So how’s this for efficiency? Eight months after announcing this initiative and over 11 months since the flooding that knocked out nearly the entire subway system, the MTA is finally almost ready to start implementing a text-message service alert system in a few months.

Sigh.

According to the Daily News, the MTA should, if all goes according to plan, unveil its alert system sometime this fall. Pete Donohue has more:

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority expects to start sending alerts to commuters’ cellphones and computers with details about unplanned service problems in September, the Daily News has learned.

The notices will help riders alter their routines to avoid floods and other incidents that cause delays, or warn them away from a crippled system altogether, officials said…”Communications with the public when you have this type of catastrophe is essential,” MTA CEO Elliot Sander said.

Efforts to improve communications began before last summer but intensified after the Aug. 8 storm, Sander said.

According to the article, the MTA has contracted with an unnamed outside firm with the capacity to send one million texts in the span of five minutes. Riders will be able to sign up for free for these alerts on the MTA’s Website, and as they can do with the weekend service advisory e-mails, riders will be able to choose for which lines they would like to receive texts.

Now, the MTA should definitely be applauded for this measure. If anything, Lee Sander as the CEO and Executive Director of the beleaguered transit agency has done an excellent job improving communication lines between the MTA and its riders.

But — and this is a rather big “but” — by the time this service will be rolled out, 13 months will have past since the August 2007 flooding. That is a painfully slow response time for a technology that other companies have been using for years. Better late than never, right?

Categories : MTA Technology
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Over the last few weeks, we here at Second Ave. Sagas have noted the inaccuracies of the MTA’s official service advisories. A few readers have left updates in the comments of unposted service changes, and a few media outlets — The Times’ City Room blog, for one — have linked to me post on the topic.

As the information from the MTA grows more unreliable (or less reliable?), some straphangers are putting out their best efforts to combat this problem. To that end, allow me to point the way to Shawn Lynch’s new site Subway Weekender. Shawn is using this site as a way to bring easy-to-understand service changes to the public by releasing a map on Thursday of what the subway service will look like for the weekend.

The base line for weekend service changes is his Normal Service map. With no B, V or W trains and other various normal weekend cutbacks, this map shows what service would look like if the MTA were not doing construction. On a week to week basis, Lynch will update that map with the changes, and each week, I’ll provide a direct link to the map.

For this weekend’s changes, point your browser over to this PDF file, and keep reading for the updates. Lynch’s site should prove to be a great resource for straphangers stymied by the MTA’s myriad service changes each weekend.


From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, July 19 to 5 a.m. Monday, July 21, two branches of free shuttle buses replace 1 trains between 137th Street and 215th Street, one traveling via Broadway and the other via St. Nicholas Avenue, due to installation of communication cables, pre-rehabilitation survey of Dyckman Street station and structural maintenance work on the elevated structure between Dyckman and 215th Streets. – Um, confused much?


All weekend, the 2 and 3 trains are running express through Mahattan. Praise the Lord! Hallelujah!


From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, July 19 to 5 a.m. Monday, July 21, the last stop for some Bronx-bound 6 trains is 125th Street due to track chip-out north of East 143rd Street.


From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, July 19 to 5 a.m. Monday, July 21, Manhattan-bound A and C trains run on the F line from Jay Street to West 4th Street due to signal work at Chambers Street.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, July 19 to 5 a.m. Monday, July 21, downtown A and C trains run express from 125th Street to 59th Street-Columbus Circle due to communications cable installation.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, July 19 to 5 a.m. Monday, July 21, Jamaica Center-bound E and R trains run express from Jackson Heights-Roosevelt Avenue to Forest Hills-71st Avenue due to electrical conduit installation.

From 10 a.m. to midnight, Sunday, July 20, Jamaica Center-bound E and R trains skip Northern Blvd. due to stairway repairs.


From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, July 19 to 5 a.m. Monday, July 21, downtown F trains skip 23rd and 14th Streets due to electrical cable installation.


From 8:30 p.m. Friday, July 18 to 5 a.m. Monday, July 21, there are no G trains between Forest Hills-71st Avenue and Court Square. Take the E or R trains instead.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, July 19 to 11 p.m. Sunday, July 20, there are no G trains between Bedford-Nostrand Avs. and Smith-9th Sts. Free shuttle buses provide alternate service between Bedford-Nostrand Avs. and Jay Street-Borough Hall stations. This is due to hydraulics and plumbing work. – So basically the G is making a whopping nine stops this weekend. How useful.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, July 19 to 5 a.m. Monday, July 21, Manhattan-bound N trains run on the D line from Coney Island-Stillwell Avenue to 36th Street (Brooklyn) due to track panel installation.


From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, July 19 to 5 a.m. Monday, July 21, Brooklyn-bound NR trains rerouted over the Manhattan Bridge from Canal Street to DeKalb Avenue due to tunnel rehab between Whitehall Street and DeKalb Avenue and station rehab and construction of underground connector near Lawrence Street. – Be careful with this one. It seems to be true only some of the time.

