I’m still marveling over Gov. Christie’s and Cuomo’s dual veto of the Port Authority reform measure. From its timing late on a Saturday night between Christmas and New Year’s to the fact that their counter-proposal contained a brazen plan to curtail overnight PATH service between Manhattan and New Jersey, this thing reeks of politics. Despite their wishes too, this story hasn’t gone away.

As the first real full-time workday dawns since the veto, New Jersey legislators are threatening to an override vote while New York representatives, and in particular the embattled Sheldon Silver, have been mum on their intentions in the new legislative session. Furthermore, although the Governors’ report featured 90 pages of recommendations, the PATH proposal is still drawing headlines. Matt Chaban spoke with late-night PATH riders for an article that appears in today’s Times, and they are uniformly against the move.

Many riders spoke about the convenience of the trip and how it drove their decisions to move to New Jersey’s waterfront cities. Others note that it allows them to work in certain sectors — particularly service jobs — while paying rent. As one said, “If there was no PATH train, that would change everything. I guess I’d have to buy a car, or move to the city, neither of which I want to do.”

Late last week, the editorial page director of The Record penned a signed opinion column speaking out against the PATH cuts. It included a gem of a line: “Christie and Cuomo know more than I do about many things, but commuting on a budget isn’t one of them. I expect that holds true for the members of the governors’ special panel.”

Doblin makes many good points regarding subsidized fares; affordable commutes; the inability of New Jersey Transit to run its own house, let alone someone else; and Port Authority priorities. He also drops a few good zingers: “And if the Port Authority wants to reduce PATH expenses, why is it building a $4 billion station at the World Trade Center where even the platforms at track level are marble? Before someone asks me to pay five bucks for a subway ride, I would like someone to explain marble train platforms.”

But what if we’re focused on the wrong thing? What if this isn’t really about the PATH train cutbacks at all? Even current Port Authority commissioners have been quick to point out that the elimination of overnight PATH service would be “a last resort.” Still, it’s garnered a lot of headlines while the real story has almost — but not quite — been forgotten.

So before we forget entirely, let’s revisit the real story: After a bipartisan, two-state push to reform Port Authority through legislative mandates, Governors Christie and Cuomo both vetoed their respective state measures at 11 p.m. on the Saturday night after Christmas. In its place, they proposed non-binding reform measures that wouldn’t have the weight of law or the bite of legislative oversight or legal enforcement. As Doblin ultimately concludes, “The process will not change unless laws change. Christie and Cuomo do not want that to happen. Unchecked authority at the Port Authority was how a $4 billion subway station resembling a gigantic gull in flight was approved and constructed. When it comes to the Port Authority, the governors of New Jersey and New York will do what they want while the public, well, they get the bird.” That — and not a misguided two paragraphs regarding 24/7 PATH service — is the real takeaway. The PATH train is just a ruse.

Categories : PANYNJ
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First, the first part of this year’s FASTRACK changes. Here you go:

  • January 5 – 9, and January 12 – 16 on the 6 Line: no 6 trains between Hunts Point Av and 125 St.
  • February 23 – 27 on the 4/5 Line: 4 local service begins early in both directions between 125 St and Grand Central-42 St.; 5 service in Manhattan ends early each night.
  • March 9 – 13 on the 4, 5, & 6 Lines: trains run express in both directions between 125 St and Grand Central-42 St. 5 service in Manhattan ends early each night.
  • March 30 – April 3, and April 6 – 10 on the E, F, M, and R Lines: no E trains between Roosevelt Av and World Trade Center; no F trains between Roosevelt Av and 21 St-Queensbridge; M and R service ends early each night.

And now another year, another weekend of service changes. You know the drill.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, January 3 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, January 5, Woodlawn-bound 4 trains run local from Grand Central-42 St to 125 St.

From 11:45 p.m. Friday, January 2 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, January 5, 5 service operates between Eastchester-Dyre Av and Bowling Green all weekend. 5 trains run local in Manhattan, replacing the 6.

From 11:45 p.m. Friday, January 2 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, January 5, 6 trains are suspended in both directions between 125 St and Brooklyn Bridge-City Hall. Take the 5 instead. Transfer between 5 and 6 trains at 125 St.

