The Port Authority has finally begun moving forward with PATH extension planning process, now entering the scoping phase. As the authority has posted a call for comments (submit yours here by December 20th) and held public hearings on the proposed extension, RPA expresses its enthusiastic support for the project.
Our region needs this connection between lower Manhattan and the NEC Rail Link station for many reasons, but one of the most compelling is that the project could reverse a longstanding trend of disinvestment in the Greater Dayton area. With the creation of a PATH station in the area, transit-oriented development (TOD) has the potential to transform an economically declining neighborhood with numerous vacant lots, a shrinking and aging majority-minority population and high poverty rates into a thriving residential and commercial commuter hub. In the past, PATH station installation has increased land values within one half and two miles of the station by 18 and 9 percent respectively. If paired with genuine community engagement that leads to displacement protections for the region, this extension project will improve conditions for long-term residents as well as benefit the greater Newark community.
Beyond the equity and economic gains for Greater Dayton, this extension has regional benefits as well. It will connect Newark Liberty Airport (EWR) to lower Manhattan and expand the PATH system capacity with rail yards and turnarounds at the Northeast Corridor (NEC) station.
By the mid-2030s, air passenger demand in the region is expected to rise by almost 50% from its current 132 million passengers per year to over 150 million. EWR alone is expected to have 37.1 million annual passengers in 2018, 41.6 million in 2026, and 48 million by 2037. If we don’t want this expected increase in air passengers to clog up our highways, we have to offer them other transit options to get to and from the airport. The PATH extension would meet this need while also enabling some passengers to switch airports and ease pressure on LaGuardia and JFK. Additionally, as mentioned in the Fourth Plan, the new NEC terminal would place the PATH at the entrance of the airport, and make it easier for travelers to get their baggage from transit to check-in.
Beyond the coming swell in air passenger demand, Port Authority needs to extend and expand the strained PATH train system as it is and it’s only going to get worse as the population in places like Newark and Jersey City continues to grow. The Port Authority needs a rail yard to house the new trains necessary to expand service to meet this increase in demand, and vacant land around the NEC Rail Link station could meet that need. Overall, our estimates show that the extension would allow the PATH to serve over 3 million additional riders on just the Penn-to-EWR segment each year, which doesn’t take into account the additional passengers the PATH will be able to serve due to its enhanced capacity.
Of course, the extension has received its share of reasonable skepticism. The PATH extension has been criticized for duplicating NJ Transit service between NY Penn and EWR, and for taking funds away from other critical regional transit projects like the Port Authority Bus Terminal overhaul.
However, we can learn from the MTA’s experience managing the subway: strained systems only get more expensive to expand, maintain, and improve as time goes on, redundancy is key to system success, and necessary line extensions should not be held hostage by existing system maintenance or upgrade needs.