The ever-growing realm of New York City blogs feature a fair number of train-oriented sites. Some, such as Rail Fan Window and SubChat, are rail-fan oriented. Others — Station Stops and Trainjotting — focus on the commute. Meanwhile, the usual gang of New York blogs — Curbed, Gothamist, City Room — incorporate subway stories into their daily schedules while Subway Blogger and I provide dedicated coverage of the MTA.

Soon, we’ll be welcoming an unlikely entity into our ranks. According to Metro, New York City Transit’s own L train soon have its own blog. OK, maybe the train itself won’t have a blog, but an official MTA L train-centric blog will makes its debut soon.

Amy Zimmer reported:

The L blog grew out of L line manager Greg Lombardi’s monthly newsletter, but because Lombardi won’t be able to sit in front of his computer all day, MTA marketing and public affairs staffers may post, too, Fleuranges explained. “It might get too intense,” he noted.

It follows the MTA’s foray into Twitter, a micro-blogging social network service. Diane Chehab (@MetroCardDiane), an MTA marketing manager, last month began Tweeting — posting 140-character updates — to let her people know about rider promotions, like discounts at the Bronx Zoo.

Outside of the Tweeting, this blog will be Transit’s first real foray into a Web 2.0 world. “Like most blogs, we plan to have a comment section,” NYC Transit spokesman Paul Fleuranges said to Zimmer. “We expect and will encourage our riders to post comments and questions.”

Considering the public sentiments over the MTA, I wonder what that comment section will come to resemble come May when the fares go up. Still, if this effort can help the MTA increase its transparency, I’m all for it.

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  • Paterson blames [insert political group here] for MTA inaction · It’s tough being David Paterson right now. The accidental governor of New York state, Paterson’s approval ratings have fallen below 20 percent, and his own party is considering jettisoning him prior to the 2010 primaries. I have to give Paterson credit though for trying to push the State Senate on the MTA funding plan. While he has no political capital, he is keeping the issue in the press.

    Yesterday, Paterson again slammed State Republicans for their unwillingness to support anything despite the obvious benefits a fully funded MTA would bring to their constituents. “Right now, the Republicans could come in. They could pass the MTA budget and yours truly would have to thank them in public,” Paterson said. “That’s how you get back to being in the majority, not be being negative and hostile.” Republicans rejected the governor’s advances, and business as usual went on in Albany. · (2)

When the MTA raised the fares two weeks ago, the agency announced May 31 as the first day of the new fares. Now, thanks to a New York 1 report, details about the service cuts — the second half of the so-called Doomsday budget — have come to light.

These cuts will roll out over a span of five-and-a-half months with the last of them — the death of a few subway lines — to come in December. On its surface, then, this timetable may give the Senate a few months to get its collective act together as its members attempt to figure out an politically acceptable funding plan for the transit agency. With the first of these cuts, however, set to go into effect in June, time remains of the essence.

So what’s the timeline? Let’s take a look. This information comes to us via NY1 which get its hands on some MTA materials.

June 28
The MTA will eliminate 21 bus routes and increase headway from eight to ten minutes on nearly every lettered subway line. The first cuts include the deaths of the following bus lines:

  • In Manhattan: M6, 8, 10, 18, 27 and 30
  • In Brooklyn: B23, 25, 37, 39, 51, and 75
  • In the Bronx: Bx4, 14, 20, 34 and the Barretto Park Pool Shuttle
  • In Queens: Q26, 56, 74, 75 and 84

July 26
Twenty-nine maroon-vested roving station agents will be cut, and 29 token booths will be shuttered. Four stations along the BMT Broadway line in Lower Manhattan will be closed overnight. Those stations include City Hall, Cortlandt St. (if it ever reopens), Rector St. and Lawrence St. along the N line. No N trains will stop at Whitehall St. or Court St., but as those stations are parts of other lines, they will remain open.

September 6
Express service along five lines will be cut. Those lines include the X25, BxM7B, QM22, QM23 and X32. At some point over the summer, overnight and weekend bus service along numerous lines in all boroughs will be eliminated or drastically reduced as well. The timeline does not say when.

December 6
Subway cuts go into effect. The W and Z trains will eliminated entirely (with the Q continuing past 57th St. to Astoria and the J running local in Brooklyn and Queens). The G will be terminated at Court Square at all times, and the M will run as a shuttle. Overnight headway will be reduced to an anemic 30 minutes. Load guidelines will be adjusted to allow for more crowded trains as well.

