• 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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Martin Scorsese directed the video for Michael Jackson’s “Bad” in the Hoyt-Schermerhorn subway stop.

If City Council Member Letitia James gets her way, the IND station at Hoyt-Schermerhorn would soon add Michael Jackson to its moniker. As a way to honor the late King of Pop, James wants the MTA to commemorate the station in which Martin Scorscese and Jackson directed his 1987 video for the song Bad.

The New York Post first reported this story and the MTA’s subsequent rejection of James’ proposal this morning. But even a “no” from the transit authority hasn’t stopped James from seeking the spotlight. In an interview with NBC New York, she further expounded on her idea.

“After his death, I had heard about this, and I had approached them, and they told me basically to beat it,” she told NBC New York (Get it? Beat it? Clever!). “A lot of people were totally unaware,” she said, of the fact that Hoyt-Schermerhorn served as the staging ground for this video.

To avoid sounding as though she wanted to capitalize too much on Jackson’s untimely death, James focused on the tourism angle. “There’s a lot of trivia in the subway,” she said. “I think one of the ways to attract more people into the subway is to have more trivia, that so-and-so lived here, or that this movie was filmed here. I think the tourists would like it and I think that New Yorkers would like it, and I know Brooklynites would love it.”

You know what else would attract more people into the subways? Proper investment in maintenance and service so that the MTA can run newer trains more frequently through well-maintained tracks and tunnels. But I digress.

For their part, the MTA stressed its own naming scheme as one that would not support sticking Jackson’s name on the station. According to the Post’s sources, naming stations after people “could confuse riders.” The purpose of subway names, after all, is to provide geographic identifiers. Even the Barclays Center naming rights deal accomplishes that end as the Barclays Center will be located above the station at Atlantic Ave./Pacific St.

James says she’ll try to present the MTA with a petition in support of at least a plaque noting that Jackson filmed the video at this unique six-track station. To that end, what does the MTA have to lose? In fact, a series of plaques throughout the subway system commemorating movies, music videos or other unique bits of subway trivia and minutiae could add some entertainment to an otherwise mundane underground life. Station names shouldn’t adopt individuals because then we would wind up with the Mayor Bloomberg 77th St. stop on the East Side, but history and character should be embraced.

Categories : MTA Absurdity
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  • The best alternative subway maps · Over the years, I’ve written frequently about various subway map designs. We’ve looked at heart-shaped gimmicks, Massimo Vignelli’s controversial design and the Kickmap, to name a few. All of them have their pluses and minuses, and many are better than the current version suffering from information overload.

    Recently, Treehugger took a look at the world’s best alternative subway maps. Included in the slideshow are many of the maps I’ve explored before as well as some gems from around the globe. I particularly enjoy Harry Beck’s failed attempt to reproduce the Paris Metro in the style of his famous London Underground map. The multi-modal map and the Triptrop map are two New York City entries worth a closer look. · (4)

At 5 a.m. today — a few hours from now or a few hours ago, depending upon when you visit SAS — the 1 train will roll north and finally pass through the tracks at 181st St. shuttered by a falling ceiling. While the train won’t stop there this morning and will bypass the station until further notice, for the thousands of riders who had to take shuttle buses and multiple subways to navigate this collapse, that journey is over for now.

For now, I say, because the stations at both 181st St. and 168th St. will be undergoing repairs. Beginning next weekend, in fact, the 1 trains will run in two sections from South Ferry to 137th St. and from Dyckman St. to 242nd St. Shuttle buses will service the intermediate stations and 181st St. during the week as it remains closed.

Right now, these portions of the 1 line are in trouble. These two stations both opened on March 16, 1906, and they are beginning to show their 103 years of wear and tear. For the past week, MTA contractors have installed supports and shielding for the ceilings at 181st St., and that station will remain closed until the vaults are secure. Meanwhile, because 168th St. features similar construction techniques and architecture, it too faced a full inspection on Sunday. The findings are a bit alarming.

