A model of the three-door articulated buses soon to arrive on New York City streets. (Click to enlarge)

Throughout debate over the MTA rescue plan, upstate Senators refused to budge on their anti-payroll tax stance. These state representatives did not want to raise taxes for what seemed to be a very New York City-centric purpose. Transit proponents argued that the entire state would benefit from a healthy MTA, and today’s news out of Plattsburgh, NY, a small city on Lake Champlain approximately 30 minutes from Canada, shows why.

New York City Transit has just put in an order with Nova Bus for 90 articulated buses featuring a low-floor system and three doors. Nova Bus, a Quebec-based subsidiary of Volvo, has recently opened a plant in Plattsburgh, and that plant will produce these 90 buses.

These new buses promise to be state-of-the-art vehicles. They are set to be 62 feet long and will featuring motion-controlled rear doors. According to Mobilizing the Region, this order for more buses comes after a successful trial in the Bronx, and the 90 new vehicles will deployed along the city’s latest bus-rapid transit routes. Delivery is set to begin during the first half of 2010.

As reports from up north show, the MTA is more than just the economic driver behind New York City’s success. Nova will employ 172 New Yorkers in Plattsburgh, and by keeping this equipment order in state, the MTA is spreading it tentacles well beyond its service area.

Categories : Buses
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schumer Sometimes, the Associated Press under-writes a story. Take, for example, this short one about Senator Chuck Schumer and the MTA.

In it, the AP explores how New York’s senior Senator would prefer to see the MTA implement wireless service aboard commuter rail trains sooner rather than later. It could be perhaps the most understated story in a while. Take a look:

Sen. Charles Schumer contends the commuter railroads serving New York City have been slow to implement wireless Internet service.

Schumer is calling on the MTA to follow through on plans he says have been in the works for months. He says other major mass transit systems across the United States already have on-board major wireless Internet service.

He says that puts the Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North Railroad behind railroads in Texas, California and Utah.

The senator says adding wireless Internet would help improve productivity for commuters and the thousands of students who use the rails.

That’s the whole thing. My favorite part is how Schumer is contending that the MTA has “been slow to implement wireless Internet service.” Considering the state of the MTA’s various wireless campaigns, “slow” is a compliment. I generally opt for the less flattering “inept.”

The truth is that Schumer is 100 percent correct, but his critique extends well beyond the MTA’s reach. It’s true that railraods in Texas California and Utah may offer wireless service on board, but in our own backyard, Amtrak doesn’t even provide wireless service in its heavily-traveled Northeast Corridor.

This call, then, by our Senator strikes me as a perfect opportunity to kill two birds with one stone. Through New Haven, Amtrak and Metro-North share rights-of-way. Schumer should work to ensure that the wireless service for the commuter rails can cover Amtrak. It may be infeasible. Perhaps the trains are equipped with different signal receivers. Perhaps what works at Metro-North and LIRR speeds doesn’t work at Amtrak and Acela speeds. It’s worth a shot though.

In response to Schumer’s calls, the MTA said it would be fielding requests for proposals on the project until September. The agency wants to gauge both interest and feasibility. Considering that airplanes now come equipped with wireless, our commuter rails should too.

Categories : MTA Technology
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  • New Metro-North cars fail stress test · Kawasaki is currently hard at work prepping an order of M-8 cars for Metro-North to replace the aging rolling stock that heads into Connecticut. The original order, placed in 2006, called for delivery of 210 cars beginning in 2010 at a cost of $713 million with an option for 90 more at $170 million. With delivery looming, a slight problem has emerged: They cars failed their first stress test. According to Christine Stuart of CT News Junkie, one of the M-8s “buckled ‘slightly'” when subjected to 800,000 pounds of force.

