Does the city need someone to staff these ubiquitous booths?

When the MTA Board met yesterday to approve a reduced fare hike, the authority’s governing body also discussed, albeit briefly, the service cuts that made up part of the Doomsday budget. While the so-called cuts to the public — the elimination of subway lines, the planned reduction in off-peak, weekend and overnight service — are off the table, I was surprised to learn that the MTA still plans to axe hundreds of station agent jobs throughout the system.

As I reported in January, the plans to cut the station booths were a stealth move by the MTA. The agency stopped filling vacancies last month and is hoping to phase out around 800 station agents and shutter around 42 booths. While every station will still have an open, manned booth with a token clerk in it, the red vest program will end, and some one-way stations — an uptown platform with no crossover to a downtown train, for example — will have no employees at all.

During yesterday’s fare hike hearing, union leaders and station workers were apoplectic over these cuts. Andreeva Pinder, TWU Local 100’s VP for stations, defended the station agents. “I’ve meant the different between living and dying,” she said.

Pinder discussed how she and other station agents have helped people in need who come in off the streets, how they can aid confused passengers and how they contribute to the overall safety of the stations. She was pretty outraged by the cuts. “What in the hell are you thinking about?” she asked the MTA Board as she finished her remarks.

Kendra Hill, another station agent and TWU Local 100 member, defended the station agents as well. “A MetroCard vending machine cannot help a parent with a stroller. A turnstile cannot give directions to lost travelers,” she said.

Initially, my reaction to Hill one of cynicism. It’s true that a turnstile can’t give directions, but in my experiences, neither can many station agents. While Pinder tells a story about her helping people, the news covers the tales when station agents do nothing in the face of danger.

What if, though, those stories make headlines because they are far more compelling than the alternate? Who wants to read a feel-good piece in The Post that says “Station agent helps lost straphanger find her way”? Dale Hemmerdinger, the chairman of the MTA Board, put it best yesterday. “Unfortunately, it’s human nature to remember only when something doesn’t work, and in that regard, we’re a very easy target,” he said.

So maybe the station agents do help out, but maybe, as I’ve written in the past, they serve a deterrent purpose. Simply by putting someone in the station, the MTA can deter fare-jumpers and would-be criminals. Simply by alerting riders to the presence of someone with a uniform, the MTA is creating second thoughts.

Of course, this doesn’t seem to stop would-be taggers and graffiti artists. It doesn’t stop people from littering or relieving themselves in subway stations. It may stop major crimes, but quality-of-life violations continue unabated.

When the MTA cuts the station agents, they plan to keep open the turnstiles at unstaffed stations. Fare-jumping could become rampant, and the cuts — some $52 million annually — will be eroded by petty crime. Soon enough, we’ll find out if it’s worth it. I’m not so sure it is.

Categories : Service Cuts
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  • Senate dems: Shaw a non-starter as MTA head · Earlier this morning, as the MTA Board voted to approve a lesser fare hike, many of the board members said their farewell to outgoing CEO and Executive Director Elliot Sander. As the MTA gears up for life after Sander, rumors are swirling in Albany surrounding the future head of the MTA. For months, we’ve heard Marc Shaw’s name pop up as the possible replacement. Not so fast, say the Senate Dems.

    According to Post columnist Frederic U. Dicker, the Senate Democrats considering Shaw’s potential nominee to be “laughable.” According to Dicker’s sources, Shaw tried to undermine the Senate’s power by changing the language and audit requirements in the MTA bill. As such, reports Daily News writer Elizabeth Benjamin, they don’t trust him to guide the authority as they see fit and probably wouldn’t approve him as head.

    I have another problem with Shaw: He was the one in charge of the MTA when Gov. Pataki forced the agency to pay for everything on credit. From 1996-2001, the years during which the MTA built up this massive debt they now have to down, Shaw did little to stop it. Should we really trust him to front the agency through a financial crisis of his making? · (4)

Earlier this morning, the MTA Board approved a series of measures designed to rollback their Doomsday plan. Service to the public will not be cut, and while the station agents may be slashed, the fare hikes have been rolled back as well. Instead of a 25-30 percent hike, fares will go up by around 10 percent. The new fares are scheduled to go into effect on June 28.

“Today we implemented a bittersweet solution that comes with additional pain for our customers, our employees and those who live and work in our region,” said H. Dale Hemmerdinger, Chairman of the MTA Board. “But it will – at least for the short term – prevent the Armageddon that loomed large when we last met.”

