Waiting for a Transitway on 34th St.


Will this Transitway see the light of day soon? (Image via NYC DOT)

By the time — or perhaps if — the 34th Street Transitway becomes a reality, the project will have taken at least four years from gestation to reality. On paper, the idea is not revolutionary. The city would eliminate some traffic lanes, install dedicated bus lanes and improve transit across a stretch of the city that sees tens of thousands of bus passengers per day. Who could object?

In reality, improving bus service — a laudable goal in New York City where buses are known not for speed but for their snail’s pace — riles up a vocal minority of residents who feel threatened by improvements to what they view as a second-class means of transportation. It brings out the worst in NIMBYism and leaves planners struggling to defend clear improvements they shouldn’t have to struggle to defend.

Over the last few years, Community Board members have come up with every excuse in the book to bemoan the Transitway. The underlying complaint — one that doesn’t come out much anymore — involves direct car access to buildings. Originally, residents complained that taxis wouldn’t be able to provide door-to-door service if the Transitway removed two lanes of traffic. When that sounded selfish, residents started talking about the blight a row of buses would cause (as opposed to, say, bumper-to-bumper traffic). They talked about how the Transitway would be bad for trees, how emergency vehicles would get stuck on 34th St., how unsupervised children would stray into the path of an oncoming bus. You name it; they said it.

A few months ago, I explored how ridiculous these arguments are, but still, the vocal minority speaks out. The city, meanwhile, will drag out the planning process. Per DOT’s project timeline, this spring, the city will propose another preliminary corridor design while soliciting community feedback. In the summer, they’ll complete the environmental review and traffic analysis. Maybe by April 2012, we’ll have a Transitway that runs a few miles across Manhattan. This process is akin to pulling teeth in slow motion.

With that said, forgive me if I’m less than enthusiastic about the latest news. The M34, says Pete Donohue, will soon be equipped with a pre-boarding fare payment system. In an effort to speed up bus service along the city’s slowest route, the MTA will introduce Select Bus Service-like pre-boarding fare card readers along 34th St. well ahead of any potential Transitway. “The introduction of off-board fare collection does a lot to help speed travel by cutting down significantly on the amount of time a bus sits in the bus stop,” Transit head Thomas Prendergast said.

Don’t get me wrong: All of the city’s buses should have pre-boarding fare payment systems. Speeds would improve dramatically across New York. Yet, the MTA’s current implementation is an intractable solution to a big problem. If 34,000 riders per day are taking buses across 34th St., that’s 34,000 proof-of-payment receipts. That, in and of itself, carries a steep cost and isn’t environmentally friendly. We simply need a better solution across the board.

Recently, as Scott Stringer has started to adopt the concerns of the 34th St. NIMBYs, Cap’n Transit has begun to question the planning approach for the Transitway. Why, he asks, aren’t those passengers who come from Queens and head to 34th St. being courted for views as well? What about those other users? He writes:

If you read pro-transit blogs and tweets, you would know that the buses contain thousands of bus riders: about 33,000 trips per day. Apparently there has been some representation of these riders by the Straphangers Campaign, but the meetings seem to be completely dominated by people who identify as either drivers or taxi riders.

Other than the Department of Transportation staff themselves, no one has acknowledged that the majority of these riders don’t even live in Manhattan. There are more than twenty express bus routes from central and eastern Queens, and a little bit of southern Brooklyn, that bring thousands of riders into Midtown every day. They travel down the Long Island Expressway through the Queens-Midtown Tunnel, west on 34th Street, north on Third or Sixth Avenue, east on 57th Street, back across the Queensboro Bridge, and down Queens Boulevard…

There have been at least five meetings about this project in Midtown Manhattan, but to my knowledge there have been no meetings in Queens. There is a Community Advisory Committee for the project, but are there any representatives from Fresh Meadows or Bayside? I certainly haven’t heard from them in the news, the blogs or the Twitter feeds. It’s true that this is a pretty good case of a situation with concentrated costs and diffuse benefits, and these often get hijacked by the people who perceive themselves as having something to lose.

In a post this evening about the Staten Island interest in better 34th St. bus service, the Cap’n notes that some Queens residents have started to contact their City Council members. They should be included in the process. After all, bus improvements in Manhattan impact more than just the people who live on or near the chosen routes.

Ultimately, the 34th St. Transitway is a prickly route for transit advocates. The city isn’t great at keeping traffic moving on nearby one-way cross streets, and many would have preferred to see 125th St. pegged as the first Transitway. But buses that use 34th St. have a total ridership of over 40,000 per day. Even though some of those riders alit before Manhattan, a great many express bus riders take the trip to 34th St. and would benefit tremendously from fast dedicated bus lanes.

Improved transit comes with the need to take a step toward change. Can the city overcome that neighborhood resistance? Should it? I think so.

Categories : Buses

127 Responses to “Waiting for a Transitway on 34th St.”

  1. 34th St. rider says:

    I’m a frequent rider of the M16 going both ways on 34th St. I use the M16 to go to my doctor’s office. While pre-boarding sounds fine, the speed of the M16 has never seemed slow.

    I’ve looked at this plan and it seems to be another hair-brained from what’s her name that screwed up Broadway. While some improvements might be warranted, a complete overhaul makes no sense.

    Can we just stop with this crap? Your notion that anyone who doesn’t like this plan is NIMBY is offensive.

    • The speed of the M16 has always seemed slow to me, and a complete overhaul makes sense. If you want to be taken seriously as anything other than a NIMBY, you need something better than “I don’t see any problem.”

    • AlexB says:

      the bus is slower than walking. how could that frustrate you?

      i’m not sure why you’d call it “hair-brained.” configurations like this exist on major bus corridors all over the world.

      the 34th street transitway, as designed, will improve trip times for 40,000+ people everyday. if people are going to say falsehoods they think are true in order to prevent the realization of this, i would like to be the first to point out what is true. if you find that offensive, then so be it.

    • Mid-Towner says:

      I agree. It’s saddening how Busway opponents are characterized as “rich” taxi riders and car drivers. I’m opposed to the Busway and I work for a living, either walking to work or taking a bus, and I calculate the amount of time I need to get to work by the time of morning, weather conditions, etc — as most people do. And guess what? I get to work on time!

      For those who say traffic will just disappear after the Busway’s installed, DOT’s stats indicate the recent closure of the south-bound Park Avenue tunnel has increased street-level traffic on Park Avenue, Fifth Avenue and Lexington Avenue. They “poo-poo” it, but for those who live in the area it’s possible to see, hear and smell the increased traffic. (I also love the way Busway supporters dismiss the real-world experiences of DOT’s critics; as if real experience doesn’t count.) Now just think what closing traffic lanes on 34th Street will mean — all those trucks and cars on the side streets, while fast-moving buses split 34th Street in two. Thirty-Fourth Street ain’t beautiful, but it’s got a healthy mix of apartments at all price points (from rent-controlled tenements to million-dollar condos), small-scale shops often run by immigrants (virtually no vacancies), and a cross-section of ages among the residents, including increasing numbers of young families, who’ve invested time and energy in improving their neighborhood. (And lots of them, as I do, take the bus!)

