This bus is on loan to New York from Belgium. (Photo courtesy of NYC Transit)

Outside of red telephone booths, nothing screams “London” quite like a double-decker bus. The ubiquitous vehicles line the streets of England’s capital day in and day out, and they are positively European.

Four months ago, NYC Transit President Howard Roberts mused about the return of double-decker buses to New York City. His dreams, it seems, will become a reality.

In an effort to increase bus capacity and respond to ridership demands, the MTA is set to audition double-decker buses on the streets of New York. The first prototype, a bus on loan from a Belgium-based transportation company, will hit the streets on Thursday and will run as part of a 35-day test as the transit authority attempts to assess how these buses navigate New York City streets and traffic, what level of maintenance they require and how they handle loading and unloading.

“This is not for show. This is not just to titillate the New York public. We really like this bus,” MTA CEo and Executive Director Elliot “Lee” Sander said during a press conference yesterday. “There is a very real chance that New Yorkers will see this in the future. We hope it passes the test.”

Pete Donohue of The Daily News has more on this unique bus:

The agency will seek rider opinions, which likely will include notice of low ceilings. The first level measures 71 inches – 5 feet 11 inches – from floor to ceiling. The upper deck is just 67inches, or 5-feet-7. The average American man is 5-feet-9.

Except for tourist buses, double-deckers haven’t been a regular feature of the city streetscape since the early 1950s, when Dwight Eisenhower was President, gasoline was 20 cents a gallon and television shows were in black and white.

A double-decker with 81 upholstered seats and tinted windows will start making runs on Thursday. The largest bus currently in service, the so-called accordion or articulated bus, has 62 seats. During the 35-day test, the double-decker is expected to be deployed on several routes, most likely including the x17 express between Manhattan and Staten Island, the M5 Limited and the M15, officials said.

It’s tough to get a sense of how much standing room these buses have. But it sounds as though these buses will more than complement the buses currently on the street. Notably, these double-decker buses are more fuel-efficient than the articulated buses current running on the crowded Manhattan streets. As they also take up less horizontal space, it’s a win-win situation for both the MTA and other Manhattan drivers.

On the down side, these buses can’t handle cross-park traffic. The transverses in Central Park don’t feature clearance high enough to allow these double-decker buses to run across town through the park.

In the end, it’s hard not to like this idea. It combines practicality, environmentalism and nostalgia all in one. These buses, if they pass the test of a public not so keen on the buses, would be a welcome addition to the New York City public transit system.

Categories : Buses
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While much of the news focus surrounding the proposed 2009 MTA fare hike has focused on the burden this imposes on we the riders, every now and then, an astute editorial draws attention to the real issue: unacceptable levels of government subsidies for the MTA. Today’s comes to us from The New York Times’ editorial board:

Neither the city nor the state is paying its fair share, despite what they claim. With the Metropolitan Transportation Authority facing a budget gap of nearly $1 billion next year, direct subsidies from both governments last year totaled about $600 million, not much more than what they were a decade ago, according to the nonpartisan Independent Budget Office. Adjusted for inflation, subsidies have actually declined, saddling riders with an ever-increasing burden.

The main problem is that New York’s state legislators have failed to put a dependable source of financing — like congestion pricing — in place. Transit has been forced to rely on fluctuating taxes from real estate and other sources and, increasingly, rising fares…

The M.T.A. has said it needs the city and state together to contribute an additional $300 million next year. State lawmakers say they are awaiting the recommendations of a commission led by Richard Ravitch, expected after the November elections. Mayor Michael Bloomberg insists that the city has already done its part, contributing $1.2 billion last year.

But Mr. Bloomberg gets to his $1.2 billion figure by including not only the city’s direct subsidies, which are what really matters, but also an assortment of other kinds of payments that do not directly benefit the M.T.A. They include $344 million in interest payments on money the city borrowed for previous transit aid.

A safe, clean and reliable mass-transit system is not only environmentally sound; it is also essential to New York’s economy. We know the city and state have their own huge, looming budget gaps. But both need to dig deeper to keep mass transit moving.

