Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Would the new MTA railyard actually accommodate fewer cars? Do the math

You might want to click on the graphic at right and examine the larger version. Taken from Forest City Ratner's 2005 bid to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) for the Vanderbilt Yard (see p. 40 of this PDF), it explains, in a clear chart, how the new Vanderbilt Yard would be so much better than its predecessor.

The new yard would have a modern signal system, new employee facilities, new lighting and an enclosure, new toilet servicing options, an improved track structure, and better rail access. And it would accommodate 76 rather than 72 cars.

Except it might not--and that should concern Gov. David Paterson, given his statements on related issues.

Ten-car maximum per track

While the MTA has not publicly released details about the seven-track replacement yard it has accepted, in place of the nine-track yard it was promised, a look at the chart and the schematic drawings suggests that storage capacity would go down.

Consider that the longest tracks planned in the new yard would accommodate ten cars. There would be two ten-car tracks and seven eight-car tracks, an improvement over the longstanding configuration of ten tracks, but with five of them accommodating only six cars.

However, a reduction to seven tracks, even if each accommodated ten cars, would mean that the new yard would fit 70 cars rather than the 76 promised. And 70 cars may be overoptimistic.

Cutting costs; what's the result?

MTA Acting Executive Director Helena Williams testified at the May 29 state Senate oversight hearing that the MTA accommodated Forest City Ratner's request to save money and, after a very long and very technical process, she said, the number of tracks was reduced from nine to seven.

I've also been told the MTA long resisted the plan. That's not surprising, because the storage capacity, as long as none of the seven tracks could accommodate more then ten cars, would go down.

If you look at the graphic below, it doesn't appear that there's any additional capacity in any of the tracks in the new railyard, so it's possible there would be at least five eight-car tracks. With two ten-car tracks, the storage capacity would be reduced to 60. 

And that raises a question: if they plan to cut back on the number of tracks and the storage capacity, what other among the promised benefits would be attenuated?

Paterson: expand capacity

In a speech 9/12/08 about the Moynihan Station project, Paterson announced conditions for moving forward, including:
Ensuring that the Moynihan Station project increases transportation capacity by physically expanding the number of tracks and platforms and instituting operational changes by Long Island Railroad, New Jersey Transit and Amtrak;
(Emphasis added)

That's a station, not a railyard, but the concept is similar. Why should storage capacity in Brooklyn go down rather than up?

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