From 11:45 p.m. Friday, January 2 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, January 5, Brooklyn Bridge- City Hall bound 6 trains run express from Hunts Point Av to 3 Av-138 St. To Longwood Av, E 149 St, E 143 St, Cypress Av, and Brook Av, take a Manhattan-bound 6 train to 3 Av-138 St and transfer to a Pelham Bay Park-bound 6. From these stations, take a Pelham Bay Park-bound 6 train to Hunts Point Av and transfer to a Manhattan-bound 6.

From 11:45 p.m. Friday, January 2 to 4:00 a.m. Monday, January 5, 7 trains are suspended in both directions between Flushing-Main St and Mets-Willets Point. Free shuttle buses provide alternate service.

From 11:45 p.m. Friday, January 2 to 6:00 a.m. Sunday, January 4, and from 11:45 p.m. Sunday, January 4 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, January 5, Queens-bound A trains run express from 59 St-Columbus Circle to Canal St.

From 6:30 a.m. Saturday, January 3, and Sunday, January 4, Euclid Av-bound C trains run local from 59 St-Columbus Circle to Canal St. C trains run every 15 minutes. Allow additional travel time.

From 11:45 p.m. Friday, January 2 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, January 5, World Trade Center-bound E trains run express from 34 St-Penn Station to Canal St. To 23 St and Spring St, take the World Trade Center-bound E to 14 St or Canal St and transfer to an uptown A local, C or E train. From these stations, take an uptown A, C or E to W 4 St-Wash Sq or 34 St-Penn Station and transfer to a World Trade Center-bound E.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, January 3 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, January 5, E trains run local in both directions between Queens Plaza and Forest Hills-71 Av.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, January 3 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, January 5, F trains run local in both directions between 21 St-Queensbridge and Forest Hills-71 Av.

From 11:45 p.m. Friday, January 2 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, January 5, N trains are suspended in both directions between Lexington Av-59 St and Queensboro Plaza. For service between Queens and Manhattan, take the 7. Transfer between trains at Times Sq-42 St and/or Queensboro Plaza.

From 11:45 p.m. Friday, January 2 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, January 5, Q trains are suspended between 57 St-7 Av and Times Sq-42 St. Take the N or R instead.

From 5:15 a.m. to 12 midnight, Saturday, January 3 and Sunday, January 4 R trains skip 5 Av-59 St, Lexington Av-59 St, and Queens Plaza in both directions. E and F trains run local in Queens.

Categories : Service Advisories
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Noise pollution no more as the MTA has silenced emergency exit sirens. (Photo via flickr user rlboston)

As the MTA’s technology has improved, the amount of noise pollution in the subway system has gone up. While there’s only so much the agency can do to lessen the screech from metal-on-metal as subways bend around steep curves, the new rolling stock with its clear public address systems has led to a noted increase in announcements. We’re asked to be patient, sneeze into our arms, stand up, get out of the way, check ourselves, don’t block the door and say something if we see something. Much like some of those pesky delays, the sounds are seemingly unavoidable.

As 2015 dawns, though, the MTA is doing away with one source of easily avoidable noise pollution: The emergency exit doors with their ear-piercing sirens will be silenced. In effect, those doors are now simply exits as the MTA has finally caved to the reality of the flow of people out of subway stations that often do not have enough turnstile capacity to handle peak-hour crowds.

This move has been months in the making as the MTA has been slowly disarming the doors nearest station agents or simply opting against repairing failed alarms, but yesterday morning, WNYC’s Kate Hinds confirmed the news. “Our customers,” Transit spokesman Kevin Ortiz said, “have been quite clear in displaying their annoyance and letting us know that the alarms really were the number one annoyance for them as they travel through the system.”

Amusingly, as The Times’ Matt Flegenheimer noted, the MTA still maintains the rule that exiting through an emergency exit is against the rules, but enforcement is bare to nonexistent in this case. Straphangers routinely exit through these doors in full view of station agents and cops with no consequences, and that practice isn’t likely to change any time soon. Now, though, the blaring alarms will not greet customers trying to leave stations.

So what’s really going on here? The obvious is that, for years, the MTA has heard nonstop about the ineffectiveness of emergency exits from various rider advocacy groups. Straphangers didn’t care about the alarms and would routinely use the nearest — or least crowded — exit. So in one way, the MTA is simply giving in to popular opinion.

But there’s a deeper story here. First, the MTA is doing away with a source of noise pollution within the system and one that could be potentially damaging to the long-term hearing of station agents and other employees who were exposed to these sounds multiple times per hour. Second, this move can also be seen as one designed to improve station flow. As far as I know, the MTA is still working on plans to redesign station entrances. By removing the alarm, the MTA can study how people exit stations, and they’ll likely find that crowds optimize the emergency exits especially at stations with few other points of egress.

