RRNY – The Core Stations

Screenshot 2016-05-26 at 10.03.19 AM

When we last left off talking about Regional Rail New York – Scenario B, we discussed the core infrastructure, and how a combination of desired schedule frequencies and signalling gives us an understanding of the infrastructure we need. (As an addendum to that post, I would like to add that 20 tph per track signalling gives incredibly frequent peak service, and may even be used to double the proposed off-peak service.)

Now I want to talk about the core stations. These are the major transfer stations — to intercity rail, or to other RRNY lines. Some of them already exist; others will need to be built new. We’ll discuss these in two tranches, based on the two East River crossings: the East River Tubes and the Old Fulton Street Tunnel.

East River Tubes

From the west, the first major station is Newark Penn Station, a transfer point between Line 1, Amtrak, and PATH. Next, after Lines 1 and 2 converge, is Secaucus Jct., the transfer point between Lines 1, 2, and 5. Both exist today.

The third transfer station is Portal. This will be a new-build station, and is the transfer point between Lines 1, 2, and 6. Since neither Line 5 nor 6 reach Midtown, Secaucus Jct. and Portal are vital for ensuring a good connection for riders from e.g. Nyack or Passaic to points along Lines 1 and 2. A Palisades facility is also worth considering as a connection to Bergenline Ave and any improvement there.

Next is Penn Station New York, the granddaddy of them all. Penn Station serves as the western terminus for regional services to New England points: Boston, Providence, Hartford, Springfield, Amherst, and Portland via Worcester all find their ends here.

Next is Midtown East. This is the main transfer station between Lines 1, 2, 3, and 4, and is a cross-shaped facility cut out of the rock below 32nd/33rd and Park. Amtrak trains curve away on a connection to Grand Central, and so Midtown East is entirely RRNY territory.

Across the East River we find a potential facility at Long Island City — I will explain why in a couple of posts — and a major Sunnyside station at Queens Boulevard. This facility accesses a Sunnyside Yards overbuild. Here Lines 1 and 2 diverge, and the final station along Line 2 is Port Morris – LaGuardia, one of the ReThink plan’s most successful elements.

Old Fulton Street Tunnel

Manhattan Spine

Beginning along the Manhattan Spine, we find Harlem at 125th Street. A similar infill station may also be worth considering around the 97th Street portal.

Grand Central is next. This station serves Lines 3, 4, and Amtrak. While RRNY uses Grand Central’s lower level, Amtrak uses the East Side Access station box. Most trains to the north and west — along the Keystone and Empire corridors, and to Montréal — terminate here, deadheading via ESA to Sunnyside Yards. High-speed NEC trains use a connection to the Manhattan Spine mainline, while medium-speed trains use ESA to the Hell Gate Line.

Then comes Midtown East, the hewn-in-rock connection between Lines 1, 2, 3, and 4. South of that we have stations at Union Square and Houston Street, before combining with the Pavonia Tunnel at Fulton Street.

Pavonia Tunnel

While Lines 5 and 6 pass through Secaucus Jct. and Portal stations, respectively, they meet at the base of the Bergen Arches. A potential station box is reserved within the Arches proper, and new Newark Ave. and Exchange Place stations service Jersey City. Just after it meets the Manhattan Spine, we find Fulton Street.

Old Fulton Street Tunnel

The westernmost end of the Old Fulton Street Tunnel is the new Fulton Street station. This facility has eight tracks on two levels: the Manhattan Spine (Lines 3 and 4) occupies the upper level, while the Pavonia Tunnel (Lines 5 and 6) occupies the lower level. A concourse, accessed from the street via the Fulton Street oculus, separates the two track levels and provides access to the eight platforms.

Next is the DUMBO station; like Fulton Street, it is eight tracks on two levels. The Flatbush Interlocking occurs between DUMBO and University Place stations, such that, at University Place, we find that the Atlantic Terminal Spur (Lines 4 and 5) occupy the upper level, while the 3rd Avenue Tunnel (Lines 3 and 6) occupy the lower level. Just past University Place, at 3rd and Flatbush, these lines diverge.

3rd Avenue Tunnel and the Staten Island Connection

Atlantic Avenue is a station unique to the 3rd Avenue Tunnel, although it is about two blocks from the Atlantic Terminal and provides a surface transfer there. From there, a potential station sites exist at Gowanus and Brooklyn Army Terminal.

The next major station is St. George on Staten Island. Here we have a connection with Triboro Rx and SIR; the Staten Island Connection follows the North Shore Line.

Finally, Arlington represents the last place where Lines 3 and 6 share a station; past this point, they diverge — Line 3 follows the Staten Island Railway’s approach to the Raritan Valley Line, and Line 6 curves south, along the Travis Branch towards the Pralls Island fixed link.

Local stations between St. George and Arlington are served by a Triboro branch; this branch continues down the Travis Branch to Fresh Kills.

