There's a serious point to be made about the announcement that the opening of New York City's newest subway station has been further delayed, but we can't stop looking at the gorgeous pictures of the all-but-finished 7 train stop at 34th Street and Hudson Yards, so we'll take the sugar before the medicine this time around.
Here's the view from above (via Metropolitan Transportation Authority board meeting documents):
And the slightly-trippy-and-highly-concentric ceiling art:
And a station agent booth sleek enough to double as a boutique mini Apple Store outlet:
And a small army of presumably-not-yet-broken escalators:
And the tricky inclined elevators responsible for some of the delay:
And concourse walls so white they give us hope there's a subway in heaven:
Now then for the tougher lesson. The latest delay comes as a big disappointment to subway enthusiasts. MTA had declared the station "90 percent complete" as long ago as August 2013. Outgoing Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who championed the project, took a celebratory trial run that December. The stage looked set for a summer 2014 opening, but now MTA says summer of 2015 is more like it.
That's a hiccup in the grand scheme of things but also another knock against an agency that has long had trouble gaining public confidence. One well-known local transit advocate told the New York Times the MTA "should do a better job of anticipating" potential project complications. Ben Kabak at 2nd Ave. Sagas writes that the delay matters for "credibility's sake":
The MTA is asking for $15 billion for another capital fund, but it can’t open a one-station extension that was supposed to ready for service before 2013 ended.
Credibility matters to any transit agency, and in the case of the MTA, credibility especially matters right now. Fares have just gone up, the agency is seeking billions in funding for a long-term expansion plan, and an encouraging congestion pricing proposal would put the MTA in charge of these new road charges. So riders, voters, and drivers alike must feel assured the agency will spend their hard-earned money wisely.
The good news is that the project does seem to be coming in right on budget, as the chart below from the MTA capital construction committee shows. Actual spending on the 7 line extension (roughly $2.25 billion through January 2015) appears slightly below the planned budget line. There's still time to muck it up, but so far so good:
If the MTA wants to build public confidence, it should point to this recent display of responsible spending. That or lots more pretty pictures.