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The Staten Island Railway (SIR, formerly SIRT) is a rapid transit line operating in the Borough of Staten Island, New York City, USA. It is considered a standard railroad line, but is currently disconnected from the national railway system and operates with modified R44 New York City subway cars . The current SIR line has been completely grade-separated from intersecting roads since 1966. There are no links between the SIR and the subway system proper.
Officially the Staten Island Rapid Transit Operating Authority (SIRTOA), and publicly styled MTA Staten Island Railway, the SIR is a subsidiary of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA). SIRTOA operates and maintains the rail line on Staten Island pursuant to a lease and operating agreement with the City of New York. The MTA would like to effect a corporate merger of the SIR with the New York City Transit Authority's subway division to form MTA Subways.[web.mta.info/capconstr/about.htm], but necessary approval by the New York State Legislature has been stalled since 2003.
The first line of what is now the Staten Island Railway opened in 1860 to Tottenville, the current southern terminus. If the SIR were considered part of the subway, this would be the oldest continually operated subway system right-of-way in New York City. In common with the BMT lines to Coney Island, the SIR started a normal passenger and freight railroad line.
In 1925 its three passenger branches were electrified and operated with new subway-type equipment. The lines radiated from the St. George ferry terminal to Arlington on Staten Island's north shore, to South Beach on the Narrows, and to Tottenville at the extreme southern end of Staten Island.
Freight service with steam (later diesel) power continued on all branches, and on freight only operations on Staten Island and on the North Shore Branch as far as Cranford Junction in New Jersey via the Arthur Kill Vertical Lift Bridge that spans the Arthur Kill immediately north of the Goethals Bridge; and a South Beach Branch that was effectively a spur of the main line. The now-defunct North Shore Branch was linked with the nationwide rail network; on May 11, 1943, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill used it en route to a meeting with President Franklin D. Roosevelt in Washington, D.C. after his ship had landed in Tompkinsville. On October 21, 1957, a young Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip rode a special train from Washington, D.C. along the North Shore Branch to Stapleton to start their royal visit to New York City.
Today, only the north-south Main Line is in service. The last passenger trains on both the North Shore and South Beach Branches ran on March 31, 1953 (the right-of-way of the South Beach Branch was eventually de-mapped and the tracks have been removed), and the North Shore Branch saw its last freight train in 1990, although the tracks still exist in some places. The terminal station at St. George provides a direct connection to the Staten Island Ferry. In 2001, a small section of the North Shore branch (a few hundred feet) was reopened to serve the new Richmond County Bank Ballpark], home of the Staten Island Yankees; plans to reopen the remainder of the branch, to both freight and passenger service, are being studied, with one plan calling for the line to resume full operations between St. George and Port Ivory by 2015, though freight operations may resume earlier as New Jersey has already reactivated their portion of the freight line connection to the national rail network.
In 1971 the former Staten Island Rapid Transit Railway Company was acquired from its parent Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, and became an MTA subsidiary for purposes of operation and maintenance; in March, 1973, new R44 cars — the same as the newest cars then in use on the subway lines in the other boroughs — were pressed into service on the Staten Island line, replacing the rolling stock that had been inherited from the Baltimore and Ohio days and had been in use since 1925 (the R44 cars are still in service as of 2005).
In 1994, as part of a public image campaign of the MTA, the various operating agencies of the MTA were given "popular names" at which time the public face of SIRTOA became MTA Staten Island Railway, which name is used on trains, stations, timetables and other public presentments.
Modern freight service Edit
The freight line connection from New Jersey to the Staten Island Railway has been restored as of late 2006, and is operated by the Morristown and Erie Railway under contract with the State of New Jersey. The bridge on the Arthur Kill waterway has also been restored, and at least one freight train has made the crossing in 2006 from New Jersey to Staten Island. Plans are to reactivate the North Shore of the Staten Island Railway to allow freight shipments to and from the recently revamped Howland Hook Marine Terminal.
FRA oversight Edit
Unlike the New York City Transit Authority (NYCTA) SIRTOA is subject to rules of the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) but operates under a waiver which permits it to exempt itself from certain rules of equipment and operation usually required by the FRA.
This FRA status complicates any plan for combined freight and passenger operation, since any operation of freight equipment or connection to the national railroad system would threaten its waiver.
