A fundamental question that isn’t often considered about New York City’s transit network concerns the adequacy of current service. Is a transit network that is essentially the same as it was in 1970 sufficient for New York City in 2014? Even if we flip ahead to 2020 when the 7 line extension, presumably, will be open, and the first phase of the Second Ave. Subway, presumably, will be open, not all that much will have changed over the past 50 years. Other than the advent of the MetroCard, improvements have been around the margins.
Very few things that are so integral to our everyday lives last five decades without change. Now, we can’t overlook new rolling stock and around $70 billion of investment in the region’s transit network, but we also can’t grow complacent. Complacency — or outright complaint — has led to where we are now. The MTA is reviled, and worse, the MTA’s forward progress seems to involve hauling a two-ton rock up a steep hill.
Nothing proves this point quite like the MTA’s Reinvention Commission report. I spoke earlier this week on my disappointment with the commission, and on Tuesday — two days before Thanksgiving — at 5:30 p.m. in a blatantly obvious attempt to bury a much-anticipated report that wound up saying very little, the MTA released the final draft. From the image on the cover of the sun setting on New York City to the fact that the report skirts the very issues that are fundamental to reinvention, the thing was designed to be good P.R. that’s ultimately ignored.
Over at Pedestrian Observations, Alon Levy has printed his very thorough examination of just why this report is so underwhelming. You should read his piece; there’s no reason for me to rehash his (or my) arguments. Instead, I want to look at three ways in which the MTA must be reinvented. I don’t the answers as to how — that’s a question above my current pay grade. But these are issues that have to be addressed for NYC to grow, and shockingly, it’s not all about a steady revenue stream.
1. The cost is too damn high. It’s been repeated everywhere for years, but the MTA’s construction costs are too high. For the amount of money they’ve spent on rather piddling subway extension north on 2nd Ave. or west to Hudson Yards, other countries build massive systems. The MTA’s construction costs are up to ten times higher than they should be. Why? Don’t ask the Reinvention Commission; they’re content with urging the MTA simply to “get the right work done faster and cheaper.”
2. Challenge the GCA … and the unions. A committee brought together by a politician isn’t about to go after two of the stronger interest groups in politics, but two of the main drivers behind the MTA’s high costs are contractors and labor. Someone with political capital will have to go after these two groups in order for the MTA to drive down its costs. Cuomo could have done that four years ago, but those were two interests that helped him gain office in the first place.
3. It all takes too long. Ask the MTA how long until we get countdown clocks at B Division stations, and the answer is, as it has been since 2011 or 2012, “three to five years.” Ask the MTA about a MetroCard replacement and the answer is still unclear. Figure out why it’s going to take over eight long years to build 2.5 miles of subway tunnel and three new stations along Second Ave., and you could win some sort of award. It’s been nearly 11 years since the MTA issued its Final Environmental Impact Statement for the Second Ave. Subway. Does that mean what we plan today won’t see the light of day until 2025? Considering that we as a city are barely planning anything, that’s not a good sign.
Start there; reinvent something. Otherwise, nothing will change.
Earlier this year, in an attempt to save face on his lack of transportation policy, Gov. Andrew Cuomo appointed a who’s who of global transit experts to the so-called MTA Reinvention Commission, and then, nothing happened. The commission met a few times, but the meetings were underwhelming. Then as Election Day came and went, nothing arrived from the panel. It seemed as though Cuomo didn’t want the report to discuss MTA financing ahead of Election Day.
Now, though, the report — or at least an early draft of it — is out, and well, it’s boring. Dana Rubinstein got her hands on it, and you can read the thing at Capital New York (PDF links: Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3). Here’s Rubinstein’s take:
The resulting report suggests that the M.T.A. continue to do some things it’s already doing (make its subways more resilient in cases of flooding, partner with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to improve access to the region’s airports), and some things it’s not…If the commission’s prescriptions occasionally border on underwhelming—it recommends, for example, that the M.T.A. remove the word “bus” from Select Bus Service to distinguish it from its less-sexy bus counterparts—the report’s description of purpose is strongly worded…
The M.T.A. underpins a New York metropolitan region that “accounts for 60 percent of the population of the state and 80 percent of its tax base, and contributes nearly 10 percent of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product,” the report says.
