For over a year now, I’ve slammed City Council member John Liu for his sheer lack of MTA acumen. As the head of the council’s transportation committee, he should get it. He should understand the dire financial straits in which the MTA finds itself and the city’s need for mass transit, but he just doesn’t.

Unsurprisingly, he’s at it again. This time, the City Council is going after the MTA for its proposed bus cuts, and Liu’s public statements again show that he is thinking only about his public image and not the transit authority’s long-term health. Reports The Post:

Six City Council members blasted the MTA yesterday over proposals to cut bus service in upper Manhattan. Councilwoman Inez Dickens (D-Harlem) said “the MTA wishes to strangle us” with its plan to eliminate the M10 line, which runs from Harlem to Penn Station along Seventh and Eighth avenues.

Cutting that line, she said, would force elderly riders to walk to Seventh Avenue and board a bus that takes them east of Central Park. “We don’t rely on fancy vehicles to take us places,” said Franc Perry, chair of the community board for Central Harlem.

The agency said the M10 is on the cutting block because the A, C, B and D subway lines duplicate its route. “The subway isn’t accessible for many elderly and disabled riders,” said Councilman John Liu (D-Queens). “The MTA doesn’t get it.”

The MTA gets it, John, but you don’t. The MTA is faced with a legal mandate to balance their budget, and until he and his fellow councilmembers decide to take the unpopular position of imposing bridge tolls or higher car registration fees or simply writing the authority a blank check, the agency will continue to do what is within its power to do. They will cut services; they will raise fares.

Now, I understand that Liu is a politician and wants to be re-elected. But at some, politicians are also responsible for the policy decisions they make and the areas of their expertise. Liu oversees transit for the City Council, and yet he refuses to take responsibility for finding a better solution to the city’s transit woes. In the end, he’s just as much a part of the problem as the MTA is, and until he accepts reality or vacates his position, I fear for the future of fully-funded transit in New York City.

Categories : MTA Politics
Comments (9)

brodaway It’s en vogue to dump on the MTA these days, and no one is letting actual reporting getting in the way of the fun. After all, the city’s transit agency is near-broke, suffers from inept management and is raising fares. Now, we learn that they can’t even spell the names of their own stations properly.

Ha! Right? Well, not quite. It turns out that this typo isn’t really a news story in the current sense of the word. It’s a seven-decade-old problem, but that hasn’t stopped the outrage from building. Let’s recap.

The fun started on Monday when Gothamist published a short post about the Broadway IND Crosstown stop. One of the station’s numerous tilings is out of order. Instead of saying “Broadway,” the letters read “Brodaway.”

Yesterday, The Daily News picked up this typo and reporting it as a serious news story. In doing so, Pete Donohue and Veronika Belenkaya brought this to the attention of New York City Transit officials. As we’ll soon learn, it would probably have been a better idea to let this sleeping dog lie.

Meanwhile, the madness spread with an over-the-top rant by WPIX’s Steven Bogart. He bashed the MTA for this misspelling:

When you’re riding the rails on the G line in Brooklyn, there’s a stop along the way that we New Yorkers like to call “Broadway.” The problem is the “we” doesn’t seem to include our beloved Metropolitan Transportation Authority. They’ve actually misspelled one of the most iconic street names in these United States, calling it “Brodaway” instead.

The grotesque error was spotted inside the Queens-bound G train tunnel in Williamsburg…With the MTA moving toward implementing a massive fare hike in order to plug a budget gap that they say has worsened by the global financial crisis, one could only hope some of that money will go toward spelling courses for the agency’s hundreds of employees.

People in the know were quick to debunk the News story. A lengthy Subchat thread delved into the history of this typo, and NY1 News acknowledged this history. People who grew up along the IND Crosstown line remember seeing this misspelling through the decades, and according to Kevin Walsh at Forgotten-NY, the typo has been in place since 1937.

Meanwhile, the MTA is primed to send someone to fix it. In the midst of a budget crisis, they are going to pay to fix a 72-year-old mistake that existed a good thirty years before the MTA made its ignoble debut in 1968. The cash-strapped authority is going to spend money on materials and man-hours to fix what many feel is one of the quirks of the subway system.

Talk about an overreaction. Perhaps we could let Mayor LaGuardia foot the bill for the replacement tiles. The IND Crosstown, typo and all, opened on his watch.

