MTACapPlan Update (4:00 p.m.): The full proposal for the MTA’s 2015-2019 Capital Plan has been posted online in pdf form. You can read the glorious details as the MTA plans to spend over $30 billion on repairs and expansion work it and New York cannot afford to delay. I’m particularly intrigued by the gondola proposal on page 228 of the packet. Read on for my take on the whole thing.

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It takes a lot of gumption to ask for approval to spend $29 billion, but that’s what the MTA is poised to do on Wednesday. As the last item on the agenda for this week’s Board meeting, the MTA’s fiduciaries will vote to approve all $32 billion of the 2015-2019 capital plan, including a request to the state’s Capital Program Review Board to approve $29 billion of the plan. It is the MTA’s most costly plan in the 30+ year history of five-year spending programs and arguably one the agency needs to see approved the most. It should usher in a new discussion focusing around the question of just how we’re going to pay for all of this.

The two-page staff summary included as the final pages in this month’s Board books list out the planned expenditures, and although I’m still anticipating some fancy materials from the MTA detailing the spending plans, we have a glimpse of the various priorities to anticipate the full-court press. The MTA plans to spend over $23 billion on the so-called “core program” which includes rolling stock and vehicle purchases, PTC and CBTC installations, an indeterminate number of Select Bus Service routes, a contactless fare payment system, double-tracking the LIRR’s Ronkonkoma branch and, for some reason, Help Point intercoms at every subway station.

Another $5.5 billion will be spent on the sexier stuff. This request includes money to finish (ha ha) East Side Access, money to start Phase 2 of the Second Ave. Subway which would bring the line north to Lexington and 125th St., and money to add four Metro-North stations and bring the rail line into Penn Station. (That plan, called Penn Station Access is a minefield for New York State and City political interests.) The final $3.1 billion, which doesn’t require CPRB approval, will go toward the MTA’s bridges and includes money for open-road tolling at the Henry Hudson Bridge, a sign that the ongoing pilot has been a success.

So that’s the good. How about the bad? According to the MTA, they’ve managed to cobble together barely half of the money needed to fund this beast. They get a meager $657 million from the city, a few billion dollars from the feds, $6 billion in bonding, $3 billion in local funds, and $200 million from developers earmarked toward station improvement. All in, this leaves a funding gap of $15.2 billion, also the largest in MTA capital plan history.

To address this gap, the MTA proposes two solutions, and it is the closest the MTA comes to an ultimatum on requesting money from Albany:

“The MTA will work with its funding partners and stakeholders to developer proposals to fill this gap from the system’s many beneficiaries, including such option as dedicated revenue sources, partnerships that leverage private investment, additional appropriations from state, federal and local governmental partners, or new MTA debt…In the alternative, the gap can be overcome by reducing the size of the proposed programs, or increasing fares and tolls, or a combination of these options.

Fully funding the proposed Capital Program is critical to enabling the MTA to renew, enhance, and expand its to meet the mobility needs of the region. A reduced program will not keep pace with state of good repair renewal needs, adversely impacting the MTA’s ability to continue delivering safe and reliable service at current levels, and would compromise the ability to deliver enhancement and expansion projects that address the evolving needs of MTA customers and the region and to make the MTA system more resilient.”

“Dedicated revenue sources” might as well be an indirect call for Albany to debate some sort of congestion pricing plan or Sam Schwartz’s MOVE NY proposal, and I wonder if this extremely expensive and extremely underfunded five-year capital plan will finally push the state down this inevitable path of most resistance. If so, you won’t hear a peep about the MTA’s 2015-2019 capital plan until after Election Day, and even then, such a funding proposal won’t go down easy. It may, though, be the only one around a gaping hole that amounts to $15.2 billion and won’t get much smaller.

