NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton, left, found the subways to be quite crowded during a ride last week. He shouldn’t have been so surprised. (Via Twitter)

I don’t tend to cover subway crime much on these pixeled pages. As a storyline, subway crime tends more toward clickbait than real coverage with the city’s tabloids preying on decades’-old fears of the subways a hot bed for crime. The reality is far more boring with the NYPD reporting less than seven major felonies per day in the subway, a far cry from even as recently as 1997 when major felonies topped 17 per day. The subways are very safe, and that truth makes for dull press.

Now and then, though, something related to subway crime draws me in. This story is tangentially related to the “spate” of subway slashings. I use “spate” with some trepidation as six incidents in January is hardly a sign of a return to the bad old days, but these crimes follow a pattern. Two people have a heated interaction on a crowded subway car or platform, one slashes the other and flees. The cops have made three arrests and are investigating the other three, including one that unfolded this past weekend.

The slashings, in and of themselves, are warnings to be wary of altercations underground, but the NYPD’s reaction has been telling. To assess safety underground, NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton last week decided to ride the subway — with some fellow higher-ups and a security detail — to assess the safety of the subways. He proclaimed the subways “very safe” and added, “As [NYPD Chief of Department] Jimmy [O’Neill] and I found out this morning, they’re jammed in there like sardines. It’s amazing anyone can assault anyone. People can’t move in some of those cars.”

So it is early 2016 and apparently news to the police official in charge of the entire department that the subways are crowded and room is at a premium. Stop the presses indeed.

Bratton’s attitude and words are indicative of a bigger divide in New York City politics that comes about from granting so many top officials, elected and appointed, the perk of free parking and drivers. These leaders do not take the subways and view the subways and subway riders as “other.” Rather than experiencing the city as so many New Yorkers do on a daily basis through the lens of an hour or more spent riding subways each day, they view the subways as this thing that people who aren’t them — people who are the Other — use. The subways remain vaguely unknown and unsafe. Thus, crowded trains are all hours are viewed as a sign things are hunky dory underground.

It’s true as Bratton surmised, that crowds indicate safety. On a basic level, this indicates safety in numbers as the more riders there are, the safer we all feel. Plus, if millions of people didn’t feel safe taking the subway, the trains would be as empty today as they were during the doldrums of the late 1970s and early 1980s. As an infrequent rider, Bratton drew that seemingly common-sense solution, and he’s not wrong. But he’s also not quite right.

As trains get more crowded, the safety concerns manifest themselves in other ways. Subway riders — especially women — are more worried about sexual harassment and assault in the subways. After all, crowded trains give those so inclined cover for inappropriate contact or worse. Bratton wouldn’t pick up on that nuance if he were only last week discovering how crowded trains were. Riders too are worried about confrontations as space on peak hour trains is at a premium. These slashings have arisen over disputes over seats or standing space or those blocking doorways. With trains packed, we grow protective over our square feet, and watching the MTA’s service strain to meet peak-hour capacity means tense crowds and confrontations that can spiral out of control quickly. This too is not something an infrequent rider would immediately notice.

So what’s the solution? I don’t believe we should force politicians to take the subway. Such a requirement leads to disenchantment and bitterness, and it doesn’t help anyone understand the ins and outs of daily life with the subway. Rather, officials and politicians should take the subway because they want to learn and understand what their constituents experience and want to see the city through the eyes of its millions of transit riders. It’s an instructive way to understand the concerns of the millions of people who ride the subway each day. Thus, politicians and key officials would learn how safety concerns are implicated and what crowded trains mean, and subway riders would become the Normal rather than the Other. As the Other, we’ll be treated at arm’s length. As the Normal, conditions can improve in the right way for the better.

Comments (37)

Although late-January isn’t always a transit-rich time of year, this week proved to be a busy one. In case you missed anything, you can read about the community concerns over the looming L train shutdown, the ultimate fate of the 7 line extension stop at 10th Ave., the problematic R train, the near-term future of the Second Ave. Subway, and, of course, open gangway rolling stock which is coming soon to New York. If that’s not your thing, how about some weekend service advisories?

From 11:45 p.m. Friday, January 29 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, February 1, South Ferry-bound 1 trains run express from 14 St to Chambers St.

