• The accuracy of the advisories · Every Friday, I post the MTA’s weekend service advisories, and every weekend, I notice that the MTA’s official announcement of the weekend changes are either incomplete or flat-out wrong. Sometimes, trains go over bridges when they shouldn’t; they run local when they should run express; signs that promise service advisories are wrong while trains run different routes with no signs in sight; and nary a conductor says anything about it.

    I’m not the only one picking up on this; my buddy Chris over at East Village Idiot noted this problem today as well. Disgruntled straphangers, he notes, have taken to editing the MTA’s signs to better reflect the true nature of service changes. As the MTA works to increase communications between HQ and riders, NYC Transit should look to beef up those weekend service advisories. Traveling around on the weekends is tough enough as it is. · (7)

That’s today, folks. So don’t jump that turnstile. And if you want the details on Section 1050.4 of the MTA NYC Transit Rules of Conduct, click here.

And for the fun of it, City Room’s Sewell Chan details the history of the MTA’s anti-fare-jumping efforts.

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The New York buses are, for better or worse, a begrudgingly accepted part of the transit landscape. Their schedules are unreliable and service is painfully slow on a good day. But as buses go, the last few weeks have been rather momentous.

First, we saw the roll-out of the MTA’s new Select Bus Service. With pre-boarding fare-payment schemes and dedicated bus lanes, New York’s form of bus rapid transit could revitalize a much-maligned mode of transit. The early returns are promising.

Last week, the Tri-State Transportation Campaign’s Mobilizing the Region blog featured an early test-run of the BRT system. Veronica Vanterpool, TSTC’s associate director, noted that the BRT measures shaved 17 minutes off of her cross-Bronx commute. While enforcement efforts and pre-boarding confusion plagued the ride, Vanterpool believes that, as the system matures, it will become even more efficient. Score one for the good news.

Concurrently, Streetblog’s Brad Aaron pondered how New York City should beef up BRT enforcement. While we have blamed David Gantt for shooting down camera-enforced lanes, Aaron argues that New York should follow Europe’s lead and implement dedicated lines by way of concrete dividers. As these dividers have done with the 9th Ave. bike lane, permanent concrete structures will keep drivers out for good, cameras or not. Sign me up.

And then, on Friday, New York City Transit sneaked out another bus-related story while no one was paying attention. The agency released the Express Bus Rider Report Cards, and as riders were wont to do with the subways, bus service received a C grade. As you might expect, bus riders were most critical of the wait times between buses, the accuracy of schedules and seat availability. If you’re interested in the nitty-gritty, all the details are availabe here as a PDF.

I don’t believe these bus grades can come as a surprise. Bus service across the board is unreliable in the city at best. Buses run at the whim of traffic, and the posted schedules are reliable only as a tool to help potential riders determine how long it should be between buses. The Express Bus service is supposed to be more reliable than the local service, and when the regular bus line report cards hit, I’m sure riders will have similar complaints.

Right now, New Yorkers could use a good bus service, but it seems that buses are viewed as a measure of last resort. If it’s raining, take the bus but only if it’s there. Friends of mine who are new to the city never really learn the bus system, and even life-long New Yorkers use the buses reluctantly. The Select Bus Service is a start, but as the rider report card results show, MTA Bus, now under the umbrella of NYC Transit, has a long way to go.

Categories : Buses
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I’m out of town for the long weekend, and most people are too busy BBQing on Friday to worry about transit news. So without further ado, let’s jump into the weekend.


On Friday, July 4, NYC Transit will be running trains on a Sunday schedule. For information on viewing the fireworks, click here. Once the fireworks are over, NYC Transit will run extra trains on the C, F, L, 3 and 5 trains as well as the 42nd St. Shuttle.


From 12:01 a.m. to 7 a.m. on Saturday, July 5, from 12:01 a.m. to 8 a.m. on Sunday, July 6, and from 12:01 a.m. to 5 a.m. on Monday, July 7, uptown 1 trains skip 103, 110, 116 and 125 Sts. For service to these stations, transfer to a downtown 1 train at 125 St.


From 12:01 a.m. on Friday, July 5 to 5 a.m. on Monday, July 7, Manhattan-bound 2 trains run express from Gun Hill Road to East 180 St. For service to stations in between, transfer to a Wakefield/241 St.-bound 2 train at East 180 St.


From 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Saturday, July 5 and Sunday, July 6, 3 trains run in two sections:

  1. Between 148 St. and Utica Ave.
  2. Between Utica and New Lots Avs


From 12:01 a.m. on Friday, July 4, to 5 a.m., Monday, July 7, there are no 5 trains between 149 and East 180 Sts. For service to stations in between, take the 2 train instead.


