Archive for New York City Transit
As the MTA looks to expand its subway service offerings to better align with customer demand, three subway lines will be enjoying additional service increases come the Summer of 2013. According to Transit, the 1, 7 and J lines will see off-peak service increases with six additional round trips on the 1, 13 new round trips on the 7 and three on the Z. The new service will cost $2 million annually and are in addition to the recent slate of service increases the MTA announced earlier this fall.
Essentially, these changes are in response to demand and load guidelines that the MTA sets for itself. One of the lesser reported elements of the 2010 service cuts included an increase in load guidelines. Thus a train is no longer considered at capacity until all seats are taken and a quarter of riders are standing. Were the MTA to reduce these load guidelines, more routes will be eligible for these service increases. Instead, the trains simply remain somewhat more crowded, and off-peak riders on the 1, 7 and J will benefit in a few seasons.
For the past week, we’ve seen photo after photo of flooded tunnels, wrecked stations and eroded trainbeds. Yet, somehow, when we all leave work today, most of the city’s subway lines will be running, and service will be sufficient enough to get us all home. Considering the Governor and MTA officials were warning of historic destruction in the subway system just seven days ago, many subway riders are probably wondering how everything got fixed so quickly.
To answer just that question, New York Magazine’s Robert Kolker went underground to profile the service restoration efforts. In a way, it’s a story of how everything went right shortly after everything had gone horribly wrong. I’ll excerpt, but do yourself a favor and read the whole thing.
Half of the subway system’s fourteen under-river tubes flooded. A few filled up end to end, much like the MTA’s Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel. They couldn’t even send workers out to assess them until after the second surge at the next high tide Tuesday morning.
Pumping began soon after — or “dewatering,” as the pumping industry calls it. Other city agencies had to rely on outside contractors to pump their tunnels. But it happens that the subway system already had its own toys. Each of the system’s under-river tunnels has a sump to deal with everyday seepage, and each also has a tube fixed to the side called a discharge line. Starting Tuesday, the system sent in its “pump trains” — diesel powered trains with five or six cars, run by just five or six workers. Underneath the trains are pumps, moving hundreds of gallons of water back into the river every minute. “You take the pump train and you bury the first car up to the floor level so it’s underwater,” Prendergast says, “and you hook it up to the discharge line and you start pumping the tunnel dry.”
The only problem was the MTA had seven flooded tunnels and just three pump trains. It can take up to 100 hours to pump the largest tubes, fully loaded with water, or as little as five or six hours for those that are smaller or less fully flooded. It was time to prioritize. “If you let the size of the effort overcome you, you can’t get started,” Prendergast says. “So you just take on the most important tunnels first. It’s like the old story: How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” The highest priority was the 4, 5, and 6 Lexington line — the highest capacity line in the United States in terms of customers carried — which connects to the Joraleman Street tunnel. Then there was Clark Street tunnel, which connects to the West Side IRT 2 and 3 trains. Those lines were luckily not completely flooded. The Army Corps of Engineers helped out with some crucial work on the Montague Street tunnel, but Prendergast says the MTA handled the majority of the effort.
After pumping, the MTA had to inspect the tunnels and begin the desalination process. With the power out in Lower Manhattan, they enjoyed something of a grace period where they could work uninterrupted and without as much pressure from above. Until ConEd turned the juice on, after all, the MTA couldn’t run trains.
We know the endings: Services are coming back where damage was not too severe, and other sections will be waiting a while longer. Meanwhile, as NYC Transit President Tom Prendergast said of the MTA’s remedial measures, “If the bus bridge did anything, it helped underscore for people how our rail system has a lot more utility than our bus system.” Will we carry these lessons onward into the future?
Amidst a healthy dose of New York City skepticism, Transit unveiled a pilot program late last year that saw trash cans disappear. In an effort to cut down on litter and trash collection costs, the MTA believed that without trash cans, straphangers would simply carry their garbage out of the system with them. While many pointed to those rude enough to throw garbage on the tracks, the vast majority of people aren’t such pigs, and Transit’s pilot program has, according to the agency, been a success.
Now, the MTA announced this morning that eight more stations will see their garbage cans removed. The expansion of the project is still being billed as a pilot. Transit wants to “get a better understanding of the impact of removing trash cans,” and these eight additional stations will have no receptacles for six months. The locations — two stations in each of the Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens — are a mix of elevated and underground stations that are “average-sized.”