Ultimately, though, while New Yorkers generally welcome the New Year with parties, fireworks and a fair amount of sound, the end of the emergency exit noise is a welcome development. And now we know what we all assumed long ago: These emergency exits are simply just exist after all.

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While Governors Christie and Cuomo continued to show their true transit colors, we ended 2014 arguing about the best use for a long-abandoned right-of-way in Queens. As the MTA quietly celebrated 110 years of the New York City subway system, they finally opened the Fulton St. Transit Center while the 7 line didn’t open. Sen. Lanza continued his assault on SBS lights while the Senate waited until June to confirm Tom Prendergast as MTA CEO and Chair. Oh, and the R train reopned after Sandy repairs wrapped early. It was not a dull year.

So what’s next? In a way, 2015 is year of waiting. If all goes accordingly to plan, in less than two years, we’ll be riding the Q north from 57th and 7th Ave. all the way to 96th St. and 2nd Ave. So the next 24 months will represent the home stretch — if the MTA can open the project on time. But there’s much to anticipate for the year ahead.

1. Fare Hikes. You would hardly know that fare hikes as just a few months away as the biennial increases hardly seem to rile up New Yorkers any longer. The hearings over the last few weeks were sparsely attended, and even the outrage seems muted. We’ll find out if the base fare goes up and the bonus sticks around or if the bonus goes while the base fare stays. It’s hardly a huge choice, but it is yet another fare hike. It arrives this spring.

2. The 7 Line. When will the 7 line open? Will the 7 line open? The MTA had hoped to open the extension in February, but recent reports indicate that it may be more likely that April is the revenue service start date. The inclined elevators and fire alarms remain an issue, and the line will not open until 14-16 months after Mayor Bloomberg’s photo-op/faux-ribbon cutting ceremony.

3. Sandy Recovery. The MTA will be closing the Cranberry St. Tunnel this year for Sandy-related repairs, and the work will force weekend service changes for A and C train riders. The F train’s Rutgers St. Tunnel is further down the line, and the most inconvenient work on the 2/3’s Clark St. Tunnel and L train’s tubes loom. I’ll be discussing the Sandy Recovery efforts in depth at the Transit Museum in late January.

4. The Future of the MetroCard. Will 2015 be the year the MTA starts to roll out its next-gen fare payment plans? Some MTA sources have indicated to me that new pilots involving a smart card of sorts may be on the horizon. Watch this space.

5. Capital Plan. How could we enter 2015 without a nod to the capital plan? Somehow, someway, Albany is going to have to address that huge funding gap, and the MTA needs to get the money to ensure the system can meet growing demand and record high ridership. It’s going to involve uncomfortable conversations about spending priorities, details for Phase 2 of the Second Ave. Subway and perhaps the Move NY plan.

So stick around; it’s never boring around here. And have a happy and safe New Year.

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Flashy renderings of the Queensway have captured the attention of The Times. (Via Friends of the Queensway, WXYand DLANDStudio)

Flashy renderings of the Queensway have captured the attention of The Times. (Via Friends of the Queensway, WXYand DLANDStudio)

When I first wrote about the plans to turn the LIRR’s old Rockaway Beach Branch back in 2011, I never imagined it would become a major rift issues for otherwise-civil transit advocates. Of course, considering how I framed that first post — as a referendum on the finality of a rail trail vs. rail reactivation — I should have seen this coming. Now groups that usually fight for better transit, pedestrian and biking infrastructure are going at each other over a $120 million plan to build a High Line equivalent deep in the heart of Queens. All I want is some intellectual honesty.

As I mentioned in early November, I don’t know if the rail line is the right answer, and I don’t know if a park is the right answer. I find it hard to believe, based on geography, demographics and overall transit needs, that a park would trump rail all things being equal, but while we’ve gotten a park study funded by the pro-parks side, the pro-rail study was more of a school project sponsored, nobly so, by Assemblyman Phil Goldfeder. The numbers out of that study proclaimed 500,000 daily riders — almost too exorbitant to be believed — and no independent engineering group has been commissioned to give equal assessment to either option. That’s what I want.