I’m quoting at length here because the point is a very important one. The government — but the city and the state — need to find a way to fund our mass transit network. New York’s economy depends on it, and if these legislatures don’t kick back more money, the city, the region and the state will suffer.

Categories : MTA Economics
Comments (1)
  • Ravitch Commission hearing schedule announced · The Ravitch Commission, tasked with identifying ways to improve the MTA’s finances, has announced its upcoming hearing dates. Mobilizing the Region reports the dates as follows: Monday, Sept. 15 at NYU’s Kimmel Center; Monday, Sept. 22 in Mineola; and Wednesday, Sept. 24 in White Plains. I have class for much of the day on Mondays, but since I’m literally right next door, I’ll drop in to check out the afternoon session.

    However, while I can watch the hearings unfold, I won’t be able to chime in with my two cents. As amNew York notes today, people testifying in front of the commission will speak on invite only. The public will be able to contribute written statements only. According to the paper, more details about the hearing should be released today. · (0)

On Friday afternoon — long a favored time of the Bush Administration to drop bad news — came word that the federal Highway Trust Fund is going to run out of money before October. At first blush, it doesn’t seem as though this news would impact mass transportation in New York City, but, as with all things transit, the funds from one area impact the entire department. The mass transit infrastructure in New York City and throughout the nation could bear the brunt of this financial shortfall.

Times reporters David Stout and Matthew L. Wald illuminate the issue for us:

An important account in the federal Highway Trust Fund will run out of money this month, a situation that could hamper completion of road and bridge construction projects across the country, Transportation Secretary Mary E. Peters said on Friday.

Because the trust fund’s highway account is draining away, the Transportation Department will have to delay payments for projects, Ms. Peters said at a news conference. Since money from Washington typically pays 80 to 90 percent of the cost of federally aided road work, states with shaky finances may have to consider curtailing projects…

Another possible solution would be to transfer money to the highway account from the account that the trust fund maintains to finance mass transit. But lawmakers from large cities that rely on trust-fund aid for their transit systems could be expected to resist such a move.

Stout and Wald’s conclusion here is actually a total understatement and misrepresentation of the facts. As The Wall Street Journal reported on Saturday, the Bush Administration would prefer to take money from mass transit and move it into the highway fund. But Congress rightly and soundly rejected that effort.

In the end, though, this detail doesn’t impact the bigger picture. The Department of Transportation is facing a shortage of money due to rising gas prices, more fuel efficient vehicles and fewer miles traveled. These causes of the shortfall should be applauded, but mass transit — and the nation’s transportation network on the whole — will suffer. Congress and USDOT need to figure out a forward-looking solution to this problem. No longer can we as a society afford to rely on measures that contribute to our energy and environmental crises.

On a local level, this news has direct ramifications for the MTA and, in particular, its current big-ticket items. A significant amount of the funding for Phase I of the Second Ave. Subway comes from the federal Department of Transportation, and clearly, these plans are not high up on the list of priorities coming out of a Republican-run DOT. While we may see a changing of the guard over the next few months, roads will always come first on a national level.

As the Second Ave. Subway trudges its way toward a completion, eight decades after the plans were first announced, forces are conspiring against it. But the MTA, the city and the state can’t let another obstacle interfere with this progress. The subways should be okay; the MTA should get its money; but nothing is taken for granted along the Second Ave. Subway.

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Sep
05

Stay home

By · Comments (4) ·

This may be the worst weekend all year for service delays. Nearly every line has multiple route changes that go into effect tonight at 12:01 a.m. You’ll see stops skipped, lines rerouted, the whole shebang.

SubwayWeekender has the changes in a convenient map form. Me? Well, after last night’s ride home, I might just walk everywhere this weekend, Saturday’s rain be damned.

I wonder why New York City Transit has stopped releasing these service changes in press release form. Anyway, they’re all available in the Know Before You Go e-mails.