Categories : Service Advisories
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  • MTA to ramp up fare enforcement on Select Bus Service lines · With fare evasion fines now sitting at $100 and an experiment in place in the Bronx that could revolutionize bus service in New York, the MTA is going to ramp up its fare-evasion countermeasures. According to Daily News reporters Tayanika Samuels and Pete Donohue, transit officials are going to stop warning people who don’t pay their fares and will instead hand out tickets to those attempting to sneak onto the BX12 buses.

    My favorite part of the story is this quote from Bronx resident Nadya Medina: “”Electricity’s high. Rent is high. Everything is increasing. Now, they want to fine you $100 to take the bus. It’s not fair.” No, Nadya. They just want you to pay your fare. It’s not that hard to figure out. · (2)

We know the MTA is facing a financial crisis; we know the threat of a second fare hike in two years looms large; and we know the MTA has planned to cut services — but not yet service — to address what is now being labeled a $700-million budget gap.

Today, we find out that New York City Transit has been ordered to cut $61 million off its budget. Those cuts will come mainly from maintenance and service jobs. Much of that figure will come in the form of bureaucratic maneuverings. Jobs currently unfilled will remain unfilled while few others will lose their positions.

Matthew Sweeney, amNew York’s transportation writer, has more:

The search for savings is part of an overall Metropolitan Transportation Authority goal of reducing costs by 6 percent over the next four years as the agency faces a financial crisis. For its part, NYC Transit has projected saving $251.3 million from 2009 through 2012. The bulk of the savings in 2009 — $39.4 million — will come from reductions to maintenance…

Transit officials worked to reassure straphangers yesterday, saying in a statement that none of the proposed savings “will have an impact on safety, security or customer service levels.”

While Sweeney’s article notes that “subway service has been on a gradual but steady decline,” to me, this seems like a baseless assertion. The MTA has gone out of its way to stress that they would rather cut maintenance and upkeep positions before taking an axe to frequency of trains. In fact, NY1 reports that the MTA is doing just that.

According to reports, the services cut will include 12-year upgrades for buses, numerous platform controllers in the subways and efforts to fight strachiti along some of the more vandalism-prone lines. For those of us relying on the subways to take us to and from spots in New York, this news is guardedly optimistic, but the system suffers from it. We’ll see the same old train service, but an aging and ugly system badly in need of physical upkeep and upgrades will continue to deteriorate.

Critics of the MTA’s cuts will think back to the 1970s when the system fell out of its state of good repair, but for now, the MTA is dedicated to maintaining subway cars and track beds in that state of good repair. The rest of the system, however, will continue to slide, but as long as the trains run and as long as the system is safe from crime, the aesthetics can take second place to the system operation. For now.

Categories : MTA Economics
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When last we checked in with the Fulton St. Transit Center debacle, the MTA had, once again, promised a new design for the long-gone dome in 30 days. That was 62 days ago.

While even the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation’s website on the Fulton Hub simply states a “Spring 2008″ date for arrival of a new design, I’m just going to assume that we should wait another 30 days. Meanwhile, though, the other troubled aspect of this plan — the shaky financial picture — is in the news, but the word is not good. The Feds, as the Daily News’ Pete Donohue notes, will not toss in anymore money for the project:

The Federal Transit Administration won’t bail out the MTA’s troubled Fulton St. subway hub with an infusion of more money, a top Bush administration official said.

“Absolutely not. That’s capped out,” federal transit Administrator James Simpson said Tuesday when asked if the FTA would increase its commitment for the Fulton Transit Center.

An MTA-FTA funding agreement commits the feds to $819 million. Another $40 million is set aside in reserve funds. Plans call for overhauling the existing Fulton/Broadway/Nassau St. subway complex and creating a grand, domed entrance building with retail space.

The MTA says they’re $1 billion over budget for this project, and they’ve yet to release finalized designs for the above-ground portion of the transit hub. The work continues underground; just try navigating through the East Side IRT Fulton St. stop these days. But this project has a long way to go.

Categories : Fulton Street
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Under Construction

In April, an imposing blue wall pointed the way into the Columbus Circle station. (Photo by Benjamin Kabak)

The Columbus Circle station is, in a word, a mess right now. Undergoing a massive renovation, the station is dirty, hot, dusty and impossible to navigate. While this should be the state of things at 59th St. for at least the better part of the next year, the MTA celebrated a milestone in the construction yesterday when a new entrance opened at 60th St. and Broadway.

For the celebration, the MTA broke out the ribbon-cutting scissors, and MTA CEO Executive Director Lee Sander did the honors. As this entrance opens, the one on the island in the middle of Broadway closes, and the MTA tells us more about this new entrance and the final plans — with their 42-month timeline and $108-million price tag — for the station:

The new 60th Street control area cost $14 million and was carved out of solid rock made up of the well-known Manhattan schist while a vast array of street utilities were suspended from the decking beams. Those utilities included 20-inch and 32-inch city water lines, a 20-inch Con Ed steam line as well as numerous smaller electric, gas and fiber optic lines. The entrance, which includes two new street-to-platform level staircases and a MetroCard Vending Machine, was newly constructed under concrete decking, which minimized the disruption to street traffic on southbound Broadway.

