Robert Kiley, shown here in his days as head of the MBTA, was the longest-tenured MTA Chair.

Robert Kiley, shown here in his days as head of the MBTA, was the longest-tenured MTA Chair.

In the popular history of New York City’s transit renaissance that stretches over the past 35 years, Richard Ravitch gets the lion’s share of the credit. He inherited a complete and total mess at the MTA and led the subways out of the depths of the dark ages and into the early 1980s. He left his job after securing a multi-billion-dollar capital commitment from the state legislature, and Robert Kiley stepped in as his replacement. Kiley served as the agency’s longest running chairman, setting in motion many of the improvements we know today. A veteran of three transit agencies and respected throughout the transit world, he passed away on Tuesday at the age of 80, due to complications from Alzheimer’s disease.

“Bob’s leadership helped the MTA focus on dramatically improving the safety and reliability of the network, led directly to the record ridership levels we see today and was central to the State’s increased growth and prosperity,” current MTA Chairman and CEO Tom Prendergast said in a statement. “He assembled a team and created a vision that brought the transit system back from the brink of disaster and under Gov. Mario M. Cuomo helped rebuild our region’s economy. We remember his service with fondness and gratitude and send our deepest condolences to his family in this difficult time.”

Kiley was a big of a giant in his field. He over Boston’s MBTA for four years in the 1970s, ushered in a variety of improvements in London (including the introduction of a congestion charge) and led New York’s subways into a new age. He brought in his fellow Massachusetts native Bill Bratton to oversee policing in our beleaguered transit system, erased graffiti from the city’s subway cars and launched the program that eventually led to the Metrocard.

The Times, in its obituary, told a bit more about Kiley’s accomplishments:

Inheriting a windfall $8.5 billion capital program wangled from the State Legislature by his predecessor at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Richard Ravitch, Mr. Kiley presided over the replacement of hundreds of decrepit subway cars and buses, modernized stations, and improved on-time performance in a system that had been woefully neglected. Annual subway ridership, which in 1982 had dipped below one billion for the first time since 1917, rebounded by 1994 to the highest weekday average in two decades, 1.08 billion.

Mr. Ravitch, a native New Yorker, had been a vigorous advocate for mass transit, equally adept at wooing labor leaders, legislators and opinion makers in a campaign to generate the billions of dollars required to begin reversing the system’s decline. Mr. Kiley, a Minnesota native who arrived in New York by way of Boston, was more of a nuts-and-bolts manager, and he took longer to acclimate himself to the idiosyncrasies of local politics. “It’s kind of like following after Lou Gehrig,” Ralph L. Stanley, the federal urban mass transit administrator, said of the transition.

Mr. Kiley managed to win another $8 billion infusion for the authority’s capital program, recruited competent managers, and wrought concessions from organized labor, which incongruously represented most transit supervisors as well as rank-and-file workers.

Kiley’s arrival in New York City was not a foregone conclusion. In the early 1980s, he was toying with a run for mayor of Boston when one of then-Gov. Mario Cuomo’s aides courted Kiley by taking him to a Red Sox game. It happened to be Yaz Day at Fenway, and as the Red Sox celebrated Carl Yastrzemski, Kiley heard the New York pitch. Once it became clear he wouldn’t be mayor, he and Cuomo engaged in intense negotiations, and Kiley landed in New York.

As WNYC related in a replay of a late 1980s interview, Kiley had to step on some toes to get to where he needed the MTA to be. The story is worth a read (and there is a corresponding audio interview with Kiley). It delves into the need for fare hikes and the need to improve management by “jettisoning civil service and collective bargaining rules.” These were controversial moves then and would be again today.

Kiley left in the 1991 and was replaced by Peter Stangl. He eventually landed in London where he opposed the disastrous public-private partnership for certain Tube line operations that Transport for London eventually had to unravel. Yet, Kiley largely had his way, and as a 2004 New Yorker article detailed, Kiley is credited with saving the Underground. With three successful tenures leading transit agencies, Kiley was a singular leader in the transit space with a long and lasting legacy.

Categories : MTA
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Spend your weekend designing your own NYC subway map. This site’s been this week’s transit phenomenon, and it’s easy to see why. Correct the wrongs of the NYC subway or build new subway lines faster than the MTA can. It’s quite the addictive site, and you can read all about how it’s inspired by Robert Moses, not exactly a transit booster, in this essay describing the idea. If you’re so inclined, share your results via the Second Ave. Sagas Facebook page. I’d love to see everyone’s ideas.

Anyway, you know the drill: These come from the MTA and may change without notice. Check signs; listen to announcements. Do your thing.


From 11:30 p.m. Friday, August 5, to 5 a.m. Monday, August 8, service is suspended between 14 St and South Ferry. Take 2/3 or free shuttle buses.

    Uptown trains skip 18 St, 23 St and 28 St.
  • Downtown trains skip 28 St, 23 St, and 18 St during days and evenings.


From 3:45 a.m. Saturday, August 6, to 10 p.m. Sunday, August 7, downtown trains run express from 242 St to 215 St. For service to bypassed stations, take the Bx9 bus.


From 6:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday, August 6, and from 9:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sunday, August 7, trains run every 16 minutes between 137 St and 242 St. Some uptown trains terminate at 137 St.


From 3:45 a.m. Saturday, August 6, to 10 p.m. Sunday, August 7, service operates in two sections:

  • Between Flatbush Av and E 180 St, and via the 5 to/from Dyre Av.
  • Between E 180 St and 241 St.


