• Blogging the fare hike hearing · I’m heading to the MTA public hearing in Brooklyn tonight, and as long as the Marriott has wireless, I’ll be blogging the festivities. Be sure to check back around 6:30 or 7 for updates. · (0)

Shiny Station

Mind the one-inch gap. (Photo by Benjamin Kabak)

When I noted yesterday that the South Ferry Terminal opening has been postponed, I reported that this delay was due to some testing. It turns out the station won’t open for a few more weeks because of one whole inch.

Via Newsday:

The grand opening of New York City’s first new subway station in 20 years is being delayed by an inch.

Transit officials say the gap between the platform and the train at the $500 million South Ferry subway station is an inch too wide in some places, exceeding the three inch maximum allowed by federal regulations.

To fix the problem, authorities plan to install wider rubbing boards, a plastic strip that protects the platform edge from swaying trains, a three to four week job.

Oops.

Categories : MTA Absurdity
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When he’s not down in Washington, Senator Chuck Schumer lives around on the corner from me in a nice building on Prospect Park West. His base of power stems from New York City; his roots are in Kings County. Where has he been, then, amidst all of this talk of transit stimulus plans and the financial woes of the MTA?

On a national level, things are building to a head. The Streetsblog Network has been tracking the ups and downs of the efforts to restore the transit funding to the stimulus bill that was allegedly removed by Lawrence Summers. While the House denied one transit-based amendment earlier this week, Jerrold Nadler’s efforts to add $3 billion to the stimulus plan will come to a vote soon. (To urge your member of Congress to act, check out Transportation for America.)

On a New York level, though, things are far more dire. Sure, the city could use the jobs and funding for major MTA capital projects that a massive transit stimulus package could deliver, but the focus right now is on the MTA operations budget and its $1.2 billion deficit. The MTA is in fact just one of 51 transit systems facing operations budget problems, and the federal government seems unwilling to bailout this vital artery of the nation’s economy. We are left then with internal options, and our national leaders have been notably silent on the issue.

My main gripe is with Sen. Schumer’s seeming unwillingness to thrust himself into the issue. As a Brooklynite, he could have a significant impact on the debate, but right now, the only thing Schumer is trying to get is to secure a tax break for commuters if the MTA raises its fares. Pete Donohue reports:

MTA commuters can counter pending fare hikes with increased tax savings if proposed legislation is enacted, officials said Tuesday.

Sen. Chuck Schumer said his mass transit tax break has been included in the Senate version of the economic recovery package.

The provision would raise the monthly cap on mass transit commuting costs not taxed by the federal government to $230 from $120.

That’s all well and good, but what about a statement supporting the payroll tax to counteract the MTA’s fare hikes and service cuts? What about unqualified support for the plan to toll the East River Bridges from one of Brooklyn’s native sons and prominent political representatives?

Later tonight, Brooklyn takes center stage as the MTA brings its hearings circuit our way. Council members are urging vocal protests, but where’s our solution? Will Bill de Blasio support tolls that impact just 3.1 percent of the borough’s commuters or will he offer up nothing to stop fare hikes and service cuts that will impact 60 percent of Brooklyn residents who rely on the MTA to get to and from work? Will a national leader lend his voice to this problem? Time is running out.

Categories : MTA Economics
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In The Times today, William Neuman explores an ill-timed and ill-advised bond issue by Citigroup on behalf of the MTA. It’s your typical financial meltdown story of the kind that have grown so prevalent in over the last few months.

In August 2007, Neuman reports, Citigroup analysts grew alarmed at instability in the auction-rate securities market. Yet despite these fears, Citigroup continued to push bond offerings. Neuman tells of the MTA’s perceived woes:

But that did not stop the bank from peddling the securities to investors and working with government agencies — including the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which runs New York’s sprawling subway, bus and commuter rail system — to bring more bonds into the already stressed market. With Citigroup Global Markets as one of its underwriters, the authority issued $430 million of auction-rate bonds on Nov. 7, 2007.

Almost immediately the deal soured. Interest rates on the bonds, set in weekly auctions, began to climb, to 4 percent from about 3 percent, and finally, by February, to 8 percent. By then, the entire auction-rate market had collapsed as panicked investors worried that they could not get access to their money.

