A diagram showing planned transit improvements for One Vanderbilt and Grand Central. (Photo via KPF)

A diagram showing planned transit improvements for One Vanderbilt and Grand Central. (Photo via KPF)

Toward the end of his third term, Mayor Michael Bloomberg unveiled an ambitious plan to rezone Midtown East for density. As part of the plans, the Mayor, consulting with the MTA, unveiled a few hundred million dollars worth of transit upgrades. These upgrades were Key in securing then-Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer’s sign off and when the lame-duck mayor saw his rezoning dreams falter, I bemoaned the end of the transit upgrades.

Less than a year later, though, the rezoning plans are provisionally back on the table, albeit in a different form that doesn’t concern us. The transit upgrades too have survived the transition to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration, and yesterday, SL Green in conjunction with the MTA and Kohn Pedersen Fox unveiled their $200 million plan for transit access in and around Grand Central. Their goals — to be completed by 2020 — will streamline passenger flow and expand space in a constrained area, and, most importantly, the costs will be borne by the developers.

The project that developers and the MTA showed off yesterday is One Vanderbilt, a 65-story office building that will be open before East Side Access is scheduled to wrap. It will be directly to the west of Grand Central with multiple access points to the transit infrastructure below, and plans include closing Vanderbilt between 42nd and 43rd Sts. to vehicular traffic.

As far as transit improvements, the renderings are extensive and necessary. Plans include:

  • new ground-level entrances directly to the Shuttle platform along 42nd St.;
  • a below-grade corridor and escalators connecting directly into East Side Access;
  • a 4000-square-foot transit hall in One Vanderbilt;
  • a new entrance to the Lexington Ave. IRT from the Pershing Building;
  • narrower stairs and columns to provide more platform space and better pedestrian flow; and
  • the reopening of enclosed spaces to improve passenger flow on the IRT mezzanine.

All in all, the improvements are a significant part of the $400 million the MTA and City had said they needed to spend when the rezoning efforts were first announced in early 2013.

Although the MTA and SL Green recognize that community boards will still need to weigh in on this plan, transit advocacy groups and other interests are aligning in favor of the plan. “As a transit rider group, the Straphangers Campaign believes the proposed deal between SL Green, the City and the MTA holds much promise for improving the lives of millions of riders who use Grand Central Terminal. In October, the official land use process kicks in, with community boards, elected officials and the public getting a chance to have their say. We will be listening,” Gene Russianoff said.

Others echoed these sentiments. “The public access points, escalators, and waiting area will be a tremendous improvement for Grand Central and East Side Aces and this private investment will ensure the public reaps the full benefit of this world class transit hub,” Jennifer Hensley, Executive Director of the Association for a Better New York, said.

For now, we have promises and renderings. The streamlining of the columns alone are nearly worth the cost of the project, and the rest is just gravy. We’ll see when, if and how long this takes to come to fruition.

After the jump, a gallery of renderings of One Vanderbilt’s transit improvements, all via KPF. Read More→

Categories : Manhattan
Comments (42)

SEPTA and Jefferson Hospitals officials salute Market East’s new name. (Photo via SEPTA)

Over the years, I’ve taken an interest in the push, more often fruitless than not, for transit agencies to sell naming rights for their train stations. Generally, the desire for operators to realize more revenue has far outpaced the willingness of businesses to pony up the dough, and even in New York, with ridership numbers far outpacing the rest of the nation, the MTA hasn’t found success. The agency a naming rights policy in place but have so far sold the rights to only one station and only for $200,000 a year. Philadelphia though seems to have found the magic touch.

In 2010, SEPTA became one of the first U.S. transit agencies to see real money in a naming rights deal. For $5.4 million over five years — $2 million of which went to SEPTA’s advertising agency — AT&T bought the rights to the Pattison Station near the city’s sports complex. The new name removed any geographical signifier from the station name, and I was skeptical of this approach. It’s hard to argue too much with essentially free money, and SEPTA managed to pocket $3.4 million out of the deal.