From 3:45 a.m. Saturday, August 6, to 10 p.m. Sunday, August 7, E 180 St-bound trains run express from 241 St to E 180 St.


From 11:30 p.m. Friday, August 5, to 5 a.m. Monday, August 8, trains run local between Chambers St and 34 St.


From 11:30 p.m. Friday, August 5, to 5 a.m. Monday, August 8, service is suspended between Utica Av and New Lots Av. Trains operate all weekend between 148 St and Utica Av. Free shuttle buses make all stops between Utica Av and New Lots Av.


From 11:30 p.m. Friday, August 5, to 5 a.m. Monday, August 8, trains run local between Chambers St and 34 St.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, August 5, to 5 a.m. Monday, August 8, service is suspended between New Lots Av/Utica Av and Bowling Green. Take the 2/3 or free shuttle buses instead.


From 3:45 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. on Saturday, August 6, and from 9:45 p.m. Saturday, August 6, to 9:30 a.m. Sunday, August 7, 5 shuttle service is replaced by the 2.


From 7:45 a.m. to 10 a.m. on Sunday, August 7, service is suspended between Dyre Av and 149 St-Grand Concourse. Take the 2.


From 6:45 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday, August 6, Manhattan-bound trains run express from Willets Point to Queensboro Plaza, stopping at 74 St-Broadway.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, August 5, to 5 a.m. Monday, August 8, trains run via the f in both directions between W 4 St and Jay St-MetroTech.


From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, August 6, to 5 a.m. Monday, August 8, trains run local in both directions between W 4 St and 59 St. Downtown trains run local from 125 St to 59 St.


From 6:30 a.m. to 11 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, August 6 and 7, trains run via the F in both directions between W 4 St and Jay St-MetroTech.


From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, August 6, to 5 a.m. Monday, August 8, downtown trains run local from 125 St to 59 St.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, August 5, to 5 a.m. Monday, August 8, trains run via the F in both directions between 21 St-Queensbridge and W 4 St. Free shuttle buses run between Court Sq-23 St and 21 St-Queensbridge, stopping at Queens Plaza.


From 11:45 p.m. to 6:30 a.m., Friday to Sunday, August 5 to 7, and from 11:45 p.m. Sunday, August 7, to 5 a.m. Monday, August 8, Jamaica Center-bound trains run express from 21 St-Queensbridge to 71 Av.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, August 5, to 5 a.m. Monday, August 8, Jamaica Center-bound trains skip 75 Av and Briarwood.


From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, August 6, to 5 a.m. Monday, August 8, Manhattan-bound trains run local in Queens.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, August 5, to 5 a.m. Monday, August 8, Jamaica-bound trains skip 75 Av, Briarwood, and Sutphin Blvd.


From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, August 6, to 5 a.m. Monday, August 8, Brooklyn-bound trains run local in Queens.


From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, August 6, to 5 a.m., Monday, August 8, trains run via the N in both directions between Canal St and Atlantic Av-Barclays Ctr.


From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, August 6, to 5 a.m., Monday, August 8, trains run via the R in both directions between Canal St and DeKalb Av.


From 6:30 a.m. to midnight, Saturday and Sunday, August 6 and 7, Forest Hills-bound trains run express from Queens Plaza to 71 Av.

Categories : Service Advisories
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The MTA launched a 90-day pilot bringing these countdown clocks to eight stations in Manhattan.

The MTA launched a 90-day pilot bringing these countdown clocks to eight stations in Manhattan.

Among the transit cognoscenti, the promise of countdown clocks on the B Division has always seemed frustratingly out of reach. While the A division — the numbered lines — received countdown clocks as part of a signal upgrade a few years ago, the upgrades for the lettered lines are still decades away. Meanwhile, every few months, the MTA would promise some sort of interim solution in “three to five years.” Well, three to five years may finally have arrived as the MTA and Governor Cuomo announced a Bluetooth-based, eight-station 90-day pilot program for B Division countdown clocks.

The pilot — along the BMT Broadway line (N, Q, and R trains in Manhattan) — will feature to-the-minute countdown clocks with similar information as the ones on the A Division share but a different design. The information will be delivered from data transmitted by Bluetooth receivers on the trains to those on the platform and then fed into the digital displays. The countdown timers won’t be based off of data received while trains are in between stations so precise train location will still be an unknown, but the data should be reliable enough that passengers won’t know the difference.

Here’s how the press release described the technology:

The new clocks rely on technology that is straightforward, cost effective to deploy, and does not require large infrastructure. The system uses the existing wireless network in the stations and cloud computing, and involves four Bluetooth receivers placed in each station, two at each end of the platform. These receivers communicate with four Bluetooth devices that have been installed in the first and last cars of each train set running on the line. As the train enters and leaves a station, the system uses its arrival and departure time to estimate the time at which the train will reach the next stop in the line, and display the arrival times on the two LCD display screens that have been installed at each station.

The new displays, as you can see from the photo above, will feature the countdown timers but can also show PSAs and other contents (such as ads) concurrently, solving a major design flaw inherent in the current two-line displays. Now, when the MTA wants to issue a not-so-important message from the NYPD, it can do so on the portion of the screen that doesn’t include the countdown information.

