• TWU members protest MTA appeal · While the MTA is awaiting its day in court as it tries to appeal a binding arbitration ruling in favor of the TWU members, the union’s rank-and-file have taken to the streets in protest. According to Pete Donohue, more than 350 union members picketed outside of MTA headquarters this morning in advance of the monthly board meeting. According to union sources, their main targets were Mayor Bloomberg’s four board appointees. TWU officials believe the Mayor has urged the MTA to appeal the decision to secure an 11 percent raise for union workers over the next three years. “He’s the mayor of the city. He always has a say,” Curtis Tate, Local 100’s acting president, said. While workers will not shut down the system any time soon, labor relations between the MTA and its union are icy at best right now. · (1)

While the MTA and Upper East Side residents are at odds over Second. Ave relocation measures, the authority has a cash reserve in place to mitigate moving expenses. According to a report in the Daily News, the MTA has set aside $10 million to compensate residents for the inconvenience and headaches of a move.

Pete Donohue has more:

The MTA has set aside $10 million to move and compensate residents forced out of 60 apartments being cleared to make way for Second Ave. subway construction. The six-figure package averages out to about $160,000 for each upper East Side apartment in four buildings subject to eminent domain proceedings. Payments are likely to vary widely, according to a Metropolitan Transportation Authority description.

In one possible scenario, a tenant in a market-rate apartment would get $21,000 to cover higher rents over a 42-month period. In another, a tenant in a rent-regulated apartment would get $153,000 based on a more complicated formula including age, income and higher rent over a 36-year period.

“On paper, I think it’s fair,” area Councilwoman Jessica Lappin said of the plan, noting some who don’t mind moving out of the area stand to receive “a nice payout.”

Because the figure was set before the housing bubble burst, the MTA does not expect to need the full $10 million. The money, however, should meet the federal standards for “comparable housing” and “additional assistance.”

While this fund shows that the MTA is concerned with the residents in the area and are trying to meet the eminent domain requirements, it comes as a stark contrast to the ways in which Second Ave. businesses have been marginalized. When I last wrote about the economic impact of the Second Ave. construction, a reader challenged me on my defense of residents and my disregard for businesses. After all, businesses have a right to their just compensation too, and while eminent domain is a federal requirement, the businesses are economically vital for the area.

So should the MTA or city be compensating impacted businesses as they are residents? They aren’t federally required to, but the current vitality of the Upper East Side may depend on it as construction stretches through the next decade. In light of the MTA’s economic position, a cash outlay seems unlikely, and maybe business pains are the cost of constructing a new subway line. But while we will all benefit from a new subway line, we should remember how residents and business owners struggle to cope with it.

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Three days ago, the MTA started to eliminate station agents at numerous entrances throughout the system. In the buildup to this cost-saving measure, the agency has faced criticism on numerous fronts from those who feel that eliminating the agents will decrease safety underground. While I believe the agents create the illusion of safety and don’t actually make the stations safer, it is hard to dispute the deterrent power of an official-looking station worker.

As the agents head out, the MTA suffered something of a public relations setback. No one really explained how the MTA was going to maintain safety in the subway. Today, the Daily News has word of a plan unveiled tomorrow that should quell some fears. As the MTA rehabilitates stations, it will include platform intercoms every 200 feet. These intercoms will will allow customers to report problems nearly at the source.

This is a great safety measure and one that should have been announced as the agents were being eliminated. Why we are hearing about this only know, I do not know. Pete Donohue has more:

Intercoms linking platforms and token booths are now few and far between – but NYC Transit is including them in all future station rehabilitation projects, a spokesman said. Among the first to see the communications upgrade will be riders at five Brighton line stations in Brooklyn.

Workers will install 61 of the devices, one every 200 feet, the spokesman said. The series of station overhauls began in October and will be completed in December 2011.

“The bottom line is it will be a lot easier for riders in an emergency to reach help, and that’s a good thing,” Gene Russianoff of the Straphangers Campaign said. “It doesn’t completely make up for the smaller human presence in stations, but it helps.”

I don’t think Russianoff gets it right. The intercoms won’t act as deterrents as people would, but the technological should make riders safety. The intercoms could connect directly to outside help, and while the initial plans are to connect them to the token booth or the NYC Transit control center, if customers can summon emergency response teams from the platform without having to track down a station agent, straphangers would be far better off than they are now.