Downtown 1 and 2 trains skip 86 and 79 Sts
Sep 6 – 8, 12:01 AM Sat to 5 AM Mon

Uptown 1 and 2 trains run express from Chambers to 34 Sts
Sep 6 – 7, 12:01 AM to 5 AM Sat and Sun


Brooklyn-bound 2, 3 and 4 trains skip Bergen St, Grand Army Plaza, and Eastern Pkwy
Sep 6 – 8, 12:01 AM Sat to 5 AM Mon


Manhattan-bound A trains run local from Euclid Av to Broadway Junction, then express to Utica Av, trains resume local service to 125 St, then run express to 168 St
Sep 6 – 8, 12:01 AM Sat to 5 AM Mon

Brooklyn-bound A trains run local from 168 to West 4 Sts, then on the F to Jay St, trains resume local service to Euclid Av
Sep 6 – 8, 12:01 AM Sat to 5 AM Mon


No C trains running
Take the A instead
Sep 6 – 8, 12:01 AM Sat to 5 AM Mon


Bronx-bound D trains skip 170, 174-175, and 182-183 Sts
Sep 6 – 8, 12:01 AM Sat to 5 AM Mon


Queens-bound E trains run local from Queens Plaza to Roosevelt Av
Sep 6 – 8, 12:30 AM Sat to 5 AM Mon

Manhattan-bound E trains run express from 71-Continental to Roosevelt Avs
Sep 6, 12:01 AM to 12 noon Saturday

Manhattan-bound E trains run local from Roosevelt Av to Queens Plaza
Sep 5 – Oct 6, 11:30 PM Fri to 5 AM Mon – I’m not sure why this e-mail said October, but that’s what it said.


Queens-bound F trains run local from 21 St-Queensbridge to Roosevelt Av
Sep 6 – 8, 12:30 AM Sat to 5 AM Mon

Queens-bound F trains run on the V from 47-50 Sts to Roosevelt Av
Sep 6 – 8, 12:01 AM Sat to 5 AM Mon

Downtown F trains skip 23 and 14 Sts
Sep 6 – 8, 12:01 AM Sat to 5 AM Mon

Manhattan-bound F trains run local from Roosevelt Av to 21 St-Queensbridge
Sep 5 – Oct 6, 11:30 PM Fri to 5 AM Mon – Again with the October


No G trains between 71-Continental Avs and Court Sq
Take the E or R instead
Sep 5 – 8, 8:30 PM Fri to 5 AM Mon

G trains run every 20 minutes between Court Sq and Smith-9 Sts
Sep 5 – 8, 11 PM Fri to 5 AM Mon


J trains run in two sections:

  1. Between Jamaica Center and Essex St
  2. Between Essex and Chambers Sts

Transfer at Essex St to continue your trip
Sep 6 – 8, 1 AM Sat to 5 AM Mon


N and Q trains run on the R between DeKalb Av and Canal St
Sep 6 – 8, 12:01 AM Sat to 5 AM Mon


Manhattan-bound R trains run express from 71-Continental to Roosevelt Avs
Sep 6, 12:01 AM to 12 noon Saturday

Categories : Service Advisories
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This may have been a tad bit extreme. (Photo courtesy of Reuters.)

New Yorkers often like to gripe about traveling around the city with a common refrain. “I coulda walked faster,” we’ll say about slow subway trips and sluggish cab rides through the congestion Big Apple. Tonight, I wouldn’t be exaggerating if I said that.

In an effort to get myself home from law school tonight, I had to travel from W. 4th St. back to Park Slope in Brooklyn. It was after midnight, and that spells trouble in the subways. My first mistake was getting on an F train. Those are running on the A. I tried to switch to a 4 at Fulton St., and while the train came pretty quickly, we pulled into Wall St. and sat and sat and sat and sat. Eventually, the conductor told us about some single-tracking through the Joralemon St. tunnel due to track work.

When we finally made it to Atlantic Ave., the train ran express instead of local and, thus, would have bypassed my stop. I switched to a 2, and ninety minutes after swiping through, I made it home. According to Google Maps’ handy new walking directions, I almost could have walked faster.

