Apologies for the delay in posting this. I had these ready to go but misfired on the timing. The Nostalgia Train is running this Sunday on the same schedule as last weekend, and I’ll have more on the fallout from the Metro-North crash on Sunday.
As a follow-up to Friday’s L train outage, I’ve heard the issue was related to damaged fiber optic cable. The problem has since been resolved, but it is again another issue with the Canarsie Line’s CBTC installation. it’s unclear just how related the problems are. On with the service advisories.
At all times, beginning 5:00 a.m. Monday, December 9 until 5:00 a.m. Monday, December 23, 5 trains will bypass Pelham Parkway station in both directions due to asbestos abatement work. Free shuttle buses operate between Pelham Parkway and Morris Park stations.
From 11:45 p.m. Friday, December 6 to 4 a.m. Monday, December 9, Pelham Bay Park-bound 6 trains run express from Parkchester to Pelham Bay Park due to platform demolition and thru span work at Castle Hill Avenue and Middletown Road.
From 11:45 p.m. Friday, December 6 to 5 a.m. Monday, December 9, A trains are suspended between Broad Channel and Far Rockaway-Mott Avenue due to track panel replacement. Far Rockaway-bound A trains are rerouted to Rockaway Park. Free shuttle buses operate between Beach 90th Street and Far Rockaway.
From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, December 7 to 5 a.m. Monday, December 9, D trains operate in two sections between Stillwell Avenue and Bedford Park Boulevard, and between Bedford Park Blvd and 205th Street due to track maintenance north of Bedford Park Boulevard.
From 12:45 a.m. Saturday, December 7 to 5 a.m. Monday, December 9, F trains are suspended between Coney Island-Stillwell Avenue and Avenue X due to switch renewal north of Coney Island-Stillwell Avenue. Free shuttle buses operate between Stillwell Avenue and Avenue X, stopping at West 8th Street and Neptune Avenue.
From 11:45 p.m. Friday, December 6 to 5 a.m. Monday, December 9, G trains are suspended between Court Square and Nassau Avenue due to Sandy Recovery Work in the Greenpoint Tube. Free shuttle buses operate in two sections between Nassau Avenue and Court Square on the G Line, and between Lorimer Street and Court Square.
From 5:45 a.m. Saturday, December 7 to 10 p.m. Sunday, December 8, northbound J trains run express from Myrtle Avenue to Broadway Junction due to track panel instillation north of Myrtle Avenue.
From 11:45 p.m. Friday, December 6 to 5 a.m. Monday, December 9, M trains are suspended between Metropolitan Avenue and Myrtle Avenue due to station rehabilitation work at Fresh Pond Road, Forest, Seneca, Knickerbocker and Central Avenues. Free Shuttle buses operate between Metropolitan Avenue and Myrtle Avenue making all station stops.
From 6:45 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., Saturday, December 7, Coney Island-bound N trains will operate on the D line from 36 Street to Coney Island-Stillwell Avenue due to third rail heater installation.
From 6:45 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., Sunday, December 8, Manhattan-bound N trains will operate on the D line from Coney Island-Stillwell Avenue to 36 Street due to third rail heater installation.
From 12:45 a.m. Saturday, December 7 to 5 a.m. Monday, December 9, Q trains are suspended between Stillwell Avenue and Brighton Beach due to switch renewal north of Coney Island-Stillwell Avenue. Free Shuttle buses operate between Stillwell Avenue and Brighton Beach stopping at West 8 Street and Ocean Parkway.
From 11:00 p.m. Friday, December 6 to 5 a.m. Monday, December 9, Rockaway Park Shuttle trains are suspended and replaced by A train service due to panel installation.
(Franklin Avenue Shuttle)
From 6:00 a.m. Saturday, December 7 to 6:00 p.m. Saturday, December 7, Franklin Avenue Shuttle trains run every 24 minutes due to circuit breaker house work at Prospect Park.
It’s been a rather rough week for the MTA, and for L train riders, Friday morning will be no better. In fact, it’s shaping up to be a good day to stay home. Here’s what the email I received a few minutes ago says:
Ongoing signal problems between Myrtle Av-Wyckoff Av & Broadway Junction will likely impact service on the L Line into the morning peak period on Friday. The following service changes will be in effect:
There will be no L trains between Broadway Junction and Myrtle Av-Wyckoff Av in both directions. Shuttle buses will operate making corresponding stops between Myrtle Av-Wyckoff Av and Broadway Junction.