“Yet despite the value of the system that enables this success, even a cursory glance at peer regions around the world makes it clear that New York is significantly under-investing in its public transportation infrastructure,” it says. “The past is not prologue to the future: if New Yorkers want to continue to live in a world class region they must envision and develop a world class transit system.”
What’s Select Bus Service without the bus? Select Service? That makes no sense to anyone unfamiliar with the transit network, but I digress.
As Rubinstein notes, and as the report clearly details, the commission wants the MTA to continue its capital expansion plans, respond to the challenges of climate change, develop a next-gen fare payment system, build real BRT and, uh, do something about funding. What that something is what the commission punted on, and therein lies the problem.
Reinventing the MTA means answering very hard questions about funding schemes, transportation equity and who’s paying for and using what mode and how. It’s also about pushing politicians to take ownership over the MTA — which is a creation of the state — and it’s about building support for transit from all constituents who use it and their elected representatives. Sometimes that may mean angering smaller, more vocal constituent blocks to deliver something more beneficial to many. That’s just the reality of it.
Here, we have a commission of big names running away from the problem. It’s not clear, and probably never will be, if someone above them torpedoed the politically challenging aspects of transit support, but what we have, unsurprisingly, is a commission tasked with someone grand and delivering an obvious message on a small scale. It’s a reinvention commission that itself needs reinventing.
Lots of shutdowns coming up. Let’s run them down. First, as part of a critical switch replacement project, the MTA is shutting down some service in parts of Brooklyn on the B, Q and F lines. For two weeks starting at 11 p.m. Friday and running until 5 a.m. Monday, December 1, F trains will be suspended in both directions between Coney Island and Avenue X, and Q trains will be suspended in both directions between Coney Island and Brighton Beach. Free shuttle buses will provide alternate service between Coney Island and all affected stations between Avenue X on the F line, and Brighton Beach on the Brighton lines.
The worse news concerns Sandy-related shutdowns. For 40 weekends next year — non-consecutive at least — the A and C trains will not run through the Cranberry St. Tunnel as the MTA works through repairs. The trains will run via the F between West 4th and Jay St., and we’ll see how the rest of the service plans shape up. It’s not a full shutdown a la the R or G trains, but it’s not a particularly comforting amount of work that looms. The Sandy-related shutdowns will only spread further before they end.
Meanwhile, the weekend’s changes:
From 6:00 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. Saturday, November 22 and Sunday, November 23, 2 trains will not run in Brooklyn. Take the 5 instead. 2 service operates between E 180 St and Chambers St, and are rerouted via the 1 between Chambers St and Rector St. 5 trains run between Flatbush Av-Brooklyn College and E 180 St.
From 11:30 p.m. Friday, November 21 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, November 24, 3 trains will not run in Brooklyn. Take the 4 instead. 3 service operates express all weekend between Harlem-148 St and 14 St.
From 11:45 p.m. Friday, November 21 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, November 24, 4 service is extended to New Lots Av. 4 service operates all weekend between Woodlawn and New Lots Av, replacing the 3. 4 trains will run local in Brooklyn.
From 11:45 p.m. Friday, November 21 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, November 24, 5 service operates between Flatbush Av-Brooklyn College and Wakefield-241 St 2 station all weekend. Free shuttle buses provide alternate service between Dyre Av and E 180 St.
From 11:45 p.m. Friday, November 21 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, November 24, 5 trains are suspended in both directions between Eastchester-Dyre Av and E 180 St. Free shuttle buses operate all weekend between Eastchester-Dyre Av and E 180 St, stopping at Baychester Av, Gun Hill Rd, Pelham Pkwy, and Morris Park.
From 11:45 p.m. Friday, November 21 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, November 24, Brooklyn Bridge-bound 6 trains run express from Hunters Point Av to 3Av-138 St.
From 11:30 p.m. Friday, November 21 to 4:30 a.m. Monday, November 24, 7 trains are suspended between Times Sq-42 St and Queensboro Plaza. Use EFNQ trains between Manhattan and Queens. Free shuttle buses make all stops between Vernon Blvd-Jackson Av and Queensboro Plaza. The 42 Street S shuttle operates overnight. Q service is extended to Ditmars Blvd from 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. on Saturday, November 22, and from 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. on Sunday, November 23.
