In a few hours, I’m going to get both my flu shot and my H1N1 vaccine. Luckily, NYU is making these sometimes hard-to-get shots available to students, but I know that many New Yorkers do not enjoy the benefits of group health care. What do you do then when someone on your train is hacking up a lung without so much as cursory attempt to cover his or her mouth?

In today’s economy, people can ill afford to take sick days. Workers need to be at their best, and most people need the money. When one gets sick, one is often inclined to ride it out while heading to work, and generally, riding it out means, literally, riding on the subway while sick. Meanwhile, with Swine Flu fears on the rise, with the government proclaiming health emergencies, New Yorkers generally wary of the petri dish of the subways are even less tolerance of the underground coughers.

Today, Lawrence Delevinge has a story for our times about a fight on his D train over Swine Flu fears:

If you think tensions over swine flu are exaggerated, think again. We saw a violent altercation between two women this morning on the New York City subway because of H1N1.

The D train was traveling south from Rockefeller Center (50th Street) to Bryant Park (42nd Street) shortly after 8:00 am. One woman, perhaps 5’7″, slightly overweight and with dyed reddish blond hair, was coughing without covering her mouth. Maybe it was swine flu, maybe not.

Another woman, roughly 5’2″, stocky, with her blond hair in a slicked-back bun, was nearby, clearly displeased. She made a curt comment to the first woman, something to the effect of “you need to cover your mouth — I don’t want swine flu.”

The second woman continued to yell at the cougher, berating her until she reacted, beginning to curse back. It escalated, and the accosting woman yelled “get the conductor!”

No one got the conductor — it just seemed like a shouting match — but as the train pulled into 42nd Street, the coughing woman spit on the other, provoking what sounded like a punch from the reaction of the crowd (we didn’t directly see it). Then the cougher attempted to exit the train as the doors were open, but the second woman grabbed her by the back of the hair, violently yanking her down to the floor.

Eventually, the two were separated, and one of the women got off at 34th St. The other passengers, though, sided with the displeased straphanger. They noted that the offender “wasn’t even covering her mouth,” and another passenger said that he “could have decked her too. That swine flu is treacherous.”

There is little doubt in my mind what the proper course of action is. Although these two women should not have come to blows, a person who is sick but has to ride the subway must make every effort to limit the spray. I routinely see people coughing without covering their mouths, and it is, frankly, disgusting. Even without Swine Flu fears, people riding the subway should be more mindful of their germs. With the threat of a debilitating illness, though, now is the time to be ever-vigilant.

I know some of you might say I don’t go far enough. Maybe people who are sick shouldn’t ride the subways at all. In an ideal world, they would stay home and recuperate. But when a sick day isn’t an option, the rest of us on a packed subway car shouldn’t have to suffer as well.

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Today is Collection Day for the MTA. As the agency continues along without drastic fare hikes and service cuts after last year’s Doomsday budget scare, they do so at the expense of all of us. Taxi fares rose by 50 cents yesterday, and car registration and driver licensing fees increased a few months ago. Today, though, is the first day of collection for the payroll tax, and no one is happy about it.

To recap: After nearly six months of warnings, hearings and general politicking about the MTA’s $1.9 billion budget gap, the New York State legislature averred a 33 percent fare hike and some very steep service cuts by enacting a piece-meal bailout package. Although congestion pricing and East River bridge tolls were a few of the more equitable options on the table, the state tried to spread the pain around. by levying a 0.33 percent payroll tax, an MTA taxi surcharge, an auto-rental tax increase and, as I mentioned above, higher registration and licensing fees.

With those taxes and fees now a reality, Michael Grynbaum explores how few find them acceptable in practice. In theory, of course, bridge toll opponents claimed those tolls would harm the economy, but in reality, these taxes are far worse. Reports Grynbaum:

But the payroll tax has prompted the most animosity so far, most of it coming from suburban business leaders in the 12-county region who argued that their tax burden greatly outweighed the benefits they receive from the transportation authority. The tax also has drawn strong objections from private and religious schools whose officials say they are being forced to cut services and possibly raise tuition while public schools in the area get a pass.