There will be limited L train service running between Canarsie-Rockaway Pkwy and Broadway Junction. At Broadway Junction, customers can transfer for A, C, J, or Z trains for further service into Brooklyn and Manhattan.
There will also be reduced service between Myrtle Av-Wyckoff Av and 8Av in Manhattan.
Crews are on site working to restore normal service as quickly as possible.
It is, as yet, unclear what the issue is, but we’re seeing a glimpse into why the MTA wants to invest $28 billion in behind-the-scenes infrastructure between now and 2019. These technological problems are only getting worse as everything ages.
More in the morning.
After running a nearly full slate of service on Wednesday, Metro-North restored all service along the Hudson Line for this morning’s rush hour commute. Crews had worked through the day yesterday rebuilding a second track in the area of the derailment, and Sperry Rail Car cleared it for service after ultransonic testing. Today’s morning commute went off without a hitch.
Work on track four — the outer track which had been essentially destroyed — will continue for the remainder of the week. Metro-North reported that yesterday morning’s Hudson Line ridership was approximately 25 percent below normal peak for a Wednesday, but those riders were generally using Harlem Line trains and were expected to return to the Hudson route today. The people who were alleging that they’d turn to a much more dangerous car commute likely did not do so.
Meanwhile, the push-pull setup that Metro-North and many other rail systems employs is coming under fire right now. As Metro-North can’t turn around trains at depots, the engine remains at the northern end of the train. It pulls going north and pushes heading south. The Times reports on the concerns:
The Metro-North Railroad train that derailed on Sunday included a system designed to warn an operator of a potential accident. But such an “alerter,” which can automatically apply the brakes if an operator is unresponsive, was not in the cab where William Rockefeller apparently fell into an early-morning daze at the controls. It was at the other end of the train. On Wednesday, three days after the Manhattan-bound Hudson line train tumbled off the rails in the Bronx, killing four people and injuring more than 70, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority said that an alerter system had been installed in the locomotive pushing the train, but not in the front cab, where the engineer was positioned, properly, at the time of the crash…
It is not clear how long before the crash Mr. Rockefeller became inattentive, or whether the alerter system could have prevented the derailment or reduced its severity. It appears likely, though, that if Mr. Rockefeller had experienced a similar episode for an extended period on a northbound trip — when he would have been stationed in the locomotive — the siren might have sounded. In effect, trains configured and equipped like the one in the derailment employ the “alerter” system on only half of their runs.
While much of the safety discussion since the crash has focused on an expensive control system that remains years away from reality for the transportation authority, rail experts have said that a number of lower-cost remedies could have been put in place — and should be in the future — both inside the train and across the system governing it…One potential safety improvement would be ensuring that the alerter systems were installed in every cab. The authority had said that new cars would include the systems in all cabs.
Installing alerts in places where the engineer is for half of a train’s runs would, you know, make common sense. What else is there to say really?
Finally, as Crain’s New York reports on the expected legal fallout. The MTA is bracing for lawsuits, but most of the damages will be covered by insurance. Here’s Andrew Hawkins’ take:
The Metro-North derailment that killed four passengers and injured 70 will likely cost the Metropolitan Transportation Authority tens of millions of dollars in wrongful death and injury claims—but insurance may cover all but $10 million.
After that $10 million in self-insurance is exhausted, the agency will have an additional $50 million it maintains through its captive insurer, First Mutual Transportation Assurance Co., said Laureen Coyne, director of risk and insurance management for the MTA. In addition, the MTA maintains $350 million in liability insurance through multiple carriers in the commercial markets.
In total, the agency is covered for up to $410 million in liabilities and says it stands ready to deal with any and all claims, which are likely to materialize in the months ahead as the nature of the injuries and causes of the accident become clearer.
The MTA could not comment on whether the crash and subsequent payouts would cause its premiums to increase, but it seems for now, that the budget contingencies and insurance plans will keep costs in line with what the agency can afford to pay. The wheels have already been put in motion for the first of many suits to come.
After a few weeks off due to Eric’s illness and then Thanksgiving, we’re back with the ninth episode of “The Next Stop Is…,” the podcast for Second Ave. Sagas. The big news story this week is of course the Metro North derailment, but we also talk about the possible return of congestion pricing. We delve into New Jersey support for the 7 line extension and touch upon sending PATH to Newark Airport.