Last week, the agency again found a partner for a naming rights deal. This time, Thomas Jefferson University Hospitals will pay $4 million for a five-year naming rights deal for the regional rail’s popular Market East station in Center City. As of last week, the stop is now called Jefferson Station, and SEPTA will again earn $3.4 million — or 85 percent — of the total outlay. Jefferson holds an option for an additional four years at $3.4 million.

SEPTA officials patted themselves on the back over the deal. “It speaks volumes about SEPTA’s reputation and role as a driver of the economy that one of the region’s most respected organizations is partnering with SEPTA in such a prominent way,” SEPTA Chairman Pat Deon said.

Jefferson Hospital higher-ups meanwhile were more transparent regarding the benefits of the deal. “We’re transforming ourselves and we’re creating bold new partnerships that deliver a very exciting and different future for Jefferson, for our patients and students. We want everyone to know it and see it every day when they pass through this station,” Jefferson CEO Stephen Klasko said.

This deal for Market East is a much better one for the riders. As a key stop for suburban access to Center City, the Station Formerly Known As Market East sees 26,000 riders per day and offers connection to Philadelphia’s subway and buses. A good portion of those riders are heading to Jefferson as employees, students, patients or visitors. Unlike AT&T, which is a brand name and not a location, Jefferson Station signals to riders a potential destination, and the utility of Market East as a name was unsettled at best.

On another level though, we should question these deals. SEPTA is pocketing $680,000 per year for these naming rights against an annual operating budget of over $1.3 billion. The agency claims the money will allow them to invest in Jefferson Station, but 700 grand only goes so far. Is it worth the effort, the public reeducation campaign and everything in between? I’m still not quite convinced. But when it comes to transit in the United States, a dollar earned is indeed a dollar earned.

Categories : SEPTA
Comments (29)

It may feel like summer out there but the service advisories look like fall. Catch you on Monday.


From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, September 6 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, September 8, 2 trains run local in both directions between 96 St and Times Sq-42 St due to CPM cable work at 72 St.


From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, September 6 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, September 8, 3 trains run local in both directions between 96 St and Times Sq-42 St due to CPM cable work at 72 St.


From 12:01 a.m. to 6:00 a.m. Saturday and Sunday, September 6, and 7, and from 12:01 a.m. to 5:00 a.m. Monday, September 8, 3 service is extended to 34 St-Penn Station due to CPM cable work at 72 St.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, September 5 to 6:00 a.m. Sunday, September 7, and from 11:45 p.m. Sunday, September 7 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, September 8, New Lots Av-bound 4 trains run express from Grand Cantral-42 St to 14 St-Union Sq due to CPM ADA work at 23 St.


From 11:00 p.m. Saturday, September 6 to 6:00 a.m. Sunday, September 7, and from 11:00 p.m. Sunday, September 7 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, September 8, New Lots Av-bound 4 trains run local from 125 St to Grand Cantral-42 St due to CPM cable work south of 125 St.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, September 5 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, September 8, 5 trains are suspended between Eastchester-Dyre Av and E 180 St due to CPM signal modernization on the Dyre Avenue Line. Free shuttle buses operate all weekend between Eastchester-Dyre Av and E 180 St, stopping at Baychester Av, Gun Hill Rd, Pelham Pkwy, and Morris Park.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, September 5 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, September 8, Brooklyn Bridge-bound 6 trains run express from Grand Cantral-42 St to 14 St-Union Sq due CPM ADA work at 23 St .


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, September 5 to Monday, September 8, Pelham Bay Park-bound 6 trains run express from Hunts Point Av to Parkchester due to MOW track tie block renewal south of Whitlock Av and track panel installation north of Elder Av.


From 7:30 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. Saturday, September 6 and from 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. Sunday, September 7, 6 trains run every 16 minutes between 3 Av-138 St and Pelham Bay Park due to MOW track tie block renewal south of Whitlock Av and track panel installation north of Elder Av. The last stop for some 6 trains headed toward Pelham Bay Park is 3 Av-138 St.