From 11:30 p.m. Friday, November 21 to 4:30 a.m. Monday, November 24, 7 trains run express from Queensboro Plaza to 74 St-Broadway.
From 11:45 p.m. Friday, November 21 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, November 24, Inwood-207 St bound A trains are rerouted via the F line from Jay St-MetroTech to W 4 St Wash Sq, then run local to 59 St-Columbus Circle.
From 6:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. Saturday, November 22 and Sunday, November 23, 168 St-bound C trains are rerouted via the F line from Jay St-MetroTech to W 4 St Wash Sq.
From 10:45 p.m. Friday, November 21 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, November 24, Norwood-205 St bound D trains run express from 145 St to Tremont Av.
From 11:45 p.m. Friday, November 21 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, November 24, Jamaica Center- Parsons Archer bound E trains run express from Canal St to 34 St-Penn Station.
Beginning 11:00 p.m. Friday, November 21 until 5:00 a.m. Monday, December 1, F trains are suspended in both directions between Coney Island-Stillwell Av and Avenue X. Free shuttle buses operate between Coney Island-Stillwell Av and Avenue X, making station stops at West 8 St-NY Aquarium, and Neptune Av.
Beginning 11:00 p.m. Friday, November 21 until 5:00 a.m. Monday, December 1, Q trains are suspended in both directions between Coney Island-Stillwell Av and Brighton Beach. Free shuttle buses operate between Coney Island-Stillwell Av and Avenue X, making station stops at West 8 St-NY Aquarium, and Neptune Av.
From 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. Saturday, November 22, and from 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Sunday, November 23, Q service is extended to Astoria-Ditmars Blvd.
42 St Shuttle
From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, November 22, to 6:00 a.m. Monday, November 24, the 42 St S Shuttle operates overnight.
For some reason or another, I’ve noticed lately a lot of adults riding the subways at rush hour with backpacks. Glance around a full car, and you’ll see it too: Grown men and women taking up space in the subway by cramming their backpacks into the people around them. They don’t take off their bags and hold them at their feet or between their legs. They just use them as a weapon.
As things go in the subway, backpacks aren’t the most pressing issue, but they affect the way everyone feels. We begrudge our fellow straphangers who aren’t considerate enough to minimize the space they use on crowded trains. We grow annoyed as every bump, curve, start and stop leads to yet another jab into our shoulders and elbows and backs. We sigh; we shove; we hope a fight doesn’t break out. We grow disgruntled with fellow New Yorkers who don’t recognize that we’re all in this together.
At the MTA Board Committee meetings earlier this week, Charles Moerdler noted that he had had enough with backpacks and suggested the MTA ban them outright. Of course, this is a foolish line of thinking that would discourage people from riding the subway and could otherwise result in a bunch of unnecessary summonses. But the MTA knows that people are fed with backpacks. So iin early 2015, as part of a rebranding campaign, the MTA is going to target this behavior.
For the past few years, we’ve been told in countless announcements that “courtesy is contagious,” but that idea came to a screeching halt when a doctor with Ebola rode three subway lines a few weeks ago. Now, in a campaign designed to fight quality-of-life complaints, the MTA will urge riders to take off their backpacks and, more importantly, stop taking up seats by spreading your legs, a campaign with which Jezebel is thrilled. Signs and in-car announcements will carry the word. Whether this will be a success remains to be seen, but this is a message I can get behind. It’s far more tolerable than yet another apology for train traffic ahead of us.
After an election and weeks of waiting, the inevitable became reality as the MTA announced its fare hike proposals for the looming 2015 rate increase. Taking pains to stress the latest jump — the fourth hike in seven years — is a “limited” one, the agency noted that it amounts to only around two percent a year. On the one hand, that’s good news, but on the other, that means a fare hike in 2017. But we knew that already.
