At first glance, the idea of extending the No. 7 subway line to the New Jersey Meadowlands sounds terrific–just as it did back in the 1970s, when planners first floated the idea. It didn’t advance beyond the drawing board back then, but this time city planners seem a bit more serious, and believe it or not, there’s probably more money now than there was back in the years of near-bankruptcy.
Consider the positives. First of all, New York would come to the rescue of New Jersey commuters left stranded by their governor, Chris Christie, who decided that New Jersey couldn’t afford to help build a new commuter rail tunnel under the Hudson River. New Jerseyites will be so grateful to City Hall that they wouldn’t dare utter a peep of complaint if Albany decides to reimpose the very modest commuter tax that they used to pay until the tax was repealed, idiotically, a decade ago.
Second, the subway extension would further tie the region together at a time when interstate cooperation is absolutely necessary. New York and New Jersey simply can’t afford to compete with each other for jobs, office buildings and other economic necessities. Political boundaries aren’t about to disappear, but the sooner the region’s political leaders act in concert on economic issues, the better for all of us.
And, finally, for all those Mets’ and tennis fans in New Jersey, the idea of boarding the subway in Secaucus for a one-seat ride to Citi Field and the Billie Jean King Tennis Center is nothing short of thrilling.
That’s all wonderful. But City Hall must be very hard-headed about this plan. Yes, the city is committed to extending the No. 7 train to the West Side anyway, so why not keep digging all the way to the Meadowlands? The cost, about $5.3 billion, is a lot less than the late rail tunnel, which would have cost $9.7 billion.
But the city needs to establish whether enough people will actually board the subway in Secaucus. Great cities thrive on strong, modern transportation facilities, but great cities also have to be wise about public-works projects. Planners have to make the case that the extension will be used, heavily, before proceeding with work orders.
Like it or not, New York depends on the energy and creativity of thousands of workers who live across the Hudson River. The subway extension would appear to be a win-win solution, but it’s important to think this through.