Bloomberg Pushes Subway to New Jersey

ARC is dead. Long live ARC in a different guise.

Tuesday's announcement that the city is seriously exploring sending the No. 7 subway line to New Jersey rippled through press conferences and urban planning groups. At a press conference to announce a comic book to help job seekers, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the crush of riders between New York and New Jersey continues to rise, and that reality demands more cross-Hudson transit capacity.

“The problem hasn't gone away,” said Bloomberg. “You still have to make sure that people from New Jersey can get into the city for jobs and for shopping and entertainment and New Yorkers can get out of the city to go to do things in New Jersey.”

The mayor stressed that sending a subway into New Jersey would create a connection like the ARC commuter train tunnel but at half the price. Whereas ARC would have stretched from New Jersey to Herald Square, a No. 7 train extension would be shorter. It would start at 11th Avenue and go west, saving high boring costs under Manhattan.

Bloomberg said his staff is reaching out to discuss the idea with Governor-elect Andrew Cuomo and Governor Chris Christie, who have yet to give the project any support. Cuomo told reporters today, “I only know what I read in the newspapers. Obviously it’s a proposal that I would need to research before I have an opinion."

For this and other reasons, Bloomberg warned that the project is only "at the very beginning."

So is reaction to the proposal. West side real estate developers cheered while urban planners offered measured responses. The Regional Plan Association Executive Director, Tom Write, wrote in an e-mail form Sweden: “The upside is that subway capacity is huge. The downside is that everyone needs to transfer in Secaucus and then take a slow subway all the way to Manhattan. ARC looked at this early on and rejected it for the direct ride to Manhattan, but maybe now it deserves a second look.”

The Straphangers Campaign’s Gene Russianoff said the idea of extending the subway to the suburbs has “appeal, but where’s the money coming from?”

Bloomberg is promoting the plan as potentially being "better than the ARC tunnel." But construction experts say it will take at least five years just to develop a project plan for the $5.3 billion tunnel.

Still, Bloomberg credited top administration officials with a rare accomplishment: surprising the political establishment with a new idea. The mayor credited Deputy Mayor for Economic Development Robert Steel for recognizing a good idea and pursuing it. 

It was Steel's private sector experience as a Wall Street executive, according to Bloomberg, that prompted him to innovate instead of giving up last month when Christie killed the New Jersey Transit commuter tunnel.

"Sometimes, out of failure gives you the chance to look for a new idea that maybe you wouldn't have thought about,” Bloomberg said. “Maybe it'll turn out to be better."

The mayor's praise for non-governmental experience comes in the midst of the controversy over Cathie Black, his choice for chancellor of the New York City Department of Education. Black was called a Power Woman by Forbes magazine but has no government experience.