New Jersey officials discuss the future of a new trans-Hudson rail tunnel. (Via Sen. Cory Booker)

It’s hard to say where all of these meetings, editorials and statements about the need for a new trans-Hudson rail tunnel eventually lead to. For a few weeks — spurred on by an unfortunate assist from Hurricane Sandy and necessarily relentless coverage of delays caused by problems in Amtrak’s North River Tunnels — journalists, editorial boards, federal officials, transit advocates, and, yes, even elected representatives have been pushing forward on finding a way to build new tunnels. At $14-$20 billion depending upon the scope of the project, the ask is so far large and largely unjustified, but as the political dance continues, we have reason to remain cautiously optimistic that forces are aligning to do something. What that something is remains to be seen.

As we try to make sense of the latest developments, let’s turn to New Jersey where the Garden State politicians met yesterday with U.S. Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx. The meeting involved Gov. Chris Christie and Senators Robert Menendez and Cory Booker. Picking up on New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s cues last week, the team discussed the need not for loans but for federal grants. With Christie on board, an annoying if necessary piece of the puzzle considering he’s one of the reasons why we’re in this mess, the group released a statement:

“Transit across the Hudson River carries an enormous and increasing share of this region’s workforce and economy, and it is clear that something must be done, and done now, as commuters continue to endure serious daily challenges that come with an aging infrastructure.

“We had a substantive and productive meeting today and all of us are committed to working together on a path forward on this critical project. Senator Booker, Senator Menendez, and Governor Christie will work with Secretary Foxx to obtain a substantial Federal grant contribution toward the Hudson River tunnels. In addition to grants, we will also work on other funding and financing options.

“The state of New Jersey supports the Gateway project and is committed to developing a framework with the Federal government to begin it. We all recognize that the only way forward is equitable distribution of funding responsibility and the active participation of all parties. As commuters can attest, we cannot afford further delay.”

It’s not clear what exactly is next for the Garden State pols, but Emma Fitzsimmons’ coverage in The Times notes that, as with any meeting, there were some takeaways. “There was a growing sense of optimism on Tuesday among officials that the project would advance, according to an official who attended the gathering,” she writes. “Another official said that attendees left the meeting with specific assignments or tasks to move the plans forward.”

But as with the tunnel, the politics runs across the Hudson. It may be true, as Cuomo has pushed, that New Jersey stands to lose more if Amtrak’s tubes fail than New York, but that’s a provincial, short-term look. New Yorkers use and need access to the rest of the country via the Hudson River rail tunnels, and New York is going to have to be a willing participant in this Herculean funding mission. Cuomo may be coming around, and he just may be playing the right angle now after a few weeks of recalcitrance.

In a piece I highly recommend you read, Dana Rubinstein explores how the tunnel is New York’s problem whether Cuomo recognizes it or not. The Port Authority, a body some in Washington are intent on pushing aside for the purposes of a new trans-Hudson tunnel, is his problem, and Cuomo will have to cooperate. His statements are all over the place.

Noting that he was “encouraged” by the New Jersey meeting — although not invited to the Garden State summit — Cuomo again called for direct federal contributions. “I think we all recognize the need to make up for years of discussions that did not produce tangible forward progress. I believe deeply in the need for this country and my state and region to invest in new infrastructure to maintain our economic prowess, and I stand ready to expedite any and all state processes to move this project forward. We in New York have invested in major road reconstruction, undertaken the largest single bridge project in the country in decades with the Tappan Zee Bridge and announced the only total reconstruction of a major airport in the country today,” he said. “In the same vein, I strongly support the construction of the new Hudson River tunnel – and a federal grant package that makes the project viable is an essential first step.”

This morning on New York 1 he kinda sorta rolled that back. He claimed his statements are working in that he is “provoking” the bureaucracy to do something, and in that sense, perhaps he’s playing a long game. Additionally, he has questioned the $20 billion price tag — a key line of argument that must be challenged as the project moves forward. What are we spending this money on and why does it cost so much more here than elsewhere? But his constant comparisons to the new Tappan Zee Bridge and LaGuardia Airport projects remain problematic as he hasn’t been transparent on costs or funding. Still, Cuomo pledged that New York would “do its fair share” and again called on the federal government to “step up” with funding.

So that’s a lot of talk. What next? The money. When? Your guess is as good as mine, but the sooner the better.

Categories : Gateway Tunnel
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More on trans-Hudson rail tunnel shenanigans later. As part of a project I’ll tell you more about shortly, I’ve put together a brief survey on the MTA’s Help Point Intercom systems. It’s a few questions and shouldn’t take you longer than a minute or two to complete. I’d appreciate your help. You can find the survey embedded below or right here. Your responses are anonymous, and I’ll share the findings soon.

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A recent report by NY State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli highlights the MTA's declining on-time performance.

A recent report by NY State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli highlights the MTA’s declining on-time performance.

