Archive for Asides

Just a reminder that my next “Problem Solvers” event at the Transit Museum — the first since last spring’s session on the MetroCard — is set for tomorrow night. The topic is the MTA’s post-Sandy Fix & Fortify program, an ongoing effort to recover from Superstorm Sandy and work to alleviate the affect another hurricane or similar storm could have on the region and its transit network. I’ll be interviewing John O’Grady, an engineer with over 25 years’ experience at the MTA and in capital construction who currently serves as a vice president for infrastructure and facilities. The talk will start at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, March 3.

It’s hard to believe the storm swept through well over two years ago, and as we know, the MTA’s challenges are immense. The new South Ferry station, totaled by the storm surge, isn’t expected to reopen until mid-2017 or even early 2018, according to the latest MTA materials, and although the Montague St. Tunnel has reopened following 14 months’ of repairs, the MTA has to address saltwater damage in many of the other East River Tunnels. During the talk tomorrow, we’ll discuss the work that went into the Montague Tube repairs and the way the MTA is managing the project. We’ll touch on some flood-remediation efforts and the MTA’s attempts at ensuring the next big storm isn’t nearly as disruptive or destructive to the subway system.

As noted, the festivities start at 6:30 p.m. at the Transit Museum in Downtown Brooklyn. As the Museum would like to better support its programming, the event carries with it a modest $10 charge (though museum members still get in for free). As a bonus, though, at 7:30 p.m., the Museum will put Sandy artifacts on display and discuss the process of retrieving and cataloging these items. Most of the public saw only the photos, but the destruction wrought by the storm was substantial. Pick up your tickets right here. Hopefully, I’ll see you tomorrow.

Categories : Asides, Self Promotion
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Subway service and the city’s sense of 24-hour invulnerability weren’t the only casualties of the late January snow storm that wasn’t. My “Problem Solvers” session at the Transit Museum had to be postponed as well. Now, the Museum, my guest and I have determined that we’ll put on the event on Tuesday, March 3rd at 6:30 p.m. in Downtown Brooklyn.

For this session, I’ll be interviewing John O’Grady, an engineer with over 25 years’ experience at the MTA and in capital construction who currently serves as a vice president for infrastructure and facilities. The talk will focus on Sandy recovery efforts. We’ll discuss the work that went into the Montague Tube repairs and the way the MTA is managing the project. We’ll touch on some flood-remediation efforts and the MTA’s attempts at ensuring the next big storm isn’t nearly as disruptive or destructive to the subway system.

The festivities start at 6:30 p.m. at the Transit Museum in Downtown Brooklyn. As the Museum would like to better support its programming, the event carries with it a modest $10 charge (though museum members still get in for free). As a bonus, though, at 7:30 p.m., the Museum will put Sandy artifacts on display and discuss the process of retrieving and cataloging these items. Most of the public saw only the photos, but the destruction wrought by the storm was substantial. Pick up your tickets right here. Those of you who already purchased a ticket don’t need to pay again. Hopefully, I’ll see you at the Museum in a few weeks.

Categories : Asides, Self Promotion
Comments (1)

So apparently the 7 train is all messed up because of an ice condition brought about by an umbrella on the tracks that somehow caused a power outage. Although many have used this is a prime example of why subways shouldn’t run in bad weather, if anything, this proves the opposite as the tracks would have been cleared of ice all day except for the umbrella-inspired power outage. The other elevated lines didn’t have problems today, eh?

Anyway, I’m swamped at work this week and don’t have much time to write anything long-form. Today, I’ll urge you to read Steve Cuozzo’s takedown of the Fulton St. Transit Center. In New York Post style, he eviscerates the complex, and while some of his criticism is off base — the MTA couldn’t re-route 100-year-old subway lines to create truly clear passageways, other remarks hit the nail on the head. Cuozzo thinks claims of untangling hallways was overblown while some wayfinding signs leave much to be desired. The expensive headhouse, he complains, with its fancy oculus is still devoid of retail, but in a year or two, when it’s full, no one will care.

The issue though was the price tag. It cost $1.4 billion, and we got no new stations or new track mileage out of it. I ultimately think the Fulton St. Transit Center is a huge improvement on what was there before it, but Cuozzo’s kicker contains a kernel of transit politics I’ve written about before. “The ugly truth is that the Fulton Center was never about unraveling a maze. It was about building a monument to politicians’ and planners’ egos, crowned by a useless glass dome.”

