Metropolitan Transportation Authority

20-Year Needs Assessment | Expand


Once our foundation is secure, we can pursue smart expansion projects to support our growing and changing region

Investments in our network provide the foundation for the region's economic growth and prosperity. As we look ahead 20 years, our most urgent priority is to secure the survival of our existing system by rebuilding its most imperiled infrastructure, renewing its outdated and broken parts, and implementing improvements that will deliver more inclusive, safe, and reliable service. To put it bluntly, unless sufficient resources are made available to address the existing system's most urgent needs, there cannot be investment in expansion projects.

Equity underpins our work

Expansion projects can be key drivers of mobility, actively addressing past injustices. Our current capital program features two great examples of this—Second Avenue Subway Phase 2, which will finally deliver on a decades-old promise to the East Harlem community, and Metro-North's Penn Station Access, which will provide new service on the New Haven Line to the East Bronx in communities that have long been divided, but not served, by an active intercity railroad.

Going forward, we will continue to prioritize cost-effective projects that deliver for historically underserved communities where high concentration of minority, low-income, and transit dependent populations live.

At the same time, we must be prepared for future expansion that can address the challenges and opportunities of the coming decades. This includes planning for the additional 1 million residents and nearly 1 million jobs forecasted in the region by 2045. We must also be ready to meet the evolving needs of our riders, including changes already underway regarding when they travel, why they travel, and what they expect from their experience.

We must be ready to invest any additional resources into projects that address these challenges most effectively and that will have the greatest regional impact. That is why we have developed the MTA's first-ever Comparative Evaluation, which weighs the costs and benefits of potential expansions to help us make smarter, more strategic choices to secure New York's future.

See how

Equity underpins our work

Equity is a key driver in our investment decisions. When we upgrade a station's accessibility, replace a route with emission-free buses, or enhance the resiliency of a subway line, historically underserved communities are at the forefront of our engagement, planning, and investment. Examples of how equity is integrated into our plans to improve the MTA system:


Equity is an important consideration in our process for determining what subway stations should be prioritized for accessibility. Among other criteria, we consider community feedback, the number of people living in poverty near a given station, the number of reduced fare riders that station serves, paratransit use in the area, and the geographic proximity of other accessible stations, so that areas that might have been overlooked in the past now get priority.


We've developed an Environmental Justice score that looks at both equity and air quality across the MTA bus service area for the zero-emissions bus fleet transition. Areas with higher environmental justice scores are prioritized for earlier and larger zero-emissions deployments to improve the health of our riders who have been most impacted by poor air quality.


Some of the riders who are the most dependent on transit are the most vulnerable when extreme weather disrupts service. Climate change will disproportionately burden historically disadvantaged communities. Our data driven approach to evaluating future climate risk considers the social implications of climate change and its impacts on the MTA and our customers, to ensure that resources allocated to climate resilience will address these burdens.


We must be sure that any expansion projects provide cost-effective benefits that complement the existing network. When considered in isolation, many potential expansion initiatives are appealing. But rebuilding our existing infrastructure—infrastructure that millions of people rely on everyday—must not get shortchanged at the expense of these projects.

These competing demands do not exist in a vacuum—choices to fund certain projects come at the expense of others. Once our system's most urgent needs have been met, if there are still resources available for expansion, it is critical that we consider our system holistically and make wise, strategic decisions about which projects could best support our region's future.

The region is changing, and we need to be responsive. As part of our ongoing long-range planning process, we continually monitor regional trends by analyzing changes in housing, work location, and other factors that affect travel patterns to better understand how regional changes will impact travel and the MTA network. We identified three trends that will continue to develop and exert new pressures on our system over the next two decades.

Emergence of new business districts around the region

Although Manhattan continues to have the highest concentration of jobs—and access to the city's Midtown core remains essential—the outer boroughs and suburbs are experiencing significant job growth with gains projected through 2045. This will result in changing travel patterns. For instance, inter- and intra-borough travel is growing, along with reverse commuting—a trend that will likely continue.