Stunned by the soaring rates, which were costing it up to $560,000 a week, the authority redeemed the securities in March. To do so, it issued a new round of bonds, outside the auction system and at more favorable interest rates. But the move came with a cost: about $5.6 million in fees to bankers, lawyers and others, including the state, according to data provided by the authority.

That sounds bad, right? The MTA, long in debt and facing a budget crisis, added its own demise by flushing money away in a bad Citigroup investment in 2007. Let’s break out the pitchforks and burn down MTA Headquarters! Power to the people!

If only it were that simple. In reality, this is a long and complex story about something through which nearly every single organization has suffered over the last few years. The MTA didn’t make money in a bad investment. But as the agency has a diversified portfolio, they were, until the markets went south in late 2008, able to make up for it, and they could offset these losses by saving $150 million in the variable-rate debt market. “This was a calamitous disruption in the credit markets,” MTA CFO Gary Dellaverson said to Neuman. “We managed our way through it.”

It’s other worth noting that $5.6 million represents less than 1/2 of one percent of the MTA’s overall debt. While every little bit helps, these Citigroup losses were but a drop in the MTA financial bucket. You decide how much this really matters in the grand scheme of transit in New York City.

Categories : MTA Economics
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  • New South Ferry Terminal delayed · Once upon a time, the new South Ferry Terminal was due to open in early 2008. It’s now the end of January 2009 and a good six weeks since I went on a tour of the new terminal. At the time, Michael Horodniceanu, the president of MTA Capital Construction, told the gaggle of reporters that the new station stop would open by early January. Now, in his piece on the Fulton St. hub, Bobby Cuza notes that the station opening has been delayed due to final testing. Shocking, I know. An announced opening date could come later this week. · (3)

In an alternate universe, this transit complex exists already.

As MTA projects go, the Fulton St. dome ranks high on the futility scale. Originally set to open in 2007, the project is years behind schedule and millions of dollars over budget. Most notable has been the utter lack of movement on the design for the hub entrance.

It’s been almost a year to the day since the MTA announced plans to scrap the dome at the Fulton St. Transit Center. Since then, a solid blue wall has ringed the future construction site as the economy has tanked and the MTA has delayed any announcement on the future of the project. Today, we hear news.

According to a report by NY1 transit reporter Bobby Cuza, the Fulton St. hub will resemble the originally proposed complex only with sky lights replacing the troubled dome. He reports:

When it’s complete, the Fulton Street Transit Center in lower Manhattan may look something like it’s original plans after all. After a number of fits and starts, MTA officials say they are pushing forward with a design very much like the original. “The envelope of the building will look exactly the same way as it was seen on the various renderings that were presented before,” said Michael Horodniceanu, President, MTA Capital Construction Co.

But not everything will be the same. While the glass façade will be retained, a planned glass dome may well be eliminated, replaced with a skylight allowing the sun to filter inside. And it’s there on the inside, where the biggest design changes will take place, as the MTA reconfigures the space to add more shops and restaurants.

“The design that we are looking at is to increase the amount of retail space, leasable retail space, on both the street level as well as the first floor above that,” Horodniceanu.

Now, that’s all well and good, but as Cuza points out, the reality on the ground differs from that painted by Horodniceanu. In terms of timing, Cuza notes that the building foundation won’t be completed for another 18 months, and the MTA has no timetable for construction of the hub. This project will, in all likelihood, end up a good seven or eight years behind schedule.

Money is also an issue as well. In July, the Feds under the Bush Administration denied federal funds for the $350 million cost overruns. Somehow, the MTA will have to find well over a quarter billion dollars in its tight capital budget for this project. Furthermore, while the city would have originally covered sidewalk repair as part of their effort to rehabilitate Fulton St., due to the massive delays, the MTA will now be shouldering those burdens as well. Yikes.

Because there is no alternative other than a walled-in and idle construction site, the city needs this Fulton St. hub. It’s part of the 9/11 recovery efforts, and it’s part of a Lower Manhattan revitalization project. When it will arrive though is anyone’s guess.