      On the business blocks of 34th Street, property and store owners should be aware that busways killed Chestnut Street in Philadelphia and nearly killed State Street in Chicago (both towns reverting to two-way thoroughfares when the damage was done). The Busway won’t be a problem just for residential blocks! And as in Philadelphia, it may take 20 years to correct because it’s a federal project.

      Let’s face it, the Busway is a feeble attempt by the City to justify dumping millions more square feet of office buildings around Penn Station (Related Companies plans four or five nearly as tall as the Empire State Building!) as in: “Look, our overstretched transit system can handle the crowds because we’ve increased bus service” (euphemistically called “population growth” in DOT statements), a handy white-wash for environmental impact statements.

      People who live near the Busway aren’t opposed to better service. It helps us out, too. But there are alternatives, from pre-board fares to bus-exclusive lanes during rush hours. Sensible planning can be good for everybody!

      That’s all we ask.

  2. Alon Levy says:

    Ben, the riders who use the express buses would probably appreciate a bus-only route entering and exiting the tunnels more than a path on 34th Street. Cutting a small number of minutes of travel time on 34th is useful primarily to M34 and M16 riders, not to riders on the Queens and Staten Island express buses.

    • AlexB says:

      why not have both? those tunnels both connect to 34th st

      • Alon Levy says:

        The city’s not proposing both. But more broadly, the political capital (i.e. getting the Albany Monkey Squad to approve bus cams) and managerial effort should be spent on the most useful routes, and on the list 34th is around priority #40.

  3. John-2 says:

    My main concern for vehicular traffic, if 34th St. Is going to be made into a one-way street east for cars, vans and trucks in order to create the Transitway, would be re-opening 33rd St. at Park and Sixth avenues to westbound through traffic, instead of being blocked off as it is right now. Westbound vehicles between the Queens Midtown and Lincoln tunnels are going to use 35th or 37th streets; re-opening 33rd to more local traffic will keep those two side streets from getting totally jammed with vehicles pushed off of 34th.

    • How will opening 33rd Street at Park Avenue – which was barricaded after numerous pedestrians were killed and injured there – prevent 35th and 37th Streets from being totally jammed with vehicles?

      • John says:

        You need a pressure valve to absorb the westbound traffic, and as planned, all tunnel traffic coming out of the QMT is going to be forced west on 35th if they’re not headed north on 37th. If the city is going to go through with as big a project as the transitway, they also need to re-examine/rethink how to possibly make 33rd again available to cross-Manhattan traffic so you offer people not going between two tunnels but who are headed east to west a third option that doesn’t gridlock the other two due to the added traffic forced off 34th.

        • Because traffic is like water, right? If you cut it off in one place it overflows someplace else? Well, no, actually, it isn’t and it doesn’t.

          • Jason B says:

            On a larger scale, oh yes it does. Cut off a Hudson River crossing and watch the others jam up. When the Harlem River Drive/FDR jam up/close, Park Ave becomes a nightmare between the highway and 125th with avoiders. Those are temporary examples but until drivers get used to the changes and find and get comfortable to the alternatives, it’s in need of consideration and attention.

          • John-2 says:

            You’re never going to get traffic off the streets below a certain level where it’s not only inconvenient but illogical to choose mass transit over a vehicle (cabs with people bound for Penn Station, work trucks, delivery vehicles, etc.). And you’re certainly not going to get through traffic between Long Island and New Jersey to abandon their vehicles without a massive increase in suburban and exurban transportation infrastructure.

            The latter traffic is going to be there, and it’s going to be shoved over to 35th or 37th streets when you shut 34th Street west. You can free up flow to make up for the lost lanes by banning parking on either street between Second and Ninth avenues, say, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., or you can examine the options on 33rd for westbound crosstown traffic within Manhattan not needing tunnel access. But to just say if you don’t build it they won’t come is to try and pretend its 1940 again and Robert Moses hasn’t created the modern Metro NYC area traffic habits and patterns.

            • Andrew says:

              There are routes between Long Island and New Jersey that don’t come close to Midtown Manhattan.

              Traffic habits change.

  4. J says:

    This is done ALL over Europe, and it works just fine. Rich folks who live on 34th St and take taxis everywhere are willing to doom the tens of thousands of people who use this corridor every day to long crappy comutes just so they can have the cab pull up to their door. Unbelievable. Door-to-door service is not a right. The folks on the buses certainly don’t get door-to-door service.

  5. BrooklynBus says:

    Generally I agree with this article. The only problem I have is the following statement:

    “All of the city’s buses should have pre-boarding fare payment systems.”

    Why do you say that? In addition to the environmental concerns you mention, the equipment alone would be prohibitively expensive and the benefit would be limited. Bus usage on most routes does not warrant it and the effect on speed would be minimal on all but the heaviest routes. Enforcement would also be a nightmare. And how will the buses run any faster if inspectors are constantly boarding and holding buses for 5 minutes to check receipts? You might want to rethink that statement.

    There are other ways to speed buses. GPS is the best way. (We’ve been waiting for that forever.) If that’s not possible right now, more dispatchers are needed who are willing to take action such as to turn buses short in some instances when they are late or there is a delay closing a street due to a fire or whatever reason.

    There used to be a time when each route had at least two dispatchers assigned to it; heavy routes had up to half a dozen. Today, there are a just a few at selected heavy load points. It makes no sense for buses to sit in one place for a hour waiting for a street to be cleared, with no measures being taken to prevent bus bunching which causes heavy loadings and buses to operate slower. Realistic schedules would also help, not schedules that are so tight, that they are impossible to meet.

    Also, crosstown lines with articulated buses are much slower than 34th Street which uses conventional buses. Placing two-door articulated buses on crosstown routes and cutting service because of them (running 4 artics for 5 standard buses) was a big mistake. That really slowed down the buses so that walking is usually faster due to the increased boarding times, even if traffic is not that heavy. Prepaying on crosstown routes might help a little but the big constraint is the two doors and heavy passenger loads.

    Again you make it seem that all the problems are beyond MTA control blaming NYMBYs or elected officials. Traffic is not the only factor that delays buses as the MTA would like you to believe. Why don’t we still have GPS on the buses after three or four studies costing at least $20 million, when MTA armored revenue vehicles have successfully been equipped with GPS for years? If they can’t solve technical problems because of Manhattan’s skyscrapers, why are they not installed in the outer borough st least?

    If the MTA weren’t constantly making poor decisions or non-decisions, the system would be operating much more efficiently.

    • BrooklynBus, you should really get out of Brooklyn once in a while. Go visit Paris, where they’ve been doing this for more than fifteen years.