From 11:30 p.m. Friday, September 5 to Monday, September 8, Jamaica Center-bound E trains are rerouted on the F line from W 4 St-Wash Sq to 21 St-Queensbridge due to MOW rail and tie installation at Court Sq-23 St. Free shuttle buses run between Court Sq-23 St and 21 St-Queensbridge, stopping at Queens Plaza.


From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, September 6 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, September 8, Jamaica Center-bound E trains run local in Queens due to rail and tie installation north of Queens Plaza.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, September 5 to 6:30 a.m. Sunday, September 7, and from 11:45 p.m. Sunday, September 7 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, September 8, World Trade Center-bound E trains run express from Jamaica-Van Wyck to Queens Plaza (stopping at Union Tpke, 71 Ave, & Roosevelt Ave) due to CPM Queens Boulevard Signals tunnel lighting north of 65 St, and rail installation at Briarwood-Van Wyck Blvd.


From 11:15 p.m. Friday, September 5 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, September 8, Coney Island-Stillwell Av-bound F trains are rerouted on the M line from Roosevelt Av to 47-50 Sts-Rock Ctr due to CPM Second Avenue Subway related work.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, September 5 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, September 8, Coney Island-Stillwell Av-bound F trains skip Sutphin Blvd, Van Wyck Blvd, and 75 Av due to CPM Queens Boulevard Signals and rail installation at Briarwood-Van Wyck Blvd.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, September 5 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, September 8, Coney Island-Stillwell Av-bound F trains skip 4 Av-9 St, 15 St-Prospect Park, and Fort Hamilton Pkwy due to CPM Church Avenue Interlocking.


From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, September 6 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, September 8, 179 St-bound F trains run local in Queens due to MOW rail and tie installation north of Queens Plaza.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, September 5 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, September 8, Church Av-bound G trains skip 4 Av-9 St, 15 St-Prospect Park, and Fort Hamilton Pkwy due to CPM Church Avenue Interlocking work.


From 6:45a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Saturday, September 6, and from 8:45 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Sunday, September 7, Chambers St-bound J trains skip Flushing Av, Lorimer St, and Hewes St due to track cleaning and maintenance south of Lorimer St, and Hewes St.


From 5:45a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Saturday, September 6, Chambers St-bound J trains skip Chauncey Street, Halsey Street, Gates Avenue, and Kosciusko Street due to rail replacement work.


From 6:45 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Saturday, September 6 and from 8:45 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Sunday, September 7, Broad St-bound M trains skip Flushing Av, Lorimer St, and Hewes St due to track cleaning and maintenance south of Lorimer St, and Hewes St.


From 5:45 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. Saturday, September 6, Coney Island-bound N trains are rerouted via the D line from 36 St to Coney Island-Stillwell Av due to installation of contact rail heaters south of 59 St.


From 11:45 p.m. Friday, September 5 to 5:00 a.m. Monday, September 8, Coney Island-bound Q trains run express from Kings Hwy to Sheepshead Bay due to MOW track work at Sheepshead Bay.


From 5:30 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. Saturday, September 6, and Sunday, September 7, Bay Ridge-bound R trains run express from Forest Hills-71 Av to Queens Plaza due to CPM Queens Boulevard Signals and tunnel lighting north of 65 St.

Categories : Service Advisories
Comments (3)

A staircase most grand. (Via @WTCProgress)

It’s no secret that I’m not a fan of the World Trade Center PATH Hub. Due to a variety of factors, the Port Authority is spending an absurd amount of money to design what has repeatedly been called an iconic train station — which happens to be across the street from another supposedly iconic train station — and serves only a subway stop for PATH. The WTC Hub isn’t akin to Grand Central; there is no connection north, south or east, and it serves 35,000 passengers per day, fewer than Jay St.-Metrotech or the 8th Ave. 14th St. station. And, at a time when the need to expand trans-Hudson capacity has never been more evident, the price tag for a station that does nothing to address the region’s needs has ballooned toward $4 billion. It is, in a word, a boondoggle.

