In a ceremony this morning at Grand Central Terminal, Google and the MTA announced a partnership designed to bring New York Metropolitan area transit directions to Google Transit, a feature of the popular Google Maps. Users will now be able to find comprehensive directions for New York City Transit, the Long Island Rail Road, Metro-North and the area’s bus service in one place.

First hinted at thirteen months ago, the service is now available online at both a special page on the MTA’s website and at Google Transit. “It is a very complicated transit system, and it just got less complicated today with the advent of Google Maps for transit,” Gov. David Paterson said this morning.

Currently, New York commuters enjoy numerous trip-mapping options. Independent sites such as HopStop, onNYTurf and Gypsy Maps offer up their own versions of integrated directions for intra-city travel. New York City Transit’s TripPlanner provides an MTA-sanctioned source for directions.

But the new service is the first to offer integrated mapping and directions across all three services. With the MTA’s making comprehensive schedule data available to Google and NJ Transit and Port Authority’s PATH service already on board, New Yorkers can now find directions from one end of the Metropolitan Area to the other.

The key feature here is the inclusion of schedule data. Over the last few years, many of the directionally-minded website developers — with Will at onNYTurf leading the charge — have tried to wrangle to-the-minute schedule details out of the MTA, but the agency has been reluctant to part with this proprietary data. Publicly available schedules, particularly for the subways, are incomplete. But now, users can set a departure time and find the most accurate scheduling information around. Incorporating all of the current features of Google Maps — walking directions, street view, local points of interest — the new service is a step above the others right now.

Both MTA officials and Google executives were quick to praise this partnership. “At a time when the MTA is facing mounting fiscal challenges, we are thrilled to be able to offer this service to our customers at no cost to taxpayers,” MTA Chair Dale Hemmerdinger said. “Google Transit will encourage ridership and underscores the importance of the MTA to the region’s economy and environment.”

“By being able to access station and schedule data for the largest public transit system in the United States via Google Maps, users are exposed to the availability and convenience of public transportation and are better equipped to take advantage of all that the New York metropolitan region has to offer,” John Hanke, director of Google Maps and Earth, said.

It wasn’t easy, however, putting together this project. As Sewell Chan at City Room reported this morning, the MTA delivered a large volume of data to Google, and the information giant had to parse it into a usable format. The MTA and Google plan to make the data available to other developers as well.

With the MTA’s preeminent place in the region, this is a very welcome and long-awaited development indeed.

Categories : MTA Technology
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Facing a budget deficit of nearly $1 billion and with no relief in sight, the MTA is preparing an agency-wide cut of 4.5 percent. While officials say they will cut management costs first, if enough money can’t be trimmed, the agencies will be forced to cut operations costs, which, in plain English, means subway, bus and rail service could face the axe.

William Neuman of The Times has more on this dismaying but unsurprising news:

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority has begun exploring possible cuts in subway, bus and commuter rail service to shore up its budget in the face of a projected deficit next year of nearly $900 million, officials said on Monday.

The cuts could be necessary if the authority does not receive enough additional money from the state and city or if the economic crisis deepens significantly, the officials said. They cautioned, however, that any service cuts were purely theoretical at this point…

Gary J. Dellaverson, the authority’s chief financial officer, said that he had directed the heads of the agencies that make up the authority…to come up with alternative budgets “in the event either the economy is worse than predicted, which is possible, or assistance from government partners in its entirety is not forthcoming.”

Jeremy Soffin, a spokesman for the authority, said that the agencies were told to explain how they would make cuts of 4.5 percent or so in their expenses. He declined to say how much that would amount to, but a 4.5 percent reduction of the total authority-wide budget projected to be $9.7 billion next year would equal $437 million. “This is an exercise in case of a hypothetical situation,” Mr. Soffin said. “It’s very preliminary.”

While everyone at the MTA stressed the hypothetical nature of this exercise — Doreen Frasca, head of the MTA Board’s transit committee, hopped on that bandwagon too — it’s hard to feel too good about it. New York has yet to experience the economic fall-out from the recent collapse of the investment banking business, and tax revenues — and thus city and state contributions to the MTA — are sure to be down.

Meanwhile, these hypothetical cuts do not preclude a fair hike. So, in other words, we could be in for both another fare hike in 2009 as well as across-the-board service cuts. Clearly, that’s not news anyone in New York wants to hear right now.