So enjoy it while you can. Unless Albany acts, unless transit advocates band together and secure a funding plan, New Yorkers will see their transit options slowly whittled down over the next few months. That’s hardly a fun way to spend the summer.

Categories : Service Cuts
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  • Bill de Blasio supports Silver tolling plan · Bill de Blasio, City Council representative from Brooklyn, spoke out in favor of Sheldon Silver’s $2 East River bridge toll plan today. With his statement in support of the plan to fund the MTA, de Blasio becomes the first City Council member to take a stand on the issue. As Streetsblog reports, his support is notable because he was a congestion pricing opponent. Perhaps he is finally coming around on the issue, and we can only hope that other New York City pols take notice. · (0)

In a tantalizing glimpse of what could be, New York City transit unrolled an 11-car train along the F line last week. With the F not set to receive communications-based train control for a few years, the Long Train is but one way to alleviate overcrowding along one of the most densely-populated subway lines, but don’t expect to see those trains on a regular basis anytime soon. It’s just too costly.

Pete Donohue reported on this train last week. He writes:

NYC Transit Wednesday added an 11th subway car to a regular 10-car train to test how it navigates the series of signals and stations along the F line. Transit managers – who see a potential to increase the number of riders ferried during peak rush hours – were scheduled to launch the “Long Train” test before midnight Wednesday night at the Church Ave. station in Brooklyn…

The test train wasn’t going to pick up passengers – and for good reason. In some stations, the train wasn’t expected to fit completely. Eleven-car express trains ran along the E and F lines for approximately seven years in the 1950s.

Along one stretch in Brooklyn, the last car was closed off because the stations platforms were 600 feet long while the trains were 660 feet in length.

Alas. It is not to be though. “We obviously neither have the capital nor operating funding to implement anything like this in the foreseeable future,” NYC Transit President Howard Roberts said to Donohue.

Meanwhile, SubChat is alive with buzz about this test. Some commentators called this something of an April Fools’ joke perpetrated by MTA officials. They knew this 11-car train wasn’t a viable option, but they test-ran it anyway.

Others noted that the BMT used to run 34 trains an hour over the F tracks and that Transit should look to increase line capacity that way. The MTA, however, maintains that the antiquated signal system cannot safely handle that many trains per hour anymore.

Overcrowding remains a real problem with the subway system. Commuters tell stories of letting multiple peak-hour trains go by before one with a modicum of room arrives. With service cuts on the horizon, it will only get worse.

Categories : Rolling Stock
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I live in a transit-rich section of Brooklyn. I’m nearly equidistant from four train stops and have my choice of bus routes that run north-south, east-west. When the MTA’s service cuts come, I may find myself paying a bit more for service and waiting a few minutes longer during those pesky off-peak times, but my life won’t be dramatically altered.

Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for millions of New Yorkers. The elderly and infirmed who can’t navigate the many flights of stairs in the subway, the bus riders, the late-night commuters — they all stand to find themselves facing a drastically altered commute. Their trains and buses won’t come as often, and sometimes, those buses won’t show up at all.

The worst hit though will be those hard-to-reach areas of the outer boroughs — and one neighborhood in Manhattan — that doesn’t enjoy subway service. For these areas, the 24-hour transit network that most of New York City currently enjoys will fade into the past a distant memory.

Over the weekend, the Daily News tackled four neighborhoods soon to find themselves seriously inconvenienced by the MTA’s Doomsday plan. Pete Donohue tackled the impact of the cuts on the far West Side of Manhattan; Gerritsen Beach, Brooklyn; Woodlawn past the 4 in the Bronx, and Oakwood Beach, Staten Island. According to an MTA survey, residents in these four neighborhoods will face walks of up to two miles just to reach the next closest bus stop.

On the chopping block is weekend service on the crosstown M50 route…Its demise would leave some workers and residents west of 11th Ave. a mile from mass transit, according to the study.

Residents in Gerritsen Beach, a corner of Brooklyn near Sheepshead Bay, would fare worse during the wee hours of the morning. Some parts of the neighborhood would be nearly 2 miles from another bus route if the B31 is shut down as planned between 1:30 and 4:30 a.m…

On the city’s northern border, Woodlawn residents may lose the Bx34, which runs along Katonah Ave., the heart of the neighborhood, connecting with the last stop on the No. 4 subway line. Some sections of Woodlawn would be left with “no transit service within a walkable distance” during some overnight hours, the study states…In Staten Island, some residential blocks and beach areas in the Oakwood Beach area would be a mile from mass transit on weekends if the cuts go through.

