Archive for View from Underground
Whenever I read another report about the state of New York City’s infrastructure, I think both of the boy who cried wolf and of Nero fiddling while Rome burns. As the trains continue to run everyday, the average New Yorker who pays no attention to these sorts of things must think we’re all crying wolf while the politicians who are aware of the problem but do nothing seem to be the ones fiddling while New York City slowly crumbles around them. The ultimate outcomes — spend lots of money or watch the city lose its global status — aren’t alluring, but something has to give.
The latest warning comes to us from the Center for Urban Future and focuses on the $50 billion in outstanding investments needed to bring our infrastructure up to par. It includes sentences such as this: “LaGuardia’s main terminal is 50 years old and in terrible condition, while two of JFK’s six terminals have stood for over four decades.” In essence, the CUF report doesn’t sugar-coat anything, and the city’s key pieces are, by and large, in terrible shape.
While the state controls most of the transit spending, the report (available here as a PDF) spends some time focusing on the subway. The picture it paints of key systems we don’t usually see or appreciate on a daily basis is grim. According to the report, 37 percent of the system’s signals have exceeded their 50-year useful lifespan, and yet, they keep on ticking.
The MTA’s signaling system is old and obsolete. Of the 728 miles of mainline signals, 269 have exceeded their 50-year useful life. Twenty- six percent are more than 70 years old and 11 percent are between 50 and 69 years old. The equipment is no longer manufactured, forcing the Transit Authority to build and replace parts at its own signal shop…Expediting signal modernization would require a tremendous infusion of money or a significant redistribution of capital dollars among MTA subsidiaries. Even with unlimited funds, replacing signals would be exceedingly difficult and disruptive…
In addition to funding and track access is- sues, the MTA is hobbled by a dearth of qualified contractors. At the moment, only three to four contractors are available to perform signal installation and modernization work. This limits com- petition, increases expenses and caps the amount of signal work that can be performed at any one time. To address this constraint, the MTA recently began a mentoring program for training contractors.
The problem isn’t limited to signal systems. The report takes on station conditions as well.
New York’s subway stations are chaotic and beleaguered. Trash is sometimes strewn across the platform and between the tracks. Leaking ceilings and water-damaged walls are pervasive. Paint peels from the ceiling. Columns rust. Bottlenecks form at narrow stairwells, choking the circulation of foot traffic. “New York’s subway stations are terrible,” says Paaswell of the University Transportation Research Center. “They’re dirty. They’re dingy. They need painting. They need new architecture. They need better lighting.”
While MTA officials recognize these deficien-cies, in recent years they have scaled down their approach to rehabilitation. “In stations, the MTA has basically conceded that you will never get to a state of good repair,” says Jeremy Soffin, the for- mer MTA spokesperson. “It’s simply not possible. There are so many tens of billions of dollars of repair needs.” Since 2010, the MTA has opted to replace individual components in stations rather than perform comprehensive renovations. According to officials, the old strategy proved too slow and too costly.
And what about maintenance shops?
Like the system they service, subway shops and yards are old. The 13 facilities opened nearly 90 years ago on average. Two buildings at the Concourse Yard were recently placed on the Na- tional Register of Historic Places. The East New York facility, originally built in 1880 as a horse and carriage depot, still relies completely on hand- thrown switches. The narrow aisles at the Livonia and 240th Street facilities are ill configured for modern maintenance and repair practices.
In a recent survey of each of its capital asset categories, the MTA found its yards and shops were in the worst state of repair. Fifty-four per- cent of the components at these facilities exceed their useful life. Thirty-eight percent of lighting is in poor condition and does not meet current standards. The MTA has not increased investment to address the decay at its critical maintenance facilities. Instead, capital outlays have fallen from $455 million in the 2000-2004 capital budget to $263 million43 in the current five-year budget. If greater attention is not paid to rehabbing these facilities, subway car maintenance will suffer and train delays will become more common.
Beyond the subway system, you can read about the sorry state of the city’s airports, the rough condition of the roads, and the structural deficiencies that will impact bridges, utilities and schools in the coming years. With at least $50 billion investment pending, this report hardly paints the picture of a city on the rise.