“These actions,” Cuomo said in his press release today, “are the latest steps toward rebuilding and transforming the MTA into a unified, state-of-the-art transportation network that will meet the needs of current and future generations of New Yorkers. With this new and updated technology, we’ll help ensure riders have the information they need to get where they need to go.”

As part of the 90-day test, the system will be in use at the N/Q/R stations at 23rd Street; 28th Street; 34th Street; 42nd Street; 49th Street; 57th Street; 5th Avenue/59th Street; and Lexington Avenue/59th Street. During the evaluation period, the MTA says it will “identify and correct any issues with the new system. The goal is to evaluate the accuracy of location data, performance of Transit Wireless infrastructure, performance of the LCD displays, physical and network security of Bluetooth devices, security of data being transmitted, and internal access and use of data being generated.”

The governor says these clocks will ultimately be installed at all 269 stops along the lettered lines, but it’s not clear on what timeline these could be rolled out or at what cost. It is markedly cheaper than the CBTC upgrades, but unlike the CBTC upgrades, Bluetooth-based countdown clocks don’t increase service. They are a customer satisfaction measure through and through, one that both is welcomed and shouldn’t have taken so long to realize. But with Cuomo’s push to roll out Transit Wireless at all underground stations by the end of the year, this style of countdown clock became feasible. It is not yet clear how these could be deployed in stations that are above ground.

Still, the MTA appears committed to this way forward, and although I don’t always agree with the Governor’s transit priorities, he deserves praise for finally getting the MTA to move forward with technology projects that had been stalled for years. “Governor Cuomo challenged the MTA to develop an aggressive approach to putting countdown clocks on the lettered lines, and our technology team’s response has been phenomenal,” MTA Chairman and CEO Thomas F. Prendergast said in a statement. “In very short order they developed an easy to deploy, cost-effective system that we think will play a central role in bringing this essential service to more and more of our customers. We look forward to learning from this test, as well as to developing a roll out plan based on our findings.”

Categories : MTA Technology
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The MTA's mitigation plan involves city cooperation, but will the mayor collaborate ahead of the L train shutdown? (Click to enlarge)

The MTA’s map of potential service during the L train closure highlights how increased subway service, buses and ferries will help mitigate the effects of the 18-month shutdown. (Click to enlarge)

For better or worse, the L train shutdown is going to dominate the news coverage for the next few years as it has been for the past seven or eight months. Last week, after months of outreach and public meetings, announced the inevitable and said that a full 18-month shutdown was the choice as “the least risky way” to perform the work. And Mayor Bill de Blasio decided this was a good way to dig in on his fight with Gov. Andrew Cuomo at the expense of a prime opportunity to lead.

After both deputy Mayor Anthony Shorris and de Blasio issued statements regarding the 18-month shutdown — “we are deeply concerned that it would announce an 18-month shutdown of this critical service without a clear plan or a commitment of resources for mitigating the impact of this closure,” Shorris said — de Blasio decided to double down on criticism. In comments on The Brian Lehrer Show on Friday, the mayor questioned the need for a full 18-month shutdown and immediately cast doubt upon the idea of a 14th Street Peopleway. He is taking a crisis and doing the most to lose on all issues.

Dana Rubinstein summed up the mayor’s views:

Mayor Bill de Blasio said Friday he’s still dubious that the MTA actually needs to shut down the L train tunnel for a year and a half to repair the damage wrought by seven million gallons of Hurricane Sandy-induced flooding. “It’s a long time,” said the mayor, during his weekly appearance on the WNYC’s “Brian Lehrer Show.” “And we’re certainly going to push hard to see, does it it really have to be so long? Is there any other way to go about this?”

…Some worry the communication disconnect between de Blasio and the MTA, which Gov. Andrew Cuomo effectively controls, is evidence that the apparently never-ending de Blasio-Cuomo feud might interfere with L train mitigation efforts.Jon Orcutt, the advocacy director at TransitCenter is, for one, convinced of the need for the prolonged shutdown. “Yeah, I mean, the work has to happen,” Orcutt said. “It’s not optional.”

De Blasio seems somewhat less certain, even as he acknowledged that he’s “sure” the decision “has a practical, underlying rationale.” “Most important point here is that we have to push the MTA to confirm, do they really need to do it that way, are there better alternatives, and what are they going to do to maximize the alternatives that they can provide…for those riders,” he said…

One of the mitigation proposals advanced by advocates is a closure of 14th Street to personal cars.
De Blasio’s not yet convinced of the need for that either. “It’s not one that, on first blush, sounds to me easy, given how important 14th Street is. But we’ll look at everything and anything we can do,” he said. He also noted that his citywide ferry service will have launched by the time the closure goes into effect in 2019, though he has also said, in the past, “we’re going to need a lot more than that, obviously.”

Promoting the ferry network — his idea and a necessary one but also one that helps only those in Williamsburg close to the water — while throwing cold water on other people’s proposal to turn a crosstown street over to transit and buses is a very Bill de Blasio move. de Blasio, a car guy who gets driven 13 miles to his gym every morning, thinks 14th St. is important because it’s a popular motorist route. He doesn’t seem to understand the 14th Street is “important” because so many people use it as a transit corridor (and he doesn’t seem to understand how turning one single crosstown street into a so-called peopleway could be a new front in his half-hearted Vision Zero initiative).

