• Taking a lesson from the City · While the MTA is still trying to figure out what to do with its massive amounts of scheduling data, the City of New York has decided to pursue an open source policy. In fact, as The Times Bits blogs announced today, the City is hosting an application development initiative targeted to the city’s developers and programmers. The City will make available, as Jenna Wortham reports, “170 data sets supplied by over 30 city agencies, including weekly traffic updates, schedules of citywide events, property sales, restaurant inspections and mappable data around school and voting districts.” The winners will receive up to $20,000 in cash, and the applications will be available to the public. While Department of Transportation information will be included in the data sets, the MTA’s information will, sadly, be absent from the competition. This is the path the MTA should follow as it searches for ways to open its data to the public. [NYC Big Apps via Bits] · (1)
  • Inside the legal fees for the MTA/TWU dispute · The Post today reports that the MTA has already spent $1.2 million in legal fees to fight the binding arbitration decision that guaranteed TWU workers 11 percent raises over three years. Of course, everyone is outraged — OUTRAGED! Curtis Tate, acting TWU boss, called it “this ridiculous waste of public resources.” Gene Russianoff, slightly less hyperbolic, questioned the outside expenditures: “They spent a lot of dough, and I wonder why they can’t do more of that in-house.”

    Of course, anyone with a little knowledge of the legal world would have an understanding of the situation. The MTA stands to lose hundreds of millions of dollars a year if the arbitration is upheld. Furthermore, outside law firms have the expertise and manpower to adequately combat a so-called binding arbitration decision. While the MTA’s in-house counsel can provide support, the lawyers at Littler Mendelson are much better suited for the task. The $1.2 million for a corporation the size of the MTA is but a drop in the legal bucket, and although the story makes for populist outrage, it’s a non-starter. · (0)

It must be tough to live through day one at the helm of the MTA. In a city of know-it-alls, everyone wants to be the first, second or even third person to tell you how to do your job, and Jay Walder yesterday was no exception.

Fresh off the plane from England and living on little sleep, Walder took the reins of the MTA and promised big changes. But first, he needs an action plan. “By the end of my first 100 days at the MTA, we will produce an action plan for moving forward with concrete goals and timelines,” Walder said to reporters on Monday. “We will make the objectives clear and the communities we serve should hold us accountable for achieving real results.”

Who wants to wait for Walder though? Heather Haddon of amNew York offered up her brief list of priorities, and Gene Russianoff and the Straphangers, in a press release not available online, also listed what they consider to be Walder’s priorities. The Straphangers’ list is fairly typical: Block maintenance and station agent cuts; improve bus service; utilize the line manager program; support public authority oversight. Ho hum.

With this lists in mind, I’m going to — surprise! surprise! — offer up my own list of the top five initiatives that Walder should tackle. He doesn’t need 100 days to put this action plan together, and in fact, at least one of these suggestions could be accomplished before the 100 days is up.

1. Overhaul the MTA’s Website
This particular initiative is really not that ground-breaking, and yet, it is a topic upon which I have harped for years. As I said in January, the MTA’s website pales in comparison with those of its competitors. When we examine the WMATA’s site, Transport for London’s homepage and the Chicago Transit Authority’s site, we see transit network websites designed with clear interfaces, easy-to-find trip planners and information at our fingertips. When we look at the MTA’s Internet home, we see a mess.

To make matters worse, the MTA’s site hasn’t really improved its look in six years. Don’t believe me? Take a look at its homepage from Oct. 8, 2003. The site has more information than it did during the early 2000s, but the look and navigation remain outdated and impossible to use.

Overhauling the MTA’s website will give the agency a much better public face and presence on the Internet. It’s 2009; those qualities go without say.

2. Open MTA data
In mid-September, I explored how the MTA is struggling in an age of open information. They had been pursuing spurious copyright claims against iPhone application developers, and while these actions have since ceased on the part of the transit agency, the data remains inaccessible. Hand in hand with a website redesign is an overhaul of the MTA’s data policies. The agency should open its scheduling information to developers and allow them to run wild with it. It can only contribute to transit interest and ridership demands.