Categories : Fulton Street
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seal-00 Rockland County, it seems, is a place where dreams come true. It’s an area of New York state where unicorns prance among leprechauns and genies ready to grant everyone three wishes abound. It also seems to be an area where fiscal reality and financial responsibility are concepts unheard of in legislative life.

To wit, take a peak at this recent article in The Journal News. It is entitled “Lawmakers vow to oppose MTA fare hikes, service cuts,” and that’s only half of it. Take a look:

Rockland’s state delegation ripped into the Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s plan to implement a wide range of service cuts and price increases to cover a $1.2 billion deficit. Everything from New York City buses and trains to bridges and tunnels to commuter trains and ferries would be affected. Locally, Metro-North Railroad riders would face a 20 percent fare increase.

Broke and broken seemed to be the dominant theme of the day.

“We are united in our fight against the MTA’s outrageous spiking of fares and business taxes that really will impact negatively on the Hudson Valley, and particularly Orange and Rockland counties,” state Sen. Thomas Morahan, R-New City, said.

The three Republicans and two Democrats said they would oppose a proposal that would levy a new MTA payroll tax and would raise fares and tolls by 8 percent. The tax would cost Rockland employers more than $18 million a year, the Rockland County Business Association and the Rockland Economic Development Corp. have estimated.

So let me get this straight: In the space of about 140 words, Rockland County’s bipartisan group of representatives noted that they oppose MTA service cuts and fare hikes and they also opposed a new payroll tax that would potentially alleviate much of these proposed fare hikes and the vast majority of the service cuts. That is mindbogglingly terrible political pandering.

I’d love to ask the Rockland representatives what their master plans are for funding the MTA. After all, these services aren’t free, and the money has to come from somewhere. They don’t want service cuts and fare hikes, the MTA’s only internal way of cost control, and they oppose dedicated funding via payroll taxes, a powerful external way of keeping service cuts and fare hikes at bay.

Logic and reality, it seems, has no place in Rockland County.

Categories : MTA Economics
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  • Setting a new speed record · When Chris Solarz and Matt Ferrisi set out to break the record for fastest time through the subway, they knew they would succeed as long as the MTA’s system cooperated with them. It turns out that with few major service disruptions and generally reliable schedules, the duo was able to shatter the previous record. When all was said and done, they clocked in at 22 hours and 51 minutes, a good two hours and three minutes faster than the prior record.

    As the two explained to the New York Press last week, they used extensive computer modeling to program the optimal route. But potential copy-cats are going to have to do the leg work the hard way. “The route is like our secret sauce,” Solzarz said to The Daily News. “We’re keeping it to ourselves.” · (7)

There’s just something about the Second Ave. subway that begs an recession. Months after the city originally proposed the oft-delayed line, the Great Depression hit. When construction resumed again in the mid-1970s, all was moving along slowly until the city teetered on the brink of financial collapse in 1975, and the MTA ran out of money for the project.

Here we are in 2009, again in the midst of a deep recession and again the city and its transit authority is attempting to build the Second Ave. subway. For a few years in the early ’00s, things seemed to be sailing along. The Federal Government was guaranteeing the vast majority of the funding for the project, and an rosy economy seemed to ensure that at least some of the project — Phase I from 57th St. and 7th Ave. to 96th St. and 2nd Ave. — would see the proverbial light of deal. But with the opening date already postponed from 2012 to 2015, economic storm clouds are once again gathering.

In an article in Crain’s that explores how business along Second Ave. is suffering due to the ongoing construction, Kira Bindrim hints at some fiscal troubles ahead for the seemingly cursed subway line. She writes:

The city is preparing to break ground on the stretch from East 68th to East 73rd streets. Construction is currently moving in three-month intervals on alternate sides of the avenue, and Phase I is slated to be finished in 2015. But three months has become six months in some locations, and work between East 83rd and East 86th streets could be stalled by lawsuits over displaced residents. The MTA has funding for contracts through year-end, but additional money must come from its next capital plan. Prospects for that budget are grim.

