• Creative bus shelters outside of New York · As street furniture goes, the bus shelters in New York City are pretty bland. While sleek, the new CEMUSA shelters could belong in Any Town, Any State, USA. That’s not a problem germane to New York though. Bus shelters should be far more functional than decorative.

    Now and then though a little creativity can brighten up an urban cityscape. To that end, Toxel, a design blog, presents 15 unusual and creative bus stops. The swing in London, the hammock in Vancouver, and the air conditioned shelter in Dubai are my favorites. · (2)

As the Bishop-approved 7 line extension marches inevitably toward a 2013 completion, questions about the project continue to swirl. The City and MTA are at an impasse over the funding for a planned station at 10th and 41st St., and with the Hudson Yards project decades away from reality, this West Side extension will serve an area rich in space and poor in actual riders for some time.

Today, as the city comes to terms with the compromise transit package soon to be pass in Albany, the fate of the 7 line may again be at a turning point. According to The Daily News and some leading transit advocates, aspects of the 7 line extension — including the purchasing of new cars — are not high on the MTA’s priority list. As such, the new station at 34th and 11th Ave. will exist and serve whatever is in the area, but the MTA may not have the money for new cars to adequate service the entire line.

Pete Donohue has more:

Straphangers could wind up with an extended No. 7 subway line – but not more frequent train service – if the MTA has to adopt a leaner capital plan, experts said.

Metropolitan Transportation Authority officials have envisioned a 2010-2014 capital construction and maintenance program in the range of $25 billion to $30 billion. But transit managers will have to cancel or delay some big-ticket items if Albany doesn’t provide enough funding to pay such a large tab.

Buying additional subway cars to expand the No. 7 line fleet is one move that could be shelved, according to Bob Yaro of the Regional Plan Association. “You would be spending billions of dollars on the No. 7 line extension, but without the additional cars, you wouldn’t be able to handle an increase in ridership,” Yaro said.

Donohue notes that on the MTA’s prioritized list of capital projects, the 7 line extension is in the third tier. The agency would first like to complete the installation of new tracking, the upgrading of power and tunnel exhaust systems and an overhaul of their old buses. The second tier contains the expansion projects for the East Side, and the third tier, for now, features future legs of the Second Ave. Subway, money for a 21st century communications and signal system and the 7 line car purchases.

We could debate the wisdom in that allocation for a while. I’d argue that a communications and signal system should probably be prioritized in the first tier, but the logistic behind that project are substantial.

Maybe in the end, the state delivers the money, and the MTA can go ahead will all three tiers of its capital program. For now, though, the 7 line extension remains a troubled project, a victim of inter-agency fighting and competing agency aims. To build it without the added capacity would be a disservice to hundreds of thousands of Queens commuters.

Categories : 7 Line Extension
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In the eyes of the vast majority of New Yorkers, Gov. David Paterson will emerge as something of a transit savior this week. As the press has noted in detail, he brokered the the deal to save the MTA. He worked out a compromise among Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, State Senate Majority Leader Malcolm Smith and the Senate Democrats that guarantees around $2.2 billion a year to the MTA.

It is a plan without bridge tolls and without much in the way of resources for the MTA’s capital needs. It is a plan that includes a payroll tax, a taxi charge and a slew of registration fees. It features a 10-percent fare hike this year and mandated hikes in 2011 and 2013. It also avoids Doomsday, and for that — for the simple act of getting something together months after a March 26 deadline — the politicians will pat themselves on the back.

“This has been very difficult on the commuters of the MTA region,” Paterson said last night. “We can assure them this evening that there will be no surprises, that there will be no further cuts or fears about fare hikes or toll increases. We have resolved that issue this evening.”

If only life were that simple. Anyway, let’s look, courtesy of Gotham Gazette at what we do know. David King writes:

The plan will raise $1.5 billion a year from a payroll tax of 34 cents of every$100 dollars of payroll that will target all employers in the 12 counties that serve the MTA. The state will reimburse school districts for the payroll tax they contribute.

  • $500 million will be raised from a 10 percent increase. Politicians had hoped to limit any fare increase to 8 percent.
  • 85 million will be raised from a fifty-cent surcharge on taxi rides. The fee was reduced from the originally proposed $1.
  • $130 million will be raised from a $25 fee on vehicle registrations in the 12-county MTA region.
  • $35 million will be raised from an increase of the fee on car rentals.
  • $10.5 million will come from an increase on the fee on driver’s licenses.

And thus, as long as the economy doesn’t continue to nose dive, as long as payrolls stay steady, as long as taxi rides stay constant and driver’s licensing and car registration numbers do not dip, the MTA won’t have to worry about that pesky multi-billion-dollar budget gap.

On the fare front, details are still sketchy. We’ll know more once the MTA releases its official figures later this week. William Neuman and Nicholas Confessiore have some preliminary numbers. The base fare will increase from $2.00 to $2.25 and a 30-day unlimited ride MetroCard will cost around $89, up from $81 but a far cry from Doomsday’s $103 price tag. Fares are also set to rise by 7.5 percent in 2011 and 2013 to match cost-of-living increases..

On the capital funding front, Nueuman and Confessiore offer up a few details. They write, “Under the agreement, about $400 million will be set aside each year from the payroll tax proceeds for capital needs. That will pay the cost of borrowing about $6.5 billion through bonds, enough to get a start on the capital plan.”

The problem of course is that final phrase. It’s “enough to get a start on the capital plan,” and it’s enough to set the MTA back on a course of building through borrowing. I guess we should be thankful the capital plan was given any consideration. Earlier this week, as Streetsblog noted on Monday, Paterson had removed capital funding from the rescue plan after a weekend tirade from Sheldon Silver. Facing pressure from transit advocates and editorials from The Post, The Daily News and The Times, the politicians caved.

While the legislature will probably vote later today to approve this funding package, the work of the transit advocates is just beginning. As this debate has shown, New Yorkers are woefully uneducated on transit issues, and politicians aren’t helping the cause. The MTA needed to avoid this Doomsday, but it also needs the other half of the Ravitch Report — long-term capital investments and system-wide improvements. We can’t rest until that day arrives.

Categories : Doomsday Budget
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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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