The MTA has begun the process of reaching out to New Yorkers to get their feedback on what they’d like to see if the Interborough Express -- a proposed 14-mile transit route along an existing freight line running from Bay Ridge, Brooklyn to Jackson Heights, Queens -- moves forward.
The agency is currently working on a “feasibility study” and hopes to submit the project for an environmental review to federal officials next year. That review would take at least two years to complete, but would move the project one step closer to reality.
For now, the agency is pressing forward, holding the first of many town halls with the public on Thursday, sharing information and answering questions submitted online.
Mike Shiffer, senior vice president for regional planning at the MTA, noted that even if people don’t return to offices in Manhattan at pre-pandemic levels, ridership along this route could still serve 88,000 people a day.
“Their destinations are more highly dispersed throughout the boroughs and throughout the region than in just the central business district of Manhattan,” Shiffer said. “So that’s one of the reasons why this looks very promising, even in a post-pandemic world.”
The new line would also save riders upwards a half hour per trip, with the agency projecting end-to-end trip times to be 39-45 minutes.
He said that surveys have found that about half the residents in the area near the rail project don’t own cars and that 70% are non-white, which also makes it a project about restoring equity to residents.
The agency is still weighing whether the project would use conventional rail, like the Long Island Railroad or Metro-North; light rail, which is what NJ Transit’s above-ground trains use in Hoboken; or even a bus rapid transit route.
The MTA hopes the route will be able to run trains every 5 to 10 minutes and can add cars or service as the demand increases.
As for payment methods, Shiffer said it will likely use OMNY, the newly adopted contactless payment system adopted by the MTA.
At this point in the process, it’s still not clear which agency at the MTA—subways or commuter railroads—would be in charge of the IBX.
No matter what type of trains or buses the agency ends up choosing, one thing the MTA promised is that every single station will be accessible.
The agency hopes many stops along the route will connect to subway stations and the Long Island Rail Road, but insisted public feedback could help officials decide where to put new IBX stations.