Every now and then, as I’m on my way back to Brooklyn from W. 4th St., I’ll spy a life-sized Cookie Monster banging on the xylophone and a weird-looking pink thing strumming a bass. These two musicians are members of the Xylopholks, and a few weeks ago Flavorwire’s Mandy Van Deven interviewed the eccentric-looking group. The group talks about playing in the subway, seeing the shocked looks on the faces of other straphangers and getting harassed by the police. Check them out in the video above.

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  • Summer rollout set for system-wide line managers · In an effort to improve on-time train performance and overall station cleanliness, New York City Transit is rolling out the line manager program to all lettered trains this summer. This B Division roll-out comes amidst uncertainty surrounding the financial future of the MTA, but leaders at Transit feel this General Manager program improves service. “If you have a single individual focusing on everything that happens or doesn’t happen on a given line, you’re going to see improvements,” Roberts said to The Daily News.

    I’m still a little hazy as to the details of this program. According to the Line GM website, every single line has a different line manager. That may make sense for the IRT lines that, at some point, all end up as the only train serving some sections of track. But for the lettered lines, it would make more sense for different sections of the routes to have different managers. The B, V and W trains, for instance, never stop at stations that do not enjoy service from at least one other train line, and a redundantly staffed line manager program seems to defeat the purpose. · (9)

The final two pieces of the Democratic puzzle have fallen into place. After closed-door meetings in Albany on Monday, the final two Democratic holdouts in the State Senate — Craig M. Johnson and Brian X. Foley, both of Long Island — have agreed to support the latest iteration of the MTA funding plan.

This plan, according to reports, will generate approximately $1.7 billion in revenue for the beleaguered MTA. It culls this money from a small payroll tax in the counties in and around New York City that receive MTA service, a 50-cent taxi drop-off surcharge and higher fees for car registration and driver’s licenses.

William Neuman and Nicholas Confessore of The Times had more on the back-room politicking that has resulted in something of an MTA funding plan:

The senators said they were swayed by a commitment from Gov. David A. Paterson to reimburse school districts for the cost of a payroll tax that is the centerpiece of the rescue plan.

Mr. Johnson said that after discussing the issue with the majority leader, he was comfortable that “the residents of school districts are going to be protected appropriately when it comes to school taxes.”

Mr. Johnson and Mr. Foley said, however, that their support was contingent on the final wording of the rescue legislation, which is still being negotiated.

“There’s a framework that we believe we have agreed upon,” Mr. Smith said. “However, as I will always tell people, the devil’s in the details.”

Without this funding plan in place, the MTA is prepared to enact a Doomsday budget scenario. Service across the city will be scaled back or eliminated, and the fares will skyrocket by nearly 25 percent. Our precious 30-day Unlimited Ride MetroCards would cost $103.

As The Daily News’ Glenn Blain and Pete Donohue note though, the Senate plan will roll back those hikes and cuts. According to the two reporters, the MTA will increase the base fare to $2.25 instead of $2.50, and monthly MetroCards will cost $88. Meanwhile, the MTA will be able to mainatin the bus and subway routes scheduled for elimination, and service can remain at current levels.

For now, this is something of a victory for transit advocates. The state is, pending passage of this bill, finally providing for a dedicate source of revenue for the MTA. This is not just a one-year stop-gap measure. This payroll tax and taxi surcharge will remain in place in perpetuity.

However, all is not well with the MTA and this plan. As it stands right now, this plan will generate around $1.76 billion for the transit system. With a projected deficit this year of $1.8 billion and a projected deficit of over $2 billion for 2010, this new money will be just enough for the MTA to get by. I’ll examine the capital funding issues later today, but prospects are hazy, at best, for the MTA’s state of good repair program and its expansion plans.

Politically, for now, this move will reassure the voting public in New York that the State Senate is keeping an eye on transit. I don’t really trust that eye, and I don’t really see our legislature dedicated to a long-term solution. Today, though, Doomsday is one step closer to being one step further away.

Categories : Doomsday Budget
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pelham123 In 1974, Joseph Sargent made a movie out of a John Godey book about a trainjacking in New York City. The movie — The Taking of Pelham One Two Three — is so quintessentially an element of 1970s New York City that a remake, while inevitable, is simply unnecessary.

In just over five weeks, though, Tony Scott’s remake of The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 — now with numbers instead of words — will hit theaters, and buzz over the film is building. Instead of the witty banter between Walter Malthau and Robert Shaw, viewers will get the intensity of Denzel Washington and the mania of John Travolta. I fear for the charm of this movie.

