R.P.A. calls, again, for outer-borough X line
The Regional Plan Association has a solution to New York City's outer borough transportation problems: build the Triboro Rx line, or the X line as it is alternately known.
The proposed 24-mile route along a mostly above-ground right-of-way now used entirely by freight trains, would serve more than 100,000 weekday riders and is, according to the association, "by far the most promising" concept for rail expansion in the outer boroughs.
Passengers would board at one of 22 different stations stretching from the Bay Ridge in Brooklyn to Jackson Heights in Queens, to Co-Op City in the Bronx.
Along the way, it would intersect with 6, N, Q, 7, E, R, F, M, L, 2, 3, and 5 trains, providing just the sort of intra- and inter-borough connectivity now lacking in New York City's radial, Manhattan-centric subway system.
(The G train, which has substantially less connectivity to other lines, carries a similar number of passengers.)
"This line would address many of the weaknesses found in the transit system in the boroughs—poor connectivity within and between the Bronx, Queens and Brooklyn, slow bus service, excessive transferring and service reliability," reads the report.
The R.P.A. could not provide a cost estimate for the project, though spokeswoman Wendy Pollack said that "it will cost substantially less than any other rail projects in the region, because the right of way is already there and it’s overground."
The question of how to improve transportation in the outer boroughs is a popular one these days, with job and population growth increasingly happening outside Manhattan, despite the boroughs' suboptimal transportation options.
Advocates have latched onto bus rapid transit as the most viable way to enhance the city's transportation options, thanks in good part to its cheapness relative to subway construction. The City Council is holding a hearing on the subject today.
But since the Regional Plan Association first proposed the Rx line in the mid-1990s, the concept has lingered in the civic imagination.
Back when he was Manhattan borough president, New York City comptroller Scott Stringer championed the idea in a speech before the New York establishment.
“The X Line would connect all but three subway lines in the city and join Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx, which no other line does today,” he said.
Not for nothing, but "the line is built entirely along existing rights of way,” Stringer added. “That means no tunneling, which is the biggest hurdle in this day and age to building new subways.”
At the present, intra- and inter-borough transportation is so lacking that "less than half of the 3.4 million trips made within and between the boroughs are made on transit," according to the R.P.A. "In contrast, almost nine in every 10 trips for work made to and from the boroughs to the Manhattan business district are on transit."
(For the purposes of this study, the boroughs include Manhattan north of 96th Street on the East side, north of 125th Street on the west side, and, of course, the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island.)
Many of those who stand to benefit from the Rx line are low- and middle-class New Yorkers, a majority of of whom don't own cars.
The M.T.A. declined to comment for this article.
"We haven’t seen the report yet, but will review it," said Wiley Norvell, a spokesman for Mayor Bill de Blasio. "The mayor made expansion of Select Bus Service and citywide ferry service key priorities in this year’s State of the City, and those systems will serve hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers in the very near future."
The Rx proposal is one of a raft of ideas put forth in the Regional Plan Association report.
It also recommends faster and more frequent bus service, lower subway and bus fares in off-peak hours and on weekends, "a modern and efficient contactless fare payment system that will speed boarding and alighting on all bus routes," more reverse-commuting service along Metro-North and the Long Island railroads, better bus shelters, better subway stations outside of Manhattan, better subway signaling systems to allow for more frequent service, and the extension of the Second Avenue Subway up to 125th Street.
You can read the report here: http://bit.ly/1CecHd6
NOTE: This story has been updated to include a comment on the potential cost of the project.