Meanwhile, The Times is not only content with how the story has played out; they’ve decided to throw their editorial weight behind the QueensWay. In a piece published Saturday, rivaling Cuomo and Christie in their attempts at burying the lede, the Gray Lady wrote one of the worst argued editorials I’ve read in some time. The whole thing is a maddening read, but let’s take a look at the worst offenders:

The question is not whether a new park in Queens is a good idea. It’s a spectacular one. The question is whether it is a better idea than a less-flashy alternative — reviving the rail line so people in Queens, particularly in the Rockaways, can get to work without creeping along congested boulevards in cars and buses, or taking the hour-plus ride to Midtown on the A train…

Of the two tantalizing possibilities — rail or trail — trail now has the upper hand. A half-million-dollar study, released in October, resoundingly affirms the foregone conclusion of the national conservation group that commissioned it, the Trust for Public Land. It found that the QueensWay would be a boon to the borough, transforming a humdrum stretch of residential-commercial-industrial-whatever with the sylvan graciousness that the High Line brought to the West Side of Manhattan, but on a far bigger scale. It would open a walk-and-bike gateway to another big park, Forest Park, that is now dangerously hemmed in by roadways.

The study tallied other benefits: fewer traffic fatalities, better flood control, cleaner air, fitter New Yorkers and new commercial and cultural amenities. As new parks go, it would be relatively cheap — about $120 million.

The rail idea has no counterpart study, but it has its advocates, like Assemblyman Phillip Goldfeder, whose district includes the Rockaways. They say it’s foolish to give up an existing right of way in a part of the borough so starved for mass transit. They have a point, but they may be understating the difficulty of reviving those rails for trains. Of the QueensWay’s 47 acres, seven are parkland. If the city, which owns the land, was to return it to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority for transit, it would have to find replacement parkland somewhere else. Then there is the question of when the M.T.A. would get to this capital project, which would be one of many on its overflowing, underfunded to-do list.

The likeliest answer is never. The M.T.A.’s capital plan is only half-funded; the agency is strapped by debt and is hard-pressed to protect the infrastructure it has.

First, there is the use of the adjective “less-flashy” as a way to describe rail. Immediately, The Times has relegated something they admit will improve commutes for thousands as less flashy than a park that won’t even be open 24 hours a day. If avoiding “creeping along congested boulevards” is considered less flashy that some fancy renderings, count me in.

Next comes my favorite line in any Times editorial: “A half-million-dollar study, released in October, resoundingly affirms the foregone conclusion of the national conservation group that commissioned it.” Read that again and soak in its absurdity. The basis for The Times’ pro-park argument is a biased study that shockingly affirmed the views of the biased group that paid half a million New York taxpayer dollars for it. If anything, that should be a reason to doubt the pro-QueensWay rhetoric, not line up in support of it.

Next the price tag: Somehow, a $120 million new park is cheap. The most expensive linear park in New York City cost $150 million and was funded in large part through private donations. No one has even bothered to discuss how the QueensWay project would get off the ground with the support of the same group of wealthy patrons who, for better or worse, rammed the High Line through Chelsea. No matter what, $120 million for an area rife with parks it can’t adequately maintain today is not cheap, and the idea of using value capture that helped fund the Hudson River or Brooklyn Bridge Parks is as controversial to the neighborhood NIMBYs as rail reactivation is.

Finally, we arrive at the criticism of the MTA. When will the MTA get to it, The Times asks. Why aren’t they interested, say QueensWay proponents. Of course, in recent history, the city doesn’t wait for the MTA to do something; rather, interested parties deliver the dollars, and the MTA gets to work. Chuck Schumer got money for 2nd Ave., and Mayor Bloomberg funded the 7 line. The 9/11 recovery fund built the Fulton St. Transit Center, and George Pataki delivered dollars for East Side Access. Imagine if the QueensWay proponents had lined up political and economic support for rail reactivation instead of the park. It would be a much more likely outcome.

Ultimately, The Times betrays itself in its conclusion when it notes “the rare chance to plug a spectacular park into a densely built streetscape that really needs it.” A densely built streetscape needs transit not a park “plugged” through it. All I want is a fair study by an independent group that gives equal air time to the park and the rail. That seems too much to ask once The Times gets seduced by that flashy park.

Ed. Note: I’ve updated this post with a rendering from The Queensway’s presentation. The use of an ENYA design was misleading and distracting from the content of this post.