This weekend, two major papers on both sides of the country chatted with Scott about the movie. We start in Los Angeles with the L.A. Times’ profile of a reinvented movie. As part of the paper’s summer movie preview, Chris Lee chatted with the director about his concept of a story from another era. The new film, seemingly a product of the technology-driven post-9/11 world in which we live, will feature some live-blogging, some webcams and some online work in the hunt for the criminals behind the train takeover. It is, says Scott, a very different movie from its predecessor.

“Even though it’s the same basic story, the films have very different sensibilities,” the director noted. “Brian Helgeland, the writer, came to me two years ago and said he was going to reinvent it, put a spin on it. He always comes up with something that inspires me.”

Meanwhile, in our own Times’ summer movie preview, one-time Subwayland columnist Randy Kennedy delved into the retelling of Pelham 1 2 3. Kennedy looks at how Tony Scott earned the cooperation of New York City Transit and was allowed to film most of the movie in the system. He used the outer abandoned platforms at Hoyt-Schermerhorn for some scenes and the 7 platform at Grand Central for others.

“We thought, ‘This is our movie — it’s about New York City Transit — and we really wanted it look great,’” Alberteen Anderson, director of film and special events for the MTA, said to The Times.

It wasn’t all fun and games though for Scott and the MTA. While film crews had to combat a live third rail and soot-filled tunnels, the rest of New York wasn’t so keen on adjusting their schedules for the filming. “The general public late at night is not all that cooperative,” Scott said. “Not that I blame them. It’s late. They just want to get home.”

The MTA was less diplomatic. “We will never shoot at that station again,” Anderson said of Grand Central Terminal.

In the end, Kenendy profiles a director who, despite having never really ridden the subway prior to preparing for this film, remains committed to deliver a product that even the most astute of railfans can appreciate. The film may not have the novelty and allure of the original. It won’t feel, as the old one does, like a movie from a time during which story and character counted more than explosions and action. But it will star our subway system, and come June 12, I’ll go see it.

Categories : Subway Movies
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  • Archbishop blesses 7 line extension · Timothy M. Dolan, New York City’s newest Archbishop, checked out the sandhogs digging out the 7 line extension on Friday and gave his blessings over the new subway tunnel. “Bless this tunnel, those who are constructing it, and those who will use it,” he said. Unfortunately, he failed to ask for an adequate funding plan for the MTA or for money to build the second stop at 10th Ave. and 41st St. for this subway to nowhere. · (1)

Gov. David Paterson knows he doesn’t have a ground-breaking plan to fund the MTA on tap. In fact, he is willing to admit that his plan is simply a stop-gap measure designed to halt a fare hike and avoid crushing service cuts, and he said as much this weekend.

“What I’m saying is, this is not a plan that I think is going to get a blue ribbon,” Paterson said to The Times on Saturday. “But what it does is it solves the huge immediate problem of the anxiety and fear that commuters have over the shocking increase in fares and the prospect of widespread service cuts.”

But while his plan doesn’t accomplish the long-term funding goals of the Ravitch Plan, Paterson wants a quick resolution to this MTA fiasco in Albany. After all, in four weeks, the MTA is set to raise fares throughout the system, and the transportation authority plans to begin rolling out the service cuts a few days later. Reportedly, Paterson has convinced Sheldon Silver and Malcolm Smith to help him, and if Smith and Silver can deliver the Senate and Assembly respectively, some sort of funding plan will fall into place.

Right now, though, the issue focuses around the four Democratic State Senators who have refused to support any plan with a payroll tax. Prior to this week, two Westchester Democrats and two Long Island Democrats refused to join their party in supporting a funding plan, but after Paterson introduced his school rebate plan, the Westchester Dems — Suzi Oppenheimer and Andrew Stewart-Cousins — moved back into the yea column. Senators Craig M. Johnson and Brian X. Foley remain opposed and are considering holding up the bill.

Paterson however feels that he can convince the two hold-outs. “My understanding is that prior to this they have been adamantly opposed,” the governor said. “Here they are still opposed, but at least it has promoted dialogue which is the way we usually try to resolve problems in the world.”

Paterson may face another potential obstacle in his school plan from the Assembly. Sheldon Silver, Assembly speaker, has raised concerns over the plan because he doesn’t want to see non-profit organizations and government agencies searching for tax refunds as a rule. Sheldon could still have the Assembly push his modified Ravitch Plan, forcing a conference meeting over the Senate’s and Assembly’s dueling bills.