Under terms hammered out in May by state lawmakers, public school districts will be reimbursed for the tax, which costs businesses 34 cents for every $100 of wages. The unusual provision was intended by the bill’s backers to win over reluctant legislators, but other nonprofit groups were not exempted.

“It’s really an issue, I think, of basic fairness,” said James Cultrara, education director for the New York State Catholic Conference, an advocacy group that represents the state’s Catholic schools. “Certainly we can understand why the Legislature would want to reimburse the public schools. Why not then also reimburse the Catholic and other private schools?”

Grynbaum notes that Albany may eventually allow reimbursement to independent schools as well, but for now, there is no relief in sight. With donations down to due to a slumping economy, schools are among the hardest hit. One school in Harlem will shutter its after-school basketball program to make up for the payroll tax short fall while others will try to hit up potential donors for more money.

Still, some government officials noted that the alternative — a drastically reduced MTA — is worse. “The MTA is part of the economic lifeblood of the region itself,” Tom Bergen from the state’s Department of Taxation and Finance, said. “Businesses benefit substantially from having the MTA serving as a transportation infrastructure.”

Some advocates called for a better solution from Albany and an end to unfair taxes. The answer is simple: Toll the East River bridges or institute a form of congestion pricing. The technology exists so that bridge tolls do not slow down traffic. Meanwhile, since numerous transit options exist in between the geographical landmass of Long Island and Manhattan, the tolls would simply be the cost of driving as opposed to the cost I pay to ride the subway.

Small businesses will object, but those owners will benefit from decreased traffic due to less congestion. Meanwhile, they are also better positioned to pass the incrementally higher costs on to consumers. Bridge tolls would, in fact, increase revenues for those people who rely on the roads and cross the river numerous times a day.

For now, everyone will suffer with this payroll tax. The MTA alternative was worse, but tolling the bridges would be a way out of this mess for all involved. Who has the political will to make it a reality?

Categories : MTA Economics
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For the last few weeks, Brooklyn residents have been slammed with F train service advisories. With no service between Jay St. and Church Ave., shuttle buses have been covering Boerum Hill, Carroll Gardens, Park Slope, Windsor Terrace and Kensingon, and residents were not happy.

This weekend, the work is paused, and The Brooklyn Paper delved into the service situation. The article mostly focuses on rider complaints about service changes, but Jordan Galloway brings up a good point: The service changes signs do not go up in stations until Thursday night, leaving riders with little to no advanced warning. The MTA defending the practice, according to Galloway:

Seaton partly blamed riders for the confusion about the necessary weekend service changes, saying that those yellow construction signs that go up in stations on Thursday nights are actually the last link in the MTA’s customer service outreach, which includes e-mail alerts and announcements on the agency’s Web site two weeks prior to construction. Station signs go up at the last minute to prevent damage, he added.

The problem, of course, lies in the web. The MTA’s website is, as I’ve mentioned numerous times, an utter disaster. It hasn’t been substantially redesigned in over six years, and there’s far too much information with no discernible effort to highlight the more useful parts. To better improve customer service, Jay Walder should urge the MTA to overhaul its website. That way, New Yorkers can turn to it for subway alerts without having to dig around for them. Then, no one will be surprised by service changes.

With that said, on to the service advisories. Don’t forget to check out our map from Subway Weekender that shows just how the subway changes impact travel. Download this week’s map right here or by clicking on the image below. Remember: These weekend service changes come to me from the MTA and are subject to change without notice. Check signs in your local station and listen for on-board announcements for up-to-the minute changes. The specific alerts follow.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, October 31 to 5 a.m. Monday, November 2, downtown 1 trains skip 137th, 125th, 116th, 110th, and 103rd Streets due to flood mitigation measures at 103rd Street, 123rd Street, and 134th Street.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, October 31 to 5 a.m. Monday, November 2, uptown 1/2 trains skip 50th, 59th, 66th, 79th, and 86th Streets due to Station Rehabilitation at 96th Street and 59th Street, and Tunnel Lighting Rehabilitation.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, October 31 to 5 a.m. Monday, November 2, downtown 4 trains run local from 125th Street to Brooklyn Bridge due to Broadway-Lafayette Street to Bleecker Street transfer construction.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, October 31 to 5 a.m. Monday, November 2, uptown 4 trains run express from Brooklyn Bridge to 14th Street, then local to 125th Street due to Broadway-Lafayette Street to Bleecker Street transfer construction.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, October 31 to 5 a.m. Monday, November 2, there are no 5 trains between Bowling Green and Grand Central-42nd Street due to Broadway-Lafayette Street to Bleecker Street transfer construction. Customers should take the 4 instead.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, October 31 to 5 a.m. Monday, November 2, uptown 6 trains run express from Brooklyn Bridge to 14th Street due to Broadway-Lafayette Street to Bleecker Street transfer construction.