The news gets worse. The MTA figures that New Yorkers will take nearly 35,000 more car trips daily as they combat the elimination of nearly 30 bus routes and two subway lines. Those trips will exact a very high economic and environmental cost on our already overcrowded and over-polluted city.

I can’t drive home this point enough: Albany has to act to do something. This isn’t about bailing out the MTA or rescuing it. Those terms make it sound as though the MTA has done something wrong when the agency has not. This is about formulating a smart and responsible transit strategy for New York City that provides for the current funding of our transit infrastructure and the future potential for growth. This about correcting past mistakes of paying everything off with future debt. This is about recognizing the economic and environmental impacts a poor transit system would have on New York City.

Each week, real Doomsday ticks closer. Those folks in these isolated neighborhoods may suffer the most, but they won’t be the only ones losing out. All of us will be too.

Categories : Doomsday Budget
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Freakonomics pondered an interesting question this week:

The Chinese city of Guangzhou is set to double the size of its subway system by 2010, with 83 new miles of track at a cost of about $100 million a mile. In New York City, construction of a 1.7-mile tunnel for the Second Avenue subway line, first proposed in 1929, could be completed eight years from now, at a cost of $2.4 billion a mile. The Second Avenue line was stalled by the Great Depression and then by budget crises in the 1950’s and 1970’s before ground was broken again in 2007. Facing yet another financial meltdown, which city do you think will finish its subway first?

Besides the obvious factors — labor laws, environmental concerns — China probably has a leg up. They’ve built in an entire subway system in a few years, and while ours totters on the brink of fiscal ruin, China has recognized that a subway system is key to building and maintaining a global presence.

Anyway, as Albany twiddles its thumbs and the fare hike moves ever closer, let’s look at the weekend service.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, April 4 to 5 a.m. Monday, April 6, uptown 1 trains skip 96th Street due to station rehabilitation at 96th Street.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, April 4 to 5 a.m. Monday, April 6, 2 trains from Manhattan run to Crown Heights-Utica Avenue due to a concrete pour at President Street.

From 11:30 p.m. Friday, April 3 to 5 a.m. Monday, April 6, free shuttle buses replace 2 trains between Franklin Avenue and Brooklyn College-Flatbush Avenue due to a concrete pour at President Street.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, April 4 to 5 a.m. Monday, April 6, uptown 2 & 3 trains run local from 72nd to 86th Streets, then skip 96th Street due to track tunnel lighting and station rehabilitation at 96th Street. Note: Overnight, uptown 3 trains run local from 42nd to 86th Streets, then skip 96th Street.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, April 4 to 5 a.m. Monday, April 6, downtown 2 & 3 trains run local from 96th Street to Chambers Street due to track tunnel lighting and station rehabilitation at 96th Street. Note: Overnight, downtown 3 trains run local from 96th to 42nd Streets.

From 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, April 5, Bronx-bound 4 trains run express from 167th Street to Mosholu Parkway due to switch work north of Burnside Avenue.

From 12:01 a.m. to 7 a.m. Saturday, April 4, from 12:01 a.m. to 8 a.m. Sunday, April 5 and from 12:01 a.m. to 5 a.m. Monday, April 6, Brooklyn-bound 4 trains run local from Grand Central-42nd Street to Brooklyn Bridge due to rail installation.

From 11:30 p.m. Friday, April 3 to 5 a.m. Monday, April 6, free shuttle buses replace 5 trains between Dyre Avenue and East 180th Street due to structural and steel track work.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, April 4 to 5 a.m. Monday, April 6, Bronx-bound 6 trains run express from 3rd Avenue to Hunts Point Avenue due to platform edge rehabilitation at the Cypress Avenue, East 143rd Street, East 149th Street and Longwood Avenue stations.

From 4 a.m. Saturday, April 4 to 10 p.m. Sunday, April 5, Manhattan-bound 6 trains run express from Pelham Bay Park to Parkchester due to track panel installation from Castle Hill Avenue to Parkchester.

From 4 a.m. Saturday, April 4 to 10 p.m. Sunday, April 5, the last stop for some Bronx-bound 6 trains is 3rd Avenue-138th Street due to track panel installation from Castle Hill Avenue to Parkchester.