“The MTA is keeping its promise to ensure fare and toll increases are as low as possible, and these options are designed to minimize their impact on our customers,” MTA Chairman and CEO Thomas Prendergast said in a statement. “We have cut more than $1 billion from our ongoing expenses, but a modest fare and toll increase is necessary to balance our budget against the increased costs of providing the bus, subway, railroad and paratransit service that is the backbone of the region’s mobility and economic growth.”
It’s still up for debate whether the smaller hike was a good idea, and the details are as we heard last week. Take a look at the table below. The full proposals for the express buses, commuter railroads and bridges & tunnels can be found here.
|Proposal||Base Fare||Bonus||7-Day Card||30-Day Card|
|1||$2.75||11% with $5.50 purchase||$31||$116.50|
Yet again, the MTA is giving the public a choice, and the agency heads will hear from those members of the public who choose to voice their views during public hearings from Dec. 1-Dec. 11. Based on the pressure from rider advocacy groups who have identified the pay-per-ride discount as a key incentive for less well-off riders, already forces are lining up behind Proposal 1, but that would mean the second straight fare hike with an increase in the base fare. The MTA notes that under Proposal 1, the average swipe would be $2.48 while under Proposal 2, the average would be a straight $2.50. Even with the small difference, it’s hard to ignore the psychological affect of the discount.
For me, a regular user of the 30-day monthly, the fare hike is an inconvenience. I’ll have to pony up $54 per year more for my rides one way or another. I don’t have a strong preference, but do you? Let’s open it up with a poll.
When I was touring around the Fulton St. Transit Center last Sunday, I noticed some of the escalators making funny noises. Considering the MTA’s track record with escalators, I should have asked someone about it, but the moment passed. Fast forward to Thursday when I spotted the following photo on Instagram. Need I say more?
If you’d like some of those 1000 words to go with this photo, The Daily News has you covered. Pete Donohue ran a news item on the problems, and the paper’s Editorial team was not impressed. The MTA has pointed some fingers at Westfield Group as the party responsible for elevator maintenance, but MTA Capital Construction had control of the new building until last weekend. The buck stops somewhere.
It’s the last weekend for Black 47, a New York institution of this year and a lost era. Check out the link if you’ve never heard of them. They deserve the attention.
Anyway, for the rest of you, here are this weekend’s service advisories. We’re 39 days from Christmas. These will start to slow down soon.
From 11:30 p.m. Friday, November 14 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, November 17, 2 trains will not run in Brooklyn. Take the 5 instead. 2 service operates between E 180 St and Chambers St, and are rerouted via the 1 between Chambers St and Rector St. 5 trains run between Flatbush Av-Brooklyn College and E 180 St.
From 11:45 p.m. Friday, November 14 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, November 17, 3 trains will not run in Brooklyn. Take the 4 instead. 3 service operates express all weekend between Harlem-148 St and 14 St.
From 11:45 p.m. Friday, November 14 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, November 17, 4 service is extended to New Lots Av. 4 service operates all weekend between Woodlawn and New Lots Av, replacing the 3. 4 trains will run local in Brooklyn.
From 11:45 p.m. Friday, November 14 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, November 17, 5 trains are suspended in both directions between Eastchester-Dyre Av and E 180 St. Free shuttle buses operate all weekend between Eastchester-Dyre Av and E 180 St, stopping at Baychester Av, Gun Hill Rd, Pelham Pkwy, and Morris Park.
From 11:45 p.m. Friday, November 14 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, November 17, Brooklyn Bridge-bound 6 trains run express from Hunters Point Av to 3Av-138 St.
From 11:30 p.m. Friday, November 14 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, November 17, 7 trains are suspended between Times Sq-42 St and Queensboro Plaza. Use EFNQ trains between Manhattan and Queens. Free shuttle buses make all stops between Vernon Blvd-Jackson Av and Queensboro Plaza. The 42 Street S shuttle operates overnight. Q service is extended to Ditmars Blvd from 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. on Saturday, November 15, and from 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. on Sunday, November 16.
From 11:45 p.m. Friday, November 14, to 6:30 a.m. Sunday, November 16, and from 11:45 p.m. Sunday, November 16 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, November 17, Queens-bound A trains run express from 145 St to 59 St-Columbus Circle.
From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, November 15 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, November 17, Inwood-207 St bound A trains run local from Canal St to 168 St.