Categories : Asides, Fulton Street
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I’m too busy trying to figure out what the Seahawks’ coaches were doing on 2nd and goal with time running out and the Super Bowl trophy within their grasps to think of much else tonight. I also need to continue to clean up from the part the Future Mrs. Second Ave. Sagas and I hosted tonight so you’re stuck without much in the way of original content. If you’d like to read up on more about Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s overreaction to last week’s snow forecast, check out Kate Hinds’ piece on how at least some subway service should run no matter the winter weather. According to the WNYC reporter’s interviews with MTA sources and other transit experts in the know, even with an historic blizzard bearing down on New York City, the MTA could run service through most of its system. For its part, the MTA is looking at “amending [winter] plans moving forward.” Clearly, this won’t be the last we hear of this story.

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Shortly after midnight, an hour and a half after the subways were supposed to stop running, I took a walk to Grand Army Plaza to check out the scene, and while I stood there, three trains arrived in the space of about four minutes. Their doors opened; the automated voices announced the station; and then the trains pulled out. Passengers were nowhere to be found, but by all accounts, as we learned early on in the evening, the subways ran without passengers. Some ran to de-ice elevated tracks while others ran simply because it was easier than powering down for less than 12 hours.

At around 7:30 a.m. this morning, the Governor decided it was acceptable to allow passengers back on these ghost trains, and he lifted the unnecessary and ill-conceived total travel ban. The first trains with passengers ran at around 8:45 a.m., and the MTA expects to be able to run a full Sunday schedule by noon. As snow continues, bus service may be slow to non-existent, but New Yorkers will be able to get around quickly and safely via the subway just as they always have been in the snow no matter the severity of the storm. At this point, Transit expects to run normal service on Wednesday, but if anything changes, I’ll be here to update the site.

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(5:00 p.m.): As the snow continues to build and forecasts worsen, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has announced that, for the first time in city history in a snow storm, the MTA will stop running subways and buses by 11 p.m. tonight. Following the evening rush, express trains will run local beginning between 7 and 8 p.m., and as the Governor has warned that travel is banned after 11, the subways will stop running. I’m generally sympathetic of the need to protect MTA employees, the rolling stock and New Yorkers, but this strikes me as a huge overreaction. It’s supposed to snow a lot with some areas not expected to receive over 30 inches, but trains can run underground while providing safer transit options for people who must travel.

It’s not yet clear when the transit will start up again, but the system is unlikely to run at full speed, if at all, on Wednesday. “Don’t count on the system tomorrow,” MTA CEO and Chairman Tom Prendergast said at a briefing this afternoon. More as details become available.

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(1:30 p.m.): The National Weather Service is still predicted up to 30 inches of snow for New York City, and as the storm arrives, the MTA’s plans are coming into view. The agency plans to provide a definitive update at 4 p.m. on whether or not subway service will be shuttered completely, but for now, expect slower service following the end of the evening rush hour.

At a news conference about 40 minutes ago, MTA Chairman Tom Prendergast and Gov. Andrew Cuomo discussed the MTA’s plans. The agency expects to operate normal subway service until around 7 p.m., and then between 7-8 p.m., the agency will begin to curtail express service as trains are moved underground. Some above-ground/at-grade lines may see service reductions or cancellations entirely, but those will not be announced until 4 p.m. or as weather dictates. Meanwhile, LIRR and Metro-North will stop running at 11 p.m. at the latest. In the meantime, the MTA has announced additional service on the commuter lines between now and 4 p.m. (LIRR; Metro-North)

Finally, in New Jersey-centric news, both PATH and NJ Transit will be reducing service as well. No New Jersey Transit trains will run after 10 p.m. with the last trains leaving their terminals at around 8 p.m. This gives crews plenty of time to store the trains to ensure maximum weather-related damage. PATH meanwhile will run on a weekend schedule after 9 p.m. with trains operating after 15 minutes or so. Both Cuomo and NJ Governor Chris Christie have urged residents to get home early and stay off the roads. I’ll update the site as more details become available. You can also follow me on Twitter for real-time updates.

As an aside, tomorrow night’s “Problem Solvers” event at the Transit Museum has been postponed due to snow. Ironically, the event was supposed to be about the MTA’s efforts at recovering from a major weather event, and instead, we’re stuck inside of another major weather event. I’ll let you know when the session has been rescheduled.