3. Come clean on the Second Ave. Subway
When the Second Ave. Subway project got off the ground earlier this decade, Phase I was supposed to open in 2012, and the other Phases were to follow by 2020. On the precipice of 2010, we now know that Phase I may not open until 2018, and the other Phases remain unfunded ideas. In fact, in its next five-year capital plan, the MTA is requesting funds to finish Phase I but no money for Phase II or beyond.

While the MTA Inspector General is working on a report, Walder should commission an internal review of the Capital Construction department. Why is this project six years behind schedule and counting? What can be to speed up the pace of construction and restore a drive to see a full Second Ave. Subway with the next 10 or 15 years? What is wrong with the MTA’s process that multi-year delays plaguing multi-billion-dollar projects become the norm rather than exception?

4. Improve Surface Transit
New York City Transit’s buses are so slow that the Straphangers award them medals for lack of speed. Meanwhile, our city streets are so congested with unnecessary cars that buses can’t get anywhere. Make a strong push to reclaim the streets for transit. There is no reason that every avenue in Manhattan without a subway line under it can’t have Select Bus Service by the end of next year or 2011. There is no reason why outer borough thoroughfares should be held captive to automobile traffic at the expense of those using the buses. It might even be time to take a look at Vision42’s plan to remove cars from 42nd St. Since subway line construction is proving fiscally impractical right now, Walder should become a drive to give substantial surface space to bus lines.

5. Look to the Future
In early 2008 as part of the celebration of the 40th anniversary of the MTA, then-CEO and Executive Director Elliot Sander unveiled an ambitious if impossible 40-year plan to bring transit to, well, everywhere. In his vision, the major avenues would feature physically separated bus lanes, and a TriboroRX line would connect underserved areas in Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx. To many this plan is but a dream, but as Walder takes over, he should keep that dream in mind. While the subways need a lot of work today, we can’t be afraid of pushing for a better future. Only by keeping those goals in mind can we realize and overcome the problems facing a healthy and vibrant transit system in New York City.

Categories : MTA
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Jay Walder chats with reporters during his ride into Manhattan on the 7 train. (Photo courtesy of MTA/Patrick Cashin)

Nearly five months to the day since Elliot Sander stepped down as MTA CEO and Executive Director, the citys’ transit agency has a new permanent leader. Today marked the first day of work for the incoming CEO and Chairman Jay Walder. A veteran of the MTA and the man credited with modernizing the London Underground, Walder will spearhead the agency at a time of fiscal distress and amidst a public outcry for better service.

To begin his six-year term, Walder has engaged in a press tour lately. He spoke with the Daily News and a reporter from WNYC over the weekend. This morning, he greeted commuters at Flushing/Main St. on the 7 line and rode the subway into Manhattan with those who cover transit for the city’s news outlets. While I couldn’t make the meet-and-greet due to an early-morning class, Walder’s comments seem consistent across the medium: He wants to improve the customer experience, and he wants the agency, notorious for its slow rate of adaptation and innovation, to improve its response time and generally pick up the pace.

“By the end of my first 100 days at the MTA, we will produce an action plan for moving forward with concrete goals and timelines,” Walder said this morning. “We will make the objectives clear and the communities we serve should hold us accountable for achieving real results…”New Yorkers should be able to expect the same type of customer experience riders enjoy in London, with accurate arrival information and modern fare technology.”

While streamlining internal operations will be high on his priority list, the sexier issues he plans to tackle focus around technology and customer service. Known as the person who brought the Oyster Card to London, Walder understands the benefits of a faster fare-payment system, particularly as it applies to bus loading times, and wants to see countdown clocks implemented faster than the MTA currently plans to do so.

“I think we have to find a way to accelerate that timetable,” he said to WNYC’s Matthew Schuerman. “It helps. If you watch the London Underground, if you simply see people coming down into the station, they walk down to the platform. Everyone does exactly the same thing. They look up at the sign and find out exactly when the next train is coming and whether that sign says the train is coming in two minutes or four minutes or eight minutes they feel better with the knowledge that the system is running, that the train is coming and they can deal with that [wait] accordingly.”

In a more general sense, Walder wants the MTA to become more user-friendly. “We really want to have a system that provides an ease of use all around that we don’t have today, whether that’s the ticketing system or whether that’s electronic information that tells us what’s happening or whether that’s a website that gives us the information about what’s happening with the system because we’ve become accustomed to getting that in other environments,” he explained to Schuerman.