From 4 a.m. Saturday, October 31 to 10 p.m. Sunday, November 1, Manhattan-bound 7 trains skip 111th, 103rd, 90th, 82nd, 74th, 69th, 52nd, 46th, 40th, and 33rd Streets due to track panel installation.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, October 31 to 5 a.m. Monday, November 2, uptown A trains skip 135th, 155th, and 163rd Streets due to track chip out.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, October 31 to 5 a.m. Monday, November 2, Brooklyn-bound A trains run local from 59th Street to West 4th Street, then on the F line from West 4th Street to Jay Street due to Chambers Street signal Modernization.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, October 31 to 5 a.m. Monday, November 2, A trains run local between Hoyt-Schermerhorn Sts. and Euclid Avenue due to Chambers Street signal Modernization.

At all times until December 21, 2009, Manhattan-bound AS platforms at Beach 90th and Beach 105th Streets are closed for rehabilitation. Free shuttle buses replace S trains between Rockaway Park and Beach 60th Street.

From 6:30 a.m. to midnight, Saturday, October 31 and Sunday, November 1, uptown C trains skip 135th, 155th, and 163rd Streets due to track chip out.

From 6:30 a.m. to midnight, Saturday, October 31 and Sunday, November 1, there are no C trains between Chambers Street-World Trade Center and Euclid Avenue due to Chambers Street Signal Modernization. Customers should take the A instead. Note: C trains run on the E track to and from Chambers Street-World Trade Center.

From 5 a.m. Saturday, October 31 to 10 p.m. Sunday, November 1, Coney Island-bound D trains run on the N line from 36th Street (Brooklyn) to Coney Island-Stillwell Avenue due to track panel installation between 20th Avenue and 25th Avenue.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, October 31 to 5 a.m. Monday, November 2, D trains run local between 34th Street-Herald Square and West 4th Street due to the 5th Avenue Interlocking Signal System Modernization.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, October 31 to 5 a.m. Monday, November 2, Bronx-bound D trains run local from 125th Street to 145th Street due to track chip out.

From 12:01 a.m. to 5 a.m. Saturday, October 31, Bronx-bound D trains skip 170th and 174th-175th Streets due to track cleaning.

From 12:01 a.m. to 5 a.m. Sunday, November 1, Bronx-bound D trains skip 182nd-183rd Streets due to track cleaning.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, October 31 to 5 a.m. Monday, November 2, E trains are rerouted on the F line between Manhattan and Queens due to the 5th Avenue Interlocking Signal System Modernization:

  • There are no E trains between 34th Street and World Trade Center.
  • Queens-bound E trains run on the F line from 34th Street-Herald Square to 21st Street-Queensbridge; trains resume normal E service from Roosevelt Avenue to Jamaica Center.
  • Manhattan-bound E trains run on the F line from 47th-50th Streets to 34th Street-Herald Square.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, October 31 to 5 a.m. Monday, November 2, Queens-bound E platforms at 5th Avenue, Lexington Avenue-53rd Street, 23rd Street-Ely Avenue, and Queens Plaza stations are closed due to the 5th Avenue Interlocking Signal System Modernization: Customers may take the R, G or 6 instead. Note: Free shuttle buses connect the Court Square G/23rd Street-Ely Avenue, Queens Plaza, and 21st Street-Queensbridge F stations.