The MTA deserves applause for this initiative, and they should earn praise from the board tomorrow when the full plan is unveiled. The rollout may be slow and steady, but the intercoms represent a true measure of subway security.

Categories : Subway Security
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  • Contactless payment system to expand to buses · While Jay Walder, the incoming MTA head, wants to replace the MetroCard with a contactless fare card similar to London’s Oyster Card or DC’s SmartCard, New York City Transit is forging ahead with its current credit card-based smartcard system. In 2006, MasterCard and the MTA teamed up to bring a “Tap & Go” fare payment system to certain stops along the Lexington Ave. line, and now the agency plans to expand the program to eight popular city bus lines. Buses along the M14, M23, M79, M86, M101, M102, M103 and BxM7 routes will be equipped with SmartCard technology that can handle any major credit card equipped with a swipe-less RFID chip. The death knell for the MetroCard rings louder. · (8)
  • State Senate Secretary caught in new MTA transparency measures · Talk about ironic. The Daily News on Friday broke a story of corruption in the State Senate. (Shocking, I know.) Senate Secretary Angelo Aponte tried to convince the MTA to allow Martin Scorcese and the HBO to film in the subway after receiving a $25,000 donation for Senate Democrats from Time Warner, HBO’s parent company. And how did Pete Donohue get wind of this story? As Mobilizing the Region highlighted yesterday, the phone call between Aponte and New York City Transit was mentioned in part of the report from the MTA’s new Office of Legislative and Community Input, a body established at the command of the State Senate to increase accountability and transparency on behalf of the trainst agency. As Steven Higashide wrote at MTR, “transparency goes both ways.” Indeed. · (3)

Yonah Freemark at The Transport Politic explored rerouting the Second Ave. Subway last November.

When the MTA initially proposed the Second Ave. Subway, the agency had grand plans for a relatively speedy construction. Set to begin in 2007, construction on all four phases of the Second Ave. line would wrap up by 2020. As the saying goes, “The best laid subway lines…”

Now, here we sit in 2009, and no one can agree on the completion date for Phase I. The Feds say 2018; the MTA maintains 2017. No matter that date, though, no one is talking about Phases II, III and IV, and in its Twenty Year Capital Needs Assessment, the MTA offered up nothing too concrete. In fact, the rest of the SAS generated just one line in a 97-page PDF document: “Phases II – IV will generate similar benefits and must be advanced in future.”

So with plenty of years — or decades — until the Second Ave. Subway extends south of 63rd St. along the Second Ave., New Yorkers have plenty of time to lobby the MTA for changes to the proposed route. Earlier this week, Chris Z. proposed the following to me in an e-mail:

I’ve read quite a bit about the Second Avenue Subway and its planned route and stations. One thing I’ve never heard discussed is why it won’t provide better access to the Lower East Side. While residents of York Avenue will finally get the subway line they deserve, what about the residents of Avenues B, C, and D? Why is yet another transit line refusing to acknowledge the significant eastern bulge of lower Manhattan?

The Second Avenue Elevated provided a model: as it approached downtown, it turned east at 23rd Street and then followed First Avenue through what is now the East Village. Even this deviation of a single avenue-block, applied to the Second Avenue Subway, would give considerable benefit to those in Alphabet City. The sacrifice would be minimal: those that live between Broadway and Second Avenue would continue to be extremely well-served by the Broadway and Lexington Lines. (Indeed, the relative lack of north-south bus lines in this corridor is proof that they are already spoiled for choice.) It would also do no harm to the planned connections to the Canarsie Line or the Sixth Avenue Line (the Second Avenue station stretches to First Avenue, with an existing mezzanine).

I realize that this ship has long since sailed (nevermind that it will be decades before any track is laid south of 14th Street). I’m just curious if you knew if this (old) idea was ever discussed and ruled out because of logistical, political, or budgetary concerns.

Chris’ proposal is tame compared to others I’ve seen. Many New Yorkers would — as The Transport Politic proposed — swing the subway east and run it under Ave. B or C through the Lower East Side. Based on the research I’ve conducted, a confluence of circumstances make an eastward swing of the Second Ave. Subway nearly impossible.

The first issue is one of the reality above the ground. Second Ave. is a six-lane road and so is First Ave. Further east though, the avenues narrow as Aves. A, B and C are all four lanes. It would be a near impossibility to run a two-track subway line underneath well-developed four-lane avenues.

