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Thread: 42nd Street Light Rail

  1. #1
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    Sep 2004

    Default 42nd Street Light Rail

    From the NY Post:


    Crosstown travel might get a futuristic twist if a plan to bring a light-rail system to New York City becomes a reality. Vision42 — a citizens initiative that's part of the nonprofit Institution for Rational Mobility — is proposing the construction of a light rail system along 42nd Street, with stops at each avenue from river to river.

    The system would be above ground and replace all vehicular traffic on the major thoroughfare, which under the plan, would basically become a pedestrian walkway.

    "Practically speaking, it could absolutely be done," said civil engineer George Haikalis, who helped launch vision42 in 1999. ";It's been done before all over the world."

    Architect Roxanne Warren, another founder of the group, said she and Haikalis decided to pursue the plan after she took a crosstown bus ride and "went slower than the pedestrians."

    "Right now, crosstown travel is impossible," she said. "The estimated travel time of the rail system would be 20 minutes."

    Warren and Haikalis have already made nearly 200 presentations to community leaders and elected officials on the rail system, and they are waiting for the results of three technical studies to really get the word out.

    The studies — which are being done by consultants and were funded by a grant from the New York Community Trust — are investigating economic impact on the city, cost and traffic impact.

    "While many of the people who saw the presentation were excited about the idea, there were certain questions about cost and so forth," Haikalis said. "To move this thing along, we really needed some technical input."

    The results of the studies will be posted on vision42's Web site on April 18 — the same day as a public forum to be held at the New York Marriott Marquis Hotel with the Manhattan Borough President's Office and Community Boards 4, 5 and 6.

    "We'll have representatives of the consultants there to answer questions, so everyone interested can have their concerns heard," Haikalis said.

    The idea for a rail line on 42nd Street isn't new — in 1994, the City Council voted to support a rail line on the street, but when cost exceeded what was expected, the plan died. The cost then for the rail and street repairs was about $100 million.

    "We wanted to revive the plan, but also make the street a pedestrian walkway," Warren said. "It will change New York if it goes through."

    According to vision42, the rail system would take six years to build and probably be run by the MTA.

    City Transportation Department spokeswoman Kay Sarlin said, "We are always open to new ideas, but we have had concerns about the feasibility of a 42nd Street light rail. The Shuttle and No. 7 trains currently provide cross-town service, and the administration's transit priority in the area is the extension of the No. 7."


    At Grand Central Terminal, an auto-free 42nd Street would greatly facilitate access to the station by pedestrians.

    Times Square receives some 165,000 people per day, even before the addition of planned new office towers.

    Landscaping will bring continuous greenery from Bryant Park and the new riverfront parks into the heart of Midtown.

    vision42 will create an outdoor “urban room” for theater-goers and residents of massive apartment towers.

    vision42 and the #7 Subway Extension

    These two rail proposals for Midtown serve very different functions and are complementary. The subway provides speedy, underground, long-distance service, while the light rail line extends the reach of the subways to the rivers, providing fine-grained, high-quality transit service at street level to all of 42nd Street’s destinations. Its easy boarding and frequent access points make it an ideal collector/distributor for the subways and ferries, while its placement in a pedestrian street enhances access to all the subways, including the #7. The light rail line serves the entire 42nd Street corridor, including high-density development areas on the far eastern and far western ends of 42nd Street that are not directly served by either the subways or commuter rail. Also shown is the route of the #7 extension as it was originally proposed, passing deep under Eighth Avenue and stopping at Penn Station before turning west to a terminus at the Hudson Yards.

    There's a lot more on their site.
    Last edited by ryan; April 4th, 2005 at 11:21 PM.

  2. #2


    I can't see this happening.

  3. #3


    Looks pretty cool, but is this even going to happen? I HATE traffic congestion, and would love to see NYC improve on that, but I would figure there will be a lot of opposition towards this. Boston does it, although many of their cars look really old and beat up.

  4. #4
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    New York City


    This will supplement the existing subway lines, like the old trolleys used to do and like the buses were supposed to. The problem is that there is so much congestion on 42nd Street that the buses aren't practical.

  5. #5


    I'm all for it, but it'll never happen. As far as traffic goes though... how about congestion charging for midtown?

  6. #6


    A light-rail line for this short length would be totally rediculous. Unless it it used as a cheaper replacement for the 7 extension to the STADIUM.

  7. #7


    i hate having to get into the jungle that is Grand Central/Times (although admittedly it -can- be fun) so Im all for it

    i guess you have to make short term sacrifices to gain long term benifits.... this would be one of them, there would be chaos during the 6 years it would take builidng it....

  8. #8
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    New York City


    Quote Originally Posted by mkeit
    A light-rail line for this short length would be totally rediculous. Unless it it used as a cheaper replacement for the 7 extension to the STADIUM.
    It can be easily extended, however. Every light-rail system starts out small.

  9. #9


    This is a ridiculous idea - but if they really wanted to make crosstown access easier and willing to go so far as eliminating vehicular traffic on 42nd street, why not do it MUCH cheaper by simply only allowing buses? Why spend $$$$ to build a light rail when good old-fashioned public transportation can do it cheaper and just as efficiently?

  10. #10
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    Garden City, LI


    I know els are out of fashion, but imagine an airtran like rail up 42nd, 34st, 125th, etc, and then all connecting somehow at, say, the FDR and West Side Hway.

  11. #11


    Putting aside the practicality of an el for a second, I can understand that at least the benefit you get with an el is that you're increasing capacity on a roadway by using the air above it. However, this proposal shows a street level light rail, which makes no sense whatsoever.

    Now getting back to reality, need I remind anyone of the financial state of the MTA and the city?

  12. #12


    The pictures on the web site look nice-however they seem to have left out the Overhead Wire System. The alternative would be a center slot for power similar to the old streetcars. I don't see this either.

    With the rebuilding of the west side, where will they be stored? A maintenance building and yard is needed. Where will the substation buildings-at least 2- be located?

    Light rail vehicles cost around $ 3 million each in large quantities. The cost of the guideway in Phoenix-the most recent system to be built-is running about $ 8 million/mile. Manhattan construction has got to be a hell of a lot more expensive. The guideway has to be excavated at least 3 feet deep x 25' wide. Rock excavation will be even more expensive, All utilities that cross it have to be relocated.

    A busway would be a lot easier.

  13. #13
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    Oct 2002
    Manhattan - South Village


    New York eliminated all its elevated trains and put them underground for reasons that would be foolhardy to disregard, especially here where there is a subway under the street now that is being extended to the West Side. The cheapest and easiest answer is to remove passenger vehicles from 42nd St. and use Bus Rapid Transit.

  14. #14
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    Sep 2003
    Jackson Heights


    I would suggest that neither light rail nor bus rapid transit would make much of a difference in that corridor.

    Two of the major sources of delay in that corridor are:
    (1) Long dwell times due to high passenger boarding volumes at each stop; and
    (2) Long delays at traffic lights due to high traffic volumes on the avenues.

    The only way to address (1) is to erect per-paid fare controlled areas on the sidewalk, so people can board vehicles faster and by multiple doors. This can be done regardless of what types of vehicles are used.

    The city will not be willing to address (2) no matter what is done on 42nd St.

    I think it would be great to make 42nd Street for transit and pedestrians only. But reducing traffic on that street won't by itself make a dramatic difference in travel times.

  15. #15


    Doesn't the 7 train run along 42st? Why can't people use that?

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