This week’s recording again runs close to 30 minutes, and as always, it’s the perfect length for your subway ride home this evening. You can grab the podcast right here on iTunes or pull the raw MP3 file. If you enjoy what you hear, subscribe to updates on iTunes as well and consider leaving us a review.
We’ll be back with a new episode in two weeks, and we’re always happy to hear from you. So if you have a topic you’d like me to cover, leave a comment, drop me a note or find me on Twitter or Facebook.
There’s something very dramatic and unsettling about seeing a passenger rail train, once filled with people, lying on its side scattered about its tracks and the woods nearby. It’s wrong for a train to be off its track, and it’s newsworthy when one jumps the rails. This past Sunday’s Metro-North derailment provided us with a tragic reminder of the worst that can happen when a train derails, particularly one traveling at excessive speeds.
In the aftermath of the incident, safety takes second stage. Politicians throughout the region issued calls for comprehensive studies and sounded alarm bells. Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy penned a letter to the MTA. “I am asking MTA/Metro-North to develop an action plan that addresses communication, safety reporting, inspection and maintenance programs, remedial short term action plans, and longer term capital investment programs to upgrade the infrastructure,” he wrote. Change needs to happen now.
New York’s junior senator Kirsten Gillibrand issued a similar call with particularly strident language. She wrote a letter to Federal Railroad Administrator Joseph Szabo expressing “deep concern over the recent derailment of a Metro-North commuter train in the Bronx, and for the safety of New Yorkers and others who use the Metro-North railroad every day.”
“Yesterday’s accident is the latest in a long list of accidents on MTA’s system, and comes on the heels of a freight train derailment near the same turn in July… This is simply unacceptable,” she wrote. “I renew my call for an immediate comprehensive safety evaluation of the MTA system and procedures to ensure that we do not experience a similar tragedy in the future. Additionally, I request that you provide my office with an overview of any steps that have been taken by the FRA to address MTA commuter rail safety.”
What Gillibrand and Malloy are saying has some truth to it, but there’s also some kneejerk fearmongering. Meanwhile, the incident has created the perception of safety problems. One rider said to The Times on Sunday, “You think you’re safe on the train. I know I’m going to be taking a car for a while.”
It’s that reaction that the coverage over the last few days and the statements made by politicians has fed. Sunday’s derailment is a terrible story with a tragic ending for four riders and horrific injuries to many others. These four fatalities though were the first passenger deaths in Metro-North’s 31-year history. WNYC crunched the numbers and found that, since 1993, for every 1 billion train passengers, seven have died. In 2012 alone, 33,561 Americans died in traffic incidents. The comparable motor vehicle death rate is 108,000 for every 1 billion drivers.
Now, I’m not going to further minimize what happened Sunday. Fatalities or not, Metro-North’s safety record, as the FRA noted on Tuesday, has been abysmal of late, and the technology exists to ensure that no one — zero people — dies on in a crash derailment due to excessive speeds. The MTA though hasn’t fully funded the positive train control program and may not have it ready until 2019. That we can build a $4.5 billion subway stop but can’t scrounge up a quarter of that to save lives speaks volumes about our priorities in non-emergency situations. But I digress. (In an excellent post, Patrick at The LIRR Today delves into this issue and more.)
I’d like to know from politicians where the general outrage is when seven pedestrians die in car crashes as they have over the last week in New York City. I’d like to know why it’s a struggle to fund mass transit until something calamitous happens and dramatic photos — of flooded stations, of derailed trains — are splashed across front pages. Investing in transit is a commitment, but it’s well worth it in added mobility and, yes, saved lives. Metro-North needs to improve its safety record, and it likely has to overcome a brain drain. But it needs support from start to finish and not just at the end.
Metro-North will restore service to the Hudson Line tomorrow morning, just three days after Sunday’s derailment, and the agency plans to run 98 percent of its normal daily service, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a press release. Crews have been rebuilding 800 feet of track near Spuyten Duyvil, but full service will not be restored for a few days as the outer track was completely destroyed by the derailment.
According to the MTA, trains will single track through the area as rebuilding continues. In addition to the destruction of the outer track, the middle track sustained serious damage as well. As such, six morning trains will be reduced to three, but the Hudson Line will run the rest of its 172-train schedule. Riders are warned to expect delays of 10-15 minutes, a far cry from the hour-long diversions many had been experiencing this week.