Thomas DiNapoli has served as New York State Comptroller nearly as long as I’ve run this site. He’s outlived governors and MTA Chairs alike at this point, but he’s still chugging along. One of the problems I’ve had with his “audits” of the MTA is that, for those who pay close attention to these sorts of things, they aren’t too insightful. He hasn’t identified the key problems plaguing the agency — namely, the insanely high capital construction costs and lack of productivity for the dollars — and his reports generally take public information and condense them into soundbites. His latest audit is no different, but it’s worth spending some time with it and the MTA’s response.

In his latest report — the PDF is right here — DiNapoli took all of the MTA’s on-time performance numbers the agency shares once a month at its board meetings and determined what Transit officials have been saying for some time: The subways’ on-time performance has been dreadful, and it’s getting worse. In 2013 and 2014, Transit had set an on-time performance goal for itself of over 91 percent, but weekday trains were on time 80.5 percent of the time in 2013 and just 74 percent of the time in 2014. Instead of combatting the problem, the MTA has instead lowered its on-time performance goal to 75 percent, far below national average.

“The subways are New York City’s arteries yet on-time performance continues to be an issue,” DiNapoli said. “The MTA has actually lowered its own expectations for addressing subway delays. We’re encouraged that MTA has put more money toward improving the ride for straphangers, hopefully it will help improve on-time performance.”

The audit’s recommendations aren’t much. DiNapoli has asked the MTA to identify the sources of delays, come up with a plan to mitigate these delays and then track performance monthly. Yet again, that sounds like something the transit agency already does even if their mitigation plans aren’t particularly effective.

Things got interesting though in the back-and-forth between the New York comptroller and agency officials responding to the audit. Transit has long maintained that on-time performance — the time a train actually arrives at a terminal — doesn’t much matter so long as even headways are maintained. I believe the agency is ultimately correct, but it’s not a point that’s going to win them much sympathy from a public that, by and large, has no idea what “headways” mean. Riders will hear trains are late; nod their heads in agreement; and sigh in exasperation.

Anyway, in response, the MTA highlighted wait assessment as their primary internal metric of even and reliable service and claimed that they already know why trains are delayed. They cited fallout from record ridership, new flagging rules and ongoing maintenance, and unexpected and emergency maintenance as the main causes. “New York City Transit does not have a single policy or directive on reducing delays and improving on-time performance, nor should we,” agency officials said in response. “Providing high-quality service is our central objective, and it is inherent in everything we do…We do not wish to compartmentalize responsibility for improving service performance. Therefore, it is neither practical nor desirable to condense our performance related activities into one policy (or even several policies).”

DiNapoli, in his response to Transit’s response, noted that wait assessment has also declined and urged the MTA to attempt some sort of root-cause analysis. Of course, the root-cause analysis should recommend more subway lines and faster upgrade to a technology that allows for more trains per hour. That recommendation carries a high price tag and a multi-year lead time that won’t do much to solve the current problem. Thus, it’s not one designed to appease politicians who must run for office every few years.

Ultimately, no matter how you slice or dice it, performance has suffered, and the MTA hasn’t been able to overcome ridership that isn’t showing signs of doing anything other than increasing. DiNapoli may have pointed out the obvious, but sometimes, the obvious needs pointing out. Is it going to get better? Can it?

Postscript: On the Queens Boulevard Line

While we’re on the subject of delays, riders on the Queens Boulevard Line should gear up for a rough few weeks. Starting on Monday and running through September 4, Transit has to curtail all service along the line for work on the express tracks. The agency waited until 2 p.m. on the day before work is set to start to announce this bad news:

Transit forces are rebuilding sections of the express tracks through this area. Express E and F trains which usually travel at higher speeds will be required to slow to 10 mph through the work zones, reducing the number of trains that can use these lines each hour.

Some E and F trains will run on the local tracks, reducing the number of M and R local trains which can operate on those tracks. There will be no E service to or from Jamaica-179 St; customers should use the F instead and transfer at Union Turnpike. Customers on all four subway lines that use the Queens Boulevard route should expect less frequent service and should plan extra time for their travels.

This vital work is necessary to keep the express tracks in a state of good repair along the Queens Boulevard line, which is the second-busiest line in the entire subway system. The work was scheduled for the last three weeks of summer because it is typically one of the lowest-ridership periods of the entire year.

Even with ridership lower than normal, this work is going to cause headaches for a lot of people over the next few weeks. Delayed service, indeed.

Categories : Uncategorized
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With Carmen Bianco retiring on August 21, the MTA has named Bridge & Tunnel President James Ferrara as interim NYC Transit president. Ferrara likely won’t get the job permanently, but it provides agency continuity as he is a long-time MTA guy. No word yet on the candidates to replace Bianco.

Now, onto the weekend work. These come to me from the MTA so check signs, station announcements, carrier pigeon messages, etc.


From 11:30 p.m. Friday, August 14 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, August 17, 1 trains are suspended in both directions between 14 St and South Ferry. 2 3 trains run local in both directions between 34 St-Penn Station and Chambers St. Free shuttle buses provide alternate service between Chambers St and South Ferry.