From 11:45 p.m. Friday, November 14 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, November 17, Brooklyn-bound A trains skip 104 St and 111 St. For service to this station use the Q112 bus, or take a Brooklyn-bound A train to Rockaway Blvd and transfer to a Lefferts Blvd-bound A. For service from this station, take a Lefferts Blvd-bound A train to Lefferts Blvd, transfer to a Brooklyn-bound A.
From 6:30 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. Saturday, November 15 and Sunday, November 16 Euclid Av-bound C trains run express from 145 St to 59 St-Columbus Circle.
From 10:45 p.m. Friday, November 14 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, November 17, Norwood-205 St bound D trains run express from 145 St to Tremont Av.
From 11:45 p.m. Friday, November 14 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, November 17, Coney Island-Stillwell Av bound D trains are rerouted on the N line from 36 St to Coney Island-Stillwell Av.
From 11:00 p.m. Friday, November 14 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, November 17, D trains run trains run local between DeKalb Av and 36 St.
From 9:45 p.m. Friday, November 14 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, November 17, Jamaica-179 St bound F trains are rerouted via the M line from 47-50 Sts/Rock Ctr to Roosevelt Av.
From 5:45 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Saturday, November 15, and Sunday, November 16, J trains are suspended between Hewes St and Essex St in both directions. Free shuttle buses provide alternate service between Hewes St and Essex St, stopping at Marcy Av. For direct service between Brooklyn and Manhattan, consider using the AC or L via transfer at Broadway Junction.
From 5:45 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Saturday, November 15, and Sunday, November 16, M trains are suspended between Myrtle Av and Essex St in both directions. Take the JL and/or free shuttle buses instead. Free shuttle buses provide alternate service between Hewes St and Essex St, stopping at Marcy Av. For direct service to/from Manhattan, use the L via transfer at Myrtle-Wyckoff Avs.
From 11:00 p.m. Friday, November 14 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, November 17, N trains run local from DeKalb Av and 59 St.
From 10:45 p.m. Friday, November 14 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, November 17, 57 St-7 Av bound Q trains run express from Kings Hwy to Prospect Park.
From 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. Saturday, November 15, and from 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Sunday, November 16, Q service is extended to Astoria-Ditmars Blvd.
42 St Shuttle
From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, November 15, to 6:00 a.m. Monday, November 10, the 42 St S Shuttle operates overnight.
It’s now been two days since the $1.4 billion Fulton St. Transit Center opened, and in New York, that’s an eternity. Instagram has filled up with photos of the Fulton oculus, the subway system’s newest attraction, and reviews running the gamut are coming in. I offered a first look on Sunday night with photos and a skeptical essay on the way New York and, more importantly, the federal government spends its transit dollars. Tonight, let’s run through what this thing really is.
What is the Fulton Street Transit Center?
Located on Broadway between John and Fulton Street, the Transit Center is a fully ADA-compliant, multi-story building that sits atop the massive Fulton St. subway station. The $1.4 billion rehab project involved reimagining the underground areas that were a confusing tangle of dimly-lit ramps that traversed multiple train lines built by a variety of private entities at varying depths. The new Transit Center untangles this mess as best it can and provides a much smoother transfer between the 4/5 and the A/C, the key choke point in the station.
Right now, the Transit Center itself is devoid of another other than empty space, but it has 30,000 square feet of retail space that will begin to fill up in early 2015. Space ranges from 200-700 square feet all the way up to one space of 8000 square feet and one space of 10,000 square feet. Westfield is working on leasing the retail spots and hopes to attract a restaurant for one the spaces and a big-name anchor tenant (such as Apple) for the other big spot. Retail kiosks will fill some of the floor space as well, and Westfield is in charge of maintenance and cleanliness. Essentially, the headhouse is a mall.
You’re the saying this isn’t the big white thing near 1 World Trade Center that looks like a porcupine?
No, sorry. That’s Santiago Calatrava’s $4 billion World Trade Center PATH Hub, a project offering even less bang for the buck than this one that also happens to feature extensive retail space.
So who designed and built this thing?