A photo of the misspelling in the late 1990s courtesy of Forgotten-NY.

Categories : MTA Absurdity
Comments (14)

If drivers win, riders lose,” says The New York Times editorial board. I couldn’t agree more. It’s an important message and one worth quoting at length:

Facing big deficits, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority is threatening big fare increases — from $2 to $3 for a subway ride, for instance — for everyone who uses public transit. Gov. David Paterson and other politicians are trying to head this off, or reduce the pain. Here’s one suggestion: Ask drivers to start paying tolls on the bridges that cross the Harlem and East Rivers.

Just about every commuter pays a fee of some sort — except for drivers who use those bridges. This is manifestly unfair to millions of others who take the bus, subway or railroad in this area to get to work.

Charging drivers their fair share was an important part of proposals offered last year by a commission led by Richard Ravitch, who once ran the authority. To put the entire system on a stronger financial footing, and to avoid both drastic fare increases and service cuts, the commission’s plan required contributions from riders, businesses and people who drive cars.

Riders would endure a modest increase in the cost of their trips. Businesses, governments and unions in the 12-county area around New York City would do their part with a modest tax per employee. And drivers would start paying new bridge tolls.

The paper of record urges Mayor Bloomberg to voice unconditional support because the East River tolls can help him achieve his congestion-cutting goals. It also urges Sheldon Silver and David Paterson to throw their voices behind this plan.

In the end, though, it’s an issue of fairness to all, and The Times recognizes this as well. They conclude, “If everyone contributes, no one would have to suffer the drastic cuts in service and draconian increases in fares now proposed by the M.T.A.”

It may not be the most popular path, but it is the one the city as a whole needs to support both its economy and its mass transit system.

Categories : Ravitch Commission
Comments (6)

momaappromo

Generally, it costs around $20 to get into the Museum of Modern Art, but starting today and continuing on through the middle of March, savvy straphangers can visit replicas of MoMA’s most famous works for the cost of a MetroCard swipe.

As part of a rather ambitious advertising campaign, Brooklyn’s Atlantic Ave.-Pacific St. subway stop will host a full-station takeover by MoMA. The columns and turnstile arms will be adorned with museum logos, and the walls will feature true-to-life replicas of some of the museum’s iconic images. Art buffs can even download station-centric audio tours or call in to hear the guide from the nearest working payphone.

Randy Kennedy of The Times has more on what the MTA is calling a groundbreaking “station domination“:

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority and its advertising contractors routinely review the content of subway ads, keeping their eyes out for things that are too racy or rude. But they have never had an ad quite like one that came their way recently: an image of five naked women (probably prostitutes) vamping it up and staring down the viewer.

The fact that the frontal nudity is fully Cubist and was painted by Picasso more than a century ago undoubtedly made the decision a lot easier. And so on Monday, a glossy reproduction of that artwork, “Les Demoiselles d’Avignon,” took its place underground in the Atlantic Avenue and Pacific Street subway stations in Brooklyn, with copies of 57 other works from the Museum of Modern Art that will briefly transform the cavernous stations into a kunsthalle.

The museum’s publicity campaign, one of the most ambitious it has ever undertaken in the city, will cover every ad space in the two connected stations, spaces normally given over to plugs for movies, beer and podiatry treatments. In their place will be reproductions of works drawn from all parts of the museum, both well-known and more contemporary, by artists like Matisse, Hopper, O’Keeffe, Marlene Dumas, Cindy Sherman and Martin Kippenberger.

“We’ve never done a large-scale ad campaign for New Yorkers focused just on the permanent collection,” said Kim Mitchell, the museum’s chief communications officer. She said the idea had grown out of a new marketing advisory committee’s feeling — confirmed by focus groups — that many New Yorkers view the museum as a tourist-saturated place that is no longer quite as welcoming to natives.

Unfortunately, Kennedy doesn’t have a cost figure for this campaign. I’d be quite curious to find out how much the MTA is raking in from this promo.

Around the Web, some anticipation is building for the noon opening of this subterranean makeshift gallery. The Gowanus Lounge seems intrigued by what it called a bizarre preview. A Flickr set of the installation in progress offers up some tantalizing glimpses of a fun event — including a well-placed version of Piet Mondrian’s Broadway Boogie Woogie right above the Broadway line train.

