Speculation on what a partial tunnel closure would look like

In addition to further reliance on ferries, the PATH, and Lincoln and Holland tunnels, closing one of the North River tubes to Penn Station would mean tough decisions on how to use the remaining capacity.  From NJ.com:

The next question is who gets the little commuter rail capacity that’s left?

“The first question is who get those 6 trains?” Zuppan said, who assumed Amtrak’s two hourly trains would continue running. “NJ Transit has four instead of 20 (trains). The big question is what lines get them?

Would that mean two trains an hour each get allocated for the Northeast Corridor, and Morris & Essex lines, he questioned.

“There will be economic ramifications,” said Amtrak’s Schulz. “Regardless of  how the numbers shape up, there will be a reduction and people still need to go to work. How we do it, remains to be seen.”

NJ Transit’s multilevel cars have about 140 seats.  If we assume a heavy load of 50 standees per car, a 12-car train with two locomotives could hold (140+50)*12=2,280 passengers. Multiply that by 4 trains, and we get 9,120 passengers per hour

2013 hub-bound travel data shows that about 48,000 passengers enter Manhattan on NJ Transit trains between 7am and 10am. 22,000 of these people arrive between 8am and 9am. That leaves NJ Transit with a capacity deficit of about 13,000 people between 8 and 9.

One of the tricks that NJ Transit could pull out of its sleeve could be to remove seats from its trains to create more standing room.

The above assumptions are that a single track would allow 6 trains in an 6 trains out per hour.  This could change to 8 trains in and 4 trains out in the morning, which could be done during the peak, but would require changes to equipment staging. During the morning, outbound commuter numbers are much smaller than the number of inbound commuters.  In the PM rush, the number of inbound passengers is higher, so it would be more difficult to change the balance between inbound and outbound slots.

To create alternatives, NJ Transit would have to make crossing the Hudson via ferry or PATH more attractive.  We could see an increasing number of Coast Line and Northeast Corridor Trains terminating at Newark Penn Station, and increased service into Hoboken on the Montclair and Morristown Lines. Another possibility is that many Main, Bergen, and Pascack Valley Line trains would skip Secaucus altogether.

Train ridership at Hoboken Terminal has declined by about 50% in the past 20 years.  With a partial tunnel closure, the station could see a new surge of rush hour commuters.  Where would they go?  The PATH is already very crowded at rush hours.  Currently, ferries from Hoboken Terminal go to WFC and Wall Street.  A ferry from Hoboken Terminal to the pier at W. 39th Street could be implemented to accommodate Midtown-bound commuters.

We would also have to provide additional bus capacity. The tunnel closure could finally provide the impetus to create bidirectional, all day express bus lanes in the Lincoln Tunnel.  RIght now there’s no PM tunnel at all.  It can literally take an hour to get from Secacus to the Port Authority at 5pm.

With riders diverted to the PATH, ferries, and buses, some of which are competitors,NJ Transit could see a decline in fare revenue, at the exact time when it most needs funding to operate new services to relieve demand on the North River tunnels.  Another reason that finding a long-term funding source for transit in New Jersey is of supreme importance.

1 thought on “Speculation on what a partial tunnel closure would look like

  1. Pingback: Traffic Study Shows 3 Out Of Every 4 Drivers Are Speeding On Princeton’s Valley Road | walkableprinceton

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