Proposal to Expand NYC Subway to Hudson County

The Flushing I.R.T., or the 7 train, would be extended to Secaucus.

This proposal, if completed, would mark a significant step toward the seamless incorporation of Hudson County, New Jersey, into New York City’s urban core.  This is a process that has been unfolding since the earliest days of the 20th century, when the PATH train (or the Hudson Tubes, if you like) first provided two heavy-rail, subway connections between Lower Manhattan and Hudson County– replacing the ferries that once linked railroad stations on the New Jersey waterfront with New York City.

If it were built, a Midtown connection to, presumably, uptown Hoboken and Weehawken, and then to Secaucus, would close the deal.  Almost inevitably, it would bring about the upgrade of the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail (HBLR) line, since the right-of-way of the latter would link the Subway and the PATH by a north-south route, much like the G train links the subway lines that run out from Manhattan to Brooklyn and Queens.  It’s easy to imagine Hudson County becoming even more of a sixth borough with this sort of rapid-transit connectivity.  In fact, this would be the first time a NYC subway line ventured beyond the city limits.

Hudson Tubes, 1909.

This approach compares favorably, especially on a local scale, with the late, great ARC plan.  First, it would solidify Hudson County’s place, in conjunction with Newark, as the distinct urban core of New Jersey.  Second, like the ARC, it would increase the number of mass-transit seats that are entering Manhattan from New Jersey on a daily basis, thus alleviating the current capacity-busting rail schedule under the Hudson River.  Third, unlike the ARC, it would accomplish this increase in capacity without a parallel increase in the availability of single-seat access to Midtown from the suburbs.  This is important: in my view, the lack of additional single-seat bragging rights would make the increased capacity’s impact on development patterns more favorable to the redevelopment of suburban town centers, because, frankly, it would have less marketability for the kinds of developers who only seek to sell luxury units to Midtown commuters.  Finally, an exception, of course, would be found in those parts of central Hudson County which would be directly served by the subway extension.  These limited areas would see a rapid and powerful rise in demand: this, in an area which is already heavily urbanized, still undervalued, and which would, in my view, be an appropriate focus for very-high-density new development.

The Crain’s article cites a total cost of about half the projected expenditures for the ARC.  This strikes me as a simple, practical solution, given the current political and budgetary situations, and the region’s ongoing rail capacity needs.