Categories : Queens
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It is a page out of the politician’s playbook to release bad news at 5 p.m. on a Friday. It’s something else entirely to drop it at 11 p.m. on the Saturday between Christmas and New Year’s, but that’s just what Governors Chris Christie and Andrew Cuomo did this weekend with regards to their vetoes of a two-state, bipartisan Port Authority reform bill. To make matters worse, the two governors also endorsed a controversial reform plan that includes a proposal to limit or eliminate 24-hour PATH service. Merry Christmas indeed.

The basis for the veto came out of the need for Cuomo to act. Had he done nothing, the measure — which passed both states unanimously — would have become law. As The Times summarized, “The legislation vetoed on Saturday would have remade the authority’s daily operations, providing a raft of new financial, ethical and administrative rules, including opening all of its meetings to the public and asking its 12 commissioners to acknowledge that they have a ‘fiduciary duty’ to the Port Authority.”

The measures approved by the state legislatures also included calls for a single-leader CEO model, and this consolidated power is something both Christie and Cuomo have pushed to avoid. For Christie, the reasons are obvious. He or his operatives have repeatedly used the Port Authority for political gain, and at points, it has seemed as though the George Washington Bridge lane closure scandal could derail Christie’s dreams of higher office. Cuomo has generally resisted ceding any power, and losing the ability to appoint half of the Port Authority leadership would be a blow to his entrenchment.

In announcing their vetoes, Christie and Cuomo released just the thing you want to read near midnight on a Saturday after spending the holiday weekend with your family: a wordy statement and pages upon pages of reform recommendations. These recommendations came out of a panel that Christie and Cuomo jointly appointed back in May. It wasn’t called the Port Authority Reinvention Commission, but it might as well have been. It’s critics, such as Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop, have called it “nothing more than a mere power grab.”

If you’d like to read the whole thing, it’s available here as a PDF. Some of the proposals overlap with the state bills and include legitimate reform initiatives. Some of it is lip service. Others though are terrible, no-good, very bad ideas including one to eliminate overnight PATH service. Here’s this summary:

PATH is one of only four heavy-rail systems in America to provide service 24 hours a day for seven days a week; the others are MTA, CTA (which runs only limited service overnight), and the Pennsylvania Port Authority (“PATCO”), which operates a single line from Philadelphia to New Jersey. The PATH’s ridership falls substantially overnight, especially on weeknights, when overnight riders between 1:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m. constitute less than 1% of daily riders. The cost of providing this service per passenger rises substantially, from $0.01 to $0.02 per passenger during weekday peak hours to an average of $1.15 per rider overnight.

Eliminating overnight service during weekends (i.e., eliminating service on Friday night/early Saturday and Saturday night/early Sunday) would produce operational and capital expense savings. Operational savings would include savings on energy, labor, and station operations; and capital savings would result from allowing capital improvements to be conducted without train interruption. Currently, the PATH shuts down one of the two tracks in each direction during the overnight hours to allow for capital maintenance. This reduces service so that trains come every 35 minutes in each direction. PATH could achieve operational and capital savings estimated to be at least $10 million per year from stopping service altogether between 1:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m. on weeknights.

The impact of a service reduction would be limited. Assuming that some riders slightly alter their travel plans to ride the last train before operations cease or the first train after they recommence, approximately one-half of one percent of PATH riders during the time period (just under 1,500) would be affected. If PATH decided to offer riders an alternative, bus service for these customers at the cost of $4 per passenger would cost approximately $1.5 million per year.

These are somewhat optimistic projections from the reform commission and do not delve into the real benefits of having ready 24-hour service. As mayors from the New Jersey communities along the Hudson were quick to note this weekend, access to PATH has been a major driver of recent population growth, and those people most affected by an elimination of late-night service don’t have the means to find another way home. The Port Authority — which is spending $4 billion on the World Trade Center PATH station — is looking to save $8.5 million by seriously inconveniencing service and creating the feeling of isolation from communities that have grown to rely on late-night service. It is a typical Cuomo/Christie response to a transportation problem.

Other PATH proposals create interesting hypothetical. One involves asking for an alternative regulatory oversight scheme that would free PATH from onerous and expensive FRA guidelines, but that’s a very “inside baseball” idea. The other proposes pursuing “the possibility of partnering with a third-party operator, public or private, that manages urban transit or commuter rail service in order to improve the PATH’s operational effectiveness and financial efficiency.” If that isn’t a challenge to New Jersey and New York to figure out some way to transfer PATH operations to New York City Transit, I don’t know what is. That idea, if implemented properly, may be a better long-term solution for the region, but it shouldn’t come with service cuts.