From 12:01 a.m. to 5 a.m. on Saturday, July 5, Manhattan-bound 6 trains run express from Hunts Point Ave. to Third Ave. For service to stations in between, transfer to a Pelham Bay Park-bound 6 train at Third Ave.


From 12:01 a.m. on Saturday, July 5 to 5 a.m. on Monday, July 7, Flushing-bound 7 trains skip 82, 90, 103, and 111 Sts. For service to these stations, transfer to a Manhattan-bound 7 at Willets Pt-Shea Stadium.


From 12:01 a.m. to 5 a.m. on Sunday, July 6 and Monday, July 7, Manhattan-bound F trains run on the A from Jay to West 4 Sts. For service to stations in between, transfer to a Brooklyn-bound F at West 4th St.


From 8:30 p.m. on Friday, July 4 to 5 a.m. on Monday, July 7, there are no G trains between 71-Continental Avs and Court Sq. Take the E or R instead.


From 12:01 a.m. on Saturday, July 5, to 5 a.m. on Monday, July 7, Brooklyn-bound N trains make all local stops from 57 St, Manhattan to 59 St, Brooklyn.

From 12:01 a.m. on Saturday, July 5 to 5 a.m. on Monday July 7, Manhattan-bound N trains run on the D from Stillwell Av to 36 St. For service to stations along the N line, transfer to a Coney Island-bound N train at 36th St.


From 12:01 a.m. on Saturday, July 5, to 5 a.m. on Monday, July 7, all Q trains run local between 57th and Canal Sts.


From 12:01 a.m. on Saturday, July 5, to 5 a.m. on Monday, July 7, Manhattan-bound R trains run on the V from Queens Plaza to Broadway-Lafayette St, then over the Manhattan Bridge to DeKalb Ave.

Categories : Service Advisories
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High gas prices are pushing more commuters onto mass transit options. (Gas $4.37 by flickr user 54east)

As Americans prepare to hit the road later today for their Fourth of July weekend travels, gas prices are at an all-time high. The national average cost for unleaded regular gas checks in at $4.092 per gallon while New Yorkers are paying an average of $4.297 per gallon. These numbers, to Americans, are astronomical.

In New York City, however, the law of unintended consequences has taken over. As high gas prices drive Americans out of their cars, a few analysts are noting that the traffic-mitigation effects of the $4.30-gallon are mimicking, to a lesser extent, Mayor Bloomberg’s failed congestion pricing scheme. In a very well done article in The Times today, William Neuman explores how traffic volume is decreasing as gas prices increase.

The gist of it is as follows: As gas has climbed well past the $4-per-gallon mark, the MTA and the Port Authority have been reported decreases in traffic through their toll booths of around 4.2 to 4.7 percent. Meanwhile, subway ridership was up 6.5 percent over the same time period with smaller but noticeable increases on Metro-North (4.3 percent) and the Long Island Rail Road (5.5 percent). The PA’s PATH trains saw a jump in ridership of nine percent. Even parking garages in the area are reporting fewer cars.

In a way, then, the city isn’t too far from temporarily achieving Mayor Bloomberg’s goals of reducing congestion. Of course, as Neuman points out, the goal of congestion pricing was to reduce traffic at peak hours, and this current reduction is more spread out. Meanwhile, it’s clear that drivers who are opting not to drive will slip behind the wheel as soon as — or is that if? — gas prices dip again. So on the flip side, high gas prices aren’t at all like the congestion pricing plan, and a few traffic consultants believe that this is a questionable decrease as many drivers, looking to save all they can, are opting for free bridges instead of toll roads. The decrease in volume could be as little as two or three percent.

There is, of course, another catch as it relates to mass transit. The analysis is Neuman’s:

Gas price-induced traffic reduction might have a downside. Mr. Bloomberg’s plan was intended, among other things, to raise hundreds of millions of dollars a year for mass transit improvements by charging cars an $8 fee to enter the area of Manhattan below 59th Street. The plan was defeated in April when legislative leaders in Albany refused to bring it up for a vote.

In contrast, the current reduction in traffic at bridges and tunnels could actually take money away from transit, because a large portion of the tolls collected at the transportation authority’s crossings helps to finance the subways, buses and commuter railroads. In May, toll revenues were more than $4 million below budget projections, and Gary J. Dellaverson, the authority’s chief financial officer, said that June toll revenues appeared to be down even further.

So far, the drop has been more than offset by an increase in fare collections generated by higher transit and rail ridership, but Mr. Dellaverson said that the combination of slipping toll revenues and the increased cost of fuel for the authority’s buses and trains could eventually outpace ridership revenue gains.

In the end, then, it’s the same old story for the MTA. A lack of dedicated revenue not tied into market forces is forcing the agency into a corner. For our city’s air, for our roads, it’s encouraging to see traffic dipping as gas prices go up. But for the health of the MTA, this artificial free-market quasi-congestion pricing impact will only serve to deprive the agency of toll revenue while taxing train lines already at or near capacity without offsetting these increases with more revenue. And that is a recipe for disaster.