“The fare and toll increase passed today is not ideal, but it spares our customers from actions that would have been extraordinarily painful,” said Elliot G. Sander, MTA Executive Director and CEO. “Implementing severe fare increases and deep service cuts directly contradicts the MTA’s mission and my goals as CEO. It is a great relief to know we will be able to continue providing the service our customers expect at an affordable price.”

The fare structure is as follows:

Fare Type Current New Change
Base Fare $2.00 $2.25 12.5 %
Bonus and Buy-In 15 % at $7.00 ($1.74) 15 % at $8.00 ($1.96) 12.5 %
1-Day Pass $7.50 $8.25 10 %
7-Day Pass $25.00 $27.00 8 %
14-Day Pass $47.00 $51.50 9.6 %
30-Day Pass $81.00 $89.00 9.9 %

For more from the fare hike board meeting, you can replay my morning liveblog.

Categories : Fare Hikes
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Categories : Fare Hikes
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West of the Hudson River lies an area of New York State far removed from New York City. Rockland and Orange Counties have far more in common with Northern Jersey and Pennsylvania than they do with the other, closer regions in the Metropolitan Commuter Transportation District.

For years, those two districts have had a love-hate relationship with the rest of the state over the MTA. The station at the rural end of the Port Jervis line is over two hours away from Penn Station, and the rolling stock belongs to New Jersey Transit. On paper, Metro-North is responsible for the stations and the service, and as such, Rockland and Orange Counties contribute generously to the MTA.

In fact, these two counties carry more than their fair share of the tax burden. Some studies have reported that Rockland County pays $42 million more to the MTA than the service it receives is worth. Orange county carries a similar burden.

Since these two counties have some access to Metro-North and general MTA services, the payroll tax soon to be levied among business in the 12 MTA counties is heading to Rockland and Orange as well. County representatives are very unhappy about it, and politicians in both Rockland and Orange Counties want out of the MTA.

Duchess County officials are not too happy about it either. Duchess County receives more service than Rockland and Orange Counties and won’t be able to talk their way out of this one. “The passing of the payroll tax is absolutely unacceptable,” County Legislature Chairman Roger Higgins said. “It’s the talk of the town and I think representatives in Albany rally need to hear from us.”

East of the city, the general consensus sounds similar. Officials in Huntington on Long Island expressed their dismay with the taxation impact of the MTA rescue plan as well.

This is, in the end, a messy political issue, and the two counties’ endgames are questionable. Rockland officials say the payroll tax will cost the businesses in the county $18.5 million a year. They want something in return. In the past, more service has been a good enough carrot for those counties, but this time, they may want out.

It’s highly doubtful that anyone in Albany will heed their complaints. The MTA, after all, needs the money, and as long as the state refuses to implement sensible transit reform within New York City, the counties outside of it will carry a disproportionate tax burden.

For now, this is just another in a growing line of stories about the flawed rescue package. Eventually, these pleas won’t make headlines, but the dissent will sit there. Next time the legislature has to address transportation issues, these upstate counties won’t be willing to shoulder more burden, and this problem will merely grow and grow and grow.

Editor’s Note: Don’t forget about the 10 a.m. liveblog. I’ll be covering the MTA Board as those overseeing the transportation authority vote to rollback the service cuts and fare hikes. I’ll be taking reader questions then as well.

Categories : MTA Politics
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  • Live Blog alert: Monday at 10 a.m. · Tomorrow morning, the MTA Board will meet one more time with Dale Hemmerdinger as its chair to determine the new fare structure and to vote down the service cuts. In light of Albany’s finally passing the rescue bill, the authority will still raise fares but by a lesser amount. I’ll be live-blogging the meeting starting at 10 a.m. on Monday. I’ll also field reader questions in the live-blog software. We’ll have a grand old time.

    Meanwhile, did you know that you can keep tabs on SAS through other means as well? I have a Twitter feed, and I try to find topics and news more creative than just links to new blog posts for the feed. You can also get a one-a-day e-mail with SAS updates. Click here to subscribe. · (0)

I just wrapped up an eight-hour take-home exam, and I have a backlog of short stories. To cover them and your weekend subway readings needs, I’ll do a little link-o-rama post.