What’s the answer? How do we find a solution? We’ll need leadership and money. Infrastructure upgrades can spur on job creation and economic growth, but neither Andrew Cuomo nor Bill de Blasio has embraced spending on capital projects. The MTA, on the other hand, has proposed a five-year capital plan worth over $20 billion that would address exactly the issues named in this report — at least on the signaling front. They can’t do much beyond that without an infusion of dollars.
Still, this need for investment will require leadership to make uncomfortable and unpopular decisions. It’s not likely to happen soon, but I wonder how long New York can thrive without it. The situation sounds needlessly dire, but that’s because soon it will be. Invest. Fund. Grow.
New York is a city of noise. Amidst the hustle and bustle of pedestrian life, the largely unnecessary honking of horns and the blaring of car alarms, and the sirens that go by at all hours of the day, we tend to block out the aural distractions. Thus, a simple beep, while annoying at the wrong time, is very easy to ignore.
For subway turnstiles, that’s a problem. For every MetroCard swipe, failed or otherwise, an MTA turnstile emits a beep. No matter the outcome, the beep is the same, and even the slight double-beep of a failed swipe or a triple-beep of an empty card aren’t distinct enough to catch the attention of someone who’s already trying to zoom through. In other words, a stiff turnstile arm to the gut is far more likely to draw someone’s attention that a double beep.
As problems go, it’s not a particularly pressing one, but with the MTA eying a complete overhaul of the fare payment system within the next few years, the agency is particularly primed to do something about it. Enter James Murphy. The former frontman for LCD Soundsystem has been pushing his plan to make the subways more tolerable for a few years, and he recently garnered a front-page article in the Wall Street Journal. Murphy’s solution doesn’t solve the problem of differentiating between swipe outcomes, but it would make the subways, he says, sound more pleasant.
For the past 15 years, Mr. Murphy has been crafting what he says is a low-cost musical solution: He has worked out a unique set of notes for every station, one of which would sound each time a passenger swipes his or her MetroCard to catch a train. The busier a station becomes, the richer the harmonies would be. The same notes would also play in a set sequence when the subway arrives at that stop. Each of the city’s 468 subway stations would have note sets in different keys.
As Murphy notes that other subway systems have far more soothing sounds, he isn’t the only one proposing a solution. Still the MTA doesn’t seem too open to the idea:
[Spokesman Adam] Lisberg said Mr. Murphy’s plan “is a very cool idea,” one that several people have independently proposed over the years. But it might be hard to put into practice, he said: It’s likely to require a lot of time and money, and probably means temporarily taking each of the city’s 3,289 turnstiles out of service, something the authority is not inclined to do “for an art project.”
“If you screw something up,” Mr. Lisberg continued, you risk breaking the turnstile. Given the 5.5 million passengers who use the system on an average weekday, he said the transit authority was “not inclined to mess with anything that could get in their way.”
In other words, please swipe again.
For veteran riders of the subway system, there is no better feeling of transit satisfaction than getting to the right spot to wait for a train based on where you want to go. I know, for instance, which set of doors on the Coney Island-bound Q train I need to be among the first people up the stairs at 7th Ave., and I know where to stand to optimize the transfer between the BMT and IRT at Union Square.
Over the years, various tools have allowed New Yorkers more access to this information. The MTA’s neighborhood maps, accessible if you know where to look, help and so too does the Exit Strategy App. Now, though, a new effort by a group calling itself the Efficient Passenger Project is raising some eyebrows both in support and opposition to the effort.
The idea is simple: Signs on subway platforms will guide riders to the best place to stand if they’re trying to transfer. Not surprisingly, the photo making the rounds shows a sign at the L train’s Bedford Ave. station highlight the switch to the 4/5/6 at Union Square. As the photo atop this post indicates, there are many more to come.
WNYC’s Kate Hinds profiled the EPP today, and while the Straphangers voiced their support, the MTA did not. Hinds reports:
“It’s a public, civic service,” an EPP founder told WNYC. The founder asked to remain anonymous because the signs are not sanctioned by the MTA. The subways can be “a labyrinth of tunnels and transfers and stairways. The project is an attempt to kind of rationalize some of that environment, and just make a more enjoyable, faster commute.”
