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Taking Train Efficiency to the Next Level

A Taiwanese inventor has proposed a train that never stops. What about picking up and dropping off the passengers? Check out this video to see how it works:

Interesting, but we should probably focus on funding Amtrak first.


NHL Seeks to Boot Dolans from League

Today, the NHL “filed court papers Wednesday that included a draft letter from commissioner Gary Bettman proposing discipline against Madison Square Garden, L.P., that could lead to suspension or termination of its ownership of the Rangers,” according to the AP.

Curbed proclaimed: “This one’s for Moynihan…

node on the “Real West Side Story”

In an article posted today on, Paul Bubny assesses the state of various projects on the Far West Side of Manhattan and reports that “influential voices say the real catalyst for redeveloping the Far West Side is Moynihan Station.”

Among those voices is that of Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY), who points out that there’s six million sf of class A office space in the Penn Station area compared to 36 million sf near Grand Central Terminal, even though more than twice as many commuters use Penn Station. Last month, Schumer reiterated his call for jump-starting the Moynihan Station project and putting the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey in charge.

Kent Barwick, president of the Municipal Art Society, which advocates a redeveloped Penn Station, says he "couldn’t agree more. This is one of the most important projects for the future of this city, for a couple of reasons. One is that it’s a transportation project; it’s essential to strengthen our connections to the rest of the country. Secondly, of all the things that one might do, this is the most important in terms of creating access to the West Side. We’re aspiring to build a new city over there, one that’s roughly the size of downtown Seattle. It’s just not going to happen unless it’s convenient and easy to get to."

As a gateway not only to the Far West Side but also to the city itself, a redeveloped Penn Station could energize the commercial office market the way Grand Central did for its own district. "The site almost demands that the public sector give it the highest priority going forward," says Richard Anderson, president of the New York Building Congress. "That’s where you should put development." He cites Penn Station’s accessibility and capacity: with 550,000 daily users, it’s the busiest transportation facility in the US.

And that daily traffic may only increase. "As the price of gas goes up and flying becomes more inconvenient because of security, we think there’s going to be more and more rail travel," says Barwick.

Advocacy groups such as RPA and MAS argue that the station’s levels of convenience and aesthetic appeal need to be elevated along with its capacity, especially if it’s going to serve as the centerpiece of a mixed-use project that could include as much as one million sf of retail space. The original Pennsylvania Station, built in 1910 and demolished half a century later, was conceived as just such a centerpiece for large-scale development that never took place.

"We would love to see the broader concept—the one that involves moving the Garden—fall into place, but we’re enthusiastic about doing the Farley building whether that happens or not," says Barwick. "We think the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan had a great idea to create this additional capacity and in the bargain a grand space like Grand Central. If we can get the broader idea back together, terrific—provided it’s on reasonable terms. We don’t want to spend all this money to preserve and restore the building and then see it trashed by poorly thought-out commercial decisions. We’re optimistic that New York will not miss this chance."

Read “NYC’s Real West Side Story,” by Paul Bubny for


Bloomberg Testifies Before Congress on Infrastructure Crisis

Last Thursday, Mayor Bloomberg testified before the Senate Banking Committee about the state of the nation’s infrastructure. “We are facing an infrastructure crisis in this country that threatens our status as an economic superpower - and threatens the health and safety of the people we serve,” he said. Bloomberg testified in favor of the creation of a National Infrastructure Bank that would issue up to $60 billion in tax credit bonds for infrastructure projects throughout the country. Earlier this year Bloomberg founded the Building America’s Future coalition with Governor Schwarzenegger of California and Governor Rendell of Pennsylvania.

Last week’s passage of the Amtrak reauthorization bill holds some promise for more federal funding for Moynihan Station, but the fact remains that state and local governments are responsible for three out of every four dollars spent on public infrastructure. New York City alone “needs $29.5 billion just in the next five years to continue to bring our mass transit system up to a state of good repair and to expand capacity to meet expected demand,” according to Bloomberg.

Here are some excerpts from his testimony:

To remain the world's economic superpower, we must build the infrastructure to support strong and sustained growth. And that means, very simply, things have got to start changing in Washington.