Eventually, when the station finally opens and passengers traverse the underground mall, the rebuilt World Trade Center area, and the marble-covered halls of Santiago Calatrava’s station, the focus on this project’s flaws may recede. It may even become that iconic image of Lower Manhattan its promoters had hoped it would become oh so many years ago. But we will still feel its impact every time we try to get to Laguardia Airport or sigh in frustration at another New Jersey Transit or Amtrak delay caused by congestion in the one rail tunnel connecting Manhattan to the rest of the world. Priorities will shift, and the specter of the stegosaurus will loom large.

Elliot Brown of The Wall Street Journal has penned what is, to date, the definitive work on the issues plaguing the transit hub. It includes honest assessments on the costs and construction problems and portends a future of cautious design (and perhaps capacity-focused projects rather than buildings more akin to vanity affairs). “Did you need to build the $3.7 billion transportation hub to achieve the meaningfulness of the World Trade Center redevelopment?” Scott Rechler, the Port Authority’s vice chair, wondered. “In hindsight, I don’t know if I would have come to that conclusion.”

I’d urge you to read Brown’s full story. He delves into every aspect of the project — including the Port Authority’s wish, overruled by then-Gov. George Pataki, to save around $500 million by shutting down the 1 line south of Chambers St. for indeterminate length of time to effect repairs and rebuild the Cortlandt St. station. I’ll excerpt some key parts as Brown traces the history of a hub that was once to cost $1.5-$2 billion and open nearly seven years ago:

An analysis of federal oversight reports viewed by The Wall Street Journal and interviews with current and former officials show a project sunk in a morass of politics and government. Those redesigning the World Trade Center—destroyed by terrorists in 2001—were besieged by demands from various agencies and officials, and “the answer was never, ‘No,’ ” said Christopher Ward, executive director from 2008 to 2011 of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the project’s builder.

Why that happened is more difficult to untangle. The Port Authority, run jointly by the two states, has long been known for political infighting. City, state and federal agencies, as well as real-estate developer Larry Silverstein, also joined in. In public and private clashes, they each pushed to include their own ideas, making the site’s design ever more complex, former project officials said. These disputes added significant delays and costs to the transit station, which serves as a backbone to the bigger 16-acre redevelopment site, connecting the World Trade Center’s four planned office towers, underground retail space and the 9/11 museum, the officials said and oversight reports show…

The high cost has been attributed by many public officials to its ornate and complex design by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava. His plans proved far more difficult to build than anticipated, the Port Authority has said, requiring, for example, the manufacture of enormous steel spans overseas. Even daily maintenance will be costly. A recently opened hallway has white marble floors where workers remove scuff marks with sponges on sticks. Mr. Calatrava, through a spokesman, declined to comment.

But current and former officials who worked on the project, a terminal for the PATH commuter rail system, said in interviews they believed demands, disagreements and poor coordination among the many parties working on the World Trade Center site spurred hundreds of millions of dollars in overruns.

The special requests and demands break down as follows:

  • Michael Bloomberg wanted the memorial plaza open by the 10th Anniversary of the attacks. Doing so added at least $100 million to the budget as “a large swath of the underground terminal below the plaza had to be built without use of cranes or other large equipment. Workers had to move materials by hand.”
  • The decision to maintain 1 train service through the site and build a supported box added another $300-$500 million.
  • Complex underground connections added another $140 million to the price tag.

We don’t know how much Calatrava himself is getting for his design and engineering work. The Port Authority has, so far, yet to respond to Freedom of Information requests I’ve filed regarding these amounts. But it’s not an insubstantial amount, and, as Brown notes, upkeep costs for this fanciful subway stop will be plentiful.

So ultimately, we have a monument to Lower Manhattan for $4 billion and 35,000 passengers. We don’t have modernized airports or convenient ways to get there. We have transit capacity needs that go unfulfilled, and we have recognition that the WTC PATH Hub became more unmanageable than it should have. Let’s not repeat these mistakes in the future.

