Archive for Bronx
The absurdly painfully slow process of bringing simple bus lane improvements to one street in one borough has claimed another victim as the city and MTA are examining ways to speed up transit along Webster Ave. in the Bronx. This time around, the various stakeholders are looking at the B44, a so-called Phase 2 route. After identifying the route in 2009 as SBS-ready, the city hopes to launch service in late 2013. What a ridiculous timeframe.
Anyway, as the project ambles along slower than a crosstown bus at rush hour, the MTA and DOT hosted an open house on the Webster Ave. line. This routing is a north-south one that parallels the 4 and the B/D subway lines and connects the 2 and 5 trains at one end with the, uh, 2 and 5 trains at the other end. It also intersects with the Bx12 SBS route, and of the 125000 residents who live within a quarter mile of the route, the vast majority of them do not own cars. Currently, an end-to-end run on the bus can take up to an hour.
Last night at the open house, potential plans were laid out for all to see, and they finally included median bus lanes. Noah Kazis from Streetsblog was on hand to file a report. While the MTA and NYC are also considering curbside and offset bus lanes, the center lanes stole the show. Kazis writes:
Since bus riders wouldn’t be able to wait on the sidewalk to board the bus, DOT would build new protected platforms in the street. If the platforms are built totally level with the bus floor, as on the subway, this would make boarding the bus much faster, especially for the elderly or disabled. As on all SBS routes, passengers would pay their fares before boarding, allowing buses to spend time moving rather than waiting for each passenger to dip their MetroCard in turn.
Median-running bus lanes and platform-level boarding are two of the most important features of world-class BRT identified in the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy’s BRT Standard scorecard. Existing Select Bus Service routes haven’t met the threshold for bus rapid transit according to ITDP’s system; the Webster Avenue route, it seems, could break the mold.
The Webster Avenue project is still in a very early stage and all three options are little more than concepts at this point. However, the potential for serious transit improvements is especially high here, because there’s already strong political support for Select Bus Service. Both State Senator Gustavo Rivera and Assembly Member Vanessa Gibson have endorsed Webster Avenue SBS, though they have not spoken about particular designs. More than 50 people participated in Wednesday’s open house, said a DOT spokesperson, and were broadly supportive of the transit improvements.
Of course, as the before-and-after diagrams from the SBS presentation [pdf] make perfectly clear, parking spots will be lost and traffic lanes as well. The regular slew of NIMBY business owners will raise a stink, and perhaps, the city will “settle” for something less groundbreaking in another 15 months.
To this, I say, “Prove me wrong.” It’s bad enough that these SBS routes don’t cross borough boundaries and deliver people from the Bronx to, say, a job hub or an airport in Queens. But let’s bring truly dedicated lanes to an area that needs traffic mitigation and transit improvements. The next step will be doing it in less than 48 months but perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself.
As MTA Board members rail against the authority for neglecting the Bronx’s subway stations, the authority announced today that the city’s northernmost borough will be next in line for BusTime, the real-time bus tracking program currently in place on Staten Island. While the timeline for implementation remains a bit hazy, the authority pledged to have BusTime online in the Bronx and another yet-to-be-determined borough by the end of 2012 with the final two boroughs coming by the end of 2013.
“I am happy to hear that the MTA is expanding this service to the Bronx. Now bus riders in our borough will not have to rely on guesswork and a look into the distance to see when their bus is going to arrive. This service is very convenient and will provide commuters in our borough with up to the minute information. That information will surely come in handy all year round, especially during the cold winter months,” Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. said in a statement.
To ready the Bronx fleet, the MTA and its contractors will outfit 1025 buses with GPS units and the other technological components needed to implement the service. In another 24 months, we’ll all get to enjoy a service that should markedly improve the New York City bus experience as smart phone-enabled bus tracking becomes the city norm. “Knowing how far away your next bus is means you can spend more time with your family or more time at a coffee shop instead of waiting at a bus stop in a state of uncertainty,” MTA Chairman Joseph Lhota said. “About 90% of our customers carry text-message enabled cell phones, so this is a big step forward to help make the lives of our customers a lot easier.”