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  • Cement-truck drivers strike stalls Second Ave. Subway · Yesterday afternoon, news broke that the city’s cement-truck drivers had initiated a strike. Now, we learn that this strike’s impact reaches underground. Because no major construction projects in the city can proceed, the strike has halted work on one Second Ave. Subway line. In the end, this one-week delay, the expected duration of the strike, probably won’t impact the completion date of a project already two years behind schedule. · (1)
  • The cutest illustrated story about the subways you’ll ever see · Christopher Neimann, award-winning illustrator and former New York resident, has started a blog on the New York Times Web site this week. For this first post, he drew a 13-panel story about his two sons, ages three and five, and their love affairs with the New York City subways. It is, by far, the best and cutest subway-based illustrated story you’ll ever see. [The Boys and the Subway] · (2)

This sign is more permanent than anyone would prefer. (Cortland St Station by flickr user vanillarose20)

A few weeks ago, New York City reached a milestone most politicians — and especially the Port Authority — would prefer to ignore. It’s now taken more time to figure out how long it will take to complete rebuilding Ground Zero than it did for the original construction of the Twin Towers. Just 6 years, 7 months, 30 days elapsed between the groundbreaking and the ribbon-cutting ceremonies in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Meanwhile, the Towers fell 6 years, 9 months, 21 days ago and counting.

For Lower Manhattan, the news got worse this week. On Monday, the Port Authority released a 34-page report (PDF) that explained how reconstruction at Ground Zero is well over budget and well behind schedule. And, hey, the MTA isn’t even running this show.

On Tuesday, the news took a turn toward transportation. As the Port Authority’s original report noted, Port Authority’s WTC Transportation Hub featuring Santiago Calatrava’s retractable roof/porcupine-type building was well over budget and — here’s the kicker — the final design had not yet been chosen. As The Times reports today, gone are the retractable panels, and the final design may be drastically reduced.

Now, to anyone following recent construction trends in the city, these announcements are not unexpected. In fact, the Port Authority — the only agency that has a worse time with construction timetables than the MTA — had already announced a delay in the Hub’s completion date six months ago. But this time, two key subway stations in Lower Manhattan will be impacted indefinitely by this announcement.

Both of the Cortlandt St. station stops — one on the BMT Broadway line that would service the N, R and W trains; one on the West Side IRT that would serve the 1 train — will remain closed indefinitely. According to the Port Authority, one of the many challenges they face in rebuilding at Ground Zero is doing so “while ensuring the continued uninterrupted operations of the MTA #1 and R/W subway lines.”

Worse still, though, is the indictment of the MTA in the Port Authority’s report. Difficulties with the Cortlandt St. project and the oft-delayed Fulton St. Hub are negatively impacting work at Ground Zero. Writes the PA:

The MTA is planning to rebuild the Cortlandt Street subway station, but there are design and construction issues that first need to be coordinated and agreed upon between the MTA and the Port Authority. Among the issues to be resolved include: the substantial duct work required for the MTA construction interferes with utilities on Greenwich Street; funding needs to be identified for the MTA project; the construction staging needs to be determined and an expedited schedule needs to be developed to assure that Greenwich Street can be ready in time to serve all the other projects – the Memorial, the WTC Towers, etc.

It’s so dry, yet so illuminating. The MTA isn’t sure what’s happening at Cortlandt St. while delays in the overall work at the Ground Zero make the point moot because these stations, once set to reopen in 2006 (hah!), will remain closed for indefinitely.

amNew York’s Matthew Sweeney notes that the stop on the IRT “remains as an unadorned box waiting for reconstruction.” For now, it seems, that’s the best we’ll get as that construction clock ticks ever upwards.

Categories : PANYNJ
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I’ve had a busy few days at the good ol’, bill-payin’ day job. So I had no chance to draw your attention to a lovely story yesterday morning in the New York Post proclaiming subway delays up 44 percent. Now, on the one hand, that’s a shocking number, but on the other hand, as anyone who ever rides the subways on a regular basis could tell you, this is about as big a “duh” story as one could find these days.

According to this nifty graphic, track work — with 4,117 citations — is the leading cause of train delays, and that number has nearly doubled from 2007′s 2,093 delays. While people holding doors — the number two cause — will always be a subway scourge, this news reflects nothing but the latest facts about the MTA. As budgets sag, construction projects get held up and that elusive state of good repair slips away.

The story in the Post doesn’t get into the why of construction-related delays. It similar features some rote comments from MTA officials unhappy with their numbers and unhappy with what Board member Mark Lebow termed a “lack of supervision of what goes on underground.” Outrageous as these numbers might be, breaking news it ain’t.

Categories : MTA Absurdity
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