It’s a light weekend! From the MTA, the service advisories:
From 11:45 p.m. Friday, February 27 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, March 2, 3 service operates to/from New Lots Av all weekend, replacing the 4 in Brooklyn. 3 trains run express in Manhattan.
From 11:45 p.m. Friday, February 27 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, March 2, 4 trains are suspended in both directions between Brooklyn Bridge-City Hall and New Lots Av. Take the 23NQ or R instead. For service between Manhattan and Brooklyn, take the NQ or R and transfer between the 46 and NQR at 14 St-Union Sq or Canal St. For service to/from Wall St and Bowling Green, use the R at nearby Rector St or Whitehall St. For service to/from Fulton St and between Borough Hall and Franklin Av, take the 2 or 3. For service between Franklin Av and New Lots Av, take the 3 instead.
From 11:45 p.m. Friday, February 27 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, March 2, 5 trains are suspended in both directions between Eastchester-Dyre Av and E 180 St. 5 service operates every 20 minutes between E 180 St and Grand Central-42 St, days and evenings only. 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. Transfer between trains and shuttle buses at E 180 St.
From 6:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. Saturday, February 28, and from 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. Sunday, March 1, 5 service is suspended in both directions between Grand Central-42 St and Bowling Green. Take the 46 or R instead. Trains run every 20 minutes between E 180 St and Grand Central-42 St.
From 6:45 a.m. Saturday, February 28 to 7:00 p.m. Sunday, March 1, Brooklyn Bridge-City Hall bound 6 trains run express from Parkchester to Hunts Point Av.
From 12:30 a.m. Saturday, February 28 to 4:30 a.m. Monday, March 2, 7 trains are suspended in both directions between Times Sq-42 St and 74 St-Broadway. Use EFN and R trains for service between Manhattan and Queens. E trains operate more frequently between Manhattan and Queens. The 42 Street S shuttle operates overnight. Free shuttle buses operate along two routes:
- Between Vernon Blvd-Jackson Av and Queensboro Plaza, stopping at Hunters Point Av, Court Sq, and Queens Plaza.
- Between Queensboro Plaza and 74 St-Broadway, stopping at 33 St, 40 St, 46 St, 52 St, 61 St-Woodside, and 69 St.
From 10:45 p.m. Friday, February 27 to 6:30 a.m. Sunday, March 1, and from 10:45 p.m. Sunday, March 1 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, March 2, Queens-bound A trains run express from 168 St to 125 St.
From 6:30 a.m. to 12 midnight Saturday, February 28 and Sunday, March 1, Euclid Av-bound C trains run express from 168 St to 125 St.
From 3:45 a.m. Saturday, February 28 to 10:00 p.m. Sunday, March 1, Coney Island-Stillwell Av bound D trains are rerouted via the N line from 36 St to Coney Island-Stillwell Av.
- For Service To 9 Av, Fort Hamilton Pkwy, 50 St, 55 St, 71 St, 79 St, 18 Av, 20 Av, Bay Pkwy, 25 Av, and Bay 50 St, take the Coney Island-bound D to 62 St-New Utrecht Av or Coney Island-Stillwell Av and transfer to a Manhattan-bound D train.
- For Service From these stations, take a Manhattan-bound D train to 62 St-New Utrecht Av or 36 St and transfer to a Coney Island-Stillwell Av bound D train.
From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, February 28 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, March 2, D trains run local in both directions between W 4 St-Wash Sq and 34 St-Herald Sq.
From 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Saturday, February 28 and from 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Sunday, March 1, E trains operate more frequently between Manhattan and Queens. E customers traveling to Jamaica-Van Wyck, Sutphin Blvd (AirTrain JFK), and Jamaica Center please note that some E trains traveling from Manhattan are rerouted to the Jamaica-179 St F station. Please check destination signs and listen to announcements.
42 St Shuttle
From 12:01 a.m. to 6:00 a.m. Saturday to Monday, February 28 to March 2, the 42 St S Shuttle operates overnight.
