The MTA continues to build more tunnels in the ground although the solution would be more ground transportation. I have not figured out why NYC DOT is against a tram and/or LRT system (other than you need to take existing traffic lanes away from cars). The 2nd Avenue Subway and East Side Access projects are just two examples of holding onto the past; no will to make a clean break and start planning for the future. The good folks over at Vision 42 have done most of the work for them. Here is a breakdown of LRT costs:
I suggest instead that the $3.8 billion be used for right of way light rail that will go from 42nd Street up 1st Avenue across 125th Street to 2nd Avenue down to 42nd Street. At this point the light rail can make a square route going from 42nd Street, down to 34th, and back to 42nd Street (would make all planned subway stops). I am building off the idea of vision 42 which has a plan to make 42nd Street a pedestrian way with light rail. My plans would include light rail going two ways along both 42nd and 34th and the connections (1st Avenue and 12th Avenue/West side highway).
According to Vision 42 and other recent light rail projects my projection is $204 million per mile of light rail that needs to be built(this is the high estimate). To provide the service to the areas I described above would be 18 miles and cost $3.6 billion. For the $3.8 billion you can have light rail service to Upper east side, Harlem, Grand Central, Times Square, Penn Station, Javitz Center, and connections to most subway lines. This could be built and running within 5 years time. While light rail car can hold 220 passengers per car, as opposed to 250 for a subway car, light rail can run closer together. I feel light rail would help alleviate overcrowding that is taking place on the Lexington line and in midtown. This would not replace the subway, but would rather be an alternative and easier form of transport for many New Yorkers.
Does LRT have a future in NYC?