Meanwhile, for all of this talk of a quick resolution, a few issues remain. First, the MTA is now facing an additional $600 million deficit, and it’s unclear if Paterson’s plan addresses this new hole. It’s also unclear if Paterson’s plan will fund future deficits, and we know unequivocally that his plan does not fund the capital budget. Despite its current operations problems, for the MTA to remain competitive and to offer New Yorkers a top transit systen, that capital plan needs to be funded.

In the end, Paterson is relying on his quick fix to restore both some semblance of economic order to the MTA and some of his long-gone political capital. If he can stave off the fare hikes and service cuts, he says, he’ll push the legislature to find money for the five-year capital plan later this year. Not only then is the politicking far from over, but the battle over the future of the MTA has really just begun.

Categories : Doomsday Budget
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Earlier this week, I reported on an amNew York report concerning the renovations at 96th St. on the West Side IRT. Accoridng to that report, the MTA cut $26 million from the project, and as a result, the station would supposedly be less handicapped accessible.

Not so, said New York City Transit. The current station, said Paul Fleuranges, spokesman for Transit, is not accessible at all; the new one will still be in complete compliance with the ADA. “this rehabilitated 96th Street station will be fully ADA accessible,” he said, via e-mail, “and in fact it will be far easier to access the platforms. I remind you that the current station is not ADA accessible, so the improvements we are making will increase accessibility by 100%.”

Fleuranges also said that a more streamlined design rendered the third elevator superfluous. The stationhouse will still be state-of-the-art, but it will also be more cost-efficient. In these days of uncertain financial times, it’s good to hear the MTA is keeping an eye on the bottom line.

And now the service advisories:

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, May 2 to 5 a.m. Monday, May 4, downtown 1 trains skip 96th Street due to station rehab work at 96th Street.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, May 2 to 5 a.m. Monday, May 4, downtown 2 and 3 trains skip 96th Street, then run local from 86th Street to Chambers Street due to station rehab work and roadbed replacement at 50th Street. Note: Overnight, downtown 3 trains skip 96th Street, then run local from 86th Street to 42nd Street.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, May 2 to 5 a.m. Monday, May 4, uptown 2 and 3 trains run local from 42nd Street-Times Square to 96th Street due to roadbed replacement at 50th Street.

From 4 a.m. Saturday, May 2 to 10 p.m. Sunday May 3, 3 trains run in two sections due to switch repairs and station painting at Sutter Avenue, Saratoga Avenue, Rockaway Avenue and Junius Street:

  • Between 148th Street and Utica Avenue and
  • Between Utica and New Lots Avenue (every 20 minutes)

From 11:30 p.m. Friday, May 1 to 5 a.m. Monday, May 4, free shuttle buses replace 5 trains between Dyre Avenue and East 180th Street due to signal work at East 180th Street and retaining wall work between Pelham Parkway and Baychester Avenue.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, May 2 to 5 a.m. Monday, May 4, Bronx-bound 6 trains run express from 3rd Avenue to Hunts Point Avenue due to platform edge rehabilitation at Cypress Avenue, East 143rd Street, East 149th Street, and Longwood Avenue stations and track panel installation between Morrison-Soundview Aves. and St. Lawrence Avenue. Also, the last stop for some Bronx-bound 6 trains is 3rd Avenue

From 4 a.m. Saturday, May 2 to 10 p.m. Sunday, May 3, Manhattan-bound 7 trains skip 111th, 103rd, 90th, and 82nd Streets due to track panel installation at 90th Street.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, May 2, to 5 a.m. Monday, May 4, downtown A trains run local from 168th Street to Jay Street due to station rehab work at Jay Street. Note: C trains are not running at this time.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, May 2 to 5 a.m. Monday, May 4, uptown A trains run local from Jay Street to Canal Street, then express to 59th Street, then trains resume local service to 168th Street due to the Lawrence St. station rehab and station rehab work at 59th Street. Note: C trains are not running during this time.

From 11:30 p.m. Friday, May 1 to 5 a.m. Monday, May 4, free shuttle buses replace A trains between 168th Street and 207th Street due to tunnel structure and lighting work. Customers may transfer between the Broadway or Ft. Washington Avenue shuttle buses and the A train at 168th Street.

From 11:30 p.m. Friday, May 1 to 5 a.m. Monday, May 4, free shuttle buses and shuttle trains replace A trains between Howard Beach-JFKAirport and the Rockaways due to track panel installation on the South Channel Bridge.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, May 2, to 5 a.m. Monday, May 4, there are no C trains running. A trains replace the C between 168th and Jay Street and F trains replace the C between Jay Street and Euclid Avenue. This is due to the Jay Street station rehabilitation and construction of the underground connector to Lawrence Street.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, May 2 to 5 a.m. Monday, May 4, Coney Island-bound D trains run on the N line from 36th Street to Coney Island-Stillwell Avenue due to retaining wall work at the 38th Street Yard.