    Both Metro-North and Connecticut Department of Transportation officials did not express much concern over the failure and noted the results were fairly minor. Delivery of the cars will not believed, but officials are looking for an explanation as to the cause of the buckling. For more on the new rolling stock, check out Station Stops’ 2008 profile of the M-8’s. Apparently, these cars include power outlets for every seat. · (7)

Poor Staten Island. It is, by far, the most transit-neglected borough in the city. Once envisioned as a destination for a subway line spurring off the R in Brooklyn, the city’s least connected borough enjoys a slew of buses and one fare-less subway line that runs from the ferry terminal to Tottenville along the island’s south side.

Now, though, Staten Island’s borough representative to the MTA Board wants to increase transit offerings on the car-dependent island. Allen Cappelli told the Staten Island Advance’s Maura Yates over the weekend that the time is now for SI-based transit improvements. From the sound of it, the SI transit outlook may actually be a rosy one. Yates writes:

With Albany’s approval of a bailout package back in May that included a payroll tax and other revenue sources to help the MTA address its forecasted $1.2 billion budget deficit, the MTA board can now turn its attention back to moving forward with much-needed projects, including the borough’s proposed light rail system.

“I’d like to see us have rail access,” Cappelli said. “We’ve got to get cars off the streets. We’ve got to give people a real way to commute, because we’re not going to be able to handle the cars to a greater extent than what we’re doing now.”

With projections of population growth that will further tax the borough’s clogged road network over the next two decades, “We’ve got to plan this now, or 20 years from now, somebody will ask, ‘Why didn’t they do anything about this’?” Cappelli said. He said he hopes funding will be included in the MTA’s 20-year capital plan.

Cappelli has made progress on the bus front as well, with Staten Island receiving the first of the city’s brand new hybrid-electric local buses. The new buses will eventually account for more than half of the borough’s local bus fleet, he said.

Staten Island is ripe for transit experimentation. The borough could really benefit from a light rail system and from legitimate bus rapid transit plans. Ideally, of course, those BRT routes would connect into and through Brooklyn and Manhattan for faster commutes. The light rail would be an intra-borough mode of transit.

In the end, the MTA should probably look at reviving the Brooklyn-to-SI underground subway connection. While the project would be expensive and wouldn’t become a reality for decades, a subway to Staten Island would do wonders for the mobility of a part of the city often considered the forgotten borough.

Categories : Staten Island
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The daily weekday ridership for Metro-North is around 270,000. For the Long Island Rail Road, that figure clocks in at about 290,000. Meanwhile, in New York City last year, average daily subway ridership hit 5.2 million. So how would you expect funds from a New York State transit slush fund to be distributed? If you guessed “disproportionately favoring the suburbs,” congratulations. You’ve just won the Second Ave. Sagas Award for Ineptitude in Government.

According to a report in Sunday’s Daily News, state lawmakers have access to a $240 million transit slush fund. The fund — called the Customer Service Reserves — is supposed to spent on projects that could enhance, you guessed it, customer service. Somehow, though, around $190 million of this fund have gone to suburban-based projects while just $50 million has been invested into New York City Transit properties.

Of course, this story isn’t nearly as clear cut as that outrageous disproportionate dispersion of wealth makes it out to be. Allow me to quote Pete Donohue’s article:

The fund is part of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s capital construction and maintenance program. Five-year spending plans are negotiated with the Legislature and governor’s office and need approval from representatives of the Senate, Assembly, governor’s office and mayor.

Between 1995 and August, approximately $195 million in reserves was assigned to the majority party – Republicans in the Senate, Democrats in the Assembly. Approximately $155 million has been spent or committed to transit projects through August.

Since just a few GOP senators represent city neighborhoods, the vast majority of Senate reserves has flowed to commuter rail projects in suburbs north and east of the city in counties like Nassau, Suffolk, Westchester and Putnam. About $40 million remains unspent.

Nearly $200 million in reserves was assigned to Assembly Democrats, who represent all but one Assembly district in the city. Approximately $40 million has gone to commuter rail projects, and another $45 million or so to subway upgrades – but more than half of the Assembly reserves remain unspent.