From 11:30 p.m. Friday, April 3 to 5 a.m. Monday, April 6, free shuttle buses replace A trains between Jay Street-Borough Hall and Utica Avenue due to the Jay Street rehabilitation project.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, April 4 to 5 a.m. Monday, April 6, there is no C train service. Uptown A trains run local from Euclid Avenue to 168th Street with free shuttle buses replacing A trains between Utica Avenue and Jay Street-Borough Hall. Downtown A trains run local from 168th Street to Euclid Avenue. Note: Overnight, downtown A trains run express from 125th to 59th Streets. These changes are due to the Jay Street station rehabilitation project and rail work.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, April 4 to 5 a.m. Monday, April 6, D trains run local between West 4th Street and 34th Street due to cable and conduit work.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, April 4 to 5 a.m. Monday, April 6, Manhattan-bound D trains run express from 36th Street to Pacific Street, then skip DeKalb Avenue due to tunnel work near the old Myrtle Avenue station.

From 12:30 p.m. Saturday, April 4 to 5 a.m. Monday, April 6, EF trains run local between Roosevelt Avenue and Forest Hills-71st Avenue due to a track chip-out north of Grand Avenue.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, April 4 to 5 a.m. Monday, April 6, Queens-bound F trains run on the A line from Jay Street to West 4th Street, then on the E line to Roosevelt Avenue due to Broadway-Lafayette to Bleecker Street transfer construction.

From 8:30 p.m. Friday, April 3 to 5 a.m. Monday, April 6 (until further notice), there are no G trains between Forest Hills-71st Avenue and Court Square. Customers should take the E or R instead. This is due to a track chip out north of Grand Avenue.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, April 4 to 5 a.m. Monday, April 6, N trains run local between 59th Street and Pacific Street due to tunnel work near the old Myrtle Avenue station.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, April 4 to 5 a.m. Monday, April 6, N trains run on the R line between Canal Street and DeKalb Avenue due to tunnel work near the old Myrtle Avenue station.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, April 4 to 5 a.m. Monday, April 6, Manhattan-bound Q trains run on the R line from DeKalb Avenue to Canal Street due to tunnel work near the old Myrtle Avenue station.

From 12:01 a.m. Saturday, April 4 to 5 a.m. Monday, April 6, midnight R shuttle trains terminate at 59th Street due to tunnel work near the old Myrtle Avenue station.

From 5 a.m. to midnight, Saturday, April 4 and Sunday, April 5, R trains are extended to the 179th Street F station due to a track chip-out north of Grand Avenue.

Categories : Service Advisories
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Assessing Lee Sander

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One of the sticking points in the Senate during the debate over the MTA has been the authority’s leadership. Many Senators believe that the MTA’s leadership doesn’t know what they’re doing, that they are misleading the public, that they aren’t cutting enough costs internally.

Reality could not be further from Albany, and a recent pro-MTA editorial in Crain’s highlights that point:

Some suggest the answer lies in firing another CEO, the MTA’s Lee Sander. He has become a target for those who believe the MTA is bloated and wasteful. In truth, Mr. Sander has wisely streamlined operations and cut costs in his two years in the post. He hasn’t solved all of the MTA’s problems. Who could in such a short time? And he hasn’t been the most effective politician in selling what he has done. But is that really a fault? Shouldn’t the job go to a seasoned transportation professional rather than a politician?

Meanwhile, Streetsblogs checked in with the MTA to find out just how the authority is streamlining operations. MTA spokesman Aaron Donovan told Brad Aaron about the changes:

Donovan points to the following efficiencies imposed “even as demand is at levels not seen since the early 1950s”: elimination of 410 administrative positions; establishment of Regional Bus Operations, merging three companies into one; creation of a Business Service Center to “consolidate duplicative back office functions”; assignment of managers to oversee individual subway lines; formation of a blue-ribbon panel to “encourage competition and increase bidding on capital construction projects”; and increases in advertising revenue “from $38 million in 1997 to $125 million in 2008.”

Furthermore, according to Donovan, Sander has saved the MTA 11 percent by mandating internal budget cuts. That’s solving — and not contributing to — the problem.