He talked further with Pete Donohue and the Daily News about improving both technology and the bus system. I am particularly pleased to hear Walder touch upon the MTA’s website as it is currently stuck in 1999. A new information-laden site would do wonders for the agency’s public image and ease of use.

It’s hard not to get excited about Walder. He has more power than Lee Sander did and comes from a similarly qualified background. He isn’t a real estate mogul (Peter Kalikow) or a politically-connected rich lawyer (E. Virgil Conway), and he should serve out his full six-year term.

That said, he faces a Herculean task. He has to cut through the bureaucratic red tape that currently surrounds every facet of the MTA; he is coming on board at a time of strained labor relations; and he has to figure out a solution to the MTA’s $10 billion capital funding while working to ensure that the agency’s operating costs are funded as well. In other words, he is trying to modernize the system while trying to keep it afloat as well. Walder, all six feet, six inches of him, handled London. Now let’s see how he does in New York.

After the jump, a photo of Walder as he greets passengers who are much, much shorter than he is. Photo courtesy of MTA/Patrick Cashin.

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  • The politics of the TWU · While Democratic mayoral candidate Bill Thompson is facing long odds and a distinct financial disadvantage in his efforts to unseat Michael Bloomberg, Thompson is earning himself some powerful union friends. Today, Michael Grynbaum explores how the TWU Local 100 arm has become a de facto powerhouse for Thompson. Because Bloomberg has developed an antagonistic toward the TWU and because he continues to oppose the mandated 11 percent raises the transit workers won in binding arbitration earlier this year, the TWU has taken to the streets to oppose Bloomberg’s push for a third term. I wonder, though, if the TWU’s actions on behalf of Thompson are simply coming about because they oppose Bloomberg, and I fear for the future the state of transit labor relations if Bloomberg succeeds in beating Thompson. Currently enjoying a 16-point lead, Bloomberg won’t take kindly to the TWU’s outspoken opposition. · (9)


On Saturday afternoon, I found myself waiting for the 2 or 3 train at Fulton St. I was waiting at the norther end of the platform when I espied the above sign hanging from a column. Both intrigued by it and somewhat confused by its necessity, I took a picture.

The north end of Fulton St., you see, is something of a dead end. There is an exit at that end of the platform, but it is open only during the weekend and does not allow a transfer to any of the other trains that stop by that busy station. Walking south brings a straphanger to the staircase that connect the 2 and 3 to the maze of tunnels that eventually lead to the IND (A/C), BMT (J/M/Z) and East Side IRT (4/5). Some day in the future, the N/R/W will be connected to rest of this confusing station as well.

Now, back to our sign. The thing about Fulton St. and the 4 is that, well, the 4 always stops at Fulton St. No matter the day, the hour, the week, the 4 train is one of the few trains that will always, no matter what stop at Fulton St. Over the weekend, the 4 had a service advisory in place. Due to communications cable work, all 4 trains were terminated at Bowling Green, and the 3 was providing service into Brooklyn. Passengers wishing to transfer from the 3 to the 4 or vice versa had to do sat Fulton St.

So I get it. The sign is there to guide passengers from wayward trains heading to or from Brooklyn back to the 4. Even though Fulton St. is covered with signs, even though this transfer is in effect no matter what, Transit wanted to make it easier for passengers traveling the route of this service change to make the connection.

There is but one problem, and while it’s a technical one, it’s a problem of communications nonetheless. The sign above does not depict a service change. At the top, in a blue strip designed to attract someone’s attention, the sign says “Service Changes,” and yet, it points the way to the normal path to the 4 train.

One of the many complaints disgruntled straphangers levy at the MTA concerns communications. With sub-par public address systems and myriad service changes every weekend, the MTA gets no credit for keeping its riders informed. In fact, the conductor of my 2 train failed to inform riders that the uptown A and C trains were bypassing Broadway/Nassau on Saturday. Had I not read my own service changes, I would not have known about this inconvenience until arriving at the platform a few twists and turns through the Fulton St. complex.

For casual riders, a sign saying “Service Changes” with an arrow and a 4 bullet will be confusing. It won’t make sense, and it will lead to head-scratching, questions and a less convenient commute. Transit and the MTA should be trying to make convoluted weekend subway trips easier, and although the intentions behind this sign are good, the execution is not.