“Thanks to an extraordinary effort and around the clock work, over 98% of service will be restored for Hudson Line commuters in time for tomorrow morning’s rush hour,” Governor Cuomo said. “As the NTSB continues its investigation of the derailment on Sunday morning, the MTA is fully cooperating to ensure we find out exactly what caused this horrific incident that took the lives of four individuals and injured many others. The families of those we lost and those still recovering continue to be in our thoughts and prayers.”
The National Transportation Safety Board, meanwhile, continued its investigation today. The Board announced that it did not appear as though faulty brakes were the culprit as the brakes showed no degradation or anomalies at previous stops. Additionally, alcohol testing on the engineer and other on-board employees came back clean while drug test results are still pending. The engineer’s work schedule showed no indication that he had been overworked or otherwise off calendar, and interviews with on-board personnel are ongoing.
As more news breaks concerning Sunday’s fatal Metro-North derailment, it’s looking more and more likely that human error, rather than a train malfunction, was to blame. According to multiple reports this morning, William Rockefeller, the train’s engineer, either “zoned out” or momentarily lost consciousness as his train sped into a sharp curve at over 80 miles per hour. This development contradicts earlier reports from Sunday that the brakes failed.
The Post led with their story on the front page this morning, and it has since been picked up by DNA Info, The Daily News, and The Wall Street Journal. One source told the News that Rockefeller had no memory of the crash while another compared the engineer’s state of mind to a day dream.
“I think anybody who’s ever driven a car and sort of gotten to that place where you’re not really conscious, and then you snap yourself out of it, that’s in effect what happened,” The Journal’s source said. “That is exactly how Billy described it.”
The various reports diverge a bit in the details. The Post says Rockefeller “zoned out” and was awoken by a warning whistle that the train was going too fast. DNA Info says that the “rumbling of the train roaring through the head of the curve awakened Rockefeller.” Either way, the pendulum is swinging toward some form of inattentiveness by the engineer and human error.
We won’t know the official ruling until the National Transportation Safety Board issues its findings, and Rockefeller has unsurprisingly lawyered up. But questions are already swirling surrounding the role technology could have played in preventing this incident. A positive train control system, in the planning and funding stages, could have automatically slowed down the train in Rockefeller’s moment of distraction. Ted Mann summarizes:
Rail safety experts said that advanced train control systems would likely have prevented the accident if the derailment was a result of speeding. Systems to automatically slow or stop trains before collisions or derailments can occur are in various stages of development on commuter rail networks across the country, thanks to a federal law that requires they be installed by 2015. But many railroads, including Metro-North, say they can’t meet that deadline, citing technical complexity of the systems, lack of radio spectrum, and other pressing needs for scarce funding.
I’ll have more on railroad safety lately. For now, the latest reports indicate that PTC may not be ready until 2019, but area politicians are starting to make some noises that they aren’t happy. Needless to say, the pressure will now be on the MTA to bring some positive train control system to its railroads sooner rather than later
Over the past few days, amidst an MTA crisis, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has again grabbed the mic to be the public face of an agency in trouble. This follows a trend established during Superstorm Sandy and one we’ve seen over the first few years of Cuomo’s tenure. He’ll issue the press releases and be on the air when someone needs to take charge, but he otherwise hasn’t embraced transit at all.
A telling moment came on Monday morning, in fact, when Cuomo was making the rounds on the local TV and cable news morning shows. One anchor asked Cuomo when he last took the train, and Cuomo, who has lived in Westchester for years and worked in an office the city as Attorney General, declined to answer. It was essentially a tacit admission that Cuomo hasn’t take the train in years. He should be ashamed. He’s the governor of the most transit-rich state in the country, and millions of his constituents depend upon subways, the LIRR and Metro-North every day. I don’t expect him to ride the 6 every day as Bloomberg does, but a trip now and then on a train would do him good.
Cuomo’s apathy, if not, as in the case of the Tappan Zee, outright hostility, does not bode well for anywhere else in the country, and following on the governor’s dismissal of a traffic pricing plan, that’s the argue Alex Pareene pursues in a piece at Salon. “The congestion pricing argument,” Pareene writes, “has always taken place, rhetorically, in a bizarre alternate universe where everyone drives, and where every citizen deserves to be able to drive without bearing anything close to the cost of that driving on the city’s infrastructure and atmosphere.”