In subsequent comments on the Brian Lehrer Show, de Blasio dug in: “Most important point here is that we have to push the MTA to confirm — do they really need to do it that way? Are there better alternatives? And what are they going to do to maximize the alternatives that they can provide — buses and other things they can provide — for those riders?” As Streetsblog noted, it’s a disingenuous argument as the MTA has been talking about a shutdown for eight months, and de Blasio’s own DOT Commission is on the MTA Board and has recognized the need for city-state cooperation.

The mayor, meanwhile, isn’t winning any friends at the agency with which he will have to collaborate. Take a look at this statement, via Tweet, from MTA spokesperson Beth de Falco.

The mayor has a few options here. He can dig in against the MTA and fight an inevitable and unavoidable shutdown that has been particularly well planned and well presented to the public. He can avoid collaborating and ensure that DOT resources — a necessary part of any shutdown as DOT controls the streets any bustitution plan will require — aren’t used to help mitigate the L train shutdown. Or he could put this element of his dispute with Cuomo to one side and help plan a real solution to the L train shutdown. He could be a leader on street space and safe streets while working to help New Yorkers avoid, as much as possible, 18 months of transit pain. Can he rise above the bickering with Cuomo or will L train riders, already stranded by damage from Sandy come 2019, be left out in the cold by their mayor as well?

Categories : Superstorm Sandy
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Cubic may combine London's contactless approach with Chicago's Ventra card to bring a new fare payment system to NYC.

Cubic may combine London’s contactless approach with Chicago’s Ventra card to bring a new fare payment system to NYC.

As the MTA finally for real this time gears up to replace the Metrocard, the global politics behind contactless fare payment technologies took an interesting and intriguing turn a few weeks ago as Transport for London announced a licensing arrangement with Cubic. In an arrangement that will allow London to monetize its contactless fare payment system and permit Cubic to bring a ready-for-market system to its customers around the world, TfL will license its current contactless fare payment system to Cubic. The deal was announced the week the responses to the MTA’s new fare payment system RFP were due, and although we won’t know the results of that RFP for a few months, the Cubic/TfL deal certainly made it seem as though New York is heading for a system similar to London’s current contactless system.

“Contactless payments have completely transformed the way people pay for travel in London and this deal will allow other world cities to benefit from the hard work we put into making the system work for our customers,” TfL’s CTO Shashi Verma said.

This deal allows Cubic to bring London’s best-in-class contactless fare payment system to the rest of the world. London adopted the technology for buses in 2012 and Tube and rail services in 2014 (which gives you an indication just how far behind the MTA is in the fare payment game). In the intervening years, TfL and Cubic have recorded over 500 million journeys off of 12 million unique debit and credit cards from 90 different countries and mobile devices. Gone is the need for a costly proprietary fare payment system (such as, say, a Metrocard).

Cubic, which does provide the backbone for the Metrocard system, also provides smartcard-based fare payment in a variety of other cities, including Chicago and Vancouver, and the company feels this combination of London’s technology and its marketplace expertise can help as transit companies look for a more agile and versatile fare payment system. I spoke with Matthew Cole, the president of Cubic Transportation Systems, shortly after the deal was announced, and he discussed with me how the company has combined what they feel are the best elements of these systems for the MTA’s bid. (In other words, one of the big motivators behind this deal was to position Cubic as the lead contender for the Metrocard replacement effort.)

Cole couldn’t discuss the ins and outs of the company’s proposal to the MTA; it is, after all, still under the MTA’s confidentiality agreement. But he spoke about how NYC’s system could potentially use contactless bank cards as London does while supporting a system similar to Chicago’s Ventra card. Ideally, a new system would support a smart phone payment system. “It’s great,” Cole said, “for people who don’t want to segregate their money and have a separate transit card with separate balance on it.”

In terms of performance improvement, an open system obviates the need to maintain a proprietary fare payment system. While a transit agency can still issue its own fare cards for those who don’t have bank cards or don’t want to tie a credit or debit card into a transit agency payment system, the option exists, but at a much lower cost to the transit agency as an account-oriented system significantly reduces the per-transaction cost of maintaining a proprietary system.

Additionally, a contactless, open payment system is, as Cole put it, “more future-proof” than the Metrocard in that the system is designed to change with the times. On the other hand, the Metrocard doesn’t involve and essentially runs on the same system with the same technology today in 2016 as it did in 1994. And the Cubic/TfL/Ventra system can still support time-based purchases (e.g., a 30-day card) or bulk purchase discounts as the current Metrocard can.

As the world of fare payment technologies go, this licensing agreement gives London’s technology an edge globally, and New York City could be the first test case. If Cubic earns business, we’ll find out how this newish contactless system works in an agency adverse to technology change. It could be a real test and a potential game-changing in moving forward on a Metrocard replacement project that has been stuck in neutral for nearly a decade.

Categories : MetroCard
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A little late on these, but better than never. As always, these come to me via the MTA and are subject to change without notice. Check signs in your local station and listen to all on-board announcements.


From 3:45 a.m. Saturday, July 30, to 10 p.m. Sunday, July 31, trains operate in two sections: between Flatbush Av-Brooklyn College and E 180 St, then via the 5 to/from Eastchester-Dyre Av, and between E 180 St and Wakefield-241 St. To continue your trip, transfer at E 180 St.