From 3:30 a.m. Saturday, August 15 to 10:00 p.m. Sunday, August 16, 2 trains are suspended in both directions between E 180 St and 149 St-Grand Concourse.
Free shuttle buses operate along two routes:

  • Express shuttle buses run between E 180 St and 149 St-Grand Concourse, stopping at the Hunts Point Av 6 station and 3 Av-149 St.
  • Local shuttle buses make all stops between E 180 St and 149 St-Grand Concourse. Transfer between trains and free shuttle buses at E 180 St, Hunts Point Av, and/or 149 St-Grand Concourse.


From 11:30 p.m. Friday, August 14 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, August 17, 2 trains run local in both directions between Chambers St and 34 St-Penn Station.


From 6:30 a.m. to 12 midnight, Saturday, August 15 and Sunday, August 16, 3 trains run local in both directions between Chambers St and 34 St-Penn Station.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, August 14 to 7:30 a.m. Sunday, August 16, and from 11:45 p.m. Sunday, August 16 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, August 17, Crown Hts-Utica Av bound 4 trains run express from 14 St-Union Sq to Brooklyn Bridge-City Hall.


From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, August 15 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, August 17, Crown Hts-Utica Av bound 4 trains run local from 125 St to 14 St-Union Sq.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, August 14 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, August 17, 5 service is suspended. Take the 2 4 6 and free shuttle buses instead. Free shuttle buses operate along two routes:

  • Limited shuttle buses make all stops between Eastchester-Dyre Av and E 180 St, and run express to 149 St-Grand Concourse, stopping at the Hunts Point Av 6 station and 3 Av-149 St (from 3:30 AM Sat to 10 PM Sun).
  • Dyre Av Local shuttle buses make all stops between Eastchester-Dyre Av and E 180 St only (from 11:45 PM Fri to 3:30 AM Sat, and from 10 PM Sun to 5 AM Mon).


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, August 14 to 5:00 a.m. Saturday, August 17, Brooklyn Bridge-City Hall bound 6 trains run express from 14 St-Union Sq to Brooklyn Bridge-City Hall.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, August 14 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, August 17, Brooklyn Bridge-City Hall bound 6 trains run express from Pelham Bay Park to Parkchester.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, August 14 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, August 17, A trains are rerouted via the F line in both directions between W 4 St-Wash Sq and Jay St-MetroTech.


From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, August 15, to 5:00 a.m. Monday, August 17, A trains run local in both directions between W4 St-Wash Sq and 59 St-Columbus Circle.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, August 14 to 6:30 a.m. Sunday, August 16, and from 11:45 p.m. Sunday, August 16 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, August 17, Inwood-207 St bound A trains run express from 125 St to 168 St.


From 6:30 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. Saturday, August 15 and Sunday, August 16, C trains are rerouted via the F line in both directions between W 4 St-Wash Sq and Jay St-MetroTech.


From 6:30 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. Saturday, August 15 and Sunday, August 16, 168 St-bound C trains run express from 125 St to 168 St.


From 3:45 a.m. Saturday, August 15 to 10:00 p.m. Sunday, August 16, Coney Island-Stillwell Av bound D trains are rerouted via the N line from 36 St to Coney Island-Stillwell Ave.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, August 14 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, August 17, E trains are suspended in both directions between Jamaica Center-Parsons/Archer and Briarwood. Free shuttle buses operate between Jamaica Center-Parsons/Archer and Union Tpke, stopping at Sutphin Blvd-Archer Av, Jamaica-Van Wyck, and Briarwood. For additional connections between Manhattan and Jamaica Center, consider the A and J via a transfer at Broadway Junction.


From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, August 15 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, August 17, E trains run local in both directions between Queens Plaza and Forest Hills-71 Av.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, August 14 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, August 17, Jamaica-179 St bound F trains run express from Neptune Av to Smith-9 Sts.


From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, August 15 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, August 17, F trains run local in both directions between 21 St-Queensbridge and Forest Hills-71 Av.


From 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Saturday, August 1, and Sunday, August 2, L service operates in two sections.

  • Between 8 Av and Broadway Junction.
  • Between Broadway Junction and Rockaway Pkwy, every 24 minutes.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, August 14 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, August 17, Astoria-Ditmars Blvd bound N trains are rerouted via the D line from Coney Island-Stillwell Av to 36 St.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, August 14 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, August 17, Astoria-Ditmars Blvd bound N trains skip 49 St.


From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, August 15 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, August 17, Coney Island-Stillwell Av bound N trains skip 45 St and 53 St.


From 11:15 p.m. Friday, August 14 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, August 17, Manhattan-bound Q trains run express from Kings Hwy to Prospect Park.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, August 14 to 6:30 a.m. Sunday, August 16, and from 11:45 p.m. Sunday, August 16 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, August 17, Manhattan-bound Q trains skip 49 St.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, August 14 to 6:30 a.m. Sunday, August 16, and from 11:45 p.m. Sunday, August 16 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, August 17, 36 St-bound R trains stop at 53 St and 45 St.


From 6:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. Saturday, August 15, and Sunday, August 16, Uptown R trains skip 49 St.