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Michael Bloomberg will be but a distant memory when the 7 line finally opens. Here, he gives the thumbs up at a premature ribbon cutting in late 2013. (Photo: Benjamin Kabak)

Mark your calendars. Save the date. Scratch out the last reminder. For real this time, the MTA has re-announced a new opening for the 7 line extension, and if all goes according to the latest plans — a big “if” recent developments considered — the one-stop westward swing will be in revenue service by February 24, 2015, only 14 months after then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s photo op/ribbon-cutting ceremony in the waning days of his tenure.

For the MTA, capital delays are nothing new. No major project has opened on time, and even something as simple as the Fulton St. Transit Center headhouse has been pushed back until October. The 7 line has been beset by delays throughout the course of this project as it was originally proposed as part of the 2012 Olympics bid, should have been opened mid-way through 2013 and then prior to the end of Bloomberg’s tenure. At the December ceremony, the MTA discussed a spring opening, and then they mentioned summer, and then they mentioned fall and Q4 2014. Now, it seems this thing, with its problematic ventilation fans and prickly elevators, will open next year. Maybe.

According to materials released by the MTA on Friday, the project will be approximately $16 million under budget, but challenges remain to meet even that February date. According to these materials, the MTA is still struggling to see ventilation fans and communications system pass factory acceptance tests, and the elevators too remain a question mark. Final tests on the vent fans are planned for November while the high-rise escalators and incline elevators will undergo their examinations next month.

In an independent examination, though, the MTA’s external engineers noted that a February start date may be aggressive. If the accelerated schedule for wrapping the tests cannot be met, the MTA and its contractors won’t meet the February date, and in fact, the Independent Engineering Consultant predicts a March 2015 revenue service date for this project, one month later than the MTA’s goals. We’ll find out soon enough.

One of the problems with this project was the way it was scheduled. Original plans contained no contingency time in order to meet the goal of finishing with Bloomberg was still in the office. The MTA has blown past that deadline with an end vaguely in sight; yet, the agency still promises an on-time completion for the Second Ave. Subway. We’ll find out about that soon enough too.

Meanwhile, the IEC urges the MTA to finish its coordinated review of Capital Construction projects to ensure adequate resources are allocated internally. With Sandy work ongoing, and moving at a brisk pace, it seems there is a push and a pull on the MTA’s finite resources. Improving management and on-time delivery will help garner public support for the next few billion dollars in capital expenses. Right now, we’re just waiting for the 7 line to open.

Categories : 7 Line Extension
Comments (22)

While waiting for our gondolas to take you across the East River, I have some weekend service changes for your…enjoyment? More later.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, September 19 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, September 22, Flatbush Av-Brooklyn College bound 2 trains run express from Atlantic Av-Barclays Ctr to Franklin Av.


From 6:00 a.m. to 11:45 p.m. Saturday, September 20 and Sunday, September 21, New Lots Av-bound 3 trains run express from Atlantic Av-Barclays Ctr to Franklin Av.


From 11:45 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. Friday, September 19 to Sunday, September 21, and from 11:45 p.m. Sunday, September 21 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, September 22, New Lots Av-bound 4 trains run express from Atlantic Av-Barclays Ctr to Franklin Av.


From 11:00 p.m. Saturday, September 20 to 6:00 a.m. Sunday, September 21, and from 11:00 p.m. Sunday, September 21 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, September 22, New Lots Av-bound 4 trains run local from 125 St to Grand Cantral-42 St.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, September 19 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, September 22, 5 trains are suspended between Eastchester-Dyre Av and E 180 St. Free shuttle buses operate all weekend between Eastchester-Dyre Av and E 180 St, stopping at Baychester Av, Gun Hill Rd, Pelham Pkwy, and Morris Park.


From 7:30 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. Saturday, September 20 and from 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. Sunday, September 21, 6 trains run every 16 minutes between 3 Av-138 St and Pelham Bay. The last stop for some 6 trains headed toward Pelham Bay Park is 3 Av-138 St. To continue your trip, transfer at 3 Av-138 St to a Pelham Bay Park-bound 6 train.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, September 19 to 4:00 a.m. Monday, September 22, Pelham Bay Park-bound 6 trains run express from Parkchester to Pelham Bay Park.