Gene Russianoff, staff attorney of the Straphangers Campaign, was firmly in the ‘pro’ column. “I am all for sharing subway smarts,” he said, adding presciently: “The EPP activists better have many replacement copies of the poster.”
MTA spokesman Kevin Ortiz confirmed that the transit agency was, indeed, planning on removing them. “These signs have the potential to cause crowding conditions in certain platform areas and will create uneven loading in that some train cars will be overcrowded while others will be under-utilized.” Besides, he said, “regular customers already know which car they want to get into.”
Those reactions basically run the gamut from friendly to, well, expected. I appreciated the WNYC colleague who objected to the signs because “posting [the information] so flagrantly etches away at the quiet pleasure” of knowing just where to stand. Make of it all what you will.
In the never-ending war pitting the MTA vs. rats and also endless amounts of garbage, the transit agency has spent the last few years engaged in a battle of reverse psychology. Since late 2011, the MTA has couterintuitively removed trash cans to combat trash, and now this program will expand to 29 stations. It’s somewhat controversial and often derided, but according to Transit, it’s getting results as the amount of garbage in the trash can-free stations has rapidly declined.
For years, the MTA has suffered from a trash problem. Some of it stems from the sheer volume of people who use the system; some of it stems from the fact that, for various reasons, the MTA hasn’t made a move to ban eating underground. No matter the cause though trash has mounted up in stations, and due to the logistics of a vast 24-hour system, it cannot be picked up timely or regularly. With trash that sits for days, rats abound, and station environments become generally unfriendly and dirty.
The pilot then is designed to appeal to common courtesy. Most people won’t discard their garbage if there’s no trash can and will instead carry it out of the system. A small percentage of riders will chuck their trash where they can — under seats, on platforms, in the tracks, in a small space between a pipe and a wall — but those folks are apt to do that even with trash cans present. Eliminating trash cans then will eliminate trash.
As you may have guessed from the news that the MTA is cutting out garbage cans at 29 more stations, the pilot is apparently working. “We’ve seen a change in customer behavior. Riders knew that there weren’t trash cans at those stations, so they took their trash somewhere else,” Joe Leader, Transit’s vice president of subways, said during a board committee meeting yesterday.
The MTA’s own numbers seem to bear witness to this reality. Since removing trash cans at ten stations over the past few years, the agency has seen trash collection reduced by 66 percent at those stations with a small increase — 3.2 percent — in bags collected litter thrown on the tracks. Track fires not increased, and the MTA say these stations are as clean as they were with garbage cans. Meanwhile, the reduced trash at these stations has allowed the MTA to allocate resource to collecting trash and cleaning other areas of the subway system.
Additionally, the trends over time have shown significant improvement as well. As more time has elapsed, litter has become less common at these stations. Garbage overnight has nearly disappeared, and the daytime levels of heavy litter are 11 percentage points better than average. By and large, straphangers are taking out what they’re bringing in. It’s the national parks philosophy hard at work.
To continue this program, the MTA will add an additional 29 stations along the J/Z and M lines to the program. To combat the potential for track fires, the agency plans to increase track cleaning frequencies, but garbage cans will essentially disappear from most of the BMT Nassau St., BMT Jamaica and BMT Myrtle Avenue Lines in an effort to further reduce collection costs. The MTA won’t spread this program to all 468 stations; it’s trying to better seal up existing garbage facilities to fight the rodent problem. But for now, trash cans will become more scarce underground, seemingly to better behavior by most.
I’ve been sitting on a bunch of open tabs for a little while and thought it would be a good idea to get around to sharing these. These are stories I found interesting or newsworthy but just haven’t had an opportunity to post here.
I’ve talked a bit about the MTA’s new green fee and the money realized from unused MetroCards, and a recent piece in The Times put those dollars into context. Throughout the first decade of the 21st century, the MTA collected half a billion dollars from unused fares. Since straphangers have to pre-pay for MetroCards, dollars that are left on the cards long after their expiration dates remain with the MTA, and on an annual basis, the money is a small, but important, part of the agency’s annual budget.