Furthermore, because the area surrounding Alphabet City and the East Village/Lower East Side are so densely developed, a loop east would have to make a series of very sharp turns on 14th St. — below the L train — and again on whichever avenue were to serve as the north/south route. The engineering would be a nightmare, and the train speeds around these curves would resemble the crawl of the R south of Canal St. Anything north of 14th St. would run into Peter Cooper Village and Stuy Town.

Meanwhile, the economics of an Alphabet City loop do not make sense. As commenter Mr. Transit noted at TTP, the one of the main goals for the SAS is to improve travel time to Lower Manhattan and relieve overcrowding. A spur would negate this goal. It would also be quite costly to tack on the extra track miles relative to the number of additional riders gained.

Finally, an environmental aspect comes into play. According to the Coastal Zone map the MTA provided in its Final Environmental Impact Statement (PDF), most of the SAS skirts Manhattan’s coastal zone. By swinging the route east, the subway tunnel would hit some environmentally sensitive areas and some areas of the island that once were water. As Michael Tenenbaum noted also at TTP, a subway that far east would involving cutting into “bedrock with significant dewatering as was done for the remediation of the Northern Manhattan stations in the mid 1970s.”

We like to dream about a Second Ave. Subway that swings through Alphabet City and better serves the Lower East Side. But due to logistics, costs and environmental factors, the Second Ave. Subway — if and when Phases II, III and IV arrive — will be but a straight line from north to south leaving Alphabet City well off the subway grid.

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  • Seatless train experiment stalling out · To combat overcrowding during peak travel times, the MTA proposed last August to remove seats from some trains during rush hour. At the time, it appeared as though the MTA would unveil a trial train car by early 2009. As with all good MTA projects though, this one has hit a speed bump, and now the agency is targeting the end of the year for its test run.

    According to Tom Namako, the MTA ran into some troubles with Kawasaki, the train car maker. The agency first hoped to install flip-bench capabilities to existing train cars in-house but ran into some troubles. When Transit asked Kawaski for foldable benches, the manufacturer refused, noting that the sample order — just four cars — was too small for them to spend time engineering this change. And so the MTA is now returning to an in-house solution that will be implemented when new train cars arrive.

    Unfortunately, since Kawaski would not adjust old cars, the line that most need this innovation — the East Side IRT — will miss out. Instead, according to Namako, the new R160s will serve as the trial subways. These cars are currently in place along the E, F, J, L, M, N, Q, W and Z lines. The F and Q suffer from overcrowding the most and could serve as decent test lines for an innovative project a few months too late. · (13)

StationAgent When I exited from the IND train at 40th and 6th Ave. on Friday afternoon, the sign shown at right greeted me. It was hanging on the former token booth located at the back entrance to this well-traveled station. While the 40th St. entrance is used mainly by people on the way to work, it is at the southwest corner of Bryant Park, and more than a few lost souls traverse its turnstiles.

Yesterday, though, as part of the MTA’s cost-cutting measures, the Station Customer Assistant assigned to this booth is no longer there. Straphangers can still enter at this southern end of the station with a MetroCard, and the MetroCard Vending Machines will still dispense cards (or eat your money). Those in need of help, however, will have to venture up to 42nd St. and 6th for a 24-hour station agent.

Throughout the city, I saw signs such as that one this weekend. At the 1st Ave. entrance to the F/V stop at 2nd Ave., a sign warned customers at 1 a.m. on Sunday morning about the lack of a station agent. Not every station enjoyed community support and outrage over these cuts as the F/G stop at Carroll St. (For a full list of the 86 station booths now without an agent, check out Comptroller Thompson’s search tool.)

With these cuts came a new round of articles from people on the street proclaiming the end of subway safety as we know it. Jeff Wilkins from the Daily News tracked down a few scared people. “I’m concerned for my safety,” Lunie Menard, a daily user of the Newkirk Ave. station, said. “If I’m down there by myself and someone’s working, at least I know there’s two of us. There’s safety in numbers. We need more people down there, not less.”

Bryan Walker expressed similar concerns at the A/C Utica Ave. stop in Bed-Stuy. “So I’ll have to phone someone at the other end of the station to let them know I’m being mugged,” he said. “That makes no sense.”

Walker’s and Menard’s statements hit upon the psychological aspects of the station agents. Generally, these agents are helpful when they can assist customers with MetroCard problems, stroller and wheelchair issues or directions. When crime comes into play, the agents aren’t required to assist and have made headlines in the past for doing nothing when straphangers are in trouble.

