At 5 a.m. this morning, the 1 train will roll into 181st St. and open its doors at the platform for the first time since the ceiling at this 103-year-old station collapsed on August 16. Work, however, is far from over on this station and the one at 168th St.

According to a release sent out by New York City Transit late on Sunday night, Transit maintenance crews and an outside contractor were working over the weekend to open the station. The work this weekend was both cosmetic and structural. Generally, the crews worked to stabilize more areas of loose brick at both stations, but cosmetically, the stations are now a jumble of scaffolding mazes with work to continue indefinitely.

As part of a succinct statement on the reality of the situation, Transit had this to say: “However, even with the shifting of the scaffolding, customers should be mindful that room will be limited on the platforms of both stations. MTA New York City Transit regrets any inconvenience this may have caused our customers.”

Upon further review, that might just be an understatement. The 181st St. station — visible here in an NYC Transit picture — is under extensive cover right now. A platform is protecting the tracks from the ceiling, and some support were removed so that passengers would have somewhere to stand in the morning. At 168th St. — seen here — a scaffolding dominates the downtown platform.

For now, the MTA will continue to work on these stations while trains rumble through and straphangers ride the rails. It will not, however, make for the most pleasant of commutes for Washington Heights residents, and right now, the MTA does not have a timetable for repairs.

The agency should be lauded, though, for getting these stations up and running in relatively short order. A 20-to-30 foot chunk of ceiling collapsed at 181st St., and seven days later, the trains were running through the station. Seven more days elapsed before passengers could use the station again, and while those two weeks may have seemed interminable to people who are used to daily access at that station, it is a short turnaround in the scheme of things.

But there is work yet to be done. These two damaged stations could just be the tip of the ice berg. While the MTA inspects stations regularly, a cursory glance at the subways reveal stations that are falling apart. The lower level downtown-bound platform at West 4th St., for instances, has chunks of tile missing from the wall. What, I wonder, will be the next station to literally fall?

When the bridge on I-35 in Minnesota collapsed a few years ago, the country used it as a wake-up call to demand more investment in our nation’s infrastructure. This accident — luckily a casualty-free one — should serve the same purpose in New York. The MTA needs the money to maintain is system in a state of good repair, and we should not be waiting on pins and needles until a truly calamitous accident happens to get funding. It’s that simple.

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As people in Riverdale wonder what took so long for the MTA to fix known problems at 181st St. and bemoan the impact altered 1 train service has on their way of life, Upper Manhattan is again the focus of this weekend’s service changes. For the second weekend, both 181 St. and 168th St. will be closed for, respectively, repairs and inspection.

According to a release from New York City Transit, last weekend’s inspections revealed pockets of loose plaster, concrete and brick in what is called the extension part of the northbound platform. This is the section added after 1906 when the MTA started running longer train sets. Crews will be performing “stabilization work” in the area.

Because the nearest switch is a few stops away, 1 trains will again run in two sections. In lower Manhattan, trains will run from South Ferry to 137th St. In Northern Manhattan, trains will run from Dyckman St. to 242nd St. These two closed stations are among the deepest in the system, and the collapse at 181st St. raises questions of maintenance indeed.

And now for the rest of the advisories. Remember: I receive these straight from the MTA, and they are subject to change without warning. Please check signs at your local station, and listen for on-board announcements.

From 11:30 p.m. Friday, August 28 to 5 a.m. Monday, August 31, there are no 1 trains between Dyckman Street and 137th Street due to continued work on ceilings at 168th and 181st Streets. Free shuttle buses and M3 buses provide alternate service.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, August 29 to 5 a.m. Monday, August 31, Manhattan-bound 6 trains run express from Hunts Point Avenue to 3rd Avenue-138th Street due to a track chip-out at East 143rd Street.

From 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, August 29 and Sunday, August 30, Flushing-bound 7 trains skip 82nd, 90th, 103rd, and 111th Streets due to rail replacement near 111th Street.

From 12:01 a.m. to 5 a.m. Sunday, August 30, uptown A trains run express from Canal Street to 59th Street-Columbus Circle due to track cleaning.

From 12:01 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, August 29 and Sunday, August 30, Manhattan-bound D trains skip 182nd-183rd Streets due to removal of signal equipment.