Categories : PANYNJ
Comments (104)
  • Bedbugs on a train · New Yorkers are long accustomed to sharing their subway rides with all sorts of wild life. Cockroach sightings underground are, sadly, not rare, and rats scurry along train tracks searching for food. At outdoor stations, pigeons are known to amble into a train car or two in search of an errant french fry. The latest hangers-on though we could all do without.

    Over the past few weeks, even though the larger epidemic was supposedly on the wane, numerous reports of bed bugs on subway trains — in particular the N line — have emerged, and in a column earlier this week, Pete Donohue of the Daily News reported at least 21 sightings in August. According to the columnist, the N train leads the way with nine sightings while the Q had three and the 6 two. Bugs were also spotted on the 3, 4, 5 and L trains and in crew rooms in Astoria, East New York and Coney Island.

    As far as the extent of the problem, the MTA has worked to downplay the sightings. The agency says it has found “no bedbug infestations on any trains,” and crews inspect and fumigate train cars nearly immediately. “This is an interesting story but not a big problem,” spokesman Adam Lisberg said to the News. Still, it’s clear from rapid response times that the MTA is treating these reports very seriously, as they should. · (9)

MTA crews seen here in late August worked throughout the summer to repair the G train’s Greenpoint Tubes. (Photo: Marc A. Hermann / MTA New York City Transit)

Greenpoint’s and Long Island City’s summer of their discontent came to end this morning as Transit restored G train service between Brooklyn and Queens. After shutting down the Greenpoint Tubes for Hurricane Sandy-related repairs in late July, the MTA celebrated wrapping the work on time this morning, and G trains will operate as they always do, sometimes more reliably than others, for the foreseeable future.

“Superstorm Sandy’s devastating impact on our Subway network posed a challenge never before faced by our organization,” NYC Transit President Carmen Bianco said in a statement. “However we rose to this challenge and are rebuilding our system better and stronger than before. The dedication of Transit personnel in rebuilding the Greenpoint Tubes and ensuring safe, reliable G train service for our customers is part of our continuing efforts to reinforce the system’s infrastructure and safeguard the most vulnerable areas of our subway system for decades to come.”

As the MTA has repeatedly noted, the Greenpoint Tubes suffered a considerable amount of damage during Sandy when three million gallons of salt water (and who knows what else from Newtown Creek) filled the tunnels that connect Brooklyn and Queens. Power cables corroded from the inside while rails and fasteners suffered significant damage. Ventilation, lighting and communications systems were all destroyed and still have not been fully restored. Still, service could resume today.

The shutdown, of course, was not without controversy or questionable conclusions by regular riders of the G train who bemoan service many view as unsatisfactory. In an amusing piece of person-on-the-street journalism, DNA Info reported that some G riders preferred shuttle buses to the subway. The shuttle buses, after all, ran far more frequently, albeit at significantly lower capacities, than the G train did. Business though in Northern Brooklyn and Long Island City are happy to see the subway connection restored even if the G will be undergoing a FASTRACK treatment next week.

Meanwhile, further south, the MTA is pushing to wrap up work on the Montague St. Tunnel by the end of October and will turn its attention to other East River tubes that suffered damage but will not require full shutdowns. As now, the MTA has simply said they will “will also address issues in other under river tubes to make the system more resilient.” Details should be forthcoming soon.

Categories : Superstorm Sandy
Comments (33)

P123poster

It’s been a while since a classic movie about, or even with scenes in, the New York City subway hit theaters. The 2009 version of The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 is something everyone would rather ignore, and 1995′s Money Train drew headlines more for alleged copycats than for the quality of the film. Still, the classics remain the classics with the 1970s a particularly iconic decade for subway movies, and in a few weeks, you’ll be able to catch the big names on the silver screen.