As the Port Authority went with a troubled starchitect for its project, the MTA used three architects of record: Grimshaw, Page Ayres Cowley, and HDR Daniel Frankfurt. The project was originally supposed to be completed seven years ago, but after engineering work proved more difficult and original designs too expensive, the MTA had to redesign the project on the go. These three firms led that effort.
Why didn’t the MTA build a 25-story mixed use building to better capitalize on the demand for real estate in New York City
That is literally the multi-million-dollar question. At a time when space is going for record dollar values and the MTA has to maximize its revenue potential, it had an opportunity to build up. Instead, the building is relatively short with only parts of four floor reserved for retail use. Together with the Corbin Building the MTA is realizing revenue streams of only 60,000 square feet for commercial and retail use.
What exactly is the Corbin Building?
Located next to the Fulton St. Transit Center, the 1888 Corbin Building was constructed as a proto-skyscraper for one-time LIRR President Austin Corbin. The building includes Guastavino tile structural floor arches visible from an escalator and a variety of terra cotta elements popular in the late 19th century. At the time, it was built in one year, a stark contrast to the 12 years it took modern crews to complete the Fulton St. project. The MTA had to spend a lot of time carefully underpinning the Corbin Building to install the necessary escalators and crews found a stock trade records from the 1880s during the work.
Westfield, the company in charge of renting out the retail space in the main Transit Center building, is also tasked with finding takers for the office space in the Corbin Building. The building contains approximately 30,000 square feet. A few years ago, I saw the inside, and it’s an interestingly narrow space that’s sure to attract tenants rather quickly.
How is this the “Station of the Future”?
The MTA is calling this the subway station of the future, and that’s because of the technology involved. With 340 security cameras, it’s one of the most watched stations in the subway system, and it features numerous video ad boards, 16 On The Go kiosks and other information screens. All in all, the building now has 52 digital displays, two jumbo screens (one that’s 32×18 and another 24×16) and ads as far as the eye can see. The MTA can always take control of these screens in the event of an emergency, and the screens split time with an MTA Arts & Design digital video.
Tell me about this oculus.
Towering 110 feet above street level, the 53-foot diameter glass oculus is the main draw. It serves to bring daylight down into the depths of the subway and features the art installation called “Sky Reflector Night.” Designed by James Carpenter Design Associates, Grimsahw Architects and Arup, the 4000-pound cable net includes 952 alumninum panels that each geometrically unique. It will instantly become an icon of New York City.
Forget Manhattanhenge. I'd like to know what day and time the sun will pass directly over the Fulton St. oculus.
— Second Ave. Sagas (@2AvSagas) November 10, 2014
What about the station? I still have to walk up and down stairs. What gives?
In a rather amusing/oblivious bit from The Post, Steve Cuozzo issued my favorite critique of the Transit Center to date. Instantly forgetting how dismal the old station was, Cuozzo had this say: “No matter how it’s prettied up, there’s simply no way to shorten the long trek from the Nos. 4, 5 and 6 East Side lines under Broadway to the J and Z lines several blocks west. And you’ll still climb stairs.”
Of course you’ll still climb stairs! The MTA didn’t invent a time machine to head back to the early 1900s in order to force the BMT, IND and IRT to design a better station experience. The A and C trains are still a few stories below the 4 and 5 and the 2 and 3. The BMT trains that run underneath Nassau St. still bisect the the passageway that would otherwise connect the 2 and 3 to the 4 and 5 via a walkway above the A and C. It ain’t perfect, but it’s much easier to navigate.
How many people are going to use this?
That’s a good question. The MTA materials all claim 300,000 per day, but current entries at Fulton St. are only in the 65,000 range. Will an additional 235,000 subway riders per day use this station as a transfer point? That seems awfully high to me. For comparison, Times Square, the most popular subway station by no small amount, sees 200,000 entries per day.
I’ve heard of a new concourse under Dey St. What is it?
The Dey St. Concourse is an out-of-system walkway that connects the R at Cortlandt St. to the rest of the Fulton St. Transit Center. When work on the PATH Hub is completed the walkway will run from Brookfield Place near the Hudson River underneath the WTC site via the Calatrava station with out-of-system connections to the E and 1 trains. (Thus, the empty bullets in this photo.)
Did you say out-of-system transfer? What gives?