    • Alon Levy says:

      BrooklynBus, since you like attacking the MTA, you should check out the solutions to the skyscraper problem that have been used in Hong Kong. Because of the high skyscraper density there, the bus tracking system uses both GPS tracking and RFID chips. Chicago has solved the problem, too, but I forget in which way.

      As for the cost of POP, it’s trivial. In Singapore, a tap station costs S$960 (=US$750). Put 2 on each NYCT bus and 1 at each bus stop and the capital cost would be $16 million, about an order of magnitude less than the cost of installing the back-end of the smartcard system and rolling it out on the subway system.

      • BrooklynBus says:

        Then my question is if other cities have solved the skyscraper problem, why can’t the MTA?

        Also, I don’t “like” attacking the MTA. I would love to praise them if I could, but I find little to praise. (Today’s handling of the snow storm is one thing I could praise, but the public information provided was still lacking with trains reported as running, when in fact revenue vehicles had not yet started operating.) It just annoys me why very few negative stories are covered here, only ones where others besides the MTA can be blamed. For example, don’t remember seeing anything here about on-time performance significantly dropping or did I miss that? Guess that can’t be blamed on the politicians or the NIMBYs.

        • I covered on-time performance in late 2009 when it dipped precipitously . Lately, though as page 3.10 of this month’s Transit Committee materials show, on-time performance improved in October and November after bottoming in September. I can’t cover something that isn’t actually happening.

          • BrooklynBus says:

            I guess it’s all on how you look at statistics. There may be short term improvement, but the overall trend has been down.

            According to Gregg Mocker’s report of January 21st, he states that subway delays have risen 42% between November 2009 and November 2010 according to MTA documents. Weekday delays have risen from more than 13,000 to more than 19,000 and that delays caused by overcrowding increased by 128%. I wonder how much of that had to do with the change in off-peak service guidelines from 100% of a seated load to 125% of a seated load. http://weblogs.wpix.com/news/mocker/

            But I notice he is someone you never quote. Is he just wrong or too critical of the MTA for you?

            • I’ve mentioned a couple of Mocker’s reports — he did a good piece when Paterson kicked Norman Seabrook off the MTA board. But his stuff is often a little inaccurate. I didn’t see his report on the 21st. Let me take a look at the numbers. The delay increase is definitely attributable to overcrowding, according to the PDF I linked to, and that definitely is traceable to the change in load guidelines. I wrote about that back in June and predicted more overcrowding.

              • BrooklynBus says:

                Yeah, Seabrook was one of the good guys. Didn’t see his report on that.

                • Andrew says:

                  Seabrook was an idiot. His colleagues on the board didn’t vote for the service cuts because they wanted them – they voted for the service cuts because they didn’t see an alternative. What alternative did Seabrook have in mind?

                  Mocker is an entertainer. He’s not a primary source.

                  • BrooklynBus says:

                    There was an alternative. Better efficiency, and that’s what Seabrook said. “I am not convinced that we looked under every rock.”

                    Example: Bus on-time performance. You pay for buses running every 10 or 15 minutes, but people usually receive service every 20 or 30 minutes because of bus bunching that the MTA does nothing about.

                    The problem with the service cuts was that they were sloppily prepared with faulty methodology. The inconvenience to the public was minimized. Alternative travel routes were given that were not practical. They just increased the business for livery cabs.

                    Yes, Mocker is an entertainer, but his reports are factual.

                    • Andrew says:

                      On-time performance is not a measure of bunching.

                      The service cuts were prepared in a few months. Given the short time frame, they were prepared very well. No, they weren’t perfect – that’s why we’re seeing adjustments now, such as the recent changes in Country Club. No alternative travel routes were given to the public, since the best alternative depends on the exact trip. The service cut book listed a brief alternative for each cut, simply to establish that there was an alternative, but that alternative was not intended to be given to every rider of the line!

                      If Mocker’s entertainment leads you to look something up, excellent. But he’s not a primary source and shouldn’t be treated as one.

        • Bolwerk says:

          I’m not sure there’s much left to blame on the MTA. If the region’s transportation problems were caused by the MTA, leadership reforms would fix them.

          Nay, I think the problem is the MTA is caused by the region’s transportation problems – and politicians love it, because it gives them a whipping boy.

          • BrooklynBus says:

            I don’t follow the logic of your first statement and can’t even understand the second one. “…the MTA is caused by the region’s transportation problems” What is that supposed to mean?

            • Bolwerk says:

              The MTA isn’t the cause of many problems. It, or at least its state of affairs, is a symptom of our region’s problems. That should be fairly non-controversial at this point.

              • BrooklynBus says:

                I disagree. While the MTA is subject to the economy, dependent on the state for money, subject to union rules, etc, it still has great autonomy in the things it can do and could be run much more efficiently. There needs to be bette communication within the agency, just as one example. It is not just an innocent victim as some here believe.

                • Bolwerk says:

                  I don’t disagree with that, but it doesn’t really change my point. Better communication within the agency? How about a less complex agency? They seemed to recognize themselves, for instance, that LIRR and MNRR should be treated more or less as one unit rather than two competing units. Albany didn’t consider such a change.

                  I wouldn’t call it an innocent victim, but I’d call it a creature of its environment.

                  • BrooklynBus says:

                    I don’t see why it was Albany’s job to reinvent the MTA. It is the MTA’s job to structure itself so that it operates in the most efficient way possible. Most of the organizational changes I saw in the 25 years I worked for NYCT were reorganization of departments to enable a favored employees to receive a promotion and a 30% pay raise which otherwise would not have been permitted. Of course to get it approved, they prepare a cover story how the new structure would be more efficient. But for some strange reason, when that person finds a better job outside of the agency or decides to retire, the department which was such a great idea a few years before is now dissolved, rather than a successor being appointed.

                    As far as LIRR and MNR, they are pretty much separate organizations. All of a sudden after 40 years, the MTA decided that it would be more efficient to combine payroll and administrative functions. Why did it take them 40 years to learn that? I suspect that efficiency isn’t the reason at all why that change was made.

                    People were starting to talk about breaking up the MTA into separate organizations, because it is so large and dysfunctional. By combining those functions, it makes a breakup much more difficult. Preservation of the organization was the real reason for that change, not operational efficiency which will also result from it.

                    • Bolwerk says:

                      Albany chartered the MTA. I think some MTA actions have been laudable, and I think we can both easily point to screwups that can be pinned on management. But much of the time either Albany or the courts or binding arbitrators Albany’s laws/rules prevent needed reform. Things like pension reform, raises, and perhaps even work rules could all be reformed if Albany would devolve the power either to MTA management or the city government to deal with these problems. But since Albany current has ultimate responsibility over the matter as the only sovereign entity involved, not much can be done without legislative action.

                      I don’t necessarily think the MTA should be broken up, but I think the city could be allowed to exert more control over NYCTA and other city-only agencies. Why does the state even need to be heavily involved?

        • Andrew says:

          The MTA has apparently solved the skyscraper problem. In Manhattan, the M16 and M34 have had next-bus displays for a few years. The B63 in Brooklyn starts tomorrow:

          (Seriously – the skyscraper issue dates back at least 10 years.)