So, okay. Let’s reassess. The Senate and Assembly divide up a few hundred million based along party lines that ensures New York City Transit, with 91 percent of the MTA’s ridership, gets around 50 percent of the available funds. The suburban areas have enjoyed far more actual spending than the subways, and yet the subways need massive capital investments over the next few years and decades.

The assembly reps, meanwhile, claim that the money is unspent because, well, it’s hard to spend it. “It takes a while to decide how best this can have an impact … because of the limitations and how it can be used,” Sisa Moyo, a spokesperson for Sheldon Silver, said to Donohue. “We found it to be a slow-going process.”

News stories such as this and quotes such as Moyo’s make me want to slam my head against a wall. This is basically free money. It should be spent on projects, and the projects are out there. Invest it in a rehab of the 4th Ave. Culver Line stopped, shelved because of budgetary concerns. Buy some more trash cans for the perennially dirty subway stations. Further fund studies to replace the MetroCard with a contactless fare system.

For now, New Yorkers are used to a system that seems similar to an annoyance and not the convenience it should be all because the money isn’t there. When the money is there, it just sits there. All it takes to implement change and improvements is a little creativity and drive. Without it, the subway system just sits in neutral, underfunded, under-maintained and perennially in fiscal trouble.

Categories : MTA Economics
Comments (9)

The reviews are for Tony Scott’s remake of The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3, and the film is receiving surprisingly good write-ups. While it doesn’t sound as though the new version has the quirky charm of the 1974 flick, Scott’s work is being praised as a good summer action movie with a solid lead cast. It’s on my to-watch list for the weekend.

While the new movie seemingly glorifies a subway hijacking and hearkens back to an era in which subway riders knew the rails were a dangerous place to be, these days, the New York City Subway are as safe as they’ve ever been. Over at the Daily Beast, Seth Michael Donsky remembers the trains as they used to be. He chatted with photography John F. Coon about Coon’s work in the subways of the 1980s. It was a far different time indeed, and the pictures from the accompanying slideshow are fascinating.

Now, onto the service advisories. I’ll pretty these up with the bullets later tonight. Remember to check at your local station for up-to-date information. These advisories are as the MTA sends them on Thursday and are subject to change.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, June 13 to 5 a.m. Sunday, June 14, uptown 1 and 2 trains skip 79th and 86th Streets due to station rehab work at 96th Street.

From 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, June 13, Manhattan-bound 6 trains run express from Pelham Bay Park to Parkchester due to station painting at Buhre Avenue, Middletown Road, Westchester Square, Zerega Avenue and Castle Hill Avenue.

From 4 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday, June 13, Manhattan-bound 7 trains skip 111th, 103rd, 90th, 82nd, 74th, 69th, 52nd, 46th, 40th and 33rd Streets due to track panel installation at 74th Street and station painting at Junction Boulevard.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, June 13 to 5 a.m. Sunday, June 14, Manhattan-bound A trains run local from Euclid Avenue to Jay Street, then on the F to West 4th Street, then local to 168th Street due to the Chambers Street Signal Modernization project.

From 12:01 a.m. to 5 a.m. Saturday, June 13, Brooklyn-bound A trains run local from 168th Street to Hoyt-Schermerhorn Sts., then express to Utica Avenue, then local to Euclid Avenue due to the Chambers Street Signal Modernization project.

From 12:01 a.m. to midnight Saturday, June 13, Brooklyn-bound A trains run local from 168th Street to Euclid Avenue due to Chambers Street Signal Modernization project.

From 12:01 a.m. to 5 a.m. Sunday, June 14, Brooklyn-bound A trains run local from 168th Street to Utica Avenue, then express to Broadway-Junction, then local to Euclid Avenue due to the Chambers Street Signal Modernization project and track cleaning.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, June 13, to 5 a.m. Sunday, June 14, there are no C trains running due to switch renewal south of West 4th Street. Customers should take the A instead.

From 11 p.m. Saturday, June 13 to 6 a.m. Sunday June 14, Bronx-bound D trains skip 155th, 167th, 170th, 174th-175th, and 182nd-183rd Sts. due to removal of old electrical and signal cables.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, June 13 to 5 a.m. Sunday, June 14, Manhattan-bound D trains run on the N from Coney Island-Stillwell Avenue to 36th Street (Brooklyn) due to installation of communications equipment between 9th Avenue and 36th Street.