From 11:45 p.m. Friday, January 29 to 6:30 a.m. Sunday, January 31, and from 6:30 a.m. Sunday, January 31 to Monday, February 1, Flatbush Av-Brooklyn College bound 2 trains run express from 14 St to Chambers St.

From 10:00 p.m. Saturday, January 30 to 10:00 a.m. Sunday, January 31, Van Cortlandt Park-bound 1 trains run local from Times Sq-42 St to 96 St.

From 11:45 p.m. Friday, January 29 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, February 1, 3 service operates to/from New Lots Av all weekend, replacing the 4 in Brooklyn. 3 trains will run express in Manhattan.

From 10:00 p.m. Saturday, January 30 to 10:00 a.m. Sunday, January 31, Harlem-138 St bound 3 trains run local from Times Sq-42 St to 96 St.

From 11:45 p.m. Friday, January 29 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, February 1, 4 trains are suspended in both directions between Crown Hts-Utica Ave/New Lots Ave and Bowling Green. Take the 2 or 3 instead. Transfer between 4 and 23 trains at Fulton St.

From 11:45 p.m. Friday, January 29 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, February 1, Pelham Bay Park-bound 6 trains run express from 3 Av-138 St to Hunts Point Av.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, January 30 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, February 1, A trains are suspended in both directions between Euclid Av and Ozone Park-Lefferts Blvd. Free shuttle buses provide alternate service. A service operates in two sections:

  • Between 207 St and Euclid Av.
  • Between Rockaway Blvd and Far Rockaway, every 20 minutes.
  • Free shuttle buses operate between Euclid Av and Lefferts Blvd, stopping at Grant Av, 80 St, 88 St, Rockaway Blvd, 104 St, and 111 St. Transfer between A trains and free shuttle buses at Euclid Av and/or Rockaway Blvd.

From 11:45 p.m. Friday, January 29 to 6:30 a.m. Sunday, January 31, and from 11:45 p.m. Sunday, January 31 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, February 1, Brooklyn-bound A trains run express 59 St-Columbus Circle to Canal St.

From 6:30 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, January 30 and January 31, Brooklyn-bound C trains run express 59 St-Columbus Circle to Canal St.

From 11:45 p.m. Friday, January 29 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, February 1, Jamaica Center-Parsons/Archer bound E trains skip 75 Av and Briarwood.

From 11:45 p.m. Friday, January 29 to 6:30 a.m. Sunday, January 31, and from 11:45 p.m. Sunday, January 31 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, February 1, Jamaica Center-Parsons/Archer bound E trains run express from Queens Plaza to Forest Hills-71 Av.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, January 30 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, February 1, World Trade Center-bound E trains run local from Forest Hills-71 Av to Queens Plaza.

From 11:45 p.m. Friday, January 29 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, February 1, Coney Island-Stillwell Av bound F trains are rerouted via the E local from Forest Hills-71 Av to W4 St-Wash Sq.

From 11:45 p.m. Friday, January 29 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, February 1, Jamaica Center-Parsons/Archer bound F trains skip 75 Av, Briarwood, and Sutphin Blvd.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, January 30 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, February 1, Coney Island-Stillwell Av bound F trains run local from Forest Hills-71 Av to Queens Plaza.

From 11:30 p.m. Friday, January 29 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, February 1, J trains are suspended in both directions between Hewes St and Broad St. J service operates between Jamaica Center and Hewes St. Take free shuttle buses and 46F trains instead. Free shuttle buses operate between Hewes St and Essex St, stopping at Marcy Av. For direct service between Brooklyn and Manhattan, consider using the AC or L via free transfer at Broadway Junction.

From 6:00 a.m. to 12 Midnight Saturday, January 30 and Sunday, January 31, M trains are suspended in both directions between Myrtle Av and Essex St. M service operates between Metropolitan Av and Myrtle Av all weekend. Take the JL and/or free shuttle buses instead. Free shuttle buses provide alternate service between Hewes St and Essex St, stopping at Marcy Av. For direct service to/from Manhattan, use the L via transfer at Myrtle-Wyckoff Avs.

