Designer Jim Venturi, founder and principal of ReThinkStudio, sees the Gateway Program as crucial to maintaining the essential connection between New Jersey and New York. However, in the way it is currently designed, he believes it could be improved upon to expand into areas that are not currently being considered.
The Gateway Program was started with the goal of creating four mainline tracks between Newark and Penn Station, in addition to a new two-track tunnel through the Hudson.
As an alternative, Venturi has developed his ReThinkNYC plan, which is a reimagining of the current Greater New York regional train infrastructure network. Rather than investing in a network that focuses on mobilizing people into Manhattan alone, Venturi sees economic opportunity in transporting people to places like Secaucus and Sunnyside Queens.
He believes this can go a long way towards creating more value for the whole region.
Venturi wants to use the concept of through-running, which rather than creating terminals in central business districts, rail lines could be built to pass through these districts. By doing this, you can decrease congestion and wait times.
For example, through-running can be applied to New York’s Penn Station, where instead of terminating NJ Transit and Long Island Rail Road lines, there could be movement through the station, leading to the creation of a connected regional network. And a new Penn Station South would not be necessary.
“We should be thinking about a regional economic development strategy with a regional [Economic Development Corporation] that works to lift the entire region,” said Venturi.
ReThinkNYC’s first phase proposes the following elements in New Jersey:
Build two new tracks from Newark to New York to eliminate the bottleneck in the Northeast Corridor.
Expand the capacity at Secaucus Junction and build a railyard to allow for other rail lines to terminate at the station.
Add a loop at Secaucus to link NJ Transit’s Passack Valley, Bergen and Main lines to the Northeast Corridor.
Venturi believes these projects could attract substantial investment.
Phase II of the proposal, which is a series of optional and complementary projects, includes building a station at Secaucus for busses that go past Exit 15X on the New Jersey Turnpike. The plan would, in theory, provide riders with options to access Manhattan.
The creation of the proposed station, according to Venturi, has the added benefit of alleviating traffic at the Lincoln Tunnel and increasing the overall capacity of busses from Bergen County.
“What we have to be doing is thinking holistically about what our needs are,” said Venturi. “We can no longer be spending $30 billion on a project and not have it be considered a part of the overall regional transportation system. It can’t be a “quick-fix for getting more New Jersey Transit into Manhattan. Because it doesn’t jell with the regional economic opportunity, such as attracting companies like Amazon to the region,” he said.
ReThinkNYC’s proposal addresses the oversaturation that can occur at Secaucus. While its first phase includes the extension of the LIRR and Metro-North lines to the station, it also suggests that extending the PATH from Journal Square to Secaucus could alleviate even more congestion.
Another of Venturi’s proposals, extending New York City’s # 7 Subway line to Secaucus, was submitted to Governor-Elect Murphy by the Meadowlands Chamber of Commerce as part of its 2040 Vision proposal.
Venturi estimates that a bus station at Secaucus, a PATH and subway extension, the use of the exclusive bus lane in the Lincoln Tunnel and two stations in Weehawken and Union City could support up to 100,000 passengers at peak hour.
By comparison, the current proposal estimates that the Port Authority’s suggested Midtown bus terminal could only support up to 40,000 passengers at peak hour.
However, Venturi acknowledges that the proposals in Phase II of ReThinkNYC’s plan, while being able to dramatically change the transportation system of the region, shouldn’t be thought of as necessary.
“It’s a series of projects that we’re working on to develop, that are possible,” he said
The advantage of the suggestions, he said, is that much of the infrastructure would require less investment than say knocking down buildings across from Times Square and building a new terminal.
“If you look at other global cities that are surrounded by land the way Manhattan is, the area in those entire regions have regional transportation systems that work to get you around that entire region,” said Venturi. “That creates economic opportunity as well as a nice way to live. ….The RethinkNYC plan seeks to do that using existing budgets and move in that direction and away from the Robert Moses era, where the primary mechanism outside of Manhattan is the automobile.”
Venturi has presented his plan at several conferences, including Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art, and also at the Meadowlands Regional 2040 Foundation’s Thought Leaders Conference.