Tuesday, April 13, 2004

The Second Avenue subway in our lifetime?

New York Magazine featured the proposed Second Avenue Subway in last week's issue. It's a history of the project and reasons why the current rumors about imminent construction have more truth to them than in previous years. For anyone who has to ride the 4/5/6 trains during rush hour, another East Side subway line is more than a necessity. It's a life-altering issue at this point. The line's been crowded for forty years; I'm surprised that service disruptions aren't more frequent than they already are, and that people regularly make it to work without killing their fellow commuters. If the Lexington Avenue line were to be out of service for any length of time, I think East Siders would revolt. Another subway line might just save a few lives, if only because we'll all be a little bit saner at the end of the ride.

The unfortunate news is that construction of just the first few miles of the Second Avenue line will take seven years, and more like 8-10 with the realities of working in Manhattan. Even if they break ground next year (and it won't be the first time that's happened), the line won't open until the end of the decade. Once it finally opens, hurray! Assuming I still live in Manhattan at that time, my commute and the commutes of thousands of others improves. But wait! What about the effect the new line will have on property values? It's more than likely that rising rents and housing costs will force me to move out of the neighborhood, even as the new subway makes it more convenient for me to live there. On the other hand, if I can somehow scrounge up enough money to buy an apartment on the East Side before the line opens, we're looking at solid growth potential for that investment. Which brings me back to reality: people have been buying apartments on the East Side for decades, thinking that a soon-to-open Second Avenue subway line will push their property values up. They're all still waiting for that line, and riding to work with me on the Lexington trains while they wait.

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