According to the press release sent out by New York City Transit early Monday morning, the inspection at 168th St. revealed “some areas of concern that have been stabilized prior to the restoration of subway service but will necessitate another closure next weekend.”

The release detailed the inspection process at 168th St., and Transit’s new Twitter account provided some pictures. “Performed painstakingly, much of it by hand, the inspection revealed some areas of brickwork in the station’s vaulted segment that we felt prudent to stabilize until we can perform further inspection and evaluation,” it read. “Additionally, NYC Transit maintenance workers were called in to stabilize areas of loose plaster, concrete and brick in the extension part of the northbound platform.”

And so, here we are, eight days later and no closer to a resolution. Transit is working very diligently to correct this problem, but I fear for the results of further inspections. We can read released talking about stabilizing loose plaster, concrete and bricks. We can see water damage in many of the system’s stations. No matter what, though, we know the realities of a system with stations that range from seven to nearly eleven decades old.

On October 27, the oldest parts of the subway system will be 105 years old, and the system is showing its age. It’s showing what happens when investment lags, when we have to make a choice between rail work, station work and rolling stock that won’t break down. It’s showing what happens when the needs of this city — this economic engine so vital to the state and nation — are ignored. We need investment in infrastructure, and it shouldn’t take a collapsed ceiling to prove this point.

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Aug
21

Weekend service advisories

By · Comments (1) ·

Update: With service in upper Manhattan disrupted by the 181st St. station collapse, these changes have been updated as of late Friday.

By now, you know the drill. These are this weekend’s service advisories. They come to me from Transit and are subject to change without notice. Check signs at your local stations for updates and be sure to listen to announcements on board your trains.


From 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, August 22, downtown 1 trains skip 125th Street, 116th Street, 110th Street and 103rd Street stations due to rail repairs.


From 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, August 23, uptown 1 trains skip 103rd Street, 110th Street, 116th Street and 125th Street stations due to rail repairs.


From 11:30 p.m. Friday, August 21 to 5 a.m. Monday, August 24, free shuttle buses replace 2 trains between Wakefield-241st Street and East 180th Street due to track work near Bronx Park East and installation of fiber optic cables between the East 180th Street and 225th Street stations.


From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, August 22 to 5 a.m. Monday, August 24, the last stop for some downtown 4 trains is Bowling Green due to track work near the Bronx Park East station and installation of fiber optic cables between the East 180th Street and 225th Street stations.


From 11:30 p.m. Friday, August 21 to 5 a.m. Monday, August 24, 2/3/4 trains skip Bergen Street, Grand Army Plaza and Eastern Parkway stations in both directions due to switch work near Eastern Parkway. Free shuttle buses provide alternate service at affected stations.


From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, August 22 to 5 a.m. Monday, August 24, there are no 5 trains running between East 180th Street and Bowling Green due to track work near the Bronx Park East station and installation of fiber optic cables between the East 180th Street and 225th Street stations. 2 trains make all 5 stops between East 180th Street and 149th Street-Grand Concourse, and 4 trains make all 5 stops between 149th Street-Grand Concourse and Bowling Green.


From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, August 22 to 5 a.m. Monday, August 24, 5 trains run every 30 minutes between Eastchester-Dyre Avenue and East 180th Street due to track work near the Bronx Park East station and installation of fiber optic cables between the East 180th Street and 225th Street stations.


From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, August 22 to 5 a.m. Monday, August 24, Manhattan-bound 6 trains run express from Hunts Point Avenue to 3rd Avenue due to platform edge rehabilitation at Cypress Avenue, East 143rd Street, East 149th Street and Longwood Avenue stations


From 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, August 22, uptown 6 trains run express from Parkchester to Pelham Bay Park due to rail repairs near Buhre Avenue station.


From 5 a.m. Saturday, August 22 to 10 p.m. Sunday, August 23, Coney Island-bound D trains run on the N line from 36th Street to Coney Island-Stillwell Avenue due to 38th Street Yard rail renewal.


From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, August 22 to 5 a.m. Monday, August 24, D trains run local between 34th Street and West 4th Street stations due to a track chip-out in the 53rd Street tunnel and cable work along the Queens Boulevard line.


