With the holidays upon us, track work slows down. As you can see from the short list below, the MTA has scaled back the work. Furthermore, with the snow a lot of these advisories have been canceled. Pay attention to the strike-throughs. Mostly, the trains are running as they normally would for a weekend. However work on the L and F trains continues as planned, for now.

From 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, December 20 and Sunday, December 21, Manhattan-bound 2 trains skip Burke Avenue, Allerton Avenue, Pelham Parkway and Bronx Park East due to track work.

From 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, December 20 and Sunday, December 21, Bronx-bound 4 trains skip 161st, 167th, 170th Streets, Mt. Eden Avenue and 176th Street due to track work.

From 4 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday, December 20, Manhattan-bound D trains run on the N line from Coney Island-Stillwell Avenue to 36th Street due to track panel installation.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, December 20 to 5 a.m. Monday, December 22, Manhattan-bound F trains skip Ft. Hamilton Parkway, 15th St-Prospect Park and 4th Avenue due to construction work on an employee facility at Church Avenue.

From 11:30 p.m. Friday, December 19 to 5 a.m. Saturday, December 20, there are no L trains between 8th Avenue and Union Square due to switch renewal near 8th Avenue. Customers should use the M14 instead.

From 11:30 p.m. Friday, December 19 to 5 a.m. Saturday, December 20, L trains run every 24 minutes in two sections due to switch renewal near 8th Avenue:

  • Between Rockaway Parkway and Bedford Avenue and
  • Between Bedford Avenue and Union Square

From 4 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday, December 20, the last stop on some Coney Island-bound N trains is Kings Highway due to track panel installation.

Categories : Service Advisories
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While yesterday’s FAQ hit on a few of the big misconceptions surrounding the MTA’s current budget crisis, there is one more major topic I’d like to hit on today. That topic focuses on the MTA’s current real estate holdings and the money they could draw in.

Over the last few weeks, these holdings have been in and out of the news. Most recently, we’ve heard that the MTA still expects $1 billion for the Atlantic Yards land even as the real estate development deal falls apart. Before that, Julia Vitullo-Martin published an error-filled piece in The Daily News about the MTA’s real estate. Her premise is one that deserves some attention, if only to dispute it.

When Vitullo-Martin wrote her piece, the MTA had yet to pass this Doomsday budget they unveiled upon the New York City world this week. But her point — that the MTA isn’t making the most of its real estate holdings — remain. Basically, she asked, “Shouldn’t we first insist that the MTA take advantage of any and all underused real estate that it already owns or controls under long-term leases?”

Her problem however is that she identifies parcels that either aren’t owned by the MTA or are like the Hudson Yards lands and are already included in plans for redevelopment. The MTA disputed the article and issued a statement:

The MTA is continually assessing its real estate to identify properties, like the Hudson Yards, that can provide revenue to the MTA without disrupting service. These opportunities are limited because so much of the MTA’s real estate is operated under master lease, wherein it can only be used by the MTA for transportation purposes. Nonetheless, we continue to find new revenue opportunities and use these funds to pay for critical capital needs, with $1 billion in the 2005-2009 capital program from asset sales (and another $500 million tentatively identified in the 2008-13 plan produced during the congestion pricing debate). It is bad public policy to sell assets to pay for operating expenses in any case, and to imply that the current fiscal crisis could be avoided in this way is simply not accurate.

Basically, that statement sums it up. Is the MTA making the most of its real estate holdings, as Vitullo-Martin alleges they aren’t? The answer to that is tough to pinpoint, but the fact remains that dealing with real estate holdings is a one-off solution. Let’s say the MTA really can get a few hundred million dollars for the Jay St. holdings in Brooklyn. In today’s market, that’s highly unlikely. But what happens when the budget comes due next year, and the transit agency can no longer sell real estate to cover a budget gap?

Like many critiques of the MTA, the real estate one is a red herring. We would all prefer the MTA to make ideal use of all of their lands, but forcing them to do so now would solve the problem for just one year, if that. We need long-term solutions and not some short-term measure. Hopefully, our politicians realize this as well.

Categories : MTA Economics
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  • Wrapping up the MetroCard Challenge · I had to buy a new 30-Day Unlimited Ride MetroCard today. It’s a sad day when I have to part with $81. But I take comfort in knowing it’s $81 well spent. From Nov. 17 through Dec. 16, I used my card 73 times for a cost-per-ride of $1.11.