When I was a kid traveling to Yankee Stadium from the Upper West Side, I would transfer from the 2 to the 4 at the 149th St. stop, and it was a mess. It’s a deep, dark station, and pipes above the old mosaics had corroded. Mineral-laden water had basically ruined the walls. Today, the pipes are sealed, but the damage remains. The station, a very busy one in the Bronx, is in bad shape, and I’m not the only one noticing.
At this week’s MTA Board meetings, Charlie Moerdler chided the MTA for allowing the Bronx stations to become decrepit. A recent study showed that the Bronx stations are the dirtiest in the system and are ripe for an upgrade. “You cannot expect people in the Bronx who work hard to deal with the fact that the subway stations here are lousy but the stations in Manhattan are pristine,” he said. “Enough is enough.”
For its part, the MTA says that rehabs at 42 at 71 Bronx stations have been completed, and 17 more are set to proceed under the remainder of the capital plan. “The Bronx,” Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr., said, “will no longer be a punching bag.” The problem isn’t that the Bronx is a punching bag; it’s that stations everywhere are in disrepair. The Bronx stops might be the dirtiest, but they certainly don’t have a monopoly on chipped paint, rats or crumbling concrete.
Brian Cashman and Jorge Posada pose last May at the opening of the Yankee Stadium Metro-North stop. (Photo by Benjamin Kabak)
For twenty years, MTA officials and city politicians spoke about securing Metro-North access to the South Bronx. The tracks were there, and the draw — a popular baseball stadium — ensured high demand for a good portion of the year. But as long as the Yankees threatened to leave the Bronx, no party wanted to commit to spend $90 million on a station that wouldn’t see much traffic otherwise.
When the Yankees announced plans for their new stadium, though, everyone sprang into action. The city paid $39 million to help build the station, and the MTA covered the remaining $52 million. Since then, as Judy Rife explores in the Times Herald-Record this week, the station has seen increased ridership and has been deemed a success so far. She writes:
Metro-North Railroad’s statistics are something of a wowser, too. In June, the first month when a year-over-year comparison was possible, about 44,500 fans took the train to the game — a whopping 45 percent increase. The new Yankees/153rd Street station opened last year.
And, yes, there were two more games this June than last, but Metro-North is still registering significantly higher average ridership for the season to date — 3,219 for weekday games and 3,819 for weekend ones. Not bad for a year-old service to a 51,800-seat stadium, where attendance is usually in the mid-40,000s.
Bob MacLagger, Metro-North’s vice president for planning, shamelessly calls the new station a “grand slam” and waxes promotional in recounting the reviews it’s received: “It’s better, faster, quicker, cheaper, easier — no driving, no traffic, no parking, no brainer.”
Transit advocates too have praised the station for its high ridership in its infancy. “There are all sorts of spin-off benefits to the station,” Jeff Zupan of the Regional Plan Association said.” But I think what it has done, perhaps more than anything else, is introduce people who may not have used public transportation before to the train.”
The new station certainly has made getting to and from Yankee Stadium easier for many people, and it’s opened up the new Gateway Center at the Bronx Terminal Market to transit as well. Yet, although we should be praising this new station, its success and its long and tortured history showcases how integration between the city’s commuter rail lines and the five boroughs is generally lacking. It shouldn’t take a baseball stadium to provide Metro-North service to the South Bronx just as it shouldn’t take a massive real estate complex to ensure a Metro-North access point at West 60th St. and the Hudson River.
As a Yankee fan and a transit supporter, I’m certainly pleased to see this Metro-North stop siphoning cars away from the South Bronx and providing the neighborhood with another alternate means of transportation. Next time, hopefully, it won’t take twenty years for a station so obvious to see the light of day.
As one of the myriad service cuts implemented by the MTA this service, the decision to cut the Barretto Point Park Pool shuttle for a savings of just $100,000 looms large. The MTA launched this bus in 2008 and ran it for approximately 11-12 weeks every summer, shuttling pool-bound swimmers from the 6 at Hunts Point Ave. to the pool. With no shuttle, the pool attendance has plunged.