I hope 2009 will be a watershed year. The expiration of the current transportation bill will allow for a new debate on our infrastructure needs. I would hope and expect that it will focus on two issues: first, what should be the role of the federal government in our transportation system; and second, how we are going to pay for everything we know we need. And there are a few principles that I believe should guide the discussion:

First, we need to set clear goals - both for the short-term and long-term - and clear metrics for measuring success. Right now, we have no coherent national transportation policy. It's just a grab bag of programs with no goals that correspond to national priorities, such as reducing our dependence on oil and cutting our greenhouse gas emissions. We also lack performance standards to ensure we can meet our goals, which is just basic accountability. And we lack incentives that encourage cities and states to be more efficient, which is a basic idea of market economics. These practices are straight from Management 101, and we need to put them to work when it comes to transportation.

Second, we need to dramatically increase funding to help achieve our goals. Infrastructure costs money. But polls show that people are willing to pay for it - if they know they will benefit from it. Voters are smarter than politicians give them credit for being. They know there's no free lunch. But if they're paying for sirloin, they don't want to get served a bunch of baloney. To create the new funding we need, all options should be on the table, including general revenue, user fees, gas taxes, and public-private partnerships.

Third, we need to fund projects based on merit, not politics. One of the most promising concepts is the one introduced by Senators Dodd and Hagel: a national infrastructure bank. The bank would create an independent and nonpartisan entity that would fund the most vital needs - not the most parochial pork-barrel projects.

The bank's nonpartisan structure would also help us achieve the first principle I mentioned: instilling clear performance standards and accountability measures into projects.

These three principles are not Democratic or Republican. They are simply basic ideas that anyone serious about addressing our national infrastructure crisis should be able to support.


City Lightens Up to Putting Port Authority in Control

Today at a Crain’s breakfast, Deputy Mayor Robert Lieber expressed interest in the Port Authority taking over Moynihan – “they have money,” he said. This comes one month after Mayor Bloomberg deemed it a “horrible idea.” Crain’s has a recap and video.


Money for Moynihan in Amtrak Bill?

Yesterday, we posted on the passage of the Amtrak reauthorization bill, which includes a plan to solicit private proposals for a high speed train between DC and NY. Today, Eliot Brown of the New York Observer cites a source in Representative Jerry Nadler’s office and reports that part of the $2.5 billion grant program could provide a boost to Moynihan Station.

But the bill faces a major hurdle. On Monday the Bush Administration vowed to veto the bill because it "authorizes an unprecedented level of funding but does not include basic measures to hold Amtrak accountable to taxpayers for its spending decisions.”


House Passes Amtrak Bill, Paterson Announces MTA Commission

The Amtrak bill that would solicit private sector proposals to build a high speed rail link between DC and NY passed the House on Tuesday. Gannett News reports that the 227-187 margin fell short of the majority required to override a Bush veto.

In addition to providing Amtrak operating subsidies over five years, the measure seeks to boost investment in high-speed rail.

It also calls for opening up the Washington-to-Boston route and 10 others across the country to private competitors — something Democrats such as Sen. Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey strongly oppose.

Though President Bush likes the bill’s privatization proposal, he rejects boosting funding for passenger rail if Amtrak isn’t held more accountable and doesn’t change the way it does business, the White House said in a statement explaining the veto threat.

Lautenberg, meanwhile, co-wrote an $11.4 billion Amtrak bill that passed the Senate 70-22 in October.

House and Senate negotiators have to come up with a compromise bill, which would then have to pass Congress and win Bush's signature to become law.

In other news, Governor Paterson announced his appointments to a commission on MTA financing. Richard Ravitch, former head of the MTA, will chair the commission. Appointees include MTA CEO Lee Sander, developer Douglas Durst, Con Ed chair Kevin Burke, and former Port Authority director Peter Goldmark. Excerpts from a press statement:

Governor David A. Paterson today appointed 12 members to the Commission on Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) Financing, to be chaired by former MTA Chairman Richard Ravitch. The Commission is charged with recommending strategies to fund MTA capital projects and operating needs over the next ten years, a period when the Authority will be under unprecedented financial pressure as it expands its system and rebuilds its core infrastructure to provide the additional capacity needed to allow the region to grow. Governor Paterson announced in April that Richard Ravitch would head the Commission in wake of the failure of the congestion pricing proposal, which would have provided an additional revenue stream to the MTA….More here.