He extends this discussion to the general approach to transit in the area:
Cuomo isn’t at all unusual. In New York state, as in the country as a whole, more resources continue to be spent on drivers and roads than buses and trains. One transit blogger has calculated that, according to how Albany allocates transportation money, “every driver is worth as much as 4.5 transit riders.” And while Mayor Bloomberg’s administration has a generally very good record on transit, there’s always been a strange tension between Bloomberg’s pedestrian and bicycle-friendly Department of Transportation and his NYPD, which has a bizarrely antagonistic relationship with bicyclists and which rarely — as in almost never — prosecutes reckless driving, speeding, or accidents leading to the death of pedestrians.
This should be the most transit-friendly government in the country. A majority of New York citizens rely on public transit for their livelihoods. The city and state are run by Democrats, many of them among the most liberal in the nation. Our incoming mayor, Bill de Blasio, ran as a left-wing populist. But incoming Mayor Bill de Blasio is a driver. Andrew Cuomo has been a driver, or had drivers, his entire life. There are certain richer Manhattanites, accustomed to walking, for whom anti-car policies improve their quality of life, but for most of the political class, everyone they know and interact with owns a car. Finding a steady and sufficient revenue source for the local transit system, one that can’t be raided for other purposes and that doesn’t rely too heavily on burdening its users with hefty fare increases, should be an urgent priority for local politicians, but most of them simply don’t care.
We already have a political system in this country that, nationally, heavily favors the interests of the rural and the suburban over the urban. Many state legislatures have similar biases. But when, even in New York, politicians ignore transit, because they don’t know or interact with or receive checks from people who rely on it every day, there’s almost no hope for cheap, efficient mass transit options anywhere.
Pareene’s last observation — that New York politicians “don’t know or interact with or receive checks from people” whose lives are dependent on transit — is a stunning one. In a city in which everyone takes and needs transit, those who fight for the system aren’t elected to City Hall or Albany. There are always a few bright spots, those legislators who understand the need, but they are few and far between.
So what’s the answer to this question? Is there one? The Straphangers Campaign has been fighting for 30 years; the Riders Alliance has been around for two. Still, there’s no indication that de Blasio will be better than Cuomo or that either will make the hard choices to fund transit. Even in a crisis three or four years ago, politicians couldn’t step up, and Eliot Spitzer, a big transit champion, self-destructed. So here we are in a city trying to find a way to fund transit in a sustainable way and continuing to face political road blocks. The fight will go on.
Following the NTSB reports of an 82-mph speed just prior to derailment and a video of the crash’s aftermath, the MTA has released its own B-Roll of the recovery efforts. The agency had to re-rail the cars and move them out. Now, crews have to repair 800 feet of damaged rail before running test trains and restoring service.
In the meantime, bus service between Yonkers and the 1 line will continue on Tuesday. Metro-North service will operate between Poughkeepsie and Yonkers with shuttle buses to the Van Cortlandt Park-242nd St. station. Hudson Line tickets will again be cross-honored on the Harlem and New Haven Lines, and NJ Transit will take Harlem Line takes on the Port Jervis and Pascack Valley lines. There is still no word yet when full service will be restored.
Meanwhile, in Manhattan and Brooklyn, the last FASTRACK of the year hits the F line. Trains will be running on the A between West 4th and Jay St. with shuttle buses providing service between Jay and York Sts. in Brooklyn and between East Broadway and Broadway/Lafayette. This is the first FASTRACK along this stretch of the tunnels, and it’s the last FASTRACK of the year. We don’t yet know what next year’s treatments will be, but I assume this program will continue.
The Metro-North train that derailed yesterday morning was traveling at speeds of 82 miles per hour as it entered the Spuyten Duyvil curve, the National Transportation Safety Board just announced. Speed limits on the curve are just 30 miles per hour, and the speed limit on the straightaway north of the curve is 70. The NTSB noted that they do not yet know if human error or mechanical malfunction caused the deadly incident.
The NTSB noted that six seconds prior to the train coming to a stop, the throttle went to idle, and one second later, break pressure dropped to zero. “We do not yet know the initiating event for the throttle going to idle or the brake pressure dropping to 0 psi,” the agency said in a statement.
As of now, the NTSB has noted that there were no prior problems with the brakes, and the safety investigators will continue interviews with the engineer and three other crew members. The rail cars and locomotive have been removed to a secure location for further study, and the tracks have been turned back over to Metro-North. Yet, extensive service changes remain in place for the afternoon commute and morning rush. I’ll have more as this story develops.