• 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)

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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)

sasmap Businesses along Second Ave. may be suffering through the pains of construction, but according to one politician, the city is enjoying some substantial benefits from the ongoing effort to build the Second Ave. subway.

Caroline Maloney, House representative from New York’s 14th District, issued a report this week touting the job-creation benefits of the MTA’s capital project. At a time when New York is hemorrhaging jobs, Maloney has certainly found a silver lining.

“The Second Avenue Subway and East Side Access are moving forward and creating thousands of jobs literally beneath our feet,” Maloney said at a news conference this week. “The stock market may be slumping, but these two transit megaprojects are delivering a very healthy return on the federal and state investments in them. The Second Avenue Subway and East Side Access have already created tens of thousands of jobs and generated billions in revenue. While these projects won’t cure everything that ails our economy, they are a huge help in getting us back on track.”

Per her report, supposedly available here but inaccessible last night, the Second Ave. subway has created 16,000 jobs, generated $842 million in wages and produced $2.87 billion in economic activity for the city. She estimates that the final total economic activity generated of what I have to believe is Phase I of construction will be around $4.347 billion.

Despite these lofty numbers, it is hard to ignore the downturn in business along the construction site. Maloney’s report, however, reinforces something I have been saying for a while: People may suffer in the short term, but the long-term gains from having any part of the Second Ave. subway up and running far outweigh the present losses. That doesn’t — and shouldn’t — make Second Ave. business owners feel good about the downturn in business, but the rest of us should know better.

Meanwhile, as Maloney touted this new subway line and the East Side Access project as New York’s local version of a stimulus, her fellow pols reiterated their support for the oft-delayed project. “This is the ultimate stimulus package,” Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer said. “We don’t want to be talking about a third groundbreaking 20 years from now.”

Now if only the MTA could secure enough in funding to build a line the length of Manhattan, everything would be all set for the seemingly cursed subway line. But right now, I’m not betting past Phase I.

Comments (4)
Feb
05

Improvising a garbage can

By · Comments (7) ·

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Where: The south end of the Manhattan-bound platform at the Q/B stop at 7th Ave. in Brooklyn.
When: Now and then, but specifically, January 30 at around 12:30 p.m.

The garbage cans at the 7th Ave. station are near the staircases at the extreme other end of the platform. Yet, people congregate near the back of the train in droves during the morning. With the nearest garbage cans the equivalent of a city block and a half away, straphangers improvise. Here, the garbage can is a nook created by a pipe connecting the newer part of the station with the original area. Perhaps a real garbage can or two at other ends of the city’s subway stations would make for a cleaner system overall.

Comments (7)

Brooklyn Fare Hike Hearing

Brooklynites protest the MTA’s planned fare hikes and service cuts. (Photo by Benjamin Kabak)

Now that the MTA’s public comment period for its planned service hikes and fare cuts has wrapped up, we can conduct something of a post mortem on the hearings. I sat through parts of two of them, and based on what I saw and based on what I’ve heard about the other hearings, a trend emerged: Riders and politicians were very unhappy with the MTA, but few were willing to embrace the sacrifices saving the MTA will entail.

In wrapping up the details about the hearings, the stories are old. Hundreds more people than usual showed up to voice their complaints, but attendance by many MTA Board members was less than impressive. Those two Pete Donohue stories border on the “dog bites man” level of news. Obviously, people are upset, and obviously, those MTA Board members who don’t care won’t show up.

The problem, though, extends well beyond apathetic board members. Speaker after speaker at the hearings I attended lambasted the MTA for its poor planning. They remain skeptical of the authority’s book-keeping after 2005′s dual books debacle that revealed a surplus when the MTA was crying deficit. They slammed the agency for looking to double paratransit fares and bemoaned bus line elimination and the closing of stations that, frankly, could be shuttered overnight.

What no one really supported were tolls on the East River bridges that would impact far fewer people than a poorly funded subway system. What no one supported was a payroll tax. What no one supported were the alternate plans to jack of car registration fees, on-street parking rates, a congestion fee or mandatory residential parking permits. Money for the MTA, it seems, should just rain down from the sky without anyone’s having to give up anything in return.

Life doesn’t work like that, and at least the one man in charge of the MTA knows it. In a column in The Queens Courier yesterday, MTA CEO and Executive Director Elliot Sander called upon the hundreds who protested to take real action. He writes:

At public hearings held across the city this month, I have heard strong objections from hundreds of MTA customers about the fare and toll increase and service cuts the MTA has been forced to propose. You may be surprised by my reaction: I agree with you. A 25 percent fare increase is too much, especially in this economic environment. Moreover, with transit ridership growing, I agree that now is the time to be adding service, not cutting it. These painful measures can be avoided, but only with your help…

After 25 years of dramatic improvement, New York’s transit network is clearly at a crossroads. A lack of funding threatens to derail unprecedented progress and send us in the wrong direction. If Albany does not act soon, our customers will be faced with drastic fare and toll increases and service cuts, and the system will risk falling into disrepair.

Please call or write your local state senator and assembly member and urge them to support the Ravitch recommendations to provide a steady, long-term funding stream for the MTA. Make sure our legislators understand the importance of the MTA’s transit network to all New Yorkers. Providing the region with efficient and reliable transportation options will keep our hardworking men and women and our economy moving forward.

The MTA has to balance its operations books. It’s a legal requirement. They don’t want to cut service. They don’t want to raise fares. But they will, and now it’s up to the rest of us to act. Heed Sander’s words and call your representatives. Otherwise, we’re in for a long decline as New York City, with its fate tethered to the subways, stares into the abyss of bad and inadequate public transit service.

Categories : Fare Hikes, Service Cuts
Comments (5)
  • The paradox of public transit investment · A few months ago, with gas prices at all-time highs, commuters started flocking to public transit in record numbers. When the economy — and oil futures — tanked, a funny thing happened on the way to work: People continued to rely on public transit, and ridership has continued to increase. It is, then, alarming to read in The Times today about how mass transit systems around the nation are suffering from major budget crises. Meanwhile, the Senate is debating amendments to strip transit from the stimulus bill while propping up highways.

    It’s tough to understand the rationale behind that move. The nation needs public transit. It needs it environmentally; it needs it economically. Right now, the public have shown that they will use public transit, and to read that cities are cutting thousands of bus stops and service options in the face of record high ridership numbers is to fear for the future of the nation. While I try to stay focused on New York City issues here, nationwide transit impacts us all. The new Streetsblog Network covers this issue in depth, and now is the time for action on public transit in the New York area and around the U.S. · (9)
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