The list is as follows. Interestingly, a few of these stations are fairly low-ridership stops:
- 238th Street 1 station
- East 143rd Street 6 station
- 57th Street F station
- Rector Street 1 station
- 7th Avenue FG station
- Brighton Beach Q station
- 111th Street A station
- 65th Street MR station
In addition to cost savings, Transit hopes eliminating trash cans will cut down on the underground rodent population as well. One of the issues facing the MTA involves the removal of trash bags from the subway. Often, these bags sit on platforms or in storage rooms for days on end, creating food sources and homes for the myriad rodents that scurry about underground. Short of an outright food ban — controversial in its own right — cutting down on the volume of trash that accumulates could help control the number of subway rats. Or so the thinking goes.
Earlier this week, during the MTA Board Committee meetings, the Transit Committee materials let slip an interesting fact: Fare evasion is higher than previously reported. Facing pressure from within and without, Transit has upped its estimate of lost revenue to around $100 million. Based on the latest budget projections, that puts the agency’s bleed rate at around 2.7 percent, not unmanageable but higher than anyone would like.
Now, it’s all well and good to target fare evasion, but there’s a potential PR problem looming. What do you if many of those evading the fares are children? According to an article in today’s Wall Street Journal, children who duck under turnstiles could account for up to 43 percent of the subway fare evasion problem. Sumathi Reddy had more to say:
Last year, the Daily News reported that an agency staff report presented at a conference found that 43% of fare-beaters were kids taller than 44 inches ducking under turnstiles. At the time, the Daily News said the authority was considering placing signs near turnstiles to make riders aware of the rule.
Bowling Green is the only subway station that has one: Near the turnstiles at every subway entrance is a blue sign with a yellow ruler. The 44-inch point is marked and the sign says: “When accompanied by an adult, up to 3 children under 44 inches in height, ride free.”
Hmmm. So if you have four babies in tow, you have to pay for one. Who knew? But it doesn’t clearly spell out that if a parent has even one child over 44 inches, he or she must pay (though that information is posted on booths).
A spokesman for the MTA said the Bowling Green sign was part of a pilot program that began last year to inform commuters that the requirement exists. He said the agency is studying whether it’s feasible to put them up across the entire system.
Of course, the sign, as Reddy notes, is having no effect. She noticed parents opening the emergency exits for her children, two children doubling up on one swipe at the urging of their parents and a general disregard for the height requirement.
What to do? What to do? Reddy offers up this child-friendly take: “It’s hard to complain about the MTA not cracking down on child fare-beaters. In fact, we should probably applaud them, though one has to wonder why the rule exists to begin with.” Still, with the stories she tells, parents should be under the microscope here, and neither age nor height should excuse a proper fare payment.
Yet, it’s a tough question to address. If the MTA is going to cut down on fare evasion, it will have to focus on the fact that a lot of children who should be paying for the rides have not been, and that’s an uncomfortable conundrum for parents and transit executives alike.
Transit’s ongoing signal inspection scandal may be coming to a head as 10 MTA workers are facing arrest, according to reports. As The Daily News first reported, eight signal inspectors and two “low-level” supervisors could be arrested as early as this week in an investigation related to the faked signal inspection reports. The workers will be arraigned tomorrow in a Manhattan court and with face felony charges of tampering with official records and a misdemeanor charge of official misconduct.
While MTA officials haven’t said much about the pending arrests or charges, union leaders are outraged that no one in management has been charged yet. “It’s astounding to us that the senior level bosses that orchestrated this entire charade, this entire issue that led to fraudulent signal inspections, have been untouched by the district attorney,” TWU President John Samuelsen said.
These arrests and any subsequent trial could be very explosive for the MTA. I’ll continue to follow this story.
Let’s continue our look into the 2011 ridership numbers with an examination of weekend rider trends. Last week, I took a look at stations with the greatest decline in use over the weekend, and today, we’ll flip that on its head. The below tables represent the stations with weekend totals that mirror their weekday usage.