At all times until November 7, 2009, Queens-bound EGR trains skip Northern Boulevard due to closure of the northern-side street stairway.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, October 31 to 5 a.m. Monday, November 2, Manhattan-bound F trains run on the A line from Jay Street to West 4th Street due to Tunnel Lighting Rehabilitation.

From 8:30 p.m. to midnight Friday, October 30, and from 6:30 a.m. to midnight Saturday, October 31 and Sunday, November 1, there are no G trains between Forest Hills-71st Avenue and Court Square due to the 5th Avenue Interlocking Signal System Modernization. Brooklyn-bound G customers may take the R to Queens Plaza and transfer to a shuttle bus connecting to Court Square. Queens-bound G customers may take the R instead.

From 11:30 p.m. Friday, October 30 to 5 a.m. Monday, November 2, free shuttle buses replace L trains between Lorimer Street and Myrtle-Wyckoff Avenues due to a track chip-out at Jefferson Street station.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, October 31 to 5 a.m. Monday, November 2, Manhattan-bound N trains are rerouted over the Manhattan Bridge from DeKalb Avenue to Canal Street in both directions due to general maintenance.

From 6:30 a.m. to midnight, Saturday, October 31 and Sunday, November 1, Manhattan-bound R trains are rerouted over the Manhattan Bridge from DeKalb Avenue to Canal Street due to general maintenance.

Categories : Service Advisories
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New Yorkers know the pain of the Manhattan Bridge. With the subway tracks on the outside of the bridge, the bridge sways as trains pass over the East River. After decades of neglect, the bridge was severely destabilized by the early 1980s, and the city has invest nearly $830 million to repair and stabilize the now-100-year-old structure.

Throughout the 1980s and 1990s — in fact, until 2004 — subway diversions were rampant. Sometimes, trains ran over only the Broadway side of the bridge, and Sixth Ave.-bound customers were out of luck. Sometimes, trains ran only over the 6th Ave. side., and Broadway-bound straphangers had to factor in an extra ten minutes for the trip through the Montague St. tunnel and Lower Manhattan. Well, Brooklyn, get ready to relive that subway nightmare on the weekends again soon.

The city is set to award contracts for the final phase of the bridge restoration, and as The Times, reports today, the plan to replace every support cable will mean four years of weekend subway diversion. Patrick McGeehan writes:

A $150 million project to replace all of the vertical suspension cables on the 100-year-old Manhattan Bridge will cause sporadic weekend disruptions in subway service and require closings of the bikeway and some traffic lanes for parts of the next four years, city transportation officials said this week…

Skanska has said that it will complete the work, which includes replacing the necklaces of lights that illuminate the bridge’s outer cables, in three and a half years. Mr. Gill said the city could penalize the company if it did not complete the work on schedule.

During that period, subway service across the bridge on the B, D, N and Q lines will be suspended on as many as eight weekends, Mr. Gill said. The schedule for those suspensions has not yet been determined, said Seth Solomonow, the department’s spokesman.

The bikeway on the north side of the bridge will also be closed for as long as eight months during the project, which is expected to begin by early next year and end in mid-2013, Mr. Gill said.

So subway riders will be out of luck, and bikers and pedestrians will have to share space. I wonder if the city gave any thought to shuttering a lane of traffic and allow bikes to enjoy some dedicated space. The bridge is, after all, quite popular with cyclists who want to avoid the tourist-infested Brooklyn Bridge walk way to the south.

Ben Fried at Streetsblog today also makes a thought-provoking point about this work. “Whenever the prospect of funding our transit system with bridge tolls or congestion pricing arises, you can count on a hue and cry from aggrieved motorists about subsidizing other people’s commutes. But if the bridges stay free, who’s really paying for somebody else’s ride?” he ask, and then answers: “As long as there’s no price on these bridges, we all pay for those free rides.” Indeed we do, and now we’ll pay with delayed and diverted subway routes as well.

Categories : Brooklyn
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  • Skanska hits a Second Ave. water main · Construction crews at work on relocating utilities along Second Ave. hit a water main yesterday afternoon. Skanska workers digging at 66th St. ruptured a pipe and subsequently flooded a mechanical room at the Memorial-Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. Service was not interrupted, and the water was cleared quickly. Skanska, reports The Post will fund the necessary infrastructure repairs. · (0)

TaxiLogo Did you know that taxi fares increase on Sunday? Did you know that the increase goes to the MTA?