Earlier on Wednesday, while browsing MTA news, I came across an interesting AP piece published on Crain’s New York with quite the inflammatory headline. “Why the Second Ave. subway could be delayed—again” the article said. With news of delays on the 7 line extension — this month due to emergency radios, last time due to elevators, escalators and vent plans — my first thought was that the December 2016 revenue service date was just a mirage. As I read closer, though, I realized this was about the next phase of the Second Ave. Subway and not the current one.
Phase 1 of the long-aborning subway — north from 57th St. and 7th Ave. to 96th St. and 2nd Ave. — is fully funded. Work may stretch into next year, but the money is in place. At this point, the only delays will arise if (or perhaps when) the MTA can’t get the project across the finish line, and those won’t come into view for another 18-20 months. Phase 2, despite a lack of concrete price tag, was included in the 2015-2019 capital plan, and as we know, that capital plan remains very much a work in progress.
Earlier on Wednesday during the MTA Board meeting, agency head Tom Prendergast spoke about the affect a lack of funding could have on expansion plans. It’s a good 18 months until the MTA has to face this reality, and in the past, New York has come up with interim measures to keep capital programs moving on a two- or three-year basis. But the threat of a work slowdown at a time when the city is finally re-learning how to build new subway lines looms large.
Benjamin Mueller of The Times summarized the state of the capital program with the funding picture hazy at best:
The chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority on Wednesday sought to reassure New Yorkers that the agency would secure the necessary funding to forestall what transit experts were warning about — a slump in service, overflowing subway trains and more frequent delays. The sense of alarm has been occasioned by a $15 billion gap in the agency’s five-year capital plan, which is meant to finance long-sought repairs and improvements to the city’s transit system. Transit officials and elected leaders are currently in discussions about how to fill that gap or, alternatively, to pare down costs.
But the authority’s chairman, Thomas F. Prendergast, warned that future stages of major construction plans and renovations for the overtaxed system were at risk if officials were unable to come to an agreement. The full five-year plan calls for $32 billion.
“For a period of time, maybe a year or two, we’re O.K.,” Mr. Prendergast said after a board meeting. “But as you start to get down that path, we get to the point where if we don’t have money we can’t award design contracts, we can’t award construction projects.”
We could quibble for hours over whether the “or, alternatively” at the end of the firs excerpted paragraph should just said “and,” but the truth remains that the capital plan funding question is very much up in the air. Already a long, drawn-out affair, the Second Ave. Subway could very much be a casualty of politicking and lukewarm support for transit from the Governor.
Meanwhile, the Mayor went to Albany and did a great imitation of the pot calling the kettle black “”The State must do more to fund the MTA’s capital plan – a situation that is reaching crisis levels,” Bill de Blasio said. “The current MTA capital plan is woefully underfunded. The State’s investment has steadily declined over the last 14 years.”
So too, de Blasio declined to mention, has the city’s investment. They contribute the paltry sum of $100 million a year to a multi-billion-dollar capital plan, and de Blasio has proposed trimming that figure by 60 percent. Transit advocates, such as the Straphangers Campaign, were not impressed. “We need the Citiy’s leadership to press the State to do much better for the MTA’s millions of riders,” Gene Russianoff said in a statement.
There are only so many times we can say the same thing about the capital plan, but it’s hard to underscore the needs. The subways are more crowded that ever, and to keep up with demand, the system has to be able to sustain more frequent service in more areas. With the billions of dollars requested, the alternative is a scary one indeed.
Regular readers of this site have long cast a skeptical eye toward Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his distain for transit. His ideas — an AirTrain to LaGuardia via Willets Point — come out of nowhere and don’t align with transit needs or best practices. He’s thrown weight and tax dollars behind the stridently anti-transit QueensWay while ignoring the voices arguing for rail reactivation, and he’s done nothing to address the MTA’s $15.2 billion capital budget hole.
New York City, meanwhile, is sagging under the weight of record high subway riders. Yesterday, the MTA reported a total of 29 days in 2014 with over 6 million riders, and delays due to aging infrastructure — signal problems, rail conditions — seem rampant. That’s what the $15.2 billion is designed to address. While Cuomo is running away from, or at least ignoring, the problem, other groups such as the Move NY are thinking about the funding and traffic problems. It all might come to a head at some point.