Indeed, economic crises have derailed the line’s building twice, in 1929 and in the 1970s. The completion date for the $3.8 billion Phase I has been postponed two years. “I’m afraid they’re going to run out of cash,” Mr. Pecora says. “We might be faced with just a hole in the road.”

In reality, based on what we’ve learned in the past, this dire report isn’t quite true. With the Feds kicking in so much money for this project, Phase I will, at some point, become a reality. Considering that a tunnel running north of 96th St. already exists, there’s a good chance that Phase II — the extension north to 125th St. — will see the light of the day sometime over the next fifteen years.

Beyond that, though, it’s anyone’s guess. The economy will rebound, and President Obama should promote a stimulus plan now that includes significant investments in mass transit and public transportation. That, as Streetsblog noted last week, hasn’t been so quick in the making. Maybe one day, New York will finally enjoy a Second Ave. subway running the length of Manhattan, but for now, with history as our guide, everyone is holding their collective breaths.

* * *

Postscript: The Crain’s article linked above covers some familiar ground. For nearly 18 months now, business owners have complained about the disruptions along Second Ave. That is simply the cost of progress, and while the government and the MTA should do what they can to mitigate the disruptions, if New York is to progress as a city, we need to build subway lines. As The Overhead Wire noted last week, in the London area, land values around planned future Tube stops has risen significantly, and when all is said and done, the SAS will have a material benefit on the East Side housing market. The disruptions today are the cost of a better future tomorrow.

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Jan
23

Weekend service advisories

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From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, January 24 to 5 a.m. Monday, January 26, 1 trains skip 28th, 23rd and 18th Streets in both directions due to signal testing near South Ferry.


From 11:30 p.m. Friday, January 23 to 5 a.m. Monday, January 26, there are no 1 trains between 14th Street and South Ferry due to signal testing near South Ferry. Free shuttle buses and 2 trains provide alternate service.


From 11:30 p.m. Friday, January 23 to 5 a.m. Monday, January 26, free shuttle buses replace the 2 between 96th Street and 149th Street-Grand Concourse due to installation of emergency lighting.


From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, January 24 to 5 a.m. Monday, January 26, downtown 2 trains run local from 96th Street to Chambers Street and uptown 2 trains run local from Chambers Street to 72nd Street due to signal testing near South Ferry and conduit and cable installation.


From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, January 24 to 5 a.m. Monday, January 26, the 5 train replaces the 2 train between 149th Street-Grand Concourse and Wakefield-241st Street due to installation of emergency lighting.


From 11:30 p.m. Friday, January 23 to 5 a.m. Monday, January 26, there is no 3 train service due to installation of emergency lighting. The 24 and free shuttle buses provide alternate service.


From 11:30 p.m. Friday, January 23 to 5 a.m. Monday, January 26, 4 trains are extended to New Lots Avenue due to installation of emergency lighting.


From 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday, January 25, Manhattan-bound 4 trains skip Mosholu Parkway due to maintenance, testing and inspection of equipment.


From 12:01 a.m. to 5 a.m. every night from January 20 –February 5, there are no 4 trains available at Nostrand and Kingston Avenues due to switch renewal at Nostrand Avenue. Free shuttle buses provide alternate service.


From 12:01 a.m. to 5 a.m. every night from January 20 –February 5, 4 trains skip Bergen Street, Grand Army Plaza, and Eastern Parkway due to switch renewal at Nostrand Avenue. Customers may take the 2 instead.


From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, January 24 to 5 a.m. Monday, January 26, uptown 4 trains run express from Brooklyn Bridge to 14th Street, then local to 125th Street due to a concrete pour north of Spring Street.


From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, January 24 to 5 a.m. Monday, January 26, downtown 4 trains run local from 125th Street to Brooklyn Bridge due to a concrete pour north of Spring Street.


From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, January 24 to 5 a.m. Monday, January 26, 5 trains run in two sections (due to installation of emergency lighting.):

  • Between Dyre Avenue and East 180th Street and
  • Between East 180th Street and Grand Central-42nd Street


From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, January 24 to 5 a.m. Monday, January 26, there are no 5 trains between Grand Central and Bowling Green due to a concrete pour north of Spring Street. Customers should take the 4 instead.