The first R179s will not be delivered until 2018, four years later than promised. (Rendering via Bomardier)

The rolling stock on the C line has become something of a running joke. Every summer, the MTA replaces the R32s with fancy new cars due to concerns over air conditioning power, and every fall, riders are disappointed when the cars, which debuted during Lyndon Johnson’s presidency in 1964, make their return. Had all gone according to plan, the MTA would be gearing up to phase out those 51-year-old subway cars along with the R42s in use on the J/Z line. But all has not gone according to plan, and it’s about to cost the MTA at least $50 million over the next few years.

The story first came to us from Dan Rivoli. The Daily News transit reporter combed through copious amounts of MTA budget documents to find the note on Page V-222 of this pdf file. In this brief note, the MTA notes that final delivery of the R179s has been pushed back a few years, and “increased revenue service fleet requirements” means these cars can’t be retired until 2022, five years later than expected. Maintenance to keep the the ancient rolling stock moving will total $1.1 million next year, $15.9 million 2017, $17.7 million in 2018, and $15.5 million in 2019.

The delay stems from performance issues with Bombardier. The Canada-based manufacture had been, to much fanfare in 2012 from the governor, set to produce these cars in its Plattsburgh, NY plant, but delivery, originally scheduled to begin this year, is not on time. The MTA and Bomardier said to DNA Info that a welding issue is to blame, and New York’s isn’t the only transit agency experiencing trouble with the company. Toronto’s TTC may terminate a billion-dollar contract with Bombardier over delivery delays, and the company is going through some economic turbulence these days.

So what exactly went wrong? With the company remaining silent, it’s hard to say, and it’s not as though they’re new to the game. Bombardier had fulfilled various rolling stock orders throughout the 1980s and 1990s for Metro-North, Transit and the LIRR. In fact, the 1030-car R142 order consists entirely of Bombardier-made rolling stock.

Yet, a closer look at the MTA’s board documents from early 2012 [pdf] reveals some early caution flags. Bombardier’s bid of $599 million for the rolling stock order came in under a bid by an Alstom/Kawaski. In its board materials, the MTA noted a cost savings of around $12.4 million — a total that has been completely wiped away by Bombardier’s late delivery. The bid assessment notes that Bombardier’s technical presentation was “acceptable” but that the ALSKAW bid “ranked higher” in “technical merit.” In other words, ALSKAW was better positioned to deliver on the specs of the R179 order, but Bombardier offered a better price. Since the MTA hadn’t disqualified Bombardier, the company won the contract, and here we are.

Originally, Bombardier was to deliver the test set of the R179s late last year with the remainder split between delivery around now and early 2017. Now, new cars won’t start arriving until 2018, and much to the consternation of regular riders, retirement won’t arrive until early next decade. The R32s, which average only 58,101 miles between breakdowns, will have to keep chugging along until then, and while I hate to draw conclusions on a company that had delivered on promises in the past, I am tempted to say that you get what you pay for. It’s a lesson in low-bid contracts we learn over and over again.

On that note, I’ll leave you tonight with art from one of those regular C train riders who can’t wait for the R32s to be reefed. WNYC’s Jim O’Grady has quite the pen on this one.

Categories : Rolling Stock
Comments (81)
A glimpse at the Gateway Project area. Click to enlarge. (Via Amtrak)

A glimpse at the Gateway Project area. Click to enlarge. (Via Amtrak)

As Gov. Andrew Cuomo stomps his feet and yells, “It’s not my tunnel,” one of New York’s other politicians has proposed a two-state solution for the trans-Hudson rail tunnel issue that may just provide the faint glimmer of a way forward. However, the divide between New York and New Jersey — let alone the feds — on the issue is nearly as wide as the Hudson River itself, and billions remain to be appropriated before we can start celebrating the launch of a new tunnel.

In speaking at NYU’s Rudin Center yesterday, Schumer called for a new agency that would oversee the project. The Senior Senator from New York feels that this new agency would best be able to tap into sources of funding that Amtrak can’t reach and New York and New Jersey aren’t eligible for under the current set-up. Left unsaid is the belief emanating from Washington that the Port Authority, a pre-existing, two-state, trans-Hudson body, isn’t the right organization to be involved with this project. Considering the corruption at the PA arising out of both Cuomo’s and Christie’s dealings with it and the PA’s inability to handle basic problems, I can’t say I blame anyone for the skepticism.

Jillian Jorgensen was on hand for The Observer, and she offered up this take on Schumer’s speech:

Cooperation is necessary, he said—and to that end he proposed a new partnership, dubbed the Gateway Development Corporation, which would bring together the key players in the project: New York, New Jersey, the Port Authority, the MTA, Amtrak, and the federal government. “Without a single agency directing traffic, Gateway could only move forward one inch at a time, grant-by-grant, undertaken by the separate agencies in a piecemeal fashion. That makes a project such as this, with so many moving parts—and a rigid chronology of construction—extraordinarily difficult,” Mr. Schumer said in his remarks. “Input should come from all parties—everyone should have a seat at the table—but the planning and financing and implementation of Gateway should be driven by one conductor: the development corporation.”