From 12:01 a.m. to 12 noon Saturday, June 13, Manhattan-bound D trains skip 182nd-183rd Sts. due to removal of old electrical and signal cables.

From 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, June 13, Manhattan-bound F trains skip Ft. Hamilton Parkway, 15th Street-Prospect Park and 4th Avenue due to third rail work.

From 11:30 p.m. Friday, June 12 to 5 a.m. Monday, June 15, Manhattan-bound F trains run local from Forest Hills-71st Avenue to Jackson Heights-Roosevelt Avenue to due to track and roadbed replacement at Grand Avenue.

From 12:30 a.m. to 5 a.m. Saturday, June 13, from 12:01 a.m. to 5 a.m. Sunday, June 14 and from 12:01 a.m. to 5 a.m. Monday, June 15, Jamaica-bound F trains run local from Jackson Heights-Roosevelt Avenue to Forest Hills-71st Avenue due to track and roadbed replacement at Grand Avenue.

From 8:30 p.m. Friday, June 12 to 5 a.m. Monday, June 15, there is no G train service between Forest Hills-71st Avenue and Court Square. Customers should take the E or R instead.

From 11:30 p.m. Friday, June 12 to 5 a.m. Sunday, June 14, free shuttle buses replace L trains between Lorimer Street and Myrtle Avenue due to track and roadbed replacement at Jefferson Street.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, June 13 to 5 a.m. Monday, June 15, Manhattan-bound Q trains skip Newkirk Avenue due to station rehab work.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, June 13 to 5 a.m. Monday, June 15, Manhattan-bound Q trains run express from Kings Highway to Prospect Park due to station rehab work at Newkirk Avenue.

Categories : Service Advisories
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In January 1968, the gleaming new R40 car made its New York City debut along the F line. These cars designed by Raymond Loewy became rail fan favorites. With their familiar front slants and large windows, the R40s provided straphangers with a clear view out the front or back of the trains. Today, though, the era of the R40s is over. Already, most of them have been replaced by R160s, and according to Rail Fan Window via a Subchat poster, the last R40 will roll off the line at around 8 p.m. tonight. The Transit Museum will receive a pair of cars, rumored to be 4280 and 4281, but for one final ride, catch it on the A.

Photo by Doug Grotjahn/NYCSubway.org.

Categories : Rolling Stock
Comments (13)
  • A different take on the CBTC’d L trains · Earlier this week, amNew York’s Heather Haddon reported on some problems plaguing the CBTC tests on the L train. According to union workers who stand to lose their jobs if CBTC is deemed a success, now and then a train on autopilot overshoots the platform and, per Transit regulations, has to proceed to the next station.

    Today, the Daily News ran the other half of this labor/Transit war. Pete Donohue reports that the CBTC test is running smoothly. Transit has deployed ten of these trains along the BMT Canarsie Line, and Transit’s chief engineer says the CBTC trains have the tracks and red light system down pat. “There can be no human error,” she said.

    So what’s really going on here is a battle in the papers. Union leaders and members know that CBTC can cost jobs, and Transit officials know that CBTC can improve track capacity. The debate between technological efficiency and jobs has long raged in the workplace, and the MTA is just another arena for it. · (6)

Last months, after the Doomsday winds died down the MTA could look toward a steadier short-term future, Capital Construction President Micheal Horodniceanu issued an aggressively bold schedule for the oft-delayed Fulton St. Hub. He guaranteed a 2014 completion date for the project now nearly 100 percent over budget. “What I present today, I stand by. I expect you to hold me accountable to it,” he said nearly three weeks ago.

Earlier this week, at the Community Board 1 meeting, Horodniceanu repeated his claims. While the project should have been wrapped up two years ago, it will open on schedule in 2014. “We’re back on track,” he said. “By the time we’re done, you’re going to have one of the most elegant stations in the system.”