Despite Christie and Cuomo’s best efforts, this clearly isn’t the last we’ll hear of Port Authority reform or proposals for PATH. Those behind the vetoed reform bill will continue to push for change, and as Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer vowed, she and many others will “vigorously oppose any efforts to cut PATH service.” As we need a new trans-Hudson tunnel and a better bus terminal, Port Authority needs former, but cutting off its nose to spite its face while working to hide the announcement from as many eyes as possible is no way to go about achieving lasting change.

Categories : PANYNJ
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More work than expected between Christmas and New Years. If you’re itching for some more stuff, check out my Instagram account where you can check out my excellent new cufflinks.

From 11:45 p.m. Friday, December 26, to 5:00 a.m. Monday, December, 29, 3 trains will operate to/from New Lots Av all weekend, replacing the 4 in Brooklyn. 3 trains run express in Manhattan.

From 11:45 p.m. Friday, December 26, to 5:00 a.m. Monday, December, 29 4 trains are suspended between Brooklyn Bridge-City Hall and Crown Hts-Utica Av in both directions. Take the 23NQ or R instead.

From 6:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. Saturday, December 27 and from 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. Sunday, December 28, 5 trains are suspended in both directions between E 180 St and Bowling Green. Take 2, 4, 6, or R trains instead. 5 shuttle service operates between Dyre Av and E 180 St all weekend. Transfer between 2 and 5 shuttle trains at E 180 St. Transfer between 2 and 4 trains at 149 St-Grand Concourse.

From 5:45 a.m. to 12 Noon Sunday, December 28, Times Sq-42 St bound 7 trains run express from 74 St-Broadway to Queensboro Plaza.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, December 27 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, December 29, Queens-bound A trains run local from 59 St-Columbus Circle to Canal St.

From 5:30 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Saturday, December 27, and Sunday, December 28, D trains are suspended between Coney Island-Stillwell Av and Bay Pkway in both directions. FQ trains, B1, B4, B64, and B82 buses provide alternate service.

From 12:15 a.m. Saturday, December 27 to 6:30 a.m. Sunday, December 28, and from 12:15 a.m. to 5:00 a.m. Monday, December 29, Jamaica Center-Parsons Archer bound E trains run express from Queens Plaza to Forest Hills-71 Av

From 12:15 a.m. Saturday, December 27 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, December 29, Jamaica Center- Parsons Archer bound E trains skip 75 Av and Van Wyck Blvd. For service to these stations, take a Jamaica Center-bound E train to Union Tpke or Jamaica-Van Wyck and transfer to a World Trade Center-bound E. For service from these stations, take a World Trade Center-bound E or Coney Island-bound F train to Union Tpke or Forest Hills-71 Av and transfer to a Jamaica Center-bound E.

From 12:15 a.m. Saturday, December 27 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, December 29, Jamaica-179 St bound F trains skip 75 Av, Van Wyck Blvd, and Sutphin Blvd. For service to these stations, take a Jamaica-bound F train to Union Tpke or Parsons Blvd and transfer to a Coney Island-Stillwell Av bound F. For service from these stations, take a Coney Island-Stillwell Av bound F train to Union Tpke or 71 Av and transfer to a Jamaica-bound F.

From 5:30 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. Saturday, December 27 and Sunday, December 28, G trains run every 20 minutes between Long Island City-Court Sq and Bedford-Nostrand Avs due to MOW Fix and Fortify Sandy Recovery Work in the Greenpoint Tube. The last stop for some G trains headed toward Court Sq is Bedford-Nostrand Avs. To continue your trip, transfer at Bedford-Nostrand Avs to Court Sq-bound G train.

From 5:30 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Saturday, December 27, and Sunday, December 28, N trains are suspended between Coney Island-Stillwell Av and 86 St in both directions. FQ trains, B1, B4, B64, and B82 buses provide alternate service.

From 6:30 a.m. to 12 Midnight, Saturday, December 27, and Sunday, December 28, R trains run express from Queens Plaza to Forest Hills-71 Av.

Categories : Service Advisories
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The latest MTA ad campaign asks riders not to eat on board.

The latest MTA ad campaign asks riders not to eat on board.