“Funding for transportation is a scarce commodity, but we are doing everything we can with the resources we have available to improve the experience our customers have with us,” said Elliot G. Sander, the Executive Director and CEO of the MTA. “Whether it is a much needed new subway entrance or the initiation of Select Bus Service, we are committed to improving customer service.”

“This station rehabilitation project and particularly this new entrance are examples of the difficulties NYC Transit faces when upgrading what is an aging system,” said NYC Transit President Howard H. Roberts, Jr. “Despite the complexities of the construction, we have delivered to the customers who use this station a new, modern entrance which will provide additional egress capacity for the more than 69-thousand people who use the station daily.”

In the end, the renovated station will feature an elevator at one of the Central Park West access points and three new staircases along Broadway. Both platforms levels will be overhauled, and the now-abandoned central platform on the A/B/C/D level will be restored to use.

For many, the current state of the station is a major inconvenience. It’s not a pleasure to navigate through Columbus Circle right now. But in the end, it should be worth it. With the Time Warner Center and CNN occupying what had been largely unused real estate at Columbus Circle, this popular station has become more overrun with people, and the MTA, beleaguered and beaten, is doing all it can to modernize this station. Now if only they could do something about the other 467 at the same time.

Categories : MTA Construction
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A Confused N Train

Where: Don’t let the photo confuse you; that’s an N train, and it’s not an Atlantic Ave-Pacific St. Rather, it was en route to 14th St./Union Square on a Sunday night two weeks ago.

What: One very confused train (and, thus, some very confused passengers). On Sunday, June 29, at a time when, according to the service alerts, Brooklyn-bound N and R trains were supposed to be running over the Manhattan Bridge to DeKalb Ave., this train was suffering an identity crisis. With a W label affixed to its route map and the map itself stuck on Atlantic/Pacific since the time I boarded it at Times Square, the train did not know what to do. It didn’t run over the Manhattan Bridge; it wasn’t a W; and it couldn’t really handle all the confusion.

What good is new technology if it’s too hard to harness?

Comments (7)

If anything ever deserved that MTA Absurdity tag I like to stick on posts, this is it.

According to news stories released on Tuesday, New York City Transit is holding back on a planned anti-groping ad campaign because officials fear it will encourage more deviant behavior than it would combat. That’s right; the MTA feels that by attempting to raise awareness of a serious issue they will serve only to encourage it.

Patrick Gallahue, transit reporter at the New York Post, has more about this odd story:

City transit officials have prepared a campaign to combat deviants who grope or molest women on the subway – but have been sitting on it because of fears the ads could actually encourage sickos.

The New York City Transit campaign was set into motion after a study last year by Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer found that 10 percent of women surveyed reported having been sexually abused in the subway and 63 percent claimed to have been sexually harassed.

Stringer recommended a public awareness campaign, which NYC Transit quietly prepared. The agency made it as far as developing mock-ups, which never went to print. Sources said the agency held off on launching the campaign out of fear it could actually provoke deviant behavior.

As Jossip notes, wouldn’t the same logic preclude the MTA from releasing anti-terror ads? By urging people to combat suspicious subway behavior, we could be encouraging it. By trying to fight litter, might the MTA’s latest ad campaign simply remind people to litter even more frequently in the subways?

Subway assaults and groping is clearly a serious problem in the subways. The MTA shouldn’t belittle these concerns by refusing to run these ads and for such a flimsy reason. Just stick ‘em up in the subways; groping incidents won’t increase.

Poster image from the MBTA’s anti-groping campaign in the Boston T.

Categories : MTA Absurdity
Comments (10)
  • Why Manhattanites loathe the bus · This afternoon, I had to run an errand during lunch time. I left my office on 9th Ave. between 15th and 16th and walked over to 14th St. As I crossed 14th St. and 9th Ave., I passed in front of an M14D, waiting for the light to change so it could turn onto 14th St. For a brief minute, I thought about taking the bus. I didn’t have much time, and I had to get to 14th St. between 5th and 6th Aves. As I looked down 14th St., I changed my mind and hoofed it. I beat the bus to my destination by a full avenue block. No wonder the M14 always finishes near the top in the Pokey Awards. Anyone who thinks we don’t need dedicated bus lanes is fooling themselves. · (7)
  • Just avoid Midtown altogether today · With the MLB All Star Game parade upon us, Sixth Ave. from 42nd St. to 59th St. is closed, and the surrounding area is a mess. The MTA has tossed up a bunch of service alerts mostly relating to bus service along crosstown routes and up Sixth Ave, but certain subway entrances at Times Square, Bryant Park and 57th St. (on the F) are closed as well. These changes are in place until 6 p.m. tonight, and travelers are better avoiding what will be a very crowded area of town today. · (0)
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