From 5 a.m. Saturday, August 29 to 10 p.m. Sunday, August 30, 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, August 29 to 5 a.m. Monday, August 31, D trains run local between 34th Street and West 4th Street due to a track chip-out in the 53rd Street tunnel:

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, August 29 to 5 a.m. Monday, August 31, 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-Penn Station and World Trade Center. Customers should take the A or C instead.
  • Manhattan-bound E trains run local on the F from Roosevelt Avenue to 34th Street-Herald Square/6 Avenue.
  • Queens-bound E trains run on the F from 34th Street-Herald Square/6th Avenue to 47th-50th Sts. Trains resume normal E service from 5th Avenue-53rd Street to Roosevelt Avenue.
  • In Manhattan, downtown E platforms at 5th Avenue-53rd Street and Lexington Avenue-53rd Street are closed. For alternate service take the 6, F, or R at nearby stations instead.
  • In Queens, the Manhattan-bound E platforms at Queens Plaza and 23rd Street-Ely Avenue are closed. Free shuttle buses connect these stations with the 21st Street-Queensbridge F station where Manhattan-bound service is available.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, August 29 to 5 a.m. Monday, August 31, Jamaica-bound E trains run express from Roosevelt Avenue to Forest Hills-71st Avenue due to power cable work.

From 12:30 a.m. Saturday, August 29 to 5 a.m. Monday, August 31, Jamaica-bound E trains run local from Queens Plaza to Roosevelt Avenue due to track maintenance.

From 12:30 a.m. Saturday, August 29 to 5 a.m. Monday, August 31, F trains run local between Roosevelt Avenue and 21st Street-Queensbridge due to track maintenance.

From 6:30 a.m. to midnight, Saturday, August 29 and Sunday, August 30, there is no Brooklyn-bound G train service from Forest Hills-71st Avenue to Court Square. Customers should take the E or R trains instead.

  • Manhattan-bound E trains run local on the F from Roosevelt Avenue to 34th Street-Herald Square/6th Avenue, during this time
  • Free shuttle buses connect stations at Court Square G/23rd Street-Ely Avenue, Queens Plaza and 21st Street Queensbridge F stations during this time.

From 6:30 a.m. to midnight, Saturday, August 29 and Sunday, August 30, there are no Queens-bound G trains from Court Square to Forest Hills-71st Avenue due to a track chip-out in the 53rd Street tunnel:

  • Take the E or R for local service form Queens Plaza to Roosevelt Avenue instead.
  • Queens-bound E and R trains run express from Roosevelt to Forest Hills-71st Avenue during this time.
  • Free shuttle buses connect at Court Square G/23rd Street-Ely Avenue, Queens Plaza and 21st Street-Queensbridge F stations during this time.

From midnight to 6:30 a.m., Saturday, August 29 and Sunday, August 30, in Queens G trains run express from Roosevelt Avenue to Forest Hills-71st Avenue due to power cable work.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, August 29 to 5 a.m. Monday, August 31, N trains run local between DeKalb Avenue and 59th Street, Brooklyn due to station rehabilitation and construction of the underground connector between Lawrence and Jay Streets.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, August 29 to 5 a.m. Monday, August 31, Brooklyn-bound N trains are rerouted over the Manhattan Bridge from Canal Street to DeKalb Avenue due to station rehabilitation and construction of the underground connector between Lawrence and Jay Streets.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, August 29 to 5 a.m. Monday, August 31, Manhattan-bound Q trains skip Newkirk Avenue due to station rehabilitation.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, August 29 to 5 a.m. Monday, August 31, Manhattan-bound Q trains run express from Kings Highway to Prospect Park due to Brighton line station rehabilitation.

From 6:30 a.m. to midnight, Saturday, August 29 and Sunday, August 30, Queens-bound R trains run express in Queens from Roosevelt Avenue to Forest Hills-71st Avenue due to power cable work.

From 6:30 a.m. to midnight, Saturday, August 29 and Sunday, August 30, 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 between Lawrence and Jay Streets.

Categories : Service Advisories
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  • It’s too darn hot · For straphanging New Yorkers, summer means but one thing underground: It’s very, very, uncomfortably hot in the subways. Just how hot, though, is very hot? Recently, on a 92-degree day, WNYC’s Beth Fertig and Amy Pearl ventured underground with a digital thermometer to find out just how hot is hot. Their findings are unsurprising. According to the story (with accompanying audio), most stations were a few degrees warmer than outside temps. The Houston St. stop on the 1 clocked in at 95 degrees while the platform at Times Square registered a balmy 102 with blasts of heat up to 106 when trains pulled into the station. At 72nd St., the temps hovered at 100 degrees.

    Once Pearl and Fertig boarded one of the air conditioned trains, though, the climate dropped to comfortable. Temperatures on board ranged from 70-74. Therein lies the rub. Because air conditioners work by taking heat from an enclosed space and removing it to another, the constant ACs units that make our subway cars tolerable make the platforms unbearable. Considering how much more time we spend on the trains, though, it is a worthy trade-off.

    In the end, Fertig and Pearl found relief in a few stations with treated air. While they didn’t venture into the state-of-the-art South Ferry terminal for the 1, at Grand Central, they found the fans in place on the IRT platforms actually worked. The temperatures under those fans dropped to the upper 80s. Assaf Shave summed up most New Yorkers’ take on the heat: “As long as it’s not overly dirty I’ve learned to accept it and to adjust.” · (10)

DesignLine Bus Photo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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