From 11:30 p.m. Friday, May 1 to 5 a.m. Monday, May 4, free shuttle buses replace D trains between 205th Street and Bedford Park Blvd. due to a track chip-out at Bedford Park Blvd. station.

From 11:30 p.m. Friday, May 1 to 5 a.m. Monday, May 4, Manhattan-bound E and F trains run local from Forest Hills-71st Avenue to Roosevelt Avenue due to chip-out at Grand Avenue.

From 12:30 a.m. Saturday, May 2 to 5 a.m. Monday, May 4, Jamaica-bound EF trains run local from Roosevelt Avenue to Forest Hills-71st Avenue due to a track chip-out at Grand Avenue.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, May 2 to 5 a.m. Monday, May 4, Jamaica-bound F trains run on the A line from Jay Street to West 4th Street due to the construction of the underground tunnel connector between Broadway-Lafayette and Bleecker Street.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, May 2 to 5 a.m. Monday, May 4, F trains run between 179th Street and Euclid Avenue C station. G trains replace the F between Hoyt-Schermerhorn Sts. and Coney Island-Stillwell Avenue due to the Jay Street station rehabilitation and construction of the underground connector to Lawrence Street.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, May 2 to 5 a.m. Monday, May 4, there are no G trains between Forest Hills-71st Avenue and Court Square. Customers should take the E or R instead.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, May 2 to 5 a.m. Monday, May 4, N trains run local between 59th Street-4th Avenue and Pacific Street due to subway tunnel rehabilitation.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, May 2 to 5 a.m. Monday, May 4, Brooklyn-bound N and R trains are rerouted over the Manhattan Bridge from Canal Street and DeKalb Avenue due to electrical work in the Montague Tunnel. Customers may take the 4 at nearby stations.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, May 2 to 5 a.m. Monday, May 4, Manhattan-bound Q trains skip Newkirk Avenue due to station rehab work.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, May 2 to 5 a.m. Monday, May 4, Manhattan-bound Q trains run express from Kings Highway to Prospect Park due to Brighton Line station rehabilitation.

From 12:30 a.m. to 5 a.m. Monday, May 4, R trains are extended to 179th Street F station due to a track chip-out at Grand Avenue.

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As the MTA gears up to raise fares, two stories about straphangers’ attempts at outsmarting the swipe have made the news this week.

First up is a tale of forgery. Three and a half years ago, police arrested Jonathan Mattocks after watching him pick up discarded MetroCards, bend them and swipe on through. A past transit-offender, Mattocks was convicted of a felony and sentenced to jail time. That’s where his appeal comes in. Per Sewell Chan:

On appeal, his defense lawyers made a novel argument. They conceded that Mr. Mattocks broke the law, but said that he should have been charged with a misdemeanor, unauthorized sale of transportation services, rather than forgery.

Bending a MetroCard does not make it “falsely altered” — as the law defines forgery — “because the damage does not create value on a worthless card, it merely prevents the turnstile computer from determining that the card has no value,” the defense lawyers maintained, according to a summary of their arguments in a court ruling issued on Thursday.

In that ruling, the Court of Appeals, New York’s highest court, rejected that logic and upheld Mr. Mattocks’s conviction for forgery.

Amusingly enough, Chan also notes that the decision contains detailed instructions in how to perpetuate a MetroCard forgery. “The judge,” he writes, “devoted her first section to explaining the coding of the cards, how they are read, and how, in essence, to foil the system.” That little tidbit of information certainly won’t help the MTA combat what they say are over 250,000 annual instances of MetroCard fraud.

Mattock, by the way, had already served his two-year prison sentence while awaiting the outcome of his appeal.

In other fare-jumping news, two Daily News reporters stationed themselves near an emergency exit and counted the number of fare-jumpers entering through what should be a locked exit. At two stations, the reporters watched numerous straphangers enter through the open doors .When the reporters confronted the station clerks about the issue, the clerk quickly alarmed the door and alleged it had been armed the entire time.

One fare-beater even had the audacity to defend his actions: “Since when is walking through an open door breaking the law? If that clerk doesn’t care enough to close the door, why shouldn’t I go through?”

Categories : MetroCard
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David Paterson has a secret plan for the MTA. After debuting this fact on Wednesday, Paterson spent all day on Thursday talking about it.