    I’m a student commuting into Manhattan from Brooklyn each day, and since it’s finals, my social life is somewhat curtailed. Still, based on the spreadsheet that is open and available to the public, my usage seems to be on the high end. No matter, it’s well worth it for me to buy a 30-day card, and I save nearly 50 percent off of the pure base fare of $2.00. · (0)

By now, it’s no secret that the MTA Board had to approve the Doomsday budget yesterday. It’s little comfort to know they did so under duress. The law requires them to pass a balanced budget, and to achieve that untenable goal in 2009, the MTA will have to cut services and raise fares unless our state legislatures act.

Now, we have a buffer of a few months. As the various governing bodies in New York debate the merits of the Ravitch report, this budget won’t start to come due for a few months. In March, the Board will vote on the fare hikes. In June, the service cuts and fare increases will put implemented. That gives the city’s pro-transit forces a little under six months to get the ball rolling.

As Doreen Frasca, an MTA board member, said yesterday, “What I’m going to do, and I know a lot of other people on this board are going to do, is go up to Albany, look our lawmakers in the eye, and say to them, ‘Why can’t you put transit first on the agenda for a change?’” We should all join her.

For now, though, I want to tackle something else. As I read through the comments on the City Room post about the MTA Board meeting, I was struck by how ill-informed New Yorkers are. In an effort to avoid thinking about Civil Procedure in advance of my rapidly-approaching 1:30 p.m. final educate the masses, I thought I’d try to respond to some of the misconceptions people have surrounding the MTA. So after the jump, some questions and my answers.

As a caveat, these answers may sound to be apologetic on behalf of the MTA, but I’m a neutral third-party in favor of full funding for public transit in New York. I’m not affiliated with the MTA and am, at times, supportive and, at times, critical of the agency’s operations.

In the end, my answer is that the MTA isn’t to blame as much as New Yorkers would like to blame them. The people to target are our elected officials who refuse to vote for congestion pricing, who balk at tolling the East River bridge tolls, who won’t fund mass transit. These things aren’t free; someone will have to shoulder the costs. Will it be the riders or will it be everyone? That’s up to us.

Anyway, here we go.

Click here to read the Second Ave. Saga MTA budgetary FAQ.

Categories : MTA Economics
Comments (23)
  • The dangers of drinking and swiping · From 1990 through 2003, subway-related deaths in New York City numbered 668. Of those, 315 were accidentally, and of those, 46 percent were alcohol-related. So as Crain’s New York noted today, be careful if you’re going to drink and swipe. · (3)

I’ll let the press release speak for itself:

The Board of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) today approved the agency’s budget for 2009, including service cuts and a 23% increase in revenue from fares and tolls. These measures were necessary to balance the budget and close a $1.2 billion deficit. Agency officials and board members expressed hope that the recommendations of the Commission appointed by Governor Paterson and chaired by Richard Ravitch would be implemented to return the MTA to stable fiscal footing and eliminate the need for these measures.

“Today we fulfilled our requirement to adopt a balanced budget within the constraints of existing resources, and those resources are simply not great enough,” said H. Dale Hemmerdinger, MTA Chairman. “Our fervent hope is that available resources will grow in the coming months, so that this budget can be amended before it is implemented.”

“I have called this budget draconian, severe, and extremely painful, and it is all of those things,” said Elliot G. Sander, MTA Executive Director and CEO. “We are deeply appreciative of Governor Paterson for convening the Ravitch Commission and of the Governor and Mayor Bloomberg for supporting its recommendations. The transit system is the engine that powers the state’s economy. Implementing the Ravitch recommendations will secure its future and act as a stimulus bill for New York State, and I hope our legislators will act quickly.”

So there you go. The clock is ticking. In March, the board will vote on the fare hike. In June, the hike and service cuts will be implemented. Now is the time to contact your representatives on the City Council and in Albany. Tell them to approve the Ravitch recommendations. Otherwise, we’ll all be paying the costs.

Reactions and more coming later.

Categories : MTA Economics
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Last week, Gothamist unveiled a short post about a new brand of advertising popping up on subway cars. New York City Transit, it seemed, had started papering over the train windows with ads, and straphangers — including Railfan Window — weren’t so keen on the ads. They blocked out the view; they blocked out the light; and they may post a security risk.

I thought nothing of it. It was just another way for the MTA to make money, and the overall concerns seemed rather overblown. They certainly are ugly, but who’s really going to miss the view of a dark tunnel walls? The safety is certainly an issue, but there are bigger safety fish to fry in the subway.