In Metro this week, Carly Baldwin explores the numbers. As of August 11, only 22,473 people had visited the pool this year, down from 29,807 last year. Considering the heat we’ve had and the relatively dry summer, a 25-percent drop in attendance is very unexpected. Those who run the pool, however, are pointing fingers at the MTA.
“It’s been almost the hottest July on record. Numbers should be up,” Adam Liebowitz from the Point Community Development Corporation said to Baldwin. “In previous summers you had to wait on line 20, 30 minutes before you could go in. But now I’ve heard the lines are gone. It’s obviously because of the lack of public transportation.”
On the surface, the MTA’s numbers seem to warrant eliminating the shuttle bus. After all, they say, only 120 people took the route during the week and the weekend average was just 340. But over the course of the 73 days the shuttle ran last year, that added up to nearly 14,000 pool-bound travelers. Now, unless these Bronx denizens want to risk a 30-minute walk from the subway or an 11-block walk from the Bx6 through an area known for prostitution, the swimming pool if off limits. Is the $100,000 saved over the summer worth it?
For three weeks in June, New York City Transit ran 4 express service in the Bronx as part of a pilot program. With a new signal system in place along the Jerome Ave. line, Transit ran express trains along the little-used middle track from June 8-June 26 in an effort to ease overcrowding on the popular 4 train and speed up the commutes of residents from the Bronx.
Today, Transit announced a new seven-week extension of this pilot program with an eye toward making it a permanent part of 4 train service in the Bronx. The new pilot will kick off on Monday, Oct. 26 and run through Friday, Dec. 11. As they did over the summer, Transit plans to run five Manhattan-bound express trains starting at 7 a.m. and continuing every 20 minutes until 8:20 a.m. The trains will skip eight stops along the way, one fewer than over the summer.
After receiving feedback from riders, Transit has decided to include Bedford Park Boulevard as an express stop. The trains, then, will start at Woodlawn and stop at Mosholu Parkway, Bedford Park Blvd.-Lehman College, Burnside Avenue and 149th Street-Grand Concourse. The route designation will indeed be a diamond 4.
For Transit, this pilot extension is a sign of the success of the line general manager program. David Knights, the IRT East general manager, has seen this project through from inception to its second pilot, and he would love to see it become a permanent part of Bronx 4 service. “Customers who use the Bronx Express 4 will skip eight stations, which should reduce their travel times by about four minutes from the 21-minute scheduled running time between Woodlawn and 149th Street-Grand Concourse during the height of the a.m. peak. This time savings is significant when heading to work in the morning,” Knights said.
Transit head Howard Roberts praised the time-saving nature of the program and the general manager’s initiative. “In New York City, every second counts and if we can give a few extra minutes to our customers, we will certainly strive to do so,” NYC Transit President Howard H. Roberts, Jr., said. “Thanks to the innovative thinking of David Knights, Group General Manager of IRT East and 4 Line General Manager Stepfone Montgomery, more service improvements like this should be expected by our customers.”
When all is said and done in December, Transit will evaluate the second of this program and determine its future. Hopefully, it will stick around, and hopefully, Transit will continue to explore how to utilize underserved express tracks — such as those along the F line — in order to ease congestion and reduce commute times while fully exploiting existing infrastructure.
As a service to those SAS readers who ride the 5 in the Bronx, an announcement: Due to signal modernization efforts at E. 180th St., Transit will be suspending 5 express service in both directions along the White Plains Line in the Bronx from now until Nov. 11, 2009. All trains will run local between the 3rd Ave./E. 149th St. station and the E. 180th St. station. Furthermore, during the afternoon rush, four northbound 5 trains that usually run to Nereid Ave. will terminate at E. 180th St. Transit urges riders to switch to northbound 2 trains at E. 180th St. or other Nereid Ave.-bound 5 trains.
Per the agency press release, “The three month suspension of express service is necessary in order to accommodate the ongoing $280 million East 180th Street Signal Modernization Project. The scope of work includes the reconfiguration of track, installation of new signal equipment, the construction of a new relay room and additional Automatic Train Supervision (ATS) functionality for the Dyre/White Plains Road line.” It’s another part of the piecemeal system upgrade that should one day allow for CBTC and OPTO trains on the IRT lines.