From 11:30 p.m. Friday, January 29 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, February 1, Q trains are suspended in both directions between 57 St-7 Av and Kings Hwy. Q service operates between Coney Island-Stillwell Av and Kings Hwy. Free shuttle buses operate as follows:

  • Express (non-stop) between Kings Hwy and Atlantic Av-Barclays Ctr.
  • Local between Kings Hwy and Atlantic Av-Barclays Ctr, making all stops.
  • For service To Manhattan, take the DFN from Coney Island-Stillwell Av. For service to Coney Island-Stillwell Av, take the D,F, or N at 34 St-Herald Sq or the DN at Atlantic Av-Barclays Ctr.

From 6:00 a.m. to 12 Midnight Saturday, January 30 and Sunday, January 31, Forest Hills-71 Av bound R trains run express from Queens Plaza to Forest Hills-71 Av.

Categories : Service Advisories
Comments (2)

The L train riders have a problem. Due to the millions of gallons of saltwater that flooded the Canarsie Tubes during Hurricane Sandy, a prolonged shutdown of the L train’s connection to Manhattan is all but inevitable. This work isn’t expected to start until mid-2017, and the agency is struggling to determine if a three-year shutdown that may allow single-tracking is preferable to a 14-18 month total shutdown of service. From local businesses to housing to daily commuters, the L train shutdown is a Problem with a capital P.

Even as plans are up in the air, Northern Brooklyn residents aren’t happen. Therein lies the MTA’s problem. Based on a general distrust of an agency that has failed to deliver projects on time and on budget and has a reputation, deserved or otherwise, for a lack of transparency (we always knew that lingering trope about two sets of books would come back to bite), New Yorkers simply do not trust the MTA. So when the MTA says it has to shutdown the L train for a prolonged period of time but doesn’t sufficiently explain the depths of the work or the extent of the damage, the public who would have to suffer through longer trips on crowded trains will be skeptical and angry.

Yesterday, that anger unfolded in an entirely unproductive and childish way that benefits no one involved in this process. What was supposed to be a private meeting during which community leaders were to voice their concerns turned into a public forum for politicians to grandstand and business owners to vent. To more or less ended when community leaders kicked out the MTA representative they had invited to attend the meeting to hear their concerns. It’s my understanding that, when the MTA accepted the invite, they did so telling the community that plans were not ready for public discussion. The community members acknowledged this limitation but then were critical when the MTA failed to disclose plans the agency didn’t have. It was, in essence, a public ambush that ended with an eviction. It’s made for a nice bit of theater but has led to more distrust on both sides of a process that needs to be collaborative and cooperative.

Let’s see how this unfolded via Twitter coverage:

Following the meeting, an MTA spokesman express the agency’s commitment to cooperation, saying: “The safety of riders must be the number one priority. The Canarsie tube suffered serious damage during superstorm Sandy, and it must be repaired. The MTA is looking for the best ways to mitigate the service disruptions and customer inconvenience that will result from this critical repair work. As we have made clear both prior to and at the meeting, we are committed to maintaining a dialog with the affected communities as we analyze the options. As the process moves forward we will continue to listen to ideas from our riders, local businesses and elected officials.”

From where I sit, the path forward is simple but will take some trust-building on both sides. The MTA has to be transparent with the state of the Canarsie Tube. If riders and residents fear for their safety, the MTA hasn’t done a good job explaining what work needs to be done and why or what the status of the tube currently is. While those aware of the extent of Sandy’s damage could point to the R train’s Montague St. Tube as a good example, the MTA can’t work from the assumption that casual L train riders know or care about work that happened on the R line. While you and I may pay attention to these things, for the vast majority of New Yorkers, the subway is the line they take on a daily basis, and L train riders through the Canarise Tube aren’t R train riders through the Montague St. Tube. Sandy was now over three years ago, and memory fades fast.

On the other hand, the community should be understand about expressing their concerns in a collaborative and cooperative process. If they’re not getting answers, the solution isn’t to expel the person listening to their concerns from the meeting. Rather, work together to find out a way forward. Furthermore, politicians like Sen. Martin Dilan shouldn’t threaten access to billions of dollars of badly-needed funding to fulfill a personal vendetta. That is a counterproductive step in a process fraught with complications.

So now a detente settles in until the next meeting in February. This work is still far off, but the path forward is opening up. We’ll see how the sides respond next time, but hopefully, transparency and maturity will rule that meeting. Otherwise, it’s going to be a long few years for L train riders.