As part of an early fall retrospective, BAMcinématek will be hosting Retro Metro, what they’re calling a 16-film ride through the history of the New York City subway. The Big 3 — The French Connection, The Taking of Pelham One Two Three, and opening night’s The Warriors — get top billing, and joining them will be a rare showing of The Incident as well as a dozen other films inspired by or filmed on the subways. There will be no Ghost, but you can catch Saturday Night Fever, Midnight Cowboy, and Just Another Girl on the I.R.T. along with Vincente Minnelli’s The Clock and the Gene Kelly classic On The Town.

The films run from Friday, September 26 through Sunday, October 5, and the full schedule is available in BAM’s press release. I’m aiming to catch The Incident on October 3, The Warriors on September 26, and perhaps The French Connection on October 5. If there’s interest, I may arrange a quasi-official Second Ave. Sagas outing to see the original Taking of Pelham One Two Three at 7 p.m. on Sunday, September 28. If you haven’t seen any of these movies, or even if you have, check them out. This will be a great festival.

Meanwhile, we have more pressing matters to attend to. I’m out of town for the Labor Day weekend, but the work doesn’t stop. Your service advisories after the jump, and remember to pay attention to travel patterns on Sunday as the West Indian-American Day Parade always causes some localized changes. Read More→

Comments (9)

Moynihan Station supporters are slowly moving the project forward as Elmo looks on from MSG.

Every now and then, New York City collectively remembers that Moynihan Station remains an idea slowly inching toward reality, and every now and then, Moynihan Station makes its way back into the headlines of the city’s newspapers. The project officially got underway in 2012 with a very modest Phase 1 build-out involving some staircases and access points to Amtrak platforms, and earlier this year, it seemed that forces were slowly aligning behind the long-aborning effort. Now, it’s back, with funding and a vengeance, and could be closer to reality than we think.

The latest comes to us from Charles V. Bagli of The New York Times. According to Bagli’s report, the station plans are nearly fully funded, and Senator Chuck Schumer is asking the feds and Amtrak to close the gap. We’ll get to that shortly, as, in the meantime, I find Bagli’s article telling for what it doesn’t say than for what it does.

In reintroducing The Times’ readership to Moynihan Station, Bagli runs through the litany of folks lining up to support the project. Calling it a “$1 billion proposal to create a grand annex to Pennsylvania Station,” Bagli notes that Moynihan is “a favorite project of civic organizations, developers and politicians.” Notice who’s missing: planners and transit advocates. That’s because it’s not really a favorite project for that group. The Farley Post Office is west of 8th Ave., a full avenue block away from the IRT lines and two avenues from the BMT and IND at Herald Square. Unlike Penn Station, which straddles two subway lines, it’s not particularly well located to serve as a centralized train station, and the building design, with sweeping staircases, isn’t luggage-friendly. Still the project marches on.

Bagli writes:

One small step nearing completion is the enlargement of the existing concourses serving the train platforms below the blocklong post office and the expansion of a passageway beneath Eighth Avenue to Penn Station. And on Tuesday, Senator Charles E. Schumer, long a proponent of what is known as Moynihan Station, called on Amtrak and the Federal Transit Administration to provide the remaining money necessary for the next phase: building a skylit, intercity train hall in the post office for Amtrak. “After years of dreaming and work, Moynihan Station is on the precipice of success,” Mr. Schumer said. “Let’s access available federal money — from the F.T.A., Amtrak and elsewhere — to get it done now.”

…The state’s Moynihan Station Development Corporation is overseeing the $300 million first phase of the project, which is expected to be completed next year…But state officials have a $700 million construction budget for building the train hall, where postal workers once sorted mail, and retail spaces. The hall would be roughly the same size as the great hall in Grand Central Terminal.

…Mr. Schumer said that the development corporation had pledges for $500 million, from the city and two developers chosen in 2005 to create the Moynihan transit hub. That leaves a $200 million shortfall, which Mr. Schumer said should be filled by federal funds.

Bagli rehashes how various plans to move Madison Square Garden have fallen through, and he even drags a perfunctory quote out of Amtrak Chairman Anthony Coscia. “Although our resources are limited, we think this is an important project. We’ll do everything in our power to make it a reality,” he said. “Right now, the most important thing is to serve the rapidly growing demand for train service along the Northeast corridor.”

