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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Comments (37)
  • Seatless train experiment stalling out · To combat overcrowding during peak travel times, the MTA proposed last August to remove seats from some trains during rush hour. At the time, it appeared as though the MTA would unveil a trial train car by early 2009. As with all good MTA projects though, this one has hit a speed bump, and now the agency is targeting the end of the year for its test run.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Categories : Subway Security
Comments (23)

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

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

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

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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

Categories : Service Advisories
Comments (2)

Earlier this week, a reporter from CBS2 e-mailed me with a question. Had I heard, she wanted to know, of straphangers being charged for MetroCard swipes even after the message on the turnstile machine said “Please swipe again”?

My response was no, and I elaborated. When the machine urges a straphanger to “Please swipe again,” the person swiping has to do so at the same machine. Maybe, I speculated, these riders did not know this rule and had moved to a different machine. The reporter informed me that this wasn’t the case, and I wondered if the MTA’s 15-year-old MetroCard technology was beginning to break down.

Today, CBS2’s Kirstin Cole published her story on the MetroCard problems. A few travelers have complained that, in the words of Cole, “they’ve been ripped off, after swiping MetroCards and having fares deducted – yet have been blocked from going through the turnstile.”

There is, however, a minor problem. When CBS2 and the MTA looked into the usage patterns of one of the allegedly ripped off MetroCards, they found no problems. “The MTA investigated Ostow’s card and did find she had been double charged on a cross-town bus,” Cole reports, “but said they couldn’t find any evidence of fare snatching in the subway.” The MetroCard’s owner claims there were no extra charges because the station clerk checked the card and allowed her to enter through the gate after verifying the fault swipe.

So is there a real story here? The turnstiles suffer through around 7 million swipes per weekday. Some are bound to malfunction, and generally, an MTA station staffer can fix the problem in a matter of minutes. It seems to me that the bigger issue concern rider knowledge. If straphangers do not know they can get refunds, if they don’t know to swipe at the same turnstile, they will feel ripped off. But this is not some nefarious MTA plot to secure more revenue. For that, we have fare hikes.

Categories : MetroCard
Comments (16)
  • Relying on the Feds for Moynihan Station · Yesterday, I examined how the ball is rolling again for Moynihan Station, and late in the day, Eliot Brown from The Observer emailed me a link to a piece he had written about the federal involvement in the project. Brown writes that to get funding for the new station, the supporters are going to be relying heavily on the Obama Administration’s transportation investment plans. Gov. Paterson may ask for $398 million in stimulus funding, and the state hopes that President Obama’s high-speed rail imitative will send some money to Moynihan as well. Brown also explores how the project is closer to a reality now that its supporters have broken it into bite-sized pieces and are no longer pushing a massive overhaul of the Madison Square Garden area. [The Observer] · (0)

It’s Comptroller Week on Second Ave. Sagas. Hot on the heels of his report that the MTA is spending frivolously on contracts, New York State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli has issued another report on the state on the MTA. In this one, he tells us something that we already know: The MTA’s latest capital plan proposal faces a funding gap of $9.9 billion and will depend too heavily on debt.

While I first explored this problem when the MTA announced its capital plan a few months ago, DiNapoli explores the issue in depth. According to the comptroller, only 67 percent of the plan has funding, and this figure does not include any money for the Second Ave. Subway. “Maintaining and expanding the MTA’s public transportation system is vital to the region’s economy, but finding adequate resources to meet demand will be difficult in the current economic environment,” DiNapoli said. “The MTA plans to close the funding gap with debt if it does not receive any additional aid, but that much new debt would strain the operating budget and increase pressure to raise fares and tolls.”

According to DiNapoli’s report, available here as a PDF, the budgeting and funding plan for the capital program is rather problematic. His office released more in a press release:

DiNapoli’s report indicates approximately 75 percent of the MTA’s proposed $28 billion capital program is allocated to maintain and modernize the existing system (i.e., the core program). Of this amount, the New York City Transit Authority would receive 65 percent, the Long Island Rail Road would receive 13 percent, the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority would receive almost 12 percent and the Metro-North Railroad would receive about 8.5 percent. Another $5.7 billion would be allocated to complete East Side Access and Phase 1 of the Second Avenue Subway.

While the MTA has identified funding for the first two years of the program, the program has a funding shortfall of $9.9 billion over the following three years. DiNapoli’s report found that the funding gap could grow because the MTA is counting on a 56 percent increase in federal funding compared to the current five-year program.

The MTA’s July 2009 four-year financial plan assumes it will sell $16.5 billion in new debt to help finance its 2010-2014 capital program if it receives no additional financial assistance. This assumption is based on the planned issuance of $6 billion in bonds backed by new State revenues and another $9.9 billion in debt to cover the funding shortfall. Under such a scenario, debt service would more than double to $3.5 billion in 2020 from $1.5 billion in 2009.

Debt service is expected to consume 16.6 percent of revenues in 2009 and DiNapoli projects that it could consume 24.6 percent of revenue by 2017, assuming no future fare hikes, if the MTA undertakes a borrowing of that magnitude.

As DiNapoli analyzed the MTA’s current financial state, his findings are fairly drastic. The MTA, he says, will need $128.8 billion over the next twenty years simply to “restore and modernize the existing system.” Additional funds, he says in the understatement of the year, “would be needed to expand the system to meet future needs.”

On Wednesday, the MTA Board is going to approve the next five-year capital plan. It will then head off to the state for a Senatorial debate. It is missing funding for Phase II of the Second Ave. Subway; it includes debt service that will grow from $1.5 billion this year to $3.5 billion by 2020; and it is vitally necessary for the MTA to maintain a state of good repair. And that is one bad financial bind.

Categories : MTA Economics
Comments (7)
  • Seabrook, Pally support union arbitration win · Two MTA Board members, one with close ties to labor, have come out against the agency’s decision to appeal the binding TWU arbitration win. Mitchell Pally and Norman Seabrook, the head of the New York City Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association, urged the transit authority to drop its suit challenging the arbitration award. The MTA is attempting to appeal the guaranteed 11 percent raises over three years on the grounds that it would be a financial hardship to pay them. Seabrook said that the MTA’s legal maneuverings present a “clear message to all municipal workers in the city and state that managers want to have their cake and eat it, too – that if a decision comes down they don’t like, they’ll take you to court and strip you of it.” He also presented a Board motion to halt the challenge, and the Board will discuss the motion at its meeting on Wednesday. · (3)
  • Board approves Walder, compensation and all · While the Mayor wasn’t too happy with it, the MTA Board voted yesterday in a closed session to approve Jay Walder as MTA head along with his compensation package. Wadler, who is leaving London to move back to New York, negotiated a Golden Parachute provision that enables him to secure more than twice his annual salary if pushed out of the job before his six-year term is up. The Mayor had objected on ground of fiscal policy.

    Meanwhile, as Walder prepares to take over an agency with a $12 billion budget and 67,000 employees on Oct. 5, Christian Wolmer, London’s leading transit expert, examines Walder’s time in London. He is full of praise for Walder the financial and technological guru, but some of his sources question whether Walder is fit for leadership of such an expansive and important public authority. “I would love to have Jay implement a project for me, but I would not like to see him run an organization,” an anonymous former colleague of Walder’s said. Walder is qualified as a veteran of transit agencies for the job, but I hope we don’t come to miss Lee Sander and rue the Senate’s ouster of him the hard way. · (0)
Page 373 of 532« First...371372373374375...Last »