From 3:45 a.m. Saturday, July 30, to 10 p.m. Sunday, July 31, E 180 St-bound trains run express from Wakefield-241 St to E 180 St.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, July 29, to 5 a.m. Monday, August 1, 3 service operates to/from New Lots Av, replacing the 4 in Brooklyn.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, July 29, to 5 a.m. Monday, August 1, service is suspended in both directions between New Lots Av/Crown Hts-Utica Av and Brooklyn Bridge-City Hall. For service between Manhattan and Brooklyn, take D/N/Q/R. Transfer between 4/6/N/Q/R at 14 St-Union Sq or Canal St. Transfer between 2/3/D/N/Q/R at Atlantic Av-Barclays Ctr. For service to/from Wall St and Bowling Green, use the R. For service to/from Fulton St and between Borough Hall and Franklin Av, take 2/3. For service between Franklin Av and New Lots Av, take the 3.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, July 29, to 5 a.m. Monday, August 1, trains run local in both directions between 125 St and Brooklyn Bridge-City Hall.


From 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday, July 30, and from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday, July 31, service is suspended in both directions between Bowling Green and Grand Central-42 St. For stations between Grand Central-42 St and Brooklyn Bridge-City Hall, take the 4 or 6. Transfer between 5 and 4 or 6 trains at Grand Central-42 St. For service to Fulton St, Wall St, and Bowling Green, use nearby r at Cortlandt St, Rector St, or Whitehall St. Transfer between 4/6 and R trains at Canal St, or transfer between 4 and r trains at 59 St-Lexington Av. As a reminder, 4 service is suspended in both directions between Brooklyn Bridge-City Hall and New Lots Av all weekend, until 5 a.m. Monday, August 1.


From 3:45 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. Saturday, July 30, and from 9:45 p.m. Saturday, July 30 to 9:30 a.m. Sunday, July 31, 5 shuttle service is suspended in both directions between E 180 St and 149 St-Grand Concourse. Take the 2.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, July 29, to 5 a.m. Monday, August 1, trains are rerouted via the F in both directions between W 4 St-Wash Sq and Jay St-MetroTech. To/from Spring St, Canal St, and Chambers St, take the E via transfer at W 4 St. To/from Fulton St, take the J via transfer at Delancey-Essex Sts. Or, use the E at nearby World Trade Center station; transfer between trains at W 4 St-Wash Sq. To/from High St, use the nearby York St F station.


From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, July 30, to 5 a.m. Monday, August 1, trains run local in both directions between W 4 St-Wash Sq and 59 St-Columbus Circle.


From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, July 30, to 5 a.m. Monday, August 1, downtown trains run local from 125 St to 59 St-Columbus Circle.


From 6:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday, July 30, and Sunday, July 31, trains are rerouted on the F in both directions between W 4 St-Wash Sq and Jay St-MetroTech.


From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, July 30, to 5 a.m. Monday, August 1, Coney Island-Stillwell Av bound trains run local from 125 St to 59 St-Columbus Circle.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, July 29, to 5 a.m. Monday, August 1, trains are rerouted via the F in both directions between 21 St-Queensbridge and W 4 St-Wash Sq. Free shuttle buses run between Court Sq-23 St and 21 St-Queensbridge, stopping at Queens Plaza.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, July 30 to 6:30 a.m. Sunday, July 31, and from 11:45 p.m. Sunday, July 31 to 5 a.m. Monday, August 1, Jamaica Center-bound trains run express from 21 St-Queensbridge to 71 Av.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, July 29, to 5 a.m. Monday, August 1, Jamaica Center-bound trains skip 75 Av and Briarwood.


From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, July 30, to 5 a.m. Monday, August 1, World Trade Center-bound trains run local in Queens.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, July 30, to 5 a.m. Monday, August 1, Jamaica-bound trains skip 75 Av, Briarwood, and Sutphin Blvd.


From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, July 30, to 5 a.m. Monday, August 1, trains run local from Forest Hills-71 Av to 21 St-Queensbridge.


From 11:30 p.m. Friday, July 29 to 5 a.m. Monday, August 1, trains are rerouted via the d line from Coney Island-Stillwell Av to 36 St in both directions.


From 6:30 a.m. to midnight, Saturday and Sunday, July 30 and July 31, Forest Hills-71 Av bound trains run express from Queens Plaza to Forest Hills-71 Av.


From 11:30 p.m. Friday, July 30 to 6:30 a.m. Sunday, July 31, and from 11:45 p.m. Sunday, July 31, to 5 a.m. Monday, August 1, 36 St-bound trains stop at 53 St and 45 St.

Categories : Service Advisories
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New York City’s transit fares are on the rise again next year. In what was nothing more than a formality, the MTA this week confirmed that the agency’s policy of small biennial fare hikes will continue at least through 2019 and that the fares will rise in March of 2017 by an amount designed to increase fare revenue by around 4 percent. Riders aren’t happy, but if the MTA can offer a carrot to this ugly stick of increased transit costs, it’s a pill New Yorkers will resignedly swallow.

For a very long time, the MTA used to eschew fare hikes as a policy. Whether by order of those controlling the politics and purse strings in Albany or whether due to financial mismanagement, the agency would, as Chairman Tom Prendergast said on Wednesday, “stretch out” the period between fare hikes as much as they can. This led to perennially strained budgets and complicated negotiations with politicians. As the fares are the MTA’s only way to guarantee certain revenue, it wasn’t ideal, and the recent policy, enacted in the midst of a financial crisis, seems better than most, at least in a vacuum.

