importantly, there are no construction costs.
MEDIUM TO BIG PROPOSAL: ADD A ROOSEVELT ISLAND STOP TO 60 STREET TUNNEL
At present, there is a ventilation shaft next to the Tram to the 60 Street tunnel, which could be widened and platforms added to the present tracks there. This might cost $100 million or more: widening the shaft to provide elevator/escalator, and carving out platforms on the edge of the tracks.
Q: So why would it make sense to spend $100 million on a community of just 12,000 people? A: Because providing this stop on the 60 Street R-N-W lines, along with transfer walkways completed to 63 Street, Ferry, and Tram, would be a *regional* benefit to commuters in NYC: a transfer point to multiple modes of transportation and multiple lines. It might even rationalize a LIRR stop for Roosevelt Island. With a *regional* benefit, then it's not just about RIOC or the City funding this for Roosevelt Island, it's about Federal, State, and *regional* transportation funds being spent on a transportation hub that, largely, would have transfer points below the street level. As an analogy, think of DeKalb Ave and Atlantic-Pacific stations in Brooklyn: as a commuter these are good transfer points, but how many times did you really need to go upstairs to DeKalb Ave? (probably never) Or said differently: Roosevelt Island becomes another "Hoboken" for Manhattan -- the last major transfer point before arriving in Manhattan.
Q: What about the 53 Street line? A: That tunnel is congested in train capacity (can't add more trains) and congested in passenger capacity (the trains themselves are at full capacity). Thus, the 53 Street line is not an area for immediate improvement for Roosevelt Island, the City, and regionally.
These are the two proposals I am sending to the MTA (as per the MTA's request for more information). I have to add more technical details to support this, and I will share it with the community once I have added these details ... in the meantime, the above is a summary of my proposals.