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While we’re busy here discussing rail access to LaGuardia and the future of the MetroCard, on Tuesday, January 27, join me in person for the return of my “Problem Solvers” Q-and-A series at the Transit Museum for a discussion on the MTA’s Fix & Fortify program. I’ll be interviewing John O’Grady, an engineer with over 25 years’ experience at the MTA and in capital construction who currently serves as a vice president for infrastructure and facilities. The talk will focus on Sandy recovery efforts.

It’s hard to believe the storm swept through well over two years ago, and as we know, the MTA’s challenges are immense. The new South Ferry station, totaled by the storm surge, isn’t expected to reopen until mid-2017 or even early 2018, according to the latest MTA materials, and although the Montague St. Tunnel has reopened following 14 months’ of repairs, the MTA has to address saltwater damage in many of the other East River Tunnels. During the talk next week, we’ll discuss the work that went into the Montague Tube repairs and the way the MTA is managing the project. We’ll touch on some flood-remediation efforts and the MTA’s attempts at ensuring the next big storm isn’t nearly as disruptive or destructive to the subway system.

The festivities start at 6:30 p.m. at the Transit Museum in Downtown Brooklyn. As the Museum would like to better support its programming, the event is no longer free and carries with it a modest $10 charge (though museum members still get in for free). As a bonus, though, at 7:30 p.m., the Museum will put Sandy artifacts on display and discuss the process of retrieving and cataloging these items. Most of the public saw only the photos, but the destruction wrought by the storm was substantial. Pick up your tickets right here, and hopefully, I’ll see you next week.

Categories : Asides, Self Promotion
Comments (6)

Here’s some news Gov. Cuomo isn’t rushing to announce: After a disastrous evening commute on Thursday, the MTA is warning some customers to expect more of the same on Friday morning. Following a manhole fire south of West 4th St. that damaged signal power cables on Thursday evening, Transit expected that a.m. service on the 8th Ave. A, C and E lines will “be impacted” in the morning. They’ve offered no other details, but if tonight was any indication, the chaos could spread to the 6th Ave. line too.

I sometimes hate to draw widespread conclusions from isolated incidents, but Thursday was tough. In the early evening, the MTA reported delays on all numbered lines, and at one point, the track-facing doors on the Shuttled opened at Times Square, as Eric Bienenfeld noted to me. In a way, Thursday was a prime example of what could happen if the next five-year capital plan is cut back or left unfunded.

And so while we can’t always draw an argument from bad days, we can view it as a warning and one that legislators should heed: Fund the five-year plan or this will become the norm. For anyone trying to get home tonight, it’s a scary thought indeed.

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As part of their annual ritual highlighting just how slow and unreliable our city’s local bus system can be, the Straphangers have announced that the M79, with averages speeds of 3.2 miles per hour, is the city’s slowest bus route. The local M15 — subject of many complaints in the post-Select Bus Service era — was named the least reliable with 33% of buses arriving in pairs or worse. Outside of Manhattan’s congested streets, Flatbush Avenue’s B41, the Bronx’s Bx19, Queen’s Q58, and Staten Island’s S48/98 were named the slowest in their respective boroughs, though the latter two attained speeds of at or over 8 mph. The Straphangers have released a full table of their 34 surveyed routes, and the top ten are all in Manhattan.

“New Yorkers know from bitter daily experience that bus service is slow and unreliable,” said Paul Steely White, executive director of Transportation Alternatives. “But there is real hope for dramatic improvement in Mayor de Blasio’s plan to build a rapid network of 20 ‘Select Bus Service/Bus Rapid Transit’ routes.”

So what happens next? As the Straphangers note, Select Bus Service has improved travel times along those routes that have undergone these upgrades, but as I’ve pointed out again and again, incremental changes such as pre-board fare payment shouldn’t be lauded as much as they are. New York still doesn’t have any true bus rapid transit corridors, and bus lane enforcement is continually under attack by City Council members who prioritize drivers over transit riders. Meanwhile, there is the issue of de Blasio’s 20 bus routes: We’re one year into his administration, and while initial planning is underway, implementation is not exactly around the corner. I’m not holding my breath for 10, let alone 20, and to achieve that goal, de Blasio would have to get seven SBS/BRT routes per year on the streets. For now, local buses remain a blight on the city’s mobility.

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