From 2:00 a.m. Saturday, September 20 to 4:30 a.m. Monday, September 22, 7 trains are suspended between Times Sq-42 St and 74 St-Broadway. EFNR trains and free shuttle buses provide alternate service. Free shuttle buses operate along two routes:

  • Between Vernon Blvd-Jackson Av and Queensboro Plaza, stopping at Hunters Point Av, 45 Rd-Court House Sq, and Queens Plaza.
  • Between Queensboro Plaza and 74 St-Broadway, stopping at 33 St, 40 St, 46 St, 52 St, 61 St-Woodside, and 69 St.


From 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. Saturday, September 20 and from 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Sunday, September 21, E trains will operate more frequently between Manhattan and Queens due to work on the 7 Flushing Line. E line customers traveling to Jamaica-Van Wyck, Sutphin Blvd (Air Train JFK), and Jamaica Center, please note that some E trains traveling from Manhattan are rerouted to the Jamaice-179 St F station.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, September 19 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, September 22, Coney Island-Stillwell Av-bound F trains skip 4 Av-9 St, 15 St-Prospect Park, and Fort Hamilton Pkwy.


From 6:45 a.m. Saturday, September 20 to 7:00 p.m. Sunday, September 21, Coney Island-Stillwell Av bound F trains run express from Church Av to Avenue X.


From 11:45 a.m. Friday, September 19 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, September 22, Church Av-bound G trains skip 4 Av-9 St, 15 St-Prospect Park, and Fort Hamilton Pkwy.


From 5:45 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Saturday, September 20 and Sunday, September 21, Chambers St-bound J trains run express from Broadway Junction to Myrtle Av.


From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, September 20 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, September 22, N trains are rerouted via the R line in both directions between Canal St and Atlantic Av-Barclays Ctr.


From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, September 20 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, September 22, N trains are rerouted via the R line in both directions between Canal St and DeKalb Av.

(42 St Shuttle)
From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, September 20, to 6:00 a.m. Saturday, September 22, 42 Street Shuttle operates overnight.

(Franklin Av Shuttle)
From 12:01 a.m. to 11:59 p.m. Saturday, September 20, Franklin Av Shuttle trains run every 24 minutes.

Categories : Service Advisories
Comments (7)
Gondolas, now a thing. (Photo via East River Skyway)

Gondolas, now a thing. (Photo via East River Skyway)

Every now and then, an idea comes up regarding transit solutions in New York City that seems so out there in its creativity and so out of the box vis-a-vis the way transit operates here that you have to take a step back and appreciate it. Everyone got the ferry bug a few months ago; then we heard about waterfront light rail; and who could forget when John Catsimatidis threw out the idea for a monorail during his run for mayor? Today, we have gondolas.

Gondolas aren’t a particularly new idea for New York City. The Roosevelt Island Tramway delivers over 2.6 million passengers to one side or the other, and until it couldn’t keep up with maintenance obligations and passengers were stranded in the air for hours, the Bronx Zoo had the Skyfari. Now, thanks to Dan Levy, president of CityRealty, we have the East River Skyway, the latest and greatest in niche transportation for waterfront communities on either side of the East River.

The idea, Levy says, came to him while on a ski trip, and his plan involves three phases that will, he claims, cost around $75 to $125 million each. The gondola system, when completed, would span from south of the Brooklyn Bridge through Dumbo and the Navy Yards and north through Williamsburg, Greenpoint and Long Island City with connections to the southern tip of Roosevelt Island, the United Nations and the South Street Seaport.

In a certain sense, this plan gets to problems with the current transit set-up including overcrowded L trains, a need to serve the southern part of Roosevelt Island, especially with the Cornell development on tap and more capacity across the East River. On the other hand, the alignment is terrible in that it tracks subway lines such as the J/M/Z that are under capacity and mirrors preexisting ferry service. The materials tout a 3.5 minute ride from Williamsburg to Delancey St. at the base of the Williamsburg Bridge, but that’s already something the M train can deliver and with better connections to points north. Even though, as CityRealty site 6sqft noted, “gondola stations can also be sited several avenues in,” that’s only the case because the Roosevelt Tram tracks the 59th St. Bridge. (The site also calls the Lexington Ave. IRT line “less taxed” than the L. Make of that what you will.)