This is a major point of criticism: There is no free transfer between the R at Cortlandt St. and any of the trains at Fulton St. It’s an out-of-system connection that requires a swipe, and the MTA offered a few reasons. First, the Dey St. Concourse work was tricky as the MTA had to shore up very old buildings that lined Dey St. They had very little margin for error and couldn’t add more space to the corridor. They didn’t want to go through placing a barrier down the middle of it similar to the way the 53rd St.-3rd Avenue station is designed and claim they would lose $2 million annually by creating a new free transfer where one did not previously exist. Plus, all of the Fulton St. train lines connect to the R at Canal St., Borough Hall or Jay St.-MetroTech.
Who paid for this?
Although September 11 is beginning to feel like a different era in city history, federal post-9/11 funds built the Transit Center. Of The $1.4 billion, $847 came from Lower Manhattan Recovery Grants, $130 million came from the MTA in local funds, and $423 million came from the FTA’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the single largest FTA award under the ARRA program.
Was it all worth it?
I’ll leave that one up to you to decide.
The MTA has, for better or worse, made a biennial habit out of fare hikes. As part of a master plan hatched a bunch of years ago, the MTA committed to raising the fares every two years in an effort to maintain steady revenue streams. Although the current fare hikes outpace inflation, the MTA is also working to overcome a significant fare decrease from the late 1990s brought about by the introduction of pay-per-ride discounts and unlimited MetroCards. On average, we pay less per ride today than we did in 1996.
The riding public — the folks that don’t pay much attention to the ins and outs of transit policies, politics and economics — will be caught off guard by the 2015 fare hike. Due to pressure from Gov. Andrew Cuomo who was trying to avoid any whiff of bad news in the lead-up to last week’s Election Day, the MTA has remained tight-lipped about the fact the fare hike is happening or any details regarding the proposals. Now that the Governor has assured himself of another four years of whatever he’s doing, the unofficial MTA news embargo can finally be lifted, and we can talk about good news such as higher subway fares for all!
Now, gone are the days that politicians lived and died by the nickel fare, but the fare hike process lends itself to a special set of outrage. The MTA is legally obligated to go through a public hearing process, and it’s largely a charade. People will express outrage over higher fares while probably bringing up two sets of books over and over again while politicians bemoan the system they refuse to support. The MTA raises the fares anyway, usually based upon plans drawn up months before.
So as we gear up for the hearings, what does the future hold? Pete Donohue, tell the audience what they’ve won:
The MTA has drafted two possible fare-hike schemes for bus and subway riders — one that keeps the $2.50 base fare stable and another that raises it by a quarter. But both models would increase the monthly MetroCard by $4.50. The two scenarios were fashioned in advance of public hearings that the Metropolitan Transportation Authority will hold next month. The MTA board may not vote on a final package until January, but the increases would still go into effect as scheduled in March.
According to sources, the two fare-hike options are:
Option One: The base fare would remain at $2.50, but the 5% bonus would get trimmed. The 7-Day MetroCard goes up a buck, to $31, while the 30-Day MetroCard rises $4.50, to $116.50.
Option Two: The base fare is boosted by 25 cents, to $2.75, and the bonus increases from 5% to 11%. The 7-Day and 30-Day MetroCards are the same as in option one: $31 for the 7-Day card and $116.50 for the 30-Day pass.
Metro-North and the LIRR will be raising fares took, and Andrew Tangel of The Wall Street Journal reports that MTA Bridge & Tunnel tolls for trucks could increase by as much as 12 percent.
It’s hard to get too worked up one way or another over this proposal. The MTA had previously committed to a smaller-than-planned fare hike this year and stuck with it despite a huge capital funding gap and higher-than-anticipated labor expenditures. The fare hike is again whittling away at the pay-per-ride bonus, and to that end, I think a higher base fare with a more generous bonus is better. But higher base fares always affect those who can least afford it. Either way, I’ll be paying $116.50 (before tax, of course) for my 30-day card soon enough.
Which brings me to another point: As the federal government can’t do anything these days, pre-tax transit benefits are currently capped at $130 per month and seem to be stuck there. In the not-too-distant future, the MTA is going to hit that ceiling for 30-day cards, and then we’ll see what happens in Washington. For now, we’re facing another modest fare hike and one the city will have to resignedly accept.