By 2045, the MTA service region is expected to gain nearly 1 million new jobs, with one out of three new jobs in the suburbs. In New York City, seven out of 10 new jobs are projected to be in the outer boroughs.

Continued growth of industries associated with "non-traditional" travel patterns

Jobs in industries such as health care, hospitality and food services, and education have become some of the region's fastest-growing industries. Workers employed in these sectors tend to travel at all times of day and are usually required to work in-person, creating new patterns.

By 2045, projections show that non-office jobs like these will be growing more than three times faster than office jobs.

Increase in off-peak travel

The number of people traveling outside of the morning (6-10 a.m.) and evening peak times (4-8 p.m.) was growing in the years leading up to the COVID-19 pandemic, with increasing numbers of New Yorkers choosing transit for their travel. Subway off-peak ridership increased by 24% from 2001 to 2018.During that same time frame, off-peak LIRR ridership increased 18%, and Metro-North off-peak increased 24%.

The weekday peaks are returning; however, we are seeing a greater proportion of riders in comparison to pre-COVID levels on weekends. New Yorkers are increasingly taking subways and buses during off-peak hours for health care, shopping, social gatherings, and for recreational trips. This highlights the importance of off-peak travel, not only for the most transit-dependent individuals, but also for those who choose it for discretionary travel.

What we've done

Second Avenue Subway

Phase 1 of the Second Avenue Subway, which extended the Q line from 63rd St to 96th St was completed in 2017 and has already reduced crowding on the 4 5 and 6 lines by an average of 40%.

Phase 2 will extend the Q line into East Harlem with three new stations between 106th St and 125th St, providing the first subway service to the neighborhood since the Third Avenue Elevated line stopped running there in the 1950s.

Together, the two phases will ultimately serve a combined 300,000 riders daily.

Other benefits of the ongoing Phase 2 expansion will include: three new ADA-accessible stations at 106 St, 116 St, and 125 St; increased transit connectivity at 125 St, with connections to the 4 5 and 6 lines, Metro-North, and M60 Select Bus Service to LaGuardia Airport; a one-seat ride from East Harlem to the Upper East Side, West Midtown, and Coney Island; even more reduced crowding on the 4 5 and 6 lines as well as the 96 St Q and local bus service; and dramatically shorter commute times, with some passengers saving as much as 20 minutes.

Grand Central Madison

This historic expansion opened in early 2023, providing LIRR riders with 40 miles of new tracks, a new terminal beneath Grand Central, and the modernization of the busiest intersection of passenger train lines in North America. It has also unlocked reverse commuting potential for New York City residents and others around the region by providing better access to jobs on Long Island.

Double Track

This project added a second track to the Ronkonkoma branch of the Long Island Rail Road, greatly increasing capacity and setting the stage for Third Track.

Third Track

This project dramatically increased the capacity of Long Island Rail Road's Main Line, adding a third track while upgrading stations, replacing substations, and eliminating grade crossings. Combined with Grand Central Madison, this enabled a 40% increase in overall LIRR service. The MTA's first design-build expansion project, it was delivered on time and under budget.

Elmont-UBS Arena Station

Constructed at zero cost to the MTA, this is the first new LIRR station in almost 50 years, serving the new arena.

Penn Station Access

This project will create direct service from Metro-North Railroad's New Haven Line into Penn Station, creating four new accessible stations, improving existing tracks and bridges, and cutting current travel times from the Bronx to Manhattan by as much as 50 minutes. It will give new access to 500,000 Bronx residents, 25% of whom are below the poverty line—and potentially eliminate 80,000 miles traveled by cars.

It will also create 19 miles of new and rehabilitated track along Amtrak's Hell Gate Line, which will improve reliability and on-time service for Amtrak customers.

Our 20-year plan

We have a process for choosing which projects to prioritize. With limited resources and vast needs, it is essential that we prioritize projects that will have the greatest impact for our riders and the success of the region.

This is why for the 20-Year Needs Assessment, we conducted our first-ever Comparative Evaluation. Instead of assessing projects in isolation, this analysis evaluates all potential expansion projects against a consistent set of criteria.