In addition to making it easier to direct the program, Mr. Schumer also argued a development corporation would make it easier to pay for it, by allowing various agencies to tap into funding other agencies involved can’t touch. “Amtrak can’t access federal mass transit funding. The Port Authority and regional Transit Agencies can’t access federal railroad dollars the way Amtrak can,” Mr. Schumer said. “We’ll only get Gateway done by adding up several pieces of financing, with an eye toward getting the maximum amount possible from the federal government.”

…Of course, Mr. Schumer had his ideas on how to pay for the project—and, like the governors, he is looking at the feds to provide most of the cash, in part by using profits from Amtrak’s lucrative Northeast Corridor, which presently is used to prop up far-flung Amtrak routes that don’t generate a profit. “There is a bipartisan move in Congress to allow Amtrak to cordon-off the profits it makes on the Northeast Corridor, and use it for capital investment on that corridor. It keeps the money in the Northeast and reinvests it,” Mr. Schumer said.

Schumer’s proposal is the first concrete one that involves a federal representative acknowledging that the federal government needs to take the political and funding lead on this issue. Whether Schumer can collaborate with Republican majorities in the House and Senate on a northeast infrastructure project remains to be seen, and the fallout among Democrats from his opposition to the Iran deal is also unclear. Still, it’s a start, and as Dana Rubinstein reported, the Senator earned praise for his leadership from transit advocates and White House officials alike.

Even Cuomo had something almost nice to say. “I commend Sen. Schumer for making these tunnels a national priority,” the governor said in a statement. “We both agree that they will require significant federal investment and I look forward to working with him to move this critical project forward.”

Yet, even Schumer couldn’t resist some trans-Hudson sniping, and therein lies the rub. During his speech, he jabbed Christie for the ARC cancellation. “There is a special burden on Governor Christie to lobby his party in Congress to move in our direction on infrastructure funding,” Schumer said. “For one, he cancelled the first effort at fixing the tunnels. But far more importantly, the vast majority of riders who use these tunnels, 80 percent, are New Jersey residents who come into the city via New Jersey Transit.” Christie’s office again repeated the spurious claim that no one would help them with cost overruns (when in fact the feds had offered to help), but that’s neither here nor there. To move forward, the parties are going to have to work together and move beyond finger-pointing for something that happened five years ago.

It’s not entirely clear what the next steps are. New York and New Jersey have to commit to this project with the feds, and the money — Schumer and Amtrak have estimated that the entire Gateway project will be around $25 billion with the tunnel accounting for $14 billion — has to materialize. But as this drama has unfolded lately in press releases, press conferences and policy speeches, there seems to be some movement toward action. I worry about what happens though if nothing happens. Will we engage in five years of finger-pointing before launching this effort anew in 2020? Is Amtrak doomed to wait for a tunnel replacement until the old ones are non-functional? I hope not, but recent history isn’t on our side.

Categories : Gateway Tunnel
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The bickering is heating up over a trans-Hudson rail tunnel. Is a solution near?

Governor Andrew Cuomo on Monday, for the third day out of four, stressed his view that a trans-Hudson tunnel will not happen without significant federal support and again stated his opposition to even a meeting on the issue. Speaking to reporters after a day of Amtrak testimony in front of the New Jersey Senate, Cuomo continued his game of high-stakes chicken.

“It’s not my tunnel,” he said, showing more of his cards than he probably intended. “Why don’t you pay for it? It’s not my tunnel. It is an Amtrak tunnel that is used by Amtrak and by New Jersey Transit.”

The New New York Bridge, on the other hand, is his bridge, and Cuomo grew defensive when challenged on this project — one inarguably far less important to New York City than trans-Hudson rail capacity. Here’s how Dana Rubinstein of the newly-rebranded Politico New York reported on the exchange:

“There’s no moral, legal or ethical reason why the state should be looked at to fund it, or the states plural, New Jersey and New York,” said Cuomo on Monday. “The federal government said they would provide funding and it turns out they would provide a loan and no more than a loan. My problem is not the loan. My problem is repaying the loan.”

A reporter asked him why he was willing to take on debt for a new Tappan Zee Bridge. “Because the Tappan Zee Bridge is a state bridge,” he said.

I said my piece on Cuomo’s misguided opposition to supporting a trans-Hudson rail tunnel in yesterday’s post, and he’s just making it worse. On the need to draw out federal dollars, Cuomo has a very valid point, but his rhetoric is parochial nonsense that hurts New York far more than it helps. Meanwhile, Gov. Chris Christie, he of the canceled ARC Tunnel, at least committed to meet with the feds later this month because Senator Cory Booker requested it. Cuomo can’t even seem to bridge that divide, and I don’t see how this is helping us — the New Yorkers who are his constituents.