A new era for the MTA begins on Monday morning. Jay Walder, fresh off the plane from London, will begin his stint at the MTA’s Chairman and CEO. He’ll begin the era by greeting passengers at Flushing-Main St. on the 7 line at 9 a.m. on Monday morning. That’s quite the way to begin a job.

Before Walder takes over, the MTA will roll out its buses for the Atlantic Antic. The Transit Museum will host its 16th Annual Bus Festival. The vintage bus fleets will occupy the expansive street on Boerum Place between State St. and Atlantic Ave. I’ve always enjoyed the old buses.

And of course, first, we get the weekend service advisories. As always, these come to me via the MTA and are subject to change without notice. Look for signs at your local station and be sure to listen for on-board announcements for up-to-the-minute service changes.

From 11:30 p.m. Friday, October 2 to 9 a.m. Saturday, October 3, and from 11:30 p.m. Saturday, October 3 to 10 a.m. Sunday, October 4, there are no 1 trains between 14th Street and South Ferry. The 2 and 3 trains provide alternate service between 14th Street and Chambers Street. Free shuttle buses replace 1 trains between Chambers Street and South Ferry. These changes are due to track maintenance.

From 12:01 a.m. to 9 a.m. Saturday, October 3 and from 12:01 a.m. to 10 a.m. Sunday, October 4, 1 trains skip 28th, 23rd, and 18th Streets in both directions due to track maintenance. 2 and 3 trains provide alternate service.

From 12:01 a.m. to 9 a.m. Saturday, October 3, from 12:01 a.m. to 10 a.m. Sunday, October 4, and from 12:30 a.m. to 5:15 a.m. Monday, October 5, 2 and 3 trains run local between 96th Street and Chambers Street due to track maintenance.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, October 3 to 5 a.m. Monday, October 5, 4 trains run local between 125th Street and Brooklyn Bridge due to communications cable work.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, October 3 to 5 a.m. Monday, October 5, there are no 4 trains between Bowling Green and Utica Avenue due to communications cable work. The 3 and N provide alternate service. Note: 3 trains are extended to New Lots Avenue all weekend.

From 6:30 a.m. to midnight Saturday, October 3 and Sunday, October 4, there are no 5 trains between Grand Central-42nd Street and Bowling Green due to communications cable work. Customers should take the 4 instead.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, October 3 to 5 a.m. Monday, October 5, 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-St. Mary’s Street.

At all times until December 21, 2009, Manhattan-bound A trains skip Beach 90th and Beach 105th 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 rehabilitations.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, October 3 to 5 a.m. Monday, October 5, Manhattan-bound A trains run on the F from Jay Street to West 4th Street, then local to 59th Street-Columbus Circle due to the Chambers Street Signal Modernization Project.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, October 3 to 5 a.m. Monday, October 5, A trains run local between Hoyt-Schermerhorn Sts. and Euclid Avenue due to the Chambers Street Signal Modernization Project.

From 6:30 a.m. to midnight, Saturday, October 3 and Sunday, October 4, there are no C trains between Chambers Street-World Trade Center and Euclid Avenue due to the Chambers Street Signal Modernization Project. Customers should take the A instead. Note: C trains run on the E track at Chambers Street-World Trade Center.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, October 3 to 5 a.m. Monday, October 5, D trains run local between 34th Street and West 4th Street due to a track chip-out in the 53rd Street tunnel.

From 5 a.m. Saturday, October 3 to 10 p.m. Sunday, October 4, Coney Island-bound D trains run on the N from 36th Street to Coney Island-Stillwell Avenue due to track panel installation.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, October 3 to 5 a.m. Monday, October 5, 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 Sts.; trains resume normal E service from 5th Avenue to Jamaica Center.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, October 3 to 5 a.m. Monday, October 5, 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, G or 6 instead. Note: Free shuttle buses connect the Court Square G/23rd Street-Ely Avenue, Queens Plaza, and 21st Street-Queensbridge F stations.

From 12:30 a.m. Saturday, October 3 to 5 a.m. Monday, October 5, Queens-bound E trains run express from Queens Plaza to Forest Hills-71st Avenue due to track maintenance.