As riders, our options are limited. The best we can do is lobby our elected representatives and urge them to find more money for the beleaguered transit agency. Since voting them out of office didn’t pan out, our options are severely limited. Maybe now will be a good time for the MTA to ask Richard Brodsky for some money. After all, he promised them funds last July if only they would ask.

In the end, though, I bet the rest of us, through service cuts and fare hikes, will have to pay. That, sadly, is the way of it in New York City these days.

Categories : MTA Economics
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  • Keep on minding that platform edge · A way back in February, a few newspapers created a stir at the MTA when they reported on the bad conditions of the platform edge at numerous subway stations around the City. While New York City Transit has since inspected every platform and has made temporary emergency repairs to a good number of them, amNew York reports that the platform edges still pose dangers to passengers.

    The free daily contends that splintery and wobbly temporary platforms lend an aura of action to station in disrepair but no guarantee of safety. While passengers should not be spending too much time — if any — on the platform edge — the MTA should continue to ensure the safety of passengers. At some point, the agency will need to find a permanent solution to this problem. I hope they can do so before a bad accident befalls an unsuspecting straphanger. · (1)

Despite facing a fare share of criticism over and some mixed results from its line manager program, the MTA is set to expand their program after a 10-month experiment.

Last year, when the Rider Report Card results highlight deficiencies in service and general feelings that the MTA was out of touch with its riders, New York City Transit President Howard Roberts introduced the line manager program. In the intervening months, the L and 7 served as guinea pigs, and now the MTA will spread the joy of oversight to other subway lines but on a more limited basis.

According to William Neuman of The Times, with money tight at the MTA — the agency is facing a potential $1-billion deficit — other subway lines will get only managers and not the other amenities, such as 24-hour cleaning crews, that the L and 7 currently enjoy.

Neuman has more:

Mr. Roberts said that the rest of the numbered lines would get general managers this fall, with the new positions being phased in over the next several weeks. Early next year, the rest of the lettered lines will shift to the new structure. Each line will also be part of a group of four to seven lines that have common responsibilities. For instance, the Nos. 1, 2 and 3 lines share several miles of track, so track maintenance would be the responsibility of a group manager.

Mr. Roberts said that once the reorganization is complete and the employees are moved to their new jobs, the changes will result in a slightly leaner work force, with 70 fewer positions and a savings of $7.3 million a year.

Meanwhile, the results of the current line managers are decidedly mixed. The MTA highlights on-time statistics to show the effects these managers are having, but numerous lines without the managerial oversight have enjoyed increased on-time numbers as well. Furthermore, as Neuman notes, on-time numbers for the 7 and L are actually off pace from the days before the line manager program.

Riders themselves have not noticed widespread improvement in the system, and I have a feeling that the latest round of rider report cards will reveal similar or identical grades as those doled out last year. Some riders, Neuman writes, say “they had noticed small improvements like trains arriving at stations with greater regularity, easing rush hour crowding in the cars. And many said that stations and train cars on the two lines were noticeably cleaner than elsewhere in the subway system.”

In the end, I have to like this program because of its intent. It saves the MTA money, and it shows that the agency is willing, finally, to listen to its customers. We can’t expect overnight results from an organization that has long resisted change, but we can hope that, as the powers-that-be receive more feedback and suggestion from the riders, they’ll be willing to take the steps necessary to improve our subway service.

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As Yankee fans across the city know all too well, this evening marks the final regular season game at Yankee Stadium. Nothing quite identifies the Yankees as the ride north on the 4 train to the stadium. When the trains come above ground after leaving 149th St./Grand Concourse, Yankee Stadium looms majestically over the tracks, and astute fans know to keep their eyes out for that glimpse inside the stadium from the tracks.

As part of the pre-game ceremony honoring the House that Ruth Built, New York City Transit is planning on running a special nostalgia train along the 4 line from Grand Central up to Yankee Stadium. Via the agency’s press release:

What better way to celebrate the end of an era than hopping aboard a vintage IRT Jerome Ave. express to get to the game.

The four-car “Nostalgia Special” is scheduled to leave Grand Central-42nd Street at approximately 6 p.m., arriving at 161st Street-Yankee Stadium about 30 minutes later. The cars, originally operated by the Interborough Rapid Transit system, began service in 1917 and it is possible that at least one of them carried fans to the game on the first opening day.

