Archive for View from Underground

This decals won't pop up in stations without garbage cans.

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.

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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.

$500 million from unused MetroCards

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.

Send the 3 to the Bronx

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.

Countdown clocks for the SIR

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.

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Seat pigs (Photo by flickr user Scott Lynch)

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.

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.

5. Backpacks
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
Nope.

7. Food
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.

Your turn.

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West 4th Tower crews work to restore service following an early morning water main break this morning. Photo: MTA / J.P. Chan

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.

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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.

What do you think of "Showtime" routines on the subway?
View Results
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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.

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One of my lasting impressions of the year in transit for 2013 was this photo I took of Mayor Bloomberg a couple of weeks ago. As the doors on the 7 train he rode into the not-yet-completed 34th St. station closed shut, he turned around to salute the scrum of photographers who were left on the platform. Following his valedictory remarks at the station his administration funded, Bloomberg smiled and flashed a thumbs-up. A minute later, the train curved north toward Times Square, and the mayor’s involvement with transit went along with it.

I’ll have a glimpse back at my top stories of 2013 later this week. Needless to say, it was a relatively quiet year for transit stories. Thankfully, we had no Sandy to sweat through, and no major disruptions to subway service. Even the year’s hand-wringing over an alleged spike in subway deaths will end up being nothing more than just that. The preliminary numbers show no statistically significant increase in incidents over previous years. The fares went up, but even that seems to be something not too newsworthy for straphangers these days.

But 2014 should bring a series of news stories with it and some key questions about the MTA’s and New York City subway’s short- and long-term future. The two most visible elements of the year to come are that 7 line extension and the Fulton Street Transit Center. Both projects have been in the planning or construction stages for most of the past decade. One grew out of the Mayor’s wish to bring the Olympics to New York and the other from the infusion of federal money into Lower Manhattan following 9/11. Both are set to open around the same time this summer.

The impact of the 7 line is far more obvious than Fulton St. The Far West Side, currently undergoing rampant development, will now be open to subway service. Ferry terminals will be far more accessible, and the Javits Center will seem a part of the fabric of New York City. The Hudson Yards development will grow, and the area will change. No longer the frontier, it will be just another neighborhood off the 7 train.

Downtown, Fulton Street’s completion signals another step in the 13-year recovery effort, and it will add street life back to an area under constant construction. Underground, we’ve already seen the impact as the platforms are updated and connections easier to navigate. I’ve long questioned if the $1.4 billion was money well spent, and that debate still rages. No matter the side you’re on, it’s money that’s been spent, and in six months, that project essentially wraps as well.

Thus, 2014 is a year of congratulations for MTA Capital Construction, but it’s also a year of looking at what’s next. The next five-year plan is set to be hashed out this year, and early indications are that it will focus on decidedly unsexy elements of the subway system. We’ll hear about signal upgrades and technology investment. We won’t hear about future phases of the Second Ave. Subway or similar projects to the 7 line that represent relatively short subway extensions that can have a major impact on areas currently lacking in transit. New Yorkers interested in seeing the city continue to grow in a sustainable way should be wary of capital plans that aren’t focused around some expansion efforts.

Outside of the capital work, we’ll hear about BusTime when all New York City buses are online in a few months, and we’ll follow along as the TWU’s contract dispute enters a third year. We’ll see the next round of Sandy repairs take shape as the Montague Street Tunnel reopens in December, and by the end of the year, we’ll have a good sense of the 2015 fare hike as well. Service will increase in June as well. As we get ready to say good bye to 2013, I know this for sure about 2014: It won’t be a dull year, and your subway will, at some point, be delayed due to train traffic ahead of you.

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With Bill de Blasio’s inauguration less than a week away, a bunch of news outlets are offering up their wishlists for New York’s first new mayor since 2001. Shortly after the election, I put forward a transit “To Do” list for de Blasio, and a few others have set out their ideas for improving transportation in and around the city. One, in particular, deserves some attention as it focuses outside the traditional realms of subways and buses.