Unused fares isn’t something that’s come about because of the MetroCard era. Back in the day, New Yorkers would buy tokens and never use them. They would get lost, get forgotten, get overlooked, and the MTA could collect those fares. But today with uneven bonuses that make the math of a free fare more difficult, more dollars are left on cards that expire, and the $1 fee for new MetroCards means revenue as well.
As the MTA phases out the MetroCard — the topic of my March 19 Problem Solvers session — these unused fares may diminish a bit. The next system may well be a pay-as-you-go set-up that doesn’t focus around any proprietary fare collection system. While the MTA will lose the money from unused fares, it will also drastically reduce the amount it has to spend to collect fares. That’s a win for the customers, and a win for the transit agency as well.
As New York City subways go, the 3 train runs an odd route. It stretches deep into Brooklyn but then stops short of anything in Manhattan. It terminates at 148th St. near the Lenox Yard and goes no further north. In a piece at Welcome2TheBronx, Richard Garey argues for extending the train to the Bronx. With the need for some cross-Bronx subway service and the incoming soccer facility near Yankee Stadium, the time may be right to look at some subway extension options.
Garey’s post focuses on the 3 train as a way to serve neighborhoods that once enjoyed streetcar service and now don’t, but I think he has the routing wrong. The 3 shouldn’t end up as another north-south route in the Bronx but could instead cut across the borough, serving areas that don’t have good cross-Bronx transit options while boosting subway service. It is, after all, a fast ride downtown on the IRT express. Without a massive infusion of cash, we’re just dreaming, but it’s an intriguing proposition after all.
Unhappiness at 149th Street
For years, I’ve been using the 149th Street-Grand Concourse subway stop as a transfer point on the way to Yankee Stadium, and for years, it has been one disgusting station. The walls were marred by leaking pipes, and on the way home from a World Series game in 2001, my sister and I saw squirrel-sized rats on the uptown 2/5 platform. It was very, very unpleasant.
Recently, the station underwent a renovation, but a few area residents are unhappy. One transit buff took a video tour of the station post-renovation and discovered some subpar work. Meanwhile, another group of residents wants to restore elevator service that was shuttered 40 years ago. As best as I can tell, the elevator in question went from the 2/5 platform to street level. The MTA has no money, and protestors hope Mayor de Blasio can help out. I wouldn’t hold me breath.
Thanks to an infusion of funds from Council member Vincent Ignizio, four stations along the Staten Island Railway — Great Kills, Eltingville, Annadale and Huguenot — now have countdown clocks. The work is part of a $675,000 initiative funded by Ignizio’s office that will eventually include a Subway Time component that will add these SIR stations to the MTA’s tracking app. For now, the information is available on the St. George-bound side, but Tottenville-bound service will have its time in the sun as well. If you pay for it, it will come.
In running through the subway pet peeves last week, I didn’t talk about one aspect of the experience that drives me absolutely nuts. Ever since the MTA started investing in new rolling stock and better public address systems for its stations, the onslaught of public announcements has become infuriatingly annoying.
For me, personally, the problem reached a crescendo on Tuesday night while traveling home from work. Despite the snow drifts piling up throughout the city and warnings to stay home, I caught a Q train from Times Square in relatively quick order, and when we zoomed past the N train idling at Prince St., I knew we would cross the Manhattan Bridge first. All was well until we went back underground prior to De Kalb Ave.
My guess is that a B train had crossed the bridge just before us, and the Q had to wait. What I know happened is that four times — four times! — in a four-minute period in which the Q train idled in between the eastern end of the Manhattan Bridge and De Kalb Ave., every single passenger was told that we were being held for train traffic ahead of us, that we would be moving shortly, and that the MTA was thankful for our patience. Over and over and over again, we heard this message. We couldn’t stop anywhere else, and the situation in front of us hadn’t changed. For some reason though the conductor insisted on pressing play four times.
Generally, I’m a fan of the train traffic message. It’s an acknowledgment from the MTA that something isn’t right. The same holds true of the message concerning a delay to the train’s dispatcher. We want to be moving, but we can’t because someone is holding us up or something is in front of us. It’s not a long-term problem, like a sick passenger or a signal malfunction, and we should be moving shortly. There’s just no reason, though, to play it every 60 seconds when nothing else is happening.
