The Metropolitan Transportation Authority board on Wednesday approved its largest capital plan ever, with a $51.5 billion investment in the city’s transit system. The 2020-2024 capital plan will invest a whopping $40 billion in subway and buses alone, which includes fully funding the long-awaited second phase of the Second Avenue Subway. In phase two, three new subway stations will be built with the Q train extending to East Harlem.
Second Avenue Subway
Photo via jseliger2 on Flickr
President Donald Trump offered to help complete the second phase of the Second Avenue Subway in a tweet on Saturday, surprising New York officials who said no agreement had been reached. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority is still seeking federal funding for phase two, which extends the Q line from its terminus at 96th Street north to 125th Street in East Harlem and is estimated to cost $6 billion.
Photo via MTA/Flickr
It’s been three years since the Second Avenue Subway’s long-awaited opening, and with phase two finally inching forward, what better time to learn all about the past, present, and future of this incredible infrastructure project. Join 6sqft’s managing editor Dana Schulz for a tour with the Municipal Art Society about the history, art, and architecture of the Second Avenue Subway. Taking place on Sunday, February 24th, the two-hour event will explore why it took nearly 100 years for the train’s wheels to get rolling, how it was designed, and what engineering feats set it apart. Guests will also view the impressive collection of public art from Chuck Close, Sarah Sze, Vik Muniz, and Jean Shin, learning about these contemporary artists and the significance of their work.
Via Flickr cc
The second phase of the Second Avenue Subway passed its environmental assessment, putting the Metropolitan Transportation Authority one step closer to bringing more subway service to East Harlem. The agency announced on Monday that with the Federal Transit Administration issuing the project a “Finding of No Significant Impact,” the MTA can now secure federal funding for phase two. In this phase, the Q line will extend from its terminus at 96th Street north to 125th Street, moving west to Lexington and Park Avenues, where the line will connect with the 4, 5, 6, and Metro-North trains.
Photo via Flickr cc
For over a decade, a large swath of the Upper East Side was under construction, but for many residents, it felt more like being under attack. As the Q Line was being built—after a century-long wait—the neighborhood not only had to tolerate restricted traffic along Second Avenue above ground but also more dramatic interruptions. Indeed, at one point in the subway line’s construction, underground explosions even shattered the windows of several local businesses. But with the noise, traffic, and disarray of the Second Avenue Subway in the past, the surrounding neighborhood has already quickly bounced back. As per predictions, since the completion of the line, real estate values, volume of sales, and rental prices in Yorkville have experienced an upswing.
Photo via Flickr cc
According to new documents, the next leg of the extension of the Q line to 125th Street that comprises the second phase of the Second Avenue Subway will be done in 2029, the Daily News reports. And that completion date only holds if work is begun on time, in mid-2019, according to the same document from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the Federal Transit Administration. The expected phase two completion date is nearly a decade after Governor Andrew Cuomo opened the first section of the project in 2017. That 2029 date refers to the time all construction equipment has left the site; MTA officials hope to begin running trains through the tunnels, bringing vital service to Harlem, in 2027.
Photo via Flickr cc
The MTA has released updated ridership figures for 2017, giving an even better look at how the Second Avenue Subway is growing in popularity and impacting the Lexington Avenue line. By looking at the three comparative stations–96th Street, 86th, and 77th/72nd Streets–we can see that average weekday ridership on the 4,5,6 line has dropped 29.5, 29.2, and 23.6 percent respectively. More impressive is the fact that in 2017, the annual number of riders at the 96th Street station and 77th and 72nd Street stations were almost identical on both lines at roughly 8.5 million. And at 86th Street, the Q station hit 7.7 million riders, still impressive compared to the Lexington line’s $14 million considering there are two express trains there, too.
96th Street entrance to the Second Avenue Subway, via MTA/Flickr
On Valentine’s Day, The Source, a long-running store on Third Avenue that sold everything from stationary and household cleaning products to cards and candles, closed its doors for good. Since early January, when the owner hung a going-out-of-business sign in his window, he had been telling Upper East Siders shoppers that he was shutting down for two reasons: rising rents but the drastic decline in business brought about by the Second Avenue Subway’s opening in January 2017. Although one might assume that a business like The Source is really a victim of Amazon and the rise of other online retailers, the increasing vacancy rates along Third and Lexington Avenues on the Upper East Side over the past year appear to confirm his speculation. As much as the Second Avenue Subway has been good news for businesses in Yorkville, its opening seems to have dealt a devastating blow to businesses located just west of the new line.
Construction workers giving a tour of the Second Avenue subway; photo via the MTA on Flickr
The exorbitant construction costs of building transit projects, coupled with project delays, could make the New York region lose jobs and businesses to other global cities that are completing transit projects in a more timely, and economical, fashion. A report released on Tuesday from the Regional Plan Association (RPA) says high-costs and delays are ingrained in every part of the public-project delivery, including too-long environmental reviews, inaccurate project budgets and timelines and a lack of communication with labor unions. In their report, the RPA analyzed three projects and their costs and delivery issues: the Second Avenue Subway, East Side Access and the extension of the 7-train.
Construction workers giving a tour of the Second Avenue subway in 2015, photo via the MTA on Flickr
Even as the Metropolitan Transportation Authority has cut costs on basic maintenance, they have allowed trade unions, construction companies and consulting firms to negotiate exorbitant deals on transit projects, with little intervention from officials. According to an investigation by the New York Times, labor unions have secured deals requiring construction sites be staffed as many as four times more workers than anywhere else in the world. Construction companies have increased their projected costs by up to 50 percent when bidding for work from the MTA and consulting firms have convinced the authority to spend an excessive amount on design and management. Caught up in the bureaucracy of the industry, neither public officials nor the authority have attempted to contain the spending.