Categories : Superstorm Sandy
Comments (34)
The 7 line extension will open in September, but the station at 41st St. and 10th Ave. remains lost to time.

The 7 line extension station at 41st St. and 10th Ave. remains lost to time.

Every few months, the long, lost 7 line station at 41st St. and 10th Ave. makes an appearance in the news, and we can all hope for a few minutes that everyone will come to their senses. Today, this station — a victim of a game of political chicken between the MTA and New York City that saw everyone else lose over a matter of a few hundred million dollars — made waves when NYC’s Economic Development Corporation released an RFP for the Covenant House at 41st St. and 10th Ave. With scenic views of the Port Authority Bus Terminal ramps, this spot is primed for development, and it would seem to be an ideal vehicle through which a second stop for the 7 line extension could arrive. Don’t get your hopes up.

The story broke first on Curbed on Wednesday afternoon. Buried in the RFP for the site (pdf) is a brief reference to the MTA and its work assessing the area around 41st St. and 10th Ave. As you may recall, the 7 line extension originally included two stations, but when costs climbed, the city refused to cover the overruns. Since the MTA wasn’t going to spend a dollar more than it needed to of its own scarce capital money on a project entirely funded by the city and the city didn’t need to spur development in a neighborhood already being developed, the station was axed from the extension. Over the years, a few half-hearted, 11th-hour attempts by, variously, the real estate industry and Sen. Chuck Schumer went nowhere, and the extension opened last year with just one stop.

The MTA didn’t foreclose on the idea of a station there and left provisioning in place for a station with two side-platforms at this spot in Hell’s Kitchen. Now, we see that the agency, at a low level, is doing its diligence with regards to this station. Here’s what the RFP says:

The MTA is in the process of preparing the conceptual design study of the Tenth Avenue Station for the No. 7 Train Extension. The goal of the study is to arrive at a conceptual design of the station facilities and infrastructure on the Project Site to a level of specificity that will assist in determining the dimensions of any required MTA Easements, volumes of space, impositions or encumbrances. At the time that the study is complete, the Developer will be expected to work with the MTA to finalize the MTA Easements and adjust its Proposal accordingly. The Developer is encouraged to design and incorporate the MTA Easements so that the MTA Easements appear uniform with the overall Project. The Contracts of Sale will require that, as a Condition to Closing, the Developer shall have coordinated with the MTA, and shall have accepted and accommodated within its site plan the MTA Easements as set forth in the abovementioned conceptual design study.

That paragraph is dense with legalese and real estate-ese, but ultimately and unfortunately, it urges us not to hold our breaths expecting a station at 10th Ave. any time soon. While the MTA may be preparing a conception design study, the purpose of this study is simply to ensure the i’s are dotted and t’s are crossed with regards to the Covenant House spot. The easements are future considerations. Should the MTA eventually decide to build the station, whatever development grows at this spot would have to support the necessary land grab and construction work without sacrificing the integrity of the mixed-use development that will soon rise there. It’s nothing more than a hedge against future uncertainty and not a true conceptual design that will see the light of day.

The reality is that, despite Dan Doctoroff’s come-to-Jesus moment seven years too late, we missed the best chance we had of seeing a stop at 10th Ave. Instead of a $500 million project, a new station built around an active subway line is likely to cost upwards of $800 million, and the MTA has no plans to fund this station. It’s not a part of the 2015-2019 capital plan, and based on the agency’s short- and long-term needs, it’s not likely to be a part of the 2020-2024 plan unless someone else fronts the dough.

So ultimately, the MTA and NYCEDC are doing what they have to do to preserve the slight hope that someone will fund a station in the future. Whoever builds something at 41st will have to plan for some work underneath the building that’s unlikely to begin any time soon, and that’s all this RFP is about. As frustrating as it is, the 7 line stop at 41st St. and 10th Ave. is no closer to reality today than it was a week, a month or a year ago.

Categories : 7 Line Extension
Comments (28)

Over the past few years, local subway riders on the BMT 4th Avenue line have had a rough go of it. After over 20 years of ample peak-hour service — both the M (or N) and R trains served 4th Ave. from the mid-1980s until 2010 — R train riders have suffered through reductions in service, 13 months of transfers due to Sandy work and, now, constant complaints about reliability. Since the Montague Tubes reopened following Fix & Fortify work, riders have loudly voiced their views that R service isn’t satisfactory and has gotten worse. Pols are picking up the cause, but the MTA says it won’t do anything until the Second Ave. Subway opens.