Meanwhile, Amtrak has suggested a way forward. In a Senate hearing during which the rail agency presented a rather dire picture of future operations without substantial capital support and a new tunnel, agency officials proposed a funding solution involving the feds. It may be enough to silence Cuomo and get him to the table, but it would also require Capitol Hill to pick up over $11 billion of what is today expected to be a $14 billion project. Larry Higgs had more:

Amtrak officials told a state Senate panel that it needs at least $1 billion a year to bring its system into a state of good repair and that the canceled ARC tunnel would have provided some help if a Hudson River tunnel were forced out of service for repair.

Stephen Gardner, Amtrak Executive Vice President and Chief of NEC Business Development, said it would take a recurring investment of at least $4 billion a year to replace aging infrastructure, including the 105-year-old Hudson River tunnels and the century old Portal Bridge…

Senator Robert Gordon, D-Bergen, who called the hearing said he’s hoping it will convince Christie and federal lawmakers of the seriousness of the problem. Gordon said he was heartened by Gardner’s testimony that the federal government could put up 80 percent of the estimated $14 billion funding for Gateway through a federal railroad reconstruction program that has $35 billion in uncommitted funds and a loan program that could help states fund their share over 35 years.

As The Times noted in its coverage of the hearing, Gardner noted that the proposed funding split was “common for aviation projects…and Amtrak carries three times as many passengers between New York and Washington as all the airlines put together.”

So we have an idea without a sponsor in D.C., a New Jersey governor who is a skeptic but will listen, and a New York governor who will show up only if the feds are, in his words, “serious” about contributing money rather than loans. Meanwhile, one line of argument from Amtrak is guiding this stand-off. As Gardner said yesterday, “The tunnel is under stress. To maintain the current level of service is a challenge.” It’s all a challenge.

Categories : Gateway Tunnel
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If Gov. Cuomo has his way, an empty concrete box to nowhere is all we'll see of the Gateway Tunnel.

If Gov. Cuomo has his way, an empty concrete box to nowhere is all we’ll see of the Gateway Tunnel.

It was the perfect Friday afternoon news dump for Andrew Cuomo, but it’s a story that didn’t disappear into the ether of a summer weekend. The New York Governor effectively told the feds to pony up or take a hike when it comes to funding a new trans-Hudson rail tunnel, and after proclaiming the odds “not particularly bright” for action on new tubes any time soon, Cuomo has been forced to defend his words all weekend.

A little less than two weeks after Anthony Foxx, President Obama’s current Secretary of Transportation, sent Governors Cuomo and Chris Christie a letter asking for a meeting on strategizing for a new trans-Hudson rail tunnel, Cuomo effectively said, “Thanks, but no, thanks.” And then he said it over and over again. His first denial came in the form of a letter [pdf] he Tweeted out to the public shortly before 2:30 p.m. on Friday.

His decision to spurn the offer to meet boiled down to dollars. As with anything in politics, the future of a trans-Hudson rail tunnel is going to be a contest over money. Estimating that the project will cost $14 billion, Cuomo wrote:

After many discussions by all parties, it appears that, by the end of the day, your Department to date is only offering a loan to build the tunnel and the loan calls for debt service payments due in year six of an estimated twelve-year construction schedule with literally no grant or other funding support from Amtrak or the federal government. This is not viable. The Port [Authority and New York and New Jersey] cannot shoulder this massive financial burden. It is simply not appropriate for Amtrak and the federal government to look to the States and to the Port Authority to bear the large financial burden of an Amtrak asset that has fallen into disrepair through lack of Amtrak investment over the decades.

As your letter to me recognized, this tunnel is a vital rail link for the entire Northeast corridor. The federal interest and Amtrak’s responsibility dwarf the NY-NJ connection. I urge you to obtain actual funding from the administration or from Congress. The federal need is evidenced by your interest and involvement. But we need to know what federal resources are available to repair these vital Amtrak facilities.

Now, in a certain sense, Cuomo isn’t wrong. The federal government can’t simply be a loan facilitator for the Gateway project or any other trans-Hudson rail tunnel. They too need to contribute actual dollars to the project. But Cuomo didn’t stop with this letter, and his subsequent comments nearly parallel Christie’s decision to cancel the ARC Tunnel without seeking a better funding solution.

In comments on New York 1 on Friday and again to reporters during the Dominican Day parade on Sunday, Cuomo talked money. On Friday, he somehow claimed that the funding would “make the price of the ticket explode.” This, of course, hasn’t been a concern of his while building a new transit-less Tappan Zee Bridge without a firm way to pay for the multi-billion-dollar effect. The likely outcome is that the price of the New New York Bridge tolls will explode, but Cuomo isn’t wringing his hands over it.

Meanwhile, on Sunday, he again told reporters that “there’s no reason to meet now, because it’s very simple…I don’t need your advice; I know we need the tunnel. We’ll build the tunnel — I’ll go out there with a shovel myself — but we need the money.”

The feds had a different take. In response on Friday, they reiterated the need to meet to ensure all three partners — the feds, New York and New Jersey — are aligned on the best way forward. Lack of equity and alignment ultimately doomed ARC as Christie had the unilateral power to cancel the tunnel, an outcome the feds hope to deter this time around. Still, Cuomo isn’t interested in meeting, and in eschewing this meeting, he is coming across as derelict in his duties.