This is hardly the worst announcement. For over a decade, we’ve been blasted with “an important message from the NYPD” about keeping our belongings safe at all times, checking ourselves, and seeing and saying something. I’ve become immune to that one Yet, it just keeps going. And going. And going. And going. And going. And go…
In one sense, these announcements serve a purpose. Any regular rider who doesn’t wear headphones can recite them all by rote, and that means they’re working. We’ve been trained to be whatever is on the right side of paranoid while traveling underground, and we know to be alert. But we’ve also been lectured about it nearly every day of every week of every month of every year since the early 2000s. At this point, it’s just another piece of noise to add to the clanks and squeals of our everyday subway commute.
For better or worse, I spend a lot of time observing people and their behavior in the subway. Much as Matt Flegenheimer did for his Times piece Thursday on above-ground access to cell service, I like to look for the quirks of the subway. How do we ride and behave in a public space while simply trying to get from Point A to Point B in our private lives?
By and large, New Yorkers try to keep to themselves in the subway. We have shared experiences and knowing glimpses that can pass between passengers during pregnant moments. But all it takes is one person to stick out like a sore thumb and lead to groans, eyerolls, thrown elbows or worse. On Wednesday, for instance, when I got back to Brooklyn and climbed a crowded staircase at Grand Army Plaza, I encountered a familiar and frustrating sight we all know too well.
The early 21st century is plagued by an epidemic of people who stop walking at the top of subway staircases to check their phones.
— Second Ave. Sagas (@2AvSagas) January 16, 2014
As an off-kilter post for a Friday morning, I want to run down nine other subway regulars that seem to throw a wrench into anyone’s plans for a quiet ride. This is a non-exhaustive list, and I know that fans of the group that claims my top spot are vocal. We could call these my pet peeves; we could call these my own etiquette tips. Either way, here goes.
1. ‘What time is it? Showtime!’
I spent some time talking about Showtime kids last week when we ran a poll. Right now, the anti-Showtime! factions have a 72-28 lead. There is nothing quite as disruptive and annoying as a bunch of teenagers shooing people out of the way so they can attempt to avoid kicking you in the face at 6:15 each night. Nothing can stop by anti-Showtime! crusade.
2. Seat hogs
Don’t spread your legs; don’t plop your bags down on that empty seat next to you. Courtesy is contagious, and it starts with…never mind.
3. Leaky headphones
This is almost as bad as the people who stop at the staircases to whip out their phones. Headphones these days are just so cheaply made that sound leaks all over the place. I’m glad you’re enjoying Ke$ha at 8:30 in the morning, but does everyone in a five-foot radius around you have to also? I guess this is better than the 1980s boombox phenomenon, but these days, subway cars are filled with the faint sounds of music dripping out of headphones.
4. Cell phone games…with the sound
I don’t begrudge anyone a cell phone conversation on the phone. Those are generally either easy enough to tune out or intriguing enough to eavesdrop on. But why, oh why must a grown adult — or anyone old enough to own their own phone — play a cell phone game with the sound on while riding the subway? Why? Why! Why.
On Thursday, on the way to work, I had to scoot into the 2 train as the doors closed behind me, and at first, it wasn’t too crowded. But by the time we passed Atlantic Ave., the train was packed, and I kept feeling something rub up against me. When I turned to look at the offending passenger, lo and behold, I spotted a backpack. The proper place for a backpack on any train is either held below its owner’s waist or placed on the floor between its owner’s legs. This is a matter of both anatomy and courtesy.
6. Nail clippers
This is another with proponents on both sides of the argument. Some people point out that New Yorkers don’t always have time to eat a proper meal. Maybe that person on the subway chowing down is in between two jobs and won’t have a break until 2 a.m. On the other hand, I read this Metropolitan Diary entry earlier this week and wondered how not one but two people thought Lo Mein was an appropriate subway food. Eat something that won’t make a mess and won’t smell if you absolutely have to eat on the train.
8. People who get up too early
Yes, you want to get out at the next stop. What a coincidence; so do I. Wait your turn. The train won’t leave with you still on it.