“They are reviewing it with their members. If it passes muster, we’ll make sure you know about it soon enough and hopefully vote on it as soon as when we get back. And I would like the day to be Monday,” Paterson said to NY1’s Bobby Cuza on Thursday.

So with all of this secrecy surrounding Paterson’s plan, it better be a good one, right? Well, William Neuman and Nicholas Confessore of The Times spoke to a few sources in the know, and the plan sounds like nothing too secretive. Unless the two reporters failed to uncover something, this super-secret, Save-the-MTA plan focuses around — get this — refunding the schools impacted by the payroll tax.

And you were expecting something groundbreaking and forward-thinking. Neuman and Confessore have more details:

Seeking to break a stalemate on a rescue plan for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Gov. David A. Paterson made a secret proposal this week to have the state give money to school districts to cover the cost of a new payroll tax, according to people briefed on the proposal.

They said that the school proposal was what Mr. Paterson was referring to on Wednesday when he said that he had a “new idea” to move the stalled authority bailout forward.

The governor has not said publicly what the new idea is. Officials said that he discussed it with the Senate majority leader, Malcolm A. Smith, and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver on Wednesday. The payroll tax would provide about $1.5 billion to the authority each year, but four suburban Senate Democrats have opposed it, in part because they said it would burden school districts, which would have to pay the tax.

Meanwhile, the four Democrats whose votes are required for any MTA funding plan and how have vowed to block any payroll tax may not even support this plan. It could be another D.O.A. funding plan for the MTA.

Now, David Paterson is in a precarious position. He wants to reelection, but his popularity rankings are so low that he probably wouldn’t even defeat a Democratic primary challenger. By publicly hitching his wagon to this plan — and promoting it as his compromise to save the MTA — he’s playing a dangerous political game. If this is all he’s got, he’s going to lose.

Categories : Doomsday Budget
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The following is a post by one of my advertisers about his iPhone Application. For more information on advertising on Second Ave. Sagas, contact me.

Hi, Chris here, blogger at StationStops.com and author of StationStops for iPhone (iTunes Link), an iPhone/iPod Touch application which allows Metro-North riders to look up train schedules directly on their iPhone — with or without an internet connection.

I am an advertiser with SecondAvenueSagas and longtime reader. Ben has graciously allowed me this post to shamelessly plug my app, as it is relevant to many of his readers who ride Metro-North (I think I had to buy him a beer at Pershing Square and beg a little also).

I started my blog, StationStops.com, shortly after I moved to Connecticut from California. Metro-North was my first introduction to commuter rail, and I was frustrated with much of the experience. I used my blog to vent to other riders.

One of my primary frustrations was the difficulty with which I could look up the Metro-North schedule. My station had nothing more than the gigantic, tiny-print PDF posted under glass (in an unlit location where I didn’t even know it existed until 3 months after riding the train).

I figured there must be some easy way to look up the schedule on my Blackberry, but there was not. Even looking it up on the web was a pain in the butt, as the form must be filled out each time, and you cannot simply bookmark the results for your station (StationStops.com does have these schedules in a bookmarkable format).

When the iPhone came out, I knew this would be a great platform for developing a mobile application for looking up Metro-North schedules.

With StationStops for iPhone, you can look up your next train while underground, on the subway, without an internet connection, in just a couple of clicks. As I commuted into and out of the city at odd hours, I found the app indispensable, and used it daily, even adding Grand Central Terminal track numbers (if you have an internet connection), and station information / Google Maps location for every station on Metro-North.

StationStops for iPhone remembers your home station, and knows what time it is, so it can show you your next trains with a single keypress.

StationStops for iPhone does have some limitations right now: It only works for trains traveling to or from Grand Central Terminal, it doesn’t handle holiday schedules and a handful of “special” trains, and you should always double-check your track when using the track number feature.

Currently I am in discussions with Metro-North towards expanding the usability, features, and accuracy of StationStops for iPhone and eliminate these limitations. But, its MTA, so, you know, it’s going slow 😉

I encourage Metro-North riders to check out my application — I have recently dropped the price in half from to $2.99, and its available now in the iTunes App Store for instant download on your iPhone.

If you have any questions about the app, please feel free to email me at stationstops at gmail dot com or follow me on Twitter as @stationstops.

iTunes reviews and comments are always welcome – but if you find a bug, have a complaint or suggestion about the app – please contact me first for more info – I usually respond within a few hours.

Also, for those of you like Ben who are struggling with finals right now, you may wish to check out my new application — ReadFaster for iPhone (iTunes link). It is a speedreading app using techniques I found indispensable for tearing through my reading list in college. It’s currently on sale for $.99.

Categories : Sponsored Post
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