Levy apparently drew his inspiration from international cities as well, something that should be applauded, but his examples leave much to be desired. He cites London’s Emirates Air Line as a comparison, but that’s a 10-minute ride geared toward tourists. Germany’s Koblenz Rheinseilbahn is a temporary structure that serves to move people to a cliff above the Rhein, and Chile’s Telerifico Bicentario remains in the planning stages. Levy’s would be among the most complex in the world and relatively long as well.

As to ridership, he predicts around 5000 per hour — which is the equivalent of about three peak-hour subway trains. It’s a reasonably decent ridership, but it’s also one limited by geographic constraints. As with ferries, these gondolas get people from one coast to another, but not from where they live to where they work. Sure, some people live on the Williamsburg waterfront and work near Wall Street, but many would still need to ride a crowded subway. Thus, the problem for which Levy is trying to solve remains. Furthermore, these are issues that could be solved with dedicated bus lanes across the city’s bridges or better bike infrastructure. That’s the realistic conversation we should be having.

Ultimately, this is a fanciful idea, but one that’s more pie-in-the-sky than anything else. It can move the conversation though about ways to solve transit capacity issues, and if someone wants to build it with private funding, no one other than NIMBYs with waterfront views will raise much of a stink. (The insurance costs for operating these types of systems though make them cost prohibitive and nearly impossible to run at a profit.) For now, it’s the shiny new toy.

Comments (117)

R train cookies for all as the Montague St. Tunnel reopens. (Photo: Metropolitan Transportation Authority / Patrick Cashin)

On Sunday night, at 10:51 p.m., a Manhattan bound N train left De Kalb Ave., and instead of rolling over the Manhattan Bridge, this N train took the long way. It stopped at Jay St./Metrotech, moseyed over to Court St. and then became the first train in passenger service since mid-2013 to ride through the Montague St. Tunnel. For the MTA and Governor Andrew Cuomo, who stopped by Lower Manhattan yesterday to mark the occasion, the reopening, two to six weeks early, was a sign of recovery from Sandy. It’s also a story of what the MTA can do with external pressure on deadlines. We’ll get back to that in a minute, but let’s journey first to Brooklyn.

I took a walk from Park Slope to Red Hook yesterday afternoon, and part of my stroll took me underneath the Culver Viaduct. I’ve lost count of the number of years this thing has been under construction, and the original completion dates, laughably enough, were around three years ago. On a bright late summer Sunday, a few workers seemed to be contemplated the safety nets that still surround the structure as they climbed atop the construction shed towering over 9th St. between 2nd Ave. and Smith St. It seemed to be a project with no end and no impetus pushing it toward a finish line.

Lately, local politicians have begun to notice that the Culver Viaduct rehab has entered that twilight zone of incompletion with little visible day-to-day progress, and they have begun to ask some questions. Brad Lander put out a statement on the project toward the end of August. A contractor default has put the finishing line out of view, and a quick glance at the 4th Ave. station makes it clear much remains to be done.

Gov. Cuomo and Tom Prendergast discuss the R train as Marcia Kramer edges her way into the scene. (Photo: Metropolitan Transportation Authority / Patrick Cashin)


But now, let’s go back to Lower Manhattan, R train cookies and all. After a closure for a complete rebuild of the systems that line the Montague St. Tunnel, Gov. Cuomo and MTA dignitaries were on hand Sunday to celebrate. The Governor of course loves to take credit for the good while ignoring the bad (or even removing $30 million from the MTA’s budget), and he didn’t miss a chance for a good photo op this weekend.