Over the past year, we’ve heard a lot about how weekend transit ridership is on the rise. These days, with 5.2 million riders during a typical weekday, Saturday ridership at over 3 million is around 57 percent of an average weekday, and Sunday is at 45 percent. These numbers are on the rise, and some areas see constant traffic throughout the week. Let’s take a look first at the Saturday table. I omitted the Aqueduct Racetrack stop which gets 116 riders per weekday and a whopping 264 per Saturday.
|Beach 90 St (A,S)||1,019||1,363||134|
|Mets-Willets Pt (7)||4,472||5,650||126|
|Metropolitan Av (G)/Lorimer St (L)||12,815||12,479||97|
|Inwood-207 St (A)||8,888||8,616||97|
|Cortlandt St (R)||4,745||4,598||97|
|Prince St (N,R)||16,223||15,519||96|
|Coney Island-Stillwell Av (D,F,N,Q)||13,254||12,169||92|
|Aqueduct-North Conduit Av (A)||1,386||1,271||92|
|Christopher St-Sheridan Sq (1)||10,077||9,053||90|
Bedford Ave. with 19,979 Saturday riders as compared with 22,520 weekday riders just missed the top ten here, and Canal St. too sees over 40,000 on Saturday compared with 45,000 on a weekday. So what do we see here? Weekend destinations — such as Mets games and Coney Island — are popular, and tourist-heavy shopping and sight-seeing areas in Greenwich Village and SoHo attract riders as well. Strong ridership in Inwood was a bit of a surprise, but that likely is a result of a shuttered 1 train stop leaving only the A as a subway option in northern Manhattan. Metropolitan/Lorimer highlights how popular the L and G trains have become.
Next up, Sunday:
|Mets-Willets Pt (7)||4,472||5,195||116|
|Beach 90 St (A,S)||1,019||1,002||98|
|Metropolitan Av (G)/Lorimer St (L)||12,815||10,061||79|
|Howard Beach-JFK Airport (A)||2,729||2,080||76|
|Christopher St-Sheridan Sq (1)||10,077||7,668||76|
|Bedford Av (L)||22,520||17,081||76|
|Coney Island-Stillwell Av (D,F,N,Q)||13,254||10,044||76|
|Inwood-207 St (A)||8,888||6,473||73|
|Prince St (N,R)||16,223||11,550||71|
Sunday is obviously the lowest trafficked day of the week. Most people stay home and eschew subway travel. Yet, recreational destinations remain strong. The Mets are atop the list, and the AirTrain stop at JFK maintains its ridership figures as well. People head to the Beach in Brooklyn, and Williamsburg denizens and visitors seem to favor the subway as well. If Bedford Ave. or the G/L station a few blocks away seem perpetually crowded, well, that’s because they are.
I’ll release the full datasets later this week. For now, we have a solid set of numbers to chew on as subway ridership and weekend usage continue to test a system long accustomed to massive weekend changes. Everyone is riding the subways these days.
Over the past few days, I’ve examined the trends in subway ridership. We started with a pretty basic look at the top ten busiest stationsof 2011 and drilled down by borough as well. Today, I want to flip the numbers a bit.
Below, are two tables that show the biggest declines in ridership over the weekend. Some stations — particularly those located in Lower Manhattan and Midtown East — are quite susceptible to a great weekend decline. These are popular destinations for the working commuter, and the neighborhoods clear out after the work week is over. We’ll start with Saturday.
|Hunters Point Av (7)||6,113||1,051||17|
|5 Av-53 St (E,M)||23,970||4,556||19|
|Wall St (2,3)||25,559||5,405||21|
|33 St-Rawson St (7)||13,587||3,162||23|
|Pelham Pkwy (5)||3,236||797||25|
|Morris Park (5)||1,966||573||29|
|Avenue M (Q)||4,632||1,399||30|
|55 St (D)||1,983||601||30|
|Wall St (4,5)||22,986||7,291||32|
|Fulton St (A,C,J,Z,2,3,4,5)||63,203||20,167||32|
I was surprised at first to see Hunters Point Ave. leading off this list, but upon further reflection, it’s clear that there is literally nothing there that would be open on the weekends. The decline at 5 Ave.-53rd St. is pretty extreme considering that MOMA is down the block, but clearly, the museum-goers aren’t taking the E train there on the weekends. Fulton St. is another station with a huge decline. The weekend numbers are still impressive, but that two-thirds drop is extreme, especially considering the expense of the Transit Center that will ideally attract more people during off-peak hours.