My tiny corner of the Internet isn’t the only part taking note of the politicking though, and in yesterday’s Times, the paper’s editorial board called upon the Governor to, well, do something about it:
The state and city would seem obvious sources for much of this support. Mr. Cuomo, however, rejected the M.T.A. plan as “bloated” soon after it was submitted, even as some mass transit advocates regarded it as barely adequate. The governor’s latest budget gives the M.T.A. about $1.15 billion for these big projects over five years. Mayor Bill de Blasio has offered only $40 million a year as the city’s contribution, far lower than the usual $100 million.
These responses seem miserly when measured against the needs of a system that is already stuffed with passengers and expects at least one million more in the next 10 years. The requirements go beyond new cars; the M.T.A. proposes to replace more than 80 miles of track and a subway signaling system that is more than a half-century old and needs a $3 billion upgrade.
In the end, it is Mr. Cuomo who will have the most to say about whether this vital network thrives or deteriorates. He should help create a five-year capital plan that gives the M.T.A. some confidence about how to expand and maintain itself while he also finds the matching funds that upstate legislators will inevitably demand for bridges and roads in their constituencies. A short-term fix of a year or two is little more than a Band-Aid.
The Times highlights Move NY’s traffic pricing plan and a proposal by Richard Ravitch to raise the gas taxes. Either could address the funding gap, but so too, as the paper points out, would fare hikes, the last gasp for the MTA and a measure it can implement as it so chooses. As The Times notes, if the MTA is forced to “fall back on fare increases … those increases would have Mr. Cuomo’s name on them.” Best we not forget that.
It’s hard to believe, but an entire generation of New Yorkers have come of age or come to a city without a Cortlandt St. subway station on the 1 train. For decades, Cortlandt St. fed Radio Row and then served as the West Side’s best access point to the World Trade Center. The station, though, was destroyed on September 11, 2001 and, as work has consumed Lower Manhattan over the past 14 years, it has remained closed since then. Based on recent MTA documents, it may still be a few years yet before the station reopens.
In this month’s Board materials, the immediate fate of the Cortlandt St. station makes an appearance, and no, the MTA isn’t considering keeping it closed. As buildings grow at the World Trade Center site, the 1 train’s pass through Lower Manhattan remains a key access point for thousands of West Side and Staten Island commuters who will need transit service to their offices.
The news concerns the MTA’s assumptions of a Port Authority contract for work at Cortlandt St. The details of the politicking are rather mundane. Essentially, Cortland St. had to remain closed while the Port Authority rebuild the Ground Zero site, but the MTA and Port Authority have struggled to coordinate work and finalize cost-sharing arrangements for the repair of the subway stop. A few years ago, the Port Authority issued an RFP a key construction contract with the work split into two phases. Judlau won the bid, but it’s been slow going.
Phase 1 was the easier part. It was a $20 million for structural and demolition work, and it’s nearly complete. Phase 2 was supposed to be around $69 million, and it included a variety of systems work and a complete station fit-out. Work hasn’t begun, and now the MTA is going to assume it from the Port Authority with an expanded scope, more dollars and a longer timeline. The Board’s Transit Committee will vote tomorrow.
In fiscal terms, the MTA will increase the Phase 2 work to a total of $100 million; the money is accounted for in the 2010-2014 and 2015-2019 capital plans. The bad news is that this contract is set to last 36 months now. It’s possible the station could be back in revenue service before Phase 2 wraps, but it seems likely that Cortlandt St. will remain closed for the time being. All in, the station won’t reopen until over 15 years after 9/11. For such a key link to the World Trade Center site, that’s a big gap in service that won’t be restored yet.
Have you seen the latest from Massimo Vignelli’s former associates? To carry on his memory, some of Vignelli’s friends and co-workers have started a new design shop called SuperWarmRed through which they are selling prints of his maps. The current designs involve six detail posters highlighting the Vignelli map’s design around six stations throughout the city. The posters look great, and the full set of six will run you $300.