As part of its package of articles previewing de Blasio’s administration, Crain’s New York polled a group of experts on a variety of topics and tried to propose innovative approaches to city problems. The transportation list is an intriguing one as it barely touches upon subways and buses. It seemingly recognizes that the MTA, a state agency, is somewhat immune to the charms and whims of Gracie Mansion and instead answers to higher powers in Albany. Rather it looks as approaches a new mayor could explore with the resources of the city at his hands.

The problem with this approach though is that subways and, to a lesser extent, buses are the backbones of city transit. The subways provide the best and fastest way to move a lot of people over greater distances in relatively short amount of times, and no amount of attention paid to or money spent on, say, ferries can change the fact that waterfront access is limited to people with relatively good transit options. Nothing can revolutionize transit in New York City quite like new subway lines.

That said, the Crain’s list touches upon ideas that should happen. Transportation Alternatives has proposed redesigning Queens Boulevard, Atlantic Ave., Grand Concourses and Manhattan thoroughfares with pedestrian plazas, bike lanes and extended curbs. I’d add dedicated and physically separated bus lanes to some of these routes as well. Residential parking permits is an idea whose time should have come years ago as well, and Dan Doctoroff found another outlet to spread his light rail gospel.

But one idea has me raising an eyebrow. Crain’s wants to see the mayor “Reopen trackless old subway tunnels for electric express buses.” This isn’t the first time Crain’s has beaten their drum, and it’s hard to say which expert is pushing this plan. The problem is that there are no trackless old subway tunnels just lying about. In their coverage, Crain’s links to this list of permanently closed subway stations, but despite repeated inquiries, no one has identified trackless subway tunnels that could support bus infrastructure (or any that couldn’t, for that matter).

As now, the only potential unused sections of tracked subway tunnel are on the BMT Nassau St. Line and consist of part of the Brooklyn Loops that weren’t intersected by the Chrystie St. Cut in the late 1960s. The second platforms at Bowery and Canal St. are currently unused, and of course, the Essex St. Trolley Terminal is unused. No one will be ripping out unused subway tracks, and it’s unclear if the Essex St. space could support bus infrastructure. It’s certainly nothing a new mayor should focus on at the expense of real solutions to the city’s transit problems.

Ultimately, it’s odd to see a wishlist that doesn’t focus on bus rapid transit or even more city-funded subways. Everything else seems more futuristic or “21st Century,” but the truth is that for New York to grow, it’s current high-capacity transit infrastructure needs to grow. Enough about ferries or seemingly out-of-the-box ideas that aren’t even possible. Let’s talk instead about real expansion and investment.

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The MTA is testing track intrusion detection technology at one undisclosed station.

From an MTA statement, here’s what happened this morning at 125th Street on the 8th Ave. line. It’s a crazy story:

At approximately 9:30am this morning, customers on the northbound platform at 125 St alerted subway personnel that a blind customer and his service dog had fallen onto the northbound express tracks at the station.

A construction flagger at the station observed the customer on the roadbed and instructed the customer to stay down in the trough between the rails and not attempt to climb back up onto the platform.

Other customers attempted to alert the train operator of an approaching northbound A train to stop. Contrary to initial reports, the train operator was unable to stop in time and 1 ½ cars did pass over the customer. The train did not come in contact with the customer and he was removed with minor lacerations to his head to St. Luke’s Hospital. There were no noticeable injuries to the dog.

Pete Donohue was on the scene and spoke with witnesses. No one was quite sure how the man and his dog fell or how they survived, but, needless to say, everyone was relieved.

This headline-grabbing incident comes toward the end of a year that saw increased attention to passenger/train collisions and platform jumpers. Yet, according to Donohue, the 2013 numbers so far — 144 riders hit, 52 deaths — isn’t too far out of line with the averages of 134 and 49, respectively. Still, the MTA is planning to test, at one unnamed station, track intrusion technology. It’s hard to know how successful the test will be as there are no real hot spots for customers entering the tracks, but it is at least a nod to passenger safety.

For its part, the TWU is still advocating for a slowdown that would be costly and disruptive to subway riders. And so it goes.

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