The exact nature of the complaints from riders are standard throughout the system, but from constant stories, it sounds as though the R train in Brooklyn has been particularly unreliable lately. A letter from City Council member Vincent Gentile to the MTA noted “many late and overcrowded trains, infrequent service, frequent delays, unkempt stations, inadequate audio systems, and the use of older subway cars.” Some of these complaints are valid and systematic; the MTA hasn’t overhauled some pretty sorry stations along 4th Ave. in decades. Some stretch the bounds of pity. The R train’s rolling stock, for instance, is perfectly adequately and won’t be due up for replacement until the latter part of the 2020s. And some — infrequent service, for one — are a direct result of the loss of the M train.

The R, in other words, is the perfect storm of problems for the MTA. It runs through rapidly expanding (and gentrifying) neighborhoods and offers Bay Ridge its lone, slow subway connection to Manhattan. The pure data is hard to pinpoint, but experiences and anecdotes suggest the service along this line has not been up to snuff lately. As the R stretches from Forest Hills to Bay Ridge and shares tracks at various points with the N, Q, and M lines, the challenges are extreme.

In writing to the MTA last month, Gentile offered up a laundry list of solutions. His letter said:

First, if nothing else, conduct an audit to find out just how bad the service is and exactly what is needed to alleviate the trouble. Second, add more and newer trains to the R route to increase frequency and decrease late arrivals of the R. Third, put the R train on its own line in Manhattan so that delays caused by waiting for other trains that run on the same line, such as the N, cease to happen. Fourth, speed up the installation of platform countdown clocks and add other amenities on the subway cars such as digital stop trackers. Finally, if you do not replace the train cars entirely, at the very least add new audio systems that riders can actually hear and decipher in the event of an emergency or delay. Currently, a majority of the audio systems on the R train fleet are inaudible and/or incomprehensible.

In addition, I am proposing several changes to the scheduling for the R line that I also request be made as soon as possible. First, discontinue the late night R shuttle that forces riders heading into Bay Ridge at night to get off the train at 36th Street in Sunset Park and wait upwards of an additional 20-30 minutes for an R shuttle to arrive and complete their trip home. Second, since the TA itself claims many delays on the R line result from the length of the entire line itself, I am advocating the creation of an R line rush hour special from 95th Street in Bay Ridge to Chambers Street and back. This special segmented line will address and alleviate some of the delays experienced by Bay Ridgeites who work in lower Manhattan.

This is a jumble of ideas, again some better than others, but it seems indicative of the need for additional peak-hour service along 4th Ave. In addition to the letter, Gentile, along with Daniel Squadron, the Straphangers Campaign, and the Riders Alliance, has urged the MTA to conduct a full line review — essentially an audit — of R train operations to determine how best to improve the line. These line reviews can be modest and may fall victim to politics, but auditing service along particular lines is something the MTA has said it will do regularly.

Yet, the MTA is a bit resistant to the idea that the R is problematic. Internal load guidelines — also established by the MTA and loosened in 2010 — have determined the R to be at 62 percent of capacity during a.m. peak hours and between 30-60 percent of capacity during non-peak hours. This has always raised questions regarding induced demand and chicken-and-egg problems. Can the MTA improve service and boost ridership by increasing service and improving reliability?

In response to the request for an audit, though, the MTA told R train riders they will have to wait a bit longer for improvements. Here’s the agency’s statement:

Chairman Prendergast has committed to undertake full line reviews of all subway lines in the system. Since 2009, NYCT has completed reviews of the F, L, G and recently the A and C lines. Since all of the reviews conducted thus far have focused on the subway’s lettered lines (like the R), NYCT plans to select one or more lines on the numbered lines as the next line(s) to review. A review of the R has not yet been scheduled because if we were to conduct a line review of the R now, it would be obsolete almost immediately, because the opening of the Second Avenue Subway will significantly change overall service on the Broadway Line. The opening of Second Avenue Subway will affect how many people ride the R and how the R operates, so it would be premature for us to conduct an R line review on the cusp of such a change.