Meanwhile, on to the weekend service changes. The MTA canceled the 1 train work on account of the cold today and generally bad weather predicted for the weekend, but everything else remains in place.
From 11:45 p.m. Friday, February 20, to 5 a.m. Monday, February 23, trains replace 4 service in Brooklyn. 3 trains run express in Manhattan.
From 11:45 p.m. Friday, February 20, to 5 a.m. Monday, February 23, service is suspended between Brooklyn Bridge and New Lots Av. As alternatives, take the 2, 3, N, Q or R.
From 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday, February 21, and from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday, February 22, service is suspended between Grand Central-42 St and Bowling Green. As alternatives, take the 4, 6 or R.
From 6:45 a.m. Saturday, February 21, to 7 p.m. Sunday, February 22, Brooklyn Bridge-bound trains run express from Parkchester to Hunts Point Av.
From 11:45 p.m. Friday, February 20, to 5 a.m. Monday, February 23, service is suspended between Lefferts Blvd and Rockaway Blvd. Free shuttle buses provide service via 80 St.
From 11:45 p.m. to 6:30 a.m., Friday, February 20 to Sunday, February 22, and from 11:45 p.m. Sunday, February 22, to 5 a.m. Monday, February 23, 207 St-bound trains run express from Canal St to 59 St-Columbus Circle.
From 6:30 a.m. to 11 p.m., Saturday, February 21 and Sunday, February 22, 168 St-bound trains are rerouted via the F from Jay St-MetroTech to 34 St-Herald Sq and then via the D to 59 St-Columbus Circle.
From 5:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday, February 21 and Sunday, February 22, service is suspended between Coney Island-Stillwell Av and Bay Pkwy. As alternatives, take the F or Q, or the B1, B64 or B82.
From 11:45 p.m. Friday, February 20, to 5 a.m. Monday, February 23, Jamaica Center-bound trains run express from Canal St to 34 St-Penn Station.
From 11:45 p.m. to 6:30 a.m., Friday, February 20 to Sunday, February 22, and from 11:45 p.m. Sunday, February 22, to 5 a.m. Monday, February 23, World Trade Center-bound trains run express from 71 Av to Queens Plaza.
From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, February 21, to 5 a.m. Monday, February 23, Jamaica Center-bound trains run local from Roosevelt Av to 71 Av.
From 11:45 p.m. Friday, February 20, to 8 p.m. Sunday, February 22, Coney Island-bound trains run express from Smith-9 Sts to Avenue X.
From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, February 21, to 5 a.m. Monday, February 23, Jamaica-bound trains run local from Roosevelt Av to 71 Av.
From 11:45 p.m. Friday, February 20, to 5 a.m. Monday, February 23, service is suspended between 8 Av and 14 St-Union Sq. As an alternative, take the M14 bus.
From 5:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday, February 21 and Sunday, February 22, service is suspended between Coney Island-Stillwell Av and 86 St. As alternatives, take FQ, B1 or B4 buses.
From 11:15 p.m. Friday, February 20, to 5 a.m. Monday, February 23, Coney Island-bound trains run express from Prospect Park to Kings Hwy.
From 5:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday, February 21, and Sunday, February 22, Bay Ridge-bound trains run express from 71 Av to Queens Plaza.
Flippant headline aside, someone — or a group of someones — is thinking creatively about the MTA’s capital funding problem. It’s been a long time coming, but Sam Schwartz and the Move NY coalition unveiled their restructured traffic pricing plan on Tuesday. If implemented properly, it could generate $1.5 billion that the group says could be bonded out to support the MTA’s capital plan. It may kick the debt can even further down the road, but it’s the most promising proposal we’ve seen at a time when Gov. Cuomo has seemingly left the MTA out to dry.
The details of the plan — now being called the Move NY Fair Plan — contain a mixture of new revenue streams in the form of East River bridge tolls and givebacks in the form of reduced current tolls that should appease everyone. No one will be double-tolled, and all money would be collected electronically so toll gates and the alleged traffic they could cause will be a non-factor.