City Narrows Field to Design the Hudson Yards Boulevard

According to the New York Post, the City has selected 5 design teams for a competition to design the Hudson Yards mid-block boulevard:

The firms have until the middle of July to come up with their designs for the project, which will run between 10th and 11th avenues from 33rd to 42nd Streets as part of the city's Hudson Yards plan. A final selection will be made in September.

The park and boulevard will be part of what is expected to include 20 acres of open space that will include plazas and parks over the rail yards.

Financing for the mid-block boulevard and park is coming from a $3 billion bond that is also funding the $2 billion extension of the 7 subway line to 11th Avenue and 33rd Street.

The five design teams were picked from 18 applicants.

Note re: 7 subway extension - the stated project budget has not changed since 2003, but revised projections from the MTA expect the extension to cost at least $3.3 billion. The City intends to pay 100% of the cost of this extension, which is unusual (subway extensions are normally funded significantly by the Federal Government and the State). This means that the subway extension alone will cost more than the existing $3 billion bond issue.

Question of the Day: How will the City pay for a $1 billion boulevard plus the $3.3 billion subway extension with only $3 billion in hand?

To complicate matters: The Hudson Yards deal with Related Companies requires the City to pay penalties if the subway extension is not built by 2014. And Related can get out of the contract without penalty if the extension is not built by 2020.

To further complicate matters: The City will rely on revenues from Hudson Yards development to service the bonds.

Read “5 Compete in $1B City Design Job," by Tom Topousis for The New York Post


Paterson Makes Appointment to Port Authority Board

The New York Observer reports that Governor Paterson has nominated Stanley Grayson, the former deputy mayor under Koch, to take the place of Bruce Blakeman, a Pataki administration appointee, on the Port Authority’s governing board. The governors of New York and New Jersey each appoint six members to the board for overlapping six year terms. Last month, Paterson appointee Chris Ward assumed the head role at the agency, which may take over the Moynihan Station project.

Statement from the governor's office, courtesy of the Observer:

Stanley E. Grayson has been nominated as a Commissioner of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Mr. Grayson is currently the President and Chief Operating Officer of M. R. Beal and Company, an investment banking firm focused on public finance, corporate debt and equity, fixed-income sales and trading, and financial advisory services. Prior to joining M. R. Beal in 2002, Mr. Grayson was a Managing Director and Manager of Prudential Securities Public Finance Department and member of the firm’s Operating Committee where he oversaw the public finance activities of Prudential Securities. Prior to joining Prudential Securities, from 1990 to 1996 Mr. Grayson was a Vice President at Goldman Sachs in the Municipal Bond Department’s Infrastructure and General Banking Group.

Prior to his investment-banking career, Mr. Grayson held several senior positions within New York City Government, including Deputy Mayor for Finance and Economic Development, Finance Commissioner and Chief Executive Officer of the New York City Industrial Development Agency. Mr. Grayson began his legal career in the Law Department of the Metropolitan Life Company.

Mr. Grayson serves on the Board of Directors of New York Catholic Charities, The Faith Center for Community Development, The Alliance for Downtown Business, The New York City School Construction Authority and is a Trustee of The Churchill School and Center. He received his BA from the College of Holy Cross and his JD from the University of Michigan Law School.

As a Commissioner of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, Mr. Grayson will not receive a salary. This appointment requires Senate confirmation.

Read “Paterson Taps Koch Deputy Mayor for Port Authority Board,” by Eliot Brown for The New York Observer


MAS Video: What Makes a Train Station World Class?

On April 30, the Municipal Art Society hosted a panel entitled “World Class Train Stations.” Major themes of the discussion included the concept of “civicness” in station architecture, sustainable design, retail, political and financial challenges, and other issues related to building a new Moynihan Station.

Christopher Brown, author of Still Standing: A Century of Urban Train Stations traced the development of the urban train station from its beginnings in the 1820s to the end of the 1950s using his visual survey of stations from St. Louis to Istanbul. Architect Andrew Whalley, partner at Grimshaw Architects, drew on his experience as partner-in-charge of Paddington station and Waterloo's Eurostar terminal in London to discuss the design of today’s train stations worldwide. The program was moderated by Alexandros Washburn, chief urban designer, New York City Department of City Planning, and a former aid to Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan.

World-Class Train Stations from MAS on Vimeo

Watch other videos from our Spring Program Series:

Re-Discovering Rail

The Struggle to Build Penn Station