I, along with over 49,999 of my closest friends, pass through that station at least twice a day. I’ll have to take a few minutes and hop off the train once to check out this museum, and, hey, at least I’ll get to save $18 over the cost of a MoMA admissions ticket.

Categories : Subway Advertising
Comments (10)
  • Gantt inexplicably reappointed to Transpo Committee · Remember David Gantt? He’s the Rochester-based representative responsible for squashing a NYC home-rule bill aimed at BRT lane enforcement efforts. He angered a lot of pro-transit advocates last summer, and even The New York Times spoke out against him. Today, Assembly Chair Sheldon Silver continued to give the proverbial finger to New York City as he reappointed Gantt to the transportation committee chair despite strident opposition.

    Politicians bemoan transit cuts and fare hikes, but when push comes to shove, it’s clear that they are not looking out for the transit needs of the New York City area. Thanks once again to Silver, we’re left to fend off hostile representatives heading up a committee that is supposed to encourage sensible transit solutions. When the MTA is in shambles and navigating through New York City is worse than it already is, just blame Gantt — and Sheldon Silver, too. · (0)
  • The plight of the subway musicians · The impact of the bad economy, it seems, isn’t limited to those desk jockeys watching out for their 9-5 jobs. The subway street musicians are suffering too. In a front-page feature last week in amNew York, Katie Molinaro talked to a few subway buskers who note that their takings are down nearly 50 percent. It’s not at all surprising really that folks who rely on the gratuities of others for their livings are suffering, and I can’t imagine the situation will improve if the MTA has to raise fares. I wonder if the downturn will result in more musicians playing for longer hours or fewer musicians hunting for money as many turn to a more steady source of income to ride out the economic tide. · (1)
Feb
09

As a matter of tax…

By · Comments (2) ·

Talk about taxation paternalism. In county after county in the surrounding New York Metropolitan Area, officials are dictating the wishes of their constituents as the New York State legislature gears up to determine the future of the MTA. At issue is the proposed payroll tax, and it’s prospects are looking bleak.

To recap: Part of the Ravitch Recommendations included a 0.33 percent payroll tax on businesses within the 12 counties served by the MTA. It is a way of ensuring that the people who benefit most from the New York Metropolitan Area’s extensive transit network end up supporting it. While taxes aren’t popular during economic downturns, having a sub-par and under-funded transit system would be far worse. Too bad business leaders and politicians can’t grasp that important point.

Over the weekend, two stories in papers serving Metro-North counties opined against the tax increase. The Times Herald-Record, serving the Hudson Valley, reported on a unified political opposition in Orange County to the payroll tax while the Poughkeepsie Journal found the same in Dutchess County. Everyone, it seems, wants their mass transit; no one wants to pay.

These stories raise a few issues. First, take the Times Herald-Record feature. In it, John Murphy, the head of an Orange County non-profit, worries that the revenue generated by the payroll tax would go straight into the pockets of, say, the LIRR retirees claiming false disabilities. At no point does the paper point out in a rebuttal that the revenues would go to the MTA’s operating budget. At no point does the paper note that the retiree benefits are paid by a different agency all together. In an effort to print the so-called unbiased truth, newspapers should make sure they’re not printing patently false information and calling it fact.

But that’s the lesser of the two problems. The bigger issue rests on the heads of the politicians because they don’t seem to be expressing the views of their constituents. Rather, they are telling their constituents what to think and believe about this payroll tax. Last week, a Long Island-based reader of Second Ave. Sagas forwarded me an e-mail from State Senator Dean Skelos who is urging his constituents to sign an anti-payroll tax petition. It reads:

Recently, the MTA proposed a payroll tax on all local employers. This proposal, which I am opposed to, would harm small businesses and lead to further job losses among Long Island’s workforce.

Under this proposal, all Long Island employers, including not-for-profits and those who are self-employed would be required to pay one-third of one percent of their wages to support the MTA, even if their employees do not use mass transit.

With Long Island’s economy losing over 21,000 jobs since December 2007 and having an unemployment rate of 5.8%, the last thing we need is to enact a tax increase that could lead to further layoffs.

Just as most local families are doing, the MTA should find ways to reduce its own expenses before considering a tax increase. This past November the State Comptroller issued a report stating that the MTA employs 70,000 people, including those in nonessential and redundant position. Among these employees are a total of 444 public relations professionals. The recent scandal in which LIRR employees received improper retirement-disability payments is further evidence that the MTA needs to increase accountability within its own budget.

