DesignLine Bus Photo

During the fall of 2007, the MTA along with Design Line International rolled out a diesel turbine hybrid bus that run on 100 percent battery power. At the time, Transit was set to test the buses in Queens and Manhattan before deciding whether or not to order more.

Well, more are on the way. Transit announced on Thursday that eight low-floor, turbine-powered, hybrid-electric buses are bound for New York City as part of a pilot program. The initial test run, currently in progress, will unleash one of these state-of-the-art coaches along the M42 route, and if successful, the MTA could opt to bring this clean green vehicles to bus routes across the city. It is, in the words of Transit spokesman Paul Fleuranges, “yet another example of the agency’s ongoing effort to examine new technology that will help us reduce emissions and provide more economical and environmentally friendly service.”

Fleuranges spoke at lenght about the buses on one of Transit’s TransitTrax podcasts. (Transcript here; MP3 file here) Not only are the buses environmentally-friendly, but they are economically-friendly and audio-friendly as well. In fact, it will be the only bus in Transit’s feelt to meet the EPA’s 2010 emissions standards without the need for exhaust treatment. “The bus is revolutionary,” Joseph J. Smith, a senior vice president at the Department of Buses, said. “It has no starter, no transmission, no water pump and no engine radiator, which should help us significantly reduce our maintenance costs.”

Tim Duncan, the product manager at Design Line, spoke at length about the technology: ” The whole bus is designed so that the batteries run the electric motors and its two electric motors that drive the propulsion system to move the bus along the ground and then, as the batteries get flat, the turbine generator starts up and will charge the batteries. And when the batteries get fully charged it will shut down and the vehicle will run on zero emissions; it’ll run for up to two hours without any emissions, and then when the batteries get low again, then the turbine kicks in.”

The turbine engine also creates far less noise than the city’s current fleet of buses. This will be welcome news to anyone who lives near or above a bus stop. The MTA’s buses are far from quiet.

For now, these buses are udergoing structural testing as part of the New Bus Qualification program. While the Oct. 2007 test runs were simply introductory efforts, this fleet of eight was built to NYC Transit specifications. Also under review are structural aspects of the buses. These buses feature a curved front window designed to give the vehicle a “happy” look and are sleeker than the current buses. As for seating, these vehicles will fit either 35 or 37 with room for 30 standees. The current Orion VII Low Floor buses, by comparison, can seat up to 44, depending upon the configuration, and the city’s articulated buses can seat around 60 passengers.

After 90 days of review, Transit will give its recommendations to Design Line and decide whether to follow through on a purchase order. If the tests are positive, the base order will be for 30 with an option to purchase 60 more buses. In the end, it’s hard not to be excited about these buses. They’re sleek, green, quiet and cheap to maintain. That’s forward thinking at the MTA.

Categories : Buses
Comments (11)
  • The signs have it · Subway signs are rather mysterious creatures. Really do we see work crews hanging up new signs, but somehow, whenever the MTA adjusts its routes, the ubiquitous black signs hanging up in stations change along with it. An article in the Washington Post this week illuminates the sign-making process the District of Columbia’s WMATA. While their system is smaller and less prone to service changes than ours, Metro’s in-house sign shop makes 40,000 signs and decals a year. I can only imagine how busy New York’s own sign-makers are. · (3)
  • Appealing the TWU arbitration decision · According to a report in the Daily News, the MTA plans to ask a judge to toss the TWU arbitration decision and overturn the 11 percent salary hikes. Pete Donohue reports, “A court battle, including appeals, could drag on for more than a year with wages potentially frozen at current levels, lawyers familiar with such litigation said.” The TWU’s public relations firm issued a fairly out-there statement criticizing the MTA for hiring lawyers to take care of their legal business, and the MTA declined to comment. In the end, all of these labor machinations are bound to create ill will between the MTA and its unions, and this story could just drag on for a while. · (10)

75px-NYCS-bull-trans-9.svg I grew up three blocks away from the West Side IRT station at 96th and Broadway. For the first six years of my life, I learned the subway from the front windows of the 1, 2 or 3 trains. The 2 — the old red birds — were my favorite until one day in 1989 when the MTA introduced the 9 train.

