After substantial press coverage last fall and winter, the idea of a No. 7 subway extension to New Jersey has faded from public view. But MTR has learned from numerous sources that New York City is proceeding with a study of the proposal that could include a plan for a bus transfer station at Secaucus Junction in New Jersey.
It’s unclear whether the proposal would mean certain Manhattan-bound buses would end their trips in Secaucus and force bus riders to transfer. If this is the case, the proposal should be met with resistance by the 315,000 people who commute across the Hudson by bus every weekday.
Tri-State has not taken a stance on the No. 7 proposal, but it has crafted a list of principles to guide discussions about cross-Hudson transit. They include:
- Additional cross-Hudson transit capacity is needed now. It will take years to complete environmental reviews and line up financing and political support for a new rail tunnel across the Hudson River. But all Hudson River crossings are already at capacity and improvements are necessary now. To alleviate these problems, TSTC supports near-term improvements to cross-Hudson bus service. A population the size of Cincinnati travels by bus between New Jersey and Manhattan each weekday and these riders have seen few improvements in decades. TSTC supports the following projects that could improve the cross-Hudson commute: a bus parking garage on the West Side of Manhattan, enhancements to the Port Authority Bus Terminal, reconstruction of the Lincoln Tunnel Helix, an additional morning eastbound Express Bus/High Occupancy Toll Lane along the Lincoln Tunnel approach, and a westbound evening bus only lane on the Lincoln Tunnel approach.
- New York City should increase its subsidy to the MTA. New York City has not increased its subsidy to the MTA in nearly two decades, according to the NYC Independent Budget Office. In fact, when inflation is taken into account, the NYC’s subsidy has declined since 1990. The MTA faces a $10 billion budget deficit in its current capital program and without additional resources, the system will fall into disrepair.
- No expansion project should take resources away from the existing transit system. The MTA and NJTransit both implemented drastic service cuts and fare increases in 2010 due to funding shortfalls. The MTA has no capital funding after 2011, meaning that without additional resources, the agency won’t be able to repair the existing system, let alone complete expansion projects like the 2nd Ave subway. Maintaining existing transit network and levels of service should be the priority for our region. New cross-Hudson projects are vitally necessary, but should only proceed if existing maintenance, repair, and operating needs are met.
The No. 7 proposal comes at a puzzling time. The idea was raised by Mayor Bloomberg last fall after Governor Christie killed the Access to the Region’s Core passenger rail tunnel that would have doubled NJ Transit rail service between New Jersey and Manhattan. The City’s reasoning was that millions in federal money would be available to spend on another cross-Hudson transit project. But the $271 million designated for ARC has since been eliminated from the federal transit budget. And even if a tangible proposal was crafted, the end of Mayor Bloomberg’s term in 2013 doesn’t provide the City with enough time to finish environmental studies and line up funding for the proposal. The $10 billion deficit in the MTA’s capital construction program further complicates matters. The agency could be reimbursed for building the extension, but the operations and purchase of new subway cars would likely fall on its shoulders.
NYC awarded a $250,000, three-month contract for the study earlier this year. Insiders say the study timeline has since been extended. West Side interests may be pushing for the construction of another station for the existing No. 7 project (a station at 41st Street and Tenth Avenue was eliminated in 2008 due to budget constraints) and are intrigued by the idea of a direct connection for New Jersey residents.