Every day, hundreds of thousands of people travel into and out of Manhattan from the suburbs on the region’s commuter rail system—the nation’s largest. Yet, even this extensive system cannot meet the capacity and service needs of a growing region, especially for reverse direction, off-peak, and suburb-to-suburb travel. There is, for example, no easy way to commute from Brooklyn to a job on Long Island. Nor can travelers easily get to Connecticut from New Jersey without a complicated transfer in Manhattan. Many parts of the network, including the critical Penn Station gateway and the trans-Hudson River crossings, are over capacity and risk catastrophic failure. Equally important, many suburbs and places in the outer boroughs of New York City are not well served by commuter rail, despite having the density to support it.
The most urgent need is to invest in significantly improving rail and bus service across the Hudson River. Subsequently, the region should undertake a phased strategy to unify the fragmented commuter rail network into a fully integrated rail system, the Trans-Regional Express (T-REX). This complex project would take decades to complete and cost billions of dollars, but would dramatically transform transportation services and options.