Six-year-old Benjamin was smitten. It was a brand new subway train that would stop at his home station and skip some far-away stations in Upper Manhattan and the Bronx in which I as a child never set foot. I was disappointed when I realized that the 9 trains were just 1 trains with a different bullet, but to me, that 9 always looked like a big grin. It was a welcoming child.

In high school, I came to enjoy the 9 train. During my junior and senior years, I would take the subway from 96th St. north up Broadway to 242nd St. before walking up Post Road to my school on 246th St. Each day, I would hope for a 9 train because, in my mind, it was faster. The 9 train skipped four stops north of 125th St. while the 1 skipped only three. It was simple subway math.

After high school, the 9 train faded from my subway conscious. On Sept. 11, 2001, the MTA suspended 9 train service as they had to change a slew of routes to accommodate for the damage to the subway system in and around Ground Zero. While the 9 returned a few days after the one-year anniversary of those terrorist attacks, it was but an afterthought. Less than three years later, it would be wiped from the map, a victim of the northern Manhattan population boom that continues to this day.

Last week, I missed an anniversary of the 9 train, and today, I’d like to revisit the origins of this train. The first nine train rolled off the line Monday, August 21, 1989, twenty years and six days ago. Donatella Lorch reported on this service addition for The Times:

The new service provides ”skip-stop” service between 6:30 A.M and 7 P.M. on weekdays, freeing the old No. 1 local to skip four stops between 137th and 242d Street. The purpose, says the Transit Authority, is to provide a faster and less crowded ride for people in the Bronx and Upper Manhattan. Not everyone believes this will happen. Some passengers say they will spend more time on platforms, transferring or waiting for the right train to come along…

”It slows me down because I have to change trains for no good reason,” complained Frank Gary as he waited yesterday evening at 137th Street for an uptown train to 157th Street. ”I knew about it this morning so I did not get confused.”

Jared Lebow, a Transit Authority spokesman, said the new line would save up to three minutes on a ride from South Ferry to 242d Street. That’s not much, he said, but cumulatively, over the course of a day, enough time is saved to get more use out of the trains. He also said that a total of 28 No. 1 and 9 trains would now run during each rush hour, instead of the 25 that used to run on the No. 1 line.

For 16 years, residents of northern Manhattan complained about the 9 service. While those of us passing through enjoyed the luxury and perceived speed of the seat-saving skip-stop service, people in Marble Hill, Inwood, Washington Heights and Harlem felt slighted by the MTA.

By 2005, the need for this service had greatly diminished. In fact, as the skipped stations had grown in ridership, Transit had to restore full-line service to Upper Manhattan and the Bronx, and 12,000 per day experienced more frequent service when the 9 was axed. “Skip-stop service on the 1 line is an idea which today doesn’t make sense for our operations or our customers,” Lawrence G. Reuter, the president of New York City Transit at the time, said to Sewell Chan in 2005. “By eliminating skip-stop service, the majority of riders along the 1 line will benefit from shorter travel times and will no longer have to stand on platforms as trains pass them by during rush hour.”

The last 9 train rode up and down the West Side IRT local tracks on May 31, 2005, and it passed quietly into subway lore. Twenty years ago last week, it debuted, and now it is but a memory in the minds of New Yorkers, a fleeting part of straphanger past.

Categories : Subway History
Comments (24)

The New York State Senate is a model legislature. Currently on vacation after its taxing summer, the Senate does not have a near-broke and currently-leaderless transit authority on its hands, and a nomination for the Chairmanship of this important body is not sitting on the docket.

Hold on. Let me try that again. The New York State Senate, a model for inept state government, is currently on vacation after making a mockery of itself earlier this year. On its docket rests the nomination of Jay Walder as the MTA head by David Paterson, the embattled governor of New York. As retribution for Paterson’s early-summer machinations surrounding the delinquent legislature, the Senate Democrats plan to grill Walder for all he’s got. Despite his qualifications, despite his pedigree, he will not escape a hearing.

Today, we find out that the political show, at the taxpayer’s expense, will be meaningless. amNew York’s Heather Haddon reports that the Senate will pick up Walder’s nomination on its first day in session and that he will be confirmed. She reports:

The state Senate will discuss Gov. David Paterson’s nominee for the new MTA chief on its first day back in session, said Austin Shafran, spokesman for Democratic Senate President Malcolm Smith.