As news of the cuts has built over the last year, I’ve explored the ways in which the mere presence of the agents could act as a deterrent. For its part, the MTA has these safety concerns weren’t part of their financial equation. “Safety isn’t even a consideration,” Charles Seaton, and NYC Transit spokesperson, said. “Crime is down at stations across the city. The NYPD is doing a good job of patrolling them.”

For better or worse, we’ll find out who’s right. Crime might be down because the MTA placed eyes and ears in the stations. While these agents weren’t able to stop a crime in progress, the fact that they were there could have deterred numerous perps. With the MTA’s station agent cuts underway, if crime increases, we’ll know why.

Categories : Subway Security
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I’ll get to the weekend service advisories in a minute. Let’s head out to the Rockaways for a few paragraphs first.

Due to station rehabilitation work on the Manhattan-bound platforms at Beach 105th and Beach 90th Sts., those two stations are currently closed until December 21, 2009. The Far Rockaway-bound platforms at Beach 67th, Beach 44th and Beach 25th Sts. are closed until mid-January 2010.

According to the MTA, when those stations are through, the opposite platforms will close for rehab work. After those five stations are completed, Transit will get to work on Beach 60, Beach 36th and Beach 98th Sts. The final station rehab will be at Far Rockaway-Mott Ave. The authority has putt this seemingly random pattern in place to ensure that only alternate stations are closed. “Customers are never more than one station away from a fully-open station,” Transit said in a statement. The bad news is that these projects will often require full weekend shutdowns of either the Far Rockaway or Rockaway Park branch of the A train.

This $117 million rehab plan includes “new canopies over the stairs and platforms, redesign of the area around the station booth, renewal of mezzanine and platform floors, replacing platform edges and ADA tactile warning strips, the installation of vandal-resistant fluorescent lighting and a new, high-quality public address system. ADA elevators will be installed at the Far Rockaway-Mott Avenue station.” For stations on the periphery of the system, this work is badly-needed.

Anyway, below are your weekend service advisories. These are coming to me from the MTA and are subject to change without notice. Check signs in your local station and listen to all on-board announcements as you travel.


From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, September 19 to 5 a.m. Monday, September 21, uptown 1 trains skip 96th Street due to station rehabilitation.


From 11:30 p.m. Friday, September 18 to 5 a.m. Monday, September 21, there are no 1 trains operating between 34th Street and South Ferry due to a track chip-out at Chambers Street station. 2 and 3 trains provide alternate service between 34th Street and Chambers Street. Free shuttle buses replace 1 trains between Chambers Street and South Ferry. Note: Downtown 23 trains skip Christopher, Houston, Canal, and Franklin Streets.


From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, September 19 to 5 a.m. Monday, September 21, uptown 2 trains run local from Chambers Street to 86th Street, then skip 96th Street. Downtown 2 trains run local from 96th Street to 14th Street. These changes are due to a track chip-out at Chambers Street and station rehabilitation at 96th Street.


From 6:30 a.m. to midnight, Saturday, September 19 and Sunday, September 20, downtown 3 trains run local from 96th Street to 14th Street due to a track chip-out at Chambers Street.


From 6:30 a.m. to midnight, Saturday, September 19 and Sunday, September 20, uptown 3 trains run local from Chambers Street to 86th Street, then skip 96th Street due to a track chip-out at Chambers Street and station rehabilitation at 96th Street. Note: Overnight uptown 3 trains run local from 72nd to 86th Streets, then skip 96th Street.


From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, September 19 to 5 a.m. Monday, September 21, Manhattan-bound 6 trains run express from Hunts Point Avenue to 3rd Avenue-138th Street due to a concrete pour at East 143rd Street-St. Mary’s Street.


At all times until December, 21, 2009, Manhattan-bound A trains skip Beach 90th and Beach 105th Streets due to station rehabilitation.


At all times until January 18, 2010, Far Rockaway-bound A trains skip Beach 67th, Beach 44th, and Beach 25th Streets due to station rehabilitation.


From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, September 19 to 5 a.m. Monday, September 21, D trains run local in both directions between 34th Street and West 4th Street due to a track chip-out in the 53rd Street tunnel.


From 5 a.m. Saturday, September 19 to 10 p.m. Sunday, September 20, Coney Island-bound D trains run on the N line from 36th Street to Coney Island-Stillwell Avenue due to 38th Street Yard work.