The Lo-V subway cars, veterans of more than five decades of service before they were retired in the 1960s, serve as a splendid illustration of just how far subway car technology has advanced over the past 100 years. Customers will be able to sample the modern comforts of NYC Transit’s New Technology Cars on the trip home.

It’s quite the way to honor the closing of the stadium. Fans can pretend it is the early days of Yankee Stadium all over again. The four cars will be from the Lo-V series which operated along the IRT lines from 1917 through 1964. I believe the car numbers, for the rail aficionados, are 5483, 5443, 5292 and 5290.

Personally, I’m heading to this game later this afternoon. While I’d love to take the Nostalgia Train to Yankee Stadium, I’m probably shooting to get the stadium earlier than 6:30. But this is a great way to send off a New York City institution, and the folks who find themselves on this train, intentionally or otherwise, are in for a treat.

Photo via NYC Subway.

Categories : Subway History
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Let’s talk a little self-promotion. It’s been a while since I’ve plugged ways you can stay in touch with Second Ave. Sagas, and so I’m going to borrow a few minutes before the service advisories to let you know.

You can subscribe to Second Ave. Sagas by e-mail. Browse to this link, insert your e-mail address and receive new posts in your inbox. Neither FeedBurner nor I will use your e-mail address for any other purpose.

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And finally, you can subscribe to Second Ave. Sagas’ RSS Feed. I recommend Google Reader or Bloglines for all of your web-based RSS subscription needs.

Without further ado, the weekend service advisories:

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, September 20 to 5 a.m. Monday, September 22, 2 and 3 trains run local between 96th and Chambers Street due to 96th Street station rehabilitation.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, September 20 to 5 a.m. Monday, September 22, there are no 4 trains between Utica and Brooklyn Bridge due to track and station work for the Fulton Street Transit Center. The 3 and a special J train provide alternate service.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, September 20 to 5 a.m. Monday, September 22, there are no 5 trains between 42nd Street-Grand Central and Bowling Green due to track and station work for the Fulton Street Transit Center. The 4 and special J trains provide alternate service. Customers should transfer between the 5 and 4 at 42nd Street-Grand Central.

From 4 a.m. Saturday, September 20 to 10 p.m. Sunday, September 21, Flushing-bound 7 trains run express from Queensboro Plaza to Willets Point-Shea Stadium due to track panel installation between 74th Street and 82nd Street.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, September 20 to 5 a.m. Monday, September 22, free shuttle buses replace A trains between 168th Street and 207th Street due to structural and tunnel lighting at 168th Street.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, September 20 to 5 a.m. Monday, September 22, there is no C train service between 145th Street and 168th Street due to structural and tunnel lighting at 168th Street. Customers should take the A instead.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, September 20 to 5 a.m. Monday, September 22, uptown Aand C trains skip Spring, 23rd, and 50th Streets due to Chambers Street Signal Modernization.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, September 20 to 5 a.m. Monday, September 22, Queens-bound A and C trains skip Ralph and Rockaway Avenues due to station painting at Ralph and Rockaway Avenues.

From 12:01 a.m. to 5 a.m. Saturday, September 20, Manhattan-bound D trains skip 167th, 161st, and 155th Streets due to track and roadbed cleaning. – Note: This will not interfere with any travel to and from Yankee Stadium this weekend.

From 12:01 a.m. to 5 a.m. Sunday, September 21, Bronx-bound D trains skip 155th Street due to track and roadbed cleaning.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, September 20 to 5 a.m. Monday, September 22, there are no E trains between West 4th Street and World Trade Center due to the Chambers Street Signal Modernization. Take the A or C instead.

From 11:30 p.m. Friday, September 19 to 5 a.m. Monday, September 22 (and weekends through October 6), Manhattan-bound E trains run local from Jackson Heights-Roosevelt Avenue to Queens Plaza due to a track-chip out north of Queens Plaza.

From 12:30 a.m. Saturday, September 20 to 5 a.m. Monday, September 22, Queens-bound E trains run local from Queens Plaza to Jackson Heights-Roosevelt Avenue due to a track-chip out north of Queens Plaza.