  • First up, we have some more analysis of Elliot Sander’s resignation. Crain’s New York says that New York Gov. David Paterson is going to have a tough time replacing Sander. As much as Paterson wants to make his own mark on the MTA, the consensus among transit experts and advocates is running against the governor. Nearly everyone agrees that he should have found a way to keep Sander around and that the upcoming replacement will pale in comparison to the outgoing transit expert.
  • Elizabeth Benjamin notes that Sander’s ouster is part of an effort to overhaul New York State authorities. Sander is the first of what could be many dominoes lined up to fall.
  • Streets blog wants President Obama’s transit experts to come in and rescue the MTA. The site’s commenters, many of whom are SAS regulars as well, agree.
  • In a very thorough piece at Politcker NY, Jason Horowitz and Jimmy Vielkind go to town on the MTA bailout. The two writers slam David Paterson and, to a lesser extent, Mayor Bloomberg for giving into Carl Kruger and the Fare Hike Four.
  • For a lighter take at something near and dear to our subway hearts, check out Gothamist’s interview with Dr. Zizmor. The famed subway dermatologist talks about why he appears so youthful in his ads and the joys of being recognized around the city.

On with the service advisories…

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, May 9 to 5 a.m. Monday, May 11, 1 trains skip 28th, 23rd, and 18th Streets due to removal of PATH underpass support steel for Port Authority improvements. Note: Overnight, downtown 1 trains run local from 34th to 14th Streets.

From 11:30 p.m. Friday, May 8 to 5 a.m. Monday, May 11, there are no 1 trains between 14th Street and South Ferry. 23 trains run local between 34th and Chambers Street due to removal of PATH underpass support steel for Port Authority. Free shuttle buses run between Chambers Street and South Ferry.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, May 9 to 5 a.m. Monday, May 11, 2 and 3 trains run local between 96th Street and Chambers Street due to a track dig out north of 50th Street.
Note: Overnight, 3 trains run local between 96th and 42nd Streets.

From 3:30 a.m. Saturday, May 9 to 11 p.m. Sunday, May 12, free shuttle buses replace 3 trains between Utica Avenue and New Lots Avenue due to track panel installation south of Van Siclen Avenue and switch work south of Junius Street.

From 9 a.m. to 5 a.m. Saturday, May 9 and Sunday, May 10, Manhattan-bound 4 trains skip Bedford Park Blvd., Kingsbridge Road, Fordham Road and 183rd Street due to switch repair near Kingsbridge Road.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, May 9 to 5 a.m. Monday, May 11, there are no 5 trains between 149th and East 180th Streets due to track repairs between East 180th Street and Dyre Avenue. Customers may take the 2 instead. Shuttle trains run every 30 minutes between East 180th Street and Dyre Avenue.

From 4 a.m. Saturday, May 9 to 10 p.m. Sunday, May 10, Bronx-bound 6 trains run express from Hunts Point Avenue to Parkchester due to track panel installation between Morrison-Sound View Avenues and St. Lawrence Avenue.

From 4 a.m. Saturday, May 9 to 10 p.m. Sunday, May 10, the last stop for some Bronx-bound 6 trains is 3rd Avenue due to platform edge rehabilitation at Cypress Avenue, East 143rd Street, East 149th Street and Longwood Avenue stations.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, May 9, to 5 a.m. Monday, May 11, Bronx-bound 6 trains run express from 3rd Avenue to Hunts Point Avenue due to platform edge rehabilitation at Cypress Avenue, East 143rd Street, East 149th Street and Longwood Avenue stations.

From 11:30 p.m. Friday, May 8 to 5 a.m. Monday, May 11, free shuttle buses and shuttle trains replace A trains between Howard Beach-JFK Airport and the Rockaways due to track panel installation on the South Channel Bridge.

From 11:30 p.m. Friday, May 8 to 5 a.m. Monday, May 11, free shuttle buses replace A trains between 168th Street and 207th Street due to tunnel structure and lighting work. Customers may transfer between the Broadway or Ft. Washington Avenue shuttle buses and the A train at 168th Street.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, May 9 to 5 a.m. Sunday, May 10, uptown A and C trains skip Spring, 23rd and 50th Streets due to the Chambers Street signal modernization project. Note: E trains are not running at these stations.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, May 9, to 5 a.m. Monday, May 11, there are no C trains running between 168th Street and 145th Street due to tunnel structure and lighting work. Customers should take the A instead.

From 6 a.m. Saturday, May 9 to 7 p.m. Sunday, May 10, the last stop for some Coney Island-bound D trains is Bay Parkway due to track repair near Coney Island-Stillwell Avenue.