From 8:30 p.m. to midnight Friday, October 2, and from 6:30 a.m. to midnight Saturday, October 3 and Sunday, October 4, 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.

From 12:01 a.m. to 6:30 a.m. Saturday, October 3 and Sunday, October 4, and from 12:01 a.m. to 5 a.m. Monday, October 5, Queens-bound G trains run express from Queens Plaza to Forest Hills-71st Avenue due to track maintenance.

From 12:01 a.m. to 5 a.m. Sunday, October 4, uptown N trains skip 49th Street due to track cleaning.

From 12:01 a.m. to 5 a.m. Saturday, October 3, uptown N trains skip Prince, 8th, 23rd, and 28th Streets due to track cleaning.

From 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, October 3 and Sunday, October 4, Q trains run in two sections due to switch repair:

  • Between 57th Street (Manhattan) and Brighton Beach and
  • Between Brighton Beach and Coney Island-Stillwell Avenue*

*Trains run every 16 minutes.

From 6:30 a.m. to midnight Saturday, October 3 and Sunday, October 4, Queens-bound R trains run express from Queens Plaza to Forest Hills-71 Avenue due to track maintenance.

From 10:30 p.m. Friday, October 2 to 5 a.m. Monday, October 5, there are no S shuttle trains between Broad Channel and Rockaway Park. Free shuttle buses and A trains provide alternate service due to station rehabilitations.

Categories : Service Advisories
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With its proposed Capital Program for 2010-2014, the MTA is finally making a true effort catch up with transit system innovation and technology from the 1970s. Earlier today, I examined the impending 2011 arrival of subway arrival boards. Now, we turn our attention to the surface streets and look at how the implementation of this technology is progressing for buses.

Buses in New York, as long-time SAS readers know, have had a tortured history with this technology. The MTA had to abandon a pilot a short time ago when the technology, in place in various cities with tall buildings, could not handle Manhattan’s density and skyscrapers. While the authority is currently embroiled in a lawsuit over that failed bus tracking experiment, a new trial is in place along the 34th St. select bus service corridor, and this time, the agency feels that a wider roll-out is on the horizon.

In fact, the latest Capital Program Q-and-A document — available here as a PDF — further explores the plans for the bus system. The explanation starts with a statement of commitment. “NYCT and MTA Bus are committed to pursuing an Automatic Vehicle Location (AVL) system, which will be used to provide automated real-time bus location and arrival information to bus customers,” the document promises. “This technology will be rolled out initially along existing and planned Select Bus Service (SBS) routes, with the eventual goal of providing real-time information on all bus lines.” All of the bus lines, however, won’t receive this service until the 2015-2019 capital plan.

Currently, the MTA is testing out preexisting technologies. According to the report, the 34th St. corridor pilot is being fronted by technology from Clever Devices. This pilot is set to run through February 2010, and it comes “at no capital cost” to Transit.

At the same time, the agency has issued a request for information to all AVL providers. “Extensive market outreach is also being conducted to identify all suppliers who can competitively provide this technology,” says the MTA. “The goal of this effort will be the development of specifications that can be successfully met by existing, proven and competitively available technologies.” In other words, why reinvent the wheel if the technology already exists?

By 2010, the MTA will have its specifications in place to issue a request for proposals with a target date for the award of a contract by the end of next year. That contract, however, will cover select-bus service routes only for now including the First and Second Ave. corridors. The MTA plans to work with NYCDOT on both costs and implementation.

As to the former, this is not a cheap system. The MTA has already received $30.7 million for AVL roll-out through the current capital plan and is asking for another $50 million in the next capital plan. A systemwide cost estimate for non-SBS routes is “not currently available,” but those costs will include a technological retrofit of the entire bus fleet. It won’t be a cheap investment.

That is not to say that it shouldn’t be made. As the MTA notes, this is a necessary program, and one could argue that, as the respective implementation plans stand, the bus countdown clocks will be more useful than those underground. “AVL is expected to result in improved customer service by providing a comprehensive history of running time data that can be used to update bus schedules to better reflect actual conditions, resulting in more reliable service,” the MTA says. “AVL will also improve the ability to dispatch services, particularly in response to congestion or other unplanned events, resulting in a more efficient use of NYCT and MTA Bus resources.” A more efficient bus system would be a boon to New York’s transit infrastructure indeed.