“Superstorm Sandy brought incredible destruction down on the New York City subway system – but today we’re taking another huge step forward to repair the damage and strengthen the system to withstand the next major storm,” Governor Cuomo said. “This tunnel is safer, stronger and more resilient than ever before, and everything on this section of the R train is new – new rails, new signals, new pumps and new power supplies. We’ve made it a top priority to reimagine our state to withstand the new reality of extreme weather, and today is another example of how that approach is making this a safer state for all.”

In a press release announcing the reopening — in time for Monday’s commute — MTA officials noted that the Federal Transit Administration funded the project and thanks Cuomo for “his leadership in making the MTA and New York stronger” after Sandy, whatever that entailed. As you can see, I’m more than a bit skeptical over Cuomo’s treatment of the city’s subway system as a way to earn easy headlines and quick political points.

On a deeper level though, rebuilding the Montague St. Tunnel early, even by a few weeks, shows that in-house MTA projects with a driving political need can wrap on time. I don’t know if the MTA spent efficiently or wisely; I do know that by taking the tunnel out of service, the work wrapped on time and not, say, three years late. There are lessons to be learned here, but they require hard trade-offs. So far, the MTA and New Yorkers haven’t been willing to make those sacrifices, but maybe they should. After all, some of them can get a cookie out of it.

For more scenes from Sunday’s event, check out the MTA’s photoset or shots from the Governor’s Office. I particularly enjoyed this one showing the branching of the Montague Tunnel into the BMT Broadway Line and the BMT Nassau St. line.

Categories : Superstorm Sandy
Comments (45)

If I have the opportunity to write more on Friday, I will. I haven’t had a chance to chime in on the endless re-blogging of I Quant NY’s claim that $19.05 is the best amount to use to fill a MetroCard. I’m unsurprisingly a bit skeptical that this is some kind of vital New York City lifehack. More on that later.

Meanwhile, the MTA hasn’t given any further word on the early opening of the Montague St. Tunnel, but I’ve heard service could be restored any time between Saturday night and Monday morning. I’ll of course let you know here and via my Twitter account when the opening is officially confirmed. For now, continue to assume BMT Broadway service will run via the Manhattan Bridge. And now onto the service changes for the upcoming weekend.


From 11:30 p.m. Friday, September 12 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, September 15, 1 trains are suspended in both directions between 96 St and Van Cortlandt Park-242 St. A and C trains, the M3, and free shuttle buses provide alternate service.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, September 12 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, September 15, Flatbush Av-Brooklyn College bound 2 trains run express from Atlantic Av-Barclays Ctr to Franklin Av.


From 6:00 a.m. to 11:45 p.m., Saturday, September 13 and Sunday, September 14, New Lots Av-bound 3 trains run express from Atlantic Av-Barclays Ctr to Franklin.


From 11:45 p.m. to 6:00 a.m., Friday, September 12 to Sunday, September 14, and from 11:45 p.m. Sunday, September 14 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, September 15, New Lots Av-bound 4 trains run express from Atlantic Av-Barclays Ctr to Franklin Av.


From 11:00 p.m. Saturday, September 13 to 6:00 a.m. Sunday, September 14, and from 11:00 p.m. Sunday, September 14 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, September 15, New Lots Av-bound 4 trains run local from 125 St to Grand Cantral-42 St.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, September 12 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, September 15, 5 trains are suspended between Eastchester-Dyre Av and E 180 St. Free shuttle buses operate all weekend between Eastchester-Dyre Av and E 180 St, stopping at Baychester Av, Gun Hill Rd, Pelham Pkwy, and Morris Park.


From 7:30 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. Saturday, September 13 and from 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. Sunday, September 14, 6 trains run every 16 minutes between 3 Av-138 St and Pelham Bay Park. The last stop for some 6 trains headed toward Pelham Bay Park is 3 Av-138 St.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, September 12 to 4:00 a.m. Monday, September 15, Pelham Bay Park-bound 6 trains run express from Parkchester to Pelham Bay Park.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, September 12 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, September 15, Times Sq-42 St bound 7 trains run express from Mets-Willets Point to 74 St-Broadway.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, September 12 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, September 15, Ozone Park-Lefferts Blvd bound A trains skip 111 St.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, September 12 to 6:30 a.m. Sunday, September 14, and from 11:45 p.m. Sunday, September 14 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, September 15, Queens-bound A trains run express from 125 St to 59 St-Columbus Circle.