The problem with constant fare hikes is how it exposes the tension between what the MTA is and what people want it to be. Setting aside legitimate gripes about the declining quality of service, what do we want and need the MTA to be? Is it a vital government service that ensures mobility for New Yorkers across neighborhoods and income levels while saving our city, to the extent it can, from Los Angeles-level gridlock? Or is it an entity that’s supposed to cover (most of) its costs through fare revenue? Is it capitalism, socialism or some mix of both? I can’t given you a definitive answer; those are questions worthy of book-length explorations. But right now, it’s a mix of both, and the price we pay for rides keeps increasing.

So next year — and again in 2019 and probably again in 2021, 2023 and every two years until the Atlantic Ocean swallows our subway system — the fares will go up, and we’ll grin and bear it because even at $120 per month, a 30-day MetroCard will be a far better deal than driving everywhere. But something has to give. If the MTA is going to continue to raise fares, the agency also has to offer something in return for these fares hikes. Lately, the focus has been on a plan for reduced-fare MetroCards for low-income New Yorkers, and this movement will gain steam as another fare hike arrives. Under this plan, the city would subsidize rides, and the introduction of a new fare scheme would allow for a seamless transition to this arrangement if the city and state-run MTA can come to the table. The timing is right, but the politics of cooperation between the de Blasio Administration and Gov. Cuomo’s MTA may not be.

The other something to offer should be in the form of better service. During comments on the new financial plan earlier this week, Prendergast acknowledged that the MTA has to improve service faster, but speaking at a meeting and doing something are two vastly different things. The MTA is hamstrung by work rules that require significant lead time for workers to pick new shifts; thus, the MTA can’t add service tomorrow without planning for it six months ago. But if a fare hike is scheduled for eight months from now, the agency can certainly prepare to offer better service then. The questions are whether the agency has the capacity to deliver more frequent and more reliable subway service, and as a core competency, it’s not quite clear the MTA can do much better than it has been lately. That’s not a comforting thought, and ridership has flatlined as a result of it.

So where do we go from here? The fares are going to go up before the winter of 2016-2017 ends, and some service improvements or other relief should come with the hike. New Yorkers don’t like fare increases, and they certainly don’t like being told to pay more for what many few as sub-par service. To overcome the perception that the fare hike is simply a money-grab will require improved service of one form or another, and that right now is a big ask.

Categories : Fare Hikes
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Come December (or so), the W train will return to the subway map. (Via MTA)

Will the Q reach the Upper East Side before 2016 ends?

Time isn’t on the MTA’s side as December slowly creeps up on the first phase of the Second Ave. Subway. Years ago, the MTA vowed to deliver this long-delayed subway line to the Upper East Side before 2016 is out, and over the past six months, we’ve heard a steady drumbeat of bad news about the pace of work on the project. Now, with five months to go, the MTA’s Independent Engineering Consultant is again sounding the alarm bell over the amount of work remaining while the MTA continues to promise a December 2016 opening. With numerous vital systems’ installations and tests still pending, the race to the end of the year doesn’t favor an on-time delivery.

The latest update came at Monday’s Board meeting session of the Capital Program Oversight Committee. The MTA first ran through its litany of updates, and the pending items sound awfully similar to those that delayed the opening of the 7 line extension by nearly 20 months. The agency notes that fire safety and communications systems at various stations remain behind schedule. At each of 72nd St., 86th St. and 96th St., the delay is in the testing of fire safety systems and, more importantly, the installation of critical communications systems. Since conduits were installed late, testing has been delayed, and without testing and acceptance, MTA Capital Construction cannot certify the project complete and ready for New York City Transit control. As of now, the MTA doesn’t expect these problems to cause a delay in revenue service date, but they appear in the red on the status dashboard.

Meanwhile, elevators too remain an MTA bugaboo. The agency has not yet received four elevator cabs for the 72nd St. station, largely due to last-minute design tweaks that delayed deliver of specifications for the elevators to the manufacturer. We’ve heard recently about the ongoing need for Change Orders related to this project, and this delay is a clear indication of the impact of those COs. With the project so delayed, the MTA has completed only 336 of the 608 tests it was due to wrap by June and is now pushing operations testing out by 30 days and into a short window set to begin on October 1.

In a follow-up presentation, the IEC issued its warning. “Based on the project’s reports and IEC field observations of station construction progress, the IEC finds that the project is not on schedule and has fallen further behind schedule in the month since our last report in June. The Project Team now needs to implement and maintain a revised schedule for completion of testing and for meeting the Revenue Service Date.”

The IEC notes that the MTA needs to spend money faster than it has been to support a December revenue service date and urged the MTA to adopt a four-prong approach to finishing on time. This plan involves speeding up testing, ensuring contractors deliver on time, speed up work on the backlog of pending changes and begin to close out station room inspections.

Despite all this, the MTA assured me earlier this week that revenue service in December remains on the table. The agency is prepared to cover unanticipated issues with the systems testing, and contractors are now working overtime and at night to ensure around-the-clock production. It’s a race; it always has been, but it’s shifted from a marathon to a sprint. For the sake of Upper East Siders’ sanity, the MTA’s credibility and, perhaps, Michael Horodniceanu’s job, the MTA is urging its contractors to get the job done before December. Time is not on their side.