From 12:01 a.m. Saturday August 22 to 5 a.m. Monday, August 24, E trains are rerouted on the F from Queens to Manhattan, and there is no E service between 34th Street and the World Trade Center; customers should take the A instead. Manhattan-bound E trains run on the F from Jackson Heights-Roosevelt Avenue to 34th Street-6th Avenue. Queens-bound E trains run on the F from 34th Street-6th Avenue to 47th-50th Streets-Rockefeller Center, then run resume normal E service from 5th Avenue to Jamaica Center-Parsons/Archer. These changes are due to a track chip-out in the 53rd Street tunnel and cable work along the Queens Boulevard line.


From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, August 22 to 5 a.m. Monday, August 24, the 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 should take the RG6 at nearby stations.
Note: Free shuttle buses are operating between the Court Square G, the 23rd Street-Ely Avenue E and the 21st Street-Queensbridge F stations.


From 12:30 a.m. Saturday, August 22 to 5 a.m. Monday, August 24, Queens-bound E
trains run express from Queens Plaza to Forest Hills-71st Avenue due to power cable work north of Roosevelt Avenue.


From 12:01 a.m. to 12 noon Saturday, August 22, Manhattan-bound F trains skip Sutphin and Van Wyck Boulevards due to track drain work south of Parsons Boulevard.


From 12:30 a.m. Saturday, August 22 to 5 a.m. Monday, August 24, Manhattan-bound F trains run local from Jackson Heights-Roosevelt Avenue to 21st Street-Queensbridge due to cable work along the Queens Boulevard line.


From midnight to 6:30 a.m. Saturday, August 22 and Sunday, August 23, and from midnight to 5 a.m. Monday, August 24, Queens-bound G trains run express from Queens Plaza to Jackson Heights-Roosevelt Avenue due to power cable work north of Roosevelt Avenue.


From 8:30 p.m. to midnight Friday, August 21, and from 6:30 a.m. to midnight Saturday, August 22 and Sunday, August 23, there is no G service between Forest Hills-71st Avenue and Court Square due to a track chip-out in the 53rd Street tunnel and cable work along the Queens Boulevard line. Brooklyn-bound customers should take the R to Queens Plaza, and transfer to a shuttle bus to Court Square; however, Queens-bound customers should take the E instead.
Note: Queens-bound E and R trains run express from Queens Plaza to Forest Hills-71st Avenue.


From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, August 1 to 5 a.m. Monday, August 3, N trains are rerouted over the Manhattan Bridge between DeKalb Avenue and Canal Street due to tunnel and station rehabilitations and construction of the Underground Connector at the Jay Street and Lawrence Street stations.


From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, August 22 to 5 a.m. Monday, August 24, Manhattan-bound Q trains run express from Kings Highway to Prospect Park, skipping Newkirk Avenue. This is due to the Brighton Line Station Rehabilitation.


From 6:30 a.m. to midnight Saturday, August 22 and Sunday, August 23, R trains are rerouted over the Manhattan Bridge between DeKalb Avenue and Canal Street due to tunnel and station rehabilitations and construction of the Underground Connector at the Jay Street and Lawrence Street stations.


From 6:30 a.m. to midnight Saturday, August 22 and Sunday, August 23, Queens-bound R trains run express from Queens Plaza to Forest Hills-71st Avenue due to power cable work north of Roosevelt Avenue.

Categories : Service Advisories
Comments (1)

In discussing yesterday’s news that Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum has called for more support for Second Ave. businesses, a few SAS readers wanted to know about the impact previous subway construction efforts had on local merchants. And so into the archives of The New York Times I went.

