Second Avenue Subway Keeps on Slipping Into the Future

brt_config_3.jpgWhy wait? The optimal BRT configuration on First and Second Avenues would convert multiple traffic lanes to physically separated busways.

Following another revision to the Second Avenue Subway construction timetable, the first phase of the mega-project remains, as ever, about seven or eight years away from completion. Pete Donohue reports in the Daily News:

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority has finished an in-depth analysis of the work schedule, budget and potential hurdles for the long-awaited addition to the system, sources told the News.

The conclusion: the official completion date for phase one of the project should be pushed from June 2015 to December 2016, with possible future delays placing the opening in the summer of 2017, the sources said...

The original schedule for the first phase projected a 2012 completion date but MTA officials have pushed the date back several times over the years -- most recently in March 2008.

I'm lucky. I don't have to put up with sardine-style rush-hour commuting on the Lexington Avenue line. But if I did, I'd want relief as soon as possible. Eight years is a long time to ask people to wait, especially when a viable alternative like physically separated Bus Rapid Transit can be provided much sooner, at much less expense. And if experience is any guide, this won't be the last time the Second Avenue Subway gets pushed back, either.

ITDP director Walter Hook said it well in an interview with Streetsblog this February:

I don't know why Japanese and Chinese cities can roll out 10 miles of new subway line a year, and the richest city in the world has been trying and failing to build the Second Avenue Subway since the 1960s. But I've lived in this town a long time, and I am skeptical. The optimists are telling us that we will have a Second Avenue Subway between 125th Street and 63rd Street by 2015 and only after we spend $4 to $5 billion. So this means we are probably talking about 2018 or 2020, and $10 billion. The Second Avenue Subway would be great, it’s needed, it would have higher demand than almost any other metro line in the country. At those volumes, metros are often a good investment. But will it happen?

The MTA has a huge hole in its next capital program, with billions in funding for core maintenance still unaccounted for. That comes first, no matter what. If our legislative goons in Albany can't muster the will to fund mega-projects, too, we can still expand the system: On the east side of Manhattan, the right BRT configuration would carry almost as many commuters as the Second Avenue Subway, for a fraction of the cost.