From 12:01 a.m. to midnight Saturday, September 20, Manhattan-bound ER trains run express from Forest Hills-71st Avenue to Jackson Heights-Roosevelt Avenue due to a pump room repair north of Jackson Heights-Roosevelt Avenue.

From 12:30 a.m. Saturday, September 20 to 5 a.m. Monday, September 22, Queens-bound F trains run local from 21st Street-Queensbridge to Jackson Heights-Roosevelt Avenue due to a track chip-out north of Queens Plaza.

From 11:30 p.m. Friday, September 19 to 5 a.m. Monday, September 22, (and weekends through October 6), Manhattan-bound F trains run local from Jackson Heights-Roosevelt Avenue to 21st Street-Queensbridge due to a track chip-out north of Queens Plaza.

From 8:30 p.m. Friday, September 19 to 5 a.m. Monday, September 22, there are no G trains between Forest Hills-71st Avenue and Court Square due to a track chip-out north of Queens Plaza. Customers should take the E or R instead.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, September 20 to 5 a.m. Monday, September 22 (and weekends through October 6), Manhattan-bound N trains run on the D line from Coney Island-Stillwell Avenue to 36th Street (Brooklyn) due to track panel installation.

From 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, September 20, Q trains run in two sections due to track rail and plate removal:

  • Between 57th Street (Manhattan) and Brighton Beach and
  • Between Brighton Beach and Coney Island-Stillwell Avenue
Categories : Service Advisories
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The Tenth Ave. station is no longer.

The MTA has scraped plans to build a station stop at 10th Ave. and 41st St. as part of the 7 line extension to the Hudson Yards area. Let’s not mince words: This is a terrible mistake.

NY1 has the story:

Transit officials dropped plans to build an additional 7 subway line station Thursday. Officials eliminated the plan to build a station at 10th Avenue and 41st Street when they were unable to obtain the $450 million to complete the project.

The Bloomberg administration said a station is not necessary since the neighborhood is already developed…

In a statement, the MTA said, “While we would prefer to include a station at 10th Avenue, it is not critical to the success of the overall project. If funding is identified at a later date we will revisit the issue.”

I have long advocated for the inclusion of this station in the final project. If the city is going to spend the time and energy expanding west, they should be as inclusive as possible. To omit this station now would be to give up on it forever. Just ask proponents of the Second System.

On many levels, this news is dismaying. First is Bloomberg’s dismissal of the station because the neighborhood is already developed. The purpose of subway expansion isn’t to spur on to development but rather to offer public transportation to neighborhoods currently lacking in that regard. The area west of 8th Ave. in Hells Kitchen needed this station. Drawing Bloomberg’s logic to a proper end would result in our questioning the need for a Second Ave. Subway too. After all, the Upper East side is “already developed.”

More alarming is the cost of this project and its ultimate result. The City and the MTA will now be spending a few billion dollars to extend the subway one stop. At a time when the system is falling apart, when maintenance projects are being deferred, when expansion plans are slowly crawling to a halt, spending billions of dollars simply to placate some real estate developer in charge of a project at least a decade away from completion doesn’t strike me as the best use of funds.

Update 3:00 p.m.: CityRoom has a more detailed story up about this news. This William Neuman piece features a statement from Senator Chuck Schumer: “Failure to build a full 7 train extension is a huge missed opportunity to promptly realize the complete potential of the Far West Side.”

Well said, Chuck. Well Said.

Categories : 7 Line Extension
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For nearly eight decades, the New York City Subway system has sat in stagnant. Since unification in 1940, the City has witnessed the birth of just a handful of new lines with even fewer planned. Yet, subway inertia wasn’t always the norm.

In 1929 and again in 1939, New York City planners dreamed big. Before cars came to dominate our transportation landscape, the city knew that extending the subway would truly complete the system and usher in unprecedented boom times for New York. Thus, along came the IND Second System.

Yesterday’s post on the uncompleted remnants of a Brooklyn subway stop hints at the scope of this ambitious plan. Today, we delve deeper into this vast civic undertaking. The city wanted 100 miles of new tracks connecting every borough to one another. The map at right (click to enlarge) is a work of subway art, and the plan is a beauty.

Read on for an in-depth look at the great Second System plans.