As part of the piecemeal MTA bailout package, Albany approved a 50-cent surcharge on all metered taxi rides. That surcharge goes into effect on Sunday, and as amNew York’s Heather Haddon reports, neither cabs drivers nor taxi passengers are looking forward to it.

With the price just to enter a cab heading up to $3.00, New Yorkers are bemoaning the fees. “It was already out of control. Now it’s even worse,” Kim Dae, a so-called “frequent taxi rider” and West Village resident, said. Of course, therein lies the rub. Ms. Dae lives in the West Village, an area serviced by around 11 subway lines depending upon by which stop she lives. She might enjoy taking a cab, but the millions of us who ride the subway every day need the trains to run.

The taxi drivers, though, may have a legitimate gripe with the surcharge. Writes Haddon:

Taxi drivers are livid about the new fee, saying it will be difficult to collect and hurt their business. They are also fuming that new door stickers list the initial fare as $3, making it seem like drivers are getting a raise, said Bhairavi Desai, director of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, which represents 12,000 drivers.

“We think it’s deceptive,” Desai said.

The tax will be itemized on ride receipts, and listed on the interior TV screens and rate cards, a Taxi and Limousine Commission spokesman said. “The TLC will continually monitor the proper implementation of the meter change,” the agency said in a statement.

The enforcement and collection issues remain unaddressed. Critics of the taxi surcharge plan have long wondered how much it will cost simply to collect fifty cents per taxi ride from the city’s licensed hacks. It will require more diligent record-keeper than that currently employed by drivers to the Taxi and Limousine Commission.

Drivers, meanwhile, as Desai points out, draw the short straw. If the surcharge is not clearly demarcated as supporting the MTA, riders will think the drivers are drawing in more revenue when, in fact, the opposite is true. Tips may go down, and the already-strained driver/passenger relationship may get worse.

To end Haddon’s piece, Straphangers Campaign head Gene Russianoff issued a platitude as a statement. “No one likes a tax,” he said, “but no one likes a sky-high transit fare or cuts to service either.” The answer, though, is simple, and it is one I have repeated numerous times. Instead of taxing the taxis, toll the bridges. The money would flow directly from the MTA and would represent a more equitable reallocation of resources than the taxi surcharge will.

On Wednesday, Lieutenant Governor Richard Ravitch told an audience at NYU that bridge tolls will one day happen. When it does, the city and its public transit will be better off for it, and we can attempt to leave this stopgap array of taxes and fees in the dust.

Categories : MTA Economics, Taxis
Comments (16)

Yesterday, I examined Bloomberg’s transportation record in the run-up to next week’s mayoral race. Today, let’s explore what Bill Thompson is proposing for he alleges to be a sensible transit strategy for New York City.

For much of the election cycle, current Comptroller Bill Thompson has been mostly silent on the issue of public transportation in New York City. While he has taken a seemingly pro-car stand against bike lanes (October, September), his statements about transit have been seemingly muted.

Muted, that is, until this week. On Tuesday, Thompson attempted to engage in a war of words over transit with Mayor Bloomberg. Per Celeste Katz, Thompson faulted Bloomberg for the MTA’s problems:

Thompson says Bloomberg’s “top-down decision-making approach has led to two fare hikes in 15 months, service cuts, and crumbling subway stations. As fares have gone up, the Mayor and his MTA appointees have been largely silent.”

Thompson said he’d “appoint MTA Board members who are transit activists and more representatives of the riding public—unlike the Bloomberg Administration’s loyalists who have no special knowledge or even prior familiarity with transit. And my appointees will be instructed that raising fares will not be the silver bullet solution to the MTA’s mismanagement and bloated budget.”

In one sense, Thompson is right. Bloomberg’s MTA Board appointees have no real transit experience and no special knowledge to bring to the table. The four votes under mayoral control include a pair of lawyers, a former OMB head and an ex-city official. True advocates for sensible transit they are not.

