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This Commuter Rail Line Could Revolutionize Outer-Borough Transit

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Meet The Triboro, one nonprofit's plan to connect The Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens

The Regional Plan Association has been advocating for better transportation throughout New York City for over 75 years. Now, at a time when subway ridership is nearing an all time high and buses continue to be strongly mediocre, RPA is advancing their plan for an outer-borough rail that would connect The Bronx, Queens, and Brooklyn (and serve way more communities than the Brooklyn-Queens Streetcar.)

"[T]oday, more New Yorkers commute within the outer boroughs than into Manhattan, and the city is gaining more jobs in Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and Staten Island than it is in the urban core," the RPA rationalizes. The Triboro rail line would allow commuters to bypass the circuitous trip through Manhattan, and in some cases significantly reduce their commute times between boroughs.

According to the RPA, over 43 percent of outer borough New Yorkers have to walk more than a quarter mile to the subway, and outer-borough residency is coupled with longer commute times all-around. A survey presented in the Census Transportation Planning Package 2006-2010 found that the average commute from The Bronx to Queens takes 68 minutes. It's a similarly long 63 minutes between Brooklyn and Queens.

The Triboro would run 24 miles between Co-op City and Bay Ridge, with the opportunity to connect to Staten Island in the future. Its route would most significantly impact commutes to and from neighborhoods like Middle Village, East New York, and Co-op City.

The Triboro would "use an existing rail right-of-way, which means it could be built faster and more cheaply than other recent, large-scale transit projects in the New York region," RPA writes. Some of the Triboro would would employ existing freight track used by Amtrak between The Bronx and Queens, and by CSX throughout Queens. As they are now, the lines only carry one to two trains on average a day (per RPA), but by mixing freight and passenger rail could be used up to 21 times daily.

The above-ground line would intersect and connect with 17 existing subway lines and four commuter rail lines, and will also include 24 of its own new stops. RPA estimates that about 100,000 people would take the Triboro daily, which trumps the daily ridership of the Staten Island Ferry by about 30,000 people.

As with all things, the concern is: but how much will this cost? RPA nails the initial estimate at $1 billion to $2 billion (which is, er, pretty lenient) including the cost of installing signals, new track, rail cars and stations, and possibly power substations.

The plan is still in its conceptual phase, but an RPA representative said that the project's development could be partially funded through Move NY, the city's on-the-table plan to add tolls to the Brooklyn and Williamsburg bridges as well as create a surcharge for entering Manhattan by car below 60th Street.