So the R could be doing better, but it’s not at capacity. Meanwhile, we’re on the cusp of major changes to the BMT once the Second Ave. Subway opens (whenever that might be), and for now, R train riders are stuck with what they have, an M-less ride down 4th Ave. Is that a satisfactory response? It’s hard to say.

Categories : Brooklyn
Comments (108)
  • Engineering consultant continues to warn of ‘moderate risk of delay’ to 2nd Ave. Subway · When last we checked in on the Second Ave. Subway, the MTA Board had just heard a presentation regarding delays that may cause the project to miss its projected December opening date. Last month, the agency’s Independent Engineering Consultant warned of a “moderate risk of delay” should key activities remain outstanding and behind schedule. Yesterday, after a gap of only six weeks, the IEC returned with more warnings for potential delays, but the MTA reiterated its plan to have the Second Ave. Subway open before the year is out.

    For its part, the MTA says it is ready to move testing and commissioning staff into on-site locations as soon as possible and is working with contractors to address and resolve any items that could delay the revenue service start date. The MTA also plans to implement “lessons learned” from the delayed openings of both the Fulton Street. Transit Center and the 7 line extension, but the IEC is skeptical these efforts will be sufficient. Noting new and backlogged change orders, the IEC said that it “has observed that several key activities slipped their scheduled completion dates in the six weeks since the December 2015 CPOC report. In particular, delays to provision of permanent power at 86th St and 96th Streets are of most concern as they could potentially impact the start of testing and commissioning.”

    The IEC has recommended the MTA institute weekly meetings with its contractors “to properly status key activities and identify critical delays for mitigation and recovery” and has urged the agency to “complete the new integrated project schedule by integrating the communications testing with the accelerated testing of station equipment installations.” In other words, speed up the project schedule or else testing requirements won’t permit the MTA to open the northern extension of the Q train to 2nd Ave. and 96th St. by the end of December. The next IEC update is due in March.

    In other news tangentially related to the Second Ave. Subway, Disney announced last week that Star Wars VIII will arrive in theaters in December of 2017 rather than in May. Last month, the overwhelming majority of those who voted in my poll felt that Star Wars would open before the Second Ave. Subway, but that was when the movie was scheduled for a summer 2017 release. I wonder if those results would hold in light of the new release date and the IEC warnings. My guess is that the Second Ave. Subway will miss the December 2016 date but open by the spring of 2017. Either way, the MTA has a lot riding on the next 11 months, and Upper East Side residents are watching closely. · (20)
The MTA released a conceptual rendering of the open gangway prototype the agency plans to include in the R211 rolling stock order.

The MTA released a conceptual rendering of the open gangway prototype the agency plans to include in the R211 rolling stock order.

As the MTA struggles to expand subway capacity to meet current ridership demands, the idea of rolling stock design has come under scrutiny. A few years ago, the MTA, to the public’s dismay, floated the idea of making a certain number of cars per train seatless during rush hour, but that didn’t go far. Another proposal, which is standard design in a number of international cities, is now getting its day in the sun. That idea is of course open gangways, and in MTA Board materials released this weekend, we now have a glimpse of what the MTA is envisioning for their prototype.

Open gangways are a familiar sight to international travelers, and in fact, one needs to travel no farther than Montreal or Toronto to experience this rolling stock design. The idea is simple: By sealing in and opening up the space in between cars, open gangways create freedom of movement and more space for passengers. It’s a safer design that eliminates the problems of isolated subway or metro cars and can increase capacity by around 8-10 percent per subway train. That we do not have them already, MTA sources have told me, is a mix of agency fears at doing something viewed by New Yorkers as “different” even if it exists elsewhere and some manageable engineering concerns about these types of cars’ ability to handle tight curves.

A few weeks ago, I explored how the 2015-2019 Capital Plan features an open gangway prototype order. For the upcoming R211 rolling stock, 10 cars out of 950 will include an open gangway design so the MTA can test this feature for future use. It’s a disappointingly modest part of a rolling stock order expected to by in service until the 2060s or 2070s. But hold that thought.