But on the other hand, Thompson misses the point. Bloomberg’s supposed “top-down decision-making approach” hasn’t led to the fare hikes. Rather, his withdrawal of city subsidies for the MTA has led to some major budgetary constraints at the transit agency. The city once contributed up to 10 percent of the MTA’s capital budget; now, the Big Apple sends just $60 million — or one percent of the MTA’s capital budget — to the agency. If Thompson were serious about supporting transit and if he wanted to attack Bloomberg, that would be his talking point.

So what then has Thompson been saying? He has a page on his campaign website dedicated to transit, but unlike Bloomberg, he has no long-term mobility plan. Rather, Thompson advocates for nothing too radical. He will:

  • Appoint transit activists who represent riders to the MTA Board.
  • Support tighter control and more oversight of public authorities.
  • Fight for more city-based MTA funding.
  • “Review MTA capital projects to make sure projects like the 7-line extension continue to make economic and transportation sense. If they don’t, look at other options like light rail or BRT that could do the job less expensively.”
  • Expand the Bus Rapid Transit system.
  • Maintain the station agent program.
  • “Object when the MTA tries to cut service, as it recently did on 38 bus lines with little public input and little justification.”
  • “Involve the public from the beginning in making decisions about transportation, so that residents are not blind-sided about decisions that affect their commutes or businesses.”

The bullets in quotes are his words; the rest are paraphrased. My favorite is the one about objecting to MTA service cuts. He won’t promise to fund the MTA, but he will object! That’s standing up for New Yorkers.

Thompson’s transit policies show no coherence and no plan. He wants to “involve the public” even though the public has already been involved. He wants to review MTA capital projects even though he has no authority to do so, and he doesn’t seem to understand that the 7 line extension is a city-funded project that won’t be stopped right now.

I don’t believe a Thompson mayoralty would bring much innovation to transit. If he is elected, though, his impact on the MTA will be minimal. The same holds true for Bloomberg. Unless these two candidates are willing to fork over the big bucks, their transit campaigns are mostly just talking points and populist appeals with little force behind the words.

Categories : MTA Politics
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  • MTA approves TFL deal, but some Londoners object · Jay Walder, as I reported last week, wants to bring some Transport for London consultants to New York to help modernize the MTA and improve its operational efficiencies. Yesterday, the MTA Board approved the unique no-bid, two-year contract to pay up to $200 an hour in expenses and salary for this consulting gig, but not everyone was happy about it.

    In fact, the loudest dissent seemed to come from London. Bob Crow, union leader for the U.K.’s Rail Maritime and Transport workers, noted the labor ramifications of the deal. “If these people are as good as they are being cracked up to be, then they should remain in London sorting out our problems, not swanning across to New York,” he said in London. “We will make sure our members know that the same senior T.F.L. managers who have been attacking our campaign for a decent pay increase are queuing up to jet over to New York on $200 an hour,” Mr. Crow said.

    Transport for London, meanwhile, reassured its constituents that New York City taxpayers and not Londoners would be footing the bill for this consulting gig aimed at bringing technological innovations to our subway system. “We will ensure,” the U.K. agency said in statement, “that this arrangement financially benefits London, as well as providing New York with the benefit of London’s experience in Oyster technology and the provision of customer information.” · (8)

The TWU and the MTA are engaged in something of a fight right now. After agreeing to binding arbitration over a labor contract, the MTA has appealed an award of an 11 percent raise for the TWU on the grounds that the arbitration panel made errors of law in considering the agency’s ability to pay. Despite the use of the word “binding” in the arbitration format, this appeal is legally permissible, and TWU workers have been loath to recognize that truth.

In a sense, then, as the MTA and TWU are engaged in a legal fight, the two sides are also engaged in a public relations battle. The TWU is trying to portray the MTA as a management-heavy organization intent on paying its countless executives far more than they deserve. On the other hand, the MTA is trying to make the case that the 11 percent raises over the next three years will foist more unscheduled fare hikes onto a public already paying too much for its subway service.

And so yesterday, at Jay Walder’s first MTA Board, the TWU opted to take the low road. Andreeva Pinder, a station agent and TWU executive, resorted to a playground insult in her discussion about the elmination of the station agents. “Month after month we beseech you to safeguard your riders. But you people are so removed from reality,” Pinder said. “You guys are just a bunch of doody-heads.”

