Around 1900, sharp operators in New York City would fleece tourists by offering to sell them the Brooklyn Bridge. The bridge, which still impresses and inspires New Yorkers and visitors today, was a marvel of its age and towered over everything else on the Manhattan or Brooklyn sides of the East River when it opened for service in 1883. Today, there are still people who have a bridge to sell us; two bridges, in fact. They want transit riders and taxpayers in New York and New Jersey to spend more than $3 billion to replace one bridge with two. They also say that replacing a two-track bridge with another two-track bridge will expand capacity sufficiently to qualify for a grant program established specifically for that purpose.
Author: David Peter Alan
On June 6, the nation commemorated the 75th anniversary of the D-Day invasion of Normandy, a critical event along the path to victory in World War II. That day has been called “The Longest Day,” especially since the motion picture about the battle by that name was released in 1962. On June 7, hundreds of riders on Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited and Capitol Limited experienced what, to them, may have felt like one of their own longest days, at least in recent memory. That experience was a trip on Amtrak between Chicago and the East Coast.
It could have been much worse—infinitely worse if anything is considered infinitely better than zero. Transit officials in New York City had planned to shut down the busiest segment of the popular “L” Train under 14th Street in Manhattan and through the Canarsie Tunnel into Brooklyn for 15 months, beginning on April 26, to repair flood damage caused by Hurricane Sandy in 2012.
Ever since Hurricane Sandy devastated the New York and New Jersey region in October 2012, the tunnels under the Hudson River between New Jersey and Penn Station New York have been described as a ticking time bomb, subject to complete failure at any time; at least any time after 2021, and more likely after 2034.
After an absence of more than eight months, trains are finally running again on New Jersey Transit’s (NJT) Atlantic City Rail Line (ACRL) between that city and Philadelphia, and on the “Dinky” from Princeton Junction toward Princeton.
The original Access to the Region’s Core (ARC) Project started with a semblance of consensus but ended its 15-year life in controversy. Its replacement, Gateway, was proposed in February 2011, and has been surrounded by controversy for the entire eight years of its life, so far. The politicians and planners who are pushing the program consider it inevitable, just as they considered the now-defunct ARC Project inevitable almost until the day it was killed in 2010.
There is no dispute that the proliferation and popularity of light rail and streetcars has been the great success story on the North American transit scene since the 1980s. Forty years ago, only seven American cities and Toronto in Canada retained even a single streetcar line that survived from the “golden age” of rail transit. Today there are dozens of lines in the U.S. and Canada, including new starts in their first few months of service.
Anyone connected with the series of passenger rail projects in the New York/New Jersey Metropolitan Area known collectively as Gateway will claim that their eventual completion is inevitable, much like former California Gov. Jerry Brown claimed that completion of the virtually defunct California High-Speed Rail Project was inevitable, or how anti-rail activists like Randal O’Toole claim that the impending demise of passenger trains and rail transit is inevitable. Yet, circumstances have changed in recent years, and new discoveries have led some advocates in the region to doubt the cost-effectiveness, and even the feasibility, of building Gateway as currently proposed.
New Jersey Transit announced Feb. 27 that it will restore service on the Atlantic City Rail Line (ACRL) and the “Dinky”—a short shuttle line between Princeton Junction on Amtrak‘s Northeast Corridor (NEC) and a point close to downtown Princeton—but riders will still have to wait 85 more days to get their trains back.
It’s not much like the high-speed rail lines in Europe, Japan, and China, but locals still refer to it as the “PATCO Speedline” and have done so for the past 50 years. It travels its 14.2-mile route in 27 minutes, which averages slightly less than 32 miles per hour—not bad for local rail transit.