This weekend, the MTA released the rendering you see above. Intriguingly, the image suggests a June 4, 2013 creation date. So clearly the agency has been bandying this idea about for a few years. That it is taking so long to come to fruition, even on a pilot basis, is indicative of the MTA’s hesitant approach to ideas that are “new” to New York. (Considering how early 20th century subway cars featured open gangways, we could argue the semantics of whether these designs are actually new to New York for hours. Either way, they are new to the MTA in a post-1968 world.)

In accompanying materials [pdf], the MTA simply notes that the objectives for the $2.3 billion R211 order includes expanding capacity through better design. It’s not clear if, when the prototypes are successful, the agency could retrofit the R211s for additional open gangway train sets or if the MTA could amend an order in progress. I’m sure we’ll hear more about this plan during the committee meetings on Monday, but I hope this option exists. Otherwise, having around 1 percent of one rolling stock model feature open gangways won’t do much for the MTA’s capacity concerns.

And therein lies the rub. If the MTA receives these open gangway cars in the early 2020s and determines the design is feasible for many subway lines, the window for system-wide adaption will have closed for decades. The agency brags that 56 percent of its fleet is, at most, 15 years old, and the upcoming orders — the delayed R179s, the R188s, the rest of the R211s — aren’t open gangway train sets. Thus, the next order of cars that could be all open gangways won’t arrive until the late 2020s, and the MTA’s full complement of subway cars wouldn’t have these open gangways until the mid-2070s. By then, I hope another phase or two of the Second Ave. Subway is open as well. A slow approach to seemingly-innovative designs that are de rigueur elsewhere will get us nowhere.

Categories : Rolling Stock
Comments (114)

As Sunday dawned, bright and sunny, New York found itself buried under far more snow than originally expected. It’s going to be a wet and fast thaw as temperatures are expected to rise rapidly this week, but for now, the piles of snow are large and everywhere. It made for a peaceful weekend, but it’s bound to make for a wet and sluggish c

That said, the transit system held up remarkably well. Following Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s controversial decision to shut down the subways, amidst a bigger storm than was forecast last year, the trains kept running and were none the worse for the wear. The agency instituted its winter weather plan, and while the plan is likely more conservative than it needs to be, those who needed to could get around without resorting to disobeying a driving ban. Plus, the system is ready for Monday.

As of Sunday evening, here’s what the MTA is planning for the morning.

  • Subways:When the Q train started running on Sunday evening, the MTA could feel comfortable knowing that regular rush hour subway service will operate throughout the system on Monday.
  • Buses: The MTA expects to run normal bus service for Monday, but street conditions could cause diversions and delays.
  • LIRR: Per the MTA: “Seven of the LIRR’s 12 branches, representing the majority of LIRR service, will be fully operational by 5 a.m. on Monday, Jan. 25. Those seven branches are Port Washington, Oyster Bay, Port Jefferson, Ronkonkoma, Huntington, Babylon and Greenport. Partial service will also be offered on the Montauk branch as far as Speonk…LIRR service to Atlantic Terminal will remain temporarily suspended. However, LIRR tickets will be cross-honored on subways to support any commuters who usually travel to Atlantic Terminal.”
  • Metro-North: Per the MTA: “Metro-North will run its normal weekday schedule Monday morning. There may be canceled and combined trains throughout the system as Metro-North continues to clear tracks, switches and yards of snow and ice from this weekend’s storm. Customers should continue to plan ahead and allow extra time for their journeys as snow removal work continues.”

These are of course subject to change, and MTA.info will have any late-night updates. Give yourself some extra time in the morning and check out any additional changes that may arise. All in all, restoring most service by Monday would be a coup considering the snow accumulation.

I’ll be back in the morning with some musings on open gangways on the MTA’s next subway car order. There are some intriguing images in the current MTA Board materials. Check back later.

Categories : Service Advisories
Comments (0)
The MTA has published a map of reduced subway service following curtailment of some lines in light of mounting snow totals.  (Click to enlarge)

The MTA has published a map of reduced subway service following curtailment of some lines in light of mounting snow totals. (Click to enlarge)

Update (1:15): The MTA has announced that, as of 4 p.m., subway service on above-ground lines will be halted, but the agency will run limited service underground. This is in line with Transit’s cold weather/snow plan. Keep an eye on MTA.info for updates.