Now, Sunday. It’s an awfully similar chart, and even fewer people head to Fulton St. on Sunday.
|33 St-Rawson St (7)||13,587||1,530||11|
|Hunters Point Av (7)||6,113||809||13|
|5 Av-53 St (E,M)||23,970||3,190||13|
|Wall St (2,3)||25,559||4,033||16|
|Pelham Pkwy (5)||3,236||540||17|
|Morris Park (5)||1,966||403||20|
|Eastchester-Dyre Av (5)||4,603||991||22|
|Fulton St (A,C,J,Z,2,3,4,5)||63,203||14,318||23|
|Wall St (4,5)||22,986||5,219||23|
|36 St (M,R)||4,340||1,018||23|
The numbers for Wall Street are pretty amazing really. This 2/3 station with its tiny platform sees over 25,000 entries on a typical weekday but only 9400 over the two days of the weekend combined. No matter how much the city pushes residential life in Lower Manhattan, the Financial District has seemingly remained stubbornly immune to it. It’s just your typical urban business center from which the population vanishes at 5 p.m. on Friday.
Outside of the top ten, other notables include Grand Central, which sees a decline of 63 percent on Saturday and 72 percent on Sunday over a typical weekday. Even with a decline of over 100,000 riders, the station still sees 41,000 passengers on Sunday. Similarly, Bryant Park dips from over 50,000 per weekday to 20,000 on a Saturday and just under 15,000 for Sunday. Just something to chew on.
I examined yesterday the top ten most popular subway stations in New York City, and by virtue of Manhattan’s central focus and popularity, nine of the ten are in the County of New York. Let’s expand the scope a bit and explore the other boroughs as well. We’ll start with Queens.
|1||Flushing-Main St (7)||18,967,751|
|2||74-Bway (7)/Jackson Hts-Roosevelt Av (E,F,M,R)||16,377,496|
|3||Jamaica Center-Parsons-Archer (E,J,Z)||12,147,163|
|4||Forest Hills-71 Av (E,F,M,R)||8,316,825|
|5||Kew Gardens-Union Turnpike (E,F)||8,179,749|
|6||Woodhaven Blvd (M,R)||7,241,776|
|7||Junction Blvd (7)||6,963,489|
|8||Sutphin Blvd-Archer Av-JFK Airport (E,J,Z)||6,839,255|
|9||Jamaica-179 St (F)||6,818,728|
|10||Court Sq (E,G,M,7)||6,334,869|
In Queens — as in Brooklyn and the Bronx — key transfer points seem to be the most popular stations. These stops are also centrally located in some densely populated residential areas. Court Square will likely see a bump this year with the new complex.
|1||Jay St-MetroTech (A,C,F,R)||11,149,629|
|2||Court St (R)/Borough Hall (2,3,4,5)||11,115,037|
|3||Atlantic Av (B,Q,2,3,4,5)/Pacific St (D,N,R)||10,726,332|
|4||Crown Heights-Utica Av (3,4)||8,438,284|
|5||Bedford Av (L)||7,738,863|
|6||Flatbush Av-Brooklyn College (2,5)||6,547,958|
|7||Myrtle-Wyckoff Avs (L,M)||5,358,434|
|8||Kings Hwy (B,Q)||5,311,662|
|9||Nostrand Av (A,C)||5,139,201|
|10||DeKalb Av (B,Q,R)||5,122,803|
In Brooklyn, the first two stations feed into the downtown area with jobs and housing. I expect Atlantic Ave./Pacific St. to move to the top of this list once the Barclays Center arena opens. If the rest of the Atlantic Yards project ever sees the light of day, it will far surpass Jay St. on the leaderboard. Beford Ave. has seen annual ridership grow by 2 million since 2007. That’s stunning growth.
|1||161 St-Yankee Stadium (B,D,4)||8,605,893|
|2||3 Av-149 St (2,5)||7,232,070|
|4||149 St-Grand Concourse (2,4,5)||4,169,699|
|5||Fordham Rd (4)||3,966,339|
|6||Fordham Rd (B,D)||3,680,312|
|7||Burnside Av (4)||3,528,312|
|8||Hunts Point Av (6)||3,191,706|
|9||Kingsbridge Rd (4)||3,169,615|
|10||Morrison Av-Soundview (6)||3,028,145|
In the Bronx, with the courthouse up the hill and the Yankees across the street, the 161st St. station leads the pack. The remainder are key transfer points, job centers or major residential areas. I sense a theme.