As this reader noted, Skelos is simply dictating his position to his constituents and forcing them to support it. He isn’t trying to determine if his constituents support mass transit. He isn’t trying to determine even if his constituents would rather see their taxes go to mass transit over, say, road maintenance. It’s the same to the north of the city as it is to the west.

At some point, the bill will come due on transit. We can pay now with a payroll tax before the system collapses or we can watch these politicians scramble for money when they leave the MTA high and dry. In 45 days, the MTA will have to make a choice. Who will save them from the wrong side of that decision?

Categories : MTA Economics
Comments (2)

Earlier this week, many readers may have noticed some visual upgrades to Second Ave. Sagas. While the content hasn’t changed, I decided to refresh the look of the site.

The upgrades are designed to allow me to present more information and allow for better discussion. The two biggest changes, outside of the overall theme, are a wider content column and a new look for the threaded comments. With the wider column, I can include bigger and better photography from the subway system, and the comments system allows for a more thorough discussion. I’ll try to bring more features online over the next few weeks.

Meanwhile, on to the service advisories:


From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, February 7 to 5 a.m. Monday, February 9, 1 and 2 trains skip 50th, 59th, and 66th Streets due to station rehabilitation work at 59th Street-Columbus Circle. – I don’t know why this doesn’t cover the 3 as well. No other service advisories suggest that the 3 isn’t running this weekend.


From 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Sunday, February 8, Bronx-bound 4 trains skip Mosholu Parkway due to trimming of tree branches hanging over the elevated structure.


From 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, February 7, Bronx-bound 4 trains skip Bedford Park Boulevard due to signal testing.


From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, February 7 to 5 a.m. Monday, February 9, there is no 5 train service between 149th Street-Grand Concourse and East 180th Street due to track panel and cable installation. Customers should take the 2 instead.


From 11:30 p.m. Friday, February 6 to 5 a.m. Monday, February 9 (and weekends through Feb 27-Mar 2), there are no 7 trains between Times Square-42nd Street and Queensboro Plaza due to track panel installation on the Davis Street curve and security conduit and cable installation in the under river tube. The NQ and free shuttle buses provide alternate service.


From 11:30 p.m. Friday, February 6 to 5 a.m. Monday, February 9, free shuttle buses replace A trains between 168th Street and 207th Street due to tunnel 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, February 7 to 5 a.m. Monday, February 9, Queens-bound A trains run local from 168th Street to 125th, then express from 125th to 59th Streets, then local to Euclid Avenue but skip 50th, 23rd and Spring Streets. These changes are due to roadbed replacement work at 116th Street and signal work at Chambers Street.


From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, February 7 to 5 a.m. Monday, February 9, Manhattan-bound A trains run local from Euclid Avenue to 168th Street due to roadbed replacement at 116th Street and the Chambers Street signal work. In addition, between 12:01 and 5 a.m. on Saturday, February 7, trains skip Shepherd, Van Siclen and Liberty Avenues due to track cleaning.


From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, February 7 to 5 a.m. Monday, February 9, Manhattan-bound A trains run local from Euclid Avenue to 168th Street due to roadbed replacement at 116th Street and the Chambers Street signal work. In addition, between 12:01 and 5 a.m. on Sunday, February 8, trains skip Rockaway and Ralph Avenues due to track cleaning.


From 10:30 p.m. Friday, February 6 to 5 a.m. Monday, February 9, free shuttle buses replace A trains between Beach 90th Street and Far Rockaway due to track panel work.


From 11:30 p.m. Friday to 5 a.m. Monday, February 9, there are no C trains running due to roadbed replacement work at 116th Street and signal work at Chambers Street. Customers should take the A instead.


From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, February 7 to 5 a.m. Monday, February 9 (and weekends through February 21-23), there is no E train service between West 4th Street and World Trade Center due to signal work at Chambers Street.


From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, February 7 to 5 a.m. Monday, February 9, Manhattan-bound E and R trains run express from Roosevelt Avenue to Queens Plaza due to third rail work.


From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, February 7 to 5 a.m. Monday, February 9, uptown F trains skip 14th and 23rd Streets due to conduit and cable work.