I was pretty irate when I got home. A lack of communication on the part of the MTA — surprise! — had me and the other disgruntled passengers guessing about which train was heading where. The conductor on the F didn’t know if the train would go to Coney Island or travel along the A. The conductor on the 4 couldn’t tell us much of anything for nearly 15 minutes. But, hey, at least we’re not in Argentina.

Yesterday, a group of Argentinian commuters set fire to a delayed train. Reuters reports:

Furious rail commuters in Argentina set fire to a train on Thursday in anger over delays during the morning rush hour. Television images showed black smoke and flames engulfing the train at the station of Merlo, in the western suburbs of the capital, Buenos Aires. At nearby Castelar, passengers hurled stones at the ticket office and blocked the rails.

“We understand that people get angry when the service is delayed or canceled, but they absolutely can’t attack a public service in this way,” Gustavo Gago, a spokesman for rail company TBA, told local television.

Many passengers said the delays, caused by a broken down train, had cost them a day’s work.

I’m sure New Yorkers on many occasions felt the urge to burn their delayed trains. But that doesn’t solve the problem; it just causes more delays.

Comments (8)
  • NYCT, NYPD in talks over bus-fare crackdowns · With their new $100 fare-beating fines in place, the MTA is set to make some waves. As soon as it can iron out a deal with the NYPD over the costs of a potential program, New York City Transit is set to begin a crackdown on bus fare-beaters. Numerous routes feature riders who feel entitled to enter through the back of the bus without paying a fare. These riders, when called out by bus drivers, often get belligerent and attack the drivers. A crackdown on this behavior would be most welcome. · (0)

Long has the MTA — and, in particularly, New York City Transit — borne the label of technophobe. While subway systems across the nation and globe have long enjoyed video information boards and digital communications systems, NYC Transit has yet to bring this technology to New York City’s straphanging masses.

Well, the wait is sorta, kinda, almost over. According to NY1, the MTA has unveiled digital notice boards along the L and 7 lines, those line-managed icons of experimentation. The story:

Transit officials are testing a new program to alert subway riders with digital announcement boards in the event of delays.

Straphangers at six stations on the 7 and L lines will see video screens inside token booths as part of a pilot program. For now, they are only broadcasting public service announcements, but officials say they will provide up-to-the-minute information on service disruptions.

The Station Agent Information Display program, or SAID, cost the MTA $30,000 so far.

Officials at the rail control center will be able to send messages to individual stations, or groups of stations using wireless technology.

As with everything new in the subways, this is part of a pilot program, and the line managers say that station agents will continue to use those useless and uninformative white boards that I always thought were hanging up in the station booths for decoration. Why else would they still feature messages from July 22, 2005 when the NYPD started randomly searching bags in the subway?

Of course, the typical caveats apply: These boards are only as useful as the information on them. Right now, as the video story on NY1′s recently redesigned Website shows, the boards are being utilized only for the same old MTA PSA’s we’ve all had drilled into our subconscious: If you see something, say something. Throw away your trash. Sign up for the e-mail alerts.

The first real test of these boards will come during an unexpected service delay. If these boards help passengers find out before entering the system that trains are delayed, if they help re-route lost, confused or stranded passengers, then we can label them a success and call for systemwide implementation. But until that day, they’re just fancy TV monitors that happen to hang in the booth in your nearest subway stop.

Categories : MTA Technology
Comments (9)
  • Replicating a subway stop as a bathroom · Way too many people tend to view subway stations as their personal bathrooms. Now, one Glaswegian artist has decided to make his own bathroom a subway stop. Inspired by a visit to New York City ten years, Travis the Trannyboi has converted his bathroom to resemble the DeKalb Ave. stop in Brooklyn. The artist says he likes the tiles as a bathroom aesthetic, and in a rationale to which New Yorkers can relate, he says that the unique look distracts from the tiny loo. You can read more about this odd bathroom and see pictures on the Wired Autopia blog. What this says about the subways I leave up to your imagination. · (2)
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