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With a new administration in D.C., it's time to think outside of the box because passenger rail's survival just may depend on it

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Alternative history #5

A Lower Manhattan train station is built

Point of Departure
Early 20th century

Storyline A (assumes that Amtrak was formed)
No Amtrak trains have ever stopped at Fulton Street Station. Instead, passengers rely on seamless transfers between New Jersey Transit and Long Island Railroad trains, some of which also provide through service. It is due to this synergy that Penn Station is not overcrowded. In 2008, FSS got a grand steal when it lured Knicks/Rangers/Liberty owner James Dolan to relocate to the Lower Manhattan station after its overhaul.

Storyline B (assumes that a Ripley-like consolidation plan was implemented)
None of Manhattan’s stations were ever at risk of being demolished because Fulton Street isn’t as fancy as its Midtown rivals while the Ripley Plan allowed Penn and Grand Central to both find some serious non-rail uses that made their facilities useful between the 1960s and ‘90s. 

Both Storylines
The Fulton Street Station is the main station for the LIRR, DL&W and the Erie Railroad. Pennsylvania Railroad and New York Central send commuter trains down Manhattan to FSS. A Manhattan-Staten Island tunnel makes Staten Island more transit oriented. The Lackawanna and Erie jointly build the tunnel. 

The Baltimore & Ohio builds its own tunnel to FSS in 1925 to compete against the Pennsylvania Railroad (unlike the other railroads serving the station, the B&O’s tracks are stub-ended and are a level below because the B&O stops in Jersey City while the DL&W and Erie serve Hoboken). The B&O-PRR competition along the Northeast Corridor means that the Atlantic Coast Line is able to sever connections with PRR in D.C. once the B&O is acquired in 1958 by the ACL. 

Today’s Likely Outcome
The Second Avenue Subway would be up and running because either Metro North or New York Central and PRR trains would have provided enough north-south service for western and central Manhattan, and city officials would have then had to worry about the eastern portion. The Staten Island tunnel would have eventually led to light rail being built on SI.

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