To me, this reeks of Cuomo’s recent moves regarding new ideas. If they aren’t his, they aren’t worth following through. The feds aren’t asking for action; they’re asking for a meeting. And if a new tunnel is going to take twelve (!) years to build, posturing over the funding split today isn’t going to resolve tomorrow’s problems. Cuomo and Christie should sit down for a meeting with the feds to plot out what the parties feel is an equitable split of the costs and responsibilities, and afterwards, they can begin to plan out who should fund what and how.

Overall, this project suffers from something of a credibility gap. Amtrak hasn’t presented a sufficiently detailed explanation of the costs, benefits and needs, but the perception exists that, without a new tunnel before the mid-2030s, regional travel could be severely compromised. Meanwhile, the competing narrative suggests that Northeast Corridor high-speed rail isn’t possible without a new tunnel for a variety of reasons. These storylines are seemingly at odds with each other, and this conflict has led many who would otherwise be on board with a new rail tunnel keeping these projects at arms’ length. But Cuomo’s willingness to dismiss Foxx’s letter off the bat won’t help us now or in the future, and if he’s going to dig in for the long haul, we’re all in trouble.

Categories : Gateway Tunnel
Comments (111)

This weekend marks another milestone in the MTA’s ongoing post-Sandy repairs. It’s the first of ten weekends this year during which the A and the C will not run through the Cranberry Tube. All service will instead be rerouted via the F line between West 4th St. and Jay St.-Metrotech. Transit notes that over 1.5 billion gallons of water flooded this tunnel during the storm.

This phase of the repair project is, unsurprisingly, starting a few months later than expected and will not wrap until mid-2016. There will be ten weekends this year without service through the tube and 30 more planned for next year. The MTA is hoping to wrap the project and restore service early, as the agency was able to do with the R train. All in all, this isn’t a terrible project as nearby subway lines can carry the load.

Meanwhile, here are the other changes on tap for your Saturday and Sunday travels:


From 10:45 p.m. Friday, August 7 to 5:00 a.m. Saturday, August 8, Crown Hts-Utica Av bound 4 trains run express from Grand Central-42 St to Brooklyn Bridge-City Hall.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, August 7 to 5:00 a.m. Sunday, August 9, Pelham Bay Park-bound 6 trains run express from to Parkchester to Pelham Bay Park.


From 6:45 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Saturday, August 8, Brooklyn Bridge-City Hall bound 6 trains run express from Parkchester to Hunts Point Av.


From 10:45 p.m. Friday, August 7 to 5:00 a.m. Saturday, August 8, Brooklyn Bridge-City Hall bound 6 trains run express from Grand Central-42 St to Brooklyn Bridge-City Hall.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, August 7 to 5:00 a.m. Sunday, August 9, Times Sq-42 St bound 7 trains run express from Mets-Willets Point to Queensboro Plaza.


From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, August 8, to 5:00 a.m. Monday, August 10, A trains run local in both directions between W4 St-Wash Sq and 59 St-Columbus Circle.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, August 7 to 6:30 a.m. Sunday, August 9, and from 11:45 p.m. Sunday, August 9 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, August 10, Inwood-207 St bound A trains run express from 125 St to 168 St.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, August 7 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, August 10, A trains are rerouted via the F line in both directions between W 4 St-Wash Sq and Jay St-MetroTech.


From 6:30 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. Saturday, August 8 and Sunday, August 9, C trains are rerouted via the F line in both directions between W 4 St-Wash Sq and Jay St-MetroTech.


From 6:30 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. Saturday, August 8 and Sunday, August 9, 168 St-bound C trains run express from 125 St to 168 St.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, August 7 to 6:30 a.m. Sunday, August 9, and from 11:45 p.m. Sunday, August 9 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, August 10, Coney Island-Stillwell Av bound D trains run express from Atlantic Av-Barclays Ctr to 36 St.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, August 7 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, August 10, E trains are suspended in both directions between Jamaica Center-Parsons/Archer and Briarwood. Free shuttle buses operate between Jamaica Center-Parsons/Archer and Union Tpke, stopping at Sutphin Blvd-Archer Av, Jamaica-Van Wyck, and Briarwood. For additional connections between Manhattan and Jamaica Center, consider the A and J via a transfer at Broadway Junction.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, August 7 to 5:00 a.m. Sunday, August 9, and from 11:45 p.m. Sunday, August 9 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, August 10, World Trade Center-bound E trains run express from Forest Hills-71 Av to Queens Plaza.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, August 7 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, August 10, World Trade Center-bound E trains Sutphin Blvd, Briarwood, and 75 Av.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, August 7 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, August 10, Jamaica-179 St bound F trains run express from Neptune Av to Smith-9 Sts.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, August 7 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, August 10, Coney Island-Stillwell Av bound F trains skip Sutphin Blvd, Briarwood, and 75 Av.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, August 7 to 6:30 a.m. Sunday, August 9, and from 11:45 p.m. Sunday, August 9 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, August 10, Coney Island-Still Av bound N trains run express from Atlantic Av-Barclays Ctr to 59 St.