As more snow than expected piles up, Gov. Andrew Cuomo did some governin’ today as he announced that the MTA will be suspending all bus service as of noon on Saturday. Currently 1800 workers are toiling to keep the subways running, and the MTA expects to maintain some service on all lines. It’s possible that outdoor lines — especially those running in trenches rather than along elevated lines — will see service scaled back. The MTA’s winter weather plan is in effect, and there are delays or service changes on nearly every line as nearly all express trains are running local. Weekend work has, of course, been canceled. I’ll update this post as news develops.

Categories : Service Advisories
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Cuomo’s plan to turn the Farley Post Office into the Empire Station Complex should not upstage trans-Hudson capacity work.

When Governor Andrew Cuomo unveiled his plan to fancy up Penn Station without a similar commitment to increasing trans-Hudson rail capacity, the idea seemed to land as if dropped there by a tornado. The newly-christened Empire Station Complex took the old idea for Moynihan Station and rebranded it to look like a cross between a supersized Apple Store and a modern European rail station. At the time, Cuomo vowed to construct the thing for a few billion dollars and promised to release an RFP for the project before the week was out.

Well, that week ended; another began and ended; and now another is two days away from ending. The RFP is no closer to seeing the light of day. Dana Rubinstein spotted the delay for a Politico New York story, but she couldn’t pinpoint the source. Neither Empire State Development nor Amtrak could offer an explanation, but I’ve heard it’s a simple answer. Despite promises to release an RFP in short order, Cuomo’s team simply didn’t have one ready, and it takes longer than three or four days to prepare an RFP of the scope and magnitude dictated by a $3 billion plan to overhaul Penn Station. His team is now working on putting together the joint solicitation RFP/RFEI, but that won’t appear overnight.

It’s fitting in a way that this delay has come about as it seems to indicate Cuomo’s lack of overarching policy leadership. He can criss-cross the state, promoting grand ideas, but if the grand ideas seemed to come out of nowhere, that’s because they did. The officials in charge of the nuts and bolts didn’t have an RFP ready on time because they likely didn’t know they were going to need to have an RFP ready. Press conferences are easy; governing is harder.

Luckily, some agencies that aren’t New York state are doing a better job of focusing on delivering the needed transportation improvements, and in today’s Times, Emma Fitzsimmons checks in on the progress on the Gateway Tunnel. He reporting offers up more detail on the initiative than we’ve had in some time. To whit:

In a presentation to [U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony] Foxx, Amtrak officials said the entire project could cost as much as $23.9 billion, with the largest share of about $7.7 billion going toward building the new Hudson tunnel and repairing the existing tunnel. The project includes a host of other elements, including expanding Pennsylvania Station in Manhattan at an estimated cost of $5.9 billion, and replacing rail bridges in New Jersey…

After Mr. Foxx toured the tunnel on Wednesday, he said he would continue to advance the plans during the final year of the Obama administration. “I’d like to have a financing package that is solid enough by the time we walk out of the door that everyone has the certainty that the project will happen, and the funding set aside to get it done,” he said…

Amtrak officials have been reluctant to provide specific figures for the cost of the project while they are still in the early stages of planning. On Wednesday, they cautioned that the numbers were preliminary estimates, and the real costs would be determined after conducting engineering work and an environmental plan and considering available financing. The expansion of Penn Station, by adding tracks to the south, could start in 2024 and be completed by 2030, according to the presentation. Work to replace the Portal Bridge in New Jersey, an old swing bridge that often causes delays, could start next year. There was no timeline provided for the Hudson tunnel project, but Amtrak officials have said that work could take about a decade.

As Fitzsimmons also noted, Amtrak officials have finally stated as well that the current tunnels are “structurally safe, but that service was becoming less reliable” due to the flooding during Superstorm Sandy. How much longer Amtrak can go before it absolutely must make repairs remains to be seen.

What we know is that New York, New Jersey and the feds have agreed to somehow split the costs for this massive project; we know it wasn’t included in Cuomo’s $100 billion State of the State infrastructure spending spree; we know Foxx is likely to be replaced in 12 months; and we know Gateway, with the expansion of Penn Station — a separate expansion from that proposed by Cuomo — will be expensive. This is the important work and not that fancy rendering I’ve slapped on top of this post. I hope Cuomo is paying attention, and I hope he’s more prepared for this heavy lifting than he was with the RFP for his pet project that’s still being drafted.

Categories : Gateway Tunnel
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