New York’s MTA is spending a mind-boggling 7.2 billion dollars to make the commute a smidge easier for some Long Islanders. The idea is to bring some LIRR commuters to Grand Central Terminal instead of Penn Station. Take a look at the map and judge for yourself if it’s money well-spent. Note especially the distance between the two stations, and consider that there is already a myriad of options to get from one to the other: existing subways, busses, taxis, and, oh, walking (it’s less than a mile). Consider also the fact that this project entails tunneling under already existing Metro North (another commuter line) tracks that run along Park Avenue and building another level underneath the existing Grand Central. A glance at the map begs the obvious question: why not just link to the existing Metro North tracks and use the existing levels of Grand Central? Especially since Grand Central ain’t so grand any more: its only remaining service is the Metro North commuter lines! Surely there’s room among the dozens of tracks there for a few trains from Long Island.
In the meantime, another project–one which would serve a vastly greater number of (ostensibly less well-connected) city commuters seems to be languishing: the Second Avenue subway. It too costs many billions of dollars, but at least it serves a real purpose–to relieve the severely overcrowded Lexington Avenue line–and extends from 125th Street all the way down to the Wall Street area. Oh, and it’s been on the drawing board for eighty years. Which means that the next time you’re packed like a sardine on the 4/5 and it’s bumper-to-bumper traffic, you can console yourself with the fact that it was never meant to be this way.
Well, the good news is that this stupid line is about to run out of money due to the MTA’s perennial money shortage. At seven billion dollars to tunnel one mile, it’s easy to see why there’s no money. One can hope that in the meantime somebody else will come into power–someone not beholden to suburban commuter demands–and put a stop to this nonsense before it sucks in any more of our tax dollars.