The plan, in a nutshell, is simple, and I’d urge you to read Streetsblog’s primer. Essentially, tolls on current MTA bridges would drop while the currently-free East River bridge crossings would carry a charge, restoring a 104-year-old wrong. The money would go toward transit, and the corresponding drop in clogged streets would be a major boon for all New Yorkers. The plan would see a new taxi surcharge as well as congestion pricing for automobile trips south of 60th St. in Manhattan, and off-peak tolls would be cheaper than rush hour charges.
In return, Move New York promises massive transit investments. In their report [pdf], they highlight how the MTA would have a steady revenue stream that would lead to implementation of the agency’s capital plans. The coalition believes the MTA would have the money to restore bus service cut in 2010, reduce the City Ticket fares on Metro-North and LIRR, speed up SBS and BRT implementation, and address the subway system’s technological and physical issues that come with age and the need for modernization. All in all, it sounds good.
Interestingly, while as Dana Rubinstein astutely noted, Gov. Cuomo and the MTA were silent on the plan yesterday, it’s drawn support from unlikely sources. Mark Weprin, a City Council member who opposed then-Mayor Bloomberg’s congestion pricing plan, voiced his support as did Ydanis Rodriguez, chair of the Council’s transportation committee. The prospects for a home-rule message though remain murky as the New York State Senate GOP, with no better ideas or funding solutions, has come out against the plan. Without acknowledging that no funding solution will lead to less service and drastically higher fares, a State GOP spokesman said, with a straight face, “Hardworking New Yorkers are paying enough already.” Talk about obliviousness.
Anyway, I digress. The editorial boards for The Post and Crain’s New York, two of the tougher constituents to impress here, voiced their support, and real estate and business interests may actually line up behind this plan. Streetsblog again explored the changing political dynamics behind the Move NY Fair Plan, but as Stephen Miller noted, “The key to the plan, though, is Governor Cuomo.” If the Governor supports this idea, it will become reality; if he doesn’t, the MTA is up a $15.2 billion creek with fare hikes and service cuts as their only paddle. Make of that what you will.
As MTA jobs go, a bus driver may have it the worst. Until recently, drivers had no protection from unruly passengers and were tasked with keeping passengers in line while attempting to collect fares. They have to compete with the city’s streets and other drivers who are seemingly always in it for themselves. It’s a stressful job made slightly easier and safer by partitions in newer buses, but the threat and reality of violence from passengers has always loomed large in the minds of drivers.
Bus drivers though have a responsibility to everyone else around them as well. They drive very big, very heavy, often plodding vehicles up and down the city’s busiest streets. The city’s buses tower over the streets and loom large as a threat to pedestrians, bikers and other drivers. They help get cars off the streets, but they present a separate set of dangers in and of themselves.
Last week, not for the first time, this situation came to a head when a 15-year-old crossing the street with the right of way in Williamsburg was struck by a bus whose driver claimed he did not see the girl. She remains at Bellevue and may lose her left leg. Francisco de Jesus, the bus driver, was booked on a misdemeanor for violating the city’s relatively new Right of Way law. He faces a $250 summons and up to 30 days in jail — though no first-time offenders have been given a jail sentence. The law is part of the Vision Zero plan that is supposed to protect pedestrians from the dangers of vehicles in a dense urban area.
The injury is horrific; the aftermath to the incident has been ugly. A few days before the incident, three City Council members, under intense lobbying from union officials, had introduced a bill to exempt bus drivers from the Right of Way law, and nearly immediate, TWU officials denounced the arrest. “We drive for a living on the busiest streets in America,” J.P. Patafio, a TWU spokesman, said. “The law of averages has it we’re going to get into an accident.”
Over the weekend, TWU President John Samuelsen threatened — if one can call vowing to drive safer a threat — to slow down buses in the name of the safety:
The incidents this past Friday and several weeks ago in which two Bus Operators were arrested for “failure to yield” and “failure to exercise due care” are both heartbreaking tragedies. But they were accidents, not the result of “criminal” reckless driving. Yet, our Operators were treated as if they were criminals by the Highway Police, and they face TA discipline as a result of the arrest. To add insult to blatant injustice, there are some misguided people out there applauding the criminal treatment of our Bus Operators.