From 6:30 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. Saturday, September 13 and Sunday, September 14, Euclid Av-bound C trains run express from 125 St to 59 St-Columbus Circle.


From 11:30 p.m. Friday, September 12 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, September 15, D trains are suspended between Atlantic Av-Barclays Ctr and 34 St-Herald Sq. Take the FNQR, or special shuttle train instead.


From 12:15 a.m. to 6:30 a.m., Saturday, September 13 and Sunday, September 14, and from 12:15 a.m. to 5:00 a.m. Monday, September 15, Jamaica Center Parsons/Archer-bound E trains run express from Queens Plaza to Forest Hills-71 Av.


From 12:15 a.m. Saturday, September 13 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, September 15, Jamaica Center- Parsons/Archer bound E trains skip 75 Av.


At all times from 12:15 a.m. Saturday, September 13 until 5:00 a.m. Monday, September 22, Jamaica-179 St bound F trains skip Briarwood-Van Wyck Blvd and Sutphin Blvd.


From 12:15 a.m. Saturday, September 13 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, September 15, Jamaica-179 St bound F trains skip 75 Av.


From 6:45 p.m. Saturday, September 13 to 7:00 p.m. Sunday, September 14, Jamaica-179 St bound F trains run express from Avenue X to Smith-9 Sts.


From 6:45 a.m. Saturday, September 13 to 7:00 p.m. Sunday, September 14, Court Sq-bound G trains skip Fort Hamilton Pkwy, 15 St-Prospect Park and 4 Av-9 St.


From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, September 13 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, September 15, N trains run local in Brooklyn, stopping at DeKalb Av.


From 10:30 p.m. Friday, September 12 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, September 15 Q trains are suspended between Coney Island-Stillwell Av and Prospect Park. DFN trains and free shuttle buses provide alternate service. Free shuttle buses operate along two routes:

  • Express between Stillwell Av and Prospect Park, stopping at West 8 St, Ocean Pkwy, Brighton Beach, Sheepshead Bay, Neck Rd, Avenue U, Kings Hwy, and Flatbush Av.
  • Local between Prospect Park and Kings Hwy, stopping at Parkside Av, Church Av, Beverley Rd, Cortelyou Rd, Newkirk Plaza, Avenue H, Avenue J, and Avenue M.


From 6:30 a.m. Saturday, September 13 to 12:15 a.m. Monday, September 14, Bay Ridge-95 St-bound R trains run express from Queens Plaza to Forest Hills-71.


From 11:45 p.m. to 6:30 a.m., Friday, September 12 to Sunday, September 14, and from 11:45 p.m. Sunday, September 14 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, September 15, R trains are suspended between 59 St and 36 St in Brooklyn. Take the N instead.

Categories : Service Advisories
Comments (15)

The Montague St. Tunnel, shown here in April, may reopen a few weeks sooner than expected. (Photo via Metropolitan Transportation Authority / Patrick Cashin)

When it comes to construction work, “early” is not a concept many people associated with the MTA. From staircase replacements and escalator repairs to the work on the Culver Viaduct to the 7 line or East Side Access, rarely is anything high profile finished early. We’re lucky, in fact, if something wraps on time.

When it comes to post-crisis which for which someone else is paying (and that is, more often than not, managed in-house), the MTA seems to shift into gear. The five-week shutdown to the G train’s Greenpoint Tubes wrapped on time over Labor Day weekend, and now reports are circulating that the Sandy recovery work on the R train’s Montague St. Tunnel could finish early.