          On time performance is a bad measure of reliability – it’s largely irrelevant to the rider experience. Howard Roberts focused heavily on OTP, and he improved it by padding the schedules. That doesn’t improve service for anybody; it just increases costs and causes trains (with people on board) to get stuck outside the terminal.

          • BrooklynBus says:

            Don’t know about train schedules, but I really doubt that in most cases the bus schedules are padded. If anything they are to lean, and that prevents buses from getting back on schedule after their first delay.

            • Andrew says:

              If you’ve never been on a bus that’s waited through green lights because it’s running early approaching a dispatcher location, I’m riding the bus with you from now on. It’s one of the most frustrating aspects of riding the bus, in my opinion, and I encounter it all the time. It’s a direct consequence of padding the schedule with too much running time.

    • Andrew says:

      Buses spent a lot of their time at bus stops. Reducing dwell times is the single best way to reduce bus travel times citywide.

      Buses are not routinely held for 5 minutes for inspections. I’ve been inspected while in motion. Even if buses are sometimes held for inspections, I highly doubt they’re held for a full 5 minutes. (When you’re in a hurry, 90 seconds can feel like 5 minutes.) And on most trips, you won’t be inspected at all.

      • Alon Levy says:

        You should think of bus-holding as like a breakdown. Breakdowns usually don’t happen, and usually didn’t happen even in the bad old days of 1980. They were still a huge problem for reliability. The difference: the bus-holding breakdown is preventable at nearly zero cost – the only cost is layoff compensation for the idiot at Transit who thought it was good practice.

        • Andrew says:

          How often are the buses held, and how long are they held for? (I have difficulty believing it’s actually 5 minutes.) If they’re not held often, and they’re not held for long, then it really isn’t a big problem for reliability.

          Breakdowns usually require buses to be taken out of service. This probably isn’t the best analogy.

          • Alon Levy says:

            “Not a big problem for reliability” all depends on what you’re shooting for: maximum reliability (including perceptions thereof) at minimum cost, or maximum employment of planners and managers.

            • Andrew says:

              I’m trying to quantify the problem. Is every other bus held for 5 minutes? Is every 100th bus held for 1 minute? If the former, we have a big problem; if the latter, there are probably more important things to worry about.

              (Not everybody who works for the MTA is a planner. The person in charge of security is not a planner.)

              • Alon Levy says:

                The person in charge of security is not the person who made the decision that holding buses for inspections is acceptable.

                I can estimate the ratio ex recto, or try to ask my Bronx friend(s) and get back to you. But the worst case scenario is disproportionately important, and so is the effect of the bus sitting still. If average times were all that mattered, there would not be such things as a waiting penalty and a transfer penalty.

                • Andrew says:

                  The worst case scenario is that the bus gets hit by a bomb and everyone is killed. If it’s sufficiently unlikely, it’s irrelevant.

                  The worst case scenario within reasonable bounds of likelihood is what counts. If these stationary inspections don’t take much time, and they don’t happen often, then they’re not as big a deal as you’re making them out to be. And if the sum of all the dwell times over a given trip, including an inspection, is still shorter than it was pre-SBS, then SBS is a net improvement, even if it isn’t as much of an improvement as it could/should be.

                  • Alon Levy says:

                    Clearly, more people observe buses being held than get hit by a bomb. So it’s not the best comparison.

                    The sum is not the best metric. The MTA’s methodology for ridership projections considers a minute of waiting to equal 1:45 minutes of travel.

                    • Andrew says:

                      OK, so we’ve established that buses are held more often than they’re hit by bombs. That’s good news. So how often are they held? If the typical rider encounters it once a month, I don’t think that’s a problem. Once a week, I’d consider that a problem, especially if the delay is truly 5 minutes. Once a day, obviously a problem.

                      Wait time refers to the time a passenger spends waiting for the bus or train – not the time he or she is on board a bus or train that has stopped moving. (But I still don’t see your point – if SBS comes out ahead before multiplying the sum of the dwells by 175%, it also comes out ahead after multiplying the sum of the dwells by 175%.)

      • BrooklynBus says:

        But why did they have to be held at all? Why can’t they stay on until the next stop?

        And if the MTA were so concerned about dwell times, they never would have put two-door artics on crosstown routes. All they were concerned with was reducing labor costs, when the purpose of those buses was to provide more seats and make passengers more comfortable, not to slow down the already slow buses.

        • Andrew says:

          Interesting line of reasoning.

          “The MTA” used to order buses that increased dwell times.
          Therefore, “the MTA” must have made a conscious decision that dwell times aren’t important.
          Therefore, “the MTA” can’t possibly care about dwell times, even 15 years later.
          Therefore, “the MTA” must have some sort of ulterior motive here.

          Did it occur to you that the increased dwell times might have been an unforeseen result, and that people can learn from their mistakes? Did it occur to you that the people involved in the initial purchase of the New Flyer artics in the 90’s might not be the same people involved in the SBS project today, and they may not share the exact same priorities?

          • BrooklynBus says:

            You are correct. The MTA did not make a conscious decision that dwell times are not important. It was just plain incompetence and here is why. The MTA never wanted to buy articulated buses just like they never wanted to air-condition the subway system because they insisted that both would not work.

            The only reason both came about was through 20 years of political pressure by elected officials and transit advocacy groups. In 1972, when I was going for my masters at Columbia in transportation planning, one of the things we were taught is that you never put articulated buses on a crosstown route, because they wouldn’t work there, but they are great for routes like Second Avenue. That was when the MTA was still opposing their purchase.

            So what happens? The MTA finally relents and agrees to buy articulated buses. The only reason why the crosstown routes were chosen was because the depots serving those routes were the only ones that could handle them. It was a case of the cart coming before the horse. With better planning they wouldn’t have made that mistake.

            Also, in 2005 during initial community meetings on SBS, I warned them not to purchase two-door artics for SBS. They responded that 3-door artics were not suitable for NYC streets.

            Well they eventually gave in and did purchase 3 door artics. So to answer you, yes the MTA does indeed learn. The problem is that it takes them 10 or 20 years to see things that are fairly obvious to anyone else years earlier.

  6. Yanir Maidenberg says:

    I’m putting it out there: BUILD A SUBWAY LINE UNDER 34TH STREET……..
    Nah…it’s too realistic and practical…not gonna get done

    • John Paul N. says:

      Is it practical? A subway line there needs to be deep enough not to intersect with the north-south lines. Also, see ARC and its station under 34th Streeet.

      • Alon Levy says:

        It’s practical, sure. It would be about as deep as the 7 – or Paris M14, Tokyo’s Fukutoshin and Oedo Lines, and London’s Jubilee Line Extension. It should not be more expensive than ARC, because the stations would not be multi-level extravaganzas.

    • Al D says:

      Surface transit is the best implementable option. Some time of monorail, were the MTA to be outside of the box thinkers, would probably be option 2.