The problem with federal funding is how inflexible it is. The feds may be willing to pony over a significantly amount of dollars — upwards of one billion for certain projects — but that money can’t be shuffled around to better uses. It’s earmarked for a specific purpose, and the local agency receiving that money has to spend it on that purpose, even if agency heads know how badly they could use those same dollars for something far more worthwhile. Such are the contradictions of the Fulton St. Transit Center which will open to the public at 5 a.m.
On Sunday, politicians and MTA officials past and present gathered to celebrate the completion of the Fulton St. Transit Center, and in a way, it was a big deal. Two former MTA heads — Joe Lhota and Lee Sander — were in attendance as well as Mysore Nagaraja, the former head of MTA Capital Construction, who oversaw the start of this project well over a decade ago. Chuck Schumer, Jerry Nadler and Sheldon Silver didn’t miss the photo op either. Finally, the construction surrounding Fulton St. will end, and as tenants fill into 1 World Trade Center, the Fulton St. part of the Lower Manhattan puzzle is complete.
But in another way, the fact that the Fulton St. Transit Center even exists as a megaproject comes out of a different era in recent New York City history. Following the 9/11 attacks, politicians thought the best way to restore faith in New York and heal the wound to its psyche was to pump money into Lower Manhattan. It was, at the time, believed to be the only way to get people to return to the area to live or work or shop, and part of that money involved funding both the Fulton St. Transit Center and parts of the Calatrava World Trade Center PATH Hub. No one stopped to question whether the city needed to spend billions of dollars on two fancy subway stops, and no one could stop the political desire to create a public place and public space in Lower Manhattan.
So what we have now is the Fulton Center. It’s a multi-level headhouse atop the Fulton St. subway complex, and it’s not all just an ornate building with an oculus and the Sky Reflector Net, an art installation that will bring daylight into the depths of the headhouse. It’s also going to feature 30,000 square feet of retail that Westfield will begin to fill in early 2015, and the renovations open up corridors that were cramped, dark and hard to navigate. It’s fully ADA-compliant, and when all is said and done in Lower Manhattan, it will serve as the eastern end of an underground passageway stretching from Brookfield Place on the Hudson River to the Fulton St. station complex via the PATH Hub and the Dey St. Concourse. The transfers between the PATH, the E, the 1, the R and all the trains at Fulton St. will not be free, but they will be easy and underground.
As I toured the new station on Sunday, I was struck by its size. There’s nothing quite like it in the New York City subway system today. While we’re used to cramped corridors with low ceilings and narrow spaces, the Fulton St. Transit Center is massive with wide open vistas and a lot of space for people. The transfer between the A and C platform and the 4 and 5 will be instantly easier and quicker, and the East Side IRT platforms are much wider. (The doors in that photo will always kept open; they can be closed in the event of the emergency.) The Fulton St. Transit Center will likely become a meeting spot and, as Therese McMillan, the Acting Administrator of the Federal Transit Administration, said, “an essential part of everyday life” in the neighborhood.
Is it all worth it though? During his remarks on Sunday, Senator Chuck Schumer, quoting the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan, stated that great public works are always “worth the dollars.” But he also said the same thing about the Calatrava hub, and he’s a big supporter of Moynihan Station. These three projects are all, to varying degrees, nice to look at, but they do little to nothing to solve problems of regional mobility. For a combined expense of over $7 billion — the total of the Fulton St., PATH and Moynihan expenditures — the city could build train tunnels it needs rather than another fancy building.
But the fancy building is what we get. So take a look around as you pass through there on Monday. Try to find the special edition MetroCard and marvel at what federal dollars can bring. It certainly doesn’t look like the subway system with which New Yorkers have a love-hate relationship. That alone is a step in the right direction, albeit a very, very expensive one.
I’ll have more on the features of the Transit Center — the video boards and ad screens, the climate control, the plans for the retail space — later this week. For now, enjoy the pictures. After the jump, view a slideshow of all of my photos from Sunday. For an ongoing stream of my transit-related photos, be sure to follow me on Instagram. Read More→