New York City

MTA’s Smart Bay Ridge Branch Idea

The MTA’s smart Bay Ridge Branch, diminished in the uproar over Andy Byford’s quitting, is the best new transit idea in a long time. It helps all mass transit riders from Queens, Manhattan and Brooklyn.

Reporting by David Stone

But before Byford landed in New York, assigned to save the subways, a great idea idled. Four years after we reported on it, the MTA perked up.

“But a brighter plan from the Regional Plan Association has recently surfaced, and it is both bigger, less expensive and more likely to directly help ease system crowding,” we wrote on June, 2016. 

The Triborough Rail Line would use 24 miles of already existing right of way, much of it currently in use by Amtrak and CSX freight trains. These tracks are currently underutilized, carrying just one or two trains per day.”

MTA’s Bay Ridge Branch Line

The new Bay Ridge Branch is a bit less ambitious.

“The agency on Thursday awarded a $1.3 million contract to AECOM, an engineering firm, to study the feasibility of the sprawling project, which would stretch 16 miles and pass near 19 subway lines and the Long Island Railroad,” according to The Gothamist.

The difference?

The RPA plan ran all the way over the Hell Gate Bridge to Hunts Point. But the MTA’s new line ends in Astoria.

At that, the cost is pegged at between $1 and $2 billion dollars by RPA.

But the benefits are enormous, and here’s why.

Adjusting to 21st Century Needs

MTA Bay Ridge Branch Map
The MTA’s map for the Bay Ridge Line — in light green — shows how it intersects with almost everything.

What makes the MTA’s not so fresh idea brilliant is how it adjusts transportation citywide.

And in a way that just plain fits.

Look at a current subway map, and you’ll see it.

Almost exclusively, the subway system was built to carry people into and out of Manhattan. Of all the lines, only one — the G — never touches Manhattan.

That matched how we lived and worked.

A hundred years ago for those of us who were around, then.

Manhattan soared skyward with factories, apartment and office towers as another revolutionary invention — the elevator — became practical.

But in recent decades, manufacturing declined and versatile planning made both Brooklyn and Queens viable job creators. That inspired the RPA plan that the MTA’s Bay Ridge Branch echoes.

How this helps…

As things stand now, thousands of riders pass through Manhattan just to connect with other boroughs.

Say you live in Jackson Heights and land a job in Brooklyn Heights. You’re still in Heights, but you have to ride all the way through Manhattan to get where you want to go.

The Bay Ridge Branch changes that by adding a robust north/south connector. One that passes near 19 other lines, plus the Long Island Railroad.

Although MTA’s final plan may not feature connections with all of them, easing traffic on N, F, Q, L, M, 2 and 5 trains is inevitable.

Reducing overcrowding benefits even those of us mainly commuting to and from Manhattan. And less time will be wasted in travel.

That means more free time for you and me and fewer frayed nerves.

The RPA plan’s been around since 1996. Let’s hope implementation is quicker.

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