Yesterday morning marked the debut of NYC Transit’s 4 express service in the Bronx. The trial run, set to last until June 26th when it will be reevaluated, features four trains from 7-8 a.m. that skip most Bronx stops. The express trains shave approximately three minutes off of commuters’ travel times and, during day one at least, helped ease congestion on the perennially overcrowded IRT line.
During the inaugural day of this service, NY1 News spoke to those straphangers who took advantage of the new service, and it earned raves all around. With more room and a speedier ride, what’s not to like? “Express service is definitely much better. Get to work quicker and the local is always crowded. I’d prefer the express to stay,” one rider said.
I have to praise the MTA for this move. At little cost to the agency, Transit is taking existing unused tracks and adding service over them. This service alleviates overcrowding and provides for a faster ride, and it doesn’t require a significant capital outlay of new tracks, new tunnels or new stations. In fact, it sounds materially similar to the F Express plan for which I had lobbied in 2007.
Update (1:30 p.m.): In a move reminiscent of the diamond 6 service, NYC Transit is planning a pilot program that would see the 4 train run express in the Bronx. According to amNew York’s Heather Haddon, Transit hopes that by running some Manhattan-bound 4 trains as express from the 7-8 a.m. rush, the agency can reduce overcrowding along the popular line.
Per Haddon, some 4 trains will run express between Woodlawn and 149th St.-Grand Concourse. The trains would take advantage of the new signals on the line that would allow them run along the middle track and will stop at Mosholu Parkway and Burnside Ave. The pilot program is set to begin on June 8 and run through June 26. If it is succesful, the MTA will consider making it a permanent service.
The MTA offered up more more info in a press release, explaining the origins of the idea and the signal upgrades:
“The idea for this pilot is directly attributable to the Line General Managers program and it illustrates the types of innovations made possible when you have people running the railroad directly. David Knights, Group General Manager of IRT East and 4 Line General Manager Herb Lambert were looking to speed travel along a route that has been traditionally local in the Bronx,” said New York City Transit President Howard H. Roberts, Jr. “Signal improvements and the continued mechanical reliability of the car fleet have allowed them to try new ways of improving service.”
“By skipping nine stations, the Bronx Express 4 is expected to shave about 3.5 minutes off the 20 to 21 minutes scheduled running time between Woodlawn and 149th Street-Grand Concourse during the height of the a.m. peak. This is a significant time saving when you are headed out to work in the morning,” said IRT East Group General Manager Knights. “This pilot will determine the feasibility of bringing Jerome Avenue service in line with the Concourse, White Plains Road and Pelham Bay corridors by offering an express service to morning commuters.”
This pilot is possible because of the recent upgrades made to the center track signaling system within the 2005-2009 Capital Program. The signal job called for the installation of intermediate signals along the stretch of elevated track between Woodlawn and 161st Street. As a result of the project, we now have a greater flexibility of use with the middle track and can send trains in passenger service as well as work trains up or down the middle track. In the event of a disruption in service or track maintenance, we can also reroute trains onto the middle track. Similar signaling systems, allowing express service, are in place on the Flushing and White Plains Road Lines among others that have three tracks.
While the digital signs on the R142s render the 13 bullet rollsign moot, it’s worth noting that the MTA has four unused green bullets in its arsenal — 8, 10, 11 and 12. Maybe the express will earn a new numerical designation instead of the old diamond/express designation.
A new Metro-North stop and the Bronx’s first transit addition in decades will open tomorrow morning. (Photo by Benjamin Kabak)
Tomorrow morning shortly before 6 a.m., a Grand Central-bound Metro-North train on the Hudson line will make a stop at Yankees-E. 153rd St. stop. It will be the first train with passenger to stop at this new station, and it will usher in an era of increased transit accessibility for Yankee fans from Westchester and Connecticut.
Yesterday, I went up to the new station for its official dedication. Joining me at Grand Central for the ride up north were Jorge Posada, David Cone and Brian Cashman as well as one Michael Bloomberg.