From 4 a.m. Saturday, January 24 to 10 p.m. Sunday, January 25, Manhattan-bound 6 trains run express from Pelham Bay Park to Parkchester due to track panel installation from Castle Hill Avenue to Parkchester. The last stop for some Bronx-bound 6 trains is 3rd Avenue-138th Street.


From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, January 24 to 5 a.m. Monday, January 26, uptown 6 trains run express from Brooklyn Bridge to 14th Street due to a concrete pour north of Spring Street.


From 11:30 p.m. Friday, January 23 to 5 a.m. Monday, January 26, (and weekends through Feb 28-Mar 2) there are no 7 trains between Times Square-42nd Street and Queensboro Plaza due to track panel installation on the Davis Street curve and security conduit and cable installation in the under river tube. The N and free shuttle buses provide alternate service.


From 10:30 p.m. Friday, January 23 to 5 a.m. Monday, January 26, free shuttle buses replace A trains between Beach 90th Street and Far Rockaway due to track panel work.


From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, January 24 to 5 a.m. Monday, January 26, A trains run local between 168th Street and Canal Street due to station rehabilitation and construction of the underground connector at Jay Street.


From 11:30 p.m. Friday, January 23 to 5 a.m. Monday, January 26, free shuttle buses replace A trains between 168th Street and 207th Street due to tunnel and lighting work. Customers may transfer between the Broadway or Ft. Washington Avenue shuttle buses and the A train at 168th Street.


From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, January 24 to 5 a.m. Monday, January 26, there are no C trains running due to station rehabilitation and construction of the underground connector at Jay Street.

  1. A trains replace the C between 168th Street and Hoyt-Schermerhorn Sts.
  2. F trains replace the C between Hoyt-Schermerhorn Sts. and Euclid Avenue


From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, January 24 to 5 a.m. Monday, January 26, Coney Island-bound D trains run on the N line from 36th Street to Coney Island-Stillwell Avenue due to canopy replacement work.


From 11:30 p.m. Friday, January 23 to 5 a.m. Monday, January 26, free shuttle buses replace E trains between Jamaica Center and Union Turnpike due to fan work.


From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, January 24 to Monday, January 26, G trains replace the F between Hoyt-Schermerhorn Sts. and Coney Island-Stillwell Avenue due to station rehabilitation and construction of the underground connector at Jay Street.


From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, January 24 to Monday, January 26, F trains run between 179th Street and Euclid Avenue C station due to station rehabilitation and construction of the underground connector at Jay Street.


From 8:30 p.m. Friday, January 23 to 5 a.m. Monday, January 26, there are no G trains between Forest Hills-71st Avenue and Court Square. Customers take the E or R instead.


From 11:30 p.m. Friday, January 23 to 5 a.m. Monday, January 26 (and weekends through February 2), there are no L trains between 8th Avenue and Union Square due to switch renewal near 8th Avenue. Customers may use the M14 bus instead.


From 11:30 p.m. Friday, January 23 to 5 a.m. Monday, January 26 (and weekends through February 2), L trains run in two sections (due to switch renewal near 8th Avenue):

  • Between Union Square and Bedford Avenue every 16 minutes*, skipping 3rd Avenue and
  • Between Bedford Avenue and Rockaway Parkway every 8 minutes*

Customers must transfer at Bedford Avenue to continue their trip.
*10 p.m. Sunday, January 25 to 5 a.m. Monday, trains run every 20 minutes.


From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, January 24 to 5 a.m. Monday, January 26, N trains run local between Canal Street and 57th Street due to track panel installation on the Davis Street curve and security conduit and cable installation in the under river tube.


From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, January 24 to 5 a.m. Monday, January 26, the last stop for Coney Island-bound N trains is Whitehall Street due to track panel installation on the Davis Street curve and security conduit and cable installation in the under river tube.


From 11:30 p.m. Friday, January 23 to 5 a.m. Monday, January 26, the 42nd Street Shuttle S operates overnight to replace 7 service between Times Square-42nd Street and Grand Central-42nd Street. due to track panel installation on the Davis Street curve and security conduit and cable installation in the under river tube.

Categories : Service Advisories
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