From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, September 19 to 5 a.m. Monday, September 21, E trains are rerouted on the F line in Manhattan and Queens due to a track chip-out in the 53rd Street tunnel. There are no E trains between 34th Street and World Trade Center. Customers should take the A instead. Manhattan-bound E trains run on the F line from Roosevelt Avenue to 34th Street/Herald Square. Queens-bound E trains run on the F from 34th Street-Herald Square to 47th – 50th Streets; trains resume normal E service from 5th Avenue to Jamaica Center.


From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, September 19 to 5 a.m. Monday, September 21, Manhattan-bound E platforms at Queens Plaza, 23rd Street/Ely Avenue, Lexington Avenue-53rd Street and 5th Avenue stations are closed due to a track chip-out in the 53rd Street tunnel. Customers may take the R or G instead. Note: Free shuttle buses connect the Court Square G/23rd Street-Ely Avenue, Queens Plaza, and 21st Street-Queensbridge F stations.


From 12:30 a.m. Saturday, September 19 to 5 a.m. Monday, September 21, Jamaica-bound E trains run local from Queens Plaza to Roosevelt Avenue due to track maintenance.


From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, September 19 to 5 a.m. Monday, September 21, Jamaica-bound E trains run express from Roosevelt Avenue to Forest Hills-71st Street due to cable work north of Roosevelt Avenue.


From 12:30 a.m. Saturday, September 19 to 5 a.m. Monday, September 21, Manhattan-bound E trains run local on the F from Roosevelt Avenue to 21st Street-Queensbridge due to track maintenance.


From 12:30 a.m. Saturday, September 19 to 5 a.m. Monday, September 21, F trains run local between Roosevelt Avenue and 21st Street-Queensbridge due to track maintenance.


From 12:01 a.m. to 5 a.m. Saturday, September 19, Manhattan-bound F trains skip 169th Street due to track cleaning.


From 12:01 a.m. to 5 a.m. Sunday, September 20, Jamaica-bound F trains skip 169th Street due to track cleaning.


From 8:30 p.m. to midnight Friday, September 18, and from 6:30 a.m. to midnight Saturday, September 19 and Sunday, September 20, there are no G trains between Forest Hills-71st Avenue and Court Square due to the track chip-out in the 53rd Street tunnel. Brooklyn-bound customers may take the R to Queens Plaza and transfer to a shuttle bus connecting to Court Square. Queens-bound customers may take the E instead. Note: Queens-bound E and R trains run express from Roosevelt Avenue to Forest Hills-71st Avenue.


From 12:01 a.m. to 6:30 a.m. Saturday, September 19 and Sunday, September 20, and from 12:01 a.m. to 5 a.m. Monday, September 21, Queens-bound G trains run express from Roosevelt Avenue to Forest Hills-71st Avenue due to cable work north of Roosevelt Avenue.


From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, September 19 to 5 a.m. Monday, September 21, Brooklyn-bound N trains are rerouted over the Manhattan Bridge from DeKalb Avenue to Canal Street due to station rehabilitation and construction of the Lawrence Street to Jay Street underground connector.


From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, September 19 to 5 a.m. Monday, September 21, Brooklyn-bound N trains run local between Pacific Street and 59th Street in Brooklyn due to station rehabilitation and construction of the Lawrence Street to Jay Street underground connector.


From 9:30 a.m. Friday, September 18 to 5 a.m. Monday, September 21, free shuttle buses replace Q trains between Prospect Park and Kings Highway due to rehabilitation of some Brighton Line stations.


From 6:30 a.m. to midnight Saturday, September 19 and Sunday, September 20, Queens-bound R trains run express from Roosevelt Avenue to Forest Hills-71st Avenue due to cable work north of Roosevelt Avenue.


From 6:30 a.m. to midnight Saturday, September 19 and Sunday, September 20, Brooklyn-bound R trains are rerouted over the Manhattan Bridge from Canal Street to DeKalb Avenue due to station rehabilitation and construction of the underground connector at Lawrence Street.


From 10:30 p.m. Friday, September 18 to 5 a.m. Monday, September 21, there are no Rockaway Park Shuttle S trains between Broad Channel and Rockaway Park due to station rehabilitation at Beach 105th Street and Beach 90th Street stations and track panel work. A trains and free shuttle buses provide alternate service.

Categories : Service Advisories
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