The day was a congratulatory one for the MTA. They opened up the new station at Yankee Stadium on time and on budget. The agency known for its massive delays and cost overruns held down an aggressive timetable and a $91-million budget for a project that had to be managed around active train lines.
It took just 24 months to build and should help reduce traffic volume in and around the South Bronx during Yankee games. “It’s another alternative to taking the subway here,” the Mayor said during the ceremony “And the more alternatives you give, the fewer people will drive.”
The trip up north started at Grand Central Terminal with a deadhead ride — a free train — to the new station. The new schedules claim it is a 16-minute ride from Grand Central to the Yankee Stadium stop, and they’re not kidding. It’s a fast, smooth ride that will make just one stop — at 125th St. — when it debuts on Saturday morning.
When we arrived at the station, the Yankees just stood there as city and MTA officials took over. The Mayor started off with a joke. While chatting with Brian Cashman in the VIP train car on the way up — I, by the way, was with the press in a different car — he offered to pitch for the Yanks. “I throw righty and not lefty,” he said. “They just don’t need another right-handed pitcher. So I guess I’m out of that job and will keep my old one.”
After that, though, it was all business. Bloomberg praised the MTA for realizing the three-decade-old dream of building a station at Yankee Stadium and in the South Bronx. He stressed how the station will improve the quality of life for not just Yankee fans but for residents of the polluted and congested neighborhood. “It’s not just for Yankee Stadium; it’s for the entire South Bronx,” he said while trumpeting his long-term goals of getting cars off the road in New York City.
After Bloomberg finished up, a spate of speakers followed him. Elliot Sander, the outgoing MTA CEO and Executive Director, MTA Chair Dale Hemmerdinger and Metro-North President Howard Permut gave the agency spiel. New Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr., trumped the stadium’s impact on the Bronx.
The technicalities of the station are advanced, and the structure itself is a sight to behold. It is a state-of-the-art 10,000-square-foot, fully ADA-accessible facility. Officials estimated up to 10,000 passengers per day for Yankee games, and if they reach that goal, vehicular traffic around the stadium should decrease significantly. It features four tracks all ten cars in length and real-time train arrival boards.
From an engineering perspective, the MTA had to spread out four tracks of the Hudson Line to construct the extra-wide platforms. The agency had to snake them between the columns supporting the Major Deegan Expressway and Exterior Street. Additionally, Metro-North has activated a section of track one mile east of the stadium stop to ensure that Harlem and New Haven Line trains can make the stop during gamedays and still hook back up with their proper routes.
In terms of service, the station will see regularly hourly service along the Hudson Line, but on gamedays, service will be increased significantly. Trains from Grand Central will leave every 15-20 minutes, and either three or four additional trains from points north along the Hudson, New Haven and Harlem lines will pass through the station prior to games. Anyone who lives near a Metro-North line east of the Hudson now has little reason to drive to a game.
The fare scheme is too complicated to explain in detail because it depends upon point of origination. In general, tickets to the station from points north will cost either 75 cents (off-peak) or $1 (peak) more than it does to get to Manhattan. From Grand Central to Yankee Stadium, peak tickets will be $6.50 and off-peak $5 until the fares go up next month. It’s certainly an expensive, if fast and comfortable, alternative to the subway.
Metro-North will also accept the $3.50 City Tickets good for weekend and holiday travel with the New York City limits, and all monthly passes will be honored as well. To beat fare-beaters, customers must have a valid ticket to exit the station before a game and to access the platforms afterward.
In the end, it’s hard not to be excited about this station. It’s a big, modern station just a five- to eight-minute walk away from the new Yankee Stadium. It should be popular for years to come, and it will open for business on Saturday. So if you’re off to see the Phillies play the Yanks on Saturday afternoon, take the train and take comfort in the fact that, when push comes to shove, the MTA can build a new facility on time and on budget. It may not be as sexy as the Second Ave. Subway, but as Hemmerdinger noted, these smaller expansion projects are just as important to the future of transit in New York City as the big-ticket items are.