      • John Paul N. says:

        There’ll be more NIMBYs if any elevated rail in that area is suggested.

        • John-2 says:

          Rather than a 34th Street subway tunnel, I’d actually prefer a deep vehicular traffic tunnel either on 37th or 38th Streets with no Manhattan exits that connected the Lincoln and Queens Midtown Tunnel. It would do what Moses’ plug-ugly 30th Street expressway was supposed to do, keep Queens-New Jersey traffic from blocking Manhattan streets, but do it out of sight (of course, based on NYC prices, it would probably end up costing as much as the Big Dig or the ARC tunnel, but it would go a long way towards unclogging midtown streets).

          • You get that passed, and some of us here in Queens would like to have your head. Highway tunnels suck. Here’s why.

          • AlexB says:

            I agree with this. Charge drivers $2 to go from Queens to Jersey and $15 to get out at local streets in Manhattan (and/or institute congestion pricing). Relegate through traffic to a two lane tunnel in each direction and remove travel and parking lanes on the local streets of midtown. That would free up more room for dedicated bike and bus lanes. I don’t support adding more capacity for cars, but I do think it would be good to remove them from local streets.

            • Alon Levy says:

              The bypass-and-build-expressways approach has been tried and failed all over America for the better part of 60 years. You can only remove cars from local streets by getting people to switch to other modes of transportation – for example, by using the existing mainline infrastructure to let people travel crosstown by rail as if Manhattan weren’t there.

              • AlexB says:

                It failed in the past because it wasn’t combined with proper pricing schemes. It would work if you priced the exits to local streets high enough, which would have the affect of allowing through traffic and reducing traffic on local streets at the same time. Remember, Bloomberg’s congestion pricing scheme only charged drivers south of 60th who actually exited the FDR and West Side Highway, which is the same idea. Manhattan is too centrally located in the region. It’s just silly that you have to travel on local streets in Midtown if you want to drive to someplace in Jersey. You can’t get everywhere on a bus or a train.

                • Alon Levy says:

                  Why is it so silly? There’s no expressway through-route across the middle of almost any city in Europe, and in the few exceptions those routes are not built to anything like Interstate standards. People manage to go through London and Paris without expressways slicing through the CBD, and should manage to do the same through New York.

                  • Bolwerk says:

                    Indeed. Generally the lack of expressways seems to distribute the traffic better, even without a street grid. Cynically, I might say I find getting around some European cities by car more express than American expressways. 😐

                  • AlexB says:

                    I absolutely think it’s silly that some of the highest paid workers working in some of the world’s most expensive real estate have to put up with large, polluting, dangerous trucks going from, say, Long Island City to Secaucus. It’s undignified and their presence is a social and economic blight. European cities typically are not as geographically isolated as New York is from New Jersey and, to a lesser extent, Queens. This focuses all through traffic onto a handful of a few one or two lane crosstown streets.

                    European cities typically have big, multi-lane boulevards with somewhat limited access that do cut through the city center, or at least very close. London in particular is a good example of this. Just because they don’t identify them with names like “skyway” and build them as unattractively as possible doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Asian cities with very high transit ridership have even higher capacity highways through their centers.

                    I think a pair of short underground highway tunnels connecting the Queens Midtown Tunnel with the Lincoln Tunnel, in combination with very expensive congestion pricing for local streets, would be an excellent way to improve real estate values and the public health and safety of people who are living and working in Midtown.

                    • Bolwerk says:

                      While I assure you I weep for the poor bankers, financiers, litigators, and CEOs, a bigger concern ought to be that everybody has to be exposed to pollution from all vehicles – conspicuously, the poor seem to have it worst of all, especially from diesel-emitting trucks. Trucks are pretty hard to reduce, though we can speed them up so they don’t pollute as much – and maybe give us less expensive goods in the process.

                    • Alon Levy says:

                      Since we’ve basically thread-drifted to death, let me answer this… Europe’s boulevards are not limited access. They’re like Upper Broadway, Grand Concourse, or Queens Boulevard. Those boulevards are often extra-wide and pedestrian-hostile, but they have nothing to do with Moses-style expressways, or Big Dig-style tunnels.

                      Some Asian cities are different. Not all. Seoul has no freeways in its center, though its suburbs have a large network. Japanese cities have elevated expressways over existing roads – nothing fancier is affordable there, because of high land costs and a very NIMBY-prone process. Only Singapore and Hong Kong have a US-style freeway network among Asian transit cities – and even then, Hong Kong’s freeway network looks smaller to me than that of US metro areas of comparable size, such as Dallas and Washington.

              • Bolwerk says:

                You can remove cars from local streets simply by prohibiting them from local streets. In many cases, after some whining, all is fine and life goes on. That it’s a cheap way to make alternatives work better is just gravy from there.

                • BrooklynBus says:

                  The problem is that the traffic goes somewhere else. Most of it doesn’t just disappear.

                  Case in point — when parking was permitted on both sides of the service roads on portions of Queens Blvd about six years ago, for the first few months, traffic slowed down considerably. After a while it stabilized so the drive was only marginally slower.

                  However, no one did a study to find out the routes people switched to. Congestion was worsened in other neighborhoods and on streets that previously was not congested. It’s nice to think that everyone just switched to the subway, but that just doesn’t happen.

                  Same thing with Times Square. They looked at the streets immediately near where traffic was blocked off, but who looked at the number of cars diverted to 10th or 11th Avenue, for example?

                  I have no objection to closing certain streets, just do the proper studies so that I know exactly what happened. Don’t lie to me and tell me that every traffic decision the City makes is correct when you don’t have the proper data to back that statement up.

                  • Bolwerk says:

                    In a major artery’s closure, traffic often goes nowhere else. It simply disappears.

                    I don’t know about the Queens Blvd example you mention, but I will say a key difference seems to be that parking itself induces demand in its own way – I’m not sure how it does so compared to major traffic arteries.

                    In the case of Times Square, it sounds like a fraction of it went elsewhere, traffic speeds in the area generally improved (not as much as hoped for), accidents went down, and some trips that would have happened simply didn’t. More important than all that, a great deal more pedestrian traffic was induced. All in all, life went on – probably better than before. I agree with you that studying 11th Avenue might be interesting, but you can’t expect every minor effect to be studied. They studied Fifth through Ninth Avenues and published the results. I imagine they have budget constraints, and Tenth Avenue is a relatively unrelated part of town despite being as close as Fifth Avenue. I have a hard time seeing why things would improve on Eight and Ninth and get worse on Tenth, myself.

                    I certainly wouldn’t say many city traffic decisions are correct…too many of them encourage more traffic, when we already have enough. 😐

                    • BrooklynBus says:

                      I won’t argue Times Square, at least not now. But I will say this about Queens Blvd. I really doubt it if the extra parking increased demand at all. It simply meant rather than circling the block three times to find a spot, you were able to find a spot quicker, reducing congestion just a bit.

