Last week, the Regional Plan Association (RPA) published its Fourth Regional Plan, a sweeping report that recommends 61 actionable steps aimed at improving the New York metropolitan area’s infrastructure, housing and environment in order to allow it to thrive in the coming century.
Upon its release, the plan caught a good deal of flack for a proposal to slash 24-hour subway service in order to extend windows for track updates and maintenance. But that audacious idea is just the tip of the iceberg—the RPA has put out a whole slew of interesting recommendations that, if put into action, could radically change the way millions of people navigate and live in New York City.
One of those recommendations comes in the form of eight new subway lines and extensions, which would provide train access to entire stretches of the city that are currently without it. In its report, the RPA points out that more than one-third of New York City’s residents do not live within walking distance of a subway station. The organization’s proposed changes to the subway system are coupled with its idea of a new, unified regional rail system called the Trans-Regional Express (or T-REX). Together, they’d expand train access to cover millions of additional people in New York City and the surrounding area.
Perhaps the most notable of the RPA’s proposed subway additions surrounds the Second Avenue subway project (which the RPA strongly advocated for in its Third Regional Plan in 1996). The plan advocates for the line to extend from its current terminus at 96th Street to the Grand Concourse rail line, connecting it to a new terminal at 149th Street and Third Avenue in the Bronx. It also proposes that the line (or the T) should veer westward at 125th Street, providing much-needed subway access access to East Harlem and Harlem and connecting to seven other subway lines in the process.
On top of the long-awaited Second Avenue expansion, the RPA has plenty of other consequential (albeit slightly less buzzworthy) suggestions. Those include extending the 7 train south from Hudson Yards and adding two stops at 23rd and 14th Streets in Chelsea; extending the Astoria Line to 21st Street and 20th Avenue; building a new Northern Line in Queens to serve Flushing and College Point; adding a new 5.7-mile Jewel Avenue line to serve "the transit deserts of Pomonok and Fresh Meadows in Central Queens" and extend the subway to the city’s eastern edge; extending 4 train service in Brooklyn down to Flatbush Avenue; and extending 2 and 5 service in the same borough down to Avenue Y. You can see a full map of the proposal below.
It’s worth pointing out that the recommendations put out by the RPA do not carry any legal weight or a mandate. That said, the organization is incredibly influential. Over the past 95 years, it has had a major hand in shaping the layout of New York City. From proposing the current location of the George Washington Bridge to pushing for the formation of the MTA, the RPA’s fingerprints are present in virtually ever corner of the region.
There’s a lot to take in from the plan (we'll continue to write about takeaways in the coming weeks), and finding ways to implement many of its proposals will be a lengthy process. But while the powers that be work on bringing New York’s infrastructure into the 21st century, it’s certainly fun to imagine a version of the city where the subway system is reliable, accessible and all-inclusive.