The criteria include ridership, time savings, network resiliency and sustainability, capacity, equity, network leverage, geographic distribution, and cost.

Comparative Evaluation matrix

Criterion Metric Description
Ridership Total ridership Number of riders using the project (in 2045)
Ridership New riders Number of riders (in 2045) using the project that shifted from other non-MTA modes, usually auto
Travel time Door-to-door travel time savings Amount of time saved by users of the new project (in 2045)—it includes the time for travel to and from the transit stations or stops
Cost Capital cost Cost of construction and fleet in 2027 dollars
Cost Operation and maintenance (O&M) cost Annual cost to operate and maintain in 2027 dollars
Cost-effectiveness Cost per minute of time saved (30 years) Capital construction and vehicle costs, per time savings in 30 years (minutes saved on door-to-door travel)
Capacity Change in network capacity Change in the number of passenger hours in crowded conditions systemwide (in 2045)
Geographic distribution Regional accessibility Change in transit travel time from anywhere to anywhere in the region (in 2045)
Equity Project riders from Equity Areas Total or percentage of project riders from Equity Areas (in 2045)
Network leverage Project right-of-way on MTA, public, or private land Weighted average of right-of-way length by owner; measure of how each project utilizes the existing MTA-owned infrastructure and right-of-way
Sustainability and resiliency Change in vehicle-miles-traveled Change in vehicle miles traveled—reflects both the number of people shifting from auto to transit and the traveled distance (in 2045)
Sustainability and resiliency Connections to other rail Number of rail or subway stops within one-half mile from the project stations/stops in NYC, or within five miles in suburban areas

This transparent and systemic analysis is intended to provide a framework for understanding which proposed expansion projects or investments will best address our most pressing challenges, offer the most cost-effective solutions given limited resources, and generate the greatest benefit for customers. The most promising projects can be advanced for further study and possible inclusion in future capital plans.

Explore cost per minute saved

Cost per minute saved

All of these metrics are important, but it's essential that the costs of a project are properly compared to the benefits.

While every metric matters, our limited resources mean that we cannot simply support projects based on their benefits alone. All of these projects provide benefits. This tool enables us to make the smartest, most productive investments—in other words, it helps us evaluate how to bring the most benefits, to the most people, in the most cost-effective way.

The primary metric we used in this cost-benefit analysis is cost per minute of time saved. To determine this number, we evaluated:

  • Cost: A holistic calculation of the project cost, including the cost to build and operate the expansion over the next 30 years.
  • Benefits: This calculation accounts for the total time saved by the project riders compared to their trip before the expansion; and any ripple travel time impacts on the rest of the MTA system (for example, a new station might add additional travel time for existing riders by lengthening the trip). This comprehensive approach enables us to prioritize projects that serve a lot of riders—and save a lot of time.

While other factors, especially equity and sustainability, also need to be taken into account, this cost benefit ratio is an important indicator of which projects are a responsible use of limited public dollars.


We evaluated more than 20 potential enhancement and expansion projects.

Some of the evaluated projects were identified as particularly cost-effective and promising, including the Interborough Express (IBX), a new transit line between Queens and Brooklyn along an existing freight corridor that would connect up to 17 subway lines and the LIRR.

This project would serve a large number of new and existing transit riders, especially from historically underserved areas, provide connections to many other transit lines saving significant travel time, and use an existing right-of-way, making the construction cost effective while meeting a number of other criteria.

Explore the IBX Case Study

We will continue to evaluate promising projects so that, as we learn more about our available resources once the most urgent system needs have been met, we will be ready to act. The Comparative Evaluation process gives us the foundation to make smarter, better-informed choices about expansion possibilities for the region and how to best meet the public transportation needs of the future.

For further details on the process and outcomes of each potential project, visit the Comparative Evaluation Appendix. A description of each project and preview of how they scored across the criteria is below.

All metrics for each project are converted to a scale 0-100 based on how they perform in relation to the other projects.