Submitted for your approval are my preliminary results. On Jan. 12, 1930, The Times ran a piece with the headline “Want No Subway Under 57th Street; Fifth Avenue Body Suggests Link Through Sixty-First Street.” It is available here for subscribers and those willing to pay an access fee. I’ll excerpt the key parts:

Petitions are being sent to property owners and business interests on Fifty-seventh Street by the Fifth Avenue Association asking for signatures to be presented to the Board of Transportation urging that the crosstown link to connect the proposed Sixth and Second Avenue subways be placed under Sixty-first Street instead of Fifty-seventh Street…

“While we approve of the construction of the Second and Sixth Avenue subways and endorse in principle the idea of a link across town connecting these subways,” states [C.J.] Oppenheim’s [Fifty-seventh Street] committee, “our studies indicate that it would work a great hardship upon the merchants and property owners of Fifty-seventh street to use that street for the connecting link…”

One of the objections cited in the use of Fifty-seventh Street is the serious damage to merchants due to the open-cut construction method, the conditions on Eighth Avenue for three or four years being mentioned as an example of the business disturbance which would be caused…

“The construction of a subway beneath Fifty-seventh Street,” states the petition, “with the long inconvenience to business which would result from building operation, would work a great hardship on this street and would bring about heavy losses in property and business values.”

We know how this particular story ends. While the Second Ave. Subway is still under construction, nearly 80 years after The Times first printed the story, 57th St. was never used as a crosstown subway link. Rather, the Sixth Ave. trains went north from 57th St. under Central Park and under 63rd St. The F stop at 63rd St. and Lexington and the 63rd St. tunnel — opened decades after this article appeared — are a testament to Mr. Oppenheim’s success.

Meanwhile, we can use history to learn a lesson. The disruption to businesses along Second Ave. is no surprise whatsoever. While the MTA is not going to use a cut-and-cover method of construction this time around, the agency still has to dig up the street to relocate utilities, to drop a tunnel boring machine and to construct subway entrances. While not as extreme as it was in the 1930s, the disruptions are still significant.

With this in mind, the city and authority did not adequately prepare Second Ave. businesses for the chaos of subway construction. With history as a guide, they should have recognized what a ten-year construction project would wrought. Instead, businesses will suffer, and the mistakes of the past will be repeated.

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7th Ave Tiles 3

The Seventh Ave. station on the IND Culver Line in Brooklyn has seen better days. (Photo by Benjamin Kabak)

Since 1904, the New York City subways have had an uneasy relationship with water. In some places, the subway system is only a few feet below ground, and ground water and rain have caused problems for subway operations and construction for over a century.

Today, the problems are more evident than ever. As the photo above shows, the F/G station at 7th Ave. in Brooklyn looks terrible, and it’s not the only one. The Manhattan-bound 2/5 platform at 149th St./Grand Concourse is marred with water stains (and worse). Various stations flood constantly. Walls bulge with water, and earlier this week, a disaster waiting to happen finally happened. Community groups and residents had long complained of the water damage at 181st St. on the West Side IRT, and last weekend, the ceiling finally gave way.

As the MTA has scrambled to restore 1 train service in Northern Manhattan, Transit has defended itself from accusations of maintenance neglect. The agency knew of the problems and complaints surrounding 181st St. and had even planned to fix it — next year. What of the other stations long wearing the visible scars of water damage? What of the walls and ceiling retaining moisture or worse?

In today’s Post, three reporters delve into the issue of water-damaged stations, and the findings are less than comforting. According to the Post, the Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee to the MTA recently reviewed numerous stations, and 16 of them received an F for “water-leakage problems.” Of those, three are scheduled for rehabilitation by 2015.

These stations, contend MTA officials, are not of the same vintage and architectural style as the 181st St. stop and do not pose the same risks. MTA Board member Andrew Albert is worried though. “I’m very concerned about it,” he said to the Post. “It makes me wonder if stations are being renovated on basis of need, or if they’re being clustered on certain lines so they can all be done faster at once.”

While the Post highlighted a series of stations in every borough with visible water damage, the MTA says that water was not the root of the problem at 181st St. and isn’t always reason for concern. “Water leakage, while a considerable problem throughout the system, is not necessarily by itself, a clear indicator of a severe structural problem,” Charles Seaton, a Transit spokesperson, said. “A recently completed system wide station condition survey identified defects at all stations, including ceilings.”