But the largest problem with the project remains firmly in place: For $1 billion, the Moynihan Station Development Corporation is creating a nicer waiting room for Amtrak without contemplated or expanded train capacity through the station. There’s no denying that Penn Station needs fixing. It’s not a pleasant place to be, and that inevitably will lead some people to eschew train service. But as dollars for transit are scarce, the priority should be expanding trans-Hudson capacity.

The Times reserves this inconvenient truth for the kicker of the article. By paraphrasing Bob Yaro, outgoing head of the Regional Plan Association, Bagli notes that without another Hudson River tunnel or an expansion of Penn Station to the south, Moynihan Station is simply a nicer shell for an older problem. Gateway, anybody?

Categories : Moynihan Station
Comments (169)

Public transit subsidies are always a rather thorny issue when it comes to politics. There’s a compelling argument to be made that public transit should be subsidized to some degree or other as it allows people who can’t afford to live in downtown/center city areas relatively cheap access to job and cultural centers as well as other social services. There’s also an argument to be made that transit users should cover the operations and capital costs of the system, but until the nation’s drivers start footing all the bills for road maintenance and expansion, I have a tougher time buying into that argument.

In New York city, after years of divestment by state and city officials, riders carry most of the burden of their subway system. New York City Transit still enjoys the benefits of the MTA, but subway riders foot around two-thirds of the cost of a subway ride these days. Based on recent studies, in fact, the per-passenger subsidy is around $1. As far as American transit systems go, that’s a tiny subsidy, and we need look no further than our own city to find a transit network that seems to bleed money.

As Business Week explored recently, the Port Authority’s PATH system is woefully inefficient. PATH, noted the magazine, is more expensive than any comparable system and shouldn’t even be compared to Transit’s subway network. According to recent studies, the per-passenger cost of a PATH ride to Port Authority is $8.45, and the average fare of just under $2 doesn’t even cover a quarter of these costs. The New York City subway on the other hand relies on subsidies of around $1.11.

Business Week tried to explore why these cost discrepancies are so pronounced. As Port Authority auditors and watchdogs grow increasingly wary of the unruly agency, the money PATH is bleeding is coming under increased scrutiny. Martin Z. Braun reports:

The agency faces challenges across its portfolio of operations. Spending on policing has doubled since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and now consumes almost a quarter of the agency’s operating budget, Bloomberg News reported in June. Last year, its marine terminals lost 2 percentage points of market share. PATH has been a financial millstone around the Port Authority’s neck since it took over the bankrupt Hudson & Manhattan railroad in a 1962 trade between New Jersey Governor Richard Hughes and New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller. In exchange for getting the Port Authority to take over the H&M Hudson Tubes, as the rail line was known at the time, Hughes allowed Rockefeller to use the Port Authority to develop the World Trade Center in lower Manhattan…

While public officials and transportation analysts have pointed to the railroad’s low fares and its lack of state and federal aid to explain its strained finances, less attention has been paid to expenses. The 2012 national transit data include the impact of Hurricane Sandy, which struck Oct. 29 and knocked out PATH service. Even so, PATH’s cost per hour the year before was also higher than the New York subway system’s, by about two-and-a-half times. Federal Railroad Administration regulations, higher maintenance costs and round-the-clock service have boosted spending compared with other transit systems, Port Authority officials say.

A major difference between PATH and the New York subway system is that the trans-Hudson rail is regulated by the FRA while the Federal Transit Administration oversees the subway. The FRA imposes stricter safety standards and labor requirements, imposing higher costs, Port Authority officials said. Before each run, PATH workers must test a train’s air brakes, signals and acceleration, Mike Marino, PATH’s deputy director, said in a telephone interview. When a train gets to its terminus, workers repeat the test. In addition, every 90 days all of PATH’s rail cars undergo a three-day inspection at a facility in Harrison, New Jersey. Brakes, lights, communications, heating and air conditioning, signals and odometers are all checked, Marino said. “It’s a very intense inspection on every piece of rolling stock,” he said.