It can be instructive to chart the history of complaints about the New York City Subway as an indication over how we as New Yorkers feel about the system. From old rolling stock to the lack of air conditioning to track fires to delayed trains, broken doors, and rampant crime to service infrequent enough to meet demand to annoying announcements to rude behavior, we can chart the downfall and comeback of the subway nearly as neatly as the recent huge spike in ridership does. The MTA’s new ad campaign focusing around courtesy certainly belies a system with few overarching problems other than reliability. Crime, in other words, isn’t even a concern.

When an Ebola outbreak hit New York City, the MTA had an image problem on its hands. The long-standing campaign urging manners on the subway told people that “courtesy is contagious,” and, well, that caused some concern. The campaign was quickly dropped, and the MTA picked up specific quality-of-life issues. The latest posters and placards target etiquette in a time of 6 million daily riders — a number achieved six times in October alone.

“Courtesy is always important but it takes on an added significance as transit ridership continues to increase,” said NYC Transit President Carmen Bianco. “The simple act of stepping aside to let riders off the train before you board can trim valuable seconds from the time a train dwells in a station while removing a backpack makes more room for everyone. These acts serve to speed the trip while increasing the level of comfort.”

The new ads focus on do’s and don’t’s of subway rides. Part of me feels that this is the latest in the MTA’s long line of announcements that are excoriating riders to do something. Be patient. Check yourself. Don’t do this. Do that. But on the other hand, it’s part of a push to make riders more aware of the fact that 5,999,999 other people are also cramming themselves into a subway car.

The attention has focused around the manspread issue. Emma Fitzsimmons, with some help from Johnny T., explored the issue in The Times this weekend. But other no-no’s include nail clipping, pole-hogging, door-blocking and one set to debut in 2015 that states “Pole Are For Your Safety, Not Your Latest Routine.” The do’s urge riders to let others off, take off that bulky backpack and offer seats to elderly, disabled or pregnant riders. One urging straphangers to “keep the sound down” on headphones is a welcome addition.

Ultimately, these quality-of-life issues aren’t the most pressing for the MTA. They can help make our rides less tolerable, but they don’t expand the system or guarantee funding for modernization initiatives. Still, it’s telling that these are among the key issues facing the MTA and its riders. We should perhaps always be so lucky. After all, as the ads say, courtesy counts.



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A PATH extension could be a useful plan, but only at a reasonable cost.

Late December is always a good time to remember how tough it can be to get to and from the region’s airports. We’re constantly reminded of Gridlock Alert Days, and travelers heading out of town for the holidays have to leave extra time for traveling just to get somewhere to travel. It is also a time for the Global Gateway Alliance, a group nobly lobbying for better regional airports, to remind us of the deficiencies of the region’s airport.

Last week, the group released results of a transit race to Newark Airport. From Lower Manhattan, members of the GGA tried to reach Newark via the subway and New Jersey Transit, PATH, and a taxi. Obviously, the taxi won but at a very high cost while the subway/NJ Transit connection came in second, and PATH came in dead last. That’s to be surprised as PATH drops commuters off at Newark’s Penn Station with another connection to New Jersey Transit required. It’s also the cheapest, thus proving the maxim that you get what you pay for. (The full results of the study are in this pdf.)

In the release touting this competition, various stakeholders spoke out in favor of the Port Authority’s planned $1.5 billion PATH extension to the Newark Airport AirTrain station, currently under review by HNTB. Jessica Lappin, head of the Alliance for Downtown New York, called it “indispensable” to Lower Manhattan’s future, and RPA Executive Director Tom Wright noted how it would “benefit the entire region.”

Joseph Sitt, founder of the GGA, was effusive: “This race affirms what we already know to be true: millions of travelers need easier, faster and more cost efficient access to our airports. That’s why our coalition supports the PATH extension creating a direct ride from the World Trade Center to Newark Airport. It’s a win for the airport, the region and the passengers who will reap the benefits of 21st Century transportation access.”

On the one hand, I don’t dispute these assertions that airport access will be an integral part of New York’s future. On the other hand, we’re talking about a $1.5 billion, 2.5-mile extension at-grade along a preexisting right-of-way to an AirTrain stop. At $600 million per kilometer, the costs are absolutely insane in a vacuum, and drilling down on the project doesn’t assuage my concerns. Let’s take a look at the problems — which are admittedly related:

1. The AirTrain Problem. Off the bat, the PATH extension isn’t to Newark Airport; it’s to a train station that serves as the terminus for a very slow AirTrain ride to the airport terminals. As the GGA admitted to me on Twitter, a direct connection to the airport would be “great,” but as the Port Authority has shown in Lower Manhattan, $1.5 billion doesn’t get you much.