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Other cities have enjoyed train arrival boards for years. (Photo by flickr user NYCArthur)

When the MTA first proposed bringing train arrival boards into its system, the original target date for an A Division — that’s the IRT numbered lines in NYC Transit lingo — roll-out was 2006. As I reported last year, the MTA had since pushed back that date to 2011 for a delay of five years. In the latest Q-and-A sections about the 2010-2014 Capital Program, the MTA confirmed that the train arrival boards will make their A Division debuts in 2011 as long as the current schedule holds.

While an on-time date one year later is good news, the surprising development to many riders is that many of the components are already in place. Take a walk around many of the IRT stations — Bergen St. and Grand Army Plaza near me in Brooklyn come to mind — and wrapped LCD signs dangle from the ceilings. Those signs will, in around 14 months, usher in a new age of technology for the MTA.

To implement the countdown clocks, as the Q-and-A (pdf) says, the transit authority must implement a two-tiered technology structure. First, either Communications-Based Train Control, a state-of-the-art technology not loved by unions, or Automatic Train Supervision, a simple enhancement to the current system, must be brought online to “identify the location of trains.” Then, Public Address and Customer Information Screens must be installed in every station. This PA/CIS system broadcasts those annoying digital audio announcements currently heard on the L line and display the countdown clocks and other pertinent information.

Already in place along the Canarsie Line, all of the A Divisions except the Flushing Line — so the 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 but not the 7 — are equipped with an ATS system. That installation cost $213 million and was covered by the current 2005-2009 capital campaign. Currently, the MTA is working to install the PA/CIS system, and as I mentioned above, many stations are already equipped with the digital signs. The final cost of this part of the project will be $171 million, and it should be online by December 2010. But the MTA document says it is “subject to the successful resolution of contractual issues.” That’s a big red flag.

Once the major installation projects are complete, Transit will begin using the technology right away on all but the White Plains Road (2/5) and the Dyre Avenue (5) Lines in the Bronx. The White Plains Road boards will come online in November 2011 when signal modernization is complete. Dyre Avenue passengers won’t enjoy this technology until 2016.

So that’s the good news. There is, of course, some not-so-good news. The Flushing Line will not enjoy train arrival boards until 2016 when the CBTC work and the PA/CIS upgrade are completed.

The B Division lines — all of the lettered trains — are even less likely to see this technology. The 2010-2014 Capital Plan budgets $25 million for “design/piloting of an ATS system for monitoring trains.” The report continues, “Full rollout on the entire B-Division will cost approximately $175 million, with the balance of the cost to be funded in 2015-19.” In other words, these lines may receive countdown clocks in a decade from now. The MTA has, however, included $46 million to equip the final 43 stations that have no public address systems at all.

Despite the slow roll-out, this is progress for the MTA. They have a concrete plan to bring this countdown clock technology to the system. It will, however, be online throughout the system nearly two decades after London and Washington, D.C. began using it. While the system allows for real-time train location data to be broadcast online, it is unclear if the MTA will take the technological leap of making that information available to the public.

In the end, Michael Grynbaum’s Times article on this topic says it best. Transit advocates are indeed skeptical about “whether this system would be sufficient.” I’ll let Andrew Albert, head of the NYC Transit Riders Council, have the last word. He said to Grynbaum, “It would be even more useful if they install a repeater on the street, so people can have time to get a cup of coffee or a newspaper.” Or just walk home.

  • A federally-mandated braking system with a lofty price tag · A new federal law will require the MTA to spend over $700 million on retrofitting its commuter rail fleet with a new braking system, according to the agency. WNYC’s Matthew Schuerman issued a brief report on how a required automatic braking system could prove to be very costly. In the wake of last fall’s deadly train crash in Los Angeles, Congress is now requiring freight and passenger rail cars to utilize positive train control, a system that would lock the wheels automatically if, for example, a conductor misses a signal. Congress has granted $50 million to outfit our nation’s rail fleet, but the MTA alleges it will cost $700 million just to address the problem in New York. As the Association of American Railroads calls this effort “an unfunded mandate with questionable safety benefits,” I wonder who will carry the burden of paying for it. · (4)
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