From 12:01 a.m. to midnight Saturday, February 7, Manhattan-bound F trains skip Sutphin and Van Wyck Boulevards due to drain installation.


From 8:30 p.m. Friday, February 6 to 5 a.m. Monday, February 9 (until further notice), there are no G trains between Forest Hills-71st Avenue and Court Square due to third rail work. Customers should take the E or R instead.


From 3:30 a.m. Saturday, February 7 to 10 p.m. Sunday, February 8, there are no J trains between Broadway Junction and Jamaica Center-Parsons/Archer due to fiber optic cable installation. Free shuttle buses replace trains between Broadway Junction and the Jamaica Van Wyck E station.


From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, February 7 to 5 a.m. Monday, February 9 (and weekends through Feb 28-Mar 2), N and Q trains run local between Canal Street and 57th Street due to track panel installation on the Davis Street curve and security conduit and cable installation in the under river tube.


From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, February 7 to 5 a.m. Monday, February 9, Brooklyn-bound N and Q trains run on the R line from Canal Street to DeKalb Avenue due to track installation at Canal Street.


From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, February 7 to 5 a.m. Monday, February 9, Manhattan-bound N and R trains are rerouted over the Manhattan Bridge from DeKalb Avenue to Canal Street due to subway tunnel rehabilitation.


From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, February 7 to 5 a.m. Monday, February 9, Q trains are extended to Ditmars Boulevard N station due to track panel installation on the Davis Street curve and security conduit and cable installation in the under river tube.


From 11:30 p.m. Friday, February 6 to 5 a.m. Monday, February 9, the 42nd Street Shuttle S operates overnight to replace 7 service between Times Square-42nd Street and Grand Central-42nd Street due to track panel installation on the Davis Street curve and security conduit and cable installation in the under river tube.

Categories : Service Advisories
Comments (5)

dsc_0003

Four months ago, New York City Transit announced its plans to bring real-time train location information to the L line. As part of the Line Manager program, this innovation would be implemented on a trial basis as one stop along the Canarsie Line with a potential future system-wide roll-out if it proves successful.

Yesterday, the agency unveiled the pilot program at the Myrtle-Wyckoff Aves. station in Bushwick. The NYC Transit press release credits line manager Greg Lombardi’s willingness to listen to customers as well as the technological innovations made possible by the computer-based train control technology along the L. “The idea for this new system came directly from the customers who use the L line every day coupled with Greg Lombardi’s willingness to listen to the issues and then look into finding a way to respond to their concerns,” NYC Transit President Howard H. Roberts said.

Despite this immediate credit, NYC Transit had been eying a possible implementation of this trial program well before the line manager program came into being. This new program simply sped up the process. “This was an extremely worthwhile project. I had strong support and cooperation from everyone involved and it was great to be able to respond to my customers’ ideas on how to improve service,” said Lombardi.

Per the press release:

The Train Locator Console screens are split into two views: the bottom half of the TLC displays the locations of all trains moving along the entire L line; the top half is a magnified view of the station where it is installed, and the next station in both directions. Once the interface design was approved, 42-inch flat-panel monitors were purchased off the shelf and Myrtle-Wyckoff Avenues station was selected for TLC’s pilot location. Two platform screens have been installed along with a third screen in the fare control area for the pilot.

While I’d rather see a system-wide roll-out of a train wait time system, this is a great first step in that process. Now, we just have to see if the pace and scope of this technological innovation can continue in a time of economic crisis.

Photo courtesy of New York City Transit.

Categories : MTA Technology
Comments (14)
  • Paterson pushes Ravitch recommendations · Fresh off of his Carolin Kennedy Senate debacle, Gov. David Paterson is shifting his attention to another no-win situation. As The Times reported yesterday, New York’s chief executive will begin pushing for the Ravtich recommendations when the legislature gathers this month. The State Senate has scheduled two-day hearings on the plan for Feb. 18 and 19, but with the MTA’s March 25 drop-dead date fast approaching, time is of the essence.

    As is New York State politics’ wont, the Senate leaders may need some prodding on this issue. “We obviously want to get clarification of what the project is about, how it works, how the resources are going to be used, how services are going to be impacted one way or the other,” State Senator Bill Perkins said to The Times. “This is a big, big idea, a big, big project that is going to be sort of a signature decision for us in the Senate and the Legislature.” · (0)
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