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Web www.startsandfits.com
Saturday, May 23, 2009
South Bronx Gets a New Metro-North Station

Today is Opening Day for the new Metro-North station called Yankees-E. 153rd Street, at E. 153rd Street & Ruppert Place in the South Bronx. Above is a historic image of the very first train ever to stop at the station for the public, Train No. 8700, which stopped right on time at 5:49 a.m. en route from Croton-Harmon, N.Y., to Grand Central Terminal.

Depending on how you want to look at it, this is either the first new Metro-North station to open since July 9, 2000, when Metro-North opened Wassaic and Tenmile River, or since Metro-North began service to Shore Line East's New Haven-State Street station on June 24, 2002. Yankees-E. 153rd Street is so large it's two island platforms each 10 cars long add 40 car lengths of simultaneous stopping potential, compared with the 12 car lengths added by the other three stations added this decade.

Back in 2006 I worried that this station wouldn't get built, but massive new parking garages for the new stadium would. Fortunately, that did not come to pass. In April 2006, the month after that blog post, Mayor Bloomberg and Governor Pataki promised to build this station.

In October 2006, the Mets beat the Dodgers 3-0 in their National League Division Series, but subsequently lose to the Cardinals, 3-4, in the National League Champsionship Series. The Long Island Rail Road recorded 10,000 fans using the LIRR Shea Stadium stop per game, providing a reasonable benchmark for how many fans might use a station near Yankee Stadium. Meanwhile officials were moving forward with a plan to build four new parking garages for the new stadium that would together contain 4,931 parking spaces.

On May 23, 2007, the MTA Board approved a contract for the station construction.

On August 30, 2007, a Garage D with 1,145 parking spaces was dropped from the parking garage construction plan and Garage B was reduced by 176 spaces. The reason cited was "rising costs," but one hopes that this came about in part because of the understanding that less parking would be needed thanks to this new station.

On October 9, 2007, the New York City Industrial Development Agency issued $237.6 million in bonds to finance the construction of three parking garages that together will contain 3,610 spaces, and to renovate and/or reconfigure existing garages and lots containing another 5,517 spaces.

Today, May 23, 2009, at 5:49 a.m., two years to the day after the Metro-North station construction was signed, the station entered public service.

Total cost for the construction project, which includes two 10-car-long island platforms, four elevators to ensure ADA compliance, and numerous cool electronic signs on the platforms and in the large mezzanine, was $91 million. Total cost to build 3,610 new parking spaces and maintain the existing 5,517, was $237.6 million. Because the new garages are being build on sites previously occupied by parking lots, and because some of the reconfiguration involves removing spaces to make way for new parklands, the net increase in parking spaces form this project I calculate to be 2,788 spaces. The money for this project was fronted by bondholders, who will be exempt from paying an estimated $2.5 million in City income taxes, $5 million in State income taxes and $51 million in Federal income taxes. The Empire State Development Corporation added an additional $70 million grant for the parking garage construction, bringing the total cost of the parking project up to $307.6 million. The bondholders will be repaid with revenue earned from parking fees charged at the stadium.

So for all those who complain about the cost of the new station, which was paid for through $39 million from the City and $52 million from the MTA (including contributions totaling less than $5 million from Assemblywoman Carmen Arroyo, Assemblyman Jose Rivera, and Congressman Jose Serrano), it is worth noting the relative costs and functionality of the station and the parking.

A net increase of 2,788 parking spaces costs $307.6 million. (Most of it raised from the private sector, with incentives from the City, State and Federal governments. Between the forgone taxes of $58.5 million and the Empire State Development Corporation grant of $70 million, there was $128.5 million in public funds or lost revenue contributed to this project.) If the average vehicle occupancy for baseball fans is 2.65 to 2.75 as noted in the new stadium's environmental impact statement, these 2,788 new parking spaces would serve between 7,388 to 7,667 game day fans.

The train station, projected to serve between 6,000 and 10,000 fans per game, cost just $91 million. Of course, the new garages will contribute to pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, neighborhood asthma and traffic congestion, while the new station helps alleviate those ills. And the new station provides a year-round mobility benefit to South Bronx residents, while most of the garage spaces are closed except on game days.

The moral of this story? Building parking is expensive! Parking spaces that will serve a comparable number of people as a large new train station requires a larger taxpayer subsidy than the station.

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