According to Business Week, PATH has tried to lobby for a move to the FTA rather than the FRA, but the FRA has resisted the switch as PATH “runs parallel to high-speed trains operated by NJ Transit, Amtrak and freight-line CSX Corp.”

The real question is what comes next. New Jersey officials seem keen to dump PATH on the MTA, but that wouldn’t solve the cost problem. It’s not clear that New York would accept sole responsibility for a bi-state rail system, and without the FTA assuming oversight, the MTA wouldn’t readily embrace taking on a money-losing proposition that’s committed to an unnecessary multi-billion-dollar Newark Airport extension.

New Jersey Transit too remains a possible destination, but that could lead to service reductions — a scary thought for a system that has helped drive renaissance efforts in Jersey City and Hoboken. New Jersey politicians do not view an NJT merger as a solution either. This too seems simpy to shift the problem from one agency to another.

PATH’s cost issue is clearly not sustainable, but it can operate with some level of subsidy. The question now focuses around how to reduce that subsidy without decreasing service or significantly upping fares. Anyone have any brilliant ideas?

Categories : PANYNJ
Comments (109)

It’s been a long time since New York City’s last major collision involving two subway cars and multiple injuries. Despite a few recent high-profile derailments, the 1995 Williamsburg bridge incident in which a motorman on the J trail likely fell asleep and rear-ended a stopped M train in front of him was the most recent deadly crash. The motorman was killed, and scores of passengers were injured. Earlier this month along the 8th Avenue line, Transit avoided the potential for a far worse accident.

The story, as Pete Donohue reported it yesterday, is dramatic and scary. Essentially, an A train operator missed a switch and started heading uptown on the downtown express tracks north of Canal St. and south of West 4th. The failures mounted and only quick thinking down the line and a clear view down the tracks averted disaster. Donohue writes:

A subway operator on the A line recently piloted an express train uptown — on a downtown track — for several minutes before coming to a stop, according to sources. A dispatcher tried to contact the crew by radio after realizing the train had pulled out of the Canal St. hub on the wrong track, and was moving against the regular flow of traffic. But the crew later told authorities they never heard the emergency radio broadcasts, the source said.

The operator only halted the A train after she already had passed through the Spring St. station and spotted the headlights of a southbound express idling ahead of her at the next station, W. 4th St., the source said…

Luckily, the screwup happened on a stretch that, for the most part, is a straight track with good visibility, a veteran motorman said. If the train operator had been going around sharp curves, and wasn’t hearing or receiving dispatchers calling out on the radio, this could have ended with a serious crash, the knowledgeable old-timer said. “She could have had a head-on collision,” he said. “That’s the only way to say it. There’s no nicer way to put it.”

…The A train originally was traveling south when signal problems started causing extensive delays in the system. Dispatchers began rerouting service, and the A train operator was told to was told go back uptown from Canal, sources said. The proper series of steps would have been to empty the train of passengers, pull into a spur track just south of Canal, and then maneuver through a switch to the northbound express track, authorities said. Instead, operator simply went north on the same southbound track, apparently thinking she would soon encounter the crossover switch she needed by going in that direction.

All well’s that ends well. The A train was traveling only slowly northbound and was able to stop well before reaching any oncoming train, and dispatchers were able to halt southbound service as the problem was sorted out. But as the B Division trains — the lettered lines — doesn’t enjoy the same tracking system as the A Division, it’s easy to see how this could have been much, much worse.

It isn’t immediately clear how the TO missed the switch. There’s already an extensive thread on Subchat debating just that question, and many have questioned why the train operator was not more familiar with the set of switches or the fact that she had ended up on the wrong track. Additionally, the failure of the emergency radio broadcasts is a big concern as well. For now, the TO has been assigned to desk duty, and the MTA is investigating. If anything, this incident underscores the need for modern signal and communications system, something the MTA has wanted, but hasn’t been to afford, for years.

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