                      But in some of the places the extra parking was not even needed. The result was that two or three cars parked on the block, or even just one, now eliminated a moving traffic lane reducing the roadways capacity by 20% in the rush hours when it was needed.

                    • BrooklynBus says:

                      I just glanced at the Times Square Report you cited. Doesn’t it seem a bit odd to you that east Midtown is defined as Fifth Avenue to the River, but West Midtown is Fifth Avenue to Ninth Avenue?

                      Do you think maybe for a minute that they have the data for Ninth Avenue to the River but decided not to publish it because that’s where the traffic went and that makes the results look bad?

                      Logically, 9th Av to the River either should have been Midtown West or its own district. It makes no sense to exclude west of Ninth Avenue while including east of Third Avenue, the way I see it. I think they are hiding something and it wouldn’t be the first time data was manipulated.

                    • Bolwerk says:

                      I dunno if it’s odd. I think it’s a question they could have answered (assuming they didn’t – I didn’t read it that closely). The most likely explanation I can see is that anything after Ninth Ave. is irrelevant to Times Square. Broadway does effect travel towards the east somewhat given its trajectory, but doesn’t veer west of Eighth Ave. until after Columbus Circle or west of Ninth until 64th Street – and traffic to those neighborhoods gets less and less important.

                      There can always be a conspiracy or ulterior motive, but I think I’d need to see more evidence of ignored problems to suspect one.

      • Bolwerk says:

        What’s out of the box about monorails? There’s no reason to add another incompatible technology to the regional transport system. Monorails have been tried, and generally haven’t had impressive real-world results. The best alternative to buses for surface transportation is low-floor light rail. Best of all, there is a well-designed (if overpriced) LRT network immediately across the river in New Jersey that would be perfect to integrate with.

        Subways, of course, are not a comprehensive alternative to buses.

    • The problem with a subway line under 34th St. is actually that it’s not realistic or practical. Where would it go? How much would it cost? How would you dig through and past PATH, Penn Station, the Hudson Yards and all of the connecting subway and utility lines? 34th St. is ripe for surface development, not for a subway.

      • al says:

        A 34th St crosstown subway line to Greenpoint and beyond was not in the Second System expansion plans. Why, I don’t know. The Combined IRT, BMT, and IND had crosstown equivalents under 42nd, 14th, 59th/60th, and 53rd st. A 34th st Crosstown was the next logical installation.

        It could run under Greenpoint Ave, with connection with G, then over to Queens with the options of using existing easements of:
        a) LIE to Eastern Queens or LIRR Montauk ROW to SE & South Central Queens.
        b) Greenpoint Ave, Queens Blvd, and then LIRR Port Washington to NE Queens or LIRR Main Line to SE Queens.

        • Alon Levy says:

          The next logical installation is not a line that parallels another line less than 600 meters away. It’s a line that provides new service – read, 125th.

          • Quinn Hue says:

            The Second Avenue Subway is going to be 350m away from the Lexington Avenue Line.

            • AlexB says:

              True, but that’s more of a capacity and historical issue than an access issue. I think connecting the Montauk ROW out to Laurelton in Queens and the Main Line ROW to Paterson via 34th St would be an excellent idea (more access and capacity is needed here as well), although I did suggest connecting the 7 to the Main Line in NJ in a previous comment, and there are only so many ROWs to go around…

            • Alon Levy says:

              First, the Lex is at capacity; the 7 isn’t.

              Second, SAS actually provides new service – namely, from the East Side directly to the West Side.

          • Bolwerk says:

            I don’t think another midtown crosstown line is a half bad idea. That midtown east is a huge, huge destination for subway travelers using the trunk lines is undeniable. A properly selected route taking some pressure off some busier neighborhoods (Flushing? Williamsburg? wherever people on the 4/5 are coming from when they come into Manhattan?) while serving some underserved neighborhoods (Greenpoint?) isn’t so outlandish, even if it ultimately parallels the 7 around midtown.

            Of course, such a subway line isn’t a good substitute for a good surface service. But it has merit for other reasons.

      • al says:

        If Walder really wants a better more efficient MTA, how about pushing for contactless payment by 2013 or sooner. It can save money and time. If the MTA’s current bureaucracy is too slow and risk averse, then Walder should get an existing system. The PA has Smartlink up and running. They already did the hard work debugging the technology. It would also open the way for unified regional fare payment standard.

        The fact that Cubic also has fare payment technology arrangements for many of the mass transit systems in the US (and London and other systems worldwide) also raises the possibility of a shared national or international fare payment standard.

        • Alon Levy says:

          There’s already an ISO standard for RFID chips, and Cubic’s proprietary system is totally incompatible with it. MIFARE (which is used for Oyster), Calypso (i.e. Paris’s Navigo), and even PayPass are all compatible. FeliCa (i.e. Octopus and everything in Japan) is nearly-compatible, but has a far larger user base to compensate.

          • Andrew says:

            No, they are not compatible. The fact that one system recognizes the existence of cards using other systems doesn’t mean that they’re compatible.

            The hard part of implementing a contactless system is not figuring out the card-reader interface – that’s already done, for any RFID standard. The hard part is integrating it into the transit system, and that work is largely independent of the chosen standard.

            Given that one of the MTA’s goals is to get out of the business of distributing cards and maintaining accounts, and another one of the MTA’s goals is to make it easier for irregular riders and visitors to use the system, the appropriate standard is one that’s compatible with many credit cards.

            The card technology is already debugged. I used it at McDonald’s on Tuesday.

            • Alon Levy says:

              That goal of “getting out of the business” is just plain wrong. JR East and the MTR both make large profits out of this business – larger than they do out of providing transportation. There’s demand for anonymous electronic money in Hong Kong and Tokyo, to the point that Octopus is universal and Suica nearly so, even among people who do not use the transit network often.

              If the MTA really thinks it’s too incompetent to run this itself, but competent enough to make sure it picks the right standard, then why not run a competitive bid for electronic money and a transit card? What does MasterCard do that entitles it to a no-bid contract?

              • Andrew says:

                There were plans in the mid-90’s to expand the MetroCard to non-NYCT purchases. They fell through for a variety of reasons.

                By now, it’s too late. Credit cards and debit cards are ubiquitous in the U.S. Not many people will be interested in switching from a system that works worldwide to one that works in one city.

                You ridicule people for ignoring what’s done elsewhere, but you go to the opposite extreme, assuming that what works in one place will work just as well everywhere else. Neither one is correct. The MTA should be looking at fare systems used elsewhere, but the MTA should also not be assuming that what works elsewhere will necessarily work here. Making that assumption would be incompetence.

                The MTA doesn’t want to come up with a new card that subway and bus riders can also use as electronic money. Most subway and bus riders already have electronic money, and the MTA wants to adopt that as its new card.

                MasterCard doesn’t have a no-bid contract. Visa and American Express have compatible systems, and the card readers are available from third party vendors.

