One Regional Rail System

Peter Derrick

We need a real regional rail system. All three commuter rail systems—Metro North, Long Island Rail Road, and New Jersey Transit—currently operate as separate entities. 

There are three requirements for creating a truly regional rail system. The first is to allow through-running at Penn Station to allow New Jersey trains to travel through the city to Long Island and northern suburbs. Just like the subway system, trains would travel through Manhattan and terminate in the suburbs. Imagine if riders could travel from Coop City in the Bronx to Meadowlands Stadium, or from Princeton to New Haven, or from Flushing to New Jersey. Or if Long Island Railroad and Metro North trains could travel to New Jersey.

The second strategy is to connect new destinations by deep connections. Penn Station could be connected to Grand Central so all the train systems could pass through the city’s main transit hubs. One could also build new tunnels from Atlantic Terminal in Brooklyn to Manhattan, or between the Queens rail network to JFK Airport. 

Finally, you could build major rail stations in the outskirts of the city. This is a strategy similar to what Paris has done since the 1960s, where they connected rail stations by deep tunnels that serve almost 800 million riders a year.

The benefits are obvious. You free up capacity at Penn Station. You increase regional rail ridership with better connections to the suburbs, outer boroughs, and the airports. You provide a base for development along suburban nodes like Hicksville or Ronkonkoma. And you provide commuters with greater ease of service, with one common ticket and one information nexus.

Peter Derrick is currently a Visiting Scholar at the Rudin Center for Transportation Policy and Management at the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service at New York University.

Images: Forum for Urban Design.