Matt Dunning of The Tribeca Trib, a Lower Manhattan community paper, had more from the meeting:

Speaking before Community Board 1’s World Trade Center Redevelopment Committee on June 8, Horodniceanu said most of the planned improvements to the station would be finished by the end of 2012. “This is by no means one project,” he said. “What you’re going to see is a progressive roll-out of customer benefits as we go along. The important part is that we’ve reached a consensus on cost and schedule.”

Two pieces of the massive station reconstruction are already finished. The agency unveiled an improved 2/3 platform in 2006, and a new entrance to the 4/5 Train on the east side of Broadway at Maiden Lane in 2007. Horodniceanu said he expected the northbound platform of the Cortlandt Street R/W station—closed in 2005 due to construction on the World Trade Center site—to reopen in December 2009.

More improvements to the station, including a new William Street entrance and easier connection between the A/C and 4/5 Trains, would be complete in 2011, Horodniceanu said. The new Dey Street entrance and concourse that will eventually connect the station to the World Trade Center Transportation Hub, as well as a rehabilitated 4/5 platform would be done 2012…

The new transit center is designed to, piece by piece, replace the labyrinth of ramps and stairways that make up the current Fulton Street station. A balcony of retail stores will encircle the main concourse of the new station, one level below the street at Broadway and Fulton, with direct access to the 4/5 Train platforms. The A/C platforms and the Dey Street concourse will be on the level below. The main concourse will be housed in a four-story, glass-and-steel “head house” topped with an angled, cone-shaped dome to allow natural light to reach even the lowest levels of the complex.

For now, we are left with construction updates. MTA officials warn that the agency won’t begin award retail licenses for another three years despite interested tenants, and considering the pace of the project so far, this schedule remains ambitious.

With much of the money, however, coming from the federal government, I believe this project has reached a tipping point. The funds are there, and the political pressure will be on the MTA to get it built. For now, I have to remain cautiously optimistic, but when word of a delay or budget problems come down, I won’t be surprised.

Categories : Fulton Street
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The latest from William Neuman is an odd tale indeed. According to The Times, New York City Transit officials are backtracking in a way on their decision earlier this year to eliminate an emergency response team.

A dedicated emergency response team for the subway — trained to help police officers and firefighters confront transit emergencies — was eliminated by New York City Transit this spring as officials overrode concerns of the agency’s safety experts.

The seven-member unit was created to address shortcomings that had become apparent after a series of bungled responses to fires and other incidents in the subway system, and it had won praise during its 13 months of existence for improving communication among police, fire and transit officials at emergencies.

Yet the agency’s leaders, including its president, Howard H. Roberts Jr., deemed the response team unnecessary. They compared the unit to Maytag repairmen, saying it was rarely used… When the unit was eliminated in March, it was replaced by the same much-criticized system that had been in use before the team was created.

But after first defending the change, Mr. Roberts now acknowledges that it was mishandled, saying that the response team should not have been eliminated before a better system was fully in place.

He said that no analysis was done of the unit’s effectiveness before it was disbanded. He said that neither he nor the agency’s vice president for subways, Steven A. Feil, had looked at basic data on the unit’s performance, like the number of incidents it responded to, until last week when the information was requested by The New York Times. That data showed that the unit had responded to hundreds of incidents, large and small.

Neuman’s piece goes in depth on the elimination of this team, and Transit is taking the heat for downplaying the response team’s effectiveness. “I think that the basic thing that went wrong here was that people wanted you to go away,” Roberts said to Neuman, who earlier this year had poked around the situation.

In the article, Neuman tracks the creation and subsequent elimination of a team designed to streamline how Transit handles underground emergency situations. While MTA officials said that the team was underutilized, current numbers show an average of two emergency response efforts per day. Roberts plans to reestablish the team once the new Line Manager program is full implemented this fall.

I wonder how the agency, with its public image largely battered after the Doomsday budget debacle, will handle this latest revelation from The Times.

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