                • Alon Levy says:

                  First, the trial run is explicitly for PayPass.

                  Second, the MTA didn’t even look at what was done elsewhere. Neither, by the way, did TfL – it copied the basic idea, and nothing else. For example: the MTR produced an Octopus watch, so that people don’t have to take their wallets out. TfL not only didn’t, but also fined people who made makeshift Oyster watches by taking the chip out of the card and putting it in their watch.

                  And third, the “Not many people…” argument could just as well have been made about Hong Kong and Tokyo. Americans have credit cards, but so do Hongkongers and Japanese. New York Is Special is very rarely true.

                  • Andrew says:

                    The trial run ended two months ago.

                    It was funded by MasterCard, so for the first month it was available to PayPass customers only. After the first month it worked with Visa and (I believe) Amex also.

                    Is it at all conceivable that TfL was aware of the Octopus watch but decided not to implement it in London?

                    Is it at all conceivable that the MTA is well aware of what other agencies around the world have done, and has made a conscious decision to take an “open payments” approach?

                    There’s a distinction between being aware of what’s done elsewhere and copying everything Alon Levy’s favorite transit agency does, regardless of political, legal, demographic, technical, and institutional differences.

          • Jason B says:

            Just a curiosity… do you have any idea as to how fares are “verified” with contactless payment? Right now the MetroCard magnetic strip gets rewritten and it’s not instantly verified on a network, in my understanding. I’m not sure how instant contactless verifies funds or not. When I used my old Chase card on the 6, the first time had a considerable delay of a few seconds, but each subsequent usage was instant with $0.01 pending until the $2.25 posted.

            • Alon Levy says:

              Cards can record the last few transactions. The card reader checks that you’ve tapped in, or that your card has a valid unlimited pass. On systems with distance-based fare, the reader can also confirm that you haven’t tapped out.

    • Tsuyoshi says:

      Yes, building a subway under 34th and sending it to Greenpoint and beyond would be the best thing to do. At the current pace of subway construction… perhaps our grandchildren may live to see it.

      In the meantime I don’t see why we can’t just ban cars from 34th entirely and make it bus-only. Other cities with much less density and much less bus ridership have done it.

    • Alon Levy says:

      For the moment, no subway is necessary under 34th. It doesn’t really improve mobility within Manhattan, it doesn’t relieve the most crowded lines, and for access to Queens and Jersey, treating commuter rail as rapid transit would be vastly cheaper.

      On the super-fantasy map I keep at home, it exists – as a four-track line, no less – but only on the long-range map, as a potential relief line if mainline rail (including ARC Alt G) gets too overcrowded.

    • Andrew says:

      There are already two subway lines under 42nd, plus the LIRR out of Penn Station. If we’re going to spend a fortune building a crosstown subway line, I think we might be able to find a more useful corridor.

  7. Bolwerk says:

    If 34,000 riders per day are taking buses across 34th St., that’s 34,000 proof-of-payment receipts. That, in and of itself, carries a steep cost and isn’t environmentally friendly. We simply need a better solution across the board.

    This is an interesting post, but I think this argument is a little silly. Perhaps paper receipts are a bit of a maintenance issue, but they aren’t an environmental disaster. Hell, the net environmental benefit of saving the weight of that paper in <sarcasm>JET FUEL</sarcasm> probably easily justifies the long-term environmental impact (the short term impact could be more problematic, given New Yorkers’ propensity for throwing things on the ground that clog storm drains, ditches, and Andrea Peyser’s colon). Regardless, certainly transit agencies around the world use paper receipts to implement POP fare control — without a visible environmental impact. The paper should be recyclable. And the TVMs are cheaper to maintain than a labor force to make sure only paying customers board.

    • Andrew says:

      More to the point, if faster bus service attracts even a tiny number of drivers to transit, the net environmental impact is positive.

  8. bob says:

    I wonder if Jane Jacobs is laughing. After all this is exactly what she preached – that whomever represents “the community” can stop anything, no matter how great the benefit to others.

    If you take her philosophy to it’s logical conclusion, NY would still be forest inhabited only by hunter-gatherers. Pardon me for not being politically correct.

    • Alon Levy says:

      This is not what Jane Jacobs advocated. In The Death and Life, she advocated giving power to districts and made clear her opposition to empowering small block groups, which could be parochial and unconcerned about neighbors. The example she gives is that the West Village was generally opposed to Lo-Mex, but a small number of subcommunities there supported it and were held up by the Moses clique as evidence for widespread community support.

      Those districts have since been established, as community boards. Since then, Jacobs has supported giving CBs control over planning processes. She’d be skeptical of the opinion of a few people living near 34th, but tend to believe what CBs 4, 5, and 6 said as a whole.

  9. Alon Levy says:

    I just did a few back-of-the-envelope calculations for the actual environmental cost of paper receipts, sourced here. As expected, it is trivial. Total emissions in metric tons of CO2 per year are:

    – A recycled MetroCard-sized paper receipt per NYCT bus boarding: 300
    – A virgin MetroCard-sized paper receipt per NYCT bus boarding: 750
    – NYCT diesel consumption: 340,000
    – NYC total: 60,000,000

    On top of this, faster boarding should lead to reduced idling, cutting this emission premium by a little, almost certainly more than the 0.1-0.25% necessary to break even on carbon. So citywide POP would reduce carbon emissions, independently of mode shift from driving.

  10. Donald says:

    I don’t know who came up with the idea of paying before you board the bus, but the biggest beneficiary of it is the union because now the MTA has to hire hundreds or even thousands of fare inspectors. Maybe some genius at TWU is the one who came up with the idea.

    • BBnet3000 says:

      The biggest beneficiary is the riders, the TWU would be #2 at best.

      Wait a few (how many?) years and all those laid off subway drivers can apply to be fare inspectors on the bus lines.

      • Donald says:

        Why would subway drivers be laid off? Whose going to drive the trains?

        • BBnet3000 says:

          A computer is going to drive the trains. It will, and it must, happen eventually. Im curious what the bump in farebox recovery would be, and im guessing it would be significant.

          • Donald says:

            Computers are not going to drive trains anytime soon. We will see computer driven trains just as soon as cars start flying and soldiers are replaced with robots.

            • Alon Levy says:

              Believe it or not, but some cities, like Vancouver and Copenhagen, have completely driverless metro networks – and many others have driverless lines, such as Paris and Singapore.

    • Andrew says:

      Hundreds or even thousands of fare inspectors? I think there are a few dozen. The savings due to the reduction in running time (which means fewer drivers are needed to provide the same level of service) probably more than covers the cost of the inspectors.

    • Bolwerk says:

      It’s intelligent, efficient use of labor. Fare inspectors should pay for themselves as they find violations. Heck, in a proper POP system, a certain number of violators are desirable exactly for that reason. The only possible downside is the fine for violations might be a bit low.