9. Door blockers
I have to admit that I’m guilty of this offense on a somewhat regular basis. Take, for instance, my Q train ride home. I board at 42nd St. and can stand in front of doors that won’t open again at De Kalb Ave. Not too many people get off there, and I can easily get out of the way of those getting off. Then I can move further into the car before the doors on the other side open at 7th Ave. I’m not a door-blocker per se; I like to think of that as strategic standing. But there are straphangers who stand in front of the doors, won’t move and then get upset when other passengers brush past them. Why? I have no idea.
Following an early-morning water main break at 5th Ave. and 13th Sts. that flooded out subway service at West 4th, the MTA restored service this morning, and the commute this evening should be relatively problem-free. The same, of course, couldn’t be said for this morning as Sixth Ave. trains were rerouted all over the place, and Uber, as expected, instituted surge pricing while people struggled to get into the office.
As part of the postmortem on the accident, the MTA offered up some spin on how service was restored so quickly:
Two pump trains were dispatched but were not needed. A pump room located at 9 St as well as portable pumps that were positioned into the area were able to pump water that had risen 24-30 inches along 300 feet of track north of the West 4 St station. Drains along the tracks were able to absorb much of the water that had entered the system. The drains performed well as a result of the attention they have received during FASTRACK work along that corridor.
This is the rosy view of everything. “Look! All that work we do that inconveniences you overnight now and then is paying off because we could restore subway service in a matter of hours,” the MTA says. It’s easy to cast a cynical eye toward that statement, but it’s also true that the MTA’s old technologies — pump rooms, well-placed drains — have continued to serve the agency well. Sometimes, infrastructure built in the late 1920s and early 1930s holds up remarkably well. It’s just something to chew on.
A few months ago, I made a slight shift in my evening commute back home to Brooklyn. Instead of taking the 2 or 3 train as it slowly winds its way south of Chambers St. to Grand Army Plaza, I shifted to the Q train from Times Square to 7th Ave. Although Q headways are longer, the ride itself is faster and more comfortable. I can usually get a seat from the get-go, and if I can’t, the BMT rolling stock is wider than the IRT’s. What I didn’t account for was “Showtime.”
You know “Showtime.” What time is it? Showtime! If you ride the subways long enough, you’ll see it and hear it and see it again and hear it again and again and again. A group of kids — sometimes young, sometimes old — come into the car, blast some music, and spin around on the poles. It’s the modern-day version of break dancing. After an express run — from Union Square to Canal if you’re lucky, from Canal to De Kalb if you’re not — they canvas for money and move on to the next car.
As things go underground these days, “Showtime” is divisive. I can’t stand it. It’s loud; it’s in your face; it’s inconsiderate, especially at rush hour. People on already crowded trains are focused to move to the sides (though I’ve seen more than a few groups refuse to move), and then tinny music blasting from a portable speaker fills the car. I just want peace and quiet on the way home.
Not everyone is as curmudgeonly as me. Some people love the Showtime routines. It is, they say, just a way for kids to earn a few bucks, and it doesn’t harm anyone. It’s just good ol’ New York fun.
The debate came to a head shortly after Christmas when two men were arrested. DNA Info reported that a Showtime duo were charged with reckless endangerment as a misdemeanor as they “caused a hazard to themselves and others around them, and made excessive noise by blaring music from a stereo.” I think an arrest is a bit too harsh, but removing the threat of Showtime from a crowded subway is A-OK with me.
But I’m just one person. Let’s hear from you. What are your thoughts on Showtime? Let’s have a poll.
As 2013 — and our $245 pre-tax commuter benefits — draws to a close, let’s take a look back at the year that was. We had no major disasters, and after a spate of what one might call concern-trolling by the media, subway deaths showed no statistically significant increases over previous years. The TWU certainly tried to exploit the issue.
What 2013 had though was, as always, both good and bad. The MTA received yet another new CEO/Chairman as Tom Prendergast was nominated and approved for the job. Some capital projects moved closer to completion while the new South Ferry station seemed to languish in limbo while the MTA tried to move forward with a rebuild. The fares went up in March, but favorable economic conditions allowed the MTA to announce increased service for 2014 (including weekend M service. Further, the MTA announced smaller fare hikes for 2015 and 2017 though I worried if the announcements were premature.