Last month, Paterson nominated Walder, a former MTA executive and manager of London’s transit system, as the agency’s CEO and chair, a new merged position. Prior to the confirmation, the Senate will hold joint public hearings on Walder in Long Island and Harlem, Shafran said. Senate sources believe Walder is a shoe-in for the job because of his extensive work experience.

So tell me again what the point of this drama is. Walder should have been confirmed last month before the Senate recessed for the summer. He will face the same questions and same level of Senate oversight over the next few weeks as he would have last month. Futhermore, as the MTA grapples with a $10 billion capital program funding gap and myriad other economic issues, Walder needs to be on the job.

The State Senate is an embarrassment to New York. We can’t let them hold the city and its transportation needs hostage. Walder should be confirmed and soon.

Categories : MTA Politics
Comments (3)
  • 181st St. station to remain closed indefinitely · This comes as little surprise to those of us following the story, but the Daily News is reporting today that the 181st St. station on the 1 line “isn’t opening anytime soon,” according to transit officials. While workers have cleared debris from the tracks and trains are now running through the station, Transit has no timetable for completing repairs to the 103-year-old station. Employees at the station entrance said it would be at least a “few more weeks.”

    Meanwhile, as part of the collateral damage, the businesses on the mezzanine level are concerned about the loss of traffic through the normally packed station. “It’s a killer,” Hassan Cheikhali said to the News. “If it stays like this, we’ll have to close. But the MTA, they don’t care. They didn’t say anything.” It sounds like Second Ave. all over again. · (2)

A few weeks ago, the MTA unveiled its next five-year capital plan. They did so a few months earlier than usual with the idea that the public would have ample time to comment on the plans and offer some feedback. Already, politicians are angling for capital projects, and this lobbying raises some interesting transit-related questions.

Today’s story of politicos looking for money — what else do they do anyway? — comes to us from Queens. According to NY1 News, a few Queens politicians want the MTA to rehab the J/Z elevated structure:

Queens council member Elizabeth Crowley and Senator Joseph Addabo Junior called on the state Monday to approve the MTA’s four-year capital plan, which includes restoring and repainting the structure that runs above Jamaica Avenue in Woodhaven.

“This train station serves a major purpose for our people. It’s been deteriorating and it has been deteriorating since I was a kid. It’s important to get it fixed,” Addabo said.

“I firmly believe once this is repainted it will attract more businesses to Jamaica Avenue, mores shoppers and overall economic growth,” Crowley said.

Addabbo and Crowley say existing structures should get priority over new MTA projects.

It’s that last line that is key to Addabbo and Crowley’s little headline-grabbing press conference. Of course, the elevation Jamaica Ave. structure in Woodhaven needs some work. Which above-ground subway lines, after all, are in good condition? None that I can think of.

But that last statement makes me wonder about the MTA’s priorities and the ways in which city residents see those priorities. I live in Park Slope in Brooklyn. I take the Q on a regular basis, but when it heads past 57th St. and curls north to Second Ave., I won’t notice. I’ll still ride it just to Chinatown or Midtown. Meanwhile, the Q station I use — at 7th Ave. and Flatbush Ave. — is a mess. There aren’t enough seats. There aren’t enough garbage cans. The closed staircases to a now-neglected mezzanine are used as bathrooms by homeless wanderers.

When push comes to shove, the vast majority of New Yorkers won’t derive much of a benefit from the Second Ave. Subway, the 7 Line Extension or the East Side Access project. We will, however, see our stations deteriorate — or collapse — and we will see our system age.

As the MTA faces the reality of a capital plan that is facing a $10 billion budget gap, the agency may have to make some uncomfortable choices. It may have to choose between funding some projects and neglecting others. Should, as Addabbo and Crowley say, the MTA give priority to existing structures over new projects? That state of good repair looms large over our subways.

In the end, reality is far from this simple. It never is easy. The MTA has to invest money in its currently aging infrastructure, but it also has to keep an eye toward an expanding city that is maxing out the capacity of its subway system. The MTA has to build its mega-projects, and it has to keep asking for money for these mega-projects. We need a system in good repair, but we need a system that can adequately meet the demands of the city as well.