Now we must respond appropriately, recognizing that we are being disgracefully and unfairly scapegoated and targeted. It is imperative that we immediately move to defend our livelihoods and protect ourselves against these attacks. Therefore, we MUST Yield/Stop “when a pedestrian or bicyclist has the right of way.” If there is a pedestrian in the crosswalk, Yield/Stop your bus until they are on the sidewalk. We must exercise extreme caution at intersections and on roadways.
Do not move your bus until all is clear. It you do not make your schedule, so be it. If traffic backs up as you await the ability to make an unquestionably “safe” left turn, so be it. If the bosses are displeased, so be it. Do not jeopardize your future for the sake of NYC Transit’s on time bus performance. And if you are pressured or threatened by supervision for taking these necessary steps, notify your union representative immediately.
Samuelsen’s comments intimate that MTA bus drivers are encouraged by supervisors to put speed over safety. An MTA spokesman vehemently denied that characterization. Meanwhile, along the fringes, the sniping has continued. Pete Donohue wrote an incendiary column accusing advocates fighting for sensible street designs and laws aimed at protecting pedestrian safety of having “zero common sense” while the person operating the TWU’s Twitter feed on Saturday and Sunday tried to turn the debate into class warfare. (Gothamist captured some of the comments, but it was a stunning display of how not to run a P.R. campaign.)
The issue is not about class or about online fighting. It’s not about which advocate — those who must protect union members or those who are trying to protect pedestrians — can be the most zealous. This is about an all-encompassing push for safety. It shouldn’t take an arrest for the TWU to promise to allow pedestrians the Right of Way, and driving in New York shouldn’t inherently involve some number of pedestrian casualties or fatalities. The law should apply to everyone driving a vehicle, and it should recognize the power a huge vehicle has over a person. The person will always lose.
In a reasonable world, the union would have looked at Friday’s tragedy as an opportunity to gain the upper hand in this debate. Samuelsen could have ordered the same slowdown but under the guise of promising to work together with city leaders who have prioritized Vision Zero initiatives and want to stress safety. The TWU could have demanded that de Jesus receive a fair trial but stressed that the union will not tolerate members who do not stress safety or follow the laws. Instead, we have a mess and one that highlights the real physical risks that people walking face everyday. A teenager losing a leg shouldn’t be dismissed as the cost of doing business in New York City.
It’s cold out so [insert Andrew Cuomo joke here]. The MTA scaled back some weekend work due to the weather but not much. The rest is what they’ve sent to me. Stay warm.
From 11:45 p.m., Friday, February 13 to 5 a.m., Tuesday, February 17, South Ferry-bound trains run express from 14 St to Chambers St.
From 11:45 p.m. to 6 a.m., Friday, February 13 to Monday, February 16, and from 11:45 p.m. Monday, February 16 to 5 a.m. Tuesday, February 17, Flatbush Av-bound trains run express from 14 St to Chambers St.
From 11 p.m. to 6:30 a.m., Saturday, February 14 and Sunday, February 15, and from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. on Monday, February 16, Brooklyn-bound trains run local from 125 St to Grand Central-42 St.
From 6:45 a.m. Saturday, February 14 to 7 p.m. Sunday, February 15, Brooklyn Bridge-bound trains run express from Parkchester to Hunts Point Av.
From 11:45 p.m. to 6:30 a.m., Friday, February 13 to Monday, February 16, and from 11:45 p.m., Monday, February 16, to 5 a.m. Tuesday, February 17, 207 St-bound trains run express from Canal St to 59 St-Columbus Circle.
From 6:30 a.m. to 11 p.m., Saturday, February 14 to Monday, February 16, 168 St-bound trains run express from Canal St to 59 St-Columbus Circle.