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The MTA's map of potential service during the L train closure highlights how increased subway service, buses and ferries will help mitigate the effects of the 18-month shutdown. (Click to enlarge)

The MTA’s map of potential service during the L train closure highlights how increased subway service, buses and ferries will help mitigate the effects of the 18-month shutdown. (Click to enlarge)

No matter how you spin it, the looming L train shutdown is not good news for the city. It’s not something Gov. Andrew Cuomo is going to announce with a press release and a staged media event at the Transit Museum, as he has done in recent months with news of new-look subway cars and renovated stations. Rather, the decision to move forward with an 18-month total shutdown of the L train between Manhattan and Brooklyn, set to begin in January of 2019, is one of the MTA released to The Times on Monday morning and the world at large during its Board committee meetings yesterday. It has sent shockwaves down the BMT Canarsie line and has spurred on more bickering between city officials and Cuomo’s MTA.

Following seven months of public hearings and numerous surveys of riders, Transit President Ronnie Hakim announced the details behind the shutdown on Monday. With nearly 80 percent of L train riders supporting a shorter shutdown over partial service that would be woefully inadequate for three years, the agency will complete close the L train’s Manhattan stations and the tunnel under the East River. Trains will continue to run between Bedford Ave. and Rockaway Parkway at eight-minute headways, providing riders with connections to the 3, A, C, J, Z, M and G trains. The MTA will have to rebuild two tubes that are over 7100 feet long and replace and harden all of the infrastructure within those tubes. A shutdown, Hakim said, is “the least risky way to do a project of this nature and the amount of work that needs to be done.”

As part of the work, the MTA will add more entrances and elevators to the Bedford Ave. station and an accessible entrance to the 1st Ave. stop at Avenue A, thus opening up more of Alphabet City to the L train. It’s small carrot for what will be a year and a half of transit pain, but these are necessary improvements that should bolster commuters for all. The agency has unfortunately dismissed the idea of adding tail tracks at 8th Ave. I’ve written in the past as something that should be on the table. Here’s the MTA’s rationale:

The existing L subway line terminal at 8 Av, which allows for a maximum of 28 trains per hour, is currently not, nor is it projected to be, the capacity constraint on L subway line frequency. Long term ridership forecasts do not show the need for frequency of service beyond what the terminal can already accommodate. Extending the tail tracks, which are tracks just beyond the end lines that can be used for storing and turning around trains, would allow trains to enter the station at higher speeds, but the large cost of constructing such a project would not justify the relatively minor gains in passenger travel time.

As the hammer came down on Monday, the MTA announced some contingencies plans but largely punted on the rest. There are, after all, 29 months for planning before the L shuts down. What we know though is that the MTA will run full-length G trains while increasing service on the G, M, J and Z trains. The agency will provide free transfers between the G at Broadway and the J/M/Z at Lorimer St. and between the L and 3 at Junius/Livonia. As for other mitigation efforts — a bus bridge or increased ferry service — the MTA stated, “A range of additional bus and ferry services are being developed along different portions of the corridor. We plan to work closely with the City and State to develop routes and determine service levels needed to accommodate projected ridership.”

As MTA plans go, this one is well-thought-out and comprehensive with the agency indicating a need and willingness to work with the city. It earned praise from transit advocates and local politicians both for its transparency and community engagement efforts, but that didn’t stop the city from trying to get in a jab at the Governor’s transit agency. In a statement to The Times, Deputy Mayor Anthony Shorris threw some unnecessary barbs while ignoring months of outreach:

The L train carries more than 300,000 riders per day and is a vital transit artery for neighborhoods on both sides of the East River. While we recognize the need for the MTA to perform these important repairs and upgrades, we are deeply concerned that it would announce an 18-month shutdown of this critical service without a clear plan or a commitment of resources for mitigating the impact of this closure on hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers. Well before this shutdown occurs, New Yorkers deserve clarity from the MTA on how it intends to minimize inconvenience and keep people moving throughout the duration of the construction.

Mayor Bill de Blasio added his two cents later on in the day which included some unnecessary defense as part of his ongoing schoolyard feud with the governor:

First of all, I’ll remind everyone the MTA is run by the State of New York. The amount of time that they have projected — the 18 months — is a very big concern for me and for the City government. We’re going to have some very serious conversations about the MTA, about whether it has to take that long and how it’s going to be handled. I want to make sure there’s a lot of redundancy in place. By the time it happens, one — small but important factors — we’ll have the citywide ferry service in place, so that’ll be helpful, but we’re going to need a lot more than that, obviously. So I want to press the MTA to show us that 300,000 riders really will have good and consistent alternatives. And we’re certainly going to look at what we have to do in terms of the bridge as part of that. We’ll have an answer on that after those discussions with the MTA.

The reality is that it’s incumbent upon the mayor and his Department of Transportation to lead here. The MTA has signaled a very clear intent to work with the city to develop contingency plans, and even though a ferry from Williamsburg is likely one part of that plan, it’s clear that the MTA hopes to run constant buses over the Williamsburg Bridge, a move that requires support and authorization from the city. Additionally, numerous local officials have lined up in support of the 14th St. Peopleway, and for the MTA to realize this call for a transit-only street focusing on buses, bikes and pedestrians, DOT again would have to act. That’s firmly on the Mayor’s shoulders no matter who ultimately runs the MTA. It’s all politics to him though even when the commutes of hundreds of thousands are at stake.