      Hell, if the TWU’s head were lodged less firmly up its own ass, they’d be pushing to move conductors and token booth clerks into those positions before their asses get canned in a future round of spending cuts – and actually allowing modest reforms like OPTO.

  11. Jason B says:

    I wonder how ferry buses, tour buses, and BoltBus, etc., will be addressed. With one lane of bus travel, separated from other lanes, there’s going to be a bus lane jam just from all of the non-MTA buses that also use 34th Street and sit and wait for various reasons. This needs to be addressed somehow (it may have, I just haven’t researched it) and if necessary have these buses moved to side streets, like how MegaBus boards from 31st Street. There’s a similar impact on 42nd Street.

    Personally I would like to have seen 125th get some priority here. But with the Triboro bridge and major FDR interchange, 125th is a pretty critical street east of Park Ave without major improvements to 124/126/127th. I live in East Harlem and went to grad school at City College, and I’d often get off the bus over at Frederick Douglas and walk to Lex for the subway.

    Off topic, but since it was mentioned for 34th street, it is a real possibility to have 125th get a crosstown subway if they modify phase 2 of the Second Ave Subway. Sure it would throw off phases 3 and 4 (like they’ll get built any time soon) but uptown needs reliable, crosstown service, even if the Q terminated at the A/B/C/D station.

    • Andrew says:

      I have the same concern. My guess – and it’s only a guess – is that buses will be able to pass other buses in the oncoming bus lane when no oncoming traffic is approaching. Obviously, that raises safety issues, and I don’t know how often the other lane will be available.

      There’s nothing standing in the way of a Phase 2 extension to the West Side. I’d want it to continue west past the A/B/C/D station – that might be enough for you at City College, but what if you went to Columbia?

      • Jason B says:

        True true. My initial thought was that high enough it’s easy to get the A instead of the 1, but that’s a pretty general statement that isn’t 100% applicable for West Harlem or the Bronx. There would be a more logistical complication of connecting an above-ground station to an underground station, but it’s been done before. Let’s compromise and say the east end of the station is at Fredrick Douglas and the west end of the station is at Broadway.

        I really wish this would be given more attention though. Yes it would significantly add to the cost of phase 2, but if it connected to the 2/3 at Lenox and 1/A/B/C/D on the west side, it would make many, many commuters happy, and probably serve more than people think.

        I wonder if there’s a study that shows the amount of people that would benefit from such a connection. It would probably ease surface transportation too… I know many who use the buses only to make connections to east/west subway lines.

        • Andrew says:

          St. Nicholas (not Frederick Douglas) and Broadway are a lot more than 600 feet apart. There would need to be two stations to serve both.

          There’s no pressing need to give it attention now – nobody’s making funding plans for Phase 3, and this can all be built at any time after Phase 2 is completed.

          • Jason B says:

            My bad — St. Nicholas. And you’re right, I’ve never done that walk but in my head it seemed shorter.

            But, this was just an aside to the 34th street issue. 125th has been identified as another corridor needing improvement. It’d be a waste of resources to not include some discussion of possible ridership and cost of a phase 2 extension when they look more in-depth at 125th, the study of which will probably happen before phase 1 is done. They’ve already come up with projected ridership and costs for phases 2, 3, and 4, and if an extension shows that it will serve a huge need uptown, it’s worthy of looking into the overall incorporation of the SAS plan.

            I doubt the rest of SAS, including phase 2, will look like the plans published now. See projects like the 63rd Street tunnel/F super-express, Archer Ave line, and others… none of those ended up like they were going to, and they were to be massive projects while under construction. Even Walder in his interview on this blog said the future is to be evaluated.

      • Alon Levy says:

        Andrew, not even City College would be well-served by just the A/B/C/D. The primary City College station is on the 1, since the main campus is on the west side of St. Nicholas Park. Getting from the main campus to the 135th Street station requires walking through a circuitous route through a park, with a large elevation difference. When I lived at 140th and St. Nick and commuted to Columbia, the park would always be much slower than going around the park on 141st, where there was still the same uphill climb but at least the route was straight.

        • Jason B says:

          Very good point. 135th was/is always a horrible choice with only B/C service and that hill is pretty horrendous. Same goes for 116th east of Morningside. At City, for those of us that had to go crosstown in Harlem, even the 1 wasn’t feasible because all but the Bx15 buses are at Amsterdam or points east. I’d always take the M101 from City in hopes of a fast commute only to get off and walk to Lex for another 101 or the 6 train. And, when I knew I’d walk, the former M18, may she rest in peace.

        • Andrew says:

          It’s actually a pretty direct (if steep) walk from the IND station at 135th to the City College campus. If you’re coming from 140th, it doesn’t make sense to go through the park, since most of the campus is north of 135th. (The subway station is at 135th, not 140th.) Depending on which part of the campus you’re going to, 135th might be a bit closer than 137th.

          There’s another station at 145th, which also isn’t a long walk from the City campus.

          Jason – I wouldn’t compare it to Columbia. Columbia is further west than City, the IND is further east at 116th than at 135th. City is both closer to the IND and farther from the IRT than Columbia.

          • Alon Levy says:

            The steepness is pretty much why it’s not going to work. I personally have never cared about the distance between Columbia and the IND, as long as it was flat.

            • Andrew says:

              What do you mean, “not going to work”? Real people use that station to get to City. I’ve seen them myself.

              It’s also a decent climb from the IRT to City. Not as steep, but the distance is greater. City College is at the top of a hill.

              Which station makes more sense depends mostly on where you’re coming from. If you’re starting on the 1, you’ll probably go to 137th. If you’re starting on the B or C, you’ll probably go to 135th. If you’re starting on the A or D, you might go to 145th. If you have to transfer, you’ll probably make whichever transfer is less cumbersome.

        • Joe says:

          Has there ever been any thought of building a connection with elevators from City College up on the hill to 135th St station?

    • AlexB says:

      I agree, but I don’t think there is any support on 125th St from local businesses to make lanes bus only. I think they’d fight it pretty hard

  12. ajedrez says:

    Benjamin, just one comment: None of the express bus riders disembark before Manhattan. They are pick-up only within the outer boroughs. Riders getting off within Queens and Staten Island use local buses.

    And, I don’t think that every route needs POP, just the busy ones. The cost of maintaining the machines at the less-busy bus stops would eliminate the savings achieved by faster boarding times. Also, the disadvantage of POP is the fact that people showing up just as the bus arrives miss the bus, since they have to buy the ticket first, whereas under the current system, they can pay while they are on the bus.

    • Alon Levy says:

      POP done right doesn’t have any of that. Most people should be using unlimited cards, and should not have to do anything to pay before or while boarding. For the rest, a farebox at the front of the bus should suffice; using tap cards, it becomes realistic to have a tapping station at every door, not just at the front.

      There’s a big difference between POP as practiced in Singapore, France, Switzerland, etc., and MTA-style POP.

  13. Peter Smith says:

    Imagine how much political support this project could have if it didn’t kick the city’s most vocal transportation constituency off of it.

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