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Biz rail hub for downtown - could PATH system connect Brooklyn and New Jersey with a one-seat ride?

Proposals floated for downtown rail transportation so far involve getting Long Island Rail Road passengers to a transportation hub there, perhaps by a supershuttle using the existing subway tunnel or a new Atlantic Ave. tunnel between Brooklyn and Manhattan. Passengers could transfer to the subway or PATH and ultimately Metro-North trains extended south.

Each of these would take much time and money. But we have a huge opportunity - if we think outside the box.

Why not connect Brooklyn, Jersey City and lower Manhattan with a one-seat ride using an extended PATH? This would make sensible use of the region's rail and transit systems and strengthen lower Manhattan's economic recovery at a comparatively small cost.

Right now, with minimal costs compared to other proposals, the PATH trains can be connected to the subway lines and access downtown Brooklyn. In the future, the trains could go to Jamaica, Queens.

PATH cars are roughly the same size as IRT cars and can operate on the BMT/IND tracks. The PATH fleet needs to be replaced shortly anyway. Technical details such as differences in propulsion equipment, connection grades and the choice of lines or tubes can be worked out.

In any case, LIRR cars cannot get to New Jersey via PATH. PATH cars could, however, with a connection, get to Brooklyn.

Frankly, the Port Authority has long viewed PATH as an encumbrance. It was forced on the PA as part of the World Trade Center deal. Instead of the PA, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority should operate PATH from New Jersey and on to Brooklyn as part of the subway system under an arrangement with the PA, New York and New Jersey.

Conflicts between Federal Railway Administration requirements and transit car standards must be resolved. The choice of tubes to Brooklyn and the connections also must be planned to minimize conflict with subway service. Labor jurisdictional differences must also be addressed.

Difficult? Yes, but primarily politically, not substantively. Lots of sacred cows would be upset.

The Financial Triangle connection deserves immediate consideration. It would certainly cost less than a new tunnel.

Creative transportation planners have long wished that jurisdictional lines could be eliminated and the rail systems could be connected in a rational way.

A one-seat ride between Brooklyn and Jersey City is entirely feasible. All that is needed is a regional political consensus. The governors of New York and New Jersey and the mayor of New York City can make this happen.
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by Constantine Sidamon-Eristoff, managing director of the government/industry East of Hudson Rail Freight Task Force, was city transportation commissioner with the Lindsay administration and an MTA board member from 1974-89.

Originally published on January 20, 2003
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Roger J. Herz
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