From 11:30 p.m. Friday, February 13 to 5 a.m. Tuesday, February 17, service is suspended between Atlantic Av-Barclays Ctr and 34 St-Herald Sq. D trains run in two segments:
- Stillwell Av to Atlantic Av-Barclays Ctr (express service between 36 St and Atlantic Av-Barclays Ctr)
- 34 St-Herald Sq and 205 St.
As an alternate, take the F, N, Q, or R or free shuttle buses between Grand St and W 4 St.
From 11:45 p.m. Friday, February 13 to 5 a.m. Tuesday, February 17, Jamaica Center-bound trains run express from Canal St to 34 St-Penn Station.
From 11:45 p.m. Friday, February 13 to 5 a.m. Tuesday, February 17, service is suspended between 8 Av and 14 St-Union Sq. As an alternate, take the M14 bus.
From 5:45 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday, February 14, service is suspended between Astoria-Ditmars Blvd and Queensboro Plaza. Free shuttle buses make all stops between Astoria-Ditmars Blvd and Queensboro Plaza.
From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, February 14 to 5 a.m. Tuesday, February 17, trains run local in both directions between DeKalb Av and 59 St in Brooklyn.
From 11:45 p.m. to 6:30 a.m., Friday, February 13 to Monday, February 16, and from 11:45 p.m. Monday, February 16 to 5 a.m. Tuesday, February 17, service is suspended from 59 St and 36 St in Brooklyn. As an alternate, take the N.
Thanks to the foresight of our New Yorker ancestors, we have an extensive subway system that allows someone, if they so choose, to travel from the Rockaways to the norther edge of the city limits in the Bronx for one fare. Whether leaders in City Hall and Albany realize it, the subway system powers New York City’s economy, and the city wouldn’t be home to 8 million people without it.
Thanks to that same history, though, the subway system remains unchangeably Manhattan-centric. It was built at a time when the southern tip of Manhattan was overrun with people and was designed to spread out the masses teeming through the tenements to other areas of the city. In that regard, it has been an enduring success that more than attained the goals of its creators. But it remains a relic of the early 20th Century, and with job centers — and people — leaving Manhattan, the subway isn’t quite as useful for borough-to-borough trips that would otherwise connect New Yorkers to jobs. Sure, we have the G train, but try traveling from Brooklyn to the Bronx, Staten Island to Queens or even Queens to Brooklyn.
Earlier this week, in an extensive report, the Regional Plan Association tackled just this issue. Transit planning for the 21st Century, the organization says in a new publication [pdf], must be focused on connecting the so-called Outer Boroughs. For anyone who’s been keeping an eye on the RPA, the report is the culmination of a theme, and it’s one worth exploring. In it, the RPA calls upon the city — and by virtue of its role, the MTA — to do better. Their ideas involve (1) creating a first-rate bus system; (2) improving and extending rail service; (3) and, importantly, making commuter rail work for borough residents. The last part is easy; rationalize the fare and run more trains. The other two require some work.
The foundation for the report is the growing evidence that job opportunities in the Outer Boroughs are increasing at a greater rate than in Manhattan and that people have a tough time getting from home to these jobs. Sure, the subways are focused around Downtown Brooklyn, Long Island City and Jamaica, but trips can be circuitous and time-consuming. It’s great for those who work in Manhattan and less great for everyone else.
“Too many residents of Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx and Staten Island are forced to make long and circuitous commutes every day, often going out of their way to travel relatively short distances,” Jeffrey Zupan, the RPA’s senior fellow for transportation and one of the report’s authors, said. “In the many neighborhoods that are located beyond a comfortable walking distance from a subway or railroad station, residents have to rely on slow and infrequent buses, adding to the time and inconvenience of their commutes.”
With the exception of their plans for the Second Ave. Subway, the solutions aren’t expensive. The RPA wants a better bus network (though I think their BRT proposal is ill-designed), and they want the Triboro RX subway (though omitting a station at Broadway Junction is a mistake and so is the northern extension through the Bronx). They want a commitment to send the Second Ave. Subway into the Bronx and through Lower Manhattan, and they call upon more off-board fare payment options for buses. They propose more frequent Metro-North and LIRR service within the city with lower fares as well.