2. The Cost Is Too Damn High. The Port Authority is currently spending $6 million to study this extension; they plan to start construction in 2018, if approved, and open it for service in 2023. If it still costs $1.5 billion by then, I’ll eat a hat. And as I mentioned, without considerable additional pieces, this construction shouldn’t approach such a lofty figure and probably shouldn’t even sniff a high nine-figure cost, let alone 10.

3. Low Ridership Projections. As NJ.com reported back in October, ridership projections for a Newark Airport PATH extension top out at around 6000 per day. The riders are expected to pay around 35-40% of the extension’s operating costs. (For what it’s worth, the RPA, a big backer of this project, estimated significantly higher ridership figures.) With these ridership projects, a cost-benefit analysis would raise serious questions about this project’s viability.

4. No Intermediate Stops. As now, the plan calls for a one-stop extension from Newark’s Penn Station to the airport. Without intermediate stops, this proposal doesn’t help those who live in between Newark and the airport and are in need of better transit service. For $1.5 billion, this project should include another station or two.

5. Other Problems In Need Of Money. The universe of transit dollars is a limited one, and $1.5 billion spent here means $1.5 billion less on a trans-Hudson tunnel. And that, more than a PATH extension to the airport, is what will drive the region’s economy, reduce congestion and be an “indispensable” part of New York’s future. It is, simply put, an issue of prioritization and needs.

I ultimately don’t dispute the need for improved transit accessibility for our region’s airports. They remain frustratingly close and yet seem out of reach. Sometimes, I worry that squabbling among groups that are all ultimately pro-transit can divide the movement, but as Josh Barro aptly noted on Twitter, “We need more squabbling among transit activists to stop stupid projects like the PATH terminal” from going forward. Maybe all this fighting can better contextualize a problematic proposal and ultimately work to put it on the back-burner until the region’s real mobility problems are addressed.

Categories : PANYNJ
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A bit of trans-Hudson good news: After nearly a year’s worth of work for Sandy-related repairs, the PATH Train’s tunnel between Exchange Place and the World Trade Center is now reopen on the weekends. The bad news is that in the second half of 2015, the Journal Square-33rd Street segment of the system will experience weekend shutdowns, and the Exchange Place-WTC segment has more work to go yet. Crews are working on desalination, train operations systems upgrades and safety improvements.

Meanwhile, it’s a slow weekend for service changes as the holidays descend on New York City.

From 3:45 a.m. Saturday, December 20 to 10:00 p.m. Sunday, December 21, Wakefield-241 St bound 2 trains run express from E 180 St to Gun Hill Rd.

From 11:45 p.m. Friday, December 19 to 4:45 a.m. Monday, December 22, A trains are suspended in both directions between Ozone Park-Lefferts Blvd and Rockaway Blvd. Brooklyn-bound A trains skip Rockaway Blvd and 88 St. Free shuttle buses operate between 80 St and Ozone Park-Lefferts Blvd, stopping at 88 St, Rockaway Blvd, 104 St, and 111 St. Transfer between free shuttle buses and A trains at 80 St.

From 10:45 p.m. Friday, December 19 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, December 22, Norwood-205 St bound D trains run express from 145 St to Tremont Av.

From 5:30 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. Saturday, December 20 and Sunday, December 21, G trains run every 20 minutes between Long Island City-Court Sq and Bedford-Nostrand Avs. The last stop for some G trains headed toward Court Sq is Bedford-Nostrand Avs. To continue your trip, transfer at Bedford-Nostrand Avs to Court Sq-bound G train.

From 11:45 p.m. Friday, December 19 to 6:30 a.m. Sunday, December 21, and from 11:45 p.m. Sunday, December 21 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, December 22, N trains are rerouted via the Q line in both directions between Canal St and DeKalb Av.

From 5:45 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Saturday, December 20 and Sunday, December 21, Coney Island-Stillwell Av-bound Q trains run express from Prospect Park to Sheepshead Bay.

From 6:00 a.m. to 12 Midnight, Saturday, December 20, and Sunday, December 21, R trains are rerouted via the Q line in both directions between Canal St and DeKalb Av.

Categories : Service Advisories
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