The agency has what the Post called an emergency fund to fix stations that present an immediate the safety risk, but in my opinion, that’s too little too late. We shouldn’t wait until stations on the verge of collapse to renovate and rebuild them. We shouldn’t have to wait until a ceiling collapses to question water-stained walls missing tiles and ceilings that look less that secure.

In a few days, the 1 train will be running again, and we’ll forget about the incident. Yet, the MTA will still need that money for routine maintenance, and if this collapse — a disaster that happened — doesn’t spur on more transit investment, what will?

Comments (6)
  • Transit aims for 1 train service on Monday · The MTA’s latest foray into digital technology is Twitter. Via the account at NYCTSubwayScoop, agency spokespeople have been releasing numerous pictures of the repair efforts at 181st St. Crews are up there constantly, but the station — and Northern Manhattan transportation — is a mess.

    Meanwhile, as work continues apace, Transit is aiming for complete 1 train service on Monday. According to amNew York, service disruptions will last through at least the weekend as the MTA works to clear debris off the tracks and shore up the ceiling. They’re also inspecting nearby stations with similar architecture and similar community complaints of water damage. I do not yet know if the station will open Monday or if the tracks will open to through-trains only. · (1)

Over the last few years, I’ve covered the economic impact of the Second Ave. Subway construction. While the project promises long-term benefits of increased mobility for the Upper East Side, the constant construction and obstructed roads and sidewalks have left Second Ave. businesses reeling.

An official study released this week by Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum’s office confirms what we already know: The Second Ave. Subway construction is bad for business and the government isn’t helping. As part of the report, Gotbaum asked the city, state and MTA — three cash-starved entities — to help out these business owners and formulate a better plan for future phases of SAS construction.

The Public Advocate had asked 104 non-chain business owners in the so-called Second Ave. Construction Corridor to respond to a survey. Of those, 59 owners responded, and the 57-percent response rate is on the high end. The results find that two-thirds of business owners believe that subway construction has negatively impacted business “as much or more than” the economic downturn. The majority say they are in danger of closing.

Individually, the numbers are worse. Many owners have cut wages or store hours, and nearly half have laid of employees. According to Gotbaum’s office, none of the businesses have received support from the state, and most say that the MTA’s campaign — barely visible on the agency’s website — to promote Second Ave. businesses has failed.

“Officials should have been able to anticipate what was obvious to these business owners all along: construction on this scale is more than disruptive, it is devastating,” Gotbaum said. “A number of businesses have closed already as a result of construction, and most say they will not survive. They need grants and ongoing support to stay afloat. The city has had 80 years to plan for this, and it will take more than a decade to complete. It’s inexcusable to allow neighborhood establishments to go under because of a government project; and it’s insulting that the city, state, and MTA have failed to communicate with business owners so they know what to expect. We need to help these businesses before it is too late.”

Gotbaum’s office issued a number of suggestions:

  • The City Should Establish a Second Avenue Subway Construction Mitigation Fund to Provide Emergency Grants to Failing Businesses Located in the Construction Zone
  • The City Should Negotiate with Banks to Provide No- or Low-Cost Loans to Second Avenue Businesses
  • The City Should Help Second Avenue Business Owners Renegotiate Their Leases
  • The City and State Should Provide Property Tax Abatements to Landlords of Second Avenue Subway Construction Corridor Businesses for the Duration of the Project
  • The City and State Should Suspend Sales Tax on All Goods and Services Sold by Second Avenue Subway Construction Corridor Businesses for the Duration of the Project.
  • The MTA Should Improve Communication with Businesses in the Second Avenue Subway Construction Corridor
  • The MTA Should Improve Advertising for Second Avenue Businesses

Over the course of construction, I haven’t been too sympathetic to the please of these business owners. The city needs this Second Ave. Subway, and it will, in the end, impact far more people than a few Upper East Side businesses will. Gotbaum’s proposal, meanwhile, isn’t anything we haven’t heard before. If it can implemented painlessly, then by all means, the city, state and MTA should do so. But if the cost of construction is the closing of a few businesses now, that’s a price we have to be willing to pay.

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