Yesterday, the MTA shed some proverbial light on these ads. In fact, they are more than ads. As Jennifer 8. Lee reported on City Room, these billboards are part of the MTA’s anti-scratchiti campaign. The Times’ reporter wrote:

Despite the M.T.A. budget shortfall, transit officials say that advertising revenue is not the main motivation for the program. Instead, the sprawling ads have a practical purpose. The first is to reduce what officials call “scratchiti,” or scratched graffiti on the windows…

Paul J. Fleuranges, a spokesman for New York City Transit, said the agency hoped that the film, called Scotchcal, would cut down on the frequency of scratchitti. The vinyl graphic film, made by 3M, is widely used to wrap buses, because a it allows a full image to be printed on the outside, while the little perforated holes allows people (in theory) to look outside.

The other benefit transit officials are hoping for is that the film will save on energy costs, as the covered windows reduce the amount of hot sun that enters subway cars. “The car equipment people have for a long time sought to use tinted windows in an attempt to cut down on that ’sun soak’ effect; just like tinted windows reduce the warmth of the sun on a passenger vehicle and help keep the car cooler and assist in the A.C. cooling the car more efficiently,” Mr. Fleuranges wrote in an e-mail message.

Fleuranges also said that the police were consulted about concerns over safety inside the cars. Reportedly, people on the outside can see in, and people on the inside can see out. I haven’t had the pleasure of riding one of the pilot cars yet. So I can’t confirm or deny that assertion.

On the one hand, these are no different from the anti-scratchiti flim the MTA already employs. The only difference is that this film has an ad. But if they truly do block the view from the platform, the MTA should reconsider. It’s aesthetically unpleasing and potentially dangerous, but until the transit authority has more money, they’re going to sell every available inch of space.

Categories : Subway Advertising
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Nearly two weeks ago, Richard Ravitch released his commission’s report upon the city. His forward-thinking recommendations called for a slight fare increase along with a payroll tax and East River crossing tolls to fund the $1.2 billion gap in the MTA’s operations budget and some of the capital campaign. Since then, New York politicians have done nothing but grandstand on the report, and the MTA is moving closer to affecting massive service cuts and fare hikes.

On Wednesday morning, the MTA Board will meet to approve a budget for 2009. By law, this budget must be a balanced one, and since no one has yet to act on the Ravitch recommendations or any of the alternative plans, the budget will, for now, feature reduced service and extreme hikes.

On Monday, the MTA’s Finance Committee approved sending this drastic budget to the full board for a vote. Both NY1 and the Daily News reported on various features of the budget. First, the good news. According to Bobby Cuza, the MTA has scaled back the fare increase for the Express Buses. Originally pegged at $7.50, up 50 percent from the current $5 fare, the plan now includes a 25 percent increase. The Express Buses may wind up costing $6.25 before 2009 is out. “We have to make priorities and the priority I think that this sets is, pain will be shared equally, however bad it may be,” Jeffrey Kay, an MTA Board member, said to Cuza.

Pete Donohue, however, had the bad news: Many stations along the BMT in Lower Manhattan will shutter overnight and over 150 stations will see reduced staffing levels:

Cuts include removing customer assistants from turnstiles and MetroCard machines, the MTA plan says. The MTA’s proposed budget also would close or reduce the hours of full-time token booths at dozens of stations, potentially resulting in longer lines.

The four stations that will go dark between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. affect N train riders on the Broadway Line: City Hall, Cortlandt St. and Rector St. in Manhattan, and Lawrence St. in downtown Brooklyn. The Cortlandt St. station is closed for construction.

Parts of three complexes used by N trains late at night would be shuttered: Canal St. and Whitehall St. in Manhattan, and Court St. in downtown Brooklyn. The N train will stop at Canal but on an express track. At Whitehall and Court Sts. riders could use a connecting passageway to take trains on other lines.

But for all this talk of cutting, the MTA would rather not implement this budget, and they have time not to. The Board won’t vote on the fare hike until March, and it won’t go into effect until June. The state legislature, as various MTA officials have stressed, need to act, and they need to hear from a public that wants them to act.

“Our fervent hope,” MTA Executive Director & CEO Lee Sander said, “is that the legislature will adopt the Ravitch recommendations, that we will not have to do this. We share your outrage.”

Categories : MTA Economics
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  • More on the South Ferry art · In my illustrated tour of the new South Ferry terminal, I talked extensively about MTA’s $1 million Arts for Transit investment in the new station. Today, The Times talked with Mike and Doug Starns, the 47-year-old, Brooklyn-based identical twins responsible for the decorations, about their vision for new stop. They talk about the trees, the map and the difficulties of working with fused glass on a subway station-sized scale. Check it out. · (1)
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