Nature of the line Edit
In general appearance, the current operating line of SIR looks somewhat like an outdoor line of the New York City Subway. Since the 1960s it has been grade separated from all roads, but it runs more or less at street level for a brief stretch north of Clifton, between the Grasmere and Old Town stations west of the Academy of St. Dorothy, a Roman Catholic elementary school, and from south of the Pleasant Plains station to Tottenville, the end of the line. It uses NYC Transit-standard 660 V DC third rail power. Its equipment is specially modified subway vehicles, purchased at the same time as nearly-identical cars for NYCT. Heavy maintenance of the equipment is performed at the NYCT's Clifton Shops. Any work that can't be done at Clifton requires the cars be trucked over the Verrazano to the Coney Island shops of the subway.
The right-of-way also includes elevated, embankment and open-cut portions, and a tunnel near St. George.
Over the years there have been several proposals for connecting the SIR with the subway system (including tunnels and a possible line along the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge), but various economic, political, and engineering difficulties have prevented this from happening.
The cash fare is $2.75. Fares are paid on entry and exit only at St. George and Ball Park (and in the case of the latter, only on trains to Tottenville, not St. George). Rides not originating or terminating at St. George or Ball Park are free.
Passengers often avoid paying the fare by exiting at Tompkinsville, and taking a short walk to the St. George ferry terminal. The MTA is considering installing high entrance/exit turnstiles (HEETs) at Tompkinsville. Some St. George-bound trains skip Tompkinsville to prevent people from exiting there.
Fare is also payable by MetroCard. Since this card enables free transfers for a continuing ride on the subway and bus systems, for many more riders there is effectively no fare at all for riding SIR. Because of this, the SIR's farebox recovery ratio in 2001 was 0.16—that is, for every dollar of expense, 16 cents was recovered in fares, the lowest ratio of MTA agencies.
Operating stations Edit
- Ball Park (Richmond County Bank Ballpark)
- St. George (Staten Island Ferry Terminal)
- Old Town (formerly Old Town Road)
- Dongan Hills
- Jefferson Avenue
- Grant City
- New Dorp
- Oakwood Heights
- Bay Terrace
- Great Kills (formerly Gifford's)
- Huguenot (formerly Huguenot Park)
- Prince's Bay
- Pleasant Plains
- Richmond Valley
- Nassau (named for the Nassau Smelting factory that once stood nearby)
- Arthur Kill Road
- Atlantic (named for the Atlantic Terracotta Company that once stood nearby)
Ball Park is open only for events at the minor league park and is served either by trains that run from St. George as a shuttle, or trains that stop at every stop except St. George.
Nassau and Atlantic are going to be replaced by a new ADA-compliant station between the two, with its proposed name being Arthur Kill Road, named for its location.
Former stations on closed lines Edit
Stations on North Shore Branch (closed in 1953, Currently being restored for future use):
- St. George
- Ball Park (Richmond County Bank Ballpark currently in service during playing season)
- New Brighton
- Sailors Snug Harbor
- West Brighton
- Port Richmond
- Tower Hill
- Elm Park
- Lake Avenue
- Mariners Harbor
- Harbor Road
- Port Ivory (formerly Milliken -- named for the Port Ivory manufacturing plant of Proctor & Gamble, where Ivory Soap was once made)
Stations on South Beach Branch (closed in 1953 and demolished):
- Rosebank - Located near Clifton Av and Tilson Pl.
- Belair Road - Located near Belair Rd and Seth Loop.
- Fort Wadsworth - Probably located near Fingerboard Rd just east of Tompkins Ave.
- Arrochar - Located where Verrazano Bridge approach ramps currently stand, or possibly near McClean and Railroad Aves.
- Cedar Avenue - Located near Cedar Ave and Jackson Ave.
- South Beach - Probably located near Robin Rd and Alex Circle.
- Wentworth Avenue - Located near Wentworth Ave and Crestwater Ct.
Totenville Line: Nassau Smelting, Staten Island Advance, Pouch Terminal
The Staten Island Advance is reporting that as of May 2006, Staten Island business and political leaders are looking to restore service on the North Shore Branch. They are seeking approval of $4 million in federal funding for a detailed feasibility study, to revive the North Shore line as a commuter line ending at the St. George Ferry Terminal. Alternatively, there has been talk of adding light rail service to Staten Island.
Completion of the study is necessary to qualify the project for the estimated $360 million it requires to develop the 5.1-mile line. A preliminary study found that ridership could hit 15,000 daily.
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Heavy rail: NYC Transit Authority subways | Staten Island Railway
Roads: MTA Bridges and Tunnels
Official website: www.mta.info