Comments (17)
  • White Plains Line (5) Express service suspended until November · As a service to those SAS readers who ride the 5 in the Bronx, an announcement: Due to signal modernization efforts at E. 180th St., Transit will be suspending 5 express service in both directions along the White Plains Line in the Bronx from now until Nov. 11, 2009. All trains will run local between the 3rd Ave./E. 149th St. station and the E. 180th St. station. Furthermore, during the afternoon rush, four northbound 5 trains that usually run to Nereid Ave. will terminate at E. 180th St. Transit urges riders to switch to northbound 2 trains at E. 180th St. or other Nereid Ave.-bound 5 trains.

    Per the agency press release, “The three month suspension of express service is necessary in order to accommodate the ongoing $280 million East 180th Street Signal Modernization Project. The scope of work includes the reconfiguration of track, installation of new signal equipment, the construction of a new relay room and additional Automatic Train Supervision (ATS) functionality for the Dyre/White Plains Road line.” It’s another part of the piecemeal system upgrade that should one day allow for CBTC and OPTO trains on the IRT lines. · (5)
  • DC’s Metro moves toward a fully wired system · In Sept. 2007, the MTA announced plans to wire all underground subway stations for cell service. Nearly two years later, nothing has come from the ten-year contract the MTA inked with a less-than-secure company. Meanwhile, a few hundred miles to the south, the District of Columbia’s WMATA is continuing their slow and steady march to a fully equipped underground cell network, and the transit authority’s plans to wire their tunnels within three years is still on target.

    According to a report last week on DCist, the WMATA is set to unveil the first phase of its plan in October. Shortly after Columbus Day, cell service for all four major carriers will be available in the 20 busiest Metro stations. By the end of 2010, the rest of the system’s underground stations will have cell service, and by October 2012, the tunnels will be cell-equipped as well. I know New York’s system is far older and more expansive than DC’s Metro. I know the challenges are greater in the city, but DC has been working to implement service since 2000. New York’s own MTA continues to fall further and further behind its technologically-advanced competitors. · (3)

In case of emergency, go around. (Photo by flickr user rlboston)

For reasons unknown to me, this summer has been one of ethics underground. We started it off with a brief post on the emergency exit debate, and we will end it there as well.

This time, WNYC’s Matthew Schuerman provides us with the source material. Schuerman recently went underground to talk to straphangers about their views on the emergency exits and those who ignore the whole “emergency” part of the exit. His results and analysis of the various types of riders reveal a lot about New Yorkers’ approaches to subway riding. Mostly, it seems, we are a selfish bunch when it comes to following the rules. As long as I get home faster, many think, I don’t care what the signs say.

The NPR story — embedded at right — focuses on the “ear-splitting” emergency exit alarms and the three categories of people who use them. Schuerman starts with what he terms Trailblazers, those who use the emergency exits with little regard to anyone else. “Quite frankly when I’m leaving the subway it’s always an emergency because I need to get home,” Kasia Reterska, a PR officer at the International Center for Transitional Justice, said to him. Selfish much?

The second group of people Schuerman calls Pragmatists, and I’m sure we’re all a little bit of a pragmatist. These are the folks who will go through emergency exits as long as someone else has opened it. It’s even more pragmatic if the station attendant has disabled the alarm.

Finally, Schuerman arrives at the Moralists, those who think it wrong no matter what. The sign says “Emergency Exit,” and unless it’s a real emergency, that exit will remain closed. “You know,” Nicki Garcia said, “it’s not an emergency to leave here.”

As for Transit’s response to those Trailblazers and Pragmatists, well, it is against subway rules to use the emergency exits in non-emergency situations. As of mid-August, cops had handed out 871 emergency exit-related $50 tickets, but that total is but a drop in the bucket compared with the total number of violators. Andrew Albert, the transit riders representative to the MTA board, believes that Transit should eliminate the emergency exits in favor of more HEETs or turnstiles. After all, most New Yorkers, he says, are too impatient to wait at emergency exits. Still, Transit has no plans to do so.

In the end, I am left wondering if Jose Ponce and Reterska are indicative of the attitude of subway riders. “Sometimes it’s too packed and you’re in a rush and the alarms go off and it gets annoying,” he said. “You gotta get somewhere, man, everybody has to gotta get somewhere, just turn them off, that’s what I think – turn them off.”

We all have to get somewhere, and the rules should not apply to me. These are the people in your subway car.

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