But those weren’t the top stories that you read here in 2013. Instead, future planning and spending priorities took center stage. As has become an annual tradition, let’s run down the top ten most popular posts I published this year as our Transit Year in Review.
10. April 18: What about a subway for Staten Island?
With Mayor Bloomberg agitating on and off for an extension of the 7 line to Secaucus — a plan I expect will die with his mayoralty in 14 hours — Staten Island politicians started raising a ruckus. In April, State Senator Diane Savino, echoing arguments from the early half of the 20th century, vowed to block any New Jersey subway extension that came to Albany for a funding request prior to a Staten Island subway. We explored the isolated borough’s need for a better transit connection. Unfortunately, neither a tunnel through the harbor nor a rail line to Bayonne is likely to see the light of day any time soon.
9. January 23: Link the R to JFK via the Rockaway Beach Branch
I spent a lot of time both on these pages and on Twitter arguing over the future of the Rockaway Beach Branch. A select few in Queens want to turn it into a High Line-esque park while many transit advocates want the ROW preserved for rail or reactivated. In January, Capt. Subway presented his assessment of the line’s future and explored how the R could run to JFK Airport while adding subway service to areas in Queens that need it. We’ll hear more about QueensWay next year as various studies come due.
8. May 30: From four architects, four ideas for Penn Station’s future
Madison Square Garden received its 10-year occupancy permit from the City Council earlier this year with a firm warning that everyone needs to work together to solve the Penn Station problem. In May, we saw what could be termed architectural rendering porn as four high-profile shops released their dreams for Penn Station. None of these are likely to see the light of day, but something must be done about Penn Station. Our incoming mayor should show some leadership on this project.
7. January 17: A look inside South Ferry, three months later
Shortly after Sandy, I took a tour of the new South Ferry station. As the pictures show, it did not look good. The MTA is hoping to reopen the station, with improvements and hardening, by mid-2016.
6. July 23: As Triboro RX looms, a mayoral race on ferries emerges
For transit advocates, the race to replace Bloomberg this year was underwhelming and uninspiring. Christine Quinn talked about a cockamamie bus route for the Triboro RX routing while everyone wanted to add ferry service. Mayor de Blasio will have the opportunity to speed up and expand Select Bus Service implementation. Let’s see if he leaps at the chance.
5. June 11: Revisiting a subway connection for Staten Island
During the GOP Mayoral primaries, Joe Lhota spoke on the desire to bring the subway to Staten Island via a tunnel under the Narrows. This is an idea as old as plans for the Second Ave. Subway, but I am skeptical it’s the right one for Staten Island. In June, we explored why.
4. February 13: WTC PATH hub delayed another 18 months
The mess that is the $4 billion Calatrava PATH Hub seemed to grow even messier in February as a Port Authority exec let slip word that completion of the project would be pushed back 18 months. The Port Authority later disputed the project, reasserting a 2015 completion date, but for a subway stop that was supposed to cost $2.3 billion and open last year, the PA’s assertion seemed to miss the point. Meanwhile, Santiago Calatrava’s hometown has filed suit against the architect as one of his creations is falling apart after just eight years. How comforting.
3. June 24: Photos: The latest from inside the 7 line extension
The MTA offered up a comprehensive photoset of scenes from inside the 7 line extension with 12 months remaining on the project. It’s always fun to live vicariously through photographs of subway construction. For some recent shots, check out my photos from the Mayor’s inaugural ride into the 34th St. station.
2. August 30: A history of future subway systems
What if money were no obstacle? What if all of the proposed subway lines from New York City’s past were to become a reality? We explored the idea with an accompanying map over the summer. In a similar vein, check out Joe Raskin’s new book called The Routes Not Taken. It tracks the history of proposed and never-built subway lines. I’ll have a review in early January once I finish it.
1. November 8: This is why we can’t have (more) nice things
The most popular post of the year was a rant on the PATH Hub’s $250 million hallway connecting the train station with the Brookfield Place complex. It was and remains a patently absurd price to pay for an underground walkway and remains emblematic of the reasons why transit expansion faces so many obstacles in New York City.
As always, thanks for reading throughout the year. Trains and buses operate on a Sunday schedule tomorrow, and so does the site. I’ll be back on Thursday. See you in 2014.