So we have a plan, and we have a timeline. Now, we need the contingencies. It shouldn’t be hard for various agencies to come together on a plan, and ultimately, the city can see what dedicated transit space can do. The L train shutdown will be ugly and painful and stressful for numerous communities of various backgrounds, but maybe the city and state can make the most of a crisis. Cuomo might not want to own it, and de Blasio may want to politicize it today. But when all is said and done, New York City could just be better off for it by the time mid-2020 rolls around.

Categories : Superstorm Sandy
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A new report urges a comprehensive reworking of the city's bus network.

A new report urges a comprehensive reworking of the city’s bus network.

In 2002, New York City Transit recorded some substantial bus ridership numbers as 762 million people paid to ride the bus. It’s been all downhill since then, as only 650 million people used buses last year. Meanwhile, over the same period of time, New York City’s subway ridership has grown from 1.413 billion rides to 1.762 billion last year, and the population of the city has grown by around five percent. When it comes to buses, something isn’t working.

This isn’t, of course, a new development. A few weeks ago, a NYC DOT report showed how slow travel speeds, among other issues, has led to less reliable and less popular bus service, and we’ve seen how some fairly minor enhancements to bus service — dedicated lanes and pre-board fare payment — can reduce travel times. Now, a coalition of transit advocates and New York City politicians are putting pressure on both the city and MTA to do something to improve bus service and prioritize the bus network.

In a report issued last week called “Turnaround: Fixing New York City’s Buses” [pdf], the Transit Center, Riders Alliance, Straphangers Campaign and Tri-State Transportation Campaign have called for a redesigned bus network with service enhancements and best-in-class infrastructure including pre-board fare payment and dedicated street space. It’s almost revolutionary for New York but standard practice the world over. Full-scale implementation should combat the causes that have depressed bus ridership over the past decade and a half, but it will take a multi-agency effort across city and state agencies to see through.

The decline in bus ridership over the past 14 years highlights the flaws in the city's approach to building a bus network.

The decline in bus ridership over the past 14 years highlights the flaws in the city’s approach to building a bus network.

Tabitha Decker, Transit Center’s NYC Program Director, summed up the recommendations. “Many of New York’s global peers, such as London and Seoul, have turned around bus systems that were in decline, even though these cities have large-scale urban rail too. They have done this by making bus travel fast, frequent, and reliable using tools like smart card based fare payment and the use of real time data to keep buses on schedule.”

The recommendations are broken down into segments. First, the report urges redesigning the bus network for more frequent and efficient service. Today’s bus network is a relic of New York City’s old streetcars, and the routes are often twisting and turning paths that end at borough borders rather than a transit hubs or other popular destinations. The coalition wants to straighten out routes for faster travel times and, as the report states, “rightsize the distance between bus stops. New York is a global outlier in terms of how closely stops are spaced, and on many routes, stops are even closer together than our own standards dictate. Optimizing the number of stops will speed trips for riders.”

The second section focuses on fare payment and boarding. Obviously, a tap-and-go system will significantly reduce boarding times if a pre-board fare payment system for all local buses is too costly. All-door boarding would reduce station dwell times as well. (The Riders Alliance recently issued a different report raising concerns with the MTA’s next-generation fare payment plans that could have ramifications for buses as well.) Continued investment in low-floor buses should improve the boarding process as well, the report noted.

Next, the report urges the MTA to change the way it dispatches and controls buses that are en route to ensure buses arrive on schedule and avoid bus bunching. In addition to dispatching buses on time, the MTA should hold buses en route to improve service. This is a bit of a controversial recommendation as it could lead to delays for passengers during their travels, but the coalition feels a more proactive, headway-based control process should improve service for everyone.

Dedicated lanes and signal prioritization can help speed up the city's notorious slow buses.

Dedicated lanes and signal prioritization can help speed up the city’s notorious slow buses.

Finally, in a recommendation that would overhaul the way buses interact with the streets, the report urges a massive expansion of dedicated lanes, a renewed focus on bus bulbs and boarding islands to “eliminate time spent weaving in and out of traffic,” signal prioritization and queue-jump lanes for buses. These changes would require DOT and the MTA to collaborate and would likely require authorization from Albany as well. It’s politically tricky but not impossible.

And yet, while an expansive coalition of New York City politics voiced their support for these bus turnarounds, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the Grand Poobah of New York State politics, in comments to Politico New York, dismissed bus problems with a wave of his hand a complete lack of understanding. “If people in Manhattan are choosing to jump on the subway because the subway is faster, because there’s traffic that a bus has to deal with — that’s not an imprudent choice, right?” Cuomo said.

Cuomo, who thinks a USB charging port on a bus is some form of revolutionary improvement, doesn’t seem to understand the role the bus network could play in New York City, and Ben Fried took it too him in a post on Streetsblog last week. Cuomo’s Manhattan-centric view of travel speeds betrays his belief that traffic is a force of nature that cannot be addressed through rational policies and that buses mirror subways. As Fried writes, “The governor’s theory about people ditching the bus for the train simply doesn’t apply to the vast number of New Yorkers who ride these routes [that cover territory that the subway does not] and would benefit enormously from the recommendations in the Bus Turnaround report.”

In response to the report, the MTA noted that it is in the process of implementing some of these upgrades and that the agency has undertaken certain studies regarding specific routes. But overall, the MTA, DOT and city and state officials need to engage in a concerted effort to reroute and redraw bus routes while improving the infrastructure upon which buses rely. If they don’t, ridership will continue to decline, and buses will forever remain stuck with the stigma of being a second-class transportation option.

Categories : Buses
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