From 5 a.m. to midnight, Saturday, May 9 and Sunday, May 10, the E runs on the F line between Roosevelt Avenue and 2nd Avenue due to installation of emergency lighting and tunnel security. In order to get to missed E stations, customers should take the E to West 4th Street and transfer to the A or C.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, May 9 to 5 a.m. Monday, May 11, E trains run on the R line between Queens Plaza and Prince Street due to installation of emergency lighting and tunnel security. In order to get to missed E stations, customers should take the E to Times Square-42nd Street and transfer to the A.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, May 9 to 5 a.m. Monday, May 11, N trains run local in both directions between 59th Street-4th Avenue and Pacific Street due to subway tunnel rehabilitation.

From 6 a.m. Saturday, May 9 to 7 p.m. Sunday, May 10, the last stop on some Coney Island-bound N trains is Kings Highway due to track repair near Coney Island-Stillwell Avenue.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, May 9 to 5 a.m. Monday, May 11, Brooklyn-bound N and R trains are rerouted over the Manhattan Bridge between Canal Street and DeKalb Avenue due to electrical work in the Montague Tunnel. Customers may take the 4 at nearby stations.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, May 9 to 5 a.m. Monday, May 11, Manhattan-bound Q trains skip Newkirk Avenue due to station rehab work.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, May 9 to 5 a.m. Monday, May 11, Manhattan-bound Q trains run express from Kings Highway to Prospect Park due to Brighton Line station rehabilitation.

From 6 a.m. Saturday, May 9, to 7 p.m. Sunday, May 10, Q trains run in two sections due to track repair near Coney Island-Stillwell Avenue:

  • Between 57th Street and Brighton Beach and
  • Between Brighton Beach and Coney Island-Stillwell Avenue, every 16 minutes.
Categories : Service Advisories
Comments (4)
  • Colorful stations from the past · In the mid-1970s, as a sort of a precursor to the current MTA Arts for Transit program, the city’s Public Arts Council along with the Municipal Arts Society and the Arts and Business Council asked a number of New York City-based designers to beautify four subway stations in colorful ways. At the Natural History Museum stop, make-believe prehistoric beasts were hung up on the walls. The Borough Hall stop along Brooklyn’s IRT lines featured a series of neon lights. A third, at the IND stop at 53rd and 5th Ave., featured bright stripes and freshly painted turnstiles.

    Earlier this week, the design blog So Much Pileup dug up some great color photos of the IND station. A 1976 Times article about the program says Exxon funded the designs with four $5000 grants, and as a sign of the times, one of the stations’ displays was vandalized as workers were installing them. · (2)
  • The politics behind the change at the top · Toward the end of the work day yesteray, current MTA CEO and Executive Director Elliot Sander dropped a bombshell on us when he announced his resignation. While it sounds as though this move had been in the works for some time, the suddenness of it was a surprise. Today, William Neuman of The Times delved into the politics behind the move.

    Sander, a transit policy wonk and a Spitzer nominee, sounds disappointed to be leaving the job, but he recognizes why Gov. David Paterson wants the power to appoint someone of his choosing. Considering the current state of the transit agency, Paterson has to make a big decision in the coming weeks and months. The man or woman he picks will have an immediate and long-term impact on the future of the transit agency, and I hope both Paterson and his eventual nominee are up for the job. · (3)

For a project with a price tag of $16 billion, a check for $79 million is but a drop in the bucket. Yet, every little bit help.

Yesterday, Rep. Jerrold Nadler announced that the Second Ave. subway would receive just that amount in stimulus dollars. The East Side Access project will receive over $200 million as part of the same grant.

“This significant sum of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act dollars will comprise a critical portion of overall funding for these two essential New York transportation projects,” Rep. Nadler said in a statement. “I have proudly fought for funding for the Second Avenue Subway and the East Side Access project for years. These crucial infrastructure initiatives will greatly increase transportation efficiency, access and ridership in the region. This will not only benefit our environment and assuage traffic issues, but will spur job growth and economic development for all New Yorkers.”

I appreciate Nadler’s enthusiasm. I really do. However, $79.8 million — the exact amount of the grant — works out to about 0.5 percent of the overall current cost of the Second Ave. subway. I won’t look that gift horse in the mouth, but until the funds start to flow, I don’t expect more than just Phase I to materialize.

It’s been 80 years since the city first got wind of a plan to build the Second Ave. Subway. This latest iteration is growing slowly, and in seven years — give or take a couple — something will open up, better late than never.

In other stimulus news, the MTA released its list of shovel-ready projects (PDF) a few weeks ago. It’s a fairly in-the-box list of station rehabs, gap-fillers for Union Square and some minor technology upgrades. It’s too bad the authority couldn’t take those funds for some of the CBTC programs that should be installed or for a major project such as the Culver Viaduct rehabilitation.

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