Categories : Subway History
Comments (24)
  • Calatrava terminal not quite dead yet · While last week I noted that the Santiago Calatrava-designed World Trade Center transportation hub may be on the chopping block, the Port Authority isn’t quite ready to give up on their ambitious plans for the downtown station. With two weeks left until he must make a series of recommendations on the PA’s downtown plans, Christopher Ward, the PA executive director, must figure out if the agency can build the Calatrava design, as The Times put it, “constructed timely and economically.”

    Considering the economy and state of transit funding in the region, the odds do not favor the Port Authority or Calatrava right now. I hope, however, that the PA pushes for this plan anyway. The last thing we need is some Penn Station monstrosity anchoring the planned downtown revival. The Calatrave project is ambitious, visually appealing and functional. In other words, it’s everything the New York City transit architecture world is missing, and to lose it now would be a shame. · (4)

What’s in a name?

By · Comments (14) ·

The never-completed and now-abandoned station at South 4th St. in Brooklyn should not be confused with the West 4th St. stop in Manhattan. (Photo via Etsy)

Alternately one of the more endearing or most annoying aspects of the New York City Subway system, post-unification, is the naming scheme for stations. The system has two stops in different boroughs that share the 7th Ave. designation, three stations called 86th St. and a whole bunch of Kings Highway and Ave. U stops. The list is endless, and the only way to tell them apart is by consulting a map or knowing the system’s ins and outs.

There are, of course, a few notable exceptions to the issues of dual names. The various 42nd St. stops all carry with them the designation of the nearby landmarks. We have Times Square-42nd St., 42nd St.-5th Ave./Bryan Park and 42nd St.-Grand Central. And then there is West Fourth Street and the numbered streets labeled East along the IRT White Plains Road line, specifically-named rarities in a system that largely assumes its riders know where they’re going.

This past weekend, that nomenclature was the subject of a question in The New York Times City Section’s FYI column. Asked a curious reader: “Most subway stops’ names use only the street number (42nd Street, for example). How come West Fourth Street and a few stops in the Bronx (like East 180th Street and East 149th Street) are given an east/west distinction?”

The answer:

Mainly to avoid confusion.

Herb Schonhaut, manager in New York City Transit’s Office of Station Signage, said the Fourth Street station uses the word “West” to distinguish it from the planned but unbuilt “South” Fourth Street Station in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

Mr. Schonhaut added that East 180th Street (on the No. 2 and 5 lines) and East 149th Street (No. 6 line) use “East” to contrast with similar stations to the west: 180th Street/Bronx Park (which closed in 1952) and 149th Street/Grand Concourse. East 143rd Street was distinguished from 143rd Street on the Third Avenue el, which shut down in 1955.

Now, the second part of this answer, I knew. When the subways were first built, the IRT, BMT and IND lines were competing systems, and it was not until 1940 that all three systems were placed under the control of the city. The three companies followed their own naming conventions, and we are still today stuck with this relic of the past.

The first part of the answer — about South Fourth St. — was news to me, and the Waterfront Preservation Alliance of Greenpoint and Williamsburg did the heavy lifting on this intriguing station. The now-abandoned semi-station at South Fourth Street in Brooklyn was to be a part of the IND Second System, a great idea lost to the Great Depression. WGPA has more:

The proposed service to Williamsburg included two new lines: one connecting to the Sixth Avenue line and running beneath the East River from Houston Street; the second connecting to the Eighth Avenue line and running under the River from Grand Street in Manhattan (with the last stop at Columbia Street).

In Williamsburg, the north line was to run beneath Grand Street as far as Driggs, and then turn south to meet up with the second line, which was to run under Broadway and South Fourth Street (more detail here). All of this was to meet up with the Crosstown Line (aka the G train) at Broadway and South 4th. That was the South 4th Street station referred to in the Times article…From South Fourth Street, the lines continued east. In Bed Stuy, they were to branch off. The Utica Avenue would run to the south, eventually winding up in Sheepshead Bay. The Rockaway line would continue northeast along Myrtle and Central Avenues, and then turn south and run all the way to the Rockaways.

So the two Fourth Streets would have been a mere four stations apart, and the coverage of the subways between Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan would have been vastly improved. But, alas, the Second System was not to be. While some of the plans — a subway to the Rockaways, for instance — saw the light of the day, the ambitious expansion drive faltered before long, and the West Fourth St. name is a testament to an era in which the city dreamed big and came up small.

Categories : Subway History
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