From 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Saturday, August 8, and Sunday, August 9, Astoria-Ditmars Blvd bound N trains are rerouted via the R line from Atlantic Av-Barclays Ctr to Canal St.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, August 7 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, August 10, Coney Island-Stillwell Av bound N trains skip 49 St.


From 11:15 p.m. Friday, August 7 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, August 10, Manhattan-bound Q trains run express from Kings Hwy to Prospect Park.


From 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Saturday, August 8, and Sunday, August 9, 57 St-7 Av bound Q trains are rerouted via the R line from DeKalb Av to Canal St.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, August 7 to 6:30 a.m. Sunday, August 9, and from 11:45 p.m. Sunday, August 9 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, August 10, Coney Island-Stillwell Av bound Q trains skip 49 St.


From 6:30 a.m. to 12 Midnight, Saturday, August 8 and Sunday, August 9, Manhattan-bound R trains run express from Forest Hills-71 Av to Queens Plaza.


From 6:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. Saturday, August 8, and Sunday, August 9, Bay Ridge-95 St bound R trains run express from Atlantic Av-Barclays Ctr to 59 St.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, August 7 to 6:30 a.m. Sunday, August 9, and from 11:45 p.m. Sunday, August 9 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, August 10, Bay Ridge-95 St bound R trains skip 45 St and 53 St. 36 St-bound R trains stop at 53 St and 45 St.


From 6:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. Saturday, August 8, and Sunday, August 9, Bay Ridge-95 St bound R trains skip 49 St.

Categories : Service Advisories
Comments (14)

Signs Transit used in 2012 explain the reasoning behind the receptacle-free pilot program.

The long-running joke about the MTA’s pilot programs is that they never end; they just fade away. Over the years, the MTA has announced a few high-profile pilot programs — a contact-less fare payment system, strip maps in certain stations to aid in navigation — that seem to simply die from lack of attention. Just take a look through these Google searches for some indication of the reasonably good ideas the agency has pushed through the pilot phase only to see fall be the wayside when agency leadership changes.

One of the few pilot programs with legs — and one that survived the end of the Jay Walder Era — concerns trash cans. This program — which is still in the pilot phase after nearly four years — involves reducing trash the MTA has to collect by simply removing trash cans. If there’s nowhere to deposit trash, the theory goes, the vast majority of people will simply take the trash with them until they pass a trash can. Now, some people are bound to litter whether there’s a trash can nearby or not, but the MTA and other international transit agencies have determined that the vast majority of people won’t discard garbage without a can around. It’s an idea that many struggle with but one that’s proven successful.

The MTA first announced this program back in October of 2011, and I was a bit skeptical as I believed the key to eliminating trash was to ban food. But as time passed, the program seemed to work. Coverage in February of 2012 indicated that the agency had less trash to collect and clean from stations without trash cans, and in May of that year, they announced a program expansion. In August 2012, they added eight more stations, and 29 addition stops saw their garbage cans disappear in early 2014.

Now, touting the program’s success, the MTA is going to not expand it but simply continue it for another 6-12 months to study its effect. It’s not clear why so many years of data isn’t enough to merit expansion, but the MTA wants to continue to analyze the program. “This pilot appears counterintuitive but when we placed notices at the pilot stations indicating that the cans had been removed and asked the customers for their cooperation, it looks like they listened,” New York City Transit President Carmen Bianco said. “Given these results, we’ll continue the pilot and monitor and collect additional data at stations.”

In announcing the continuation of what has become the MTA’s most active pilot program, the agency noted that garbage collection is down significantly at the 39 stations under review. The early stations have seen bag collection drop by two-thirds while the stations that saw cans removed just last year have undergone a 36% reduction in trash. Meanwhile, overall trash volumes and, more importantly, rat population at stations without trash cans have declined.

“The reduction in trash in these stations reduced the number of bags to be stored and, consequently, improved the customer experience by reducing the potential bags visible to customers as well as the potential food available to rodents,” Senior Vice President of Subways Joseph Leader said. “Additionally, the significant reduction in trash reduced the need for trash pickups in the pilot stations, which freed up personnel for deployment to other stations.”

It’s not entirely clear where Transit goes from here. They still have another 429 stations with trash cans that could be added to this pilot, and they seem hesitant to include any of the popular stations. Flushing-Main St. on the 7 and 8th St.-NYU on the R remain the two most crowded stations without trash cans, and anecdotally, I’ve certainly not noticed a decrease in cleanliness at either stop.

Ultimately, the MTA can’t eliminate all litter without overly aggressive enforcement, but it seems that removing trash cans can cut down on the garbage the agency has to remove to street level from an above- or underground subway system. So why not keep expanding? After a while, pilot programs have to move into the realm of permanence, and this one seems a good candidate for rapid expansion. After all, it’s been nearly four years.

Comments (36)
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