Projects Cost Effectiveness Ridership Equity Geographic Distribution Sustainability Resiliency Capacity Network Leverage By the Numbers
Projects Cost / Time Saved (30 yrs) ($/min) Total Riders Total Riders from Equity Areas % Riders from Equity Areas Regional Accessibility Change in Vehicular Miles Traveled Subway / Rail Services < 0.5 miles (NYC) < 5 miles (suburbs) System Crowding - Passenger Hrs in Crowded Conditions % of Project ROW on MTA, Public or Private Land Total Riders (Daily 2045) Construction Cost ($M 2027)
Danbury-Southeast Connection $6.35 0% 0% 0% 75% 75% 0% 0% 50% 2,600 $820
Elmhurst Station (LIRR) No Time Saved* 0% 0% 100% 0% 25% 0% 0% 100% 3,100 $210
Harlem Line Capacity Improvements $2.46 75% 25% 50% 25% 25% 75% 0% 100% 83,700 $1000
Hudson Line to Penn Station $4.54 0% 0% 75% 25% 75% 100% 50% 100% 18,900 $750
Inner New Haven Line Yard $5.07 0% 0% 25% 0% 25% 0% 0% 100% 6,000 $390
Interborough Express LRT (IBX) $1.29 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 25% 100% 118,700 $5,540
Lower Montauk Branch Reactivation $62.41 0% 0% 75% 0% 75% 50% 0% 100% 9,200 $4,230
New Lots Ave No 3 Line to Flatlands $8.64 0% 0% 100% 0% 25% 0% 0% 75% 8,600 $1,780
Port Jefferson Branch Capacity Improvements $6.18 25% 0% 25% 100% 50% 0% 25% 100% 27,900 $3,120
Port Jervis Line Capacity Improvements (MP Yard) $40.46 0% 0% 75% 0% 25% 0% 0% 0% 11,000 $360
Ridgewood Busway 0.0* 0% 0% 100% 0% 25% 0% 0% 25% 8,900 $30
Rockaway Beach Branch (NYCT) $6.72 25% 25% 100% 0% 50% 25% 0% 50% 39,200 $5,940
Second Ave Subway South to Houston $4.47 100% 100% 50% 0% 25% 100% 25% 25% 230,400 $13,500
Second Ave Subway West to 125th/Bdwy $1.43 100% 100% 100% 0% 50% 75% 100% 25% 239,700 $7,550
Speonk-Montauk Capacity Improvements $13.66 0% 0% 0% 0% 25% 0% 0% 100% 1,500 $260
Staten Island North Shore BRT $1.46 25% 0% 75% 50% 25% 0% 0% 25% 32,000 $1,300
Staten Island West Shore BRT via Korean War Vet Pkwy $1.95 0% 0% 0% 100% 50% 0% 0% 25% 16,900 $1,870
Stewart Airport Commuter Rail $10.65 0% 0% 75% 0% 100% 0% 0% 0% 4,300 $1,400
Sunnyside Station - LIRR Only No Time Saved* 0% 0% 50% 100% 25% 25% 0% 0% 7,900 $490
Tenth Ave Station on No 7 Line $81.29 50% 0% 25% 0% 25% 0% 0% 100% 55,000 $1,900
Utica - Nostrand Junction Capacity Improvements $0.28 100% 100% 100% 100% 100% 0% 100% 100% 319,900 $410
Utica Alt A - BRT $0.36 75% 50% 100% 25% 25% 25% 0% 50% 71,900 $300
Utica Alt B - Subway to Kings Plaza $4.82 50% 25% 100% 50% 50% 0% 50% 50% 55,600 $15,790
Utica Alt C - Subway to Church Ave + BRT $1.73 75% 50% 100% 50% 75% 25% 50% 50% 81,200 $6,860
W Line to Red Hook $90.46 0% 0% 0% 0% 25% 0% 100% 50% 7,600 $11,210

*Elmhurst and Sunnyside have no overall time savings due to increased travel time for existing customers.
** Ridgewood Busway operational savings over project lifetime exceed capital costs.