Although various reports earlier this spring noted work was proceeding quickly, The Brooklyn Paper broke the latest story earlier this week:

The tunnel that carries the R train between Brooklyn and Manhattan — which has been closed for more than a year — may reopen ahead of schedule, according to insiders at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

A staffer working to restore the Montague Street Tunnel said the tube, which was closed in August 2013 for post-Hurricane Sandy repairs, will likely be up and running before October, weeks ahead of its scheduled reopening.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, the worker said the Authority has already begun sending track geometry cars — automated track-inspection vehicles loaded with high-tech gizmos — through the tunnel to make sure new construction is up to snuff, which is one of the final steps before returning a route to service.

The MTA denied an early opening to the Brooklyn Paper, but a spokesman was more forthcoming to the Daily News. The project, Adam Lisberg said, could “meet or beat the October deadline.” Meanwhile, I’ve spoken to some MTA sources who say the tunnel opening early isn’t a matter of if but when. If politicians are interested in a photo opp ceremony, the reopening could be delayed a few days, but by some accounts, Montague St. is just about ready for revenue service trains.

Now, again, it shouldn’t be newsworthy that the MTA is opening something two or three weeks early or even on time, but because of the way construction projects are handled, it is. We can applaud the reopening of tunnels shut due to damage from Sandy, but we should eye skeptically other work that can’t be completed on time. What takes weeks to fix an escalator? What takes over a year to wrap up new build work? Why are emergency repairs so much quicker? I can’t answer those questions, but someone — or multiple someones — should be looking into it before that ribbon-cutting for the Montague tube, whenever that may be.

Categories : Superstorm Sandy
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I’ve tinkered with the site a little today to bring some before and after images of the planned transit upgrades for the One Vanderbilt development. For background on the $200 million in expansion word SL Green is prepared to spend, make sure you check out my morning post first, and then come back here for some good ol’ before-and-after fun. All images in this post are courtesy of Kohn Pedersen Fox.

These new street entrances will bring straphangers to and from the Shuttle platform along East 42nd Street.

By narrowing columns and staircases as well as installing a new fare control area, developers and the MTA hope to improve passenger circulation in the cramped IRT mezzanine above the 4, 5 and 6 platforms at Grand Central.

Narrowing columns will also create more space for subway riders waiting on the IRT platforms and computer renderings that look like Robert de Niro alike.

Opening up unused mezzanine space will improve congested conditions.

A new entrance from the Shuttle platform will provide direct access to One Vanderbilt for those entering the building.

Categories : Manhattan
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A diagram showing planned transit improvements for One Vanderbilt and Grand Central. (Photo via KPF)

A diagram showing planned transit improvements for One Vanderbilt and Grand Central. (Photo via KPF)

Toward the end of his third term, Mayor Michael Bloomberg unveiled an ambitious plan to rezone Midtown East for density. As part of the plans, the Mayor, consulting with the MTA, unveiled a few hundred million dollars worth of transit upgrades. These upgrades were Key in securing then-Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer’s sign off and when the lame-duck mayor saw his rezoning dreams falter, I bemoaned the end of the transit upgrades.

Less than a year later, though, the rezoning plans are provisionally back on the table, albeit in a different form that doesn’t concern us. The transit upgrades too have survived the transition to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration, and yesterday, SL Green in conjunction with the MTA and Kohn Pedersen Fox unveiled their $200 million plan for transit access in and around Grand Central. Their goals — to be completed by 2020 — will streamline passenger flow and expand space in a constrained area, and, most importantly, the costs will be borne by the developers.

The project that developers and the MTA showed off yesterday is One Vanderbilt, a 65-story office building that will be open before East Side Access is scheduled to wrap. It will be directly to the west of Grand Central with multiple access points to the transit infrastructure below, and plans include closing Vanderbilt between 42nd and 43rd Sts. to vehicular traffic.

As far as transit improvements, the renderings are extensive and necessary. Plans include:

  • new ground-level entrances directly to the Shuttle platform along 42nd St.;
  • a below-grade corridor and escalators connecting directly into East Side Access;
  • a 4000-square-foot transit hall in One Vanderbilt;
  • a new entrance to the Lexington Ave. IRT from the Pershing Building;
  • narrower stairs and columns to provide more platform space and better pedestrian flow; and
  • the reopening of enclosed spaces to improve passenger flow on the IRT mezzanine.