Nothing in this report is a reach, and any quibbles should be around the edges as mine are. Of course, what these ideas don’t have are funding or a champion, and that’s a real problem. Without either, they won’t see the light of day no matter how easy they are to implement and how important they could be to the city’s mobility.
So the RPA, which has been trumpeting Triboro RX for nearly 20 years, will keep trying. As Tom Wright, the organization’s president, said, “Good transit access plays an enormous role in expanding opportunity to education and jobs. As New York works to foster a new supply of housing to meet surging demand, we need to think more broadly about how our transit network will accommodate the city’s needs well into the 21st century.”
As we approach the six-week mark of 2015, the MTA’s next five-year capital plan — all $32 billion of it — was supposed to kick off on January 1. Now, it’s not a surprise or out of the ordinary that nearly half of the plan’s funding isn’t in place or that the plan hasn’t been approved by the state’s Capital Program Review Board. Last fall’s rejection was a pro forma measure designed to attract political attention to the need to identify funding sources. What’s surprising is how utterly silent Albany and Governor Cuomo have been on the issue.
At this point in the debate, there has been no debate. The only action from Cuomo involved tossing a wrench in the form of the ill-designed LaGuardia AirTrain into the MTA’s plans and requiring the agency to re-write a portion of the five-year proposal. He hasn’t talked about funding mechanism; he hasn’t discussed new dedicated revenue streams; and he certainly hasn’t leaped to embrace anything as progressive as MoveNY’s traffic pricing plan. The silence is deafening.
It’s not though for lack of action and noise downstate. Earlier this week, Mayor Bill de Blasio — who thanks to politics has nearly no say over perhaps the most important element driving New York City development — essentially punted the MTA funding question to Albany where it belongs. The mayor recently proposed some new Select Bus Service routes and $300 million over funding over the next decade (though the proposal could be better), and that’s the extent of his control over major MTA moves. DOT can reallocate street space, and the MTA will provide the buses. Meanwhile, the mayor has asked Albany to do something about the capital funding gap.
De Blasio’s statements earlier this week echo comments he made last week. As Capital New York reported, hizzoner made it clear that Albany must find a solution. “I think clearly this an Albany question first and foremost,” the mayor said while on NY1. “Not only do we need to preserve the payroll tax that’s playing such a crucial role now, but I think we have to have a real debate about what Albany should do with its resources and what’s fair for the whole state.”
Of course, the city’s contribution to the MTA’s capital plan has stagnated at $100 million per year for decades. At a rate of inflation, the city should be contributing $363 million, but even that huge increase would leave a gap of nearly $14 billion. The city could do more, but by and large, de Blasio is looking in the right direction.
The mayor isn’t the only one squawking at Albany that isn’t really listening. On Wednesday, the Urban Land Institute of New York and the Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee to the MTA released a report and a fancy website highlighting why the region needs a fully funded MTA capital plan. The report highlight a bunch of facts anyone reading this far already knows — 90% of NY workers live in areas served by the MTA; the Lexington Ave. line carries more riders than subways in San Francisco, Chicago, and Boston combined; the MTA needs to keep investing in system renewal to avoid constant breakdowns, etc. But it’s important because it’s a salvo in a political fight.
“We need to focus on continuing to deliver to New York commuters an affordable, accessible transit network that is equipped for the challenges of tomorrow. As the city and state’s leaders determine the final shape of the Capital Program, it is vital that they keep everyday New Yorkers at the top of their agenda,” William Henderson, Executive Director of PCAC, said. We can’t risk not investing in the system as we’ve been down that road before.
So what happens next? Eventually, Albany will pick up the cause, and the debate may play itself out in familiar fashion. No one will propose traffic pricing, but debt will be on the table. And the MTA’s debt, as a new report by the Straphangers highlights, is a problem. The MTA itself is carrying more debt than 30 nations including war-torn Syria and the entirety of Chile. And yet underinvesting is on the table because, as Joan Byron of the Pratt Center said yesterday, “we have a governor who has demonstrated that he does not get how important the MTA is to the metro and regional economy.” That’s a scary thought indeed.