As Friday rolls around in New York, the city’s straphangers know that weekend subway service will be spotty, at best. Trains that should run local will go express, and trains that should run express might run local. Other trains may not run at all or head to some other train’s usual terminal. It’s confusing, and travel takes longer. According to a new report, the MTA isn’t particularly good at informing its customers of these changes.
One problem the MTA has struggled to combat over the years concerns signage. At a basic level, many New Yorkers simply do not read signs, and that’s a problem impossible to overcome. To fight that basic stubbornness or laziness, Transit instead bombards us with frequent in-car announcements concerning upcoming stops and rerouted trains. If a rider doesn’t know where the train is going, he or she is simply not listening.
But on a different level, the MTA has also battled an information problem. Although service advisories are posted online a few days in advance, the agency hasn’t quite hit the nail on the head when it comes to in-system signage. Transit’s latest iteration of its service advisory posters are more colorful and easier to read, but covering the system appropriately remains a challenge. According to a report released yesterday by the New York City Transit Riders Council, the MTA does not always post signage in every station as they promised, and old signage lingers long past its expiration date.
The Riders Council conducted their study over the course of a few weekends in October and November. They surveyed 48 stations 63 times from 7:30 a.m. to 11 p.m., and on the traditional letter grade system, the MTA would likely walk away with a D for its signage efforts. While Transit promised to hang signs near entrances and on platforms, only 64 percent of entrances featured signs, and just 60 percent of platforms hosted the posters.
With the London-inspired posters, Transit in 2010 also debuted new line-specific signs to be hung upon station columns. The Riders Council found that these signs were featured in just 55 percent of station entrances but on 72 percent of platforms. To make matters worse, five stations surveyed had no signage at all concerning service changes at that station. These included Nostrand Ave., Broadway Junction and High St. all on the IND Fulton Line in Brooklyn.
In terms of alternative access, Transit did not fare any better. The authority provided ADA-accessibility information in just 53 percent of stations surveyed, and only 71 percent of stations had signs that listed alternate routes for any straphanger combatting service changes. The Riders Council was not impressed. “Looking at the 48 stations overall,” the report says, “the level of compliance is mediocre at best.”
After noting that some stations featured only hastily-scribbled hand-written signs, the Riders Council issued some fairly obvious recommendations. The MTA must make a more concerted effort to post signs at every station and every entrance. “Riders need to be informed of all service changes prior to entering the station,” the report noted.
Interestingly, the Riders Council issued a call for faster installation of the MTA’s new digital Station Advisory Information Displays. Noting the flexibility and visibility of these 21st Century screens, the report urged the MTA to pick up the pace of installation and target areas that are both high traffic and likely to go through service diversions. “By installing SAID boards in the unpaid areas of stations, NYC Transit would provide riders with a predictable and reliable place to look for service advisories,” they said.
It’s hard to dispute any of these findings. While I recognize that the MTA can’t force its customers to read the signs, it must make the signs available and visible. Without the signs, riders must partake in a massively confusing guessing game that will leave them frustrated and delayed. They should be in every station, at every entrance and on every platform. Anything less is just lazy.
I’ve been slowly making my way through the data dump of station information New York City Transit released this week, and later on, I’m hoping to have a post highlighting the busiest fare control areas in the city. Right now, let’s jump in with the basics. The top ten busiest subway stations of 2011 are……
|1||Times Sq-42 St||60,604,822|
|2||Grand Central-42 St||42,795,505|
|3||34 St-Herald Square||37,731,386|
|4||14 St-Union Square||34,927,178|
|5||34 St-Penn Station (1,2,3)||26,758,623|
|6||34 St-Penn Station (A,C,E)||24,751,771|
|7||59 St-Columbus Circle||21,300,892|
|8||Lexington Av-59 St||20,377,141|
|9||86 St (4,5,6)||19,425,347|
Now, that’s not surprising because Times Square is the center of the known universe. The rest make sense too. Interestingly, Queens, which has the third subway ridership by borough, has a station in the top ten while Brooklyn, the second most popular borough, does not. In fact, the most popular station in Brooklyn — Jay St./MetroTech — was just 26nd overall last year.
At the bottom of the list are a bunch of stations in the Rockaways, East 143rd St. along the 6 and 21st on the G. The last one sees just 1,123 per weekday and around 730 per weekend. I’ve always wondered why that station, so close to Court Square, exists. More with this data later.