All in all, the improvements are a significant part of the $400 million the MTA and City had said they needed to spend when the rezoning efforts were first announced in early 2013.

Although the MTA and SL Green recognize that community boards will still need to weigh in on this plan, transit advocacy groups and other interests are aligning in favor of the plan. “As a transit rider group, the Straphangers Campaign believes the proposed deal between SL Green, the City and the MTA holds much promise for improving the lives of millions of riders who use Grand Central Terminal. In October, the official land use process kicks in, with community boards, elected officials and the public getting a chance to have their say. We will be listening,” Gene Russianoff said.

Others echoed these sentiments. “The public access points, escalators, and waiting area will be a tremendous improvement for Grand Central and East Side Aces and this private investment will ensure the public reaps the full benefit of this world class transit hub,” Jennifer Hensley, Executive Director of the Association for a Better New York, said.

For now, we have promises and renderings. The streamlining of the columns alone are nearly worth the cost of the project, and the rest is just gravy. We’ll see when, if and how long this takes to come to fruition.

After the jump, a gallery of renderings of One Vanderbilt’s transit improvements, all via KPF. Read More→

Categories : Manhattan
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SEPTA and Jefferson Hospitals officials salute Market East’s new name. (Photo via SEPTA)

Over the years, I’ve taken an interest in the push, more often fruitless than not, for transit agencies to sell naming rights for their train stations. Generally, the desire for operators to realize more revenue has far outpaced the willingness of businesses to pony up the dough, and even in New York, with ridership numbers far outpacing the rest of the nation, the MTA hasn’t found success. The agency a naming rights policy in place but have so far sold the rights to only one station and only for $200,000 a year. Philadelphia though seems to have found the magic touch.

In 2010, SEPTA became one of the first U.S. transit agencies to see real money in a naming rights deal. For $5.4 million over five years — $2 million of which went to SEPTA’s advertising agency — AT&T bought the rights to the Pattison Station near the city’s sports complex. The new name removed any geographical signifier from the station name, and I was skeptical of this approach. It’s hard to argue too much with essentially free money, and SEPTA managed to pocket $3.4 million out of the deal.

Last week, the agency again found a partner for a naming rights deal. This time, Thomas Jefferson University Hospitals will pay $4 million for a five-year naming rights deal for the regional rail’s popular Market East station in Center City. As of last week, the stop is now called Jefferson Station, and SEPTA will again earn $3.4 million — or 85 percent — of the total outlay. Jefferson holds an option for an additional four years at $3.4 million.

SEPTA officials patted themselves on the back over the deal. “It speaks volumes about SEPTA’s reputation and role as a driver of the economy that one of the region’s most respected organizations is partnering with SEPTA in such a prominent way,” SEPTA Chairman Pat Deon said.

Jefferson Hospital higher-ups meanwhile were more transparent regarding the benefits of the deal. “We’re transforming ourselves and we’re creating bold new partnerships that deliver a very exciting and different future for Jefferson, for our patients and students. We want everyone to know it and see it every day when they pass through this station,” Jefferson CEO Stephen Klasko said.

This deal for Market East is a much better one for the riders. As a key stop for suburban access to Center City, the Station Formerly Known As Market East sees 26,000 riders per day and offers connection to Philadelphia’s subway and buses. A good portion of those riders are heading to Jefferson as employees, students, patients or visitors. Unlike AT&T, which is a brand name and not a location, Jefferson Station signals to riders a potential destination, and the utility of Market East as a name was unsettled at best.

On another level though, we should question these deals. SEPTA is pocketing $680,000 per year for these naming rights against an annual operating budget of over $1.3 billion. The agency claims the money will allow them to invest in Jefferson Station, but 700 grand only goes so far. Is it worth the effort, the public reeducation campaign and everything in between? I’m still not quite convinced. But when it comes to transit in the United States, a dollar earned is indeed a dollar earned.

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