Of course, someone may have to be the political sacrificial lamb. While the Senators sadly won’t fire themselves, Sander’s days may be unfortunately numbered. He is a man with a vision for the MTA and would be by far the best choice to head a money-rich transit agency. But those times have never been, and Sander, like the rest of us, awaits word of the fate of what is for now his transit agency.

Categories : MTA Politics
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  • Senate faces April 20 deadline from Gov. · David Paterson will see this through. The New York State Governor has told the Senate that, starting April 20, he will keep the legislature in Albany unless and until an MTA bailout package is passed. Transportation Committee head Martin Dilan told Politicker NY’s Jimmy Vielkind that nothing will happen soon but that he expects a deal to get done around that time. The Senate, according to Dilan, is musing “a menu of about seven options” including taxi fare surcharges, gas taxes and license and automobile registration fees. What the politically feasible plan will be is anyone’s guess. · (2)


The buses, said Streetsblog editor Aaron Naparstek at a bus rapid transit event on Wednesday, are New York’s “least sexy mode of transportation.”

It’s hard to debate Aaron on that point. He is a man who will battle passionately for the role of buses in urban life. In New York in 2009, though, that is a losing battle. While 70 percent of the city commutes via mass transit, just 10 percent of those riders use the buses. New York, says Naparstek, has the largest bus system in the country but also the slowest. The inefficient operation of the bus systems and the vehicle’s slow speeds serve to discourage use.

Enter Bus Rapid Transit.

The idea is simple. Give buses their own dedicated lanes with priority traffic signals. Make customers pre-board as they do on subways and institute some rather simple measures — ground-level boarding, multiple doors, frequent buses — and voila, for $2.1 billion, the cost of the 7 line extension, a city could implement 200 miles of bus rapid transit routes.

On Wednesday, Naparstek gathered three transit experts — Joan Byron of the Pratt Center for Community Development and co-founder of COMMUTE; Gene Russianoff, staff attorney for the NYPIRG Straphangers Campaign; and Bruce Schaller, Deputy Commissioner for Planning and Sustainability at the New York City Department of Transportation — to talk about bus rapid transit. The meat of the event belonged to Naparstek and Schaller as the former talked up BRT and the latter unveiled New York’s ambitious plans for the program.

Following a film on Colombia’s Transmilenario bus system and Los Angeles’ bus rapid transit pilot, Schaller took the stage to discuss the city’s plans. The Select Bus Service in the Bronx has been a hit despite Albany’s denial of traffic camera enforcement measures, and the city will soon implement BRT service along 1st and 2nd Aves. Pilot programs are in the works for Nostrand Ave. (2011) and 5th and Madison Aves. as well.

The true gem though are the plans for 34th St. The city will turn 34th St. into a modified one-way street — east-bound on the East Side and west-bound on the West Side — with two-way dedicated bus lanes running the length of the island.

Eventually, says Schaller, the city will expand into all boroughs among many arteries, and cost is no problem. “It pretty much pays for itself,” Schaller said.

While Wednesday’s event made me pine for a bus-covered city, shades of the real debate kept creeping into the presentation. Should the city — and the MTA — be paying billions of dollars for new subway lines or should they take that money and invest it into a BRT network that can truly reach areas underserved by mass transit while uniting the boroughs? Naparstek, Pratt and Schaller seemed to think so, but experts disagree. I waffle on the issue whenever I think about it.

Proponents point to the cost and traffic-reducing consequences. Add BRT lanes, and the cars have nowhere to go but off the roads. Suddenly, buses can go fast — up to 55 mphs in Los Angeles, for example — and routes can cover the traditional north-south avenues in Manhattan but also interborough routes that could quickly connect disparate parts of Queens, Brooklyn and the Bronx.

But opponents will say that buses can’t move nearly as many people as subways. They are subject to the whims of traffic and traffic lights. Opponents also point the benefits of light rail over buses as far as surface transit goes.

No matter the outcome though, the debate is alive and well. The Department of Transportation is moving forward with bus rapid transit just as the MTA will build the Second Ave. Subway and 7 line extension until the projects are out of money. The city will be better off for both of them, but questions will always remain about the costs.

As a coda to the evening, I had to hightail it from the Museum of the City of New York on 103rd and 5th Ave. to another event on 53rd and 6th Ave. I caught the M4 right on 5th Ave., and fifteen minutes later, I found myself deposited at 50 blocks south. It was a trip fast enough to make me believe the gods of the buses, those unsexy buses, were smiling me on.

Categories : Buses
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