That is a direct quote from Pinder’s testimony. She got up in front of a bunch of MTA executives and called them doody heads. No wonder people don’t think too highly of MTA employees. Pinder, as those with long memories may recall, once had to be forcibly escorted out of an MTA Board meeting when she spoke for 30 minutes instead of the allotted three.

Words such as these do no one any favors. First, Pinder’s initial claims — that the lack of station agents has led to some sort of MTA-produced anarchy — simply isn’t true. At the entrances now lacking station agents, the subways still operate with the same old efficiency. Crime is not up, and straphangers are not getting hopelessly lost. Meanwhile, resorting to childish names might sound funny at the time, but it’s tough to earn the respect of a skeptical public even if Pinder may have tried to make a valid point.

In the end, this fight will continue, and if yesterday’s words were any indication, it may get nastier before it is resolved. I’m no expert in arbitration law and cannot proffer an opinion on the outcome of the MTA’s appeal. If the courts, though, side with the agency, an all-out labor war could ensue.

* * *

In other arbitration news, John Zuccotti, the arbitrator who awarded the TWU its raises, billed the MTA $900 an hour for his work, and the new MTA leadership is outraged. The bill came to $400,000 for his services, and although the MTA and the TWU are to split the total, anonymous MTA board members were outraged that former head Elliot Sander negotiated such a rate. George Nicolau, another arbitrator, charged just $34,000. Someone somewhere down the line negotiated a bad deal.

Categories : TWU
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After months of wrangling with landlords and the city, the MTA last week decided to fork over $500,000 to shore up the shaky buildings along Second Ave. The start of these buildings, structural deficient since before the start of Second Ave. Subway construction, had been holding up the controlled blasting needed to get the Upper East Side launch box ready for the tunnel-boring machine.

Well, the wait is finally over. With a tip of the hat to Ben at The Launch Box, we learn that the MTA has been issued its FDNY permit, and controlled blasting along Second Ave. will start on November 2. The MTA’s SAS construction website features a notice about the blasting. It says:

The Second Avenue Subway project will be using a well established excavation technique called controlled blasting to facilitate the excavation of the Tunnel Boring Machine Launch Box. We have used this technique at many of our projects in Manhattan.

Controlled blasting activities are scheduled to begin the week of November 2, 2009.

The Fire Department of New York (FDNY) has approved a controlled blasting plan for the area of Second Avenue between 91st and 93rd Street which will be carried out in coordination with the MTA and S3 Tunnel Constructors. All blasting will be conducted under the direction and regulations of the FDNY. Blasting is permitted to take place during the approved Second Ave Subway working hours of 7 AM to 10 PM, although, every effort will be made to limit blasting to daylight hours.

Blasting Procedures

  • All pedestrian and vehicle traffic will be temporarily stopped during each blast occurrence. Blasting will occur approximately 4 to 5 times daily, with each blast lasting no more than one minute.
  • There will be a warning whistle before each blast
    • 1 whistle as a warning sound
    • 2 whistles indicate the blast is imminent
    • 3 whistles indicate the blast is complete and all is clear.
  • Flagging personnel will be positioned at the north, south, east and west corners of the blast zone to inform and direct pedestrians.
  • Signs will be posted around the work site that will state: DANGER BLASTING- NO RADIO TRANSMITTING

As required by New York State regulations, and monitored by FDNY, all explosive materials are delivered to and from the work site daily.

Vibration and noise limits have been established by the MTA and the project designer. The vibration and noise readings will be monitored by the construction management team.

Please direct any questions or concerns to Marcus Book, Assistant Director, MTA NYC Transit Government and Community Relations at 646-252-2675 or Claudia Wilson at the work site at 212-792-9716.

For the MTA, this blasting will be a major step forward in Second Ave. subway construction. Those of us eagerly anticipating whatever part of this line will arrive in the next seven or eight years have been awaiting the blasting stage. Hopefully, the residents and businesses already impacted by the construction can take some solace in the fact that the MTA is moving ahead with this project.

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