Atlantic Branch

The short Atlantic Terminal Spur connects the Old Fulton Street Tunnel to Atlantic Terminal. From there the line follows the LIRR’s Atlantic Branch.

Stations along this branch include Nostrand Ave., East New York, and Woodhaven Jct.

At Jamaica the Atlantic Branch — Lines 4 and 5 — meets Line 1; from here Lines 1 and 5 follow the LIRR mainline to Floral Park, where they diverge; Line 4 follows the Montauk Branch. Line 1 branch service continues down the Atlantic Branch to Far Rockaway; Line 4 branch service continues down it to Long Beach.

Next Up: Either how Amtrak or how Triboro Rx fits into all of this.

3 thoughts on “RRNY – The Core Stations

  1. I think you have too many stations. The stop spacing you’re trying to use is fine for a general regional rail line, but in New York, a lot of those alignments would run next to busy subways with both local and express trains, which tilts the field in favor of fewer stops. That’s why there shouldn’t be infill on the Upper East Side, or any station between Grand Central and Fulton except Union Square. With your current stop pattern, the regional trains make one more stop between Grand Central and Fulton than the 4/5 do.

    Union Square is a huge destination and has the L and N/Q connections, but Houston is a less important destination, and Broadway-Lafayette is a less useful connection. (If you’re using the B/D to get to Brooklyn, you can connect at Atlantic; if you’re going north, it’s not much faster than connecting to the A/C at Fulton or maybe at Times Square via GCT and the S; if you’re using the F to get to Queens, it’s faster to take the 6 to the E from Grand Central; if you’re using the F to get to Brooklyn from 4th Avenue south, it’s faster to take the R to the F from Flatbush.)

    In contrast, in Hudson County, a denser stop spacing is defensible, because there’s nothing else, except PATH. I still contend that if the trains serve Exchange Place, they should make two stops: Journal Square, and Exchange Place.

    Brooklyn is a bit weird. From Flatbush east, it’s like the LIRR Main Line or the Metro-North trunk. But then between Flatbush and Lower Manhattan, it doesn’t parallel one subway line – it parallels four, none perfectly. I go back and forth on whether a stop at Borough Hall is desirable, but Adirondacker has been persuading me it’s not worth it. There are no new connections there, and it’s too close to both Flatbush and Fulton. Maybe MetroTech could work, purely for the F connection, but that by itself isn’t worth thaaaaat much. DUMBO has no real reason to get a new station. Too many lines serve that part of Brooklyn, and except the A/C, they’re all under capacity.

    It’s especially problematic in light of how many tracks you think are necessary, coming from how few tph you think the existing services run on two tracks. (No, 20 tph is not incredibly infrequent for peak service; try 30.) Those eight-track multilevel caverns would cost a ton; don’t put any it unless there’s a compelling reason. “Service to Lower Manhattan” is a compelling reason; “service to a random Brooklyn waterfront neighborhood,” not so much. Just send eastbound trains nonstop from Fulton to Flatbush, and for the ones that go south, dig a two-track station under 3rd Avenue with an underground walkway.


    1. Keep in mind the service pattern is designed to be scalable to the restrictions of the signalling system. What this means is that while the network I specified has rush service at double normal frequencies, it can also easily work with a 4x rush frequency (as long as the signalling can handle it).

      Also keep in mind that I’m still a bit hazy on how the interlocking between Fulton and Brooklyn will work (other than it being a flying junction of some sort).

      My intent is trying to establish stations at junctions (so Brooklyn Army Terminal would be a Triboro transfer) or major hubs, keeping in mind this network reaches further into the region than any other.

      Also, good point — I completely forgot about Journal Square! I’m pretty sure when I originally platted that tunnel, I didn’t realize that part of Newark Ave. is pedestrianized. It’s something for me to go back and take a look at.


      1. The signaling can handle 25-ish tph today, and that’s with trains with terrible on-time performance because of issues like “bilevels with narrow doors mixing local and express patterns stopping at low-platform stations have unreliable schedules.” Even on the all-high-platform LIRR, the Main Line has ghastly levels of timetable padding because of the creative mixture of stopping patterns; this cascades to a rise in the minimum headway, since the spacing between trains needs to leave a little bit extra to make sure a train that misses its slot can get in not too much later.

        The Triboro transfer is useful, but forget Brooklyn Army Terminal; there’s 59th Street, with the N/R connection. It would give people a semi-reasonable transfer to Bay Ridge and Coney Island, which means that people who are not from the city proper might be able to visit the Aquarium.

        Re Fulton-Flatbush, if the trains to Staten Island go via Downtown Brooklyn (rather than directly, or via Governors Island and then Red Hook) then it can be just four parallel tubes, or two parallel large-diameter tubes. A flying junction is only needed when trains can switch, i.e. when trains from Grand Central can go to both Staten Island and the Atlantic Branch.

        Another question: why the service pattern of Erie-Fulton-SI and GCT-Fulton-Atlantic, and not Eric-Atlantic and GCT-SI?


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